My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Entry for December 30, 2007

"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration." - Charles Dickens

The thing about traveling is that, when you have finally returned, you are happy to just no longer be somewhere else. And no matter how short the trip may have been, there are always too many people to contact just to tell them that you’ve returned. Strangely, this number is usually higher than the amount of people who you originally told that you were leaving. So if you did not receive a personal message from me upon my arrival back at home this afternoon, I apologize. But frankly, I’m exhausted from my much needed trip away from life and could use some time to recover.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Home, Sick for the Holidays

I am spending this Christmas not feeling well and trying to hide from the world. If Santa is still looking for a last minute Christmas gift, please tell him to send soup.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Trapped Near My Inner Circle of Thought

I arrange all of my thoughts through the Loci method of linking them to memories of physical locations within my mind. Each day I rearrange the events and knowledge that I have gathered to fit within my memory palace. Add to this my never-ending ridiculous quest to manage simultaneous thought processes and you have a mind destine for trouble.

Every once in a while my brain crashes and my mental issues manifest as physical problems. When I was younger this did not happen that often, but now that I am older, rearranging more, and try to remember more intricate and deeper thoughts, it is happening with greater frequency. This causes me to completely withdraw from the world and spend countless hours and days rebuilding my mind.

So here I sit, slowly rebuilding my thoughts and trying to recall personal minutia as if it was I was the only person on earth to be entrusted with the knowledge of EFE, Kant's Theory of Judgment, or countless Shakespearean lines. My brain hurts and so my body hurts. I am tired, sick, and empty. I want to go home to my mind of several weeks ago, but it is gone. I know that in time I will rebuild it better and retain most everything. I also hope that someday I will be able to forego these collapses. Until then I’ll keep up my scorching hot balnea and work to stay focused.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who Are You?

Hello I am Professor, Consultant, and Occasional Bookstore Employee. Please feel free to call me Brian.

We’ve all been at some event where some random personal will saunter up, start a conversation, and immediately drop the question “So what do you do?”. My guess is that they think that it’s just a harmless question, but it never is. You know that your answer will be openly judged. If you say, “I’m a homemaker” or “I am the CEO of XYZ Company” the person will immediately fit you into their predefined social niches and deem you worthy of certain conversations. I see this more in the US than anywhere else, and no where else is it more obvious than in politics. Below is from the book Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway and it describes the employment social ladder perfectly:

When I got to Washington I discovered that even among young people, being a good guy was not the key thing: The key thing was your position on the great Washington totem pole of status. Way up at the top of this pole is the president; way down at the bottom, below mildew, is the public. In between is an extremely complex hierarchy of government officials, journalists, lobbyists, lawyers, and other power players, holding thousands of minutely graduated status rankings differentiated by extremely subtle nuances that only Washingtonians are capable of grasping.

For example, Washingtonians know whether a person whose title is "Principal Assistant Deputy Undersecretary" is more or less important than a person whose title is "Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary," or "Principal Deputy to Deputy Assistant Secretary," or "Deputy to the Deputy Secretary," or "Principal Assistant Deputy Undersecretary," or "Chief of Staff to the Assistant Assistant Secretary." (All of these are real federal job titles.)

Everybody in Washington always seems to know exactly how much status everybody else has. I don’t know how they do it. Maybe they all get together in some secret location and sniff one another’s rear ends.


We always seem to judge one another by the way that we earn a paycheck. And we do it in the smallest of ways. Think about how you introduce someone. Doesn’t it usually come out as something like, “This is Jim, and he works in Accounts Receivable at Schwab”? Jim could easily be an accomplished pianist, or the world record holder for dwarf juggling, or the father of sextuplets, but you would still introduce him as the Accounts Receivable Guy.

We even do it to ourselves. We introduce our job almost directly after our name. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Hey, the most important thing to me in life is my job and I would like to be defined by it, Thankyouverymuch.”

Why? Why do we do this?

And what is the alternative?

For a while I thought that there might be other conversational examples in similar countries, but remembering my time traveling and living abroad killed that notion. My Canadian friends and colleagues did the same, with the British either openly introduced themselves and their employment or following the proper British custom of not ever omitting anything personal. That phenomenon is described well In Kate Fox’s book Watching the English. She states that under no account should a British person volunteer their own name or ask a direct question to establish the identity of the person that they are you speaking to. Now I’ve had conversations like these with some British colleagues and it is painful. So this approach is also out do to, what I at least perceive to be, general rudeness. Not telling your life story upon meeting a new person is just fine, but you at least need to give the person enough information about your tastes, likes, and dislikes to kindle a conversation.

Surely most of us just work to live and do not live to work -- so let’s find a way to express that in our own introductions. And his is where I need your help. What is the alternative to announcing, or asking for, someone’s job title shortly after their name? How do you introduce yourself without immediately bringing up what you do to earn money so that you can live the rest of your life? Why do we feel the need to describe who we are by the work that we do?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Peter Jackson to produce The Hobbit

NEW YORK - Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have reached agreement to make J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," a planned prequel to the blockbuster trilogy "The Lord of the Rings."

Jackson, who directed the "Rings" trilogy, will serve as executive producer for "The Hobbit." A director for the prequel films has yet to be named.

Relations between Jackson and New Line had soured after "Rings," despite a collective worldwide box office gross of nearly $3 billion — an enormous success. The two sides nevertheless were able to reconcile, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) splitting "The Hobbit" 50/50, spokemen for both studios said Tuesday.

"I'm very pleased that we've been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line," Jackson said in a statement. "We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle Earth."

Two "Hobbit" films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, similar to how the three "Lord of the Rings" films were made. Production is set to begin in 2009 with a released planned for 2010, with the sequel scheduled for a 2011 release.

New Line Cinema is owned by Time Warner. Sony and Comcast are among the owners of MGM.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Entry for December 16, 2007

I am not a man’s man. I don’t hunt, fish, or watch sports. I will not drink cheap beer, degrade women who can’t verbally fight back, or physically pick on anyone who couldn’t take me in a fight. But there are times when I feel the need to head out into an unforgiving climate to make sure that I am still capable of holding my own. This morning was one of those times.

I woke at about 5am and descended the stairs in a robe to see the back door covered in snow. A mug of tea and some news later the dog trotted down the stairs and up to my desk to tell me that she needed outside. So over to the back door we went. It was there that is where she got her first good glimpse of what she would have to brave in order to pee. I swung the door open and she stood there contemplating whether the punishment for peeing on the rug was worth not having to squat in the half-a-foot of snow. A quick glance back at me told her that it wasn’t and she hopped out the door and then back in as quickly as she could manage.

A couple hours later I was in the truck leading the way to breakfast at Bob Evans (this is the Midwest after all) to see a friend's parents out of town. All through breakfast I worried about their drive back to Ohio from Michigan with today’s weather reporting reading as, “periods of snow and gusty winds. Significant blowing and drifting snow. High 24F. Winds NNW at 25 to 35 mph. 6 to 8 inches of snow expected” ringing in my ears.

As we pulled back up to the house the true severity of the day’s weather hit me as I noticed that our previous footprints to the truck had vanished in the hour that we had been gone. Once out of the truck I stopped and, on the precipice of blowing snow and ice and the welcoming warmth of the house at Christmas, decided that I needed to leash up the dog and take her for a walk.

The snow was deep, especially where the plows and the wind had created waist deep mounds, and the constant blast of air coming from the North was bitter and angry. The dog bounded forward through the front yard with enthusiasm that she had not shown in the early morning hours and I realized that she would be hard to keep up with today. I planned to do the normal two and a half mile lap, trudging through some knee-deep snow and hidden ice patches, with as much grace as possible.

The going was not as bad as I thought and about half way I noticed another soul braving the outdoors. It was an older gentleman attempting to clear his driveway with a snow shovel. He seemed to be losing to the fight to the persistent combination of a snow and wind. I smiled and jogged by with the dog, leaving a trail of gullies where my legs had been. Pausing for a moment to watch us, he smiled and waved and I liked him immediately.

Coming around the last corner I realized that I love days like today. It is an excuse to test yourself against the natural elements. Not armed with some sort of technology, or to prove anything to anyone, just to see if you can do something simple with an obstacle in your path. So as I came back into the house growling and stripping, with the dog shaking show from her hair while attempting to chew out snow from between her feet, I felt good. I may not be a man's man, but there are times that I need to feel that I can rise to a challenge -- whether it is something truly difficult, or something as simple as taking the dog for a walk.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Call for Global Greed

I guess that it started July 22, 2006. I was gearing up for my 30th birthday a couple days later and I remember reading an article in the news that sparked a thought that just ended this week, almost a year an a half later. All that time ago, NASA revised it’s mission statement from “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers as only NASA can” to exclude the line, “To understand and protect our home planet”. At the time I couldn’t quite understand why a group of intelligent, creative adventurers would decide to leave that line out. Did they think that by excluding that line they would no longer be required to help the military with some sort of global defense system? Was some creature on another planet offended by our Earth-centeredness? Did they not think that they could live up to it? Or was it that NASA no longer found our planet that interesting and planned on spending all of their time trying to understand all of the other planets first?

