Friday, July 30, 2010

Project Time Estimate Update

Well, it turns out that it may not be that much longer for my project to be finished after all. I did a little bit of research and came upon some information that my project could be accomplished if I were to, say, increase my income by a single working shift or the like. For a while I thought it was necessary for me to work six or seven days a week to be able to afford its accomplishment, but much less is required. As such, I might be able to just continue working hard at my present job until I become valuable enough to earn more shifts.

But again it's a mystery when exactly that will happen. I've been becoming more efficient and effective at my work efforts, and I managed to cure some temperament pitfalls by restricting my sugar and taking more naps, but it still takes a period of time to prove that such efforts can be consistently held.

Anyhow, I don't think it'll be much longer now. Given the likelihood of the project ending in 1-3 months I can now engage in some other actions to anticipate it. The boring waiting phase can be alleviated for now.

CR: Endangered Species' 70% with Cocao Nibs, Yacon & Acai

The bar tasted this time is Endangered Species' 70% dark chocolate with cocao nibs, yacon & acai. I never had cocao nibs or yacon before, but I know I love acai berries, so I had high hopes for this bar. To date this has been the biggest disappointment I have faced in my chocolate eating. It tastes almost exactly like the version with goji berry, pecans, and maca. The only real difference I can detect is that the present variety doesn't taste sickeningly sweet, but it still does taste like overly sweet milk chocolate nonetheless.

The biggest problem I see is that the flavors all fuse together in a way that eradicates their individuality, so while I know what acai berries taste like from having drank their juice before I could not isolate their flavor contribution. I thought for sure cocao nibs and yacon would add an unfamiliar dimension, but alas, no individuality! That's a real shame because I know that acai berries at least have a very unique and wonderful flavor that is so uncommon that many people may have never tasted it, and to cloak its individuality for those who actually want to try it is an injustice. I don't care about its health benefits, whether over or understated, I just think they taste like dynamite.

Unless Endangered Species wants to tout its organic line just for its nutritional benefits rather than unique flavor blends, I think ES should segregate these ingredients to give them their own podiums. They could, for instance, resist blending the ingredients together and instead incorporate them into the chocolate in inconsistent pieces, much like they did with the fruit flesh in their raspberry bar. Or maybe, say, they could utilize an extract of one ingredient and then add the others as chunks. For example, chocolate with acai extract and yacon and cocao nibs bits.

All in all, I just think the acai berry deserves its own bar. Other fruits do, so why does this berry need to play with others? Even cacao nibs has its own, though I haven't tried it. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, the flavor description makes yacon sound like it too deserves its own bar. Since these flavors are so uncommonly consumed, what better way to introduce them than in isolation?

I'll be one to finish the bar I've started, but I'm not going to buy or eat it again. It's simply too sweet tasting and eradicates the individuality of its major players.

Keeping track of things, I see my wish list of desired chocolates is growing, though I don't know whether they're being produced or not. In the future I'd like to see, whether by Endangered Species or another company, 70% cocao or higher chocolates that feature in isolation: apricots, peaches, goji berries, acai berries, strawberries, yacon, and tart apples.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Objectivist Roundup

Welcome to the latest Objectivist Roundup, hosted by me for the very first time! For those that are unfamiliar, this is what is known as a Blog Carnival, where links to various blog posts are compiled into one place for the easy viewing of those with a particular interest. The Objectivist carnival consists of people who follow Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, a philosophy for living on earth.

Concisely, Ayn Rand's philosophy holds that existence exists independent of anyone and anything's consciousness or wishes (metaphysics), that man's reasoning mind is his mode of gaining knowledge (epistemology), that the good in life is that which enables one to achieve rational life-serving values (ethics), and that men should live together in society by respecting individual rights (politics). A lexicon can be found here.

A quick note of caution: It is not always the case that these authors may be entirely consistent with Objectivism, so don't consider them (or me) as representative. The only absolutely accurate representation of Objectivism can be given by Ayn Rand, so check out the works she personally authored for definitive accuracy.

Onto the carnival!:

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Kelly McNulty Valenzuela presents OCON on the Cheap posted at Rant from the Rock.

Peter Cresswell presents Pragmatism & Mr Nixon: The Car Crash that was Watergate posted at Not PC. He states: "A pragmatic New Zealand Prime Minister (John Key) who announced his affliction over the weekend gave me the opportunity to introduce Rand's and Peikoff's writing on Pragmatism to around 2000 readers, in three related articles. Here are all the three related pieces, in order: 1. 'Pragmatism & Mr Key' 2. 'QUOTE[S] OF THE DAY: Pragmatism' 3. 'Pragmatism & Mr Nixon: The Car Crash that was Watergate'"

Jane Eisenhart presents The Metrics posted at Hometown Grotesque. She states: "This entry focuses on height versus length as the most robust statistic for determining size of life, using Howard Roark from The Fountainhead as inspiration."

