31 December 2010

Little Bandula

This was a creative writing assignment for my Developing World. Our assignment was to write a fictional story based on real facts that would show the struggles of Sri Lanka. For this assignment Kendra, Jessica and I created Little Bandula to show the less than desirable, but not overwhelming bad conditions of Sri Lanka. We originally published this 5 Nov 2010.

Bandula’s Quest

“No,” Bandula cried as he threw down his lunch bowl, sending scraps of food flying across the room like pieces of shrapnel. The TV had just announced that President Rajapaksa had ordered General Fonseka to be arrested. The old war general had been Bandula’s hero ever since his older brother, Prem, told Bandula what it was like to serve under the General.

Prem fought with the General in the civil war against the Tamils. On the few chances that Bandula got to talk to his older brother, all he heard about were stories of how amazing the General was. It was towards the end of the war that the news came that Prem would never come home. He had been killed in one of the last operations against the rebels. The war ended a few months later.

Their parents had hoped that the General would win the upcoming elections. Such a great leader who brought them success in the war could lead them in success in the future. Bandula didn’t know much about politics but he knew that with the General in prison, he couldn’t win the election.

When Bandula’s attention shifted back to the TV again, the news anchor started explaining why the General had been arrested.

On the television screen stood Mahesh, Bandula’s older sister, “President Rajapaksa’s official release stated that the General had violated political laws by using his official military position to campaign against the president.” she said. “The General denies the accusations,” she continued, “and the President has yet to publish any evidence stating that ‘the evidence is for the courts to see’.”

Thoughts were brewing in Bandula’s anxious mind and anger swelled in his young heart. He couldn’t stand by and let this injustice happen. He, Bandula, would free the General. Bandula knew it would be hard, but someone had to make sure that justice was carried out. He hurriedly grabbed his jacket and ran outside. He had to think, so he grabbed his “thinking hatchet”, just in case.

Bandula wandered through fields trying to figure out what he would do. Thoughts swam through his brain on exactly how he would save the General. Bandula wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going when suddenly he found himself lying on the ground. Covering his view of the sun was a face- an angry face.

“Why didn’t you come over last night after school!?” Kiri yelled at him. He pushed her off of him.

“You could have just said ‘hi’,” Bandula said sulkily as he dusted himself off.

“You could have just come over,” Kiri replied.

“Not now, Kiri. I have a crisis to deal with,” Bandula said passionately, slamming his fists against the heavy air.

“Boys!” Kiri proclaimed, shaking her sleek, black hair in disgust. “So... what’s the crisis?”

“The General has been arrested,” Bandula shouted. “Gosh, don’t you know anything?” Bandula started towards his hideout in the forest. Kiri ran to catch up, stumbling in the hurried rush. Just then, Sinha sprang out from his hiding place in the bushes, bearing all of his teeth, banging his chest like a wild man, and screeching loudly.

“What do you want?” Bandula said, with anger leaping from his mouth.

“Yeah,” Kiri shouted from behind, just catching up to Bandula. “We’re dealing with a crisis here!”

“Oh,” Sinha said, feeling a little guilty for trying to scare his friends. Before he could offer to help or even ask what the crisis was about, the three heard his mom calling.

Sinha looked shamefully at the ground, “I’d better go before she gets mad,” he said.

Bandula and Kiri made their way carefully and silently through the forest to their hideout. They took each step deliberately, unsure of their immediate future. When they arrived at the hideout, Bandula pushed the make-shift door aside and they sat on the dirt floor, ready to concoct a plan. Kiri broke the silence first.

“So, what’s the plan?” She asked.

“We’ve got to break him out of jail,” Bandula said, like a man possessed with fury that had been kept inside for too long.

“How can we do that?” Kiri said, trying to tame the now shaking Bandula, “You have to remember we’re only fourteen”.

“I don’t know,” Bandula said, helplessly and beaten. He continued, “I just don’t want everything my brother fought for to be wasted.” Tears were starting to come to his eyes. A large tear slid slowly down his dark cheek.

“Why don’t we start first thing tomorrow?” Kiri suggested, shrugging a shoulder.

Bandula looked through the make-shift windows of the hideout, it was getting late and soon the sun would be setting. He nodded his head, “first thing in the morning, the revolution starts” he said with a triumphant tone. The two walked back to their houses in resolute silence.

Back at home, Bandula ate his dinner in front of the TV. His mother hated when he did this, but she wasn’t in much of a mood to stop him. The news of the General’s arrest had come as a shock to his parents.

“Let’s go to our anchor at the capitol,” the News announcer said. When the cameras cut, they didn’t cut to Mahesh, it was some man that Bandula didn’t know.

“Where’s Mahesh?” Bandula cried despairingly. His sister was always on the evening news, especially covering political news. His dad came in the room and turned off the TV.

“There is something you need to know, little Bandula,” his dad said with a grim tone.

Bandula put down his dinner bowl to brace himself against the news. He let out a troubling sigh in anticipation.

“Your sister, Mahesh,” his father paused, trying to maintain his authoritative tone. His mother stood trembling in the doorway, a bleak look glazed her eyes. He cleared his throat before continuing, “Mahesh has been arrested for saying mean things against the President.”

Bandula was struggling to grasp this news. “Little Bandula,” his father was looking him square in his hopeless brown eyes, “please, please don’t do anything that might make us lose you too.” Bandula’s mother joined them mournfully, with wild tears already streaming from her withered face.

Bandula lied awake in his bed for most of the night. He wasn’t sure what he should do or even what he could do. Questions came at him, one after the other. Should he try to free the General? Should he try to free his sister? What if he too was arrested? How would his parents live with themselves knowing that they had lost all of their children? But, he felt like he had to do something, regardless of consequences. He couldn’t just wait for a better Sri Lanka. He wanted a better Sri Lanka now.

The next morning, while eating breakfast, Kiri came over. But before they could make plans for their rescue of the general there came a loud knock at the door. Bandula’s mother opened the door and gave a loud cry. “Mahesh, my daughter!” The officer that had escorted Mahesh nodded and left. Mahesh was whisked inside to the table and promptly served breakfast.

Amidst the prodding of questions and shouts of relief, she explained that the “government” didn’t like the things she was saying about the President and that she should say nicer things. Both their mom and dad were so excited to have their daughter back that at that moment, none of that mattered. Their family was almost whole again.

Bandula would have to wait for a better Sri Lanka, but for now it wasn’t so bad.

21 December 2010

A Visual Map of an Essay

Back in the day little crayon pictures would suffice for a good grade in school. Now, I have to do things like this:

(This was for my English 201 Research Writing class. This is a visual mapping of William James' What Pragmatism Means.)

18 December 2010

Driving on the Tarmac

A Lesson Learned from the Truckers...

When the road is covered with snow, drive on whatever tarmac you can find, even if it is on the shoulder. When driving back from school the weather wasn't so good and for several miles the road was covered with snow. Not so much snow that it was undriveable but enough that we had to slow down.

I noticed that while the cars huddled closer together trying to stay in their lanes, the trucks had found, and drove on, the two foot patch on cleared road that ran down either sides on the road. The car drivers wouldn't touch this strip of cleared road because it is taboo to drive with your wheels on the wrong side of the rumble strip. Nervous of the snow, and deferring to the more experienced drivers, I decided to try driving on the cleared tarmac. After coasting through the snow and feeling the harsh rumble I was amazed to finally have traction. It wasn't as good traction as clear roads but it was much better than driving on the packed snow. An added benefit was that if the car started drifting back, it would back more traction on the rumble strip and I could get back over.

I realized that deferring to the wise, even if taboo, will often allow for safer and quicker travel than following the norms of the crowds.

16 December 2010

Too busy

My roommate comes home from work and flings his coat atop his chair. His chair would normally have taken the stress of the extra coat if it weren't for the entire wardrobe that was already draped across the chair. Under the pressure it leaned back then fell over.

We looked at each other and laughed. Sometimes, life is too busy (but sometimes we're just too lazy).

04 December 2010

Ode to the Demise of Pencil

This was my pencil. It was faithful for several years. It is dead now. I will get a new one.

18 November 2010

Then it would be MLA...

This semester, I have two writing classes. Nothing new, just that the university didn't think highly of the community college courses that they refused to accept. In fact, the only difference between my previous classes and these is that I have to write a page more. In my advanced writing class, English 201, we have to write a research paper using the proper formating for my major (in my case, APA). This will be the first time I get to cite in APA and be graded on it. Usually I have to cite in MLA.

