Tuesday, December 26, 2006
And kids in school are taught stories like about Betsy Ross and Paul Revere.
With both religious and historical stories like that, they're told in such a way that I know I'm supposed to revere them, but they don't really do that much for me and I don't know how factual they are.
Recently I heard some stories about when my grandmother was younger. These stories reminded me of where I came from and who I have the potential to be. They made me feel better about who I am and gave me a sense of how to better live up to my potential. And I realized, those other stories from religion and history are supposed to be the same way. That's why those stories are so revered. Because for some people, they had that effect.
But I was writing the other day about how traditions may change with time. The stories that inspired people once may not be the stories that are needed today.
You may say "Stories? What about facts? People should know the facts of what happened." I think one of the reasons the stories I cited don't seem interesting is because they don't seem real. Even in the cases where the things presented are factual, they are kind of presented in a vacuum. You don't know about things in the context that to you are important. So even if all the facts that are presented are actually true, the stories themselves don't ring true because they don't tell the whole story, they leave out parts that I would consider important.
There are many things that have happened in the past, and different people are interested in different aspects. Quite often, when one person tells the story of what they did today to a family member, the person telling the story and the person hearing the story think different things are interesting. In particular, it seems men often want to know just the basic outline of what happened, while women want to know who were all the people who were present and who they are related to. Also, men are more likely to want to know about things pertaining to mechanical and electronic gadgets, while women are more likely to find such things completely uninteresting and irrelevant to what's really important.
Monday, December 25, 2006
My family’s Christmas traditions have evolved over the years as our needs have changed. As of recent years, here’s how we celebrate Christmas: During the evening on Christmas Eve, we may sing Christmas carols and/or go to church. However, it’s not necessary to do anything. Christmas Day is the main day that we celebrate.
On Christmas morning, some of us go for a walk while others are still asleep. I think going for a walk is a good way to celebrate just about any holiday. Being outside in nature helps you appreciate the important things in life.
After everyone is awake and has had breakfast, and the walkers are back from their walk, we open our stockings. I guess some people have specific big, red, decorated Christmas stockings which one would not use for any other purpose. We use big socks that my mother wears as a layer between her regular socks and her boots. We used to have scraps of cloth with each person’s name on them which we pinned to each stocking. In later years, we used scraps of paper which we put in the top of the stocking or near the stocking. This year, my mother just remembered which is which by how the socks look, e.g. which is a bit more stretched at the top, which has her initials written on the toe with a permanent marker, etc.
What takes up the most room in the stockings is the fruit. We each get three or so apples or oranges. These are just taken from the kitchen and returned to the kitchen afterwards. Except some we keep in the living room and eat as we continue opening the stockings and presents.
Also in the stockings there may be some small item such as a pen, a small notebook, or some small, silly toy.
The other item in the stocking is a piece of paper with a list of scrambled words in it. Unscrambling our words is a way we spend time together at home that day and on subsequent days. When we make scrambled words for each other, we pick out words that are appropriate for that person. For example, my mother loves nature, snow, and Christmas, so for her I scramble words like “snowflake” and “spruce.”
After the stockings, we do the presents. One person hands out the presents. Only one present at a time can be opened, and everyone has to be present in the room when it is being opened. Sometimes we have to have a pause when someone runs out to get a snack from the kitchen or something.
We re-use our wrapping paper, ribbons, and labels. We have some wrapping paper that we have been using for over a decade, though we do eventually throw it out when it gets too worn out. We have a box for each in the center of the room. As soon as we unwrap something, we put the wrapping paper, ribbon, and label each in the appropriate box. That way, as soon as we are done unwrapping, the supplies are already ready for next year and we don’t have to clean them up. The key to being able to re-use wrapping paper is using ribbon to hold packages together, rather than the tape, which is what other people use. When you use tape, the wrapping paper tends to get more torn up as you unwrap it. However, when we get gifts wrapped by people who use tape, we do try to re-use the wrapping paper. And in giving gifts to other people, we may use tape when wrapping them, because why use a ribbon on someone who isn’t going to re-use it?
Most of us don’t like too much materialism or shopping, especially at malls. Some gifts are ordered online. One of us is old-fashioned enough to order by mailing in a paper order form. CD’s are a popular gift. In fact, my brother recently exclaimed, “I can’t wait until Christmas so we can open our presents and listen to them!” Homemade gifts are also good, such as a hand-knitted dishcloth or a compilation of family history information.
We do exchange lists of what we want for Christmas, but people also give gifts they think of that weren’t on the list.
After we finish opening the presents, we have a meal, usually cooked by my stepfather. We used to have spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad. This year, three out of five of us don’t eat wheat, so we probably won’t be having spaghetti. In fact it’s hard to think of anything we can all eat. However, one of the planned menu items is butternut squash. We had acorn squash on the 24th and buttercup squash on the 23rd. Butternut squash is my mother’s favorite, so she was saving it to have on Christmas.
After the meal is over, then we have the rest of the day to stay in together, working on our scrambled words and listening to our Christmas presents.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The problem is that people observe traditions communally, and those who participate together may not all agree on which way they prefer. Sometimes some compromise and communication is needed.
