What is Happening

There is Something Very Wrong

I haven't written in awhile (by the site's count, I last published something six months ago, when I vomited out a few paragraphs about Facebook Paper. Simpler times.) The mere thought of sitting down in front of a blank screen and haplessly pounding out a couple hackneyed musings cripples me. Free writing does nothing. Trying to use a journal to harness the random firing of brain synapses and molding them into coherent thoughts? Exhausting. To-do lists? No. The amount of turmoil my mind subjects me to is remarkable—a vicious, insatiable abyss sucking all of the words out of me. They pool together in an unrecognizable amalgam of half-digested sludge that consists solely of anxious worry, self-doubt, and the dozens of ideas and dreams I've dared to have. It's honestly a little surprising that I've managed to put up with it for this long.

Every day, I wake up. Every day, I fake as much as I can to make it through. By the time I get home, there's no energy left to devote to this stupid little website. Any sort of analysis—or god forbid: defense—of Apple, or sarcastic take on tech, or random link to something I marginally enjoy feels like a complete waste. When it takes every last ounce of willpower not to break down crying most days, a lot of what used to bring you any semblance of joy suddenly begins to feel more distressing than anything.

So I try to lose myself in a video game, a movie, a TV show. I lose myself in my wife's arms. Anything that takes me away from the reality that I am just... not. Happy. Anymore. I'm not happy and I don't know why, and I've been living with this reality far longer than I thought. There are times where I stare at myself in the mirror, only to find that the person on the other side is completely alien to me. In those moments, I don't feel connected to myself. I don't know who I am, what I want, or how to feel normal. This isn't normal. This isn't normal.

This. Isn't. Normal.

If all of this feels like painfully overblown, relentlessly hyperbolic, LiveJournal levels of attention-seeking bullshit whining, you're not alone. No one thinks that more than I do. I want nothing else than to feel like a functioning adult, completely rid of existential dread (which, I'm sure many will confirm that that's a pipe dream in and of itself). When I try to approach what I'm going through with logic and reason, none of it feels remotely sane. None of it makes sense. But the insidious thing about anxiety and depression is that they don't give a fuck what makes sense. They don't care if it's dramatic or cliché. You're a slave to the whims of an invisible beast that's sunk its talons into your psyche, manipulating each and every feeling with wanton disregard for your sanity. All you have is an unsettling loop of emptiness and despair. One begets the other. You worry that things are never going to get better, so you feel like things aren't getting better, which makes you worry. The brief moments of clarity, the sudden sense that you can beat the overwhelming sadness through the sheer strength of your logical mind, are quickly blotted out. You might build some momentum. You think you can beat it. Today is a good day. Today you start to drag yourself out of the hole you've been digging. But when you start to pull yourself out, you inevitably slip and fall back down.

All it takes is a single Tweet, maybe a news story about the impending doom of civilization as we know it. Or you just remember a brief interaction with a coworker that suddenly causes you to wonder if maybe you said the wrong thing. Maybe they hate you now. What could you have done differently? God fucking dammit, if only I wasn't such an idiot. The anxiety loop takes hold. You can't concentrate. A white noise machine turned on just loud enough in your head to be constantly distracting. It doesn't go away. And you worry about the noise. Why can't I shake this? Why am I thinking about this so much? Is this what life is now? When you can't calm your mind for a second, everything feels pointless. Why even try? That worry feeds itself. A tiny spark of doubt ignites a vulnerability you maybe didn't know was there, and you can't necessarily pinpoint the source of the flame, but you're inevitably immolated within the bonfire of anxiety. After you've burned long enough, you smolder. It doesn't leave you. Even when your mind quiets down, worry doesn't completely let go.

Then there are the moments of ambivalence. Like, maybe I'm being silly and everything I just wrote in the preceding paragraphs is just drivel wrought of a selfish desire for attention. How long have I been lying to myself that I'm depressed? You can't be depressed, not with everything life has given you. How fucking dare you try and make things about you when there's so much injustice in the world? Your plight is trivial. Grow up.

