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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Saturday, June 25

The Art of Introspection

It's the name of a little pamphlet I once read (to be honest, I lost track of how many times I read it). It talked about being aware of one's emotions and the reasons for them and not letting the emotions themselves drive one's decisions. This is presuming that emotions arise from thoughts - some of which we're not very aware - and can also be changed as our thoughts change. Of course, this is easier said than done. One can be quite aware of an emotion, aware of the thoughts that they arise from, believe that the thoughts are wrong, and yet still not be able to get rid of them. Then one is stuck feeling the same way while knowing that this conflicts with what one actually thinks.

I suspect that in reality, there are more ideas that are at the root of the problem. It can be incredibly difficult to uncover them. Often, they are ideas that one has taken for-granted for so long that gaining awareness of them is very difficult. It might take someone else who doesn't take the same for-granted to help one become aware of such ideas.

I really started out writing this thinking that one can get so caught up in introspection that one doesn't have time for much else. Now I see that it has uncovered a sort of assumption that I've made about people. I've assumed that seemingly intelligent people should be especially self aware. This seems like a mistake. People have a wide variety of interests and self awareness may not be one of those interests for some people.

Friday, June 24

I'm 33

It's my birthday, and I want attention. Nice attention, of course. I used to find it difficult to have everyone gathered around singing to me and watching me blow out candles. I'd feel very self-conscious and try to avoid such a scenario as much as possible. I think this was part of being very self critical and maybe "too" self aware.

After thinking through the hypocrisy post, I'm wondering if a little unawareness could be good for me. I'm well aware of being paricularly critical and upset by people who share certain of my failings. Perhaps, for me, this has to do with some level of not accepting myself.

I'm a bit of a clutz at times. Maybe worrying about it is part of the problem and maybe it contributes to being afraid of having too much attention. It could be that if I were focused on the other people around me more, I would forget to be self conscious and enjoy myself and do better things for them. I don't think it's good to be totally unaware of one's flaws, but it could be healthier to balance self awareness with a focus on others - on acting in a good way.

I have this terrific friend who, in order to combat this difficulty (self-consciousness) of his, deliberately does off-the-wall corny, silly things. I remember feeling embarrassed on his behalf and half wishing I could pretend I didn't know him.

Hehe. Really, though, I think the ability to laugh at oneself is noble quality when it's combined with a serious commitment to doing one's best. A little humor can help one accept one's flaws instead of fearing and avoiding challenging them.

*happily enjoys the company and attention and off-key singing of her family and blows out the candles*

Hypocrisy

The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.*

I was going to write something about hypocrisy of people being unfairly criticized. I think a person can loudly and even passionately encourage others to doing something he believes is right without having the knowledge and will to do it himself. (I hate the male pronoun thing, but I dislike having to use plural when singular is actually what sounds better). I know I certainly have trouble living up to my ideals, but I don't think I need to be perfect to encourage others to be better people. Then again, due to a lack of experience with actual moral success, a hypocrit might not be a good person to look to for advice about moral direction. It might be better to find a successful person and try to learn from them about their goodness. The problem with this strategy is that the successful person may have not encountered the same obstacles you have and actually have less knowledge of how to overcome them than a "hypocrit". A hypocrit might also be better able to point out what NOT to do.

I think the one kind of hypocrit that bothers me is the one who appears to be so lacking in self awareness that he isn't even aware of his hypocrisy and at the same time relishes in criticizing those who lack the same moral qualities.

I have a few ideas as to why a person might behave in this way. He might have some slight awareness of his own flaws and yet refuse to acknowledge them. He might then find those moral failings particularly painful to witness because they remind him of his own failing and make it harder for him to protect his self image. He might be well aware of his flaws personally and be working very hard to improve on them, but not feel comfortable dislosing them to others. Then again, he could actually be totally lacking in self awareness. I find this hard to fathom but if I were to judge by the appearances of many people, I'd have to believe it.

*The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 22

Happy Anniversary

Seventeen years ago today, on a Wednesday like today, I met the love of my life. I wanted to say something warm and positive and caring even though he's not really in my life anymore, but I don't feel it.

It feels like he's gone now. At least, although he's alive in body, it doesn't feel like the person I knew then exists anymore. Then again, maybe I just never really knew him. I wanted to feel positive about this, that it was a good time and now I'm just on to other things. I do, mostly. I guess I'm making the mistake of having regrets.

I wonder what my life would be like had I made different choices. It feels like I made some less than optimal ones early on and that they are affecting everything such that I must continue to make less optimal choices for the rest of my life. I don't think it has to be that way, but I don't see a way out just yet.

