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Saturday, June 01, 2024 - 02:12 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Serious Search, Concluded

On Independence

It was more or less just this
(Original source: kengan-manga.com)

As to why only now and not say five or ten years ago, I suppose I... honestly didn't think about it (and the implications). Causality's biggest blind spot is usually about the self, after all. There's no use for recriminations, though, so onwards!

A large part of this would also be down to independence; a common pitfall in relationships has been said to be (co-)dependancy, but in my case, the problem is that I honestly don't need anyone. I could (badly) want someone, I suppose, but if push comes to shove, I would be forced to admit that yes, I would (sadly?) survive by myself. Put another way, I'm quite comfortable in my own skin, thank you - and the whole "being accurate & true to oneself/one's own judgment" trait makes group membership and participation mostly optional. It might be one against a thousand, a thousand against one, or five hundred (and one) against five hundred - it matters not.

Retracing my life a little, I have been assured that I had been quite the chatterbox in my younger years (up to my early teens?), and also more up for the whole "leadership" shtick. However, the passage of years has had me shift from wanting to actively influence or persuade others to accept or support some issue (because I said so), to really wishing that they would be able to derive the outcome for themselves...

Magic Mirror On The Wall

This is a digression on dating being described as a numbers game towards finding (one of) "The One(s)". It turns out that this characterization is considered to be offensive by some, who (not wrongly) object to people being reduced to numbers, which moreover takes much of the romance out of the process.

On this, imagine there being a magic mirror, an oracle, which can show you (ok, if single) - or anyone - their (mutual) best match, currently existing in the world. Note that this is entirely different from the (probably more common) love potion trope, which rewires the target to love oneself (which, if one thinks about it, is [creepy] brainwashing). With the magic mirror, "The One" already exists as-is (and is assumed to be available, since that probably factors kinda highly into the best match criteria). All it does is to reveal her (or his) identity, to the beholder.

It might be mentioned here that I believe that most everyone has some unique "types", or at least some unique features - often commonly thought of as flaws - that they prefer; in other words, the quintessential "10" who's maxed out conventionally in all areas (e.g. looks, intelligence, wealth, etc., as if all sliders were topped off on a character creation screen), would not actually be their true "The One"* (not the least because such a profile basically screams "scam"**). Instead, it might be the hair, a little too thin or full; the ears, peeking out just so from within; the eyes, a bit too small or too wide apart; the nose, too thin yet striking, pug-like but adorable; the teeth, just a tad snaggled, just a teeny bit fanged; the neck long and elegant, or stubby and sweet; the curves exaggerated, or lack of such; the legs bowed a little, or thicker than usual, or rod-like.

And that's just the physicals***.

So, imagine this mirror, it is able to find one's true desire amongst billions; all those tiny quirks, the curve of the face, the way she turns her head in dappled sunlight, the smile crooked just the way one likes it, before she looks away again; the voice, too girlish but somehow perfect, or deep yet entirely feminine; the way she walks, that carefree hop, or the full strides that show off those legs so well; her thoughts and words, many or few, serious or not, but always so captivating; her flaws, so forgivable, that mess when she yawns having slept in too late again; on top of that, on top of all that, her adoration, pure and true - because you are her "The One" too, just as you are, honestly all she wanted, ever wanted.

That's how it works
(Source: readcomiconline.li)

How much would this magic mirror be worth, to a person, to the world?

Or at least this was what the old OkCupid was going for - on the personality end at least - with their quizzes and such, before the Match Group took over and transformed it into mostly another Tinder clone. But in any case, the moral of this story is that we don't have a magic mirror. Too bad, so sad. As such, "playing the numbers game" by meeting more prospects appears to be the only way out, and trust me, I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have to. If anybody has any better ideas, I'm all ears.

[*One classic example of this appears in Gu Long's famous wuxia novel 绝代双骄 (there are many English translations of the title, probably most popularly The Legendary/Proud Twins); the story begins with bishōnen Jiang Feng spurning the advances of Empress Yao Yue to elope with her servant girl, despite Yao Yue being a legitimate ten by all the usual measures (beauty, wealth, power [being arguably the top martial artist in that universe, certainly the top female one]). Jiang Feng's famous retort as to why this rejection was that "她是一团火,一块冰,一柄剑,她甚至可说是鬼,是神,但绝不是人" - Yao Yue was a wad of fire, a chunk of ice, a sword; she could even be said to be a phantom or a deity, but definitely inhuman; he was unable to love an elemental being, and thus loved the servant girl, who was human and understood him instead. Ironically, the first-person narrative makes it clear that Yao Yue was not only human, but very much a woman; but by the opening scene, it was too late. Perhaps she should have sprung for a therapist.]

[**Possibly still worth it, for some guys.]

[***Actually, identifying one's physical "types" should be fairly easy to implement with today's generative AI tools - one could imagine starting with four slightly-different versions of a generic (wo)man, as implemented by Midjourney etc. The user selects the one closest to his "type", upon which the GenAI model produces another four variants of that image (possibly not entirely randomly, since feature control is quantifiable), so on and so forth until the image of "The One" stares out of the screen. Of course, this person does not actually exist, so the next step would be to link up with some (popular) dating app, and run the image against the available population to return the closest match(es). Admittedly this involves external appearance only, but it would be a start.]

The L-word

I'm not sayin' I'm scared, but... it's understandable why Ohma ran
[N.B. They do end up getting together eventually - according to her, at least.]
(Source: kenganashura.com)

So, what is love?

In the dating context, Sternberg's triangular theory would be a famous representation, in which intimacy, passion and commitment are all required for the consummate version. Otherwise, we get the "lesser" kinds of love:
  • Intimacy only: Liking
  • Passion only: Infatuation
  • Commitment only: Empty
  • Intimacy+Passion: Romantic
  • Intimacy+Commitment: Companionate
  • Passion+Commitment: Fatuous

One can refer to the source for the fuller descriptions of all these (together with other expressions such as "love languages", which appear to have become a staple in the dating landscape), but the "standard" development would seem to be romantic (possibly with liking/infatuation before that), hopefully towards consummate, and possibly fading a little to companionate, through a marriage.

