Monday, June 30, 2008

df. Sister (n.)


As fraternity (sorority) women, we use this word often without truly understanding its meaning. It's like saying "I love you" now a days. You may as well say "I cheese sandwich you," since it contains about as much meaning as the word "love" does considering how lightly and free of care people tend to throw around the word. Having no sisters by birth myself, I joined the "sisterhood" knowing very little about what to expect. I guess I assumed that since I was joining as an "adult," or almost an adult, at least, there would be less "sibling rivalry" to endure than I experienced during my childhood with an older brother. I was wrong.

It's truly amazing. When I was little, Stephen and I used to fight about everything. It became the only way we knew how to communicate with one another. "I call the front seat!", "No! I want to hold the remote!", "I'm older, so I have seniority and I get to pick first." These are all lines that were used interspersed with flailing arms and legs throwing punches and kicks in an effort to get the other to "Stop touching me!" Even now, when we've matured and learned to interact with one another in a civil manner, that old habit is revived occasionally. Maybe one day we will laugh about all the stupid arguments, fights, and pulling of hair that occurred. For now, we're still in the exit-stage.

I never had a sister before I joined Delta Gamma. So what did I expect? I expected less abusive behavior, less malice, fewer irrational arguments, and less rivalry than I'd had as a child with an older, somewhat rough boy as my only sibling. What did I get? Something very different than what I expected. Sure, we're not tearing each others' hair out, nor are we yelling at each other nor are we throwing punches. It's like I've said before: girls fight differently. We scheme, we gossip, we spread rumors that can ruin our sisters' reputations for college careers and beyond. We are "adults". Yet, we still have rivalry. We love each other, yet our closeness sometimes serves as the tipping point to push us over the edge and lash out at one another.

One of the terrible and great things about a family is that no matter what you do or have had done to you to or by a member of your family, they must love you and you them. You are stuck with them forever, and in good or bad times, they will be with you, even should the sight of them make you physically sick. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? This is one of those concepts to which I have some opposition. Some people I know would disagree with this brief description of how a family should treat its members and what the dynamics within a family should be like. I have heard people denounce their families and run away, never to speak to certain family members again. It is devastating to watch. Like demons in The Golden Compass, being torn from their children, it is a bond which should never be broken, yet some people find breaking that bond an attractive course of action. To me, one's family holds the key to one's soul.

How does this translate into how I treat my fraternity "family" and how I view my "sisters"? Delta Gamma is a beautiful organization, with "stellar" (to use a sister's favorite word) goals and ideals. The women who are selected to join this organization make it or break it. Upon pledging, these women choose to become a family. Not the kind of family that comes from birth, but a new kind of family; one that brings all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences together to learn from one another and love one another with that same sort of infinite determinacy as we do our blood relatives. We become a family for life when we are initiated into the fraternity, and make a choice to take on the responsibilities of a real family network. Because we have chosen this, it should not be an obligation, but rather a desire to be with one another and love one another as sisters.

Why do I think this ideal image of what our sisterhood should be doesn't always pan out? Part of it, I believe, is our sheer numbers. There are so many of us that cliques tend to emerge. A small rivalry between two sisters does not end there; it spreads like wildfire through the chapter until we have two groups of sisters. You're either for her or against her. If you choose to abstain, you are alienated and participate less in "family" activities in an attempt to avoid dealing with the conflict and being forced to pick a "team". Perhaps the way to break this tendency is to do some educating within the chapter concerning conflict resolution; to build up womens' self-esteem and assertiveness so that they can resolve problems on a one-to-one basis calmly and rationally, without involving the whole chapter in a brutal whisper war that goes on for months.

Anyone know a good conflict resolution specialist?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"You Say You Want a Revolution"

So, we’re not content with our leadership. Now what? How does a group of women that is struggling to keep it together when corruption has seeped into their ranks change things? How do they expel the corruption? There are several different approaches one can take in this situation.

1) Violence: By considering violence, the group is acting on their emotions, which can, in some cases, be useful. These women are angry. And when women get angry, they can be really mean. As Eric Idle so delicately put, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will make me go in a corner and cry by myself for hours."

Beginning in elementary schools, girls fight the nastiest of battles; seek revenge on their classmates. When boys have conflict, there is almost always a physical fight involved. A punch or two is thrown, and the conflict is resolved. They expel all their emotional energy in that punch, and the blood flows back into their more reasonable parts, allowing them to solve the problem. When girls have conflict, they do more damage. Little girls are taught from a young age not to fight. It is “un-lady-like” to hit another person. Girls, like boys, by human nature, seek ways to get revenge. Instead of fighting it out physically, girls taunt one another. They spread rumors; they gossip; they do everything in their power to tear down the self-esteem of their opposition. Unfortunately, this form of fighting often does not lead to a resolution of the conflict. These battles between girls, and eventually between women can last indefinitely, and are often the cause of long-term insecurities.