Tuesday, June 21

Literalness in dreams and Tornado!

Something happened to me a few years ago that seems to have affected my dreams - or at least my recall of them. Before, I rarely had nightmares (that I remembered). Now, I have them frequently. One thing I noticed, even in the past, is that they're very literal.

The one I woke up with this morning had been rather frightening. I looked up and noticed a commotion - people were whispering things in horrified voices... "Oh my God! I think he's dead..." I saw that someone was carrying a child whose body was twisted in an impossible way. I realized, to my horror, that I recognized the clothes and then the child - he was mine. My first thought was denial. Specifically, I thought, "He can't be dead. Maybe he's playing a trick." As soon as I thought that, he sat up and giggled. "Haha, fooled you." Then I could breathe again.

It's not uncommon for my dreams to work that way. They change according to what I think. If I'm afraid of something and "think" it, that's what happens, but also, if I think of something I want to happen, it does.

One time I dreamed that I heard my (kid) sister screaming loudly from outside. She can be very dramatic and loud, so I had the thought "She's screaming like she got her head cut off!" I went outside and there was her head, upright on the ground screaming loudly. Her body was standing next to it. There was no blood. My brother (in the dream) asked "What should I do?" I said matter-of-factly, "Duh, put her head back on and tie it there." He puts her head back on (still screaming) and ties it with a ribbon. I then wondered how I'd explain this to my parents... I think I woke up. It was a very disturbing dream to me but also oddly funny.

In other dreams, I've thought things like, "I hope I don't fall" and, of course, then I trip. I might think I'm afraid a tornado might be coming, and of course when I look out, there's one headed right for my house. I have to admit, part of me is fascinated with weather and especially tornados, so I would actually WANT to see one (but not coming at me!)

Speaking of the tornados, they've actually been a frequent nightmare even though the one times I saw one in real life, I didn't feel as frightened as I do in my dreams. I was 12 years old and it had been raining and hailing most of the day. Then the sky cleared up quite a bit and some of my family was admiring the view. I lived out in a mostly treeless area where one could see a particularly long way and one could even see the sunset and sunrise unobstructed. Someone who was looking out said something like, "Hey, what's that?!" I took one look and knew immediately. A tornado touching down! My thoughts were something like "Oh my gosh! Wow, that's so cool! This is so exciting!!" It was a mile or 2 away, I think. Then I thought something like "Hmm, better get out of here... gotta make sure to bring my flute. Where ARE my shoes?" After trying 3 locked doors on the first car, I got in my family's second car and everyone else followed. My dad grabbed his camera, and we drove off in a direction that would supposedly take us away from the path of the tornado. By then I was starting to be slightly worried. My dad stopped the car up the hill and snapped a picture. We all yelled at him to hurry up. He finally got back in and for a few moments it looked like the road was taking us TOWARD the tornado. I think what was more scary was the way the sky turned dark and dusty and greenish. Plus, we were driving around in a tree filled area, so it was hard to see what direction we were going in. Eventually, we got where we were sure we were clear. As it turns out, the tornado didn't go near our place.

I was well aware, even then, that a car wasn't exactly the best place to be if a tornado comes one's way. I used to spend quite a lot of time thinking about what we should do. Our house had no real "foundation". It was up on blocks - hardly a safe place. There were large ditches near the road. I'd read that one should get in a ditch, so I thought that would be the logical choice. I didn't like the idea of getting in there with all the weeds and bugs and possible snakes, but then I thought maybe I could drag some extra blankets out with me. I also thought up alternate plans for if it was too close to run out to the ditches - like getting inside the bathtub with mattresses covering us to protect us from debris. I wasn't sure why I so calmly went along with my dad's plan. I knew that's what he'd do, I knew he wouldn't listen to me, and I maybe I didn't really want to waste precious time arguing with him. Besides, I thought we could see it well enough (at first) to stop and get out if it came too close... Now that I've had fun with that tangent, I'll save the rest of my thoughts about dreams for another time.

Saturday, June 18

Divorce and dying

I'm feeling a bit sad today. I've felt that way on and off for the last few years. It started when my grandfather died, but in the last year, it's been about divorce and painful choices regarding families and my children. I was feeling sad about the whole divorce thing, but I ended up writing this about my grandfather instead...

I didn't get over to see my grandparents much during the last year before he died. I was pretty wrapped up in my own life, but there was more to it than that. Several years ago, he had a stroke that left it difficult for him to talk. It also seemed to affect his memory or maybe speech processing and his personality. It was hard to be around him at first because he seemed almost like a different person. It almost seemed to me as if the grandfather I knew was dead. I wondered if I'd ever see him again or if I'd feel like it was really him.