It was a little unsettling to realise that one's specialty leaned heavily to the "empty" style (well, Void Fist sounds cool), but it's also slightly annoying to be judged as to whether one's love is "real" or not - especially when pertaining to something intended to be longer-term/permanent. While all that's required for a one-night stand would be how to split the bill for the hotel room, it's sensible to at least consider more... material aspects, when marriage is in the picture. In traditional Chinese culture, this involves confirming if the suitor 有房有车 (i.e. owns a home and a car) - which, well, translates directly to money, since these possessions are entirely fungible. In fact, it might be observed that a prospect without these items would not be considered a (hu)man - 不算(男)人 - in the matchmaking/courtship context.

This is definitely not limited to Chinese or even Asian culture, certainly - anecdotes abound of gals (ok, and guys, because this is an era of gender equality) trying to infer the wealth level of their pursuers or targets, by observing their accessories, shoes, ride, etc - which extends all the way to looking up whether their Zip code is in an affluent neighbourhood, and indirect markers such as (big) dog ownership. At this stage, I'd prefer the honesty of a date directly asking (about salary, wealth, etc.) upfront, than trying to tease it out via oblique questions and dropping hints such as "ambitious" and "generous" (alongside other supporting signals). Look, lady, I got the compound interest valuation right here, there's really no need to interrupt this romantic moment with mental calculations!

We'll get back to this a little later on, but for now, a final comment on how love - or at least, interest - can be interpreted very differently by individuals. Take something as mundane as texting; I've already had feedback from one lady that she didn't think I was that interested, because I wasn't texting enough. However, overtexting is apparently also often interpreted as annoying, and a sign that a guy doesn't have much going on in his life. Again, open communication for the win.

The Deal

Let negotiations begin
(Original source: knowyourmeme.com)

And we come to what's on the table, since if we're looking at something serious, all this will have to come out sooner or later. Again, this is perhaps not necessary for some short-term casual fling, and yes, maybe it does take some of the spontaneity and "romance" out of the equation, but truthfully I can get with that. Since the main demographics have already been covered at the start of May, this will only emphasize previously-mentioned conditions as appropriate, enhanced by newly-won experience:

  • Age: Maintaining the 25 - 32 year age bracket for now, although it appears that options are significantly more plentiful, and actually often quite high-quality, in the 33 - 40 year range. Not only that, the more... mature ladies further tend to be rather more amenable and eager to seal the deal, so to speak - as no less than Ben Franklin noted centuries ago.

    Alas, this is unfortunately one of the last criteria that can be compromised on given the main objectives of the whole endeavour. Thus far, 28 to 31 years appears to offer the most promising balance, with those under 28 generally not having a complementary mindset.

  • Intention: Marriage & kids. With reference to the previous post, I'm not really eager to persuade or chase the indifferent any longer; if she doesn't know what she wants (whether marriage, kids or me), nothing wrong with that, but she can take her own time to figure it out.

    In response to possible protestations along the lines of this placing unreasonable pressure on the other party, or that it should begin with friendship and progress naturally, apologies but no. Going by past reasoning on getting together with "The One" logically being easy, she should be aligned on fundamentals such as this.

    Moreover, it's strange that stating "marriage & kids" as the desired outcome can be criticized as being too objective-oriented (and thus not a proper expression of "love"), when couples getting together due to hobbies (e.g. dancing, rock climbing) get a pass; I mean, one can always recruit dance partners or climbing buddies etc. without any engagement outside of the activity!

  • Education: While I had been willing to be open-minded about this, I have discovered that I'm quite the sucker for intelligence (and good spelling/grammar, beginning with those dating app bios) deep down. If really need be, however, I suppose this criteria can be loosened.

  • Attraction: It would be ideal if I were her 9 or 10 (and vice-versa) from the get-go, if simply because this affords a healthy margin of error in the relationship. One supposes it a lot easier to overlook or endure issues and idiosyncrasies when one seriously adores the other party to begin with, rather than having the first challenge lead one to wonder whether the pairing was worth it or not - as might be the case when the other party barely made one's rating/standards threshold. Sure, there's no telling how such assessments will fluctuate, but there's no harm in giving oneself the best possible odds from the start.

In return, what's on offer:

  • Support: Both material and emotional/other (though I may have to work on the latter). The entire point of, well, making loads of moolah was to support a family, because how much can a single guy spend on himself? Since fixating on this can understandably be a turn-off, this might be thought of as an option to skip some of the more unpleasant and grindy parts of life, and spend more time on those fun side-quests.

    I suppose it is possible to be offended by such an offer (generally via objections such as who do you think you are, I can make my own money, I don't want to be obliged to or depend on a man, etc.), but frankly I believe my true "The One" would understand - 都是夫妻了, 不需要算计这些了 - take the cash with a beguiling grin, and start planning the trip to Disneyland or Iceland or whereever. And really, it's not a good look when the lady starts fights over who wears the pants, if only because most guys really don't look good without their pants!

  • Openness: Look, just about anything can be discussed explicitly. Comms lines are open.

  • L-word: If it happens, it comes with the package.

  • Loyalty: I have dedicated nearly twenty years to the ghost of a shadow of a dream. I say this because it is true. I believe I can do it, and more, for a real person.

  • ???: Feel free to propose extras, light a fire. After so many years alone, I confess to wondering what life would be like, with actual close-up support!

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 - 20:32 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Serious Search, Concluding

Encouraged by picking up Dataclysm* by Christian Rudder - one of the original founders of OkCupid, who have a history of blogging their intensive data analyses of the dating world - I resolved to wrap up my observations on the subject pronto, all the more since work commitments are coming along better than they have been for awhile.

Bumble Bumbled

There have been some pretty large shake-ups in the dating app world since I wandered into it a month or so ago, and I wish to affirm that it was a total coincidence. Bumble for one has caught flak for their controversial celibacy advertising campaign a fortnight back, which comes as their share price collapsed over 80% from their high in 2021. Hinge for their part has implemented match limits in a bid to reduce ghosting, by allowing a maximum of eight unanswered chats at any one time. Bumble's counterplay appears to then be... allowing men to message first (i.e. negating their unique selling point), and introducing "AI concierge" chatbots that will hit up other users' concierges for you (how does that work - let's have my bot talk to your bot someday?). Even as a guy who's scripted bots to play his games for him, this seems a little pointless.

On this, it has also been observed that the general trend of (Match Group) dating apps has been to remove features (and then offer some of those as paid extras), so technical limitations are probably not the limiting factor here.

E Pluribus Unum?

Be a (gentle)man and just suck it up

This is a follow-on from the (romantic?) ideal of there being a single soulmate, or "The One", from the previous post. This supposition can be approached from another angle - assuming that "The One" indeed exists, what are the odds that one will find her**, anyway?

