Found! Now how do I get lost again?

So I put my name in the header of this blog to see if I could google myself and find this blog, which I can. Yay technology. Yay google for indexing me. That almost sounds dirty when you write it. I figured I would get indexed, seeing as this free blogger service is part of google. Now the more interesting part of this little adventure is to see if I can now hide myself. Wish me luck, I'm going to try to play hide and seek with some virtual google-spiders.

I'm just curious how connected and forever all this interconnectivity is.

Coming home

There isn't any irony here, no humor. Just a fat girl walking around in a twinkies t-shirt. I'm back in the midwest.

I'm not sure Michigan is home any more, but I'm not sure any where has replaced it, either. Actually, I am sure no place has replaced it, I'm just not sure what to do or think about that. Does that sense of home and the associated sense of being, is that all I miss?


Sleeping through the wrong things

I'm alone in the office today and was thinking about things, and something occurred to me: I have fallen asleep at a travelling broadway production of Les Mis and the only opera I ever attended, fallen asleep on buses travelling through beautiful mountains and valleys in Honduras and Mexico, but I've managed to stay awake through some of the most mundane god awful boring bus trips and business meetings I have attended.

I have also, by design based on what was probably in retrospect a very poor decision when I was younger, emotionally slept through the greater portion of my adult life and am still trying to wake up.


Merry Christmas (non-denominationally of course)

Happy holidays fair readers. This is a dying plant from my office that I decorated before one of our in-office training sessions to make our office more festive. I called it a non-denominational decorated plant! It looks even better in real life than my crappy phone picture.
Anyway, it was right there in our lobby to cheer everyone up when they entered our office, and then I was out of town for a week and now it's hidden in the back under our internet server! I spent $10 on those decorations and 15 minutes and this is the thanks I get? Bah humbug to my office mates. I hate my job anyway.


Polar bear - victim or culprit?

There seems to be a lot of moaning in the press about the plight of the polar bear and how global warming could destroy their habitat and ultimately lead to extinction. Indeed, extinction is certainly a sad fate for any creature. However, what everyone seems to ignore is the role polar bears are playing in their own demise. Here is the case as it was set forth for me by renowned polar explorer Whitey Friezalot, he of the famed Nordic heritage and love of the creamy white snows of the arctic. As much as possible, this is a quote and the equations are his, saved for prosperity on the cocktail napkins of some dusty lost in time bar where we met up.

Aayargghh (Ed note: he was prone to start stories, sentences, and drinks with a low guttural sounds something like an Argg. It wasn't the sound we often associate with pirates, but something purely individual I can't describe.) The bloody polar bear. I have lived with the creature more than any other man and I tell you they are a beautiful creature to behold. Surely the world will be closer to lost without them. However, they are not the defenseless creature people would have you believe. They are savage carnivorous animals that eat a hundred pounds of blubber like you or I might eat a whole chicken. They leave the bones for the foxes like we leave them on the floor for the dogs!"

At this point, he spit on the floor and threw a chicken wing under the table. Of course, being a civilized country, there were no dogs in the bar. He didn't care, he was like that. He continued, "The pictures you see of polar bears in the snow, covering their noses to keep warm, those pictures are crap. Sure the bear is cold, but look where it lives? It adapted itself to that climate over millions of years, it has no one to blame but it's own forefathers." For all his faults, he was always a strict evolutionist. "Now, we see the pictures and we pity them the cold. Yet we pity them the warming too. It doesn't cut both ways, not that knife. Life is cold and cruel, not just for the polar bear." He spit again and drank the last of his beer, then the last of my beer, then ordered us another round. I was in this for the long haul it appeared.

"The problem is this: the polar bear has been living on borrowed time for many generations, and it isn't all man's fault. The polar bear has adapted itself to it's conditions sure, but like man it effects it's conditions, probably not as consciously or obviously as we do with our houses and bars and other abominations, but it's still true. The bears effect nature with their bodies." He paused here, maybe expecting something from me, like a question or a clever comment. I had nothing, so I sat and waited. People who spend time in the arctic are used to silence and so we sat staring at each other for 2 beers before he started up again. I'm not sure he even realized how long it was. When he did finally continue, he spoke as if there had been no delay.

"The polar bear you see is mostly fur and blubber. The males can weigh up to 1,500 pounds..." At this point, he grabbed a freshly polished pure silver pen from his pocket and a napkin to begin writing the formula that became the basis of his treatise. "An average polar bear..." and here he smiled at the very thought of something so simple as an average polar bear, "is broken out by weight as follows: 63.7% blubber and 22.4% fur, with the rest made up of other bones and bloods and intestines. That means, by mass, 86.1% of the polar bear, or 1,291.5 pounds, is fatty or furry."

At this point, the napkin had the following calculation (all misspellings are his):

Polar bare weight: 1500

Makeup: 63.7 blubber, 22.4 fur, 13.9 rest bare

Fatty furry: 86.1% * 1500 = 1291.5!

His ability to calculate in his head was certainly something for me to behold. He showed me the napkin before continuing, "That is a lot of blubber, and the blubber and the fur themselves give off warmth. This maintains the polar bear when it is alive, but what do you think happens when the polar bear dies? Does that heat just pass away?" He asked it in such a way I knew the correct answer and shook my head appropriately. He stared at me and squinted his eyes for a moment before continuing.

Now if you will be so kind as to recall from your thermodynamics studies (he was an acknowledged expert in many forms of math and science), the heat loss ratio of blubber is very slow, and the heat loss ratio of fur is even slower. The half life is something like 13 hours of fur,l and 8.7 for blubber. He added these to the napkin:
1/2 fur: 13 hrs
1/2 blub: 8.7

This means the heat given off by every dead polar bear is more than sufficient to melt more water than the polar bear ever weighed. This creates a net negative effect of ice maintenance to polar bear death!

He almost stood up he was so excited, skipping details in his commentary as I lost the details but was engaged by the passion.

So for every dead polar bear, the ice caps melt a little. This increases the amount of water in the world, pushing global warming, killing more polar bears, pushing global warming, killing more polar bears, pushing global warming...

I believe he said that 4 more times before stopping. I looked a little confused, maybe even frightened. He looked at me with cold eyes then wrote the following equation for me on the napkin:

LN (1/2 life * weight * blubber ratio)squared + (Friction of Arctic Ice * Mean Temp)/(Blubber ration * 1/2 life) = Lots of water

We sat for a bit in a bizarre silence drinking, and finally he added: The fate of the polar has tipped toward extinction. It is largely man's fault, but once the totter teetered, the bears keep pushing it forward. To stop it? He asked that as if in response to an unasked question, so he answered it. Thinner polar bears. Hell if it's so much warmer they shouldn't need so much fat anyway. The fur won't change for a long time, that's evolution my friend, but the blubber they can control. They'll figure it out. Or they won't. Fuck it!

He swigged his beer, stood up, and walked out. He was angry. I was alone with his napkin and his brilliance. I have yet to find anyone smart enough to follow the logic, but it was one of those things that made such an impact it must be true. The bill came. I didn't have enough money, I only came in for 1 drink. I ended up washing dishes and talking global warming with the Mexican dish washers. They didn't support the Humenguin Society, so we continue our slow ominous march towards a world without arctic and antarctic animals.


# of belts / # of people > 1?

I was in Colombia last week and I was at a little airport south of Bogota watching a man put on his belt after passing through security, then watched the next lady put her belt back on (and boy to have been that belt for a few minutes...sigh), and a question occurred to me: What is the ratio of belts to people in the world? It has to be greater than 1 right? There have to be more belts in the world than people? Do you think it's double? Triple? I know in developing countries a lot of people don't have belts and women tend to wear more skirts/dresses without belts, but where I lived in Honduras, many men had belts. In more developed countries, people have many belts. I have 5, one of which I am not sure I have ever even worn (it's a weird color, I bought it in bad lighting I guess). I'm not sure my apartment counts as a good example of a developed country though.

Anyway, I'm estimating 2.8 belts in existence (owned or for sale) for every person in the world. The next question is how many belts are manufactured each year for each person in existence? I'm guessing .7. No, I don't know why. I'm asking this the next time I interview someone.

So the next ratio is how many pants are in existence compared to the number of belts compared to the number of people...

Then on to suspenders...

Where does it end you might ask? Here.


America. Or maybe just Friday evening frustration

It has probably been said the art of a country defines it. I don't think I can name a single artist. Does that mean I cannot define America? Well, I don't think I can anymore. Recently, I have been wandering through the online archives of America, the internet and the newspapers and the blogs. I'm not talking about popular culture, which just doesn't interest me all that much, and I'm not talking about politics because that is a profession now not a public service. Politicians seek to maintain their power, not benefit America. Look at the war. Look at the farm bill. Look at almost anything a politician supports and you can almost always trace back their link to it, via former or future work (think lobbying money), constituency (think farm bill/gas mileage/minimum wages), or just plain old money (see pharmaceutical/big business lobby). The argument is to protect your constituency/money/future/power, but at what cost? These people aren't Americans. I don't respect anyone running for president. If you are a true nationalist, if you truly love America, you tell people what they don't want to hear even to your own future detriment for the future good of your country. Do you believe any of the candidates would do that? Maybe I will vote, but I am not passionate about any of them.