I was vexed, bemused, befuddled, and all of the other words that mean “huh?” Fast forward to this week when the NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, discovered the existence of giant magnetic ropes (a twisted bundle of magnetic fields) that connect the Earth's upper atmosphere directly to the sun and create the, until now mystifying, Northern Lights. Cool yes, but more importantly it is another notch on our understanding of planet Earth.

We do not like to think of the Earth as a living creature because this either brings with it connotations of long-haired people dancing around a fire to the beat of a drum circle or supernatural beliefs in some sort of semi-intelligent creator. But it is. We have evidence of liquid water existing on Earth’s surface for billions of years, despite nuclear physics suggesting that the sun had 30 percent less luminosity when it was young, some five billion years ago. In other words, Earth’s surface, full of life, has managed to cool itself to counter the increased output from the sun, which might have otherwise scorched Earth’s living surface to a crisp. And even though oxygen is an extremely reactive gas -- in liquid form with hydrogen, its controlled reaction fires rocked into space -- it continues to account for approximately one-fifth of Earth’s atmosphere. It has done so for the last 500-million-odd years. According to the standard rules of chemical mixing, this should not happen -- just as, according to mathematical calculations of random particle interactions, a roughly symmetrical being with fingernails and hair such as yourself should not be here.

Religionists would tend to say that your presence is a miracle, testimony to a God. Scientists tend to say that there is nothing miraculous about it; that you are the result of billions of years of natural selection. However, Richard Dawkins has pointed out, there is only one Earth with no evidence, as there is normally in evolution, of a bunch of variants that died out. So initially at least, it is difficult to see where the biosphere’s ability to thermoregulate and maintain its surface chemistry comes from. It has adapted to its heliocentric climate in the same way that you would if you were to move to the top of a mountain or to the desert. Add to that the knowledge that it constantly takes in cosmic particles and debris while excreting other particles, and you have a very convincing argument for a creature that, although does not fit the classical definition of a being, comes very close. It only lacks self-awareness.

This adapting Earth has also shown that it can be negatively affected by the inhabitants on it. Just as your body has populace of billions of microbes, the Earth too has tiny -- relatively speaking -- creatures living on it. Increase either the number of living things on either and the waste and damage that they create ends up negatively affecting the host. We know this and are awed just thinking about our abilities on this planet. It is one of the things that give us courage when leaving it. So why on Earth did NASA, knowing everything that they know, decide to omit, “To understand and protect our home planet”? Why would they eliminate a line exploring the most incredible, diverse, advanced, and truly awesome thing that we know about in our entire cosmos? The answer, I now believe, is that NASA made a mistake in removing the line, but still holds true to their original mission statement. NASA, and we as conscious living creatures, can and will never abandon our love for our home planet. It is precious, beautiful, and we love her. No matter what the marketing department at NASA decides.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Entry for December 12, 2007

This morning I received an email from David Camp, Michigan’s Fourth Congressional District Congressional Representative and thought that I would share it along with my response.

Dear friends,

As we approach the holiday season, I watched (and later read) with great interest former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s speech entitled “Faith in America.” In his remarks, the Governor discussed the interaction of religion and government. Below are a few excerpts from his speech and I am interested to know your reaction to them. Please take a moment to send me your thoughts on this important topic. As always, anything you submit to my office will be kept confidential.

I hope you have a safe holiday season and new year with your friends and loved ones.

Sincerely,

DAVE CAMP, U.S. Representative

P.S. I would like the opportunity to respond to any thoughts you send me, so please take a moment to fill out the name and address section at the end.

Excerpts from Governor Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” Address

“The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.”

Agree
Disagree
No opinion

“We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.”

Agree
Disagree
No opinion

“…liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.”

Agree
Disagree
No opinion

“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

Agree
Disagree
No opinion

If you have additional thoughts on religion and government, please share them here:

Please provide you full name and mailing address so that I may respond to your comments.


My response:

This argument would hold more water if it wasn't always Christians pushing for the state to recognize, and incorporate, religion. Each election season this topic is publicly resurrected to put on a show to convince a religious public that a pseudo-state sanctioned religion is a possibility. Everyone sees through this charade to the core of a mixed church and state, which is why it never comes to fruition. Moreover, candidates use this platform to distract the public from other, more pressing topics that they should be talking about. Personal spiritual beliefs are personal and help to create who we are. We cannot let them dictate our actions or we are allowing our personal spirituality to define our laws. On a small level this would be acceptable, but with a majority organized religion this is not possible. It would only create a church state defined around one specific religion. The public knows this and sees these arguments for what they are: a shallow attempt to persuade a small percentage of the population, who does not understand the reasons for separation of church and state, into voting. Please spend more time on the important issues facing this nation and less on pandering to those who do not understand the basic ideas of Thomas Jefferson.

But hey, I’m curious of all of your responses. What do you think?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Something That You Are Doing Right Now Could Kill You

That’s right, something that is within several feet of you, or that you could have come in contact with, or that you are actually doing right now, or that you will be doing in the next ten minutes, could kill you twice tonight.

Something that you did last time you were at the grocery store could harm your children and make them late for soccer practice.

What you did while at the mall could one day get your house pet run over in traffic.

Remember that credit card that you handed over to that complete stranger? They could have all of your personal information and are planning to live abroad on your credit for the next several years.

You once ate a piece of toast that could have been laces with a newly discovered pathogen named Trytofreakurshitout that could make all of your hair turn green and your body to emit a smell like rotting hamster droppings.

A new harmful ingredient in your children’s toys could make them grow an extra arm directly from their forehead.

Your Mother could have ingested a common vitamin that is now linked to a highly increased sexual libido with random strangers.

New studies have show that reading this blog could some day cause you to get cancer of the nose that could leave you looking like Michael Jackson.

This blog has been sponsored by the National Consortium or Local News Commercials. Tune in tonight at 7 to see how you could die.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The words I hear when life gets to be too much

"So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

Then I pick myself up, dust myself off, and do what must be done. I do so because I know that time is the only thing that money cannot buy and I refuse to anything that powerful on fear or unhappiness. Moreover, I believe my goal in life is to always leave things better off than I found them. So tonight I head to bed planning once again to try to make the most out of the time given to me and hoping that when my time is up, my world will be a little better for having had me on it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dominance

My mongrel and I went to the dog park today a friend of mine and her two dogs. The younger one is too dumb to be afraid of anything and the older one is afraid of anything living that could be construed as a threat. The older one is a breed that is naturally loud and was adopted after she had time to establish her personality. From what I can gather, she had to be self-reliant in her younger years and still feels the need to display her dominance to compensate for her diminutive stature and lack of physical intimidation. To counteract that her owners usually do a good job of being dominate and around her, especially when in the presence of anything living that could be construed as a threat. This gives the dog a sense that they have the situation under control and that they can assure the dog safety while in their protection.

While at the large and empty Dog Park with my friend, as we were letting the dogs, who had not been to the park or had any meaningful exercise in well over a week, burn off some energy. The dogs were wound tight and upon arrival and immediately took off chasing each other. After a couple of minutes, someone else arrived with another dog that was either also full of energy or was just ill-behaved. Inevitably, my friend’s older dog got into an altercation with that new dog while posturing for dominance. We left a few minutes later and were all in a foul mood as we headed back to our respected homes with the dogs.

In my opinion, this could have been avoided if we had the dominant and submissive roles in the front of our minds. Instead, we were distracted with the extremely cold weather, thoughts of the day, and other general distractions associated with life. None of us did a good job realizing the important interplay of roles that simpler creatures must dance at all times. If we thought more about our own roles in life, where we need/desire/require dominance and submission, we would have been automatically prepared for this type of situation. Maybe our pushing these thoughts out of our mind and conversations is cultural and maybe it is just situational, but they need to reemerge.