From the given concrete example off a single app, there were 17 matches from 4,811 outgoing and 358 incoming swipes. It can immediately be noted that this requires 4,453 additional incoming swipes just to corroborate the outgoing ones, so assuming the distribution of these theoretical incoming swipes remains unchanged, this should result in an additional 211 matches from this app's population alone. Even at a brisk clip of two first dates a week, this would take a couple of years to work through, not accounting for any new candidates.

Certainly, it could be argued that this is putting the cart before the horse, since there's no guarantee that the app will display one's profile to the remaining four thousand-plus hopefuls anyway. However, the point is that if "The One" (whom might be thought of as one's number one pick amongst all mutual likes within these 4,811 options) exists, then it's far more likely that she would not even have become a match yet, due to not having been shown one's profile for a swipe! In this case, the odds of "The One" being in the existing 17 matches would be about a paltry 7.5%. Moreover, this is only from a single app - if considering the entire global population, the odds would become quite infinitesimal.

From this, we might consider a few implications:
  • As defined, it is nearly impossible for a person to meet, much less date or marry, "The One" truly most suited to him (out of everybody in the world)

  • In response to the above, a popular rejoinder would be that there really isn't a single "The One". For one, the top hundred or thousand best matches might be essentially indistinguishable in quality/compatibility anyway - thought of quantitatively, if the absolute top choice scores a hundred, the thousandth best might be a 99, basically equivalent but in a novel way. Moreover, one supposes such compatibility fluctuates over the longer term (as each individual develops further, or as external events occur) and within each day, so "The One" for a person at twenty might not be (actually, is likely not) "The One" for the same person at forty, assuming that the person has remained unattached throughout

  • Admittedly, this may be seen as something of a romance-killer; if there are so many good-enough matches, what's so special about the person one actually gets with in the end (ref. Kierkegaard's aesthete, who quickly abandons an "unrealistic" love for the attainable rich brewer's widow)?

  • The usual answer to the above is then that "The One" is a status mutually cultivated over time - the person one gets with might not be actually the absolute best match, or even anywhere near that, but shared experience can mould them both into the ideal mate for each other (reflected in spouses eventually picking up each other's mannerisms, and finishing each other's sentences)

[**written from my own viewpoint from here onwards, but this should apply whatever one's orientation.]

On Rejection

Aw, so sad.
(Source: deviantart.com)

This becomes easier to take with experience (as in sales) from all indications, once the halo about "The One" is eliminated. Rationally (again), there are any number of reasons that one might get rejected (or pre-emptively ghosted), many of which can't be helped:

  • Beneath her standards (N.B. it might not be entirely appropriate to imply another person as "lower", since criteria [such as preference for hair/eye colour] are often subjective, but yeah, you get what I mean)

  • Above her standards*** (yup, that's definitely a thing.)

  • Not actually available, just created a profile to benchmark her "market value" and enjoy the validation

  • Available (kinda), but taking her time to gauge the market/check out what's available

  • Exchanged phones with BFF for kicks and giggles

  • Finger slipped and accidentally swiped left

  • Just got with someone else on the app

  • Reminded her too much of an ex

  • Not feeling it today

  • Catfish by a guy

  • Her cat choked on her hamster

etc. One admittedly great feature about modern dating apps is that the initial rejection is "hidden"; if a person never matches with someone, he will never be sure as to whether it is an actual rejection (i.e. a left swipe) or if the other person simply has not been shown his profile yet, which takes a lot of the sting out of the first step of the dating process. Given this, a guy with an 88% left-swipe (i.e. essentially first-cut rejection) rate should perhaps not be bellyaching so much about the act of rejection?

As covered in the previous post, it sadly still feels terrible to reject a prospect - but logically, this becomes unavoidable if one actually goes about it diligently, and racks up the numbers; again taking 100 first dates/approaches, even if success is found eventually (yay), then there would have been 99 "rejections" one way or the other - and if so, those would probably be easier to take coming earlier than later. Sadly, this remains tough whichever way it goes, due to having to do the "cruel" act if doling it out, and wondering what might have been if on the receiving end. Perhaps it does get easier and easier as Number Go Up, possibly to the extent that it becomes an afterthought; but then, the question would be, what have I become****?

Another consolatory way to think about this, would be that rejection might indeed be the correct choice, even where there is a decent match going on. Take a pair who has assessed each other at say, 60/100 after a couple of dates. There's nothing wrong with the other person per se, and if really need be (i.e. matched together in an arranged marriage culture), they could very well make it work. However, this being a free country (in this respect at least), it would be entirely sensible for both to hold out for a mutual 70/100, 90/100, or more.

When to wrap up the "sampling phase" and start tying down top candidates then becomes the classical optimal stopping (secretary, originally fiancée) problem, which does come with the assumption that once rejected, a candidate is forever out of contention (which is not always true in real-life dating). The solution is to interview/date n/e of the available population of size n (to personally experience what's possible), before picking the next candidate that is better than all previous candidates. This clearly comes with many constraints in practice, such as time/energy/monetary costs spent on dates, but also the difficulty of somehow comparing unique individuals.

[***Relevant to this would be the occasional profile of an admittedly extremely hot lady in various bikini poses, which tends to get a left swipe. I mean, sure she would be very popular on-app, maybe she's indeed the settling-down type, and perhaps one shouldn't judge a book by its cover - not that there's much cover there to judge by, though!]

[****Since the only acceptable way to go about it is sincerely, the hurt comes as a required cost. Then, the next question is whether it is possible to sincerely offer/be offered a personal connection, and get over it immediately once turning it/being turned down. I guess having sales experience really helps.]

On "Tests"†

I suppose it is fairly common (and not entirely unreasonable) for both parties to probe the other person's level of commitment, during said dating process. Clearly, there's no upper limit to this kind of thing, since such tests can quickly go from fairly normal (e.g. delaying replies†† to text messages, not putting out until X number of dates, etc.), to majorly life-changing (e.g. cutting ties with friends/family, joining in on illegal activities) and ultimately fatal (if you loved me enough, you would jump off this cliff). This can get rough at the dinner table too:

Her: (out of nowhere) Darling, if I, your mother, your grandmother, your sister and Liu Yifei all fell off the side of a yacht at the same time, who would you save first?

*four expectant pairs of eyes staring*

Him: Why don't you just shoot me and be done with it?!

which can go the other way:

Her: Honey, if I passed away first, would you get married again?

Him: Well... I suppose it's not impossible.

Her: Would you choose someone who plays golf, like me?

