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January 6, 2000
a year ago

The Other Edge

I hate fights.

It is one of the reasons why I left the old Internet. I hate flame wars, I hate disagreeing with people, and I hate verbal violence. I especially hate it when I am good at it, feel that someone deserved it, and then come face-to-face with the fact that I should've learned long ago that no one really deserves it. Communication is never facilitated by verbal violence. I should just hang that quote on my wall and look at it before I write anybody.

It doesn't help when someone does something that really is stupid. John's very good about assuming that someone who does something really stupid isn't doing it because they think it's right, but that they might be doing it because they really don't know everything that he might know about the situation. My initial assumption is always that they are just plain stupid, or really thought that they could get something for nothing. Some of all this has to do with the simple fact that I am overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done by me. There are a lot of open-ended problems that I have to fix in a limited amount of time.

My panic is very good for getting me to fix things. It makes everyday more focused, more efficient, and it makes prioritizing everything very simple. Do the thing that scares me the most.

I know that is not the way most people would go at it. I have, however, for most of my life cultivated the strategy of attacking whatever scares me the most. This works very well on specific problems, technical difficulties, and inanimate objects. It doesn't, however, work particularly well on people. It is especially bad when someone is doing their best to increase my workload and make problems out of things that are not problems. In this case, marketing unwittingly asked for a particularly gratuitous change that made me just blow up. Boom. Fallout everywhere, and I spent most of the afternoon cleaning up by talking to people and getting some real communication flowing.

In the midst of all this, a coding fire fight came along when one of our engineers was doing the smoke tests and three things smoked. Two of the things were under the control of two other engineers, and the third was a complete mystery. It says something about the state of my mind that when I was given the third problem I solved it in two minutes of talking with two other engineers. There are advantages to having a brain that works better under stress, something that I discovered, I guess, when I was playing soccer; but somewhat startling in a work environment. I don't think I have ever had the direct feedback of this kind of stress situation combined with elements of work that I understood as deeply as I understand the things I'm working with right now. I sometimes wish I knew how to do this without the stress element or the element that causes me to cut into people as quickly as problems. It's interesting to realize that, in the past, I may well have had this kind of higher chaos energy level in relationships but never with work or school, for that matter.

Yes. I do realize the irony implicit in that statement given that I went to Caltech. Yes, I never really paniced about classes at Caltech, nor did I stress supremely over them the way I probably should have. The only time I ever really hit stress was in graduate school, when I left a project for the last three days of the class and spent 72 hours straight in the lab, falling asleep under a lab bench when I'd finished. I got a B+ on that project, which was probably far more than I deserved. That's pretty much it for panicing at school.


The bug was squashed flat immediately and a patch was put in quickly for tomorrow's build, and then I had to deal with the people. John says that my one saving grace is that I am willing to work everything out, and do all the hard work of making sure communications happen all the way through to the bitter end. That I am willing to put in the work, even when it might be embarrassing to me, and deal with the consequences of my actions. I don't think that will ever win me back Mark, ever again; but I am willing to do what needs to be done here with the folks that I have to work with and whom have to work with me.

It wasn't until 8 p.m. that we got home. In the mailbox was a fairly large box, and when I brought it in and opened it, it was a chocolate champagne bottle filled with chocolates. Gretchen had given me the most marvelous present that really helped to deal with my mood and my own bitterness at my own actions. The chocolates were really wonderful and made in Santa Cruz, where she lives. They were chocolates that she had told me about in the past, made by Donnelly Chocolates. Lovely things, and the chocolate bottle was made of a multi-layered shell of bittersweet chocolate, perfect for hot chocolate, chocolate mousse, or other cooking endeavors. I shall have to try something this weekend. That was a very useful and calming surprise. Thanks, Gretchen.

I rode the exercise bicycle while John put together some dinner, so that I might feel better tomorrow. I know that half of this crazy emotional rollercoaster has been in part from my being stupid about exercising and not burning off some of this energy physically instead of just letting it all blow off emotionally or intellectually. I hope tomorrow is better. Between the bicycling, showering so that I simply felt better, and some CTR, I got my brain off the whole fight and sleep came more easily than I believed possible.

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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