In my other writing class, English 101, I also have a research paper (two pages shorter, and yes, they will probably be almost identical). I asked my teacher if I could use APA instead of MLA, as per my major I should be citing in APA. She delicately said no, then after I explained that in the "real world", being a Communications major, I would be writing in APA, not MLA.

She smiled and said, "but if you ever write an English or humanities paper in the real world, then it would be MLA."

I smiled and left thinking, "No, it would be neither MLA or APA, it would be Chicago because I wouldn't be trying to get into a stuffy peer-reviewed journal. No, I would try to get into the newspaper where a lot more people, people who live and deal in the real world instead of reading about it in their peer-reviewed journals, would read it."

P.S. I'm not against peer-reviewed journals, or their readers. In fact, I understand they are a valuable treasure trove on credible and reliable information. I am, however, against people who cannot imagine that most people can't even list a single peer-reviewed journal and that the local "rag" is probably better at getting more people to act on information than "Nature" will ever be.

P.P.S. "Nature" is a peer-reviewed journal. If you already knew that, then you get a bonus 5 points.

04 November 2010

Why not Chicago?

In writing, there are two "major" styles for citing sources: MLA and APA. MLA is the style that I have been trained in since I was young, it is the format that most people have been trained on all throughout their schooling. It is also the wrong format for more than two-thirds of the graduating majors. Why? Because MLA was designed, and only used by, the English and Humanities Departments (i.e. English teachers, History majors) to be cryptic and unuseful. Okay, maybe it wasn't designed that way, but imagine committing the vast array of rules to memory, being graded on them and finally doing good at following them only to find out one day, as I did last year, that the style the English department thinks is so cool is actually pond scum compared to the, still cryptic but more useful, APA format that is used by all other majors. APA is supposed to be used by the all non-English and non-Humanities majors! This whole time I've been worrying about MLA and really only the English people even know what it is. Science journals, and basically everyone else, format in APA. Oh, the shock of the English department misleading me all these years.

After this great revelation, I still had a lingering question: what does the real world? Because I've never seen MLA or APA in a publication outside of school. Instead, in the real world, I've only ever seen these little "superscript" numbers and footnotes at the bottom. Low, and behold, foot noting (and end noting) are part of the amazingly useful and very practical Chicago style. Who uses this style? The same people who crafted it into the amazingness it is today: Journalist. Journalist need to communicate a vast amount of information as quickly as possible (both on the inputting and the consuming sides), while keeping the information as accurate as possible. Both MLA and APA are rather cumbersome for both the writer and the reader, Chicago style overcomes their failings, all while still giving proper credit where it is due. The rest of the real world picked up on the formating after reading so many newspapers and so Chicago style became the official style of Journalist and the unofficial style of everyone in the real world.

All this really makes me wonder: why can't everyone let go their archaic and old school ways to adopt a single, useful style that we can all use?

P.S. If you want a good laugh, get a frumpy English teacher to talk about Chicago style. The look of disgust on my teacher's face was priceless, it was as if it were a filthy rag in a pristine linen closest (which is probably what she thinks of newspapers in general).

26 October 2010

Not a moment too soon

I am not a fan of snow. I probably never will be. But, as much as I dislike it,  I have conceded that it will snow here. Though I was alarmed by stories earlier this week, which turned out to be over exaggerated, I  have now reached a point where I am grateful that it has not yet snowed but am expecting the snow yo arrive. I want to be clear (in case Ms. Rexburg is reading this) that I would rather she never snowed, but if she must, she can now do so with my permission.

P.S. the light dusting on snow this morning was a good reminder of her eagerness to bless us in white.

16 October 2010

University Books

One of the things that I might most disdainful about school is buying books. While I understand that many people have spent countless hours compiling information in a single volume and that this costs money, as does printing and distributing the book itself, I often wonder if the expense that is then passed on to me is not misplaced. To begin with, I must question: does coloring every page of chapter 3 yellow, every page of chapter 5 blue and every page of chapter 10 violet really increase the intrinsic value and learn-ability of "An Introduction to Accounting"? It's Accounting! Having each page dipped in gold and hand signed by various dignitaries and celebrities would not have spared it from the unfortunate drool marks that occupied various pages. In case the publisher wishes do know, full color pages in already boring books do nothing to make the material more interesting but certainly do make the book more expensive. ($150 is a lot of money so that someone, who is not me, can enjoy dark colored drool stains.)

Along with the possibly misguided printing expenses, I question the validity of the authors themselves. It seems that we simply believe them just because they have their name on a book that is used in a university and we don't. What's in a name anyway? I understand that my good friends who contribute to global knowledge by adding information to Wikipedia may, at times, try to mislead me. For that matter, they try to do that in real life too. Who, of credit, is to say that Boone and Kurtz are definitive authorities on matter of business? Who can verify that they even know anything the topic? Can anyone even tell me, for sure, that Boone and Kurtz have had been dead for a number of years and that some other rather enterprising individuals simply kept their deaths quiet so that they could continue to publish books in the names of Boone and Kurtz while reaping the profits? I certainly cannot claim to know any of the information. Instead, as I sit in Intro to Business, I must assume that Boone and Kurtz are: real, alive, authorities on current business matters, and are not trying to mislead me for their own personal amusement.

Finally, I question the efficacy of learning so much material from a printed book. Not that I'm opposed to books, I love. I love hefting the book around like a ward against boredom, feeling its smooth pressed surface ran through my fingers as I turn the page, knowing that it will instantly (and I mean instantly) boot when I open it and that my marking will always be where I left them . I don't question the printed nature, rather I question why I'm being taught to keep going back to a published volume that is constantly being updated because the topics it discusses fall out of date so quickly. If I were getting books like Gray's Anatomy or Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders that, while refined with each edition, do not in essence change that would be one thing. Instead, I am referencing I Think, a primitive writing primer that is already out of date, and Contemporary Business, that is so cutting edge that it has to be written every year or else the text wouldn't make sense. In either case, I think it would be better that I learn for to access the source information: MLA, APA, AP style guides and good collections of writing like the Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker instead of the almost useless primer and to visit places like the Small Business Administration and IRS websites and to read business plan writing guidebooks instead of the forcibly updated business text. Because next semester, when I am out of my writing class and have passed my business class, I am certain that I will want to reference a well written piece to know how I should handle some difficult wording and I will need to know where to get information on creating a corporation. I suppose I could go back to the same antiquated texts I am using now, but I would rather get new, fresh information without having to buy the books again.

14 October 2010

To: The Half-Blood Prince

Dear Half-Blood Prince,

Though I am a muggle, your fame for annotating an advanced potions book is well know to me. While such endeavors were surprising to me, in that a student could add so much new and valuable information to what should have been a polished scholarly work, I had no idea that you also studied the equally important, though admittedly not nearly as exciting, subject of the impact of society on the environment and vice versa.

Recently, I was pleased to open up my innocent seeming textbook for my Environment Stewardship class (Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed) and was rather shocked, though pleasantly so, to begin reading your commentary on the topic at hand. Though I am still not sure whether it is good that I read your margin notes and occasionally underlined text instead of the actual printed words, I have saved loads of time by doing so. For that I wanted to personally thank you. Your notes have spurred my in-class participation and given me new insight into the text I never read.

Action Figure Daniel

P.S. Would you happen to have an annotated copy of the Business Law textbook? I take that next semester and am a little nervous.

30 September 2010

2 Years

P.S. The last post marks 2 years on at least monthly blogging. Not a huge accomplishment, I know, but hey, I party when I can.

P.P.S. I posted this and my last post in a desperate attempt to maintain the tradition of at least a monthly post only to realize that I had a bunch of material to post, it was just on Seth, my "mobile device" not on my computer where it normally is.

Teachers: Can I, May I

(Found this in the notes section on my phone. Apparently I wrote in church on Sunday.)

Grade school teachers seem to love to challenge every child who asks "can I...?"

They say "I don't know. Can you?" 