This trend continues throughout womens’ lives. Once boys reach a certain age, they realize the stupidity and barbarity of participating in physical fights to resolve conflicts (with occasional exceptions). Girls, however, fight their verbal battles behind closed doors. Girls can get silent revenge. So, they continue to get away with it, and in some cases, never grow up and out of this immature method of conflict resolution.

Looking at how fighting is imposed on different gendered children, how can this exposure be used to model our women's organization revolution?

Pros of violence:

· Emotion is put aside after violence, and reason takes over.

· Conflicts are resolved more quickly.

· Lessons are more likely to be learned if there is an incentive as strong as physical pain.

Cons of violence:

· Risky - could cause short/long-term physical harm

- Inexperience within the group in question - these are women, who have little to no experience using physical violence to solve problems.

- Immature

- Frowned upon by society in general, and by the group as a whole

- Will most likely lead to further conflict

2) Non-violence: Non-violence is, in my opinion, the best way to make changes and keep the organization from reverting back to its old ways. With M.K. Gandhi as our role model, we can solve the problem by communicating effectively while maintaining our poise and respect. This takes great patience and open minds, but as history has shown us, it works.

Pros of Non-violence:

- No one gets physically hurt

- Has great potential to solve the problem, if carried out

Cons of Non-violence:

- Time - can take lots of it

Ok, maybe this is not a situation that requires such extreme acts as Gandhi performed during his revolt. We need not fast for months, give up sex, or wear nothing but a loincloth in order to make a statement. But there is something to be learned from his extremist ways. The question now becomes: What would be "extreme" enough for us?

The group generally is very "nice". As women who have pledged to the same values and ideals that the founders established back in 1873, we see commonalities and can relate to one another, if in no other way. We are pleasant to one another in public, and mostly pleasant to one another in private. We have weekly meetings to discuss the general day-to-day happenings of our group and inform members of upcoming opportunities to get involved.

The group has a set of by-laws. These by-laws, although distributed, have not been read by most members. The by-laws tell us what is expected of each member and what each member can expect of her elected officers. The by-laws set the rules for the chapter's governance. Unfortunately, since so many are uneducated about these by-laws, members do not know what to expect from their officers, and tend to simply "go with the flow" and let things happen that should not.

Here's my "game plan":

  1. The first step to this non-violent conflict resolution is education. Members must be educated of the by-laws and fully understand their place within the group, as well as what to expect from the other members of the group.
  2. Should a member experience/witness misconduct according to the by-laws, she should act accordingly by:
    1. Bringing the misconduct to the attention of the officers and the entirety of the chapter.
    2. Requesting either appropriate punishment and/or change to ensure that such misconduct does not recur.
  3. Should officers and/or members at large not respond appropriately to these actions, any of the following can and should be permitted as acts of protest:
    1. Walking out of meeting
    2. Contacting chapter advisor for additional aid
    3. Attending EVC/Honor Board/CMT meetings to express discontent
    4. Any other means of non-violent protest of misconduct
It is a member's responsibility to stand up for what she believes and to be actively involved in the selective group of which she is a member. This is not "just a club". This is an organization with a governmental system. We would not let our country's national elected officials take advantage of us as a collective unit, or allow corruption to remain in the highest, most powerful branches of our government. We live in the greatest, free-est, most powerful nation in the world; we have a democratic government that allows the average layman to speak his mind and contribute to how our nation is run. We have freed ourselves from monarchical rule in the past through revolution. We can even impeach our president, should we find it necessary. Why don't we acknowledge this organization and take part in it's governance with such fervor?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge." -J. Wales, founder of Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The US Election, from a British's Woman's Perspective

**To see the full article, visit:**

This Was Supposed To Be Fun
Why have you stopped my election from being excellent

Facts are great, but after a while they stop being fun. Say, you’re enjoying a game of Swingball with your best friend, who is a vet. Suddenly, someone rises from a nearby deckchair, and informs you that over the course of his career, he has negligently caused the death of over two hundred Springer Spaniels. An unwelcome distraction, for sure - but then, if you’re easily distracted you have no place playing Swingball. Far worse, would be the sense the you’re playing a kind of rotary tennis against a man who doesn’t know his way around a Spaniel. A stupid, irrelevant fact has just ruined the game.

The less basic and rudimentary a fact, the less fun it is. Take my imaginary friend, the vet. That simple fact is lovely : he has probably seen a cow’s fanny, and I can draw pictures of him squinting at a giraffe and saying "I’m Sorry, It Has Got Very High Mumps". The more information I find out about his job <> every fact I learn takes me into a world that’s more complicated than I care to learn about. The fact that it’s important to him just makes it annoying.

With this in mind, here are the facts that I know about the American Election, in ascending order of whatever, get over it, Jesus.

1. A black man and a woman are going to have a fight, and as far as everyone can tell, it looks like they mean it.

Hillary Clinton is a woman! That means she has cables running to her big, tanned nipples that are capable of firing out milk. If you don’t think the idea of someone running the world with lasers of milk pissing from their chest isn’t awesome, then I honestly don’t know what to say to you. Legislation brought in for approval would be dabbled with an approving squirt, and evil budgets would be obliterated by a machine gun burst of white staccato squirts.

