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.