A Catch 22 (and other books you were forced to read)

October 29, 2007 at 2:59 am (random thoughts)

George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the Young”.  I think this is probably true, and I’m sure I’ll agree with that statement even more when I’m not so young.  What I also think is true is that most of the enjoyment and appreciation of a free education are also wasted on the young.  I was reading something today wherein there was a reference to “Kurtz”.  I was proud of myself for knowing, quite out of context, that the writer was referring to “Heart of Darkness”, and exactly what that reference to Kurtz was supposed to mean.  The ironic thing is that when I read “Heart of Darkness” as a senior in high school, I absolutely hated it.  I could barely get through it and could hardly scratch the surface of the deeper meanings behind this profound story.  I understand why this is part of high school curriculum.  However, what is disturbing is that an above average student in an honors English class could read this and have absolutely no appreciation for it.  Please tell me I wasn’t the only one!

I have always been “a reader”.  I love books and always have at least 2 going at a given time.  Yet, throughout highschool, I slogged my way through classics like “The Great Gatsby”, “Pride and Prejudice, “The Old Man and the Sea” and hoards of others, thoroughly disliking them simply because they were assigned reading and therefore, not to be enjoyed.  I understand that these books need to be covered in school, but it is truly a shame that kids learn to feel that reading these fantastic books is a chore.

At this point in my life, I would love to go back and take courses in English and Literature, because I think I would get so much more out of them.  And not just English, but also History, Foreign Languages, Civics, Geography (notice I’m NOT saying Physics or Calculus).  Now that I’m a bit more mature, I voluntarily check books out from the library to self-educate myself on various topics on everything from Politics to Chinese History, wishing that I could take a (free) course in that subject.  Just imagine how much more you’d get out of high school if you went back now!  Obviously omitting the acne, cliques and general awkwardness that goes along with being a teenager.

But as with youth being wasted on the young, one could only learn to appreciate education when one has already been educated. The classic Catch-22.


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DVR Slave

October 26, 2007 at 3:04 am (opinions, random thoughts)

Since I’ve gotten back from my trip, I have been wading my way through days and days worth of recorded television.  Daily and weekly shows which I normally look forward to, now menacingly stacked 10 days deep and feeling like more of a chore to get through than relaxing entertainment.  I think that the general purpose of DVRs is to give one freedom from TV, but now I feel a weird pressure to watch all of this TV that I have recorded.  My fiance is so funny because when several shows record in a night he gets all anxious about watching them, like there’s some sort of time limit.  I kind of get the same thing from my Google Reader page (where I subscribe to all of the blogs I regularly check and all new posts pop up and wait for me to check them).  While on my trip, I would sporadically check Google Reader and get all harried because I had hundreds of unread new posts.  And I couldn’t just delete them, I felt like I had to read through all of them as if they were a school assignment.

So many of our recent technological advances make us feel obligated to either be available to everyone we’ve ever known at a moment’s notice (blackberries, email, social networking sites) or to not miss a single minute’s worth of back-logged entertainment.  Oh I know, its completely my fault because I willingly use (and love) my DVR and Google Reader.  There are certainly worse things in the world than planting myself on the couch and wading through old TV.  I just take my books to the gym with me so they don’t feel neglected and so my butt doesn’t grow roots into the couch.

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Back on Home Turf

October 22, 2007 at 1:40 pm (travel)

I’m finally back state-side and it feels good.  I’m not quite home yet, still two more lengthy flights to go to get from NYC to Tucson.  I thought it’d be wise to stop in NYC for the night in case anything happened to delay my international flights.  Thankfully, nothing did.  There’s nothing like leaving the country for a little while to make one appreciate the familiarity of home.  I have only traveled internationally to Western Europe where things quite resemble what we are used to.  I would like to go some place completely unfamiliar like Asia or  South America during my life to truly experience something different.  With the world becoming ever-homogenized, it’ll become harder and harder to go some where completely unfamiliar.

