Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Start a Blog

Lots of people I know have talked about wanting to start a blog, but not being sure where to begin. It's hard to get started when you feel like your blog has to be perfect from the start, that your first entries have to grab the reader because they're like your opening chapter. But the truth is, people get better at things over time. If you were starting a new instrument or sport for the first time, you wouldn't expect to perform perfectly on your first try. Keeping a blog is like anything else - practice makes you get better. The only way to get better is to start.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can always go back and edit previous posts. I make changes to old posts all the time. Since people can find your individual posts using search engines, any entry could be the first thing that someone reads. The other thing to keep in mind is that readers will see your most recent entries first. Don't worry about not knowing what to say at first - once you've figured out what to say and how to say it, your new entries will get better, and people will see those better entries first.

Finally, I had this blog for six months before I even realized that I could tag posts and check how many hits I've gotten.  It was a long time before I added different pages and put my tags on display, and I just recently went back and added pictures to previous posts. When I didn't have many blog posts, I didn't see a need for anything other than the writing. Once I had enough blog posts that I didn't think new readers would scroll all the way back to my first post, I added the About Me page to replace my opening post. I added tags and the Best Entries page to link people to past posts that they probably wouldn't scroll to. The point is, you don't have to have everything figured out when you start. The best way to start a blog is to just start.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Big Five Personality Test

A while back, I took a comprehensive version of the Big Five personality test in which each of the big five traits were broken down into 6 smaller facets. I took this test using the MyPersonality app on Facebook, and I haven't found this 336-question version anywhere else. I'm posting these results because my answers to this test have always felt really private, and I don't want it to be private anymore. The test gives you results in percentiles, not raw percents. So if I'm in the 75th percentile, that doesn't mean that I got 75 out of 100 possible points; it means that 75% of other people who have taken the test were lower than me on that trait. Since the test is on Facebook, I can't post a link that people who aren't my Facebook friends could see, so I'm copying and pasting. What I've pasted below is directly from the MyPersonality app - not my own words. My own commentary is in blue.

This trait refers to the extent to which you prefer novelty versus convention. Approximately 85% of respondents have a lower openness raw percentage than yours. From the way you answered the questions, you seem to describe yourself as someone who is far more intellectually curious and sensitive to beauty than most. You might say that your beliefs are individualistic and frequently drift towards the unconventional, and that you enjoy your imagination and the exciting places it takes you!

(O1) Imagination: 99.2nd percentile. This facet includes your imagination and fantasy life. Daydreams are for you a regular occurance. Your mind creates other idealised realities. It can be difficult to bring your thoughts back to what you are meant to be doing.
(O2) Artistic Interests: 54th percentile. This facet includes your interest in art, music and nature. You appreciate beauty as much as others do. It is important to you that things not only have a material value, but also have an aesthetic one. You have a good knowledge of the arts.
(O3) Emotionality: 98th percentile. This facet includes your experience of emotion and feelings. You experience your emotions much more intensely than others. You may be particularly affected by others' feelings, and this strong empathising may even cause you to find it difficult to distinguish their feelings from your own.
(O4) Adventurousness: 11th percentile. This facet includes your openness to new experiences. You prefer more than most to do activities that you have done before and know that you enjoy. You may be resistant to trying new things, such as eating new foods or going to new places. You may describe yourself as a creature of habit.
(O5) Intellect: 34th percentile. This facet includes your openness to new ideas. You tend to lean towards conventional ideas rather than new ones, but you are not dogmatic in your adherence to them. You are more likely to avoid having philosophical arguments and doing brainteasers for their own sake.
(O6) Liberalism: 92nd percentile. This facet includes your openness to values. Your values are more liberal than most. You do not accept authority based on tradition, and are likely to think that society needs to re-examine the basis of its values at a fundamental level.

This trait refers to the extent to which you prefer an organised, or a flexible, approach in life. Approximately 5% of respondents have a lower conscientiousness raw percentage than yours. From the way you answered the questions, you seem to describe yourself as someone who is impulsive and whimsical, and fine with it! From your responses it appears that you would say that sometimes decisions need to be made quickly, and that you make them quicker than most! You would say you are zany, colorful, and just generally great fun to be with... as long as someone isn't relying on you to get some work done.
I don't think I have this flip-side of conscientiousness - I am impulsive, but I'm not spontaneous. I like to stick to what I've planned and I don't usually do things that I find out about at the last minute. 

