Culling


It would be a lie if I tried to say that I write “only for myself”.

In fact, I dare say that most people who write and share their writing on some level do not write exclusively “for themselves”.

Perhaps you, my dear reader, are someone who shall now attest that you do, in fact, write only for yourself and to hell with likes, shares, follows, and views. And if you are truly honest in this proclamation, then congratulations. You are an anomaly. You are unique. You are rare. You are a unicorn.

For most, however, there is some intrinsic desire to see numbers increase, to feel as though more people are reading what we write, and that they do so because they legitimately enjoy what we’re writing about…or at least the way in which we write about those things.

That being said, it is difficult to honestly gauge our reach, our level of connection. It’s difficult to tell who reads what, for what reason they read, and to what degree they like, or even if they actually care. We are given crude numbers that end up being this mercurial element which is tangent to all the numbers we’re given.

The actual connection between these numbers, however, is vague and the truth of those values debateable.

This leads us to the actual point of this post. Culling.

As of today, I’ve done two cullings of my followers.

The way I do this is as follows: I go through the last 10 posts or 10 days (whichever is longer) and I record the name of every like I got. I then go through my list of followers and redact anyone who hasn’t liked anything I wrote over that given span of posts or time.

First time, I went from approximately 430+ followers down to 48.

Think about that.

430 people were supposedly following me, but of them, less than 50 had made even the most tenuous of interactions with my posts. That’s a little over 11%.

Now, some people might say, “But perhaps a lot of them were reading, but they just don’t click like.”

This is true. But the problem with that logic is that, when I removed the better part of 400 followers, my stats didn’t change enough to substantiate the claim that almost any of them were just “passive viewers”.

Today, I completed my second culling. I went from 283 down to 105, and I suspect I will see the same overall effect. I suspect I will get the same sort of views and likes because, generally speaking, the same core group of people like what I post. Other people like and follow, and then disappear. More to point, it gives me a more accurate depiction of how many people might actually be looking at what I post rather than just giving me the total number of people who clicked on the “follow” button.

So, how about the rest of you?

Do you sometimes trim your following?

Do you let the idle followers stay on board for the sake of “well, they’re not hurting anything…”?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I always like talking numbers, percentages, and statistics. 🤓

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Lost


I’ve lost a lot of people in my life.

Let me restate that…

I’ve rarely had many people in my life, but few of those people have ever really remained. So, I have had few people in my life, but the majority of those people, I’ve lost.

I did not lose them like a person loses another person in a crowd.

I also did not lose them due to a faulty mortal coil or the innate cruelty that is the terminal nature of existence.

In truth, I’ve never lost anyone. At least, not in the way people mean it when they say it.

It is the removal of bridges. Sometimes by fire… sometimes by neglect.

It is the parting of paths. Sometimes by intentional separation… sometimes by the basic nature of life and our own personal desires and trajectories.

I’ve lost pets.

I’ve lost some pets in a very literal way. They left and never came back. I was very young then. Statistically, I know that I lost them in a mortal way as well because on a long enough timeline, that is a simple guarantee. Though perhaps one could say that you cannot lose that which flees. If it left and didn’t return, you never really had it. Or did you?

I suppose that’s a possible topic of debate.

But I’m not here to debate that.

I’ve lost two dogs, but I did not lose them in a simple way. They did not flee. One was hit by a car. He was very old. I was there when he was born. All fat and clumsy…he looked like a chow that was the size of a miniature terrier.

He was my first dog, even though he was not the first dog we’d had as a family. He was my first dog because he was the dog that I took care of. When my parents separated and finally divorced, I took care of him. Amidst the “what’s mine and what’s yours” of a dissolving marriage, no one seemed to be particularly concerned with disputing ownership of an awkward little dog that I’d named Scooter.

He was the only dog that survived birth.

One of thirteen.

The surviving 7.69% of a stillborn litter.

I lost him when he was fourteen years old. I was at work. My roommate at the time called me and let me know that he’d gotten outside, and he found him by the edge of the driveway. He said he didn’t know what had happened. He said he was sure he didn’t hit him when he got in his car to back out.