Tod presents Why I Hate Las Vegas posted at Tod.FM. He states: "You might wonder how an Objectivist could hate a place where people have freedoms they don’t have elsewhere..."

Jared Rhoads presents Meet the Recipients posted at The Lucidicus Project. He states: "We didn't post any new editorials this week, but I want to draw attention to this month's kit recipients. Based on a comment from someone who reads our editorials, I realized that not everyone knows that we also give out kits to med students. In fact, that's our primary purpose! For each recipient, we post a brief profile for everyone to read. Here's the link."

Diana Hsieh presents The Cult of Busy posted at NoodleFood. She states: " You're not 'too busy': you're just not willing to devote the time. And that might be okay."

Kelly Elmore presents Thoughts on the Hierarchy of Knowledge posted at Reepicheep's Coracle. She states: "This post is an exploration of the hierarchy of knowledge and a very few of its implications for education."

Kelly Elmore presents The Mistaken Goal Chart: The Swiss Army Knife of Parenting posted at Reepicheep's Coracle. She states: " This post introduces a positive discipline tool for parents who want to figure out the underlying causes of a child's behavior. "

Zip presents Applying Equity, Equally posted at UNCOMMON SENSE. He states: "You can have equality based on merit or you can ignore merit and satisfy physical, gender or racially based criteria. But you can not consistently claim to do both. "

Zip presents Being Dog Walked to the Ultimate Inversion posted at UNCOMMON SENSE. He states: " McGuinty and all those who think like him would have us behave like dogs on a chain, with the great hand of government holding the other end, ready to haul us up short should we happen to stray off their preferred path."

Ari Armstrong presents Hazlitt and Bastiat Answer Today's Economic Fantasies posted at Free Colorado. He states: " As Henry Hazlitt and Frederic Bastiat show, forcibly transferring wealth does NOT 'stimulate the economy' or 'create jobs.'"

John Drake presents James P. Hogan - Rest in Peace posted at Try Reason!. He states: " Recently, sci-fi author James Hogan passed away. His novels, a blend of hard science fiction and cultural commentary, display a respect for facts, a disdain for mysticism, and good old-fashioned heroism. This is my tribute to him."

Kelly McNulty Valenzuela presents Mexican Immigrants: Assimilation and Jobs posted at Mother of Exiles.

Paul Hsieh presents PJM OpEd: Berwick, Gun Control, and Paternalism posted at We Stand FIRM. He states: "My latest OpEd at PajamasMedia discussed the underlying similarities between the 'gun control' statists and the "health control" statists. This one got a nice Instapundit link!"

Amy Mossoff presents A Little Thing posted at The Little Things. She states: "My blog is filled with Little Things like this one."

Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore presents Podcast #9: Positive Discipline Tool Cards posted at Cultivating the Virtues. They state: "In this podcast, we discuss how Jenn handled a potty regression, the Positive Discipline Tool Cards, and the difference between natural and logical consequences."

Mike LaFerrara presents OBushonomics vs. Gilliganomics posted at Principled Perspectives. He states: "A growing number of economists are calling, incredibly, for more government 'stimulus'. They could learn a basic thing or two from an old sit-com, Gilligan's Island."

Peter Cresswell presents QUIZ: Test your economic knowledge posted at Not PC. He states: "Try this provocative economics quiz. Just thinking about the answers could make you ten points smarter--or at least less ignorant about some common economic misconceptions."

Doug Reich presents Britain Runs Out of Health Care, but Walmart Doesn't Run Out of Shampoo posted at The Rational Capitalist. He states: "After over 50 years of disastrous socialized medicine, Britain begins to realize what anyone who has bought a Big Mac could have told them."

Edward Cline presents A Whiff of Perfume posted at The Rule of Reason. He states: "As a break from the compelling and often impetuous need to speak out on pressing issues, I offer here an excerpt from a novel that has nothing to do with current events. It is the first of two detective novels I completed before beginning work on Sparrowhawk."

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Thank you for reading this week's Roundup. Next week the carnival will be hosted at Reepicheep's Coracle .