(C1) Self-Efficacy: 66th percentile. This facet refers to your ability to 'get things done'. You consider yourself prepared to deal with life's challenges successfully. You excel in what you do, and are also capable of smoothly attempting unfamiliar tasks.
(C2) Orderliness: 16th percentile. This facet includes how far you prefer order over flexibility. You are relatively disorganised. You prefer to take things as they come rather than imposing a structure on your environment. This may just be because it is not important to you. You may be especially good in a crisis when others' plans are breaking down.
(C3) Dutifulness: 88th percentile. This facet includes your reliability. You place a very high value on fulfilling your promises and telling the truth. You always do what you say, and are both dependable and reliable. You are likely to follow even rules that you disagree with.
(C4) Achievement-Striving: 31st percentile. This facet includes your will to go beyond what is sufficient. You are less ambitious than other people, but still work hard at what you do and expect others to do so also. Your life may currently lack a strong sense of purpose and direction.
I am actually very ambitious when it comes to the goals that I care about. It's just that going "above what's expected" implies that the task relates to a school assignment or something in which another person is expecting something of me, which does not apply to any of my personal goals. The goals that I care about don't involve any requirements other than what I want to do, and I can't go "above and beyond" my own expectations because I would just adjust my expectations based on what I'm planning to do.
(C5) Self-Discipline: 11th percentile. This facet includes your motivation to start and complete tasks. Importantly it is distinct from impulsiveness, which measures the impulse to do things that you do not want to do, whereas this facet measures your tendency to not do things that you do want to do.You are less motivated than others and this can sometimes lead to procrastination. You may not finish tasks because you get distracted by new ones. You may say that you have a low boredom threshold.
(C6) Cautiousness: 44th percentile. This facet includes the extent to which you think before acting. You can act spontaneously and quickly when necessary, but you also usually think before acting which makes your decisions less likely to lead to unintended consequences.

This trait refers to the extent to which you enjoy company, and seek excitement and stimulation. Approximately 40% of respondents have a lower extroversion raw percentage than yours. From the way you answered the questions, you seem to describe yourself as someone who prefers low-key social occasions, with a few close friends. You might say that it's not that you are afraid of large parties; they're just not that fun for you.
Okay, I would like to make it clear that introversion is a trait, not the lack of a trait. I do not have low extroversion - I have high introversion. 

(E1) Friendliness: 34th percentile. This facet refers to how you get on with others. You feel less comfortable around other people than some do. This may lead you to act formally for longer than others do upon first meeting someone. It may take you a while to warm to new people.
(E2) Gregariousness: 3rd percentile. This facet refers to how much you seek out social situations. You seek quiet and may avoid crowded events, which can tire you out or leave you feeling stressed. You would rather spend time with a few close friends rather than a large gathering.
(E3) Assertiveness: 56th percentile. This facet details your propensity to take charge. You are fairly unlikely to propose yourself as leader in a group, but you may take on the role if others do not step up or if the area is one in which you have particular interest or knowledge. You can be forceful in putting across your views when necessary.
(E4) Activity Level: 11th percentile. This facet describes your life's tempo. You let life evolve at its own leisurely pace. You do not like to rush things or be too busy. This does not mean that you are necessarily lazy, but rather that you take one step at a time.
(E5) Excitement-Seeking: 16th percentile. This facet includes how much excitement you enjoy in your life. You do not enjoy lots of thrills and mindless recklessness. You may find high-excitement situations either too much, in which case you will avoid them, or simply not that exciting, in which case they do not matter to you.
I actually seem to crave excitement just as much as my peers, and sometimes more. This test is defining excitement as wanting to be around a lot of people and be in big crowds and social situations, none of which interest me. I would have come out as excitement-seeking if the test had asked me about stuff that I find exciting, or about excitement in general.
(E6) Cheerfulness: 73rd percentile. This facet includes how often you feel positive emotions. You like to laugh, and laugh often. You usually exude optimism and are fun to be around.
This has nothing to do with being extroverted; it relates to how I feel. Most the questions for this trait were about projecting cheerfulness, and I project whatever I feel - good or bad. Projecting happiness doesn't mean that I'm sociable or good with people - it means that I feel happy. If I feel sad, I project sadness. And for me, feeling happy has nothing to do with behaving in a more extroverted way. Many individual people make me happy, yes, but I only feel happy when I can control when I want to interact with people and when I don't. So I actually express a lot more cheerfulness when I'm able to be my introverted self. (See Neuroticism for more on this topic).

