Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A New Proof for My Resume

Well, since the last notification of my employment situation things have not changed much. I did manage to snag an interview at a hardware store, but disappointingly did not get the job, and restaurants are still indicating that they want only people with previous experience. At the very least, I've stopped being harassed by those multitudes of insurance companies, though I plan on increasing my presence on job websites and so may open myself up again to such harassment.

While I still have hope for the future of America, my personal situation leaves me a bit discontent. I have long-term optimism, but definite short-term pessimism: I believe economically, especially for Michigan, we have yet to hit the bottom of the hill. To avoid at present a lengthy analysis to why I believe this, I'll just say that given a certain set of ideas a man is going to act a certain way. Since our politicians have yet to reexamine their ideas, they're simply going to apply the bad ideas that got America (especially Michigan) into this economic mess to begin with, which will but exacerbate the problems. The worst is yet to come.

But I digress. There's little to do in that area except be an activist for positive long-term change and live the best I can in the meanwhile. If my disappointment should surface, I'll just try to get myself lost in goal pursuits or the enjoyment of a value, or to sleep it off.

Anyhow, the main purpose of this post is to present a possible new way of establishing credibility for my resume. After having reached a compromise with the person I live with, I am virtually free financially to be able to focus my funds on other necessities and to invest in certain things to increase my employability.

Keeping in mind how I'm focusing on restaurants, I thought it might be a good idea to construct a professional food portfolio. I realized that while studying and practicing would allow me to add new skills to my resume, it probably wouldn't impress restaurateurs very much given that it would still need to be concretely proved to them. So what I thought I could do is go out and purchase a cheap digital camera, use it to photograph the various dishes I prepare, upload them to my computer, arrange them into a recipe, print them out, and then organize them in a three-ring binder. This portfolio would, of course, only be available upon the employer's request, but I think it would do well to enhance my credibility and worthiness since it would show I can put my money where my mouth is.

So now I consider myself in the market for a camera, and would appreciate some input. What considerations do I need to take into account? What do I need to know?

What I desire is a simple indoor camera that can take high-resolution pictures, and for it to be able to hook up to my computer via the USB port so I can upload pictures. In all honesty it need not hold more than ten or so photographs at one time, since I plan on uploading the pictures approximately right after they're taken (that is, after I have eaten what I photographed). Battery life is not much of a concern for me either.

I know there are many camera junkies out there, so got some suggestions?

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Good" vs. Evil

A few days ago or so it dawned on me that I don't know a proper antonym to the word "evil." Sure, one may immediately respond that "good" or "moral" would be fitting, but I don't think they're appropriate given how intense the word "evil" sounds, and by intense I mean the degree of badness this particular word connotes.

For example, take the word "bad." When we say "bad" we have a certain degree of meaning attached to it. In the moral context, when we visualize its referents we see children standing by broken vases, dogs having wet on the floor, taking candy from a baby, and so on. "Evil," however, makes us visualize murderers, rapists, dictators, and the like. "Bad" and "evil" are both similar to each other in that they both present the same end of the moral spectrum, but they differ in their intensity in that we speak about much much worse things when we speak of "evil" than we do "bad."

As such, I believe that "good" and "moral," while they do denote the opposite end of the moral spectrum, don't go far enough in that opposite direction to match the intensity of "evil." When I visualize its referents I see children having done their homework, adults being responsible for their own well-being, a layman developing his intellect through study, and so on, but nothing that could counter villainy.

I have received two good responses in regards to this conundrum already, but I'm not entirely convinced. Ms. Zawistowski recommends "normal" and Mr. Fleming recommends "righteous." "Normal," while I agree it is technically correct to call such a person that when he is acting completely and consistently moral, seems to have too much of a morally neutral connotation. "Righteous," on the other hand, seems to be the proper word, but may perhaps be more appropriate in comparative situations against those in the wrong, as opposed to signifying a man's moral status independent of the moral statuses of those around him.

I ask my readers then: What would be a good antonym?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Selective Memory: Writing Aid

For some strange reason when I write something down it gains a significance that stays in my memory, regardless of whether or not I actually consult the writing again. For example, with the blue notebook I carry around in my pocket it is often the case that I can write a list in it and never have to consult it again to remember it, but if I don't write it down in the first place then I can't remember those thoughts. Writing, therefore, may be a technique that could assist me with my involuntarily selective memory, specifically in regards to my reading.

What I plan on doing is keeping a scrap notebook at hand when I'm reading something, and then write down my thoughts whenever I deem that I have come across some material or thinking that's worth remembering. The emphasis here is not on constructing well-formed notes to study for later on, but simply writing something down to force myself to put into coherent words my thoughts and engrave them in my memory.

