Submitted by Shawn Conn on Sun, 08/11/2013 - 13:30
I'm at the Sayre Lair, the alter ego of the voluminous Sayre household, heading back to my car. My schedule of the last week had been one of stress, accomplishing deadlines, and tying up loose ends before I hit the road. I felt a mix of sadness and frustration that loose ends would not be tied up before I would be taking off. Knowing of the futility, my reasoning just distilled it into sanguinity.
My was phone was buzzing with a call from Davis, likely regarding preparation details for arrival, my sanguinity was tossed in preparation for discussion of logistics. We walked through details: when I was getting in, stops that will be made, a place to stay. Through coincidence, he happened to have a friend, Adam, who had an open upstairs apartment. My couch surfing accommodations were upgraded to a small one bedroom apartment. Nice.
Logistics aside, Davis and I started talking about other things going on in life. The Gohmann Situation, GS, (NOTE: details regard the situation will remain intentional vague) was on top on list. Sanguinity had returned, that's about the best I can say. Many bad things were going on with the man, very deep rooted problems. To stick with the metaphor, I half way wondered whether the uprooting (or removal of bad roots) would break, or worse, kill him. It was too hard to say, details coming out every day was bad. 
Our conversation turned away from that. I was tired from repeating 1st/2nd hand accounts about the GS, let alone trying to expend mental energy with solutions which, ultimately, I would have little say in. Trying to not think anymore about the GS, I moved on to how much I'm looking forward to the trip, the things I was planning on doing, the people to meet, and leaving problems in Louisville.
Davis, himself having left Louisville for some problems, had much to say about that. He'd left for many reasons I'm sure. The most prominent one in my mind was his work/travel situation, something Portland offered a nice solution to. Many things were discussed so details were a bit hazy, but I also got a feeling from him that one reason he left was because of his family. He also talked of some regrets about leaving too. Most seemed to be related to friends, Portland being too social cliquey, and other people he misses.
I spouted the cliche about home being where the heart is. I went into my feelings about the Louisville area; I love the city a lot for being a balanced of urban and rural living, but mostly it is the people and memories that make it home for me. I talked about how, career-wise, the city isn't offering me much, and how lucky I felt to have a career that didn't tether me to it. I was going to be an on-the-road web developer for a couple of months and it felt great. 
Of course this wasn't just a workcation. I've kind of been deeply mulling it as an exploratory step into moving somewhere. It feels like I'm at a crossroads in my life. My current career mostly lends itself to a no-family life style. More and more friends are getting married or having kids and, while I love all of them, I feel a mix of frustration, being pushed down that path, and alienation with a mostly couples social dynamic.  
In some way, I would be fine with that path if it was nearby, but I don't think its close. I wondered verbally about my experience with women and how mostly awful it has been, topped with a rather awful experience during Friday/Saturday. With an insight from a friend, I put on the hat of Shawn Conn BS Psychologist Ph.D. Now as it came up in conversation, I interjected this:
"I don't think I have any memories of my parents being affectionate toward each other."
"That's sad."
The further I thought about it, without the changing social context, the haze of drinking, in a self-reflecting perspective, I felt there was nothing there when inside me when it came to expressing love, just an empty pit of desire that was near impossible to fill. I think I've hurt people because of it, including myself. 
Not wanting to keep the topic too heavy, the conversation changed to various musing on philosophy, pop culture, and books. The conversation concluded mostly after that. I drove back home following that. 

Sunday was lazy. I woke up from groggy dreams. I remember feeling drunk through the whole dream; I was having trouble focusing on things; my head kept tilting back and forth; I remember I was having trouble expressing my point verbally. I woke up. The back of my neck was being pressed hard into the pillow making me feeling the pulse of blood going into my head. An ephemeral thought wondered if my brain wasn't getting enough blood as I was having such an odd experience. 

Having that experience combined with my regrets of the weekend made me think of the movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I forgot how much I loved that movie. The dream sequences are great. I finished that up while I waited for my sister who was to give me a trim.
When she got there, we talked about my loveless insight. She confirmed my perspective. We talked about my plans and other things I planned on doing while there. She picked up on my bursts of pain that I was trying to direct out of my mind. She told me not too worry and to have fun out there. I hugged her and said my goodbyes.
I had a couple of hours to kill so I headed over to the New Albaian Bank St. Brewery. Upon arrival, I saw email notices from friends about the latest with the GS. It was not good. The "nuclear option" was being tabled as the result of erratic behavior. Fuck. I couldn't stand it. I send a message about my thoughts and how I could not make the meeting where the option was being contemplated. I turned my mind off from it again.
Luckily, shortly after that I was pleasantly surprised by the arrival my friends Sherry & Mandy. We had various chats about TV shows, current life events, and, a brief summary of the GS. I kept the summary as short as possible so to focus on the positive of getting away from here. We talked a bit more until the clock hit 4:30 where I need to go makeup with the parents who were dropping me off at the Airport.

