This blog has been tabled

For the time being, this blog has been tabled. As far as I can tell (though perhaps I am a tree), I have used this blog to write my own longer passages or share others' passages that I enjoy. Tumblr (my little blog) has taken the place of all short and medium length posts. The only thing left are longer posts of my own, and I have created a new way to present those.

I came up with the idea years ago (and by, "I came up with" I am pretty sure Facecat told me about someone else doing this) to collect my favorite bits of writing throughout my college years and put them into a little collection. I didn't do that before I graduated, because school is quite distracting. But I am attempting to do such a thing. I found a fantastic book package for LaTeX in the style that Edward Tufte is known for. I'll post a copy after I get a few more things in there.

I doubt I will update this blog again.

Black Swan

A review of the film written while the movie plays (twice).
Awful spoilers to be sure.

* * *
Doubt, mistrust of one's own mind. A woman betrayed.
A transformation.
I felt as though the film swept me in and out of reality. I hardly needed my eyes, and closed them often. I found the tactile sensations too much to bear. Portman cries and breaks down, skin tears, Ryder stabs herself, my heart races, and I feel sick. The paintings on the wall cry out. Her legs break. The feathers come. The music, the screams overwhelm me.

I don't know what is real anymore. I can't tell. I hear the music. . .

I know this movie messed with my head because I have always thought bodies and ballet to be so beautiful. Not something seen, but felt. Erotic, but never sexual. I watch bodies move and see them slower than life, like every move leaves a trail in the air, and I feel them through my eyes. My muscles tense, my breathe is heavy.

But not at the end of this film. My mind was too preoccupied. The beauty was lost in the perfection and the madness. I couldn't feel anything, and I could only cry. I am left alone with my tears, the music mocks me with pity.

* * *
Quite a trip, no?

I can't believe that is all I have to show for watching it twice. There is no way I am watching any part of it again tonight.

I haven't had such a jarring emotional swing in a LONG time. That movie was far to intense to experience alone. I am glad I am feeling especially empowered tonight.
What a ride.

A Purpose for Disaster

Did you know that DNA Polymerase both catalyzes the synthesis of DNA molecules and repairs strands? I know! How interesting! Does this fact play into your life at all? What about if 99% of the world's population died? 

That was the thought that struck me as my professors monotonous voice droned on through the lecture. What knowledge would be important if I were one of the few people left on this planet? So I started making a list:
  1. Know how to find food at any time of the year
  2. Know how to grow food at any time of the year
  3. Know how to build a very well insulated shelter both in the wilderness and in the city
  4. Know how to deliver and raise a child
  5. Make a list of potential natural disasters in your area and have plans for how to survive each
  6. Know how to produce energy
  7. Make hard copies of survival information in case you can't recover electronic data
  8. Invest in very secure, very durable electronic data storage
  9. Know how to repair said data storage
  10. Know how to communicate across long distances
  11. Know how to speak a few phrases (greetings, locations, etc.) very well in a number of widely spoken languages.
  12. Know how to set up automatic communication recordings so people can pick up the information
  13. Know common diseases and how to survive them
  14. Know plant and animal diseases and how to cure/avoid them
  15. Know how to not go insane when alone for an extended period of time.

My Momma

You may remember a letter I wrote to my mom the other year when I went to the National Equality March.

Well, I got a message from her this morning. She is working with a few people to start a PFLAG chapter in Saline, conservative as hell, MI. (She also came out and gave two rousing speeches at the SAS board of education meeting.)

I love you, mama.

A Tweet of Insight

I was walking home with a sandwich in hand when I suddenly started contemplating how people tweet. Since I started using twitter, it has always been a restricted blog. It was a way to cram as much information as possible into a 140 character dose, like a blog reduction. I am not alone in this venture. I have seen stories, recipes, and general life updates. These types of posts are the "microblogs." These are great for the lazy blog readers. In three minutes, I can catch up on everything that happened in the past week.
What I realized today is that Twitter is an excellent opportunity to practice simplicity. The 140 character limit isn't a restriction within which I need to force the account of my day. Instead, it is a challenge to write whatever I want to say in the simplest form. My new goal is to practice simplicity when I tweet. . . at least some of the time.