But then again there could be a potential conflict. I notice that when I read something that's really interesting I get nearly totally absorbed in the piece, and so am interrupted by any outside stimulus. Today while I was trying to read an article and write about it at the same time the writing broke my concentration, made my mind wander, and eventually made it so I couldn't get as absorbed in the article as I had before. I believe that intense concentration itself may contribute to successful memorization, so I may only be hurting my efforts if I cancel out one memorization process in favor of an inferior one. Given this, it may be better to write my thoughts down after I have finished the reading piece, kind of like a summarizing essay. However, if it is the case that I am not interested in reading something but find benefit in doing so anyway, or else have little choice in the matter, writing at the same time could force me to concentrate. I'll adjust my habits according to the type of piece I'm reading. If it's for my personal studies and I'm intensely interested in the piece so as to be absorbed, I'll hold off the writing until the end. If I'm not highly interested but will read the piece anyways, I'll write to aid concentration. If I'm both highly interested and believe it to be beneficial to take proper notes, I'll read the piece at least twice, once "purely" and the second with note-taking.

That sounds good. I think I'll employ the third method when I get to studying Cookwise, which has yet to arrive at the library. Knowledge and good habits may be a struggle to achieve, but they priceless possessions once obtained.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Urge to Sacrifice?

Given the proper moral context I have no fondness nor grievance towards charity as a concept -- except when I'm an unnecessary and most unwilling recipient of it.

As my other posts have indicated, for the time being I am unemployed and am dependent on somebody for shelter and internet access, with my grocery needs primarily satisfied by myself (the person I live with is in disagreement with my nutritional standards, so I rely on my own savings so that I may exist independently in that area). Right now all my necessities are being taken care of and I am fine and in good health. I may be frustrated in that I may not be able to satisfy all my economic wants, but it's a reality I must deal with for now and can cope with.

Absurdly enough, however, there's a person in my life who, despite being aware of the fact that my necessities are taken care of, nonetheless views me as a perpetual object of charity. He has offered me money on many occasions, and I have politely declined him, but he has persisted (and continues to persist) to the point that he has bypassed the threshold of politeness and I fully express anger at him. We have an agreement that if I were to need anything I would ask him for assistance and that he would not be allowed to offer me assistance until that event, but I fear he will soon attempt to subvert that agreement.

Simply put, whenever the matter of my spending money comes up he offers to subsidize whatever it is I plan on purchasing, and he has in at least one instance commanded that I take his money. I am not frivolous with my money: My spending habits include groceries, health supplements (fish oil, vitamin D [which I'll stop soon in place of tanning], and a multivitamin [to assist with a magnesium deficiency and to cover general bases]), bills, gas, and limited luxuries such as almond butter (very cheap at Wal-mart) and dark chocolate. The next wasteful luxuries I plan on spending my money on are some movies that will open in May and June, and even at that seeing both of them combined will probably cost me less than ten dollars (I forgo the movie snacks). I am not irresponsible with my money, and with my savings I am optimistic that I will be able to sustain myself until I do find employment.

None of this deters the person from constantly offering me charity. I try to avoid taking charity from him since not only am I able to sustain myself but I also do not find the person to be of personal value to me, so it would, I think, be immoral for me to accept help from him except under certain circumstances. I also think that accepting unnecessary charity would harm my sense of self-dependence and train myself to habitually look towards other people for my livelihood.

Throughout my purchases he exclaims that he "feels bad" to see me spending my money so, as if somehow I was pained and resentful to be carrying my own weight. Even assuring him that I feel no disdain towards such responsibility, that I actually enjoy it and prefer it to the alternative of financial dependence, he still "feels bad." I believe I have told him that maintaining such emotions is irrational, but still he refuses to readjust his ideas.

What I don't understand is why he feels as if he needs to give me charity. When I decline his offerings he is obviously pained that I have done so, and such discontent has grown over time, with him becoming more and more persistent and upset with each declined offering.

More observations need to be made, but I have a hypothesis: His offerings are a result of his endorsement and subconscious integration of the morality of altruism. Altruism states that the moral good lies in sacrificing one's values for other men, which makes morality completely dependent on a social context. Under this theory it is only possible to be moral when other men are around and are willing to accept sacrifices. When the available men aren't willing to accept sacrifices, however, then not only has one's offering been declined, but one has also been prevented from performing what is considered to be a moral action. When I reject that person's offerings he is not pained at my suffering, since I'm not suffering, he's pained that he has been prevented from doing his "duty." As I reject his offerings over time he comes to start viewing himself more and more as a person who has moral failings, and his persistence increases as a result of his increasing guilt.

I am not certain as to whether this theory is the case, but I am certain that he's an altruist. Unluckily for him, I will continue to decline his offers in the near future (except in extraordinary circumstances) since I'm a selfish egoist, not an unselfish altruist. I do not demand nor practice sacrifice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Priorities and Their Hierarchical Importance

I finally managed to get a job interview. It was at a hardware store and occurred on last Tuesday with the promise of callbacks on Thursday. While I was optimistic about my chances, I didn't get the job. It's quite disappointing since it took such a long time for me to achieve that interview, but after giving myself a mental pep talk while traveling (I find it pleasant to think while driving on the expressway, however discourageable the practice may be) I feel refreshed and have my resolve restored. I also have new goals.

A common question I have been asked when applying to restaurants is whether or not I have previous restaurant experience. I do not, and I believe that may be the greatest obstacle to my getting considered for employment. As such, I have decided to shift my attention in my goal pursuits and focus on kitchen practices and resources.

