Saturday, December 6, 2008
Truth be told, I'm not very good when it comes to asking women out on dates. Actually, I'm not great at reading social signals, in general, which leads to me being rather ineffective when talking to women. As a result, I don't date much. It's not unusual for me to go five years between girlfriends. I just don't think to ask women out very often since the reward vs. attempt ratio is so low. But, lately, I've been really looking for someone to ask out on a date (looking, not asking, being the operative word).
When I met Ex, I didn't ask her out the first time we met; we met at a laundromat. I might never have seen her again. If it hadn't been for some luck, and me going back to the laundromat at the exact same time on the exact same day of the week for the next MONTH, I would have never been able to ask her out. We dated for almost a year. Ex claimed that she liked the fact that I waited until our second encounter to ask her out, but I still think it was a stupid thing to do.
And yet I continue to do it! I hate asking women out on a first meeting. It just seems too aggressive. And I'd like to know a girl a little bit before I ask them to spend time with me. Apparently, the accepted custom nowadays is that you ask a girl out for coffee or, at the most, lunch. But I'd like to sweep a girl off her feet, not interview her to help me run a non-profit organization!
Perhaps I'm setting my personal standards too high. After all, with my financial situation I can't afford to sweep anyone off their feet. Although, if the economy continues to decline, sweeping a girl off her feet will only require buying her dinner items which AREN'T on the Dollar Menu!
My friend, Osterberg, is of the mind that a first date should always be a sedate affair because you don't want to set the bar too high in the beginning of a relationship. Perhaps he's right, although I always put more pressure on myself to maintain the bar than any girl I've ever dated has. And the relationships, like my relationship with Ex, likely suffered as a result of establishing some high expectation that I could never fulfill to my own satisfaction.
I think I'm starting to see why I needed to get the lightsaber!
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
It always does... Reality manages to creep itself back into everything I ever attempt to do. There's no way around it. Life just simply NEVER goes according to plan. It's such a pain in the ass!
My Financial Experiment tanked. A couple weeks ago I was all set to double my initial investment, and then some. If things had gone according to plan, I would already have over $3000, possibly closing in on $4000. Well, as I already said, nothing ever goes according to the plan. Instead, my investment dropped back down to $1000. That's not a big deal, you say. At least you didn't lose your initial investment. True, except I was counting on having at least $3000 by now so that I could take out my initial $1000 and have some money to live on (and still leave money in my experiment to grow and take out as needed) while I wait for my next batch of financial aid money to roll in sometime in February. Now, I'm forced to take out the whole $1000 so that I have money to live on, which will not, by itself, stretch until February.
That's not the only bad news. I am not going to pass College Algebra. It isn't possible. Perhaps if I had bothered to really do the homework diligently, and ask for assistance from my friends in class, I could have done it. But, that ship has passed. And an F on a transcript really fucks up your GPA. Little known fact: Do you know that's why they call it an F? It helps to reinforce the idea of just how truly FUCKED you are! Now, my recourse is to either take the class over again (in which case I would need an A in order to balance out the F so I could get a C) or take another math course (possibly Statistics) in which I would still need to make an A. Also, I have a few Ds on my transcript which will not transfer over to State (you need to have a C or better in a class for it to transfer), so you might already see where this is going.
Yep... It looks like I'm going to have to spend an extra semester at community college before I can apply and get accepted to NC State. Granted, it isn't the end of the world, by any means. After all, I waited 13 years to get my ass back to school. What's an extra semester in the scheme of things? Still, it does annoy me a bit. I'd like for things to stick to the plan once in awhile. It would make life so much easier.
At least with regard to the grades, I can't blame anyone but myself. I knew going into the class that math isn't an easy subject for me. It isn't like English or Psychology which I have a natural talent for; I have to actually do some work to get by in a math class. I chose not to do it. Sure, my old Nemesis, the calculator, didn't make things easier, but if I had done the homework everyday I would have eventually gotten the hang of it. It just isn't going to work to try and pawn this failure off on someone or something else.
You know, in the past, it's always been so much easier for me to blame my problems on things other than my own choices. I would say and think things like "it's because I was abused", or "nobody ever helps me", or "people just don't understand". Even if I did accept blame, it was a value judgement on me, like "I failed because I'm a bad person", or "I'm just no good at this". None of these ideas ever really helped me identify the real problem and come up with a solution. These rationales just made me feel worse about myself. Either I was a bad person, a born failure, or I was helpless and hopeless.
I'm not sure what's changed, but I don't see myself or my problems like that anymore. Maybe I don't want to see them that way anymore. Now, I can see that failing at something doesn't have to be about me as a person. Instead, falling short of expectations can be the result of poor choices. I can learn to make better choices. I can clearly identify what events led me to this point and I can say "this worked" or "this didn't work" and I can adjust my behavior to compensate.
I think I understand now why I haven't been feeling bad about this realization, and why I haven't been beating myself up over the bad grade. It feels empowering to look at the world in an objective way and, rather than personalizing the mistakes, being able to see a better course of action in front of me. I guess this is the way that people with a healthy level of self-esteem must react to setbacks.