I understood. It was nobody’s fault.

He was old.

He was at that point that the end was nigh. The end simply hadn’t been given a distinct name. That day, that name had been chosen.

I went back to work.

Life ends.

I understand that.

People die. Animals die.

I understand that.

Realizations like that are so very thin. They’re fragile. They hold a heavy weight upon little stilts of logic. We tell ourselves we understand. We tell ourselves that if we wake up and the house is on fire, that we know the things we’ll grab.

I imagine more than a few people have been roused to a burning house and found themselves in the yard with little and less of the things that they would have put on their proverbial list in that hypothetical world.

I did not handle his loss as well as I thought I would. Knowing that it was coming, and coming soon meant little and less in my hypothetical world.

My next dog was Lux. The remainder of a litter of pit bulls that had yet to be claimed. The owner didn’t want irresponsible people to have dogs that were already labeled as being prone to violence. If I’m being honest, I didn’t want that either. Nor did I want to think of a dog that lived its life at the end of a chain, or that it lived even one of its days proving that it was better at killing than another dog was.

A year later, he had another litter. Same situation. Lux, I decided, could use a brother. His name was Ino.

Seven years later, I’d let my dogs outside and fell asleep. They found a weak spot in a fence. They decided to embrace that freedom.

I lost my dogs that day.

I called the police when I found out they were missing. Told them they weren’t human aggressive. They’d never been.

When I got a call an hour later, I was told that the responding officers took the situation into account, saw the dogs, hadn’t heard of their disposition.

They shot and killed Lux.

It was my fault.

I knew it was the moment it happened.

While others who knew me and who knew Lux were upset by the actions of the responding officers, I was upset with myself. While they lamented the misfortune that befell him, I lamented a dog that I loved who I allowed to come into the same kind of harm that I wanted to protect him from.

I had failed him.

I did not see his death coming. He was not old. The end was not nigh. It was an unexpected fire in the night in my world, and I’d no plan…hypothetical or otherwise.

And now, you, my astute reader, can probably see the trend here.

Ino, as of this moment, is alive. He is old. His mobility is failing.

When I look at him, I still see a puppy. That same fat-bellied dog that ate and drank with reckless abandon the first day I brought him home so that he looked like he’d swallowed a balloon.

But he is not a puppy.

I’ve lost a great deal in life. Most of those losses have taken forms that, at least on some level, had at least one variable that I could not control. I can take responsibility for those variables. I can understand my part in these moments and in these losses. I have pulled a trigger, metaphorically speaking, but I have never felt as though I had to pull it literally.

I will be with Ino when he passes. I would likely be with him whether it was a decision I made or a decision made by life and the passage of time. Either way, I know that the end is nigh. This time, however, I know the name of that ending.

I wonder, in some small way, if that makes it better or worse.

I feel quite sure that it makes it better. And that it makes it worse.

It is a painful thing to know that to save what you love from pain, you must let it go. That the only way you can make it stop hurting is to do something that will hurt.

It is not a decision to make lightly.

This Thursday at 7 pm, I will spend my last day with Ino. He does not know this. There are no words I can tell him to make him understand this.

Part of me wonders if that makes it better or worse.

I suppose it comes down to how it’s worse and how it’s better, and for whom.

When I go home today, I will still see him as I’ve always seen him – as that same little dog that ate and drank so much that he looked like he’d swallowed a balloon. I will see a puppy.

But he is not a puppy. Has not been for a long time.

I will spend the next day and a half trying to tell him that I love him and I’ll miss him using words he’ll never really understand. Words that, at their best, will only suffice in fractions.

And later, I’ll find myself again on the opposite side of that metaphorical fire. But unlike the others, I will have seen this one coming… building over fourteen years. And still, no prepared list or hypothetical plan will have mattered.

I will find myself once again realizing that the one thing I would have wanted to save could not be saved.


As a closing note. It was after Lux died that I decided to go to college. I can’t explain why that spurred me into action, I only know it did.

There is a strange and sad irony that as I find myself now in the final month of my final semester of my final year, that this death serves as that final point of punctuation.

