I dislike holidays

Special days (or weeks or months) make me feel burdened with the expectation that I can feel some sort of way on command. You tell me to celebrate, what I feel is bad. You tell me to feel grateful, what I feel is resentful. You tell me to be respectful, I am respectful enough to keep quiet about how I feel no different from before.

If I were to organize holidays into tiers, the top tier would consist of the major holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas. While these holidays nominally are about feeling some particular way, they are more importantly, about doing something. They are designated times for family gatherings. Family gatherings are something we want to do anyway, but we can’t do it every day, thus the holiday serves a practical purpose.

The second tier is national holidays when we get off work. A work holiday is something you do, not something you feel. You can’t take work holidays every day, there’s some value in everyone taking off work on the same day, thus the holidays serve some practical purpose. Unfortunately, many of these holidays also ask us to feel respect or reverence for something, be it veterans or labor activists, Colombus or MLK, and that doesn’t really work on me.

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How my free time disappeared

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces, which this month had the theme of “quarantine”.

Back in February, I got a new job. I like my job, but my main complaint was the long commute–over an hour and a half in each direction. My husband had an even longer commute, so we were in the process of looking for a new apartment in a better location.

In March, my company told everyone to work from home. My husband’s company did the same. Suddenly we had all this extra free time, multiple hours every day that we would have spent commuting. But all that extra free time–and more–got immediately slurped up.

Although it could be said we’re all in this together, I’ve noticed some stark contrasts in the way that COVID-19 has impacted our personal lives. There are those who lost their jobs or were sent home from school, and there are those who kept their jobs and now have to take care of their kids at the same time.

In the ace community, you might expect that since few people have kids, people gain free time rather than losing it. But as someone who keeps track of ace community activity (for linkspam purposes), I’ve observed a precipitous decline in activity in March and April, followed by a slow recovery in May. Other people have noticed it too. I’d like to offer my own experience as a case study of why this might have happened.

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Word count

As someone with a number of idiosyncratic opinions, and as someone who has extensively elaborated on my opinions, I think a great deal about length. If I take 2000 words to explain why X is wrong, then: A) how can I realistically expect anyone to read it? and B) how can I realistically expect anyone to go through the same thought process themselves, and end in the same place?

Realistically, I can’t expect any individual to read any of my writing. Most people don’t, you know. I have site statistics, I have the population of the world. I know a lot of people prefer different kinds of media… videos, memes, IRL conversations, collections of one-liners… I don’t judge. Or maybe they just don’t give a shit about whatever mother of all niches I have chosen to write about today.

And independent of whether people read what I say, it’s unrealistic to expect them to follow the same path. I’ve been blogging for long time, I know that not even I come to the same conclusions each time I address the same subject. I also like to think I put some sort of work and cleverness into forming my opinions. Well, if I’m so clever, how can I judge others for being less clever? Aren’t I kind of a high bar?

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Explain at various lengths

One sentence

This article explains itself at various lengths to demonstrate a common communication technique.

Two sentences

There’s a tradeoff between the accessibility of short explanations and detail of long explanations. Essays can get the best of both worlds by doing it both ways, and this essay is an explicit example.

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A slow-burner

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces, whose theme this month is “Burnout”.  I have also cross-posted it to my other blog.

I think I might experience burnout differently from the rest of you, and that’s why I’m here.

Case in point, one of the big events in my college years, was getting involved in atheist student groups. These groups experienced very quick turnover, with people often disappearing after their first year or two of participation. But I stuck with it an unnaturally long time, longer than any of the other students could imagine. 9 years! And I didn’t quit because I was burnt out, I quit because the group dissolved. And it’s not like I was happy with the group; on the contrary, I was perpetually annoyed with them. When I finally left, it felt long overdue.

So you might say I have a problem, and the problem is that I don’t burn out. At least, this is my worry. If I notice that I’m tired of an activity, I wonder if that means I’ve been tired for a long time, and if I should have just stopped a long time ago. As a result, the way other people discuss burnout, and the way I personally think about it, are incompatible. Whereas other people seek the strength to continue doing something they want to do, I seek the strength to realize that I want to stop.

Aside from the student groups, another thing I have done for a very long time is blogging. I’ve been blogging for over 11 years. No, I’m not about to announce the end of my blogging! I really like blogging, if you couldn’t tell.

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A tumblr ban hot take

Anyone remember that time that Google tried to ban adult content on Blogger, and then took it back three days later?  No?

Tumblr announced that they are banning adult content, starting on December 17.  According to their policy,

Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.

The policy includes additional exceptions for breastfeeding, health-related situations, political speech, and nudity in art.

This morning I saw a lot of doom and gloom about the ban, which I would deem justified.  Most obviously, this hurts sex workers and erotic illustrators, who may be using tumblr as a source of advertising or income, and are now being evicted.  But more broadly, it’s a big concern for fandoms.  Although not all fans are interested in erotic art, fandoms are interconnected communities, and you can’t just excise the adult content without affecting everyone.  It is likely that entire fan communities will just get up and leave.  There is precedent for this in Fanfiction.net and LiveJournal.

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Content granularity

I’ve decided to invent a concept that can be used by bloggers and other content creators. Content granularity is a measure of the size of individual pieces of content (or alternatively, the effort that got put into them). A fine-grained blog produces lots of little pieces of content. A coarse-grained blog produces large pieces of content, usually with lower frequency.

Why is this a useful concept? Because blogs tend towards uniform granularity. Usually, you don’t have a blog that publishes a 2000-word essay, followed up by several 280-character posts. Sometimes, this is because the blogger themself finds mixed-granularity to be aesthetically unpleasing, and this can become a problem if they find themselves unable to write the grand essay that they have come to expect from themselves. So let’s examine this in a bit more detail.

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