Have fun, and keep living life... Or some approximation thereof!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
It should come as no surprise, then, that I usually find myself keeping my mouth shut around dinner every year. My uncle tries to be peaceful, and so do I; his girlfriend acts as a pleasant referee, typically taking my side, if not always on the issues, at least in the understanding that my uncle's way isn't typically the only way.
This year I had to sit through a lecture about how Chris, my friend from algebra class, and I didn't do a thorough enough job when we replaced the spark plugs on my car (I didn't even mention to him about the oil in the cylinders, or the cross threaded plug). My uncle can't even commend me for taking initiative on my car, something he has chronically lectured me about for the last dozen years whenever I am forced to run to him for help when my car dies on the side of the road. But that wasn't the worst part. No, I had to sit through a lecture about how Obama is the Antichrist, and how my uncle can't believe that so many people were brainwashed into voting for a black, one term senator with "no experience"! He asked if I had voted for Obama, to which I replied, "Of course! I even contributed $250 to his campaign, and got a campaign t-shirt!" I went on to inform him that Lincoln was a one term Illinois senator before becoming President, and look how he turned out! I'll save you from my uncle's decidedly non-PC response, but when I've said that I'm not the most racially sensitive person in the world, it would be fair to say that my uncle makes me seem like one time NAACP President Kweisi Mfume (I've ALWAYS loved that guy's name, for some reason).
One thing we don't do for Thanksgiving is announce what we're thankful for this year. Chances are good we'd be thankful for things which were diametrically opposed, anyway. But, as I've listened to NPR and watched news clips online, I've been barraged by messages of thanks for everything from having a job, to having a family, to having legs! That last one came from a little girl who was skating at Rockefeller Center in New York.
My grandmother is always encouraging me to be more thankful for things. She says that it helps you to see what you have instead of fretting over the things that you don't. So, aside from having an opportunity to go to college, having a roof over my head, food in my stomach (most of the time), a car that gets me where I need to go (most of the time), and medications which keep me from attempting suicide every other Thursday, what do I have to be thankful for? I don't know... But I guess having legs seems like a good place to start!
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
In case you're curious, I bought the bright orange one at the top left of the picture. No, it didn't taste like orange, although I did notice, after eating half the container in one sitting (it was a one pound container, by the way!), that I began to experience a slight placebo effect that made me start to THINK that there was orange flavoring in the frosting. Perhaps my mind was trying to convince me that eating half a pound of highly sweetened fat in one sitting might actually be somewhat less unhealthy for me than logic would require. Well, at least for 30 seconds I was convinced!
I've mentioned before that part of being a Lifer requires you to live your live with enthusiasm, to make even the small moments enjoyable for what they are, and to not just sit still and be oblivious while the rest of the world goes on around you. So, why then does being a Lifer sometimes require us to do things that we KNOW are totally unhealthy for us? Let's face it, at 5'7" and 200+ pounds I didn't really NEED that cake frosting. But something inside of me COMPELLED me to the frosting! I had to experience the childlike satisfaction of eating something too sweet and too pretty for my own good. I mean, I could have bought chocolate cake frosting for half the price of the orange, and it would have tasted like something besides sugar. No, I wanted something that took me back to childhood birthday parties that I never had, with neon colored piles of kiddy jet fuel, otherwise known as cake. Except, now I don't need the damn cake. Actually I never needed the cake. Let's get something straight... Cake is nothing more than a vehicle for frosting! Why waste $12 on a cake when all I REALLY wanted was the $4 of frosting?
But back to my question. Why do we sometimes need to experience things which aren't good for us, and which we know aren't good for us, in order to experience life to the fullest? Maybe it has something to do with testing boundaries. Sure, we can all drive under 55 MPH and get safely where we are going, but eventually we just have to haul ass and see if we can get our cars up to 80 (or more) simply to prove to ourselves that we can. Granted, we may end up having to deal with consequences of breaking accepted boundaries. But even if we don't have to pay consequences, breaking those boundaries teaches us something about ourselves and the world around us. Breaking boundaries allows us to see things from a new perspective -- instead of always being on the inside looking out we get to be on the outside looking in. Breaking boundaries allows us to learn for ourselves whether or not the accepted wisdom for how we should live our lives is truly a good fit for us, or if we should try to push through and remake the map to fit our own needs and expectations.
I'm not recommending you go out and start hunting people as sport. That's probably one of the few boundaries that needs to stay in place for a reason. But, short of that, go out and find a boundary to test and push through it. However, while you do it, think about why the boundary exists: does it make us safer, does it make our relationships better, does it keep life flowing smoothly? Then, while you are breaking the boundary think about how you feel, and how does what you're doing make others feel, if applicable. Then, when you're done, take some time to think about what you learned, if anything. Do you understand better why the boundary exists, or should we all start to rethink our need for it?
