Causes, Effects, Lurking Variables, and Brainrot

June 26, 2010 at 11:13 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve noticed a change in four variables since a week back, and I am trying to determine which were the causes, and which were their effects.

First though, an allude on lurking variables. For those unaware, if event A precedes event B, for example if Obama becomes PotUS and the economy crashes, event A is not necessarily the cause for event B. In the example, Obama’s inauguration was actually a lurking variable, while ineffective previously established banking policy was the actual cause.

Anyway. The two main things that I observed were that 1) I lost my creative spark, and 2) I started playing EVE Online on a trial account.

Which brings me back to the topic title. Playing EVE seemed to me the cause, and ceasing to write the effect. However, I had continued playing DotA while I had been writing, and I had also played DotA without writing through most of college. I had to wonder what else had been different.

Which brings me to the other two things. I 3) stopped listening to audiobooks, and 4) stopped wanting to do things, like going to the beach or walking the dog at night.

I did not listen to audiobooks during the school year, but I did read books during previous summers. I also wrote during previous summers, as well as during my audiobook listening period this summer. Since playing video games, if not EVE specifically, does not directly correlate to my writing stints, whereas book reading of some kind does, I’m going to tie those two together.

That leaves EVE and my lack of drive – and those two I’ve observed not only in myself but also in some WOW addictions that I’ve seen. Moral of the story? If you want to spend your free time playing video games (like me), don’t do it. Go out to a bar, go race some toy cars, go pick some cherries – but don’t play EVE or WOW or even LOL. Any game where you make progress is simply pulling you further in: good marketing doesn’t correlate with a good product (see: Microsoft, Apple, etc)

In introspecting on these variables on the beach with my dad this morning I stumbled onto a related doozy: video killed the radio star. More importantly however, video kills the imagination. The ambiguity of the 1000 words that a picture can substitute forces for the reader to imagine their own image of whatever is being described, thereby revving the imagination engine. Video, however, provides a single interpretation which requires absolutely no creative juices to be running. It’s great to relax on, but it doesn’t stimulate the mind the way books (written or audio) do. Watch movies, but read books too, especially if you’re suffering from writer’s/artist’s/filmmaker’s block.

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Collaborative Writing, Authoring, Writer’s Block

June 16, 2010 at 10:13 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , )

I have, just today, realized just how challenging my recent endeavor has become. The project is the story of an alternate earth, called Verdanus, which is in a binary orbit with another planet, Tertius. I attempt to explore several layers of conflict in this sci-fi setting by approaching the world from the perspectives of a myriad characters. The original idea was joint project between myself and Rohit Kumar, and I have expanded upon it greatly.

The story was originally created as a basis for a massive collaborative writing project on a roleplaying website, but the project and audience did not mesh. I have recently revitalized the project on Eric Martindale’s roleplaying website, RolePlayGateway.com. His innovative Roleplay Tab bit of user interface has allowed for any writer to create a comprehensive collaborative writing project, and I took advantage of it for Verdanus and Tertius: War of the World.

When the project failed in its original location during the summer of 2009, I moved the content to Ficly.com. Ficly allows for any author to add a sequel or a prequel to any story, so long as they maintain a 1024 character limit. A paperback page is about 350 words, while 1024 characters is about 175. The drive to make each ficlet both interesting and informative pushes authors to use those 1024 characters to their utmost potential, making stories both more concise and funner to read. The website also promotes collaboration, though this project, there tagged with ‘Elysium‘ for reference, has not been subject to sequels or prequels. Ficly’s Kevin Lawver has taken an interest in my Ficly Tree suggestion, which would better show the relationships that sequels and prequels share.