For practices, I'm going to adopt two: 1.) After each grocery day I'm going to try at least one new recipe or variation of a previously tried recipe, and 2.) to take the harder routes in cooking so as to not deprive myself of practice (e.g. cutting up vegetables manually rather than opting for the food processor). So far it's been easy and enjoyable to stick to these goals, and I've been enjoying the added variety and learning. I think the area I need to focus on the most is my cutting skills: I'm terrible at the quick-paced movements.

For resources, I plan on reading Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed and BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes to increase my general understanding of food preparation, and also How Computers Work to increase my technological competence since computer skills seem to be a growing desirability in employment prospects and I am lacking in that area. These readings will also allow me to resume my work on my involuntarily selective memory.

All in all, I would say this is good for now. But I have to confess that one of the things I find to be supremely difficult in pursuing goals is choosing which goals to pursue at what time; that is, determining the position a goal takes in my value hierarchy. Many times I get confused at which to pursue first since sometimes all the goals I list out appear to be of equal importance, and I know it would be counterproductive to try and pursue them all at once. Irritating, but a conflict that needs to be worked out nonetheless. I think, however, that I have correctly identified my priorities in the above mentioned pursuits: I need to find employment since I can't live off my savings forever, so I ought to focus on the appropriate means to achieving that goal, which amounts to cooking practice (since cooking is a value to me) and learning, and also learning about computers since that would help my employment prospects and since I have been intending to increase my knowledge in that area anyhow. The work I'll be doing on my selective memory is simply another goal I can integrate into this pursuit without getting sidetracked.

Oh, and just because it seems appropriate to close this way: tonight (Saturday as of this writing) I'll be having hamburgers, with beef I ground up myself, fried in bacon grease alongside some caramelized onions and green peppers, and perhaps with some mozzarella cheese broiled on top and a dab of hot sauce.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Review of Vibram FiveFingers

[Full disclosure: I do not have any relationship with the Vibram shoe company other than that of costumer and supplier.]

Several months ago on the suggestion of a few people I trust I decided to purchase a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes. At first I was hesitant wearing them, only intending to be seen in them at the gym, but now that I have spent so much time in them I wear them everywhere, and would like to present this review to you in hopes of convincing you to share that value with me.

For those who don’t know, the product I’m referring to is a brand of shoes designed specifically to simulate the experience of going barefoot while still having one’s feet protected by a coating of rubber. I first heard of this product several months ago, but I was not willing to purchase it until this past December and did not take to wearing them consistently until a few weeks ago. At first I was completely repulsed by the design of the shoes – shaped like a foot! – but then slowly came to being indifferent to their appearance and am now even pleased by it. To summarize my conclusion, these are the best pair of shoes I have ever owned, and I will certainly be a continued costumer of the Vibram shoe company.

As for my specific thoughts on the shoes:

Functionality: The shoes do deliver on their promise to simulate barefootedness, though with a somewhat reduced experience. For example you would be able to feel every bump you step on, but the actual texture of the surface cannot be felt due to the protective coating. This, however, is not a negative trait of the shoes: they can only be so flexible while at the same time still providing protection against cutting your feet on glass or stubbing your toes against a wall.

One of the best features of the shoes, if not the best, is the premium level of comfort they provide. For those of you who have days when you just can’t wait to “get these shoes off,” such feelings will completely disappear when putting on a pair of VFFs. On Thursdays I spend the entirety of my day at college, from approximately 8:00 AM to 9:45 PM, and my Vibrams stay entirely comfortable the entire time. In fact, sometimes they get so comfortable that I forget I’m wearing them and feel as if I’m actually barefoot. For those with consistent foot pain or shoe discomfort this should be reason enough alone to purchase a pair.

However, there is a short adjustment period for those who are inexperienced with going barefoot. I have conditioned my feet beforehand by constructing a makeshift stand-up desk and doing all of my pencil writing and some reading there, but still when I began consistently wearing my VFFs I felt a small tightening pressure in my lower back (not painful) for about one or two days. Also, the first day in each pair of shoes (I own two pair) an uncomfortable amount of pressure was exerted on my toes given how precisely the shoes are designed to fit one’s feet, but I haven’t felt it since then in either pair so I assume it’s only a first-day thing and I have stretched the material sufficiently to fit my individual feet perfectly like a glove.

One upside to the adjustment phase is that it actually feels pleasurable to be walking nearly barefoot all the time. For the first few days I was thoroughly tempted to simply walk about to enjoy how good it feels. The sensation has since faded, but still my feet never feel uncomfortable in these shoes and putting on “real” shoes (I keep a pair of Pumas and regular dress shoes for situations where my VFFs would be inappropriate) feels strange as it makes for an unnatural and uncomfortable weight distribution, and makes me feel like I’m wearing blocks.

As for the protective coating, it will certainly protect your feet from getting cut or your toes from being hurt from hitting against the wall, but it will not protect you from, say, smashing your foot by dropping a weight on it. It is obvious that these aren’t professional work shoes and you shouldn’t trade in a pair of steel-toed boots for them, but such a warning applies to those who may want to use these shoes to workout, as the brand is mainly marketed towards the athletic crowd. Be careful when you lift weights while standing up, but otherwise these shoes should provide all the protection you need.

