Archive Page 2

13
Jan
09

I’m Just Sayin’…

It’s that time of year again. We’re two weeks into January and the New Year’s Resolutions are now just frustrating reminders of our complete lack of self-discipline. (Which makes me wonder, why do we have this tradition anyway? Think about it- every year, to start off the year, we focus on our worst personal traits and concentrate on changing them, which only serves to make us focus on our worst personal traits, because how often do we ever really stop eating so many chocolate-chip cookies? Or get up at 5 every morning to go run 10 miles?)resolutions-calvinhobbes

It is also the time of year when we are done with vacation and heading back to the drudgery of our regular lives. Work, eat, sleep, drink, drink some more, pass out.  Why give ourselves the extra stress of trying to fight against our natural tendencies on top of that?

I know the idea is to “better yourself” and to “grow,” working towards some personal goal you’ve set for yourself.  But why do we even have this drive anyways? If someone is really dissatisfied with something, I mean really, truly dissatisfied, she’ll make the effort to change it, New Year’s Resolution or not.  Otherwise, we don’t really have the motivation and we’re just making more work for ourselves. And most of us make resolutions based on what we think we’re supposed to be like, or supposed to want, without taking into consideration who we really are as a person.

I didn’t even bother with a Resolution this year, because in the two weeks of the New Year, I’ve made fifty resolutions (with a lower-case “r”) and haven’t kept but a few of them. Granted, sometimes they were short-term resolutions like, “I’m getting drunk tonight!” or “I’m getting laid tonight!” or “I’m going to buy myself something nice today.” (I kept those kinds of resolutions.)  But I also made grander, long-term plans. Things like- “I will lose ten pounds this month,” and “I will be more realistic this year,” and “I am going to make time for all those little things,” and “I am going to be punctual,” and “I will love myself more.”

I’ve found it harder to keep on top of those.

Deep down inside, I liked the old way of doing things. You know you did too.  It was comfortable(-ish) and familiar.  At this point in my life, I know my own vices and I like them just fine.  So what if I tend to drink a glass of wine (or two) too many when I go out? It just means I had a better time.  So what if I tend to get anyplace at least fifteen minutes late?  That just means that I was having a lot of fun with whatever I was doing before.  So what if I’ve gained a little weight this past year? I love food, and that means I was having a lot of something I love.
And I think we secretly need to have something wrong with our lives. What else would we talk about in awkward social gatherings if we couldn’t complain about ourselves?

Fine, go ahead, make (and break) your resolutions. You were probably much better off as you were to begin with.  But don’t say I didn’t tell you it was a futile task.

So what were your New Year’s Resolutions? (It’s ok, you don’t have to admit if you haven’t kept them.) Did you go with the little things or the big things? Or did you do like me and just avoid the problem altogether?

I’m just sayin’…Old habits die hard.

10
Jan
09

Ponderings

If you could do anything you wanted for a day with no repercussions, what would you do?

09
Jan
09

The “No Unicorns” Religion

I really want to write about the New York Times article I just read on the atheist bus movement in London and now around the world.  I’ve been trying to think of something clever to say about it, like using the evidence of their organization around one man, Richard Dawkins (pastor?  prophet?), as proof that there is an Atheist religion.  But the first hit off my Google search for “atheist religion” led me to some British atheist’s blog and his very persuasive argument against the possibility of an atheist religion.  Apparently that would be akin to saying that if I don’t believe in unicorns, I must belong to the “No unicorns” religion.  Touche, Mr. Barnett.  I will forgo all attempts to accuse you of being religious.

I could talk instead about how the advertisements that these atheist groups are running in London self-defeatingly proclaim “There’s probably no god.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” rather than saying “There is no god” (emphases mine).  Dawkins, of course, would rather have it say the latter, but – and I’m not sure if I buy this – apparently advertisement regulations prohibit the ads from saying that there absolutely is no god, hence the “probably”.  Here’s something I can pick on.  Why bother selling a product that you can’t promise will work?  Pascal once made an argument for people like that  – commonly called agnostics (or, according to my philosophy professor, cautious atheists) – and its called Pascal’s Wager.  Wikipedia link here.  Pascal makes a reasonable argument for belief in God based on probability, essentially saying that no matter how improbable it is that God exists, it is still more rational to wager that God exists.  I’m sure the theologically-inclined could take issue with some of the suggestions implicit in the Wager, but the point is still made.  Nevertheless, I admire Richard Dawkins and company for standing up for their beliefs and attempting to stick it to the Man.  Or His shadow, anyway, since in their book the Man probably doesn’t exist.  Nor unicorns, for that matter.

