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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Ben K's LiveJournal:

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Monday, November 17th, 2008
11:21 pm
My sister never made love to anyone else but me
FYI, Prince is against homosexuality.

“[...] you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But [they aren't] right.”
When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

Prince in the New Yorker
Saturday, November 8th, 2008
12:07 pm
I'm pretty sure I've heard this one before
So, I've had 3 midterms so far. Two of them went well—I got the high score in one, and was five points off a perfect score on the other, and only because I copied something wrong from my equation sheet. But the third one I thought I bombed. But when I got it back? High score in the class. I fucking rock at this.
Saturday, October 25th, 2008
6:16 pm
I've been waiting for a sign/To tell me where/tell me where/I belong
So, grad school is awesome. Everything I've been seeking is here. I'm in my element.
I'm learning again, which is great. I took three midterms this week, knocked two of them dead, and got reamed by the other. Two out of three ain't bad.
And the people! I'm among my people here. everybody here is intellectual--it's not a pain to find some one to have a good conversation with. One of the primary problems, I think, in the past places I've been is that I've really outclassed the institutions academically. Hamline was fun and all, but I probably should have gone to a significantly more competitive school. Here at Berkeley, I'm being challenged. I'm definitely not the smartest person here, and I'm loving it.
And the atheism! Most people I've met here are atheists or at least skeptics. And the few people who are believers are very intellectual about it; they have good, consistent reasons for their beliefs that they can defend and are willing to talk about, so I respect their beliefs. One of them, George, is pretty much my polar opposite on most issues, and we have great discussions. This is what I've been wanting in a social environment for, like, ever.
And maybe because of that, I'm doing better socially than I did in Chicago. I met some cool people there, but for the most part they weren't really my kind of people. But here, it's going really well. There's a pretty good group of people, a crew or posse, if you will.
The only flaw is the serious lack of available women in engineering. But that can wait, and it's better anyway to date outside the department.
The ubiquity of homeless people in Berkeley brings up a lot of the Living High and Letting Die issues for me to think about again, which are even more complex in my new, poorer situation. I've been thinking about that some, but I'll save it for another post.
Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
12:48 am
I'm not inclined to resign to maturity
My favorite piece of bar-bathroom graffiti I've seen:

fuckfuckfuck
we're adults!
Sunday, October 12th, 2008
11:51 pm
It's lifeless and soulless
The Outbreak. Choose-your-own-adventure zombie outbreak movie. Terrible acting, but definitely compelling.
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
7:32 pm
The start of a new chapter
[Cross-posted from my other blog]

So, it's a been a year and a half since I got back from India, and I'm starting a new exciting part of my life: graduate school.

A short recap: I got back from India in January of 2007, and promptly moved down to Chicago to continue my work for Infosys.  I lived in Evanston, because I was working way out in the northern suburbs, but wanted to be close to the city. It worked out ok, I guess.  I had a lot of fun in Chicago.  But, I knew I didn't want to be working for Infosys forever: I wanted to go back to school.  I applied to a bunch of grad schools, and got into a few, and settled on one: the University of California at Berkeley for Mechanical Engineering.

So that's where I am now.  I flew out here on the 3rd of August, and stayed with my aunt Barbara in Livermore while I looked for a place.  It took me almost two weeks, but I found a place.  I stayed with some family friends in San Francisco for two nights after I left Barbara's before I could move in.

I live at 9th and Channing, in the 2nd floor of a house, with 4 other people.  They are a student whom I haven't yet met, a doctor here for a public health program, a teacher, and the owner, who is a contractor.  They're all nice people, but it's not a very social household.  The common areas are very nice, and my room is big.  I'll probably take photos once my stuff is here.  Speaking of which: since I moved in on the 17th, I have been living with very little.  The vast majority of my belongings are in a container with Door to Door Storage that will arrive on the 30th.  Until then I'm sleeping on an air mattress.

The location I'm at is decent.  The neighborhood isn't great, but it's served by several major bus lines, including one that stops at the building I will be spending most of my time in.  Also, the late-night bus from San Francisco stops very close to me as well.  And, they are all free to ride as I am a student at Berkeley.

I found a teaching assistantship to fund my schooling (that's right—I'm a honest-to-god teacher, bitches!), and have started looking into joining a lab to do research.  Classes start tomorrow, and between the three classes I'm taking and the TA position, I'm sure this semester will be very hectic.

The group of new Mechanical Engineering grad students looks to be pretty good, very social and outgoing.  I hope to start playing racquetball again pretty soon (once my running shoes and racquet show up).

I guess that's all I have for now.  But hopefully I'll be updating this at least occasionally.