This trait refers to the way you express your opinions and manage relationships. Approximately 28% of respondents have a lower agreeableness raw percentage than yours. From the way you answered the questions, you seem to describe yourself as someone who people can find difficult to get along with when you first meet, as you can be suspicious of their motives. Your responses suggest that over time though people warm to you, and you to them, although that doesn't stop you telling them "how it is."

(A1) Trust: 92nd percentile. This facet refers to your view of others' motives. You consider other people to be well-intentioned and moral. You tend to trust people unless they give you good reason to not do so. Even when someone seems to act selfishly, you may find excuses for their actions.
(A2) Morality: 98.6th percentile. This facet concerns your views on the treatment of others. you consider morality to be extremely important and you act that way in your own life. You would not do selfish things at the expense of others even if the advantage for you would far outweigh the disadvantage to another.
(A3) Altruism: 85th percentile. This facet includes your concern for the positive wellbeing of others. You are far more likely than is typical to make time to help others, even at the expense of your personal material welfare, because you just enjoy doing it even when you get nothing directly in return.
(A4) Co-operation: 42nd percentile. This facet describes how you work with others. You sometimes prefer to avoid a confrontation rather than saying what you think, but if it is important enough then you will speak up no matter what someone else thinks or feels. You enjoy both co-operating and competing with others.
(A5) Modesty: 5th percentile. This facet describes how you project your achievements to others. You do not hesitate to tell others about what you have achieved. You may consider your accomplishments to be worth telling others about, or you may feel that it is important how others see you and that you are your own best advertisement.
(A6) Sympathy: 95th percentile. This facet measures how others' needs affect you. You are easily swayed by emotional appeals for help as you readily sympathise with others in need. You may feel that life is unfair, and you would like to do what you can to improve this.

This trait refers to the way you cope with, and respond to, life's demands. Approximately 98.6% of respondents have a lower neuroticism raw percentage than yours. From the way you answered the questions, you seem to describe yourself as someone who tends to be more self-conscious than many. Based on your responses, you come across as someone who can find it hard to not get caught up by anxious or stressful situations. You might say that you are in touch with your own feelings.

(N1) Anxiety: 97th percentile. This facet measures how prone to worrying you are. You worry more than most others, and can become anxious about things that would not disturb other people. This does not mean that it is clinically relevant, but it may hold you back from attempting things that you would be successful at.
(N2) Anger: 99.5th percentile. This facet describes how intensely you get angry or frustrated. You are more prone than most to being annoyed and sometimes losing your temper in situations that would not bother other people. However, the advantage is that when a situation really bothers you, you make sure that it is known.
(N3) Depression: 58th percentile. This facet represents normal differences in the propensity to feeling negative. You feel down as often as most. This is usually when the situation warrants it but sometimes it can happen for no discernible reason. You usually feel that your life has a positive direction though.
(N4) Self-Consciousness: 69th percentile. This facet measures negative feelings caused by being around others. You feel less confident than most in social situations. Generally this is not likely to intimidate you, but you may avoid saying or doing certain things for fear of drawing embarrassing attention on yourself.
(N5) Immoderation: 92nd percentile. This facet includes your propensity to over-indulge. More often than most you succumb to your desires and cravings. You might perceive that they are too strong to resist. You probably regret your moment of weakness afterwards.
Hmm. This seems to be implying that I want to do things in moderation and hold myself back from my momentary desires, which I don't.
(N6) Vulnerability: 88th percentile. This facet details how you deal with setbacks. You are more likely to feel pressured and stressed out, even in situations that do not bother others. In extreme situations this may make you panic if you can't make up your mind. You prefer leisurely environments.
Okay, so basically all of the questions in this section asked me whether I had stronger reactions to things than most people do: "I feel anxious more often than most," "I get annoyed by things that don't bother most people," etc. which is why I had extremely high scores. However, for the trait of Cheerfulness, the questions were like, "I am usually in good spirits," and "I am often smiling," indicating that feeling good was a default condition, rather than asking if I feel happy more often than most. But if the questions were worded like "I often feel psyched about things that don't excite other people," or, "I often feel so thrilled that it's like I'm free-falling," then I would have had extremely high scores for cheerfulness and excitement-seeking, because I have stronger-than-average emotional reactions to everything, and that includes positive things. 

