Thursday, January 24, 2008

What I've Learned in Two Years

It's been about two years since this blog ended in what I would describe as a slow burn....

Life has changed and here are a few things I've learned:

That 10% or 20% or 1,000% more of something that if you JUST HAD would finally do it for you - doesn't.

Money doesn't make a difference. I make a lot more than I can spend and I feel exactly the same as when I was bucking 22K a year - it's just that now I drive a really fancy car and live on the beach. And what do I think when I'm in that car? That I'd really like an Aston Martin and a Mansion - or to be sleeping with the girl sitting next to that douche bag that just drove by... Totally not Buddah, and definitely not in the moment, but what can I say - at least I'm honest.

Titles mean nothing. I've collected them over the past few years and that title you wanted - it's funny how it's always the one just a step above where you are right now. Although I must admit that the process of moving up is something I find I enjoy most about the working world.

However you picture something being in your mind - that's not the way it actually happens: You know when someone says "I'm going to Beijing for a meeting" and you think "That sounds awesome". It is - TO SAY. The reality of it is usually much different and because (at least this is me) you're view of what the situation would be like (It usually involves a tuxedo and high stakes game of some card game you in reality have no idea how to play) is much different than how it goes down (OK, it's still cool - but you'd be amazed how quickly you adapt to finer things). You always hear that life is about teaching yourself to live in moments. I can't tell you how true that is. I am not all the way there yet - things still seem sweeter in memory or fantasy - but it's a learning process. At this point the only place this seems to happen for me is in NYC - perhaps because it's one of the few places in this world that lives up to its billing.

No one in high-end meetings speaks with a British accent. In reality - what you'd be most amazed by is how everyday everyone seems (Don't let that fool you though, they're usually very smart and very out to get you). Once again, I think maybe I once expected Gordon Gecko to pop out of the woodwork but the reality is that these people are just like you and me except that they are usually absolutely, insanely, unfathomably wealthy. You know what they value most at that point? Respect and power. Guess what, there's always someone with more of that. Those people - or actually those positions that you're chasing also have something above them that they are chasing as well. When you're young it's recognition, when you're middle aged it's respect and money, and when you're older it's power and a legacy. Remember that - and you will see a lot in people that you never saw before.

This blog at one point once forced introspection upon me - I think I'll visit it a bit more...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

If I could only pull the blinds over my eyes once again and believe...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

My Head is Going to Pop off of My Neck

I am now convinced that the world continues to revolve about it’s axis IN SPITE of the efforts of the majority of humanity. I have been bombarded recently with scary stories of how people in power have demonstrated their absolute inability to grasp the patently obvious. Let me step back here and say that, although I am about to lambaste the majority of the human race, I DO NOT engage in the type of intellectual pretension endemic to the people who usually make these proclamations. I am simply relating facts…

First, how do KNOWN terrorists consistently keep escaping from prison? Seriously, first it was from Guantanamo and then Yemen, and now Pakistan. Initially, I thought the first was the worst until I thought about it and realized that in the latter two the inmates have probably been beaten so badly they could hardly walk out let alone run. If we keep up this bang up job of prison security Amnesty International can hang up their hats, everyone will have walked out of those dens of human rights abuses before they can have their 40th protest this week. I am PRAYING they let them escape for some higher order intelligence gathering purposes but I think this hope may be in vain.

I have been trying to obtain contacts for the past several week (Actually, right now I am without contacts or glasses which has the negative effect of about, oh, 8 beers on my driving yet has the positive effect of the same number of beers on my view of women at the gym). I have been trading phone calls with the office until I finally reached them. Here is the text of the conversation..

Hello, my name is “Gold” and I would like to have the prescription filled that I received from Dr. X in your office last month.

Her: Ummmm…didn’t we have this conversation before?

Me: Yes, I previously called and inquired about how much my insurance would cover and told you I would get back to you.

Her: Oh. I see.

Me: So, I’m getting back to you and I’d like to order the contacts.

Her: So you would like to order the contacts now?

What I wish I said

Me: No, I want to sing along to the Mr. Ed theme track and then say Fuck the Contacts and ask you out to dinner.

What I saidI

Me: That’s right. I’d like to order them.

Her Oh, do you have your prescription?

Me: No, I was under the impression you had that


Her: Um, you’d have to go and get that from them and bring it here.

Me: Just so I understand you completely, you want me to drive down there, walk 4 feet behind you, pick up a piece of paper and give it to you? That’s what you are saying, correct?

Her: …………..

Me: Hello?

Her: Oh, I will get it.

Me: That’s great, when can I pick up the eyeglasses.