Eventually, he recovered some and regained more of his speaking skills, he seemed more like I remembered him again. I forgot about feeling like he was "gone". He seemed pretty down, though. It got harder and harder for him to get around.

The last time he was admitted to the hospital, I didn't feel sad. I felt sick. It was the same feeling I'd get when I was a kid and something bad would happen to a beloved pet. I wanted to avoid it - the whole business of dying and feeling sad. I managed it most of the time up until then, but I think it had some very bad effects. Mostly, I think it created a distance between me and other people. I wasn't fully aware of it. I knew that something didn't seem quite right about me. I didn't seem to feel the same way other people did about death and other sad things. I might get sad for a few minutes, but then I'd either feel sick ... or nothing.

I had mixed feelings about being at the hospital with him. I was afraid that if I spent a lot of time with him, it would be more painful to lose him, but I didn't want him and the rest of my family to think I didn't care. I also thought that maybe I should stop being such a coward and just get through it. Maybe I'd have real feelings about things and be a better person for it. I didn't know what to do exactly, but I visited as often as I could and tried to help.

I'm glad I did. I learned things about him that I'd never known - from friends and family that visited and remembered things together with him. It was also one of the rare times I saw him accepting help. I know he didn't like that he needed help, but he still showed appreciation for it. The hospital had a bunch of weird rules about what he could and couldn't drink or eat, but they looked the other way while we brought him ice cream and other goodies that were normally restricted for him because of his diabetes. He seemed to especially love seeing the children in the family. When I brought him a picture of my children, he looked at it for a long time and then kept it in his shirt pocket.

The last time I saw him, he was feeling pretty bad and disoriented. I wasn't sure he was really aware of much. I tried to soothe him, and it meant a lot to me when he squeezed my hand. When he was asleep and seemed comfortable, I went home. I was awoken a few hours later with a phone call that he had died. I took it pretty hard. I don't know if any of my family could tell. I thought I did pretty well keeping myself together in front of my family. I'm not sure why, but I hate crying around other people. I think I would have preferred to skip the whole funeral process, but it seemed important to my family, so I went. There were some nice parts to it, but I would rather have been alone. I can't hear the music that was played without getting teary eyed. I have a hard time thinking about him without getting that way. I have to be in the right mood to be cheerful, so I'm careful about how I bring it up.

My feelings about it came as a surprise to me, a little. I hadn't thought that I'd be much affected since I seemed to be away from him for long periods of time without missing him. He was pretty quiet and easy-going, really. He'd crack corny jokes (the same ones I've heard him say since I was a kid), ask about how I was doing, and generally be "proud" and encouraging. Sometimes we'd argue politics or some other controversial subject. It was always in fun although sometimes it seemed to bug my grandma.

I still miss him when I let myself. I thought I would feel it less as time went on, but it doesn't seem to be the case. I don't think of him as frequently, but when I do, it's still hard. Sometimes I'll see someone that looks a little like him and want to talk to them and tell them, but I can't do it. It's too emotional for me.

Saturday, June 11

Wikipedia Fashion

Fashions are social psychology phenomena common to many fields of human activity and thinking.
Aaahh. This is already more interesting than clothes. It's not that clothes are boring. I have ideas about what I think looks good or not. I even sometimes prefer to wear things that are fashionable (popular) iff (if and only if) I like them. I can sew a bit, too, so sometimes I get ideas about what "fashions" I'd like to see exist and try to make them. I don't usually complete them (some of the stuff I like is time consuming to make). Maybe I should just find a good seamstress. Then again, I've found that I might just have to spend more money if I'm going to have anything I actually like (beyond tshirts and jeans).

The European idea of fashion as a personal statement rather than a cultural expression begins in the 16th century: ten portraits of German or Italian gentlemen may show ten entirely different hats.

I like this.

There's more about cultural limits and influence on fashion. Personally, I'd prefer to see less uniformity. It was difficult to find anything I could stand to look at until I went to the pricier stores. Even then, there was less decent looking stuff to choose from with all the "trendy" stuff filling up the racks. I keep waiting for the seventies look to go away again, but it's hanging in there still. There's always next year...

Special Dark discontinued

They're closing out my favorite chocolate bar out at my local grocery store. It's not just my favorite. I really don't like anything else except Reese's Peanut Butter cups. If I want chocolate and peanut butter together, though, I really prefer some of my Special Dark melted and then stirred together with real peanut butter. I also like that fancy Ghiradeli semi-sweetened cocoa powder mixed with peanut butter, but it's just so expensive.