This is all old and stupid hats to us Brits though, we had Maggie Thatcher. We remember when she took the free milk from those poor schoolkids, and poured it into a mechanised tit that she used to rush through the anti-union legislation of the eighties. But even in her most unpopular moments, we - the British People - would never have asked her to fight a black man. Who can imagine the special powers that each candidate could draw from their respective stereotypes during the final rounds? It’s an excellent and probably racist scene to imagine. It’d probably climax with Barack channelling the powers of the Omegahedron through his Burundi Wand, while Hillary straddles his neck and tries to strangle him with her fallopians.

At this level of understanding, anything is possible, and the American Election is possibly the second most exciting thing in the world, after walking into a zero-gravity chamber full of St Bernard puppies, all rotating on a different axis.

2. Another man says he wants to fight the winner.

This is the first fact you’ll encounter in the American Election that is boring. His name is so unremarkable that you might as well simply let your mouth hang open instead of saying it. I can’t think what he looks like, I don’t know anything he’s said, and if you want me to feel something about him then you’re barking up the wrong tree. Everything’s already 40% less fantastic.

3. Super-delegates are being used to reinstate the smoky back rooms and hidden decision-making processes that gave the Democratic party a bad name in the past.

That clattering sound was the pan lid of my interest. First, it made me think "Typical! Politicians!" which is the single least thrilling thing a person can think. Secondly, they’re called super-delegates, but their only superpower appears to be the ability to vote for who they like, and even we’ve got that. Finally, though, it’s rubbish because it ruins the first, excellent point. If you’re going to fix the fight, do it in a cartoon fashion. Put horseshoes in boxing gloves, use suits of armour and massive magnets. Not in some pervasive, creeping and utterly reliable way that would make the public feel a bit shocked if they didn’t already assume that everything was already fundamentally broken.

4. The winner gets to rule the world.

Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise I was watching Highlander. If you’re going to take the piss, I won’t bother.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Somewhere, Beyond Optimism and Pessimism

One day, someone showed me a glass of water that was half full. And he said, "Is it half full or half empty?" So I drank the water. No more problem. ~Alexander Jodorowsky

It seems that French guys have all the answers. Here we have a classic philosophical problem: Either way we answer the question, we are, in a sense, correct. So, how do we know that our answer is the best one? Is it more realistic/practical to be an optimist or a pessimist?

Let's look at both sides of the story here. Those who are perpetual optimists have sparkles in their eyes and are enthusiastic about life and everything in it. They brighten others' days and inspire people who are perhaps not so consistent with their optimistic habits. Optimists can find the bright side of any situation, regardless of how much that situation really sucks at the time. They believe that only good things are to come in the future, because they think they've got no control over it, and it doesn't make sense for their moods to consider the negative possibilities of life. Maybe they even believe that they do have control over their future, so by thinking positively about it, they are molding it to be positive. These people have a tendency to be disappointed when things don't work out, yet find something good about those situations that don't work out, or attribute it to the "grand plan" that God has for us.

Pessimists, on the other hand, have a firm grasp of every negative possibility, and assume those possibilities to become realities. This way, when something good happens, they can be happy (momentarily), and not disappointed, since they had no expectations for good things to come. However, they also live in what some might consider "constant drear", always thinking negatively and allowing that contagious negativity to spread (as it does) like wildfire through friends, family and coworkers.

It is true: bad things happen. People get disappointed if they're expecting something good and it never comes. People are disheartened by terrible events that they hadn't even considered were possibilities in their and others' futures. Let's face it - life can be pretty friggin' depressing.
However, that doesn't mean that the best way to live is in a state of constant depression. On the contrary, it seems better to me, at least, to live with a sense of optimism always, but also to prepare oneself for the worst and consider all the options with an open mind.

Leave your expectations at the door, and drink the whole glass of water. Now, don't you feel well-hydrated and amazed by the great and terrible opportunities that this world affords us?

The Cheshire Cat Proves Insightful

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat.
"I don't know," Alice answered.
"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."
~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Today I got to asking myself some questions:

What do I want to do with my life?

What career path is the best choice for me?

What do I want to accomplish? Who can I help? How can I help them?

Then, I remembered this chronicle from Alice in Wonderland. Since I do not know the answers to any of these questions, it really doesn’t matter that this point which road I take. Perhaps following my intuition and living in the now is the path to travel down. Take each day as it comes and make the best with whatever hand I’m dealt.

I recently read an article about following one’s own intuition, which in turn led me to a book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It’s amazing how accurate our own human intuition can really be.

A Word of Advice from Steve Jobs

This is the text of the Stanford University Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

It's Almost Friday

When I was in high school, every weekday morning, Mom would open my bedroom door at 5:30 to wake me up for school. Mom, a morning person, seemed to be filled with joy at doing what I perceived at the time as a horrible thing to me. She’d bound into my room (occasionally singing), and say “Good morning, Jen! It’s a beautiful day [even if it wasn’t]!” I usually groaned, rolled over in bed and asked her to turn the light out and shut the door. Cheerfully as ever, she chose to hear “Shut the door” instead as the French, similar-sounding phrase, “Je t’adore”, which means “I love you”. She’d always reply either, “I love you too, sweetie,” or occasionally “Moi aussi.”