08
Jan
09

Ode to Ramen

Just to share T.M.I. with you, I am laid up in bed this week with an unidentified illness- strep throat, or mono, or the flu or something.  And, as swallowing is excruciatingly painful, I have been ingesting mostly liquids (water, tea, jello mix). And Doritos. But mostly, my savior in this febrile time of aches has been…ta-da! Ramen Noodles!  Glorious, salty, preservative-full Ramen Noodles.

Ramen Noodles have also saved me a few times when I was on the brink of starvation, unable to afford anything more substantial on my paltry student’s income. So, with that thought in mind, I proceeded to write a small Ode to Ramen:
ramennoodles
Ramen, oh Ramen- I cannot just sip
I gobble you up by the pound, just oodles
Your sodium-rich broth is just the thing ere the snot from my nose doth drip
Never was there a better soup of noodles

Chicken, Shrimp, or Beef
It is all quite tasty
No matter the flavor
Spruce it up with a bok choy leaf
Five minutes makes the preparation quite hasty
And when it’s all made, one can share with one’s neighbor

And because I love them so much, I wanted to share with you some recipes that let you take the Ramen experience to a whole other level:

Pepper Curry Ramen
Spam Doodles (a great compliment to my SPAM recipes in a previous article)
Batter Fried Ramen

You can find these recipes and more at The Official Ramen Homepage and ramenlicious.com

08
Jan
09

Sesame Street: Causing A.D.D. 50 Million Children at a Time

I know I am about to step on a sacred cow for many out there.  Face it, Sesame Street played an integral part in our generation’s development.  How else would we have learned our letters, or the difference between near and far, and who can forget “Rubber duckie, you’re the one.  You make bath time lots of fun!”  Sesame Street was that home away from home for me and my peers, but little did we know we were being wired to fail horribly when we entered college and would have to sit through lectures 4 times longer and 839458345783489 times less interesting than an episode of Sesame Street.

I know you are thinking, “How, Victor? How could one of the greatest shows of all time have done this to me?”  I will tell you.  It was the completely unfocused manner in which they taught us everything we needed to know to succeed in the world.  Think about it.  First you learn that Big Bird is afraid of the dark, then all of a sudden the Count is counting cookies as Cookie Monster eats them, then Bert and Ernie are getting ready to go to sleep but Ernie isn’t tired so he starts counting sheep, then there is a big ass Q on the screen in psychedelic colors, then there is a video with penguins and music, then we finally get back to Big Bird and his irrational fear of the dark and with some help from his best friend Snuffeluffagus, or Snuffy as he is lovingly called by Bird, and finally there is a cartoon with a ball in a pinball machine that is teaching you how to count to 13.  After aaaaaaaaaaall of this, the theme starts playing slow and soft in the background and you hear, “Sesame Street was brought to you today by the letter D and the number 2″… neither of which were mentioned that day, but I guess they needed the publicity so they bought ad space on Sesame Street.  Now think back, where was the focus here? There wasn’t. No segment lasted longer than 2 or 3 minutes tops, with most of the lessons being a matter of seconds and having absolutely nothing to do with the segment before it.

This is how we are introduced to education, and we wonder why 50% of the kids in school are on drugs to keep them focused.  Shit, at least Barney had a continuous narrative throughout the show.  There was some direction to everything, you know.  Baby Bop lost her binky or something like that and the kids to had to find it, the kids made sure everybody cleaned up everywhere… then the kids and the big purple dinosaur professed their love for each other at the end of every show (I wonder if the guy who wrote “This Old Man” got royalties from the “Barney Song”. I hope at the least he cleared the sample). This post has got me nostalgic.  C is for cookie, its good enough for me. Bitch.

xoxo

-vˆ2

08
Jan
09

Bromance vs. Girlfriends: biology or society?