So what is America? There is a line from the poem America by Ginsberg where he says, "It occurs to me I am America. I am talking to myself again." It's a good poem, you should read it. This blog is really a conversation to myself. Or sometimes it is. More importantly, it is tonight. I seek America because I love America. It's my home, and that means something. I love my family because they mean something. I love my friends, my true friends, because I believe they will help me when I need them and I will help them when they need me. That's friendship, regardless of where I am or they are. I don't love the American dream though. Can I live in that dichotomy? I don't want to own a house. I don't want to be the richest man in my neighborhood. I truly believe I could be if I tried, but at what cost? When would I read? When would I drink coffee with my friends? Play tennis? Sit by the bay? Just say hello?

I found 2 things recently that just blew my mind. I realize America is a big country, and I really only understood that after living in a much smaller country. Not just smaller physically, but smaller in so many other ways I can't explain. It was damn near impossible to get around, but it still felt one big neighborhood sometimes.

The first item is this: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/fashion/06push.html?em&ex=1197176400&en=2ce83a2c57a58291&ei=5087%0A

This is what America has come to? The love of a man and women, which can be manifested in so many wonderful ways physically and emotionally and through action, often culminating in a child. Now, the child isn't the only culmination of that love? Really? You need a ring or earings or a bracelet or something to remind you of your children? Does that meaningless but possibly expensive materialistic item represent them somehow? What about your memories of them? Your love for them? I think ultimately if I found out my father gave my mother diamond earrings she loved when I was born, 2 earrings because I was the 2nd child, it would me hate them both. Did she carry me for that? Was I worth it? When she wears them and remembers me, is that the only time she loves or remembers me? She needs a physical representation of me to love me? It's hard enough becoming a person, won't this bullshit just complicate it more, make our children more materialistic and more neurotic and push us all over the cliff of craziness? I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid to go out sometimes, these are people I meet. I was at a birthday party yesterday for a girl I met once before who said her wedding ring should be 5 months salary! She said he could afford it. Sometimes that's not the point. I'll be honest I have a lot of things, maybe to many things. But I don't have everything I could have. That's not how you should define your life, is it? Who are we? Do I belong here? How do I fit in? It's a big country, but recently a lot of people feel like they are all the same...

So I found this mildly interesting and irritating. My problem with this op-ed piece, which means it is one persons opinion and he has an agenda to push latin. Fine. The issue with this is that there isn't any context. His issues seems to be the decline of rhetoric in this country, especially from our leaders. I agree, our political system is a joke, only nobody laughs except the rich and powerful. The author blames this on not studying Latin. Seriously? Is that the only thing that has changed in the last 50 years in our world? Is that even the most important thing? Let's say Hugo Chavez knew Latin? Would the author honor him? I agree the political process is broken, but is Latin really the major problem? And this is published in a major newspaper without a rebuttal. You don't like the NY Times? Fine, you are entitled. Give me a better source for news and ideas... That's the problem. People don't read. You don't have to read Latin to improve your oratory or build your vocabulary, you have to things that are well written. You have to think. You have to practice. You have to be willing to give yourself up to study and focus and self awareness and your own mind. Does that happen? If I studied TS Elliot and Joyce and Shakespeare for 2 years, don't you think my ability to speak in allusions and beautiful long sentences would increase? I could read Hamlet or the Bible and pick up something. If I read Marquez and Borges and McCarthy for 2 years, won't I be more creative? What the hell does Latin have to do with it? There are a lot of problems in America with focus (we focus on money but we don't focus on accountability for politicians and CEOs does not exist, we worship beauty not brains, we focus on short term goals/money/oil not long term sustainability -an old teacher was always amazed by a fact he threw out that native americans made decisions based on the 7th generation. It might have been only partially true, but it's certainly something no longer in the debate), but is studying Latin really that important?

Where do we go for knowledge? As a country, do we even collectively seek knowledge? I have decided the internet, which was supposed to bring this to everyone, is not the solution. It is an amazing start, but only if you can think. Why don't we teach people to think? Why don't we value people who can think? Why do we hate people smarter than us? I love them, and I hate them because I want to be smarter than them. I am not sure if I actually wrote this, but I had a very interesting conversation about competition and drive and how i intentionally turned that off in me. I said that competitiveness was killing me, Ihad to control it. Later, I realized I stopped competing athletically (mostly) to focus on competition of the mind. I love being smarter. I'm an ass maybe, but that's my thing. I don't think I'm arrogant - I'm a very gracious winner... That's just what gets me going, smart people who can teach me things.

I had a lot of problems in college, I struggled with who I was and where I was and what I wanted to study. A lot of people do. I don't always analyze things correctly, but at least college taught me to think, to analyze. As they say, I wouldn't give nothing for my journey now. Do you think a lot of Americans can say that?


Monday thoughts

The word forever doesn't have any real feeling for me, but the word infinite fascinates me.

I'm more comfortable wandering around alone making up stories in my head than I am wandering around with people. In my head, I'm eloquent, funny, and passionate. When I'm with people, I'm not. Then again, that's probably because even when I'm with people I'm usually wandering around in my head all the same.

I am going to Columbia for work next week, and it is the first time in a few years that the thought of just staying down there occurred to me. Is that a good sign?

The funniest joke I can think of right now is this: The invisible man married the invisible woman and they had a child but the child wasn't much to look at. I giggle every time I think about it.

I don't think anyone should be bailed out in the subprime mortgage mess. People make mistakes. Companies lose money. That's just the way it is. If we bail everyone out, nobody will ever learn. Recessions happen, they suck, and in a few years we'll be out of it. The stock market is still near an all time high, what's the worry? If they freeze interest rates for the next 1-5 years, aren't the same homeowners going to have problems in 5 years? Or will we all be so rich by then it won't matter? That's what I love about America, our long term planning.

As the presidential race tightens up, I become less interested. I don't like any of them really, and I'm just voting Democrat. Actually, if I don't get a license I'm not voting anything.

I can't watch a full sports game anymore unless I am with someone. I still enjoy playing sports, I just can't watch.

I have been watching classic chess games on my computer and I'm hooked! It's a bit of an odd things my new found interest in chess. Basically a few weeks back I read an article about the Kasparov - Big Blue matches where a computer beat one of the greatest chess players of all time and I got interested. Now I watch chess games (played out much faster than real time). I read an interesting thing that said chess moves by great players are usually decided in the first 5 seconds, but then the player spends time figuring out if they missed something. I read that in an article on intuition though so it might not be true.

I have a lousy memory, I always have. I am pretty decent at figuring things out though, and I'm sometimes over logical to the point of being obnoxious even to me. National Geographic had a fairly interesting article on Memory a month or two ago, and I think I might start researching that. It also had an extremely interesting article on swarm theory recently, and if I thought I could find do it it might convince me to go back to school. I could study packs of fish moving in tandem, honey bees, or ants - fascinating!

I really want to go to Mexico in the next 2 years for the migration of the butterflies. If I go, will I want to stay down there?

The number pi is an interesting number, but I don't understand the value of memorizing it out to a lot digits. What a weird thing to do. Isn't it better to understand? Then again, maybe I'm biased because I can't remember well but I like to fancy I can understand.

Borges and Garcia Marquez still fascinate me, and I read at least one of them almost every night. They are my adult teddy bears, like the knit blanket I had as a kid and put my fingers through the knitted slots, I put my mind through the stories. Or something. That is to say, they are comforting.

Is there anything more interesting than a right triangle? More particularly, is there anything more interesting than the square of the two sides of the right angle equaling the square of the hypotenuse?

If I had to go anywhere in the world to die, I think I would go to Machu Pichu and jump.

If I had to go anywhere in the world to live, I think I would go to...

I have a beautiful orchid in my apartment, and it makes me happy.

Listening to jazz while laying on my couch, reading, or staring out the window makes me happy.

I have been starting to get that super intense focus at work I had when I was younger, and I don't like it. That intensity, which people say leads to success, frightens me and is not how I want to live my life. I'm not sure how to fix this yet.

I am finally comfortable in San Fran, even though I don't really have many real friends yet. I feel comfortable in my apartment, have books around, and am in my own way happy.

I want to start playing tennis more and buy a bicycle and start taking long rides on weekends.

I want to go to a driving range and hit golf balls. It relaxes me. I have always found shooting a basketball alone or hitting golf balls relaxing.