While this may seem to he a gentle correction of a common gramtatical faux pa, it isn't. It's not even a demeaning put down targeted at the child. It is a lowly mockery of the fact that the teacher has total and absolute control over each and every aspect of the child's life. The teacher is pretending that the child is asking if their body is functioning adequate enough to expel waste. That's not what's being asked. Every child is keenly aware about their ability to use the bathroom, once in the bathroom. What the child is really saying is "I know that you, oh mighty teacher, rule and reign over each and every aspect of my life in such a way that I cannot even defecate, much less empty my bladder, without your express and all knowing consent to my actions. Therefore, I come before you now, in complete and degrading humility, to beg my release in the private confines of the water closet. If it be your will, of course." So consider the shame that comes after saying this to have the teacher question your questioning of your body's capabipities. Adding insult to beaten submissiveness.

05 September 2010

My Small Town

As I return to this small town, I am excited. Did I miss its small and limited shopping options? No, I did not. Did I miss the lack of diverse restaurant choices? No, I did not. Did I miss the over abundance of stop lights and slow speed zones? No, I did not. Did I miss the barren and desolate landscape? No, I did not. I did, however, miss your small town charm. I did miss your moody weather changes. I missed all your loving. But now I'm back.

19 August 2010

To Hone, Not To Sharpen

The 'honing' stick is a classic piece of every knife set. The long cylindrical piece of ribbed steel is often mistaken as a 'knife sharpener'. It’s not. It’s a honing stick. You may think, as I did for many years, that sharpening and honing are the same. This would be a mistake. Honing and sharpening are very, very different things.

The process of sharpening is simple: drag the knife blade across the sharpening stone at a predetermined angle. The knife is dragged across the stone, yes a stone not a steel rod, until a new edge is formed. In the process of sharpening actual pieces of the knife blade are broken off as the steel grinds against the rock. Sharpening should only need to take place when the blades edge is destroyed.

How is the blade destroyed? As the knife is used to cut, the precise steel edge is forced from side to side until it eventually curls over. Maybe you haven’t seen a curled edge, but you’ve probably used one before. We call them dull knives. With a dull blade you can sharpen it, thereby removing the dull edge and creating a new edge and in the process removing part of the knife. The better solution would be to hone the knife.

The process of honing is equally simple as sharpening: drag the knife across the honing stick at a predetermined angle, about five times for each side. As the blade is dragged across the honing stick there should be a pleasant and harmonious 'zing' sound with each stroke. As the blade is dragged across the ridged honing stick, the curled edge is grabbed and pulled up, in essence uncurling the blade like a cowlick. The straightening of the blade makes it cut sharply and smoothly again – and here’s the reason for doing it – all without removing any steel from the blade. Thus, with the process of honing, the sharpness of the blade can be maintained along with extending the life of the blade almost indefinitely.

Let me take a moment and apply this to organizations: When a new process is rolled out in an organization, it is usually designed to cut a difficult problem into more manageable pieces. As time goes on the new process loses its edge as it tries to cut into the problem. As the new process loses its effectiveness managers might be tempted to sharpen the process again, again. The problem with sharpening is that the process is ground against the hard stone of bureaucracy, with each pass removing pieces of the blade. Over time the blade is destroyed and the knife is useless.

Instead of grinding the process into nothingness, managers should hone the process. This can be done by thoroughly reviewing the process and looking to see where the process might have curled over, thus causing the process to be less effective. Once the curling has been identified, then the process can be straightened so it can maintain its effectiveness.

One time honing is not enough though. With knives, honing should take place after each time the knife is used; each and every time. While it may not seem practical to review processes each time they are used, consider that a full fledge investigation is not needed. Instead, each individual completing the process can ask themselves a few simple questions: Did the process flow naturally? Was the next step always clear? Was there any place where the process hung waiting for a manager to make a decision that the individual could have made? Was unnecessary information collected, distributed or recorded? Are there any obvious changes that should be made?

With these few simple questions being asked after each process is completed the organization can use the cumulative knowledge of all the process workers to keep the process sharp and effective, or if needed consider the process destroyed and rebuild the process by sharpening it and trying again.

14 August 2010

No, We Can't Pretend That Airplanes Are Shooting Stars

The saying "Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?" has been floating around as of late. To this question I give a big, adamant response "No!"

"Why not?" you may ask. I have two reasons why not.

First, there is a vast difference between the celestial event of a piece of space rock plummeting into Earth’s atmosphere and the mechanical dull drum of an airplane flying overhead. To catch an airplane flying in the night is simply a matter of time and location. All airplanes fly at a scheduled time along a designated route and as such any person who is: near or along a place that people want to fly to and standing outside at a time when people want to get there, will inevitably see an airplane in the sky. To see an airplane in the night sky, one would simply and an additional criterion to be looking only at night.

Contrarily, watching a shooting star requires being in the right place, at the right time and a large degree of luck. Shooting stars appear when a piece of rock that had been floating calmly in outer space, is suddenly whisked into Earth’s gravitational pull then burnt as it enters our atmosphere. Because the rarity of space rocks along Earth’s path around the sun, this doesn’t happen nearly as often as an airplane flying. Further, the quick flashy natural of shooting star, they usually last less than a second, means that your ability to see one is largely dependent on luck, chance or divine intervention.

If you are willing to replace a miraculous celestial event with a scheduled man-made event, why limit to the night sky? Why not pretend that airplanes in the day sky are like shooting stars? Would that be too cheap of an experience? What about birds flying? Are we concerned that it will be too common place? Consider that airplanes in the night sky are already too common place and that making the events more common place should be considered an acceptable payoff for the ability to place wishes all the time.

Second, there is a vast difference in the circumstances in which one can see an airplane in the night sky and the circumstances in which one can see a shooting star. In order to catch a glimpse of an airplane in the night sky, usually, you only need to look up at the sky. Except, you get a whole lot more than a glimpse, you can watch airplanes as they traverses much of the sky. If your eyes were good enough, you can often watch them from horizon to horizon, minus any trees that hang overhead. This coupled with their frequency robs the viewer of any awe. You can catch them all the time and watch them forever.

Shooting stars on the other hand can only be viewed in one of two circumstances: after long preparation or purely based on chance. Further, shooting stars are fleeting. You can only ever catch glimpses of them with your eyes. The glimpses can be so short you wonder if you even really saw one or they can be long enough to actually register what you’re seeing but even then they are gone quickly so you can’t really enjoy them.

There are four major meteor showers a year: the Quadrantids in January, the Perseids in August, the Leonids in November and the Geminids in December. Each of these is the result of Earth passing through the debris trails of various comets. Earth passes through these spots once each year on our annual trip around the sun. The meteor shower’s predictability allows for people to prepare excursions to observe and even photograph the showers.

There are of course other, smaller meteor showers throughout the year, but they are more random. You can only see these when the circumstances are right. These circumstances are set up as thus: Something bad happens, something really bad happens; the event itself isn’t necessarily such a bad thing, rather it is a bad thing in a long list of bad things that were added one on top of another until their combined pressing weight causes your calm to finally be shattered.

Once shattered you look around, scared out of your mind because you had everything planned out so well but none of it has worked out and now you are all out of plans. So, you run. You run out of your house to your car. In your car you drive. Anywhere with people is too close, so you drive far into the country, as far away as you can. Suddenly you’ve arrived to nowhere in particular and you pull over to the side of the road and get out of the car. You find yourself in a field and you start talking to the stars. It is only by chance that the moment after you spilled your soul out to God that you catch a glimpse of a shooting star. At that moment, it is as if God is quietly telling you "it will all be okay."

In both situations, catching a glimpse of a shooting star is far superior to the casualness with which one can catch sight of airplanes. For that matter, little can compare to the awe and marvel of watching the beauty of the night sky.

Anything less than a celestial event should not be considered an acceptable replacement for an actual celestial event.

01 July 2010

Our Perceived Moral Imperative

Of the Imperative

Where does it come from – this, our individual and human need to find out, discover and document the system of beliefs that we will claim to hold to. It is not a simple or easy task. In fact, it is a task that we will cling to for the duration of our lives, but it is a task that we apply all our strength, our might, our power to this, our journey of perhaps the greatest import; all the while praying that we may arrive before we die and that when we arrive we will find that it has been worth it.

It is this journey that will make all that we struggle against, all that we have fought for, all that weight we have carried, all that we have travailed through for our entire journey will make it all worth it. That is what we hope for. That is why we do it. Anything else will not just disappoint us, but will be a strike of mockery against us and will cause all that we have done to have been done in vain.

What is this, our monumental task, which can bring us to our collective knees and threatens to void all our careful work in society as a whole? It is the effort of charting our morals: deciding in some sort of a collective and definitive way, what it means to be right and wrong. While this journey is often seen as intuitive and noble it is also futile and flawed.

