Monthly Archives: September 2009


I really like Mike Singletary:

All I know is right now, when I look at the situation we had yesterday, we go on the road, we play a team, we lose, you come back, you’ve got a choice to make, do you dwell on that – ‘Wow, I wish we would have won the game. Man, I wish we would have done this differently. Man, I wish we would have done that differently.’ No. I think you take it. You’re man enough take it. You chew it. You spit it out. You learn from it and you get ready for the next game. You get ready for the next opportunity. I think winners let it go. Winners move forward. I think losers sit there and just wallow in it and talk about it all week. And, it screws you up for the next opportunity going forward.

On Noonan and Writing

I really loved this piece, “Professor Noonan? No Thanks,” attacking Noonan’s writing style.

I particularly enjoyed this paragraph:

Of course, Noonan has spent her career demonstrating that this distrust and disrespect are well-earned. Her writing traffics in the prosaic and the vague. She does not get to the point. Instead, she hovers above the point, looking down in a manner that is supposed to be magisterial and dignified. She sighs softly, clucks her tongue, and tosses words in the general direction of ideas.

That last sentence is gorgeous. It’s a refreshing way to express the idea that her writing is weak. The verb “tossing” is key. I just can feel how weak and absent passion her prose would be.

First Try

I’ve been doing some IT work for this company in Vegas, and today is the first time that something worked on the first try. This being my first time working with Windows Server 2003, I had so many issues figuring out how to get things to work. And not only did one thing work on the first try, but a second thing worked on the first try. Furthermore, this second thing was something that I wasn’t sure would work in the first place. I am so shocked. I must have some luck; I should go play some poker.


Today’s meditation session wasn’t great. My mind was racing. Sometimes I would take a breath and it would interrupt my thought with emptiness. That felt good.

By the end, I hadn’t achieved the state that I would like, but I did feel really calm. I felt equanimity, which was good, and something I haven’t felt in a long time. I have been craving. And I had been leaning toward a philosophy of constant craving and goal-setting and ambition. I don’t outright reject the latter two, but after feeling equanimity… Hell, it’s a lot better than craving. It may even be more productive, but I’m not sure. Sometimes I write great things when I’m filled with emotion.

Okay, I guess I don’t have to choose to live completely one way or the other. In any case, it would be good to cultivate this equanimity. It feels good to switch things off without distracting one’s self with television. (Note: I still love television.)


Today was fun. I tried out meditation, for like 10 minutes in the morning. I figured I’d try to start small and ease back into it after not doing it for years. I thought about different events, but then tried to focus back on breathing. What was odd, though, was that my mind kept narrating things. I kept thinking about how I’d tell the story of my meditation session. It was not very productive, I’ll tell you that. I think meditation will help me become more mindful and cure some of my resurgent narcissism.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my friend. It took us somewhere around 4 hours to film 3 lines. This wasn’t because we were lazy, but because there was a lot of prep to do. Part of it was making hats. At one point, I noted, “You know, if we had jobs, we could just buy hats.” I guess (relative) poverty forces you into creative fixes.

Afterwards, we watched the season premiere of House. I fucking love television. Lately, I’ve been struggling with being authentic. I went on a hike the other day. It was fun, and I want to do more stuff like that. I want to be exciting some days, but I also want to be a guy who uses some nights to just sit at home and enjoy some television. I had a good time watching TV with my friend. I really, really miss my old roommates and watching TV with them.

… well, I’m done writing this. I just realized how much I miss everyone who was in my life back at JHU. Wow.


I haven’t been commenting on politics lately because the depth of my ignorance is amazing. I don’t know shit about policy. And I don’t want to comment on the horse-race issues. I don’t want to talk about whether Obama’s health care speech made him look good or not. A real citizen should care more about what health care reform will do. The odd thing, though, is that I’m not informed enough to really know the answer, and most people aren’t either. Yet democracy is all partly about convincing this ignorant people to support health care reform. This sounds elitist. I used to have a deep-seated article of faith that the people were always right. Right now, I don’t have many deep-seated beliefs. They make one stagnant and dogmatic. I like having principles, but every single one of my convictions is always up for empirical analysis.