I met with my parents, loaded up the car with my 3-4 weeks of clothing and my portable office, and headed off. Upon arrival, we were a bit early so we had sometime to chat at the bar before we headed out. I thought about bringing up last night's insight but it slipped my mind as the topic went to my trip logistics, solving various smartphone technical problems, and my plans. Shortly before 7, I needed to get through security to get to my gate, I said my goodbyes and headed to Portland.

It was a one-stop trip at DFW. The first leg was around 2.5 hours. I had a nice window seat. Reserving flights a head of time allowed for all window seats. By the time of take off, the sun was set on the horizon, it added a nice color to the sky as I did some reading to the pass the time. I read a great article about neuoromorphic computing, a different attempt at  computing that is more akin to our own brain activity. It made me get all metacognitive.
As a primer, I'd suggest reading You Are Not So Smart, an excellent, layperson reading of how our brains delude ourselves for the sake of efficiency. I read that book over my summer vacation in Florida. It provided  much insight about many things that I've experienced myself with out even thinking about it.
With that it mind, I began thinking of my own psychological biases, logical fallacies, and heuristics. I thought about my problems of the last week. The misinformation effect, the distortion of specific memories by adding information known after it happened, kept coming to mind. Had I'd been deluding myself about many things for along time without realizing it?
I'm pretty sure I had. I had been deluding myself about being loved, being in love, feeling in love, or some permutation of such. Coming to grips with such made me feel an intense pain, something I could have wished away with more delusion if I hadn't been made aware of the fact. Instead, I let it sit there as I tried to move on to other thoughts via more reading. After awhile I descended into a daze of current world events and the hum of the airplane cabin.

Upon touching down in DFW, I received a call from Sayre about the GS. My mind not wanting to dwell too much on it, I just took in the details. Everything sounded good for the most part; the escalation was more a gut reaction than an informed one; the "nuclear option" would not be pursued. The worst thing I heard was the man was homesick (and sort of making his living space akin to his old, now-dead, space that was a cesspool of depression. He wanted to go home to place that didn't exist anymore; in essence he was creating it.

Upon getting out of the gate, I had to rush across the entire airport to get to the next gate, taking the monorail across the entire airport. Being lazy about the exact time details, I didn't have an extra hour that I thought I had. Upon arriving to the gate flying to PDX, I was one of the last passengers inline. 
Upon arriving, I had to ask my way into my seat, another window seat next to the left wing just ahead of a side exit door. Upon sitting I began adjusting for the long flight while grabbing my reading materials. I noticed the girl that let me in had a Rolling Stone, I thought she might have something interesting to say. I began reading and she mentioned how our cross-aisle passengers had cokes (or so I heard) already. I quipped with a half turned faced, "luxuries." That got a laugh out of her so I struck to the conversational script about our destination, why we're going, etc.
Coincidence appeared in the conversation; we were both from the Louisville area. We talked about the the places and things we were familiar with. I talked about my job, the bars I frequent, and the people I knew. As it turned out--Louisville being the small city that it is--we had a few friends in common. We talked about them. We also talked about some of things that Portland in Louisville have in common. 
Surprisingly to me, she wasn't excited to head back as I was to head there. Liz, as I now knew her name, was a recent Louisville transplant that I had not yet established herself. Though I didn't get her reasons for heading out in the first place, it sounded like things didn't turn out as she thought they would and her weekend home with friends just reiterated that. She was already ready to leave and that it might be likely to happen soon. I once again reiterated the cliche about homes & hearts. 
After a lengthy conversation I mentioned that I would hit her up on Facebook and we could hangout together and meet some of the people I know. We exchanged info and the conversation eventually lulled off. I nodded off looking out the window, the passing nightscape of towns below put me to sleep.
I perked upon hearing the captain announce the imminent landing. Looking out the window was disorientating; there was nothing but darkness, save for the wing's blinking light, outside the plane. A few minutes later, a large spotlight on the wing moved into position, facing forward, illuminating the fact we were in a cloud cover while descending. Upon the touch down, parking, and everyone shuffling out of the plane. I told Liz good bye and that I would contact her later. I made my way out the gate and toward the baggage claim. 
One the first things I noticed upon my entrance out the gate was the air. It felt cooler and cleaner than before. The Ohio Valley has some reputation for triggering debilitating allergies via pollen. I guess that effect would have been probably stronger had I been afflicted with allergies. Regardlessly, it still felt invigorating.  
On way to my way to the baggage claim, I half way expected on Davis to surprise me by sneaking up on me. He did last time to Evan and I on our 2010 trek out to Portland. Sure enough, as I was scanning the first bags out on the line, he snuck behind me, grabbed my shoulders and said "What's up you dirty hippy?", referencing my beardy unkept-hair look in preparation for a Halloween costume. 
I said my greetings to Will and Bella, his girlfriend. After some awkward searching for my bags, one of which I had forgotten what it looked like, we found them and rolled out to the car. I remarked about the air which Will agreed, saying the Ohio Valley has a humid stinky river smell to it. We headed to the house I was staying before enjoying the rest of the night.
The house was great. It was an upstairs converted into one-bedroom apartment. It had nice decks reminiscent of my friends's, the Lee's, house, small enough for one person to live with enough seating for a small party. I dropped off all my stuff at the base of operations, then Will, Bella, and I headed back to Will's place to spend the rest of the night.
Bella wasn't in the hanging out mood (or she wanted to let us catch up) so she left us upon arrival. A bar was mulled at some point, but then Will mentioned the night's premiere of Breaking Bad, a much more enticing pull for me. We took off to pick up some beers/snacks and watch the intense opener for the its last season. Some video games and other distractions went on through the night. 
As the night was coming to a close I remarked on how much I planned on enjoying this vacation. One of the things I was anticipating so much was to visit different friends with varying lifestyles. I'd like to see what each of them has established as home.
Vacation to me isn't a place to go with an itinerary of events. It's a place to step outside the physical and psychological constructs that we've walled up as home via routine and commonality. It's an experience to see the world through a different construct than your own. It's an event to change up the narrative of your life. It's a chance to redefine what home means to you.



