[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Thursday, February 10th, 2011|
|Not organized well, but hey - I'm in a hurry
For those who may not read it (and in fairness that should be everyone with better things to do), Foreign Times recently published their list
of the top 100 thinkers of 2010. It tops out with Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and even includes Barack Obama in it's top 5. This prompted Gideon Rachman, also of the FT, to write a column
about the relative inferiority of present great thinkers to the list that would have resulted from the same survey 100 years ago. Rachman compares the "greats" of today with Darwin, Marx, Dickens, Tolstoy, and Doestoevsky, and finds our modern age to be lacking individuals of their depth. Rachman then goes on to surmise that the age of the genius has concluded, faced with a world in which problems are too complicated and widespread to be solved by lone individuals of great ability. That
is where I feel he vacated his seat on the Logic Express.
Firstly, let's examine the mechanics involved in assessing the greatest thinkers. Looking backwards, we can list writers like Doestoevsky on a 1910 list, but at the time neither he nor Doestoevsky had produced their best work. Rachman admits this in his column, but seems to gloss over how many of the people we would place on the list would only feature in through the luxury of hindsight, some being much less appreciated or of greater controversy during their own time. A list of past greats will always have the benefit of that much more examination. A modern thinker-list is always going to be much more strongly influenced by the passing fancies of public opinion. The inclusion of Barack Obama, for example, seems to be motivated more by the desire to please the public than any concrete demonstration of superior intellectual ability. The cult of personality can imbue individuals with much greater significance than they will hold in the final assessment. Although John F. Kennedy might have made a list like that during his term, under the light of history there are very few who would place him there now. It's a little like the old bible story of a man who was a great king, and was exclaimed as the luckiest man in the world. He, being wise, responded to his proponents with the calming statement that he did not know if he was in fact blessed in his life, for he was still alive.
I don't want to give the impression that the thinkers of 100 years ago are not the superiors of our modern thought gurus - That assertion I actually agree with. Even accounting for the increase in our "score" when the people doing amazing work have been sifted out through history's grinding process, I still feel that we'll fall behind the greats of last century. Rachman references studies that reference studies, to prove the point that the studies which are most referenced by others are the ones that come from more than one author. He uses this to show that the problems of the world are too complex to be tackled by the individual. Can we see the failure of logic yet? Firstly, just because something is being done a certain way does not mean that it is best
done that way. Secondly, the nature of the assertion is self-supporting. It serves equally well to indicate that our culture places greater validity on the work of groups than that of the individual. This, more than an increasingly complex type of problem, is what I feel has decimated the ranks of the genius. And I'll back it up with two assertions of my own.
First, the idea that the problems solved by past generations required any less ability or effort than the problems we face today. Go all the way back, if you'd like, and consider the challenges of creating the first forged metal implements. Now, we have metal tools in which to do this, and it's only a matter of proper scheduling to make sure that our product does not destroy our materials. Now imagine you are one of the early metalsmiths - you have only wooden tools at your disposal, each one painfully made by your own hand. How do you successfully take rock, melt it, and shape it into the desired form without a ready tool that can withstand the force of fire? Although we've solved this problem a thousand times over since then, I would argue that the first metalsmiths (who needed to travel great distances to even test the ideas they had about new methods, under old years-at-a-time on foot methods) were absolute geniuses. Each generation takes a deterministic view of the progress made by their ancestors, and feels their problems to be the greatest ever encountered.
And secondly, it's very hard to argue that the potential for the lone genius has disappeared from the population. We've had thinkers in every generation since...well, since we started having them, that surpassed the level of regular people by several orders of magnitude. The question we should be asking is not "why don't we have them anymore?", but rather, why are we no longer seeing them? The idea asserted by Rachman is that the lone genius is simply no longer able to tackle society's problems. Which is a perfectly fine idea, if you feel that (although every generation prior to us has said it) we happen to be the generation that finally reached the limit of individual potential, and if you neglect the complete overhaul to the nature of our social interaction strategies that has occurred in the last fifty years.
