Thursday, March 31, 2011

Emotionalistic Safety

The panic that's been going on about the nuclear problems in Japan have reminded me how irrational people in general tend to respond to safety issues. They don't worry about facts, actual risks, or the safety measures put in place, but rather how "extreme" the consequences are if all should go wrong. Simply put, I think the most emotionally-driven segments of the culture are responding negatively to the nuclear problems mainly because of what serious health concerns (radiation, poisoned food/water supply, etc.) a disaster would bring, ignoring entirely what little possibility there may be of that happening and what safety mechanisms and intelligence there is to prevent all that. All they can project in their heads are glowing corpses, and that alone freaks them out enough to want to do away with nuclear energy altogether.

I take this to be evidence of some of the worst heights emotionalism can obtain. Such a mentality ignores facts almost entirely, instead focusing on how scared it is of the consequences, and can very easily put itself in more harm's way by giving up life-saving values in the name of "safety," such as the affect our energy supply and technology would sustain if we were to eliminate nuclear energy. I feel disgusted at the indulgence of emotion that goes on in that scenario.

To project this mentality smaller scale, an equal absurdity is people horrified of lightning. The odds of lightning striking you or your home are so incredibly slim that it's virtually guaranteed you'll never be hit in any sense during your lifetime, but the odds of you getting hurt in a car crash are incredibly higher. Yet I've seen those people hop in and out of cars without an ounce of concern, but when it starts to lightning outside they're frightened of showers, headphones, televisions, and so on. It makes no sense except to say that those people are freaked out at the thought of getting struck by lightning, perhaps remember every movie they saw someone get electrocuted in, and somehow are more comfortable with the thought of a car crash. I, for one, continue my life as usual when lightning storms hit; if I got struck and survived it'd be an awesome story to tell.

In order for constructive debate about the nuclear problems in Japan to progress productively people need to stop daydreaming about how horrible the consequences would look and feel, and start looking at the facts objectively. Just because something spikes your emotions and causes you to "freak" out doesn't mean that it's an objective danger. If society caves into this type of fear, choosing as "safe" those things that make them feel comfortable, we could very well bring the greatest dangers of all onto ourselves. Safety is not to be determined by whatever makes us feel good.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Puppet Master Theme

A piece similar to Danse Macabre, only with milder playful elements and a stronger sense of whimsical awe:

I don't like horror movies anymore -- I especially dislike blood and gore -- but when I did, the Puppet Master series was the one of the tops in my book. This was back in the VHS days, and whenever I got one of these tapes I used to rewind and fast forward it several times just to hear this theme over and over again. And, oh, when the movies played on the Sci-fi channel I loved it!

Full Moon Direct is an ultra cheesy movie studio. They produce mainly horror movies with just about every corny movie stereotype you can think of. Sex, drugs, Nazis -- you name it. The PM series didn't really scare me as a kid since the puppets are a caricature of horror creatures, trying much too hard to be scary, so I guess I was more entertained by the creative designs and stop motion animation. To date there's nine movies in this series, and to my surprise they're still making them; I thought for years the company had gone out of business. I've considered watching it, but I don't think I'd enjoy it now given my disposition.

Oh, and old-fan boy note: The three figures in the center -- the baby doll, jack-in-the-box, and silver toy -- aren't a part of the PM series. They're from the Demonic Toys series, and this is a poster for a crossover movie called Puppet Wars, which never got made (though they did come out with Puppet Master vs. The Demonic Toys on Sci-fi. Yes, I watched it).

(See also my sequel article to the linked Danse Macabre article in the first sentence.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't Be a Baby: Talking About Problems Constructively

I still have yet to establish the comfort necessary to write about that emotional identification I made, but it has unexpectedly made me think about another topic: The issue of whining. While it's not accurate to the facts, it is at root the reason why I fear to write the piece, and in contemplating why whining is so detrimental I am learning to reword my speech carefully. Simply put, there's a right way and a wrong way to talk about one's problems, and the wrong way (e.g. whining) can be very detrimental to one's values. It can even contribute to the destruction of one's relationships.

The essence of the issue can be found in the identifications I made earlier when I was first formulating my moral perfection categories; in specific, the category "conversation." To recap, this category tracks how value-oriented I stay in conversation with other people, so violations would constitute any time I bring up a negative subject that's unnecessary, such as talking about the things I hate. The reason why I've chosen to include this in my list of perfection categories is because I believe that whether one explicitly concentrates on values or anti-values will have a huge impact on one's ability to sustain happy relationships. People who are constantly talking about disasters, violence, and other horrible things tend to lower their status as a person, as all that conversational negativity reflects on their character sooner or later. I'm sure many of my readers have met before that person who endlessly talks about their ills without concern of resolution, and I myself have broken relations with a person who constantly talks about all the bad local happenings; they just became a very unpleasant person to deal with. While it may make one feel better to vent negativity, going about it the wrong way can come at the price of gaining the disinterest and even repulsion of one's listeners.

As I've said before, anti-values will never make anyone happy. It can captivate our interest to see a news story about a local crime or to muse about the putrid premises of some evil people, but that will never be the stuff of a fulfilling life. Concentrating on it in fact leads to the opposite effect, making for greater depression as the whole world looks bleaker. Nobody wants that, and it's very easy to ditch those who make us feel that way by being perpetually negative. However, this doesn't mean that one should just keep all negative thoughts private, for that too can be detrimental to one's values by way of undermining emotional health through repression. So what's the right way to speak about negative matters without being a negative associate to others?

The key, I think, lies in the purpose of bringing up such a subject and whether the intended aim of the conversation is constructive. By being careful with these two factors the negativity of the topic changes its nature into something not only finite (and thus not something to be dwelled on forever), but also something almost positive in that it can be altered.

For instance, bringing up the subject of spousal abuse can strengthen one's friendships. In a rational context, the purpose would be to make friends aware that abuse exists in a current relationship, and the intended aim would be to contemplate and begin to implement solutions to make the situation otherwise. Given rational friends, at least in this context, it would appear to them that this suffering is only an exception to happiness, not the rule of your life, and that the problem is finite and can be overcome in a certain amount of time, so they would be interested in both hearing about the problem, offering suggestions for potential solutions, and even helping implement those solutions. The negativity of the conversation is not only limited, but also partially positive since it's set to work for a happier future.

In contrast, imagine those unhappily married people who often trail on about their complaints against their spouse, but never intend to do anything about it. The purpose of the conversation becomes sullied, for while it may help the particular person vent their emotions, it is only to do that without hope for an end, which only serves to make the associate confront something wholly depressing. The aim of the conversation is not to work for a solution either, so the problem becomes infinite in scope and makes the person look like suffering is the rule, not the exception, of their life. As such, they will be viewed as an associate that's always unpleasant to deal with, which inevitably will cause them to either erode their relationships or destroy them altogether. If the anti-values will always be there, then matters with that person will always be unhappy.

This is how my disassociation with the above mentioned person was contributed to by this. The person was always finding terrible things in the newspapers or on television to talk about, and he only did it so he could feel "sorry" for the people involved. In fact, this type of conversations lead to me noting an infamous quote by him: "Isn't that terrible?" I pleaded with him many times to stop concentrating so much on these matters, but he refused every time. As time passed, my estimate of him worsened, and, with other contributing factors in mind, I eventually chose to stop dealing with him period. (Isn't that terrible?)

I realize that I myself have done a lot of fruitless whining when the Project was still in place. The Circumstance was a constant aggravation, which moved me once too many times to simply vent my emotions with no constructive end in mind. That probably annoyed a good portion of my readers, both here and in other private internet locations, and now I realize that more care is needed. By keeping explicit before me my purpose and aim in bringing up such topics, I can all at once vent myself, remain interesting, and bond with my associates.

I am concerned about the piece I have planned because before having made this identification it probably would have constituted more whining. I may not have reached a decision yet as to whether I'll do that writing and where I'll publish it if I do, but at least now I know to word myself more carefully. Besides, it may be the case that I have resolved it anyhow before writing, so whether there's still a benefit to that writing is questionable.

Problems are everywhere. Talking about them may do well for mental health through venting, but we must keep careful with our dialogue lest we add to the problems.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chocolate Review: Dagoba's 87% Eclipse

While Endangered Species may be my favorite brand, Dagoba has become quite the runner-up in my interests. Their product line is so refreshingly inconsistent, with its various offerings differing in hues, aromas, cacao flavor profiles, and textures. Most other chocolate companies are fairly consistent otherwise, such as in what nature their cocoa takes on regardless of any flavor infusions, so this company comes off to me as a grab bag of surprises. My intrigue continued as I tasted Dagoba's 87% cacao Eclipse dark chocolate, their darkest stand-alone offering.

It's not very complex, but it pleases me with its near pure strength. The aroma is extremely floral with strong touches of sweet cacao and spice, but the flavor profile doesn't follow as it's about as pure chocolate as chocolate can get, though mildly fruity, from start to finish with hardly a trace of anything else. It's slightly bitter, but its own mildness almost comes off as a savoriness. Unlike most bars I've tasted there's no vanilla extract or bean scrapings, so obviously there's no notes from that. It has an okay melt, in a lumpy fashion as if you've put chocolate chips in your mouth.

The appearance of the bar itself is very dark with a healthy snap and smooth inward gradient, but it's shine is dull, there are light steaks on the back, and it appears "dusty." Minus points on aesthetics. Nonetheless it is still an enjoyable bar, especially since the cacao dominates the show with only mild assistance from fruit. At this level of darkness and given my breadth of a taste memory, I'd have to say this may be the best chocolate bar for a pure chocolate experience. I still have yet to form an opinion on a 99% variety of course, but that will come soon enough.

Though how does it stand up to its competitors? To date I've reviewed Endangered Species' 88%, Lindt's 90% (omitting the 85%), Chocolove's XOXOX (77%), Green & Black's 85%, and Ghirardelli's 86% Midnight Reverie. Chocolove I view to be an overall terrible producer, as their 77% bar is way too mild, ugly, and has a horrendous mouthfeel, so I'd dismiss them off the bat. G&B and Lindt's both have strong vanilla attributes and a fantastic mouthfeel, only I think G&B's is much more potent and higher quality, as the chocolate tastes stronger and the mouthfeel is heavenly, so I'd take that over Lindt. Endangered Species' is straight chocolaty like Dagoba, but its own bitterness is a littler stronger and not to my liking, so I'd discount that as well.

In truth, I'd actually pick three as all good in their own right: G&B's, Ghirardelli, and Dagoba. They all have different flavor profiles with different emphases, so there's reason to choose between them depending on your preferences. If you like vanilla and a beyond smooth mouthfeel, then go with G&B's; if you like the smokiness of roasted cocao and tart fruit, then choose Ghirardelli; if you want straight up chocolate with few other complexities and have it in the 80% percentile darkness threshold, then go with Dagoba. I myself will be enjoying all three, though enjoy G&B's the most.

In summary, Dagoba continues to please me. I love how significantly different all their bars are and how the packages come in a rainbow assortment, stimulating both the eyes and intellect. They will absolutely continue to be on my watch list. I recommend this variety.

Weekly Summary #23

Gah. It's time for another weekly summary? Almost an inconvenience given my busy week of job hunting. I've been writing and fooling around with cover letters so much that I still feel resistance to blogging due to finite writing energy, so it won't be until I get a job that my writing practices will return to normalcy. I did have an interview, so I have yet to see how that goes. Anyhow, with my limited patience I'd rather tackle the list before going into deeper details about my week:

1.) Put new license plates on car: Finished, but it was quite troublesome. My car doesn't have an indentation on the front to put a license plate, and yet Texas law requires it. It was a laborious adventure trying to find what I needed and who would do it, but things concluded in success by my having a local mechanic attach my plates for free.

2.) Apply to at least two places per day, external circumstances not interfering: Yes. If memory serves correctly, I've either met or surpassed this goal almost every day this week, excluding Thursday and Friday (today). I should have kept tally. Anyhow, on Thursday the interview took up all my time, and Friday I'm just going to dedicate to callbacks given that there's limited opportune times to speak of a career at any particular place, and active hunting would cut into that phone time.

3.) Consider and research moving my money to Texas: Didn't do it. Honestly, I'd rather worry about getting a source of income first before dealing with the problem of where to store it, so I think I'll set this goal down until that other hurdle is jumped.

4.) Identify a way to turn my Big 8 workouts into two Big 4's: Didn't do. Virtually immaterial as well, as I won't shell for a gym membership quite yet. To explain this goal a little further, one of the essentials of the workout routine described in the book Body by Science is that one should work each muscle group only once ideally, so while at the gym I've been trying to figure out how to accomplish this in a proper amount of exercises. Doing bicep curls, for instance, before doing a seated row will harm one's performance in the latter exercise because the biceps were weakened in the prior exercise, and that weakness will be detrimental to exercising the back muscles, so exercise redundancy must be avoided. To give my muscles two weeks to heal I've been thinking about cutting up eight exercises into four exercises each week, but I haven't gotten around to contemplating how to optimize that. Perhaps an intuitive approach might be best during the actual workout, as I'll be able to rely on the feeling of my muscles and know when I did something wrong.

5.) Meditate for a half-hour each day with eyes open: I might have skipped a day, but otherwise stayed constant with it. It won't be until this upcoming week that I'll truly learn the value of the practice, however. An ongoing problem was numbness in my right leg being apparent in the last ten or so minutes of my sitting, and that numbness would become so bothersome that it broke and prevented any trance from then on. Luckily, I have remedied the problem by both taking the stuff out of my back pockets and utilizing two pillows to increase blood flow. I won't make it an official goal from here, but I'll set meditation on my routine next actions list in order to see it's longer-term effects, especially now that I can establish a longer trance more easily.

At first glance, it seems rather exhausting. Being extrospective for that long really strains the front of my brain, and I've yet to get used to it. We'll see. Right now I've noticed its greatest benefit is the improvement of my concentration.

6.) Watch two Alfred Hitchcock movies, Rear Window and Psycho: I tried to, but my computer wouldn't let me. Ever since I moved to Texas my computer has been acting glitchy. Whenever I put a movie in I ran into various problems. When using the Media Center program (I use Windows XP Media Center edition) my CPU would be taken up to the point that my computer would work at max capacity and make the audio choppy. Other programs, such as Quicktime and VLC player, refused to view the DVD as an integrated file, instead breaking it down into unplayable parts. Consequently I've just been unable to work on this goal. I didn't bring my television with me in the move, so my DVD player is temporarily useless.

