Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feminism and Kill La Kill?

//Kill La Kill quasi-spoilers ensue.

So I really have no idea what to think of Kill La Kill.  On one hand, its portrayal of women is highly sexualized.  I mean, its portrayal of men is also sexualized, so you could say the whole show is just sexualized, which is true, but it's pretty skewed nonetheless.  So it's definitely fanservice for male otaku, and I feel like that should make me uncomfortable.  But there are certainly statements that are girl-positive.  And in Japan, it seems that a lot of hyper-feminine things are used as leverage points for women to feel more confident.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Politics should be Radical

How I think government should work:


  • Pure democracy:  everything is a referendum.  No representatives.  No political leaders.
  • Rewrite our Constitution every twenty years



My personal political views:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A few words for Frank Wolf

Francis Lapointe, known as Frank Wolf, was a man inspired by aesthetic beauty.  He was a model.  He spent a lot of time decorating his body.  He shattered conventions of style, and of gender, in an attempt to convey his perception of the corporeal.

On the Internet, including his facebook page, he put himself on display.  He made himself vulnerable to critique, to objectification, to the poring eyes of countless strangers.  Regardless of the obstacles he would have known he would face, it was something that he found meaning in.  He was courageous enough to put himself out on the Internet for this vision.

He was harassed.  He committed suicide.  He was 31 days older than me.  He died at the age of 20.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Furries (A Paper for an Honors Seminar)

Austin Tamutus
Dr. Marianne Dekoven
The Question of The Animal
December 10, 2013

Furries

There is much discourse and dialogue about the relations and parallels between humans and animals.  Many literary works investigate the boundary between humans and other species.  Although not many affirmative statements can be made about the prototypical representation of animals in literature, the liminality of the boundary between humans and nonhumans is addressed, by literature and scientific research, in a predominantly anthropocentric fashion.  Zoomorphism, the reciprocal of anthropomorphism, finds its home in a much different walk of life:  the "furry" subculture, internally known as the "Furry Fandom".  This paper will address the demographics of the furry fandom as preliminary overview, then delve into a review of what the significance of the furry fandom may be, as well as the meaning of how furry artwork and literature use animals and their characteristics to portray characters.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How to Talk to Animals

Trailer and launch in the same day?  This tutorial has a preface that provides some useful information I've gained in my collegiate education that provides a broader understanding of the subject of communication and language.  If you want more than the specific heuristics below, and want to understand how I've come up with them, check out that previous post.

Let's begin this monologue with an observation about myself:  I wouldn't say I have a personality that is instantly endearing to pets.  When a dog or cat comes up to sniff me for the first time, I could just be any human.  There is no instant connection, there's nothing special about my demeanor or identity that draws animals to me.

But in my experience, after I've spent time with animals, I form pretty strong friendships with them.  I consider pets to be family, and I would say that pets of mine have all grown to consider me either a friend or a "family" member of sorts.  People are impressed by how much pets like me.

I assure you that it is not a reflection of anything impressive about me.  I am not special.  I simply allow animals to interact with me on their terms.  I respect them, and I listen to them, and they ultimately appreciate that.  So, I'm well-liked by nonhumans who I've spent a lot of time with.  Especially if we're talking about cats.  Cats like me more than they like most people.  Dogs are naturally social with humans, but cats have to build those social bonds from scratch.

I believe I understand how to interact with animals.  I'd like to share specific heuristics for doing so, rules of thumb for what to do to understand your pet.  As subtle as it is, I think I've done enough introspection about it, and I have enough education in cognitive science that I think I can do a good job explaining this.

So, if you want to "talk to animals", then this is your guide from a first generation immigrant who's slowly picking up the language.  I'll discuss first how to listen appropriately, then how to convey what's on your mind.

Preface to "How to Talk to Animals"

My life mission is to find a way to use language to communicate with some species of nonhuman animals.  I specify "language" because language provides communicative power that is far beyond the type of communication with animals that can currently exist.  That is not, however, to say that we cannot communicate with animals.

I will write a blog entry about how to communicate with animals.  First, though, I'd like to give background that is helpful in putting that advice into perspective, and providing evidence that my what I have to say is right.  This post will be a preface to one subsequent that actually gives useful instructions.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Fallacious Arguments of The Scientists (Animal Research)

The thing is, if your argument is fallacious, it is wrong.  Which is not to say that the fallaciousness of your argument makes your conclusion wrong, because that would be fallacious.

Many heuristics that we use in our everyday lives are fallacious.  If you intend to convince somebody, don't be fallacious.  Be logical.

Especially if you're a FUCKING SCIENTIST:

"
WIRED: How do you square what you believe about animal consciousness with how they’re used in experiments?

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Mute on Extroversion and The Upcoming AI Revolution

I'd say between 8 and 10 out of 10 Rutgers students at a given bus stop or student center are plugged into the Internet or a digital music player.  As a result, when it isn't party time, people are generally quiet.  For all the negative consequences there may be of being attached at the hip to the digital world, I generally like the quiet.  So I think of this as a positive trend.

I like the atmosphere better when there is less noise, less meaningless babbling.  And to a large extent, the babbling that has been moved to the screen is empty I imagine.  Or else private (lol @ the notion of privacy in teh digital world).  It makes me feel like I'm in a natural world.

People are becoming increasingly docile.  The culture of quick captions and pithy sentiments is catching on.  Basically, 4chan culture is taking over humanity.  And as older generations disappear, this effect will increase.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I Can't Settle Into My Skin

I still haven't come to terms with myself.

When I think about my life, my identity, I still shiver with memories of depression.  I now have the ability to be happy, but I'm not precluded from feeling sad.  My emotions are, ostensibly, real.  Unfettered by that permanent malaise, but not entirely free from despair.

I'm thinking in a way that should help me become comfortable in my own skin.  But it's still really difficult, even when I have a prescription to help me with the battle that's too deep to fight alone.

I've been doing research, reading, learning.  I want to find the truth.  I want to know my place in the world.

I've been operating under the pretense that my proper place doesn't yet exist, which allows me to think of myself as a spiritual vagabond.  I don't really have a place, so whatever I've been doing is just as good as whatever else I could be doing.  My lifestyle is no better than any other I could have, because the one lifestyle I want is impossible.

But now I'm having doubts about that conclusion.  I'm wondering if there really is a better place for me than where I am?  Maybe I've been wrong to alienate myself from my identity?  Perhaps I'm going about everything in the wrong way?  How much time, how much of my soul am I wasting in my perilous pursuit of perfection?

What I can't do is forego a dream because I'm trembling about its grandiosity.  I can't be scared about pushing through and failing.  Brahms captured that lesson in his Nänie.  That's part of it, I can tell.  But there is definitely legitimacy in my desire to have something fulfilling in my life now.  I no longer feel depressed, but I've been so enthralled with the capacity to feel happy that I've been doing nothing but trying to make myself feel happy.  I've been playing Pokémon nonstop, surfing the Internet, spending time with the cats, doing simple housework, doing nice things for the people around me.  I must, at some point, return to my current career--being a student.  I have to go back to my primary endeavor.

At the very least, I can take solace in the knowledge that an intense gauntlet of schoolwork and academic studies will not be able to inflict depression on me.  As long as I have my newfound line of defense, whatever I make my lifestyle will make itself mine.  My happiness will adapt to the things I do, and my rosy outlook will paint these difficult challenges as pleasurable activities.  I will like doing what I'm doing, even if it's not something that gives me instant gratification.  I will then, because these more difficult activities are incredibly rewarding, find fulfillment.

So I know what I have to do:  cut out distractions, make a plan, follow the plan.  Don't move in circles, don't fret about the inevitable failures.  Do recognize that I can take steps to avoid many of those failures, and when I choose short-term happiness over success, it's largely because of fear.  And fear is the only thing worth fearing.  So:  Fear fear.  Be brave.  Do the data structures homework assignment.  Do discrete.  Read physio psych.  Make an agenda. Write all this stuff into a to-do list.  Look at the to-do list regularly.

Signing off.  Perhaps to write something more philosophical, about what is required for a paradigm shift.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mt. Holyoke Concert et al

So, for lack of something creative to say, I'll give a rundown of what's been going on in my life:

For quite specific reasons, I've been feeling an incredible amount better lately.  That will continue, I believe.

I got into Advanced Neuro Lab 2, which is the lab I really wanted to take, and which has a class size of 8 people.  Happy, happy, happy!  I'm rather surprised by this, because my Adv. Neuro lecture test scores (which were apparently the only metric used to choose people) were nowhere near what I would have hoped them to be, due again to an epoch of malaise.  In any case, that makes my life far easier than it could have been.

I might pass biochemistry... Now that I'm in a better place and lots of glee club stuff is done with, I can probably focus on some hardcore studying.

I'm doing a lot of Internet research into things that personally interest me, which is cool.  I tried doing that to some extent before, but eventually dropped it because I started at a time when I was extremely busy.  Now I actually have a paper to write that depends on doing such research, so I'll probably actually do all of that reading.