Him: Absolutely, it's my hobby after all.

Her: *annoyed* Then would you let her use my golf clubs?

Him: Oh, definitely not!

Her: *happier* Why not?

Him: Because she's left-handed.

But frankly, one has to believe that The Right One would not have to resort to such - a good relationship should be easy and enjoyable for all involved, right (more on this later)?

[†Colloquially scatological.]

[††That said, having replies consistently delayed by a constant number of hours (give or take a few minutes) regardless of the time the original message was sent, is kinda flattering - that must take more effort than just answering the incoming text message immediately!]

On Standards

To begin with, it might be established that everybody has standards.

Sure, someone might claim that they are extremely open-minded and willing to consider anyone (of the desired gender), but such claims are generally rather quickly dismantled through the presentation of... unorthodox candidates. For example, how about this seventy year-old male widower? That's insulting? Okay, so age is a criteria. This nice but bedridden young fella? So health is also a criteria... oh, it's anyone reasonable? This guy here? Uh, what's his job, how much does he make, where did he go to school, how tall is he...

So, as I said, everybody has standards.

Personally, it's best to be upfront about these standards, especially when dating seriously/pursuing explicit matchmaking. It is tempting to cloak standards that might be thought frivolous/shallow (e.g. on height†††/looks) by passing rejections off as due to other reasons (e.g. there was no chemistry, we just didn't click), but frankly this just wastes everybody's time.

Of course, the trouble arises when one's standards are, uh, entirely unrealistic. For instance, if an average Joe insists on only considering six-foot tall executives with Miss Universe-tier looks, multiple graduate degrees and heterochromia, one might rightly go, bro, you might want to relax some of those criteria.

[†††This can get pretty brutal, with supposedly only 15% of women showing interest in 173 cm (5' 8'') tall men on dating apps from their search filters, with six feet being the magic threshold. Put in perspective, the average adult male height in Singapore is 171 cm, which has predictably led to guys buffing their height by a couple of inches on average (as that can plausibly be passed off in shoes). Not only that, the most popular height was 198 cm (6' 6''), which would be the 99.85th percentile even in the United States, and begs the question as to how many NBA small forwards are waiting on the apps.]

On Settling

Here, we come to non-matches, more specifically the case where one party likes the other party, but not the other way around - which probably happens to some degree to everyone. In such situations, it is generally possible for the more-desired party to "settle" for his/her admirer. Unfortunately, this is by definition a suboptimal match for the former (as otherwise he/she would also have wanted the other party from the start), and can thus translate into mistreatment/abuse by the party holding the higher hand, so to speak.

As such, my personal advice would be that it is generally better to be single than settle (according to one's true standards), by the reasoning that one's internal dissatisfaction can't be hidden forever. Going by this, it would be kinder to leave the other party to someone who would actually appreciate him/her. Disregarding such (ethical?) considerations, it is entirely plausible for a "player" to maintain multiple side-chicks (if male) or orbiters (if female) by simply dropping their standards threshold - which ironically probably doesn't hurt their success at (future/more) relationships, at least in the short term. Not that I would ever have any interest in this myself...

It Should Be Easy?

The joy of being made for each other
(Source: pinterest.com)

One piece of advice that I've come across quite a few times, is that when one encounters (probably one of many possible) "The One(s)", the getting together should be effortless. While previous references to "(dating/marriage) market value" and assigning numerical ratings to people might have been a turn-off, please bear with it here since it's the easiest way to provide an explanation. To recap, the past sections have been on standards (on one's personal scale [out of ten], what's the minimum value that one would be happy with?) and settling (the [unfortunate] case where only one person in a pair has their standards truly satisfied)

A healthy match, then, would then be one where both parties' standards are mutually satisfied - in the real world, this is probably most commonly expressed by two 5.5/10s (i.e. smack dab average, but there's nothing wrong with that) with realistic standards (i.e. maybe 5/10), coming and standing against life together. But wait, it (finally) gets better! What if each of them instead (again sincerely) regard the other party as a 9 or 10? Such rankings are ultimately personal and subjective, after all. In this case, the dating process should become extremely easy (barring external limitations, and silly [unneeded] mindgames) - they would be leaping to get with each other and keep in contact, do things for each other, etc.

It follows that the endurance/stability of a match, might be estimated by how highly the pair regard each other, relative to how they are rated by society at large; the greater the discrepancy, the more stable the match since their attraction for each other, would be correspondingly higher than that available from external options (analogous to minimizing within-cluster variance - and thereby maximizing between-cluster variance)

More reflection here suggests that this is a major realization that I have neglected previously, due to a (misguided?) belief in "destiny" and "effort" - but really, it's not that rare for people to be turned off by the process potentially being "too easy". Well, here's to hoping that the only easy day is tomorrow!

Be (A Better/The Best) Yourself

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will spue thee out of my mouth.

- Revelation 3:16

"Just Be Yourself" is perhaps the most cliched piece of dating advice out there, which has received many arguments both for and against it. There are some good points either way, and the conclusion appears to be that it's indeed best to "be yourself", because while it might be possible to repackage oneself for a short while (e.g. on dates), the true self eventually comes out, and that's what the other party will have to deal with in an actual relationship; however, the caveat is that one should strive to be a better themselves over time.

So, some concrete examples: let's say that a guy's main hobby and identity is martial arts, but he has thus far been practising only at a casual level. Then, "being a better himself" would be reaching higher and higher levels in his martial art, all the way to the maximum-dan black belt, winning international competitions, and becoming world champion. However, there will surely be ladies who do not appreciate martial arts, or downright hate them due to the inherent violence or somesuch. In those cases, there's really nothing for it - 萝卜白菜,各有所爱.

No-one is liked/loved by everyone, so get over it
[N.B. One can get ostracized for being too just, as Aristides found.]
(Source: mangasee123.com)

As also discussed in Dataclysm (right after the author photobombed TRUMP and Gorbachev at a pre-Oscar filming), there's another very good reason to "be yourself" (unique): it's better to be wanted/loved by some and (potentially) disliked/hated by others (ahem GEOTUS), than be the colourless bland everyperson that everyone sort of accepts exists. Tying into the previous section on great matches being where both parties overwhelmingly prefer each other over consensus ratings, the idea is that you would want your significant other to really want you, rather than be meh about you - and if so, why not goose your odds by staking out a niche for yourself?