When I’d finally made it out of bed, and to the breakfast table, she had lovingly made me soft-boiled eggs and toast daily, which I never truly appreciated until I got to college, to find that a granola bar on my way to class was my most realistic and best option for breakfast. Junior year in high school, much to my dismay, Mom delighted in taking my photograph each morning as I ate my eggs, so as to document my growth over the year. I sat at that table every morning, questioning my very existence, asking myself why I was putting myself through another day of stress at school, band practice, running several miles on a treadmill to keep in shape, and beginning my homework which would keep me up until 2 a.m. only to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to do it all again. Mom saw my daily look of discouragement and lack of energy to go on, and on a daily basis would say, “Cheer up! It’s almost Friday!”

At the time, I found this incredibly annoying, since on Monday morning, Friday was looking pretty distant. Looking back on it now, I realize what an incredible person Mom is for having put me through that “torture”. Mom can find the silver lining on any cloud. She has a gift for optimism, when it’s needed. And she has a desire to help those in need, whenever and wherever they are in life. I think about that phrase often, especially as I begin a work-week or a school-week that I know will be filled with more work or studying than usual, tests, papers, etc. “It’s almost Friday,” I tell myself. Even on Monday morning, the phrase makes me feel like I can make it through the week. It reminds me of how quickly the last fun (and thus, fast) week went by, and that if I can keep my spirits high, this week will be just as quick. After all, there is the same amount of time in this week as there was in the last; the same number of hours, minutes, seconds. How I choose to spend each of those moments will determine for me how good I feel by the time it actually is Friday.

Back in high school, I couldn’t see past my own disheartenment. Now, I understand. So, thanks, Mom. Lesson learned. It’s almost Friday.

An Excerpt From My Journal (Tuesday, August 7, 2007)

"I've dealt with and adjusted to living in a "broken home," as it is just Mom and I in Clifton now. I've gotten used to seeing Dad only occasionally, even when I'm home from school, and to being the one who's supposed to worry about him when I haven't heard from him in a couple of days, or he's feeling sad. I've seen a lot of bitterness, a lot of hope, and a lot of confusion. I've seen negative thoughts and feelings change into positive ones. I've seen good days and bad.

I continue to listen and learn from everyone and everything around me.

At the end of the day, I still have a lot of faith in people. I trust that everything will work itself out, that the stove will be fixed (eventually), that my family's heart will be fixed (eventually), that friendships will hold on and support themselves, that baseball games will still be played on even the hottest days of the summer, that rock & roll and jazz will always have fans, that one bad day does not determine a lifetime, that my piano will forever be my solace, that the weather doesn't have to determine my mood, that the world will keep turning, and that happiness lies within."

We're Friends for a Reason...

On the night of Saturday, August 11, 2007, I received the following in an email (from someone who will remain nameless to the readers of this Blog):

"I also like raspberries and blackberries and how they can be just a little bitter and sour. I love old houses, glass doorknobs, brick fireplaces and cast tin ceilings. I love old railroad tracks with daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace growing in between, the way paint peels off old buildings, the smell of the coming rain, the sound of locusts (I call them meemer bugs because of the sound, though they apparently sound different in some places) on summer evenings, crisp, clean sheets and the constant buzzing of a ceiling fan. A freshly mown lawn is one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork, the pounding of rain on a tin roof a symphony and the intermittent glowing of lightning bugs is like watching fireworks. I love the way a dog is always happy to see a person, the way a cat doesn’t care and the way that children will say anything. I love the crackling of a fire, the rustling of leaves in the wind and the constant chirping of birds. I think that squirrels have got to be the most graceful wild creatures, that deer are actually huge rodents and that raccoons are much smarter than people think. I love the secrecy of a wink, the way it can mean anything and everything, depending on the person and the time. I love the feeling after a first kiss, the way mud squelches between my toes and washing my feet off really fast after playing in mud. I love the warmth of a fresh towel, the safety of bedtime covers, the hunt for the right piece in a jigsaw puzzle and the sparkle in the eye of someone who loves me. I love a quick double-play, holing out from 90 yards, and a long touchdown run. I love clean and simple fonts, scribbly handwriting and flowery signatures. I love the smell of boxwood in the Williamsburg humidity, honeysuckle during the musty evening and flowers in the morning. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are God’s gift to moms and moms’ gift to children. I love it when people cry and laugh and sigh when I’ve made them happy. I love the sound of church bells, or any large cast-bronze bell. I love staying up late, waking up later and reading until I drop. I love grandfather clocks, watches of all kinds and sealing wax. I truly enjoy singing along to songs, especially when they are songs that most people wouldn’t think I knew or that involve talent, which I haven’t had since my voice changed. A game of cards is better than a video game (the other team can actually think), a book is better than television (it doesn’t have commercials), and listening is better than talking. Hugging is almost as good as cuddling, which isn’t as good as kissing, and there are many types of kissing; I love the kisses that talk without words. I love the feeling of someone I love falling asleep in my arms, I love stroking their hair, I love carrying them to bed and I love kissing them goodnight, whether girlfriend, wife or daughter (not that I’d know on the last two). I love old poems, new gadgets and ancient buildings. I love driving with my arm out the window, playing in the rain until I’m soaked and holding hands with a sweetheart. I love candles. I love songs. I love flowers. I like jazz in the morning, big band at lunch, indie/emo/rock in the afternoon and classical in the evening. I love pictures of places I’ve been almost as much as pictures of places I want to go. I love small ears, big grey/blue/green eyes, soft lips and a hand that fits in mine. The perfect beginning to a day is a crisp, clear morning with a cup of coffee, warm apple strudel, a bowl of fresh, cool strawberries and cut bananas, a glass of milk and a rocking chair on the porch. The perfect end to a day is the same, except the milk is wine and the rocking chair is a wingback by the fireplace. And I love goodnights, because they include – or should – good hugs, warm eyes and the second best type of kiss."