Would any readers have a suggestion for a solution?

7.) Write a special article on an identification I made about anger: I've thought about it, but after posting this goal I've become very conflicted. Surprisingly, for once I'm feeling very reserved and private about this kind of thinking, so now I'm not sure whether I'll actually write the article or if I'll just publish it for a special audience. It is an issue of concern that would be beneficial to write about, but I don't know how yet or whether I'll have the motivation during this period of employment-based writing. More thinking must be done.

* * * * *

Overall, I've kept myself very busy in my job hunt as per my rational obligation to myself, but considering matters in whole I think I ought to be ashamed of myself. I've been very lazy in keeping on top of my lists, oftentimes going to bed without completing my daily goals or engaging in undeserved recreation. And, oh!, I've been especially terrible in keeping track of my perfectionism goals. If I haven't been keeping tally at all, then I've been flip-flopping on my methods. On some days I'll keep a total tally of all my perfectionism violations, and then on others I'll only add a single tally after having assessed the day in total. This latter method is dishonest, for it wipes out the emotional impact of my actions by making them seem small since they're represented by a single paper-thin slash mark. I need to be more consistent, and more so I need a new method.

After all this I would still consider myself back on track -- I'm being productive still after all -- only the problem is that I'm not totally driving on the rails as I should be. More effort must be made to regain my composure, and I think I'll dedicate this week to that. I mustn't be wasting my precious time like this given the new chance my move to Texas has given me. As such, here are my goals:

1.) Write an article on my connection to cooking: Recently I've identified why I value the culinary field so much, and making such an identification explicit ought to be helpful in determining my future goals.

2.) Read all of Green & Black's articles

3.) See if there's a way to drive down CPU usage on my computer: So I can watch those darned DVDs. I think I may likely need to do a virus scan in safe mode to clear matters up, though I'm dreading that measure since doing a scan in that mode can take ten or more hours.

4.) Be STRICT in completing my goals. Do not eat chocolate or watch Hulu if not all goals are completed: I've always been skeptical about taking the self-reward approach to self-improvement, but I guess I ought to try it before I knock it. To give myself extra motivation, I won't allow myself to enjoy certain values if I haven't completed my goals. Completing my daily goals will mean I'll allow myself to watch programs on Hulu as much as I want, but not before. Also, I'll allow myself to have three helpings of chocolate this week, but I must earn two by keeping my daily goals the day before. (The first helping will be the routine tasting for review.) Finally, I'll only allow myself on Facebook for twenty minutes after 5 PM before completing my daily goals and won't allow myself back on until those goals are completed. I know I've made this goal before, but I've eased up on it and should get back to this restriction.

I don't know how well this will work, but it appears beneficial. The reason why I'm skeptical is because the rewards are doled out at my arbitration, which means I could give myself the reward even if I haven't completed my goals (the chocolate isn't locked up, after all), but then again perhaps I should trust myself better.

5.) Write in my journal at least 3 times: Since moving I've really been off my special introspection techniques. The ease of hearing someone talk through the walls where I live prevents me from rubberducking with my Bowser statue, and I also haven't been doing the rubberducking in the car since I've been both forgetting to bring the statue and need to listen to my GPS anyways. My writing energy being eaten up has been keeping me away from my introspection journal, but I think that ought to change. I've been under stress lately, and to go without those beneficial introspection methods is to prolong the stress nonsensically. As such, I want to aim to write in my introspection journal at least three times this week.

6.) Clean out the useless papers in my car

7.) Look for the nearby Farmers Market: I'm surprised I've actually forgotten to do this since moving. I've been so focused on checking out all the grocery stores that I've neglected this prime culinary destination.

8.) De-frag computer: Another thing I think may speed up my computer, but am also dreading. It takes so long, and putting my computer in this mode keeps me from being able to access my to-do lists. Oh well, I'll just need to time it right so I don't need the computer during those times.

Outside of these goals, I'd also like to instigate the new practice of putting a thick horizontal line to mark my violations in my perfectionism categories. My new thought is that virtue is absolute, so it's silly to count my violations one by one since a single violation is a sufficient vice to be worried about on its own. So instead of counting my violations I'll assess my day as a whole or mark the violation as soon as I see it, and the horizontal line, what with its thickness and all, should be more emotionally intimidating and pressing to the conscious if I should be falling from grace. Nothing like a good guilt trip to keep one on track, right?

Most of all, I hope my employment situation changes soon, though I'll be actively engaged in changing it, of course. I continue to pine for the restaurant kitchen. It's pretty much what I daydream about right as I wake up and cook breakfast. I'd like to set my mind forth once again on solving the problem of maximizing my ability and skill, and to restart my serious studies, this time almost entirely concentrated on my culinary areas. Soon enough.

For now, it's time to get back to living morally.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sorry Again

Excuse the redundancy, but I feel obligated to state this again since I've been directing so many people to my blog as of late to peruse my food-related writing. Due to external circumstances I probably won't be blogging this week except for my regular chocolate review and weekly summary. I've been doing so much writing for other sources that I'm not all that motivated to continue on here at the same time, but hopefully that will change soon.

Stay with me now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chocolate Review: New Tree's 73% Cherry

For full disclosure, this is the first of my chocolates I have been given for free. I entered a Valentine's Day contest back in February for a package of tasting squares from New Tree, so this review is for a prize I received, not something sent to me explicitly for review. It was quite a happy moment to learn of my winning, as New Tree can be a difficult and expensive brand to get a hold of, so to get it for free is positively wonderful. The 73% cherry variety is one I've particularly been wanting to try.

The package is out of production, so it's mostly immaterial to comment on that, though it may have an error on it. There's a contradiction between the pouch and the squares, for the pouch says the squares are 73% cocoa while the squares themselves say *cacao*. There is a nutritional difference to consider, but it's probable that it's cocoa since the overwhelming majority of New Tree's products are manufactured as such. Each individual square is about half as thick as New Tree's full bars and is approximately one inch long and half an inch wide. The confection itself lacks the beautiful leaf veins that decorate the bars so beautifully and instead has needle-fine stripes running across horizontally, but in a strange sense the mathematical cleanness of the precision pleases me. The ridges do add more texture on the tongue.

Overall, it's intriguing. New Tree likes to add extracts and extra inclusions in their products for added health benefits, and the grape extract in this confection gives me a strong sense of wine. The aroma is dominated by fruity wine notes and sour cherries, and the flavor profile matches the aroma near perfectly by tasting of good wine, sour cherries without the tartness, and, in its finish, a hit of sweet cocoa. Texture-wise there's a good snap in hand, and in every bite a slow but surely smooth melt without any trace of crystals.

Granted, it's not strong enough to impress, but I do appreciate it. This is the first time I've come across a wine attribute in chocolate, and it blends perfectly with the cherries. The only negative thing I can say is that I'd actually like to experience at least some brunt of the sourness of the fruit or a heightened sweetness like that of maraschino cherries, but then again I haven't eaten many kinds of cherries in my life and so am speaking from a limited taste memory. For what it offers, it's good.

In conclusion, I do maintain a favorite cherry variety above this particular one, which I'll review in the future, but this holds its own in its own unique way. Its lack of punch makes me hesitant on fully endorsing it, but I enjoy it enough to at least recommend it be given the chance of tasting. Give it a try.

Weekly Summary # 22

And so my momentum seems to have been recaptured! Last week I complained of laziness and being in celebration mode, but this week things are back on track. However, given the setup of my days not all my goals got completed, but the most important ones did. Let's attack the list, and I'll be adding extra entries to incorporate goals I either forgot to tell you about or added sometime past the publication of my last summary:

1.) Apply to at least three places per day starting Monday: I exerted quite an effort, but external circumstances prevented this from happening. Sometimes concentrating on an area made it so I no longer had time to go someplace else, or I walked in at a time the chef was out, or the likes. Additionally, I lost a whole day to bureaucracy this week. I was on the ball, but I've got to keep in mind that some things will prevent me from doing all that I can here. Two places seems to be an admirable pace from here.

2.) Meditate a half hour each day: Because sometimes I kept myself so busy on some days I just forgoed it out of laziness, though I did practice it for the majority of the week. Unfortunately, it seems to be having little affect on my temperament. Even with an entire half-hour spent in this endeavor I fail to relax any and cannot seem to keep my introspection under control.

However, and I feel silly for this, I think I know what the problem is. I've been meditating with my eyes closed, whereas I find it most effective to do it with them open. As a reminder, my practiced form of meditation is that of sitting still and concentrating entirely on my extrospection, meaning introspection is off-limits. When I close my eyes it seems to encourage nothing but introspection, but with them open it's a different story. As such, I think I'll make it a goal this week to continue meditating a half-hour each day, only this time with my eyes open.

3.) Finish the rest of the Amano articles I assigned to myself: Done. I skipped the final, more technical ones concerned with those actually in the chocolate-making business.

4.) Consider moving my money to this state; research alternatives: Ran out of time; goal for next week.

5.) Finish settling in (new license, library card, etc.) if I receive my birth certificate: Done, but laborious. I went to the tax office and stood in line for over an hour for my registration, and upon getting through I found out that I needed to get my car inspected first. I got it inspected the next day, went through the tax office line again, and found out I drew a money order for the wrong amount. I went to Kroger for another money order, went through the tax office line AGAIN, got my appropriate forms, went to and waited at the DMV for nearly three hours, and upon finishing arrived home in the early evening, having left in the morning. This took me a significant part of two days, one trip actually taking up the entire day, but as far as I'm concerned I'm Texan now. I got my library card too, so now I can become a member of the reading public.

6.) Consider moving my money to Texas; research alternatives: Ran out of time; goal for next week.

7.) Set a new workout format to create two Big Four's and figure out how to juggle them : Ran out of time, though it's not that much of a concern right now. I might talk more about it later, but it's not that important given this blog's theme of self-improvement and values.

* * * * *

Overall, it was a good week. It feels refreshing for things to be moving along like this, though I still pine for the kitchen. It's most often the subject of my daydreams, but I must be patient. For this week, here's what I'd like to accomplish:

1.) Put new license plates on car

2.) Apply to at least two places per day, external circumstances not interfering.

3.) Consider and research moving my money to Texas

4.) Identify a way to turn my Big 8 workouts into two Big 4's.

5.) Meditate for a half-hour each day with eyes open.

6.) Watch two Alfred Hitchcock movies: Rear Window and Psycho: This will be part of my venture to develop my tastes in movies.

7.) Write a special article on an identification I made about anger.

That's all for now. Once I do get back in the kitchen, it'll be time to start contemplating self-improvement goals for my career once again, though I have made the significant headway already.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gorillaz's DARE

A day spent in bureaucracy has left me ill-prepared with writing for today. I intended for them to only be small chores, but apparently going through the tax office line *twice* and being at the DMV for nearly three hours was sufficient to eat up almost my entire day. The part of Michigan I hail from isn't very densely populated, so the stereotype of crowded DMVs always struck me as weird since my local offices always had a forty minute wait or less. Here, however, the stereotype holds true full force. Whatever: As far as I'm concerned I'm now a legal Texan.

Anyhow, I'll take my lack of preparation as an opportunity for another rare music post. I have mixed feelings about Gorillaz as a band in whole, but I am very fond of this piece. I love female vocalists, and thoroughly enjoy the "jump around and be happy" vibe that permeates the entire song:

The video, of course, is quite weird, but then again aren't most? I don't understand the intention behind such imagery, but it's all nonessential to the enjoyment of the piece.

To update on my music tastes, it seems that my self-improvement venture has been successful. "Forcing" myself to listen to's stations has succeeded in developing my tastes, as my value of music has increased, causing me to learn band and song names more easily and gain explicit favorites. This is a much better contrast to my old self, who cared none about music and could hardly remember any pieces or musicians he liked. Now having added the value of music to my life, I feel that much richer.

From here I'm thinking about moving onto the medium of movies, for they are another potential value I have trouble with. Oh, I do value movies -- I LOVE Who Framed Roger Rabbit -- but having grown up seeing so many bad ones has made me resistant to wanting to see them, and my piddly movie collection reflects that lack of interest. Developing my taste and cultivating this value would serve to enrich my life, so I'd like to gain a deeper appreciation. If "forcing" myself to listen to music has caused me to take it seriously and develop explicit tastes, then surely the same should happen if I "force" myself to watch movies. Alfred Hitchcock has been in my sights lately, so I think I'll start with him, particularly given a friend's recommendation. I think I'm now eligible for a library card, so within the next week or so I'll apply and rent a few DVDs.

(And don't think I've forgotten about the Roger Rabbit sequel in the works. I hope to commemorate it they put the original back in theaters. I've always wanted to see it on the big screen.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inconsistency Once Again

As you might know, currently I'm unemployed. My move to Texas was mostly to take advantage of the better economy present; I need to be here to take advantage of it. Consequently, my biggest concern at the moment is finding a job, not maintaining my studying and reading habits. I'm not sure how long this hunt shall continue, but just to let you know it may interfere with my writing pace. It may be frustrating on your part to read this considering my already sporadic posting a few weeks ago due to my Project, but that's the way things are.

Overall, I'm going to try and let it not interfere, but I cannot be certain of total consistency. At the very least, I can promise you my weekly chocolate review. Those I make a special effort for.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Fallacy of the Grinch Revelation?

Sometimes in my contemplation I wonder if I'm actually the first one to identify a logical fallacy, or at least give a name to one already known about in form. It doesn't happen to me often, but it's an interesting train of thought when I do think of such things.

Lately I've been thinking about a certain aspect of emotionalism. In arguing in the past with people who are thoroughly emotionalist, meaning they use their emotions as a means to knowledge, I've noticed that those people will oftentimes discard careful argumentation altogether and instead concentrate their efforts on trying to appeal to my emotions. In other words, they ignore the content of my own position and instead try to say things that will either make me feel "good" or "bad" in the hopes that experiencing such emotions will convert me to their position. It's utterly hopeless to try and even converse with such people, as they'll ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable and withdraw into their own emotionalistic worldview.

An infamous example of such a practice would be in arguments about abortion on internet forums. I've heard it's often the case that pro-life advocates will resort to posting pictures of mutilated fetuses in place of an argument, thus trying to attempt to make people "feel" the "wrongness" of abortion and gain converts by means of their emotions. Most likely, however, people get disgusted by such images and the discussion goes nowhere.