The shoes also seem to be altering the anatomy of my feet for the better as well. I noticed that my feet are becoming broader, that that I can spread my toes further apart, meaning my feet are no longer mashed into “arrowheads” anymore. I do not possess the right camera technology to photograph my feet, so I’ll emphasize the change with these research images:

What my feet similarly used to look like:

How my feet are starting to look:

[Images cited from , here.]

So to summarize, these shoes are entirely practical, minus the adjustment phase and no upper foot protection, and are excruciatingly comfortable.

Weather: Many have been concerned with how well these shoes handle in winter weather (since I live in Michigan). Believe it or not, I find these shoes to handle cold and wet weather much better than conventional shoes.

Though as forewarning I must mention that my feet are already slightly adapted to this rough weather by the time spent at my stand-up desk, as the desk is located in my laundry room, placing me to stand directly on a cold stone floor. For a few weeks while adjusting to the desk my feet would throb and be sore as I was building up a thicker padding on my soles (though not visibly noticeable), but now such discomfort has ceased. Now standing on the stone floor bothers me not in the slightest except for my back and legs after prolonged standing. When I take to the cold outside in my Vibrams I can feel in my feet that the temperature is different than the area I just left, but to me it doesn’t register as cold. Even when walking in the snow and getting my feet wet I do not feel bothered. Strangely enough it’s my hands and face that are the most uncomfortable in this weather, even when covered. So I say it’s completely unnecessary to put away the Vibrams for the winter season unless one is going to spend prolonged periods outside, but one may have to do some conditioning of the feet first. It wouldn’t take long to make the proper adjustments.

As for wetness, that is yet another great feature I discovered that puts these above conventional shoes. On one of the first few days in which I began wearing my KOSs there were about two inches of snow on the ground, which I thought would freeze my feet and keep me wet for most of the day. Surprisingly, not only did the snow not bother me even as water got directly into my shoes but the shoes also dried extremely fast, and I mean within mere minutes. Water merely passes through the mesh lining rather than being retained, so one’s feet is minimally wet after exposure and takes no time to dry. If I had been wearing conventional shoes in this weather and had gotten snow in them my socks would have stayed soggy for the better part of the day or until I changed them.

While it may seem like common sense to put these shoes away until warmer weather, my experience indicates that it is not only completely unnecessary but also undesirable since conventional shoes don’t seem to fare as well. Of course, let us be sure that we distinguish shoes from boots, so I am not asserting that wearing VFFs might be better than boots.

Appearance: As I mentioned in the beginning I was at first completely opposed to purchasing this brand since I thought the design was too silly, but staying consistent with my value of good health I reluctantly purchased a pair and have grown so attached to them that I actually enjoy their appearance now, though I still believe women may have a better time looking good in these than men will.

People may, of course, stare incredulously at you as you pass by; it happens to me all the time. Experience may vary depending on the cultural atmosphere in your area, but I find in my own context people by and large only give a surprised glance and very few actually go so far as to comment on them. The people that have commented so far have said virtually all positive things and also inquire as to where I purchased my pair, and so far I’m responsible for one person buying himself a pair and my neighbor states she intends to get herself some. In general people are pleased by the novelty. I too was amused by the novelty and for the first few days in each pair I would intentionally walk in public spaces to entertain myself with other people’s curiosity, but such a desire has faded now and I am completely comfortable being on display with my VFFs no matter where I go. It does not bother me in the slightest that other people see me in these shoes given my positive evaluation of them and my high value of personal health and comfort, so nowadays I walk around completely unconcerned with other people’s perception. To those that are bashful I say give the adjustment period a chance.

I’ve heard that barefoot running and barefoot shoes have been in public discussion lately, so I can only hope that this influences public opinion so much as to make a greater variety of styles available.

Price: For being such a special construction of shoes I consider them decently priced. My Vibram Sprints cost $80.00, about the same as my conventional Pumas, and my Vibram KSOs (Keep Stuff Out) cost $85.00. The different varieties do fluctuate widely on prices depending on what type you desire to purchase, but all in all I’d say it’s pretty affordable given what a high quality product you obtain. How much you spend entirely depends on what you plan on doing with the footwear. If you want it only for casual wear or mild exercise (walking, yoga, weight lifting, etc.) then a $75.00 pair of FiveFingers Classics will do you just fine, but if you want to do something rougher (hiking, trail running, climbing) then maybe you need a $125.00 pair of KSO Treks, but you’ll have to decide based on your values and habits. I find that for me the near bare minimum is sufficient.

On the plus side of finances, I’ll probably be able to save money on shoes by making an effort in spring, summer, and part of fall to go actually barefoot outside whenever possible. I could conduct my walks around my neighborhood just fine without footwear, and there’s a prairie in the nature park in front of my house that I could do my barefoot running in, so my shoes will be kept in one piece longer by limited warm-weather use.