Christmas is a big holiday in the US. It was "originally" supposed to be about the birth of Jesus, but it has grown way beyond that. Some people participate in Christmas rituals even if the holiday has no religious significance for them. Some people might think that's silly, to go through the motions of Christmas without believing in the religious meaning. I would say it's not silly. It just shows that the traditions of Christmas have evolved, as all traditions evolve. People find something of value in certain rituals of Christmas, even though the religious aspects may not have meaning for them. And, Christmas was actually adapted from pagan solstice celebrations, so it's not exactly true that the original meaning of the holiday was Christian.
For those who find great Christian significance in their Christmas traditions, that's fine with me. But it's also fine with me that for some people, it's more of a solstice celebration, a holiday about bringing warmth and light to a time of darkness. The materialistic version of Christmas is not as fine with me, not because I think it's wrong that people have taken the Christianity out of Christmas, but because I don't think our society's excessive materialism is healthy for humanity or the earth.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
But now I'm not feeling so sick any more, so I find myself in a more positive mood. And looking back on the year, I find that although I thought it was a year of disillusionment, dullness, desolation, and sickness, there were actually many bright spots.
Good things about 2006:
- I managed to go skiing a couple times before I got sick.
- I took Nia.
- I had a radio show. I'm thankful to the station members who have made me feel welcome and/or showed me the ropes, including Howard Jack, Mickie Lynn, Richard Berkley, Sean McLaughlin, Harry Carter, Robert Otlowski, and Allison Guidry.
- I helped my father move.
- I volunteered at the Clearwater festival.
- I went rollerblading a few times.
- I rented a kayak once.
- I had some nice times with Meisha.
- Jesse lived with me some of the time, and now still lives in my town.
- Jesse helped me when I was sick.
- Stephen visited me.
- Daisy and Jake visited me.
- I talked to Nathan.
- I got to know Ethan.
- I had a good conversation with Nate.
- I talked to my mother on the phone a lot.
- I found a sense of direction for my professional development.
- I started three blogs.
- I grew a garden.
- I went to Maine.
- I read some enjoyable books by Tamora Pierce, thanks to Ethan's recommendation.
- I read some interesting articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, thanks to Bob passing his old newspapers on to me.
- Speaking of Bob, I have a supervisor who shares my student-oriented view of my work.
- I will be spending the holidays with family.
For 2007, I'm hoping for better health. Assuming my health cooperates, I plan to keep up with some of the activities and people that I found worthwhile in 2006, including my radio show and Nia. I hope to do a bit of skiing and rollerblading too. But I'm hoping that my main focus of attention will be on professional development. And if I have the time and energy left, maybe I'll try going to Quaker meeting. Other stuff, like dance classes and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, will have to wait. And I'm not planning on having a very active social life. 2006 was a year when I was forced to turn inward, because I didn't have all the outward stuff that used to be part of my life, and now that I'm there, I want to stay a while. I want to build up some inward stuff before I turn outward again.
I was sitting there thinking there's something I don't like about Kevin McKrell. I decided maybe it was that he's part of the Irish music culture rather than part of the folk music culture. I like folk music for the sound of it of course, but I also like the culture. I like being around people who share my values. It's the same type of culture as the people who are Quakers or who go to food co-ops. Just as folk music is music to be sung by everyone rather than just by professional musicians, in Quakerism (at least the unprogrammed version), anyone can speak, rather than professional ministers. And in food co-ops, all the members share in owning the store.
It's not just the participatory nature that makes those things what they are. A group could be participatory but not share my culture and values in other ways.
This is not what this post was going to be about. I had three things to write about 1) musicians 2) values 3) the past year. This was going to be the post about musicians but it turned into the post about values instead. Before I get any farther astray with the values, let's get back to musicians. I was thinking that what bothered my about Kevin McKrell was that he was from a different culture or had different values. But it's not like being part of folk culture correlates exactly with me liking a musician. Bridget Ball, Christopher Shaw, and John Kirk epitomize folk culture. But of all the musicians performing, it was Brian Melick I'm the most excited about. For some reason, I don't think of Brian Melick as epitomizing folk culture as much as the others. He just doesn't have that crunchy granola vibe or something. However, it seems logically that I should think of him as folky, in that he does get people involved in making their own music. He teaches people to make drums.
Anyhow, the reason I like Brian Melick has a lot to do with the personality that he shows on stage.
So my conclusion is that my liking a musician has a lot to do with who they seem to be as a person. It's not necessarily about fitting my idea of the folk culture, it's just there has to be something that appeals to me.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Poppy Montgomery of Without a Trace looks like Diane Neal of Law & Order and Jennifer Finnigan of Close to Home. In these cases, their faces look different, but their hairstyles, figures, and characters' personalities are similar.
Scott Wolf of The Nine, Everwood, and Party of Five looks like Michael Muhney of Veronica Mars.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
- That the woman he once proposed to declined.
- That his parents have been patient and supportive with him as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up while he was in his 20's. And still trying in his 30's. And his 40's. And now partway through his 50's.
- His sisters, even though sometimes he wishes he was an only child.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
At least that's the theory. This year, I really need quiet, simple times, so much so as to preclude the friends and family and the mountain climbing.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
For November and December, my focus will be on getting healthy and on catching up on various projects at home. I'll try not to go out much. I'll just go to work, get my groceries, and go to the laundromat. Otherwise, I'll be at home resting up and puttering about (and of course continuing to get exercise and do my radio show).