More to come when I update, but I've only had five minutes to rant about this, and now they're up.
|Friday, January 28th, 2011|
|Why Today is Awesome
Why Today is Awesome:
I had a job interview today. I think it went really well. It's work I like for money I like on a schedule I can handle.
I found my grey hat. The one I thought I lost two months ago.
Not one, but TWO professors agreed to write me recommendation letters today. "I can't imagine anybody better suited to grad school than you". (This is the best thing, so I saved it for last!!)
Why this week has been awesome:
Research methods handed me a study group by containing five friends from previous classes.
Capstone course: easily gotten. Then traded for another one in which I have friends.
Got my Poli Sci final exam taken, albeit a day late, and believe I have pulled a B in that class. This means that my overall gpa remains acceptable to graduate programs.
My Daleks-are-victorious T-shirt arrived.
In short, I am happy now. :-)
|Saturday, January 8th, 2011|
|On the reaction to the Arizona shooting
The reports of what happened in Arizona are saddening, and horrifying. Any instance of fatal violence is tragic, moreso when those who receive it aren't criminals or lowlifes, but are instead the nonviolent, law-abiding citizens that we hope all citizens will try to resemble. Make no mistake, the greatest tragedy of those events is the life and safety taken from those on the receiving end of Loughner's bullets.
But I am also disgusted by the manner in which this event is already being used by those seeking to push an agenda or validate a way of thinking. Instead of trying to understand the factors which cause and allow something like this to occur, I've watched a lock-step formation of California liberals, with an almost choreographed level of precision, throw up their hands and exclaim that "this is what happens when people listen to conservatives". As if this tragic, tragic event took place only because of the vociferousness of republican opposition to President Obama's health care proposal.
People like this are not "showing respect to the victims", they are not "trying to understand", and they certainly aren't "defending their safety" by insisting that their rivals be deprived of their rights to unfettered speech in the future. They are co-opting a horrifying tragedy to elicit support for the same goals they had yesterday, and they are treating the victims and the victims' families as pawns in their own grab for influence. It is demagoguery at it's absolute lowest.
What happened in Arizona was not a protest, and was not the result of a coordinated campaign. The actions of this disturbed individual were just that - the actions of a disturbed individual.
|Friday, November 5th, 2010|
|Because where else would this go?
I picked up my Mom from something last night, since she can no longer drive at night. Since she was hungry, we made the twenty minute drive back and stopped at a fast-food restaurant. After we sat down at the table I noticed a black speck crawling against her white shirt - a speck which I casually brushed off, registering with the tiniest portion of my attention that it was an ant from the planter she'd been leaning on when I picked her up. After my mother got up to correct something with her order, I found myself staring at the table. While I watched, the ant scurried back and forth across it's surface, directionless. As I watched, I realized that the ant was searching for the scent trail made by the other members of it's colony, searching for the things that give it's world meaning. I felt sadness well up inside myself, knowing that this ant would never find it's purpose again - that the meaning this creature sought was separated from itself by a distance so large as to be outside it's ability to conceive. And, suddenly, the motion of the ant on the table wasn't interesting, wasn't funny - it was heartbreaking. In crossing twenty minutes of time, in pursuit of the right thing, I had consigned the creature in front of me to a life without purpose, and a slow, lonely death.
I found myself remembering a scene from an old television program, where an ant is moved from one leaf to another to illustrate, through it's inability to understand, the unfathomable nature of God and the Universe. And it occurred to me, that if the ant could speak, or pray, it would ask for nothing so much as to be reunited with it's fellows. Of course, it occurred to me at the same time that for me to consider spending the tiny, tiny portion of my life required to grant meaning into the life of this less-intelligent creature, was not something that other people would call 'sane'. I sat, and watched the ant's search for meaning as it crossed from one end of it's new world to the other, and I wondered at the magnitudes of benevolence it would require for a God to take notice of us, to grant all seven billion of our prayers, even when doing so requires so little of itself, and means so much to us. Trying to answer each person with purpose, regardless of their inconsequence to ourselves, would devour the life of anyone who attempted it, or anyone who attempted to emulate it. It would be insane to try.
