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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I read an article about Austin Meyer’s and his beloved flight simulator X-Plane in this month’s Popular Science (also discussed over at Slashdot) yesterday. At first, I was amazed and delighted about the story of the underdog versus the colossal Microsoft.

However, I quickly realized that Meyer’s passion had become an obsession.

I had a lengthy, interesting essay ready to post about the perils of obsession using examples like oyster shucking and dog shows. I got to the point where I had integrated the data points and was drawing a conclusion when I went to quit OmniDictionary—I was looking up “dissemble” to verify its meaning—and quit OmniWeb instead. Barnacles!

The point I was trying to make is that obsession leads to neglect of important areas of your life. It can be as simple as feeling some compunction to post a daily message in your blog and as destructive as needing to work constantly. It’s easy to get lost in an obsession and it is hard to shake once identified.

Where does interest end and obsession begin? That’s a question I wrestle with frequently. I check my logs several times throughout the day. I like to see what sort of referrers I’m getting, what my page requests for the day are, how this month stacks up to previous months. Is this obsession? I don’t know. I think about it frequently though I’m not anxious if I go a day or two without doing it. If it is obsession, what is to be done? It doesn’t seem to be harmful and I’ve gotten it down to a simple FTP session followed by a quick running of a shell script for processing.

Reviewing my life, I see many other computer-related obsessions. The checking of email dozens of times a day, the visiting of the same sites every day, the keeping up with RSS subscriptions numbering nearly 150. Much of it seems to mask as procrastination, but the length of time I’ve been doing it and the fact that I keep up the routine even when nothing is impending suggests that the little-o might be at work here.

On the other hand, reviewing some of the details of obsession suggests that I may be in error in my evaluation since I don’t feel out of control and it doesn’t appear to be a defense mechanism.

I don’t know. Maybe I should try to limit these activities by sheer force of will to see if I can do it successfully without anxiety. Wouldn’t that prove that it wasn’t obsession?

[UPDATE (7/28/03): This post was actually composed at nearly midnight on Sunday. It’s probably much more revealing than I would prefer, so take from it what you will. The lost version was much less personal.]

[UPDATE (4/14/05): Found an interesting post about the wonders of X-Plane.]