Monday, December 25, 2006

Times when it is legitimate to cry

All of the propaganda that we have been force-fed since birth that it is OK to express your emotions probably should make us empathize with people when they cry. However, most of the time that people cry (especially men) it's pretty much impossible not to view that person like an absolute chump. It's embarassing for the person crying, and it's embarassing for the person that is watching. Quite frankly I'm somewhat embarassed just writing about it. That said, there are a few times that it is acceptable to cry, and I figured that this blog should attempt to chronicle them:

- Death of a loved one (obviously)
- While chopping onions
- Looking for some time at a very bright surface, such as a pool, without sunglasses
- Watching the end of "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve with your mom, two days after you got back from college, after having not been at home for four months. Not that I did this. But, hypothetically, if one had done so, it would have been legitimate. Definitely.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I dressed up nicely before my math final today

Why? Because, as I told everyone that asked with my go-to line, "look good, feel good, do good." Yeah, I felt like kind of a dork doing it, but that's sort of the point. The only reason I even woke up yesterday was to ace my calculus final. I might as well have dressed up for the occasion.

By the way, I really hate the word well. "Well" is meant to be used as the beginning to a counter-point to somebody else's point. I don't want to do well on my test, I want to do good. Good as in an A. Not well as in, well, who knows how I did, but I hope that it was in the higher range of grades. Well is a passive word, good is a sharp one. I'm glad we got that straight.

The more you know you need to get to sleep early...

...the harder it is. I have to wake up in 7 hours to get ready for my math final, but it seems like I just can't get to sleep. It's an absolute conundrum.

In other news, at Vassar we just celebrated the "Primal Scream" tonight. It's a tradition where everybody gathers in the middle of the quad and screams as loud as they can at exactly 12:00, celebrating the end of study week and the beginning of the finals. There were some people streaking (the story, as always, was that the people who streak are not people that you want to see streak), a lot of loud noise, and generally just one highly overrated event. I'm more than down for tradition, but let's make it a good tradition. How about a giant keg in the middle of the quad while it's happening? We can do anything if we put our minds to it (er... if you put your minds to it, I don't want to get in trouble for giving underage kids alcohol).

This blog will try to avoid train of thought in the future... but it's already been written... and if I don't post it now I'll feel even worse about wasting my time writing it when I should be sleeping... so it'll stay.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Movie Review: Apocalypto

At the risk of turning this blog into essentially a movie review website, I'm going to go out there and say that I thought Apocalypto, directed by none other than the highly esteemed Mel Gibson, is actually a spectacular movie. It is action based with some scintillating scenery, and the story flows together smoothly. The subtitles are of little consequence because the dialog is so sparse. While it may not be as re-watchable as Braveheart, there are many similarities. Toss in a lot of gore, spice with it with the novelty factor, and you get:

****/****

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I don't have to write a good post every time

I have sort of been lazy recently about updating my blog, but I just realized that my laziness has at least something to do with the fact that I want to make sure that I write something worthwhile.

So here you go, the least worthwhile post I have ever written. Spread the word. I don't have to write a good post every time.

Monday, December 4, 2006

5 best places to change your cell phone ring tone

5) While waiting for a job interview. Best case scenario, your potential employers recognize that you have a cell phone and want a person that ostensibly has such a high standing in the world. Worst case scenario, you get a new cell phone ring tone and mix it up a little bit. Bang bang.

4) While your roommate is trying to go to sleep. Always a good call.

3) In the library. I hesitate to put this one up here because it is sort of an obvious one, I agree. But I have seen some people doing this recently and I really just want to laud their efforts. The world needs more people like you.

2) On the bus.

1) Whenever I am around you. If you see me around, go ahead and change your cell phone ring tone. I know you're probably thinking, "lolzerz andy! i already do change it around you." You're right. Just keep it up. I love it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Water fountains are really, really gross

Slimy, moldy, rusty, too small, not a powerful enough stream, too warm, and generally just disgusting. Water fountains repulse me.