During my week-long trip though, I did take note of the subtle facial and body characteristics that are identifiable with a region.  Sure most of Western Europe is primarily Caucasian, but you can really see differences by region.  For instance, the nice French ticketing agent who helped sort out our flight change in Paris had the tiny, delicate French features and almost translucent porcelain skin that seems to be the epitome of how French women are portrayed.  Greek women on the other hand have wonderfully strong and striking features.  Prominent noses, dark eyes and olive skin (and I mean those things in the best possible way) which make them distinctly beautiful.  Even among the tourists, a trained eye can tell the Brits from the Germans from the Americans nearly at first glance.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more interesting things to write later, but after a day of traveling, jet-lag, dealing with a cold, and the prospect of yet more air travel, I’m kind of on brain-drain right now.  One thing I can think of to say is that traveling is truly one of the most important and greatest forms of education.  Whether its international or just tooling around our own country, its vital to see life from different regions and different perspectives.

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Hello from Greece

October 17, 2007 at 7:57 am (travel)

I’m sure everyone has been wondering where I am and missing my random insights and rants (well, I’ve missed writing them anyway).  I have been out of internet range for a few days in Santorini, Greece.  I’m here on my advisor’s dime attending a conference and presenting my research.  My hotel is from the dark ages and doesn’t have wi-fi, but I was finally able to get online at the conference site.  I feel connected to the world again!  I’ll have lots to write when I have more time, but I really should be paying attention to the lecture I’m sitting in right now, I did fly half-way around the world to see it after all.  I have written some posts on my other blog if you want to read about my trip.  Its definitely had its ups and downs, and G was nice enough to post for me when I was without internet.  OK, back to science now.

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October 6, 2007 at 9:20 pm (Current Events, politics, presidental race)

I hate the word Electability. It is being used so much during this current presidential race and I really just despise everything about the idea of it. Electability is obviously not a real word but I think we can all gather what it means. The media and candidates alike have latched on to the idea of electability to tell us, as citizens and as voters, who we should vote for, because they are the most likely person to be voted for. Follow my logic? Neither did I, because its ridiculous. This is being thrown around a lot, especially in the current race, because there are somewhat “non-traditional” contenders in the race, i.e. non-white and non-male.

The reason that I think the idea of electability is so insidious is that it heavily influences voters. For instance, Rudy Giuliani has let it be known, by polling for his electability, that if (and its assumed that she will be, I guess because she’s so darned electable) Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, he would be the GOP candidate most likely to win. I’m sorry, aren’t actual elections supposed to decide things like that? So then American voters, like the sheep many of them are, are expected to vote for the candidate that they are expected to elect. This circular logic has the potential of completely skewing elections, which is of course the entire point of it.

No individuals I know would avoid voting for a candidate due to their race or gender, however, many individuals I know (myself included) have said that they don’t think the “American people” would elect a black candidate, or a woman, or any other non-white male.  So where’s the gap? Where’s the disconnect? I believe that the fault lies with the pundits and talking heads and poll after poll telling us who the “American people” will elect.  We ARE the American people, and we can elect whoever we damn well please, whether its a woman, an African American, a Hispanic, a Caucasian, a Muslim, a homosexual, an atheist.  A couple months ago, NYTexan on BlueBloggin wrote about the presidential primaries, and why it is our chance to really be heard and make our opinions be heard loud and clear through the electoral process.  It is drilled into our heads to only vote for people that could be “real contenders”, causing everyone to vote for the same old generic, main-stream candidate time after time.  We need to get that rhetoric out of our heads.  It is only true if we buy into it.

Don’t let them use the herd mentality to influence our votes.  Look where it has gotten us so far.

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Music and Lyrics

October 5, 2007 at 1:39 am (music)

I got kind of addicted to a new song today.  Music is one of the most important things in my life, I really don’t know what I did before the iPod was invented.  Oh yea, I had a walkman, then a cd-man (or whatever that’s called) and everything else along the way.  My iPod is important to me on many levels.  It provides the soundtrack for my life by shuffling through all of my favorite songs, its always a happy surprise to hear what song is next.  It also creates a barrier between me and the rest of the world.  Some might say that’s a bad thing, but I can’t say how much I enjoy not having to listen to everyone around me having inane conversation on their cell phones.  It also discourages people from approaching and talking to me.  Man, I am so anti-social, but I’ve come to terms with that.