I hope this doesn't mean it's not going to be produced anymore. I couldn't find any news about it on the Hershey website. I can't stand Nestle, and I don't really want to have to pay for fancy chocolate (if I can even find any that I like). The only "regular" chocolate I really enjoy was called Bourneville (Cadbury), I think, sold in England. Even if Special Dark is still going to be made, this is bad news for me because it's difficult to find. The grocery store only sold it in very huge bars. I've seen it at some convenience stores and at Fry's (not many of those yet, but I happened to live very near one). I'll have to make a run and stockpile them I guess. I don't have the need for lots of it, but I like a little daily if I can get it. Sometimes I'll make myself get out of the habit for a while, but then I seem to really get a craving for it and go wild and get back in the habit. Maybe it's just better to stick with small amounts daily.

Speaking of chocolate, I accidently found a hand lotion that smells faintly like cocoa. I believe it's called Palmer's Skin Success Moisturizing Lotion with Cocoa Butter and Vitamin E. When I first put it n, I thought it smelled like food, but I couldn't figure out what food. It was a little unsettling because I suddenly felt like I wanted the food, whatever it was. I finally looked at the label and saw the "cocoa" and realized that it smelled like chocolate! I think I rather like the idea although I may switch again to avoid chocolate cravings ;) .

Hot and Sour Soup

I don't like cooking much on a day-to-day basis, but I love trying to duplicate my favorite restaurant foods. I don't always get it exactly the same, but I often manage to come up with something I really enjoy. Sometimes, I think I even like my verson better.

Hot and sour soup is one of my favorite foods although I don't get it very often. I attempted making it tonight for the first time in a long while. Usually, I put in chicken, broth, soy sauce, vinegar, corn starch, sesame oil, salt, msg, and egg. I don't really care for mushrooms, seaweed, or the bamboo shoots that usually go in it, so I leave them out. (I'll eat the seaweed and bamboo shoots if there in the soup already, but why buy expensive ingredients that you don't really like?)

This time, I tried adding a few things that I don't usually bother with - tofu, green onions, and cracked red pepper. I like the texture of tofu from the restaurant soups I've had, and it's nearly flavorless except for the bit of broth it absorbs. It was much easier to prepare than I expected (just cut it up and add it in when the soup's almost ready). I quite enjoyed it. The chicken and egg get a bit boring without some other texture, and the tofu seemed just right for it. As for the onions, I love them, but not everyone in my family does, so I often leave them out. I just put a few in, so they could easily be picked out and left the rest aside as a garnish just for me. It really added a nice something extra to the flavor and texture. I think the pepper made a difference too. The soup was just a little spicy. I wouldn't mind more spice, but, again, not everyone in my family appreciates spice. I'd like to try red wine vinegar sometime.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the product, and it was fairly easy to make. It's got me inspired enough that now I'm thinking I might have to attempt Chicken Alfredo again. I love the Alfredo sauce from the Olive Garden (they use cream cheese), but I don't like how much fat it has, so I make a different version with a little butter and lowfat milk. Maybe I could try lowfat cream cheese next time...

Thursday, June 9

More thoughts on a previous post ("Goodwill vs. Duty")

Goodwill vs. Duty
I particularly liked this response to the UN criticisms about America's "stinginess".

The issue was stated most succinctly by Ayn Rand when she said, "The issue is not whether you give a dime to a beggar. The issue is whether you have a right to exist if you don't."

[...] If you have a right to exist for your own sake--if an individual's own happiness is the proper moral purpose of his existence--then charity is necessarily a secondary issue. The primary is that you work to achieve your own goals, and you help strangers only out of your surplus time, effort, and money--the surplus left over after you have achieved your own most important goals. And if you choose to give, the recipient owes you at least a "thank you"; this is his recognition that you did not have to help him but chose to do so out of good will, and that he owes you good will in return.


What should be your most important goals?
Should you wait until you have a million saved up before you start helping out others? a billion? $10? What is right/good to have for oneself and what is right to help others with? It's not just about a person having the right to be happy. That depends on what makes him happy. Objectivists would probably agree that helping others can be good. Other people being better off could mean they'll be more able to do good things. However, giving bad people more more money and resources gives them more power to do more harm. Giving people who tend to make poor choices more money and resources, could result in them making poor choices with more money and resources and take away money from people who might have used them to do more good.

