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


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


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


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.