On Obsessions

It never ceases to amaze me exactly how many things are truly dependent on objective perception. Last week I only published one post instead of my usual two. Ironically, last week I wrote more than I had in many previous weeks (individually, not cumulative). Yet, insofar as this blog is concerned, I slacked off. Now, it’s not like anyone of you wrote me a scathing letter demanding your fix, yet whenever I see the gap in days I feel like I slacked off. And I think about it, all the time. It’s almost an obsession.

But the fact is that I’m rather excited about the direction my recent writing has taken, particularly my fiction writing, which I’m finally starting to believe may be reaching a point of publishable quality. Now, whether this is true or not I’ve yet to see. Yet, it feels pretty good when not one person tells you that, but multiple, unrelated folks, none of who are family members. So here’s me celebrating, doing a happy dance. Feel free to join me.

(For the record, I was going to write a post about Joss Whedon’s new, horrendously addicting online musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but since it’s no longer being shown for free, I figure I can do a review later on this week.)

Alright, enough partying and back to the life stuff. Yesterday, The Wife and I decided to check out a few of the local estate sales. As you know, I’ve been bitten by the typewriter bug. For most people, this means they’ll get a typewriter and start typing. For me this means I’ll get a bunch of typewriters. It’s what happened with books, and before that television shows, and before that cars, and before that computers.

I recently read a story in Science Magazine where a new study was highlighted in which people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) were found to have a portion of the brain working slower than the same portion in other individuals.

The researchers took fMRI scans as participants engaged in a task (changing a habit–learning new pattern-matching rules) intended to stimulate the orbitofrontal cortex. Normal participants exhibited the expected activity, but those with OCD did not, even though their performance on the task was normal. Unaffected relatives of OCD patients also had this reduced activity, suggesting that genes (not yet identified) may trigger OCD. Brain scans could identity those who are at risk for OCD but have not yet developed symptoms, allowing them to get early treatment.

That made me start to wonder about my own obsessive personality, and whether it’s in any way related. Probably not. In fact, I’m more likely to have Asperger’s Syndrome (a.k.a. “The Geek Syndrome”). Still, one thing’s for sure: my obsessions can get expensive. Maybe they’re simply a symptom of an oversocialized individual. After all, most of them involve buying stuff, even if it IS cheap stuff at garage sales and the such. And maybe… I’m getting way off topic here. (It’s a long way of saying that oft abused phrase “But I digress” without actually saying it. Actually, it’s “but I digress…” with the ellipsis. God help you if those aren’t in place! But I digress…)

Where was I? Oh, right. Obsessions.

My first big obsession (which didn’t involve impressing a member of the opposite sex) came by way of computers. This was around 1997, and I knew next to nothing about them. Wanting to learn more, I started going to garage sales and buying up people’s crap, usually someone’s old 386 and 486 for $5 and $10. After a few months I had 10 systems in my garage, most of which were used as experiments. (Only one, a 486 running Windows 3.1, was used for productivity. For two days. Before it died.) There I would take them apart, solder parts together, learn about their components and even some basic programing (thank you, 2600: Hacker Quarterly).

Eventually I moved up to more modern systems, which led to my building my first real computer: a PIII 450Mhz system. I got the parts from a local computer show, the total cost for which was more than I care to share. (Frankly, I think I let myself buy more than I needed. Part of the learning experience, I guess.) So yes, if you’re wondering, I built my first real computer. And yes, I annoyed the hell out of just about everyone.

Eventually I lost interest in hardware and moved on to software. That’s when I got interested in Linux, which became nothing short of an absolute passion. In fact, it was because of Linux that I became a writer, but that’s neither here nor there. I learned everything I could about the kernel and tools, even took a few programming classes (C and C++) so I could understand it better. The result? I realized i sucked at programming. Still, I obsessed over getting people to use it. I co-ran a Linux user group meeting in Brandon, FL (at the Barnes and Noble there, where I used to work), did shows and user presentations for various groups. For a while it was my life, and I annoyed the hell out of just about everyone.

My next real big obsession came during that time, when I apparently gave birth to a hypochondriac and ate his brain, thereby becoming one myself. This led to me acquiring reams of information, both digital and hard copy about medicine about whatever condition I’ve convinced myself I could possibly have. Unfortunately, this particular obsession still creeps up more often than I’d like, and every time it does, I annoy the hell out of just about everyone. On the bright side, with the amount of information I’ve picked up I’m able to help others learn, if not what they may be going through then at least where they can get the information.

