My New Year’s Resolution

January 3rd, 2007

I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions, because I think they’re kind of dumb. In order to bypass the pointlessness of futile attempts at making special changes to your life in celebration of a largely arbitrary event, I’m changing the meanings of “Resolution” to “Reading List” and “New Year” to “As soon as I can get my hands on them” which leaves me with this–my list of books to read:

Why Choose This Book?, by Read Montague
The Emotion Machine, by Marvin Minsky
This Is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel Levitin
A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, by V. S. Ramachandran
The Geography of Thought, by Richard Nisbett
The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
The Mind’s I (2001), by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett
On Bullshit and On Truth, by Harry Frankfurt
Consilience, by Edward Wilson
Poetry, Language, Thought, by Martin Heidegger
Language in Thought and Action (5th edition), by S. I. Hayakawa
The Mother Tongue and Made in America, by Bill Bryson
How Language Works, by David Crystal
Empires of the World, by Nicholas Ostler
Moral Minds, by Marc Hauser
The Varieties of Scientific Experience, by Carl Sagan
Lots of stuff by Noam Chomsky

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Don Quixote, by Miguel Cervantes
Utopia, by Thomas More
The Epic of Gilgamesh, by some really old Sumerian guy
all the Harry Potter books, by J. K. Rowling

If you know any good fiction to add to this, tell me.

Man, if I had the money to burn, I would have walked out of Barnes & Noble this afternoon with every single nonfiction title on this list (the fiction titles are already on my bookshelf, I just haven’t read them yet). This is perhaps one reason why I don’t aspire to be super rich… because if I do get rich at some point, a week or two later, I’d be back to normal, except for the huge stack of books that would be sitting in my living room.

(Maybe I need to refamiliarize myself with the library…)

As it is, though, I managed to walk out of Barnes & Noble with just this list of books that I need to read, written on the back of a Jamba Juice receipt. (Thanks, Chrissy, the Caribbean Passion smoothie was awesome)

…which reminds me; I didn’t go to B&N to get a reading list (or even a book, for that matter), I had some other ulterior motive…

I’ll leave that for you to ponder on your own

Happy New Year!

Sometimes, I hate people

December 16th, 2006

Not all people, just stupid ones.

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged anything, but that’s because I only blog when there’s stuff that I think is worth saying, and I didn’t have much to say about much of anything for quite a while. Tonight, however, that all changed.

I went to Jerad’s to play Madden ‘07 so that we could practice and not get pwned (yes, I just used that) by everyone else when we play on Monday. When I left, there were weird shadows on the back window of my truck, and everything looked weird in the rear-view mirror. When I stopped at a light long enough to check, I noticed that there was a small hole in the back window of my campershell, which had basically disintegrated the whole window. When I got home and started looking for a BB or something that might have done the damage, the window started to actually fall apart.

Seriously, why do people do these things to me at precisely the times when I have no money whatsoever? I can’t afford to replace my campershell, or even part of it. I feel like I want to punch someone in the face, but we all know how effective that would be, even if I did know who was responsible.

ARRGH!

It’s so frustrating! Hopefully the police report I just filed will get my insurance to cover it. If not, then GEICO is going to hell. That I can promise you.

Woohoo!

November 15th, 2006

I called UC Merced today to see why I couldn’t get into the system with my application ID number, and they said that they’d check into it and call me back. So when I got out of German, I had a message on my phone that said, basically, “You won’t be able to get into the system until next week or so, because we haven’t finished entering data for the recent applicants. I have some good news, though: you’ve been admitted.”

I’ve only been out for a year, and I’m already being given a chance to go back. This is really exciting for me. I get to go and study something I really really enjoy, in a small college environment, with big university resources. And I get to do it in less than two months.

Holy cow. Is it really that soon?

Anyway, there are some tough decisions to make now. Do I live here and commute or do I live on campus? If I commute, it’s a long drive, about an hour each way that I could be using for other things (not to mention the cost of all that gas). However, I will be able to take care of my orthodontic problems more easily, and my parents want to be able to keep me in check for at least the first semester. If I live on campus (housing is guaranteed to all admitted students), I won’t have to commute, but I’ll also probably have to pare back my involvement in xrds. I need to keep from sequestering myself like I had a tendency to at Cal Poly, which means that if I live on campus, I probably need to shift a large part of my social life to that setting, rather than driving back and forth at all hours of the night on a regular basis, or spending a lot of time on the computer talking to people. I have great friendships here, and don’t want to just skip out on them, but I also need to do everything I can with my academic career. On the other hand, I will have another couple years (at least) at Merced…

I could use some advice on how to handle all this. Feel free to offer yours.