I think time is the most interesting fascinating confusing thing in the world. It gives us memory. Without memories we don't have feelings or families or history. Time is the infinite jester, arguably more of God's nemesis than the devil. I have entire fables I wrote about this when I was younger.

I like reading old notebooks and remembering who I was. And I usually like putting them away and knowing where I am.


Where are my background dancers?

Sometimes I sit alone in my room and I wonder what good is it? Maybe I should go to the cabaret? If only my life were a musical, so that when things like that happened someone would pop and start singing trite but catching musical numbers from the way back times, and constantly creating new songs for new periods of my life. What good is sitting alone in your room?

For the first real time since I moved to San Francisco, I feel like my life is coming together. I feel like i picked the wrong area to live in, that I settled for the first place I found in a decent neighborhood without really understanding what I was getting myself into. I was worried about finding an apartment in a single weekend. I should have lived in a furnished apartment for 1 month and then found a place to live. I should have lived near Mission. Except for 1 dinner out in my neighborhood with a friend and 2 of their friends, everything I have done or want to do is in Mission. (Cue slow music as I skip through my neighborhood, the shops and sushi restaurants as the fog rolls in. I sing about the local shops, the coffee, the Presidio and the golden gate. It's great, but it isn't me. I hold that note for a while, then the fog clears, the music swells, changes - probably something Latin infused, think Mingus' Tijuana Moods - and then I'm dancing through the streets of Mission, picking up fresh fruit, high fiving hipsters, eating mondongo and pupusas in a taqueria, hiding out in a dive bar smoking in the secret back rooms flouting the law like a renegade as the music slows, I walk out the back door, fog again, the ballad returns, the song ends.)

Regardless, I'm here in my neighborhood. Scene 2 begins. It involves a boy growing comfortable where he is at. So far, it is sort of making some friends but more of finding known friends in the area and moving out one of my best friends from somewhere else. Life begins to hit a routine. The music enforces this, maybe something semi-mechanical that repeats and repeats as my backup dancers troll our behind me doing activities representative of our daily repetition. They lay down, wake up, eat, commute, work, eat, work, eat, watch TV, sleep. That's a routine, will that become my routine? With friends, you begin to develop a routine. In one of those odd contrasts of our language, your routine might be not having a routine that is repeated but constantly avoiding routine can be your routine... I can't explain what i mean. As the dancers represent routine, I wander in and out of their routine, maybe this is modern dance actually, trying not to fall prey to the routine, trying to be me whoever that is, finding things to do besides the same bars and the same thoughts and the same experiences. Hit all the major artistic shows, return to the routing represented by the dancers, fight my way out and do something else original, fall back into the routine. The music is alternately repetitive and industrial and original and creative, depending on where I am in the process. You get the idea, as the 2nd scene fades to black.

Scene 3? Remains to be seen... In fact, scene two remains to be written. Right now, it's nothing but a fear or a thought or an intuition.

One of my best friends moved to the Bay Area, which is how we say we say San Francisco and the lesser areas nearby when we pretend that Oakland and those areas matter because in San Fran we have to pretend to give a shit about everything (which gets pretty damn annoying!). He and his wife stayed with me for less than a week, they found an apartment, and today we went shopping so they could have some basic furniture. It was nice living with them for a while, and makes me wonder if maybe I shouldn't consider roommates next time I move. I wonder what the music would be for that? Happiness, confusion, frustration, anger, joy - just like any friendship. Maybe that is scene 4, postscript, to be written in 1 year? Anyway, I was sad to leave them at their apartment today, but I was excited that largely because of them and 2 other reconnected local peace corps friends, I feel like my life is coming together. I now have 1 great friend to call in the area, to visit, to sit around and talk to and wander and drink coffee and daydream and wonder and just be myself with. That can develop, but it takes time. We already have time. I decided to move all my friends out here. The music swells, the plane lands and everyone I know dances off! We lock arms! We do the Rockette's kicks! We swim with the sea lions and hang off cable cars! We laugh and drink local beers! The music is happy, we are all happy, and we all live happily ever after. Just like in all the great musicals (except west side story maybe...).


My first real San Francisco blog

San Francisco. I'm not quite sure yet what I think of this fair city. In the nearly 2 months since I have moved, I have passed through most of the emotions you would expect. I've been excited about meeting people, seeing new areas, rebuilding my life. I've been horrified that I have to meet new friends, see new areas, rebuild my life. Sometimes I look around the bus and wonder what the hell I was thinking! I become annoyed wandering unfamiliar streets and wonder why I left something so familiar. But I'm here. I made the decision, a very difficult decision, to leave, to start over, to try again, and now I must follow through with it at least for a little while. A lot has happened in only 7 weeks, and I won't get into it all tonight. It's the 6th phase of my life really. I grew up in the same small town, college, Philly, Peace Corps, then Philly again. But Philly was different and I was different and I only really reconnected with one friend from before. That happens. Friendships die sometime. It's sad. It's true. Life is strange like that, seems like it's always testing us and when life isn't testing me, I feel like I must test myself. Move. Change. Try something new. Meet someone who challenges me. Go somewhere that challenges me. San Francisco.

So I have passed through excitement, loneliness, confusion, and just general wonderment at how hard it is to build a life again in a new place. College was easy to meet people, we were from everywhere trying to do everything. Mostly fit in, pass classes, figure out who we were. When I first moved to Philly, I was fresh out of college (you could smell the new on me, I remember what it was like when we hired recent college grads, like NY in summer. ugh.). That company was 70 people, mostly my age, and growing. I met my friend who was the only friend I reconnected during Philly Take 2. I drank a lot. I went out. I put on weight. I started smoking. I fell in love. I think. I was a mess. I had to leave. Mexico. Honduras.

Peace corps was easy too. The only gringos in town, 50 of us in training for 3 months, the first time I played and enjoyed basketball in over 4 years. It was great. Then my site, isolation, new friendships, language, heat so much heat, frustration, road trips in the back of pickup trucks. I remember the views, but I missed some of the old friendships. I went back to Philly. It wasn't the same. You can't go home, people say that. It's probably true, but home always changes. I still call where I grew up home, and I haven't lived there for 13 years. In a few years, I will have lived away from there longer than there, but will I have someplace else to call home? Right now, I doubt it, but I'm still struggling sometimes in San Fran adjusting, meeting people. 3 people have quit from my company since I moved. I initially resigned, then I agreed to transfer. Did I make a mistake? But it doesn't matter, because I'm here now right and I need to just act on that. I still over analyze. I always will, but there are a few little things coming back to me that I had forgotten a long time ago. Competitiveness. Running outside, and challenging myself to run up the hills, make it farther, make it faster. It's been a long time since I allowed myself to be competitive. Can you be competitive and not driven? Vice versa? I have started to think again, meaning my mind is freeing itself up from it's own labyrinth's, finding it's way out. I'm becoming comfortable here. I even started blogging again. Is that a metaconceptual reference to this post? Psuedointellectually speaking theorizations. It is all coming back to me.

In my mind, two things are happening. One is this trickle of competitiveness. I tried to kill that once, a long time ago. Can you really change who you are? That's worth a long blog in itself. The other is passion. I tried to kill that too. College. Heartbreak. Stoicism seemed easier. In a way, it is. Killing passion helped me control my competitiveness. It killed me inside though. I have stated before 100 Years of Solitude is my favorite novel, and it is, but I've never really stated why. It's one character, the colonel, and the description of his isolation. Everyone in the novel is isolated, but my isolation is his. He's not a happy positive character you necessarily want to realize you connect with. I don't know yet what that means for me, or what the decisions of my youth have done to me or if I can fix them. You can't go home again right? Am I just fucked?

I'm not. I'm older, wiser. I understand more now, I just need to work myself through not who I was, but who I can become. Forget my old shyness and quirks. I have new quirks, embrace those. Be who I am now, not who I was. Now I am a 31 year old new citizen of San Francisco. I may not be here in 1 year, but for now, I need to embrace it. And I need to embrace me, and continue to try to understand me. It's hard for me, I can get so lost in the self analysis I abstract myself. My sister once yelled at me when I described my friends because I made them into characters in my world view, not people. Quirky. We all create our own drama.

I think it was Ghandi who said something like Be the change you want to see in the world. I try. I want the world to be fun and whimsical, so I try to be. The world isn't. Neither am I always. Sometimes. So I'm a work in progress. San Francisco and me, we're a work in process too. I'm more comfortable though, now, after a few months. I still get lonely, I still fight myself on some things, but I'm better. I am anxious for the new year to come and pass, to get by that hump, but then I'll be okay. I'll be blogging more for my handful of dedicated readers. And you must be dedicated to read this far, but it's been building up in my head for a long time. It's therapy for me to write, has been since college, whether it is something like this, or a story, or whatever. We all have demons. Or anybody interesting has demons, although that's not always a good thing.