This got me to thinking how little we dwell on the dominance and submissive roles that we play in all relationships. The titles of Dominate and Submissive do not need to only refer to horrible atrocities of the past, but need to exist in rational conversation today. In certain subcultures and during a large portion on our history these were roles that we defined and understood both intrinsically and intellectually. All relationships still exist on some form of dominate and submissive exchange. And while most relationships have a tendency to switch the roles depending on the situation, moods, and both momentarily external and internal factors, they are always still in play. Equality between several individuals is never quite identical as someone must always have the final say. Even in a true Democracy someone must create the rules and count the votes.

True equality is that everyone has the same opportunities, not that we all end up equal. What we need to do is accept that the roles are never quite equal, and that that is okay. As long as everyone has freely chosen their position or has the ability to switch when it is needed, then equality can exist in the balance of the positions. It is in the movement of positions that counts the most.

This brings me back to the dog park. Dogs and all simpler creatures do not have the ability to contemplate their positions. They must act or be acted upon. Therefore, it is up to us to always place them within situations where we remove as much of that need as possible. If we maintain a higher awareness of our own dominance and submissive positions, we will then respond automatically when called to act upon them. It is in this conscious understanding of our ability to be either dominate or submissive that we can gain a greater comprehension of who we are as we travel through life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Your Organized Religion is an Insult to Humanity

A British teacher in Sudan asked one of her 7-year-old students to bring in her teddy bear to teach them about animals. She then asked the students to pick a name for the bear and they voted to name it Muhammad. These last weeks she was arrested and convicted for letting them use the name and will be punished with 40 lashes. On Friday (11/30/07), after a reduction in sentencing to 15 days in jail and deportation, thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied in a central square and demanded her execution.

Now the first response is to call this law and these people primitive, but the problem is much deeper than that. This is not a problem with the current division in Islam or any other religion that has its evangelicals, hard-liners, or extremists. This is a problem with organized religion.

When you create a set of laws and call them infallible, you are doing so under the belief that the people, culture, technology, and science will never change. The commonly held belief is that during the new religions inception is that humanity has reached a final destination or perfection that needs to be maintained. This thought process is usually fostered by a powerful group of people who want to preserve their comfortable control over a population. The development of the new religious laws is usually a regurgitation of previous controls and stories from other popular religions into a new form to suit their needs. If not for that reason, religions are instituted to herald in a new form of government or to change direction in a current one.

The insulting part is not that the masses fall into this trap and can made to believe that silent obedience is the way to some sort of existential fulfillment in an afterlife. No, it’s the sheer nerve of them to put forth the belief that there is an ability to understand the universe. As if simply using our limited minds and current understanding of the complexity of the cosmos is enough to explain everything. So what organized religions are offering is easy answers that are destined to be outdated and laughable before they are instituted. It takes blind faith in these dogmas to overlook the obvious inconsistencies and inaccurateness that they contain.

Spirituality is one thing, and is different for everyone, but to believe in one version of a religion over all others is not only foolish, it’s self-defeating. If you put all of your hope into something that can so easily fail, you will bound to become either blind to reality or disappointed with life.

The alternative? Believe in yourself. The strength you have to follow the dogma of an organized religion is the same strength that you can use to just be a good person. And you know what a good person is because every single religion, community, and historical reference to good acts mirrors each other. Be good, you have that power within yourself. Or to quote Abraham Lincoln, “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Music

Voltaire said, “Anything too stupid to be said is sung”, and this is doubly so of Christmas music -- it is the equivalent of being bludgeoned to death by a Hallmark card.

Having spent a considerable amount of time over the last couple of weeks submerged in Christmas music, I have come to realize the vast majority of these songs have never been nominated for a Grammy, received any internationally recognized awards for musical excellence, or have been hailed for their musical creativeness for a reason. This is because they are intentionally shallow and musically insulting.

Christmas is the time of year in which we can all be proud to wallow in our own ability to be tacky and gaudy. Everything from homemade scenic sweaters, to borderline obscene Christmas yard decorations, all the way to those CDs of dogs barking Christmas carols is fair game. And not only do we allow such embarrassing frivolity, we see it as a necessary part of the kitsch and as essential as the tree or presents.

Think about it, would it be Christmas if you weren’t bombarded with the same repetitive music about Santa and his reindeer, snow, decorations, good-will, and the several quaint reasons for the mostly Pagan holiday? True, some people (usually the die-hard Christians or desperate infotainers) do try to make the holiday out as holy, but it’s a long shot to rebrand all of those Pagan traditions as Christian. Still, it’s an excuse to be carried away in everything delightfully tacky and excessive because we do so under the banner of “The Season”.

So this year, as we spend time with our families celebrating the tackiness of the season by drowning ourselves in a self-imposed orgy of Christmas crap, try to remember that stupid Christmas song on the radio is not painfully bad, it’s painfully good.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the mall is giving 10% off of everything during the all-drum performance of Jingle Bells.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Dichotomy of the US

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between -- Oscar Wilde

We as a nation have always lived with an identity crisis. Now that is not to say that we don't know who we are, but as individuals we are proud of our diversity and that leads to times where as a nation we are extremely polarized.

I offer a simple analogy in the form of two large companies trying to sort out the current range of American thinking: Subway Restaurants and Toyota Motor Corporation American Division.

Subway currently offers an entire Fresh Fit menu with calories listed in full view and healthy alternatives of apples and milk to the normal unhealthy choices. The marketing campaign for this wholesome menu is promoted by a man who lost 245 pounds eating nothing but Subway sandwiches. This is in stark contrast with their other running menu option of a new Subway Feast which promotes a sandwich with 1,400 calories that is "as big as your head".

Toyota is doing about the same thing. Along with announcing a new Prius that will not only offer the best fuel consumption on the market, but will also have an option to allow for a home hook-up for little to no fuel consumption at all, Toyota also has a 7,000 lbs., 12 MPG, Land Cruiser. So why advertising that they are the environmentally green car company, they continue to sell one of the worst environmental cars offered in the American car market.

So why do these two examples, which so openly strive to promote themselves as one thing, also cater so heavily to the antithesis?

I believe that the answer lies not in our current diametrically opposed methods of thought, but in the lack of vocal majority within the center. We have been co-opted into a belief that there are only two sides to every stance, that there are right and wrongs, and that our choices are those of other peoples labels.

These false choices have historically been reduced to rubble by artists, poets, great thinkers, and a populous that believed in education and free thinking. Unfortunately, the outlet for such things now exists in a medium that sells ad time. Every original thought is bought and sold like a commodity, cheapening its originality and lessening its affect on the public. New ideas are either squashed for their lack of marketability or embraced, repackaged, sold, and forgotten.

This process of commoditizing dissension leaves the moderate and undecided without a real voice while we all wonder whether or not we're in the mood to submit to gluttony or give preemptive penance for our wish to submit to our greed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I Love People at Christmas

Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, may be my favorite day of the year. Hordes of people, all up at an unreasonable hour to stand in lines, be grumpy, only to end up spreading unhappiness to one another over petty fights for cheap Chinese toys and unbelievable consumer deals. They do this to celebrate the birth of some guy who never had a family, had no possessions, and lived most of his life under a self-imposed vow of poverty. The irony is not only palpable, it’s hilarious.

So each Black Friday you will find me camped out watching the masses. If they would let me, I would love to drag one of my recliners into the lobby of a Wal-Mart just for the occasion. Because let’s face it, overweight people running through the aisles and tripping over one other in a department store at 5am to save $20 on something that they really don’t need in the name of love, family, and friendship, just can’t be beat in funny.

Every year this holiday starts earlier and gets crazier and every year I enjoy the show more and more. So please, get out there and shop till you drop. And please, when you collapse on some old woman who was fighting you for the last bag of $1 tube socks, remember that you have fulfilled my Christmas wish to enjoy hilarity of the Christmas Season for all that it is worth.

Live Music

I grew up going to see live shows around Atlanta and Boston. If there was going to be music, any music, I wanted to be part of it. The best of all of these were rocks bands in small venues. There is just something indescribably wonderful about watching a band claim a stage and get bar patrons off their asses. Seeing them earn their sweat while we felt the pulse of the music is one of the closest things to ecstasy imaginable. Tonight reminded me why we all need music in our lives. Music keeps you happy, gets your body back into rhythm, and makes you remember why you live. Music is a higher understanding than all wisdom and philosophy; so make sure that you bathe in music as often as you can and I promise that you live a happier life.

Check out thebananaconvention.com or better yet, see them live. You can thank yourself later.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On Health

I am a realist, I know that I eat too much yummy food and don’t exercise enough, but that is a choice that I have consciously made. What confuses me is the myriad things out there intended to help people lose weight and be healthy. So in order to help out as much as I can, let me explain things in a language that is both simple and easy to understand.