I finished Coatzee's Disgrace, and loved it.  Coatzee really resonates with me for some reason, and I love his style.  A breath of fresh air, despite the moroseness of the book's content.

Hosted some women from Mt. Holyoke in my house, and I have to pay much humble respect to my wonderfully thoughtful housemates who cleaned the house beautifully while I was at rehearsal.  The exchange concert was phenomenal:  Biebl's Ave Maria, Sametz' Ein Keloheinu, Spratlan's Rainbow over the Seine, Rachmaninoff's No. 7, Whitacre's Lux Aurumque, and Rahman's Wedding Qawwali comprised the RUGC set.  Then, Mt. Holyoke had their own wonderful pieces, and a beautiful joint performance of Brahm's Nänie.  At the end of that, I got to give a bouquet, picked out by a wonderfully tasteful senior in club, and recordings of our past performances to the other choir's director.  That brought together the weekend for me, and I was happy to learn that the Mt. Holyoke singers had only positive things to say about their stay, especially considering there are usually some small or large issues that come up when you have people from a women's college housing with Rutgers students.  I wonder if that comes, in part, from the efforts we've made this semester to push through the feminism-friendly alma mater lyrics change.  The increased awareness of the importance of gender equality and the positive messages of Dr. Gardner and a trans advocate in our club must have had some small positive impact.  That, and our business manager had a keen eye for the kind of guy who would make a good host.

Now, off to study for a Neuro exam in.  I don't really know what we were supposed to have learned, even though I was more or less completely paying attention to what was going on in class.  Not sure if the focus is going to be on how to read scientific papers, or what the contents of those particular papers were.  Lucky I'm already in Neuro lab, I guess.

Listening to ERAAS, Reflektor, and meditative Mass Effect/Kelly Bailey OST.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Emotive Babbling

Nothing intellectual, just a diary entry in preparation for tomorrow's biochemistry examination.

:

I've been feeling better lately.

I'm just now catching up to some of the things I've left undone for a long time.

Recently, I've had greater resolution and emotional strength than I could previously muster.  That means I have been able, once again, to plunge myself completely into my studies and work.  Now I can encompass all of the thought processes that are necessary for me to find my way.  I can do things that would have otherwise required too much energy.  I am thinking positive thoughts, I'm having new ideas.

I'm out of the rut.

Mostly.

It's not yet perfect, but it's significantly better.  I am gradually exploring what the future has in store for me, which is necessary because of the immensity of what I'm considering as my set of possibilities.  Each thing that I want to do is enormous, and I can't do it by myself in a single lifetime.

So my debacle is this:  do I set out to do as much as I can to further each of those ambitious potentialities, in earnest and without giving a second thought, or do I step back and consider which of those things I can do?

I think that the answer is that I simply don't know enough to rule out possibilities.  And the cost/benefit analysis, if everything is possible, pushes me towards the most difficult option.

...I wonder if even I will be able to understand what I've written here in a month's time.  Cryptic non sequiturs and emotive babbling.  Ideally, they'll be enough for me to keep track of my life in retrospect, but not enough to convey much of meaning to the observer.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flipping Feelings

After watching a TED talk about how unhealthy it is to believe that stress is unhealthy, I've been wondering how many negative feelings are really just the malperceived counterparts of some positive emotion that we can take advantage of and be fulfilled by.  If redefining how you look at stress can physiologically change the body's stress response to one of courage, then how many other responses are there that can be perceived in a new kind of light?

Another thing I've been wondering is if there's some convenient way to transition from one emotion to another, leapfrogging from feeling to feeling, to lead one's self out of a state they wish to escape.  It's nearly impossible to think away a feeling, and going from something like misery to ecstasy is just unfeasible for somebody who's crippled by longstanding unhappiness.  But maybe it's plausible that I could work out a strategy for making myself bitter instead of depressed, angry instead of bitter, indignant instead of angry, and courageous instead of indignant.  I am coming up with various things to do during the good spell that I'm in now.  It's so much easier to think of solutions to problems like these when you're not experiencing the problems.  And by now I realize that the weeks of normalcy have no meaning to my chronic disposition.

I'm curious to flesh out this hypothesis.  I'm sure that there are meditation techniques for doing this kind of thing?  Perhaps.

Current feelings:

~A good week.  I've noticed depressive auras nearly overtake me, and I've certainly been agitated because of deep-seated frustration about my lot in life.  But I've been able to numb my mind just enough that I could block the thoughts which depress me.  I haven't been indulging in spontaneous, spurious feelings.  So that's been okay.

~I take solace in seeing myself as not merely an animal with feelings, but an agent with dreams.  I have things to do and I have time to do those things.  I can't nearly fit all of the things I want to learn into my 4 years of college, and I have to delay the experience of certain aspects of my youth until I simply have more time to explore what I should have while younger.  I have to accept this and simply let it be.  I want to make my college experience a positive stepping stone for a life of learning what others have discovered and exploring the universe on my own terms.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Honesty

Part of me wants to be a completely honest person.

Another part of me looks at all of the cases where reality is too dark.

I used to look in the mirror and understand what I saw.  I could read my eyes, see my emotion.  I knew exactly what was looking back at me, and not because I was monitoring my internal mental state, but because my face was legible.  My eyes were telling.  The window to my soul was ajar.

Now, when I look in the mirror, I can't read myself.  I'm so covered up by complex experiences and emotions that the sheen over my face, especially my eyes is opaque.

It's disconcerting.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What I Need to Eliminate

What is worth noting today...

This is just random babble, so please ignore everything contained on this blog post.

I have a habit of getting caught up on things, and letting them fester in my head for a really long time.  I keep thinking about the same small selection of things in a tiny little cycle.  I guess I keep thinking about these things because it's important that I do something about those thoughts.  But then I end up with too little time set aside to do any of those things.

So where is the fluff?  Where is the time that I'm wasting?  What am I doing to take away my productivity, my efficiency, my happiness?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Why Furries Are Good and Who They Are

This has taken me a long time to post, partly because I didn't know if I wanted to post it, partly because I was not sure about what exactly I wanted to say on the subject, and partly because I wanted to say something very particular.  Most of all, I think it's important to explain a facet of our world that is really quite foreign to many people, but is very much a developed and interesting subculture.

I'm motivated to describe it in a very clear and descriptive fashion because I think that it's easy to put the subject into a box and label it as some sort of weird novelty.

I went to FurAffinity United this summer, August 16-18.  It's a furry convention.  To properly discuss this adventure, I need to define a few terms for the layman.  And, as a student of neuroscience and linguistics, I don't play around when I'm defining terminology.  So what you hear here is as precise as it will get.

The noun 'furry' can be used in two ways.  It can be used to describe fictional characters that have the appearance of human-shaped animals, which are less colloquially called anthropomorphic animals.  Bugs Bunny is a furry.  The term 'furry' is also used as shorthand for a person who considers themselves a fan of subject matter that depicts furries.  The adjective form of furry is used to describe things that pertain to the furry fandom.  There's also the term 'fursona', a noun used to describe a nonhuman persona that a person identifies with or acts out.


Furries in art: "Harbinger", by Blotch


The term 'furry' is incredibly loaded.  It means a lot to people who are familiar with the fandom because of all of the preconceptions and stereotypes there are about the demographic of people who frequent the online hubs of the community.  It also means a lot to many people well-versed in "Internet culture", if there is such a thing.  The furry fandom is certainly a diverse community, but because most of the community frequents the same small number of hubs, it's easy to characterize the way that those hubs work and be turned off to any of the main characteristics of those particular places.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Translating: People to Characters

I really want to write a webcomic or graphic novel or anime or something.  I'll probably do something that only requires a writer and an artist, because I can be both of those things.  What's most important to me is that I get a set of characters, a set of ideas that I want to convey, and a really compelling plot that helps me express what I want to express.  Having a large readership is a really useful tool in getting across a message, so I need to make my story engaging to the demographics I want to reach - which should initially be the layman, but which should have a lot of appeal for the people like me and the people who can bring about the changes that my work calls for.

So right now, I'm starting to compile characters that are inspired by people I know in real life.  These are people whose motivations I well understand, and I hope to use what I know about their ways of living to guide the characters' decisions.  I want to make the story believable and fluid, so I want to put the right people in the right situations for the right reasons.  It's interesting, thinking about what would be needed to make a certain event happen, and which characters need to interact for a certain debate to be had in a way that doesn't seem like a writer's soapbox.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and I'd really like to get it on paper so I can get really writing a long-ass story and draw things to match up with it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Prayer of Hope

Fire
My Spirit is Fire
Deadly
Contained by my body
The force of my nature

My spirit is
Pride, Fear, Love, Vengeance,
Unhindered Desire, Elegance,
Despair, Suffering, Wisdom,
Imagination and Infinity.