I have also recently taken full advantage of WordPress.com to house an archive or the project and make it more accessible to those that might follow me on Facebook or Twitter. However, Verdanus on WordPress alone would eventually smash me into writer’s block, killing the project altogether. The Ficly version has the potential to inject the project with other’s ideas, but has by now too large a barrier to entry (even though I’ve tried my best to provide ample hooks and entry points) to ward of stagnation. The 1024 character limit does help, forcing me to remember an overflow of ideas from each ficlet for later. On the other hand, the RolePlayGateway version has picked up several other writers who are eager to ‘play in the sandbox’ and thereby give me new ideas, as well as drive me to give responses to their content.

The challenge is as follows. The project exists as entirely my own writing, and as the combined writing of myself and others. Every new bit of content that I add thus needs to work for both versions, and that is becoming increasingly difficult. I cannot directly respond to another writer’s content, as I have neither invited them to replicate their work on my other versions, nor do I feel comfortable copying it over (except for the microstory Promotion for the Sous which Rohit Kumar composed, and I included with his permission). So my content has to be dynamic enough to be interpreted both as a continuation of my unbroken story, and a continuation of the story influenced by other writers. I first realized the challenge factor of this with a microstory which can be found on RolePlayGateway in Verdanus and Tertius, Ficly (Out in the Open), and my Verdanus blog (Out in the Open).

I wonder how long I can keep up? I’ve yet to read some new content by others on the RolePlayGateway version, so I may have to start focusing on those tendrils of the story that have so far gone untouched.

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Smallville; Starcraft II: am I late to the party?

May 21, 2010 at 12:36 am (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , )

The party being the questions I am both asking and attempting to answer.

I watch Smallville, and I was just now wondering how long this series was going to last. They can’t rightly be done based on the last scene of the season finale – that wouldn’t bode well for the Superman that we all know and expect (what with comics, cartoons, movies all saying otherwise). Or can they? Lex is dead, why should Clark stick around?

And that’s what hit me: Lex can’t stay dead. That’s the third biggest contradiction they could have (the second would involve Lois being dead instead). I thus propose that 1) Lex will return to Smallville and 2) The series will end with a face shot of either Lex turning past us and looking a little to the right of the camera (from the camera’s point of view), or with a scene of Clark in canonical red-and-blue looking off into the distance right after that Lex shot.

If I am right, I will be flaunting it in the year (or two (or three)) that it will take to happen. If I am wrong, my one hope is that someone comments about it. Hah.

I’m probably (here comes my clever inclusion of the title (again)) late to the party, as I’m sure others have already made the same guess about Lex returning before the series would end, but I’m also probably the only one who made the same exact prediction about the very last episode. I challenge the CW to prove me wrong by 1) using my exact prediction and then 2) filming yet another season, just to spite me. Why? Because I actually like the show! Now read the post title again.

The other party has been in Beta for quite a while now, and I, who have been on the Beta waitlist since two hours after it was announced, have only now gotten an invite. I have a Dell Latitude D630 running XP with the cheapest options overall: this means I have an IntelĀ® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100. Integrated graphics cards suck so much, that my guess is that Blizzard wants to know if my laptop will run their game. With the install now complete, I will give it a try.

UPDATE 1: Just kidding, it is now patching. And you got excited! Hah!

UPDATE 2: Patch done! And then suddenly, there was a v12->v12.1 patch that had to happen. Too soon.

UPDATE 3: This is just ridiculous. I’m going to watch My Name is Earl. I’ll figure this out tomorrow. Hah.

UPDATE 4: A day later, on the road, and having patched via a tethered 3G connection, I have finally found my way to the smooth login screen. Unfortunately, Battle.net doesn’t seem too happy about my improvised internet – I might have to wait until I’m on some respectable WiFi. Still, the fact that the menu loads is a good sign. I did have to reinstall and restart before the patcher worked.

UPDATE 5: Tethered 3G works just fine, but Blizzard decided that v12.1 that I had just finished updating to wasn’t enough, and rolled out v13. Downloading, slowly but surely…

UPDATE 6: Now, 13 patches later, I am about to try running the actual game. Moment of truth…

CONCLUSION: SC 2 runs with an Intel GMA x3100. However, my Dell Latitude D630 apparently lags the game, enough so that Battle.net lets me know about it. I tried playing an unranked practice and learned two things: 1) Lagging for 5 seconds every 20 seconds will bring me down to 0 of my allotted 45 seconds of lag within 5 minutes and 2) I still suck with Terran.