That's enough. My first real San Francisco blog ends now. Maybe tomorrow I'll be more whimsical? Demon-letting is nice, but whimsy is more fun.



So this is my first post in a long time, and the best I can come up with is just this stupid little thing that occurred to me somewhere. Basically, I realized the web site name "WhatwouldFreudthink.com" wasn't being used, so I thought it would be funny to buy the name. I would have a little talking Freud head and a box for people to insert questions for the online Freud to analyze. No matter what you enter, eFreud spits out something like, "You only asked the question because you hate your father and love your mother. And society sexually represses you." It sounds stupid now that I write it, but it cracked me up when it popped in my head.

I live in San Francisco now, not sure anyone bothers to read this anymore so I'll just throw that out there. More on that later.


Alex and Akhmed reunited!

Alex and Akhmed were recently reunited by our culturally sensitive leaders in Hollywood to star in a "fish out of water, bosom buddies type of buddy comedy." The very original storyline involves comical situations encountered by Akhmed and Alex when Akhmed comes to live with Alex and his family in America. The pilot is a hysterical look at what happens when Alex, his beautiful and funny wife, and 3 adorable and sarcastic children, suddenly find Akhmed sleeping on their porch swing one morning. After much argument, the wife wins and Alex is forced to take Akhmed in "temporarily," but we all know it will last many years. Great comedy will surely ensue!

The producers assure us this show is not a rip off of Bosom Buddies or Perfect Strangers, and I think we should believe them.

Your Hollywood insider with the scoop.

Akhmed says he hates Alex

In a recent test to the president's new One Alex for every Akhmed program, Akhmed said today he wasn't really that fond of Alex and wishes he wouldn't stay in his house. On TV, Akhmed said, "I didn't invite him to stay, he can't communicate with us, and he sweats so much even the dogs won't go near him. He brought flowers to my wife, but since then, it has been nothing but tension! Alex must go."

Alex responds, "Akhmedis is an ok guy but we never really seemed to hit it off. He spent most of his time speaking gibberish and hiding his wife from me, while I was forced to shoot the shit, figuratively and literally, with my buddy Alex next store and my other buddy Alex next store. I'm staying because my president told me too, but I'm not sure I'm really helping. "

Responded the pentagon: "The fact that Akhmed is still alive and able to give his opinion on TV is a sign of the progress we are making in Iraq. God bless the troops."

Meanwhile, it appears the Iraqi government ceased to exist a few months ago but nobody noticed. A recent picture of the government headquarters showed two camels eating the drapes and another one in the corner spitting into a bucket from 12 feet away. Now that's a shot! The camels had no comment, although one spiteful camel did spit right on my nametag.

Meanwhile, ethnic violence has ceased as Sunni's, Shiites, and Kurds are uniting to fight the long overstaying house Alexes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend? This program could indeed unite the country!

And we all lived happily ever after. The end.

One Alex for every Akmed under siege!

The wimpy left wing blogosphere has erupted with recent news that the US government is attempting to put one soldier in every Iraqi home in an attempt to end violence. The logic behind the program, called One Alex for every Akhmed, is based upon the recent success of the surge, which has reduced violence to the point where even normal citizens sometimes walk outside without big guns and flak jackets, is being pushed to it's logical conclusion by our president. America is seeking 1 million more dedicated troops to finally resolve the violence in Iraq. The Iraqi haters would prefer to pull out all our troops from Iraq instead of helping them, and this newspaper has no love for the weasely little cut-and-run camel hating left. America, the left wing wants you to live in fear of terrorism because we won't dedicate a mere 1,000,000 Americans and$1,000,000,000 a day to the cause of freedom. America, vote red! Red - the color of freedom, the color of love!

One Alex for every Akhmed

In an effort to draw attention away from the Alberto Gonzalels resignation, the administration will soon announce a new program to finally defeat terrorism in Iraq. Your loyal reporter only has a partial transcript of the new program, tentatively titled "One Alex for every Akhmed."

"... and based on the undeniable recent success of the surge, we have decided to end violence in Iraq once and for all. If 20,000 more troops can make Iraq as safe as an Indiana farm festival, a million more American volunteers can end violence indefinitely. Our new program, entitled One Alex for every Akhmed, will put an American volunteer in every Iraqi home. This cooperation between the free people of America and the free people of Iraq will guarantee continued love between our countries and further enable the Iraqi government to continue on their path of success. We used to say the man is the king of his castle, now we say the cooperation of our two great nations will be the king of your huts! Iraqi people, America has not forgotten nor forsaken you.

To our patriotic straight male citizens, if you believe in freedom and liberty, please show up at the nearest army recruitment office to receive your gun and your new family. If you speak Arabic, please let us know. I swear you will be sent to Iraq to join your new family, and not into a mysterious invisible prison somewhere underwater for potential terrorists..."

At this point, the transcript is lost, but I'm sure more details will be announced tomorrow.

Your humble reporter breaking the news before it's news.


All in

There is a line in an early Bob Dylan song, I think from a song called One To Many Mornings from his Freewheelin album, that goes, "There's a restless hungry feeling that don't mean noone no good...". That's what I feel in my life now, and that is what I have felt for some time, for some number of years maybe. I didn't feel it as much in Peace Corps until the end, but I have felt it fairly constantly otherwise. I don't know what it is, and I don't know how to get rid of it. To be quite honest, I'm not even sure it's bad. It's just not what I want to feel.

I'm moving to san francisco, that's where that came from. I'm moving in about 1 month. It just feels like it's time for me to try something else. I'm all in, no plan B on this one. Hopefully my job improves with new projects and I begin to see some sort of meaning in this little shared adventure we all live. I don't know what happens if I don't though. It's like one of my coworkers told another coworker, who of course told me, "he's never happy so it doesn't matter if he likes it or not" or something like that. He's right in a way too, and I don't know what to do about it. Keep running, maybe, even if you don't know from what. Most likely it's myself, and you can't ever run to far from that, and you can't really change who you are either. Not without a lot of effort, anyway, and not things that are you at the core. I don't think I really want to change those any how, which makes this all a bit stranger, perhaps a bit more existential or some other term, and ultimately, maybe I'm just bi-polar. Who knows.

I was taking a walk a bit ago to calm myself down after watching one heckuva good golf match and I got to thinking about some of my other travels. There was a situation down in Mexico that pops in my head from time to time, then flutters away, but always comes back at times like this. I was about 8 weeks into a 10 week trip, just backpacking around and taking some buses, hit the beach, etc. I was in a town called Zacatecas for a few days, an old silver town where they still make silver and sell it to wanderers and tourists and anyone else who will pay. The town is in the mountains, as all silver towns are I suppose, and I was staying in a hostel about 4 blocks up from the church. It was a nice town, where I met an old vietnam vet who kept getting me drunk on rum as he smoked something or other and told me stories. His wife used to be a squatter in seattle before that was trendy, and they were just winding through mexico themselves before heading back to their cottage in the oregan woods. He was probably crazy, and she was quiet and went to bed early so we could go out.

Anyway, he's not the guy I was talking about. The guy I met, the one who bobs and weaves into and out of my memory, was another man. We ended up in the same room in the hostel and had spoken a few times but nothing significant. One day, I'm reading what I think was a more or less true story by Hemingway where he is on an african safari. I was in the lounge in a chair, and he comes by drinking a beer and says, "Hemingway! I didn't think anyone read Hemingway anymore." I said I didn't know if other people did much, and I didn't a lot but I liked what I had read.

He gave me one of those weird looks and said it was his birthday. I wished him a happy birthday and asked if we were going out later to celebrate. He looked at his beer and said, "I used to be an alcoholic. I haven't had a drink in over 13 years. I think it's time for me to head back out." And he packed up and got ready to leave. As he was preparing to leave, I finished the book and offered it to him. He took it gladly and thanked me, and we sort of shared a moment. It was one of those moments when you wonder if it means anything, and think it has too at least for me, and then he disappears forever and you wonder about things. I don't know about him, but it must have meant something to me because I remember all these years later and I can still the look in his eyes as he walked out. I can't describe it, but I can still see it. Even more, I can still feel sometimes, mostly when I feel like this

When he said it was time for him to head out again, I pictured him just walking out of town and living in the mountains of mexico, walking in the desert, running from whatever it was made him that way. I still picture him there in Mexico, wandering and running, maybe reading here and there. It probably wasn't anything, but I felt like he had that restless feeling too. I feel like that's how he coped, he just took off and when he started to come back in, he took off again.

Coincidentally, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, which is arguably the greatest book for capturing that feeling and how the author dealt with it. Say what you want about that book creating an entire subculture of annoying hipsters reading poetry to jazz music, it does have some monumental writing in it. It's a little hit and miss sure, but so is life right and don't you think that is what Kerouac was trying to grab in that book anyway?