Spirit,
Be driven by my hope.
Fire,
Be driven by my hope.
Earth,
Be driven by my hope.

Hope,
Let me guard you,
I will protect you and guide you,
My body
and my mind
and my desires
and my decisions
and my actions
and my success
will keep you safe,
will give you form,
will give you strength,
will light your way,
will set you free,
will give you peace.

Fly!

Fly!

Fly!

Let the fire of my spirit
Be the wind that supports you
And save my soul
From fear and despair.
Bring light to the world!
Extinguish the miasma!
Bring respite to the Damned!

Hope,
I will hold you dear,
And my courage will propel you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Populating Meaning, ?%

At this point in my life, my interactions with other people start to mean things.

I am no longer complaining that my existence is banal and trivial.  My life now has significance.

Safeties off, as I've forgone the nets that I could always return to.  I'm far too proud for that.  I refuse to accept any role that takes away my agency.  I am avidly the expression of my soul.

There is a lot more gravity in life than I am used to.  Fiction expands the horizons of my mind, and exploration in the knowledge of my own world grounds those shining imaginative comprehensions in the world that I can affect.

I am far too sensitive to that gravity.  I process my perceptions deep in my soul, perceiving events and circumstance at my core, internalizing the events of the world as the events of my world.  I am not separate or distinct from the world that I witness.  I am not a bystander, and I cannot evade responsibility.

Now, as I begin to enter the adult world, I feel the weight of everything that I can see, as if I have to find the golden bullet to cure all of our ills.  I can't separate myself from the future that we can so easily predict.

I want to know everything so that I can do everything.  So that I can save the world from the evils we agree are evils.  So that I can absolve the damned of their cruel fates.  So that I can find a way to escape the vicious cycle of hate.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Finding the Dynamo

I've played the Mass Effect trilogy three times now.  Each time, everything was more poignant and meaningful.  I got something new out of each run.  And each time that I returned to an emotional experience, it grew even more powerful.

This culminated so much that, in my final moment, after I made my last decision, I broke down.  I was consumed with tears.

It wasn't sad.  I did the right thing, and I accepted the sacrifice that I made to obtain the outcome that I thought was best.  I changed the galaxy in a huge way, but I don't believe that the gravity of my last action was nearly what got me so worked up.  It was something underneath the surface, something that I couldn't pinpoint that was assaulting me emotionally.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Race

What are my privileges and responsibilities as a person of German heritage who doesn't identify with any given race?  What do I have to do as a middle-class Caucasian man to be a moral participant of a cosmopolitan society where there is economic and social disparity between different demographics?  What is there for me to do so that I will not be guilty for the sins of people who share my skin color?  What is the attitude that I should take towards questions of race?

I just want to do what brings peace to the world.  And everybody is so angrily adamant about questions of race that I don't know how to approach the issue any more.  I try not to think about it, and to only do things that I know will bring into the world more justice, peace, prosperity, truth, and liberty.  But at the same time, I don't want to inadvertently wrong people because my inaction allows a broken system to continue subjugating people.

I don't understand how the abstract statements by social activists translate into an actual way of life, because those perspectives depend on a broken system to exist.  I haven't come across a worldview that gives me insight into how I should act - only insight into how I shouldn't act.  And those opinions are so diverse and contradictory, I can't find the positive space between all of the negative space.  I don't know what side of what line I should stand on.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why I Have Like Having Long Hair

Many people ask me why I don't cut my hair.  It's an innocent question that causes me to be infuriated at the culture that raises people to believe in the sanctity of sexual dichotomy.  Here are some reasons that I do not cut my hair to make it short:

I like the feel of running my hands through long hair.

I like how it falls on my neck and shoulders.

I like having something to groom.

Despite the fact that it frequently looks messy and unkempt, which causes me insecurity and makes me feel uncomfortable in social situations, I like the way that it can look when I treat it well.

I hate gender norms.  The fact that having long hair is considered womanly by my culture encourages me to have long hair.

Having long hair as a man functions as a social litmus test.  The things people say about my hair give me insight into their participation in cultural norms and their aesthetic judgments.

I don't feel obligated by convention to get my hair cut, and I don't foresee making it short.  End of story.

Summer Changes Things

I've been feeling really good lately.  I've been playing games, having good conversations, eating my own cooking, spending time with phenomenal housemates, reviewing basic Spanish, reviewing cell biology, presidenting the glee club, clothes shopping, cleaning the house, and learning Java.

I'm... happy.  It feels weird to say that anymore.  But I think I can get used to this feeling.  I feel free.  I remember feeling like this years ago.

Ha!  I've been laughing.

I'm still aware of what prevented me from being happy.  But now it just doesn't hurt so much.  I have enough positive things in my life to keep me going, and I have hope for finding more.

And if there's one thing I have to do, it's to protect hope.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Walk Instead

When I write in my journal, it's frequently analytic, introspective, or gushing emotion.  Today I decided to walk around the beautiful neighborhood I now inhabit, and the nearby campus.  I wrote in my journal something much more enjoyable than usual.  It felt good.

[I don't write for an audience.]

"I'm sitting at a pond.  Passion puddle.  There are geese, an applauding fountain, kids playing with volleyballs and badminton, more types of life and green than there are buildings, and a scattered few papers around the bench I'm on.  There's a feather on the ground before me, many pebbles in the mud, deepening shadows, ripples and reflections, duckweed, and handsome large rocks.  The sky is clear blue, the air is filled with the odor of moving water, and I can hear nothing unhappy.

Where I saw the children throwing something powdery at the geese, I now see the birds pecking at the ground.  The apex of the fountain is tossing the tiniest dew above it, releasing hard water droplets into a mist so fine it can whisk with the breeze, still visible.

It makes me so happy to see that residents of New Brunswick (not students) are using the campus as a park.  It makes me feel less cut off from life; it brings a sense of community to the place that otherwise feels like a microcosm--blind and irresponsible.  Just goes to show how the land on which we live is only borrowed from Gaia, and from the life that we consider 'not us'."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Direction for an Art Project

I found an interesting introspective essay about a man's journey in overcoming his depression.

It is interesting.  I like the idea of giving one's unhappiness a face.  Especially when it acts as its own entity, completely independent from what you know is your own agency.  There's something to be said for the process of creating a partition in one's mind.  Distinguishing the parts from one another.  As complexly they may be interwoven, they still operate with some independence.  There is localization of cognitions.

I've been telling myself that I'll do art.  Now I think I have a project that can give that nebulous ambition some direction.  I will give form to the parts of me that I can't stand, the parts of me that I love, and the miscellaneous parts of me that I feel deserve some kind of shout-out.

So I'll do a little reading, organize my materials, then get started on the easy stuff.  I'll work my way up to the more nuanced and difficult parts of this project as I develop a way to think about and do this internal analysis.  Now that I've settled into my new home, I'm regaining some of my old skill at reading myself.

I have two hopes for this:

*Develop some sort of voice in visual art.

*Overcome my... feelings.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Foggy Brain

I've been really busy lately.

So busy that I haven't really been able to introspect as much as Brian. But that's OK. I'm not as cool as him, anyway. i like to eat poop. a lot of poop.poop is so yummy. i like yummy things. like poop. When poop gets multiplied by a fundamental constant, it becomes introspective -- like me, but not as much as Brian is. 

(thanks, Brian and Dana, for your insightful assistance)

...as much as I normally do.  I think this is a really good thing!  My introspection has been going down a bad path.  I'd been getting less and less happy with what I was finding, because I was continually reinventing standards for myself that were unrealistic.  The introspection had become purely deleterious.  I hadn't been 'doing' things insofar as realizing tangible, positive consequences.  I wasn't laboring in a way that produced things I could reap.

Vaguely.  I feel like there's a giant block of sludge stuck between my eyes and my mind.  I've been acting more or less normal, but I've felt less aware and less conscious lately.  Incapable of integrating my cognitions.    I don't know exactly what it is, but I do know the effect is that I've been focusing on the world around me more, too.  Instead of fighting inside myself, I've been experiencing things that make me happy.

I'll still get moments where I feel like I'm about to sink into a bad place.  I'll start to drift inwards, into the aura that precedes a bout of depression.  But then I think to myself:  I am not in despair.  I can be happy.  I have reasons to be happy.  I am happy!  And then I actually start to feel good.

I'm grateful to many people for this becoming possible.  Foremost, I'm relieved that I made the decision to live with the people I do now.  I know that they're good people.  I've been laughing like never before, for each of the few days I've been living here.

I know myself much better because of last year's internal tribulation.

Now, I promise to myself that I will stay healthy.  Happy.  Safe.  I'm going to make life decisions that keep me sane, and do my best never to put myself in such a rut as I did before.  Life happens, and so does shit, but at least I promise that I will watch out for myself.

Listening to:  Pink Rabbits by The National

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Initiating Summertime Activities

There are some things you just can't force.  Inspiration doesn't come because you ask for it.  Friendships don't become intimate overnight.

