structure: That which I am both attracted and repelled by.
I have just enough of the OCD geek in me that I am often driven to organize and systematize, but past a certain point I find structure incredibly boring. Highly structured writers will draw my attention for a while, and I admire the structure, but it doesn't take long before I find myself looking afield for the sort of poetry that breaks my brain open and lets a little sunshine in.
kicky: The way music should be.
I often describe myself as a musical omnivore, in that I love an enormous range of genres, but the reality is that I lean *very* strongly to anything with a good beat. It can be folk music that you clap along with; 80s New Wave (the height of modern wiggle-dance music); classical with sizzling violins; heavy metal with elemental but driving guitar riffs; or pretty much anything in between. My iPod has one pseudo-genre, "Road Music", that is defined mainly by level of kickiness, which accounts for about 90% of what I bother to rip. (Within that genre, I use stars to indicate how much I like it. Three stars is good enough for work; four stars is for driving, when I actually want to listen and sing along; five is mostly the kickiest music ever recorded.)
design: An activity that I do less and less nowadays, intentionally.
Programming influences my thinking deeply, and the trend in my programming over the past decade has been steadily away from advance design, and more towards exploration and emergent understanding. I've slowly come to the conclusion that, for almost any *interesting* problem, trying to understand it well enough to design it correctly takes almost as long as just stumbling in and writing a first draft. The trick is to leave enough time so that, once I have written that first draft and now understand what's actually going on here, I can go back and refactor until the design emerges from the soup. The end result, if I get that time, is usually a better-designed system than I'd have had if I had tried to understand the crystalline lattice upfront.
silverwing: It's a household! It's a verb! It's a household *and* a verb!
House Silverwing shaped my thinking to quite the considerable degree. Steffan and I turned friendly back-and-forth debate into something between a recreation and an art form. The heart and soul of Silverwinging is understanding that the point of the exercise is *not* winning -- indeed, if you try to win the argument, you've pretty much missed the point. Rather, the goal is to work collaboratively, sort of like a team of sculptors chipping away at a gigantic piece of stone. I may be standing on one side at the beginning and you the other, but we gradually circle the topic, chipping away at it. And it's hard to predict where we will be standing when a shape finally begins to appear.
ritual: The best of pedagogical tools.
The thing about Masonic ritual is that it *teaches*. That's the whole reason we do it. On the one hand, the immersive ritual teaches the candidate a bunch of basic moral and spiritual lessons, using the tools and implements of architecture to do so. By associating the lessons with concrete objects, we help him remember them: you never look at a square or a level quite the same way again after you've become a Mason. And in the performance of ritual, we remind ourselves of those same lessons. Everything is learned by doing; ritual allows us to Do in ways that we might not otherwise.
It's not so different in the SCA, although it's a bit subtler. We have so many rituals ingrained in us, and each reminds us of the priorities of our Society. Perhaps the finest is the peerage ceremony (which we appropriated from Calontir, I believe, and I am forever grateful to them for it). In the sponsoring of the candidate, we remind ourselves and all those around of those basic principles of Chivalry, Beauty, Courtesy and Service that make up the substrate that the SCA is built on. It may not make a huge difference, but each little reminder makes the rest of the day that fraction better...