After that a truly large obsession didn’t hit me until I started searching for cars.

No, wait. That’s not true. I’ve had other obsessions (making violins, collecting music instruments, religions, eastern medicine, and a few other, more esoteric pursuits). But for the sake of my own sanity I won’t recount them now. So as I said, cars.

I needed a new car and suddenly I started learning about engines, auto components, and the differences in different models. I particularly fell in love with the Ford Crown Victoria, particularly the P71 models (also known as the Police Interceptors), to the point where I almost got one. During that time every law enforcement officer I knew got questioned on their cars, and taught a few things in the process, like the differences between the 2003 model and those previous and later (they involve the antenna and the back window) and the safety bladder added after 2005 so that cars wouldn’t explode if read-ended. (To be fair, P71s are tested at 75mph, so the kind of rear-ending hit that would cause that car to explode would utterly demolish just about every other car on the road.) I suppose that by now you can guess how everyone felt about my particular obsession.

Following the car obsession came the book obsession. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, or if you’ve been to my house, you know I have an unnatural love affair with books. During this time it became horrendous, and I acquired almost 500 books. I almost started collecting first editions and signed copies, but I was looking for quantity, not quality. (Don’t say it. I wasn’t in my right mind at the time.) And, of course, I annoyed… actually I didn’t really annoy anyone with this one. Turns out most people love books, in one way or another (at least those in my circle of friends and acquaintances). And book obsessions are usually encouraged, so this one ended when the physical constraints placed upon me by my abode no longer allowed for more books. (Others ended either because I didn’t have enough money, or because I had simply lost all interest, or both. Mostly both.)

During the book obsession I got interested in the idea of the long-term story in different media. Enter the TV obsession, the result of which was the acquisition of various TV shows on DVD. While this one had a definite end with the acquisition of Stargate SG-1, which I still haven’t gone through, it did leave a permanent mark: I no longer watch shows on TV, and instead wait for them to come out on DVD before I start watching them. (Well, I’ll watch a few episodes before buying the set, but that’s about it.) As a result, I actually didn’t annoy people, but instead started understanding what the hell they were talking about whenever they made references to television shows. (Something I think to be a rather interesting cultural phenomenon, and something I intend to one day write about.)

And that brings me to my current typewriter obsession. Frankly, I think this one won’t last all that long, though its effects will be profound, in that it will most likely affect the very way I work. Heck, even now it’s already altered many of my thought patterns by making me do a lot more writing than I had been doing. Maybe one day I’ll actually be completely obsessed with writing, instead of, you know, only 98% obsessed with it.

Now, if you’ve actually made it to the bottom of this post, you’re probably wondering what the point of this post really was. I mean, I started with apologizing for not posting last week then I went on to talk about obsessions. Seriously, what gives, right?

Anyway, so as I said at the beginning, I’m working on a few short stories. One of those stories, I’m glad to say, will be published here. The other, I hope, will make its way into a magazine somewhere, thereby fulfilling one of my New Year’s resolutions. (I have to start working on the other, the weight loss one. Been at 250 for way too long now. Need to move down about 20 lbs.) For now, that’s what I’m obsessing about. Along with typewriters. And making sure I post a good, meaty post (1000+ words) twice per week here.

4 thoughts on “On Obsessions

  1. I did make it to the bottom of your post 🙂 Congrats on your short stories.. Waiting to read the one you post here.. I was bitten by the “go-green” bug sometime in Jan and for now I’ve gotten into this obsession of collecting raw food recipes 🙂 and weight lost is my all time obsession.. If only I lose some weight I wouldn’t obsess about it as much, I guess

  2. I would call these “obsessions”, I’d just say that you were being enthusiastic about a lot of things 😀 And not surprisingly, you learn more when you are being enthusiastic about something!

  3. You have reminded me of so many projects I’ve started in the past, obsessions that I thought would stick around forever. Nope, they vanish after I’ve spent way too much money on them. There’s a Ted Talk about people like us. Search: Why some of us don’t have one true calling by Emilie Wapnick. You’ll find our clan and get perspective. I love this post. It rings so true for me.

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