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
3:18 pm
Get my television fix
Noah was in town over the weekend. He's going away to Russia, and this was our going-away hanging-out. His last day at his job was on Friday, and I'm on bench, so he stayed until Tuesday. And we watched a veritable shit ton of TV. We started at about 11pm on Friday and ended at 3:20pm on Tuesday. We watched 17 movies and 36 TV show episodes, for a total of about 2600 minutes or over 43 hours of TV. The total weekend time was about 89 hours, so we spent almost 50% of our time watching TV.
We ended the weekend with a marathon from about 12:30pm on Monday straight through to 3:20pm on Tuesday, with only an hour break to go to the video store. It was epic. The final list of movies:
Gone Baby Gone
Vanishing Point
Blow
Hairspray
Art of the Devil 2
Blazing Saddles
Paris, Je T'aime
The Killing
THX 1138
Coffy
The Godfather Part II
Hostel
Waiting for Guffman
The Machinist
La Femme Nikita
Battlefield Earth
Children of Men
We also watched 33 episodes of 30 Rock (the entire series shown so far) and 3 episodes of Monty Python.
It was awesome. Then I spent about 20 hours in bed, sleeping and dozing. We went through a ton of junk food, but I still have a lot left over that I have to eat.
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
8:27 pm
Don't be so easy on yourself
I've struggled for a long time with the feeling of disappointment I find out someone I know is more theistic/supernaturalistic than I thought they were or than they were previously. It's a feeling of lost respect. It's like, "Oh. Really? I thought you were better than that." But it's not as if respect is correlated with atheism; there are strongly theistic people whom I respect and whose beliefs I may respect. An example of this is Ruth. She has very strong Christian beliefs, so much so that she structures her life around them. She's examined her beliefs.
You know, that's probably it. I respect people's beliefs when they have examined them and have intelligent, concrete, defendable reasons for them. And I feel like when people are atheists and have intelligent, concrete, defendable reasons for being atheist, they must get it—they must understand why theism is all but impossible. And so if they retreat towards theism—well, that's just it: I see it as a retreat. To give up a worldview that so clearly integrates best with what we have of objective truth (from science) is a slide into superstition and darkness. But if a person has never "seen the light" as it were, I don't hold that against them. Similarly, if the person is an atheist for the wrong reasons, or simply for reasons that don't give such a meshing as I just described, I don't really see it as a retreat. Aaron was like this; he was a self-described atheist for a long time, and I got that loss-of-respect feeling when he started getting more involved in Christian activities at Augsburg. But after talking to him, I found out he hadn't really been an atheist in the common definition (he was in the technical sense, that he didn't believe in a god, but he believed in the soul), and the feeling disappeared.
I guess it's like when you find out someone you think is smart believes in astrology. Just believing in astrology will knock a person down a couple notches in my estimation. Since religion is more entrenched in society, I understand how the flaws and absurdities get glossed over and ignored.
Friday, February 8th, 2008
2:29 am
Standing in the Alpha Beta parking lot
I've got a new background for my desktop, and I think it's safe to say this one is going to last me a long time. It's from The Parking Lot is Full, a wonderfully disturbing defunct webcomic whose archives may be found here. Most of the comics are more humor-oriented than this particular one. Here's the comic:
Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
8:37 pm
Friends and enemies they're all the same
I've started a blog. It's going to be about philosophy, politics, religion, science, society, etc. I decided I wanted to put my thoughts on matters such as those in a place where I could share them without having the rest of my personal thoughts shared. A blog with a theme, as it were. Anyway, the link: an-excess-of-reason.blogspot.com. And, if you'd like it to show up on your LiveJournal friends page, I've got a syndicated feed at excessofreason, courtesy of my friend Micah.
Thursday, January 24th, 2008
9:09 pm
I am disrespectful to dirt! Can you not see that I am serious?
So it turns out that I make commercials for Ikea of Norway.

Pretty crazy, no?
Monday, December 24th, 2007
10:07 pm
Angels we have heard on high
I went to a Christmas pageant today with my family.
There was a part where the narration went, "And the angel said to Mary, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you.'" and I thought, "Well, that's not the way to get her pregnant."

Anyways, I was thinking about Jesus. Did he share half of his chromosomes with Mary? If so, it must have been from one of her eggs. Was there a holy sperm that appeared in her uterus? If not from one of her eggs, a completely fertilized egg must have appeared. Did it arrive implanted or not?
So if Jesus was divine, was each of his cells also inherently divine? Did the dead skin cells he shed all the time carry this divinity, and if so, did that have any effect on the surrounding environment?
Similarly, when Jesus appeared after death to his followers, was it an actual image that produced photons, or was it a simulation of an image implanted in each person's brain?