Part of the way around this is to read the right people. Believe the correct experts. This isn’t an impossible task. First, filter out the liars and the spin-masters. Then, look for people who are deeply interested in the issue. With the power of the internet, I guarantee you that this isn’t a Herculean task. If enough people listen to the right people, then democracy works out pretty well. Even though I may listen to the right people, which I do sometimes, I don’t care to blog about it because I don’t want to regurgitate. I need to become an expert in something, instead of dicking around in generalities.

Finally, I haven’t been commenting much because I don’t have much love for Barack Obama. No, no, I haven’t flipped back to the Republican Party. I certainly don’t want to be associated with the jackasses in charge of that party. I don’t think Republicans are jackasses, but I think the party is controlled by jackasses.

Here is my problem with Barack Obama: Preventative Detention. On civil liberties, Obama has been as dangerous and disingenuous as Bush. Here, he broke his promises. He has not created a more transparent government.

Yes, politicians are apt to break promises. And I wasn’t expecting him to be perfect after the debacle with warrantless eavesdropping, but preventative detention should be some joke. It should be a phrase devised by a Swiftian satirist, not a legitimate phrase. It is more chilling than even harsh interrogation (or whatever euphemism of the week they’ve switched to these days — and by they I mean both the politicians and the mainstream media).

Obama may do great things. He may reform healthcare, save the country from an economic crisis, help stave off global warming, but none of this really matters if he fails us on civil liberties. He may save the body, but he is destroying the soul. So, yes, I said it, Barack Obama threatens to destroy the soul of America. Now I sound like a ridiculous jackass. I was wishing I’d sound more like Cicero.

I hate to go all doom and gloom. It is at this point that I wonder if the America I know will disappear. It is an inevitable thought after I invoke Cicero. The troubling thing about Cicero is that by some accounts, the Republic was pretty much already dead by the time Cicero was around. See Sulla. Perhaps everyone will look back and see the fall of America at about the time it became an empire.

It becomes even more discouraging when preventative detention isn’t on the front page of newspapers. I don’t want to say we’re myopic as a culture and too focused on the day to day. Everybody has those tendencies (or rather, cognitive biases against long-term rewards), and it is unsurprising that this would manifest itself at the societal level. It is useless to rail against this myopia. I’m amazed at the Founders’ genius. They didn’t say, “I wish people were less ambitious. This government thing would be easier. I guess it will never work.” Instead, they set ambition against ambition and set up multiple branches of government.

Look how resilient America is. We survived McCarthyism, did we not? We still have freedom, even though we were the country of both slavery and Jim Crow. Interesting feat, isn’t it? Slavery trampled upon ancient freedoms more than any offense Barack Obama could commit against the Constitution. Hell, we have a black president. Holy fucking shit. That’s progress. So I’m not full of despair.

A few things truly set my soul alight when it comes to politics. The first two, which are interrelated, are civil liberties and ending the empire. I don’t want America to even have the ability to start any war it wants. In fact, my radical idea is to eliminate our standing armies, but maintain our strong navies. Yes, this will mean we will be unable to prevent some atrocities. However, we never fixed Darfur anyway and we start much more shit than we fix. We should not be able to project military power anywhere because this power will be abused. It is not a matter of being more responsible because you can’t shift human nature. The next thing that sets my soul afire is the issue of corporate money in politics. That’s the biggest structural source of corruption right now. At least, it seems so from my very ignorant point of view. I suppose it would be wise to add Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights to my reading list.

There are other issues that I think are very important, but they don’t speak to my soul the same way. I have to listen to my soul. I have to focus.

Reality as a Drug

“Reality is my drug. The more I have of it, the more power I get and the higher I feel.” — 50 Cent

I’m currently re-reading Robert Greene and 50 Cent’s new book, The 50th Law. On my first read-through, I thought that was just a cool quote. In fact, even on my second read-through I could only appreciate it in some abstract sense. A few days ago, though, I experienced the truth of that quote.