Her: Before we can place the order through your insurance you have to come in to sign a HIPA form.

Me: You’re kidding right.

Her: No, it’s federal law to protect your health information.

Me: Who the hell is looking for my contact lens prescription, the communists? Seriously, has the Shining Path somehow been revived and plan on extorting money from me lest they tell the world I am half blind?

Her: Shining? No, this has nothing to do with your vision, it’s just the law.

Me: I’ll see you tomorrow.

I know I am impatient and I am working on that. In the end, I had to bite it and drive to the store, to lay down a signature to protect my “health privacy” (which by the way is a load of bullshit. I’ve dated medical students and they break that violation about once an hour. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Did you see Mr. XX’s wang? Or, that old man needed a genital shave”).

Back to my point, the world is falling apart. We see it in decisions regarding cartoons (I don’t need to comment on that), the FISA court (It’s a rubber stamp court yet we STILL need to bypass it), and Intelligent Design (The recent decisions are actually one of the few things giving me faith in humanity). I hope each and everyone of the people who read this decide to do something about the crap that’s loaded on you by humanity today (and everyday). The less we take now the less we’ll have to deal with later.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The ISS is worthless (But space sex is not)

You know, I have always been somewhat suspicious of the space program. I mean, what do we really gain from manned missions into the great beyond? There are the usual canards thrown out there, microwave ovens, pens you can use to write upside down (I’m always doing that), even Tang (how that last one is a positive still eludes me) but most of the discoveries usually mentioned as positive results of our space efforts have been proven to be stretches of the imagination if not downright falsities. Unfortunately, many people are still caught up in the romanticism of shooting people 1000’s of miles past earth’s surface into space (weightlessness is cool….) and thus accept the necessity of manned missions (I would gladly accept unmanned missions for scientific discovery as well as to keep the lid on NASA being basically a federally funded research program for our aerospace industry). I, however, know better. Fortunately, the good folks at the ISS have decided to do something so inane even the most benighted earth dweller has GOT to see past it.

Picture this, you have 3 or 4 guys up there, sitting around the table and thinking “What the fuck are we going to do today? The weightlessness thing wore off months ago, I am tired of squishing out bubbles of liquid and slurping them into my mouth, there aren’t any women up here for weightless sex, and if we attempt to rationalize this HUGE waste of taxpayer money with “Tang” one more time they are going to shoot us into the sun, so we need to think up something quick.”. What do these guys come up with? They decided to stuff an old Russian space suit full of dirty underwear, push it out the door, and see how long it would take to burn up. Not only that, they are getting Ham radio operators the world over to listen in to help them “determine how long it will take the suit to burn up in earth’s atmosphere.”. As if it weren’t bad enough that they were actually releasing this to the press they are actually admitting that they are depending on every mesh-hat wearing farmer in the mid-west to help them calculate this “absolutely essential data”. Guess what, if you fall out of the space station and aren’t somehow absolutely covered in ceramic heat resistant tiles complete with one hell of a cooling system I don’t need a Ph.D. in astrophysics to tell you you’re pretty much fucked.

Everyone, I know that you think space is cool. Space is cool. What’s not cool is wasting billions of dollars on shooting people into space when we could be doing it with robots, monkeys, or basically anything that doesn’t add 100’s of millions of dollars per flight in safety measures. Let me go on the record here as saying I am all for space sex and, should the opportunity arise, yours truly will be first in line to knock that one off the list but I don’t expect tax payers to pick up the tab. Hell, even Lance Bass knew that you had to throw down some personal cash if you want that type of high (and he was only paying for the ride up and back, the lodging was free of charge courtesy of the mostly the U.S. taxpayer). So, please tell your congressman that you would rather the money be spend on finding ways to match women’s sex drives to men’s (The most cruel of all of evolutions tricks) or perhaps increasing research into teleportation (Seriously, quantum teleportation is already being looked at and, personally, I can’t wait for the day when I can beam myself into Cabo in the winter time (Or Keira Knightly bed…). Even so, whatever the crazy things we decide to spend billions on at one point (In this case it’s pushing a million dollar space suit out a window) we must draw the line. So speak up America, you’ll thank me in the future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Would the Fan in San Francisco Please E-mail Me


I would love to know what you think of the blog. You know who you are.

Please e-mail me at the address listed on the left hand side of this page.

(goldinthemine at gmail know the end)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Greetings from London

Here I am on the first of many international business trips and a number of thoughts are running through my head. At the top of the heap of ideas rushing to and fro is the realization that I haven’t kept all of you updated on life.