Of the Intuitiveness

In many ways, the core nature of this moral journey is to help us to learn and discover what is good. All that have, that can and that ever will claim to be humane have commenced, at least in some part, upon this journey: it is a critical component in humanity and to the perpetuation of all that we perceive to be good and wholesome. At our core is an intuitive something, a quiet need, to seek after, embrace and cultivate these ‘good’ things and use them to overcome all that is not ‘good’.

It is this intuitive nature of the journey that turns it from a series of missions seeming arbitrarily assigned that can then accomplished and dismissed into a collection of custom tailored and insightful explorations of the self. The journey, being intuitive, is not concerned with logic and rational thinking; in fact it isn’t even concerned with completion. Its only single and sole concern is experience. Intuition, unlike thought, requires actual and real interaction with a situation. It itself is concerned with relating to and indentifying with an object be it physical, spiritual or situational.

Much like the methodical nature of the sciences, intuition can only tell you what you have actually experienced. One may piece together a series of experiences and thus develop a magnum opus of morality, but the work will fall short as it is based on the theories, concepts and thought. The moral journey is one of experiences: the interaction of a sentient conscience within the confines of a given situation. To remove either the reality of the situation or the uniqueness of the conscience is to remove the morality and thus convert the journey into a series of scenarios better suited for mathematicians to calculate than for the endeavor of the human conscience to experience, explore and savor.

This vehement resistance to preponderance and lack of predictability is what makes the journey worthwhile. For if critical moral experiences could simply be meticulously processed without experiencing them then the journey would be reduced to a simple course in higher education. Instead we find that the actual experience is far superior for the satisfaction of intuition than the forethought of such situations. Additionally we find that the more we try to track all possible variable of a moral bound situation, the more new and unexpected variable begin to appear. Thus, it is nearly impossible, except among uncreative or heavily socially stigmatized persons, to build an adequate scenario to effectively predicate any given persons response that reliably matches the reality of experience.

Of the Nobility

Note that the journey is not about acquiring the good; rather, it is about learning the good. It is not about finding the limits of good, but about experiencing the infinite nature of good. It is not about using the good, but about discovering the good. In this, the journey can be at once endless, perpetual and pure.

If the journey were to shift towards using good and away from discovering good then the journey becomes a quest for power and glory, and thus it is no longer a journey – in which the morally courageous a delve into the depths of the soul, with an attached hope to victorious emerge from the abyss, being born anew and having been forever changed by the darkness – but it has become a crusade – a mission of appointment from a higher source for the purpose of obtaining a specific goal that, when accomplish, can be used as a weapon to bring the world into submission – a crusade that the soul, and its inherent corruptness, could not successfully endure and remain unscathed. Thus the purity of the journey makes it noble.

If the journey were to shift towards acquiring and away from learning then the time would eventually come when the journey must end because all that is good has been collected and there is nothing more to be had; of what use would the journey be if it were over and life were to continue on. A new and different journey would need to be such that it would alter the balance of life and the universal justice that is about us: a disequilibrium that must and will be corrected through some means or another. By turning good into a commodity creates in inherent economy within the journey.

This economy, as with all economies, would automatically preclude some from joining the journey because of its temporal cost. Such elements would be in direct contradiction to the introspective and transitive nature of the journey. Thus, the endlessness of the journey protects its nobility.

If the journey were to shift towards finding the finite limits of good and away from experiencing the infinite nature of good then the mysterious, and thus interesting, components of good would be dispelled and its perusal would no longer be a worthwhile endeavor nor could it remain a hallmark of the journey. It would, over time, be complied next to every other great work, locked away in a textbook that is rarely revised or looked at and is eventually discarded in the abyss of obtained knowledge that has been devalued before being completely forgotten in the obscure annals of time and space.

That the limits to the journey can never be found because there are no limits and the implications then that the journey can only either be endured or escaped but never conquered allows for the transcending of mere mortals into legends and gives us opportunity to grasps the planes of the Gods. Thus, the perpetuation of the journey sanctifies its nobility.

Of the Futility

We each imagine ourselves as our own agents in the journey; each individual capable of altering and controlling our own course – that somehow we can choose what we will be and how we will get there. The cold, unrelenting truth of the cosmic course is that we can only choose one: either we can decide what we will be or we can decide how we will get there.

An ability to choose when and how is beyond the rules of the cosmoses: the consequences are already set for every possible choice, each reward and consequence being fixed and immovable. Even chance and probability are tied to the same consequences and thus even the gamblers are not “teasing fate”, rather they are simply pulling from the bank of possibilities, making them an exhibition in marksmanship, not defiance. Indeed, we are all so equally bound that the one certainty of life is that there is always an end of mortality, however it may come.

Thus, in this our journey of morality, we have little actual recourse to justify between wrong and right. In a moral world, one that was concerned with ‘good’ behavior, we would see consequences that matched ‘good’ behavior with ‘good’ consequences and ‘bad’ behavior with ‘bad’ consequences. We would see that every time one did something ‘good’ – such as helping an old lady cross the road – then one would always experience a ‘good’ consequence – such as a monetary payout. Contrarily, if one does something ‘bad’ – such as steal candy – we would experience a ‘bad’ consequence – such as a bird swooping down and popping one’s eye out.

Instead we see a seemingly random distribution of behavior and consequences; for example, assuming that theft is ‘bad’: we see that highly skilled thieves are able to live very well on their plunder. Another example, assuming that hard work is ‘good’: we see that highly skilled workers are able to live very well on their paid labor. Thus, ‘bad’ is rewarded with ‘good’ and ‘good’ is also rewarded with ‘good’. This randomness is attributed to the absolute universal laws that must remain in balance and isn’t really random at all. Further analysis reveals that every action has a cataloged, defined response that will be coldly, cleanly delivered with an unfailing precision.

This unwavering precision for the delivery of justice limits the end sum of any moral journey. In the end, no matter what enlightened state has been obtained or heights have been submitted, the universe will remain constant and unchanged and thus the new laws of ‘good’ morals that have been aspired to will solicit no difference in response and the world continue along its merry way. Nothing but intrinsic value has been gained.

In this way the universe and its evolutionary processes are blind selective agents. They do not concern themselves with what any others have planned or how their consequences will affect others. No, the subjects of evolution and chosen at random and conscripted into labor as an experimental test. Thus, the sole and single driving force of change cannot be interfered with nor be affected by moral theory or practices. Indeed, the system is designed to ensure that any moral reservations generally remain unrewarded, at least within the strict system of universal consequence. This makes the entire experience of moral exploration an intrinsic journey in which the traveler must generate, and be satisfied by, their own reward subsystem.

Of the Flaw

Though we don’t always realize the futility of the journey we pursue it regardless; even those who long ago recognized the bleakness of the journey still cling to it. It is all they have; it is all that anyone really has. Yet, they don’t really have it. While it is a journey that we feel compelled to take regardless of the possibility of success and extreme potential for failure, it is a journey that by our very nature we are driven to immerse ourselves in. It is am individually developed drive that is facilitated by our biological programming for us to delve into. Thus, with little more than a trivial social push we reassign our prerogatives and devote all that we can muster into our quest to fulfill our imperative and find our moral standing.

Where does our reasoning come from? Did God, the Universe, some ultimate or penultimate being set forth decree that we then feel compelled to oblige? If such a decree went forth, where is it now? Was the decree embedded within us so that it could unmistakably be followed, thus ensuring compliance? If such is the case, then why does fate fight us so much in our quest: the mother who must choose to sacrifice herself or her child, either way to never distill her wisdom onto her posterity; the dying man who must decide whether to allow his children a workless life or condemn them to the same harsh life he suffered; the repressed society that must decide if the sacrifice of a revolt is worth the steep and painful climb to a better life for all.

The choices hardly seem fair, and though not complex, each choice will be subjected to much though and painstaking calculation. As if not only the future depended on the outcome but also, and more importantly to the individual, the perceived moral implications.

This, the perceptibility of our moral implications, is perhaps the cruelest and greatest flaw in this our moral imperative: that all our morality, and immorality for that matter, is based on, rooted in and judged upon nothing more than our own personal perceptions. This means that our legacy is limited to whatever we choose it to be and once we are gone others will change that legacy to suit their own perception, for better or worse. Thus, every individual is doing what they feel is the best thing to do. No one – be they mere mortals or angels that have defied Gods and demons – can define morality for another. Such is the indisputable nature of morality.