But back to the music.  The closest thing I get to a “religious” experience is listening to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  It fills me with an indescribable sense of joy and wholeness.  I have tried to have other people listen to it with me to afford them the same experience, and pretty much no one is as affected as I am.  I feel personally hurt if that person has the audacity to do something else or (gasp) fall asleep while listening to this masterpiece.  I just can’t take it so I have stopped trying.  I have realized that not everyone is so affected by music as me.  I guess for me, its the equivalent of people who are overwhelmed by beautiful art.  I can definitely appreciate the skill and talent that goes into art work, but I am almost never emotionally affected by it.  I have actually heard people say the same thing about music, so I guess it is a good analogy.  I wonder if my love of music stems from beginning to study music (violin) at the young age of 4.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with it, but I certainly know a lot of people who have absolutely no musical talent that greatly love music.

The song that I listened to on repeat all day was a song from the new Linkin Park album, “Hands Held High”.  I know, I know, from Tchaikovsky to Linkin Park?  What can I say, I have very eclectic tastes!  I’ll listen to pretty much everything except gospel and jazz (and don’t lampoon me because I don’t like jazz, I’m more of a classical girl).  I had been listening to this CD in my car for a while and had liked this song from the first time I heard it.  It starts with a pipe organ and marching snare, a very unexpected and lovely combination.  Plus I am a real sucker for marching snare.  But today for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics.  To paraphrase a quote from the movie “Music and Lyrics”, the music is what makes you like a song, the lyrics are what make you love it.  “Hands Held High” (and yes, I am forgiving it the obvious religious overtones) is primarily about war, the war we all know is wrong but can’t seem to do much about.  The song is so beautiful and sad to me at the same time.

I decided to put in most of the lyrics here, although of course it loses its feeling if you don’t actually listen to it.  Plus it is rapped, so the syntax doesn’t read very well.  (Sorry I’m not tech-savvy enough to post a song file here).  Its from the album “Minutes to Midnight”.  Lyrics after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The (HSP) Princess and the Pea

October 4, 2007 at 3:19 am (random thoughts)

Yesterday at work, my boss called me a princess. Now anyone that knows me would never describe me as a princess, in the sense that a princess is a high-maintenance-drama-loving-nothing’s-good-enough-for me type of person. Well, at least I hope they wouldn’t.

No no, my sweet and unassuming boss called me a princess in reference to the Princess and the Pea fairy tale. In case you haven’t read this lesser-known fairy tale, its the one about how the “true” princess was told apart from the false ones because only she could feel a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds. Yep, that sounds about right. It certainly made me laugh. She called me a princess after we had a conversation (a somewhat inappropriate lunch-time discussion in retrospect) about how easily I get blisters. Seriously, a stiff wind on my feet will cause them to blister. I get blisters on top of blisters, little ones, big ones, fingers, toes, heels, you name it. I always have at least one. I know, gross, too much information, etc. I didn’t bring up this story to brag about my plethora of blisters. I brought it up here because it reminded me about the piece I wrote about highly sensitive people (HSPs). If there was ever an HSP fairy-tale character, it was this princess that noticed that pea. And she’s the princess I was compared to, see? funny!

What it got me wondering about was whether being “highly sensitive” carries over from mental sensitivity to physical. I realize that being sensitive to sounds, smells, light and all those other things is technically physical.  Its hard to tease the mental aspect from the physical. However, do my fellow HSP’s all get as many blisters as me? Are we all hyper-sensitive to pain, inflammation, stomachaches, headaches, illness – all those things? I personally have rheumatoid arthritis which causes chronic pain and physical sensitivity, or at least I thought it was the arthritis causing it. Maybe its just that I notice the pain more since my brain is wired to be more aware of it.  Hmmm, I’m the one who usually criticizes false or coincidental correlations.  Something interesting to ponder nonetheless.

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