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Homeopathy, Comparisons, and Meyers Briggs

April 12, 2010 at 12:33 am (Making Sense of Things) (, , , )

If you don’t know much about homeopathy then you should probably read the WP article. I first heard of homeopathy when I read Voodoo Science by Robert Park. On the beach with my parents last New Year I found out that my sister had once been treated with homeopathic remedies.

She was given the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) and developed a rash and fever. Further medication only worsened her state. My mother was told by a homeopathic practitioner to stop all conventional medication and to instead administer ~7 homeopathic remedies at various times each day. Within five days my sister was cured.

My mother proceeded to embrace the Post Hoc fallacy by insisting that since my sister was cured, it was because of the homeopathic remedies. I suggested that perhaps her body simply needed the calm afforded by the placebos that were labeled as homeopathic remedies, as the only “medicine” involved were sugar and water.

Nonsequitor: http://friendlyatheist.com/2009/08/12/this-is-why-its-tough-for-an-atheist-to-date/

My mother and I don’t see eye to eye on most issues, that being just one example. Perhaps it is the strong disparity in her Cold War USSR upbringing and my no-war US childhood, but I can’t help but revert to MBTI thinking. I’m an INTP. My mother always compares me to my sister, who Ive talked to and found is an ESFJ. I’m introverted, she’s ex. I’m intuiting, she’s sensing. I think and perceive, she feels and judges. All of those come with their strengths and weaknesses, but all of my sister’s strengths are my weaknesses. She’s in HR, I’m in physics/programming. She went to a huge school, I went to a small one. She makes her situation while I mold mine as it comes.

MBTI has helped me view what my mother perceives as faults instead as alternatives. My biggest reveltation has to do with my perception of time. Rather than taking the “do today what you can do tomorrow” approach, I find myself procrastinating until the last minute. The rare times that I do work early, it comes out shoddy. When I put it off however, I spend my mental downtimes (restroom, shower, falling asleep, waiting in queues, walking to places, etc) immersed in useful thought, often about the very things that I’ve put off until later. When I finally sit down to do them, I’ve had many hours of mental planning, planning which I wouldn’t have had without procrastinating. And to think, procrastination is very common in TP individuals!

If only children all took Myers Briggs early on in the educational system, and schooling was tailored to the children’s traits.

Back to the beginning: I sometimes wonder if my lack of belief in placebos and homeopathy diminish their psychosomatic effects. Perhaps however, my strength of resolve helps keep my stress levels low, contributing to a reduced frequency of illness (my worst this past year has been influenza, which I suffered for only two days during which I dosed advil, filtered half a dozen cans of soup, and slept for 19 hours each day, after delaying the effects for several days with Vitamin C until the weekend). Yeah, I think knowing is better than being ignorant, irrespective of which one brings you happiness.

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Social Media and all that Hype

June 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , , )

Jumping onto the social media bandwagon, I proceeded to Twitter – only to find that I have nothing to say on it. One could argue that I simply did not embrace Twitter for its use – letting people who apparently care about your daily dealings know just what those dealings are – but I would say that I prefer a more personal mode of interaction for my “status updates”. I have also found that, of my initial ~20 contacts, at least three of them are Serial Twits (because Twitterers or Tweeters both sound ridiculous, and neither is as demeaning), who post about every little thing, and sometimes four or five times about the same thing. Whether it be a sports match, a gaming convention, or the influx of illegals into your backyard, I don’t care. Luckily twitter allows me to forever remove these spammers from my feed, thereby ending my friendship with them. Somewhat like breaking up over facebook – society in my eyes is hitting a new low. So now I use twitter for FDA recalls, NSF and NASA updates, and to see when Download Squad or RolePlay Gateway have something new to report.