That said, there are probably some basic glow-ups that most people can do, without abandoning their inner core - a common complaint by the ladies has been that some guys could do so much better if they were to just "clean up their act", i.e. basic grooming, better-fitting clothes, etc., or "looksmaxxing" in other communities, with the primary rejoinder probably being losing (actually excess) weight, for the ladies. To be honest, I've seen any number of profiles where you could just imagine the potential... less forty or fifty pounds. On this, it might be noted that it's usually possible to lose weight, but not gain height.

One Can't Have It All

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Similar realizations would probably have come to most during their first (quarter/mid)-life crisis, that they are after all merely mortal, that they would never be able to achieve everything, and that even the lives of those that they never thought too much of - the elderly chap struggling to jog every morning, the bedraggled middle manager waiting for the bus, that lecturer whose class they tended to sleep through - were not at all easy to achieve and maintain. One by one, the figs begin to fall.

Lest this get too negative, it's not that one can't strive and achieve at any age - there's plenty of news articles about octogenarians earning degrees and climbing mountains and completing marathons; the catch is that inevitably, more and more doors close as one ages. Against this, there are two main consolations: firstly, that one won't have time to explore the vast majority of the doors that remain open, anyway; and secondly, that nobody alive or dead has ever come anywhere remotely close to truly "having it all" in their lives. They may have grabbed a few more figs from the tree, is all.

[*including relevant comparative linguistic studies on word length in tweets, from page 61.]

[To be continued (one final time)...]

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Sunday, May 26, 2024 - 23:07 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Causal Not Casual

To follow up on the last (couple of) post(s), "causality" had been remarked to be kind of airy-fairy and abstract by off-blog commentators, to which I must clarify that everybody uses it. Take for example the scenario of there being an uncovered manhole in the middle of the sidewalk, possibly due to some distracted construction workers. Just about any sighted fellow strolling down the sidewalk, then, would take care to shift to the side of the manhole while passing by it. If asked why, and not by a child, he might well be confused or even insulted - this is just common sense, does it warrant a serious explanation?! A kinder soul might work through it in more detail: if he stepped onto the open manhole, there would be no support for his feet; he would then fall into the sewer below, and likely be seriously injured and/or incur a hefty laundry bill, depending on the conditions within the drain (water level, depth etc.)

But, if one thinks about this, this is merely causality! The fellow had a mental model of how physics works, and another model involving the simulation of the (near-term) future, assuming that he had walked straight ahead (as he and most others would have done, had there been no open manhole). Perhaps the application was automatic and unconscious, but the basic nature remains nonetheless. Extensions of this scenario involving more and more specialized context can easily be imagined - let us say that someone is loitering further down the sidewalk. Does our fellow continue past him, or cross the street to avoid an encounter? Then let us say that our fellow has a destination ten blocks down, with dark clouds gathering - does he turn back to get his umbrella? So on and so forth.

There exists a strict order of precedence in street cred

Causality as applied to "highfalutin" topics such as finance and geopolitics, as raised in the previous post, is then essentially exactly the same concept. There is a mental model, facts and suppositions of various confidence levels within the model, connections and implications between all those datapoints (again probably probabilistic), and hypotheses simulated based on various combinations and assumptions on the above. Sure the facts may be more obscure or uncertain, the connections less obvious or outright obfuscated, the scale larger and the structure (including feedback loops) more complicated and dynamic, but this is a distinction of degree and not type.

The measure of accuracy in one's mental model(s), then, is how well their projections fit eventual reality - which is basically falsifiability in scientific experiments. Of course, given the messy state of reality, care has to be taken when interpreting the outcomes - there could plausibly have been additional unknown factors producing the results, or we might just have been lucky - but aggregate results should be instructive, barring a change in paradigm (e.g. Newtonian physics at the velocities more relevant to regular human life, towards lightspeed). Or taking chess as an example, an expert might look at an ongoing game with apparently equal material and position and pronounce that one side will win in five moves (barring blunders), while a regular (clever but untrained) observer might (wrongly) suppose the match being undecided. In this case, then, one might accept that the expert's model of the game is superior.

Which brings us to the point: the understanding of causality is a skill that most everyone already has to an extent, and like many skills, it can (consciously) be improved upon (particularly via the continual seeking, updating and validation of one's beliefs, from Superforecasting). This also entails the importance of maintaining the integrity of one's mental model. Say that, to please an acquaintance, one adjusts the actual best-effort estimate of datapoint A; then, to fit in with group opinion, shifts connection B; next, affected by propaganda, neglects to attempt an entire class of valid hypotheses, etc. It is easy to see how the whole model can swiftly get irrepairably skewed. Perhaps some are skilled enough to clone or fork various models, to satisfy different audiences as needed. Alas, I am not.

Admittedly, for certain domains (including economics and finance), social engineering is indeed a valid factor affecting the outcomes. For others such as the harder sciences, it should not be so. In any case, to the query on why try to understand causality, one can only answer: so it has come to this?

Like a movie scene... only it's Teletubbies on repeat
[N.B. Helps to spoil movie lines too, as in "I know a place" from Fast X, though in the form of "I know just the place", which feels better to me.]

A focus on causality does have some potential tradeoffs: firstly, there's the sense of "not being fully in the present", probably picked up - and sometimes not appreciated - by other people. This is due to there always being a little bit of the self trying to "get ahead" to the future, no offense intended to anyone. Secondly, there tends to be a certain degree of fatalism, since a developed mental model of what is to come, naturally perceives (oft accurate) limits on how much can, and is likely to be, changed via (collective or individual) effort, especially for larger-scale events (e.g. psychohistory). Now, this is not necessarily bad, since a good prediction can prevent wasted effort, and allow effort to be channeled towards more-productive avenues.

Serious Search, Continued

"...Turn aside from the hunt, my liege, just for a season."

"We made a promise, brother." he says.

"You think the others will keep theirs?"

"What does that matter to me?"

- lessons from Lion El'Jonson, relatable autist

While we're on new skills, here's continuing the series on dating from the end of last month, on which I had a long and much-appreciated discussion with my (married) cousin over the weekend (also, Manchester is Red again!), which also involved the hilarious setting up of a profile for Leonardo DiCaprio (hey, it's entirely plausible that he's on there given his turnover rate). But before continuing, some hard data from Bumble, which for some reason took an explicit request to retrieve, instead of being available in real-time as surely would be possible:

Matches17 (total, report listed only active)

So it seems that my prior estimate of a 5% right-swipe rate was off, it being 11.6% instead, which might be attributed to being a little more flexible to begin with, and perhaps not being as strict on the "my type" bar overall (i.e. about 6% definitely qualify, with the remaining 6% on the threshold; it's not rare that for a given profile, some of the photos would qualify, while others not). In return for my close to 5,000 swipes, I received 358 of which 21 (or some 6%) were positive - which was probably not too bad, given the deliberately no-frills target-oriented bio designed to scare off casuals.