Cons: A review cannot be a review, of course, without mentioning the pros and cons together. The cons are surprisingly few, and I would have to say they’re so insignificant that they shouldn’t have an impact on purchasing decisions.

As I mentioned previously there’s that uncomfortable adjustment phase that may come with the very first day of wearing the shoes, where the shoe fits so precisely that it exerts an uncomfortable amount of pressure on the toes, but again I’ve only experienced that phenomenon the first day and believe I have stretched out the material so as to have a looser fit since I’ve never experienced that problem again. Keep your nails groomed and everything should be fine. The tightness in the lower back I mentioned earlier is more of a weird sensation rather than something uncomfortable, so I would not count it as a con.

This may also be due to the adjustment phase, but the first or second time I went sprinting in my Sprints they gave my ankle a minor cut. It was so insignificant – or else I was really mentally involved in my running – that I did not notice until I got into the locker room after my workout. It wasn’t painful and the shoes hasn’t scratched me since (this happened over a month ago), so I again attribute it to not having stretched out the material sufficiently at the time. My KOSs are designed differently and I use them only for casual wear, not exercise, so I have not had any similar problems with that pair.

It is inherent in the design of the shoe, but I do not like the toes on my Sprints as much as I do my KOSs. Since KOSs actually cover the top of the feet my feet feel like they’re actually enclosed in something and my toes feel like they’re in a glove, but when I contrast this to my Sprints (which do not cover the top of the feet) it feels like the toes are only stubs and that I don’t have as much flexibility. However, the feeling disappears after taking a few steps, though in retrospect I am wishing now that I had originally purchased two pairs of KSOs.

Honestly these are the only three bad things I can say about these shoes. They’re simply too well made otherwise.

Conclusion: These are the best pairs of shoes I have ever owned in my life, and this is coming from a guy who used to dread going shoe shopping, as I could never find a pair I liked the appearance of or truly felt comfortable in. While I’ll make sure to have at least two pair of conventional shoes on hand to have the appropriate dress for situations where VFFs would be inappropriate, I definitely consider Vibrams as my favorite brand of shoes and will be a continued costumer of the company in the future.

As to whether or not you may want a pair for yourself will depend on your own habits, and values, but I have to say the pros are overwhelming and the cons so piddly that there’s little reason not to want a pair.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tampering with Values

I cannot remember who was being quoted at the time, but I agree with the justification given for why Everyone Loves Raymond was ceasing production while still popular: "It's better to get off the stage before someone tells you to." I think this bears great significance on how we judge art pieces as a whole.

Two good examples for contrast and clarification would be the Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield comics. CAH, too, ended while it was still enjoying popular reception, but such a move, while it may frustrate fans, may have done more for the quality of the comic than continuing on could have. Assuming it never gets revived, we can look at the series and say that it is great rather than it was and nurse fond memories of it for as long as we shall value it. No where does one look through the completed collections and say "Oh, Bill Watterson should have stopped here." Instead the entirety of the series maintains a constant stream of quality, and at its end we still wish it to go on.

Garfield, on the other hand, has had its time. Nowadays the strip is simply a make-a-buck labor of non-love that probably isn't even draw by Jim Davis anymore. For those of you that have access to the earlier strips -- I'd say the ones before the 90's -- you'll notice that while it may not have been spectacular the strip was at least at one point worth reading. At one point it was creative, interesting, story-bound, and artistic, but now contains none of those features. Because the stream of mediocre strips has lasted for over a decade we no longer conclude that Garfield is going through some bad period in its production, but rather that it is now in entirety a mediocre strip. The bad comics have spoiled the evaluations of the good ones. When I look at my old books I am able to recognize the merit of the classic strips, but I feel more disappointment than pleasure since I cannot put out of mind what the strip is today. CAH got off the stage before they were told to, but Garfield still lingers for some reason, past his expiration date.

This is why today when I was surfing a forum I was disturbed to find out about this, a planned sequel to my favorite movie of all time, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I remember a few months ago that I was, ironically enough, internally praising this movie for not having a sequel, for being a standalone in its quality with nothing to spoil it, but now I am dismayed to see myself incorrect.

While I would love it if they would make an honest sequel that matches its precursor in quality I fear that this is more likely a movie for money rather than art. Don't get me wrong: I love money and lots of it. But when money is the primary motivation rather than a natural consequence of an endeavor the quality of the means pursued is questionable. I believe Mary Kay (deceased makeup empire queen) has been attributed with the quote, "Do something you would do for free and someone will pay you well for it." I say make a movie for movie's sake; that's what will bring the crowds in.

As such, Hollywood's current reputation makes a part of me hope that this project gets canceled and never heard from again, but then again there is still the possibility that the movie could actually be good due to the seriousness required for dealing with source material of such a high magnitude. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Tod of Optimal Living puts things in perspective with his post titled Month Clock, in which he suggests keeping track of time in units of months in order to keep in front of consciousness one's goal orientation.

This is particularly insightful: "Projects go unfinished for months because we spend too much time using a shorter-term focus. We’re usually thinking in terms of what to get done today or what we’ll be doing next week. Being suddenly reminded that several months have passed since I did this or thought about that can be shocking, because a month is a fairly noticeable chunk of your life."

