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.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Not this again

This is truly terrible. - Evolution on trial in Kansas - May 2, 2005

Trust me, we don't need this in our schools.

What are you missing in your life? More advice from me...

A friend of mine solicited my advice on the keys to a happy marriage (One of her friends was getting married and in a very touchy/feely gesture decided to ask for anecdotes from everyone so they could write it down in some book, and likely never look at it again.).

What amazes me is that anyone would solicit my advice on what constitutes a happy marriage. Although I recognize the rationalist view I tend to err on the side of empiricism when it comes to relationships. In spite of this I felt obligated to pontificate. Most of what I wrote I learned by observing my parents, who are the paragon of a happy couple. After writing this it made me realize how high my expectations are for a relationship when my reference is almost perfection itself. Fortunately I achieve perfection is nearly all areas of my life so I suspect that eventually my relationships will fall into line (I know who is reading this and, of course, I am kidding).

Here are my thoughts for the world. As my hit counter went above 1500 hits/day for the first time I thought I might as well start trying to make your lives better via my genius as well as my wit.

What is the key to a happy marriage? There are a few easy answers,
love, caring, mutual respect, but they all seem to be abstractions,
really feelings rather than actions. Feelings and emotions are
notoriously difficult to consciously control so I would focus on things we
can control. I believe that by doing things and creating habits we
create an atmosphere which reinforces those emotions.

Do something everyday completely for that other person. Don't expect
anything in return. Don't "add it up" so that you can one day say "I
did this for you". Whether it be making the coffee, cooking breakfast,
cleaning the downstairs, or writing them a note to tell them how great
they are, just do it. Selfless behavior transmits how much you love
that other person and it reminds you that they are worthy of your love
just because of who they are, not because what they do for you.

Remember, appreciate, and keep perspective. There will be times in
your marriage when you will feel like you are floating on a cloud. The
wedding will be the most obvious point but even that even will
eventually pale in comparison to the simple joy of waking up to someone
you love. Burn those thoughts into your mind; remember the time without
that person and how happy you are now when they are in your life. These
times may be easy to forget when things get difficult (And you will go
through hard times, vide infra). When you are hurt, or angry, or
lonely remember what this is all about. Forget the pain, remember the
love. This is a long road you are walking together; you don't need to
add rocks to your pack (anger, hurt, despair). Those thoughts and
memories of love will make you lighter on your feet when the hill gets
steep. Write them down if you have to but keep them close.

It isn't always 50/50. It would be great if you both got home
everyday, in the same great mood, ready to tackle the house, the kids,
and whatever work is leftover from the day at the office. Of course
things won't always be like this. Sometimes one of you will have more
problems, more concerns, and less strength. You will need each other
during those times. They may last a night; they may last longer but at one
point or another one of you will be giving 99% and the other just 1.
You'll both have carried each other through the rough points in each
other's lives. It won't be easy but you'll be closer because of it.

Stay together but keep Separate. Have you ever noticed how old couples
tend to look alike? Have you ever wondered why that is? I suppose it's
because they have gone through so many of the same experiences. They've
laughed at weddings, smiled when their children took their first steps,
and wept when they had to walk them down the aisle and off to their new
lives. These events leave marks on our characters and our faces. You
will both experience them together, and you will change together, but
you shouldn't forget about yourself. Marriage means devotion, not
sycophancy. Keep up with the things and people that were in your life
before you got married and remember that happiness you find in yourself,
satisfaction in what you do, and bliss in those you love.

It actually pained me to write something so filled with "feelings" and "emotions". I hate to paraphrase the Matrix but apparently knowing the path and walking the path truly are different things.

I don't want to have to spend the day deleting comments so please, I know this is waaay lame but, as I had already written it in an e-mail, it is an easy thing to post.

And yes, I am aware of the irony that this is posted directly above "Celebrate Penis Day".

Celebrate Penis Day

Oh God this is funny. It describes the reaction of some students to "The Vagina Monologues" and "VDay" phenomenon currently all the rage on college campuses. Here is a clip from the artice.

Christina Hoff Sommers on The Penis Monologues on National Review Online: "“Testaclese” tipped the scales when he approached the university Provost, Edward J. Kavanagh, outside the student union. Apparently taking him/it for a giant mushroom, Provost Kavanagh cheerfully greeted him. But when Testaclese presented him with an honorary award as a campus “Penis Warrior,” the stunned official realized that it was no mushroom. After this incident, which was recorded on videotape, the promoters of P-Day were ordered to cease circulating their flyers and to keep Testaclese off campus grounds. Mindful of how school officers had never once protested any of the antics of Vagina warriors, the P-warriors did not comply. The Testaclese costume was then confiscated and formal charges followed."