I’m not even sure what to think of this…

November 10th, 2006

So, I went to the orthodontist yesterday morning to see what can be done to fix my crossbite. It’s been affecting my jaw joints for the last two years, and has been getting worse little by little.

Well, he said that if something had been done before puberty, it would be really easy to fix, but since that point is long gone, my upper jaw is fused (that is, it’s no longer two separate bones–that’s what happens as you get older), and my lower jaw has grown funny to accommodate the crooked bite pattern.

Awesome.

So in order to fix it, he says I’d probably need surgery: I need to have my upper jaw separated so I can get an expander, and I probably need to have my lower jaw altered as well. This second part means I would have my jaw wired shut for six weeks.

Fun.

I really can’t even fathom the idea. I’m pretty sure I want to fix the problem, but that’s a lot of recovery time. On top of that, I’ll probably need braces for something like two and a half years.

I Hate Misleading Christian Apologetics.

November 3rd, 2006

Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for a Creator,” doesn’t accurately represent any science at all. None of the “experts” interviewed in the book are in the mainstream of science. All of them operate on the fringes, and their work has been heavily criticized.

It’s not criticized because it’s Christian, or because there’s some huge atheist conspiracy running rampant through science…it’s criticized because it quite simply has no merit. Strobel interviews a very unbalanced selection of scientists, and presents it as though their work is simply not appreciated for the implications it has, when in reality, the implications are meaningless because there are very serious flaws in the arguments themselves.

It really isn’t a wise course of action to uphold a hypothesis that is widely discredited, and think that it will solve all our theological difficulties. The message it communicates to the world is not that Christians are righteous, but that they are ignorant, deceitful, or both. It is quite possibly the worst witness we could have. It doesn’t reflect well on Christians as a whole when entire scientific fields repudiate a few of them for pushing an agenda that is essentially vapid, just to advance their particular brand of Christianity.

Furthermore, to ignore the consensus of scientists and instead embrace a theory that runs afoul of all the evidence we have is to deny the actual creation of God in favor of affirming only what we wish it to be. If we resort to praising the creator of a universe that exists only in our minds, we are only worshiping ourselves. If we wish to worship God as Creator, we need to know the universe as it is, and that understanding is precisely what mainstream science is actively and progressively seeking all the time.

“I’m never going to use this”

October 30th, 2006

How many times have I heard this before?

“Why do I have to learn [insert any school subject here]? I’m never going to have to use it!”

Honestly, so what? is the only reason you learn things so you can use them later? do you really have absolutely no interest in the subject matter at all, and are so disinterested that you can’t even be bothered to develop one?

Personally, I think that such an attitude is disgusting. Even if a subject is little more than mental gymnastics, why not dive into it? Studying something is never a waste of time. Human experience isn’t compartmentalized the way we tend to think it is. The things you learn in math help you understand the things you learn in English. The things you learn in English help you understand the things you learn in biology. The things you learn in biology help you understand the things you learn in music. The things you learn in music help you understand the things you learn in history. You get the idea.

“Yeah, right. How on earth do you think that works?”

It’s simple enough… The structure and syntax of math, and the complexity of notation for it relate very closely to the structure and syntax of language. Learning to manipulate symbols is the key to both. In english you learn about the development of the language, which is doubly valuable to biology: not only does it teach you the greek and latin roots of words that make all scientific language that much easier to understand, linguistic development very closely parallels the long-term evolution of living things. In biology, you learn about the structure of the ear, and the neural processes involved in perceiving sound. You also learn about the richness and diversity that can be achieved through progressive variation. In music, you learn not only the works themselves, but also the the social contexts of their composition. Music reflects culture, and helps to shape it. Understanding periods of music gives a lot of insight into cultures and social trends through history.

The beauty of the interconnections doesn’t end there. It is a complete set–everything is related to everything else, often in many different ways at the same time. I built my list on some of the connections that are hardest to see and appreciate, and you can probably fill in a lot of the rest yourself if you think about it a little.

Knowledge isn’t the means to some end goal. Every thing you learn, every connection you make is immeasurably valuable in and of itself.

“But Calculus is hard. I just don’t get it. It’s not worth it.”

Suck it up, and stick it out. Ask someone new to explain it. Chances are, your teacher/professor isn’t the only one you know that is familiar with the topic. A new perspective can put the information in a new light, so that what looked really difficult and useless suddenly becomes clear and essential.

“I don’t have time to learn all that stuff”

It doesn’t really take that much. Read books that you can learn things from. Talk to people about new topics. Ask questions. Look up the answers yourself, but don’t ever be satisfied.

Make connections, look at things differently. Don’t stop with going out and learning something new. Create and discover.