"When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!"

Everybody's got fear. Everybody's afraid something bad is going to happen sometime. That's life. But what's important is that you don't let it stop you from doing things, taking risks. Every decision is a risk, every choice leaves a choice behind. You can't let yourself get paralyzed by the fear of what might go wrong.
Fear is a big part of everything we do. There's fear of failure, fear of flying, fear of getting hurt, fear of doctors, and so on. When I got my knee replaced a few years ago, you could say I had a little fear. What if something bad happened? What if the doctor screwed up? Thing is, I knew I wanted to walk without pain and play golf pretty bad, so I went through with it, a little fearful but I went ahead anyway. Fortunately everything worked out pretty good, and the harder I worked in rehab, the better I felt. Now my knee is great; they say I won't have to replace it for another fifteen or twenty years, but that's OK because I figure they'll have to replace me first while the knee keeps on going.
There's a lot of people with phobias, that's just the way it is. Phil Rizzuto was - and still is - one of the great worriers; he's afraid of everything that moves. Mice, insects, snakes - anything that crawls he's afraid of, which is why he was a great target for pranks. Guys would put worms in his glove and he would jump ten feet. Phil also had a real fear of birds, and once Johnny Lindell put a live bird inside a drawer where Phil put his valuables when he dressed for the game. He put his hand in the drawer and felt the bird move and tore out of the room like crazy. I don't think he ever used the drawer again.
My biggest fear is probably death; I know I'm going to die, but I don't especially want to be there when it happens. If I have another fear, maybe it's more a dislike, it's public speaking. I don't mind answering questions in front of a large group, but giving speeches is something else. It just makes me uneasy; it's one of the best things I hate.
I guess we all have some kinds of fears. The trick is to overcome them. It comes down to confidence and concentration. Baseball's a real good example: A lot of young kids have a fear of getting hit by a ball. Why? Because when it hits them, it hurts. The main thing is to teach them how to hit properly, and how to get of the way of an inside pitch. Using a tennis ball to practice is a good help, because you can gradually build up the confidence and lessen the fear.
It's funny, but a lot of kids think they can really get hurt playing baseball. They don't worry about getting in a fight or falling off a skateboard - but they're still afraid of a little ball. Truth is, the chance of getting hurt by a baseball is really, really small. But the fear exists...even for the big-leaguers.
Reggie Jackson never lacked confidence, except when it came to Nolan Ryan, who he said was "the only guy who put fear in me. Not because he can get me out, but because he can kill me." I think Randy Johnson scares some guys in the same way, too. He's so big, throws so hard, I think there are many guys just plain afraid to hit against him. That's not good for your confidence.
As a hitter, I always thought I had the advantage: I had the bat in my hand. I hit against some guys who threw real hard - Bob Feller and Herb Score were real fast - but I honestly never feared anyone. Maybe the one guy who made me a bit nervous was Sandy Koufax when he first came up. We'd see him in spring training and he had no idea where the ball was going. That wasn't good for your confidence either.
President Roosevelt said there was nothing to fear but fear itself, and that makes sense to me. Whenever someone goes to a hospital or has an operation, I always try to cheer them up. My granddaughter Lindsay is a fearless kid, real athletic, but she had to get a hernia operation and was pretty worried. When I asked her what the heck she was worried about, she looked at me like I was crazy and reminded me how nervous I was before my knee operation. So maybe the truth is you can't get rid of people's fears, but you can help them go on despite them.
Not everybody's always helpful. Looking back, I feel kind of bad when I think about Jackie Jensen, who was a good player and briefly a teammate on the Yankees, and was terrified of flying. We'd be asleep on a plane, and Billy Martin would grad an oxygen mask and yell, "Jackie, we're going down!" and it really shook him up. Jackie never overcame his fear of flying and it cut short his career.
You have to appreciate people who struggle to overcome their fears. Jimmy Piersall was a real good player for the Red Sox, but he had a nervous breakdown because he had all sorts of paranoid fears - they even made a movie about him called Fear Strikes Out. The good thing was that Jimmy eventually got better, got his confidence back, and played a great centerfield. He always stayed a bit flaky, though. How many guys used to take bug spray to the outfield?