Starting in January, my focus will turn to professional development. I will be looking toward doing more with research and databases. This will include finding ways to pursue my interests in the context of fulfilling the duties of my job, as well as doing some outside activity such as taking a class or getting involved in a project. I do actually have some ideas about how I want to proceed. For the past several years, I've felt that professional development should be a top priority, but whenever I thought about specific ideas, they just didn't seem very appealing. I think though that the time I've spent thinking about different directions has finally paid off, and now I feel like I've found what I'm really interested in. I hope it lasts.
My other interests will have to stay on hold for a while. I really need to be healthy in order to do anything else. Enjoying my work is also pretty important to my overall happiness, since earning a living is the activity I need to spend more time on than anything else. Once I get those things under control, I can turn toward my other interests:
- Music: hosting radio shows, volunteering at concerts and festivals, compiling information, playing a musical instrument, participating in singalongs. Right now I share a radio show with others, which means I'm on every two months. When I have more time, I would like to get my own radio show. That way, I wouldn't have to fit the format of the show I'm a part of, but could make the show what I want it to be.
- Outdoor activities: rollerblading, hiking, kayaking, sailing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing.
- Dance/movement: ballroom, swing, Latin, modern, jazz, contra, African, Afro-Caribbean, Nia, yoga, etc. I'm taking Nia now and plan to continue, but if I get more free time in my life after the health and the professional development are under control, then I'd like to do more.
- Habitat for Humanity.
I was depressed over the past few years over the disappearance of my friends. Now it's just as well. It gives me more time to pursue the things I want to pursue. Maybe when I get the health and professional development under control and start adding my other interests back into my life, I'll add some friends too, but for now it's good to be able to turn inward more.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
That's the trouble with me. That's why I'll never be a star in the world of advertising. I think it's better to focus on making a product people want, and not on branding.
Thursday, November 9, 2006
I have at least one more entry for that blog in my head, it's just a matter of when it will come out of my head and get to my blog.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
There are so many things I'd like to do. Yet I must spend the majority of my time earning a living. And my job leaves me tired, so it's not like I can just leap into some exciting activity every moment that I'm not at work. Moreover, time is needed for the basic chores of life like getting groceries and doing laundry. So I seem to only have time for about 1% of what I want to do. It seems like I just randomly snatch at things, I embark on some interesting activity because I think of it at the time, but then all the other things I'd like to be doing get pushed aside. And I end up filling up my life with so many things that I'm too tired and stressed to enjoy them.
But lately, my life is more like a burrow. I'm in hibernation. I put the brakes on all my activities. When I'm not at work, I'm just puttering about at home. I say I've quit all my activities, but I still am gardening, going to Nia twice a week, and doing my radio show. So maybe I haven't quit as much as it sounds, but I am mostly leading a quiet, solitary life, and I like it that way. I like getting rested, not always pushing myself to do things I'm too tired to do.
And yet, the long list of things I want to do still vibrates in the back of my mind. Somehow, I want to find a way to do so many things, and yet preserve the peacefulness of a less harried lifestyle. Here's what they all are:
- Intellectual: take courses in databases, web programming, institutional research, education, anthropology, Spanish, etc. Do some sort of educational research, whether for a state government, in an institutional research office, or in a research institute. (They sound the same, but an institutional research office and a research institute are quite different.)
- Travel/active: build houses for Habitat for Humanity, go on the Zephyr Adventures trips to Idaho and Nantucket/Martha's Vineyard, go hiking, rollerblading, kayaking, sailing, cross country skiing, and downhill skiing, spend time in Maine and Vermont.
- Dance/movement: ballroom, swing, Latin, jazz, modern, Afro-Caribbean, contra, Nia and yoga.
- Community: participate in groups of like minded people such as Quakers, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, the Troy Waterfront Farmer's Market, the Capital District Community Gardens.
- Work on projects at home: compile family history information, write up Taiwan trip, write up Venezuela trip, write up radio show information, write in blogs and e-mails, go through miscellaneous papers, read the many things I have piled up waiting to be read, do miscellaneous chores like put the new registration sticker on my car, change the smoke alarm batteries, etc.
- Music: do my radio show, volunteer at concerts and festivals, go to Folk Alliance conferences, read about folk music, compile folk music information, go to singalongs, learn to play musical instruments.
- People: host parties, visit friends and family.
- Home: I don't think I'm really up to doing all this singlehandedly at this point, but someday it would be nice to get a house, and put in some solar power, decorate it the way I want it to be, and work on home renovation projects and yard work and gardening. In my dreams, there is something like a complex of cottages housing all my friends and relatives, with a common building which has a kitchen, dining room, living room, computer room, library, dance studio, and TV/movie room.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
I do like the sentiment, and it reminds me of the kind of thing my Nia teacher talks about: the joy of movement, life as a dance, that in Nia you don't worry about how many calories you are burning and you don't say "no pain, no gain." Instead, Nia is about connecting with your body and having fun.
I think that people affected by illness, injury, or disability may not be able to enjoy "running, dancing, and jumping," but there are other ways of connecting with your body. The passage above says, "We live most of our lives in our minds." Mobility is not required to transfer our focus from mind to body. We can just lie still, enjoying the relaxation of our muscles and the feel of the carpet.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I went to yet another stylist, this one more upscale than I had been to in the past. I told him that I wanted his opinion as to what would look good on me. He told me to grow out the front, which I had had in bangs for over 20 years. So I agreed to do it. When I was next due for a haircut, I went back to him and told him growing out the front really wasn't working for me and I wanted him to make the front shorter. He said, "How do you want it? You don't want bangs, do you?" I let him cut it how he thought was best. He shortened the front, but didn't give me bangs.