I will leave out the insight, even though this makes for less compelling writing, because it is a bit personal. Thus, I will speak a bit abstractly. What happened was I recognized a connection between two incidents that were spaced years apart. I saw a pattern in my behavior that I hadn’t noticed before. With incredible clarity, I realized mistakes that I had made.

Normally, recognizing one’s failures isn’t a cause for joy. But instead of despair, there was an odd detachment. I recognized what I had done without judgment. I simply saw the world as it was. It was then that the rush came. I felt a high better than any buzz I had received from alcohol. The only thing I can compare it to is a peak experience.

I also felt the power. I pierced through the world’s obfuscations; I pierced through my worldview, biases, and delusions. This is true power, is it not? It’s an ability to learn from one’s mistakes without dealing with emotional baggage. It’s an ability to see the world without any distortions.

Ah, this is only the beginning. I need more. Slowly, ever so slowly, I am changing the way my mind works.

Circumstance versus Character Trait

I generally find it a helpful mental exercise to imagine that a person’s behavior is the result of circumstance, and not the result of a fixed character trait. For example (an easy one), if someone is grouchy, this is because the person has been having a rotten day, not because this is a grouchy person. In Risk, someone may betray me. This person is a not a dirty backstabber, but someone who took advantage of an opportunity that I gave them. (By the way, I am not the originator of this mental exercise. I’ve seen it in various places, and it’s generally a more Eastern way of looking at things. The Western habit is towards committing the Fundamental Attribution Error.)

I usually find this helpful for negative behavior. It helps prevent anger on my part, and it helps me to better analyze the situation, which in turn, helps me find a better solution.

I’ve never used this mental exercise for positive behavior. It would be interesting to try; I hypothesize that it is helpful.

The Power of the Smile

I walked into Borders the other day. There was a security guard inside the store, near the door. I almost passed her with a neutral expression on my face. When I was almost past her, — there must have been some eye contact to prompt this — I smiled. Then, as I was walking away, she greeted me with a simple, “How are you?” I don’t remember my reply, but I do remember that she then greeted the next group that walked through the door. She made no effort to greet me as I walked in, but here she was going out of her way to be friendly to people.

Such is the power of the smile. This wasn’t even a full smile. This was just a smile quickly flashed at the tail end of a walk-by. It turned a bored person into a friendly person. It had a cascade effect, spreading happiness to the next group. When I walked out, I flashed a broad smile and said good-bye to the security guard. I just went in to grab a book and get out. Instead, I became a friendly, sociable person, simply by forcing myself to smile.

Now, imagine if I entered every room with a broad smile. This would certainly be a good habit to cultivate.


I watched the USC – OSU game today. I’m a USC fan, so I’m glad they pulled off the win, but I’m not optimistic about the season. OSU controlled that game until the last drive. Even if USC sneaks into the championship game, I don’t think they can beat Florida. Last year, I thought they could have beat Florida (playoffs please!). I’m not sold on Barkley yet. Or rather, I think he can be good, but I don’t know when he’ll get there.

I Am Not That Kind of Person

For years, I was not the kind of person who read a book twice. I never watched a movie twice either.

There are huge advantages to re-reading a book. Every time I wrote an essay, it required multiple readings in order to fully understand the concepts. It’s impossible to close-read on the first pass. I’d re-read passages, zero in on paragraphs, re-read those, and then re-read sentences. My understanding would begin as a sketch, and then I’d have a drawing, and then a full-color image. Each pass fills in more detail. Each read would create a fuller understanding.

I’m good at skimming. When I read through something quickly, I’m good at picking out what’s important, or whatever I think is most useful to me. I can understand a concept before I fully understand all its inner workings and implications. It’s a great skill, and it has helped me through so many classes. But in order to understand something in a meaningful manner, it requires deeper readings. It’s the difference between making a machine work, and then taking it apart and understanding how it works.

My odd aversion to multiple readings has retarded my ability to deeply understand concepts. Granted, it’s not as if I never do this. As I said, my essay-writing required multiple readings. However, in the studying I’ve been doing for self-improvement, I haven’t re-read my source material enough. I sometimes breeze through books before I make a conscious effort to apply the concepts to my life. There are a lot of concepts I understand, but I need to dig deeper.