So, what did I learn from eating $4 of neon orange cake frosting? Well, I learned that people are probably correct in saying that you should avoid eating out of boredom or to satisy some emotional need. I learned that, while the frosting did fill me with a temporary comfort, a momentary vacation to a time and place that never really existed (though I wish it had), it didn't really give me anything permanent; it didn't satisfy the overarching need. Instead of eating the frosting, I would have probably been better served calling a friend, or playing a game, or going for a walk. The frosting provided a temporary high, which is always followed by a requisite low, where human contact, intellectual stimulation, or physical activity would have produced the same (or better) high with none of the guilt associated with wasting money or not looking out for my health.
There's always a lesson to be learned in life if you are just mindful enough to stop and pay attention to it.
Have fun and keep living life... But don't forget to test a boundary every now and then!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
By the way, I wanted to share my precious with you! When I got home from school last Thursday night, my lightsaber was waiting on my doorstep! It is a working (okay, it doesn't slice people in half, but you have make compromises in life sometimes!) replica of Obi Wan Kenobi's lightsaber from Revenge of the Sith. I've spent a great deal of time practicing my saber twirling techniques with it. There are a few videos online with instruction for saber spinning that I have used for the basics, but I've strung a few of the moves together to form my own little battle move that I like. It's hard to explain, and since I don't have a way of shooting video I can't show you, not that I would, really. The last thing I need is to be the next "Lightsaber Kid". My self-esteem is already in repair, as it is! It would be nice if I could find a few other people with lightsabers in town who would like to start up a club, or something. There used to be a Jedi Club in Raleigh, but their website doesn't seem to have had any visitors in over a year, so I'm guessing they don't exist any longer.
My financial experiment is in great pain as of today! I should have about $2500 right now, instead it is hanging at around $1200. A couple of the stocks I chose tanked severely, for no good reason. Each of the companies had press releases showing that good things were happening to their business and then the next few days their stock value dropped like the Republicans numbers in the the US Senate! I'm not real happy about it, but I'm committed to holding onto those stocks until they go back up in value, and I'm fairly confident that they will. It's just a matter of how long it will take for that to happen!
I just got back from Pittsboro, where the NC Zen Center is located. My Humanities 220 class had a field trip there. It was a fascinating place. It is a small facility tucked back into the woods. We enjoyed a small lecture from the attending Master before engaging in a brief sitting, then a led walk, and a chant. I enjoy meditating. I had never really done it before taking this course. The professors hold a weekly meditation on Thursdays after school that I have been attending for the last month or so. It is cool to be aware of my thoughts and to actively try to clear my mind. According to the Master, the ultimate goal of meditation is allow yourself to lose your sense of self, at least temporarily, and be mindful of the moment. I can manage to do that for a few seconds at a time, but otherwise my mind is a seemingly neverending jumble of random thoughts. Maybe with time I'll be able to focus my thoughts a little better. Still, it is nice to be able to get away from the problems of the world, if only for a few seconds at a time.
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
This really pisses me off! I suppose I expected that North Carolina had come farther than it really has with regard to race. Don't get me wrong: I'm no paragon of racial equality. I still get nervous if I'm surrounded by blacks on a Saturday night at Waffle House. And I'm still prone to call a black person "nigger" under my breath if they cut me off in traffic or come to a stoplight with their car stereo blasting so loud that MY car shakes.
Barack Obama, though, is so much greater than that. He exemplifies the very best that America has to offer, regardless of race or gender. Obama inspires our brightest angels rather than appealing to our darkest demons. He makes people want to be their best. This is what I've been wanting out of a leader my entire life. But now that we finally have that, I can't enjoy it fully thanks to all the damn rednecks!
I found out that my friends from algebra class voted for McCain. That's not what bothered me. The fact that they used words like terrorist and Muslim to describe Barack Obama, and claimed that he would work against Israel is what bothered me. I expected better of them. This sort of thing makes them seem less intelligent and less informed than I would have thought. I know it is elitist of me to say this, but I guess I expect better of anyone who is going to college. Still, they are both freshman, so perhaps they will learn with time, but I somehow doubt it.
I've never been more proud of America than I am now that Obama is our President-elect, but I'm not nearly as proud of America as I would like to be. Until we figure out a way to exorcise ourselves of those for whom racial stereotypes of ALL varieties are borne, I fear that we will always be held back as a society. We are capable of so much more than what history has given witness. At least, that's what I'd like to think.
Have fun, and keep living life... It's getting better all the time!
Monday, November 3, 2008
GO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 4th!
And while I would certainly prefer that you vote for Obama, just get your ass to the polls and do your civic duty! Don't pretend that you give a damn about America if you're just going to sit at home and masturbate on Election Day, pulling on your own lever instead of the one that will actually communicate your choice for the nation!
In the mean time... Here's a LOL Cat:
Saturday, November 1, 2008
On the bright side, I finally got around to doing my Abnormal Psych paper on the safety and efficacy of SSRI-based antidepressants. I made a 90 on it, an A, even with the 10 point deduction for it being over a week late. I also made an 88, a B, on my last psych test despite not reading the book!