Re: Chester Cheetah’s comment on “Can’t we just be friends?”

Very smart people put a lot of time into studying the questions as to whether white people were really different than black people too. Just because the academic elite like to publish new and sensational ideas doesn’t give them status as absolute scientific fact. The amount of biology at stake here is MUCH less than people like to imagine when they want to maintain the idea that “that’s just the way things are.” Women are more emotional and lovey-dovey than men, and women form different kinds of relationships. I just spent an entire semester looking at the research in this area, and you know what my conclusion was- looking to biology to explain the kind of sex differences we want to explain is just a bunch of crock.

men-vs-women

The typical assignment of female nuturer/male strengthener is VERY socially based. Don’t even get me started on the androcentric interpretations that we’ve slapped onto other species in an effort to say that that paradigm is “natural” when a closer examination reveals a very different distribution of the roles.  That aside,in parent-child relationships the man is usually cast as the protector and provider while the woman is cast as the homemaker and nuturer. How does THAT translate to same-sex relationships? (“Hey Bro, I want to protect you, man. And make sure that you have, like, food on the table and stuff. Cool?” “Hey girlfriend! I am coming over to clean your room today! And do your dishes, and pat you on the head because you got a good grade, okay?”)

I’m not saying that men and women aren’t different at all. I’m just saying that we have expectations for the way they should behave (whether these are accurate expectations or not), and these expectations color the way we see male/female behavior; we consider as awkward or abnormal behavior that does not conform to our expectations. I think it is reasonable to believe, however, that these expectations we have are, in fact, largely based on a long social tradition and maintenance of the status quo. Call me a ball-buster, but that’s how I see it.

As far as the show itself goes- I wouldn’t be surprised to see some cattiness arising. I’ve known some really gossipy (straight) guys who talk more than girls! That being said, I don’t like watching cattiness, be it male or female, and I like “Rob and Big” as a good example of a healthy male relationship…but that has its problems too. Think, big, black sidekick…

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

07
Jan
09

Washington’s Bookie

Dice

Nowadays, the key to popularity in the media is to make strong, incendiary statements which generate raving support from one side and are either dismissed or viciously countered by the other side.  This is most true on the internet, where opinions seem to change even faster than the news and are supported by any number of different sources.  By being carefully discerning, one can read political commentary the reinforces all their previously held beliefs without subjecting themselves to any differing opinions.

This is especially true in the blogosphere.  Sites like HuffingtonPost.com, FreeRepublic.com, and NewsBusters.org thrive on loads of selectively biased contributors and readers to increase their web traffic.  Everyone is surrounded by those who share the same opinions and neither side is interested in reading what the other side has written.  As a result, political discourse in this country is at its most intense and its most immature.

Enter RealClearPolitics.com and, my personal favorite, FiveThirtyEight.com.  RCP is the behemoth in indepedent politics.  Its primary focus is on poll aggregation, thus giving a quantitative assessment of the most current American opinions.  It also provides its own content and links to posts from a variety of different political blogs.

FiveThirtyEight.com (the name comes from the number of eleectoral votes in Washington) also focuses on aggregate polling, but it strips away all the fat.  The site was founded in March 2008 by Nate Silver, a sabermetrician-turned-political-analyst.  Silver uses his statistical expertise culled from his experience as a baseball statistician and applies it to the political sphere.  Based on current polling data, he runs thousands of simulations to determine the probabilities of various outcomes.  In the recent presidential election, for example, Silver posted figures for the likelihood of Obama being elected, the Democrats winning a super-majority in the Senate, Obama being able to win the election if he lost key swing states, etc.

Silver, along with his blog partner Sean Quinn, regularly contributes posts outlining his methodology and keeps the political commentary to a minimum.  This approach mirrors PECOTA, a statistical algorithm developed by Silver that assigns an aggregate value to baseball players based on their stats.  While others might describe a player as having a great arm, a good eye at the plate, and an intrinsic leadership ability, Silver just sees the numbers.  Likewise, while others may talk about a candidate’s charisma and pedigree, Silver talks numbers.  If you’re in any way interested in quantitative analysis, FiveThirtyEight.com is a must-read site.




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