It’s bizarre to think that I would consider an aversion to multiple readings as an integral part of my personality. Yet I have many personality quirks that I cling to for no reason. They may also be holding me back. It’s time to, at the very least, toss aside one label and become a person who reads books multiple times.

I just bought The 50th Law. For the rest of the month, this is my bible. I can read other books, but I’ll read from this everyday. I’ll make an effort to master the concepts.


I’ve decided that I need some drawing ability. It’s getting frustrating when I come up with ideas that I can’t communicate with two stick figures and text. I don’t need to be an amazing artist. My goal is to get halfway to mediocre. I figure I’m funny enough that I don’t need to be an amazing artist. Plus, there’s always my charm. Really, though, I never plan on being an amazing artist. I just want to be able to communicate my ideas.

My Draft

Had my fantasy football draft today, where I was pick #7 in a 10 team league. Here are the results:

  1. DeAngelo Williams
  2. Calvin Johnson
  3. Roddy White
  4. Ryan Grant
  5. Philip Rivers
  6. Ray Rice
  7. DeSean Jackson
  8. Felix Jones
  9. Eddie Royal
  10. Dustin Keller
  11. LeSean McCoy
  12. Leon Washington
  13. Donnie Avery
  14. Joe Flacco
  15. Packers D/ST
  16. Jason Elam

I’m not super happy about my RBs. I think Ray Rice was a reach, considering all the uncertainty in the backfield. I’m not too fond of Ryan Grant as my RB2. I think I picked some RBs in the later rounds with a lot of upside, but will any of them turn into a reliable fantasy starter? I love my Felix Jones pick. I think he’s going to be a monster.

I love my WRs, but maybe I love WRs too much because I picked too many. I never should’ve picked up Eddie Royal. With that position so solid, I should’ve grabbed another RB with upside. In fact, I’m not sure I should’ve grabbed Avery either. Not that I don’t like the Avery pick at that position, but with my roster, it probably would’ve been better to pick up another RB. Calvin Johnson and Roddy White are monsters. Both are top 5 receivers in my opinion.

I went earlier with QB than I normally do, but I have a reliable fantasy stud with Rivers. QB has always been a weak spot for me. I decided I was going to grab a QB in Round 5, if one of my labeled top tier QBs was available. Otherwise, I would wait a few rounds. It’s going to be good not having to scour the waivers for plug-in QBs. (This actually worked out really well last year, leading my to a first place finish during the regular season. It didn’t work out so well in the play-offs. Caveat: Eight-team league, lol.) I wasn’t going to pick a backup QB, but I’m really high on Flacco. Last year I picked up Favre as my backup QB just for kicks. What a terrible decision. This time I went with someone less frustrating, I hope.

I waited a bit long for TE. I didn’t want to spend a pick on an elite TE, and after that, the rest are pretty indistinguishable, in my opinion. When there were only 3 or 4 TEs left on my list in that tier, I decided to grab one. I might’ve been able to wait another round or two, in fact.

So we’ll see how this turns out and see if reality proves me to be a moron. Trying to predict the future usually makes you look like an idiot, haha.

EDIT: I’ve thought about my draft some more and I like it a lot better than I did several hours ago. Ryan Grant is a good low-end RB2, and I picked him up in Round 4. I got two guys who were Top 5 receivers on my board, even though I didn’t go WR-WR — and Calvin Johnson was #1 for me. Williams is solid; the main reason I wasn’t happy was because I passed up Gore for him, but I had several good options at that position, including Chris Johnson. It was a toss-up. Rivers is fantasy gold. My bench is full of players with tremendous upside. There’s a good chance that at least one will develop into a reliable flex starter, or something better. You can’t predict the future, but I think I put myself in a good spot to get lucky.

Mental Reps

I’m learning Mozart’s Alla Turca on piano. It’s the first new song I’ve learned in a while. During my last year at Hopkins, I moved into a new apartment and didn’t have easy access to a piano anymore. This definitely retarded my abilities as a piano player. Now, I’m back to playing and I’m excited to rediscover the pleasures of learning a new song.