So my real question is - why does this feel so private, so much like I'm standing naked in front of everyone right now? Why did I feel inferior the first time I took this test and saw how I compared to my friends, when I had thought it would be fun to compare our answers? Why did I need to show the results of this test to my boyfriend before we moved forward?

On the Jung-type test, I've always been very open about my personality type, INFP (Introverted-iNtuitive-Feeling-Perceiving). I've displayed "INFP" publicly. I think the Big Five test is more judgmental. More like, one thing is clearly good and the other is clearly bad, no matter how nicely they try to word the results. On the Jung-type test, you're never lacking one trait - you just possess the opposite trait. It's a spectrum, rather than a bar graph. But anyway, I guess I've just been wanting to be more open lately, and this is something that I've always felt was really private. So here it is.

Again, if you're interested in taking the comprehensive test, it's on the MyPersonality Facebook app. You can also find shorter versions of the Big Five test online that will tell you the main 5 traits. I love personality tests, so if anyone wants to share and compare traits in a fun, nonjudgmental way, just let me know and I'm in.

Oh, and these are my other personality scores. The Jung-type is by far the least judgmental.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

(You can click on the image to take the test yourself, if you're interested.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Higher Standards

I met someone new at a party - we were talking and hitting it off really well.  At some point in the conversation, he mentioned that his girlfriend wasn't ready to have sex yet, so they were waiting. When I didn't react, he started going on and on about how he was totally cool waiting because he respected his girlfriend's choice and didn't want to pressure her into having sex, and this made him such a great guy. He was bragging about it, as if I was supposed to find this impressive. As if he deserved a gold star for not raping  his girlfriend! Are you kidding me???

A friend recently told me that most of the things people compliment zem on are things that ze considers basic, like being honest and valuing other people's experiences. I told zem that these qualities are hard to find. But exactly how hard to find are they? Am I lowering my baseline of acceptable behavior just because I was surrounded by people who were hurting me? The act of doing something good is good. The act of not doing something bad is not good - it's neutral. But if something is happening to you that's really bad, then getting into a situation where that bad thing isn't happening is a major improvement. Neutral becomes good. Not being an asshole becomes being amazing. I used to say that my friends were amazing because they were there for me when I really needed them, but after college, I would call anyone amazing who didn't react to me in a bad way. I would think to myself, "Wow - I just shared something personal with you and you DIDN'T invalidate my feelings or tell me that I was imagining things or that it wasn't as big of a deal as I was making it out to be! You must be the awesomest person in the world!"

I was angry at that guy at the party because he was trying to pass off respecting another person's choice as extra-special, rather than something that we should all be doing anyway.  And that's what I've been doing since college. I've adjusted my standards based on how I expect people to react, rather than how they should react.  I consider valuing another person's experience to be some exceptional quality when it should be basic. But the more I hang around with good friends, with people who do respect other people's choices and value other people's experiences by default, the more I realize that I shouldn't be settling for neutral. I shouldn't be putting people on pedestals simply for not saying anything really bad. I should expect people to believe me and to value my experiences, and if they don't, then that's bad. That's lower than neutral. It's hard to have higher expectations when you're afraid of getting hurt, but it's what I need to do. Because when I tell you that you're awesome, I'm not just lumping you into the category of "people who aren't hurting me." It means you are actually an awesome friend.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just One Ally

What to do when you think something isn't right, from The Pervocracy. Very sound advice:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Writing and Emotional Honesty

When I wrote stories for my college fiction-writing classes, I was always told that my characters were being too dramatic for the situation. This always bothered me because people react differently to different things, and I honestly thought that my characters' reactions were on the level of how I would react to the same situations. But looking back at my stories now, I understand what people meant. In one of my stories, a character expresses a desire to throw a dish at her mom while they're arguing. Now, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this desire, but it was wrong in this case because it didn't fit the situation. We see as the story moves along that she really isn't angry enough about the problem to want to throw something. The character also has a good relationship with her mom and does not have anything else in her life that's really upsetting her, so it isn't logical for her to have this desire.