-Yogi Berra, What Time Is It? You Mean Now?: Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All

My Thoughts on Sorority Recruitment (pulled from my "other blog")

Title: "Recruitment 101"
Entry Date: Sunday, September 2, 2007

Recruitment training began on Saturday morning, to open up a whole new season of Rush. All day Saturday, followed by another full day on Sunday, practicing singing, and conversation, and "trust circles". My enthusiasm for such events is diminishing as time goes by. I love my sisters, I want to spend time with my sisters, I want to have fun with my sisters; but let's face it: 6 hours of sitting on the parlor floor in a room meant for something like 20 people, yet there are 70 squeezed's a bit much. There's only so much energy and so many smiles I can exude in a period of 6 hours.

Rush will eat up my life for the next two weeks, and I already know that I'll look back on it, and feel good, and know I've accomplished something; I'm passing on a legacy, letting others experience what I have found in Delta Gamma. For now, I'm exhausted. I don't care what anyone says, this recruitment stuff is hard work. The saddest part about all of this, is that I'm going to have to do it all over again next year. One more time, I will sit on the floor of the parlor and listen to the same speeches, and participate in the same conversation exercises. I would've thought by now, I could have a somewhat normal, functional conversation with someone I don't know, to sell them an idea. Apparently, I am wrong, according to Greek life. I need more of the same training every year. Maybe if they keep beating that dead horse, it'll spring back to life.

Well, now that it appears I've become little miss Negative Nancy, here's the good stuff:
Every moment I spend with my sisters, I learn new things about them, and realize what an amazing group of women I'm a part of. We are so diverse, there are so many different interests, different talents that translate into achievements for us. It's absolutely phenomenal. Finding out where everyone was this summer, what jobs they held, what research they completed or participated in, has been just incredible. Pre-recruitment is a great time to get back in touch, and get to know sisters better. It's fun, it's hard work, it's enlightening, it's mentally and physically exhausting, but we do it because we care and we want to be the best. What could be more rewarding?

Naturalist? Atheist? Beer?

"There is room to wonder whether any philosophy ever has been purely secular, that is, had no religious roots. Socrates, whose work shaped philosophy as we know it, understood his life in philosophy as a religious mission. Even Epicurus sought to give mortals an analogue of the tranquility he saw in the gods. Tillich argued powerfully that such apparently secular philosophies as Marxism and Nazism actually rest on and express "ultimate concern," an attitude indistinguishable from religious devotion. Perhaps at some level, philosophy is always the theology of some ultimate concern. For all philosophy is written in the service of a particular world view and set of values. Almost always, something in a thinker's world picture or values calls forth a nearly religious awe or attracts a supreme, quasi-religious loyalty. This is true even of the naturalism, materialism, or scientism that are the self-proclaimed orthodoxy of today's academic philosophy. For these too have beliefs about what deserves awe or devotion, though they are rarely articulated. Catch the naturalist in a reflective mood, feed the naturalist some beer if necessary and you may hear sentiments like these:

"Humanity matters most, and philosophy ought to just help make our sorry years a bit more bearable."

"Justice matters most, and what gives our brief lives worth is devoting ourselves to realizing it in a classless society."

"Truth matters most, and we redeem ourselves from our utter insignificance by serving it."

"The universe dwarfs us, and the best thing we can hope for is to understand and accept our place in it and feel (as we are) a part of nature."

Naturalists do have such thoughts, though they rarely utter them. They draw them from Stoics, Epicureans, Spinoza or Marx. These arguably are propositions of the atheist theologies that naturalists live by."

-Brian Leftow, from "God and the Philosophers"

If I occasionally have these thoughts myself, with or without the beer, does that necessarily make me a Naturalist? an Atheist? I don't exactly know what I believe with conviction as far as organized religion goes. Maybe there is a God; maybe there isn't. There are times when I can look around me, even when I'm troubled, and I think to myself, 'there is an infinite amount of beauty all around me. This could not come from nothing. The design of the world we live in is too intricate and fits together so simply perfectly for there to be no God.' I suppose if put on the spot today, I'd probably call myself a theist, and use a combination of the Teleological & Cosmological arguments for the existence of God to back up my 'belief'. But, who can really call that a belief anyway? This is a problem that I am constantly trying to work out, and changing my mind about. I could be wrong, and I acknowledge that I might be wrong, and that there is some alternative that my limited human understanding cannot grasp. Maybe there is no God. Then again, maybe there is. Who's to say which is "right" or "wrong"?

Becoming Wise in Love

One of the greatest yearnings in life is to be loved. Since it is greatly yearned for, it stands to reason that it's missing.

Perhaps the reason it is absent from many is because its true characteristics are not quite understood nor is it clear where it should begin.