Beyond the Project

I again apologize for continuing to talk about my project so vaguely in front of those still left in the dark, but what else am I to do to relieve pressure? The project has entered its most boring phase: Waiting for independent variables to fall in my favor. As far as activity goes I'm doing nothing really except focusing on my job and goal planning, as I can't advance to the next phase until this one variable sets up right. Once it does, things will be going fast and soon will be all over. The project is ultimately in its latest stages, which, unfortunately, are the slowest ones. Pretty much everything else that needs to be done is done; it's up to other people now.

But you know what? It wouldn't hurt to pass the time by musing on what short-term plans I have for my life on the other side of this project. The end results of the project can be isolated enough that not even specific concrete plans could give away hints on what the project is. It might be beneficial to do such musing, as the problem this project sets out to defeat (hereon know as the "circumstance") is slowing me down to the point where I have little motivation other than to plan, think, and work.

As nerdy as it may seem, my biggest concern is actually getting back to, resettling myself in, and intensifying my studies. I may have only made a passing mention to it -- I don't remember -- but, being extremely dissatisfied with my formal education, I have undertaken to informally educate myself. Not only as a matter of picking up basic necessary knowledge and skills, but also to establish a routine of life-long learning. Seeing how little I learned from elementary and high school, and how foolish college seemed to be, I took a break from formal education in order to, so to speak, home school myself. It was no half-hearted effort, as I not only picked out textbooks and actively studied them --reading, homework, and all -- I consistently maintained such efforts for beyond a year, until the circumstance hindered me. Before I cleaned it out, my grammar folder was bulging with the papers of assignments stored in it, including both self-constructed assignments and the exercises in the book.

Looking back, it's amazing what intellectual efforts I sustained to better myself, how rigorous I was, and the results I've achieved. I've studied two philosophy texts, a math text, read several literature works, established a vocabulary exercise, wrote essays for my blog (the other one), did mental math exercises, wrote "thinking" lists, and more I probably can't recall at this point. Sure, it may not sound impressive to you, but I'm proud of it. There are many improvements that could be made -- in concentration, speed, memory reinforcement, and so on -- but I did well with what I could, especially since I was trying to overcome other problems during the meanwhile. Often did I exert myself to the point of feeling physically tired, which, to me, is the hallmark of healthy mental exercise.

But then came the circumstance. In reality it has been present throughout the entirety of my life, but I haven't taken notice of it like I have just this year. For a long time I thought it wasn't a problem at all, but rather a minor annoyance that could be solved in a matter of minutes. It "annoyed" me while I was busy trying to establish a routine of self-education, but it wasn't significant enough to snatch my attention, or, if it did, I didn't understand the root at that time. Whenever I got annoyed I simply absorbed myself in my studies and it went away.

However, I'm not one to view things in a disconnected fashion. In my thinking I make things add up to totals rather than leaving them disconnected and isolated. The circumstance annoyed me at times before in the beginning, but, after month after month and then year after year of having to deal with it, I slowly came to the realization of what the exact nature was of what I was dealing with. I still stand by the assertion that it's ultimately very petty, but how to properly and rightfully deal with it escaped me until just the first few months of this year. While petty, the more I had to deal with this circumstance the more negative information would be input into my emotional calculator, which eventually led to me experiencing more and more intense negative emotions toward it. In the beginning I was annoyed, but then became irritated, angry, aggravated, and so on. It was no longer something easily swept away within minutes, but now something that took up hours of pacing, often while right in the middle of a homework assignment. I would just be there studying away when suddenly some stimulus would set my mind on the circumstance, and I would have to part from the assignment to pace and think off my excitement, which has wasted huge amounts of time. It wasn't until I undertook the project that my thinking about the circumstance got under control somewhat, but being engaged in the project alone isn't going to cure such a metal malady: It has to be completed for the full cure.

After defeating the circumstance my mind should be still like water. I plan on taking huge advantage of it by not only reengaging my studies, but also vastly improving them. I want to dedicate more hours, more energy, more effort, more thinking, and more practice to it than ever before, to ensure that I reach my maximum level of intellectuality and competence. By planning to become a chef and eventual restaurateur, that means hours of cooking, baking, cold preparations, culinary texts, business texts, science texts, math texts, educational programs, writing, projects, experiments -- and more. There will be room for other educational undertakings, but not much; we'll see. I want to go all out, and in my perception the only thing that stands in the way of that right now is the circumstance. That gone I'll have no barriers -- and total responsibility.