I wish I had a working TV. I'm afraid of missing the election results this Tuesday night. Hopefully, I'll be able to find live video coverage online somewhere. I'm still all a tizzy about the prospect that North Carolina may go blue this time. The Real Clear Politics average right now is Obama by 2.5, with poll data ranging from a tie to as much as a 6 point lead for Obama.
I don't talk alot about my grandmother, but I was just thinking about things she used to do for me when I wasn't feeling well as a kid. I remember the familiar smells of Vicks Vaporub and Resinol that permeated sick days in her home. If you couldn't be cured by one, the other would never be far away. Toothaches were held at bay with the pungent, acidic, and somewhat alcoholic taste of Anbesol and the feel of a hot, baked in the oven, wash cloth pressed against my cheek. Spells of vomiting were always met with sips of Coke and Captain's Wafers. I miss Captain's Wafers. It's hard to find them in stores these days. There's something very comforting about those old home remedies that just gets lost in today's "there's a pill for that" mentality to sickness. Maybe I don't want to get better in six hours by taking Cure-Tex Pharmaceuticals "Healz-All Gel Capsules, Now in Minty Green Flavor". Maybe I'd like to ride out the cold for just a little while longer with a salve, a Coke, a puke bucket, and a pile of warm wash cloths. Screw you modern health care system!
One good thing about colds, though, is you just don't want to eat a whole lot. Food doesn't smell or taste as good when you're congested, and swallowing can be a real chore when your throat seems so swollen that you think someone must have installed a rusty sliding door that food has to open and close in order to go down. At any rate, I can now fit into a pair of 36" pants I couldn't button before.
I was trying to come up with some nifty lesson to all this, but I don't guess life ALWAYS has to have a point to it. Although, if I had to pick one thing that I've learned from this experience it would be that I find it annoying how completely out of touch I am with my body until something goes wrong with it. But, then, that's how I am with my car, and it's still alive... sort of.
Have fun, and keep living life... And bring me some more Kleenex while you're at it!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
I chose to early vote today at a One Stop Voting location here in Raleigh. It was at the Pullen Arts Center and for some reason I was in a very "look at the ground and the sky" sort of mood today. It was a little gray all day, so I really liked the flat uniform lighting that everything had. I like taking pictures on gray days because you don't have to worry about compensating for shadows or harsh reflections. This photo seems to need no explanation about what it is.
I'm not exactly sure what it was that caught my attention about this large handicapped parking space. Something about the natural lighting at sunset made the blue paint take on an almost electric quality, even though it was constantly interrupted by cracks and blotches of oil. I started to ponder whether or not the badly weathered state of the area caused the parking space itself to be handicapped irrespective of its legal designation. Plus, I liked the juxtaposition of the brilliant blue, a reminder of how new it once was, with the deep pits and cracks of age.
And, finally, I end my day at the Waffle House, as is often my way, saddled up to the counter, finishing my meal off with a glass of sweet iced tea and a chocolate chip waffle as the blog of the days events scratches itself into my small notebook from the tip of my ball point pen.
Have fun, and keep living life...but don't forget to stop and look at it from time to time!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Anyway, I'm not the only one who has seemed obsessed over things lately. The economic crisis has people obsessed over their falling home values and collapsing stock portfolios; members of the world governments are obsessed about avoiding a global recession or, God help us, a global depression. Republicans are obsessed with their fear and hatred that a black democrat will likely become President of the United States. And Democrats are obsessed that their dream of winning the Presidency may once again be stripped away at the last moment by unscrupulous election shenanigans.
Pardon me for expressing a perhaps exaggerated sense of concern, but it feels like the US, if not the entire planet, is sitting on a powder keg right now. Everyone is stuck on a psychological carousel thinking about the same concerns, real or imagined, over and over without end. We're trapped in a broken groove of a scratched LP, listening to Huey Lewis and the News' song, "If This is It", but instead of the lyric, "If this is it, please let me know" all we keep hearing is "This is It. This is It. This is It." You could be forgiven for thinking the rumors about the Mayans were right and that the world is coming to an end in a few years.
I don't want to be mistaken for one of those Chicken Little "The sky is falling!" types. I'm really not, even though I've long dreamt of being alive at the end of the world just so I could see how it all ends... and maybe rub it in the faces of the evangelical Christians when it turns out Jesus isn't actually involved in the end of the world but instead it is brought about merely by the folly of mankind.
The thing is, obsession is rarely healthy. Unless you are obsessed with finding a cure for cancer it is probably best to be mindful of your thoughts and keep them moderated as much as you reasonably can. As someone who has struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I can tell you first hand how destructive it is to your well-being and your personal relationships. One of the big things that ruined my relationship with the girl I planned to marry was my obsession with money. I often felt as though I had nothing to offer her because I couldn't afford to take her everywhere and buy her the things I wanted to buy for her. She had money and a decent paying job, but I could barely support myself financially. So rather than focus on things that I COULD do for her and give to her I obsessed over the things I COULDN'T do instead. It revealed my lack of self-esteem and crippled me emotionally. It's no wonder she chose to find a guy who wasn't hung up on his supposed shortcomings.