And that is why I drove across town to deliver an ant.
|Wednesday, October 27th, 2010|
There's a special place in my heart for country music. The country songs that give you that everything's-all-right, let's-hang-out nowhere-to-be feeling. It's entirely possible that, post-graduation, I'll disappear. My note'll say "Adios and vaya con dios".
|Thursday, September 16th, 2010|
|This has always bugged me:
When constructing an experiment in the social sciences (and, I presume, in other sciences) it's presented as necessary that we predict the outcome of our experiments. This has always pissed me off. Predicting the outcome of an experiment really only helps in making your theory more credible when expressed in print. Now, being expressed in print is helpful and all, but it's more about the reputation of the experimenter than it is about the science. There's a lot of self-aggrandizing in the sciences, though - the reason this one in particular bothers me is that it's actually a severe hindrance to the practice of science. In order to state a theory through which one can reasonably expect their prediction to be true, it is necessary to already have a substantial understanding of the effect being studied. Anyone else see the problem here? Should your prediction turn out to be accurate, you gain some additional *oomp* to a theory which was likely, at it's best, slightly outside the already-accepted boundaries of the science. Should your theory turn out to be false, you are personally discredited as a scientist, rendering your original theory suspect and weighing against you in future. So the route of highest self-reward is to never conduct experiments unless you are reasonably sure of the results; experiment as confirmation. Of course, the voluminous evidence provided by history shows us that the great leaps of progress do not occur in this way (Also, common sense). You notice a thing, usually an exception to the expected course of events, and probe that thing until the reason for it's difference makes sense. Through this, we come towards greater understanding of the method by which things function.
Argh. Too distracted and too frustrated to consider this further right now. Also, my laptop batteries are dying.
|Wednesday, September 15th, 2010|
|Saturday, September 4th, 2010|
|Conversations from last night
3am, at the Wendy's Drive-Thru (because it's the only thing open at that hour)
Me: I'll have a baconator.
Drive-Thru-Guy: Single, double, or triple?
Me: Umm.......Double. Let's not be a glutton about this.
DTG: Cool, man. You want the combo with that?
Me: Fries and drink? Hell yeah!
DTG: Small, medium, or large?
DTG: What happened to not being a glutton?
Me: Dude...are you trying to downsell
*speaker cuts off for a minute*
DTG: Holy shit man, that just made my night.
|Thursday, August 5th, 2010|
The whole Prop 8 thing is back in the media today. I've largely not talked about the gay marriage debate, mainly because my opinions on politics tend to piss off both sides, something which has proven doubly true on this one.
But, fuck it, what do I have on here - 5 readers? You guys are cool, right?
So, here it is: I'm against prop 8. I'm against any law that makes it illegal for people to get married. Yay! Did I make you happy, liberal people? Now, here's the reason so you can start hating me again: The government has the ability to recognize civic unions. This is the legal equivalent of marriage. Why is it an equivalent and not the same thing as marriage? Because marriage is a function of the Church. Any legislation passed regarding marriage is, practically speaking, an exertion of the power of government over the constitutionally-guaranteed sovereignty of religions. I am not a religious man, but I am a citizen who believes in that right and for that reason I disapprove of legislation banning gay marriage.
The corollary to this is that I also cannot support any legislation which pronounces gay marriage legal. (Happy now, conservatives?) Just as the banning laws forcing the church to not marry anyone are wrong, so are laws that are designed to force them to perform marriages illegal. I support the right of anyone to choose any other person to spend their lives with. If you're one of the lucky people who truly finds someone to spend the rest of your life with, I hope you can do that. I wholeheartedly support the specific legalization of civil unions for homosexual couples. But the continued pursuit of laws enforcing 'marriage' for gay people comes from their desire to be recognized by a private organization which is protected from government interference. Although I believe the church is wrong in this, I also believe that it is their right to be wrong or right about things without government interference.
So, that's my opinion on the gay marriage debate. We need to stop looking to Washington/Sacramento to wave their magic wand and make everyone act the way we think they should, and in my opinion the best outcome for all is to recognize the legally-binding non-religious alternatives to marriage (that are already available in many states). This will require the religious right to stop attacking the gay people's lifestyle as a whole, AND will require the gay community to stop attacking the beliefs of the religious through law.