As for my planned study frequency, I have a working neurological theory -- though I haven't studied the brain mind you -- that if you exert your mental capabilities to the point where you get a headache that it's indication of your limits being reached, which will cause further development. I base this theory on limited experience, but still see strength in its possible validity. To cite such an instance, when I first started studying I had a very short attention span. Really, I could only concentrate for a few dozen minutes. With intense effort, I managed to one day push myself to the point that I got a headache and couldn't possibly concentrate any further. I think I went to bed immediately afterwards, slept incredibly awesome, woke up in a great mood, and found that my metal faculties had improved and I could concentrate longer. At the time I was fighting a very bad habit of daydreaming constantly, but just after a few days of intense effort I found that I gained much greater control over my mental workings, developed a distaste for daydreaming, and started increasingly enjoying my studies. At one point my head would actually feel physically uncomfortable if it wasn't put to productive use, and daydreaming remedied it none.

As such, I intend to, after reestablishing my studies, to make it a daily goal to reach the point of headache at least once everyday. I've heard that taking naps during the day can help boost mental functions, and experience seems to confirm that by my napping while mentally exhausted, so I'll also make it a side-goal to try to achieve a state of headache while still having time to take a nap before other obligations, or before bedtime. For those that have wondered why I've spoken fondly of headaches before, here's your answer. Virtually 100% of all my headaches are caused by exerting myself to my mental limits; otherwise I don't get them at all.

But don't think I plan on filling up my life with just work and study. Sure, the above sounds time-consuming, but you'd be amazed at how much time you have in your life if you just use all of it. Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson: "Determine never to be idle. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we are always doing." During days when I was seemingly always trying to complete something but still got very little done, I've found in retrospect that a lot of time was wasted in simple little activities such as daydreaming. However few minutes you waste here and there, they add up. Eventually such waste can amount to hours of wasted time in a single day. Become efficient and constantly engaged, and you'll be amazed at what you can get done. I'm extremely interested in the methodology of Getting Things Done and have seen much benefit in what I have implemented so far, but have yet to fully take advantage of it due to, of course, the circumstance.

The other portion of my life I want to dedicate to developing romance, primarily in regards to my own self-improvement. I mentioned in my China Girl post that I consider my biggest need is to make myself more into a lovable person. I'm demonstratively intelligent, judge myself moral, and consider myself attractive to vain proportions, but in terms of personality I see myself as needing lots of work. I pay attention to my interactions with everyday strangers and don't like how cold and bland I come off as, and with my coworkers I view myself as much too quiet. Part of it can be attributed to the stress of the circumstance I have to deal with, but much of it can be blamed on bad habits formed from dealing with bad people for so long. By curing the circumstance I should observe a great swath of mental benefits, but the rest will have to come from me setting goals, acting more assertive, and, most importantly, seeking out good people. I've been one to say before that good women are lacking in numbers, but an Objectivist pointed out to me (Diana Hsieh?) that the majority of the people who wager this complaint are usually ones to look for such people in the wrong places, or to at least exert no actual effort in searching. ("If you do nothing, you get nothing.") Upon hearing this I realized that my previously searching was isolated solely to the people I "run" into, which meant my school only. It's no wonder then that I developed a view that bad and stupid women were predominant in numbers: I was looking where bad and stupid women concentrated!

After the completion of this project, then, I'll work on setting self-improvement goals in order to develop my personality and ability to maintain healthy relationships, and I'll also actively engage myself in becoming more socially active with people who share my interests. Through that a romance should bloom. Again, I'll detail my self-development in this regard, but I won't cite any interactions I have with women nor will I announce when a relationship has been formed or the like. Private, you know.

Finally, in addition to work, study, and social activities, I want to start planning my permanent departure from Michigan. This move will take a few years to pull off, but it still qualifies as a short-term goal since it still fits into a five-year frame, maybe a little more. My career, studies, and social interactions can be tackled immediately after the project is completed, but state-to-state moving will take a little bit longer. Michigan's economics are no longer the sole factor that frustrates me, for I am now primarily disenchanted with the local culture in whole. The people are insincere, unhappy, often self-destructive, and too often mean-spirited or malicious. I noted a single individual I consider to be representative in A Reason to Be Alone. Returning to prosperous times is not enough in my view for me to develop a fondness of the surrounding culture. Honestly, I don't think these people would truly appreciate if we did return to prosperity, as they'd probably still adhere to destructive worldviews that lead to bland, painful, and downright rotten senses of life. Additionally, I don't like the wintry climate and how that affects the seasonal availability of certain foods, makes things cold, and turns everything a depressing gray.