-Oh, I have to take a break here. I am sitting in Heathrow and I have to say the women are beautiful. There is something about the way they dress. It’s similar to the feeling I get in New York City. Even the semi-attractive women seem more attractive with a chic scarf and confident look. –

That reminds me, I have met someone. Yes, it’s true. I recently “upped” my social availability at the gym from keeping it the temple that it was to being a bit more engaging in circles of conversation. There is a girl, the one that everyone notices when they come in, who caught my eye. I can’t say what it is but there are only very specific types of women I find attractive. I think it’s a type of fundamental natural beauty; a look of innocence that is only useful when followed by a matching intellect. After a few short conversations I found out that she just turned 24 (perfect age), has a masters degree from an awesome university (sweet), and now works in PR for a non-profit due to a burning desire to do good (awesome).

We have gone out on several dates and I have to say that for the love of GOD her body is amazing and, of course, I appreciate her mind as well. I don’t know where this will go. Maybe it will be nothing (entirely possible), maybe it will be more. I don’t think I am going to have time for much in the way of a serious relationship but I can tell you this, if you do have to tell someone you can’t go on a date the “business trip to London” excuse does not hurt.

I fully plan on hitting this city hard (I may go to Geneva for the weekend). I will keep you all updated on my progress.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A boy, a bible, and an atheist.

This morning I heard the familiar “rap” of a fist on my door. In this city an unexpected knock usually isn’t the neighbor asking for a cup of sugar. Indeed, with the season in mind I think we can all readily assume just who it might be calling for my attention. I opened the door to find a young man (perhaps 12) dressed in his best, yet rumpled, clothes holding a bible and pamphlets. He happily wished me a good morning and immediately started to read, haltingly for a boy his age, from a pre-prepared speech he had been given by someone for this situation. Behind him stood an elderly man with an even smaller boy at his side. The old man smiled as he stood back, allowing the young evangelist to take the lead in his commitment to proselytize. I stood there, waiting patiently as he fought through the words of his document until, upon finishing, he asked me if I thought the “meaning of the season had been lost in society?” In that moment I stood and reflected on what action I should take. Before me was this young man, most likely here only at the behest of his impeccably dressed grandfather (?) asking me, an atheist, my thoughts on the season.

Who am I, I thought, to take away this boys hope? Who am I to say “I am sorry; there is no Jesus, no final deliverance or everlasting life, no rich reward at the end of it all”? In the city, many times, religion is all the hope people have. It binds families (Usually Grandparents to grandchildren unfortunately) together as a united front against the poverty, the racism, the hate, and the despair that they face as a part of their everyday lives. Should I give him the nuanced response, something like “Although love and charity are important and admirable notions, they are not dependent upon a deity for existence”? This is, remember, just a boy.

I told him that indeed, the meaning of the season had been lost in society, that people were too involved in material possessions rather than each other and that with just a little more love, we would all be better off. I looked down and saw him beaming, as if my simple response somehow connected us in our view of the meaning of Christmas. On some levels, he was right.

He walked down the stoop to his smiling grandfather’s side and, as all three walked away to find the next door to knock on, they turned and wished me a Merry Christmas. I found myself hoping that that the boy would stay in the church, away from the streets. I hoped that he would hold on to that vain belief in a distant savior for whom he should stay vigilant in life, if just long enough to escape his life in the city and then decide for himself if he still needed that invisible man to guide him along. In the best of all possible worlds we wouldn’t need this type of paternal religion but, as I’ve written before, in this world we just might.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Christmas is here and I believe it is the time of year in which we all remember the blessings and gifts the good lord has given us. Unfortunately, I am an atheist (Although I beginning to agree with Sam Harris who says that we should not even need a term for a “person who does not believe in god”. After all, we don’t have names for those who don’t believe in astrology, the Easter bunny, or the tooth fairy, do we?). So, in lieu of a “giving thanks” article I thought I would do something truly American and complain about the negative aspects of the many positive things that have happened recently in my life. As you all know, I recently sold out to the man after spending what seemed like an eternity staring at the shadows on the cave wall in graduate school and am now out in the sunlight, breaking my back for the almighty corporate dollar.