I wrote a post once about things that will be different 40 years from now. Well, here's another thing: water fountains won't be so disgusting. The current ones will be proven to be extremely effective at transmitting diseases and will be discontinued. Modern water fountains will one day be looked upon in the same vein as we look upon people in the 1700s shitting in a hole. Gross.

The only person that we can prove has rational thought is ourself

Looking at myself in the mirror the other day (um... I mean, while I was flossing), I realized that I will never truly be able to prove that anybody else is capable of complex thought. Nobody can show with certainty that they aren't the only people in the world that can actually think. Interesting dilemma for a person. A couple of points that I drew from it:

1) It could be useful in rationalizing racism. The more people look like us, the more likely we are to believe that they are capable of complex thought (or really, any thought at all), because they look like the only person we have ever seen engaged in complex thought (ourself, in a mirror). The less people look like us, they less we believe that they are able to think about things.

2) Realizing it opens you up to your own narcissistic tendencies. All of us have looked at other people and judged them. I know I have. However, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was probably also judging them because I subconsciously didn't believe them to be capable of thinking. But really, they have been thinking about all of this stuff. Any judgment that you can make about a person is undoutedly a million times more complex than you first judge it to be.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Quote of the Day

Never has there been a good war or a bad peace.

-Benjamin Franklin

Can we all agree to leave Iraq now? We could be out of there in three months easily. Let's make it happen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ever wanted to be a genius?

Super interesting article here about people who are widely considered to be above and beyond the ordinary in their fields, or "geniuses." It discusses how one reaches such an elite platform. As the article says,

The book essentially tells us to forget the notion that "genius", "talent" or any other innate qualities create the greats we call geniuses. Instead, as the American inventor Thomas Edison said, genius is 99 per cent perspiration - or, to be truer to the data, perhaps 1 per cent inspiration, 29 per cent good instruction and encouragement, and 70 per cent perspiration. Examine closely even the most extreme examples - Mozart, Newton, Einstein, Stravinsky - and you find more hard-won mastery than gift. Geniuses are made, not born.

The article goes on to explain various examples of successful people that achieve amazing things, and the common denominator is insanely hard work. Even Stephen Hawking, who is in a realm where one would assume natural intelligence trumps all, was an average student until he began to work obsessively on one topic, and devoted his time to his craft.

While this gives hope to many who wish to achieve widespread success, it comes with a certain caveat. It takes away an excuse, a barrier.

It is much less damaging to the psyche to be able to say that someone is simply more intelligent than you than to have to admit that you were simply outworked. It's easier to blame something on that you have at least no conscious control over--your genes, which control things like your IQ--than something that you at least theoretically have control over--how much effort and time you are willing to spend on a certain subject. This is a sobering thought to the many of us that likely will never be considered geniuses.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Movie Review: Borat

Finally saw the movie everybody is talking about (for some reason it just came out in New York, apparently the movie industry does not grasp the comedic genius that is Sacha Baron Cohen), and it met my expectations. Having seen the TV show, I expected to laugh when people took Borat too seriously, when unsuspecting people took his racism to the next level, and when people had absolutely no idea of how to deal with him. The bottom line is that it delivers.

Perhaps the best part about the movie is that it keeps you off-guard by varying the length of the clips. One scene could be 10 minutes long and continue to escalate that whole time, while another scene might be only thirty seconds with a one-two knockout punchline at the end.

I was going to give this movie four out of four stars, but towards the end there a scene that amounted to sexual assault on my brain. I can't give a movie that leaves such a nasty, indelible image full marks. But unless you're my mom, I'd recommend you see this movie.

*** and a half/****

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Purchasing qualities

I said earlier that I would post how my new possessions at college (fridge, new clothes, blender, carpet, etc.) would make me feel. I would argue that they really have made me happier. While I tried my best not to have a confirmation bias while I was conducting my quasi-experiment, I am now more convinced that having a certain amount of money to spend on useful possessions really can make the average person happier. A fridge has allowed me to drink chilled beverages when the weather is hot (which happens, never), and the blender allows me to make protein shakes which will should help me reach 250 one of these days.