Which brings me to something useful: Google. Having given up on Firefox due to a Google Gears + Integrated Gmail crash, I am now using Google Chrome for my internet, with Gmail for my email, and Google Reader for my RSS feeds. I Google Maps my public transportation, I Google Search for my search, and the only other sites I seem to frequent are Wikipedia and IMDB. If Google were to absorb those too (as per its blobular trend), and maybe make a Linux based Google OS, and take over Meebo for its multi-protocol instant messaging, then I really would bow down to that Blue Red Yellow Blue Green Red Skynet and consider myself saved by the Technorevolution. They did after all come out with the Android, and if naming is any indication of function…

So I’ve recently narrowed down my list of non-google sites that I actually use. They are Ficly, Photobucket, and WordPress. For some reason, I feel that Google Wave might help to centralize everything that I do online.

On an unrelated note, two of my professors were walking the stairways and hallways in a very solemn manner – slow, careful steps, hung head, stooped posture – until I alerted them to my presence, whereupon each of them in their respective incidents livened up and help a perfectly normal conversation with me. Then returned to their zombie walk as I made some distance.

But for those of you who do use twitter, I highly recommend TwitterFeed, Su.pr by Stumble Upon, and TweetPsych. I have decided that a Tweet should either have a witty joke/comment, or a link in it to be of any use to anyone. “Mowing lawn, back in ah hour” does not qualify.

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Failed Gambits and Backup Plans

May 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , )

Backstory: every summer, my best friend and I start a project on RPGFO. To give a brief history, here is what we have so far joinly accomplished in our leisure time:

2006 – started the nation of Frenelia in Isis, a persistent world; created the classesRoleplay Creation and Maintenance in the Academy

2007 – created (with Vorlikesh) Kel’Amnir, another persistent world; took over administrative duties of the Academy and taught several classes

2008 – forced an Academy overhaul and created the Library and other resources

One thing that we tried to do in 2008 was to revamp Isis, the persistent world. It had died (as such projects often do when not carefully monitored), and everyone seemed to not want to clean the slate and start fresh. After much discussion and using me as a bouncing board, my friend came up with a modest proposal. It received mixed reviews, but ultimately fell through due to low popular vote. Everyone fights change. Isis ended up undergoing minor changes which fixed nothing, and proceeded to die. Again. It was like kicking a dead horse.

Now we come to 2009, where we just tried to create a completely new way of world building – via media. Instead of linear first person roleplays defining the world, we wanted to have the world defined through speeches, newspaper articles, and various other forms of popular media. Unfortunately, as many times before (including the 2008 Isis gambit described above) we at first received mixed reviews, and then a final flop: the idea was too ambitious, too different, and thus did not strike many people’s fancy.

But this time we had a backup plan! Namely, the very same modest proposal, but this time it followed a gambit that was far more ambitious and different! We effectively raised the bar for acceptable change by proposing an apparently unacceptable change.

Moral of the story is that if you want a gambit to succeed, preface it with something far more outlandish, and push it as far forward as you can. When it fails, introduce the gambit itself as your backup plan. Unless it too is outlandish, you are far more likely to succeed than if you went in cold. Otherwise, you’ll have to do what we did, and wait a year before you can come back with your original idea.

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RIASEC, Science, Permeating Irrationality

March 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

Our Delta Beta Crescent Colony of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity just had a “Dream Job” presentation based on the RIASEC theory. Our President and Vice President were both Enterprising, meaning that once they graduate the colony will have to fall into a period of stagnation until someone else who is Enterprising is recruited. I happened to be Investigative, with close seconds in Social and Conventional. To adapt myself to the prescribed stereotypes, I agree. I love Physics, which is Science, which uses the Scientific Method, so Investigative makes quite a bit of sense. One of my (many) flaws is my steadfastness in my current assumptions. To be fair, given decisive evidence I will drop my beliefs in a heartbeat, but until then I stand by them (for example, religion is a nuisance and bad influence on society, and is no better than hard drugs). However, what this flaw does do is make me an enabler: if I agree with someone, I will echo their thoughts, reinforce them, and do my best to help them realize their intentions. Hence, Social. And, based on my (not always successful) runs as forum administrator and my recent spike in campus involvement (Safewalk, Safezone, SAA, 1in4) and my executive officer position in the Fraternity, well, it would seem that I at least try to be an organizer. Wikipedia tells me that this makes me Conventional.