I went to another upscale stylist. I told her I mostly wanted the front and top cut, I wanted to keep the back long, and I wanted layers. She said, "You don't want bangs, do you?" as if bangs would be a horrifying thing. I let her cut it how she thought was best.
I didn't like any of these bangs-free hairstyles, but also wasn't really sure what I wanted. Then on TV I saw someone who had a hairstyle I liked. It had bangs and was within the parameters of the haircuts that I used to always get, though the shape was a little different than some of them. I looked up the name of the actress, searched for pictures of her, and printed some out. I took them to a not so upscale hairstylist and said this is what I want.
So as of today, I have bangs again, and I like it a lot better than the hairstyles I've had the past few years.
One might think the moral of the story is don't listen to so-called experts, but I don't think that's it. I think the moral is try different things. If you don't like it, it's okay because you can try something else next time, and eventually you might come across something you like.
Of course, different things have different risk levels. If you get your hair cut and you don't like it, you can't immediately make it longer, but in time it will grow back. If you try a food and you don't like it, you can just stop eating it. But if you are allergic to peanuts and then you decide to try some to check whether you are still allergic, you could die from it.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
This season's best TV shows are the same as last year's: Boston Legal and Veronica Mars.
Boston Legal is good because it's funny and because it raises interesting issues. I must be out of step with the American mainstream because most things they call comedies don't seem funny to me. They just seem stupid. Boston Legal really makes me laugh.
Boston Legal is a lawyer show. Most lawyer shows are about crime, but Boston Legal is about issues. For example, can a company fire someone for smoking on their own time? What about firing someone for their religion, if they talk about their non-mainstream religion in front of clients, thus affecting the company's reputation? Can snack food companies be held responsible for obesity? Should HMO's be allowed to require their patients to get their surgery in India, where it is cheaper?
Another thing that is interesting about Boston Legal but is not what makes it good is the abundance of former Star Trek actors. Kirk and Odo are regular characters. Quark, Seven of Nine, Neelix and Nurse Ogawa have made guest appearances. Other actors of interest include regular characters Candice Bergen and James Spader, and guests Tom Selleck, Parker Posey, Katey Sagal, Heather Locklear, Sharon Lawrence, Al Sharpton, Wes Craven, Howard Hesseman, Monica Potter, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Betty White, Shelley Long, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Robert Wagner, Ed Begley, Jr., Peter MacNicol, Leslie Jordan, Adam Arkin, Corbin Bernsen, and Michael J. Fox. Not as well known is another actor I liked since before she appeared on Boston Legal: Constance Zimmer
Veronica Mars is good because the plots are so rich. Some trivial thing that happens turns out later to mean something. Maybe later in the same episode, or maybe not until later in the season. And even if you know this and try to think about all the things that you would normally overlook because they are trivial, you can't because there are just so many things to think about. I also like the way things from one season don't get totally forgotten in the next season. The death of Veronica's friend and the departure of her mother are in the past now and not constantly on her mind, but they are still part of her history.
Comments on other TV shows
- It's not often that you see married couples on TV who like each other and don't cheat on each other. When you do, it may be as parents, when the interesting stuff is being done by their teenage children. I liked Mad About You and Medium because they were about married people who liked each other and who still had interesting enough lives to be the focus of the show. Firefly and Star Trek did make an effort, but it was more like there was a token married couple as part of the show, not like marital bliss was mainstream.
- Sometimes it seems like writers are lazy about character and plot, and just throw in romance, sex, mystery, crime, and violence to hold people's attention. That was how I felt about the romance between Troi and Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I didn't see any basis for them to like each other other than the writers wanted to add a romance to make viewers more interested. The impression I get from 24 and Lost is that the writers make everything very intense in order to attract viewers. Similarly, shows like Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill have a lot of relationship complications to attract viewers. I've watched the new show The Nine twice, and I think it may fall into that category. The way they hint at things that happened in the bank is meant to use mystery to attract people.
- I also enjoy some shows which focus on characters and relationships: Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, Men in Trees, Six Degrees, and Brothers & Sisters. Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven have been on for a while. I've never taped every episode like I do with Veronica Mars and Boston Legal, but I've caught episodes here and there. I caught a few recent episodes of 7th Heaven in which Lucy was lashing out at everyone because she was feeling the pain of loss. It could seem like she was being too crazy, but it resonanted with me because I've been in the same sort of mood. Maybe I am feeling the strain that I have to keep on behaving properly even when I feel like lashing out, so I get some gratification in watching someone else lash out. Men in Trees, Six Degrees, and Brothers & Sisters are new and I haven't yet decided how good they are. So far, they do seem to have engaging characters. On Men in Trees, I liked how before Annie and Patrick spent the night together, Annie was afraid to tell him she snores, and Patrick was afraid to tell her he wears a retainer at night. In the end, they were there sleeping side by side, with the retainer and the snoring. They looked like real people in a way I don't often see on TV. People on TV are usually more glamorous.