The problem with trying to persuade people in such a way is that emotions are not the means to knowledge. Just because something makes you feel good does not mean that it's good or true, and just because something makes you feel bad does not mean that it's evil or false. The basis of knowledge rests in fundamental sensory experience, and yet people adopt and drop ideas everyday on the grounds of how they feel at the moment. If a person depends on this method for far too long, he can destroy any possibility of developing a healthy psycho-epistemology and sentence himself to the state of a wild animal, unpredictable and incapable of thinking.

This phenomenon of people trying to persuade through the means of emotions is well-known, but does it have a formal name? If not, then I'd like to propose that this be called the Fallacy of the Grinch Revelation, after Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The reason why I choose the Grinch as the model of emotionalism here is because that cartoon is significantly emotionalist. As you may know, the story is about a creature who attempts to ruin Christmas for a village by stealing everyone's gifts, food, and decorations, but in the end becomes a lover of Christmas after seeing he failed to sadden the villagers. The Grinch's conversion and redemption is totally emotionalist and devoid of any intellectual conclusion: The Grinch changes himself because listening the villagers sing made him feel "good," causing him to somehow change his worldview and character entirely as a result. This is psychologically ridiculous. Any person angry and mean enough, and with the means to do what the Grinch did would have gotten angrier to see that his mission failed. Such a person would probably continue to feel angry even if he did succeed in such an endeavor, because indulging in whatever anger motivates you to do will do nothing to resolve the root problem. I never liked the Grinch cartoon, and I think this may be why.

Given the prevalence of emotionalism in this culture the Grinch Revelation fallacy is everywhere, but it can be solved once it becomes culturally accepted that emotions with unidentified ideological roots are a wholly wrong means to learning the nature of things. In persuasive arguments, this fallacy leads to totally wasteful jibber jabber, because the only people who can be motivated to accept someone's conclusions on emotionalistic grounds is someone who already holds those conclusions already, while other people will "feel" otherwise.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chocolate Review: Endangered Species' 72% Coexist Toffee Pieces

This chocolate review will actually be the first to defy my usual practices by being one of a chocolate covered confection rather than a bar. It's never been against my rules or desires to try out any non-bar form of chocolate, I just never tried it before. With what limited offers are available I'm not sure how often I'll be able to trek into this different territory, but I hope to do it often. For the first in this new type of review I'm eating Endangered Species' 72% Coexist toffee pieces, which is what I stated I would do in my dissatisfied review for Endangered Species' 72% toffee bar. I know I'm not yet ready to engage in my official chocolate restocking, but I couldn't help but pick up a package while I was originally up in Texas for perform my stage.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the first of my chocolates that have bloomed, so I cannot give my best thoughts on its appearance since I don't remember much what they looked like when I first pulled them out. My memory indicates that the chocolate coating was smooth and nearly without imperfection, and while the shine was null it did have the pretty appearance of being dusted with sugar. Distinct from the bloom, each piece bears the shape of a square with rounded edges and is roughly the size of what you'd expect boxed chocolate to be.
It's absolutely better than its bar counterpart. The ratio favors the toffee about 1.5:1 or 2:1, and that makes its flavor so much stronger. I thought its thickness would make its texture like that of taffy, but to my surprise it was just like a very crispy brittle with a smooth melting chocolate, which upon biting treated me to the aroma of milky chocolate and flavor notes of sweet cocoa, nuts, butter, salt, and caramel, with a hazelnut finish on the breath. Here the toffee is fully experienced, whereas in the bar it's only suggested. The chocolate coating is thick enough to hold its own in the flavor profile quite competently.
My only complaint is with the packaging. I like the goody-bag shaped pouch, but it doesn't have the same interesting reading you get with bars of Endangered Species, and like a greedy child I'd like to see bigger offerings so as to make sharing a more comfortable option. As it stands now the Coexist line has 3 ounces of confection per package, the same amount of chocolate you get in a bar. I'd like to see about 4.5 ounce options, to have a little fuller bag and something worth eating with another.
But regardless, this is still very much a satisfying confectionery. This is my second exposure to toffee, and given its simple ingredients (nuts, butter, sugar), I'd like to try other varieties as part of exploring other paleo-friendly confections. This Coexist variety definitely trumps its partner bar, and I'll absolutely be trying out the others in the line. I recommend this treat.

Weekly Summary # 21

Ever since I've gotten the Project completed and cleared my head I've become much more aware of which habits are annoying to maintain now that I've transitioned to a new life. The weekly summary seems to be the most annoying of these habits, so I'd like to make some changes starting with this one so that future articles will be quicker to write. For one, I'm going to start numbering these summaries instead of dating them because dating them involves several wasteful minutes of trying to make sure I'm writing the correct range. Secondly, and most importantly, I'm going to start writing out my goals in a list format so that they'll be quicker to write when I set them and quicker to comment on come week's end, particularly since I'll be able to just copy and paste to reference them from there. All this combined should lead to much more efficiency, and in any effort to save time even minutes count.

Anyhow, to comment on this week, it's been rather slothful, but things seem to be picking up. A combination of being in celebration mode, being ill, and just plain lazy has led to me doing a lot of sightseeing, driving (to learn the roads), and contemplation. There's been especially lots of that last item, as I've been thoroughly enjoying having a cleared mind and being able to think without any touch of disturbance. I've been desiring this mental clarity for way too long now.

My goals have been largely neglected this week. I've been holding off on meditation because of my coughing, and so only started it a few days ago. I also couldn't work towards getting myself more settled in because I'm waiting for a certified copy of my birth certificate to ship, so until I get that there's a bunch of stuff I can't do. I can't get a new license or library card until I use my certificate to get a new registration, and I can't change my address with the proper places until I officially become a resident in this state. So outside of my power, I can't do anything, though hope I can next week.

The most important thing that has happened is that I'm coming to face with the root of several aspects of my character. This is great since now I can conclusively know that these difficulties are internal and under my power, rather than external and uncontrollable. Having the Circumstance out of my life has eliminated all external problems, which means I can think without fear of my situation distorting matters. And in my thinking I've realized that some major changes are yet needing to be made to myself.

To put it simply: I'm unhappy. It may surprise many of you to hear that considering I just got my Project finished, but I never said that it alone would be sufficient to secure contentment. In fact, I explicitly recognized that it wouldn't be the end of the battle, that I would have to deal with the aftereffects once finished. After all, the problem I'm just coming out of was one that existed for the entirety of my life, so obviously it will have a lasting impact. This time, however, I have absolutely no obstacles or excuses for curing these maladies in the absolute quickest fashion possible.

My difficulties are three-fold. For one, I've been painfully missing my work. Restaurant work is not a career I'm taking lightly; I value it very powerfully. Going to work was one of the great pleasures of my life, so now being out of it, for however short amount of time, makes me feel like an essential value is amiss. My routine mealtime has been a small comfort to pacify me. Secondly, I've started experiencing a very intense loneliness. The loneliness was always there, but I never felt it as strongly as this before. I think my subconscious recognizes that it's time for me to move in my concerns, so this intensity of desire is a logical part of this transition. I long to be with people who share my values, especially now since I've lost in-person contact with my previous friends at my last restaurant. Finally, I've recognized that I still hold some anger from my unjust treatment by people while I was growing up, and it disturbs me to find that I still hold such an irrational conclusion about people as this.

However uncomfortable these desires and premises may be, I believe they could be solved easily within the next few weeks or less. My career and companionship malady could both be solved through upping my efforts on seeking employment. Doing so would get me back in the kitchen as soon as possible, and bundled with that atmosphere would come people who share my values in this realm. Additionally, having secured employment means I could advance forward even more in my goals, and start doing things such as attending special events and clubs (particularly an Objectivist club). As for my irrational premise regarding people, that can be treated immediately with meditation and rational thinking. On the latter method, ideas are what drives emotions, so in order to change my emotions I need to consciously keep in mind which ideas I accept as true, and I need to keep reciting them so as to uproot the premise that's driving my leftover anger. Altogether, I'm optimistic things could change for the better fairly quickly, especially since this state has a better economy than Michigan and become I know I can control my character.

For this week, things will center more around self-improvement and job hunting rather than studying since I'm still not eligible for a library card. This week I resolve to:

1.) Apply to at least three places per day starting Monday: The reason why I want to start this on Monday is because the nature of the restaurants I'm trying to get into tend to be busy all day on weekends, so I'll spend this weekend researching prospects and gathering my materials.

2.) Meditate a half hour each day: This will be separate from time of day now, so I'm not just limiting myself to just before bedtime.

3.) Finish the rest of the Amano articles I assigned to myself.

4.) Consider moving my money to this state; research alternatives.

5.) Finish settling in (new license, library card, etc.) if I receive my birth certificate.

All in all, I continue to be satisfied with the decision I made in moving. Whatever it's challenges, it's still proving to be the best choice I have ever made in my life as of yet.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wonky Blog

I don't know why, but ever since I've moved my blog has been malfunctioning with its publishing function. I have been doing well to construct and date my posts appropriately, but for whatever reason my blog has been refusing to publish my articles at their designated time. I don't know if I'm accidentally hitting a keyboard shortcut or what, but it's annoying.

If you've been wondering why I've been posting my articles at sporadic times, rather than consistently as I usually do, this is why. But then again, perhaps you wouldn't notice since I've changed time zones, so naturally I'm aligning my blog in accordance to that as opposed to keeping things the same. When things get fixed, my new trend is that I'll be on Central Time, so my blog will publish an hour earlier for some and an hour later for others.

For now I'm hoping the problem is just a temporary glitch.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Years Resolutions Update

Just a random update on my New Years Resolutions.

Well, most importantly, I've gotten my Project finished, which is not only a major accomplishment for the year but for my life as well. Ironically enough, I may have very well finished it precisely one year since its conception. Poetic, but I still didn't want it to go on for that long. Regardless, it's done. I'm thinking less and less of the Circumstance day by day, and Michigan is becoming an uninteresting memory. I love Texas. All I need now is a job and blasted library card: My brain is starving.

Without your knowing, I've tried a new salt. It may not be fancy, but I decided to go with the McCormick sea salt grinder to start my exploration, which is salt derived from a different sea than it my usual Morton's sea salt. I've definitely noticed it's more intense than Morton, but I hate the setup of the grinder, as it seems to be difficult to try and set to a finer grind. As of right now I hold off on using this salt regularly due to its intensity, as I'd like to save it for more special dishes, such as dry aged beef. Now that I'm in Texas it'll be easier to try out new salts, as there are plenty of nearby stores with new things to try. Himalayan pink salt both looks and sounds intriguing.

Unfortunately, I'm back to square one in regards to saving up for that camera for food photography. Combining the facts of my first trip to Texas for my stage, my move up here, and my unemployment, I have depleted my savings for that endeavor. All for a good cause anyhow, and if I work hard enough I'm sure I can get myself back to where I was in the first place. I still consider myself having the $100 set aside for my chocolate restock, but I'm more than sufficient in my review supply for right now, so I'm going to let that ride until I actually need the chocolate, but I'll also use the savings if I need to too. It might be best to hold off until I get a job. Such would be financially wise. I think it's probable that I'll get a job fairly quickly, but probability is not equivalent to certainty.

As to my other goals, I'm not worrying too much about them right now. I've been recontemplating my role as an intellectual activist, so I'm considering modifying my original goal of writing a LTE every week into submitting a set number of comments per week on online articles, and the whole thing about trying sous vide cooking is on hold until I get extended access to a better kitchen (since I'm renting a room). Trying a grass fed steak, however, seems like it may have gotten easier, as my nearby Whole Foods does carry completely pasture-raised meat. For a while I thought I'd be forced to order online, and that's be a pain since it's both more expensive and has extravagant minimum order standards.

The thing I'd like to get to work on as soon as possible is back to reading my way through twenty books. I'm behind, and I feel intellectually frustrated since I currently can't rent books from the library. That birth certificate is going to take forever to ship, which is what I need to change my registration and license and become a Texan resident, and thereby qualify for a library card. Bah.

It strikes me a funny that some places are still calling 2011 the New Year. As far as I'm concerned, the year has lost its peak freshness and began its mid-momentum right after January 31st. Anyhow, even as the year feels to me like its lost its hierarchy, I've still got in mind the aims I've set.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Life Update

Oops. I guess I should have brushed over my reposted essay about my Project before I published it, because while I stated I wanted to keep my location secret I accidentally posted it within that article I didn't re-proof read, so there's no need to keep it secret anymore: I moved to Texas. It was a hassle given that I drove the entire way and moved all my property myself, but so far it's proving to be one of the best endeavors I've ever taken on in my life.

Right now I've been slightly idle, engaging in sightseeing and learning the roads since I'm unemployed, but my days have been thoroughly filled with enjoyment. The area I moved to is immeasurably greater than where I lived in Michigan. For one, and most importantly, the food culture is fantastic. Chocolate prices are considerably low and vast varieties are everywhere, and new things to try galore are in every grocery I walk into. I've been beginning to nurture a list of which places are best to go to for what foods, and it looks like I might be frequenting a lot of different places, whereas I only stuck to two stores in Michigan. On Sunday I went to this all Asian mall that had a full-sized supermarket inside, and was impressed to see that it had many things I had been desiring to try and obtain but previously could not, including octopus, duck ($1.85 /lb!), various offal (head, blood, brains, etc.), duck eggs, and more. I just could not ask for a better array of shopping centers to fuel my culinary endeavors. My old part of Michigan, in contrast, seems like a barren wasteland.

I even found a new nature preserve, which I'm interested in since I used to frequent a nature park by my house. Not only will it do well for my walking desires, it also shocked me by being immensely huger and more beautiful than my old park. There's so many different trails to choose from: in the woods, by the lake, through a meadow, in a field, and by a pond. Just to scan all its offerings I walked very briskly around its edge, doing little in the way of stopping, and it took me an hour and a half to walk the whole thing. I was almost scared I wouldn't get out in time for its closing. It isn't as close by as my other park since it necessitates driving, but it's well worth the trip.