As to what I’m not: Realistic, Artistic, Enterprising. I will enable (being Social), but will not get my hands dirty (hence not Realistic). I will organize or even reorganize (being Conventional) but I will not innovate (hence not Artistic). I will think (being Investigative), but I will not hope (hence not Enterprising). As far as this relates to science, RIASEC tells me that I should be a theorist rather than an experimentalist. Not because I can’t (In fact, I am enjoying Modern Physics Laboratory very much and doing quite well in it) but because the best experimentalists are innovative and hands on, and are able to convince the big wigs with the money that the LHC is a necessity, and that one quarter of the experimental space should be theirs. So they are Artistic, Realistic, and Enterprising. I’m not. Damn.

Theorists live longer anyway, right? Then again, ISC does not likely make me a theorist (well, I helps, but S and C are stretch). Well, the contrapositive is that experimentalists don’t live longer, and I’ll just say “… than me” and be done with it. Speaking of living longer, Spock wished it on everyone, and he was a frequent flier. The worst segue of all time.

I took a flight last night on a De Havilland Dash 8 Q400. With 4 seats per row, and propellers rather than reactive engines, the real defining feature of the smallitude of the aircraft was that the stewardess, when pushing the beverage cart, was unable to give away cans of juice or soda because the cart was only large enough to hold at most three cans of each beverage (and in some cases only one can). As per some recent news stories I have begun to peruse PlaneCrashInfo.com.

How is that at all relevant to… anything? I will generalize to say that everyone has phobias. Some are so irrational and overwhelming, like claustro-, that I wont even delve in that direction. Fear of a plane crashing? Wholly idiotic, unless you have some method of stopping it. It is one thing to fear dying (or at least not want to die), but to fear death while already on the plane? Unless your plane is being hijacked, you have no control over your “fate”, if you will. Unless you’re in the cockpit, in which case there damn better be a good reason for that (like, you’re the pilot). The man next to me was freaking out. While we taxied to the runway, on take off, in the air, and during the bumpy landing. In case you read this, sir, let me just tell you that you will die young. Worrying leads to stress, and stress prevents your body from regenerating your blood cells at an appropriate rate. You’ll die of old age, at a young age. (To clarify, that was a Google search. Unlike Wikipedia, things on Google are NOT always true. As a matter of fact, I didn’t actually read the page I just linked.)

It is rational to worry about your choices, and to perhaps make your choices based on what you hear in the news (though they are likely just as irrational as you are, those reporters, newscasters, and editors, that you are better off waiting for statistics to appear on Wikipedia). For example, it might be prudent not to choose flights that use the Q400 series aircraft. The point is that once you have made this possibly poor decision, you should be resigned to your fate. Unless you want to be tazed, once the cabin door has been closed you will either make it to your destination, or you wont. So pick up a book, or whip out your laptop, and amuse yourself. If you are going to die, at least die happy :).

Jay Jay the Jet Plane

This guy will!

The moral of the story is that it is rational to have rational fears – so as to guide your current choices. It is irrational to have irrational fears – instead, one should make conclusions and mental notes to influence their future choices. If that doesn’t make sense, then I recommend therapy.

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Strike that, Reverse it!

November 22, 2008 at 8:33 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , , , )

So much time, so little to do!