Encouragingly, 17 of those 21 were matches (i.e. mutual right-swipes), which appears to suggest that I do indeed disproportionately attract "my type"*, if assuming that the distribution of incoming swipes followed the general population; of course, if Bumble's algo displayed my profile more often to those that I had preselected, or if the stats include swiping from within the "liked you" tab for paid users in that group, this would not fully apply. Given this, my current assessment is that my standards are reasonable, especially since the raw volume of matches ultimately means nothing: dozens, hundreds or thousands, all that is wanted is that special one, after all!

Hullo? You called?
(Source: youtube.com)

[*In the extreme case, it is possible to have an otherworldly 50% right-swipe rate for both outgoing and incoming swipes, only to end up with zero matches due to those having no overlaps.]

"The One" & The Tragedy Of Numbers

All the trouble in this aspect of my life thus far, upon reflection, has been down to an insistence on 1) there being a fated match, and 2) that match being able to be fulfilled, through sufficient application of effort. While that second point/facet of my character (i.e. plain stubbornness) has driven me through plenty of obstacles, it doesn't seem suited to personal relationships. As concurred by my consultant-cousin (and others/online), dating is fundamentally a numbers game, for several reasons:

  1. Once the field is narrowed down to plausible candidates (i.e. passes the type and demographics test), each of them has an approximately equal chance of being a (great) fit; thus, first-dating/getting to know 100 ladies would give 100x the chances of discovering that match, compared to a single date/preliminary courtship

  2. Dating is, too, a skill. As such, the mere act of continually chatting up the ladies should improve one's ability to communicate with, and understanding of, that group - which then helps eventual success

  3. Dating also provides experience of what the fairer gender are actually like, especially after the first few meetups when everyone's still on guard. Perhaps the Instagram goddesses flaunting trips to exotic locales, do actually flop about at home in pajamas most weekends too (going on a trip with someone reveals a lot of their true personality, according to dear cousin)?

  4. Dating volume fosters an abundance mindset, or in other words, there are plenty of fish in the sea. This reduces desperation, supposedly a common attraction-killer

  5. Dating - or at least one's first partner - leads to (some) social proof, i.e. that the guy has already been vetted and approved by at least one female (competitor). I suppose this makes sense - many people wouldn't pick up a thousand-dollar bill lying in the street, less out of pure morals but more due to it being "too good to be true", i.e. if the bill were real and there's no catch, someone else would have claimed it already.

    Also, while it might not be polite to state, girls often just want what other girls have/desire (also applicable to handbags/accessories/shoes etc., or by cousin: 犯贱); this has been demonstrated by social experiments in which a run-of-the-mill guy got transformed into a (fake) rock star through a makeover and provision of an entourage, and suddenly started pulling chicks who would not have given him the time of day previously

Rationally speaking, I can't really refute the above points in terms of their efficacy in achieving the desired outcome (i.e. a [long-term] relationship/marriage). As such, any objections would be on personal principles only.

On the general concept of volume in dating, the ability to pursue that has been enabled and encouraged by modern-day dating apps, particularly for the ladies. I mean, it's really true - there's definitely somebody else out there, and not only that, very likely somebody better (i.e. paradox of choice). The apps are basically a human gacha game: why not come online and try your free spins every day, until you, yes you, get the hot five-star-rated Ivy-League educated banker and part-time model that you deserve (I'm not kidding, they share a lot of game mechanics, right down to paying for more spins/unlimited swipes)?

The dark side of this is then that it makes it difficult to commit (which suits the paid subscription plans of the app companies just fine) - why bother with compromise and working issues and disagreements out, when one can just press a button and have a new, potentially perfect mate served up on a platter (N.B. this probably applies more to the ladies)? Sure, the current option's not bad at all, but maybe the next one is everything he is, but five years younger? Or three inches taller? Or has a nicer apartment? Better dress sense? It never ends...

Wise black guy spitting truths, sort of

On further reflection, the major part of my reluctance to simply go full tilt and line up a date for every evening - technically, it's very doable - is rejection. Oh, not them rejecting me; it's not great, but I figure I'll live. It's when I have got to pull the lever when there's interest at the other end, that hurts. And, one supposes this only gets worse the longer the process goes on. Let's say that one actually racks up a hundred first dates with the same discipline as a fitness programme, and comes away with five mutual matches that turn into short-term tryouts (I don't think a 5% conversion rate counts as boasting here). Obviously, four of them will eventually have to be cut loose, which would be a real bummer.

The alternative is to do it serially - start from the top of the list, pursue until clear success or failure, then move on to the next candidate. The problem is the excruciatingly slow pace, all the more given mixed signals (possibly some sort of test of interest, on which more next time). The advice given has tended to be that they are very likely multiple-dating too, if not otherwise stated, so this becomes a matter of personal ethics and preferences. I guess stating it upfront should be fair enough?

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 - 23:28 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Know Thyself

A public holiday called for some additional reflection and personal stock-taking, which yielded the unavoidable conclusion that it's really not at all bad; I consider all my obligations discharged, and have gathered sufficient resources to, well, do essentially anything with the rest of time - within normal bounds - if need be (as some others have done, moreover at an earlier age). Hop between countries? Write one's own grants and research whatever catches my fancy? Go all-in on full-time health optimization? All is possible.

So, with the effective freedom to pursue anything, the automatic follow-on question becomes what one truly wants. For myself, it has not changed from a decade ago, and probably beyond - the knowledge and understanding of causality in general, that infinite and inexhaustible art. Apprehending something that is, why did it happen? Given the current state of reality, what will happen next? Alongside (and quite often complementing) my "official" profession and title(s), it is an interest that I have never abandoned, and consciously taken care to cultivate. New information, possibly useless at first sight, continually organized into one's mental map - what does it relate to? What does it connect to? What are its implications? What hypotheses might be born from it? Input begets output, which themselves compose fresh inputs, in an endless loop*.

Core Of Being

Admiral: This is a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier, the largest ship in the fleet of the most powerful nation on Earth, with its command personally commissioned by the President himself. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course, or all possible countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

Reply: I am but a humble and nameless lighthouse keeper.
But it's your call, really.