Monday, May 02, 2005

I know, I know

A lot of you have complained about the lack of details of my personal life on the blog along with the format/content change that happened a while ago. I can't keep deleting your comments (Which is getting old by the way) so I am writing this to address your concerns.

#1. I not only have to respect my privacy (Which I do, zealously) I also have to respect the privacy of individuals in my personal life. I either choose to post the details of my life or not but it wouldn't be fair if I described everyone else's life as well as my own. They may not want it public (Lord knows many shouldn't).

#2. I know what ALL of your feelings are (even those who have no idea who I am but read the blog before and after the "change") but as my life isn't a democracy (I consider it a benevolent dictatorship run by yours truly) I am going to make my own decisions.

#3. Rice Krispy treats are delicious and if you want to send me anything, send me some of the pre-packaged store bought variety. I don't think I can trust any of you to send me home made treats. After that "Old People are Greedy" post I am bound to get some laced with cyanide or old people juice (it's poisonous, you know).

Sunday, May 01, 2005

We're Moving In The Wrong Direction on this one

Cape may New Jersey has just legalized "Speedos" on men. Do we need to be encouraging this? While they are at it they should outlaw deodorant and shaving underarms. Hey Cape May, if I wanted to live in France I'd move there.

It Should Have Been Me

I spend a significant amount of my time preparing for the day when I hit the lottery. In fact, I am probably the most well prepared person on the planet to "Hit the Big One". I have my dream house designed (It has an underground passage to a balcony built into a cliff, secret passages, and of course, a stream which runs through the entire first floor so you can get from room to room via a gondola. The stream is sort of a rip off of the Silver Spoons train theme but hey, a good idea is a good idea.), a method of concealing the fact that I’ve recently won millions (I will tell tell everyone I got the cash mowing lawns, surreptitiously of course. I believe that if people think I actually made the money they’ll be less likely to ask for $$$), and the gifts I’d give to my family and friends (There will be a whole lot of chartered jets to Vegas. I’ve even factored in the cost of rehab.). Thus you will understand how angry I am to have read that someone won the 208 million dollar jackpot and that person wasn’t me. A couple from Michigan, the Stebbins, collected their first check of 1 million dollars and set off across the country in an RV. That’s right, the best they could come up with after winning over 208 freaking million dollars was to set off into the wild blue yonder in an oversized rancher on wheels. The money is wasted on these people.

If incredibly fortunate events are going to happen they should happen to people who would at least make the most of their good fortune, people like me. I can see it now, the Stebbins will use their newfound wealth to sponsor their own NASCAR team, become equity partners in WWE, and buy out every Fashion Bug in the nation. Yours truly would be on a round the world trip with the boys acting as a good will ambassador to bars, beaches, and casinos everywhere. Screw RVs, it would be limos, jets, and possibly rickshaws depending on the country. There is a corollary to this; it’s the “I found Jesus” movie star. If you are going to be rich and famous you should do it right. What’s right you ask? I would say "right" can be found in the life of Charlie Sheen. This guy has lived the life one is supposed to while ensconced in wealth, fame, and power. Allow me to provide you with a quote from the linked a Playboy article.

PLAYBOY: Five women in one bed at a time?

SHEEN: True, but it happened only once. It wasn't a habitual thing.

PLAYBOY: Did you have them laid out in a pentagon?
SHEEN: [Smiles] No, it was just the end of the night and everybody had split. It was me and five girls, and I said, "Well, I'm up for it if you girls are." They're like, "Yeah, right." That was a challenge, so I went for it. I was with one at a time with the other four watching. It was a little uncomfortable, actually. I think I said, "Can you guys just look the other way until it's your turn?" I wouldn't recommend five at once. There's just not enough guy to go around.
PLAYBOY: Where do you normally draw the line?
SHEEN: At two. Even with two, somebody's always jealous. Even if it's their idea, someone comes away pissed off. Something happens and you spend the rest of the night apologizing for something they initiated. A lot of times you'll be with your steady and she'll invite a girlfriend; they'll get a couple drinks in them and say, "Hey, whaddya think?" Before you know it, you're into it. Then you pay more attention to one or the other and there are problems. Two women is a big guy fantasy that looks better on paper.

That’s just amazing. Kirk Cameron, you’re a jack ass.

So, I didn’t win the big one. I suppose I’ll have to continue working this whole “real world” thing until my foolproof lottery retirement plan hits but if I see one more headline that reads something like “54 year old Etch-a-Sketch factory worker hits the big one, buys lifetime supply of jean shorts” I think I’m going to snap. And oh yeah, Mr. and Mrs. Stebbins, if you are reading this I was just kidding. Swing by the east coast and pick me up; I’m sure I can find some inventive ways to spend your money.

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