Much has happened. Much needs to be said.

Last night, I experienced my first PvP in CoH. If my physical responses to it are in any way indicative of my usual response to such things, as I suspect they are, then it was my last as well. I spent the next three hours twitching, shaking and shivering. My arms and legs felt cold, my hands shook, my eyes couldn't focus properly, my chest felt tight and my breathing was shallow. Consciously, I recognize this as fight-or-flight, and I'll go so far as to say that this probably isn't the same response that most people get to "playing a video game." If they did, I highly doubt that any but the most crazed adrenalin-junkies would ever play such games.

I fear the world in which most people are this kind of adrenalin junkie.

Honestly, I get the same response in any one-on-one competition. I got it when I was playing Tetris Attack against Jessie. I got it when I was playing Super Smash Brothers Melee against... anyone, really. At least, I got it back when I was unskilled and unpracticed. Once I felt like I had some measure of competency, it wasn't really an issue, but until I felt like I knew what I was doing, I got this same sick sensation every time I played against anyone else. It wasn't fun, and it wasn't healthy.

Two things are at play here. The first is that I hate feeling incompetent. I still get the same response in SSBM or Tetris Attack that I used to get when I first started when I play against people who are far better than I am. This may be a testosterone thing, or some other neurochemistry thing. I get this need to prove myself somehow, like I have to win, even just once, to show that I'm not a total waste of flesh. It's stupid and pointless, but I get into this feedback loop anyway, of each pass being worse than the next, every loss making victory that much harder because of the physical response to the defeat. It's a vicious cycle that ultimately I either break by winning and immediately quitting, which makes me look like a shit, or giving up, which makes me feel like a shit. Neither behavior is one of a responsible, rational adult.

Then again, I never claimed to be either.

The second—lesser but still important—issue is that I can't read the emotions of people I don't know, and their
intent is very important to me. For someone as able as I am to emotionally detach from people, I get pretty screwed up when I start thinking that other people are out to hurt me. I can't seem to shake the idea that the typical PvP player is in it not for the friendly competition about which one can joke and reminisce later, but the "lol what omg" Internet B crowd that are out to piss in people's cornflakes and then claim that it proves something about their virility in bed. This is my dysfunction and I recognize that, and I don't ask other people to understand or accept it, but I almost universally ascribe worse intent and meaning to the actions of people I don't know than are intended, and I usually assume the worst about others just as a matter of habit. It takes a lot for me to overcome that, and I'm often amazed that I've managed to do so for as many people as I have, but for the vast majority of humanity, I see little reason to bother trying. Thus, it feels like most of the people I'm going to face in any sort of PvP setting are in it only to assert the size of their eTesticles, and I've got better things to do than give them a reason to brag at my expense.

So, from now on, I think I'm just going to stick to the hero side of CoH. I'm not even sure I'm going to bother buying City of Villains, either. It'd be nice to have the extra character slots on each server, and yes I'd love to see the additional content they've added, but I just don't go in for all the darkity-dark-dark bad-guy stuff that they seem to have geared the game to support. If I'm going to play a "villain," it's going to be somebody that has to operate outside the law and has little regard for the structures of civilization as they currently exist, but who ultimately isn't a bad person and has a very strong personal moral code. That doesn't seem to be the sort of person that the game is trying to endorse. 

Maybe when the unit price falls to thirty dollars like City of Heroes, I'll give it a look-see.

This past weekend, Jessie and I went to visit her family, my in-laws, in Shreveport. Having in-laws still, in some very small ways, creeps me out. The idea of having someone related to me that isn't by blood or direct choice is kind of strange, and the idea that someone could have feelings for someone else based on a vicarious relationship gives me goosebumps and not in a good way. Still, I suppose that where genetics and desire overlap, there can be some sort of transitive family equation: "I like you, and you like zim, ergo I like zim as well." This isn't lossless, and it's not necessarily reciprocal, but it can happen. It just never did for me before getting in with my wife.

The trip itself was... interesting. Normally I love flying, but I hate flying coach. My hips do not fit into a standard
economy seat, and I think even if I were to shed the eighty pounds I need to lose and the forty beyond that that I'd like to misplace that I would not be able to comfortably lower both armrests even in a standard size seat. It's just not going to happen. Plus, on one leg of the trip down from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, we got to fly in an Embraer minijet, which Jessie likened unto a coffee can with flaps. Neither she nor I fit in the seats with any degree of comfort, a fact that I think directly contributes to my having left my Nintendo DS with Advance Wars GBA and Advance Wars DS in the seatback pocket in front of me when I debarked; I was in too much of a hurry to stand and stretch my legs.

This year, we were not only trying to make up for last year's lack of a real visit but also to cram an early Christmas into the schedule. As I've said before, I don't really go in for the whole Christmas thing personally, but I know it's a really big emotional investment for Jessie's mother, so I go along with it as best as I'm able. We managed to find a number of collectable Barbies that I knew she wanted, and she tried to find us flannel sheets but there really aren't many stores in Louisiana that will sell them; it's just not going to be a popular item there. So, she ended up giving us the money to pick up our own and instructions to tell her what we got when we got them. It's an arrangement with which I can work without an issue.