There, that should piss everyone off. Did I miss anyone?
|Monday, August 2nd, 2010|
Me: I hate cover flow. It's the worst part of my iPod.
iPod: Hahaha, cover flow is the awesome.
Me: Turn it off.
iPod: No. Eat mah ballz.
Me: How do I fix this?!?
Internet: Jailbreak. It makes your iPod do what you want, and is now legal.
Me: Yay! I want to jailbreak my iPod!
Internet: You need to update it first.
Internet: Because Apple really likes cover flow.
Apple: First you need new iTunes.
iTunes: hahahaha I hate you.
Me: What? Why?!?
iTunes: Because you were born.
Me: I'm getting a third-party iPod manager.
iTunes: Hahahaha you still can't update without me.
Me: Damnit, okay. I'll update you.
iTunes: I'm 100 megs for some reason. Even though that third-party is only 3.
Me: Wow, iTunes, you are fat as shit.
iTunes: Just for that, you have to restart.
Computer: I'm not turning back on now.
Me: What?! What the Hell was in those other 97 megs?!
iTunes: hahahahahahaha lulz
Computer: Okay, I'll turn back on. That guy's a dick.
Me: Okay, *phew*.
iTunes: You have passed my three trials and answered the riddle of the Sphinx. I will now download your iPod update.
Apple: The iPod update is a thousand gigs and takes half an hour to download.
Me: I hate you.
iPod: OK, u have jailbroken me :(
Me: Ha! I win! Time to disable coverflow!
Cydia: I'm gonna all not work up in ur shit.
Me: But...but...you're the answer
Me: Alright, let's un-jailbreak
Internet: Remember how I said you could undo that?
Internet: ...I left out the part about how all your music gets deleted.
Me: WHAT?!?!? I've got four computers' worth of music on this thing!!! Okay....let's work on this....I can offload all my music and then put it back, right?
iTunes: Hahahalulz. No. What happens in iPod stays in iPod.
Me: Crapcrapcrapcrap! Now I can't use my iTunes apps or update my iPod in the future, and I STILL HAVE COVER FLOW!!!!!! AAAAARRRGGHHH!!!!!!!!!!
Me: Maybe iPod isn't really such a good product.
Steve Jobs: WHAT?! HOW DARE YOU BLAME APPLE. YOU'RE USING IT WRONG! MINION, FIRE THE MISSILES.
|Sunday, August 1st, 2010|
Well, the Cardinal closed in the wee hours last night.
I got to go in yesterday and say goodbye to the place. I haven't been in a while...but sitting around the table still brought back memories. Hundreds of trays of potato skins that got divied up between my friends, late nights with strange music and strange people. The occasional arrest outside the windows, the occasional one of those where the arrestee had just emerged from the Cardinal minutes before; Seventy-year-old women who are pretty sure they can still rock the mini-skirt look walking back and forth from the bar...and more than just the funny things, the important ones. Grabbing a sandwich at lunchtime when I just needed to not be at home - being seventeen and taking up a table for hours with just a soda, and the wait staff refilling it every five minutes (I think now that they must have known). Coming out of Jarrod & Beth's wedding hungry, and not knowing until we got there that we'd all had the same idea. Friends, silly conversations, and split sandwiches that mean so much more now than they did then.
I hadn't been in a year. The prices were too high, and the crowd was odd. I'm gonna miss it.
|Saturday, June 26th, 2010|
|I get to be in a wedding today!
I like weddings. They work a kind of magic on everyone who goes - they disconnect us from the present. They pull us forwards to the future we hope comes true for the bride and groom. The days at home, the days of happiness, the children(?) that all come from right now. And when we're looking so hard to see those days, today starts to seem fuzzy. I don't know anyone who remembers as much of their wedding as they remember of a laundry-folding Saturday. But, that's what the day is about. It's about making a commitment to yourself and another person, and believing absolutely in the future you can build together...while you really, really enjoy yourselves.
|Friday, June 18th, 2010|
|Down at Mary's!