I have found myself especially prone to this. When it comes to crossing things off my to-do list I often opt for activities that would allow for me to get the greatest quantity, rather than most important, of things done. Back when I started a routine of self-initiated study nearly two years ago I had the bad habit of doing the activities I liked the most on my list first. Illogically, I had set the goal for myself to complete everything on my list everyday, which was based on exaggerated time estimates, and so started with what activities I favored the most and accidentally spent the day doing only one thing. The next day I would put the item back on my list, again hoping to complete the entirety of the list before the end of the day, and make the same mistake doing only one thing all day. I was spending too much time reading in comparison to writing, taking notes, doing book assignments, and so on. To remedy the problem I made a promise to keep finished activities crossed off my to-do list until I completed the other activities, and would not replenish the list until all had been completed. It worked wonderfully, but I have lapsed since then, so in writing this I remind myself.

More broadly, however, I've been neglected that which is the most important to my life or which has the most immediate importance. What Tod has said is true for me: I too often focus on short-term activities in neglect of the long-term, even life-long goals.

While doing my shopping I realized I need to get my priorities straight. I'm hardly slacking when it comes to being productive, but the problem is that I've been seriously neglecting the issue of hierarchy as it applies to my life. Case in point, employment. For several months now I have been concerned about how much longer I'll be able to live off my money (while dependent on somebody else for shelter, I in large part, if not entirely, buy my own groceries so I can adhere to my own nutritional standards) since I'm unemployed and in college. One of my semester goals is to find employment, but I've hardly been focusing on it; instead I've been focusing on reading, writing, and homework, subjects that seldom consume all my time.

Furthermore, being unemployed leaves me feeling immensely frustrated with my materialistic* values. I have desires for certain products, food items (pastured meat!), and the future capability of being able to live on my own, but right now I'm stagnating in that area. I'm not making any progress towards achieving those values.

*(As much as being "materialistic" is popularly viewed as a negative trait, the simple fact of the matter is that material is all that physically exists. To be "non-materialistic" is to literally be concerned with things that do not exist. I proudly consider myself concerned only with matters of this world.)

In the past several months I have done well to vastly improve my resume, and in the past few weeks I have adopted the practice of constructing cover letters (a neglected tactic) and maintaining a list of especially favored applications (so that I may keep in front of conscious constant checking up and refreshing applications when they expire), but still I haven't taken the initiative to be more active in my job hunt. I certainly shouldn't be contenting myself with only one or two jobs applied to per week. A particularly motivated person on my friends' list on Facebook has just gotten a job after searching for five months, and the public record of the quantity of his applications probably amounts to over a dozen each week.

As such, I need to downgrade some activities in favor of focusing on this one. I haven't given it an extreme amount of consideration yet, but I might, for instance, put off my personal reading in favor of dedicating my time to constructing cover letters and whatnot. More thinking needs to be done, but I must know to do it in this realm.

I don't think at this point I'll be able to achieve my goal of becoming employed by the end of the semester, but I'll surely try. As I mentioned in my post about my central purpose, since cooking is a developing value I'm focusing on the food industry, and in all honesty I can't see any fault to that strategy since I cannot imagine actually exhausting all the establishments I have around me. A while after writing the above post and I'm still getting surprised at seeing stretches of never-seen establishments in a part of a city I've never been to.

I'll keep track of my progress.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Retirement as Perpetual Boredom

[Post prepared on 3/7/2010 for publication on 3/10/2010]

Tod of the freshly created blog Optimal Living has written an interesting piece on how popular financial conceptions about retirement are harmful. I'm very fond of this blog already and so hope to see more pieces from this author.

On my walk this morning this piece has made me detail my own thoughts about retirement. Given a proper value-oriented way of living, why would anyone want to retire at all? Today's culture is suffering from the view of work that stems from the story of Adam and Eve's eviction from Eden, where the ideal life is portrayed as perpetual idleness and the taking of orders while work is viewed as a punishment.

In just about all the instances of retirement I have observed I have noticed one thing in common: the person mistakes a short-term desire as an ideal long-term position and so inflicts discomfort on himself by acting on that desire. Namely, they observe within themselves a desire to rest, but instead of identifying it as a desire to take a week or two of vacation they believe it to be a desire to cease working for the rest of their life and so retire. Of course, later on they pay the price in boredom. For instance, an associate of my family once owned his own auto repair shop and decided to sell his business when he wished to retire, but just a short while after he did so -- I think it may have been as little as two weeks -- he went and got employed by the people he sold his business to. He rested up, discovered the long-term boredom of idleness, and desired to go back to work.

I notice this trend in almost all my observed cases of retirement: people retire, rest up, become bored, and then spend their retirement "looking for something to do." Never have I witnessed a case where retirement and idleness has led to a person's self-fulfillment. People like these don't know how to choose and pursue rational values, so when they act on their short-term perspective (the desire to rest) they take out of their life what makes it worth living. If, however, it is the case that they hate their job then they don't want to retire or rest, but rather quit their job. (If they managed to make it to retirement age in a job they hate, then life has been wasted.)