You have evolved over billions of years eating about 80% raw veggies and fruit and 20% meat. To think that your body can cope with eating processed chemicals, mostly meat or all fruits and veggies, heavily altered foods, man-made foods, or things raised using unnatural fertilizers and drugs without side effects is foolish. To put it in simple terms, the more crap that you eat that is not a basic food that your ancestors bodies grew accustom to over thousands of generations, the more health problems you are likely to have.

The same goes for medicine and health care. Your body is an awesome piece of equipment. It is the most advanced machinery that you will ever own. It repairs itself, maintains a balance with its surroundings, and is conscience of itself. When left in an environment in which it has evolved to match, humans do extraordinarily well. Unfortunately, environments change, people build cities, food is harder to produce in larger quantities, and we expose ourselves to things that evolution never had time to sort out. So naturally we are going to get exposed to all sorts of things that our bodies are going to have a hard time handling. The best thing that you can do is to maintain a good natural and physical state so that your billions and billions of years of evolution has the best chance to deal with these new unknown.

All that being said, you need to realize that even though you should try to stay as close to what your body evolved to live with, there are occasionally going to be things with which it will not cope with well. The trick is to understand what is really a threat and what is just marketing.

For instance, your body was not meant to eat Hot Pockets. There are 76 ingredients in a Hot Pocket -- most of which are manmade and unpronounceable. Just because you can eat something and it tastes good, does not mean that it’s food. Antifreeze is sweet and smooth, but it will kill you if you drink it. And a Lean something just means that there are less of the things that we now are bad and more of fillers and chemicals that are further from being classified as food.

Most pharmaceutical drugs are the same. You take them constantly to fix either psychological problems or problems caused by bad health and diet. In other words, they work to counteract the bad parts of your other habits. This is the equivalent of constantly filling up one of you car tires with air when you know that it has a nail in it.

Are you going to occasionally need medical help and eat food that is not what you should be eating? Of course, but you need to realize that it is a conscious choice that you are making and that with each choice it moves you future from your naturally balanced ideal and that will come with side effects.

In short, I offer my easy solution to wellbeing: Eat good food and less of it while exercising more and try to understand who you are through self-reflection and internal understanding. Now I can’t promise anything because life is all about uncertainty and learning, but you can learn to stack the deck in your favor by making conscious choices about who and what you really are.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Definition:Dianous

Dianous is directly translated from Greek as "through thought". It is a deep meditation that is usually aimed at greater self-understanding, but can also mean understanding of external conflict through internal thought.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Entry for November 13, 2007

All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity -- Philip Pullman

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The world is rarely black and white...

Life exists in a series of grays, please adjust your reality accordingly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You finish the line

Let the government build roads? Are you nuts? That’d be socialized transportation!

Let the government raise and army? That’s crazy! That’d be socialized warfare!

Let the government create national parks? Why, that’d be socialized recreation!

Let the government deliver the mail? Insane! That would be socialized communication!

Let the government fight fires? That would be socialized public safety!

Let the government manage health care? That would be __________

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tax Investments

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance -- Thomas Jefferson

Are Democrats going to raise taxes? Yes. Are Republicans going to raise taxes? Yes. The question is: what would you rather pay for? A war and tax relief for the upper class or healthcare and education? I have a feeling that most Americans will easily choose investing in our nation’s health and future over a war that we can’t quite explain and relief for our richest citizens. With Republicans recent history of spending large amounts of money without increasing the amount coming in (they haven’t been fiscally conservative in decades); the Democrats must take the path of responsible and convince Americans that taxes are a necessary burden to any civilized society.

Homework is burdensome too, but you have to do it if you’re going to learn anything. Exercise is burdensome, but you have to do it if you’re going to be in good physical shape. Taxes are necessary if we are going to make wise investments in our national infrastructure that will pay off for all of us years and years in the future. That includes investments in things like education and healthcare for those who can’t afford it. Education and healthcare are investments in people. They are wise investments because they give us an educated citizenry, and educated workforce, and a healthy and efficient workforce. Those are the practical reasons for taxes. Other reasons for taxes are public services -- like police and fire, disaster relief, and so on.

Those are the practical reasons for taxes, but there are moral reasons as well. Education and health are important factors in fulfillment in life, and this country is about fulfillment in life. There is a reason why the Declaration of Independence talks about the pursuit of happiness and links that to liberty. The reason is that they go together. Without liberty, there can be no fulfillment in life. Thus there are practical reason why it makes sense to understand taxation as paying your dues in a country where you can pursue happiness because there is liberty and freedom.

The Republican argument to this over the last decade has been to say taxes are bad, a national debt of $9 trillion is easily forgettable, and if we just give the rich a tax break, maybe they’ll spend some of it on the rest of you. So when you hear them talk about tax cuts, it’s not about tax cuts. They are about getting rid of social programs and regulations of business because that is where that money most come from. Do not buy into this taxes hype. Be proud of the country that you live in. Invest in our future. Pay your taxes and demand that your country spends your money in the way that you want. Tell them that you would rather pay for healthcare and education over the war and tax breaks for the rich.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Favorite Porridge

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, so I thought that my cold morning breakfast staple was worth a mention with the colder months knocking at the door.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
½ cup milk
1 cup hot water
¾ cups old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
Frozen blueberries
Fresh strawberries
1 Banana
1 tablespoon honey
Salt

Dice 3-4 strawberries and ½ of the banana and combine with about 20 of the frozen blueberries in whatever bowl that you plan on using for your porridge. Add the tablespoon of honey, stir to evenly coat everything, and let it sit while you make the oats.

In a 2½ quart or larger pan (nonstick work great) heat the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add the oats and as dash of salt and stir them every 30 seconds for about five minutes or until the butter has been absorbed and the oats smell nutty.

Add the half cup of milk, followed by the one cup of hot water, a dash of salt, and bring all of it to a slow boil, before reducing to medium heat. Stir every minute or so until the liquid is gone or until the oats have reached a texture that you like.

Pour the oats into the bowl with the fruit and stir to combine. Let sit for 2-3 minutes and dig in.

This is both an incredibly nutritious and filling breakfast that has always brought a smile to my face.

Friday, October 26, 2007

In Defense of Words

I have measured out my life in the etherized words of others.

Our language is intentionally flexible. It has grown, evolved, expanded, and become a force for social, political, and environmental change. Nothing is more powerful then the written word. That is why I get so upset when I see people attempting to stretch certain words to their breaking point, destroying their original meaning without either context or ability to justify the change.

Case in point: Torture. The original word the Latin tortura and dates back almost 2,500 years and means “to twist”. For most of that time it has been defined close to our current definition of:

  1. anguish of body or mind, something that causes agony or pain.
  2. the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.

Now without getting into the argument that torture, no matter how it appears on TV, is extremely ineffective and gives the impression that we cannot stay within our own laws, has become tortured itself. The current administration continuously says that we “don’t torture”, yet does not define what they believe the word “torture” means. In the beginning we were left to assume that we did not torture as it was defined in the Geneva Convention or how we understood it in our common vernacular. Then something strange happened, we found out that we do actually torture and have gone way beyond the current definitions. To add insult to injury, the word was continuously used until it had lost almost all meaning. We can now safely say that we torture, but don’t torture.

It’s in the evolution of the words that we find their true meaning. And in certain people, who choose their words carefully, that the slow progression of the word still thrives. I don’t believe that it takes a Chomsky or Eliot to become an expert in such matters. I am lucky enough to know several people, one in particular, who does a wonderful job at selecting just the right words for the situation. I wish I knew what causes some people to work so hard on finding just the right word while other carelessly toss them in every direction.

But maybe a bit more history is called for. In the beginning of the twentieth-century linguists began to believe that there was a capacity in individuals to produce and understand utterances. Noam Chomsky famously characterized this as a conceptual shift from a historical preoccupation with ‘E-language’ (a set of externalized utterances) to an emphasis on ‘I-language’ (principles internalized by the language learner). This focus be modern linguists on individual capacity to acquire and use language (called ontogeny) led to a flowering or research, allowing the biological and neural underpinnings of language to be studied coherently, and opening the door to consideration of how the language faculty evolved biologically (called phylogeny). But this approach left behind the traditional questions of cultural evolution of individual languages (called glossogeny) that tantalized earlier generations of linguists.

So how words change and evolve is still being heatedly argued. This leaves the rest of us as part of the process. Or as Chomsky would argue, the underlying explanation for how words change comes down to the individuals who learn and use the language. It is in the fusing of the academic theoretical models of cultural evolution to experimental investigations of social learning in the laboratory that the understanding of what markers and idiosyncrasies are need to cause a change in language.