There is an old, and slightly juvenile, quiz involving embarking on a trip with five animals: a cow, a horse, a lion, a lamb and a monkey. Unbeknownst to the subject at the beginning, he will have to abandon an animal at each of four succesive stops along the difficult journey; the order in which they are left behind, and the only animal retained, is then interpreted as to what one values most in life.

I will not reveal my own answer here, but my answer to that last question is simple: to know the truth and the cause of things; to be free to communicate the truth and the cause of things; and to be myself. My other goals are, then, largely ancillary to the above. And frankly, the striving for such has been kind to me, materially and otherwise, over the past years. Having received the reward, then, I am bound to provide the service: that there should be at least one person in the world, who is willing to provide his honest best interpretation of a situation - and the likely effects - without fear or favour.

On this, I defer to my track record on investing, on election forecasting (oft against mainstream media propaganda, i.e. against the odds), and most recently the Twilight Struggle: New Moon series of posts that has seen a number of foreshadowed events come to be (e.g. on the exact three cities of Berlin/Paris/London coming under Russian nuclear threat, the Taiwan provocation and ensuing blockade in July 2022, the Nord Stream revelations, Afghan arms under new ownership, China's Middle East diplomacy and its effects on Israel, Russian tactical nuke threats [just reemphasized] and the probable accompanying demands and why they would be ignored, TikTok as strategic propaganda and why the U.S. would eventually ban it** whichever party holds the Presidency etc.)

Sure, many or all of the above might now be dismissed as obvious on hindsight - and I will be the first to admit that such prognostications are never 100.00% accurate - but the key point is that they were not random guesses. In each case, there was a mental map, a model, from which the conclusions were derived. The map can be updated, of course, as the facts or circumstances change; however, at any particular point in time, if asked, the best-effort answer comes from the model.

Yet once again, these answers and predictions have got nothing to do with anybody else - think of it as the habit of actually working out a (math) problem by oneself, rather than turning to classmate(s) for the solution (i.e. social mimicry), or flipping to the back of the textbook (i.e. media propaganda). If my opinion concurs with someone, it does not imply approval in other respects, and vice versa; appearances are irrelevant too*** - the answer might be scrawled in crayon by a fellow clad in rags, but if it is accurate, then so it is.

Of course, I do understand that there are instances where the point is minor or largely irrelevant, or where there are good reasons to defer commentary for later out of expediency. As learnt in Vegas, manners are quite important, and I'm quite willing to play the role of dutiful listener as required by social convention. This should not be misconstrued as unqualified agreement, of course, and in such cases I suppose I prefer to fall back on silence, rather than try to finesse out of it - on the accuracy of my statements, I am as ever entirely willing to let Time be the judge of their correctness... eventually.


[*Such metacognition could be the missing piece preventing general AI from approaching true (super)human capabilities, but more on this next time.]

[**This comes together with Biden doubling to quadrupling a raft of tariffs on China (after personally holding up my flight home from Seattle, dang it) - which he had previously consistently berated TRUMP for - the cause and necessity of which was explained last September with reference to production. Well, as pointed out with reference to the TikTok issue, we all know where this is going lah.]

[***Which is why I enjoy (double-blind) reviewing so much (over a thousand papers and counting, thus far) - one gets to constructively critique and improve studies, without feelings getting hurt, or status anxiety due to (academic or political) rank imbalances on either end; where there is genuinely an error or misunderstanding on my end, as most recently when I recommended a flowchart having missed it already included in supplementary material, I am happy enough to apologize.

This is in contrast not so easy to pull off in person. Just for example, at the vision conference I recently attended, one poster presented purported improvements in diagnosis results due to an extension of a technical thingamajig... but apparently without comparison against the original thingamjig. I'm not certain there was any good way to raise this concern at that stage, without potential embarrassment.]

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Thursday, May 02, 2024 - 23:18 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Still In Search

As the previous post appears to have drawn some interest in real life, clarifications and more commentary shall follow, before a trip to Seattle that will see me stuck in the air/in transit for about three full days, for a five-day conference:


While "no prejudice towards height, educational level, politics, religion etc." was stated, this only applied to the filter options, i.e. the potential match would not be outright blacklisted due to those characteristics. However, they could still play a large role in whether the profile was right or left-swiped, in practice:

  • Age: 25 - 32 years. This was the only filter set, for biological reasons (wish to start family). Again, for those foaming at the mouth about this, my virtual avatar is there, do with it as you will

  • Height: Personal preference within about 155cm to 170cm, which seems to cover most everyone. I mean, I'm not turning down anyone taller than me if they don't mind, but that's not too common anyway

  • Exercise: Ignore claims, inspect full body pics

  • Education: From the few dates I've gone on, having at least a degree seems to help communications, but this is again not a strict criteria; it's entirely possible that some quite intelligent persons might not have attended university, for various good reasons

  • Drinking: Most everyone claims to drink socially at most, anyhow

  • Smoking: Loses quite a few points, but rare and generally not my type to begin with

  • Intention: Relationship/Marriage preferred, very likely to swipe left for Casuals/Undecided

  • Kids: Want preferred, Open to kids/Unsure neutral; With kids is basically no-go, apologies, that would be a little much for the current me to deal with

  • Star sign: Yeah, that's a official filter

  • Politics: I suppose I could switch up as needed

  • Religion: Not cause for dismissal, unless it appears overly central to their identity, or if the religion mandates conversion for spouses

Other than the above, there's race/ethnicity, which is not included in the filter list, but usually easily discernable from the (mandatory) photos. Well, I did try to enter with an open mind, but in the end having a similar cultural background does seem to aid attraction - if with a few exceptions. Note that some profiles omit most or all of the above details, in which case they were generally not placed under further consideration.

Looks & Types

Mix and match six of the above
(Source: r/starterpacks)

It is admittedly somewhat superficial to turn down potential life partners mostly based on external appearances alone, but this is largely a consequence of the app medium and design, which primarily showcases users' photos. Sure, there's a short bio and the option to add some interests (usually some basic combination of travel, food, exercise, I like cats, hanging out at cafes blah blah), prompts and quips, but in my opinion they are largely unreliable in establishing actual personality - anybody can come up with (or Google for) a fetching hook, after all (though "ask me" as the bio does get docked points)

Now, there were some standouts that quoted Wilde, Game of Thrones and other fantasy/sci-fi series, and even a couple of gamer gals, but sadly none of those passed the "my (physical) type" bar, if I recall rightly. I have never placed having common interests/hobbies particularly high on my list of wants, going by the reasoning that those are mutable - what happens then if one party is no longer interested in the shared pastime? And then there was one promising candidate, who "disliked small furry creatures"; I turned to behold the mournful (or was it blank?) faces of my hamsters, before sadly swiping left.