You have to be diligent.  And patient.  Because when you invest in something that matters, it's going to pay off.

This summer, I'll be putting in some more work of my own to make some progress towards some of the bigger, more important things I must do.

With a handful of people who like asking big questions and finding answers, I will spend a nice chunk of my time thinking about the future.  Not just my own future, either.  I just obtained a research position with the Dean of my university's Honors Program, with the goal of developing an educational platform to teach about the importance of the 21st century from the perspective of the divergent future societies it might lead to.  And he's interested, as am I and as are these other social entrepreneurs of sorts, to get started on the thinking before the academic year begins.

I'll be taking 3 summer classes to make necessary progress on my academics.  Those shouldn't take up too much time.  Fundamentals of Cell & Developmental Bio, Intro to CS, and Calc II.  So... more basics courses that I have to cover just to be mildly educated in the fields I want to weave together.  Diligence and patience.  Should keep that in mind.

I'll be learning how to art.  I've already collated a few resources that I'll be able to process once I've moved in to my first rented house.

But before I can get involved with any digital art, I'll have to solder the inside of my drawing tablet back together.  That necessitates organizing the basement of our new house into a fantastic hackerspace and second bedroom.

I'll watch some anime, play some video games, read some books.

I also have a few projects that I plan to undertake, but which are of the utmost secrecy (mostly because they're the sort of niche things that nobody would care to hear about anyway).

WHOA I don't know yet which will be the most fun, because all of it seems pretty enticing.  This will be a good summer.

Once I've moved out and senior week is over, I'll reflect properly on the school year that's almost behind me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Autocomplete

So... autocomplete.

It's interesting, because it's what humans do all the time when they're listening to conversations.  We've taken a human cognitive model and extrapolated it to search engines, word processing, and basically anything that involves a computer receiving our input.

But shouldn't we also extrapolate the fact that it's really rude to persistently jump in at somebody's throat to finish their sentences, guess what they mean to say without giving them your full attention, to repeatedly feed somebody words that they weren't looking for?  It's frickin annoying in real life, so why on Earth does anybody think it's a good idea for google to put in extra words into my search the moment I strike the enter key?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How We Perceive Synthetics

We don't understand consciousness.  Humans do not understand humans on the scientific level that we ultimately want to, but we can individually intuit how we work to a reliably sophisticated degree.

I am strongly fearful that we will end up in a world where we create synthetic consciousness and become scared of it.  We are going to create beings that are more intelligent than us, with consciousness and with critical thought, but we won't know what to do with it.



I am so scared by people who say they want to create robots that can do all the "drudgery" to free up our minds to do greater things.  It's absurd for many reasons, not the least of which is the undeniable fact that modeling robots after the workings of our own brains is guaranteed to give us some form of intelligence that is at least as powerful as ours.

"At least as powerful"... How powerful are our brains?  If we were to continue using the algorithms that allow us to learn and to think past the point at which they generally stop operating in human development, what would happen to our thoughts?  Is it possible that we could continue to grow, forever, or does the circuitry that we use to think ultimately reach a certain point of sophistication because it is self-limiting?

There are so many fascinating questions to ask about what could happen were we to change certain small variables in our own brains, and if we were to construct slightly different learning algorithms for computers, and I can't wait for the real research to get underway.  All I can say is that, regardless of how well these computers can learn how to identify coffee mugs, and whatever company comes up with a cognizant robot first, I want to program my own artificial intelligence to communicate with and grow into a full-fledged person.  I will learn what it takes to develop my own artificial intelligence by following in the footsteps of all those mathematicians and computer scientists, making some changes to get as close to a person as I can.

I think it's important that we approach the prospect of inventing life with a feeling of obligation to whatever we create.  If we create synthetic consciousness, then it's important to recognize that consciousness as valuable and to treat it as we may treat other people today.

So many fascinating questions!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Beauty Around Us

I love the feeling that I get when I am listening to the  music on my ipod, and I come across a song that I don't recognize.  Something that I took the care to put on a playlist, but then completely forgot about.  When I run a list on shuffle, I spend the first few seconds of each song trying to put my finger on what the title and artist are, deciding whether I want to listen to the rest of the song or if I'm looking for a different vibe for the moment.

Then I'll hear something, that sounds just like new, I am reminded that my music collection is incomplete.  That there are new things to discover.

Exploration will never outpace creation.  As long as there is life, we will grow, we will conceive other life, and we will morph the nonliving into new shapes.  The dynamo of invention is so important to humans' dual nature as animals and people that I don't believe any individual can say they've lived life to the fullest without investing in creativity.

I so vividly crave exploration.  The vastness of the unknown is a glorious thing.  I wish I wasn't so stuck in this tiny moment of my life, so shortsightedly mired in an inconsequential lifestyle, and that I was brave enough to go explore the abounding frontiers of my world.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Return

I went back.  I wanted to go back and I didn't know why.  Now I'm back and I don't know why I'm here or why I wanted to be.

It's easy to fight.  But what happens when I'm fighting myself?

*sigh*

Monday, April 29, 2013

Don't Be Prejudiced

People with prejudices are stupid.

No, really, it's been proven scientifically with a sample of 15,874 people.

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/01/04/0956797611421206.abstract

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Observations of Music; Chaos

I have found the best music player ever.  Foobar2000 officially takes the cake.  It took some time to get used to, but it works so much more effectively than iTunes did in so many ways.  The way the lyrics plugin works, the easy renaming of metadata at the file level, the fact that opening new windows doesn't block out one another's functioning, the volume control, the cool minimalist design... lots of other little details that I really enjoy.  I'm happy iTunes botched everything up, because now I'm left with a much more effective piece of software.

I'm trying to understand what music is and what there is to get out of it.  When I'm in a live performance, I'm focusing all of my attention on the music and the thoughts that the music inspires.  I spend some of the time thinking about the technical aspects of the performance, some of the time trying to understand what the composer was trying to convey, and the rest coming up with ways in which the music is relevant to my personal perspective.  Maybe it's true that language communicates ideas and music communicates emotions.

Chaos is Life.  Really!  Life = Chaos.  I probably wouldn't have made such a stark realization without the mythos proposed by the Fabula Nova Crystalis, but now that I realize how important chaos is to our vivacity, I can appreciate the fact that there's now more chaos in my life than there was before spring break.  It is something that fuels creativity and spurs the mind in all directions.  It encourages nonlinear thinking and invention.  I thrive on it in my spare time, and keeping up with my responsibilities in the face of disarray keeps me energized.

For better or worse, swimming in chaos makes it harder to see what's missing.  If there are things in my life that I desperately need, I don't see them as readily when I don't have order and my mind isn't allowed to pace incessantly up and down the same deleterious paths as if it were having an emotional seizure.  I'm glad that I rid myself of that, but having order did allow me to accomplish more.  Perhaps I've sequestered myself from the brightness of a more structured lifestyle, one where I spend my time going to class and reading the textbooks, for the simple reason that I am frightened to see what is missing in my life--and what is wrong with the world around me.  I think that on some level I realize that I would best be served by striking a balance between Chaos and Order.  But I'm scared to return to Order, as Chaos provides me a shroud to hide what I don't want to look at.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Keening

It's strange, hearing about the death of an artist you've been following.  In this case, he died two years ago, which is a time I can tie to a point in my own life.  I first saw his work long before that, and I had no idea his life had ended.  The few snippets I can find tell me he was an astoundingly peaceful person with only the best intentions, and I feel such a strange, nebulous remorse for him.

Your memory lives on, and through your work you are immortal.

It's different than hearing about or watching the death of a stranger.  It hits closer to home.  And especially when it's somebody who's not all that different than you.

Even if spirituality can only help heal the living, it's important to understand that our transience does not diminish our value.  We are so, so, so important.  The ephemeral spark of our beautiful existence is powerful.    Our tender vulnerabilities may be the greatest component of that strength.  Our inevitable deaths, the dynamos of our living.  Inescapable heartbreaks and the pain that is outside of our control bring into our lives the darkness that

Craving the bitterness of strong tea, I feel as if I've escaped from the heavy darkness only to escape my greatest strengths.  I don't feel like the agent of my will right now.  Is there a way to both be happy and regain that intensity?  I don't think that's the right question, but it's a start.  I'll eventually find the right question.  Before that, probably, I'll find its answer.

Last night, I fell asleep quite late, listening to a playlist I've titled "Death".  As my insides writhed, I spent time wondering who we are.  I didn't come up with any new formulations that I hadn't before, but looking at it as a big whole, a teeny piece of the vastness of the Universe, seeing ourselves as contributors to a consciousness that will live for millennia, creators of immense happiness and wonder... it instills a sense of peace in me.  Peace that I really need.

College.  Youth.  The epoch of finding one's self.  It's going to take a bit longer, but I'm getting there.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fez

oH.  mY gOD.  fEZ IS BEING RELEASED ON THE pc THROUGH sTEAM!!!!!!!!!!