Being stuck on a few thoughts incessantly blinds you from the really important things in life, like family, friends, personal hobbies, and all the multitude of things that enrich human life. So next time you catch yourself thinking the same thoughts over and over, STOP, take a breath, let it out slowly and say, in the words of Phil Collins, "I Don't Care No More!"
Have fun, and keep living life... And get ready for a wild ride!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
While trying to do a little research for this post I came across a web page for the book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, by Julie Norem, Ph.D. On the web page for the book there is a description of what the author refers to as "defensive pessimism". According to Dr. Norem, defensive pessimism is sort of a learned coping mechanism where people will think of all the negative things which could possibly happen so that, if the bottom falls out of their plans, they don't get overly anxious about the outcome. According to the little quiz on the website, I qualify as a defensive pessimist, however I'd have to say that for every situation that it helps me cope with, there is another situation where it ends up getting in my way.
For negativity to be more effective than ineffective you have to pick and choose when to use it. It can't be a broad spectrum tactic because, as I eluded to earlier, negativity pushes people away. People don't want to hang around someone who essentially belittles their favorite things. People don't want to be around someone who can't immediately identify where they want to go hang out without giving an extensive list of where they don't want to hang out. And they don't want to have a romantic relationship with someone who is always expecting the worst, and broadcasting those expectations, out of every situation.
This loosely relates to why Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination in early summer. I'm not saying she was inherently negative... that's for more experienced political analysts to judge. However, negative people tend to be very self-centered people. After all, their worries are not about "you" they are about "me". They don't have time to care about what will happen to you, they only have concern for what will happen to themselves. Some will disagree with this assessment, I'm sure, but I've always believed that Hillary Clinton lost because she preferred the words "I" and "Me" where Barack Obama preferred the use of "You" and "We". Her speeches were always filled with "I've done this, I've worked for that, Vote for Me and I'll do this for You." In this context, You is a positive, because people like to hear about themselves, and I or Me are negatives because the speaker is spending more time talking about themselves. So, as Obama once said in a debate, Hillary Clinton was "likable enough", but just not.
So, if you're looking for ways to attract or maintain more friendships and relationships it may serve you well to watch your language. Who knows, it might even make you President one day.
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
I meant to post something on Sunday, but, well, I was feeling decidedly anti-social. Actually, that may explain why I didn't post anything this week perfectly. I've been fairly depressed lately because of my money situation. That is to say, I have no money situation, because I have no money with which to have a situation at all! I don't think I ever mentioned that I lost my job about a month before school started this semester. I had been working for Clear Channel in Raleigh for TEN YEARS when I was fired (Clear Channel owns a large percentage of the radio and TV broadcasters around the US and a growing number in Europe). To be honest, I should have left the job around 5 years ago, because it wasn't challenging, fun, or at all redeeming in any way. I was working overnights, by myself, and the schedule helped to isolate me from people. I only continued to work there for a paycheck and insurance, because medications can be pretty expensive. By the way, if you have a Costco nearby, get your prescriptions filled there. They are SUPER CHEAP! Instead of paying $275 a month for drugs (now that I have no insurance), Costco only charges me $90 a month!
So, anyway, I've been desperately waiting, longing, dreaming for my financial aid money to get sent to me. I was expecting it to arrive the last week in September, but due to a holdup in paperwork (Okay, I forgot to fax an enlarged copy of my driver's license to the bank for my records) the loan money didn't get disbursed in time for the first checks to be sent out. Now, I'm hoping that the money will be sent out on October 10th, because I've been living off of fish sticks and Lean Pockets for a week. That's a step up from the Oodles of Noodles and beef stew diet from the previous week.
Monday: I didn't get around to posting because I intended to work on a paper that I needed to turn in Thursday. I didn't do it, choosing instead to spend my free time surfing the Internet. Then, I had to volunteer at dance classes, so by the time I got home I had time to download Countdown with Keith Olbermann to my iPhone, watch it, and go to sleep.
Tuesday: I got my World Civilizations test back. I should know by now that if I ever think a test was easy, I failed! Well, I thought the first test was easy... However I barely made a D on it. By the professor's own admission there were only a total of 8 A's and B's in the whole class. There were a few Cs, but there were 8 D's and 8 F's. He had the nerve to call that a "perfect bell curve"! Bell curve my ass! That's a drop off into an ABYSS! What an ass! It should be illegal to be that psychotic in class and THEN be a hard ass on your tests! Forty points of the test was devoted to essay questions, and he wanted lots of specifics. One of the guys who managed to make a B said he wrote essays that were two pages each!
Later in the evening, I had to conduct a training class for potential volunteers to the dance academy. It went well and I had an okay time during the session, but it lasted 2 hours. At least I got fed pizza and cookies for a change.
Wednesday: I don't really have an excuse for why I didn't post on Wednesday. Again, I convinced myself I was going to work on that paper that was due Thursday. I didn't... Again! It wasn't that big of a deal. I just had to put into words (two pages of words, double spaced, to be exact) an outline that I had already written up in class describing my ideas for how best to judge a written paper. It's for my Humanities 220 class. Now, maybe you know why I like the class! It's easy, breezy, beautiful, Covergirl.