Ideally, I want to move to a state with a warmer climate that's sunny year round, has the most varied food culture possible, and has a benevolent people. Economic considerations are up in the air right now and will have to be a subject of study after the project. I wouldn't want to be so short-sighted as to move somewhere just because of a good local economy, but then again a long-sighted economic view may not be possible right now given our uncertain times. Moving to another state will be a project all on its own which will require a special study curricula for weather, business, economic, and legal considerations. I'll be frank with you by saying I don't know when or whether I'll be blogging about it, or if I'll still be blogging on this website or if I'll be blogging at all. I plan on it, but the thinking hasn't been done yet.

It might bring up the concern as to what it might do to my romantic prospects to have a previously established plan to move to another state beforehand. It's foolish to think my significant other would accommodate her life solely to my plans, no? For that, I urge you to gain an understanding of the Objectivist view of love, what O ethics have to say about sex, and how a hierarchy of values should affect one's actions. Beyond that, again, I need to thinkthinkthink!

Not all of my time, of course, can be dedicated solely to work, study, social matters, and moving -- there needs to be rest sometime. While nurturing a romance would to a big extent be restful, it is nonetheless the case that I still value a bit of alone time. Luckily, my tastes are cheap right now, virtually in line with my income. I think it will satisfy me nearly perfectly to get a Netflix membership, to rent recreational books from the library, and to write long enjoyable pieces like this one. I strive to keep growing throughout my life, so surely my value hierarchy too will grow and I'll find even more ways to enjoy myself. I have a list of possible pursuits and hobbies to perhaps undertake someday, and I'll keep adding to it as I find things tickle my fancy. The world is not lacking in things to do, which makes me wonder about people who blame their hometowns for their boredom.

For now that is the extent of my short-term goals: to grow my mind and refine my skills for becoming a chef, to become a better friend and blossom a romance, and to move to a better place. All this musing has made me feel better about my conditions and makes me anticipate more eagerly what's to come. Identifying my central purpose in life has done wonders for me, as it's great to have a bird's-eye view on how I want my whole life to be. There are steps being taken to make it all real someday, so it isn't idle dreaming.

All that's holding this up is my current project; then I'll be on the other side of the horizon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Possets' Scents

One day while still engaged in my original job hunt I was surprised to find how offensive my conventional cologne was. Before applying to a job I had thought to apply a single spritz in order to enhance my presentation, but when I got in my car I was overwhelmed with how chemical-ly it smelled and had to roll down the windows for relief. It's strange considering it smelled fine to me in the past, but somehow it's seems as if I've changed bodily so as to find it repugnant now. A alternative was needed.

Recently I've decided to try out a sample pack of the naturals line of scents at Possets, which only utilizes natural extracts and blends. I'm more than pleased. None of the scents smell like random chemicals, no matter how strongly they smell, and smell much more like things you'd find in nature rather than those unidentifiable blends you get with conventional colognes.

My particular order came with SuperEgo, Les Espices Lavender, Friction, A Snowflake in the Martini (both peppermint and spearmint high note), Paisely, Zubenelgenubi, and Observatory. (I'd tried linking to them, but they appear to be unavailable right now.) Due to an error my first shipment omitted some of the scents I ordered and replaced them with both non-naturals and feminine scents, but the customer service was very good and shipped me the missing scents at no additional cost and let me keep the extras, some of which I kept and some of which I gifted.

The prices are definitely very reasonable. It only costs twenty dollars for a full bottle of naturals or for six sample vials, with which you get two free sample vials in addition! I can't wait for the naturals line to have its own 1 + 1 = 3 sale, as it saves *significant* money by allowing you to purchase three naturals scents for the price of two and to get four free sample vials instead of two. Wonderful.

I thoroughly enjoy the products, prices, and customer service, so I'm definitely going to be a future Possets customer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

David Bowie's China Girl

Due to some unnurtured musical development I find myself largely indifferent to music; par the norm for me is to latch on to a few musical pieces and then listen to them to death. Happily, I find that David Bowie's China Girl to be such a piece. Seldom does anything focused on romance resonate with me, particularly because I find today's conceptions of love to be irrational and repulsive. Sex glorified separate from human character seems sickening to me since I don't generate desire for women solely based on their physical appearance, and the whole notion of "love at first sight," the notion that love is mystical and unexplainable, is downright stupid and treats emotions as if they were causeless or supernatural.

This particular video resonates with me since it portrays a loving playfulness between David Bowie and the China girl, indicating a relationship that took work and nurturing to develop into what it has become. There is a sexual element, but it's saved for the last part of the video, making the couple's interactions slowly increase in emotional intensity until it climaxes on the beach. Lovely, and it's one to make me think of my own emotional aspirations.

