May 2009

Watching sunrises and sunsets

Playing in a warm enough ocean

Watching the seagulls, ducks, geese, and crows down by the Willamette River

The colors, shapes, and patterns of nature, especially light on running water and tree branches and leaves

Watching flocks of birds taking off and flying/wheeling

Seeing spring flowers, especially tree flowers, and how they remind me of my mom and her mom

Being touched affectionately

Finishing a project

Writing a new song

Listening to great singers like my brother Damian or David Waingarten

Listening to a great record straight through with friends

Being at a great concert

Reading a great book

Having a great book read to me

Watching a great movie

How I feel after a workout

Dancing to a great song with an experienced follow who is really liking the dance

Experiencing a mental “ca-chunk,” when things come clearly together, like when I first learned about plate tectonics

Having philosophical conversations with friends

My room, clean and candle-lit

The smell of the Mohave Desert after a rain

Explaining something really well

Playing with kids

Being useful

This is my first ever official endorsement of a celebrity. For some reason I’m leery of the practice. I usually stick to endorsing my friends. Maybe I tend to side with Lord Acton; great men are almost always ethically compromised men. Becoming a household name generally requires you to leave some people and principles in your dust. It’s the price of fulfilling such extreme ambition.

But what the heck. This guy deserves it. Micheal Pollan is a hero. His writing is thoughtful and his ideas are important. He is doing exactly what I would like to be doing if I were a journalist: writing great, thoroughly researched books about food, eating, and agriculture, and selling millions of copies of them. Well, it would be nice if those millions of copies were printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, but I can’t lay much of the blame for that on him. There’s Penguin Press, his publisher, and… well, a whole host of things. That’s another rant entirely.

Here’s Michael Pollan, interviewed by Amy Goodman. His new eating guideline is “Don’t buy any food that you’ve ever seen advertised.” Watch the clip. It’s good.

You know what? While I’m at it, I’m going to endorse Amy Goodman, too. I’ve just started exploring the Democracy Now! archives, and she seems like a hero too. Here and here she is interviewing Noam Chomsky. Hmm… How about Noam Chomsky? He was largely responsible for the fall of the behaviorists from control of experimental psychology, which was definitely a good thing. I don’t think he’s been able to accept the way some of his linguistics ideas have not held up to scientific scrutiny, but I don’t hold that against him much. They were great ideas, they just didn’t all pan out. He was one of the first people to get me to wonder why I would value the welfare of people living in America over that of people living in other places. I like the way he describes the complexity and the interests of all sides in international affairs. He reminds me of Buckminster Fuller in that way. He sees the systems.

It’s past my bedtime, but let me add Buckminster Fuller to the list. He decided to make his life into an experiment: What could he accomplish if he dedicated his life 100% to the welfare of human beings? Some would say the answer was ‘Not much,’ and it’s true that his inventions, while creative, have not had much of an impact on human welfare, but he lived with such integrity and such devotion and developed a truly world-centric view. He has been an inspiration to me. I checked around youtube and couldn’t find a decent clip. If you’re interested, check out a lecture of his called “Only Integrity is Going to Count.” I think you can get it as an audiobook.

One of the features of WordPress is it tells you what people were searching for when they found your blog. It’s not clear if they are keeping track of all search engine traffic or just WordPress searches (Jeannie, do you know?), but however they do it, I’m often surprised at what I find. Here are some of the search terms that found me:

ethan mitchell food sensitivity

grace and kyla

ann murdy

nathen + kyla

“kyla wetherell”

african wildflowers

vangie seagull

baby ducklings grate

types of cohesion in a discourse

steve lester

illusion of control zen

reanna under

is the ability of a counselor to feel what it is like to be the client before zoning in on the client’s present behaviors.

Every spring, when the trees bloom, I wish my mom was here to see them. This year she’s here, and for Mothers’ Day, too! She’s loving the flowers, just like I thought. I’ve been having a great time taking bike rides and hanging out talking with her, my dad, my brother Gabriel, and his girlfriend Maggie.

My camera’s broken so these photos are from last spring, but it looks a lot like this right now.

Dogwood, W D St, Willamette River

W C St

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossoms

Maple, Lilac, Dogwood

Maple, Lilac, Dogwood

River Trail Trees

River Trail Trees

A guy who works in my social cognition lab, Adam Kramer, worked at Google recently and had access to their database and developed this way of sorting the words people use in blogs–a huge sample, as you might imagine. He found that blogging exists in a five dimensional space: melancholy, social, ranty, metaphysical, and work. These are apparently real and parsimonious dimensions. Since his presentation, I’ve often wondered where my blog fit in that space. I asked him about writing a blog widget that measured individual blogs–or posts, even. Posts might be better. I’d like to have a little bar graph at the top of each post indicating the level of rantiness, etc. He seemed to think it was a good idea but didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to write it. He’s working on his dissertation, about delayed decision making.

Anyway, that was just to set up my little rant. Ahem.

It pisses me off when my fellow students are on the internet during lectures. I can’t stand it. I have to move to the front row or something so I can’t see. Many of them are also using their computers to take some notes on what the professor is saying but that’s about 15% of what I see, and I’ve never seen a student with a laptop in a lecture who completely abstained from the net. The lure of Facebook is too strong. I’m not sure why it gets my goat so much, but it does. It may be that I relate to the professors more than I do to the students in most cases, especially these cases. If I was teaching a college class, I don’t think I would allow laptops. Check them at the door. I’ll buy you some ice for your poor, aching, handwriting hand. Oh, and your phones, too, thanks. Texting is just as bad.

I just read about two studies that found that humanities lecturers use more filled pauses–time saying ‘uh,’ ‘um,’ etc–than science lecturers, and that it’s probably because the humanities have more synonyms to draw upon. In science, it is very useful in conversation to have very precise, technical definitions of each word that everyone agrees upon. Empathy, for example, cannot mean or connote compassion in psychological discourse, and if it does, you run into problems.

Maybe that’s why the people in my social cognition lab (can) talk so fast. They all understand precisely each word, so ideas can come and go very rapidly. Still too rapidly for me to understand, sometimes.

I just posted a research paper I wrote a couple years ago about vegetarianism, its history, philosophy, and demographics. It’s pretty good. If you’re interested in vegetarianism, abstinance diets, or just food, check it out by clicking here. It’s called “Vegetarianism and Reason: A Personal Evolution.” The title is the worst part, I think.

Ballet is such a weird, cool system of moving! It’s so deep in Euro-American culture it’s difficult to see at first just how bizarre it is, all floaty and lilty and superhumanly graceful, even during those acts of incredible athleticism. I love how much attention we pay to our feet, the subtleties of articulation, how they move against the floor, exactly how they lift. I’ve been walking around in a constant foot meditation for the last few weeks. I love how wildly unintuitive it is, the toe-pointing, the isolation of the leg and arm motions, and especially how the arms move—all elegance and flair, which I have been avoiding for decades. I love how much my balance has improved. I’m reconnecting with the classical piano music, or whatever it is—I know ‘classical’ means something very specific to those in the know. I’m starting to see dancing when I listen to my Mozart piano sonatas while studying.

I’m still a bit cringe-y at the prancing and leaping, but less so now, and I imagine the better I get at it, the less cringe-y I’ll be.