Submitted by Shawn Conn on Sat, 08/10/2013 - 08:53

After a year hiatus I've returned. This post is going to be somewhat short; I'm using it to tie continuity between what's happened in the last year and the following posts which will be a 2 month travel blog.

Like many things in my life, I put this blog down for a while. I'm glad to get back to writing. I have missed it. There were a number of reason I stopped posting: proliferation of social media, focusing energy toward other interests, not having anything to say, or just time spent vs. people actually reached. I will focus on fixing those things as I move forward. The site is overdue for a overhaul for a number of reasons. The plan is to have a redesign and a CMS upgrade by the end of year.

To recap changes since then there hasn't been much to say that someone hasn't already heard from me in person: freelance web development. My long standing goal for 3-4 years has been reached. It's been very liberating in someways (pursuit of my own career challenges, setting my own hours, etc.) but detrimental in others (day-to-day social activities, juggling many different problems at once).

Overall, it has been a good thing. I feel much less anger and stress in life with a feeling being in control of my own fate, to the extent that it is possible from reflection and self actualization. With my own little business and base of operations established I feel accomplished and confident. There is very little that worries me these days.

While professional life has been great, the personal life has been more a mixed bag. There has been many fun things I've done. I've meet a handful of new people. However, there's only so many activities, games, movies, etc. I can do before I start to get bored of them. Many of them feel like distractions more than anything else, nothing that really ignites any sort of passion. 

That should be enough of a boring recap there. What follows will be my long-planned, finally-executed, excursion out to the west coast of the country: a 6 stop tour of many different people, places, insights, and experiences. 

Social Node 1540335471

Submitted by Shawn Conn on Fri, 09/30/2011 - 11:24

You may or may not notice the quotes at the bottom of this site page. The home page of Who Is... contains many entries on the front page. This blog is also replicated across various social networks. As such, you may never even see the homepage. I've posted various quotes that I thought worth repeating upon hearing/reading them at some point. One particular quote I thought worth repeating is relevant to my post. Thus, I quote.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.   

I think over awareness of knowledge drives the mind crazy. With every piece of information & fact that falls into the working memory, the brain tries to work out the relationship between each new piece and the others. With the total possible connections growing rapidly, the brain either gives up, or runs itself crazy as it continues to work in left hemisphere following every connection.

This is what comes to mind when I think of social media fatigue; hyperawareness from of all this knowledge of everyone's personal information resulting in my brain saying, "no more", resulting in a shutdown. Perhaps I should have hit that limit sooner as I've long since crossed the dunbar limit in terms of total number of social connections (200 contacts, ~400 facebook friends, etc.).