Above all else, one thing is certain: It is our daily use and misuse of words that sculpt the next generations’ vocabulary. We should, we must, focus not just on the way in which we say things, but in the specific words that we use. If we do not, our beautifully descriptive language will become nothing but sound and thunder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NILF

TV News is split into two basic categories, Hard News and Infotainment. Infotainment refers to a general type of news media broadcast program which either provides a combination of current events news, entertainment programming, or an entertainment program structured in a news format. Hard news embodies two orthogonal concepts. Seriousness, meaning a focus on politics, economics, crime, war, and disasters along with certain aspects of law, science, and technology. And timeliness, including stories that cover current events like progress of a war, the results of a vote, the breaking out of a fire, a significant public statement, the freeing of a prisoner, an economic report of note. The less hard news coverage a station has, the prettier the girls reporting it seem to be. It’s like a sliding scale of news creditability. At the top of this infotainment scale is the hardcore NILFs over at Fox News. Megyn Kelly, one of the co-host of America's Newsroom on Fox News is on the right.

Moving up the Hard News vs. Infotainment scale is the women over at E! Online. The host of E! News is Giuliana Rancic and was ranked #94 on the Maxim Hot 100 Women of 2004. Sure she is both attractive and informative, but she is still at a level where her looks distract from anything that she is talking about. Double standard, yes. Reality, yes. Fair, no. But you know that life isn’t fair. Besides, who do you think that these women are for? Is the news that hard to read from a prompter? Are two hour interviews, edited down to about ten minutes, really that hard to pull off? Are there more skilled journalists who aren’t as attractive that would do a better job?

You know the answers to those questions as well as I and you know exactly why these pretty women are where they are.Further down the list is the wonderfully wide-eyed and jejune Katie Couric. This is what happens when a good idea goes too far. Sure she’s incredibly nice, attractive, and is always happy to smile at the camera. Just look at that picture. No matter what she’s talking about, she still has a smile behind it. It doesn’t matter if she’s talking about terrorists invading our daycares or how much puppies are cute; it’s still going to sound nice. And really, what more do people need? It’s the same as reading the news on the internet with one of those banners for a dating service off to the side. Look, Iran is getting the bomb, but check out the bomb in the over there on the side of the page.

Which brings us to CNN. Being the first with 24 hour news, they learned early on that there was a certain level of NILFness that needed to be displayed in order to maintain certain people’s attention throughout long stories or on slow news days.

Check out Heidi Collins of CNN’s Newsroom. Here you will find women who are attractive, yet business-like and professional. Sure they probably still qualify as NILFs, but it’s not overpowering or blatant as some of the other stations. This is about the level that you want to look for whenever looking for serious hard news without hardons. CNN has found a good balance of professional women who just happen to be NILFs.

This leaves PBS and journalists like co-anchor of the Nightly Business Report Susie Gharib (pictured on the right) in the all hard news category. Strong, independent, still attractive in a woman-who-knows-what-she-wants kind of way, but it is by no means distracting. Now there are some abnormities like Nancy Grace, who probably placed where she is to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now I know what you are saying, Nancy Grace isn’t a NILF. She looks like someone beat-up a bulldog, gave it the voice of an angry blender, and the personality of a disgruntled carnie with a raging case of gout, but she is the rare exception. For the most part, the women on news channels fairly depict the seriousness of the news being covered. So when you are flipping through the channels trying to find out about the latest story, don’t be so easily distracted by the pretty NILF on the screen. Instead, look for one that is just attractive enough to give you the news without making you want to move on to the story about bras and knee-highs.

Friday, October 19, 2007

You are someone else's "they"

I would like to take a minute to clear something up:

“They” are not out to get you and it is not “their” fault.

But let me explain: I have been known to travel in several political circles, have dabbled in politics occasionally, and have really been trying hard to ignore the increasing “us vs. them” mentality, but I can’t. So here, let me say something once and for all, no one cares.

* There is no culture war between liberals and conservatives
* The government does not have a secret plot to hide, promote, discourage, or kill anyone
* You are not the center of any great or epic battle for all existence
* The world is not dying
* No one is coming for your morals, holidays, culture, or children

I’m sorry, but you are boring.

Anyone, anywhere, who attempts to place the blame for anything on a faceless “they” is simply trying to scare you into believing something fantastically obscured. This is especially true of the government and both political parties. All of them barely function most days and have to struggle to come to even the smallest of agreements. Pretending that there is a scientific agenda, past some general ideas, is sorely mistaken.

So please, stop it with the gross exaggerating. If you want to be that interesting, and to deserve that kind of coordinated effort, do something besides just sitting on your ass imagining your special -- because frankly, you’re not.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Longevity & Self-Reliance, a rant

I enjoy good things that last. Unfortunately, those things are becoming harder and harder to find. We are constantly pressed for time, pleased with things that do a single purpose for a short lifespan, and buying things we know are crap because we know that we can buy another when the first one wears out. This is not something that I do well.

For instance, I own several Old Navy shirts (both button-up long-sleeves shirts and t-shirts). These things are disposable and inexpensive enough not to really hurt the wallet. But they seem to sap my dignity and are just another thing that I am going to end up adding to the world’s landfills sooner than I would like. Moreover, what I find strange is that there are better options out there that last three times as long for just a little more money, and we completely ignore them because their price tag is a few dollars more. So I have decided that I will no longer buy clothes for myself from places like Old Navy.

Let’s look at t-shirts. Now you can buy a decent t-shirt at Target (sorry, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart) for around $7.50, but for an addition five bucks you can get a Land’s End Performance t-shirt at Sears. What’s the difference? Well, the Land’s End resists fading, pilling, wrinkling, and shrinkage while most stains are either repelled or wash out very easily. It also has covered neck seam, reinforced shoulders, sewn side seams, and is tapered down the sides to make you look thinner. So not only is it a better shirt, but it will last you many time more than the cheapy one that you saved a measly five buck on.

This is also true with groceries. I have no idea why someone would buy produce, canned products, frozen vegetables, or meats that are of substandard quality just so that they can pretend that they’re eating well. If your tomatoes have no flavor, your bargain brand soups taste like dishwater, and your frozen dinner is as appetizing as the box it came in, then why the hell are you buying it? I guess the argument here is that sooner or later you will just get accustom to crap and think that it’s normal. This is both sad and an insult to your life.

Before you scold me for telling you the obvious choice of buying good quality over cheap crap, please remember that I’m doing so for sheer lazy reasons. Because along with having clothes that stay looking new and clean easily, I also think that we should all invest in products that give us more time to enjoy life on a higher level. An example? Okay, take my Roomba. It is a robot vacuum cleaner that vacuums and sweeps the floors when I’m not home. The air cleaners keep the house relatively dust-free and the Tivo records the shows or movies so that I can watch them at my own leisure. Add these to things like my dress shirts that are stain-resistant and wrinkle-free, and the little things in my life take care of themselves.

All of this is more important when you look at the bigger picture. Sure my two current vehicles have a combined mileage of almost 600,000 miles (now I’m bragging), but it is the investment in things that leads to a tendency to spread to the rest of life. When you start to look at things from a longer term perspective, you habits change. You will start to see objects as investments meant to make your life easier and better. Friends will be something you cultivate so that you can keep them for decades. And your mind, your beautiful mind, will not be wasted on things as mundane as housework. Most importantly, you will view the earth as something to leave better off than you found it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sex

I was rereading some older Dawkins this week and wondered why no one ever talked about sex in our evolutionary process. I’m sure that almost all creatures here on earth enjoy sex in some way or another, but there are very few creatures that seem to do the act solely for pleasure. So I wonder when in our evolutionary process we humans learned to enjoy it and if it one of the reasons that we are the dominate creatures here on earth?

Surely the enjoyment of sex has lead to more procreation, but it is the other aspects that seem to really have a more salient root in the argument. Think of a young you, about 13, and how you dealt with the feelings budding inside of you. Were you uncomfortable? Sacred? Confused? Distant? Was it because of love, lust, or just a general sense that something was going on and you weren’t sure how to deal with it?

Now I would like to be a romantic and say that it was purely love, but I think that evolution would have mixed love and the need for sex together. That is to say, how often do you yearn for a love that is not physical? Is not touching, kissing, holding, caressing, and sex one of the main driving factors?