And to elaborate on "my type", for the sake of illustration, please reference this website on supposedly the top fifteen K-pop girl groups of the year. Assuredly, all the ladies on that page have to be popularly acknowledged as conventionally (very) attractive, and each of them probably has thousands - if not millions - of male fans willing to drag their dangly appendages over miles of broken glass to approach.

Well, a quick scan through has less than half being "my type" by appearances alone, with maybe a third qualifying for a right-swipe were they on the app. Of course, this makes no claim on whether they would swipe on my profile, and is merely intended to demonstrate that personal tastes can vary to a large extent - admittedly some of "my types" likely wouldn't get recruited into idol groups. One of the few mitigating factors for me would be familiarity over time (which hopefully bodes well for future long-term relationships), although this probably doesn't work unless the type criteria is fulfilled to some extent in the first place.

[To be continued...]

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Sunday, Apr 28, 2024 - 22:48 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

In Search

It's seldom wise to ignore the signals when both one's rationality and intuition are screaming the same tune, which has led to a certain degree of... distraction, and regrettably possibly even unprofessionalism, in recent weeks. Well, I've been slowly digging myself out of the backlog of accumulated work - finally got ahead of the reviewing schedule for one - but the fundamental quandary remains. This called for some inner soul-searching, icky as it might be, and some contemplation brought me to meet my perception, unburdened by ego:

"Let's see... just turned forty, new sports car, romantic flailing about? Yeah, classic midlife crisis, that was easy."

Did I tell you how I dislike such consultations?

Well, Perception-sans-Ego's not exactly wrong there, and so I figured that if I were to get into the dating line, I might as well go about it thoroughly and systematically. There would be some background research on popular apps in the local context to begin with, with Tinder being the most widely-used by some distance as expected, if with a bias towards hookups; since that isn't what I'm looking for, I narrowed it down to Hinge and Bumble to start with. Note that since the Match group owns basically all the majors other than Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel, I figured that should cover most bases.

A cynical implication of the Match monopoly would then be that they have an incentive to keep users on their apps via various dark patterns for profit, or in other words not deliver on the underlying premise of actually finding matches. Given that whining about it isn't about to get me anywhere, I resolved to simply sign up for the premium version of both apps, and get down to the swiping with looks as the first cut*. This took some long hours, but I soon exhausted the stack of potential candidates, with perhaps a 5% right-swipe rate for "my type"**, with minimal filters imposed (age only, no prejudice towards height, educational level, politics, religion etc.)

Taste is paramount
(Source: kengan-manga.com)

Of course, an actual match would require the other party to likewise also do the right-swipe thing, and on that end all I had was my carefully-curated profile pics, and a no-nonsense bio that basically indicated that I was there to settle down, thanks. Now, it has to be said that it's a tough and superficial world out there, for guys especially - the average male has a match rate of some 1% to 2% supposedly, literally orders of magnitude less than the ladies (which has led to some funny strategies to game the Elo-based algorithms). Part of this is down to a tendency for males to just swipe right on everyone available before deciding later, granted, with the ladies being a lot more selective upfront (an approach I also subscribe to)

Long story short, Hinge wasn't quite working out for me, but there ended up being about fifteen quite acceptable matches from Bumble, which was reassuring in some sense. A number of them never sent the first message - the trademark feature (or peculiarity) of Bumble - but that still meant ten options open, at which I belatedly realized that I should perhaps not have been so exhaustive in the initial screening. There was no way that I could - or wanted to - spin that many plates simultaneously, but the trouble was that starting from the top of the list would necessarily hint to the others that they were the backups. Nothing for it now that the bacon's cooked, I guess, so wish me luck!

[*Yeah, as warned, shallow as accused - to those unhappy about it, you can slap my virtual avatar if you want.]

[**Then again, my preferred (sub)types are not always mainstream; for example, if a bro's after say Selena Gomez (or lookalike), I'd be a great wingman.]

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Sunday, Apr 14, 2024 - 11:58 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Closures, 新开始

My (former) interior designer WhatsApped me out of the blue last Thursday, to apologize for the renovation delays, what with the process beginning in April 2021 with the hacking, and stretching to December 2022. The renovation process would be a good story to recount someday (and with the accompanying home photos, finally), but a few other points might be noted here, also with the understanding that the renovation was eventually completed as desired, if well over schedule:

  • She didn't have to reach out, what with the company having wound down, so it was a nice gesture

  • I do have to admit to being rather frustrated at the time, with the completion initially scheduled for end-2021; having to wait an additional year can fray the best of nerves, especially when some of the excuses didn't seem to add up (though to be fair, the process included some pretty involved demolition and custom steelworking, and the accompanying permits etc.)

    However, looking back a year or so after having moved in (i.e. less than the renovation period), I realized that these troubles had basically not crossed my mind since, and that I was only reminded of them when messaged - not that I even cared much about those things anymore

  • Given that, I wished her luck if she ever wished to get into the business again, but with the caveat that it would seriously help if they implemented a proper scheduling system. While they were generally responsive, the lack of a reliable timeline was incredibly irritating after awhile, together with some obvious inconsistencies (e.g. unable to produce carpentry drafts, while promising it was in progress)

  • Of course, I did go in with eyes open knowing that they weren't a particularly-established firm, but somebody has to give the new guys and up-and-comers a shot, right? Well, not saying that I won't consider that in the future, but this is a lesson to have all clauses in black and white for commercial dealings - including financial penalties for not delivering on schedule (or guess who'll be shafted, over those who secured such clauses?)

Most of all, the message highlighted how much can change in a few years (as in the personal domain) - or months, and inevitably led to some more reminiscing on could-have-beens; what if I had resolved to get in shape in my early thirties? Or been more receptive to opportunities (e.g. the time when a girl viewing my rental apartment with her family as potential buyers, literally straight out handed me her phone number [I suppose she liked the books]), stretching all the way back to junior college (thinking back, I guess I'm a glutton for punishment)? Would I be dealing with Junior's own emotional troubles now? I don't have too many regrets in life, but if I had one, it would be not fulfilling my grandma's wish to see me married, while she was alive. Ah, stubbornness, I guess.

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