- After the first episode of Ugly Betty, I thought it had the potential to be good. The idea of a hero who does not meet standards of beauty is not that earth-shattering, and yet Ugly Betty is refreshing for that reason. I mean, characters on shows such as The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Class, and Friends may feel like they aren't glamorous enough to be attractive, but the reality is that they do look more like movie stars than regular people. Betty doesn't. But it wasn't just that. In the first episode, her boss asked her to do things like take the cabbage out of his coleslaw, and she was compliant. Our culture places so much value on assertiveness. It was refreshing to see being agreeable cast in a positive light. But now that I've seen three episodes, the show seems much too simplistic. It's always Betty making some mistake but triumphing in the end. It's always the glamorous people being self-centered and cruel. The characters are not people, they are caricatures. This is particularly true for the bad people: Wilhemina, Marc, and Amanda. What I liked in Deep Space Nine was that there were many factions with different agendas (Federation, Bajorans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Founders), but you could see how people on each side felt they were fighting for what was right. Wilhemina and Amanda are just cruel. I mean, you understand that they want power for themselves, but you just see them as evil, not as humans.
- There are many crime dramas. They are kind of all the same, even though each one has a certain angle to make it different. When I want to watch TV because I'm too tired to do anything else, the crime dramas do hold my attention, but they aren't in the same league as the good shows, Veronica Mars and Boston Legal. Crime dramas I enjoy include Standoff, Vanished, and Without a Trace.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
I think I want to work in education. The other places where I could imagine possible working are:
- An institution that does research pertaining to social science or education, such as a government office, foundation, or research institute.
- An institution that does something related to folk music, such as a concert venue, publication, radio station, management/promotion, or label.
- An institution dealing with outdoor recreation/tourism. I'm not into roughing it, but I'm also not into luxury hotels at fancy ski resorts. I like simple lodgings such as a cottage with plumbing and electricity but no TV or internet. I favor nonmotorized activities: walking over ATVs, windsurfing over jet ski, cross country ski over downhill ski, bike over motorcycle. The institution I work for should engage in ecological practices such as leave no trace hiking and recycling. Examples of the kind of organization I like are Scott Walking Adventures and Lapland Lake.
- I like feeling that I'm part of a community. This partly comes from working in an institution of the right size: working with only two other people all the time is not enough, but being part of an organization with 10,000 employees ends up being too anonymous. The sense of community also comes from people having the opportunity to cross paths regularly and come to know each other. Another factor is having a shared sense of purpose, identity, and culture. That leads to the next item:
- I like working with people who share my values. We should all be out to help people, to treat people with respect, and to seek the truth, not to rake in as much money as possible.
- I like having the freedom to set my goals and work in my own way, yet the support of working with others who will give their input when I need it.
- I like not having to get too dressed up.
Types of tasks
- I like working on one big task rather than many small tasks. Partly it's an issue of focus. I like to be able to focus on the thing I'm working on rather than be distracted by the many other things that need attention. I think it's also a matter of complexity. Rather than working with a single strand of thread, I'd rather weave together many strands. I don't like dealing with the individual requests like:
- How many applicants from China did you accept last year?
- Write me a letter stating that I am a full-time student.
- Post a link on the web site.
- Working with a list of 30 students and a list of 30 TA positions to figure out how to best match the students to positions.
- Creating a new database query
- Organizing the qualifying exams.
- Preparing a presentation.
- Organizing orientation.
- I like working with information. I like databases and statistics. I like taking in opinions from many different people and writing a synthesis that makes sense of it all. Writing meeting minutes does this so I should like it, but the reality is that I'm bored with writing meeting minutes.
- Though I like working with databases and statistics, measurement and quantification is not the answer to everything. For an enterprise to work smoothly, you need people talking to each other. You need to listen to what someone has to say, not just ask them to fit their opinions into a multiple choice question.
- I like interacting with people to get their input, to explain policies and procedures, and to provide a service. I don't like interacting with people to persuade them to do something. I don't want to be in sales or law enforcement.
- I like working with a defined community of people, as at a school, where you can have a list of all the people you want to reach. I don't like recruiting prospective students who have not already expressed an interest in the school because it involves an undefined community and because it involves persuasion.
- I'm good at organizing things because I keep track of things and follow up on things. If I'm running a meeting, I'll make sure everything gets on the agenda that needs to, I'll gather the background information for the agenda items, and I'll send a reminder to the committee members about the upcoming meeting. Sounds simple, but a lot of people seem not to do a good job on it.
- I don't like making decisions for other people about physical things like food, furniture, and decorations. I f I'm going to make a decision about such things, it should come from my synthesizing information about people's preferences, not from me thinking of an idea. On the other hand, I can make choices about less concrete things, such as people, schools, procedures, policies, curricula, and writing.
- I need time to collect my thoughts. I express myself best in writing, giving a prepared talk, or in a focused one-on-one conversation. In a meeting at which ideas are flying all over the place, it's hard for me to respond immediately because I need some time to digest before making my response.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
One was Darren, who talked for about half an hour about graduate application stuff, especially the GRE. I knew him when he was a student, so it was cool to see him as a professor. In his presentation, it seemed evident that he was a professional teacher.
The other was Tim Lederman. He required the students from his software engineering course, which is the senior capstone class, to attend. He sat in the back and occasionally asked questions. His questions were very good because they were basically an opportunity to talk about whatever important information we forgot to cover.
I think asking good questions is a good trait in a professor. I've had professors who did that, whose questions caused thoughts to rush to my head.