In the morning, I had a test in my College Algebra class. The best I could have gotten was an 80 because I had to skip 3 questions since I had no idea how to do them on my calculator -- change that, my NEMESIS, the TI-84 PLUS graphing calculator! And then, because it took me so long to do the rest of the problems by hand I had to skip one of the last two questions on the test. I was hoping for a C, but I was worried about getting a D.
Thursday: Okay, Thursday was unique. Thursdays are already my long day. I have class from 1230 PM until 5 PM. World Civ was dull and boring as we had to sit through a lecture on Africa. And since there aren't many written records about the various tribes throughout the history of Africa, the professor could only show us a slideshow of famine, disease, cattle, and give explanations of what the African indigenous people had to go through in order to survive. All that stuff is interesting, but it was nothing that I haven't seen or read a hundred times before! After that class was over I went to my HUM 220 class where there was some discussion about the final chapters of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Then, we headed to the Automotive Department to see the progress on the motorcycle. The head of the Automotive Dept. went through a meticulous explanation of the things he had done to the bike over the last week and how it seems to run. However, there are still obstacles in the way of getting it drivable, such as the carburetor, which is probably filled with rust or dirt, and the gas tank which needs to be completely cleaned out.
After school, I came home and just relaxed for a little while until the Vice Presidential Debate between Biden and Palin started. I was able to watch it on CNN.com. Once again, despite my predilection toward the Obama/Biden ticket, I have to say I was surprised to see Palin actually able to string solid sentences together after her embarrassingly laughable performances recently with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. However, I was annoyed with how she upfront told everyone that she wasn't going to answer questions the way Moderator Gwen Ifill, or Palin's opponent Joe Biden, wanted her to, but rather the way SHE wanted to answer them. At least she was honest about that if nothing else. Never did she seem to answer a question with an answer appropriate to the question. She seemed almost like she was reading from a teleprompter, her responses so prepared and perfect. She spurted out McCain Campaign talking points as though she had been indoctrinated as a child, Aldous Huxley-style, with the campaign agenda playing over and over in the background as she slept. I half expected her to accidentally blurt out, "Gammas wear such ugly uniforms. I don't like the color brown!"
Friday: And, finally, Friday. I really shouldn't have woken up, dressed, and wasted gas going to school. My Abnormal Psychology class was cancelled due to a family emergency for the professor, so that left me with just my College Algebra class. Unfortunately, I've missed all the classes I can and I have to attend everyday until the end of the semester, no matter what! I did get back my test, and I found that I was able to make a 74.5, a C. I was happy about that, even though I COULD have made a B had I been able to operate my Nemesis! The professor also gave us our cumulative scores so far, and I am only making a 59, an F! I've missed a few quizzes and I didn't turn in the first Excel Lab. There is still time to bring the grade up, but I'd do alot better to bring it up if I didn't have to struggle with that damn calculator! Of course, once again, my Nemesis had to ruin my morning. We did a rather simple lab on exponential growth and decay. It involved M&Ms and adding or removing them based on how many Ms were showing. I was able to gather the necessary data, but as usual had NO IDEA how to calculate this on the TI-84 PLUS (I'm guessing the PLUS means "PLUS the desire to rip your hair out by being dangled over a pool of hungry crocodiles after eating a warm bowl of camel crap and drinking it down with a tall glass of cow urine!") A few of my classmates attempted to help me, but it basically came down to them having to do the calculations for me, which just made me angrier. I'm a genius, I SHOULD be able to figure this out myself! So, before turning the lab in to the professor, I just balled up my paper, put away my stuff and left the class.
After cashing a check for my rent from my grandmother and getting something to eat at Waffle House, I paid my rent, which is still a month behind because I'm waiting on my financial aid, got to my apartment, stripped down to my boxers, and went back to bed!
So, did this week at least teach me anything? Did I learn some nugget that I can pass along to you guys as at least a small lesson of life? Well, I found out that it feels really good to vent. Oh, and after I stormed out of class Friday, I got an email from one of my classmates because all of us on the front row are supposed to turn in a group project on Monday that I'm supposed to be writing. They were naturally worried that I was dropping the class and wasn't going to come back. I told her that I had every intention of returning to class. Even if I flunk the class I'm still going to take my punches like a man. I explained that I'll write the paper, which is going to be super short when you factor in the charts and graphs of our data, and email it to them by Sunday morning. She emailed back and told me, "OK we just got worried! Don't get so flustered over a calculator... you'll get it if you keep trying and stay positive! We're always here to help you too!"
DING! DING! DING! No matter how you think things SHOULD be, don't let pride or ego stop you from asking for help. Even if you think you'd be a burden to others, ultimately people don't want to see people around them fail. Schadenfreude is only for people you don't have a direct connection with. And, as cheesy as this is, maybe asking for help doesn't have to be a sign of weakness. Perhaps we don't have to live as islands unto ourselves. We can be vulnerable without being endangered. Just because you're weak in one area doesn't make you weak in all areas. Enjoy your strengths and accept your weaknesses, and make asking for help one of your most important strengths. Things just might turn out alright in the end.