I know why I made mistakes like this. I was having a really bad time in college when I wrote these stories, and I was so used to being upset about everything that was going on at school that I saw the desire to throw a dish at someone as a normal reaction to not being understood. I didn't remember what it was like not to feel that way. I don't agree with the term "matching," when it comes to people's reactions matching the situation, because everyone has different reactions to things. But I understand that it's important to make sure a character's reactions match their individual situation, and that's what I didn't always do in my college stories.

It's easier to see clearly now that I feel better, but feeling better is not the solution to the writing issue. I'm sure there will be other times in my life when I'm not feeling well, and I will never stop writing. I will never wait until I've "taken care" of my personal issues before I try to write my next novel. The real problem here was not the fact that my character wanted to throw a dish at someone when it didn't fit the story - it was that I wrote about a character who would not normally want to throw things in anger and I didn't push her to her limit. My professor said that my stories had way too much psychological drama and she wanted me to write a much simpler story, which is what I did. That dinner plate line wasn't just a random oversight - it was a subtle trace of what I desperately needed to write about. The next story I wrote was about someone who had suffered a lot of abuse at home until they finally managed to run away. It wasn't what my professor had asked me to do, but it was what I really needed to write at the time.

And that's how I plan to go forward from here. Rather than making a conscious effort to tone down my characters' reactions when I really want them to react a certain way, I should increase the intensity of the situation until it's believable that they would react the way the they do.  In spite of what I've been taught, I am not going to "deal with" my own emotions separately and not let them interfere with my writing - I am going to acknowledge my emotions and think about what kind of story I really want to write. If I want to write about characters throwing dishes at each other, I just have to create a situation that calls for it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I've always wanted to get back to normal as fast as possible. When I'm sick or I've sprained my ankle or when I had my wisdom teeth out - anytime I should be taking it easy for a while, I just want to get done healing as fast as possible and start doing stuff again. So I suppose it's natural that when I noticed this small miracle that I might possibly be getting cured of college, I would have to start going through everything that could possibly aggravate the wound just to see how cured I really am. I would choose the very tip of the healing point to start writing a long personal essay about everything that happened and admire just how protected I am from getting flashbacks, and pushing and pushing until I make myself have freaking flashbacks because I'm just so ready to celebrate not having them anymore that I can't even wait just a little longer until I'm really sure about being healed. But I am flashing back now.

It will be worth it. That long post will be up in a couple of days weeks. I don't feel good right now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Emotional Honesty

Sometimes, I say things that aren't literally true, but that are true to me because they express the emotion I'm feeling.  Often it's a simple thing, like saying that I can't wait to use my 5-pound accounting textbook as a beach-blanket holder. Of course it would be silly to carry such a heavy textbook to the beach just to hold down a blanket, but I like the symbolism - the fact that when I'm done with the textbook, I'm going to use it for something so insignificant compared to its real purpose, that I'm using it for something pure fun and non-academic, and that I'm using it for something that personally matters more to me than what I'm "supposed" to care about (going to the beach vs. studying). This statement expresses how much I hate studying and how happy I will be to be done with it.

Other times I take it a step further and engage other people. When I was in college, I didn't get into any of the plays or singing groups that I tried out for and was really upset about it. Now, I had heard that chocolate coats your throat and is not good to eat when you're going to sing or talk on stage. In high school I used to purposely not eat chocolate the week of a show. So I told my college classmates that I was going to have a chocolate party, in which we would celebrate the fact that we could eat all the chocolate we wanted, unlike the students who got into plays and singing groups (not that the students in plays and singing groups would actually limit their chocolate consumption, but it felt symbolic). I announced my chocolate party each semester for 3 years. But the thing is, I didn't really intend to carry out my plans. I would have - I was willing to do it if anyone else had been interested, but I ultimately knew that this was just something I was going to talk about. And I know that's dishonest. But it never felt that way to me, because it wasn't really my intention to deceive anyone. That's why I never set a date and time or gave details. If anyone had expressed real interest in coming to my chocolate party, I would have told them that I wasn't really planning to have one. The purpose of saying it was to express an emotion; to me, saying that I want to have a chocolate party was just a way of expressing how upset I was about not getting into shows and how much I wanted to do something about it. It is emotionally honest to me, because the desire itself is very real.