I consider myself extremely attractive and able to find another to engage in romance with, but currently I am abstaining intentionally since I wouldn't want any significant other to have to deal with the conditions my project is set out to solve right now, so romance at presence remains food for thought. I've been very interested in what other have said about utilizing rational methods and principles to spark and develop romantic relationships, and plan on reading Selfish Path to Romance after it gets released.

As far as my thinking goes, I think I need to work on my "loveability." I consider myself intelligent and moral, but, given my current circumstances, my personality isn't exactly flavorful and definitely could use some work. It's certainly possible to be able to achieve morality, intelligence, and self-love while at the same time still being boring to deal with. To remedy such boringness I'll set self-improvement goals to develop courage and strength, better study habits, and to learn how to maintain healthy relationships.

But my project is of primary importance right now, and will indirectly advance my romantic goals anyhow by quashing a circumstance that's affecting my sense of life and intellectual abilities. For the time being romance will be a subject of thought and goal-setting. In the future I will perhaps detail my goals and progress on my self-development, but only as a corollary to the other pursuits in my life. And no, I won't detail any specific interactions I have with women.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Speak English!

I thought this might be a temporary problem, but it's been going on for some weeks now that some Asian posters will either spam my comments or write something in a language I can't understand. No matter how often I reject their comments they keep coming back, so it may be a spam bot.

Whatever it may be, I want to let it be known that I'll only accept comments and communications in English and English only. I know no other languages right now, so I am only able to moderate comments I can read. If I ever become fluent in another language then I'll widen the standards accordingly, but right now I'm limited only to English, so I require any potential posters to write to those specifications.

Friday, July 16, 2010

CR: Endangered Species' 88%

Oddly enough Endangered Species' 88% dark chocolate was one of those chocolates I had to eat multiple times in order to develop a taste for it. I was previously ready to construct a negative review for this variety, but procrastinating on the writing and eating more of the bars in my stash has made me change my mind, though with some qualifications.

Its flavor is obvious: Very dark chocolate with a kiss of sweetness. The vanilla is so subtle that it's barely noticeable and serves only to blunt the natural bitterness of the cocao, but you can detect it if you pay attention. Otherwise: It has good flavor, but there's not much else I can say except "Hey! It's chocolate!"

My biggest personal qualm is with the mouthfeel. Surprisingly, this chocolate doesn't do much in the way of melting in your mouth, so it's going to pretty much stay crunchy up until the last moment unless you eat very slowly. But hey, when you're eating chocolate you don't eat slowly, do you? (I should, I realize.) In this realm I think Lindt's 90% is superior, but I'm hesitant to say so until I eat it again and give it its own review. From memory I recall a creamier mouthfeel, but also a much stronger vanilla presence, so strong that they might as well call it "90% cocoa with vanilla" to be totally accurate. If my memory is correct, then this provides good reasons to consume both brands: Endangered Species for crunchiness and more intense chocolate, and Lindt for creaminess and more intense vanilla. Have both on your shelves!

However, it might be a while before I buy another Lindt bar to confirm my interpretations as my local stores have recently taken the 90% variety off their shelves, meaning I'm likely to need an online venue. For this I reach out to my readers: Is there a good online chocolate website that carries multiple brands? From what I have seen, most stores only carry a handful a brands, meaning one has to go across multiple sites in order to satisfy one's desires, therefore being subject to multiple packages and shipping rates. It'd be nice if I could get it all in one place, thereby negating the need to buy a particular variety in bulk to make it cost-effective.

For the ES 88% variety, I'd consider it worthy of buying in bulk, and am glad I did. My previous negative reaction was mainly due to its mouthfeel and weak vanilla, but now I've come to see it as something rather distinct to this bar. I shouldn't taste one good bar and then expect other brands to conform to that experience; that'd make things boring. However, mint and ginger are still my top favorites.

I'm going to have to get some new varieties to try soon. I'm down to my last two "new" bars in the fridge.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Project and My Well-Being

Foolishly, I didn't realize until recently that my keeping secret about what necessitates my project could have caused some concern among some people about my well-being. My neglect stems from the fact that I have discussed my circumstances and project with several people and have forgotten there exists a group left out in the cold. It is still necessary for me to be secretive, but to be more polite I will at least hint at the nature of the problem so as to eliminate any serious concern about my condition, such as whether or not I have a disease or am in danger of going to jail.