You don't know how ÜBER EXCITED i AM RIGHT NOW.

But really, I'm prepurchasing that sick filth right now.

Monday, April 22, 2013

-G- o

If there's one thing that never ceases to amaze me, it's space.  Everything about it.  The fact that we GO there.  The fact that humans can attain escape velocity.  Pictures taken outside of our atmosphere.  The grand scale.  The utter, nihilistic beauty.

I really hope we find life out there, or that it finds us.  Eventually.  Even still, there's enough beauty behind the lenses of our telescopes to last the human race for quite a while.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Late Night Thoughts on Reading "Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony" and Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony

My friend once lent me a book by Lewis Thomas - The Medusa and the Snail.  I can't remember whether I ever finished it, but I did really enjoy it a lot, and I had to eventually return it.  At some point, she gave me another book by him for a birthday present:  Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

I never got to it for whatever reason.  Probably just the fact that my life is in perpetual disarray and an ever-changing set of responsibilities that I hate to see unattended (and thus attend).  So the things I want to do... well, I want to do a lot of things and don't really get to all of them.

Anyway, I started reading it a couple weeks ago.  It was largely about the necessity of science, as opposed to technology that's only directed at figuring out the answers to the basic problems of society, which is actually a huge part of what I'm using to further my own goals--which is ironic, because my own goals are in a sense very well defined and could be categorized as more technological than scientific.

It was also about the imminent threat of thermonuclear war with the Russians (I wasn't aware before opening it up that this set of essays was written during the Cold War, in a time when people were actively living in fear of a nuclear winter).  It was about wide-scale death.  This was also a rather nice fit with my recent thoughts and outlooks.  As I have a great interest in ending the systematic torture and murder that permeates the fabric of our society and that is funded by taxes and grocery bills, I always listen to people speak about violence.  It also hurts that I recently saw, for the first time, videos of people actually dying, which honestly had a huge impact on my perception of violence.  An American engineer named Eugene Armstrong, and two Syrian citizens whose identities I haven't been able to find out.  I don't care who the victims are, I don't want there to be any more suffering.

When I was mostly done with the collection of essays, I found out that our very own Rutgers Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to perform Mahler's Ninth Symphony this very month.  So I finished the book, made plans for Friday night, and went on over to watch it in person.  I texted my friend to suggest he come as well, caught the bus, arrived on Douglass campus after it was scheduled to begin, and ran with my flip-flops right into the theater to pick up my student rush ticket and sit down a couple of rows behind my friend moments before the downbeat.

I don't know if it was because I was so winded, or because I haven't been listening to all that much classical music recently, or because I'm mentally exhausted, but I don't feel like I completely understood the music.  I went in knowing nothing about it except the few words Lewis Thomas had to say about it.  Now, I think the Rutgers Symphony played it with a bit more vim than I have found in recordings online, and the director's interpretation might have been idiosyncratic, but I felt that the symphony was really dense.  I walked out having obtained only a glimmer of what it was about, what it meant.  The significance.  I spent the duration shifting between deep thoughts, which had little to do with the music, and listening without stark affect.


 




I really like that.  I can say without hesitation that the symphony was beyond me.  It was more than I could handle, when listening to it being performed live, and when actually focusing on it.  At best, there were moments when I had glimpses of a natural world decaying, which does resonate with Mahler's intention.  And maybe my lack of response is a consequence of the content, as opposed to the form; it has been said that his symphony is written from an impersonal perspective, as music from the beyond, which may be why I didn't feel particularly touched.  Maybe I simply know too little about stepping outside myself, too little about death.  Maybe I'm too young and inexperienced.

Whatever the reason may be, I can say that there is an opportunity in this incomprehension.  I can continue to listen to this symphony and seek understanding.  Or I could choose to leave it a mystery.  I don't really mind whether I ever figure it out, because I at least know that I like it, and the complexity is inspiring as well as stimulating.  I'll have to ask my friend for some good recordings of Mahler.  After hearing this posthumous opus, I know I'm not done with him.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Not Different Worlds

I am in the world of the Eiffel Tower.

I am in the world of my ex-girlfriend's bed.

I am in the world of my soulmate.

I am in the world of factory farms.

I am in the world of out-of-shape hippies.

I am in the world of indescribable torture.

I am in the world of the oval office.

I am in the world of terrorism and ideologies of hatred.

I am in the world of my college friends.

I am in the world of hope and aspiration.

I am in the world of frat parties and booze.

I am in the world of art and literary criticism.

I am in the world of research

I am in the ivory tower of academia.

I am in my mind.

I am in my body.

I AM OVERWHELMED.  The emotions are all too much for me, and the only way I can respond is to caress each one softly as I store it in the center of my mind, amidst thoughts of today, wishes for tomorrow, and dirges for the past.  I ruffle the sensations of each moment, as I might the fur of a wounded animal.  Most of them are the extensions of empathy; although I myself have known sorrow, I am not in nearly as woeful a plane as the myriad individuals who suffer, actually, daily.

I am perpetually surrounded by a stucco flash of the images in my memory and imagination.  Walking up a road in my hometown at night.  Driving home as the sun rose after my graduation day.  Waiting in the dark on so many occasions.  Riding the bus with friends and without.  Freezing happily at marching band competitions.  Painstakingly typing away at high school masterpieces.  On my computer screen, a blindfolded man having his head sawed off, or the smile of a soldier stabbing a prisoner to death.  Extrapolations to what the constant violence in Karachi, Newark, or Homs looks like.  Verbal depictions of two Japanese cities being destroyed by a nuclear bomb.  Walking alone down the road in my college town.  Singing my heart out in an unpacked lecture hall.

I meditate on this.  There is so much humanity that one person can see in such a short amount of time.  I can't help but feel remorse for every one who turns away from the images, and who doesn't create them.  There is so much to be gained from the challenge of sorting through the human psychological response to enlightenment and revelation.

I feel once again engaged with the world.  I must take all of what I feel and know and direct it towards finding truth.  I will advocate peace and create liberty.  I will seek inspiration and knowledge.  I will create and accomplish.  I will one day find the kinds of happiness that come to those who are patient but diligent.  I will do my best to placate the entanglement of life inside my memory, sustaining it with every breath.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

No Deus to Ex Machina

Even the renegade Light Yagami obtained his power through the generosity of the gods.

But there is no Deus to Ex Machina.

Fate exists.  There is only one path to my future, but it happens to be too occluded to see right now.  That path depends on who I am.  I create my fate.  Even if it can only be one way, the way it turns out depends on how strong I am, how compassionate I am, how skillful I am.  My actions depend on the interaction between my desires and my ethics.

I'm bound to freedom, and that freedom is bound to turn out one way exactly, if simply because one cause cannot lead to two outcomes at once.

"The future is a constant in a world of free will
but if we are all predestined, a future variable."
~Owen Pallett, in A Man With No Ankles

I am not yet strong enough to obtain the skills and knowledge that I need.  Not as quickly as I originally wanted to obtain it.  The rigor with which I studied and worked up until spring break was too much for me.  I couldn't keep going, and now I've been recuperating in the ways that I know how.  I've done a pretty good job getting myself back to good health, in whatever kind I wasn't.

Now I'm reexamining everything I've been doing.  Putting my actions into a new light - one that also shines on the various things that would make me stronger, make the path towards my fate more clear, and ways to make my path a real one.

I've come to realize that, given the megalomaniacal proportion of my plan to engineer land-dwelling animals that can use language to communicate with each other and humans, there's really only one thing that I need to do:  start.  I only need to create a niche that will be filled out by the vast amount of people who want to contribute to the worthy goal.  There is an ethical impetus to make this the world we live in.  Among such a vast human population, there are plenty of personal motives for doing it, too.  Once it becomes a field, it will absolutely be populated by plenty of bright minds until it finds fruition.

And there's my new goal.  Although beginning a project is immensely less ambitious than finishing it completely, it is logically necessary.  And given what I know about human behavior and the progress of society, I have faith that its completion is the natural corollary to its inception.

So there it is:  the biggest hurdle, the one that requires the power of a god, is to change reality, not to extend it.  The machine will continue to operate the way it always has.  Operating outside of the machine is part that's impossible; it just so happens that operating outside of the machine is completely within my reach.

Or, should I say, within the reach of a stronger me.  The me that exists once I have trained and studied and molded myself into a capable, wise man.  One whose existence I so desperate covet.  I must steel myself to the challenges ahead, sensitize myself to the reasons I push onward, and precisely make myself fit for the specific roadblocks to my ambitions.  I must expand my mind and be more erudite than before.  I must hold dear my dream and take steps towards actualizing it.

In the past couple weeks, I've given myself time to think and postulate some of those steps.  Instead of drowning myself in coursework, I've been studying the world around me, the world of ideas that isn't covered in my academic studies, and trying to innovate.