Delta Tau Delta has recolonized at Carnegie Mellon, and despite my initial reluctance I was drafted into the Delta Beta Crescent Colony. Despite my dislike for extra work, I was appointed by the consultants as Sergeant-at-Arms and Honor Board Chairman. I am now stuffing my nose into every committee as they are forming, involving myself in nearly every bit of colony business, working towards building the colony’s website, and writing the colony bylaws.

I also went through SafeZone training, which is GLBT awareness/sensitivity/Ally training, and I think falls in well with Sexual Assault Advisor training. Although unrelated, my binder of being a community resource is growing. Coupled with the experience I will gain from running the Honor Board, writing the bylaws, helping with the New Member Education committee, and my involvement in the Service/Philanthropy/Fundraising Committee and the Social Committee… Well, I believe I will have, in this one semester, introduced an extracurriculars section to my resume as well as gaining a wide assortment of skills.

Luckily, Thanksgiving is coming, and I will be giving thanks to the holiday break for giving me a chance to sit down and write those bylaws.

Moral of the story: I have no gods, and yet I am somehow moral enough to be appointed to a position of authority in a fraternal organization. I am ethical enough to have been selected to write the ethical code of this organization, and I apparently have enough integrity to have been chosen to conduct the honor board. I have no gods, and yet I now have a social network that connects me to thousands of people who share my values. What is the tenet of Delta Tau Delta? “Committed to Lives of Excellence”. Not “Committed to the Service of God”. If I can have all of these things without gods, what is the benefit of believing in gods at all? I have already discounted the promise of an afterlife, I have discounted the necessity of religion for morality, and just now I have discounted the necessity of religion for community. What are the other benefits of religion, if any? Perhaps “security”, or “hope”. I’ll have to think on how to discount the necessity or success of religion with regards to each of those.

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Communication, Confidentiality, and Open-Ended Prompting

October 8, 2008 at 10:57 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , , )

I have recently been accepted into SAA training at my college. SAA stands for Sexual Assault Advisor – a confidential peer that a sexual assault survivor can speak to and get information from (regarding various legal and college related processes). When I started this blog I thought, for the very first time, about the repercussions of not having grown up with any sort of religion (and thereby not having any morals and ethics hard coded into my childhood). Some time back in middle school I had developed an uncanny habit of stealing – breaking into lockers at the YMCA and extracting cash. When I was finally caught I received a brutal non-physical release of anger from my parents, in the form of the grandiose maxim “imagine if you were in their shoes”. I most certainly do not want anyone stealing from me, and that episode is the first time that I distinctly remember using my imagination. (Everyone uses their imagination, but how often is that memorable?)

So I wondered, when I wrote the first entries of this blog, about what ethics and morals and humanism and whatnot meant to me. And I honestly couldn’t say. One of my “proposed” theological models is the queue of souls, lining up for their turn on Earth to experience it, feel it, sense it. And death on Earth is non-permanent: the soul simply lines back up and gets another creature the next time around. However, given sentience, a soul in a human can lose its spot in the queue permanently (“burn in hell for all eternity”) by ruining this sensory Earth for others (for example through deforestation, genocide, rape, murder, etc). So by my model, we should all strive to make the world a better place (for our soul and others, the next time around the queue).

Let me add a caveat here. I don’t “believe” in this theological model. That is illogical, and “quantity” of total souls comes into question among many contradictions and incongruities. Still, just as (some) stories of the Bible are useful for illustrating socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior, so does this model loosely dictate some “rules” to live by.

Despite providing this model as a reason to be “good”, I reflected and did not find myself actually doing anything “good”. What kind of humanist was I, preaching (or at least accepting) humanism as a way of life, but not actively promoting it through my actions? To alleviate my internal conflict, I applied for SafeWalk and SAA. Safewalk sends teams of two out, from 10pm-2am, to walk any caller between any two locations on and around campus, to promote safety and security. In large part, to prevent violent assaults (and unwanted attention from passing drunk students). SAA then is a program to help survivors of sexual assaults (rapes) come to terms with their lives, accept the event, and move past it.

