August 18, 2008

Dithering is dreary

I've been a lifelong ditherer, so it has been bemusing in recent years to find the word being used in all sorts of  incomprehensibly technical ways involving words like "scatter", "amplitude" and "oversampling". 
I can see the connection though. In my form of dithering I do indeed rapidly oscillate back and forth between two choices, endlessly evaluating the pros and cons in a state of perpetual motion which is exhausting in its futility. I often feel like one of those desk toys popular in the 1980's, where metal balls hung from a frame and could be swung so that the ones on each side kept smacking into the one in the middle, which was therefore prevented from joining in. 

Off-topic: Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have just now learned that this toy is called Newton's Cradle, and that link has a mesmerising video of the principle I just described. I was also highly impressed to see some very fine minds at work on creating the world's largest one, which looks almost worth a trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan.

OK, play time is over, back to the topic.

Maybe dithering increases with age, because I'm sure I used to be better at making decisions. Certainly it's something I always put on my resume, and in fact when it comes to decisions involving expertise rather than emotion, I can still make a snap decision as easily as the next confident know-all.
But when my feelings get involved, the whole process becomes woolly and ineffectual, which is deeply irritating.

At what point does "weighing up the possible risks and benefits" become just an excuse for avoiding a decision? When does it become necessary to say "Oh for heaven's sake just pick one and move on!"

I've had two such situations in the last few weeks, which is what has prompted me to examine the actual process involved.

I have already written (at interminable length) about the ridiculous difficulty I had in deciding whether or not to resume volunteering at what is basically just a hobby (at ODP/DMOZ). Actually, I am facing a similar decision regarding another volunteer activity from which I have long been absent due to injury: bush firefighting. But that can be legitimately left for later, because I am certainly not fit to resume training and active service, and in any case, the fire season is still a few months off.

The matter over which I have spent the last week in a state of exhausting indecision is whether or not to allow the surgeon to re-operate to fix the painful post-op complication that I mentioned in my previous post.  I'll spare you the medico-surgical details, but basically it's been a choice between fixing it "properly" with surgery and another hospital stay, or letting me muddle along at home (as I have been doing without any real progress). I feel the time is approaching for one of those "Pick One!" moments.

Well, I see him yet again this afternoon, so perhaps the Correct Decision Fairy will be back from her holiday by then. :-)

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