As part of this recent “sell out” I have had to agree to a bit of traveling. Many would see this as an exciting. Here I am, a dashing young fellow with the no roots in the ground galavalanting across the globe on trips paid for by the company. In part, this is true. I am excited about the next two months which will see me in the U.K., most likely Japan, San Diego, Long Beach, Munich, and possibly elsewhere. Superficially it is interesting. I am sure all of those places are exciting (Check that, I KNOW San Diego is exciting) but business trips are MUCH different than vacation. I will be spending most, if not all, of my time in offices with managers who want nothing more than to tell me all about themselves, laboratories with scientists whose social skills often resemble an odd mélange of autism and Tourettes syndrome, or conference rooms surrounded by people who just MUST offer their opinion no matter how obvious or irrelevant their point. When I do have a spare moment, the locals will undoubtedly fill it with dinners (These are fun for married guys, people who don’t actually go out on the weekends and view business trips as vacations from the wife and kids.) tours, or nights at Karaoke bars; basically those tourist activities I have come to know and hate. I know, I know, it won’t ALL be bad. I am sure some of those nights will be fun, and the ability to experience all of those cultures on somebody else’s dime is definitely nice but, via my friends, I know business travel isn’t entirely what it’s cracked up to be.

Having said that, I fully realize how lucky I am. I have a wonderful, caring, intelligent, and most importantly, interesting family for whom I am thankful everyday. I have friends who I would be proud to call brothers, who support me in every insane endeavor, and with whom I always have the time of my life. I have also had the opportunity to meet some amazing women who come and go, but always leave me with interesting stories to tell. I am thankful I have and had the people in my life to share those moments which wouldn’t have happened, or been as sweet, without them. Tonight my light shines and, as this doesn’t happen everyday, I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope your light is shining out there too.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What is Causing My Ex's to Go Insane?

I am sure many of my readers have never heard of the “Three S’s” but they are a widely used barometer to judge the “marriage viability” of women. They are, in order, Smart – Sexy, and Sane. It is extremely rare to find all three in the same woman but if one does, so the saying goes, you should marry her. I have been looking for quite some time and have found a few who I thought met that high bar but, thus far, have found myself disappointed in the end. It seems that I am very good at picking out the smart/sexy women but, for some strange reason, sanity has eluded me. I have begun to think that as they all seemed fairly sane at the beginning of our relationship perhaps it is me who is precipitating their irrational behavior. Could that be? Is it possible that somehow, via my own actions, I am driving the people I date to act completely and utterly without reason? It is a topic worth addressing as it could have major implications for my relationships in the future.

I have taken the time to construct a small graph of the relative sanity of my previous girlfriends versus the % progress of the total time we were together. A disturbing trend is evident. In all of the cases, save for J, the women I date end up dramatically less sane after spending a significant amount of time with me.

At first glance, one might assume a causal relationship between the amount of time a woman spends with me and her progress towards insanity. Fortunately, I have been schooled in the intricacies of data analysis so I am not likely to make such a superficial assumption. Let’s address the possible relationships between these factors point by point.

#1 I am Driving My Girlfriends Totally Insane.

I put this first to avoid any appearance of bias in this article. I take seriously the possibility that I could be somehow pushing the people I date to the brink. Upon addressing the facts though, it seems somewhat unlikely. First, none of my actions are of the type which normally elicit bizarre behavior on the part of significant others. I don’t drink excessively, I don’t verbally or emotionally abuse anyone I date. I am considerate, kind, and caring and always supportive of my partner’s dreams and aspirations. I have never cheated on a girlfriend and am, whenever possible, upfront about my intentions. I can think of some idiosyncricies which might be considered annoying such as bizarre humor, tendency towards being aloof in light of my partner’s interaction with members of the opposite sex, and love of subjects not usually discussed at dinner (i.e. political philosophy, sociology etc..). I may be biased but I just can’t seem to glean from any of these qualities what exactly would be causing my girlfriends to go insane. Thus it seems unlikely that my actions directly are somehow the cause of the mental instability I have observed in my ex’s and so we must move on to other possibilities.

#2 My Girlfriends Aren’t Going Insane, I Am.

This is a distinct possibility. Reality is, of course, perception and as such it may be the case that as the world stays the same around me (i.e. my mate’s sanity) and I change everything just seems off kilter. I will admit to being somewhat insane in my day. I would go so far to state the vast majority of my college years were spent in some form of abnormal mental state or another. As I have gotten older though, I feel that I have developed a much more objective view of myself, and my actions, than I had in the past (Thank you Karl, P, and Tim). In addition one might expect that as I slowly (or precipitously depending on mate – see graph) lost my sanity other people in my life might recognize this and comment on it. The fact that this has never happened may indicate the unwillingness of my friends and family to comment on my mental state but that is unlikely. Why? First, because my Mother alone has no problem in pointing out mistakes that I may be making. This isn’t a negative, it is a positive. She doesn’t do it in a mean or demeaning way, she is the rock of a moral/philosophical arbiter which we should all have in our life. So it would seem that at the very least my family would comment on my progressive loss of sanity. This has not happened although they have in the past delicately questioned the sanity of my girlfriends (Very delicately. My family is loathe to intrude on my feelings when it comes to women although in retrospect I wish that they had sometimes been more active in their objections).

