Archive for November, 2004

confronting fear

November 10th, 2004

Is confronting fear a good thing? Rarely do you get a better chance at
that than in a bad dream. Cause in a dream the stage is set, your
emotional state is defined a certain way, all is clear for you to
live the feelings that you're so afraid of. And it feels like you
have a choice, doesn't it? I always choose to go all out, somehow it
feels exciting enough to quench my fear. So then it comes, you find
yourself in that situation you fear so much, this is your moment. And
then you react more truthfully, more honestly than you would in real
life. In a dream there is nothing holding you back, the feeling of
shame towards the people that are there isn't there. Whatever other
factors exist that would hold you back from expressing exactly how
you feel, in a dream they don't seem to matter. I think it's fair to
say that a bad dream is like a trial run of a situation you fear, in
the specific setting you act out that scene as you would in real
life, only more candidly.

But is it a good thing? Now you know what it would be like, you know how
you would feel every step of the way, you would know everything. But
is that helpful? That you already go through this once (or so it
feels), you feel all the pain you expected and you wake up crying,
does that enable you to handle it better when it actually happens? I
suppose there's something to doing things that scare you over and
over, because with each iteration you get a little more used to it.
But is it helpful?

book list part 2

November 8th, 2004

Once before I did a listing of books I recently read, here's the sequel. Decided it would be more interesting to include short descriptions this time. Oddly enough, I seem to have read all of these but the first this year, a rather prolific year compared to past years.

Al Franken :: Lies and the lying liars who tell them
Al Franken is a comedian, right? He's not funny, that much is clear. The book gives a tireless account of what is according to Franken a long list of lies and misrepresentations in the media courtesy of the right. But unless one is incredibly interested in the people he talks about, it's fairly dull material. I also don't think much of Franken's self rigteousness, which I find in bad taste. His supposedly humorous exaggerations are far too obvious to be funny. That's not to say the man doesn't know what he's talking about, just not my cup of tea..

Jon Stewart :: America, a citizen's guide to democracy inaction

In familiar style to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, this piece includes contributions from some of his tv cast members. It takes a humorous look at American history from day zero up until today, starting with how America invented democracy to a complete breakdown of the fine institutions then conceived, still in function. Get the back story on the presidential office, on the Senate, on the Supreme Court. Quite entertaining, also gives detailed instructions on how to become president.

Noam Chomsky :: Hegemony or survival (review)

A thorough account of American foreign policy since the 2nd World War, describing US ambitions for dominating the world by controlling strategic areas like the Middle East. In style, rather academic and "dry", certainly not a book for amusement. Should definitely provide several interesting revelations about recent events on the world political stage.

Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (online version)

Deals with a broad set of subjects within open source history and practice, lots of interesting case studies. Features a range of authoritarian authors like Linux Torvalds, Bruce Perens, RMS, Eric Raymond and Larry Wall. Each chapter is completely autonomous, so they have no correlation and can be read selectively.

H. H. Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler :: The Art of Happiness

As one would expect, a spiritually enlightening book. Written by a psychiatrist studying the mental paradigms of Buddhist practices as applied to everyday life. I find the focus to be decidedly on basic human qualities and the significance they carry throughout life. Concepts of compassion, warmth and suffering are central. Gives a gentle introduction into practices centered around the individual and what can be done to achieve happiness.

Salam Pax :: Baghdad blog (online version)
The famous blogger from Baghdad. This is a rather interesting back
story on the events presented in the media. Salam tells the world about
his life in Baghdad during the buildup to the war, as well as during
the war. The story told is a captivating one, in stark contrast to what
the western media was selling at the time. Even daily events like
shopping, going to work, driving etc are set in a new light in a
country ravaged by war.

EDIT: the one that got away, added to the list

Albert Camus :: The plague

High school flashback but despite years having passed I seemingly have not made much headway in terms of maturity. Found the book reasonably dull from start to finish, very much lacked some kind of climax in my unrefined view.

Umberto Eco :: The island of the day before

Could not get past page 70, incredibly slow start to the story, bored me to death.

Michael Moore :: Dude where's my country?