You Gotta Give 'em Hope.

As you know, I dearly love This American Life. I love it so much that I keep episodes and listen to them over and over again. So much that I enrolled in a minicourse on the Audio Essay. Well, I'm listening to episode #178: Superpowers, and this particular quote struck me:

"Typically, this is how it goes. People who turn invisible sneak into the movies or onto airplanes, people who fly stop taking the bus. Here is one thing pretty much no one ever says, 'I would use my power to fight crime.' No one seems to care about crime..."
"...Going-to-Paris man is not a superhero, and I have to say this drove me crazy a little bit, we are, after all, talking about super powers. Why not take down organized crime, bring hope to the hopeless, swear vengeance on the underworld, if only a little bit?"

Do we really need superpowers to inspire hope? I think not. Hope is a funny thing. Now I'm no philosopher, linguist, or sociologist; but I think hope is simply our belief that something will be the way we want it to be. Kind of like wishing, but hope has a little more wiggle room. When you wish for something, you are usually pretty specific, "I wish I had a bit more money," or "I wish things didn't turn out like this," or even, "Do you think we will make it to the top? ...I wish."

Hope, in a way, prepares you for disappointment, but gives you that little bit of light inside. "Oh, I hope so!" has a much lighter feeling than "I wish." People inspire hope, desire generates wishes. Hope gives you the strength to continue, wishing makes you realize where you are. "You cannot live on hope alone, but, without it, life is not worth living."

Go give some hope out today.

Some humor long overdue

One of these days, I will transcribe some of my favorite sketches from I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again. Until then, enjoy this one I stole from wikipedia:

Transcript of "Murder on the 3.17 to Cleethorpes" (March 1970).
'Cliff Hanger-Ending' of the British secret service has been asked to take secret documents to Cleethorpes. He arrives at the station.
Cliff Hanger-Ending (Hatch): I decided to go by that famous train, the 3.17 to Cleethorpes. Whenever its name was mentioned, men whispered of danger and excitement.
Crowd: danger and excitement, danger and excitement etc.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: I went to the ticket office and tapped on the shutter
Tap Tap Tap
Ticket office operator (Oddie): G'morning sir, can I help you?
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Yes
Ticket office operator: Wrong, Ha-
Shutter slams shut
Knocks again
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Look here, I want a return ticket
Ticket office operator: Where to?
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Back here, of course
Ticket office operator: Congratulations, sir, you're the one millionth passenger to have cracked that joke, you can have the ticket free.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Thank you very much. I'm going to Cleethorpes
Ticket office operator: Well, in that case, your train will be the 3.17 to Cleethorpes.
Crowd: danger and excitement, danger and excitement etc.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: And what time does it arrive?
Ticket office operator: Well it gets in at exactly, on the dot, precisely, 7.59 and 3.8 seconds. Give or take a couple of weeks.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Is there a buffet car on the train?
Ticket office operator: Oh, Yes sir, Yes sir, Yes sir. British Rail guarantee that there is definitely and certainly a buffet car on the train. On the train there is bound to be, without a shadow of a doubt, positively and without fail, unquestionably and absolutely, a buffet car... I should take sandwiches just in case.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: And what platform does it leave from?
Ticket office operator: Get lost
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Now look here my little man, you have been consistently surly, unhelpful, obstreperous and downright rude.
Ticket office operator: Well that's what I’m here for, just doing my job.
Interjection: Oh, is that it?
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Well, I'd better get a porter to help me. I say, Porter!
Porter (Brooke-Taylor): And I say potato.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: I say, you there
Porter: And I say potato.
Cliff Hanger-Ending (Angry): Porter!
Porter: Potato!
Cliff Hanger-Ending: You there!
Porter: Potato!
Cliff Hanger-Ending and Porter (singing): Let's call the whole thing off!
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Now look, that's just silly. Are you a porter?
Porter: Yes, guv, I am guv, thank you guv, thank you very much, guv.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Well, carry my suitcase to the 3.17 to Cleethorpes.
Porter: You must be joking, guv'nor, cheerio, I'm off.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Oh dear, only two minutes to go and I still don't know where to get on the 3.17 to Cleethorpes.
Crowd: danger and excitement, danger and excitement etc.
Tannoy (Kendall): The next train to arrive at platform two will be Stephenson's Rocket. We apologise for the delay to the surviving passengers. Also delayed is the 2.25 to Hull. It will be leaving at 2.26, tomorrow. Or the day after. Perhaps not at all. It just depends how we feel, and don't you forget it.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: Well, perhaps they'll have some information about my train.
Tannoy: Not if we can help it. Here is an important announcement. The 2.50 to the West Country will not now be stopping at Land's End (note: Land's End is the most westerly point in Cornwall). The train standing at platform 5 is the 2.31 to Glasgow. Passengers will have to change at Crewe as the seats are extremely dirty. And now, British Rail wish to announce the following important joke. The train now standing at platforms 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 has come in sideways.
Interjection: That is a very, very old joke.
Tannoy: We apologise for the late arrival of the last joke.
Cliff Hanger-Ending: And soon, at last, I was soon aboard the 3.17 to Cleethorpes (Danger&Excitement), carrying those important secret documents.
Interjection: Oh, come on! Everyone's forgotten about the plot by now. You've spent so much time on cheap jokes at the expense of British Rail.
Tannoy: British Rail apologise for the delay in the development of the plot.
Train leaves