Have fun, and keep living life... hopefully it's better than my current approximation thereof!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
During the debate, McCain was fairly condescending toward Obama. McCain often used the phrase "What Senator Obama doesn't understand is..." or some derivation. He also avoided looking at Obama for practically the entire debate. Meanwhile, Obama would divide his time between looking into the camera and looking at McCain, who always seemed to have this punkish smile on his face, as though he were secretly thinking, "Whatever, douchebag!" Of course there were the typical mischaracterizations of each other's records which have become such a staple of American politics. McCain had his deceptive mantra that Obama is against nuclear energy, which is easily verifiable as false. Obama's only issue with nuclear power is what to do with the used fuel rods.
I was surprised that neither candidate seemed to have any real zingers, though they could be saving them for the last debate, which is only a week or two before Election Day. I think I would have liked a bit more aggression from Obama, although since McCain had to prove that he isn't an impetuous hothead I suppose it wouldn't have served Obama to make himself look like a hothead.
Many of the reviews of the debate online gave Obama a slight edge in the debate, if for no other reason than he came into the debate with a 5-10 point lead in the polls and this event probably didn't push the needle in either direction. I certainly agree with the second point if not the first. If you were an Obama fan going in, you're still an Obama fan; if you were a McCain fan going in, you're still a McCain fan. This debate changed nothing. However, since many in the country are only just waking up to the Presidential race, this debate proved a good neutral introduction to both candidates. With only 39 days left before November 4th, this race looks to be another photo finish. It will be exciting to see if either of these candidates can really pull ahead and win this thing cleanly, or if one side will win simply because the other side makes a mistake.
Have fun, and keep living life... and get yourself registered to vote!
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Anyway, since this blog is partially about my life as I work through college I should at least talk some about my current run of classes. I'm required to take College Algebra and I HATE math. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. The truth is I HATE THE TEXAS INSTRUMENTS TI-84 GRAPHING CALCULATOR! Whomever invented this thing needs to have it shoved up his ass, pulled out, washed off, then shoved up his ass again while he feeds on broken glass! And don't even get me started on Microsoft Excel. On top of having to struggle through the Sisyphian task of using that calculator I have to deal with a professor who thinks ass is a dirty word! I can't call a fellow classmate a smartass without her telling me to watch my language. I'm pretty sure that originally the term smartass wasn't referring to a person's ass but rather a donkey; and since smartdonkey just doesn't have the same umph as calling someone a smartass they chose to run with it. Ass is even in the Bible for Christ's sake! I do like the other students who sit on the front row with me. Even though they're all 15 years younger than me and make me feel like a borderline pedophile when I hang out with them they're pretty cool kids.
Next is Abnormal Psychology. Now, of course, being a wannabe Psych major means that this class should be a breeze. And so far it is. I managed to make an A on my first test and I only read one of the three chapters covered. I also missed alot of school because of sleep concerns. My professor is a short, late 40s, perky Doctor who has actually done some private practice. I tend to be the most talkative in class and she has pulled me aside to say that she thinks I would probably do well in Graduate School, but she would like for me to not pose so many questions in reference to my own personal experiences with therapy. Apparently, it makes other students uncomfortable, although no one has said anything to me, so whatever. I'm not afraid of my issues, they are part of who I am and my struggles to deal with them are something to be proud of, seeing as how so many people are afraid to enter therapy, or can't afford it when they really need it.
Then there is my World Civilizations class. Oh BOY is that class interesting. My professor is a gruff Italian-American who clearly needs estrogen therapy to counteract his glaringly obvious overabundance of testosterone. I love busting his chops in class. I'm always saying or doing something to get under his skin. I can't tell if I'm torturing the guy or entertaining him. This is a guy who, while he denies this on its face, believes that any culture that didn't kill a WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE, and subjugate the weak, was a culture of wussies! He easily spent five days lecturing us on the battle tactics of the Roman Empire. And another two days on Sparta. I was half expecting that our test was going to cover the movie 300! Believe it or not, there actually WAS a question on the test related to movie, although it wasn't openly framed that way. I'll find out what I made on the test next week. I figure I either did pretty well or pretty crappy. It was one of those tests.
And then there's Humanities 220, Human Values and Meaning. I love this course. I get to use my mind and think for a change. It is a three hour seminar class on Thursdays, and is taught jointly by an English professor whom I've had before, and a Philosophy professor. The class is reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It seems like a pretty good book, although I've only read the first six chapters. The rest of the class is about to finish the book next week. I'm such a slackass sometimes. I like the book, and yet I allowed myself to get really behind on the reading. But then, for some reason, I've NEVER finished any book that I claim to have loved, with the exception of George Orwell's 1984. I've never finished Brave New World, A Separate Peace, A Catcher in the Rye, or The Fountainhead. I don't know what my problem is with books. I just hate to finish them. At any rate, ZAMM is all about the search for quality in the world around us, and what defines that quality. Is there such a thing an objective quality which can be quantified, or is it all in our heads, like the Supreme Court Justice who once said,"I can't define obscenity, but I know it when I see it." I'm probably going to make an A in HUM 220 without really trying.