So where does that leave us? Is love and sex to thank just as much as our opposable thumbs and larger brains? Could they be an outcome of our desires? Are we a deeper evolved species because we yearn for the emotional and sexual gratification of each other? And does our continued progress in intellectual evolution come from our desire to show that young 13 year old us that we have the will to understand the cosmos, if just to prove that we might someday have the potential of understanding those who we are attracted to?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Intolerance of Dissent

We live in a time of extreme divisiveness, where individuals feel the need to categorize themselves by a color code and freely allow their views to become severe in one direction or another. Our spokespersons no longer preach to the choir, but throw Bibles at them. This absolutism makes us all us exceedingly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with our positions, so much so that we do not listen to their arguments. Where the damage is the greatest is not in our inabilities to argue to the center, but in the fact that if we do not listen to others because we are assuming that our own arguments are perfect. Creating assumptions of argument perfection through increased intolerance of dissent will only end in tragedy as none of us are perfect. It is the middle ground, moderation, listening to others, freedom of open dissent, which holds back from an implosion of self justification.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

John Donne - Elegy XX: To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy;
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe ofttimes, having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing, though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
That th' eyes of busy fools may be stopp'd there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed-time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th' hill's shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet, and show
The hairy diadems which on you do grow.
Off with your hose and shoes; then softly tread
In this love's hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
Revealed to men; thou, angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven-like Mahomet's paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite;
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann'd,
My mine of precious stones, my empery;
How am I blest in thus discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then, where my hand is set, my soul shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee;
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's ball cast in men's views;
That, when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul might court that, not them.
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus array'd.
Themselves are only mystic books, which we
—Whom their imputed grace will dignify—
Must see reveal'd. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to thy midwife show
Thyself ; cast all, yea, this white linen hence;
There is no penance due to innocence:
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then,
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

Friday, October 05, 2007

I Love Good Food, a Plea

At any given moment you can find fresh breads, smoked meats, fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, and fruits, and wines all over my kitchen. My cabinets are full with nuts, homemade jerky and dried fruits, cereals, and more teas then any rational person can justify. Inside the fridge is a selection of good beers (I am going through a phase of the Stone beers), locally grown produce, rice and beans, fresh guacamole, hummus (make your own tahini, it’s worth it!), rotisseried chicken, pulled pork, some wonderful organic milk and juices, meats form the local butcher, and a selection of cheeses. What really makes me happy is that a large percentage of it was all made fresh in my kitchen or comes from local farms. As an example, I know that there are no preservatives, good quality ingredients, and fresh herbs in my pulled pork and BBQ sauce because I made it from scratch yesterday!

I don’t believe that people, especially Americans, eat well anymore. Now I admit that I weigh more then I should, but I eat good food, have very low cholesterol, and walk a couple miles a week with the dog. That being said, instead of eating what is good and good for us, we fill up on crap for as much as we could pay for ready-to-assemble foods and that makes us unhealthier then weighing more than we should.

Take a look at my pulled pork (the last thing to come out of my oven). It is better then anything that you’ll get in any restaurant and comes out cheaper per serving then what you would pay for if someone else made it. The whole three pounds of meat and accompanying sauce cost me a total of $12. That food will easily feed 4 hungry people, which breaks down to $3 a person. Can you buy a value meal at McWendys King for that? Sure, but what kind of quality and ingredients do you think you are going to get once they pay overhead, staff, business expenses, designated farms, cooks, cleaners… Chances are you’re eating something that is barely edible, of low quality, and not nearly as healthy as any doctor would recommend. And you know that!

So why, why do we do it? Why do we sacrifice our health and happiness for garbage? Are our schedules so important that our own wellbeing must take a backseat to email, TV, jobs, kids, and commuting?

What do you think is more important in your life? And if it is not your health and happiness, why do you continue to neglect them?

Eat, eat well. Enjoy and extend you life. Cook, it’s cheaper and better for you. Eat good food.

The value of identity is that it comes with purpose

A couple things are bothering me this morning:

1. I’ve had it with cowardly Democrats that have earned that title. Most of our Democratic Leadership, including those running for President, know damn well that 50 years ago the Democrats motto was “The national government has a central and positive role to play in bettering the lives of all Americans”, yet act today as if a suitable Democratic motto is, “We’re gonna pretend we’re moderates until we remember who we are”.

When you visit the Democratic Policy Committee’s Website there is a watered-down version about maintaining a “balance between too much government” and “too little government”, as if immediately conceding that they are prone building government as much as the Republicans were prone (past tense) to stripping government past reasonable functionality. By declaring themselves moderates from the outset, they have no where to bargain to. Instead, any points that they argue will fall between their moderate stances and where the Republicans are located on the right. This is not a recipe for success or balance.

2. What the hell is wrong with the Conservatives in this country? I am referring to just about every poll that I’ve read lately that places economic concerns down on the list of priorities below abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. Where the Democrats have given up and become middling, the Republicans have become a special interest completely at odds with their former selves. Government control over other peoples bodies and actions? Believing that economics isn’t a driving factor in our political, social, and moral environment? WTF?

Add to that the fact that since 1776 the US accumulated a national debt of $9 trillion dollars. Over half of it as incurred when a Bush was president. If you include the Regan presidency, 70% of the national debt ($6.3 trillion dollars) was created by three Republican Presidents. Of the 19 submitted budgets, only two were balanced.

Maybe the loss of the Republican goals of fiscal responsibility and individual rights with little government intervention has confused the Democrats to a point where they no longer no where to stand. Maybe the Democrats didn’t understand the economic boom of the 90’s that gave way to a majority feeling of financial comfort that elected the then Republican majority. And maybe the Democrats forgot all of those who died before them in the name of equal rights, balance of power, and freedom for all as the horror that was 9-11 descended upon the country. But none of these is forgivable if they do not find their way soon. I can only hope that they do so before the Republicans realize that they are no longer conservatives and move to eliminate the wavering Democrats for being almost useless.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All Id

I've been doing a lot of research lately and feel the need to use Freud, which is rarely my first choice, to compare some of the current societal directions in the hope that I can explain some of our countries current trends. First some basic Freudian background:

The Id is an undifferentiated pool of energy directed at one of a number of gratifications and is driven by the pleasure principle. From the Id the Ego grows and it is the Egos job to direct the Id to situations where the Id will get gratification. To achieve its goal, the Ego must be the part of the psyche that understands basic reality. The next level to the mind is the Super Ego and it understands societal constraints as it is the final part and has become internalized in the inner mind. It is the reason that we behave in a moral fashion. And it is the different balances of these three parts of mind that are the reasons for all of the varying types of people, according to Freud.

You can see examples of people with more Ego than Super Ego because they are the ones that believe that they are justified in their actions because it gives them the gratification that they desire. Those with a ruling Super Ego will generally seek civility at their own discomfort. This leaves those with a majority Id as the few lone individuals whose actions are solely dominated by their desire for personal gratification.

What I see as a current trend in our society is the movement from a dominate Super Ego to a majority Ego, Id combination. We are increasingly confrontational, frustrated, and ego-centric. Empathy has taken a backseat to personal desire.

Now I know that it is always the case for people to view their own moment in time through either rose colored glasses or abject pessimism, but I believe that current trends do show an unconventional rise in the overall population of people seeking nothing more than instant personal gratification.

The process, as I see it working with Freud's theory, shows that there is always an initial desire for security to seek that gratification. When and if that need for security does abate, it leaves comfort in its wake when a natural convenience to that gratification is found. This newly obtained convenience, if left sustained for long enough, gives way to complacency and comes with a yearning to feel above the others who have obtained that same level of convenient gratification. When this cycle is left alone for long enough, the comfort level manifest itself into exaggerated trends and audacious personal amplification. This is when the combination of the Ego and the Id overpower the Super Ego and where I believe that we are now.

History teaches us that there are only a handful of recorded times in which life was easy and comfortable for a great percentage of the society. In each of these times the end of the trend has come from either an implosion under the weight of the attempt to sustain easy and readily available gratification, circumstances in which that culture was not able to adapt, or a combination of the two. And it is in this vein that I see the recurring rise of our ruling Super Ego. So if anyone needs me, my Super Ego has demanded that I help to speed up the process bringing us back to civility. To do this it has recommended to my psyche that I skipping all of the other parts and just go all Id.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mars is Coming!!!

This is by Joe Rao of Space.com:

You've probably heard that line before – no doubt fairly recently, thanks to a bogus e-mail that unfortunately received wide circulation on the Internet this summer with promises of Mars being as big as the full moon.

But this fact is absolutely true: Mars, the only planet whose surface we can see in any detail from the Earth, is now moving toward the best viewing position it will provide to us until the year 2014. Planet watchers have already begun readying their telescopes.