I do not believe in fate. But I am willing to admit when coincidence looks a lot like it.

Mulling


Maybe it’s because I seem to see so many people on route to do some form of published something-or-other, but I find myself thinking about following suit. This is, of course, a complicated concept in my mind.

First, I don’t think poetry is really such a big deal to most people that it’s exactly marketable. So I have to think, “What exactly is the purpose of pursuing such an avenue?” I mean, I write poetry, and even I don’t actually buy books of poetry. It makes it all the harder to reconcile the idea of putting out a book of poetry because I find myself thinking, “If I write poetry but feel largely disinclined to actually purchase the poetry of others, then what are the chances that others would be inclined to purchase what I write?”

Secondly, I tend to have a strange disconnect between my writing and the idea of money. I can circumvent some of that by thinking, “They’re really paying for the process behind the scenes and not actually paying for what I’m writing.” Even then, some part of me looks at the arrangement and knows that I’m charging money for words. I generally give words away for free. I don’t consider my words valuable enough to charge people so that they can see them. I don’t mean that as a statement of self-deprecation, by the by, I just mean that I don’t look at my writing and see something that should be monetized.

Additionally, I have a lot of poetry on here. It ranges in quality, and I’m certainly not objective enough to read my own work and determine what qualifies as being “some of my best work” vs. “things that I’ve also written…” I’m currently at 700+ posts, and most of that is poetry. Part of me is inclined to go, “Hell, just take all of them, alphabetize them, arrange them to maximize words per page and call it good…” But there again…some of those poems could probably be left out.

There are other elements to my thought process, of course, but most of them are elements of tangency. I know what I would title the book…so…I mean…there’s that.

Anywho…I’m just thinking out loud (or quietly on a keyboard, actually).

Anyone have any insights into this? I mean, even as it relates to you? Any of you also thought about publishing, or actively working on something to publish? What’s your two cents? 🤔

Codes


I am a person who has a fascination with code.

There is a logic to that logic. There is a certainty in specificity.

Even when things seem illogical, there is is a logic to the lack of logic.

I bring this up, I suppose, because it’s a handy segue that I can connect to later because I tend to write in loops.

Perhaps you’ve noticed.

I find myself at a crossroads of sorts.

But no. Not a crossroad. That alludes to the concept of multiple paths that branch from the direction that I now find myself. This implies that I’m at (0,-1) and am facing the choice to pursue (0,1), (1,0), or (-1,0).

This is inaccurate and I tend to strive for accuracy. Accuracy matters. Precision, however, matters more. Accuracy is the ability to hit the bull’s eye. Precision is the ability to keep hitting it.

Precision is repeatability.

Don’t worry, I’ll tie into that as well. Circles within circles within circles.

You know the drill.

I find myself at a division in the road. As though I’m at (0,-1) and I’m looking at (-1,1) or (1,1).

One path will lead me somewhere that I would like to go. I’m allowed to go there. But I should not go there because, in so doing, I feel that I would cause discomfort to another. I do not like being the cause of discomfort.

This is not to say I’ve never been the cause of discomfort, only that I find no joy, solace, or catharsis in doing so.

This brings to mind a few logical questions. Basic if/thens, if you will. Basic if/thens even if you won’t.

The most flawed, however, begins with, “What would they…”

The end of the statement is irrelevant. It is not a question that can be answered without some degree of assumption. It is not a question that can be answered with specificity. It is, most importantly, not a question that matters.

It doesn’t matter because path (-1,1) violates my code.

Not my code – 01010010110101001 – code.

It violates my Code.

This is not to say I’ve never violated my own Code. We all have Codes. We all violate our Codes. To see a failure of our own algorithms and remain pursuant of further failures, one must find themselves asking, “Is this really my Code, or do I simply claim it? If it’s the latter, then what is my Code?”

A person should know their Code.

A person should know their code – 001010110100110110 – code – to the best of their ability.

We can’t ever really know the bits and bytes of ourselves, but we are not ignorant of all the values – hexadecimal or otherwise.

To strive to pursue our Code is accuracy.