The idea that you can buy a certain amount of happiness (I just bought the #1 doctor recommended "Chloraseptic" to help fix my sore throat--essentially instant bliss) has led me to question some of the other sayings about what you can buy and what you can't buy. The first one that popped into my mind was the saying that "you can't buy freedom." That's a joke. Freedom is one of the simplest things that you can buy. If you have enough money, you have the freedom to not work, you have the freedom to travel the world, you have the freedom to spend money pursuing your own projects. You can absolutely buy freedom.

True, I don't think that you can buy friendship. I don't think you can buy sadness, and I don't think you can buy laughter. You can buy things that will make you laugh, but you have to want to laugh in order to be able to.

But I think that it is fiddlesticks when people say that you can't buy short-run happiness, or when they claim that you can't buy freedom.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vassar Varsity Basketball

If you're wondering why I haven't been posting much recently (and "you" is most likely me, in the future, pondering the large gap between this post and the last one), I have your answer: the basketball team. Tryouts were last weekend, and somehow I made it.

Anyway, it should be a fun season, and I'm really looking forward to it. I don't know why they let me on, but I can't complain, right? Right.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Can possessions make you happier? A case study.

My parents came all the way out from California this weekend to spend some time with me and see what the campus is like, but mainly to do my laundry and buy me things for my room.

Anyway, the laundry ended up making my life easier, but what I didn't realize was how many things they were going to buy for me/bring for me. My room is much more decorated, I have more lights, I have a blender, I have a printer, I have a fridge, and my wardrobe is now expansive. Anyway, this is a great oppurtunity for a case study. Will these "material" possessions, things that I have proven I could live without (as I have been doing it for a month), make me happier?

Results to come in a few weeks, along with my thoughts. I will try to be an unbiased as possible and to analyze the situation from as objective of a viewpoint as possible, but I must admit that I would prefer to be happy than not to be happy. It should be interesting.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So the Vassar student government election results came in today... and...

Wow... you actually thought that I would run for student government? For shame, for shame. Beaurocracy is not my game.

However, I did find the election results to be particularly interesting. Vassar has a run-off system, where when you vote you list your top three candidates for each position, and if your first choice candidate has the least amount of votes in any "stage", then your vote goes to your next candidate. Each "stage" eliminates one candidate. Astute readers know what that means: the computer system that does the calculations is able to tell who got last place, second-to-last place, all the way up to first place.

But here's the kicker. They posted all of those calculations of a public web site. Yes, that's right, I can click on that page and find out who got last place in every one of the elections, and, yes, by how much. Even better, since facebook is so rampant and everybody has one, I can simply copy-paste their name into a facebook search and look at their profile. "Guess this one wasn't quite pretty enough," or, "he should have gone with the clean shaven look for his profile picture," immediately popped into mind. A middle school could have a field day with this system.

Anyway, one of the most effective tools I have ever seen to revel in other's (albeit small) failures. Instant self-esteem booster. A great way to look at election results, Vassar College. This blog lauds your efforts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One day later

Yesterday I went through an entire day of september 11 without hearing about the attacks on the world trade towers once. I read opinions//stories about it in writing, but nothing in person. I guess it just comes down to there being nothing to say about it. It sucked. That's it.

On a side note, I was also internally pissed for a couple of minutes that we didn't have a holiday to celebrate what happened, but then I realized that that would have been somehow playing into what the terrorists wanted in a way (although it's hard to say what they wanted to do by killing so many innocent people). If they hate capitalism, then not working is acquiesing to their beliefs in a way. Indeed, from then on I set out to make sure that I put extra effort into everything I did yesterday. A great way to avoid procrastination.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Steve Irwin: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Famous crocodile hunter Steve Irwin died today of an apparent sting ray stinger to the heart. It's pretty amazing what has happened since his death, just about everybody I talked to liked the guy in some way. His enthusiasm and geniune nature made just about no one be annoyed by him which is pretty impressive in show biz. I bet that'd be the way he'd want to go out too, in the field doing what he loved.