#3 My Girlfriends Were Always Insane and the Graph Just Reflects My Slow Realization of that Fact.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I consider this to be the most likely possibility. I am somewhat of an optimist. I tend to believe the best about people and, more importantly, see in them the things I want to see rather than what is actually there. Does this mean that all women are insane (absolutely not) or, does this study somehow suffer from a selection bias (Not likely as the four relationships on the graph represent the totality of the serious relationships I have had over the past 10 years). Perhaps I somehow seek out unstable women? Superficially I would have to say no. The qualities I find most attractive; wit, intelligence, ambition, and aesthetics seem to be incompatible with mental instability but, the fact remains that most women that I have dated have had at least a majority of those qualities but have nonetheless often acted in truly bizarre ways. The vast majority of women with these qualities aren’t irrational. In fact, I would go so far to say that the portion of the female population which possesses these attributes are less likely to suffer from insecurity, depression, or maladaptive behavior than the population as a whole. So, as much as I do not like saying it perhaps there is something in women who have “a little bit of interest” that I find attractive. My most recent girlfriend was so high-maintenance she made the space shuttle look like a huffy tricycle but I think it just made me that much more intrigued. If this is the case it is indicative of some pathology of which I must rid myself. Looking for a challenge is one thing, dating Delilah with trust issues as deep as the Marianas trench is quite another.

#4 My Definition of Insane is “Whoever Doesn’t Agree With Me”

This is possible. We are all liable to characterize actions with which we can neither empathize nor sympathize as "bizarre" or "irrational". In this case, it is useful to solicit outside opinions about the behavior of your ex. I have to say at this point that there were times when I characterized someone's behavior as insane simply because I didn't agree with it (particularly in the case of A) but, I can also name a number of incomprehensible actions performed by each of these women (I am using the term “insane” loosely in this blog) that any reasonable person would say were not only irrational but also unwarranted.

It’s quite possible that the trend observed in the “Insanity Index Graph” is due to a confluence of all of these factors. In fact, it’s likely. I certainly hope my next relationship bucks the trend though and heads north as we progress towards the 100% mark rather than the sharp drops south observed thus far. If not, I may be making a graph of my own sanity with a zero slope, right at “0” the whole time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

If you are in San Francisco...

Hey there. If you are a reader and reside in or around the San Fran region drop me a line at goldinthemine at gmail (the full address is just a click away on the side of this page) dot com. I hate those e-mail bots who steal addresses.....

I am looking to start a collaboration of sorts.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Our Gratitude

It is easy, too easy, for all of us to forget the sacrifices made on our behalf so that we may enjoy the simple pleasures of freedom. In honor of Veterans Day I have decided to post President Ronald Reagan’s speech from the top of Pointe du Hoc on the 40th anniversary of D-day. May we all hope that should ever so terrible a war recur that we face it with a fraction of the honor and bravery of the men who walked off the boats that day prepared to give their lives for an idea so abstract as freedom.

President Reagan’s Remarks:

The ceremonies honoring the fortieth anniversary of D day became more than commemorations. They became celebrations of heroism and sacrifice.

This place, Pointe du Hoc, in itself was moving and majestic. I stood there on that windswept point with the ocean behind me. Before me were the boys who forty years before had fought their way up from the ocean. Some rested under the white crosses and Stars of David that stretched out across the landscape. Others sat right in front of me. They looked like elderly businessmen, yet these were the kids who climbed the cliffs.*

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor."

I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry, I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots' Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet," and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: "Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do." Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We're bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we're with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Brazilian

I am slowly coming to be familiar with the practices and customs of the modern workplace. I know where to park my car, who to avoid in the mornings, and when to just listen during meetings (That last one could enjoy a little more popularity among employees in my opinion). I also like to think I know the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. For example, saying “That is a nice color on you” would be what I deem to be an innocuous, appropriate, socially relevant comment. For some reason, one of my co-workers, a professional with a terminal degree, insists on making sexual comments. She is a female, not stunningly attractive, but constantly alludes to what I consider to be subjects which should be off-limits in the work place. My first experience with this situation was during a conversation about how she is unhappy with her husband’s dressing habits. Apparently he wears extremely baggy jeans and she stated (vociferously) that she likes to see a “little ass on her men” then described in detail how she is an “ass woman”. Personally, I am neither offended nor made uncomfortable by these comments. What I am is stunned that she would make them in a professional environment. Having given you a bit of background perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened recently.