After the talk, I went to dinner with Darren and three students. The students had a lively conversation about student stuff, apparently uninhibited by the presence of a professor and a guest speaker. It was interesting to hear their perspectives, to get a view of what it is like to be a student at a small liberal arts college, in contrast to the research university where I work.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
- Some international students saying I don't seem like an American. My conclusion regarding this is that I am part of a particular American subculture. It's not that I'm not American, but that I don't necessarily fit the mainstream culture.
- An international student suggesting that it would be nice to put together a booklet about everyone's various cultures, including things like recipes and holiday traditions. I wrote the piece as my entry to the booklet, so I included a recipe and some holiday information. The booklet never materialized though.
- At work, we have these department lunches, where we either have food delivered from a place with no appealing food or go out to a different place with no appealing food. The other people in my department seem to think the food is very good. The problem for me is that the food fits mainstream culture, not my culture.
- It was nice talking to Meisha and Jesse about mousetraps. They share my view that of course the only kind to talk about is the kind which will allow you to catch mice alive and take them out to the country to live. Mainstream people think otherwise.
- In June, I went to the Clearwater festival. One of the things that struck me most was that it was nice being in my culture. The food served to the volunteers was tasty. They used sustainable energy to power the festival. The dresses for sale were beautiful. The people around made sense. I heard a mother telling a child regarding a spider, "We're the ones invading his home." Out in the mainstream world, it's not like that. The food that's served, the things for sale in stores, the conversations I overhear seem to tell me that I don't really fit in here.
- Reading the Haverford magazine, I see articles about things like alumni in the Peace Corps and alumni lawyers fighting against the juvenile death penalty. That's the kind of school I should be associated with. The RPI alumni magazine shows such different values. RPI has flyovers by military planes at commencement. And what's more, people think it's cool. I think Haverford would share my sentiment of "Why would you want to celebrate commencement with an instrument of killing?"
- There was an article about the largest passenger ship on the seas, as if that was an exciting thing to be on. Who would want that? That's even more unappealing than going to the mall, because for the mall, at least you only have to be there a few hours.
I think I'd like for the people I'm surrounded by to include a significant number of both that geeky culture and my culture.
I think everyone is unique, and often just one subculture doesn't speak to all aspects of who a person is. That's why most people are a part of more than one group. So I probably would not want to be surrounded exclusively by people who fit into what I call my culture. But it would be better than being surrounded exclusively by people who don't fit my culture.
Everyone has a right to exist and every culture has its strong points, but sometimes one gets tired of feeling like a square peg in a round hole all the time. It's not good to completely cut yourself off from people who are different, but it's good to be able to be with your own kind once in a while. More than once in a while actually.
Saturday, September 9, 2006
- Don't try to romance me if we barely know each other. I don't even know yet if I want to be your friend or acquaintance, so I'm certainly not ready to think about whether I want to be more than friends.
- Our culture has this ritual called dating. In the past, it was traditional for the man to pay for any outings conducted in the course of carrying out this ritual. In more modern times, the woman is supposed to contribute as well. However, we have not made the transition completely. Our cultural expectations seem to be some hybrid of the man pays and the costs are split. Usually on a first date, the man pays, but later the woman is supposed to take the initiative and offer to pay. Sometimes for example, one pays for the movie admission and the other pays for the popcorn. These hybrid expectations are too confusing for me. I don't know when I'm supposed to let the man pay and when I'm supposed to protest his paying and offer to contribute. However, if you follow #1 above, then this will not be an issue. We'll start off as just friends, so you won't have any notion of trying to pay for me. Later, if we become close, it's okay if one person sometimes pays for the other, because by that time, we'll know what expectations we have of each other and we'll be able to communicate more openly.
- I may have trouble making plans with you a long time in advance because my energy level fluctuates, and I don't know how I'll feel on a future date. There are some days when my muscles crave exercise and I'm uncomfortable if I sit still. There are other days when I'm really tired and don't want to do anything more than sitting on the couch reading, watching TV, or chatting.
- If we become close friends (e.g. spending time together more than once a week), and then you suddenly stop wanting to spend time with me (e.g. because you meet someone new whom you like better than you like me), then you need to let me know. Don't just turn all secretive and evasive on me, maintaining a facade that nothing has changed while pushing me away at every turn. You don't have to be brutally honest if that would entail telling me that you now find me annoying and repulsive. Just tell me that you have this new person or project in your life and will therefore be less available to spend time with me. You're afraid to tell me because you think I'll be devastated by loss of your presence. You may find this hard to believe, but I have a wealth of interesting things I want to do that don't involve you. I can re-adjust my life to do other things. But if you don't tell me, I won't re-adjust my life. I'll leave a spot for you, and then when you always weasel out of doing things with me with some weird lame excuse, I'll end up feeling rejected and I'll also have this empty spot in my life. The reason you are afraid to tell me things have changed is because you wanted to avoid exactly those things. But if you just tell me things have changed, then I can move on and do more interesting things with my life. Don't forget, the reason I have this spot in my life set aside for you is because in the past, you asked me to do things with you, because you wanted me to make that spot for you, not because I had nothing better to do.
- If you don't tell me what's going on, but just decide to take the secretive evasive route, at first I will expect you to keep on being there for me the same as you always wanted to in the past. Since you no longer want to do that, you will experience a sense of me wanting more than you have to give. This will lead you to think I'm in love with you. Believe me, you're not as hot as you think you are. I'm not in love with you, I just expect you to keep on being there for me because you were there for me in the past and you have not told me there's any reason why you aren't going to keep on being there for me now.