Anyway, I will always remember where I was when I found out that Steve Irwin the crocodile hunter died: downstairs in my basement doing my laundry for the first time in my life. Coincidence? You tell me. All I'm saying is that I'm not sure that it's worth the risk.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Informative article about Grigori Perelman, the man who refused the Field's Medal

The Field's medal, according to wikipedia, is the "noble prize" of mathematics, only awarded once every 4 years to 2, 3, or 4 mathemeticians. Anyway, this article from the New Yorker describes the reasons that Grigori Perelman refused it. One reason, as the article quotes Mikhail Gromov (another Russian mathmetician), "the ideal scientist does science and cares about nothing else." Another reason that Perelman refused it appears to be that he was upset with the mathematics community because they were not being "honest" and playing politics instead of doing math. By turning down the award Perelman (who lives with his mother and is unquestionably strange--he lets his fingernails grow without trimming them, for example) is giving up financial gain as well as an oppurtunity to be recognized for what he has done.

While he has been made fun of in some arenas, his reasoning appears to me to be pure and well-intentioned. The problem that he helped to solve, by the way, The Poincaré conjecture, has been unsolved for 106 years and is invaluable to the field of mathematics. It will likely help many other scientists solve problems in their own respective fields.

There's some quality about keeping your head down to your work that I respect a great deal. Keep doing what you do, Grigori. We'll try to stay out of your way.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Music accompanied by news

New stations need to stop playing dramatic music in the background when they discuss stories. CNN, Fox News, and many others are blatant violaters of this rule. We don't need you guys to cue the music to tell us how to feel, and hearing string music in the background while missiles are shot at people trivializes the issue. This just shows how most news stations are just out to get ratings and feed off of people's emotions. Maybe that is the way to make the most money, but I personally lose massive respect for these "serious" news stations when they use flash and bang techniques to try and tell us how to feel. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer is one noted exception, which I appreciate greatly.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The World Cup: Absolutely Amazing

I just want to say that I, for one, absolutely loved the world cup and it may just have turned me into a soccer fan. I am planning on "adopting" an English Premiere League team and following them just for kicks (probably Liverpool, because I already own some paraphernalia). I'm just so sick of dealing with baseball's so-called controversies that are so irrelevant only to watch a baseball game that is quite boring. At this point, the list of sports I would most like to watch goes like this:

1) Olympic curling (can't be topped)
2) American football (discussing the intricacies of the three-four defense never gets old)
3) Basketball (the only problem is that I feel like the refs sorta fix some of the games, especially in the playoffs)
4) European football (easy to watch while doing something else on TV and the crowds are truly fantastic. Plus I love the English announcers--especially when they say stuff like "ambitious ball" or "that's rubbish")

Here's to football!

Ways to offset the fear of death

I believe that each of us has a fear of death not because, as Dumbledore puts it in Harry Potter, "we fear the unknown," but instead because evolutionarily we have been programmed to fear death so as to help our survival and increase the chances that we will reproduce and continue the species. Thus far we have come quite a long way in our evolution, but we still have not learned how to become immortal, meaning that at one point each and every one of us will face death. We should all expect to die.

But that doesn't mean that we have to fear death. There are a few ways that we can overcome our fear of death or at least quelch it slightly:

1) Curiosity: one way to overcome the fear of death is to actually look forward to it because we wonder what will happen to us once we die. While this can be brushed aside and simply be looked at as foolishness, the fact remains that there is really no way to know what we will experience after we die. Will there be some sort of afterlife? Will we regain a former conciousness and be able to look back upon our life and the decisions we made before starting a new one (that would be sick)?

2) Single-mindedness: If we can remain very focused on whatever we plan to accomplish in life, then I believe that we can mitigate the fear of death. People that strive very hard for a goal don't care about their death because they don't have enough time to ponder it. I would say that this is a risky strategy because once you do begin to fear death it could consume you.

3) Belief in an Afterlife: Pascal's Wager aside, believing in an afterlife of any kind (religious or otherwise) in which you retain your worldly conciousness is certainly something that could mitigate your fear of death, although it undoubtably requires a certain number of leaps of faith in order to do so, since there is by definition no way to prove the existence of God. It seems that more people radiate towards this as they become older, but certainly not everyone. This also can be somewhat dangerous to other people. For instance, some young men believe that suicide bombing gives you a first class ticket to the best form of afterlife. That is a scary thought, for this world, and that version of the next.