So to get back to the point at hand - I'm moving. I either won't be blogging much or i'll be blogging a lot, depending on how I feel. All in baby, all in.


Doing the right thing

One of the crazy wacky things about our world is how often doing the easy thing isn't the right thing. We follow tradition and we fall prey to inertia and do what we have been doing. Just because it's not the right thing doesn't it's bad, it just means we could do better. This is an interesting little story that didn't receive a lot of press and you might have missed. However, the theory, the idea is important because it defines how america interacts with the world and how we view development - is it for us or them?

Recently, the non-profit group CARE (website: care.org) made a decision to change how they were receiving food support from the US government. Basically, the american model injects american food and food surplus into the local economy where, once sold, provides money for the NGO to fund local programs. Keep in mind these programs exist in developing countries, which may not have food security because of drought, poor management, lack of education, etc. For a group like CARE, which has a focus on food security, it seems counter-intuitive to flood the local market with American surplus food in order to develop programs that alleviate reliance on foreign food. This requirement is part of the farm subsidy bill being debated in Congress (once they take a month long vacation).

The farm subsidy bill receives a lot of negative press because it subsidies american farmers. In America we still cling to the dream of a small farmer, competing in the global marketplace against cheap foreign rice and wheat imports. The reality is more complex. Think in your head what a small farm is, and ask yourself how many of those are left. I grew up in a farming community, and I don't know how many small farms are left, but my guess is not many. Years ago these small farms were bought up by larger farms, who are receiving subsidies to stay in business. We value the free market, but we coddle farmers. We are an enigma, black and white unless it's better to be red.

Both the republicans and democrats support this because the farm lobby is strong, and the american dream is stronger. But ask yourself this: Does any group of small time workers anywhere in America have a strong voice or lobby? No, almost by definition, a strong voice or lobby requires money, or you aren't strong.

I don't know if Care's new idea will work, some of the analysis I read implies they may have trouble raising as much money as they had previously. That's too bad. Review their website and read the white paper here - it's interesting. I can almost guarantee you will learn something. There are also links on the webpage to some analysis. If you are so inclined, do what I did and donate a little something to Care for doing what seems to be the right thing for the world, not just for us. If we have starving farmers here in America, and we do, we have other means and resources to address that issue without foreign aid playing a part. Let's address that issue, not pass another bad farming bill that continues to support what we have always supported beacause it's easy, because the remains of the American dream are strong. Read up on the farm bill and contact your legislatures. It's a complex issue, but an important one. It's another way America interacts with the world. Everyone has an opinion on the war, it's the obvious american hand in the world, but there are a myriad of other ways America can and should lead.

Support the right thing, not the easy thing.


Why Google rocks

On a bit of a whim, I just found out if you do a search in Google for humenguins, which is a made up word that I used in one of my blogs, it actually shows you my blog. Somewhere in a computer index is the word humenguin linked directly to my blog. I don't know if that's the greatest thing ever, the scariest thing ever, or just so random I can't really even fathom it. Probably the latter.

Regardless, it seems like quite a waste of space, even if the space is just a long number consisting of 1s and 0s and my part of the machine doesnt' take up more physical space than a penny.

Raising a robot

I just found out one of my best friends from college is quoted in a recent New York Times magazine on artificial intelligence. The article is long but can be viewed here, and it's quite interesting. My friend is Lijin Aryananda, and I've never really had someone I know quoted so extensively in anything important like the New York Times. Word on the alumni grapevine is she was angry with her portrayal and felt she was misquoted, but that's fame for you.

I point this out because I think one of the more paradigm shifts I have ever heard about is articulated in this article. Basically, when I typically think of a robot I think of a fully formed, thinking machine that does things, has superhuman strength, and will ultimately turn on humanity. It's just basic science that that is what will happen. As Jurassic Park showed (much better in the book than the movie), we can't possibly control all possibilities and ultimately, something will slip through that shouldn't have. Sort of like our president.

In this classic artificial intelligence (AI) scenario, we program robots everything through codes sequences that must be very long and complex, and we give robots certain rules they cannot break. Isaac Asimov had a list of 3 laws of robotics I think, including a robot cannot through action or inaction allow a human to be injured and some other theoretically good protection for us. This type of logic, built into an infinite number of coded sequences, should keep us safe and robots useful. As we all know from movies, short stories, and general reality, that won't work. In jurassic park, it had something to do with chaos theory. In other books, there are other ways the robots "reprogram" themselves. What to do? What to do?

If you look at life, fully functioning minds are generally dangerous, because if they desire, they remove obstacles and push their lives upon others. See most world leaders and other powerful people for signs of this. They aren't smarter, there is just a part of their brain that clicks with removing obstacles, even if they don't what to do once the obstacles are removed (although falling into paranoiac realms seems to be a common next step unfortunately). H0wever, children are generally harmless, and usually well raised children grow up to be normal, well adjusted, adults. The paradigm shift in AI that is so interesting was this, to develop child-like robots and see if they could learn. Basically, instead of programming a brain with so many sequential codes and rules for all sorts of situations, develop code for some basic situations and see if the robot can learn. This is how our mind develops. Can we recreate our own minds? And as importantly, if I had a robot child to raise, would it play well with my humenguin?

Well, it seems to be pretty early in the technology but so far we cannot recreate our own minds. We will at some point. Just like I believe we will at some point code full thinking robots for war and whatnot that will eventually either destroy us or live entirely separately from us, maybe on the moon because they won't need to breath and they can run and jump high and frolic on the moon, which might make an enemy robot race happy who knows.

I don't know enough to really comment on the facts around the article, but I wanted to say kudos to the clever paradigm shift and good luck developing cute child robots that learn. I figure developing an adaptable brain is much more interesting than a lot of code, which will be buggy anyway and probably require me to shake my human looking robot slave like an etch a sketch once a day to "refresh" it.

So for now, I say read the article and think about your own brain. Think about how complex and powerful our bodies actually are, and how amazing it is we work. Then think about recreating that! It's incredible! I say, "Good luck to the leaders of science!" and may the force be with you all.


Avoiding decisions

After spending most of last night debating whether or not to go to san fran or wait and maybe go to London, I took some time today to just blow off some steam. I watched a movie, finished my book, and surfed the internet. One mildly interesting thing I found somewhere talked about directors using the same actors in their most recent films, about the bond they shared. One of the people was Scorcese and DiCaprio. Then I thought about how earlier in their careers, Scorcese made a few movies with DeNiro. I would argue two of these, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, are classics and a third, Mean Streets, is very good. Anyway, then I got to thinking about other Scorcese movies and The Last Temptation of Christ popped into my head. I never saw this movie, so I'll be referring to the book.

Anyway, I remember a whole lot of negative press about the movie when it was released because it has an unorthodox view of the Christ mythology. Basically, Judas is often vilified for having sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver (quick aside, but I never got the purpose of 30 pieces of silver. There were 40 days in the flood, 12 disciples, some number of generations between I think abraham and Jesus, etc - 30 never comes up. It's like in science when a weird number arises, and it doesn't mean anything but sometimes you see a formula and it equates to 0, infinite, pi, or something else and you just believe it has to be correct, that the order of the universe is defined. I always believed the number 30 was made up in the Bible. I base that on nothing really, it just feels like it doesn't fit). I believe the Bible says Judas actually feels so much guilt he actually hangs himself. I asked my pastor when I was being confirmed whether Judas went to Heaven or Hell because without him, rather without Christ and the cross and dying "for us," there is no Christianity. My pastor said he chose hell. Very clean, very simple.

However, Kazantzakis, who wrote the novel Last Temptation sees it a bit differently. In the book, building up to the betrayal, Jesus and Judas are the most intimate of the disciples, the closest confidants. Jesus has chosen Judas to betray him because Judas is the strongest and most likely to actually follow through and do it. I suppose this is one of Kazantzakis major sins, although earlier in the novel Jesus was in love with Mary Magdeline but never does anything. The other major, very major, issue is that Jesus has sex in the book and bears children. That, as you might imagine, made a lot of christians very angry because without the crosswhat is catholicism? I think it's judeism. The problem is, even in the book, Jesus doesn't actually have sex or produce children.

What happens in the book is this (and this isn't a spoiler since you probably already sort of know the story. It's a great book, even though I am giving away the ending, and I highly recommend it): Jesus is on the cross, and it is hot and he passes out. This I believe happens in the bible, at least one of the gospels, because vinegar or something is placed under his nose to revive him and shortly after, he passes away. During the time he is passed out, Kazantzakis imagines another temptation. The Bible talks of a first temptation, when Jesus is alone in the desert or on a mountian and was tempted by the Devil. He resists temptations of power and such, casts off the devil, and has at that moment, for all intents and purpsoses, chosen his path. In the hallucination, he is not crucified. Instead, he saves himself. He frees himself off the burdon of the cross and our sins, ultimately living with Mary Magdelene and her sister (or cousin maybe), procreating with both of them!, and living what we would consider a fairly normal life and growing old. There is another child who always lives with them, who is an obvious representation of the devil. I would think this obvious representation of the devil (they speak of it's presence and how it never ages) and having lived with this jesus throughout his life would be sign enough that Kazantzakis doesn't think it would have been a good idea. At some point, the disciples come by where Jesus is living and they hate him. They hate him for leaving the cross and forsaking his destiny, which ultimately is their destiny and if you are so inclined, all of our destinies. Judas hates him for running away, for being the coward. Jesus, again, in this hallucination, wonders if he has done the right thing by following the devil, abondoning the cross, and living like us.