- If you draw me in to be your close friend by asking me to do stuff with you day after day for years, and then all of a sudden you turn all secretive and evasive and ditch our friendship with no warning, don't expect me to be unaffected. You will have broken something. If I gave you my friendship, I consider that a permanent commitment. I generally believe in treating everyone nicely, and I do even more so for you because I gave you my friendship. I'm not going to be mean to you, and I still want to be your friend, but you broke something. It's hard for me to trust or respect you any more. If you want to still be my friend, you're going to have to work at rebuilding. I know you probably don't want to, because the reason all this started is because you started wanting to put less time into our friendship. If you want to just let it all die, that's fine with me. But if you are still trying to make things be okay, don't blame me for becoming high-maintenance. Here's an analogy: you have a flat tire on your car. You don't want to put time into maintenance, so you keep driving with the flat tire. If the wheels are damaged as a result, your car will need even more maintenance than it would have if you had just fixed the flat tire. Don't then say it's a bad car because the maintenance costs are so high.
- If you actively exclude me from something, don't expect me to feel comfortable right away if you later invite me to be a part of it.
- On the other hand, for those of you who never became that close (e.g. if we get together once a month or less) and you decide you don't want to be my friend any more, you don't have to tell me. Just drift away. My life is not structured to make a spot for you, so I don't need to re-structure it to close that spot, so no warning is really needed.
- If you want to be more than friends, start by trying to be my friend. Be sensitive to my pace. If you find me pulling away, slow down. If you find me being responsive to being friends, it's okay if you want to try for more. I don't mind someone asking to be more than friends even if I want to be just friends. It's okay to seek what you want, and I'm glad you put it on the table so we could talk openly. But you could turn me off if you ask when I'm already pulling away from you, because that shows you're not hearing me. If friendship and romance were money, it would be like this: If you ask for 5 cents and I hesitate to give it, don't say, "Okay, give me a dollar then." Instead, wait a week and then ask for 2 cents.
- I've read in several different places that despite our modern, liberated times, it still works best if the man does the pursuing. I tend to agree. It's easy to agree since that gets me off the hook for making the first move. But I don't think it's just that. My experiences with humans indicate that the there's something to the idea. And having dated a reluctant boyfriend, I can say I'm not too interested in being involved with someone unless he has made the choice to be involved with me. I will initiate interactions with men I like, but I'm not likely to initiate making the leap from friendship to romance. Though I shirk that job, I do however think it's my job to work hard at:
- If I'm interesed in someone, I should provide him with plenty of encouragement.
- If someone does try to make the first move with me and I'm not interested or he fumbles it badly, it's my obligation to be kind to him, because he has put himself out on a limb, taken a greater risk than I was willing to take myself. However, if I decline and he persists, then he's not respecting me, and I will want nothing more to do with him.
Friday, September 8, 2006
This ties in with what I was trying to say earlier about depression.
Another example: when I was feeling that everything that had been good in my life was falling apart, someone told me to see the loss of the old things as good because it would make room for new and better things.
I am exasperated with people who think you should just change your attitude and be happy with your situation, whatever your situation is.
Sometimes you want things that you don't have and can't get. Sometimes you lose things that meant something to you. It's okay to be sad in these circumstances. No, I'm not going to wallow in grief forever and never do anything useful with my life. But I just want to be allowed to wish for the things I wish for. I don't want to feel like I'm supposed to twist myself into thinking I'm happy about my losses.
I was depressed before, and now I'm not. I did feel bad about my losses, but feeling bad about them did not consign me to eternal misery. I didn't have to convince myself to be happy about my losses in order to get out of depression and on with my life. What brought me out were improvement in my health and making a new friend.
If you can't accept me being depressed, if you're just going to tell me I should change my attitude and not be depressed, maybe you shouldn't bother being my friend. Depression and grief are a part of life, just as joy and hope are, and you need to let me experience it all.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
- Remembering that I enjoy quiet time at home reading.
- Learning to pace myself better, to pursue restful activities and let go of dreams of strenuous activities.
- I don't want to waste my time on fair weather friends.
- Mostly I'm too tired to go out, so it's not like I could hang out with fair weather friends anyhow.
- I would like to say it has given me greater compassion for sick people, but it's easy to forget what it was like to be sick. It's easy to be selfish, to feel sorry for myself when I'm sick, but to be too busy with my own stuff to be concerned about others who are sick.
- I find contentment and satisfaction in my solitary and sedentary pursuits. That seems like enough. Joy and fun have been so rare that mostly I forget that they exist. I made a photo album to remind me of what fun was like. Maybe it would be better not to remind myself of what I'm missing. Most of the time, I don't feel anything missing in contentment and satisfaction.
You think people are your friends, but some people's idea of friends is someone to go out and do stuff with. If you get sick and can no longer go out and do stuff, then people have no more use for you.
Some people do still talk to you and help you when you're sick. Mostly they view you as a charity case. They talk to you because they feel sorry for you, not because they desire your company, because you have inspiring ideas, because you are funny and fun. When you are sick, people assume that you have nothing to offer.
Several people, both family and friends, told me that family are the only ones who stick with you through illness and bad times. That does seem to be a trend. Family is kind of stuck with you, whereas friendship is more of a voluntary relationship. But it's not an absolute. There are certainly plenty of people who don't stick with their relatives, and plenty who do stick with their friends.