So, what does all of this have to do with you? Probably nothing. But ever since high school I've truly enjoyed going to school. It's a place where I can pretty easily shine above most of the others around me if I want, or I can be a slacker and still get by with fairly good grades. I know not everyone shares my enthusiam for learning. Many seem to see it as nothing more than a means to an end. But I deeply value the idea that I get to learn something new everyday. I get to see new details about life around me. I have an opportunity to open my mind and consider previously unthought of possibilities. If you are in school now, or considering returning, try to immerse yourself in learning for learning's sake. Don't worry about the grades so much. They'll come on their own as you fully engage your curiosity. Just sit back, relax, and let your education absorb into your life; let it become a part of you. You might just find out that things aren't as hard or boring as you previously believed.
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!
Monday, September 22, 2008
Lately, I've been REALLY hungry for my own lightsaber. I've been watching videos of amateur lightsaber duels, researching the best lightsaber models and alternative modifications, even how to make a lightsaber from scratch. Right now, Hasbro is in the process of releasing the Force FX line of lightsabers (beginning in mid-October), considered the standard among saber enthusiasts due to their high degree in accuracy of reproduction compared with the saber handles used in the actual filming of the various movies. Originally, the Force FX line was manufactured and distributed by Master Replicas. Since MR lost the licensing to produce the Force FX sabers there has been some concern that the quality of the line will drop now that Hasbro has taken up the license, even though the sabers will continue to be produced in the same factory as they were when MR held the rights. And even though you can duel with the Force FX's, many hardcore enthusiasts opt for modifications to their sabers to add a stronger blade, or perhaps even a removable blade so that the handle can be comfortably worn at one's side without concern of dragging a blade across the ground.
I'm not sure where this recent fascination began. Sure, I've always loved the Star Wars Anthology, but I've never been one of those sci fi fans who dress up or otherwise emulate their favorite characters. And since there really isn't a formal Jedi Club in my city, I'm not sure where I would get an opportunity to practice dueling. Besides, the cheapest duel quality sabers (the Force FX's) start at around $120 ($250 if you are trying to buy a still like new MR on Ebay). So, I can't come up with a rational excuse for why I want a lightsaber. I just do.
Probably all the kids who grew up sort of geeky, or otherwise felt like outcasts, have long had this romantic image of the Jedi Knights maintaining order and justice throughout the galaxy with only a mastery of The Force and expert skill with an elegant and deadly lightsaber to protect them. We (us geeks and outcasts) have all had fantasies about putting away our fiercest foes (bullies, jocks, bosses) with a swift slice of a saber, topped off with an exquisite battle pose. It's the way we get through a rough day with the fantasy that WE could have control over THEIR destiny for once, if only we lived in a galaxy far, far away and a long time ago.
Well, that raises some interesting thoughts. What exactly could I be feeling powerless and out of control about that I lust for my very own lightsaber as a way to gain that which seems missing? Since I've been a ball of insecurity since my childhood, it could be anything I suppose. But there must be something different now to have brought up this sudden obsession...
Further contemplation will be required.
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I would describe my first 32 years of life as definitively without hope. I hated the world and was sure it hated me back. Relationships would never last very long. I had a bunch of dead end jobs. By a rough calculation I'd estimate I had thoughts of suicide on around 10,000 separate moments. I seriously considered acting on the thoughts at least two dozen times, and I've had to resist the sudden urge to jerk my car into a concrete divider or oncoming traffic perhaps a hundred times. For some reason I never commited suicide. And I guess that reason was hope. No matter how horrible my life got I always had this dream that things could get better if I just lived long enough to see it happen. Well, that's not completely true, but you'd think I was nuts if I told you what I really was thinking. Suffice it to say, it had something to do with Einstein's theory of infinite universes.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The best noise of the program is its rain setting. Since this is a basic program you can't adjust the intensity of the rain, but I'm still impressed with the realism of the steady downpour that rumbles from my 3G's diminutive speaker. It's difficult to be bombarded by a barrage of mental diarrhea when you're laying contemplatively on your back as you meditate on the obligatory mental image of the rapid splash splosh of uncountable drops causing the surface of a puddle to dance and shimmer with light.
Of course, as I write this I'm at Waffle House again on a hectic and dramatic Friday night at 3 AM, where the sizzle skittle of an unending order of bacon on the grill is doing a good job of bringing my thoughts to singularity. Like the sound of rain, if I can just manage to focus enough to hear the bacon over the cacophonous crowd and the discordant clashing of plates and utensils, bacon is consistent, steady, dependable; it washes over my senses and cleanses me, at least for a moment, of the sins of intellectual dissertation which blockade my calm.
So, perhaps, instead of prescribing warm milk to curb those disabling episodes of insomnia you should fry up some bacon. Just make sure you're wearing something protective because you'll never sleep with 3rd degree burns on your sensitive areas!
Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!