Picking a self-fulfilling career will prevent these maladies. One may want to rest with a vacation every now and then, but a good career, or even multiple good careers, should last a lifetime without plans for an end. It's when people have a false conception of how productivity should feel and go into careers they hate that they dream of a life of slothfulness.

Dedicate your life to a value-oriented career. "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."— Confucius

Monday, March 8, 2010

Selective Belief?

I was doing some research for school when I came upon this immensely interesting observation in the first comment of Dr. Eades blog post Framingham Follies: "It is amusing that so many people will accuse the government and businesses of lying about this and that but when it comes to cholesterol (and radon, Splenda ..other pet peeves of mine), suddenly the news they get is accurate." Dr. Eades responded: "It is amusing that people assume the government is either wrong or is out and out lying about virtually everything except for nutritional issues. On nutritional issues they say that it must be so because the government says it’s so."

Intensely interesting insight on the how people respond to the government. If you pick up the newspaper you will certainly come across here and there and everywhere criticisms of the government: politicians are lying about this, politicians are lying about that, and politicians are lying about everything. But, except for perhaps some scattered individual sources, how often is it that you come across pieces that criticize the government for adhering to a specific scientific theory?

The theory that the consumption of fat leads to increases in blood cholesterol which leads to the development of heart disease is false and without justification, and yet there is no popular skepticism against the government for advocating this theory. Why?

Dr. Eades presents his theory in the bottom of the fourth comment of the same entry: "In my opinion, the reason the push was (and still is) on to show a correlation with cholesterol is because cholesterol is found only in foods of animal origin. With the strong vegetarian bias behind many low-fat, low-cholesterol proponents, it’s easy to see that they would love to come upon evidence that showed cholesterol to somehow be dangerous."

One variant of vegetarianism is a result of a certain theory of ethics: that it is not only wrong to initiate physical force against other human beings, but against all other animal life. It is probable that this code of ethics holds that the standard of rights is whether or not a living being can feel pain, so they extend rights to animals since they have pain sensory nerves.

This view of rights, however, is false. The basis of rights is not whether or not something can feel pain, but whether or not something is a conceptual being. Humans have rights because it is necessary for their survival in a social context. They do not have feelings (i.e. instincts) that automatically influence them into doing what sustains their life; humans can come to erogenous conclusions, act on them, and die. Explicit rights, therefore, are needed so that man knows how to act properly within a social context. More information here.

Non-rational animals, on the other hand, do have instincts that influence them into automatically doing certain things. If their instincts are not sufficient to sustain their life, then they perish and that's that. Animals do not need and cannot have rights since they cannot conceive of or utilize them, and it would not serve them in the least if rights were legally granted to them except to hinder man. Imagine deploying a police squad in Africa to break down on the violent crimes of lions against zebras. In short, non-rational animals cannot be reasoned with, so physical force is the only option in dealing with them. Since they have no rights and carry within them vital nutrients, it is moral to eat animals to sustain oneself.

Given this mistaken view of ethics, that animals have rights, I could see why some vegetarians would be pleased to hear and utilize the notion that animal products are unhealthy, but I haven't studied the issue enough to be able to be qualified to make a proper judgment and so would love to hear other thoughts on this issue. I think more than vegetarianism is at work here, but I cannot identify what.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Defense Against Irrationality?

I have never believed in the notion that "you're only as smart as the people around you," but perhaps it does have some merit in that the people you surround yourself with constantly can have a significant influence on how easy/difficult it is to obtain your ideal self. In other words, hang around with stupid people and it may become more difficult to maintain one's intelligence, and if you hang around intelligent people it may become easier, perhaps even provide you an advantage, to develop your intelligence. That seems sound to me.

Such is what I have been worrying about for the past few weeks; that is, whether or not if I am surrounded by irrational people that means my own psycho-epistemology is in danger. I do not associate with irrational people on a consistent basis purposely, but it is the case that I must deal with them for the time being.

There is one person I deal with on a regular basis that particularly worries me, however. His psycho-epistemology is so corrupt that despite his maturity he has the intellectual ability of a child, and, worse yet, he randomly switches between recognizing his fallacies and evading them. For instance, there has been much strife between us on the topic of the proper principles and applications of nutrition: I practice a high fat, high protein, and moderate carbohydrate diet while he practices a low fat, low protein, and high carbohydrate diet. We disagree most adamantly on the role of fat in nutrition. We'll call him Y.

After I had read part of Good Calories Bad Calories and began applying my conclusions to my eating I tried convincing Y that his dietary practices were mistaken and that he should reconsider them, but he rejected my views on the spot, invoking multiple logical fallacies in his defense, such as the appeal to authority ("That's not what my doctor tells me!") and the appeal to popularity/tradition ("That's not what everyone's been telling me all my life!"). Try as I might, he would refuse to give my views any serious consideration and condemned me for my "unhealthy" diet, once even going so far as to suggest that I might have a heart attack by the age 22 (I'm 21 now).