4) Apathy: Some people seem to just not care (or maybe not believe) that they will one day die. Much like how the last belief has more old people, this belief seems to have more young people. I would argue that this can lead towards some rash decision-making.

There are certainly others, and I will add them if I think of them. Ultimately this stuff doesn't matter too much, because we're all going to die anyway.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I'm done with high school!

After turning in all of my work for UHS and then going to Tam prom last night (with about 62389253 people I knew from middle school to say hi to), I'm conflicted as to whether or not I made the right decision in going to University. I think that the advantage of going to UHS is that I have become more stimulated and actually interested in learning, whearas during middle school I just did a lot of my work because I have to. But I can't tell if I would have done that anyway, if that's just a part of maturing. The downsides to University have been the commute and the pretentiousness that a lot of people there have.

Anyway, I'm really not going to fret about it anymore. Really. Even if I had gone to Tam I'd be done with highschool anyway and off to the next chapter in the preferred narrative that has been my life.

Goals for this summer:

-Make serious skilla
-Learn what hospitals are like by volunteering at UCSF
-Fix my computer so that I can actually start blogging for realz
-Read six books (I know, I know, pretty high standards)
-Get big (i.e. work on my pecks)

I'll check back at this list by the end of the summer and be accountable.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Movie Review: The Third Man

Old movie (think black and white), but it actually had a really cool plot with a lot of twists and a really cool main character. Most definately a film noir. I'm happy I saw it, and I really like how it strayed away from sentimentality whenever it could.

My favorite scene was probably the absurdly long chase scene at the end when the main bad character (Harry) is running away in the sewers and essentially avoiding everyone. Sick ending to that scene too. (What, did you think I was going to give it away? No way, Jose, watch the movie for yourself!)

The black and white took away from it as did the main female lead, who was kind of boring. That's why it gets:

3/4 stars

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Apple better watch out

On all of the new Mac ads they are talking about how Macs never become "sick" and how there are very few viruses for Macs.

Well, if I were a hacker right now, I would be getting kind of pissed off at these ads. I would probably start to develop viruses to attack Macs. I think that this is an extremely dangerous ad campaign by Apple computer. You heard it here first: there will be a backlash.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Movie Review: Mission Impossible III

In case you noticed, I plan on becoming somewhat of a movie buff my life. I've been inspired by my swim coach Berto, a master of conversation who always has a story to tell because of his extensive knowledge of movies. Anyway, step 1 of that plan is to watch hella movies (step 2 is to become pretentious about it, but I haven't gotten there yet).

This was just all around a fun movie to watch. Tom Cruise did a remarkable job of not reminding us that he is a scientoligist for at least two hours. Some sick action sequences and a few surprising moments/plot twists.

However, parts of it were so unrealistic that I was just turned off. Like the idea that Tom Cruise would be able to hang out with people in a normal social setting, or that people wouldn't call him out on his fake grin.

2/4 stars

PS For the record I believe that he is gay and that it will be revealed at some point in his life in a tell-all book. I can't wait to read it.

PPS Yeah so by the way I edited this post. Get over OK? I've been getting perspective on other movies so it was justified. It was the scientologist propoganda working on me. I'm sure you understand.

Guys...

I just deleted my myspace profile. That website is more addictive than extra salty Tostitos. Now I can get back to real life, such as reading! Due up on my list:

-Finish How we Die
-Read The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Which I got from the free book section of the History Department)

I feel good and I don't really know why, which as my friend Jeremy points out is the best kind of feeling good.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Integrity

During my US History Through Film class today, my teacher posed a question: would you sabotage somebody else's chance of getting into college in order to get yourself into the college of your choice?

I myself said no. Perhaps it is because I have already dealt with the stress of colleges while many other students are just deciding or still on waiting lists; perhaps it is because I am going to a place that I legitimately consider my first choice. Perhaps I'm just that morally good.