To continue pursuing it with consistency…that is precision.

Precision is important.

By my Code, I have a directive that was imparted at a time prior. A time that was not recent. In the time between, there have been other directives. There have been variables that have adjusted various elements that are tangent to that aforementioned directive.

There has not been a removal of said directive.

I find myself bound by my Code while simultaneously threatening to break it.

Not a real threat.

I don’t make real threats.

I abhor violence in all its forms.

This is not to say that I’ve never been part of an algorithm whose end value was violence – direct or otherwise. But this does not preclude a desire to insert myself into such algorithms and go seeking those end results.

To do so is a violation of my Code, even if it does not violate my code.

I find myself, however, with those divergent paths. Paths that tell me that to pursue (-1,1) would be to break my Code. But then, so too does (1,1). It is a different facet of the same Code. A different code within my code.

That breach, however, would cause me discomfort.

I don’t particularly care for discomfort. I do not pursue it.

This is not to say that I’ve never pursued it – indirectly or otherwise – but I do not seek ways to insert myself into that construct intentionally.

In all my failings, I do not abide the notion of “Since I slipped, I might as well fall.”

To do so would be a violation of my Code, and if I start seeking breaches to my own logic, then I must ask myself, “Is this really my Code, or is this simply what I tell myself?”

The end determination, of course, is simple. It is precise. It is very specific.

Specificity matters.

One path would seem to cause discomfort in another, the other would cause discomfort in myself. Both could potentially hold any number of other end results. But one does not account for unknowns when one does not know the unknowns that one is not accounting for.

If I must choose between my own discomfort and another’s, I cannot choose theirs. It would be inconsiderate.

This is not to say that I’ve never been inconsiderate. We all have been. We all are, from time to time. But when one says that they do not play with matches, they must be aware that others might. We cannot logically say that we can still play with matches merely because we have witnessed another doing so.

In short – the sins of another do not validate or defend my own.

Granted – I do not believe in sins, but the sentiment holds true. If I allow myself to circumvent my own logic because another has circumvented their own logic – then I must ask myself: Do I have a Code, or do I operate on a system of strong suggestions?

So I find myself looking at the slow-motion approach of (-1,1) and (1,1) and I do not need to ask myself, “What is my Code?” because I know what my Code is, even if I don’t fully understand what my code is.

My Code does not seek to cause discomfort in others unnecessarily, and I do not believe there is ever a necessity to cause discomfort. And while I certainly have caused discomfort, in both myself and others, I do not seek this end result. When facing new iterations of that same algorithm, I like to believe that I do not pursue duplicate paths that lead to duplicate values that I did not desire when they first appeared.

If I did not do better than I did before, I would be in violation of my Code…and my code. And I know what my Code is.

A person should know what their Code is.

Impetus


In the tide of thought replete
I find I ought delete
The parts I see are not complete
So in conceit
Do I compete
For any end but my defeat

There but do I see before
The facts that I ignore
A set of tracks I won’t explore
As if a door
Beyond a moor
And see not, I, a reason for

Traveling to such a place
As if it were a race
But there is no reward to chase
And so my pace
Is lacking haste
For I see nothing there but waste

So do I, in darker thought
Inquire what I’ve wrought
And why I ever even fought
For what I sought
I soon forgot
And reasons why – I found them not

Psychology


I haven’t had a “thinking out loud” post in a while. The ones I had before are gone now – I generally delete them after a time.

This just isn’t that type of blog.

Nonetheless, I find psychology a strange thing. I find my own psychology a strange thing.

In that regard, I can’t honestly tell you who or what I am – how I’m classified…how I’m not. I can’t tell you that I fall into this particular psychological subset or that one. I don’t know where I am on any neurological bell curve.

I’m also prone to the belief that I know that I don’t know. I don’t take information as concrete when there are reasons – real or imagined – to give doubt to that particular assessment.

I know that every time I take the MBTI, I register as INTJ. If asked, I would tell someone that, when I take the test, it says I’m an INTJ. I don’t know, however, that I’m an INTJ because there are elements about those tests that are hard to quantify. My values have shifted as I’ve taken the MBTI – I’ve gotten dangerously close to NOT being INTJ – something that has occurred when I’ve taken the test several times over a relatively short period.