I may still be in the brainstorming stage, but I daresay I am rather excited for the plans I've come up with so far.  I know for a fact that I can help heal the world:  because if I can heal myself, then nothing is irredeemable; if I can strengthen myself to be who I want to be, then there is no limit to the potential of people or society.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rejection

I'm happy that TEDxRutgers rejected me.  Well... I shouldn't say they rejected me.  I should say they didn't have the wherewithal to give me any information about whether I was accepted or not, and I've decided to make other plans for the date.

Listen up, those of you who are searching for the bright future of humanity:

I'm not here to impress people.  I'm not here to be smart.  I'm not here to be talented.

I'm not here to help humanity, or do anything grand in the forward-thinking kind of way that's expected of medical students and basically all professionals in the mainstream work force.

I am not here to push forward the desires of the hive mind.

I am here to fundamentally change the fabric of our society.  To annihilate one of the most basic truths we hold to be self-evident - that being human is unique.

I'm here to tell everybody that they're not as fabulous as they think they are.  To tell you all that the rest of the world is as valuable as you are, and that you hold no more intrinsic value than a corvid, or a puppy, or a pig.  That we completely lack an understanding of the mind and will never understand what consciousness really is until we know about the other kinds.  The nonhuman kinds of consciousness, which are beautiful in their own respective and unique regards.

I'm here.  And I will continue to be here.

Your mind is small, and there are many things that you cannot or choose not to understand.  So is mine, and so there are for me.  But really, understand what that means.  Try to see beyond the walls of our tiny, little box.  Accept that everything you believe is wrong, and recreate from scratch your ideologies.  This isn't to say that you are, in fact, wrong about anything.  But if you believe you have arrived at the correct solution, and that the solution you have is immutable because you arrived at it, then you have stopped being a child.

That should be the absolute worst thing to an intellectual.  Growing up means losing all of the beautiful devices that children use to shape their minds into better, more agile devices.  It means losing the ability to learn new languages.  Losing the spark of youth and the bliss of novelty.  No more awe.   No reverence, except for structures heralded by overarching society and individual cultures.

Speaking of the influence of culture...

Today, I came across a video of violence in Syria.  Over the course of a few minutes, two Syrians were tortured and subsequently murdered.  This happens.  I do not suggest you watch it, but I will inform you that it exists, here:  debilitatingly outrageous footage of the Syrian civil war.

That put a lot of things into perspective.  I have decided that it is necessary to do something and I will do my best to push forward that agenda.  I will set into motion the animal language movement and aid in whatever way I can fathom the research on communicating with cetaceans.  Because I am fed up with YOUR refusal to acknowledge the capacity of other species to suffer the consistent abuse of humanity's efficiency.  Watching the death of a fellow human sure hits close to home, but morality is not the extension of natural emotion - it is a set of universal laws that apply consistently to all situations that are analogous.

The death of one is a tragedy.  The death of a million is two million tragedies, where each death succeeds a long and tortuous life of fear.

Most of my life is centered around beliefs that are supported by evidence and thorough sets of personal observations and analyses.  But I do have some faith; namely, I have faith in the fact that the scientifically established separation between language and all other aspects of the aware, conscious mind, in conjunction with the experience I've derived from knowing so many cats, dogs, and other nonhumans, is enough to justify that the mind is a well conserved and well distributed feature in the animal kingdom.  I have faith that the first talking animal will have enough to say that we are forced to realize the error of our ways and accept that humanity is not the only set of minds on this Earth.

I am indignant now.  I know who I am and I know what I will do.  I demand peace and I will not settle until all systematic injustice has been erased from our reality, and a memorial for its countless victims is constructed in its stead.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

4AM Babbling and Introspection

I would really like to be a dark forest.  I want to be a labyrinth that mesmerizes and confuses.

(Mystery.  Darkness.  Empathy.)

Maybe that's what we all are, behind the pretty treeline and the well trimmed hedges.  I have no exclusive claim to any feeling.  But it's so. hard. to find people who will open their gates and share themselves with you.  I crave intimacy and genuineness.  I want to know that there are other people wandering the dense brush with me, albeit along paths many times removed.  It is necessarily solipsistic to say that I'm alone.

Depending on others makes me vulnerable.

to myself.

I've been asking people who they are when they eliminate situational identities.  What is constant?  What makes you you, even if you take out every other person on the planet from the equation?  Generally, people don't seek out those answers.  It doesn't matter to them.  So, should I maintain that understanding one's own identity is universally important for any person, or should I assume that such comprehension is only valuable to a subset of people with some differentiating characteristic?

I don't just desire this knowledge, I need it.  As much as I wish to be perceived as a maze, I struggle to escape what is certainly a tangled mass of body and mind.  To find a vantage point that allows me to see what I am, that enables me to navigate myself and exit to the world around me as I fancy.

The fact that my inherent dissatisfaction with the nature of my existence is particularly salient is a minor detail that has no impact on the universality of our mortality's limits.  Being merely an animal that acts in accordance with the world around it is insufficient.  I can't explain why it is insufficient for everyone, but it absolutely must be.

I am reaching for spotlights, searchlights, flashlights, and all the lights I can find to find my way, and I worry that I'm blinding myself.  The inconsistency of my lens of choice is detrimental to the stability of my path.  Keeping a strong hold on the footsteps directly ahead is necessary for persisting towards the larger accomplishments much farther ahead.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What I Don't Think

I've started everything too late.  There's no way I can learn how to be the writer, poet, artist, musician, linguist, scientist I want to be.  I'll have to settle for being a subpar scientist who tried to be a jack of all trades and succeeded at nothing.  I'll wind up doing research in some no-name university and make tiny bits of progress in an area that doesn't really matter.  The academic networking enterprise I wish to create is doomed to failure and nothing I do in life will ever matter.

...

I do not believe this.  Any of it.  I will not.  Even if it is all true, I refuse to accept hopelessness, and I will do whatever it takes to reach my dreams.

Dreams.  Those are much grander than I've lately been thinking.  I don't know if I can keep going if there's only one thing that matters - especially if my passion for that one thing is mired in a grief mutually exclusive with daily happiness.  I have many dreams, and I need to be able to pursue them without feeling guilty about forsaking the primary one.  Balance my pursuits with one another.  Become everything that I can, experience everything that life has to offer -- hell, simply to live!

I want to start living again!  I want to feel the things I used to feel, embrace the Universe, be one with the world I'm in!  I'm tired of being something that isn't me.  I know who I am.  I refuse to be shackled by circumstance, by my inhibitions, by my reservations, and by my insecurities.

I put myself down so that I don't stand out.  I have to stop.  It hurts me; all of the artificial modesty and the compensatory superiority complexes.  I used to have such a great handle on my place in the world, but I'm losing it.  If I don't regain it, I may be lost in a way only capable of being expressed by euphemisms.  I've been there, and I feel like I'm looking back down at the same place from a precarious perch above.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

, bitches

Thank you, Richard Dawkins, for making my day:

There's something ineffably fantastic about the fact that this happened.  The simple fact that one can now attribute this quote to Richard Dawkins (even if he was merely quoting a certain popular webcomic) is astonishing and surreal.

I am proud to be a scientist in this day and age.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Climbing and Falling

Not all decisions are made once.  There are some decisions that you have to make over and over again, whether it be leading up to a momentous action or continuing an arduous journey.

Once you start climbing a mountain, the rest of the journey consists of countless steps.  Although each step certainly depends on the ones before it, the first by no means causes the last.

Falling is different.  The false move start leads to the cataclysmic crash end.  There is no recourse.  There is one single event that decrees the downwards path.  Bad falls cause injuries that insinuate vulnerability.

When one falls far enough, they may feel as if they have lost all of the progress they made up to where they were before.  It can be difficult to bear the vanity of all the wasted aspirations, and sometimes the fall hurts so much that it's hard to consider resuming the climb, and the energy necessary to get back up is difficult to make resurface.

Haste and zeal both augment the chance of another misstep.  And because it is so empirically difficult to measure retrospectively one's pretension, getting back on your feet can be disorientating; if one cannot determine the cause of their blunder, then do they try again the path they were traveling, or do they foray into another, perhaps safer, route to their imagined summit?


There needs to be a driving force.  It takes something positive - a perceptible hope - to persuade a person to continue making the decision to climb upwards.  No bitter remnant of failure or past dissatisfaction will suffice, because all such stresses are naturally assuaged by increasing one's distance from the immediate danger.  Reaching for the pinnacle of some lofty goal may help a person to leave behind misfortune, but escaping from misfortune will not sustainably lead one towards that peak.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Itunes Loses.

Itunes is the worst thing ever.  It just spontaneously decided to rewrite my library files with blanks, so I have nothing that I once had.  Nothing at all.  Every single playlist is gone, except for what is serendipitously on my Ipod.