I was in the laboratory when she came in, ostensibly to ask me to e-mail her a few needed files. She started off the conversation by telling me how hungry she was. As it was 2:30 I asked why she hadn’t eaten lunch. It was then that she told me that she had had a “waxing appointment. Upon hearing that I immediately scanned her face for evidence of recently sculpted eyebrows, or even a red mark where a mustache used to be but there was nothing. Knowing where the conversation could be leading I said absolutely nothing. She, of course, wouldn’t let that go. She went on to tell me that unfortunately her “regular” wasn’t there so she couldn’t actually get anything done. This brought a glimmer of hope, perhaps she had back hair? Why would she need to go to one particular woman for grooming anything else? I responded with an “Oh, you have one particular woman that you like?” Bad move, it was just the in she was waiting for and replied “Oh no, the other women aren’t qualified to do Brazilians.”

How the hell am I supposed to respond to that? I almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the forced statement. The only thing I could come up with was “Wow, you need to be certified to do that? Does that come with a diploma you hang on your wall? What type of training does that entail?” When in doubt, immediately go into logistics, that way you can avoid any emotional content. She had no answer (fortunately) and left. I would complain if it wasn’t hilarious. Of course, if the comments become directed I will have to say something. What, I have no idea. I just have to wonder though, what goes through someone’s mind when they decide to say things like that? Were they brought up by parents who owned chains of porn shops? Were they so sheltered they feel they need to react to their prior constraints? In any case, the next time you are going for an “All Out” bikini wax make sure you search for the diploma on the wall. Apparently they are required.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Graduate Education: A Retrospective

That’s right, after 5 and ½ years I am finished. Ironically, I feel little sense of accomplishment. I would have to say the overwhelming emotion would be one of relief. You see, although one certainly may gain valuable skills in graduate school, and may publish a few papers of import (such as yours truly) graduate school is more about the ability to survive than to accomplish. This is an unfortunate fact. There have been a number of people who have dropped out of Ph.D. programs with the ability to be more than excellent researchers but the sheer political, emotional, and physical turmoil forced them to turn their backs on science. Whether it was the poverty of empathy of their advisors, the cut-throat competitiveness of their peers, or the persistent negativity which seems to be the norm among graduate students, many people who could have made great contributions to a number of fields are now either in other, more “affirming” disciplines (hopefully) or languishing in unfulfilling positions with little opportunity to make the social difference that was their genetic due (hopefully not..).

I am sure many (especially members of the academic set) are thinking “But those people are better off left behind. You know, sort of like separating the wheat from the chaff. People without the emotional wherewithal to make it through the rigors of a Ph.D. are unlikely to contribute in any significant sense to science in general”. This is, of course, rather backward thinking. Although our model of graduate education is the envy of the world it does not mean that it is without the possibility of improvement. Would it be difficult, for example, to place newly minted assistant professors in a one semester managerial class so that they might be better able to deal with, quite literally, controlling the lives of their graduate students? Perhaps it is totally without merit to institute a set of policies to which graduate students could turn in the event of a totally unreasonable advisor. Any reasonable person would approve of these small changes but, unfortunately, academics are quite often not reasonable people. They, like most, jealously guard their own fiefdoms of power and so are unlikely to advocate that new rules, or even restrictions, be instituted for the greater benefit of the masses if it means that their own near omnipotence be even slightly curtailed.

This jealously guarded power is of course not new in the world. It is seen on a daily basis in the dealings of unions with management, legislators with members of the judiciary, and even in the intricate social interactions between children and parents. It is not within our nature to easily give up powers which have accrued but, as this power becomes more concentrated (as it is in academia) it becomes not only more difficult to control (For an example look at the effects of the fundamentally innocuous idea of tenure on graduate, and secondary, education as a whole) but also more prone to be abused. Currently there are few checks on this near absolute power leaving the emotionally, psychologically, or physically disadvantaged student at the mercy of his or her "mentor". This is unacceptable. How many potentially great students must be sacrificed at the alter of academic ego before we learn that the system can and should be changed? Why must people who enjoy lifetime appointments, cushy teaching loads, and 6 month sabbaticals also be given free-rein to be the judge, jury, and executioner of a student’s life?