Ultimately, he is given the vinegar, wakes up on the cross and realizes he was strong enough to withstand the final temptation, and he dies. His soul goes to his father in heaven and the prophesy of the redeemer comes true. I never understood why people were so angry about the book and the movie. True, the Christ of Kazantzakis is more tortured than normal depictions of Jesus. He is unsure of what he should do, what his role is, what the world is looking for from him. Ultimately, he is portrayed as human, and doubts as we all doubt. But finally, this Jesus chooses sacrifice and condemns himself to death on the cross for us. I would think a realistic portrait of what he might have gone through to become our saviour would be powerful, relatable. But we like things clear and simple. If he was truly here as a man, why not portray him as such? Christ was the son of god, always understood what that meant, knew Judas would betray him and be punished, and now we can all live forever. That will be 15% off the top and no letting your mind drift down there unless you are married! Nature, His creation, be damned. It never made any sense to me.

Do you think people in London know the answer?


I have come to an intriguing point in my life, which I believe I mentioned in a recent blog. My current company, which I'm not particularly fond of, has offered to relocate me from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Although I am not truly engaged in the company, it's a good opportunity. Staying with the same company lowers my risk because I at least know the corporate issues. The move potentially gives me an opportunity to do more consulting, which they won't currently let me do for a variety of reasons. After 2 years at the company, I have not really gained much actual experience and according to my boss I am probably still 2 years away from being promoted.

However, I have another opportunity to possibly get a job offer in London. This would be a new company, a very large company, a new city, a new country, and work that I might not be particularly interested in as it is basically the same job I left 4 years ago. However, moving to London is another great opportunity, a once in a lifetime sort of thing, and I would probably manage people again, which is a career step I do not have at my current company. I would also have to wear suits to work, which I find a bit quaint and old fashioned. To pursue this job, I probably need to turn down San Francisco and if, after the interview process, I don't get a job offer I won't have anything because I already committed to leaving my company or moving to san fran at the end of September.

I'm in a bit of a pickle, and not sure where I'm going. I have been weighing the pros and cons of both, including risks, career development, corporate climates, and just interest in the jobs and lifestyles. I never had a strong desire to live in London, but I would love to be closer to Europe. However, it is farther from family and friends, even more so than San Fran I think. If not further, it is a larger trip.

I realized I have a very different view of where my current company is going than the current management team. The CEO said at a lunch the other day our director of development was doing an excellent job. Our last software was so bad sales wouldn't even demo it, and the latest release was delayed 1 month because of issues. I found out about the 1 month delay, and keep in mind it's a 50 person company which should facilitate communication, the day it was supposed to be released. That type of delay doesn't pop up, it is known. So the release came out within 4 days of the delayed timeline, and my boss sent a corporate email about how great it is and how great the team did and how great the software is. I have seen the software, it is not getting better. Anyway, I am going to ask him if I can run a project where I can blow off timelines, not communicate them, and still be congratulated and have everyone think I'm doing a great job. The problem is nobody in my company is accounatable for anything, which is odd because accountability is probably 1/4 of what we tell clients they need to build into their management framework.

Recently, I have been unloading all my projects, per my boss' orders, so I could work on our online training classes, which is a new product we are releasing. Basically, I am responsible for writing all the consulting methodology courses for the portal, even though I am not permitted to give them. We have a consulting team that is generally useless and "to busy" to be involved. I sent an email a few weeks back asking for input on a specific area beyond our 1 powerpoint. Our CEO said I could talk to him if i had questions on the presentation, 1 guys said we should brainstorm, and none of the other 4 people responded. To busy to be involved, fine. Anyway, I figured our largest client must have had to do this at some point so I called one of our contacts for advice or any information they had. It turns out they did a presentation on exactly this at our last conference, which I didn't attend because I was almost on paternity leave. All of the people I asked for advice did attend the conference, but nobody mentioned to check those presentations. Nobody mentioned anything really. I am only considering moving to San Fran because it's a lower risk option than finding a job anywhere else. Now that london could happen, San Fran is much less appealing. But it's still low risk, and appealing in that way.

The decision is open. I'll ask around on Monday and see what people say. I am scheduled to look for an apartment in sf next weekend, so this week is go-no go. Will I go? The more I consider it, the worse it seems...


Random wednesday thoughts

It's a random wednesday here, and before I settle into a good book and call it a night, I figured I would update this blog with some of the things that have happened recently.

The first is I started listening to a podcast by Bill Simmons, also known as the Sports Guy on ESPN Page 2. In my opinion, he is the funniest, possibly most insightful sports commentator writing right now. Part of the reason is he writes sports editorials, so he is entirely biased to his hometown Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox. However, he writes with a love of the game, all the games, and I think he's great. Anyway, he is the kind of pal we all want, knows the sports and the stats and has interesting ideas. So I started listening to his podcast and I thought, hmm, that's not what i thought he would sound like. It's interesting. I met someone who started with our company a while back and he is a great guy but he's about 5'5" and I remember thinking to myself, hmm, he seemed taller on his resume. I don't know if those are the same mind faults, but they seem the same to me.

The best line I have heard in a while, and for the life of me I can't figure out where I read it, was something like this: Seeing the two of them together was weird. It was sort of like meeting both Dorian Gray and the picture of Dorian Gray at the same time. You have to read the story by Oscar Wilde to get that, but I thought it was clever. You would think it was clever enough to make me remember what the reference was, but it wasn't. My memory for things like that has always been terrible, but I can figure things out well enough to keep myself employed. Anyway, Dorian Grey is the only Oscar Wilde I have ever read and although it's a bit overdone at time, I liked the story. I don't know that I liked it enough to pursue more Wilde, but maybe sometime. Reading a list of his best, wittiest remarks online is quite interesting. He seems like someone I should like if I made the effort.

I have this weird love/hate relationship with the Iraq war. Obviously, I don't love it but i have this horrible sinking feeling that if this somehow works, and I can't figure out how it can, but if it does then G W goes down as a great president. It's horrifying. The man is incompetent and, quite frankly, he has surrounded himself with paranoid, incompetent, egocentric, psychos and/or liars. But what if he gets lucky? I certainly want a stable, free Iraq. What if it works? How do I feel then? Would I have to admit the ends justify the means? No, probably not. That guy is still a jerk.

I decided today after more than a month of agonizing over it to move to San Francisco in about 2 months. it was a brutal decision, and I'm going to miss a lot of great people here in Philadelphia. but it just felt like it was time for me to do something. I am notoriously bad at making decisions. I agonized about peace corps for years, I agonized about leaving peace corps for months, I don't know if San Fran will make me happy but I have to give it a try. To many ghosts in Philly, to much stagnation. It's my own fault really, I'll admit that, but I need to try to kickstart myself somehow. Catalyst for change or something like that. Anyway, I was delaying a bit to see if I could work my way into a job in London, but my friend took to long to respond and I had to give notice on my apartment etc. 2 hours after I said yes to my company, he emailed me and said his company wanted to talk to me and would consider sponsoring me to work in london. That's why i agonize over decisions. I have lousy timing. My sister told me not to be to moral and do what I want (ie go to london if I want, and she is a better person than I am), so I'm going to agonize over what I should do and end up in San Fran because I'm afraid to piss people off and do what I want. Sometimes I hate myself. But I'll like a new city. What the hell, right? Right?

Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics and I love the move. I don't watch many sports anymore, not like I used to, but I love Garnett and hope he does well. Now, moving to the West Coast, maybe I can actually stay up late enough to watch the world series and NBA finals because they will end at 9 PM, not midnight. Go Tigers! Go Pistons! Go Lions (ahh, what's the point)...

About 1 week ago I wrote a blog about Harry Potter (I read it in about 14 hours the Saturday it came out), but I lost it. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it and maybe I'll get back to that blog at some point. Anyway, I would like to first off thank J. K. Rowling for sharing her world with me. I appreciate it. Secondly, I would like to state what is a great line from the end of the book, and probably the greatest line of the entire series. Harry is in some sort of imaginary place speaking with someone (vagueness in case anyone hasn't read it, which leads me to ask - why?). Anyway, Harry and this person converse and Harry asks something like, "Is this real? Or is this all in my head?" And the other person responds, "Of course this is all in your head, but why would that mean it isn't real." Something like that, I loaned my book out. Regardless, the actual line is quite clever and a comment i wish I had written. And you should all read the book. 12 million people can't be wrong. Well, yes they can but I can't...