Even one with the shield of the Past and the sword of the Future can do little more than explain the efficacy of events and certainly cannot judge them to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. From all time bound sense: they simply have been, now are or will yet be; they cannot be justly weighed in their full glory against the events of eternity save there be one who would step forth with a definite and final authority on the topic. Even then, much elocution will be needed to extended proper exemptions and defaults based on the actual processed knowledge and comprehension of each individual involved. It is not just to condemn an individual for the failure to realize and apply the occult truths that were never dispensed but instead had to be sought after and fought for during our journey.

Of the Finality

Thus, while this journey finds individual completion at the end of each mortal life, the journey as a whole will never have completion, it is not capable of completion. We, as a whole, as human beings will never be satisfied with the sum of the individual responses and will either be driven to perpetually seek moral refinement or dull the drive of biology until we have ceased progression and again become our baser selves, primitive. While the journey helps soothe the savage beast and quell our silent rebellion it demands a never ending commitment to its pursuit, lest at any time the journey be ended before mortality and the individual is left without a basis of self improvement.

While the great moral journey remains flawed because it lacks a concise and final judge, at least in the corporeal realms, to dictate and guide future journeymen, it remains a noble endeavor: one worthy of the best, and worst, that humanity has to offer. For in the journey all can find not only solace from the pains of mortality but also a reason, and indeed the desperately needed, practical application of self to the pursuit of a greater calling. In this, the basest individual can introspect a reason for extroversion and the greatest can extrospect a reason for introversion and all can achieve harmony.

Such individuality plays to our intuition, allowing each of us to commence our ‘special’ calling that we feel we hold. We intuitively sense that we are each special and being able to pursue our special and unique purpose in life. Our intuition is furthered by our experiences, each unique, and though categorical, each experience is unmatchable by any other.

The focus of the great journey, being based on experience and not acquisition, allows the sojourner to also focus on the path and not the destination. There is no suitable excuse for the Levite or the Priest to deny the mugged Jew left for dead on the road side. Instead, each individual on the moral journey are able to play the ‘good’ Samaritan without constraints on time. The lack of focus on the destination also gives the individual the ability to change their role from to the knight in shining armor or general on the hill, as the given situation demands. This flexibility optimizes the nobility of the journey for the journeyman without hampering the journey for the whole.

So the great journey becomes this, our perceived moral imperative.

28 June 2010


After reviewing this blog and many of Google's recent improvements of the Blogger service, I found it necessary to polish up the site a little bit. I cleaned up the tags (getting rid of some that were basically useless), updating other tags, fixing some broken picture links and changing the blog theme. All in all I think the changes bring much improvement.

19 June 2010

Muse on Mutual Exclusivity

(this short is a continuation of my previous essay Quorum Sensing or Natural Leadership)

Mutual Exclusivity ≠ Implied Duplicity as Big Bird ≠ “Roy”
Mutual Exclusivity = Quorum Sensing as Implied Duplicity = Democracy

With quorum sensing, mutual exclusivity becomes a null point as the interpretation of the sensing is more important than the sensing itself. But, quorum sensing cannot operate with implied duplicity as quorum sensing can only handle a single decision at its conclusion, no matter how many options or iterations were available at the outset.

It is not that quorum sensing cannot handle duplicity, but that it cannot handle individuality. In democracy, individual issues can be addressed and resolved mono a mono. With quorum sensing, only the whole can be resolved; individual issues will be weighed in the grand scheme then decided on in the classic quorum sensing method. Thus quorum sensing not only resolves the issues related to individuality, but such issues cannot be separated from the whole without damaging the sensing as a whole.

Though it cannot handle the individual nature of implied duplicity, quorum sensing will, in the end, always pick the optimal option based on the individual and collective needs against the available options, preferences and needs, each weighed against the singular personality. Quorum sensing is also highly resistant to corruption as the whole decides the best option from the available choices.

30 May 2010

My School Does Hydroponics

On a random day a roommate and I explored part of the School's greenhouses. We found that the does hydroponics, something that I had never seen before:

Also, they had a neat cooling system that ran water down stacks of seaweed like paper:

27 May 2010

A Blunt View of Immigration Reform or What Patriotism and America Mean to Me

Recently, in my Capstone (also known as: how to have an opinion and argue it well) class, we began a discussion on illegal immigration. We needed to answer any three of 10 questions. I chose the following three:
  • What should be done with the existing illegal immigrant population? What should their status be? (required)
  • How can/should the inflow of illegal immigrants be stopped?
  • Why are only five thousand [unskilled labor] visas issued annually?
While I do not normally like to delve into such useless politics as debating about things that will never really be settled, I found half way through writing this essay that I was not arguing about what we should do with immigrants but rather what we should do with America. While this essay contains my blunt views on immigration reform, they are more accurately a reflection of what patriotism and what America means to me. Below is my essay response to the questions:

What should be done with the existing illegal immigrant population? What should their status be?
This is a difficult question to answer because whatever choice is made will affect the entire nation and will set a defining precedence for the future. The choice: do we define America as a place for the elite to grow and test themselves in exclusivity, or do we define America as a place for all to come and try their hand at the common game.

I choose the later: I would choose to make America a place where all are invited to come and have an equal opportunity to play the common game called ‘America’. Let me be clear on the sometimes ambiguous term “equal”. By equal I do not mean that all forced or propelled, depending on their status, to start the game at the same line or that the government constantly steps in to ensure that everyone is playing fair. This is not equal; rather it is a low and childish dream of fairness.

Such interventions dampen the desire for the achievers to excel because any reward gained is later taken away, this is artificial deflation. It also gives the lazy and handicapped an unfair advantage in that they are given opportunities that they did not earn or deserve, this is artificial inflation. Both are disastrous to our system of economies: if there is no incentive to excel then players only put forth the required effort and the status quo becomes the status perpetuus; if there is an allowance for laziness or handicap then the weak never learn to fight and will soon die, much like a butterfly that is released from its cocoon dies as its wings are too weak to fly.

No, true equality would involve a very simple system with very few rules, namely: whoever wishes to join the race can do so as long as they can get to the track without exceptions to the rules. This is equality. None would be repressed for superior achievement or original thinking. None would be elevated by special exceptions to the rules. While equality would not be ‘fair’ in the childish sense of ‘everyone being forced to share and none being allowed to truly excel’, it would be just in the true sense of ‘everyone being reward according to the price that has been paid’.

This equality is what the immigrants, legal or not, are looking for. They do not demand that they receive special exceptions to the rules; that they should not need to work in order to obtain sustenance or shelter. (Please note that I am specifically referring to the immigrants themselves – those who have paid the price of arrival – not their descendants or others who have not paid this price and are obtain as elitist as us Americas.) In fact the opposite is true: they demand the right to prove that they can pull their fair share of work and only ask for the corresponding share of social respect. This is evidenced by their willingness to work in jobs and at wages that others, the unemployed, refuse in distain.

Because of their willingness to work, almost without regard for the job or the wage, we should liberate our immigration policies allowing those who want to come and work to do just that: come and work. While this will create a flood of cheap labor – people who are willing to work for less than the common unemployed – such a flood would soon break down the pride of the America people, lower unemployment and foster innovation.

This would also nearly abolish the Illegal Immigrant labor ‘black market’ because most immigrants would be legal and thus traceable. While some would certainly continue to work ‘under the table’, the threat of ‘immigration blackmail’ would be virtually eliminated and immigrants would be better suited to bargain for higher wages and better working conditions. It would also allow the now traceable and legal workers to pay their fair share of taxes and thus help support the very social services that help make America so attractive as a place to live.

(How can/should the inflow of illegal immigrants be stopped?)
Immigration Services should return to its roots: a service that documents and tracks immigrants while attempting to filter out the villains and convicts. This single change would have two affects: first, we would be able to document most of the immigrants who are coming to America, including those who are currently undocumented and thus unaccounted for; second, as a natural law of wants, once American borders were more open, fewer people would want to come thus helping to stem the flood of immigrants.

This move would, in many ways, equalize the game in that all, who could get to America, would be allowed a chance to play the game. The game, following the natural laws of consequence, would then reward those who played well and punish those who did not. Many who played the game would realize that the American game could be better played in their home nation, would eventually return home and flourish where before they had failed. Thus, ‘Americanism’, or American democracy, would spread throughout the globe into all but the coldest and most repressed corners of the earth.