I want to. I do. I wish it was as easy as giving myself a stern talking to. I wish it was as easy as reading about the circumstances of others and gaining sufficient perspective to drive these feelings away. I wish it was as easy as attending therapy for six months, only to have your therapist move out of state, leaving you to be strong on your own. You can do this. Those sessions went well. You've got this. What do you have to be so sad about, huh? You'll be okay from this point on. You have everything you need to conquer this.

But you don't. No matter how much you lie to yourself. No matter how many times you tell everyone, "I'm fine," when they ask you what's wrong.

"You look tired."

Eh. Didn't sleep well last night. I'm fine.

"You look upset. Everything okay?"

That's just my face. I'm fine.

"Babe," your wife says. "What's going on?" She knows you better than anyone. She sees through the veil you pull up over your face. She's not fooled by your your attempts to obfuscate the pain within. It's the subtleties that belie. She latches onto those little moments when your concentration breaks and you forget to keep your brave face.

Really. I'm fine. Nothing is wrong.

How many times have you lied to her like this? You fucking coward.

Your stubbornness threatens your work, your friendships, your marriage. You hold so much in to spare others your misery, you suffocate yourself in the process.

But you wouldn't want to inconvenience anyone or make them worry, now would you?

So you create more pain for yourself, but because you're strong, you can handle it. Never mind the irritability. Never mind the sudden outbursts of anger. Never mind the obsessing over others in an effort to not have to pay attention to yourself for a second. You're just being a good friend. Some things are more important than you.

You keep telling yourself that.

Maybe when you've cried for the third time writing this draft you'll finally admit that there's something very wrong here.

Something is very wrong.

No Octothorpe

I've always best expressed myself in writing. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeves (except for when I don't; see above), but when I truly want to convey the complexity of my own thoughts, I have to break them down in text. Otherwise, I ramble, or I'm afraid that I don't explain myself clearly.

Looking back over this post thus far, I can't help but feel I've never been further from reaching the clarity I seek in my writing. While I'm inclined to trash this entire draft (like the other half dozen that came before it), I'm afraid that if I do, it'll never get written. And I'm tired of writing this in my head over and over and over only to never have the words come out. I'm tired of living with them. They haunt me. I need some sort of reprieve.

I am no stranger to depression. It's something that I struggled with through high school. As an adult, it occasionally rears its head. Sometimes it's worse than others. But it ebbs and it flows, and for the better part of the last sixteen years, I always end up fooling myself into thinking that I've somehow overpowered it when it subsides. I always think I won't have to struggle anymore. At a certain point, you'd think I'd fucking learn.

Because I express myself through my writing, depression tends to strike there first. It plants a little seed of self-doubt in my head that grows into a sapling that saps me of my motivation. Its sustenance is my failure. It's won when I start to question every post I've written, the validity of my perspective, the quality and the value of my voice. Each time I decide not to write anything, it wins. The more it wins, the less I want to write. As it grows, it branches out. I start to question everything else. My dreams. My work. My relationships. It drags me down until all I want to do is burn it all to the ground, because I deserve none of it. It drives me to destroy everything, to punish myself.

I initially started No Octothorpe to channel my passion for a few topics into one place. I wanted to have a site that was an extension of myself. At a certain point, that got away from me. My first mistake was that I became trapped in this idea that I had to have a link blog, as though I was only as good as the things I found interesting. Some sudden notoriety, however fleeting, drove me to shape the site in that image. I became transfixed on this idea of following in the footsteps of people I admired, and that I wanted to be a source of information or commentary for a large audience like they were. Somehow, I linked the idea of success to that thought. I had a niche I could wedge myself into. I focused on Apple and the surrounding industry. It worked for a little while, and the feedback (when I got any) was largely positive.

It wasn't long before that bored me. It wasn't long before the idea of trolling the web for interesting posts became a chore. I didn't feel like I was adding value or being true to who I am.