If you are someone who wants to have true and unconditional love, then you need to adhere to wise counsel. True love is a behavior powered by specific beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that begin with self-application and self-demonstration.

So what are these specific beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that should begin with you? Here are a few:

You will not give up on yourself. Love suffers long.

You are a protector, nurturer, cultivator and preserver of your mind, body and soul. Love is kind.

You do not speak, think or behave in ways that reflect self-hate, inferiority or lack of self-respect. Love does not envy.

The negative words or actions of others are not effective in making you question your own worth or value. Love is not provoked.

Despite your hardships or challenges you are continuous in your courage, encouragement and perseverance. Love endures all things.

You build inner resilience as long as the application and capacity for loving yourself grows. The love you have deposited is reflected in your expression and treatment to others. You know the power in being loving is greater than being loved. You will love yourself even when it seems no one else will. Love never fails.

So, if you are yearning to be loved, take a lesson from the wise and take ownership for making sure you begin applying love to yourself first. Experience its power and the law of attraction will begin to manifest the quality of love from others that you require. This is how you become wise in love.

Political Musings

**Note: This story says nothing about my own personal political preferences, nor for whom I plan to vote come November.**

A teacher in Lafayette , Tennessee asked her 6th grade class how many
of them were Obama fan.

Not really knowing what an Obama fan was but wanting to be liked by
the teacher, all the children raised their hands except for little

The teacher asked Johnny why he has decided to be different........again.

Little Johnny says, 'because I'm not an Obama fan.'

The teacher asked, 'why aren't you an Obama fan.'

'Because I'm a republican,' Johnny replies.

The teacher asked him why he was a republican.

Little Johnny answered, 'Well, my Mom's a republican and my Dad's a
republican, so I'm a republican.

Somewhat annoyed by this answer, the teacher asked, 'if your Mom was a
moron and your Dad was an idiot, what would that make you?'

With a big smile, Little Johnny replied, 'that would make me an Obama fan.'

Facebook “Microstatus” Feature Draws Fire

by Erin Barkley in News / November 25th, 2007

Online social meeting site faced increased pressure Sunday to remove a new feature it has been testing for the last week, which allows users’ friends to see exactly what they are doing at all times, day or night.

“The problem with the Microstatus program is that you can’t turn it off,” said Josh Maxington of Intoper Systems. “Sure, sometimes it’s nice that they know when I’m tired or going out for a bite to eat… but when I wake up in the morning and my status history is filled with things like ‘Josh rolled over in his sleep’, and ‘Josh stretched his ass and yawned’… that’s going overboard.”

The feature, which was developed in conjunction with Google’s Street View service, keeps tabs on each and every user of Facebook at all times with infrared and satellite imagery, as well as phone taps and advanced email parsing. Every time the “target” performs an action, a Facebook employee known as a Mobile Status Updater (nicknamed “stalkers”) writes an account and posts it to that user’s status feed. In addition, if there are any purchasable items involved, those are linked to an affiliate’s online store so “friends” can easily purchase the same product.

“At least with the old ad system, you could claim you were buying the thing for a friend,” said Marcy Wilburry, 20, of Camden, NJ. “But when it says ‘Marcy is clumsily applying the gonorrhea ointment’, there’s not much you can do but change your name and start a new life somewhere else.”

But sources inside Facebook say even that won’t work, since the Microstatus stalkers will report any name or address changes to the feed as they happen. And while some users have managed to opt out of the program, anti-Facebook forums are filling up with complaints that not everyone has “a first-born’s immortal soul” to trade for freedom from constant supervision.

Still, others think the service isn’t as bad as it seems.

“It’s like totally great,” said Mandi Harper, 17, of Bellvue, CA. “It’s like, before, when I was like totally hammered out of my mind, like, I couldn’t hit the buttons on my phone to like update my status! I know! So like now, when I’m puking in the toilet, like all my friends can see how totally awesome my afternoon was! LOLZ!”

No Facebook employees would comment for this story, citing “there is no such thing as ‘off the record’ anymore”.

thanks to blog, "Push the Third Button Twice" for posting this entertaining piece.

Epistemology in a Courtroom

A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating his guilt, but there was no corpse. In his closing statement, the defense attorney resorted to a trick. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," he said. "I have a surprise for you all - within one minute, the person presumed dead will walk into this courtroom."
He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, stunned, all looked eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the business about the dead man walking in. But you all looked at the door with anticipation. I therefore put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed, and I must insist that you return with a verdict of 'not guilty.'"
The jury retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, they returned and pronounced a verdict of "guilty."
"But how could you do that?" bellowed the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt. I saw all of you stare at the door."
The jury foreman replied, "Oh, we looked, but your client didn't."

- Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

"Better to be without logic than without feeling"?

Lately, this subject has been occupying my mind: my passions, other peoples' passions, how they affect the way we live, and how they should be affecting the way we live. These last few years have been interesting, during which time I've been forced to reevaluate what is most important to me, and to realize what I am most passionate about. My method for doing so has, for the most part, been observing others. I've been watching and listening to everything around me, for some kind of a glimpse of what makes people so passionate about what they do; or not, and why.