Further, this exodus to the ‘promise land’ of America would challenge oppressive and corrupt leaders of other nations. What use is it to rule absolutely if you have no one to rule over? By opening our borders, we would see a great change in the governments of the world and many of them would become more free and open in hopes that fewer citizens would leave. Our goal of ‘liberating’ the world would then be more easily accomplished.

This is what it means to be American: Not this poppycock about pushing democracy onto other nations, not this worrying about protecting the poor and improvised, not the ridiculous notion that we are somehow elite and superior – all despite our pompous sense of grandeur, slacked work ethics, this failed legacy of ‘liberating’ other nations.

This is what America, this great nation, should be about: Giving an equal chance to whomever wishes to come, leaders reforming their countries in an effort to ‘compete’ with American democracy, allowing the marvel of human innovation to charge the nation with power and creativity – all in spite of the natural obstacles of geography, grand overtures of global political mellowing, repressive and corrupt dictators who would reduce the most magnificent soul to the dust it is bound to.

Why are only five thousand [unskilled labor] visas issued annually?
One simple reason: with the US unemployment at an average of 7.1% over the past two decades (a high of 10.6% in February 2010 and a low of 3.6% in October 2000) there is more than enough unskilled labor already within the US without needing to go looking for foreign workers. When the unemployment rate begins dropping near 2 or 1 percent, then we would have cause to bring in outside laborers. (Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from January 1990 through April 2010)

The most ridiculous part of research this question was finding the vast number of opinion pieces that thought we should increase the visa limits. While this would seem be a good solution to fix illegal immigration issues, it would end up hurting American citizens, those unemployed who make up the above statistics. The government must first worry about its citizens, the American family, before it seeks to assist others by bringing them into this great family.

26 May 2010

The Nasty Business of Repentance

Sin is a nasty business. The one thing worse than sin is repentance. Sure, there is a nice, peaceful feeling that comes from repenting but it can be hell to get there, literally. I speak from experience. A year ago, on 11 May 2009, to be exact, I experienced some indiscretion that I have regretted ever since. It was a mistake that I had made many times before, but that I had vowed to not make again.

My penitent heart had remained clean for several months before that fateful Monday. I don't even remember why, only that I had been distracted enough to not guard against failure and thus I failed. I had a simple task that day, one that could have been done all morning; I never did it. I will confess: an inventory report seems a simple thing, even an innocent thing unlikely thing to cause so much grief. In the end it did.

The way the inventory report works is that it takes a snapshot of the inventory as it stands at that very moment. There is no going back, no time travel, no way to make up for a lost report. Thus, for one who fails to run the report, the only way to repent is to wait a whole year until the blemish of a missing data point is erased by the natural course of circulating data as the charts only have one year, or 52 data points, worth of data.

In this case I had to wait the entire year to repent and am relieved to report that as of 10 May 2010, one year after my folly, the charts are again pristine and my repentance is complete. The cleansing graces of atonement can once again abide with me.

19 May 2010

24 pound paper, how I love you!

Have you felt the difference between 20 pound (normal copier paper in the blue packaging) and 24 pound (better printing paper in the red packaging) paper? It may sound like a tiny difference, and it is. But when I turn a page of 20 pound paper it feels cheap and nearly worthless; when I turn the page of 24 pound paper it feels like turning the page of a heaven sent, blessed work approved by God himself and thus not only worthy but demanding of my time and attention. It's like watching Michael Jackson's feet do the moon walk, listening to Enya's "The Memory of Trees", smelling fresh rain all while eating a cookie monster and drinking raspberry sorbet dissolving in tonic water, plus 1.

I love it.

You should try it.

It's wonderful.

08 May 2010

Slow Degradation in a Metaphorical Fire

Analogies are powerful tools. We use them a lot, really we do. We use them anytime we are trying to describe a complex topic when all other metaphors fail. Analogies are in fact a form of metaphor that we use to describe something in parallel to something else. When we use a metaphor we use other items to describe the subject at hand; with an analogy we compare the subject at hand to another topic and thus infer using “if, then” statements how one works based on the other.

Analogies simply enough; you pick a complex topic, say ‘life’, then you pick a less complex thing to compare it to, ‘skydiving’: life is like skydiving. This statement is of course true, to a point. When you go skydiving you instructions from an expert while you’re on the ground, then you load up in a plane, take off and jump. When you jump you get to prove how well you listened to the instructions. Once you’ve landed safely a little car comes and picks you up and takes you back to base. You get a little piece of paper congratulating you on a successful dive (and if you paid enough money you get pictures and a video too). Now you are a skydiving expert. So it is in life that you start out for about 18 years getting instructions from an ‘expert, before you load up into a plane called “school”, take off and then jump into your own life. When you jump you get to prove how well you listened to the instructions. Once you’ve landed safely you get in your little car and drive back to your home. You get a little piece of paper saying “you’re married” (and if you paid enough money you get pictures and a video too). Now you are an expert on life and can raise a family.

Only it’s not really like that at all. Life isn’t so clearly divided into instruction and action. While skydiving even once gives you some experience, having been a child does little to teach effective parenting skills. Particularly considering how little of our earliest years we remember. Skydiving allows for little feedback in new experiences: that is you can’t keep making small tweaks the entire dive. On the other hand, life allows, and in many ways demands, that you make constant modifications in order to land safely.

The metaphor works on the beginning levels – when talking about the stages of skydiving compared to the stage of life – but breaks down as it gets more analogous – when we continue the metaphor into having been a child allows one to be a good parent.

Degradation should be expected as the analogy gets deeper. If there was something that was a perfect analogy of something else you would find that they are in fact the same thing, at least morally and philosophically. They have to be.

But the point of an analogy is to help others understand something by relating it to something they already know or can at least imagine. In the skydiving example, most people can at least picture described process of preparing and jumping in a way they might not be able to imagine preparing and jumping into life. This parallelism is what makes analogies so rich and important in our daily communications: they are designed to expand understanding in a new field.

It is important when participating in metaphors and analogies, or expanding our knowledge in any other way, to be able to separate the tools of expansion, that is the metaphor and the analogy, from the actual expansion itself: a deeper understanding of preparing for, and jumping into, life. Coupled with this ability to separate is the ability to identify when a given metaphor has grown into an analogy through complexity and later what the analogy has outgrown our knowledge, breaking down and falling apart, and thus is no longer able to sustain our newly gained understanding. This process is similar to the expansion of truth, rather our perception of truth, through time as we grow our understanding and expand our knowledge.

As metaphors and analogies break down it may be necessary to develop a new analogy, but caution should be exercised before doing so. Remembering that the entire purpose of the metaphor or analogy was to help us understand something we couldn’t otherwise grasp we should ask: “has understanding expanded enough to allow us to learn the actual thing instead of something that is like the thing?” We should always strive to get along without any metaphor or analogy as they can hinder a more real understanding. Plus, not using the crutch of an analogy removes the problem of degradation altogether.

26 April 2010

How much hot water?

Do you know what a 500,000 BTU flash heater and 300 gallon water tank mean? Warm tile floors, endless hot showers and not worrying about how long ago the last shower was.

Such water heating devices do exist, and we in fact have one installed in our complex. It is wonderful!

15 April 2010

The Drive Home

The lush green hills unroll before you with the low fog dancing around the hill tops and the occasional beam of golden light streaming through to caress the dew covered grass, bidding it good morning before whisking the dew away in little wafts of steam.

Ah, this is life, this is home. Even if a morning like this comes but once a year; this single vista makes all the other moments worthwhile. To hear the birds frolic; to smell the moist air; to feel the gentle morning breeze; to taste the fragrant outdoors; to watch over my little world. This is what life is all about.

12 April 2010

The End of Justice

The time has come for Justice to be decommissioned. After nearly two years of faithful service, he has been reclaimed by his maker. Okay, not really, but I liked the dramatic flair. The Owner's laptop is dying and he wants a laptop like Justice and I have been wanting a smaller laptop and so we are trading. To accomplish this I will be shortly wiping Justice and 'reeducating' in the work ways so that all he knows is the drone stuff and he will become "LT05". Sigh, it is sad that even now I am writing his last post ever. We've had a fun and good run together but we both knew it wouldn't last forever.