I blame this on the concept of introspection, analysis, and subjective doubt.

“I’m someone who <insert quantifying element here>”

Answer that question the first time, and maybe I definitely agree, but if I take the test again, and again, and again…it becomes an endeavor of progressive second-guessing. It’s like someone asking you where you put your keys the previous evening.

“I put them on the counter.” <the immediacy of certainty>

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah…I…” <the insertion of doubt> “I…yeah…yeah, I’m sure I did”

This begins to taper answers from “I definitely agree” to “I agree”
It changes the concepts of “I always do” to “I usually do”

Every time I take the MBTI, it says I’m INTJ. Statistically speaking, it seems to imply that I’m INTJ. Am I an INTJ, or do I simply answer the same way reflexively?

I know someone who swore they were an INTJ – they got it every time they took the test. I disagreed with them. I didn’t think they fit the profile. I told them to take it…just one more time…and to do it as fast as possible. To not stop and think about anything. Read and click.

They got a different result – one letter changed – it was a completely different profile.

I don’t know what they really are, psychologically speaking – I just knew that we weren’t the same.

I’ve had people tell me that I have traits of “high functioning autism” or even “just a touch of autism”.

A psychiatrist once told me that “I think you might be somewhere on the spectrum, if only barely.”

They later told me, “I don’t know if it’s autism…it’s almost like you almost border on sociopathy.”

I’ve been told that I might suffer from depression.

OCD.

I’ve taken several tests that imply “High Machiavellianism”

I might have narcissistic personality disorder.

Never histrionic, though. Never had that one show up.

Someone asked me once if I’d ever been formally assessed. They mentioned that some things are hard to properly diagnose the older you get. Apparently, we learn to adapt to what makes us odd – we hide our symptoms and create new coping mechanisms which throws off a lot of tests and assessments.

I told them that I’d never been formally tested for anything and I had no idea if I was any type of anything.

They took a moment to ensure that “a diagnosis doesn’t have to define you,” because their theory was that I didn’t want to be diagnosed with anything in the realm of the psychological/neurological because once you get that diagnosis – that’s where you are now.

You have a label.

It defines you.

They didn’t understand me – which is hardly surprising.

I tried to explain to them that I didn’t care about a label. I’d never been assessed or diagnosed because I didn’t care about the end result. I didn’t care what the final word would be.

They took this as a defeatist point of view, as though what I was saying was, “It won’t matter because there’s nothing that can be done.” Like I was afraid of being diagnosed with stage four brain cancer – the diagnosis would, at best, give me information that I couldn’t change and an end result that would seal my future and all the prospects that it might have held. They heard, “What good will it do? It can’t be fixed.”

They didn’t understand me – which is hardly surprising. I’m used to people not understanding me.

I don’t see it as a defeatist mindset. I don’t view it as “if they tell me I’m a <label> then all they’ve done is given me a diagnosis of ‘broken – can’t be fixed’.”

I don’t care what the label is.

I don’t care if it can be fixed.

I don’t care.

It’s a persistent trait of mine. It’s not a healthy one. It’s something that’s endemic to plenty of psychological structures. Apathy. Lack of empathy. Lack of social connections. Avoidance of others. Seclusion. Etc…etc…etc…

I shrug about too much too often. I find it hard to care about most things. I’m almost annoyingly indifferent in the eyes of most. I’m pessimistic and cynical.

I’m detached and unemotional…until I’m attached and very emotional.

I’m also a dreamer.

I think that anything is possible. I think that the world is shit, but I think we can fix it. I think that we’re inevitably doomed – and I see that as the most wonderful catalyst for progress and growth that I can imagine. I think that nothing matters, but I see it as logical to fight for it anyway.

I’m a nihilist – and I believe in nothing.

Nothing at all.

People sometimes struggle with my philosophical view of the world.

“How can you believe in nothing?”