Meisha is a good friend because she knows what it's like to be sick, and she views friends as people who help each other, not just people to go out and do things with.
When I had mono, I was thinking I don't want to waste any more time on fair weather friends. But when I got better, I wished I knew someone who wanted to go kayaking with me. So maybe there's a place for fair weather friends, because sometimes it is fair weather and you want someone to do fair weather things with. But maybe it's better to do things like that with a group like the Adirondack Mountain Club, because then you know hiking and kayaking is what they are there for and they won't be there for other stuff. If you just do it with individual people, you might be lured into thinking they are your friends.
I met a woman last month who was talking about how she wanted to meet the kind of friends who would help her when she was sick. That's the kind of friend I want to be and to have, but I didn't want to be friends with her. In order to be friends with someone, you have to like who they are too.
However, sometimes the cause of the depression is being in a bad situation, and changing that situation is a far better cure than staying in the situation and trying to talk yourself out of depression by getting in touch with your feelings and reframing your attitudes. If my situation is not good, I don't want to feel like I'm a failure for being unable to adjust my outlook and become happy. I will be happy once again, without all this effort to twist my outlook, as soon as I get back to a situation where my needs are being met. Sure there are some things you can't change, but you can still find the best situation within the constraints that life has given you.
For me though, the best cures for depression are:
- To be healthy, with adequate sleep, rest, nutrition, and exercise.
- To be with people who are nice to me.
Perhaps one reason I got my Master's in social work rather than continuing on with my undergraduate major of psychology is that psychology seems to try to cure people through medication and psychotherapy, while social work also looks at meeting people's needs, e.g. housing for the homeless.
That doesn't mean I'll always be taking action to change my situation. When I'm depressed, I'm in no shape to take action. What I need to do when depressed is stuff like go to sleep, listen to music, sit by the ocean (or a lake or river if that's closer by), read a novel, or watch a movie.
It's hard to change your life. The point is not that if you are depressed, you have to instantly go out and fix your situation. The point is that you may have to live with your depression for a while, but be patient with yourself as you take one step after another into the future. If you keep walking long enough, you might be able to walk into a better situation, and when you reach that better situation, things will all fall into place for you.
I recently heard about my cousin, who likes sailing and used to do work related to that. She decided to become an accountant because she has health problems and wanted a job she could do even when not feeling well.
I think maybe I should be more like that, should set my sights on things that I can actually do, rather than constantly getting frustrated and disappointed over not being able to do the things I aspire too.
I heard my cousin's story thirdhand. It sounds neat and simple now, but perhaps she too has experienced much frustration and disappointment.
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Gradually I started getting better. I started going back to work part-time in March. By late April, I was feeling energetic. I went rollerblading four days in a row.
Then I started relapsing in May and June. Sometimes I'd take a vacation day because I was so tired. Up until mid-July or so, I rarely made it through a full 40 hour week of work.
By late July, I again started feeling energetic, nearly cured. I went rollerblading a few times, though not as far as what I used to consider normal.
Then I started fading, and was tired all of August. However, I've been working full-time almost all the time since mid-July. And I try to exercise. Sometimes it's just 15 minutes of yoga. Some days I don't even attempt that much, because walking from the living room to the bathroom after a full day of work is more exercise than I want to be doing.
The fact that I'm back to work full-time is a enormous amount of progress, and I should appreciate that, but I'm still lacking stamina. Before I was sick, I couldn't keep up with many more stamina-gifted people, but now I lack stamina even compared to my former self. I have trouble concentrating at work because I'm so tired. And going to work is pretty much all I have the energy to do.
Sometimes I do a good job of accepting where I'm at. Sometimes I really enjoy staying home and reading in my spare time. But there's still a part of me that dreams of kayaking, sailing, hiking, rollerblading, skiing, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, and traveling. I've been thinking that since I missed out on most of the fun summer stuff (though I did make it to the Clearwater festival in June and paddled a kayak a bit a few days ago), I want to take vacation time in September and do something. But I'm too tired to go somewhere, so I'll just stay here and go to work. But if I'm tired, maybe I should take time off. But if I take time off, I want to go somewhere. But I'm too tired to go somewhere. So I'll just stay here and go to work. This is the circle that my mind keeps going around in.
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Why wait until they aren't around to enjoy it? Wouldn't it be better to appreciate people while they are here?
I think birthdays should be appreciation days. Birthdays should be about celebrating the fact the the person was born.
In Just Legal, the clients are often poor people from shady backgrounds. And the legal system is a huge bureacracy, so it is often hard to get things done right. The innocent may get convicted. The guilty may go free. The police and prosecutors may not thoroughly investigate. The defense lawyers may make deals with the prosecutors which are in the best interest of the defense lawyers but not in the best interest of the client.
These two shows represent the top and the bottom of the legal profession. They seem completely different, and yet some things are the same. In both, corruption exists in the legal system, and in both, there are people with strong ideals of justice.
You could say that it's like that in any sector of life, that there will be some good and some bad. That may be true, but I don't think it's all equally distributed. There are some places where most people are smart people trying to do the right thing, and other places where most people are lazy, dishonest scoundrels. Each institution or department or office or school or whatever has a certain culture, and people who don't fit that culture tend not to remain. The problem is how to find the pockets of people who share my values, or how to grow those pockets larger in whatever place I'm in.