To be accurate, it's more Facebook fatigue (facetigue?) than anything else. For me, most other social networks are more passive and less pervasive; Twitter comes in 2nd but it's footprint is smaller. Facebook being tied to my phone, as a passive feed in the web browser, linked to my email, and embedded on every web page has hit a point where it's too much. What was novel & exciting has become dull & burdensome. 

As time goes on and friendflation sets in, news feeds become less usable. You start to see way more stuff that you don't care about versus that which you do. It goes back to the dunbar limit referenced earlier; as the number of social connections grows, so does the "grooming", the overhead spent trying to maintain the social connection. Once that overhead starts to take up more time than the stuff that matters (talking with people!), it all starts to break down.

But inexorably the march continues. In the information age, it's too tedious and long-winded to talk to a person to know who they are; it's much easier to see a nice curated page of likes, information points of jobs/activities/etc that tell me who a person is. 

I stop submitting such information awhile ago because I realized something; the likelihood that this published information will strike up a social media induced serendipity is far outweighed by what it will be mostly likely used more for: micro marketing. 

As a web developer, I can't help but feel that's all what's social media is good for these days. Everyone's always chasing the next big thing in tech and social media is it these days. If you want to have your presence known on the web, you have to do social media. No doubt about it. On one good side, social media has made it easy for the tech layman to communicate on the web. On the other, it means everyone is communicating at the same time.

The result is a feed of updates half-filled with things I could care less about. This is something I could filter, tweak, adjust, and so on, but that's more thing I have to do while fiddling with some electronic device (among all the work I have to do). Isn't technology supposed to make our lives easier? I could leave it to auto-curate for me, but I'm the type of person who likes to see the big picture; I don't want technology reinforcing my existing confirmation biases.

The struggle continues...

Absolute Time, Relative Experience

Submitted by Shawn Conn on Sun, 05/08/2011 - 21:58

It's been a while since another post. There are many topics that I have cached that I'd like to write on. If it weren't for the troubling aspect of so many things eating at my free time, you'd see more posts on here. I'm not sure there are many readers on here anyway, I've noticed the traffic has slowed down to very little these days. Partly because Google hasn't been indexing the site correctly which I fixed not too long ago. I'm sure the sporadic updates are another reason. So be it; there's not much I can do it about it.

Lately, an intriguing concept for me has been time. I'm reminded of a post I wrote long ago about my 2nd act. I think about today and the way things have progressed in my life which, in turn, has made me think about how I perceived time back then versus how I perceive them now. Time is a hard thing to exactly pin down; it can mean different things depending on what you're talking about.

In physics, time is a duration between 2 events or physical states. Whether it's how long it takes for the earth to fully rotate, a pendulum to move from side-to-side, or the radiation frequency of a cesium-133 electron transitioning between energy levels, the essence is the same; noting a specific physical state and some constant duration between each happening of that state. Keeping track of time physically allows us to consistently synchronize many things in life.

Psychologically, however, time is a different creature. Anyone that has uttered about time, flying, dragging on, or such has experienced this. Time isn't felt with the consistent synchronicity as with a modern atomic clock; it's relative to the observer based on number of influences. These influences can warp how time is felt just as gravity warps spacetime. Most of these influences are pretty common to many people; things like a person's age, the novelty of what their feeling or doing, their sense of urgency, their emotional state, the influence of drugs, and so on affect a person's sense of time. The Wikipedia article on time perception is an interesting write up on the phenomena and discusses many of these same influences.  

The brain isn't like a clock. For the brain, time is more like a series of memories (feelings, thoughts, facts) that we can go back and reflect on even as new ones are happening. These memories that flood into our brain represent how we feel time progress. How many new memories we pick up, given a certain amount of time, would be akin to some sort of temporal resolution for the mind.

The easiest way to explain temporal resolution is to compare to something like a video camera. A video camera works just like a normal camera except it take multiple pictures every second. Showing the pictures in normal progression produces the effect of motion. For a video camera, the temporal resolution is how many pictures, or frames, are taken per a unit of time (seconds). The frames per second (FPS) captured by the camera is the temporal resolution. With a greater resolution, the effect of motion/change is more noticeable. A slideshow of pictures progressing a 1 FPS won't feel like motion, a video at 10 FPS will produce choppy looking video, a movie at 24 FPS will produce a reliable feel of motion, a TV broadcast or video game at 60 FPS will produce smoother motion akin to what we see in life.

But the brain isn't like a video camera either. It doesn't capture crystal clear memories at a certain rate each second. Its temporal resolution is variable. While there's a few well known influences on the brain that adjusts it, we hardly know the whole picture of it. 