02 April 2010

Yeah, Duh!

"Something is not right. Look at his hands," said the officer in random TV show.

Duh. We all know something wasn't right when the eerie music started playing, and we knew it had to do with the hands the fourth time the camera cut away from the dialog to focus on them.

Arg. If only life itself could be so simple.

27 March 2010

Introspection on Trees, Life and Time

Life moves and courses through the veins of time: ebbing and flowing to fill its needs and breathe energy into its purpose. It is with this life that our journey turns into the vast and unending arc of our story. Each thread, each vein runs along so small and fragile, gradually meeting another vein and then another until a vast network of time is wrapped in the grasps of life. These networks, each a story arc of their own, are connected to others which are in turn connected to yet others, creating a massively complex array of stories, of life, of experience. No one vein could stand on its own and yet the whole would not exist if any single strand were removed. Each is vital, each is essential for the purpose and function of this vast ensemble to be accomplished.

The one is the whole; the whole is the one.

The veins flow from the tiniest startings until they gather with more veins. Structures of veins combine: twisting their way into broad, lush palettes. Leaf after leaf connects to twig and twigs to branches and branches to trunks. All at once, with introspection, the grand beauty of the marvelous tree of life is unfurled before you. This is your tree, your story, your time. The marvel of it was too hard to see before when you were experiencing the tiny vein in the leaf, on the twig, connected to the branch, emerging from the trunk, growing out of the ground. But now, through the lens wisdom, you can see it. A tear trickles down your face and falls to the ground. A tribute, a memory, a monument to all the pain, agony, sin, suffering and sorrow you couldn't understand before now.

The tree is time; time is the tree.

Why couldn't you see before now? When life and time were the hardest, could you not have taken a step back to see and comprehend what it was all for? The answer is simple, though not easy. All the events of your life and time have combined together to grow this single masterpiece with all of its beautiful intricacies and glorious textures. Even if you had the lens you have now, it would have done you no good. The tree you see standing before you is the final product: you had to come to a conclusion to see it. Any look before would have revealed a struggling sapling yearning to be much more but unable to break the canopy overhead, to cut through the thick roots below, suffering from the same demons you suffered from. Because the sapling was you.

A moment in time; forever in eternity.

A snapshot taken at your weakest moment, your greatest struggle, would be a pathetic reflection of your great journey. Your grandeur is not in the tears you shed in sorrow, nor in the scars that tell of your pain, or the sapped bark covering your broken limbs. Your grandeur, your supernal wonder is that you made it. After all those cold bitter nights, fierce storms and long dry summers, you made it. You finally breached the canopy and entrenched your roots to stand firmly yesterday, today and forever. This is who you are, this is who you were and this is who you will be: strong, unfailing, immortal. All of this is from life moving and coursing through the veins of time, ebbing and flowing to fill its needs and breathing energy into what would become the great and masterful you.

22 February 2010

It is strange when…

It is strange when tiny little dogs chase you down. It is strange and funny for two reasons. First, they can barely open their mouths wide enough to get a decent bite, much less have strength to do much damage. Yes, it can hurt, but not as much as a flesh eating dragon. Second, every time they get close to you, as in five feet, they retreat because they are scared.

It is strange when you see a horse that is completely fascinated by a muskrat on the other side of the fence. The muskrat is sitting scared to death wondering why the horse hasn't eaten him yet, only to later realize that horses don't eat muskrats and that the horse can't jump the fence.

It is strange when someone gives you a valuable piece of information that should progress the relationship to a deeper level. When you give back a comparable piece of information they are confused. What you thought that they thought was valuable, wasn't. What you thought was valuable and gave to them, they didn't think was valuable.

09 February 2010

Where is Agency in Compulsion?

As of late I have been thinking "what use is it to teach logic and thinking only to then insist we all think and act the same way?" We claim as a society that we value our liberties above all other things. We state that the First Amendment should be upheld everywhere and thus promote free speech, that everyone in the world should have the right to choose their leaders and thus push democracy throughout the world, that everyone can achieve the "American Dream" and thus bolster education.

We love liberty and revel in it, or at least in our own. When it comes to the liberties of others we slow down a little bit. We are happy that we can say whatever we want, but we cringe when we hear someone defending a distasteful opinion. We are joyous to vote for a leader, but then disrespectfully walk out of that leader's speech because we didn't choose him. We cherish our ability to achieve our dreams, but then get angry when others 'have it easy'. How do we overcome these frustrating differences? We slowly manipulate the perception of world until our way is the only reasonable way and every other way is corrupt, evil and bad.

A Lack of Diversity

It goes something like this: Someone does something we don't like so we institute a rule against it. They continue to do things we don't like and we continue to make rules. Each rule by itself seems mostly harmless, but when gathered collectively they create an intricate web of social do's and don'ts as determined by whoever made the rules. The problem is that the cumulative rules prevent anyone from being 'unacceptably' different from us. Time and again history has shown us that a lack of diversity is not just bad but can bring ruin. Let us look at Ireland's Great Famine:

One of the bounties of the New World was the potato. This marvelous new food could easily be grown in a large variety of places and climates. Europe loved this magic new food and embraced it whole heartedly. Not long after its introduction the potato became a staple of the Irish diet. Along came the 1840's bringing with it a potato disease that attacked only a certain kind of potato. It happened to be the one kind that the Irish, and most of Europe, used for food. The results were devastating, causing a 20% decline in Ireland's population over the next decade from death and emigration. The Indians of the New World never experience this sort of famine. The reason was simple: the Indians had planted up to a hundred different varieties of potatoes and the Irish one. When disease comes along and wipes out one of a hundred different varieties of food it is no big deal, when it wipes out one of ten varieties it is devastating.

By creating such strong restrictions so as to greatly limit diversity we invite the devastation of the Great Famine and risk complete failure, all because of a lack of tolerance.

Removing the Grey Matter

Another form of compulsion is to limit choice so much that people must choose between two extremes. This method gives the illusion that people still have a choice, and technically they do, but they have no viable options. For example, pretend I switched all of my roommate Red's shirts with Peran Sea monster shirts. Red still technically has choices: he can wear the Peran Sea monster or the Peran Sea monster. In the end Red will have to wear a Peran Sea monster shirt (which are actually quite good looking shirts, though I am biased). Red does have some other non-viable choices though: he can choose run away instead of wearing the shirts; he can choose to go shirtless; he can choose to defy me and buy a T-Rex shirt. None of these are considered viable options for one reason: humans innately desire to do and be good. Society teaches us that running away is bad; running around in public shirtless is evil and rebelling against the established order is corrupt. Therefore Red is left with the choice of Peran Sea monster shirt.

I will concede that non-viable options are sometime exercised, but I would ask "why?" Is it because the individual doesn't know they are bad? Not likely. In fact, I think that often rebellion happens only because it is rebellion; because it is outside the established norm that the action is chosen to express contempt for authority. If the action is suddenly brought within the norm, it is a useless form of expression as it is no longer contempt.

Back to the grey matter. Most decision have clearly white (right, correct, good) and black (wrong, incorrect, bad) boundaries, at least in our own minds. The trouble comes when we encounter situations that fall between our clearly defined limits into the grey zone where white and black mingle. Because every person has different experiences and looks at those experiences differently, everyone has different grey zones. These zones are important to our individuality. They are the zones that we feel like we can safely experience the thrill of something new and different without being outright in the black. They are higher risk from what we are used to, but not so far away from the white that we feel like we have gone too far. Grey zones allow us to experiment with the unknown without being 'wrong'. When the grey zone is removed, and with it our ability to safely experiment, we are forced to choose: Do we want to fulfill our innate need to be 'right' as others define it and loss our ability to express our uniqueness or do we want to fulfill our desire to be recognized as a unique individual and be considered 'wrong' by others? Compacted: we must choose someone else's white or black and either be seen as complacent or rebel, really good or really bad, because all the middle ground has been removed.


A healthy balance needs to be struck between allowing us the satisfaction of exploring curiosity and protecting us from harm. Though I do not clam to be an expert at finding this balance, I know that it is important. Limiting choices to the point where people must decide whether to forsake their agency or go into open rebellion in not agency at all and in the face of 'logical disease' a group that is devoid of any grey material will be devastated and an ensuing intellectual famine will follow.