But many other students did not feel the same way, one even claiming that she would sabotage "up to five people" in order to get her way. Others concurred because "the decisions are so random anyway."

However, as soon as the teacher offered the hypothetical that that student would know that you had done the act, people began to change their minds completely. There was only one student who still said that she would do it. Surprisingly, people were much more shocked towards this claim than towards the original claim that she would sabotage somebody. "Have you no feelings of guilt?" yet another girl inquired.

Apparently, social scorn is highly accepted to be much more important to people than their own feelings of guilt. This is applied economics at work: people will act in their own self-interest unless there is an incentive in place against them.

Of course, the people who act the same whether or not anybody knows what they have done have what is known as integrity. It is the most interesting quality that a person can have because almost by definition nobody will ever find out about it (unless it is sorely lacking). I don't really know where I am going with this but I'm posting it anyway!

Movie Review: American Dreamz

Synopsis: Basically the point of the movie was to make fun of both America and the Middle Eastern extremists who America is fighting. A lot of making fun of George Bush (although not specifically mentioned in the movie) through mocking the movie's president, who knows absolutely nothing and compares Iran and North Korea to two evil Marvel Comic book characters. He is spoon-fed everything through an assistant who literally tells him what to say and is on drugs to control his mood swings. The twist that makes fun of the Middle Eastern people is that one terrorist ends up on an American Idol-esque show. He is placed there in order to make it to the finals and kill the president, but he becomes so enthralled with performance and he likes the American culture so much that he decides not to kill him.

Good Parts:
- The movie does an excellent job of mocking the media for forcing situations in real life so that it will look good on TV ("we didn't get your excited reaction on film, can you do it again?")
- Mandy Moore is exquisite
- Mandy Moore's character's one-liner: "I'm not physically attracted to other people, but if you want me, I'm yours."

Bad Parts:
- I didn't like how Hugh Grant (from England) was making fun of America. In fact, I hated it. It's kind of like how some stereotypical jokes are only OK if they come from somebody from that group. You can't make fun of us, only we can make fun of us.
- A lot of forced comedy based around Bush's Texas accent and foolishness.
- Hugh Grant's character is extremely drawn out and boring.
- Extremely strange plot twist at the end that made no sense whatsoever and then the movie basically ended in a "happily ever after" kind of way. Almost like the movie tried to be dark humor, but did it in a family-friendly, we're-just-kidding kind of way. Dark humor is money. Embrace it.

I can't believe that I just wrote a whole review on this movie. It is not funny on a legitimate level, and it is not so bad that you can laugh at it for being bad. Don't see it.

1/4 stars

Saturday, April 29, 2006

One Thing I Hate/One Thing I Love

This is my new kind of post. I'm going to do this everyday except for the days when I don't.

I hate: When you call someone's cell phone and they obviously have caller ID and know that it is you, but they still answer with a innocent, "hello?". Come on, don't play so hard to get. Gimme a, "what's up big man?", jump into a conversation, "can you believe the Texans took Williams over Bush?", or at least admit that you know it's me ("what's up A-Money?"), saving us both at least ten seconds and valuable energy.

I love: When you turn on the TV in the middle of a sports game and the first thing that you hear the announcers say is, "In case you're just joining us, here's a recap of the games most important plays...," especially if it is not at a time when they would expect you to turn the TV on (i.e. at the half hour/hour mark, after another game ended, etc.). I am unable to quantify how happy this makes me. And yes, this is yet another example of why I watch way too much television.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Thoughts on Tap Dancing

It is extremely hard to be good at it. I have been looking at some tap dancing videos on the internet over the past few days, and I am literally amazed at some of the moves that they are able to do. Of course, if I didn't tap dance, I would probably never know how hard the moves were and I would most just judge the people on how much noise they made.

All I am really doing is making the obvious point that everybody knows already: the more that you know about something, the more you appreciate it.

So the next time that you bank on tennis or golf or meditation before you even try it, sit back and think about whether or not you know enough about the subject to really comment on it. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Andy.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My First Blog Post

This is mostly a test