I'm also impressed by the gym I tried out and intend to get a membership at. It's more expensive than the one I used to frequent since Texas apparently has different pricing procedures, but worth tolerating for what I get. To my surprise, they have the Nautilus brand of machines, which is the brand recommended in Body by Science (my exercise routine source). They're weird, but I like them better. Even with the same weights the exercises seemed more difficult, and I found intriguing that when I tried static holds (when you hold the resistance rather than do repetitions) the arms kept jerking back as if some person were actually yanking on the weights. Once I get a membership I'm absolutely looking to beef up. They also have this dry sauna available in the men's locker room, which I enjoyed after my workout, though I discovered how much it can sting to breathe deeply through the nose in there. The gym is called LA Fitness, and in my area it's the best alternative I've assessed.

There's probably still an endless amount of things more for me to see. Being culinary minded, I've kept a near one-track concentration on food shops, so I have yet to taste the offers of other businesses. Perhaps as I get employed and more socially active I'll start visiting some night clubs? We'll see.

The only downside is that I've gotten myself sick and surprisingly took a long time to fully heal, despite the fact I've been using my vitamin D. It's hardly a mystery how this happened: Between the periods of my stage and consequent move, I've been subjecting my body to lots of stress. Before the move I indulged in a lot of sugar, such as by trying to clean my freezer of its ice cream, and even had a couple drinks with my boss before I left. During my traveling, I became super anxious and worried about what might go wrong, so my body woke me up way earlier than I wanted to and ended up becoming sleep-deprived. By the time I arrived I ended up developing a severe cough, fever, and runny nose. I've been holding off on my meditation because the coughing would disrupt my meditative state, so I have yet to get working on that weekly goal. I don't know why I'm stayed sick for so long, but I'm finally getting over it. It's amazing to think I can feel cold in weather such as this. I'd probably feel miserable in Michigan winter if I were there in that condition.

While I already felt at home the moment I arrived, I still don't feel like I've dropped anchor yet. All this crazy traveling these past few weeks and recent days, including my motel stay in Illinois, has ingrained in me a lasting sense that I'm still on the move. It feels odd to even be in my room for an extended period, as I still have some sense that there's some location that I need to be traveling to. Once I get to know the area and calm down all this frantic sight-seeing I should gain peace with staying at rest.

Emotionally, I am doing better and better. Gone is that frequent stress that used to plague me back in Michigan, and I've certainly noticed I'm developing better behaviors. All these vast chocolate choices, for instance, have hardly tempted me in the least to be financially irresponsible since I know they're outside of my budget at present and that I have plenty at home. In the past these choices would have sent me into a panic since my mind would be desperate to abate the stress I was feeling. Absent that stress, I feel no psychological need to use shopping to treat any discomfort, and I can rest comfortably just making a mental note of which varieties are sold where so that I may purchase them in the future.

Most importantly, I'm not longer dwelling on any problems, which should prove that it was indeed the phenomenon of loose ends that was causing my obsession previously. Desperate to solve my problems and tie up loose ends, I thought about my problems a lot since I was incapable of solving them at the time, and now that they're solved they are of no worth to keep thinking about, and I need to make little effort not to think about them. It's disappointing to think that I wasted a few years of my life struggling with and thinking about this problem, but life is moving on.

I do wish I could get back to my studies, but unfortunately it'll be a few more weeks yet until I qualify for a library card. I need a valid Texan driver's license, and before that I need new registration, and before that I need to wait for the delivery of a certified copy of my birth certificate. Until then I can only wait, write, sight see, and job search. While there's certainly so much potential for culinary experimentation, I'm not going to indulge until I have a source of income, because right now I'm dependence on my savings, thankfully built up especially for this situation. Things ought to change quickly, and until then I've got the likes of Hulu and my Twilight Zone DVDs to entertain me.

My life and writing may seem odd without the Project since it dominated so much of both, but there will other projects to replace it, this time with all lowercase P's. This blog will increasingly become more dominated by my thoughts about foods and my culinary learning, and I'll take to cultivating relationships now that I have no fear of them being undermined by any mental preoccupations on my part or any fear that they may meet the bad people I'm in unchosen association with. And yes, that includes romance, but again: While I may like to detail my self-improvement in preparation for such an endeavor, I won't talk about any of my pursuits.

As of right now it's a question as to where I may choose to consciously direct this blog, but my writing habits will carry on with me to my new life since it's so helpful to introspection. At most I know, I'm definitely shifting my educational pursuits heavily towards my culinary field since my career is continuously getting more important, and also that I'm clarifying my views on what's important to my education (which I'll detail later). Now I think I'll be less prone to wasting my time with texts that hardly hold my interest and seldom bear fruit in terms of learning and notes.

To summarize, the projected end result of my Project was certainly no mistaken fantasy: It has achieved its end in bettering my life in every spectrum and in establishing the mental peace I've been so painfully longing for. It may have been a pressing stretch to have waited until I could move to another state, but this move is proving to be fantastic, particularly in how greater the choices of potential ingredients are. I have positively no bad people in my life, and I can think clearly now as to what it is I solely alone need to do in order to take control of my life. Concretely from here I'd like to work on getting a job, advancing my skills and income, pursuing my own apartment (I'm renting a room at the time), and establishing a regiment of culinary education, particularly in practicing in my own kitchen.The Project was a long and aggravating struggle, but was well worth it.

Never give up on solving your problems. The life to be gained on the other side is more than worthwhile.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ice Cream Review: Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean

I'm coming to think that some spices are so delectable that food companies do them an injustice by subjecting them to cheap practices, such as poor growing and bad processing, which ruins their beauty in the attempt of making it widely available to the masses. These spices has incredible potential, and yet such abuse makes them unfairly seem sub par. Case in point: vanilla. It smells wonderful and can be incredible when used properly, but poor extracts and diluted, wide-spread use makes it come off as meek and unworthy. The word vanilla even has a slang connotation that means "ordinary or conventional," which is just as bad as calling it boring and run-of-the-mill. It's virtually representative of ice cream along with chocolate, and yet it appears to be the most boring flavor. I think Haagen Dazs vanilla bean deals some well needed justice.

Hands down this has got to be some of the best ice cream I have ever eaten in my life. It's very intense, much more so than I'm used to, and brings out the full potential of the vanilla bean. I didn't get anything in way of the spiciness, but there is a sweet note of powdered sugar and salty cream throughout the entire experience, the flavors being constant. The first time I had this was right after a workout, and my brain throbbed with pleasure and I smiled inside. The mouthfeel could be improved, as while it has an acceptable melt at every bite there is a slight roughness that indicates crystals at some level.

To compare I have had Haagen Dazs regular vanilla, and I have to say it's not even worth doing a separate review for. The intensity and complexity just don't meet the standards the vanilla bean variety sets for. An extract, after all, is necessarily going to be weaker than using ground up beans since it's diluted by nature. The vanilla bean version may be slightly more expensive, but absolutely worth it. If anything, I'd say "regular" vanilla ice cream isn't worth paying any attention to given this high standard.

While I leave myself open to trying other new things, I doubt I'll let myself waste my palate on any carelessly treated vanilla products again. This ice cream makes fully real just how incredibly awesome vanilla can be, and exposes how the food culture at large needs to show some more respect. I give my fullest endorsement.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Excuses

[Note: I'm going to try my best to avoid mentions of particular concretes involved in my past Project and Circumstance, such as my specific family troubles and relationships, so that I can prevent my mind from dwelling on those matters and also be respectful to those family members I am still on respectable terms with, who are now more aware of this blog. Even having removed myself from my previous situation I still find I am continuing to derive beneficial philosophical insights from my past experiences, especially now that I'm in a new culture, am meeting new people, and can add, compare, and contrast these new experiences to my old ones. I think it's mostly immaterial now to note my relationship to a particular person who has fueled my thoughts unless it's important; I only mentioned that my problems were with my mother and grandmother specifically because it was important to the philosophical points I wanted to make about cultural notions of duty, intrinsic family values, and non-causal emotions that ideologically drove my problems at root. Now any experiences I have with my family members will likely lead me to muse on the natures of various forms of human character in general, the nature of our relations omitted.

To anyone who knows me in person or has (in the case of the people residing in the state I left behind), I'd like to reiterate that the main purpose of my blogging is to advance my thinking and ideals, not snark or get back at anyone. Writing helps my introspection greatly, and I share it because I like having an audience and hope I can fuel their thinking as well, hopefully persuade them to agree with my conclusions. I realize that offense may come anyhow despite any polite procedures in my writing, and I accept that: Some people will not be civil no matter how politely you treat them. I'll take it as something that comes packaged in the endeavor of speaking one's mind, so the only thing I want to make clear that it is not my intention to offend.] 

Even though my Project is over I still have much work to do, and I don't mean in regards to finding a job and the likes. As noted previously, my experiences still have had a psychological impact on me, so I must make an effort to take control over my character now that I'm unimpeded by fundamental external problems. There's absolutely no reason now why I shouldn't hold myself to the strictest standards from here on out. The reason why I couldn't competently engage in such thorough self-improvement before is because the problem I was dealing with wasn't of my own making and was very cumbersome and time consuming to overcome, so as a result I was held back by loose ends in my subconscious I couldn't get rid of. I have closure now, so it's time to move on.

I've deleted my secret blog now, but one of the posts I had written for it mused upon people who have mostly gotten bad people out of their life and yet retained the negative effects the relationship incurred. These people had been given a second chance at life by getting out the terrible people that imposed their psychological hangups on them to begin with, but they blew the chance by maintaining their malformed character for the rest of their life, thus becoming a product of the environment by choice. We can be to some extent not held responsible for certain aspects of our psyche when we're forced to deal with situations we'd otherwise would choose not to, but it's always possible to get out of that situation, and, upon doing so, have the full brunt of self-responsibility be shouldered thereafter. I intend not to waste my only chance at life by retaining any psychological hang-ups that could be excised quickly.

While I've noted nothing but positive changes from my Project so far, I worry most about my temperament. The situation I've just come out of was very psychologically repressive. I wasn't allowed to be myself to the fullest extent, otherwise I'd incur the punishment of a raised voice, tantrums, dead issues continually brought up, and so on. As a result, to cope with such bothers I had to mostly keep my thoughts to myself, and being involved in that situation so consistently made it so that it spilled into other areas in my life even when I wasn't presently being affected by the difficulties. I couldn't speak my thoughts freely, for instance, because it came with a great risk of provoking emotional distraught and whining, and having to deal with that risk so often made it so I even kept to myself in the presence of my coworkers, whom I trusted and who had proven to me that they can deal with disagreements without emotionally losing it. Simply put, I was much like Pavlov's dog, the animal that drooled at the sound of a bell regardless of whether or not food was present. I had to restrict my behavior in many ways to make things go smoothly, even hide certain foods I ate, which resulted in me developing habits which are no longer relevant to my new situation and deleterious to my pursuit of perfection.

At this point, however, it's hard to say which attributes of my past experience I've retained, if any at all. At present I can only detect that I need to vastly improve my sense of life, as the middle ground indifference I nurtured all these past years in Michigan has traveled with me. One would think that this achievement would have made me euphoric, but in truth it has only removed the fundamental stress I was feeling before, and an absence of stress is not equivalent to having achieved contentment. I sense I am over the negativity of the past, but I still need to exert more effort to establish something positive.

The greatest thing is that self-improvement at this point should be much easier and efficient now. It was so slow, difficult, and sometimes retrogressive in the past because I was stressed on a fundamental level and sometimes even had my goals undermined, but now those particular inhibitors are no longer present, though it may be wise to address an objection in order to dispel any doubts.

Before I deleted my secret blog a family member somehow found his way there and posted a comment on my first post about my Project, implying that personality characteristics can be determined by genetics and arguing that I'm likely blaming others for problems which were really born within myself. The rest of his writing indicated a very sloppy and perhaps evasive understanding of my position, but he does motivate me to further clarify my stance.

Of course, to start with, I had no choice in being born, so I was brought into existence without my consent. There's certainly nothing wrong with that -- it's just a simple truth -- but what that means is that I'm being pushed into a situation not of my own construction that I have to deal with for a certain amount of time despite any desire otherwise. Being a child, I was cognitively helpless for a certain period, so during that time I was entirely vulnerable to uncritically adsorbing the guidance, practices, and habits of my elders. I did, and it resulted in incredible psychological difficulties for a long time since I was unable to critically identify the nature of what I accepted and what I was doing to myself. Young children are like sponges: They absorb what they see and it becomes a part of them. It isn't until they can critically think that they'll be able to consciously control their character. Until then, I was practically a miniature version of the people in charge of my guidance, and it was very self-destructive. To say that personality can be determined by genetics is bogus because it's the common error of mistaking association with causation. That something happens often within a particular family does not mean that it's inherent in the DNA; it's also possible that it could only be common within a family because the individual members are engaging in similar actions which reap the same consequences. With all my thinking an observations, I've determined the problems within my own context are ideological, meaning how ideas have driven the thinking, ideas, habits, and practices accepted by my relevant elders. The reason why these certain negative psychological characteristics, such as consistently negative emotions and constant fear, are found to be held in common between these members is because they've accepted the same or similar philosophical premises that have motivated them to practice the things that lead to these consequences. We are what we do.

To continue being involved in this situation would hold me back because it was the root of my psychological hangups to begin with. Let's use a driving analogy (not from my personal experience, fyi). Project someone who has an near-crippling fear of driving and is determined to overcome it, but because of his age and context the state will only allow him to legally drive with one person: His single legal guardian. Let's say that this legal guardian has an irrational fear about this person learning how to drive, and his uncontrolled way of handling his emotions has resulted in him becoming hysterical at any time of stress. Any little mistake the developing driver makes results in the guardian screaming, thrashing in the seat, grabbing the steering wheel, squeezing the driver's shoulder, and other over-the-top behavior. In the position of someone trying to get over a fear, how do you think this would affect them? If you're already so much as frightened of a car passing by in the opposite lane of a low speed limit suburban neighborhood, would it not spike your fear if someone screamed at you for being one inch off center? Obviously, pairing this fearful driver with his hysterical guardian would make it incredibly more difficult for him to get over his fears or even cause it to worsen. Best for the driver would be to either learn peacefully on his own or with someone more rational, but, again, in this situation the state won't allow that.

The result of this situation is that the driver would be much slowed in developing his driving skills because he wouldn't be able to master his vehicle while in the company of his guardian. The guardian would just provoke his fears over and over again, and probably cause him to retrogress on his progress by continually striking his emotional nerves. This young driver would either have to make an incredibly intense effort to overcome this guardian's hysteria, wait until he can ride with someone else, or wait until he can drive by himself. Either way, his growth is going to be slower than it otherwise could be.