Food: Good vs Bad

I have a dilemma. I like when people ask me about the nutritional contents of food and the kind of diet one should maintain to be a healthy person. That is not what people ask. People, take my mom for example, will ask, "Is this particular food good for you?" I always try to provide some kind of answer first. If the question is, "Is tofu good for you?" I might start by saying that tofu is made from a vegetable (which means nothing considering everything from show polish to cups can be made using vegetables), and that soybeans and tofu are often good sources of complete vegetable protein. I then try to get the interrogator to think about what it means for a food to be good or bad.

What does it mean for a food to be "good" for you?
Well, it must be a food that extends or enriches our lives in some way. However, there are now easy answers. No single food has everything that we need, what is worse, we don't even know all of the things we need to consume to lead happy, healthy lives (we think we do, but we don't). So far, a "good" food is one that has some chemical or substance that discourages a visit from the skinny fellow with the scythe. We must now ask the question, "Is any food that has at least some life preserving property considered good for us?" Probably not. An item that is filled with whey and calcium sounds like it could be a pretty healthy bone builder...until you realize it is Easy Cheese (

Obviously, a "good" food is one that is more live preserving chemicals than life stealing chemicals. That means vitamins must be amazing! Wrong again. One can't live entirely on vitamins alone, we need carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. But wait, aren't those bad or something? No. We are just confused, and I haven't even begun to talk about the social aspects of food (for example eating regularly with the family often leads to better students,9171,1200760,00.html). That isn't a good source, but it just goes to show that food most definitely has a social aspect.

It's pretty clear to me that in the government's attempts to give health advice, big business's attempts to sell their products, big science's attempt to be right, and a handful or people's attempts to get rich (cough*Atkins*cough), the true meaning of "good" food has been completely lost. So next time you ask me whether bread or beans or nut bars or whatever is "good" for you. You know why my response is delayed: I think about everything I just wrote (and more) before I tell you that, "it is made from vegetables."