Relapse

October 30th, 2006

I so thought I was through with internet debates. I had successfully weaned myself from my original addiction, only to find myself sucked into defending science against reactionary theology once again.

Apologies for the epithets if you swing toward the reactionary side, but honestly, that’s what it is. Read the literature on a regular basis. It’s really not that hard to see where the evidence goes.

General revelation always trumps special revelation. It doesn’t matter how entrenched the special revelation is, if some verse in Job says that snow is kept in storehouses in the clouds, and there aren’t actually any storehouses in the clouds, then we can’t just keep saying that snow comes out of storehouses… we actually have to do the work to understand where snow actually comes from.

Don’t be lazy. Think for yourself.

Pain, Confusion, and Frustration

October 27th, 2006

Today, I got fillings… five of them, actually. For about 4 hours, I couldn’t feel my face, and I could only move it in a comically limited fashion. After that, I couldn’t stop feeling my face, because it hurt like hell. That lasted for another, oh, 6 hours or so. They still hurt when I chew things, and my jaw muscles hurt every time I open my mouth… I suppose that’s to be expected when your mouth has been forced wide open for an hour and a half.

I’m so confused by this crush situation… about a week ago, I thought I had it all figured out, and then things had to go and get complicated again. So now I am once again frozen in indecisive mode, just waiting for someone to thaw things out a little. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m too shy to say anything, either.

Also, my application to UC Merced is due tomorrow, and I still have to finish my essays. They’ll get done, but it’ll be stressful tomorrow afternoon.

So yeah, that’s where I am right now. And then I’ll be in bed.

Goodnight.

Follow-up and other stuff

October 17th, 2006

So, after some further research, polyphasic sleep is highly controversial, and there isn’t really a whole lot of information about it that doesn’t seem really goal-oriented. The term “polyphasic sleep” simply means more than two periods of sleep per day. What grabbed my attention, though, was the claim that it is possible to adjust your sleep pattern to something like 30 minutes every 4 hours or so without suffering the negative effects of sleep deprivation. That adds up to only 3 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Apparently, dividing sleep up into a lot of short naps is supposed to be more efficient, based partially on research that the recuperating power of naps exceeds what would be expected given their brevity.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there, however, some of which alleges that the few success stories you can find of people adopting polyphasic sleep schedules either are due to a self-reporting bias or do not really avoid all the cognitive problems generally associated with sleep deprivation. Furthermore, most of the accounts of famous historical personages working on a polyphasic schedule seem to be false, doubtful, misconstrued, or otherwise unreliable. With that in mind, I’m withholding judgment on the issue, and choosing not to actually research it firsthand.

As far as the four statements I made last night go, I don’t really have much else to say off the top of my head that is fit for this blog at this point, but it may be fit for more personal modes of communication.

In other news, I’ve been thinking about writing a book. That in itself isn’t really news–I’ve talked about writing a book on and off for a long time. The problem, however, has almost invariably been that I simply don’t create a large enough volume of material on any one topic to merit calling it a book. The solution, I think, is to just compile all the random musings I’ve had over the last who-knows-how-long and call it something like “Wanderings of a Restless Mind” or something similarly cheesy. The best thing about this approach is that it doesn’t require me to add a lot of fluff to the stuff I have, which tends to be rather dense (though I’d have to fluff it a little, because I’m sure most of it could stand to be edited into something a little more generally understandable). The worst thing about the approach is that it means I have to actually find all the stuff I’ve written (I’ve kept notebooks for the last year or so, but prior to that, everything was either loose-leaf notes, some kind of electronic document, or worse yet, an essay I wrote on some exam, and I don’t even know what I have access to, let alone how much of it still exists). All in all, I don’t know what the feasibility or marketability of this project would be, or the likelihood of it even happening, for that matter, but it’s fun to think about.

Time to do homework, I guess… maybe that will become an easier sentiment to act on in the future. Right now, it still looks like a whole lot of effort to pull my book out of my backpack and clear a space to work. We’ll see.

New, new, everything new.

October 16th, 2006

All of a sudden, everything is changing. It’s certainly exciting, in many respects, and occasionally a bit unnerving. Most of all, thought, it’s a lot all at once. Here’s a rundown:

My medication changed.

I will probably be getting braces.

I am entertaining the possibility that I could go to Merced (as in UC) as early as January.

I seem to have developed a crush, or at least the beginnings of one, and I don’t know what the hell to do about it.

So, yeah, chew on that. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed. (I’ve been really intrigued recently by the idea of polyphasic sleep schedules, but tonight really isn’t the night to hop on that train. I might explain what that means later, or you could look it up yourself.)