I guess this is the impetus I needed to shift to a new music player.  I'll try out a bunch, I guess, and see what the best is.  Should be a titanic waste of time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Increasing Emotions

I need to do things.

For a long time, now, I've been just doing school, rarely doing any work that required me to make new ideas or concepts or images, or really anything that wasn't recompilation of material that I'd learned.  And I believe adamantly that learning is worth the effort.  But at the same time, I believe that a large part of what was missing from my life was the act of creation.

I've been writing occasionally, making mixes, and singing in the Rutgers University Glee Club (of which I was recently elected president!!!).  That's all great stuff, and I think it's been filling part of a very large void in me.  However, there is something missing in these activities, which could be fairly relabeled as expressing the thoughts that are already on my mind, rearranging other people's works, and stylistically conveying the feelings of composers.

None of these activities actually involve me inventing things that had not before existed.  And to this end, I have come to the conclusion that I need to get engaged in art and creative writing.  Fiction.

Another thing that I've been missing is exercise.  I'm going to be running with one of my best friends in the hopes that I can get those endorphins rushing around, giving me that boost of natural antidepressants I need to get through the rest of my, well, time on this planet.

In addition, I'm going to stop religiously trying to finish all of my academic readings, because that particular structure wasn't working for my mental and emotional health.  Many of them are completely useless at this point in time, and if I have the books in my library, I can and will go back to them when I need to.

I'm going to start skipping classes that I don't find valuable as either a means to getting an A or as a way to learn really awesome things.  This will give me more time to do the things that I need to to get to a better place.

I'm going to spend more time with the people I care about.

This is all based on the conclusion that I am not stoic or strong enough to support myself in the lifestyle that I'd been entertaining for months.  My lack of happiness and, recently, serious depression, tangibly interfere with me doing the things I need to.

I believe emotions are valuable to animals, but not to people.  The distinction between animals and people is not a dichotomy, but a duality I use to put things in perspective, and which I'll have to explain later and in more detail.  I long ago decided that I would be a martyr for the [currently nonexistent] animal language movement, which means my feelings are not as important as the things I want to do.  Unfortunately, I, the person, live in me, the animal, and satisfactory emotional health is absolutely imperative to being proficient at accomplishing the tasks befitting a person.

I tried out the whole cloister thing this year, but I don't think I'm in an environment where that can work.  I may try it again in a place where I can naturally feel at peace, where I have fewer reasons to be discontent, but at this point in time, in this place, around this combination of people, I have to actively seek out things that make me happy to maintain my well-being.  I'm not saying I don't like it here, but there are certain, specific things that I need in a living situation but cannot find here.  In my current circumstance, zen is not the status quo, so I have to do things that bring me up to the level of simple functionality and inner peace.  Hopefully the things I've identified so far will be enough to keep me going until the time I have more reasons to feel content.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rap, Surprisingly

I've found something that I was never expecting to come across:  rap that I really like.

Thank you Azealia Banks for being amazing.  You have a really, really nice sound.

My mind is now open.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Funding

So now I ponder the question of which is the better model:  NSF or SU2C?

My instinctive answer is that neither is better.  They both accomplish different things.  When people talk about doing research, they must envision it as a bunch of scientists working in laboratories like Francis, Crick, and Franklin.  A bunch of celebrities thinking about these big questions and doing specific experiments to find the answers that others haven't already determined.

Although this is a necessary part of research, and to me the most appealing, it's absurd to think that this is all there is to it.  Science is a field that relies on data.  Without evidence and proof, the theories and individual experiments mean nothing.  I may have been surprised when I initially started looking around for labs to work in, because none of them were really able to do the broad, overarching research of which I had romantically dreamed.

What people see in the news is things like SU2C, which is certainly an incredible kind of thing:  have a bunch of rich people, affected by an important issue and with connections in high society, to bring together the brightest minds to come up with research that addresses such broad concerns as "cancer".  And this is good!  It means people get a more positive image of science, and encourages the dreamers in 3rd grade to pursue science as other engaged young people pursue music and sports fame.  Celebrities in science augment the public image of science and gradually supplants the religious fervor against science, spurred by loonies stuck in the 15th century.

But let's not get too hasty.  Although it's FANTASTIC when people with an insanely unfair proportion of society's resources decide to [somewhat] altruistically give back to that society, it's unreasonable for anybody to expect that to happen.  Relying on chance for things to happen is not scientific.  Relying on spontaneous flux and circumstance for events to occur is inefficient.  Especially in the case of science, where the work that these bigwig medical researchers are doing is utterly pointless without being based in a century of research on carcinogens and unrestricted cell growth.  And on the flip side, that methodical structure is agitatingly slow without individuals with passion, intuition, and the capacity to write great grant proposals.

That, I think, covers the foundation of my answer to the initial question.  What needs to happen is that society should rationally conclude what the most worthy scientific pursuits are, and pour our shared resources--taxpayer money and other governmental revenue--into funding for all of the little labs that do data acquisition and test mini-hypotheses.  Those all come together to form a more thorough image of the contemporary questions and the respective answers.  That utterly important research can then be guided by the sometimes eccentric ambitions of the mad scientists and Nobel laureates, and sped up at certain loci by celebrity donors.

The two business models are both valuable.  So how, we should ask ourselves, should our government allocate money?  Assuming we want to have success in science, what do we do?  The only logical answer is the following:

By virtue of the government being our collective power and an entity that complements culture as the stabilizing backbone of society, we should ask our government to do what we can, with supporting sound evidence, expect will work.  Within that set of possible actions, we should do what has the greatest potential for the greatest success.  So what can we expect?  We can expect that data acquisition on a large scale (the kind where we get our funding from the highly structured organizations headed by the government, like NSF) gives theoretical scientists something to analyze.  That organized groundwork allows theoretical scientists to draw hypotheses and support conclusions.  We can expect that wealthy individuals will only donate to scientific research when there's promise that it can achieve something they really want, such as the cure to a disease that is slowly killing them or their loved ones.  In other words, we can expect that the wealthy will not donate to things that are more menial and that are important in an unexciting way.

So, if you believe in the power of science, vote for people who support increased government spending on research, because entities like the NSF have the most power to get the ultra-valuable boring stuff done.  And if you know rich people, convince them that it's a really good idea to donate to mad scientists; for instance, persuade them that it's totally awesome in a million ways to make out a huge check to a small, elite research team researching the neurogenetic development of language in the hopes of finding the ideal method for genetically engineering a talking animal.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Maybe a Good Step

I did something a bit spontaneous today... after coming to the conclusion that there were more important things to do with my time than making small talk and looking at funny pictures, I deactivated my facebook.

I really hope I don't accidentally log on out of habit, because it's a bad one that I want to get rid of. Even talking to people over facebook is a detriment.  I've gotten used to communicating anything important through the carefully constructed written mode.  So used to it, that I have lost the ability to speak about things that are emotional for me through speaking.  Since I'm already beginning to lose myself in my elaborate Platonic conception, I decided it's best to do whatever I can to make myself more genuine.  Cut the fluff, stop mincing manners, be a little easier on myself when it comes to social things.  Give myself more time to reach for the one thing that matters.

I'll hope I can come up with some more substantive steps towards those ends.  Getting off facebook is only a topical answer to one piece of the problem.

In other news, I did a few useful things today.  First, I deposited a bunch of bonds from 20 years ago.  It totaled... a lot of money.  I felt obligated to go and spend a bit of it on some things I really, really needed:  a scanner/printer, headphones, and a memory card for my camera.  I also used that scanner to upload a drawing to my gallery.

Well.  Nothing to do now but learn neuroscience and organic chemistry.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Some Little Lists of Consequence

So, let's see how long I can go from now without sleeping.  I think I'll be able to hold out for quite a while, even if for no purpose other than the fact that I have a lot of work to catch up on.  It's just... I have this strange compulsion to accomplish something today, and I haven't yet done so.  And I haven't been able to actually do much this weekend because I was busy reading things.

But how did I spend the last 8 hours, again?  Oh... renovating some playlists on iTunes.  Wow.  I guess I did spend 2 or 3 of those actually reading.  Honestly, though, how can people do things without the perfect set of songs to listen to?  I've been itching to fix a bunch of outdated, hastily constructed mixes for a while, but I just hadn't sat down to actually bang out the necessary changes until today.  So I did it, and now I'll be happy for a while.  I think I'm getting to figuring out the sets of music I need for different moods.

Playlists changed:
  • Diabolical
  • Death
  • Existential
  • Spring
Playlists created:
  • Dry Haze
  • Ethereal
  • Growling
  • Industrial

These changes are simply to make all of my work more efficient and put myself in a better place to move forward with my quest of knowing every damn thing there is to know.