Grand Poject Idea

Brian and I want to make a grand project for next year and one of the ideas we had was to have a problem solving competition. The competition would be like a hybrid of Odyssey of the Mind and Science Olympiad-- teams of students would work together to solve problems. Teams would consist of students from different areas of study and knowledge bases. The problems they would solve would be crafted by university faculty or other students and would require knowledge of a variety of subjects to solve. Teams might be given a month to solve the problems and would come together to show off their solutions to a panel of judges who would determine a winner or something.

We need to talk...

This is a break-up letter I found the other day. I've been thinking about it a lot, and had I been around for the writing, I would have signed my name at the bottom in approval. I lifted it from this page in its entirety.


The Generation M Manifesto

8:01 AM Wednesday July 8, 2009

Tags:Economy, Generational issues, Global business

Dear Old People Who Run the World,

My generation would like to break up with you.

Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world — and what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences.

You wanted big, fat, lazy "business." We want small, responsive, micro-scale commerce.

You turned politics into a dirty word. We want authentic, deep democracy — everywhere.

You wanted financial fundamentalism. We want an economics that makes sense for people — not just banks.

You wanted shareholder value — built by tough-guy CEOs. We want real value, built by people with character, dignity, and courage.

You wanted an invisible hand — it became a digital hand. Today's markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally robotically. We want a visible handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

You wanted growth — faster. We want to slow down — so we can become better.

You didn't care which communities were capsized, or which lives were sunk. We want a rising tide that lifts all boats.

You wanted to biggie size life: McMansions, Hummers, and McFood. We want to humanize life.

You wanted exurbs, sprawl, and gated anti-communities. We want a society built on authentic community.

You wanted more money, credit and leverage — to consume ravenously. We want to be great at doing stuff thatmatters.

You sacrificed the meaningful for the material: you sold out the very things that made us great for trivial gewgaws, trinkets, and gadgets. We're not for sale: we're learning to once again do what is meaningful.

There's a tectonic shift rocking the social, political, and economic landscape. The last two points above are what express it most concisely. I hate labels, but I'm going to employ a flawed, imperfect one: Generation "M."

What do the "M"s in Generation M stand for? The first is for a movement. It's a little bit about age — but mostly about a growing number of people who are acting very differently. They are doing meaningful stuff that matters the most. Those are the second, third, and fourth "M"s.

Gen M is about passion, responsibility, authenticity, and challenging yesterday's way of everything. Everywhere I look, I see an explosion of Gen M businesses, NGOs, open-source communities, local initiatives, government. Who's Gen M?Obama, kind of. Larry and Sergey. The Threadless, Etsy, and Flickr guys. Ev, Biz and the Twitter crew. Tehran 2.0. The folks at Kiva, Talking Points Memo, and FindtheFarmer. Shigeru Miyamoto, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Yunus, and Jeff Sachs are like the grandpas of Gen M. There are tons where these innovators came from.

Gen M isn't just kind of awesome — it's vitally necessary. If you think the "M"s sound idealistic, think again.

The great crisis isn't going away, changing, or "morphing." It's the same old crisis — and it's growing.

You've failed to recognize it for what it really is. It is, as I've repeatedly pointed out, in our institutions: the rules by which our economy is organized.

But they're your institutions, not ours. You made them — and they're broken. Here's what I mean:

"... For example, the auto industry has cut back production so far that inventories have begun to shrink — even in the face of historically weak demand for motor vehicles. As the economy stabilizes, just slowing the pace of this inventory shrinkage will boost gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the nation's total output of goods and services."

Clearing the backlog of SUVs built on 30-year-old technology is going to pump up GDP? So what? There couldn't be a clearer example of why GDP is a totally flawed concept, an obsolete institution. We don't need more land yachts clogging our roads: we need a 21st Century auto industry.

I was (kind of) kidding about seceding before. Here's what it looks like to me: every generation has a challenge, and this, I think, is ours: to foot the bill for yesterday's profligacy — and to create, instead, an authentically, sustainably shared prosperity.

Anyone — young or old — can answer it. Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century - or the 21st?


Umair and the Edge Economy Community"