It’s nice to know that I still have the tools to learn a piano piece. Break it down. Practice the parts you can’t play well over and over. Start from the end and work your way backwards. Left hand. Right hand. After a lot of time sight reading familiar songs, it was nice to get into the nitty gritty of a piece. There’s something satisfying about the frustration. It’s like the sore feeling you get after a workout. Then, I sit in front of the piano the next day and I can play something that I couldn’t yesterday. That is an amazing feeling, especially when I get so frustrated the day before and think I’ll never ever get it right. To learn a musical piece requires patience and determination, which are always good virtues to practice.

I also learned that one does not have to sit in front of the piano to get practice. There was a left-hand part that was giving my particular trouble. When I was out getting food, I started playing the part on my thigh. Now this, at first glance, does not appear to be a very productive way to practice. I wouldn’t be able to get the spacing right for the notes. Yet when I practiced it on my thigh and imagined the song in my head, I noticed my hand doing weird things. I had to stop because I was doing it wrong. My hand movements weren’t matching up with the mental performance. The hand wanted to shift when it wasn’t supposed to shift. So after some practice on my thigh, I was able to tame my hand and get it to match the song going on my head. After I got home, I noticed that I could actually play it better on the piano.

Mental practice can do good work, just like physical practice. It improved my piano playing. Perhaps it can improve some area of your life.

Life Without the Internet

Because our modem was broken, I spent a couple of days without the internet. It was both marvelous and frustrating at the same time.

It’s marvelous because the internet is one of the most addictive substances known to mankind. You feel terrible while going the detox. You’re listless. You wander around, wanting a fix. You hit refresh 10 times, just hoping that maybe it will magically work this time. But at the same time, you know this is a great thing for your body, or your soul. It’s such a cleansing feeling, as if your mind is being purified. You can sit down and DO THINGS! instead of wandering away every 5 seconds to check something.

Yet the internet has made us its slaves. It’s hard to do certain things without the internet. One’s notes and books form something like an extended brain. If we don’t remember something, we can look it up in our notes. Because of the convenience of the internet, a lot of things have migrated online. So many things are stored in my e-mail account. We live in the cloud, many of us. Without my extra internet appendages, I become a cripple.

Sometimes you can get by. I was working with photoshop and didn’t know how to do something. “I know,” I said to myself — evidently I talk to myself when the internet is down — “I will look it up on the Google.” Oh wait, I don’t have the Google. I rediscovered that programs have their own help functions. There were also things I wanted to do with CSS, but I couldn’t find. I had to reference old code and pull out *gasp* a book. It was like exercising muscles you forgot you had. There were these things I used to do before I used Google as a crutch to find everything.

There are things I simply can’t do, however. I could draw and scan my comics. I could transfer between computers with a USB stick instead of e-mailing it to myself. I could edit things. I could not upload the pictures to my site or update the database. I also wanted to get a rough draft done for a website I’m designing and send it off to the client. I could develop with HTML and CSS alright, but I couldn’t send off an e-mail. I also wanted to do stuff with PHP for another project, but I couldn’t test things without a database to interact with. That meant I had to be online.

One could liken it to a car mechanic without a wrench. I found it very difficult to do my job. In fact, it was sometimes frustrating just doing what I normally do everyday. A lot of the tasks I want to do require internet access.

Now that the internet is back, I’m very weary. The problem is the internet’s addictive nature. The internet is like heroin: It’s hard to do in moderation. If I could, I’d go cold turkey. I’d cut it out of my system completely. But I need it for so many things. (This is where the internet differs from heroin: Heroin is not that useful.) Once I start using it, how am I going to control myself?

My next experiment is to buy an egg timer and limit myself when I go online.

EDIT: And another thing… I love the convenience of the internet, but I think it may be worth it to sacrifice some of that convenience for independence from the internet. I may even acquire the upside of deeper understanding, rather than the shallow understanding one gets from a quick Google search.