It’s simple – it’s the only belief that has no loopholes. All other forms of belief are philosophically hypocritical. You probably don’t believe me, but it’s true.

If you believe in a religion, you’re saying that your religious beliefs are true even though when they’re weighed against any other, they both have the same points in the proof and evidence column. You are saying that lack of evidence precludes the reality of your belief while simultaneously disproving another.

You cannot disprove Odin – yet you know he can’t exist. I cannot disprove god, but I know he cannot exist. By your own logic, I have just disproven your own religion. If you disagree, then you have proven the existence of Odin. Try to wrap your mind around that.

This is philosophical hypocrisy.

I believe in nothing.

You cannot disprove it. You might say, “But neither can you prove it.”

And yet, there is no hypocrisy in my belief.

Can you prove god? No. I do not believe in god.

Can you prove Odin? No. I do not believe in Odin.

If you cannot prove a concept or offer strong evidence that has no equal contrapositive, then I do not believe it. This doesn’t waver. It doesn’t change. There are no loopholes. There is no philosophical hypocrisy if everything is held to the same set of rules.

Unfortunately, this turns problematic for more mundane things.

What makes you happy?

What do you do for fun?

Define happy. Define fun.

Most will define these statements subjectively – which is inherently flawed. People identify happiness most frequently with their own interpretation of it. “Like when you <insert personal experience>”

But if this is not an experience that resonates with me, then it does not quantify happiness.

Perhaps this is why negative descriptors are so ubiquitous.

We can rarely put our finger on the pulse of joy and happiness – on elation and love. They are these vague, indeterminate things that we try to put into words and yet we either lack the language or the ability to adequately assess the concept to logically articulate.

Comparatively, we can easily find common ground in sadness. In depression. In fear. In hopelessness. We need no individual constructs to paint those pictures. No one needs to give you an example of what sadness feels like. You’ve felt it. You don’t need to say, “It’s like when you <insert personal experience>.” The terminology is understood and we connect our own individual experiences to the word – not the other way around.

It reminds me something I’ve always found strange – the number of adjectives for negative words often exceeds those for positive ones. We seem oddly capable of defining what’s wrong, and yet seldom know how to define what is right.

Side note: Fiction is a type of writing. Non-fiction is a type of writing. Do you not find it odd that “things that aren’t true” have a genre type, and the only way we can assess that converse of that form of writing is to say, “uh…NOT that” – I’ve always found that strange – our inability to give an honest identity to certain concepts and our willingness to submit to litotes.

Perhaps this is why I find it hard to answer questions about feelings.

How do you feel?

What makes you happy?

I never know how to answer these things, yet I know how not to. I know what I’m not feeling, and can offer an assessment by reduction. I defer to litotes. I end up deferring to what could be termed a “diagnosis of exclusion”.

Perhaps these are elements of being an INTJ. Or a sociopath. Or a barely on the autism spectrum. Or maybe these are the end results of the myriad of years from youth til now and the compounding variables that have accumulated within my own neural pathways.

Nature vs nurture and all that jazz.

But really…I don’t care. The diagnosis is irrelevant. It’s gravity. It’s something that’s happening and I’m not particularly concerned with the particulars. Not because I don’t believe it can be changed. I believe in change.

I believe that anything is possible.

I just…don’t care.

 

Insight


Honestly, there’s not a single soul that truly knows me
And mostly because souls do not exist
Even if they did, it wouldn’t change how many know me
For every offered part of me is mist

Layers upon layers made of shadow and deception
My very face a true matryoshka mask
Gladly, though, I’ll offer layers up for your perception
That you can know me when you didn’t ask

Even as I offer you a thread and say, “Unravel”
And even if you pull for seven days
All I’ve really offered is a road that seems to travel
In never ending circles, I’m afraid

Then I start to wonder if I’m really all the layers
I’m offering, if so, then what’s beneath?
If all the masks are taken off, and all the shadow layers
Would anything remain for you to keep?

Maybe that’s the reason that I offer threads for pulling
To see if maybe someone else can find
The me I never see, beneath the me that I’ve been fooling
And maybe find a little peace of mind