The question of my objectivity must be raised at this point. One might question my own motives by asking “Surely your views are a tainted, simply a bitter graduate student who now must face the world without the niceties you once expected as the first-year ingénue you were as you entered.” While it is true that, in retrospect, I do not view my graduate experience with any particular favor it isn’t true that I am embittered. I received a number of job offers before graduating with my Ph.D. (certainly not the norm for my particular institution, or science Ph.D.s in general) and agreed to a lucrative position with a scientific concern working in a cutting edge area of science (proteomics). These statements are not meant to be self-congratulatory or boastful, I write them only to communicate that I have been fortunate enough to obtain a position in the sciences without a post-doc and thus have little reason to be resentful about my graduate education. Although I did not have a stellar experience in academia, the concerns I state are borne of objective, reasonable observations I have made while still within the “ivory tower”.

The process of graduate education must be changed so that it not only fosters the ability to withstand tedium and negativity, but also promotes creativity and productivity. Currently sycophancy is the skill best learned; one, I must say, that is not particularly conducive to the dialectics which produce the best ideas. The comfortable world of the academic must be readjusted to reflect the needs and realities of the workers upon whose backs those great discoveries are made. I have decided that this will be a mission of mine. I will not step out of the tower, satisfied that I have made it only to leave others behind, mired in the dysfunction endemic to academia. We Americans have a great tradition of picking what works from institutions and discarding what does not. As such, we must look the tradition of higher education in the eye and say “Stand aside and prepare yourself for change”.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Amazing Discovery!

I am sure you will all be shocked by this but the new areas of knowledge being opened by science are apparently never ending. Here it is, females apparently have orgasms! I know; I was completely bowled over by this newfound fact as well. Even more interesting is that their ability to achieve this "female orgasm" is partially based on genetics. So, if for some reason your partner is not achieving this thing recently coined "female orgasm" it is undoubtedly due to their genetic makeup rather than your own poor performance.

Science is wonderful because it not only opens us up to these amazing discoveries but also provides convenient rationalizations for men (Who, by numbers, dominate science) who just can't seem to please their partners.

A few interesting tidbits from the study:

14% of women achieve orgasm every time.
98% of men achieve orgasm every time.

32% of women report never, or almost never, achieving orgasm during sexual intercourse.

99.9% of all male scientists think both the female orgasm and foreplay are myths.

Ok, I made that last one up but I wouldn't be surprised if it was in the upper 80's.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

You know what I could use? A little more stress..

You know what I could really use right now? A little more stress. I was thinking that defending in July, restarting a job search I believed to be over (but now am not entirely sure), finishing a paper, putting the final touches on my thesis, juggling actually having emotions again (that’s a later blog), and of course, losing my glasses just isn’t enough. Maybe I could be hit with some serious disease to put it all in perspective. I think a nice bout of tuberculosis would be good for me at this point. Then I could think, “Man, those days when I just had to worry about putting together my entire future in the span of 8 weeks were easy. I never knew how good I had it” as I took my 20th pill of the day to avoid coughing blood. Or maybe I could just be somehow held hostage (But only for a bit, kind of like a 24 hour bank hold-up.). That would give me time to reflect on how truly easy my life is right now. I don’t have to forage in the woods for food, my stomach isn’t distended due to intestinal parasites, and how I don’t have a history of dwarfism (Check out the “other terms” section in that link. It’s hilarious) running through my family.

Unfortunately, the whole prospect of “putting it in perspective” has never worked for me. I’ve never been starving in the Danube or on my death bed in Zaire so how the hell could I think about that and say “Oh, my life is great!”? I couldn’t. So, when you think that telling me “Oh, it could be a lot worse” in some way helps “put all of it in perspective”, take a step back, inhale deeply, and realize that it’s a completely fucking ridiculous statement. Maybe your time would be better spent hitting yourself in the head with a tack hammer than dispensing advice to someone who sees through bullshit like superman sees through women’s skirts. Of course, I'm great at pretending like it helps because I realize your intentions are good but a little bit more effort would be appreciated. Maybe not saying something like "In the real world you are going to have to worry about getting fired, not just not publishing" would be a start. And guess what, in the real world I will be getting paid more than 20K a year, will be able to quit without ruining my life, and will have recourse when my boss decides to turn peoples lives into complete and utter trainwrecks (not mine thank god) so the real world looks pretty good right now (If I was actually able to land a position I wanted. Having a Ph.D. sometimes seems like job repellant).

I am off to spend a few days with friends who call me even when I don't call them, pick up flights when they sense I might not go, and remind me that I am everything short of invincible whenever I am around. Trust me, I am one of the luckiest friends around. Havesu will be a cathartic time for me. I could definitely use the time away from the lab....