In truth, the problem is actually very petty and insignificant, almost laughably dismissible and pathetic really. It may make one wonder why, then, it's having such a significant negative impact on my life. It's because there's an excruciatingly narrow number of solutions to this problem and none of them can be quickly employed. Worse yet, many of the potential solutions I have employed have either had no effect on the problem or have been temporary, thereby letting the problem remain untouched and in full effect in the meanwhile. Even worse yet, I'm down to my, literally, final and last resort -- one that is guaranteed to solve this problem -- but it's particularly time-consuming to employ, requires money, and is to some extent based on chance. I have made enormous progress in employing this solution and actually consider it to be more than half-done in regards to the specific steps and learning that need to be completed, but I'm being delayed by the chance-based elements, the elements I have influence, but not control, over.

The secrecy, again, is not to tease you or present to you a dramatic surprise when I complete the project, but rather is a necessary part of the solution. If the wrong persons learn about my project it could actually intensify the problem by several degrees, make my project much harder and slower to complete, and maybe even negate my efforts altogether. As such, the nature of my project is only known to select people whom I know pose no obstacle to my efforts, either through trust or impotence, and can be of help. It does, in a way, make me itchy to want to talk about it, but the temptation must be resisted. When the project is completed I will then be in the perfect position to let you know everything.

To illustrate with an analogy why this problem is so significant to me, try to imagine a person standing beside you who endlessly taps your shoulder while refusing to acknowledge your reactions and requests. The first few taps might either surprise you or cause you to inquire what the person needs, but his ignoring you and continued tapping beyond that will cause negative emotions to arise. Upon noticing he's ignoring you and still tapping, you might become puzzled, eye-rolling annoyed, or even irritated, and might try to walk away from him. If he opts to follow you, continuing to tap, the negative emotions intensify and progress into anger. If he continues to tap, the anger intensifies and might even turn into rage, and you might try to run away from the person or shove him away. Note that in all of this the problem is actually petty and strange: a weird person who refuses to stop tapping your shoulder. Yet, tap after tap after tap, you'll start experiencing negative emotions that grow more and more intense, and with justice. It's not each individual tap that bothers you, but all the taps added together plus the prospect of those to follow.

That, metaphorically, is my circumstance. I'm not in physical or legal danger, but rather am encountering a phenomenon that I grow increasingly adverse to the more I deal with it. The problem is primarily psychological. My intense adverseness has become so that it is affecting my temperament, ability to concentrate, learn, and be productive, and my ability not to think about my problem. For several months things actually developed to the point where solving this problem, this constantly tapping-my-shoulder problem, took up the majority of my thinking and emotional energy. Hours at a time would be spent racking my brains trying to conjure up solutions or employ possible ones (which quickly failed or never worked at all). The amount of space this problem took up in my consciousness made me seriously neglect other productive ventures, such as my independent studies, writing in my entrepreneurial journal, doing cultural activism, reading, and so on. It was unhealthily stressing me out to the max.

Aside from my neglected productive endeavors, it is also seriously affecting, and I in a way feel guilty about this, my sense of life. At work, in a job I enjoy that's also relevant to my larger goals, I feel at peace, am in a good mood, and am pleasurably concerned with the well-being of my coworkers, but outside of those conditions I become aware of the shoulder taps again and become agitated. It's not that I'm intensely suffering, but rather that I find this emotional downturn to last too long and too often, all because of an issue that as philosophically significant as someone endlessly tapping your shoulder.

I'm immensely glad that I've undertaken this project, as not only is it a surefire solution, but also has had deep therapeutic effects on me. No longer do I need to waste time searching for solutions: the solution is known and is in progress. The frustration is still there, but knowing that it is soon to perish does well to alleviate it while it still exists. Imagine being painfully hungry at a restaurant and seeing your server bring to you your favorite food: for a moment you forget the hunger pains and anticipate in excitement how good the food is going to taste.

As a bonus, not only will the project solve a problem that's been hindering me, it will also advance me forward in life in addition. Not only will I gain a peace of mind but also get a little bit closer to my other goals as well. Sure, this project does have significant risks attached to it, but honestly I'd rather face the problems that could spawn up from this project rather than the problem I'm facing now. The problem I'm facing now makes it more difficult for me to function, but solving it, I think, would make me infinitely more fit to tackle anything else that comes my way, even if the problem is philosophically more significant and difficult. It would also make me tremendously more able to defeat this current problem if it attempted to resurface in any form. Right now my ableness is limited and negated by the stress and slow implementation of the solution.