In my context, I absorbed the habits of my elders and had to live with the impact until I was able to critically think, by which then I vastly altered my philosophy and practices. However, many of the old emotions were still there since the particular people were still presence to provoke them. My grandmother, for instance, always refused to participate in my attempts to resolve our disputes, so the end result was that loose ends built up in my subconscious that I had no other choice but to let sit around. I couldn't move out at the time, so the loose ends simply piled up and gradually creeped into and took over my thinking. My grandmother's continual refusal for resolution meant I had to deal with those loose ends for the meanwhile, and that meant I was fundamentally stressed most of the time since I was incapable at the time of tying up the loose ends myself. With my mother, I found it necessary to get her out to cure my depression since she had an explosive and unpredictable temper and fits of gloom. To continue dealing with these people means I would have to continue tolerating being provoked all the time and being unable to resolve loose ends in my life. Now that they're out, the stimuluses are no longer present and I can take control over my character without fear something is going to rock the boat while I'm engaged in self-improvement.

My new situation means I no longer have any excuses, so now I can rest easy knowing everything is entirely my responsibility. I know that this reasoning doesn't apply to such things as the economy . . . that isn't of my doing or responsibility . . . so I only mean this to apply to spiritual issues and matters of character. However imperfect today's world may be or the things I may achieve, it is still within my grasp to develop the perfect self as I've outlined before, and until I can identify the full extent of the impact of my previous experiences I going to start by meditating in order to uplift my sense of life and build up and immunity to unnecessary stress. Meditation had great effects on me before, and I want to tap into those benefits again.

It's cliche', but life is too short to not expect anything less than the best and ideal. You waste your time now and you can say goodbye to happiness. Just about every time I think of my twenty-two years of age I think not of how young I am, but how old. Matters of my inevitable death rarely, if ever, enter my mind, but thinking of my age makes me feel the emotional impact of just how finite my time is.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Kinda Weekly Summary/ The Nature of My Project, Unabridged

So I promised that I would do an ice cream review this week, but I guess I'll be a promise breaker. Who cares? I got the freakin' Project done. I've been talking about it forever and ever, and now it's come to pass and I can move on with my life. Best of all for my blog, I can now speak openly on any and all matters. Strangely enough, I still feel the same way as a person, though without the stress my grandmother put on me before. It's like the problem never existed before, but I do admit I need to take some measures to alter my temperament, this time entirely unimpeded by any external problems.

This week has mainly been all about the Project, and I've been slothful these past few days because my muscles have been fatigued from carrying all those boxes and my catching a cold. I was incredibly anxious during my long travels to my new living location, so much so that I woke up much earlier than I wanted to and probably compromised my immune function. I've hardly had time to do any writing anyhow, as I've been traveling around and initially had trouble setting up my internet connection. Plus, my cold and lack of sleep made me sleep for nearly 12 hours straight.

Anyhow, since my week hasn't been filled to the brim with activity, I'm also going to include in this summary the full nature of my family problems. As mentioned before, the vague sentence I put in my one of my past weekly summaries, "Super Secret Thing," was supposed to serve as a flag term in order to grab attention when I posted a blog post with a similar title in the Objectivist Roundup. I got sick of being secretive, so I created a secret blog so I could speak openly. Since my Project is over with, I will now delete that blog. The following essay is lifted verbatim from that blog, and is unedited (so a little bit of it is dated). These problems ought to be behind me now, so I'm not going to expend the thought necessary on this subject to polish my writing.

* * * * *

If you're lucky enough to have found your way here, then congratulations. I cannot go much in the way of advertising this blog, so I can only hope that the right individuals come. The ones I don't want don't frequent the websites I do given our different characters, so I'm secure enough to advertise in the Objectivist Roundup.

Anyhow, why the secrecy? Well, I'm going to tell you the truth about the Project and Circumstance. It's been bothering me for months and months that I've wanted so greatly to write about it publicly, but couldn't because the people I don't want to be aware of it are aware of both of my public blogs and Facebook profile, so it's been a no-go all this time. Consequently, I've had to resort to using vague terms such as "Project" and "Circumstance" to keep things quiet even though I'd much rather do otherwise. After doing some thinking I've finally realized I can create a temporary blog and do my open writing here while being secure that it wouldn't be found. It may not be widely read due to lack of advertisement and visibility, but it'll do. At long last I can do the writing I've been wanting to do. For endless months I've been drafting in my head the articles I'd like to publish, but have been unable to take any steps in actually constructing them due to the necessary secrecy, instead having to seek partial satisfaction from private writings with a limited or absent audience.

What I'm about to say is deeply intimate, one I thought would only be need a couple or so paragraphs after I finish my Project, but after having spent so many months introspecting the Circumstance I've come to realize that my problem has philosophical causes and may be hurting or ruining the lives of countless others. My story is one that would usually be kept entirely secret, never spoken about publicly, or at least not published until after the author is deceased, such as a bad period noted in a biography. But I've realized that my fears are irrational. The problems I've come to endure are not my fault or the result of any immorality. Rather, I've been forced into a situation not of my choosing and had to suffer through it as a result of its default nature, only coming close to curing it entirely with the use of my Project. I speak out not to only vent myself or impose revenge on anyone, but rather to make a philosophical point of how harmful some ideas are by using my own life to show how these ideas manifest themselves concretely. To not know the nature of these ideas is to be entirely vulnerable to them; I was damaged by them for most my entire life, only able to employ the remedy once I became explicitly philosophical. It is a desire of mine to see these ideas repudiated so they can stop injecting their poison.

It may be most wise to write this post while I'm still being frustrated by the Circumstance anyhow. The only reason why I've dedicated so much thinking to the Circumstance is because I've been unable to deal with it except through the means of the Project. Whenever I engage myself in my Project I become optimistic for a better future and lose my awareness and sensitivity to the Circumstance, and if I become idle in it or otherwise stagnate I obsess over the Circumstance again. The Circumstance has imposed loose ends on my subconscious, and my philosophical premise that evasion is the greatest evil possible makes it so I won't allow myself to evade or will be extremely uncomfortable if I ever attempt to, so my subconscious simply won't let me "forget" my problems if I do nothing about them, and the Circumstance is a big problem. Do nothing and I'm constantly thinking about it. After the Project is finished I might lose all will and temptation to write such a post as this, as the problem will be gone and I'll be an incredibly more relaxed person. I wouldn't be surprised if I became forever disinterested in the Circumstance from then on -- never desiring to think, talk, or write about it -- so if I want to be my most competent in making my points then I ought to do it while the problems and frustration are still present.

Simply put, my major Project is that I'm trying to move into my own living quarters and become financially independent. The Circumstance is my grandmother and, more largely, my family, who have served to be an immensely irrational and deleterious influence in my childhood. My grandmother stands in the way of my value pursuits and is a constant source of frustration and unending, hopeless problems which I cannot solve with the exercise of reason-based dialogue, so I need the Project in order to get away from her by moving to an undisclosed location and cutting off communication with her and other irrational family members. The reason why I need to keep this Project a secret is because if my grandmother found out she'd be emotionally provoked and pester me non-stop about it because she feels so "bad" about it, which would amount to some serious agitation given my Project has been in process for nearly a year now. She has no courage or anger against me, so I'd still be living under her roof, having to constantly tolerate her emotionalistic appeals, appeals which are directed not at my mind, but at some sort of sense of causeless, spontaneous, mystical intuition. There'd be no way to reason things out with her, and her belief in emotional revelations would lead to her constantly trying to invoke one in me, trying to get me to "feel" why my chosen course is inherently wrong or bad. Other family members could possibly harass me too if they knew, treating me as if I were somehow imposing some harm on my grandmother rather than simply trying to live a value-oriented life. I have little family support in this venture, so I've had to be entirely vague about it, only speaking about it cryptically or not at all.

You must be disappointed at this point. Moving into an apartment? Family that sucks? How undramatic and typical! While my reasons for needing to keep silent may appear to be out of the norm, I judge that my hostility towards my family isn't equivalent to that of usual children, and that I am entirely justified in acting the way I am. I wasn't abused or physically neglected, but there were behaviors and ideas in my relationships that have done tremendous harm to myself and to the relationships in total, and to pursue my fullest happiness I need the fullest absence of these people. My particular concretes may be unique, but I think the ideas that have driven these people to act this way are much more common -- and doing great harm in the culture at large. It doesn't have to be this way since men have free will, and it is my hope that by speaking up I can kindle better choices, even if only in one or two lives of my limited audience here.

By now I hope you haven't rolled your eyes at the screen, thinking my matters to be so outrageously common. A secondary frustration in the Project is how mostly alone I've been in my intellectual position. I know immediately that the majority of my family wouldn't support me in this venture; instead, they would scold me for my "childishness" and tell me to get over my anger, as if my decisions were not thought about at all and are whim-driven. The few strangers I've told on the internet -- when I sought intellectual guidance before I concocted the Project -- did not have access to the full complexity of my problems and treated me as if I were either making an unjust decision or hastily burning a bridge, that I should give my family more chances. The few coworkers I've told, withholding even more of the complex concerns given the brevity of the conversation, may not even believe the validity of my position, thinking me to be the typical child making a hasty decision that will eventually "wise up" and resume relations. It's disappointing to me to be in such a predicament solely because of my young age (22), because I've spent countless hours thinking about my situation, what I should do, and why I'd be justified in doing it: hours thinking, hours writing hundreds of diary entries, and hours rethinking my position. The problems I'm responding to have been thoroughly consistent in their presence and years in the making, if not having been present from my birth. I've spent months trying to solve my problems with some family members and years with others, and it is only after spending yet more hours introspecting on this vast spectrum of behavior have I decided that any and all means except for disassociation are impotent, so I'm burning bridges now not with a trigger-happy hand on the matchbox, but with the calm deliberation of someone who has given these people way more chances than they deserve, and it is only after a long, long, long journey have I decided that I simply cannot deal with these people peacefully. Most common may be the site of teenagers who act hostile to their parents as a whim-ridden reflex before cutting them off temporarily, but my own plans have been meticulously thought out with the most sincere intention of making this excommunication permanent. They provide zero value in my life; therefore, I will spend zero time with them.

Given the various considerations, it is probably best for me to make my case through writing, so that I can give a much larger context than I would in conversation. Five minutes spent talking with a coworker is obviously not time at all to speak of the most important considerations, and by default of my age I look the typical child. If you have the patience to sit through all my writing, I'll explain my family problems, the ideas that drive them, and why my Project is the only sure-fire remedy. With the greatest of my benevolence, I hope you find something of value in this essay too, for I don't want a single person to have to deal with the garbage I had to. I'm not going to detail my entire childhood however, so I'm going to start at the point where the largest family problems began, transitioning from when I mistakenly thought only a single family member was the problem.

At root, it all began when my mother kicked me out of her house in February of 2008. At the time I was going to college while intellectually extremely opposed and uncertain of it, which resulted in a bout of intense depression. I had come home from having done laundry at my grandmother's, and given my emotional sensitivities I was irritated that I had to get out in the cold to back out my mother's car before pulling mine in. After having done the task, I knocked on my mother's bedroom door and asked her what time she would be home from work the next day, as I wanted to beat her home so I wouldn't have to do the procedure again just to pull mine in. Accidentally I knocked rather loudly on her door: Whenever I knock on doors in other buildings I had habituated using quite a bit of strength since all the doors were densely solid, thereby requiring a lot of force to make an audible noise to the person on the other side. When I brought this habit home and used it on our doors of little mass -- they might have even been hollow inside -- I knocked too loudly and frightened my mother awake. It was not my intention to be aggressive or to upset her: I just forgot that these doors are far less dense than the ones I'm largely accustomed too. My mother probably wasn't in too deep a sleep anyhow, as I noticed the blue of her television when I was pulling in the driveway, and I don't believe she used a sleep timer to make the television shut off automatically. She was probably under for but a few moments.

After she answered my question I took to start folding my laundry, and less than a moment later she stomped out of her bedroom and shouted, "That is IT!" She shouted that I was to no longer live in her home, that I was to live at my grandmother's and be out by next afternoon. I quickly transitioned from folding my laundry to packing my property. Only a small pinch of sadness was present within me; the indifference dominated. My grandmother was accepting of my impending arrival, and I was settled in the next day. It was strange to think I felt so little in the way of negative emotion towards my being kicked out by my mother. I wasn't going to live in that neighborhood anymore. I wasn't going to have my dog anymore. I was going to be back near where I grew up.

Most importantly, I realized my mother wasn't going to be a part of my life from then on. From then on I determined never to deal with my mother again, only having to deal with her those times I had to or else her presence was brought to me. Being kicked out of her house had absolutely no influence in the making of this decision.

Truthfully, I had made this plan, to deliberately disassociate with her forever, years ago, and I told no one of my plan. During those years beyond the day I made that plan I was biding my time, making for that day when I would somehow be given the means to cut her off period. Being kicked out was that means, the means to finally putting into play a plan I constructed and held onto years prior. I've detested my mother the majority, if not the entirety, of my life. Before the age of ten I judged my mother to be a model of bad living given her reprehensible habits, but somehow I divorced my evaluation from my emotional responses and still loved her. It was a contradiction: I judged her as a bad person based on her bad actions, but somehow still believed she was worthy of my love. When I entered my teenage years, however, my emotions started lining up with that past evaluation. Unlike other teens I didn't become rebellious. I was entirely obedient and good. Regardless, I started nurturing an intense dislike of her and indifference to her misfortunes and pain. As the years went on, my emotions got more and more intense. I didn't like deal with her at all, didn't care for her pain, lied about forgiving her whenever she apologized for her misdeeds, and didn't miss her when she was absent.

For many years it escaped my notice the fact I didn't value my mother and why I felt that way, but I became entirely aware of it when she moved to Florida to take a job while I stayed at the house in Michigan. When she left it was like a dark cloud had been lifted from my life. I felt better and more at peace, more benevolent, physically healthier, and was even incredibly more motivated to keep the house much more clean, vacuuming, washing dishes, washing, and scrubbing more often. I used my mother's room to store junk I couldn't throw away. I remained obedient to her and didn't have a single party -- I had a friend over once or twice -- but I felt immensely better. I rested better, ate better, maintained the chores better. . . I was better in spirit. I was only aware of it on an emotional level, but I recognize that my mother's absence gave me immense spiritual benefits. It became shockingly clear when my mother took a vacation and came home for a week, during which I holed up in my room and was completely hostile to doing any chores. When she left, the inner peace was restored. At some point after her vacation I promised myself that I was going to permanently cut her off whenever I moved away, whenever that was. The promise was made during my junior year in high school, approximately three years before being kicked out.