Judge by action, not by words

We all fool ourselves into thinking things which aren’t necessarily true. It is a natural defense described in detail by Tim Wilson in his book “Strangers to Ourselves” (which I highly recommend to everyone). We sometimes simply must believe that we are more competent, moral, attractive, or humorous than our peers in certain situations (The obvious example is dating but the implications are much more far reaching.). I have personally made an intense effort over the past several years to view myself in a more objective light. This isn’t always easy but it is a process in which we should all engage. We tend to think that introspection will lend us a hand in divining our base motivations, feelings, or thoughts when in reality we are better served by observing our actions rather than our words. An analogy has been offered that introspection is akin to asking oneself “how do I digest?”. Many of the motivations for our actions lie outside the reach of our conscious selves in something called the “adaptive unconscious”. This portion of our brain conveniently takes up the tasks of deciding what it is we want and, many times, what we should do to get it.

I am sure all of you are immediately rejecting the notion. Why, of course I am in charge of my life; after all, I make my own decisions! I decide that I want to go out on that date, apply for that job, or yell at my child. In some respects you are correct, there is conscious control over our actions (Although I am not prepared to yield the issue of consciousness, I will accept it as necessary for the sake of the discussion.). We do consciously decide to perform certain actions but, can we ever really know why it is that we perform them? Why is it that we all know that putting something off is the wrong thing to do but we do it anyway, even when immediate gratification is absent? What is our underlying motivation? Why is it that some people are continually attracted to the “wrong type” of people? I am sure they have devised complex narratives to explain their aberrant behavior but do they truly know their own motivations? I suspect that they do not. It very easy to tell ourselves that we wouldn’t make the poor decisions we so often bemoan in others, that we are somehow morally or intellectually superior (Indeed this is often used as a rationale to explain why others may not accept us.) but the reality of our actions may just tell a different story.

It is through this process of self observation that I have come to my view today. I no longer think of myself as a moral absolutist and I am much less likely to condemn the actions of others without fully recognizing the power of their motivations. This does not leave me in the morally tenuous situation of being unable to condemn horrific actions due to an inability to “consciously control” behavior as I do concede that at least some level of higher-order, conscious reasoning does occur prior to action. It does mean that I have a much clearer picture of myself, and the world in general. It also helps to me to see beyond the actions of others to the reasoning behind their own strange behavior (Motivations are almost always complex and are too often simplified to such things as “insecurity”, “jealousy”, or “arrogance”). So, how has it affected my life? I can’t say that I still don’t make incorrect decisions (although now I do usually recognize their uselessness), or act purely due to emotion (The heart has reasons of which the mind knows nothing) but I am better able to see judge exactly why it is that I do certain things and think about whether or not they contribute to the individual I would like to be rather than who I would like to believe I am. This has been thrown for a loop recently as I have had to attempt to determine the origin of actions or events which seem to be absolutely puzzling to me. I suppose that it is part of the fun of life that I can’t figure it all out and that maybe, sometimes, I should stop trying.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My Next Move? A Job in Iraq

Here I am at the end of all of this and I have spent a significant portion of my day filling out an endless procession of application response forms. I did notice something interesting on one though, it was based in Bagdhad, Iraq. The pay was phenomenal (as it should be for any position which might get you killed) and the adventure seemed awesome. Of course adventure is a fairy tale. It is simply a word some genius of an advertising agent came up with to help us convince ourselves to risk life and limb. Fortunately, some adventures are absolutely worthwhile (The military comes to mind) but I don't know if 100's of thousands is enough to for me to agree to sleep in a flak jacket....

In any case, I submitted my resume. Let's see what happens.

Friday, May 13, 2005

I am REALLY busy...

Posts have been slow as of late due to the amount of preparation I have had to do for my review meetings. These are the last hoops I have to jump through before the big day (Defense). Fortunately I haven't forgotten ALL of my differential equations but I have realized I could do with a little review.

I have a few posts in the works including "Everyone thinks the other guy is the idiot" and "My life is about to get REALLY exciting". The former describes a phenomenon I have observed recently and the latter is simply a description of my life currently and the opportunities which lie ahead. My trepidation about entering the "real world" has dissolved. I can't wait to get out and make my mark.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jesus Christ in legal battle to get license

I knew the DMV was difficult. Apparently even being a deity doesn't get you to the front of the line. - Jesus Christ in legal battle to get license - May 10, 2005: "Jesus Christ in legal battle to get license"

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Opinion Journal Follows Gold In The Mine

This article seems eerily similar to my previous post found here. To the editors of the City Journal, if you would like me to expound on any of my previous posts (Although it seems you have done a pretty good job already) please let me know.

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