Reasonably interesting but always true to Moore's sensationalist style. An interesting take on US domestic and foreign policy but hard to discount the fact that this book really sells by being controversial. Humorous on occasion, but Moore's self righteousness shines through.

different standards for men and women

November 5th, 2004

Okay, think about it. How many guys do you know or have you known that you would call "a jerk", "an asshole", "a jackass" or any similar quantity? Quite a few, right? Now how many girls would fit the same description? It's my feeling that the balance between men and women on that level is pretty skewed, and yet we don't consider men scum and women great, do we? Sure every side has bad apples, but we just seem to have a lot more of them, don't you think?

I just think men get away with more. When I see someone being a jackass, I say he's a jackass. But it doesn't really bother me, it's a normal thing, right? So to some extent it's expected behavior. But when I see a stuck up, pretentious, arrogant, slutty woman, I get annoyed and I might say she should not have her own tv show. It can be very annoying at times, with these horrible women in high places. Now I'm not saying women shouldn't have those opportunities, I think equality is the ideal. But it bugs me all the same. But with men? Used to it.

So I think more is expected of women, they're supposed to be better than us. Now it's not that I used that as an excuse for myself, I've actually never tried that. But I wonder if I did, would I be treated less harshly?

Ps. Before you say the obvious, I realize this theory badly needs convincing examples. The only one I can think of is Bill O'Reilly, a class a jackass. And when I watch his show on occasion, I always think that but if he were a woman it would be much worse.

10 minutes

November 4th, 2004

Do you think that is a long time? 10 minutes is about the time it takes to..

1. Listen through 2 long songs or 3 shorter ones

2. Run out to the store for a grocery shopping supplemental run

3. Shower twice

4. Watch two sets of in-between-programming commercial sessions

5. Take 30 penalties (and score 21 but your mileage may vary :P)

10 minutes is also the duration in which I can stay alert in class. I don't know what it is about that situation of being at school but for some reason 10 minutes of a lecture is all that I can take without getting really drowsy. The first 10 minutes in case you're wondering. :P And it's not because it's boring, I've watched lectures on recording at home and thought they were interesting. Obviously the reason I chose these courses is that they interest me to begin with so that is no valid reason. What else could it be? Seats too comfortable? Too warm in the room? Too dark? Too quiet? Boring teacher? Slides too dull? I cannot figure out what it is but the whole situation of being in school and being at a lecture just makes me drowsy. No matter what. If I have to take notes, that helps. Math helps too cause that requires some brain activity. But most lectures are just showing slides and talking about them, in which case I understand them fine and it bores me or I don't understand them and I just can't bring myself to care about it. It's not the teacher either, some teachers are very enthusiastic and energetic, that doesn't help. Knowing I'm at school, I start falling asleep, that's the way it works.

who's voting?

November 2nd, 2004

Oh cmon it's election day, you really thought I wouldn't get political? :P

Like it or not, we and most other nations (if not all) in the world today are affected by the outcome of these theatrics currently in progress. It's fair to say in the long run it affects us just as much (or probably more) than whatever may be the outcome of the political process here at home. Thus it shouldn't be hard to understand that the world gets involved when the only world superpower is electing its leader. And the world has voted overwhelmingly for not-Bush. In the grand scheme of US politics, where no person without a fortune and the backing of most the country's multinational corporations is a worthy candidate, it might seem trivial to get worked up about who might win. Either of the sides is still going to do favors for their corporate patrons and noone cares about the people anyway.

But seeing how much damage the Bush camp has managed to inflict over the past four years, considering that administration shows no restraint in pursuing their blatant self-interests at the expense of long standing, well established diplomatic relations (for one thing), the choice seems very clear. The puppet must not win, otherwise the puppet masters currently in power will never hesitate to extend this dreadful streak of ruthless foreign policy and domestic misery. Bush is no orator and in his poor rhetoric, I noticed that he doesn't speak much about domestic issues at all. It's all about "we have to defend ourselves", "this is a great country", "hard working people" and for some reason people don't seem to mind hearing that. Yes, let uncle tell us a story. In Orwellish manner, the "threat to national security" is so great that he gets away with harping on that same thing and that's enough to please the masses. "America was attacked". Meanwhile fresh reports suggest the number of civilian casualties in Iraq has surpassed 100,000 but that never makes the big headlines.

I might as well say I don't know anything about John Kerry. But his people couldn't possibly be any worse than this.