So how does that relate back to feeling of time perception? The brain, by its nature, doesn't have a concept of the second. It can't feel a second. The second is something created by us for observing the physical world. We anchor our lives around the physical phenomena of the second so we can make order of life, but their is no inherit concept of it. For the feeling of time perception, the brain is governed by our senses and its thoughts. The memory is its unit of time.

To explain how this relates, I'll use the most common influence that everyone has experience with: aging. Let's use a couple days that most people have gone through: the first day of elementary school & the last day of high school. This example is arbitrary but it could work with any 2 similar events where one occurred after another.

In the first day of elementary school, you have to go through a lot of new things which are almost always, for good or bad, memorable: learning to wake up on a certain time, learning how to read, meeting new friends, learning all your teachers, etc. Through a kindergartner's first day, there are numerous novel things to learn, feel, and do.

Compare that to the last day of high school. While there will still be many memorable things (saying good bye to friends/teachers, preparing for graduation, etc), it won't compare to the first day of elementary school. At that point there has been many routine things established: your schedule, your friends, your hobbies, the subjects you know, etc. In your mind, these things are glossed over; they're footnotes pulled from your explicit/implicit memory

Visually, I like to think of it as a day divided up into different memories of that day. In the example above, the top would be the new kindergartner's day compared with the graduating senior's day. The length of time is the same (i.e. one day worth of physical time). However, there are way more memories divided into the day of kindergarten than there is the day of high school.


However, because the mind feels time by its memories, the amount of time felt for the kindergartner is much longer than the high school student. Each memory itself is the unit of time, not the second. Visually, the effect would appear something like this to the mind:

As time goes on this effect becomes more pronounced as a routine sets in. It's not immediately noticeable, because of its graduality of time but it's noticeable on retrospective. Comparisons between the length of summers during school vacation versus the length of summers as a working adult are quite noticeable for me. One good way to observe it is to pay attention to what kids do versus adults. Adults are generally more patient because time, for them, is passing faster than kids. Many parents talk about how quickly their "kids grow up so fast" which is funny because, from the kids' perspective, they grow up so slow.

This effect isn't just related to new experiences. New experiences are just one of the many influences I mentioned before. Aging, I imagine, is the most noticeable of all. As the body slows down from aging, the alertness from its senses puts the mind & body into a gradually increasing torpor. In an odd abstracted way, the body aging isn't too different from NIST's definition of aging which is used in the context of physical timekeeping. 

The end effect is new memories created from our senses and thoughts slows down, even though time is still passing at a constant rate. In other words, our temporal resolution decreases; the 60fps videogame turns into the 24fps movie, which turns into a choppy 10fps video which turns into a slideshow of still moments.

If you wanted to extrapolate it out, you can use the same visual example. Imagine a person's life experiences as a spiral of memories; densely packed from the center starting from birth and childhood, and getting less sparse as you spiral out into adulthood. Those core group of memories in the center define you as a person. The more you add to the spiral, the more you reflect on things and wonder where the time has gone.   

This sort of relativity in time perception makes me wonder about how other creatures feel time. Do dogs have a greater temporal resolution than people? Does time moving slower for them? Does it allow them to do things like catch objects with their mouth quickly? Gradually they age and move slower. Does their lifetime feel the same as ours? What about insects that live for only a few days? They react really quick to movement. Does their greater temporal resolution make time move even slower for them?

Something to ponder...

Mobile Site

Submitted by Shawn Conn on Sun, 01/02/2011 - 13:41

With the start of the new year, I've made changes to the websites I administer. The biggest change is that I've moved them from a cheap shared hosting account to a virtual private server (VPS), a middle ground between shared hosting and a fully-dedicated physical server. If you've loaded this website in the last week or so, you've probably noticed the biggest change, speed. In addition to the performance gains provided by a VPS, I'm also able to make further configuration changes to Apache (such as mod_pagespeed & mod_deflate) that has allowed for further performance gains and enabling SSL (encypted traffic between the web server). 

To keep the momentum going with performance upgrades, I've also added mobile versions of this site & The Riverhouse. Whenever you visit this site in your browser, it should bounce you over to http://m.shawnconn.com/ where you'll see the same content but formatted for a smaller screen. Doing this with Drupal is a little tricky but I think it's worth it; the mobile web is only going to get bigger at this point. I don't think it's a stretch to say that for some, it will be their only Internet experience. In the mobile Internet era, having loading times between subsecond to at most a few seconds is critical. 

With the new freelance job I picked up, learning all the possible optimization tricks is going to be necessary to make sure the servers keep up with demand. I've been on the lookout for more tools and information to help me in this quest. This site is worth a plug, it offers stress testing for your site. Prices & services range from free to the more enterprise class solutions.