If you haven't seen it, it will be well worth looking for the red planet next week, even though you'll have to wait until after midnight to see it well.

Mars is currently midway between the zodiacal constellations of Taurus, the Bull and Gemini, the Twins and during this week it will rise shortly before 11 p.m. local daylight time. There is certainly no mistaking it once it comes up over the east-northeast horizon. Presently shining like a pumpkin-hued, zero magnitude star, Mars is currently tied for fifth place (with Vega) among the 21 brightest stars.

But as it continues to approach our Earth in the coming weeks and months, Mars will only be getting brighter: it will surpass Sirius, the brightest star in the sky by Dec. 9 and during the latter half of December it will even almost match Jupiter in brilliance.

Late next Wednesday night (or more precisely, early on Thursday morning), Mars will hover about 7-degrees above and to the right of the last quarter moon as they rise above the east-northeast horizon (your clenched fist held at arm's length is roughly 10-degrees in width). As you will see for yourself, the so-called "Red Planet" actually will appear closer to a yellow-orange tint – the same color of a dry desert under a high sun.

How close?

Every 26 months, or so, Earth makes a close approach to Mars, as our smaller, swifter orbit "overtakes" Mars around the sun. Because both the orbits of Mars and Earth are mildly elliptical, some close approaches between the two planets are closer than others.

This current apparition of Mars will be nowhere near as spectacular as the oft-referred approach of August 2003 when the planet came closer to Earth than it had in nearly 60,000-years.

Rather, on this upcoming occasion, Mars will come closest to Earth on the evening of December 18th (at around 6:46 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).

The planet will then lie 54.8 million miles (88.2 million kilometers) from Earth as measured from center to center. Mars will arrive at opposition to the sun (rising at sunset, setting at sunrise) six days later on Christmas Eve, December 24th.

How big?

That recent Martian e-mail message – a hyperbole which was widely circulated for a fourth consecutive year – lead people to believe, with liberal use of exclamation marks, that on Aug. 27, Mars would appear as bright as (or as large as) that night's full moon in the night sky. The subject header urged viewers to prepare to view "Two Full Moons."

It was amazing (and a little disturbing) to see just how many people actually believed that Mars could loom so large in our sky. But the truth is that even when at its absolute closest possible approach to Earth, Mars can appear no larger than 1/72 as big as the moon; to the unaided eye it would appear as nothing more than an extremely bright, non-twinkling star.

When it comes closest to Earth on December 18th of this year, Mars' apparent disk diameter will be equal to 15.9 arc seconds. To get an idea of just how large this is, wait until darkness falls this week and if you have a telescope, check out Jupiter, gleaming in the southwestern sky; it'll appear about 35 arc seconds across.

In contrast, Mars' disk will appear less than half as big as Jupiter's when the Red Planet comes closest to Earth later this year. While this may sound small, keep in mind that this is still atypically large for Mars. In fact, from November 30th through Jan. 5, 2008, Mars' apparent size will be larger than at any time until April 2014. Around the time that Mars is closest, amateurs with telescopes as small as 4-inches and magnifying above 120-power should be able to make out some dusky markings on the small yellow-orange disk, and perhaps the bright white polar cap.

Size isn't everything

From Dec. 15 through Dec. 29, Mars will blaze at magnitude -1.6, a bit brighter than Sirius, but just slightly inferior to Jupiter. Mars will still be positioned between Taurus and Gemini, at a rather high declination of about +27-degrees.

So almost as if to compensate for its relatively small apparent size, Mars will literally soar in the night sky of late-December.

When it reaches its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time, its altitude will be 70-degrees at Seattle, 76-degrees for New York, and an exceptional 83-degrees at Los Angeles. Meanwhile, amateur and professional astronomers stationed in southern Texas and central Florida will see Mars pass directly, or very nearly overhead!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Military Creditability For Sale

Something happened this last week that was both sad and unfortunate. David Petraeus, the four star general and commander of the War in Iraq, testified before the Senate in the hope that he could persuade the public at large that the latest war strategies would soon yield acceptable results. Now the unfortunate part of this event is not that the that current plan still incorrectly assumes that the Iraqi people want the Democracy and will put apart their divide to allow it to flourish, it’s that when the plan ultimately fails the military will take yet another blow to its creditability.

Remember back to April of 2002, when then Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council about the specific locations and quantities of the Weapons of Mass Destruction? The vast majority of his creditability came not from his position, but from the fact that he was a solider. Though we did not know the specifics of his 30 year military career that spanned from a Second Lieutenant all the way to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we knew that it was heroic, noble, and done at great personal sacrifice for the country. In time we learned that the things that he were not true. Our belief in him, and in creditability of the military, slipped.

Fast forward to the present, as we are still digesting General Petraeus’ testimony and we see that General was put in the same fateful position as the previous Secretary of State: trade himself for the mission. Once a solider always a solider. And just as a solider will throw himself on a grenade to save his unit, the officer will throw himself on a report to save his superiors. This belief in always giving yourself to the call of your country should never be abused by anyone in a higher position. Our soldiers, whether it is a grunt in the field or a four star general, deserve to be treated with the honor and dignity that they deserve.

The United States turns a sad page in our history the day that we cannot look to our enlisted men and women and immediately see them with the assumed creditability that they deserve to have. So in time, when the Iraq War has finally ended and we have a chance to look back on those soldiers who represented the military to the public, we will mourn their loss of their creditability, trust, and honor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy You Rumsoaked Scallywags

It be the 19th of September, National Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I’m here to tell the lot of you that you be keelhauled for mutiny if you don’t participate in this here holiday. Where else are you going to get the change to let your inhibitions take over that crusty exterior you’ve put up against the world? So let your true rebellious self shine through and make civility and proper English walk the plank.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Decide My Fate

As someone who teaches for a living at a couple different universities, I have a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to social norms. I am almost expected to be slightly eclectic and/or eccentric. Unfortunately, I'm about as jeans and t-shirt as you can be. So that is why I have decided to let you nice people out there in internetland vote on something simple and easy.

I am at the point where I need a haircut and would like a yes or no vote as to whether or not I should just let it grow long. So what do you think? I will go with whichever side has the most votes. Please respond to this blog to cast your vote.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Constitution Day - Whatever that means...

I love my country just as much as any person and consider myself a true scholar in American history (not to mention that I am working on a PhD in US Public Policy), but forced patriotism has always seemed very undemocratic to me. So I was not surprised to read the following in today’s paper:

A study being released Monday (9/11/07) by a foundation that focuses on journalism and the First Amendment found that 51 percent of high school students questioned had not heard of the day when they are required by law to learn about the Constitution. The occasion is usually observed on or around Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787.


The new holiday, enacted in 2004, seems to completely miss the point of the Constitution. Simply celebrating the document does absolutely nothing to further the understanding of it. And if anything, it discourages conversation and research into it because students believe that they are getting enough of it by celebrating and discussing it for one day. It’s a single day where the lesson plan changes, some interesting facts are trotted out, and we all give thanks for our Fore Fathers. Blah. Just one more thing the students can ignore now and while later claiming that they were schooled in it.

Just compare Constitution Day with Easter. I bet you that just about anyone can give you a decent one sentence description of either, but can they actually give you any details about the holiday? I would hazard to guess that if you quizzed them they would have more questions then answers. I can almost see it now: Where did the “Easter Bunny” come from? What rights does the First Amendment really give us? Ahhhhhh?

Why doesn’t celebrating these holidays inspire us to ask more questions? It’s because we’re too busy celebrating the holiday through their commercialism and associated marketing. Nothing cheapens the memory of something quite like an inspired marketing department.

If you feel you must, go ahead and celebrate your Constitution Day as your school, civic group, or local representatives say that you should. But know this, every time that you tune in to see how wonderful our country is I’ll be sitting here rolling my eyes because I know that it is one less person who will ever understand what it truly means. Don’t believe me, quick tell me what the 9th amendment is and why it is important… .now tell me why the Easter bunny gives out chocolate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reality is Frequently Inaccurate

I am by no means an expert at transcendentalism, existentialism, logical positivism, rationalism, or most any other philosophical ism -- although I do have a bit of experience in hedonism.

That being said, a little background may be in order. The conscious experiences that you have are known as a phenomenological reality. And those of you who have studied your Descartes know that you exist because you know you exist. So the question now, as it has always been, is whether or not you can trust your phenomenological reality as the truth or is your belief in your that reality simply makes it true to you.

It is said that reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. It is that persistent illusion perpetrated by your mind to get you through the day.