My prediction of increased fitness (psychological in this context) is based on my previous experience with solving significant problems in my life, which not only gave a healthy boost to my sense of life but also made me want to rip the horns off life and apply them to myself. Take my situation with Man X for instance. When I had to deal with him I was in a particularly bad state of mind and developed full-blown depression, but my break with him has given me long lasting gifts, including the curing of that depression, a much stronger resolve to improve myself and pursue values, better physical health, and more. It has been years since our break and none of those benefits have disappeared, meaning they weren't a part of a temporary euphoria, and I still feel nothing but a slightly hostile indifference to Man X, regardless of whatever pain he inflicts on himself. Similar situation with my paleo diet: After a slightly uncomfortable transition I have managed to achieve the best physical condition in my life -- in functionality, appearance, and feeling -- and have the least bit of temptation to go back to my old dietary guidelines, except for some indulges of baked goods mashed together with ice cream. The effects of both of these positive changes in my life have been long-term, not short-term.

I think the solution of this particular problem may actually be one of the most important achievements in my life to date. No, it probably won't particularly impress you to hear about it, but to me, considering the problem, it's extremely significant. What I stand to gain from this project will be the elimination of the last personal barrier standing in the way of my efforts to realize my best self, to actually become the type of man I visualize as ideal. Right now the problem is preventing me from doing that, not because I'm irrationally letting the problem fester without making an effort to solve it, but rather because the solution is taking several months. (If you haven't been keeping track, I've been engaged in this project since March 2010.) If some conditions in my life were different I might have been able to actually complete the project within a week -- but those conditions don't exist right now; work and a small pinch of luck is required to bring them into existence.

So now you know that the problem is something that is psychologically hindering me and is not putting me in any physical or legal danger. I know the vagueness doesn't do too much in answering any questions, but that's just how it has to be for now. In the meanwhile the mere existence of the project is doing well to alleviate any symptoms of a negative sense of life, so to soothe my frustrations I usually find it sufficient to daydream of the end-results of my project. It is still the case that I don't know how much time is left in this project, as there are still financial issues and I do not yet have a sufficient income, but, as far as my efforts go, I think it would be a pretty neat present to have things done before my birthday in October. Until then I'm working on developing myself at work -- I still haven't reached top speed and effectiveness in dish washing -- and am looking for supplemental income. I've been getting lots of ideas for my entrepreneurial journal, and if I'm lucky I may come across an epiphany about something I could employ immediately, rather than years later, and push me over the edge just enough to get this project through.

However long a wait it may be, my resolve is undiminished, as there's a fantastic future to take advantage of on the other side.

Friday, July 9, 2010

CR: Endangered Species' Goji Berry, Pecans and Maca

Endangered Species' organic dark chocolate with goji berry, pecans and maca is probably the weirdest chocolate I've ever eaten, and I'm on the fence as to whether or not I'd be willing to try it again. It says dark chocolate, but it actually doesn't taste like dark chocolate. Somehow the flavors involved -- the chocolate, berry, nuts, and maca -- all fuse in a way that makes this chocolate seem way sweeter than it actually is. According to the label it has ten grams of sugar per serving, two grams lower than my darker and beloved mint, but it tastes almost exactly like milk chocolate, which isn't a good thing if you like the bitterness. If they actually made this variety in a milk chocolate version it would probably be sickeningly sweet.

However, it could also be considered a plus that the flavors all fused together so nicely, leaving little evidence of separateness. The milky flavor is very strong, but one can still detect a subtle hint of pecans and an even subtler hint of the goji berry. I've never heard of or eaten maca before this bar, so I can't say anything about its individual presence except that it doesn't disrupt the balance. As for those unfamiliar with goji berries, my interpretation, based on some juice I drank from my local Wal-mart, is that they taste almost exactly like a fusion of oranges and cranberries.

While the outside of the bar looks fine as par the norm for ES, I've found the appearance after biting into it to be rather off-putting. The pecans or maca, I don't know which or if both, integrated into the chocolate leave their mark in the form of big white chunks, which reminds me of cobwebs and mold. This is probably subjective, however, as many might otherwise immediately think of the rice found in Crunch bars.

My final verdict is that one will have to decide based on personal sweetness preferences. For me, if something is too sweet then my taste buds can only react for a short amount of time before becoming desensitized; the first few bites of the bar were awesome, but after that: blah. As such, I'll probably never try this bar again. However, if you're eating dark chocolate solely for health reasons, in addition to or in spite of taste, then you might appreciate its imitation milkiness while at the same time enjoying nutritional benefits. Of course, stay away if you've never liked milk chocolate to begin with.

This variety offers a unique fusion of flavors that will surprise one with an unanticipated amount of sweetness for this high a level of cocao content, which can be a good or bad thing depending on one's preferences. Since I already have a nifty list of already established higher favorites, such as New Tree's ginger and Endangered Species mint, so I don't think I'll be making room for it in the refrigerator any time soon.