Communication (starting with body language) is the very first element of being an SAA. Poor posture, tension, or an overtly laid-back attitude can all break a survivor’s confidence and prevent the session from being at all effective. Then there is confidentiality – while I can describe the methods used by the SAAs, I obviously cannot disclose the details of any particular case. Confidentiality helps maintain the integrity of the SAA program, and keeps survivors willing to call us for help. If their confidence in our confidentiality was lost then they would not seek our help (and would be less likely to receive help from elsewhere).

And last is the mode of conversation: open-ended prompting. I wrote an article on Play-by-post forum-based dueling for the Role Play Academy, and started it with Open-Ended Prompting. The premise there was to keep the duel going by giving that person something they had to respond to, and open-ended prompts in SAA conversation are no different: to make a session productive, the SAA needs to keep the survivor talking (or at least able to talk, as pauses in conversation are not only allowed by are encouraged when necessary). To keep the conversation going, the answers to questions need to be long but possible to recall (rather than requiring analysis). As such, yes-or-no questions are a bust due to their one word answers (great for ending a conversation, but not necessarily on a good or useful note). But also “why” questions are a taboo. Questions that start with “why” require active analytical commitment to respond to. As the survivor is likely preoccupied with overwhelming emotions (rage, terror, hate, disgust, etc), requesting that they take a moment to analyze the situation objectively and answer your “why” questions is both selfish and unlikely to be successful.

It is one thing to speak on a subject; it is a whole ‘nother to do. It is easy to say that we should all be supportive of each other, so as to make the world a better place. I’m not saying that I’m now making the world a better place, but I think that I’m en route to figuring out how I would go about doing so. Baby steps.

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A Shot at Conscience

September 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

His mother spoke at the television as he stood from the dinner table, Don’t forget to clean your placemat, I wont, he replied, And go do your homework, I know, and with that their exchange halted. He ascended the six step staircase and entered his room. Sitting down, he had barely touched the power button when his mother called out again, Are you doing your homework, Of course I am, why do you ask such stupid questions, you were the one who told me to go and do that homework, If my question is so stupid, why you bark at me for my simple questions rather than simply answering? He was in silence, she was frowning, but was happy, amused by her success, and neither could see the other, but they didn’t need to see to know what the other was thinking. Because I don’t like it when you take a shot at my conscience, the boy almost said, but instead pressed the power button again, and as the computer whirred down he instead started his work.

I wrote that in August of 2005 as the preface to a 20 short-chapter Book of Summer for a Literature class. The style is meant to tribute Jose Saramago, author of Blindness.

I have always had trouble choosing to do what was necessary (read: dictated by others) over doing what was appealing. I still do, am doing so right now: writing is far more appealing than physical mechanics homework. Perhaps I am in the wrong major?

Still, why do we do what others dictate over what we want? The answer is society, and our obligation to it. We are taxed by our governments, forced to donate to them funds with which to perpetuate this way of life. We are also taxed by society of our time and energy, forced to learn professions and provide labor to perpetuate progress. When looked at life from that perspective, I find the humanist in my suddenly agreeing, accepting that conforming to the school to career progression is necessary. I get through the day, through my necessary but unwanted tasks knowing that I am working towards being a productive cell in that organism that is our world. If only our central processing unit would stop taking heavy shots of heroin that propagate down and affect us all.

So it doesn’t hurt to reiterate, to myself and others, that maxim that grandparents love to recite: Love what you do, and do what you love. My problem is figuring out if I love physics – I love the premise, but I might be doomed for philosophy rather than discrete phenomenology. (I also dislike calculus.) The question I have, though, is regarding getting to the thing you love. There are almost always obstacles in the way, so it is necessary to gauge if overcoming them is worth the end result. The equally important maxim here is that The thing you love might be nice from afar, but might be far from nice. What you want now might very well not be what you really wanted – perhaps I need to take a spirit walk, like Parkman, and figure out what lies in my future.

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