Friday, June 3

Arguing and Changing One's Mind

A person can argue strenously against a particular idea. The person may even be able to persuade other people to his point of view. Later, when alone, the person might well change his mind and come to agree. The person may never explicitly say that he's changed his mind. He may simply act on it as if he thought this way all along. Children, being people, do this too.

Implication
Don't assume that a person who disagrees with you won't come to agree with you later.

This may seem obvious to lots of people, but it's something that wasn't always obvious to me and that I frequently forget.

Fashion and Style

This is not a topic I ever thought to address in writing, but circumstances are such that I've developed a slight curiosity about the topic. When I'm curious about something, I tend to research and study it pretty intensely until I'm sick of the subject and move on. Lately, though, I've been enjoying a different approach. Instead of wolfing down a subject in one huge meal, I'm finding that I like to try a bite at a time, savoring each bit of knew knowledge and thinking about what I'd like to try next.

I started off with a few searches like "Fashion 101" and "+Fashion +Style". I found plenty of pictures and discussions about current fashion but nothing with more depth or general information. After a few more search attempts, I finally hit on About.com.

I should have tried it first, really, because I've generally had good luck with finding information on that site. A friend said I should always check Wikipedia first. I forgot. I'll try it later.

Anyway, back to fashion. After browsing through an article about wardrobe essentials and general tips for picking clothes that will hold up through fashion changes, I went through a list of new looks. They didn't look particularly exciting or unattatractive. I admit, I'm biased a bit against the idea of "fashion" or trying to be "fashionable", but this quote shocked me:

"If you're like many women, and you don't like your arms, then shrugs are perfect for you. They can cover those nasty areas that we try to hide. "

Do women really put up with that kind of stuff? I know I'm not especially attractive, but I don't think any part of my body is "nasty". I tried to think of some nicer way to say the same thing - like "They can cover up your less attractive.. " bleh. Maybe "A shrug can be the perfect way to cover your arms." Leave it to individuals to decide what reasons they might have for covering up. Then again, I suppose one could look at it as an attempt to make women with "nasty" arms feel understood - feel like they're not alone in their fate. I'm just point that out because I try to find the good in everything. Really, though, I wouldn't pick "nasty" as a word to try to put someone at ease about some aspect of themselves they're sensitive about.

I'll definitely be looking into this subject again soon, but for now, I think I'd like to focus on a few other unrelated posts in the works.

Thursday, June 2

The Chemistry of Trust

"Swiss and American scientists demonstrate in new experiments how a squirt of the hormone oxytocin stimulates trusting behavior in humans, and they acknowledge that the possibility of abuse can't be ignored."

I've heard the argument that hormones and "chemistry" can't be held accountable for human behavior - that a person's ideas and/or "will" determines what they will do. I'm not sure what to think of it all. I think hormones/chemistry can greatly affect how a person reacts emotionally to things. Still, a person can decide to act differently than their emotions would suggest. I think it takes a lot of work and awareness to act against ones emotions. Or habit.

Wednesday, June 1

Writing and Drawing

I miss writing. I wish I had more profound things to
offer readers, but really, when it comes down to it, I
do this because I like to write. There's something
soothing about the act of writing, and seeing my
thoughts helps me make better sense of them. Sometimes
it helps me to see that particular thoughts just don't
make sense. It maybe be confusing to read since I
don't know before I start how my thoughts are going to
evolve. Of course, I don't know how they're going to
evolve anyway.

I'm often tempted to say lots about myself personally,
but then I'd be worried about this revealing too much
private information about other people. For now, I'll
have to stick with only publishing stuff that I'm
pretty sure won't reveal much about anyone else.

One of my favorite ways to write is the old-fashioned
pen and paper way. I love the feel of the pen on
paper. I have terrible handwriting. It's readable
usually, and sometimes, if I really take my time, I
can make it look "nice". It just doesn't look very
"neat" or pretty. I've sometimes thought that maybe I
should take up drawing more seriously, just because I
enjoy the physical act of writing so much.

Once I found some good books on the subject of
drawing, I have managed to make some reasonably good
copies of other simple drawings and even a few decent
drawings of objects and hands and faces of people.
Faces are especially difficult. I can get an eye or a
nose or a cheek to look right, but then I don't quite
have them all together in the right place and looking
like they're being viewed from the same angle. I
assume that would come with practice.

I was just going to say that I'm not skilled enough to
think of something creative and new to draw, but then
I remembered something. I know someone who seems less
skilled than me yet manages to come up with all kinds
of creative ideas about what to draw. Perhaps I should
try that approach and work on skill separately.