Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

This hurricane has granted me a much more tangible understanding of how unprepared people generally are for natural disasters.

I'm really quite disturbed by the lack of foresight.  Luckily, I didn't have to emotionally deal with the brunt of that ignorance because my suitemates are bright individuals who worked together quite well on the cusp of evacuation.  Nonetheless, even some of my friends were doing some things that I simply can't comprehend alongside the knowledge that they must, to some extent, care for their own well-being.

Nobody stockpiled any food.  The people that did stockpile food grabbed meat in tupperware, which would obviously stay fresh when the power went out.

No consideration for who to actually listen to in a disaster situation.  When people wanted to know if the dining hall would be open, they asked the cafeteria workers on Sunday, before the sky even began to drizzle.  Then they stick to their guns that the dining hall would remain open throughout the hurricane.

After power went out, people were watching movies on their laptops, rather than saving that energy to charge their phones.  They believed that they'd be able to go into work the day after, drawing their conclusions on the word of their bosses.

When people wanted to know whether they'd have classes, what information did they use?  The notice posted on Sunday night, which can possibly take into account the devastation of the aftermath.

Finally, the singular factoid that bothers me most:

There was no plan in place for a disaster like this.  Zero planning.  The RAs were totally touch and go, despite the fact that this type of situation was completely foreseeable:  when we originally lost power, we were told that evacuation was a possibility.  A considerable amount of time later, we were told to go to the first floor lounge with a bag of evac necessities.  Turns out that another dorm needed to evacuate and use that same space, so after 5 minutes, backup power went on and we were turned back upstairs.  After a few minutes, emergency power went off again and we were told to go to the second floor to be with an RA.  Then, after half an hour of conversation, we went back up to our own floors and were given notice that we might be waken up at any time in the night and given 30 seconds to leave our room.

The only unsafe action that I wholeheartedly support is a surge of people going into the hurricane for fun.  I completely support the decision to fully experience the hurricane for its full natural value.  It's the only course of action that was actually reasonable, because it is the only one made under the assumption that the hurricane is actually a force to be reckoned with.

On a more personal note, I don't believe I'll be forgetting this hurricane any time soon.  It just so happens that this was the year in which my yellow lab, Sandy, passed away.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Lexicon

Over the last month, there's been significant overlap between my psychology and linguistics courses.  Or, at least I've been considering the material as connected, trying to draw parallels between the different sources of reading for psychology of language and a few of the concepts I'm learning in semantics and cognition.

The manners in which we learn and access words is the most prominent subject of my recent studies.  In my current exhausted state, I don't think I'll be able to go into detail, but the gist of what I've been learning is that words are the representations of semantic concepts.  Hearing a word primes associated words, a process that does NOT replace understanding of the concepts behind words.  Essentially, the words you hear activate frequently associated words because it makes it easier to process information quickly.  It does not mean, contrary to what many AI programmers believe, that we define words by the way they relate to other words.

More importantly, this is a fundamental mechanism of how many neural process work.  There is association between related concepts and functions, but there is a highly specific form in which information is given meaning--in which information is processed for a purpose.

More of The NationalMetals (Feist), and The Haunted Man (Bat For Lashes).

Leaving Facebook

I decided to sign off facebook for a while... part of the reason is that I'm busy, but more than that I'm just disillusioned with the whole concept.  Using a social networking site to the extent that it dominates how you spend your time is a blatantly trivial waste of time.

Actually, a more precise statement would be that I can't stand the way I spend my time.  I don't believe that the human brain can be lauded as anything special unless it puts itself to use and finds a mission that exceeds the daily drudgery, the expectations of your environment, and the normative force of contemporary thought.

I have goals.  I have ambitions.  I am unhappy with the way that the world works, and I'm dissatisfied with the state of the Universe.

I want to eliminate what I perceive to be inadequacies.  I want to propagate the values I hold dear to me.

Listening to the ideas of people who don't think about the same things I do is a waste of my energy.  More and more, I realize that the few interactions I can get with worthwhile thinkers are not best done through facebook.  Getting on the level of Da Vinci, Tesla, or the other polymaths is not a feat that can be accomplished while trying to get along with the apathetic masses.

Even having understood this, I have for a long time felt the urge to use facebook to express my thoughts and experiences.  These are two important motivations of mine, and I don't think I can really eliminate the need to satisfy these drives.  But to do it in a way that depends on my ability to provide instant gratification and sardonic verve is unhealthy.  I'd far rather put my thoughts together in a cogent fashion that requires me to fully develop my train of thought and organize the necessary components of the larger ideas and feelings.

So I will transfer the time I have spent on facebook to a more meaningful endeavor, and use it here, recording my thoughts for myself and the one or two people who ever perchance come across it.  Since I've had lots of those kind of thoughts recently, especially with the overlap between my different classes, I'll be able to keep that information in a permanent and unlimited store so I don't overwrite or forget any of it accidentally.

Listening to The National, especially Exile/Vilify

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Here's a litmus test for how much I hate you:

With what percentage of the Romney-Ryan platform do you agree?