05 February 2010

Daily Sensational Experiences

I was recently talking with Hero about an essay that my roommate, Tree, had written. The essay is about how we need to rely on rational thinking in order to push past the physically perceivable world and operate with things we cannot see. Hero made an interesting statement:
If we were to limit our corporeal behavior to those based solely on perceived truths based on our daily sensational experiences we forsake any advanced analytical thinking that can be had in an arena that we cannot experience. We would have to forsake any cumulative learning and as a society we would be condemned to perpetual infancy.
I thought his statement was fairly profound and connects nicely with George Santayana comments on the definition of progression:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness... when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905)
Tied together: Progress is pushing past the experienced physical sensations and trusting that others have accurately recorded such so we can build upon their work. If we do not, if we decide that we can only trust in our daily sensational experiences then we become listless, drifters or as Baloo described the Bandar-log, Monkey-People, to Mowgli:
They have no law. They are outcasts. They have no speech of their own, but use the stolen words which they overhear when they listen, and  peep, and wait above in the branches. Their way is not our way. They are without leaders. They have no remembrance. They boast and chatter and pretends that they are a great people about to do great affairs in the Jungle, but the falling of a nut turns their minds to laughter and all is forgotten. (Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books: Kaa's Hunting)
 Thus, relativism, being able to explore concepts that you can't physically interact with, is important not only for the soul but also for society as a whole.

04 February 2010

How to [politely] prevent 'butt grinding'

When I toured BYU-I almost two years ago I noticed that the long, smooth hand rails in the library had been defaced by random nuts that had been bolted every few feet in the railing. It took me a little bit before I realized that the bolts were designed to discourage butt grinding (aka sliding down the rails). The library handrails are the only ones with bolts though. Instead clever engineers came up with better ways of discourage the frowned upon practice. One such method is to create staircases at such sharp angle (pictures above) that sliding down them would accelerate an individual to such speeds that they are likely to impact on the very closely placed wall and thus suffer extreme injury.

P.S. The bolts in the library have since been removed, and Daniel has succumbed to the urge of sliding down the rails. It is this author's opinion that the rails were designed were butt grinding.

19 January 2010

…And thus the plan was fulfilled

A little over a year ago I wrote about being in "search of Friends, Advocates and Colleagues" at our sister company. At the same time I was also searching Work. I had already established all friends, advocates and colleagues and they were quite solid. Instead I was looking to drive technological progression throughout the company. It has been easy to apply technology in areas that had a pressing need, but it was much harder gain acceptance of systems that didn't have a perceived problem but could still benefit from technology backings. This past Friday I heard the magic words, "Daniel, I think you've opened Pandora's Box. Now that we have seen what can be done we have all sorts of ideas." And thus the plan was fulfilled, years of work has been solidified into a single breaking point that has finally burst.

You may think it a little selfish of me to propagate my department into every venue possible. It is only mildly selfish though. When done correctly, technological progression helps the company to run more efficiently and thus saves money while improving performance. In my mind, paper forms are generally one of the more ineffective ways to handle business. For example, we have a form for resolving customer issues. Sometimes the resolutions require multiple managers to approve the resolution and then other people to complete the resolution. Let us follow the paper form through its life. It starts out as a PDF on our intranet site. A salesperson locates, prints and completes the form before giving it to the manager. The manager works with the form until an acceptable resolution has been reached. They then approve the form then and send it to the appropriate party who then process the resolution. In this system there are at least four places where the paper form can be lost and no one would know about it (with the salesperson, the manager, in the mail and with the processor). Converting the form to digital avoids the problem of the form getting lost. The form also travels quicker, especially by avoiding the mail. What used to take days to move can now be done in hours.

Selfish or not, I feel that propagating technological progress throughout the company is a benefit not only to my department, but to the company as a whole.

16 January 2010

The Secret Tenets of IT/IS

Through time I have developed a triplet of tenets to guide my projects and efforts at work. These tenets are in fact the rock solid foundation that my IT/IS Department has been based upon. Thus far they have worked really well. As they have been so vital to me I thought I would share them.

The Three Secret Tenets of IT/IS

Secret One:
Imagine for a moment that you are traveling down the highway. You're going a good 90 miles per hour, which wouldn't be a problem except you are on a highway, not a freeway, and the speed limit is 65 miles per hour. You're not really in a hurry, you're just excited for the lunch date you're on your way to.

You hear the siren first. It is a blaring siren, yet it seems distant and remote. You tap the brakes and look in the rear-view mirror hoping that you will see a police car racing down the other side of the highway. The lights are close enough you don't need the mirror. Your dashboard lights up in brilliant but short bursts of red and blue, the police car is behind you.

That tap on the brakes turns into a full push, the car decelerates and you pull to the side. You don't even hope he passes you by, you know he is out for you. He gets out of his car and walks to your windows which you roll down. Your heart is racing, your blood boiling, your pants soiled (not really but you wonder if it would be easier if they were). You're not just in trouble, you are practically dead.

"Why are you in such a hurry son?" the Officer asks.

You consider all the good excuses you can think of but you find your mouth speaking before any of the excuses can be loaded. "Just a lunch date, sir."

"Must be a big date," he replies sternly, "to not care if you arrive there or not."

"No sir." Again you speak without the proper language module loaded, "just a couple of friends."

"Why were you going so fast then?" the sternness still strong in his voice.

"Just got excited and lost track of the speed," you have given up on the whole good reasoning thing, obviously your mouth doesn't think you need it.

The Officer walks back to his car to check your credentials. An eternity passes before he returns.

"Son," he starts, "I just want to make sure you stay alive. If you promise you won't go speeding around again I won't ticket you."

"Honestly, sir, I was so scared when I saw your lights that I committed to never speed again," you say.

It wasn't a lie, though it would turn out to not be the truth. But for now, you believed it and that is what matters. Later you will find the statement an error, but you cannot expect a man to change his whole life in a moment that will be remembered well for some time before time passes and the memory becomes distant and then not a memory at all but a legend until finally it dies as a faint myth. It has been said that 'almost dying changes nothing. Dying changes everything' (Dr. Gregory House) and it is true here as well.

Secret Two:
Have you seen a phone recently? They're not phones anymore, they are Phones. Sure there are still some that just perform the basic calling functions, but most phones today do a whole lot more. In addition to calling they send and receive text messages, take relatively high quality pictures and video, surf the internet, come loaded with all sorts of applications and tell you where you are (though they are still lacking on to help me figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm sure an app is coming to do that too). What we had once prided ourselves on being the thinnest fit possible we now pride on being able to do anything.

"Being able to get my email anywhere, at any time," Devin said, "I couldn't live without be able to get my email anywhere."

I thought about that comment and concluded that on my personal email account I don't get any messages that are so important they can't wait until I can get home. I get those on my work email account, but let's face it: I don't want to be answering work email when I'm hiking a mountain, out riding a bike or even curled up reading a book. But then I thought that about my cell phone and how I feel naked and bare when I leave home without it. I can only imagine that the sensation of needing my phone, and all the features that come with it, every moment of every day would get stronger the more useful my phone was.

Secret Three:
In you were to go swimming in more tropical waters than what we get in Oregon and were to go exploring a coral reef, you may perchance encounter a glorious Manta Ray. Unlike the common rays and skates, manta ray is huge, measuring in at about 25 feet from wing tip to wing tip. As awesome and impressive as the Manta is, it has little to do with IT or IS. Rather, I would draw your attention to the much, much smaller remora (they are one to three feet long). The remoras attach themselves to the manta (and whales, sharks and other large oceanic bodies) with a small suction cup. As the large manta swims the little remoras go along too. When it is eating time all the remora has to do is reach its lower lip up past its upper lip (which nature designed it to do) and gently scrap all manner of goodness off the manta ray. This coexistence is welcomed by the manta ray because though the remora's ride hitching means a little more effort to swim, the remora's eating keeps it clean and parasite free. Both parties win.

There they are, the Three Secret Tenets of IT/IS. I know it isn't fair that they are encased within heavily coded analogies, but it wasn't fair to make those who know the real secrets follow me around for weeks on end doing relatively menial tasks either. I figure equal unfairness balances out into total fairness. Besides, you didn't honestly expect me to fully disclose one of my most closely guarded secrets, did you?

As a side note, each point is as true as I can find, so at least you learned something. If you want to know the real tenets you'll have to become part of my posterity.

Oh, I currently have no openings in my posterity. I'll keep you apprised though.

09 January 2010