When I ask these questions of religious people, they tend to dismiss them as if they can't be asked, but they are certainly completely valid questions. Biology and physics didn't just stop working around Jesus. Another example would be: when Moses parted the Red Sea, what would have happened if you had thrown an object from the seabed at the water being held back? Would it bounce off? Get sucked into the water? I hate that people don't think of these as valid questions that must have answers, even if those answers are unknown.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, everybody.
Saturday, December 22nd, 2007
6:22 pm
With love from me to you

This is about the spirit of giving.
Christmas is clearly far too commercialized. It's not that I'm against gifts. But gifts are about the connection between the giver and the recipient. Here's why I'm thinking about this: I always have trouble thinking of what to get my family. My dad is notoriously hard to shop for, but I'm generally not very good at thinking of stuff for my mom or sister either. What often ends up happening is that they give me a very specific idea - a certain item, even down to a url for a product. And that's not what giving is about. It's not supposed to be about buying, about "I want this specific item". It should be about "Well, I could use a new sweater" and the person finding a sweater they think you'll like. Or another way: my parents now go shopping together, picking out things for each other together - it's not about what specifically they're getting, but about the shared time together.
The best gift I've ever given was a set of picture frames I gave to Sarah. I got the idea from Ruth. There were five, in the shape of letters: S A R A H, and in the spaces of the letters, there were pictures of us. I made it myself in the scene shop. And it was wonderful. First of all, the craftsmanship was very good, and I'm proud of that. But it was a gift from the heart, something very special. The other gift I want to highlight was an ornament my mom, my sister and I got for my dad. My dad had an ornament of his mother's that he loved; we put on the tree every year, but one year he accidentally broke it. Some time later, randomly, in an antique shop, we came across the exact same ornament, and got it for my dad. These are gifts that exemplify what gift-giving is supposed to be about.
When you ask someone for a specific item, the gift becomes mostly meaningless. They are basically handing you money, and that's it. Why is the present even wrapped? I feel bad because I couldn't think of much that I wanted from my parents for Christmas other than specific items, and so there isn't going to be much surprise this year.
The culture of consumption turns Christmas into an orgy of materialism, and I hate that. It's why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is not commercialized - the day after may be, but the event itself is about being with loved ones, pure and simple.
A final note to people who observe Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ: by asking for and giving gifts just for the acquisition of material goods, you are about as far away from celebrating the life and message of Jesus as you can get. You may as well spend the 25th hating thy enemy, hiding the other cheek, and changing money in temples.
Let's minimize the gifts. I happened to turn on CNN today, and there was a woman on from the Center for a New American Dream (a place that sounds like something I might want to become involved with). She was talking about about how to reduce materialism and consumption in the holidays. Instead of giving stuff, give time: a promise for a special meal with relatives, or a night doing something they love. Give a savings bond, or give to charity in their name. Give gifts both the giver and recipient can be proud of. Take a look for yourself here.

A disclaimer: my Christmas this year is materialistic. I didn't have time to talk to my family about changing it. I plan to start next year.
Thursday, December 20th, 2007
5:28 pm
O come all ye faithful
Conversation on the shuttle going from where I work to where I eat lunch:

(Woman is talking to driver)
Woman: I know this couple, he is a Lutheran and she is a Methodist. They couldn't really decide and now they don't go to church and their kids aren't raised as anything. I mean, I can understand not going to church on Sundays, but never going and bringing your kids up without faith? (To driver) You aren't an atheist, are you?
Driver: No.
Me: I am.
(Woman looks at me, pauses)
(Then, assuming I'm kidding:)
Woman: No you're not.
Me: No, I am.
Woman (unconvinced): No! (pause) You don't look like an atheist.
Me: What does an atheist look like?
Woman: You look kind, you look like a kind person.
Driver (possibly to change the subject): Yeah, he's a pretty mellow person. (conversation drops off)

Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first time I have experienced such outright, casual bigotry.
1:08 am
Misery's the river of the world; everybody row
Sarah just posted this:
"Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us."
--Anne Lamott