This, of course, is not to disparage the idea of link blogs, or the people who write them. I love link blogs and I still follow a bunch of them. It's more that I was at my happiest when I allowed myself to explore creativity on my own terms, or when I felt like my sentimentality wasn't forced. I was at my unhappiest when I felt like I had to hit a post quota to bump traffic (dopamine is fucking weird). I liked exploring ideas when I was inspired, and when I could do so at length. But that kind of inspiration is hard to predict. So in the face of unpredictability, I decided that I just wasn't good enough to write. Each day I didn't post anything was more evidence that I didn't deserve to do it in the first place. I slowed and I slowed and I slowed, until I stopped writing altogether.

Yet, I couldn't stop thinking about writing. In the midst of all of this shit that has embroiled my brain for over a year now, I couldn't shake that what I had in this site was something I did truly want to continue to pursue. I'd peck away at a draft, only to delete it. I'd make small design tweaks to see if that'd help reignite my interest. I'd tweet, hoping there would be some encouragement out there from people who wanted to hear from me. When the encouragement came, I'd tell them that I was working on it. I was trying to figure stuff out. But each time someone reached out with words of encouragement, I felt more guilt than anything, because I didn't know if I was actually capable of following through.

To be clear: I was the only person setting up an impossible standard for myself.

This all feels very chicken and egg to me. I questioned myself, which caused the doubt to pile up, which caused me to stop writing altogether. Or: depression started to take hold again and it hit me at a time when I was most vulnerable and things spiraled that way. Maybe it's a mixture of both. In any case, the end result, of course, was me reevaluating what I was doing (for pretty much everything in my life, naturally) and not really making substantial movement in any particular direction. Except down. I dug myself into a hole. And now I'm trying to climb out of this cavern and I see glimpses of light, but I'm wary to praise the sun just yet.

What Is Happening?

To be frank, I have no fucking clue where I'm going. I'm fumbling around in the dark. I'm taking things one day at a time. I can't rely on my brain to treat me well at any particular moment, but today... Today is the day I get this shit out of my head and be honest with myself that there's something I desperately need to overcome before I can ever hope to return to normalcy. I thought I was writing this to try and shed some light on what's been going on with me and this site for the past year or so, but I think I'm writing this now more to hold myself accountable during a period of lucidity. To publish it is to document the struggle. Hopefully I can look back on this somewhere down the line and see it as a turning point, even if I'm more convinced that this is but a brief respite before I reach the nadir.

What I can say is that No Octothorpe is something I still love, even when I don't love creating. I can't shake it. I also know that, as much as I love it, for awhile it wasn't what I intended it to be, nor what I intend on pursuing in the future. If this site is going to be an extension of myself, it's going to follow the same tumultuous path that I take. Writing about Apple and tech and games and whatever else can be nice, but it's mostly not. Truth is, I just don't want to have a link blog. I love to love things, and I have a perfectly good Twitter account where I share a lot of that stuff. If things still require more commentary, I'll consider it. Mostly, I'll be chasing what feels best. I'll write what feels right. I'll write what interests me right now. I'll write what allows me to try and exercise some creativity. I hope that leads me down a better path.

If that at all feels like things are left to uncertainty: no shit. That's the hand I've been dealt. I plan to roll with it. We'll see where things go from here.

If you are depressed and/or living with constant anxiety, I implore you to find help if you haven't already done so. Please don't be like me and think you can overcome this on your own. I know how hard it can be to admit to yourself that things are bad, but it truly is worth it. For your own sake, and for your loved ones, please speak with a professional. You'll feel better about it in the long run. I promise.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, know that there are resources out there and people who want to help. If you're in the U.S., please go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 1-800-273-8255.

If you're outside of the U.S., resources like IASP or Suicide.org can help you find a lifeline in your country.

Facebook Shutting Down Paper

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge, which I don't like that I'm linking to any more than you do, but this is where shit stands right now:

Facebook is shutting down Paper, a bold reimagining of the company's flagship app [Warning: Verge link] for iOS that impressed critics [Warning: Verge link] but failed to attract a large audience, the company said today. The app transformed the core Facebook experience into a kind of newsreader, with customizable sections for politics, technology, food, and other subjects. Visitors to the app received a message saying the app would no longer function after July 29th.

Well... Fuck.

The writing has been on the wall for a while, but I do have to express remorse over the confirmation of one of my greatest fears (I don't live a very hard life): the only Facebook product I've ever truly enjoyed using is going the way of the tired clichés people use to describe when something goes extinct.