But of course I haven't made entirely clear why it is I detest my mother. Simply, she's literally the most evil person I've ever met. I have the privilege in saying this because she's the person I've spent the majority of my life dealing with, and I have access to not only her history, but a great array of concrete instances of her behavior. By keeping all these actions in mind, noting consistent trends, and adding them up to a sum that composes what she is in essence, I have determined that her behavior is consistently evil and anti-life, and given that a person is what he repeatedly does: My mother's repeated evil actions makes her an evil person.

As the result of an irrational and very probably abusive upbringing, my mother lived on the basis of her emotions, doing whatever it is they urged her to do. Intelligence didn't play a role in her life and she neglected whatever mental powers she had. Her life was one of indulgence in random whim after whim. In good and bad moods alike she spent frivolously into financial ruin, maintained nothing but short-lived romances and friendships she ended on whim, continued dealing with people she positively despised, lazed about in idleness on her days off from a job she cared nothing about and had no relationship to any of her passions, and more. In combination with evasion -- pretending she doesn't know things or that some things haven't happened, making her mind go blank when she needs to think, ignoring her past misdeeds, and so on -- repression, and traumas, the end result of all her decisions and habits is that she induced within herself bipolar disorder, anger problems, and severe depression, emotional conditions she did little in the way of resolving. Whenever she did try to fight them, with honest self-improvement and therapy alike, she always did so with the pretense of evasion, so her endeavors were always doomed to failure, ending up with her going right back to being Mr. Hyde. Her good moods were seldom, and when they came she acted like a person drunk on endorphins, and was, of course, soon crashing back into the slump she resided in the majority of the time.

As you can imagine, living with her, me being her son, was thoroughly miserable. Since my family was never willing to morally condemn my mother for her choices they viewed her as entirely fit as a mother, thereby leaving me in her care the majority of the time, giving me the honor of witnessing all the colors of her self-imposed problems and failures. Her problems were not something that interjected themselves in our relationship occasionally or frequently, but consistently as a theme. I was never abused . . . but having to sit through and witness such horrid behavior so regularly really harmed me while growing up.

A large amount of her time was spent either idly watching television or napping. Oh, she was always napping -- trying to sleep off her depression, but never successfully doing so. Spiritually I was largely ignored, as we rarely ate together, instead opting to eat in our own areas, and we almost never had deep and personal talks. The very few times I tried to seek her guidance on my problems she had panic attacks, acted like she was disgusted with me, told me to stop feeling my negative emotions (repress) and start feeling positive ones (somehow), that her problems were more important than mine, and so on. Eventually I just learned to keep everything to myself and never (literally) talked to her about anything important, and given her evasive nature she never pressed me about my life, instead allowing herself to remain ignorant and pretend my problems didn't exist.

Her emotions were totally unpredictable to me, further encouraging me to keep to myself since I had no way of knowing how to respond to anything. Sometimes I told her something negative that was of great significance to me and she would take it calmly and without controversy, and then taking a nap on my aunt's couch provoked her anger and made her stew the rest of the afternoon. It was all random chaos, and I figured the only way to protect myself from it was to deal with it as little as possible; to hold back the chaos would mean avoiding it. Growing up I then took to staying in my room all the time, occupying myself entirely with television and video games to keep my mind off just how awful I thought everything was. That's was I was trying to prevent myself from doing: Thinking. If I thought, then I realized how much I hated life, and it made me not want to deal with things anymore.

Growing up with my mother not only meant being exposed to all her bad behaviors all the time, but adopting them too. Kids learn by watching. My character was dominated by a fear of people, depression, a seething temper, obsessive daydreaming to immerse myself in a fantasy world, mood swings, rare endorphin rushes that made me feel virtually drunk, and more. What kind of character my mother had taken over forty years to develop I was using as my starting point in life, taking off where she left. I had very few friends, treated the friendships I had as doomed to failure and didn't maintain them, and irrationally cut off on whim the rest. I never initiated a romance in my youth because my irrationality always led to non-existent or fatally flawed pursuits, leaving my loneliness to be a painful constant. I had no self-esteem and not only thought I was worthless, but that I was evil and in actuality deserving of destruction, and starting in sixth or seventh grade I started constantly contemplating suicide, even going so far as to plan the concrete details out. I almost carried the act out when I was in college, saved only by an abrupt mood swing that occurred on my way home from school.

The most despicable thing about all this is that my mother and grandmother knew about this the entire time. They knew how I holed myself up in my room and almost always refused friends. They knew I was severely depressed, as it could be plainly seen in my limited ability to smile, scowl molded on my face, constant staring down at the ground, being silent, and more. They knew how I consistently refused to go outside, instead soaking in endless video games and television. They knew the whole time. They were there the whole time. The facts were right there before them. But what did they do? Mostly nothing, else they tried irrational things such as trying to cure matters with frivolous material goods such as fast food or more video games, or they just dropped me randomly into therapy. On that latter, they didn't even bother to give thought as to who should treat me, instead sticking me in random doctors' offices, all three of whom either did absolutely nothing to ease my maladies or even went so far as to agitate them. When I was taken out of therapy, virtually nothing was done then to help me, except for the endless stream of superficial material goods. The one thing I wanted most, spiritual guidance, was the one thing always refused to me. Personal talks were always off-limits in my family relationships, always prone to emotional flare-ups whenever attempted. So I had to deal with my maladies all by my lonesome, me, just a child. I had no fault in bringing them upon myself, and yet I had to deal with it all.

I can remember the single two moments which essentially ruined my relationship with my mother and grandmother, the moments I knew I could never trust them again or forgive them for their characters. Both moments happened in a car in my driveway. Whatever subject we had come upon, it had led to a dispute. I was in particular anguish in that period of my life, maybe age 14-15, and I took advantage of the emotional heat to tell my mother and grandmother (at separate times; they're separate instances) that I was suicidal. I had already been thinking about suicide for years at that point, and passing time made me get only worse and worse emotionally. I desperately wanted help, for my elders to finally recognize what bad shape I was in and how I needed these problems to be attended to. I. Was. Ignored. My grandmother panicked and told me that I brought up too uncomfortable a subject for her to deal with, and the issue was ignored from then on; she didn't even contact other relatives or professionals to give me the assistance. It was simply dismissed and pretended it never happened. My mother perhaps responded even worse. Upon hearing my words, shouted at her in the anger of the moment, she fell silent, quietly walked in the house, and never acknowledge the issue thereafter. There, too, no help came. I just opened up to my elders with the most important issue in my life back then and was totally abandoned. Given how serious I was, they're lucky their evasions didn't end with my death, because the only thing that prevented me from attempting suicide that one time was a last-moment calming down, granted to me by an extensive drive home from school. For the rest of my growing up my emotions just got worse and worse, and suicide seldom ever left my mind.

Life is what makes everything possible. Without life, you cannot value or engage in anything. Life is fundamental. If you claim to love a person but won't do anything to protect his life, then you cannot claim that you care about his well-being because it's life that gives rise to the person in the first place. I realized that my mother and grandmother didn't feel authentic love towards me, or otherwise weren't willing to do what it takes to maintain it. My life was seriously in danger, and confronted with the choice whether to protect my life or run away from an emotion that's making them briefly uncomfortable, they chose to run away. Not feeling "bad" was more important to them than making sure I was safe. That I won't ever forget as long as I live. Those moments that lasted only a few seconds each drastically changed the nature of my relationship with these people, beginning the process in which I lost any conception of valuing them, stopped feeling love or positive emotions towards them, and started becoming indifferent and hostile. They forced a lot of psychological hang-ups on me while growing up and refused to take responsibility when I wanted their guidance -- and that's unforgivable. My life nearly ended due to their spiritual neglect.

That's how it came to be that I transitioned from loving my mother while judging her as a bad person to lining up my emotions with my estimate of her, becoming hostile and indifferent. I learned directly through her moving to Florida that it was in fact her presence that made me so distraught, given what endless pleasure I had in never seeing her and having the house all to myself, and experienced the full brunt of all I hated when she came back for a vacation. My problems weren't causeless and random as I thought they were; they had a cause, and it was right there before me. I quickly decided never to associate with my mother again whenever I should move out, and divorced her from my life emotionally from then on.

My healing came through discovering Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness. At that point in my life I had already started my philosophical thinking since I was an avid Anthony Burgess reader, and reading that anthology drastically altered my worldview. In fact, just after reading a couple or so essays I realized what horrendous ideas I had been holding and how much harm they were doing to me, and the realization invoked in me euphoria that lasted for hours. I knew from then on that my life was going to get better because I was going to stop making the errors that plagued me for so long. Depression was still there for some years afterward, but much reduced and nearing a cure. Video games and television played a lesser role in my life, exchanged for reading and engaging in intellectual forums on the internet. I no longer felt worthless and immoral; I started developing a sense of self-esteem and self-love after realizing my previous ethics of altruism were impossible and evil. More and more did I engage in thinking over daydreaming. I simply got better and better. As testament to that, Valentine's Day arrived just a few days after I discovered VOS and Objectivism, and it was probably the very first Valentine's Day I wasn't depressed. I learned that my desire for a significant other wasn't to add value to my life, but rather to employ a substitute for self-esteem, which is why I never successfully cultivated a romance and found loneliness more painful than it needed to be. Once I started building self-esteem, I realized that self-love was more important and primary in romantic matters, and on that Valentine's Day -- and every one since then -- I felt inner peace. Peace.

There was still a lot of work to be done -- and still a lot to be done, I'd say -- but whatever the hardships in front of me I had pulled myself out of the spiritual gutter, turned 180, and was finally rising upwards. It was then that I started engaging in self-improvement seriously and working to establish myself as someone who takes knowledge seriously and acts accordingly. In bare essence, I am still the same person I was when I first discovered Objectivism, only now I have a greater store of knowledge and mastery over my ideas and practices. It wasn't and will never be just a "phase." Unfortunately, my elders seemed to think it was.

Never once did my mother or grandmother question my new practices, thinking, and habits. They could plainly observe that I was changing into an incredibly different person than they were raising me to be and that I was reading more and more books. Never once did they bother to inquire what the content of those books were. Never once did they bother to ask where I was getting all these new ideas from. They treated me as if I were having emotional revelations, just going through some teenage phase, and were consequently indifferent to all the new things I was doing and ways I was changing. For instance, it took telling my mother about my atheism several times before she actually responded emotionally. Before then she was only dry and "interested." Other similar ideas were received with panic, and I'm not sure if even to this day they believe I actually believe in what I believe in.

The majority of my life ideas were just fed to me at random and quietly. My elders never seriously taught me anything, but instead relied on the culture, school institutions, "other people," and mystical intuitions. I don't think I was ever given the Birds and the Bees talk, instead being ignored and counted on doing my learning in sex ed. I adopted those implicit, mindlessly accepted ideas sure enough and was harmed by them, and quickly rejected them when I made explicit their nature and judged their validity in comparison to other alternatives. Life with my relatives was dominated by material focus. We ate separately or with a television nearby, didn't have personal conversations; engaged in activities that largely included ignoring each other, such as watching television "together" or going to the movies; and had emotional fits often. I practically raised myself, my elders being there to provide only shelter, food, and video games. It was thanks to them I adopted horrible ideas and struggled with a mangled self, and no thanks to them did I discover the better alternatives and healed myself. I'm not only a self-made man, but one who has had little to no help or guidance from others except for book authors.

That's why I chose to keep my mother out of my life forever when she kicked me out. She did worse than provide no spiritual value for my being: She injected poisonous anti-values. Living with her was miserable the entire time I had to endure it, and I was more than ready for it to stop when she blew up at my knocking too loudly. The reason why I was so ready to embrace my grandmother despite her immoral vices is because I thought I had an emotionally distorted estimate of her due to my having adopted in the past my mother's wild moods. I thought I had been entirely unjust to her, and was ready to wipe the slate clean and judge her properly, free of my mother's agitations and mood swings. With my mother out of the way I knew I would no longer be provoked to distort the evidence I was given when assessing my relatives, and I thought I'd find them to be much better people than I thought they were when growing up under my mother.

Most importantly, I thought they would be fully supportive of my decision to disassociate from my mother. Her frothing emotionalism didn't only affect me, it affected all the people in her life: Her family, friends, and partners. She was cold and indifferent to her father, verbally abusive to her mother, constantly malicious and hostile to her sisters, and so on. My mother has been this way the vast majority of her life, which means my family members have a way greater context to judge than I do. I got fed up after just tolerating over a decade of conscious awareness of her nature; they've been putting up with it for three to four decades. When I left my mother's house my mindset was akin to, "Alright! You can stop pretending now! I realized just how awful my mother is and am in on the secret, so now you don't have to be quiet about it anymore and we can resume a happy relationship." I thought they had kept silent about my mother since they didn't want to undermine her authority in my presence, and had to tolerate her irrational ways since she didn't do anything illegal which would make her be deemed an unfit mother. Within the law I was my mother's to raise, and I thought all the material abundance provided by my relatives was just their way of helping me bear it while I was forced to. I didn't think as to why they voluntarily associated with such a horrible person and didn't care to. The only thought in the front of my mind was getting out and moving on. I thought my relatives would be entirely supportive given the blatantly obvious evil nature of my mother.

To my surprise, things were otherwise. Much otherwise.

When I told my grandmother and aunts of my plans to never speak to her again they just sort of acquiesced to my words, believing that my temper was flaring up from having been freshly kicked out. They thought me and my mother were just having another routine spat and that needed a cooling down period to gather ourselves, so I was left alone about matters for a day or two. My mother inevitably had another mood swing that made her experience incredible guilt, and she broke down into hysterical crying and started vigorously apologizing to me via e-mail. When my relatives started encouraging me to makes amends with her I was surprised. Could they really not know why I didn't want to deal with her anymore? I assumed my family members were innocently ignorant and so explained my position: how bad my mother was, how miserable she made me, how I wasn't angry in the least over her kicking me out (if anything, I wanted her to do it), and how I just didn't want to deal with it anymore. My relatives, in person and over the phone, quietly "listened."