When we would have these discussions I would also make sure to ask for his justification for his conclusions -- only to find out that he doesn't have any. During the very start of the conversations he would act fully like the man who is entirely certain in his conclusions, but when I asked him how he knew what he knew he would grow hesitant, quiet, and start speaking in shorter sentences. When I press him further and expose his fallacies to him he does one of two things: he recognizes that he is engaging in fallacies and then attempts to change the topic of the conversation or end it altogether, or he completely ignores my points and restates his conclusions as if I had never spoken at all. Given a few good nights' sleep and he will reengage on an old subject as if it had never been discussed at all.

So here we have a man who, when unchallenged, states his conclusions with full certain tones; collapses into uncertainty and evasions when he is asked for justification, or else continues on speaking as if nobody is addressing him; and then a little while later throws his beliefs out again despite having had repeated and unfruitful discussions about them.

I almost literally cannot convince this person of anything in contradiction to his already established beliefs. He does not exercise reason and logic, and is therefore not open to them, so I cannot reason with him. Almost any time I apply a rational conclusion to my life it is followed by weeks or months of one-sided arguments about how uncomfortable Y is that I'm doing things that contradict his worldview. Our discussions advance nothing, but still every now and then Y brings forth repeated topics. Of course I obviously shouldn't deal with this man since he is so thoroughly irrational, but for the time being I must deal with him.

The thing I'm worried about is the health of my own mind given a recent development: during the past few weeks when he would ask me a question that would require extensive explaining -- and such explaining could only amount to a few sentences in order to establish a proof -- my mind goes blank and I'm nearly incapable of answering, even though earlier when I had formed my conclusion on the subject I had well in mind my justifications for holding such a conclusion. Just a few nights ago he asked me as to whether or not the consumption of nuts was healthy (ironic: he disagrees with me vehemently about fat and cholesterol but solicits my nutritional advice still) and all I could do was give him a yes or no answer. Whenever he asks me intellectual questions that I have given great thought to I suddenly cannot remember the details of my thinking and so give short answers or refuse to engage in the subject.

My theory is that my mind is "jamming" since I fully know that Y is so irrational that I cannot reach him, thereby making it a waste to utilize cognitive resources on him, but still I'm worried as to whether or not any actual damage to my psycho-epistemology may be occurring due to my extensive exposure to this person. It is frustrating to have a problem (Y's presence) and have no long-term means at present to be able to deal with it.

To defend myself I have limited my contact with Y, but even with that I am still in regular contact with him, which still leaves me open to the frustrations of dealing with his irrational processes. Is this sufficient action for the present? Should I be doing more, or perhaps something else? I have found that a continued, consistent advocation of my views (when challenged) wears Y out and causes him to engage less often, though perhaps not entirely.

Perhaps I ought to boost a book on logic up in the hierarchy of my reading list.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Fallacy of Appeal to Age

Something has been bothering me lately about popular views regarding age. Given a proper epistemology the only difference between a teenager and a senior adult would be that of the amount and complexity of their knowledge, not that of validity. However, the popular conception of age is that kids somehow are certain to hold onto a significant number of falsehoods in their mind until those falsehoods "somehow" become corrected by the process of aging. In practice adults who adhere to this view tend to dismiss and take unseriously those significantly younger than them, and also tend to assume themselves to be in possession of a greater wisdom regardless as to whether or not they've actively pursued knowledge and applied it to their life or if their "knowledge" consists of random memorizations.

Not only is this unjust, but it also leads to problems for all involved.

Adults that adhere to this view and apply it accordingly will observe that younger people will take them less seriously and even go so far as to disrespect them. At any and all ages people do not like it when they believe or know they're being treated unjustly, and will pay back the person in the same currency they believe they're being handed. Even if the adult is fully justified in calling a certain young person foolish it does no good to make it explicit to the young person unless he's being immoral and/or self-destructive, since what could be a better way to make to make a person stubbornly adhere to his beliefs than to be rudely provocative?

Teenagers and young adults who have to face older adults who adhere to this view will find their relationship with them become increasingly strained and less valuable. The person who has a lower estimation of your intellect than it actually deserves either has a bad sense of judgment or cannot be considered a valuable, just associate. Youth is a time for developing convictions, so to have one's supposed "role model" ignore this and resort to saying "you'll know better when you're older" is to be deprived of serious intellectual guidance and support.

In truth age tells us very little except for how old we are, what stage of biological development we're at, and how complex our knowledge may be. Nothing more; nothing less. To say a person's ideas are false simply because they're too young "to know better" is a fallacy, as the validity of one's ideas is completely independent of one's age. Youth does not imply falsehood and maturity does not imply truth. It is possible for a young person to be more learned and wise than the adults in his life, and in this age of epistemological corruption that isn't a very difficult feat. It is true that we may not take seriously (and with some justification) the credibility of a youth given the current complexity of his knowledge, but we must nonetheless always ask in the end "Is it true?" rather than "Who said it is true?" (I'll discuss the issue of determining credibility over at my other blog sometime soon.)

At any age the only judgment a person is going to follow is his own. To judge a person based upon their age is fallacious and counterproductive. Those who do judge a person on their age may not only be engaging in a fallacy, but looking for any excuse not to think.