Pour one out for Paper. It'll continue to have a place on my home screen until Facebook finally takes it off life support in a month.

Accidental Podcast Podcast

While preoccupied with not writing for the site, I've put a large amount of focus on other areas of my life. One area in which I was not putting any effort was creating another podcast. So, naturally, I'm announcing today that, whoops, I created another podcast. It's called Accidental Podcast Podcast, and it stars Klein Maetschke opposite yours truly.

While the name is part earnest descriptor of a podcast that was conjured out of pure happenstance, part playful wink and a nod, this is not another tech show. Not in the slightest. It's a candid, exploratory conversation between two relative strangers. I consider it far closer to something like Reconcilable Differences or, ahem, Sextless Marriage. Though, to be fair, there's far more sexting going on between me and Klein than me and my wife.

If you're not yet tired of hearing my voice, or long for something different than the endless Apple discussions happening on other shows, I'd encourage you to give this a shot. Who knows? Metaphors that equate making lasting friendships to digging through dinosaur shit might just turn out to be your thing.

CurrentC Rollout Postponed

MCX is having a bad time with its CurrentC rollout. Where by "having a bad time" means "finally coming to terms with what everyone else predicated all along and succumbing to the grim realization that their platform is a deeply flawed abomination that must be eradicated by any means necessary."

I wrote a little bit about CurrentC last year, when it was relevant for a hot second. From a short piece back in August (added emphasis):

Placing arbitrary barriers in front of your customers is not a good idea, especially when the alternative is a grossly less secure, less private disaster that looks like it's going to die before it even arrives. CurrentC is going to crash and burn. No question.

Not trying to gloat. I have no intention to draw parallels between myself and Nostradamus. No, I'd consider myself much more akin to Nostradamus' prophetically inept, far less cited half-brother, Brett. Brettstradamus. He who accurately predicted that that exposed nail sticking out of the floorboard... Yeah, that one. The rusty one. Yeah. That. Like if you step on that, man, that'll fucking hurt and there's a decent chance you get tetanus. No joke. Watch your foot, bro. You don't want that shit, 'cause how will you kick a stupid company while its down with your tetanus foot?

'Test Case, Please Ignore'

Dominic Mauro, writing on his fantastic site, Barely Legally:

Hey, so, remember that guy Farook and his phone that the FBI really really wants to unlock and poke around in? Sure is funny how the FBI was hilariously inept in their investigation, and now the only way they can get into the phone is by having Apple build a tool to circumvent its own security measures, right?

After all, if you were the FBI, and you wanted a test case, this whole “real live radicalized Muslim terrorist committing an act of war on American soil with pipe bombs and assault rifles before dying in a glorious shootout with the police” thing would be, like, the perfect test case. It sure would be a shame if the traditional investigation went awry, and the only way to get access to the phone was filing a completely novel test case.

If you're not following Mauro's work, you really owe it to yourself to make it a regular read. Not only is the writing good, it's coming from someone who is knowledgable about the justice system. He provides a unique perspective that few of us have the benefit of experiencing professionally.

In this instance, he provides an excellent, concise history about some high(er)-profile test cases that helps provide some insight as to why the FBI is pushing the San Bernadino case so hard.

The FBI clearly wants more access to these devices. Encryption makes their jobs significantly more difficult (if not impossible). Their best bet to gain the support of the courts and the public is to leverage a case that targets the very core of a nation's collective fear. Few things elicit a more violently emotional (and completely irrational) sentiment than the word "terrorism" coupled with the word "Muslim." Regardless of the validity of the government's claims–which, at this point, are beginning to sound much closer to the plot of a shitty 90s cyber-thriller–they don't have much of choice but to pursue this.

Make no mistake, this is not a case about a single phone, a single incident. It's about expanding the powers of the government, and ensuring that unprohibited access to private information is the norm for investigators when they assert they need it. As we've seen many times in the past (something Mauro demonstrates in his piece regarding the Patriot Act), if we relent in even the slightest way, we'll find our way of life altered irreparably. This can't happen.