To my displeasure, I noticed they were acting very irrationally. In response to my arguments the only thing they would return to me were feel-good bromides and the phrase, "She's your mother." I acknowledged that she was my mother (no DNA test required), but also pointed out to them that what they had given was not an argument, but a simple statement. They responded by saying, "She's your mother." The repetition confused me, and no matter what I said this was always what was returned to me. Even stranger yet, not a single person actually addressed the substance of my arguments. . . Almost if they weren't listening. As time and the repetitions went on, I took it upon myself to think what exact meaning they were trying to convey through "She's your mother," and I eventually learned they were trying to convey that I somehow had a duty to my mother and that there were causeless emotions of affection inherent in our relationship, divorced from the content of our characters. I brought these identifications out in the open, repudiated them, and stayed firm in my ground. The "argument" they returned was, "She's your mother."

Worse yet, as things progressed my family members started getting more and more emotionalistic. They moved from being patient and affectionate to hostile. My grandmother raised her voice, my aunt distorted my arguments, and my other aunt resorted to name-calling, speaking to me in a snotty manner, and even attacking my virtues in an e-mail. Not a single person provided a speck of evidence that they had understood my arguments or even listened to them, and instead kept giving their own arbitrary statements in a vacuum, always refusing to support them with logic or evidence. My grandmother has probably heard my argument the most out of all of my relatives, and when I asked her years later what she believed my position to be, after she tried reigniting the discussion again, she said I was angry over being kicked out. When I told her that was the wrong answer -- I explicitly said before that that was not anything that made me angry -- she gave me a vague answer about me being upset about my childhood, evading going into any more detail. Has she only been feigning to listen before? While my words may have physically been heard, did she mentally stick her fingers in her ears and hum? Did all my involved relatives do this? It's absolutely the only conclusion I can draw given the evidence.

It was hurtful to be ignored like this since getting my mother out of my life is what fundamentally gave rise to my new found well-being, and encouraging me to associate with her, even if I only talked to her on the phone, is equivalent to undercutting the root of my healing. Everything I had achieved was so great that I wasn't going to give it up easily, for there was simply way too much at stake in the spirit. I kept asking and asking for evidence, logic, reason. I never received evidence, logic, reason -- just sayings, hostile tones and dirty looks, arbitrary conclusions, and intimidation. I was disappointed that not only was my family ignoring my position, but also that they were acting like a bunch of irrational animals in trying to persuade me as well. What I thought was so universally recognized was really the elephant in the room being ignored. I soon understood that I wouldn't be supported in this venture, that I was entirely mistaken. Regardless, I still embraced them and felt benevolence since I thought we could act like adults, who in recognizing unworkable disagreements push the matter aside and agree to respect each other's position and leave it alone. But no, even as I dropped the issue they persisted, especially my grandmother. It was always the same sayings over and over again, always refusing to hear me out in return.

Since I was taking to judging these people honestly after having thrown out my previous estimate of them, the first evidence of their character they were presenting to me were not good ones. I quickly lost my enthusiasm in wanting to pursue a relationship with them. When they continued to drag the issue on a lot longer than was appropriate, I soon lost respect for them and realized that my past estimates in fact were not irrational or distorted, but rather that I was right the first time. I no longer desired maintaining a relationship with these people since their evasions were a betrayal to me. They didn't really care about my well-being. If they did, then they wouldn't encourage me to associate with my mother. All they cared about was avoiding "bad" feelings and not being embarrassed in front of "other people." In some forms, they're just as bad as my mother.

From there I realized that I really couldn't have the deep family relationships I wanted, so I decided to just focus on my own endeavors. I was still in college at the time, but paralyzed by depression since I had been convinced in my research that college was a mismatch for my aims, or that I was at least doing a lot of harm to myself by going purposelessly. My mind was so opposed to my endeavors that it refused to let me concentrate: Even spending entire nights doing homework wouldn't entail any progress, even though the assignments would have taken just an hour or so under ideal circumstances. You think it's awfully common for people to have a bad semester? Mine was so bad I almost got expelled. I couldn't concentrate, think, study -- anything. My depression was at its worst, moving me towards that near-suicide attempt I mentioned above, and I dropped out after realizing I'm just going to get myself further and further into debt until I resolve these issues. I started an introspection journal, cured my depression totally within two weeks, and established a system of private study to help me gain the knowledge in subjects I believe schools failed me in. My life got even better in addition to having expelled my mother.

My grandmother's irrationality, however, was not limited just to the debate about my mother. As a result of the debate much of my family and I stopped talking. Most even stopped visiting my grandmother's house, which pretty much left me to deal with my grandmother as my sole family member. Through my constant contact with her I learned that she's second-handed, literally the worst I've ever seen, possibly even rivaling that of Peter Keating from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Almost all her actions, thinking, and beliefs revolves around popularity and "other people," and epistemologically she is an absolutely consistent emotionalist, which means that anything that makes her experience negative emotions will make her judge the stimulus as bad, immoral, or false, and anything that makes her experience positive emotions will make her judge the stimulus as good, moral, or true. She isn't consciously committed to catering to Other People or using her emotions as a means to knowledge; rather, through her lack of intellectual effort she just fell into these habits unthinkingly, make them become her natural deposition, and cannot acknowledge them explicitly.

As you might be able to tell, this has led to a lot of strife between us. Whenever I did anything she knew was unpopular or made her feel bad she would encourage me not to do it, and I couldn't convince her intellectually that her position was wrong because she would always go with her emotions in the end. She interrupted my studies frequently and spoke condescendingly of them, panicked about my paleo diet since she knew it goes against popular views, begged me to do things just to make her feel better, treated me as if I were lying or mouthing words if anything I said made her experience negative emotions, and so on. In polite arguments she was even worse, as she would employ absurd evasive techniques to ignore anything I said that made her uncomfortable, including looking out the window and refusing to give me eye contact, interrupting my speech frequently, trying to change the subject, flaring her temper and snapping at me, refusing to stop talking so she can fill her ears with her own voice, turning on the answering machine to drown me out, walking away and abruptly ending the discussion, pretending not to know or remember things she actually does, and throwing tantrums. The essence of these techniques were not something that entered our lives only occasionally, but frequently and regularly. My grandmother is literally impossible to reason with. She's thoroughly soaked in her emotionalism, and cannot see past that worldview. She was often very dishonest and only pretended to believe what I said, as what I said would provoke negative or indifferent emotions, causing her to believe I was lying or mouthing words, and shortly after the conversation she would readjust her behavior back into her old ways even as she promised to alter them. The only reason she altered her behavior to begin with is because she only wanted to pacify what she viewed to be a mood swing, not a thought out and justified position. Otherwise, she only adjusted herself because she felt like it and then dropped the practices because she felt like it

This irrationality affected all areas of our lives, and I started to grow more contemptuous of my grandmother as I learned and identified more disturbing things about her, like how she didn't legally prosecute someone she knew to be a child molester and probably stood on the sidelines while her dipsomaniac husband beat her children. With these identifications and more, I continually lowered and lowered my moral estimate of her, down to the point I concluded that she's absolutely immoral and not worth associating with. It's impossible to make any headway on any positive changes in our relationship due to her emotionalism and constant belief that I'm lying or being insincere, and tolerating her behavior any longer interferes greatly with my pursuits. Her 78 years of age means she's been practicing her irrational ways for a LONG time now, which means her habits must be virtually set in stone, especially because her faith-based epistemology prevents her from learning.

Regardless of how hopeless I judged my relations to be with my grandmother, I tried going about my pursuits anyways. I continued studying, introspecting, and so on in an effort to just get on with my life, already too long delayed by my mother. But here my philosophical premises ate at me. I know that evasion is the most evil practice one can engage in, so my mind, as per its nature, wouldn't allow me to ignore my troubles with my grandmother. All of our disputes are unresolved because I can't reason with her: I would try to argue with reason, she would appeal to emotions and revelations, and we can't reconcile the difference and so had to walk away with matters hanging in the air. Additionally, she's unable to get unstuck from her emotionalism, so she's sealed in all of her positions by default. All of this constitute loose ends in my subconscious, problems hanging in the air, and I couldn't stop thinking about them until they were solved.

I just couldn't stop thinking about them.

I was literally obsessed with all these problems, and it seemed like I had no control over my mind in this regard. I recognized how significant a problem my grandmother was. She not only played a harmful role in my childhood with her obsession with appearances over substance, but also kept making me unhappy with her willful irrationality and distractions. It got to the point that even just the mere sight of my grandmother made me uneasy and angry, and I had to quit my studies since I came back to the same paralysis I had in college, where I couldn't concentrate at all on my assignments no matter how many hours I dedicated. All I would do is just pace and pace around the basement, spending hours and hours thinking about how to solve my problems with my grandmother, but always come back to the same dead end over and over again since I know they couldn't be solved by means of reasoning with her. I was trying to satisfy myself by visualizing some sort of solution, but it was impossible to even fantasize about it, because I couldn't evade my grandmother's nature and was therefore unable to convince myself of any dreamed scenario where she finally listened to me and understood my position. I ran around in circles mentally, perpetually running over the same points and identifications over and over and over and over again, nonstop. I thought about it for hours during walks. During television. During internet surfing. During writing. -- During everything. It took over my mental life for several months.

Now having escaped my mother I had gotten myself into a new predicament, though at least it was more like jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan. I took to the internet, philosophical forums and the like, and asked a rather strange question: How do you deal with irrational people you can't deal with, but must? Ayn Rand once noted that if you run into a person who is hopelessly irrational you should just leave them alone, because those who deny reason cannot be ruled by it. However, she said nothing about a situation in which one HAS to deal with an irrational person. I had no choice in being born; I entered into my family by default. I can't rationally choose to go live with other family because they're either hostile to me and probably wouldn't be able to support my presence. The hostile members would probably try to get into yelling or shouting matches with me, making my grandmother the least of all evils. Given my irrational past I cut off all my school friends and made myself friendless, so I'm not on terms with anyone so as to be able to move in with a unrelated person. I also have valuable property I wouldn't want to abandon, such as my book collection or computer, by moving into a homeless shelter. For the time being, I'm stuck with my grandmother. Stuck.   

Nobody was able to answer my question either. Given that the only true proper course for dealing with someone hopelessly irrational is to not deal with them, it's quite a predicament when that option isn't open. The only thing I could be suggested to do in the meanwhile was avoid her as much as possible, which is what I'm doing now. Until I formulated some kind of means for getting out of her house, I just had to cope with her -- but my mind wouldn't leave me alone about all the unresolved problems.

And so there was born the Project. Grandma, then, became the Circumstance.

It was unconscious at first. After realizing how hopeless my situation is, I just "knew" for some reason that I need to up my efforts in pursuing a job. I started applying to place after place, only after a month or so in realizing that I was trying to establish income so I could move into my own apartment. Yes, my own apartment. I plan on cutting off my family not only because it brings me unhappiness to deal with them, but also because their irrational behaviors wouldn't stop unless I disassociated from them entirely and left them no means for communication, which means keeping my address and phone number hidden. Because my grandmother is always under the impression I'm insincere about the things I say, she'd take the Project as something whim driven, and so would continue to pester me on the phone or at my apartment itself. I know this for a fact because she did it to my mother when she briefly tried to cut my grandmother off by moving into her own apartment. For several years my grandmother just kept giving and giving money to my mother while never recognizing her persistent silence was indication of permanent hostility. My grandmother's irrationality is not going to go away unless I move out AND keep her in the dark about my new living situation. That means keeping most of my family in the dark as well. I probably won't even remain on "Christmas cards" terms with them, because they just don't provide an iota of value in my life. Zero value means I will spend zero of my time with them. It's that simple.

While looking for a job the Project was sloppily constructed in my mind, but I was optimistic it would go quick. I thought I could get it done within three months and that a world of value was just on the other side. Things did not turn out that way, unfortunately. I ran into obstacle after obstacle, and I'm still stagnating even now as I approach the one-year mark of my Project.

It took about 2-3 months alone to get a job. When I did cinch it -- dish washer at a restaurant, given my developing culinary passion -- my employers turned out not to need me all that much at the time, so at start I was only employed two days a week for 5 and a half hour shifts, leading to only about forty hours a month. There was no way I could support myself on this income. My place of hire requires me to work on holidays, so I don't think it's possible to get a second job since other restaurants required holiday working too, which would lead to irresolvable conflicts. I thought I only needed to improve myself to make myself more worthy of more hours, so I worked on improving myself and waited it out.

Idling on my Project did not sit well with me. The Project only gives me inner peace if I'm actively working on it, because then my subconscious knows I'm in the process of tying up loose ends that have been sitting around, so ceasing the work made it so my subconscious urged me to think about those loose ends again. My first few weeks at my workplace were excellent, but soon my thinking about the Circumstance quickly bit into my effectiveness and disturbed my work ethic. I wasn't demotivated or anything, but I was distracted an awful lot. This, of course, made for a huge, huge, huge barrier in proving I was really as competent as I am, since my competence was impeded by my fundamental dissatisfaction, constant pining for the completion of the Project, and distractions in the meanwhile. Even as I got closer to getting the hours I wanted I realized I forgot to take taxes into account, so the end of my Project was a lot further away than I thought.

After several months of getting continually more frustrated, especially as I became more and more hostile to my grandmother, I decided to try and invoke the Project early and get an apartment even though I knew I couldn't really afford it. I hypothesized that getting my grandmother out of my life would make me so fundamentally satisfied that it would clear my mind to the point that my full powers could be let loose, unhampered by any preoccupations, and I would quickly be able to demonstrate my worth as a worker. The financial risk, I thought, would be worth taking on since clearing my mind would render me so much more capable in dealing with it. I'd be happier and more resilient too. But the various apartments I contacted wouldn't accept me because my income was so low. Apparently to be qualified your income has to the point that rent would take up much less than 10% of it, so I couldn't pull it off and was stuck again.

Then I thought about compromising. Renting a room was always an option, but I was repulsed by it since I didn't want to take the slightest risk in moving in with anyone obscenely irrational. My essential problem in life was not just that I've had to deal with my mother and grandmother, but that I've always been forced to deal with irrational people. Bad family at home, horrible classmates and teachers in school. I just wanted my own little piece of the universe I could isolate myself in without having to fear being forced to deal with such terrible people. So having been pushed to my limits, I was ready to compromise and go ahead and risk renting a room. But that, too, ran into some barriers since there was no available housing close to where I currently lived or worked, and the ones available were in areas I judged to be both possibly dangerous and too expensive for my vehicle. I was stuck again.

