Reflections

It is that time of year again – nay, that time of the decade.  The time where we hit an arbitrary marker that causes us to look back on a particular, arbitrary period of time, and think about how it measures up against a series of arbitrary criteria that matter not to anyone.  But we have, indeed, hit upon one of those markers, so this is a good time for reflection.

I consider this blog to be aimless and disorganized.  Usually my posting schedule is “oh, I have something to post about, I think I’ll post about it.”  So I write up a bit of a post and then click publish.  That’s it.  Generally, what you see, I’ve just taken five to ten minutes to write up, and then clicked the little button.  The fact that it’s even of the quality it is, is pretty much a miracle.  It could probably be more if I were willing or able to put aside my personal integrity and turn into a kind of “social chameleon” – being what people want me to be instead of who I am.  That is, indeed, how you get followers.  It is also how you eventually lose sight of who you are and become solely subject to the whims of your audience.

But, the truth is, that what I’m doing now isn’t working.  I’m just blogging about whatever I want, whenever I want to, and at the end of the day, there is no coherent mission to this blog, no cohesive theme or idea other than loosely talking about all things Japanese, and while folks may consider it interesting, it’s only marginally useful.

I generally do not do new year’s resolutions.  I consider them to be additional pressure that I don’t need in my life, to bite off too much and eventually end up scaling it back until it’s worthless.  But perhaps it would be a useful exercise, as the decade comes to an end, to figure out what I want to do with this blog and then do it.

It’s either that or stop posting, and I don’t really want to do that.

Why I Blog.

I have been blogging in one form or another for about twenty or twenty-five years now.  I was blogging back when the only way you could blog was mark up the HTML yourself and put it on a static page, then manually link to it.  Then WordPress came out and made it easier, and there are a few other blogging platforms that are probably better in one way or other.

I blog because I am curious and I like to share my curiosity.  I am, if not educated, at least minimally informed, in many different disciplines, including music, mathematics, linguistics/language, theology, science, physics, and a few other things as well.  In fact, this is so important to me and so central to my worldview that I actually define intelligence not by IQ (of which mine is somewhere between 130 or 150, though as I will soon point out, I don’t think that matters), but more by the ability to integrate, or synthesize, patterns or data across multiple disciplines.  This is something I am particularly good at, and teasing out patterns that very few people have discovered or understood before is something that is very satisfying to me.  In fact, one could easily and probably accurately say that it’s the only thing in this world that truly makes me feel happy.  Solving problems and succeeding at intellectual challenges is, perhaps literally, the only true source of joy there is in my life.

But this comes with some downsides as well.  I see the spectrum of human ability as a series of an indeterminate number of sliders, each one specifying another aspect of human ability.  The problem is, you don’t get to set each slider to 100.  Every time one slider goes up, another goes down.  It’s a very complex pattern of sliders, in fact, it’s so complex that no one person has the exact same slider configuration as another.  My slider configuration is very heavily weighted towards the rational, and against the emotional.  What I mean is, that I would much rather spend time trying to solve problems and improve processes than deal with the ambiguities of everyday life.  Being of that kind of engineering and scientific mindset, it is very easy for me to hone in on things that aren’t quite right and need to be improved.  But if something is already good, I see no reason to mention it, as it cannot be improved further.  I imagine this is seen as negativity on my part – and, perhaps, it is – but it’s more my seeing irregularities in the pattern, inefficiencies that could be improved, and generally my intentions in pointing these things out is that once they’re brought into the light, then they can be addressed.

It is very easy – too easy, in fact – to forget the fact that those with my psychological makeup are rare.  In fact, I know for a fact that companies out there – such as e-commerce companies – deliberately do not market to people like me, not only because we are rare, but we are mostly unmarketable.  We see right through their BS, and marketing is mostly BS, with just enough truth not to get them sued.  So why bother?

Personal integrity is also important to me as well.  So the question, in my eyes, becomes this.  Do I deliberately become something that is not true to myself in order to become more popular and stimulate engagement?  Or do I continue to be myself and put people off because I’m too blunt and clinical?  I know the techniques to improve this – I have been paying close attention to what Scott Adams has been saying, and he has some very good tips.  The question is:  do I want to?

That’s a question I have yet to properly answer.  But I do know that if I have any intention whatsoever of ever succeeding in the online sphere, I have to figure that out.  If not, then I may as well not bother, because “pissing into the wind” isn’t exactly my idea of a fun time.  And yes, I’m knocking it and haven’t tried it.

 

100 posts

I started this blog on a whim, not really knowing what I would even do with it.  Honest truth is, that hasn’t changed.  I still have no idea.  I just write about what I feel like.  Sometimes it’s good.  Sometimes it’s crap.  Sometimes it’s crappily good.

But here are some interesting insights.

My most popular post is 5 Reasons J-Pop sucks.  Interestingly, that was an experimental post.  Everything in that post was designed to be popular.  I put in a “5 reasons” tagline, I had an emotional conclusion that would draw people in, I even added a photo!  And, well…

I guess it worked.