We all need to believe a basic core set of ideas in order to live: Gravity works, bacon is delicious, and if you wander out into a busy intersection at rush hour you will be hit by a bus. The big ones are easy to understand. They are basic and the need to believe them is primitive and simple. You follow them to survive. Where my questioning of reality comes in is in the small things -- mostly because they are easier to argue with at this point.

Which leads me to my want of a special day of discovery. I have been wondering if it was possible to set my mind aside for a day and convince myself that after the scope of basic phenomenological reality I could turn off that programming and see the world differently. Seeing things anew is the hallmark of creativeness, ingenuity, and imagination. So we must all be able to do this at some level. If I could just find a way to reroute for awhile (yes, without drugs), I should be able to understand things differently.

The problem is, I have no idea where to start….

Friday, September 14, 2007

Toga, Toga, Toga!

The Greeks and the Romans ruled the Western part of the Earth for over 5,000 years and knew a great deal about how to run a country efficiently with ever increasing technology and constants advancements. They went through a similar period of time where they too became economically comfortable and that translated into every aspect of life. Luxuries were on the rise in the middle class, with each generation rising to become comparatively better than the last. Eventually, they all ended up in reasonable comfort wearing togas and sandals.

This, I predict, is where we are headed. Just in my short lifetime I have seen the average person become increasing comfortable with the world around them. Everything has become more efficient, more potent, and works to aid us in our contentment. To mirror this change it is now fashionable for world leaders to wear suits without ties, offices have gone to “business casual”, and it is socially acceptable to wear flip-flops to just about anywhere.

To continue this path into the future, we can predict societies that will follow this trend towards comfort and ease of clothing. Eventually proper work attire for our world leaders will become jeans and a t-shirt, sweat-suits will be acceptable to wear a wedding, and the rest of us will probably just wander about our daily lives in pajamas. The next step to this devolution of clothing is to realize what the Greeks and Romans new long along -- togas and sandals are all you need. Yes, it will become acceptable for the most powerful and respected people in the world to show themselves in public wearing nothing but a sheet and two pieces of plastic strapped to their feet.

I for one will be pleased when this happens. Too long have I worried about trying to match my shoes with my pants and trying to pick out what ties go with what suit jacket. Instead, I will look forward to just choosing a clean toga and whatever sandals I trip over on the way to the bathroom. And in order to encourage this advancement in comfort over civil decency, I hope to inspire each of you to follow my lead, buck the curve, and go strait to the inevitable by wearing nothing but togas and sandals from here on out. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Entry for September 11, 2007

I think that we all love the individuals in the military. The sheer courage to prove that you will die in the name of our country is the highest level of patriotism and citizenry imaginable. That is why it pisses me off so much when our leaders make choices that obviously are not worth the weight of those lives. Sacrifice should come equally from the Citizenry and the State.

This is anger is compounded when our elected representatives refuse to admit their mistakes and adapt their policies. George Washington is by far the most experienced at learning from his mistakes as he lost almost every battle he was ever in, floundered in his personal life, and killed thousands in vain attempts at the impossible. This was a man who failed and always picked himself back up, learned what he could, and tried to move forward in a different way. That process is why he was ultimately successful and our most beloved president.

Now to wish that our current President George would be like our first President George would be fruitless. Instead, what I would like is a way to help our current president see that the direction in which he is heading is not one that will lead towards success at a cost that the American people are willing to spend. We will not win the war in Iraq, it was not worth the lives spent, it is not redemption for past atrocities as we know it is not in any way connected with its original intention, and it has become yet another situation in which our leadership has failed to learn from past mistakes.

I spent this 9-11 doing the little part that I could to understand who we are and how we fit into the world. I started my day by grading end of semester papers and this evening I reread several of my favorite history books. What I refused to do was tune into the nonstop TV coverage of that horrible day's events because I know that my current mourning comes not for the lives lost, but for the lives we still have yet to loose before a more responsible leadership steps forward to reclaim our country in the name of those who still offer to lay down their lives for the sake of ours. Honor isn't about making the right choices; it's about dealing with the consequences of the bad ones.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bill O’Reilly is Not Hitler

Lately I’ve been hearing more and more individuals drawing parallels from Bill O’Reilly to Hitler or the Nazi Party. This is both untrue and unfair. Hitler’s party killed 5 million Jews, caused one of the largest wars this world has ever seen, and left a scar on several generations. O’Reilly hosts a TV show where he voices his opinion about current news events. To think that someone who is on TV and speaks his mind is in any way equal to the level of Hitler is pure bullshit.

So why do people claim that O'Reilly is that bad? Basically it comes down to the fact that they don’t like what he is saying, but don’t have enough of an argument or intellect to convince anyone else that he is actually that bad. It is their way of telling the world that they just aren’t smart enough smart enough to make O’Reilly’s comments as evil as they seem them. So anytime you head anyone claiming that someone is “like Hitler”, “like the Nazi Party”, or even “like the Ku Klux Klan”, just know that they are a dimwitted person desperately trying to make you believe something that is not true. People who compare anyone to Hitler are so filled with hate that they want to destroy our very constitution so that they could ban free speech that they do not agree with. These are the true people who hate our country and our way of life.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Entry for August 30, 2007

Celebrity, political, sport scandals seem to be all of the headlines lately and I feel the need to explain a few things to all of you out there who don’t understand how these things can happen to these people. Now I know, if anyone should know should know how far they can fall you would think it would be people in high places; yet time and again they plummet. Whether it’s Michael Vick, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart, or the recent hilarity of the soon to be ex-Senator Daniel Craig, they all seem to not know any better.

So lets back up a bit and ask ourselves what leads a person under intense public scrutiny to imagine that they can get away with unacceptable behavior?

This is actually quite easy. As public figures rise in power, influence, and fame people who want to share in that spotlight may help them around the rules that govern all of our daily lives. Or to put it simply, these people who surround the rich, powerful, and famous tell them that they are special. They give them everything, whenever they ask for it. So eventually they break the rules because the rules just aren’t there for them anymore. Psychiatrists call the process leading up to this belief “acquired narcissism”.

It happens when someone gradually starts believing that they are not like everyone else. This can be more pronounced in politicians because they believe that since they serve the public, have given countless time, hours, years of their lives, they now deserve a break when it comes to their comfort and desires.

To make matters worse, our whole society reinforces this. We learn not to challenge our bosses, even when we think that they are doing something wrong because we fear being punished or cut out of the rewards. We are all guilty of reinforcing bad behavior, which, when compounded on the same person over time, will almost always lead to them believing that they are special. From children to the President, everyone can be convinced by the people around them that the rules don’t apply to them. And as long as those people around them keep their actions quiet, they are right.

So special people do play by special rules and don’t expect to be caught, until they actually are. At which time they find out that no one is that special and that we all must live in the same world and play by the same rules. Moral of the story: always consider yourself special enough to think that you are one in a million, because with 6.75 Trillion people on Earth it means there are almost 7,000 other people just as special as you. That’s just special enough to feel good about yourself, but not arrogant enough to believe your own hype.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Are Most Antigay Republicans Gay?

Republican Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who flamboyantly endorsed Idaho's successful anti-gay constitutional amendment which banned gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships in his state, was recently arrested and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after he tries to solicit sex in a men’s bathroom at a Minnesota airport. Now humorous as this is, these stories are way too common. Whether it is evangelical preacher Ted Haggard’s militant stance on homosexuality before being found having had homosexual sex while using crystal meth with a male prostitute or Glenn Murphy Jr., who was the president of the Young Republican National Federation until it was found out that he lowered the pants of a young employee while he was sleeping and tried to give him oral sex, really begs the question, “Are most antigay Republicans gay?”.

It seems that every time one of these guys comes out with an antigay agenda, they’re eventually found out to be gay. Now I would like to point out that many politicians have succumbed to irony’s cruel humor. The best example I can think of is Strom Thurmond, who ran on a segregationist platform for president while fathering a child with a black woman. You would think that before anyone could get elected in this country they would have to pass through a Senatorial Irony Committee to check for obvious future hilarity. Anyone with an extreme stance on anything would be forced to submit to several tests to find out if they were involved or may soon become involved in the very thing that they propose to hate. Unfortunately, no such thing exists. Maybe if one did we would find out which activist antigay Republican was going to be found out next. Personally, my bet is on Senator, and 2008 presidential candidate, Sam Brownback. He has always run on a high-profile platform against gay marriage, porn and abortion -- which according to the custom of the current batch of Republicans, means that he is most likely gay, addicted to porn, and has had a couple past relationships that he would like to forget. Am I wrong? Maybe, but I have a feeling that you wouldn’t take me up on that bet.