The end of the Great Purge?

The purge continued today. This time it was the turn of the board games and the University notes to fall under the scrutinous gaze of the purge police.

Both of these have been a subject of contention in the household for a long time: The board games take up a lot of space, and are rarely played, sadly; the University notes take up even more space, are very heavy to move around, and are never referenced. Well, how often does one need to refer to the equations for calculating the emission and absorption spectra of stars off the mainline of the H-R diagram in daily life?

So the obvious question is why have I held on to these things for so long. I mean, I’ve had the board games since myself and my friends back in Jersey spent days playing them during holidays and at weekends (faithfully putting the boards with games in progress under the bed between play sessions, of course) almost twenty years ago, and the University notes for at least ten years. The easy and honest answer that springs to mind, which is not the answer I’ve given in the past, is sentimentality. Pure and simple. I loved the hours playing Escape From Colditz and 221B Baker Street with my friends, and I really miss learning amazing things about the Universe on a daily basis. Whether it’s trying to guess if Mrs White really did it in the Study with the revolver, or solving Einstein’s equations of General Relativity to illustrate Kaluza-Klein cosmologies, it evokes a strong sense of nostalgia.

So how does one go about getting over this issue? Board games first, as those were, unsurprisingly, the easiest to find a solution for. My wife, that bastion of rationality when mine escapes me, and unfailing source of common sense, suggested that instead of completely purging the board games, we can just reduce their impact in the house. By removing the boxes (which were broken and ripped for the most part any way) and putting the pieces into their own bags (a better solution to avoid losing crucial pieces also) we can reduce the amount of space they occupy significantly. I eagerly agreed, and did just that. Diplomacy lives to be played another day.

On to the University notes, then. Alongside the nostalgia is a hope that one day I would have need to refer to the erudite contents of those binders; that I would find in my daily life reason to revisit tensor calculus and the calculation of expectation values of observables in a quantum reality. It has become clear, however, that this is unlikely as I continue to create video games. I decided that before I can dispose of them, I needed to go through and just see if I could still follow the mathematics and theories within them, and if there was anything worth salvaging. An amazing thing occurred when I did so: I realised that I could not stand the vast majority of courses that I had to take to complete my degree. In fact, aside from the early mathematics courses, and the later General Relativity courses, I hardly bothered making notes at all and the binders were full of largely unread hand-outs! Thus was nostalgia conquered! I swiftly nabbed the one really interesting course, put it in a much smaller binder of its own, and that was that. University notes purged.

I still miss playing board games, which I suppose is why I have become an avid gamer, maker of games, and why one of my priorities since moving into the Bay Area has been to find a DnD game (quest complete, by the way; the first session is in a couple of weeks). I also still miss learning, which also probably explains why I have the career that I do, and why I’m constantly eyeing up opportunities to continue my education. Maybe 2009 will be the year that I go back to school part-time and find out if I still have that bug. Either way, I’ve been surprised by what this purge has taught me about myself; about how my priorities have both changed and stayed the same over the years. I hope this is the last of it though: I’m not sure I can stand much more self-inspection.

It’s an insert-thing-here off!

We are purging. As we unpack into our wonderful, but smaller, apartment in SF, it is time to rationalise and minimise and lots of other ise’s. So far, purging has hit the t-shirt collection, the tupperware collection, the jumper sweater collection, and today it was the turn of the bedsheet and towel collection.

While it’s not possible on such short notice to get David Bowie to officiate, the favoured method this time, which has been more successful than previous attempts, has been to hold a ‘<thing-we-need-to-purge> off’. Essentially, the items in question are put up head-to-head and the favourite from each selection goes through, while the unfavoured is put in the pile to go. Once the winners are put away, runners up are allowed to fill in any remaining space.

And yes, everything that is purged is going to charity.

Of course, we retain the right to veto decisions too, if there’s a sentimental reason to keep something. And yes, dammit, it is possible to be sentimental about a tupperware pot that was used to hold the first batch of hummus the hamon family made together. That’s not weird at all.

I’m also putting together a site for some personal projects, and I’ve decided to use the same technique to pick the font for the logo. So far it’s worked well. I’m looking forward to seeing which other parts of my life I can extend the ‘<thing> off’ technique to. It does need a more catchy name before I write the best-selling book about it and get on Oprah…