Not sure what to do with that, though.  I’ll have to think about it.

The top country viewing this blog for this year is the USA.  Followed by Japan.  That’s a little surprising to me, as I didn’t think I was getting much Japan traffic, but it’s a pleasant surprise.  Last year, the second most popular country was Germany.  That is surprising.

I made a post once entirely in Japanese.  I honestly don’t think anyone’s even seen it.  That’s disheartening, but not surprising.  If I’m going to to Japanese, I’ll probably need to choose a different medium.  Or get better at Japanese.  Or both.

Nearly all the traffic comes from search engines.  I have generally no idea what people are searching for, because google sucks.  But that indicates that if I want, for some reason, to drive more people here, then I have to do some kind of SEO.  That, of course, has the premise of wanting to drive more people here.  I have mixed feelings about that.

The honest truth is, I’m an introvert.  I’m not good with people.  Other than the odd experiment, I’m honestly not too interested in selling out for popularity.  But on the flip side, that means this site will likely never be popular.  Am I okay with that?

I don’t know.  Guess I have to experiment some more.  Wish me luck.  But here’s to another hundred posts.  Hopefully of higher quality than the first 100.

Gaijin?

When I first created this blog, I had a nearly infinite choice of things to call it.  I could have called it, oh, I dunno…  “Musings on Japanese”, or “My Japanese Journey”, or a whole bunch of stuff.  But I settled on this one.  In fact, it really wasn’t even all that much of a decision.  This was the right name.

But why, when the word “gaijin” had less than savory origins, and some may still find it offensive?

The literal meaning of gaijin (外人) is “outsider”, or, literally, “outside person”.  (the two kanji separately would be pronounced “soto hito”, or “outside person”).  It is a word that was coined for people who are not Japanese.  It was originally a derogatory word, and even now, many Japanese don’t use it, but it’s mostly lost its connotations over the years and now many foreigners, such as me, use it to self-identify.  But for me, it has more meanings than just “someone who’s not Japanese”.

See, I was raised in an environment where I never felt like I belonged.  Ever since I was a small child, I was an outsider.  I never fit in school, I never really fit in church, I didn’t really even fit in my own family.  And, to be honest, none of that’s changed all that much.  I can think of no situation at all in this life where I really feel as if I belong.

I’m not just a gaijin in the sense of being an outsider from Japan, I’m a gaijin in the sense of being an outsider to everything.

So the name of this site has deeper meaning than just a once-offensive-and-some-think-still-offensive word that means an outsider from Japan.  It’s much more involved than that.  And you’d never know if I didn’t tell you.

If a Japanese person called me a gaijin, I might laugh it off – and depending on the tone of voice, I might not.  I do respond negatively to people who deliberately cause offense, and considering how agreeable many Japanese are, that would probably be someone who was deliberately trying to cause offense.  But, truth be told, I’d be just as likely to agree as to take offense.

And that is why I’m a “gaijin learning Japanese”.  For, in all honestly, I even consider myself a gaijin in the Japanese class I’m attending.

Endings and Beginnings

I have mixed feelings about blogging, to be honest.  I’ve been doing it since before blogging was a thing – a while ago, I found a blog that I’d written nearly 20 years ago out of pure HTML – wordpress didn’t exist back then, and all I had available was a web server.  I’m glad that blog’s gone – but the point is I’ve been doing it a long time.

And I don’t feel like I’m very good at it.

Blogs have come and blogs have gone in my life, and each time, I’m never happy with the quality of writing, with the topics I come up with, and I feel as if any audience that I have is pissed off as often as they’re interested.  I’ve tried to keep this blog as high quality and on topic as possible, but I don’t really feel like I’ve succeeded.  And if you toss in the fact of my depressive personality and a rather aimless and scattershot learning technique, what you get is a blog that’s rather aimless in its topics and tries to be at the same time too many things and not enough.

I’m not quitting blogging here, but I’m seriously thinking about what I’m trying to accomplish.  Why do I blog in the first place?  And why do I blog about this topic in particular, when my interests are spread far wider?  Why not blog about sports cards?  Why not blog about theology?  Why not blog about piano, or classical music?  Why this, why now?  And am I blogging about J-Pop?  Japanese culture?  Japanese language?  All of the above?  Apparently, I have no idea.

So I’m not quitting this blog, but I’m going to reboot it.  I start a Japanese class at community college at the end of the month.  This marks a transition, a graduation, if you will, from a scattershot, exploration based approach to learning to an actual, methodical approach to learning.  It also marks a transition from me doing it because it interests me to me actually taking it seriously.  Who knows where it will take me now?  Or, conversely, who knows where it will not?

As I take the studies seriously, so will I take this blog. I will think carefully about what I want to accomplish, and that is where I will go.

The petals have fallen from the sakura trees, and where do we go from here?

Ikimasu.  Ganbarou.