I saw a documentary on groucho marx the other night. He was quite a character, and quite amusing. I enjoyed it, sounds like him and his brothers had quite the strange relationships with each other, but Duck Soup is always good for a laugh. I just started watching the Wire on Netflix and I'm hooked. Love it so far. I have also watched all 3 seasons of Little Britain, a british sketch show and let me tell you, if you like mildly offensive sketch comedy, this is brilliant! Highly recommended, 5 stars, 2 thumbs, the whole thing. It's fantastic. Maybe I should go to London...


Sand is infinite

A friend gave me another image of infinite: sand. Grains of sand certainly qualifies. How about the circle of life, the endless repetition that one generation passes on to another? True utopias nor distopias exist in reality, only the imaginations of the idealistic and the mad. too often, I feel people are both.

The Stranger talks about the hopeless cycle of life in that way, where we should seek only happiness because life is temporal. Maybe. Perhaps happiness is all we should seek, and if being alone in a strange city might make me happy, shouldn't I try it? the ocean is infinite, many great bodies of water are. But there is a key difference in the ocean - not only is it infinite, but it's repetitive. The waves actually add something that, to me, makes the ocean mesmerizing while the sand that supports it and awaits it coming misses. Grains of sand are infinite in scope. The ocean is infinite in magic. It contains great creatures, and rises and falls, and can be angry and attack, and it can be blue and beautiful and calm. Sometimes, it seems as lonely as you are. Other times, as full of life. The ocean is also the great mirror then as we can find in it what we look for, what we feel, maybe at some level, at a certain point in time, what we are. The ocean then represents living life, the ongoing cycle of it, and grains of sand the ultimate eternal nature of life, or death.

Does this mean the apple represents hope, or rather more accurately probably the eternal end of happiness? Does that bring us back to the struggle of the Stranger, that hopeless cycle of life, the repetitive burden of it? We can never be happy, but we should continue trying anyhow?

How else do things fit together? This isn't quite there...

Border security and wall around my life

It's pretty obvious to me our political system is broken. I'm not just talking about our president, but the congress as well. Nothing can happen. Some would argue nothing should happen, because government just prevents action. There is probably something to be said for that, but I'm not going to think about it now.

Right now, I'm concerned with the unofficial costs of the war that neither side are bringing up. This includes the long term ongoing costs of health care, especially for post traumatic stress, of our veterans. However, what about the costs to countries neighboring Iraq and their need to assume thousands of refugees? Think about how angry the immigration debate here is, and consider what it should be over there? Think about the long term effects to the effected countries (Iraq losing people and the countries forced to take them in). Ask yourself what our government is doing to support them? Neither political party is truly addressing this, and even if we pulled out tomorrow, there are residual costs, monetary and political, that are incalculable.

Neither party seems much interested in addressing this. The republicans don't really seem to care, and the democrats don't seem to be strong enough to stand up to the republicans. It's broken. The country, our country, needs to start over. Adding a 3rd political party won't help. It's larger than that. It's the entire psyche of America. I actually almost cried today in my car just thinking about it, all those lives. Whenever I get depressed about my life, I just feel stupid and insignificant because so many people have so many more problems than i do. But I think it's the powerlessness that really gets to me, because I don't know what to do. Sometimes it just feels like money and power steamroll everyone, and working toward change just proves how powerless I am. I am afraid of that feeling, and sometimes I think I just keep running from it.

Does that mean our political system is broken, or I am broken? I am afraid of being poor. I have never been poor, and I've never been rich but I'm afraid of that in a way too. My high school basketball coach once said, "Don't be afraid of success." It seemed a foolish thing to say to me then. It seems very profound to me now because now I understand it. Somehow, I can't imagine being anywhere other than the middle, and I'm not sure I want to be. Living in Honduras taught me a lot about who I am and how people who are poor struggle. They still laugh, they still enjoy their lives, but there is this quiet desperation of hopelessness that you can almost smell, you can definately feel it, that I never knew how to take. Do I owe them anything? Do I owe the world anything? The world doesn't owe me anything. Is it enough to donate money and move on? I feel like it's not. Is it worthwhile throwing myself into something, living in relative poverty, to fight a battle that cannot be won?

In the next 4 days I change my life. I'm not sure how yet, but I know i need to switch jobs or location, possibly both. I have an offer from my current company to move to San Francisco, which would keep my middle class and my life relatively easy. Hopefully in SF I would volunteer more and really get involved in something. But is that enough? Does it mean anything? If I move to DC and work for some NGO for human rights or against human trafficking, would I be happier?

I decided a few years back that happiness should be paramount to a person. It's my take on darwin I suppose. I think historically happiness has been through things, family, house, field, etc. For me, it is an interesting job and some financial flexibility. I realize those are things, but I generally don't get to caught up in having the best car, TV, clothes, etc. But I realize those are my choices, you can make your own. The issue I guess I need to resolve, in the next 4 days or the next year if i go to SF, is who am I really? What do I really want? How do I get there?

If i truly believe America is broken, shouldn't I work to fix it? Even if I know it can't be fixed, not in any significant way anyway. It's to big, to many rules, to much history. A violent revolution in America is infeasible, and small scale change is impractical, slow, and doomed to fail to the violence of money and greed. I truly believe that. Politicians, like most of us, watch out for their own. It's broken. Do I care? Where do I go next?


Infinite and pick up lines

In my opinion, it's true what they say that there is nothing sexier than a girl who understands infinite. A friend of mine sent me the following line, mentioning it was funny and something I should consider using: "you must be the square root of 2 because I feel irrational when I'm around you." That's pretty funny, so I figured you could top it by saying, "you must be pi because i want to be next to you forever" or something like that. The key to the second one is she has to be smart enough to realize I'm not talking about pie the food, but pi the number. I'm not saying let's be an apple crisp forever, that's just stupid and those aren't infinite. I'm a dork, what do you want from me.

So I was sort of giggling about these things during my commute the other day and I just started listing all the interesting things I could think of about infinite. For something that's so big, I really didn't have much but I did remember a comment I read in a story once by, I think, Borges: All animals are immortal except man, because they do not understand death. That's not exact, but it's the general idea. Anyway, I was looking for that quote in my book then online, and I found another one: There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite. This one is, according to this website, from The Avatars of the Tortoise, which I haven't read. But it's an interesting quote nonetheless.

Anyway, those are asides and not really where I was going with this, although I think an intelligent analysis of Borges comments on the infinite would be interesting. I was thinking about what other analogies or images we have of infinite. The first quote above basically says if you don't know death, you are immortal. That's very interesting, especially if you want to look into why so many cultures throughout time have had some type of religion and particularly a concept of some part of you living on in another world. Perhaps in our very nature is some desire to be connected to the infinite, and we develop that in our culture as religion. That's a complicated topic that I'm not going to get into here, but maybe another time. However, I will pose the following for you to think about, because I find it interesting. Religion, it could be argued, is some sort of ongoing collective cultural agreement so we can believe our lives will get better, even if it is another world. Let's steal from Marx so I sound smart and call this the Opium of the People argument. However, could it not also be argued that more intrinsically our brains are wired not to accept the temporal nature of our lives, and therefore cling to some connection the underlying universe which is infinite? In this argument, we all feel disconnected from each other, the world, the universe, eveything because we realize, at some, in a relatively near future, we will not be connected to it physically. We are temporal, but the energy around is not. Sure our bodies decompose into the earth and become beautiful roses or something, but that's not us, that's not our mind. Ultimately, most people do not accept that as sufficient. Is our mind seeking that connection through religion? That argument is different than the argument for a better life, it is seeking an eternal life. Those are, without doubt and without wandering to far off my path, not the same thing. I won't go into it. Like the famouse mathematician who said, I have a proof but it's too complicated for the margin so just take my word for it. In his case, we still believe his theory but we haven't actually proved it. Wish I could remember who that was, it's an intersting problem.

Babble babble babble. That's what that little aside was, pure babble babble. What I wanted to figure out, what i was thinking about that day in the car was this: what are the symbols of the infinite? Obviously, the mathematical sideways 8 is one. I think the apple is one, at least in judea-christian societies because it is the first fruit in the bible and, if you know your bible, is why we don't live forever and have knowledge, therefore, life sucks. That's the point of the bible by the way if you are to busy to read it. We ate of the tree of knowledge, we understood a few things, and now life sucks, but the new testament says we should try to be good anyway so we can get into heaven and have eternal life. Interesting. That's about it for that book. Anyway, I think the apple fits tightly into the christian concept of eternal life (because we were evicted from Eden we know life and will die, but can gain eternal life... without the apple, no death and no need for christianity. it might be interesting to note that without Judas, no crucifixion and no Jesus as saviour. they stole the same basic plot line 2 times in the same book in the same religion! and nobody cares. i can't be a christian just because of that).