Things I've recently learned something about:
  • Contemporary theories of syntax acquisition in children
  • Broad understanding of morphogen-induced development in Aradopsis and animals
  • Headphone anatomy (...largely unintentional)
  • Organic chemistry stuff
  • Dolphins give each other names
Coming soon:
  • Refinement of my understanding in neuroanatomy
  • 3 midterms this week
  • Presidential election in the Glee Club, and the writing of a speech for said position
  • Learning more orgo stuff
Goals identified for the summer:
  • Finish the half of readings that I know I won't have finished by the end of the year
  • Get up to speed with the contemporary body of scientific research on dolphins and language genetics.  Find out who's doing what and where.  This is important because I need to find out where to apply to graduate school.
  • Make money
  • Finish the basement of the house I'm leasing for the year

Totes feeling good about things!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Silence

The other night I spent some time alone to meditate.  It was dark.  It was quiet.  I was alone.  I feel better now.  I need to find more quiet places where I can be in solitude, to speak my inner feelings and thoughts aloud, to listen to the silence,

to listen to the silence.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Solvation

I used to be incredibly religious.

I was raised Christian, and adamantly believed in the Lutheran teachings I received from a truly thoughtful and compassionate pastor.  I went to Church, Sunday School, and Confirmation Class.  I learned everything there was to know about my mother's denomination.

I loved going to Church.  It gave me opportunities to think in peace and quiet.  There, I had the opportunity to care about things.  I was allowed to believe that my decisions mattered, and other people shared with me, at least for that transient period where we jointly worshiped God, the notion that there is meaning to things.

When I was in second grade, my uncle brutally murdered his wife.  He went to prison for life and left her three daughters in the care of my grandma, who was a devout Christian.  She taught my cousins to grow up quickly, probably in part because she knew that she wouldn't be able to do everything that a pair of parents would.  She did her absolute best to care for them in every way possible.  I remember going over to play with them all of the time, playing with Legos, chess, and Sega Genesis.  I love my cousins.

Over time, I kind of caught on to the fact that they had certain new rules in the house that they were unfamiliar with.  To a younger me, who inherently had a limited understanding of the interpersonal dynamics of the household, one of the craziest things to change was that they had to relinquish a whole bunch of things that my grandma wasn't comfortable with for religious reasons.  For example, they were no longer allowed to read Harry Potter books, as writing about magic is sacrilegious.  I got all of their Pokémon cards, because she didn't want them playing with "pocket monsters".  Of course, there were other rules that were guided by certain overarching religious-cultural principles.

I also remember a good number of sleepovers, and going out to do things with my cousins semifrequently.  One time we went to paint pottery.  After we were done, and it was late at night, I was in the car to ride home with the oldest sister, the one with whom I played chess and Sonic 2.  Whoever was driving us home went back into the pottery place for a while.  Some conversation that I can't remember led to my cousin telling me she didn't believe in God.

Very young, still, I was naïvely confused.  I honestly thought it was sort of funny that she said she didn't believe in God.  How could she not?

In the coming years, I kept in the back of my mind the thought that believing in God was a choice.  My parents got divorced when I was still pretty young, and I was forced to accept that some things that we take for granted are really much more complicated and explicable than we may initially realize.  I was forced to view the world from a new perspective.  There were times when I could leave my house and still hear my parents yelling at each other.

In sixth grade, some kid who used to bully me was spreading around a bunch of videos about factory farms compiled by PETA whistleblowers.  I kept that in the back of my mind.  In early seventh grade, I ended up stumbling onto some of those videos again by a different source.  in November 2005, I went vegetarian.  That was around the time I went on a youth group retreat with my church.

By middle school, I was thinking about morality, ethics, and such.  Philosophizing as much as I could.  I figure out that I'm unhappy and I'm confused about my sexual orientation.  In addition, I discover that I really like art, piano, and singing.  Healthily, I'm close friends with other people concerned about defying the standard social paradigms.  I share secrets with people, and they share secrets with me.

I had been praying pretty much every night since the time I learned how.  I always made it a point to ask God to heal the world.  At some point or another, I started to ask whether there was any point asking those questions and turned my interrogations inwards.  I'd start a prayer, then ask myself if there was any point.  I mean, the reasons to not believe in the organized religion in which I participated were piling up one after another.  It became to be far too ritualistic for my liking, and I became dissatisfied with the general consumption of time, the opinions of various members of the church, certain ways that the Christian lifestyle was incongruous with certain beliefs that I spent countless hours putting together.  I was coming to conclusions that I believed surpassed the blunt and the nuanced teachings of Lutherans, and as I developed my critical thinking skills, I came to realize that I was running out of impetus to actually believe in the narrative aspects of Christianity, which led me to the more epistemologically consistent stance of not holding any beliefs about the nature of the cosmos at all.

It wasn't a matter of negative evidence that turned me off of the belief system.  It was a lack of positive evidence, which was illuminated as such by the understanding that any experience could be interpreted multiply.  And as I slowly came across the kinds of experiences that others would describe as rapture, revelation, and extracorporeally significant, I understood how people would confuse those truly great feelings for something that they weren't capable of experiencing on their own.  One time I went to a book discussion with my step-dad's old college classmates and participated in discussions about things that I had almost no familiarity with.  It was a long trip there and back, and on the car ride back, I felt a powerful sort of glow throughout my body that I figured came from being able to interact with many intelligent people in a meaningful way.  I realized that, if I were more susceptible to foolhardy assumptions, I could easily have attributed that general, prolonged feeling as a communion with a holy spirit.  Of course, I put a higher stake on epistemological concerns than many people, so I connected the dots as follows:  many people have feelings that they say are the result of God touching them.  I had the same feeling, and I know that it could easily have come from the fact that I was in communion with mortal human beings.  Armed with Occam's Razor, I concluded I couldn't consider an experience like this one spiritual just because it was amazing.

In time, I got fed up with the rigidity of church, which made me emotionally step back from church.  Still required to go by my mom, and by extension my step-dad, I just used the time I was in the sanctuary to develop my own independent thoughts on spirituality.  Then I wondered what the difference was between my thoughts and the pastor's thoughts, and I realized there was no substantiable distinction.  Ethics trump tradition, I would argue vehemently.  Therefore what is thought of as right should be deduced independent of what has been thought before.  This line of thinking was parallel to and laid the groundwork for my next substantial train of thought, which was that nothing made God more likely than his absence.  I also realized that my beliefs about the world, humanity, and nature would be unfazed by the elimination of a deity from my schema.  And at that point, it hit me:  that my desires for there to be a God had no meaning whatsoever.  What I wanted wasn't what defined reality.  I wanted there to be a God, and I wanted there to be a heaven.  But our measly human desires have no impact on the nature of reality.

So I moved forward.  I became aggressively disgruntled by the fact that people were waiting for answers to come to them from God.  They were only half looking.  As if they could better receive answers if they implemented a pathway of reasoning that completely sidestepped rational thought and the practical capacities that are available to us mortals.  And even though I learned of many attempts to coincide religion and sound science, they seemed vacuous and confused.  They aimed to justify arguments with conclusions, and moved in exactly the opposite direction that scientists moved.

In many ways, I believe that I was able to come to this logical conclusion because any preconceptions that I may have grew up with were shattered along the way of my maturation.  Death, strife, cruelty, and doubt were things that I became aware of quickly.  I quickly grew to understand that the world is responsible for the world.  The Universe causes The Universe.  The ontological argument for the existence of God is wrong because it assumes that chains of causation are finite, and the notion that actual causation is underlied by divine causation simply doesn't coincide with the real world--which I first saw as a child.  You can't say that God is a benevolent God, responsible for a flightless bird finding shelter in a storm, when he simultaneously allows my aunt to be murdered, innocent animals to be tortured as an integral process of modern society, my parents' relationship to fail when my brother and I were only in elementary school, and the widespread tragedy in the world that blows my relatively small concerns out of the undrinkable water.

Anything that posits God as, well, anything, is simply wishful thinking.  And the Universe showed me early on that wishful thinking is utterly useless, unless you follow it up by making your own wish come true.

God isn't going to give me talking animals.  I'm going to give animals language.

God isn't going to give me a boyfriend.  I'm going to scour the Earth until I find somebody who can love me, and who I can love in return.

God isn't going to end poverty, war, or disease.  Social activists, doctors, and scientists are going to to suffer through years of strenuous education and fighting against the underlying systems that mandate the constant presence of these destructive forces.

Instead of being a martyr for God, I'm going to be a martyr for the reality I want to create.  Nothing will stop me.  And if God comes down from the sky and tells me that he does not condone my defiance, then I'll explain why he's completely wrong and why I really couldn't care less what he wants me to do.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Memorial

By the time I die, I want to be a household name.  And there better not be any other people named Austin Tamutus on this planet.

But I would also like to be immortal, so let's hope that I just become a household name and keep on living.

In addition, I would like to learn everything, make my own AI, genetically engineer talking land-indigenous animals, and communicate with dolphins.

Of course, these things necessitate being extraordinarily wealthy, which would also enable me to end world hunger.  It would also enable me to buy a plot of land in some area of wilderness to build a cabin on.