My thoughts on this and related mattersCollapse )
Friday, December 14th, 2007
10:24 pm
And you never thought you'd be so slow/first one to the steps when I say go
Holy shit, everybody. The 1900s are goddamn catchy. Here's an mp3 of their best song, When I Say Go, and you can listen to both their albums here.
Monday, December 10th, 2007
1:11 am
da da da da da da da feelin' groovy
One thing I'm really bad at is taking advice. I think it's because of two things, although I could be wrong, but I'll never know, because people can't really convince me of things about myself, as will be explained shortly.
Thing number one: I'm a very introspective person. I do a lot of meta-thinking. I think about how I work. So I end up having a good sense of who I am and what I'm like—or so I think. But:
Thing number two: I have very little control over how I think and act. I think (here we go again) it's because of the ADHD. I don't have the focus to change my behavior, because I'll forget about focusing on it, so I can't even get the repetitive thing going for behaviorism to work. But so I'm bad at changing how I think and act about stuff. And that includes changing how I think about how I think. It manifests itself as being always really stubborn. It's this whole recursive shit where, basically, people tell me stuff and even if I acknowledge it as true, I can't really do anything about it, can't internalize it. At least not specifically. I can sort of peripherally work at it. I don't know. Again, it's this self-reinforcing thing—I would work at trying to internalize people's advice, but that's changing the way I think. It's not even being too smart for my own good—even if I was an idiot and didn't have any ideas about how I am, I wouldn't be able to change it. Or would I? Damn, this is hopeless. Maybe. I don't even know anymore. It makes me feel hopeless about changing it. Which is self-reinforcing, but...I would have to break out of the unable-to-change-how-I-think belief, which would be tearing down this whole multi-layered fabric of my mind. Would that be good? Bad? I have no idea if it's even possible, and doubt it (although that's not a helpful attitude—but what can I do about it?)
Ok, the point is that it's not necessarily a cycle—a cycle is something that you can break out of. It might be recursive—that is, a basic property that gets applied to itself over and over—which would be something I can't break out of. I think what I'm saying is that just because it's self-defeating doesn't necessarily mean it's not real. Something that some people tend to forget is that my brain isn't like a normal brain, and so to assume that I am capable of doing everything that someone with a more normal brain (or more normal in certain ways) is not necessarily a good assumption. I am not capable of just willing myself or even being assisted to do certain things (like, for example, focus—no matter how much I try, no matter what kind or number of psychologists I see, I will never be able to focus on things like a normal person).
Maybe I need to Gödel number my thoughts. Then perhaps I could unravel the loops.
On another topic, did you know that ravel is both a synonym and an antonym of unravel?

You might ask: how do you ever change? The answer is, basically, change my environment. If I change my environment such that it will elicit from me the kind of behavior I want, I can get myself to get into those habits instead. However, the change in environment for lots of things can be very hard to bring about.
Someone has also asked, in respect to me being mostly not in control of my actions, "Well, I have to believe you have some control over your behavior, otherwise why aren't you out killing and raping people?" This question actually usually gets asked of atheists about morality without god, but the answer is a little different: it's because I couldn't if I wanted to—I am how I am, and who I am is not a murderer or a rapist.
My inability to readily change myself is also not depressing to me—because if it was, then that truly would be a cycle.
Saturday, December 8th, 2007
12:15 am
This place is a prison; these people aren't your friends
I'm reading Forty Signs of Rain, and he makes reference to the prisoner's dilemma. He talks about the various strategies involving cooperation and defection, and goes on to talk about being in traffic.
He says this: "Every SUV is a defection." I couldn't agree more.
Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
11:34 pm
I've made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear
So I read this article in the Daily Mail recently: My instant boob job from 36A to 36DD - and the effect it had on men (and women). Basically, she puts on prosthetic breasts and all of a sudden gets a lot more attention.

So the question is, why should women with bigger breasts be treated differently? The first part of the answer is that we can't help it. Seriously. I'm a die-hard feminist, but I am mentally unable to not treat pretty girls nicely. Guys are just wired that way. When I find myself doing things for girls just because they are pretty, I stop myself. But it's hard to notice.

The second part is: breasts are great. Really great. And the bigger the better. Always. To this effect, I made a chart of selected pairs of breasts I've had access to, one from each size range. I don't actually know that the DDs were that size; they may have been bigger (I thought about checking her bra's tag while she was out of the room, but didn't, and I've regretted that ever since).

The chart is logarithmic because the amount that it gets better for each successive cup size gets smaller, but will never disappear. The outlier at C was because she was small, so they were proportionally bigger, and really well-shaped.

The point is, bigger breasts are better, and when you plug that into the first part, they are going to cause you to be treated better by guys. It's never going to change, no matter how progressive society gets.
Saturday, December 1st, 2007
7:21 pm
Because I'm easy come, easy go
Two things here, and I've managed to link them both to the title lyric/song.

Scaramouche, ScaramoucheCollapse )

Will you do the fandago?Collapse )
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