Anyway, I think I have stated before the tomato is untrustworthy member of the fruit and veggie family (is it a fruit? is it a vegetable? Tomatos cannot, and I cannot state this clearly enough, be trusted with secrets!), but the infinite? I go with apple from the fruit family, without any option B. Other symbols include the ocean, the universe, death works, but then I couldn't think of anything. Star crossed lovers popped into my head, some sort of love that lasts forever, beyond death but I don't think that really works. That is a very short and depressing list for such an important issue. Thinkers, where are you?

There must be others, the concept of infinite should pass through everything we do. Hmm, I'll have to think about it again and let you know what I come up.


Stealing blog ideas and tagging myself

I have been trying to write a blog about our electoral system and why I think we need major overhaul, but I can't get it to make sense so I am stealing a blog idea from a friend. She was "tagged" and, instead of tagging others, just threw out the rules and her information. I'm copying her rules, which she copied from someone else, which I'm pasting because I'm lazy. And I agree, #1 isn't a rule but it's a good way to begin. Let's begin.

  1. All right, here are the rules.
  2. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  3. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  4. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  5. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
Here are my things:
  1. I don't like odd numbers unless they are factors of by 5. This means if I am watching TV or listening to the radio and the volume control has a number, it is on 26 or 28, but never 27. Even numbers just feel better, and don't even get me started on prime numbers. 88 feels especially nice and squishy, but it doesn't come up very often unfortunately. I don't know how anyone got married on 7/7/7 earlier this month, that number feels like a walking barefoot through a cactus patch. Then again, it is marriage...
  2. My favorite books are escapist (borges, marquez, tolkien), but my favorite movies are not (cool hand luke, taxi driver, casablanca). I don't know why this is, maybe because i use my imagination more with reading and enjoy the freedom, whereas with movies I don't buy into the movie unless it feels real. i don't know, I just realized this the other day and it sort of freaks me out.
  3. I don't believe in the american dream anymore. I don't want a house in the suburbs, I don't want to farm my land, and I don't want to compete to become richer than my neighbor. I think that competition between people and neighbors and cities and states and everything has consumed us and is destroying us. And we are pushing it on every country, and many are buying into it. It might be interesting to note and really consider how perhaps this is competitive nature is just our natural instincts coming out and it's actually darwinian, but that's too depressing for me to consider on this particular beautiful saturday afternoon. Shouldn't we be able to control that now for the good of all? I might drive across the country later this year, and my hope from that is to re-develop some sort of love of america and my fellow citizens.
  4. Although I strongly believe everyone has a right to their opinion, there are some opinions that I think would prevent us from being friends, and may even prevent me from acknowledging you if we passed each other on a street corner. As an example, I'm fine with your view on abortion because I think that is sufficiently complicated and gray. However, if you don't believe in legalizing gay marriage (or civil unions, I'm referring to the state recognized concept not the religious one), I don't think I could in good faith acknowledge you. If it doesn't effect you, and this doesn't doesn't, don't worry about it. I don't like the concept of 2 loud fat people sleeping together and birthing fat annoying children either, but that doesn't mean I believe I have a right to forbid it. The church is a private enterprise and has a right to forbid whatever they want in their buildings if they choose, but from a society standpoint, it should be legal. The only argument i have heard against this is basd on tradition and religion, and neither are valid. If you believe in tradition over modern reality, I guess you are amish or luddite and don't watch TV, radio, movies, and you won't read this either. That's not enough votes to stop this in an election or make a politician care. It's religious pandering on both sides who do not support this. My disgust also goes for not recognizing a clear separation of church and state. Somehow, I feel all those 3 issues are related. See number 4.
  5. My favorite food is mexican food, tortillas/beans/salsa/guacamole/etc, although pizza still comes in a close 2nd.
  6. I wish i could write like I used to, but i just don't feel it anymore. It used to be a great escape, now I generally just stare at my computer. I think that may have something to do with a larger life problem I am working through right now, and hope to have resolved in the next month.
  7. I'm shy and uncomfortable in big groups of people and parties, although I am generally ok in smaller groups (less than 2 people...). It took a lot of work, but I am finally fairly comfortable doing presentations and training sessions for work. I doubt I will ever get over it on a social level, though.
  8. If I could travel anywhere in the world right now, I would go to Machu Pichu. That place looks amazing. And I want to hike up there in a llama suit just because it would somehow feel more real. I also can't wait until the day when computers are smart enough so that the computer would know when you read llama suit in the last sentence and your computer would have made a llama sound and a llama smell would have come out of your speakers.

I don't really even know other people who blog, so I'm not tagging anyone else either. There is supposed to be some punishment for not doing that. Maybe I'll get run over by a gay marriage hating newlywed couple (who got married on July 7th of course) as they return back to their picket fence, dog, and 2.3 children in the suburbs. I'd probably deserve it too.


Probably lost

I am trying to teach myself a little more about probability. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because during my last trip to Vegas, my only trip to Vegas, I got hosed by ProblyNotU, the norse god of gambling who obviously hates me. Maybe it's because i was bored and figured this book might be interesting. Most likely it's probably because it is something I feel like I should understand, but don't really.

Anyway, I bought this book as part of my birthday present to myself (is that lame? not buying yourself a birthday present, but making part of it a book on probability?). After a bit of history of probability, they get to a point where they are talking about standard distribution, which makes sense since it is the standard after all, and they mentioned something about the standard deviation. If you had asked me to define the standard deviation before I was reading this, I would have said the smaller the standard deviation, the tighter the values around the mean. One standard deviation from the mean is approximately 32% (I think) of the values, so approx. 64% of the area under the standard bell curve is within 1 std dev of the mean.

However, and this is one of those interesting facts that really makes math interesting and makes me believe the universe might generally be annoyed with me for some reason and be generally entirely random, but maybe at some point it will love me and become orderly. The fact is this: on a standard bell curve, one standard deviation is the inflection point of the graph, meaning the point where the graph goes from convex to concave (or vice versa, depending if you are travelling up or down the graph. I can't remember which is which).

Now that is interesting. I guess if I had really thought about it, I might have figured that out, or just tossed out a "wouldn't it be interesting if the standard dev was related to the inflection point...". In my 2nd semester calculus in college, and stop me if you've heard this one, our professor used to say things like, "This is pretty straight forward, and you would figure this out if you were left on a desert island but we don't have time for that..." then he would put up some 8 blackboard proof showing the sky is blue because the arc of the curve under the water bubble in the sky reflects in such a way or some other crazy thing I would frankly not have figured out on a desert island. I think if I was left on a desert island, I would be the greatest coconut shooting basketball player in history, but that's another post. Anyway, his name was Prof. Mattock (Maddick, Matok, something like that), and he was great. I don't know if he is still teaching, but he should be. He was probably the 2nd best teacher I had in college.

Anyway, since I'm telling stories, I'm not sure how i got out of the introduction probability course without learning this. I didn't understand the entirity of the class, so maybe the inflection point/standard dev issue was mentioned between Chebyshev and Poisson distributions, I don't know. Anyway, it was one of those classes that wasn't required for graduation, but was required for almost every single major so everyone in the college had taken it, almost all of us from the same professor. The professor was a quirky little guy who had taught the class for a million years and liked to say things like, "If anyone comes up to you on the street and offers you a poisson distribution with a standard devition of 90%, run away!" He had a million examples like this, and the only thing i remember is that Poisson may have something to do with the odds of rare things happening to you that you don't want to happen (lightning strikes, things like that). It could probably work the other way (rare things happening to you that you do want to happen, like love), but he never talked about that. Glass is half full kind of guy I suppose, I can appreciate that. I think my strongest memory of the class is I took it with a bunch of friends, including upper classmen and one friend who took it pass/fail because everyone else was taking it. He only came to about 3 classes. He was sitting behind one class me making fun of people walking in, which is generally how he passed his time. People were filing in, and one classic nerd looking guy walks in with the periodic table of elements on his T-shirt. My friend starts laughing and points at him just as the teacher walks in (what are the odds?). So the teacher walks in, the class quiets down just as my friend continues pointing blurts out quite loudly because it had been loud a moment ago, "Look at the geek!" as he just keeps laughing and pointing and it's dead silent except for him and those of us near him laughing or trying not to laugh. Good times.

Anyway, the professor was quirky but I'm not sure how i got out of that class without understanding even that basic relationship. He was a good teacher too, but I think he passed away a few years back, which is sad.

Anyway, in general, at times like this, I'm happy I appreciate math and science because there is always more for me to learn and understand, and it generally fascinates me. However, sometimes I'm not really sure how I ever graduated. Hmmph.