In addition to that, we got to see a little bit of local television, and I'm reminded of why not only I don't watch TV any more but why I'm glad to be out of "the South". The number of references to church, religion and worship that occured during the commercial breaks frightened me. Living in my little Universe A bubble, I can oft-times forget how little I share spiritually with the people around me, and so that sort of exposure can easily lead to an overload of discomfort. I very much wanted to walk away from the set and go play with my Treo or Jessie's DS or even sit and stare at the walls; it would've hurt my brain less.

On the other hand, though, I did get to see an episode of the new Outer Limits show and for once I'm glad I
caught something on television. In this particular episode, children exposed to alien transmissions experience euphoria and a desire to share it with other people, but adults only hear the broadcast as garbled sounds. Everyone treats the "alien music" as an attack, until a twenty-four-year-old cracks the code and discovers that the broadcast is meant to protect terrestrial lifeforms against sharply increased ultraviolet radiation and is being sent from a planet orbiting a star that had recently—within the last sixty years—undergone stellar conversion to a type that put out increased UV. After the discovery, the alien broadcast is transmitted planetwide and a hormonal treatment is created to allow adults as well as children to hear the "music," which turns people into hairless metallic-sheen-skinned beings. Everyone then goes outside to watch the sky shift from blue to deep red as the sun shifts to a new spectrum.

About the only things missing on the Puzzlebox Kink Chart were antennae and antique internal-combustion engines.

In general, the trip was a positive one, but there's one thing that does honestly grate on my nerves when we visit, and that's the fact that Jessie's father seems incapable of remembering to get Jessie's pronouns right. She's not going to push him on it because she's got problems believing that she's made enough progress to justify making a fuss over it, but I don't think she really understands the psychological impact that having someone who professes to love you on one hand and can't respect you enough to be conscious of your stated choices on the other can have. I've done eerything I can to stand up for her without outright being confrontational, but I'm afraid it may get to that point. I know she did the same for me when it was my parents who couldn't keep things straight; I see no reason not to do the same for her.

Of course, I don't want to be the wedge between them either. I'd feel really shitty if I were.

The flight out was, if anything, even more "interesting" than the trip down to Shreveport. In retribution for
her comment about coffee can with flaps, we had to fly from Shreveport back to Houston on a
turbo prop, which was even smaller than the Embraer! Then the flight from Houston to Philadelphia itself was completely full, meaning even less leg room than before, so by the time we arrived back home, we were both pretty miserable. I still love the experience of flying, but the actual intimate details of the act, I could do without.

Maybe from now on, I just need to insist on first class.

Today was my first day back at work after five days of vacation, and already I feel like I'm ready for more time away from the office. It's not necessarily that things are bad so much as that things are not getting better.

Last week, someone in upper management—as in vice president or director or something executive like that—decided that it was a crisis that the distribution centers were having all these "fatal errors" and bouts of indetermine slowness in the network and periods of system freezing in the application software, and they decided
to put together a cross-functional crisis response team to resolve these issues once and for all. Because I'm the only one in Application Support on-site at a distribution center, my manager named me as the App Support member to the team, which I had no problem accepting even if I'd had an option to decline.

Three days later, I went on vacation. At my manager's request, I sent out a notice to everyone in the response team that I would be unavailable for five days and that my backup would be able to handle any problem in my absense. I gave contact information and even said that I wouldn't have access to the company VPN since my in-laws don't have broadband.

While in Shreveport, I received a call from Event Moderation asking me to join the command bridge.

Now, I can understand not checking one's e-mail. I'm sometimes guilty of letting messages pile up myself. Even now I have eighty unread messages in my inbox at work, and that's down from three-hundred-something from this morning. I can't understand why people attached to an issue this theoretically critical would not read every email relating to it.

Then again, there's a lot about this issue that seems politically motivated, aside from my manager's statement that, and I quote, "this issue is being driven politically from above." Nobody on the floor of the warehouses seems to be that up in arms over this problem, which they say has improved since installing the new scan guns and RF network; but upper management says that the problem has only been getting worse over time. The vendors have said repeatedly that one-hundred-percent connectivity in an RF environment in an unshielded building, but upper management refuses to accept "the hardware literally can't do that"as an answer. This is a problem, as far as they're concerned, and it has to be fixed, whatever it takes.

I do not want to be caught in the fallout when somebody discovers that it can't be fixed and has to start lopping off heads to protect zir job.

Today, I also found out that my manager has been reshuffled to another group pending a split in reponsibilities between our team and Application Support Reporting, and that a manager from another team is being moved into his position. This will be the third manager I've had at this company in less than a year, and I haven't changed jobs yet. 

As I said to a coworker on my daily conference call, before anyone else arrived, it's really starting to feel like a
sinking ship around here. 

Stop the world; I want to get off. 

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