And I'm still stuck. The frustrations with the Circumstance still continue to this day, only now my grandmother and I hardly speak. The loose ends never stopped bothering me, either.

I'm still much engaged in my Project, and still unhappy about it's suspended status. I'm pretty much putting my life on hold for it. I'm not engaging in romance, friendships, intellectual clubs, or serious culinary practice, all because I'm gathering my resources for this one lone endeavor. I've noted before on my other blog Musing Aloud that I've experienced envy towards other people doing what I'm doing. It being so simple as moving into your own apartment, people my age are doing it all the time, and they're only doing it as an extension of an already value-oriented life. I'm doing it so I can at long last gain everlasting inner peace, a necessity for mental health. Even more frustrating to me is when I observe my peers looking for, finding, and moving into an apartment all within a range of a few weeks. I've been at my own endeavor for nearly a year now, and I still don't know when it can get done. It makes me envious that such a routine thing is way harder than it needs to be and is taking way longer than ordinary all because I'm in a special situation I had no role in bringing upon myself. Forgive this one sentence of childish pouting, but it's not fair. And I don't like that the Circumstance makes me so frustrated as to make me experience envy like this, further making clear just why I need to get away from it: It's affecting my entire being. I have a hard time maintaining the friendships I have since I'm sometimes so distracted with other matters. I can hardly concentrate on my studies and cooking. I just flat-out enjoy life less.

Now you know everything. After having to bear an irrational upbringing by my mother, I got kicked out of her house and then moved in with my grandmother, then being able to act on my plan to never associate with her again. My family took to trying to encourage me to "make amends" with my mother, and they ignored all my arguments as if they never heard them, instead resorting to sayings, arbitrary conclusions, revelations of things they "just know," name calling, insults, and shunning. My grandmother beyond this realm is upset by anything I do that makes her feel "bad" or knows goes against popular convention, and she is unaffected by any method of rational persuasion and will drag on the issue endlessly. As the direct result of these ongoing problems which never have gotten resolved, I became obsessed and couldn't keep my mind on my productive efforts, which made me idle and unhappy. After infinite thinking I finally came up with the Project, and while I've made noteworthy progress I still have no idea as to when it'll be completed, leaving me again stagnant, frustrated, and unhappy. I have to keep quiet about it because if my family found out they'd probably treat me as if I were harming Grandma somehow, and if my Grandma found out it'd make her feel "bad" and aggravate me about it until I finally got it finished. She has no courage or moral certainty to kick me out or anything, and I'd still be stuck with her, so the situation would be that I'd have to tolerate it as an additional frustration atop all frustrations. My family knows about my blog Musing Aloud and of my Facebook profile, so being open just hasn't been an option. Therefore, I've had to write about matters discretely with the use of such terms as "Project" and "Circumstance" to keep people from knowing exactly what I was talking about. A lot of my posts on the nature of evil, in fact, are inspired by family members. The person Man X that I once wrote about, for example, is really my mother. Being stuck with my grandmother meant witnessing a lot of her behavior, and given that's she's consistently irrational I've been consistently introspecting on the nature of such stupidity and why it's evil.

I've wanted to for so long write about this out in the open. I drafted it over and over in my head, and waited excitedly for the day to come that my Project would be over and I'd finally be able to write about it. But so many months passed and it ended up that I was just constantly writing the article over and over in my head. Finally I decided I just didn't want to wait anymore, so I created this blog, deleted it from my Blogger profile, and plan on using it so I can openly talk about my Project while I still must be private about it everywhere else. When I do get the Project finished I'll probably delete this blog and its entire archives: I just need it now to satisfy my needs to vent myself and introspect. That's about all I can do right now. There will definitely be more posts about my family in the meanwhile, concentrating on the nature of their actions and what to do about it if you get caught in the same situation. It sucks when you get caught, but there are means to getting out.

The most important point in this entire essay is that there is no such thing as you owing a duty to your family. You have no choice in being born and have to deal with these people by default. There's little in the way of a need to argue against this particular notion because it's so empty. My family simply "feels" that such a duty is right, so since they have provided no argument for their belief there is literally nothing to argue against. In truth, your family owes you. Since you do not have the means to sustain yourself for several years, for both material and intellectual reasons, you are helpless, and being forced into existence means your parents are morally obligated to provide you with food, shelter, medical care, and guidance. They chose to bring you into existence and should accept the responsibility it entails.

Secondly, and more importantly, just because you share genetic material with someone does not mean that you should judge them differently from anyone else unrelated to you. Ethics apply to everyone regardless of their status. Again, you have no choice in being born, and sharing genetic material with someone does not bear special moral significance, it's just a fact of nature. My family "feels" that there's some kind of special significance in my being related to my mother, and they've provided no argument. Evil is evil, and that's that. I judged my mother, and my judgment made me detest her and disassociate from her, something that has benefited me immeasurably in terms of mental health, even physical health.  

What I learned the most in dealing with these problems is not only how to judge people, but how to act accordingly too. As I stated above, my decisions were not hasty or whim-driven, as they might be for other young adults. It took well into my high school years for me to realize how I didn't love my mother, and it was late into my junior year that I promised myself not to deal with her anymore whenever I got the chance. At that point I had been dealing with her for almost twenty years, and in my memory I had an incredible store of knowledge regarding her behaviors. By connecting instances, recognizing trends, and keeping an eye on her further actions, I added everything together into a sum which constitutes who she is in essence. Her actions were consistently evil, therefore she's an evil person. It took me years, not minutes, to reach this conclusion. The same goes for my grandmother. Furthermore, after recognizing who they are in essence I also recognized that there's no way to alter our relationships so they could be made valuable, and that continuing to deal with these people means bringing perpetual unhappiness into my life. My mother's extreme emotionalism means she would cave into any intense emotion the moment she felt it, so any progress made in dialogue would go right out the window the second that happened. My grandmother's different flavor of emotionalism means she'd panic in that type of personal conversation and would try to evade acknowledging me at all cost, or would otherwise engage in lip-service, pretending to understand and agree with me, and would alter her behavior only until she thought my "mood swing" was over with, by which then she'd go right back to her old ways again. My grandmother is of especial difficulty since her incredibly irrational epistemology has ruined her mind and rendered her unable to learn, leaving her only able to adopt as knowledge only that which makes her feel good or is accepted by a lot of Other People. Since it's so hopeless to even try to work things out with them -- and I have tried and experienced the frustrations I just detailed -- the only thing I can do is not deal with them anymore. There's only so many chances a person deserves, by which then you just have to call it quits and leave them alone. There's nothing else that can be done, and I'm not going to waste my only life dealing with them when it can otherwise be spent pursuing my happiness. To any other observer, however, it's almost certainly going to appear as if I've made this decision on the basis of whim and am throwing a childish fit. It takes all these words -- and I could have put in words more -- to fully lay out my case, something not possible in a two-minute conversation. If things could have been worked out then I would have pursued such a course, but that's not the case.

Okay then, now that I've said all this, what about you? Do you have family problems? Do any of the behaviors described above resonate with something you may be dealing with?

If you're already not living with these people and can freely control your relations with them, then you should limit your contact and communications with them, be explicit that some of their behaviors are unacceptable, and act consistently in that regard. If a relative calls too much then set limits and employ them consistently, blocking their number if you need to. If they visit too often, then tell them about your desires and don't worry if they get offended: It's your living space, and it's not irrational to want to be alone sometimes. If they get upset then the irrationality is theirs solely, not yours. If they pester you on the internet too much, then set limits there as well. If that means blocking Mom on Facebook then that means blocking Mom on Facebook. Life is too short to be spending any minute of it in unhappiness, so do not tolerate these people's irrationality in any degree.

If, however, you're still living with them, then come up with your very own Project. As I mentioned a multitude of times elsewhere, it has been immensely soothing to me to work on my Project even as it remains unfinished. Action on it lets me know deep down that the problems in my life are in the active process of being solved, and that's an incredible comfort. I felt better even after doing something as insignificant as brainstorming my plans on pieces of paper. It doesn't take much, you just need to start working on your problems in some way. If you don't, that's when it sits and festers. So if you can't move out immediately, then get to work on constructing those plans. Write out your expenses, possible places to live, how you would celebrate, how you're going to decorate, and so on. If moving out is the only way you can solve your problems, then thinking about the solution will be satisfying since it is the solution. Go on, get some paper out now if you need it.

Do not discount homeless shelters either. If your problems are that bad, then having inner peace in a homeless shelter is infinitely more valuable than all the material goods you'd be giving up. A clear mind and a cleansed spirit will make you a drastically different person. The only reason why you may be so attached to your material goods is because your life is so stressful that these goods are the only things making you cope with it, so if you take the source of stress away then you won't be so afraid of losing these goods. Inner peace will allow you to be content with a lot less. Besides, with a mind at peace you should be much more fit to be able to go about your productivity anyhow, which makes you more valuable as a worker and would enable you to better pursue the income that would allow you to enjoy all these goods again. You'd just have to make without them temporarily. The alternative is that you could keep the stress in your life and extend your misery and make yourself less able to achieve your goals.

I don't know how common family problems are like mine, but I suspect that they are. Without my intending to make such associates, my closest friends in high school all had significant family problems: psychological abuse, neglect, alcoholism. It all showed in their characters too, how fundamentally unhappy, stressed, and angered they were. Their families too, I suspect, might be ones to believe in family duties and that familial relations entail the suspension of ethical judgment, and be impervious to reason in the discussion of such issues. There too it would be best to just not deal with those people. These philosophical ideas are not special to just this individuals, but have been absorbed by the culture at wide, affecting all cultures in all nations. As unhappy as they've made me, I don't wish the fate on anyone. Don't waste your life: Get out.

I hope for all the months I've made you wait for this essay that it has satisfied you, but while my Project is still in effect I'm still open to discussion on this issue, particularly if it's to help with your own. On this blog I will post further updates on my Project's going-ons and family situation, but I will blog only as I feel I need to satisfy my psychological needs.

To keep up to date, I've made the determination a few months ago to move out of state rather than around Michigan. I've long been frustrated with Michigan and have intended to move out of it anyhow, so to do it as part of my Project would only increase its value. There's hardly any good restaurants around where I live anyhow, so it would be beneficial to my career as well. This means is fool-proof since moving out is inherent in it, so once I find a job out of state that means everything is virtually cinched. Presently I've been entertaining a prospect in Texas, and it's possible that I may soon fly out there to perform a stage, which is when you work at a restaurant for a night or two to show your abilities. If that fails, then I'll stick to Texas and look at other fine restaurants with the help of the Zagat Survey. After being held up by this Project for so long I'm just ready to get it finished, so I'd be submitting applications and cover letters like mad just to get one step further to moving out. I'll worry about ideal living conditions, such as climate and state, when I am in a much better position spiritually and can afford to think about those matters. Right now I lack something essential in spirit, so material concerns really are secondary. I'll keep you posted.

Thank you so much for reading all of this, if you have. I've not only wanted to write this for so long, but to be acknowledged that I was in the right. What sucks about being my age is that most people will be against me because of it. My family certainly won't support here, and the people I briefly tell about this will automatically assume I'm just like other kids who hate their "square" parents. Even fellow Objectivists I've told online, though no where near the depth I have here, have treated me in such a fashion. I know I am entirely justified in doing in what I doing -- but very few people are going to agree with that, leaving me largely alone in this position. It's lonely and disappointing. What little support I've received has meant a lot to me. It's so heartening to observe people assess my situation and see the same evil that I do, letting me know I'm not the only one with eyes.

Because fundamental inner peace is at stake, I will persevere and never give up on this Project. There's simply too much to gain.

* * * * *

I wanted to have a relationship with my family, but their evasion of all the harm my mother has done is an unforgivable betrayal, and the problems just kept accumulating in my relationship with my grandmother despite my numerous attempts to resolve matters. The moving out is my absolute last resort. It's unfortunate it had to come to this, but it has.

From now on I want to resolve to minimize any mention of the Project or my family troubles from here on out, if not eliminate it from discussion outright. Unless someone needs intellectual guidance on their own family problems, I just want to move on as soon as possible: the quicker I get my mind over these matters the better. I was obsessed with my problems for well over a year since my hands were tied, leaving me unable to solve them. I solved them, so they should no longer be a subject worthy of thinking.

Now then: What am I going to do now that my most important endeavor is now past? Surely I could use another (lowercase) project to dedicate myself to. I don't have any specific strivings in mind, but I think I'm in a transitional phase in my life where my education is of utmost important. I've thought so much about my future that I seem naturally drawn to corollary actions and goals that will advance me towards my deepest desires, so I'm not too worried about drawing out a map right now. I have yet to figure out where it is I truly want to go in the culinary world, so I have lots of cooking, tasting, and eating to do before I decide upon that. For now: Study, taste, and cook as much as I can.

But what of the short-term, then? Well, obviously I need to find another job. I moved so far away that I had to leave my previous job (with my employer's blessing; they even said I could have my old job back if things didn't turn out well). As soon as possible I've got to start pounding the pavement and performing stages; my savings will only last so long.

In more concrete concerns, I still need to do some things to settle myself fully into my state, as well as work on my temperament. I still feel as emotionally dull as I did when I lived in Michigan, so I want to take to practicing meditation a half-hour before bedtime for the week to see if I can make myself more relaxed. A family member called me while I was grocery shopping, and I nearly instantaneously got angry and hung up on him, so I'm certainly not over these matters. Secondly, I'd like to work more on getting myself fully settled in, such as by getting a new library card, visiting a new gym, and so on. I don't think I'll be able to become a resident of my state this week, as I need to get a hold of my birth certificate somehow before I get a new vehicle registration. I think that document was lost by my mother before I ever needed it.

I don't know what I'll be able to do in regards to job hunting. The sous chef I performed a stage for is going to assist me on my job hunt, and I have yet to receive his list of contacts. When I do, I want to check out as many of them as possible, if not all. I really liked what I saw at his white tablecloth establishment, and at this phase in my life it's where I'd like to work. So vigorous and mentally challenging! It makes me love food even more.

Life is making progress. I hope it is for you too.