So many people in the United States today hate their jobs. I've seen it in family, friends, and complete strangers. Americans are over-worked in jobs that they hate, making them only hate their jobs more, and building stress levels to inexplicable levels, which only creates more problems for them. Living "the American dream" is just not what it used to be. Americans don't just want to make a living to sustain their families. They want to make a difference. They want to live to work. So, how does one find something that they can be passionate about over a period long enough to give them the time to find the resources they need to pursue that passion while making a decent living? For someone, like myself, who has found a deep-seeded, long-lasting passion in something as economically unstable as classical piano performance, it seems like an impossibility.

I've recently observed the "rise and fall" of a passion in a close friend of mine, which has taken my curiosity. This friend, let's called him/her "Sam," for practical purposes, was passionate about...let's call it... "olives". [I work well with food analogies.] So, Sam loved olives. Sam wanted to have a hand in every part of the olive-tending process. He grew his own olives, he picked them, was a very talented cook with olives, and made a daily snack of tapenade, which he had produced on his own land, in Greece. He had big ideas for the "future" of olives and how olives would change people's lives and make the world a better place, in the long run. He shared several of his fascinating and innovative "future-of-olives" inventions, which I agreed truly would make peoples' lives better. Talking about olives with Sam was what drew me to him, and led me to be such good friends with him in the first place. I loved his passion. I loved his creativity. One day, Sam was offered a high-paid position at an olive farm. It was his dream-come-true. He started work, loving his job, thinking how lucky he was to have landed such a great job. He met all kinds of other young people, like himself, who were passionate about olives and filled with more great, new ideas. Talking with Sam about olives was entertaining and engaging because Sam knew his stuff, and he loved his stuff.

After a few months working at the olive farm, Sam began to grow tired of working there. He missed his own olive trees, and his brilliant ideas for the "betterment of the world by olives" were sitting motionless in the back of his mind, while he mechanically went about doing his job. More and more, Sam began to realize that this olive job was just not for him. And more and more, Sam began to think that perhaps olives were not really for him at all. Sam eventually got out of the olive business to pursue another interest of his. Within six months, Sam entered a new field. He became a "park ranger, in America". This job paid much less, but was more exciting and rewarding, as Sam saw it. He started a new life for himself, and is content...for now.

After watching "Sam's" passion lead him in one direction, only for him to end up somewhere completely different, I have to wonder, 'Is it worth it to pursue one's passion to an extreme as Sam did, risking every ounce of enthusiasm he had for olive-tending, and losing it all? Or should one find a job from an interest that is not fueled by the fire of passion, but could lead to a content life in the long-run?' Should I be searching for a "content" life, or a passionate life, regardless of the risk involved? It's hard to say. There's certainly something to be said for taking a chance, and pursuing one's passions, and sticking with something until the end. But, if you lose, is that loss worse than the merely "content" life you would have to lead otherwise, had you not taken that chance and risked your passion?

Take, for example, Billy Joel. This is a man who is clearly passionate about what he does. He has a lot of talent, and a love for music, as he does music. He is an older man, but his passion provides a certain sex-appeal that cannot be replicated, even by those with younger, or naturally more appealing features. It's his passion that drives people to him. It was "Sam's" passion for "olives" that drew me in. I wish I could just find that "Billy Joel" kind of passion, and stray away from the "Sam" type. I want to make a good "investment" with my passions. And, I want to change the world, as is so stereotypical of my generation.

Was my decision to not pursue music in college a good one? I highly doubt that I would have made it in any kind of a performance career, which is what I would have wanted most from that. Although the passion is there, I think I would most likely find that my skills are not honed enough and I would not be able to compete with the incredible talents around me in a music conservatory. Had I followed that dream of mine, would I have inevitably met failure, only to lose the passion that I feel most strongly about, as "Sam" did? Or would I have found a different path, keeping my fire alive, and leading a happy, healthy life? I cannot know for sure. All I know is that I let my fear of losing a passion guide my decision when I chose to attend this college, and my passion is still with me. I know, and have accepted that I will never be a great concert pianist, or any concert pianist, probably, at that. Yet, every time I sit down at a piano, I feel calm, and collected, as though I have my act together, even when I clearly do not. Every time I look into the eyes of a listener, or I saw my dad asleep on the couch while I played, I've felt peaceful and happy. I can vividly imagine myself sitting on stage at Carnegie Hall, playing to thousands of listeners. It is a fantasy that is so real to me, I can smell the mustiness of the hall, hear the deafening silence of the room as my heels click on the hard-wood floor to the piano bench. And because I refuse to risk it, I will always have that fantasy.

Will I find something that I am just as passionate about to pursue? Have I already found that? And with that new-found passion, will I forget about the old? Will my dreams of playing at Carnegie fade into a new dream, that is just as vivid, or even close to being as crystal clear in my mind? Are these questions, like so many, ones which I will never find answers to?