Well, I've arrived safely! I have to say, one of the more interesting travel times I've had recently. Tell you about it? Don't mind if I do!
SFO security apparently does not like when people ask extensive questions about their security protocols, and how they differ from "those bastards at the courthouse earlier". If the full-body nudity machine was working yet, I think they would have put me through it. Just can't figure out why these guys seem to be rubbed the wrong way by everything. They're touchy.
My flight was on Virgin America....*comic guy voice*weirdest airline, ever.*end voice* The airlines are lit with blue overhead lights and purple effect lighting. I kept expecting the cabin broadcast system to start pumping out dance music. Even had a move picked out for when we all got up and started shakin' it, but no joy. Damn plane never really delivered on it's potential. Even after I got bored and started watching the in-flight television (bonus points!), they only got to the middle of Burn Notice before we touched down. Also, the redhead next to me who was dressed like she was going to a dance club? Totally refused to help me kick off the dancing trend. Some people are just no fun.
LAX is doing remodelling. This means that, to exit the arrivals area from VA, one must walk through a several-blocks-long featureless white tunnel with a ceiling several inches above my walking height. I had the strangest feeling while walking down it that my plane hadn't made it, and this was some kind of purgatory experience. I even stalled a bit with the nice lady who's job it was to make sure everyone went through the revolving doors (also, can't see through the revolving doors) to their final destination. Yeah - not seeming so crazy now with the purgatori thing, am I? When we established that there were snacks on the other side, I decided that my brain was probably still spinning trying to come up with better ways to end Lost than the creators had, and went on through. A few minutes spent on the curb talking with the janitor guy later, and a very pretty girl in a very fancy car pulled up. This, I believe, has ended forever my budding friendship with janitor guy, at least by the look he shot me. And it's really too bad, he had some great working-man insights into the world. Let us all treasure his timeless wisdom. "This place crazy all week, brotha! Too many cars all droppin trash all over." Words to think about.
Omigod....dinner last night? They have a POTATO SKINS MENU. Not just potato skins on the menu, a whole section of the menu devoted to skins. I'm in love. I want that restaurant to have my tiny, delicious babies. Mmmm, babies.
Okay, movie times and exploration scheduled for today!
|Monday, June 7th, 2010|
The ideal of the Zen man is subject to an enforced passivity. One should not bow down under the yoke of desire, only acknowledge it and put it aside, preferring instead to exist in the manner the Tao would provide him.
So, the acknowledgment of desire. What do I want?
Everything, all the time.
Tranquility is a challenge.
|Friday, May 21st, 2010|
I picked a strawberry in the garden today.
It's perfect. Absolutely perfect by every measure I can imagine.
There are no bumps, no lumps, no imperfections.
And I want it.
The philosophy of my youth says not to take it. That perfection is the absence of distinction. It's failure to be flawed is not attractive.
But, I want it.
Over and over again I examine it, scrutinizing every perfect side. Looking for the bump, smudge, dent, mark - the sign that I can have it.
And it's not there.
I picked a strawberry in the garden today.
And I ate it.
|Wednesday, May 5th, 2010|
"If a beautiful woman tells you you're handsome, doesn't matter if it's true or not. You stand a little straighter, feel a little taller in your shoes, won't run away from the mirror as quickly as you used to."
The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
The second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
The third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
The fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
The fifth, that it sings very softly.
San Juan de la Cruz
Man, I'm such an information junkie. Got unplugged from the net a little bit yesterday, and it was like getting a limb cut off! I hadn't realized how strong my habit of net research had gotten....topics of interest, dates/times, new people - I must
internet search all these things!!!!
Think I'm gonna work on disconnecting a bit.
|Tuesday, May 4th, 2010|
The military has conducted a survey on childhood nutrition and concluded that in twenty years we will have so many adults that are fatter than the military maximum BMI that army recruitment will be critically short.
I'm not sure what part of that is most funny.
|Monday, May 3rd, 2010|
To experience the unity of life is to see your own self in all beings, and all beings in your own self. When we do this, we will look always with an impartial eye.