Towards the end of senior year of college, I told people that I was planning to scrub my hands extra-hard when I washed them so that I would shed my dead skin cells faster and the part of me that had touched my school would be gone. The general response was, "It was THAT bad???" Of course it was that bad, or I wouldn't be trying to scrub my skin off.  But what's interesting is that throughout my 4 years, I had told these same people a lot of true stories about what had been going on - stories of what led me to this point. And yet, this desire to scrub the school from my skin is what communicated how I was actually feeling - not the true facts. People often think that my emotions don't "match" the situation, as if there's one way that everyone is supposed to react or feel about everything. And after expressing my emotion for a long time, I get the dreaded "That's ALL?" response when I actually explain what I'm feeling that way about. When you tell a true story exactly as it happened, people automatically think about how they would feel if they were in the same situation. But putting yourself into a situation is not the same as putting yourself into a different person's mindset. For me, these reaction-based plans that I don't always intend to carry out have been much better at communicating how I feel than any of my true stories.

Some things are more important for me to communicate than others. If none of my actions came from a bigger issue - if I just felt like taking my textbook to the beach, inviting friends over for chocolate, or washing my hands more thoroughly, I would not have a pressing urge to talk about these facts with everyone. The fact that I would never remember to spend that extra time washing my hands is insignificant compared to what possessed me to want to scrub them so hard in the first place.

I know it's cryptic. I know that my reactions don't logically relate to the conflict by most people's standards. I know that a lot of these statements aren't clear and force people to ask more questions. And maybe I want that. But I can't help thinking that it is actually an effective form of communication, because it gets across so many true feelings that I could never get across with facts alone. It's emotional honesty, but honest all the same.

Joking about Non-Consent

Read this blog post first:

I've always been very sensitive to this kind of joking. I've been known to say things like, "They don't have to do that if they don't want to!" or "Don't let them boss you around!" only to be informed that the person was joking, in a how could you not get the joke? tone. I've never liked the way people joke around about things being non-consensual. But ever since I've had a boyfriend, I started doing it myself. Every time I plan something fun to do, I'll joke that I dragged my boyfriend into it even though he thought it would be fun. I still had a problem with that kind of joking if someone else did it, but I didn't even realize that I was doing it myself until I read this blog post.

To use the example in the blog post, it's like I can finally talk about airplane food being bad because now I've been on a plane and I'm part of that club. I think that growing up with this kind of joking, I figured it was the thing to do once I had a boyfriend. It felt like this insider kind of thing that one could only do when they were in a relationship, and now I was part of that group. But it's not something I want to continue. Not at all.

A long time ago, my friend had a big high school graduation party, where people took turns getting up and saying nice things about her. One teacher explained that my friend was involved in a volunteer program over the summer and, as he put it, someone basically handed her the program and said, "Here, run this." He then went on to explain how she rose to the occasion and that made her awesome. I cringed. Did I think that she hadn't volunteered for the program? No. Did I think that the program might have been more work than she really wanted and she was pressured to not back out? Possibly.  All I know is that the way he put it really bothered me.  Because I knew that this friend had a hard time saying no. Because we once worked on a voluntary group project together for a couple of months before I found out that she had never even wanted to do it. Because if what that teacher said had been true, if someone had pushed my friend into running this program, then the fact that she did it anyway would not show how awesome she is - it would show that the person who pushed it on her was a complete jerk.

Anyway, joking about non-consent is something I want to try to stop. It just doesn't feel right.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Imagine not having to ask, "Should I do my homework or should I play games?" The future of education will BE games! Check out my friend Eli's talk about Lasercake:

Click here for a transcript of the talk:

And click here to PLAY Lasercake for free: