Category Archives: Ramble

Entitlement

I’ll preface what I say by acknowledging a fact: I am entitled. I was smart enough to be born within a certain spectrum of pigments that classifies me as white, in a society that generally favors those of my like pigment. Additionally, I personally finagled it so that my parents offered me opportunities because of their decisions: they made enough money for me to have a childhood(and young adulthood) bereft of many troubles. There was a roof over my head, food in front of me, and encouragement to better myself. Yes, by the grace of myself alone, I am entitled.

Moving past the obvious amount of dry wit, I despise self-entitlement. There is nothing I can change about how I was born, what society I was born into, or who I was raised by. I especially loathe entitlement when it exists in a forum that is self-mentioned as an aggregator of knowledge, and ideas that should be spread. Additionally, I question the motives of those who have the expressed purpose of enriching others. Hopefully, I can be a little less ambiguous in the next few paragraphs.

The first case I am talking about was the TEDxUF event that occurred this year(I also attended the talk last year, and these following disparities existed there as well). This event was free and open to the public, but it did require an “application” process. While I am not sure how processed the application was, it existed. Once I was processed and accepted, I went to the event. Overall, the event was phenomenal and thought provoking, but what bothered me was the distinction between normal attendees, and the VIP’s. If you were associated the the organizers, or with some of the sponsors you could enter the event before others, and were segregated away from the normal attendees. Wristbands denoted that you were special, only because you knew a company.

This didn’t affect the event in any substantial way for me, but I have to wonder: Was the application process less involved for those associated with the sponsors? Would the true application process weed out some of the attendees, and have opened the door to people were interested but were pushed out because they weren’t properly entitled?

My second scenario was that of the talk Neil deGrasse Tyson gave at UF this past month. He was expectedly awesome, and I am terribly glad I managed to weasel into one of the 1900 tickets for the event. However the event was sullied by its sponsors : ACCENT . The tickets were free, but open to students of UF first starting at noon on Thursday of the event. Knowing how compelling and alluring the event would be, my girlfriend avoided her shift at work and waited in line starting at 8am . She wasn’t the first in line, rather by the time she received her pair of tickets she was ~20th in line. The entire bulk of the tickets were gone in half an hour.

This was a popular event, open to anyone with a Gator1 card. Knowing the allure of this astrophysicist, I showed up to the venue hours before the doors opened. Again I wasn’t first but I was within the top 20 people. Once allowed entrance to this event I was surprised to see a large block of seat cordoned off at the front of the theater.

Poor image quality aside, you can see that despite my investment of three hours and Laurels four(no small amount of time), we we well behind those mystery VIP seats. Eventually I found out who went in those seats: the members of ACCENT and student government themselves, and whoever they arbitrarily considered dignitaries.

I have contributed to similar events. I have been a member of, and later a leader of similar events. I was never given, nor looked for special treatment. In fact, I spent my time bettering the experience of attendees. Specific examples include working music honors society events where I swept the floor, directed visitors and participants, everything that goes into the logistics of a large event. I never once taped a printed sheet of paper with my name of it to the front row of seats. At best, I stood backstage or at the back of the theater and watched. With stark opposition, I saw the entitled ACCENT members and their friends occupy the first rows.

The worst came when I researched what ACCENT actually was. ACCENT is a branch of the UF Student Government. The SG is primarily funded directly by every student enrolled in classes – $14.55 per credit hour of every students’ tuition goes to the SG. That earned the organization ~$17.5 million for the 2012-2013 FY. By Florida law, that massive amount of money must be:
“The student activity and service fees shall be expended for the lawful purposes to benefit the student body in general.”[1]

1http://www.sg.ufl.edu/GovernmentBranches/Executive/Finance

The student body in general. There were members of the general student body who were excluded so entitled affiliates with the sponsors of the event could go. I found this appalling: students are directly funding a small minorities’ entitlements.

This truth still pains me a month after the event. It is my motivation for rambling as long as I already have.

I am not naive, I know this is how the world turns. Additionally, based on my own predilections I assume that human nature seeks entitlements. We all want to get ahead, and very few would halt personal progress if it infringes on another. Still, I cannot help but notice a sinking feeling when confronted with this reality. If I were to dream, I would find myself thinking of a society that valued unending humility and self-sacrifice rather than greed and self-entitlement.

ndgt

Absolutes, and adventures

I generally don’t like dealing in absolutes. I may have mentioned this before on this blog, or somewhere else in conversation, but I recently read an article titled “The Tesla Model S Is The World’s Most Expensive Beta Test” and it inflamed memories and opinions. Why does the Tesla have to be the most expensive? Surely we can consider a few other things more expensive for being only nearly ready for proper and safe consumption or usage. Off the cuff, I could think that there were a few Apollo missions that would be in the beta stage, if not barely experimental.

Usually I see these terms of absolute on products and services. Without anything more than anecdotal evidence, I would say that the poorer the quality of the consumable the more an advertisement for it deals in absolutes. The “best” attorney in town actually took a half dozen tries before he barely passed the bar, ‘first-class’ sushi is found in a gas station. I have noticed this rings truest in television commercials.

This past weekend was the fist time I watched television programming on an actual television in over a year. Apparently my guilty pleasures of ‘pawn stars’ is still showing episodes. But between the moments of history than I enjoy and bits of drama about some very obese idiots there are commercials. What I found in those few minutes was shocking. These commercials now seem like a blur to me, and even pressed I cannot remember the contents of a single 30 second spot but I can remember what I thought of them. They were horrid, and I hoped they appealed to the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately if I assume I know even the slightest bit about marketing, I would say these ads appeal to the middle of the bell curve, to the average and grabbing as much o their demographic as they can.

Most ads were for the best thing in some category. You have a sedan that is barely distinguishable to its rival? It is now the best in class for headroom because the roof is lifted a mm over your competitors’. I suppose this has always been the case, and many notice these same things- but the shock of it all hit me quickly when I turned on the set after a very long time of commercial abstinence.

This all reminds me of why I was watching TV. I was sitting on a couch in the state of my birth, recovering from a day of skiing. That was a trip that I would say may be worth of an absolute. It was a great time, and was exactly I needed to relax. Being as eventful as it was, my extended weekend adventures will have to wait for another entry.

As always, more to come: these damn thoughts don’t seem to end.

Let’s take a walk, you and I.

I am now half-way through reading ‘Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson. It is a good book, and has a lot of concepts I have become familiar with in the past few weeks working in a tech environment. The concept of ‘flow’ is prevalent, as is the balance between the privacy of a cubicle and the freedom of communication that is inherent in an open layout. It is an intriguing read, and one of its concepts has stopped my page progression. That is the idea of the walk, or another externally stimulating force, adding to the understanding of a concept when other ventures of usual merit do not bring solutions to light. Meaning that a jog in the night, a wait at a bus stop, or any other ‘pedestrian’ action outside of a focused environment bring solutions.

Personally, my higher functions do not work well if they have a single focus. In fact, focus is stagnating. I find myself in a few beyond-surface conversations on the phone from time to time, and I am caught by my conversation partner: I am usually out of breath. I hop from one crack in the ground, or from one couch armrest to another while my mind wanders. With these oddities I find that I come to some more influential understandings.

Also in this book it describes MIT and Microsoft’s oddly constructed buildings. MIT’s building 20 before it’s demolition, and Microsoft’s building 99. They are/were flexible buildings that accommodate differing projects. The focus of Microsofts building was apparently to build the water coolers, and then build the offices around them. The central focus of these innovation hubs was community. It seems that there is merit in group discussion: the biggest discoveries do not come from the lone man scanning the data, but rather a collaboration of colleagues questioning aspects one mind has dismissed or forgotten.

Our direction in this program has mirrored these thoughts often. Fearless Leader has brought up most of these ideas when questioned or directly. These ideas are implemented on a fairly large scale (~100 employees), and are beneficial to the environment: stuff gets done, and all parties are happy.

Innately I have combined these ideas. I pace and explore unrelated activities as I ponder, and (despite my usual introversion) I like to discuss these same ideas so that my overwhelming focus is so laser like that my computer and I enter a vacuous state.

So I guess I have unintentionally asked a question in pursuit with the cohesion of these two ideas. Would you care to use your bi-pedal locomotion and have a conversation with me, about any and all topics?

Would you care to go for a walk?

Control by the controlled.

I spend a lot of time observing. Wether it is in my classes or out on the quad, or in a library I am constantly watching. At times it is a good thing- I generally notice dangers far sooner than my companions (always watching, knowing that there are 14 other subway riders and what their focus seems to be on may have come in handy) but really I just see what you see and analyze it differently. So while you spend as much time looking out the window at the trees being carefully trimmed, I see something so much more involved.

There is a man, dressed in a reflective vest and large well covering hat trimming the taller branches of the trees that line a road in full view from my third story perch. The trees are there for beauty, meticulously planted in a row so as to be aesthetically  pleasing, which they are of course. Even in Florida the leaves are beginning to turn from chlorophyl dyed  green to their more resigned yellows and browns.

But why must they be trimmed? Tress have a short list of what they do, at least when viewed from the perspective of the fleeting life of my humanity. They grow, and continue to grow upwards towards the clouds they so wish to mingle with(or I would like to imagine). Their latitude only branches out marginally compared to their rocketing height. Yet here this man is, trimming the few spindly limbs that have grown so courageously past their counterparts. In a quick snip, all their energy exerted for the betterment of their collective unit is dashed. No more branches allowed for leaves, no more leaves for increased photosynthesis.

But this casual observation about needless horticulture isn’t my primary focus. It is the man doing the trimming. This is Florida, and he is landscaping wearing the trappings of an immigrant. I could be wrong, but this is a stereotype I think may exist for a reason- there are a lot of horrendously underpaid usually illegal immigrants who landscape all around Tampa at least.

So here he is, a man that at any given time could lose his lot in life, thanks to a DEA agent, an uncaring boss, or a plethora of other horribly unscrupulous reasons. He is controlled with no input into his life. He has few if any options in life, few ways to earn a meager living, no security in homestead or job. And still he continues his work under the temperamental sun, controlling the adolescent tree himself. The irony was not lost on me. This man, entirely controlled by forces he could not hope to manipulate is controlling a tree which shares his same fate. Control by the controlled.

I wish for both of their freedoms. For the man to find stability, or whatever he may want in life(I cannot assume he wants the stability my mind would think he desires) so that he may prosper and achieve. I wish for the tree to be able to expand beyond his trimmed facade and grow as best it sees fit. Overall I want both parties to be given the freedom they so instinctively yearn for.

In the meantime, they will both struggle. The tree will grow its branches toward the life giving star closest to it, and the landscaper will tear down the trees literally lofty pursuits. I can only hope one day they burst through their confines and reach ever higher physical and emotional heights.

Jobs.

Jobs. Everyone has one and nobody wants one, or wants a better one. Usually. I have already said on this blog that I am content with where I am- working part time and going to school fill time. I make enough money for me to be comfortable, and journey outside of my house every now and then. There are millions who don’t live in such relative luxury. Families live on less than what I make in a year, how I will ever know, and that number is climbing faster than ever before.  Most recently we have seen unemployment spike beyond levels it has been for decades. While that 9+% is tragic, I think the most upsetting new is how many people would consider themselves underemployed.

These are people who after a decade in a field find themselves without a job. I see it all the time and while I lack the age to directly associate with such people- as my social circle doesn’t include 35+ year olds,  I am well aware of this epidemic. They attempt to take this in stride, and then head out to find another job. It is a difficult process to be sure. A process that usually ends in complete failure, or a small job prospect that has no benefits, and half the salary. It is a death sentence to a life so previously lived. You would hope that after a hard life and experience to match you could find a job rightly befitting.

It is even harder for the 35 year old without a degree, but countless years of experience. Had I the inclination to find a job more related to my personal interestes (for sake of argument lets say a Web Design job with need of HTML, CSS, PHP, Java skills etc.) I would be SOL finding even some of the most basic entry level jobs without years of extremely relatable experience or a degree. It doesn’t matter that I have a lifetime of nerdly skills that are reflected poorly on a resume- it’s 5+ years experience or degree required. So it is that the mid life veteran has few options.

I see this all the time in retail. While my current place of employment is more…kid focused Target was inundated by people like this. It was a sad day indeed when you worked next to a broken man doing the same thing you were while you were 17 and he double that. I am defined primarily as a student, but I have worked for most of my educational existence. I can make a post like I did Tuesday how putting down this laptop and just listening is uniquely intimate, but then my mood today makes me take the rest of the population to heart. The majority of people who live in America do not have a degree, and had no inclination to get one. So they get stuck in this situation. Underemployment is a sad alternative to unemployment- but at least it is something.

I bought and read The Tipping Point by one of my favorite authors Malcolm Gladwell yesterday and I can relate the current poverty stricken climate to what he says. I described the job market as an epidemic in an earlier paragraph and that is what Gladwell’s book is about. He says that most epidemics happen because of small, near insignificant factors. What factors lead to our current climate? Politicians would like to debate this fact in simple, clearly defined reasoned ways. Regulation or lack or regulation. One president versus the previous. Godliness versus Atheist.  It is all bullshit, on any side you stand. Talking points that incite feelings. Their reasoned debate is illogical pandering.

I have my own thoughts and ideas what has lead to the degradation of the American workers’ job stability and usefulness, but you have been listening to me for quite some time. While some of you may enjoy reading my thoughts, I would hope that you could express some of your own. This doesn’t just have to be my tirade- it can be a discussion. discussion with anyone, not me specifically. If you were to take anything from my blog I only hope that my dumb mind brings you to some self-understand through either internal or external discussion.  However if you would want to talk about this, or anything send me a message, call me, facebook me.

Lunch in a Bar.

If any of you bother to read my present faebook status updates, you will know somewhat of my predicament. I will be in JFK for at least 8 hours today, maybe less if I took a small excursion. What I did do at the airport, terminal 5, was eat some lunch.

For some reason the terminal was by all account busier than usual, even for the weekend. The lady at the JetBlue counter was quick to mention that, as was the bartender who served me my food. Lets get back to that moment- the food part of my 1/4 day in terminal 5. Firstly, It took me forever to find food that was at least manageable. There was the typical fast food fair, even if it was branded slightly differently(McDonalds was known or is at the least similar to CheeBurger Cheeburger) which all looked terrible. On the opposite end of the spectrum there is a place called 5ive Steak where a burger was $26. I know that I shouldn’t think of prices in an airport, JFK at that, as everything will be at least triple the price it would be in a strip mall in suburbia. Still, I have my limits.

So I decided on this little bar area thing. I ordered a steak sandwich which I thought would be tasty, and hard to ruin. While I waited for my food I sipped my water. The solo girl working at the bar (and indeed the onyl employee in this nook of a restaurant) was talking to all of the three of us that walked in. She avoided me for the most part, I am not the most open person to talk to, especially since I have been awake all night and the day before making it ever so slowly to JFK.

I’m exhausted, but my brain still fires a few neurons around it’s own grey matter. I listen to the conversation between the bartender and one of the other clients. The bartender starts the conversation, it seems natural to her, and she begins by talking about her young sons’ need for a boutonnière. She blathers on about flowers, their perceived significance via an unnamed internet source, and what would be best for her child. The subject is clearly important to the orator, but it falls on the deaf ears of the patron(s). This conversation draws images of her young son growing up, becoming something more than the uterine mass she expelled a few short years ago- and we the customers seem to not give a damn. In moments I denounced her entire line of thought as inane, useless. Yet, here a few short hours later when I revisit my encounter I have to ask myself why I judge so harshly so immediately.

Malcolm Gladwell may say that I made a blink or snap decision, a long complex train of thought tightly wound and coiled similar in complexity to that of the structure of a protein. When I denature that metaphorical protein I find that the blink decision is not the sum of its parts. There is some intractable inequality between our first perceptions and decisions. Why is this the case? Is it that my initial perception is flawed, and that after some speculation I come to the proper conclusion- or is it the opposite of that, where my contemplative thoughts are more altruistic? Or is it another option I have yet to fathom even in the slightest. On matters so bold I have to refer to an intangible definition I think I will search a lifetime to find: substance. Does the bartenders’ opinions have substance, do my own opinions have any substance? If I mean by substance that there is something to build on- a foundation in this case for argument I feel that I do indeed have something. However If I can believe that substance needs not only a foundation but some rigidity (you can have a foundation made of any substance after all; jell-o may not be the ideal material for a foundation but it is something) then I feel my argument is lacking.

It is a conundrum I hope I will one day gain a small glimmer of understanding. Maybe my addled mind will be able to decipher this when I have some sleep. Or maybe I have isolated one of a few larger arguments that will eventually supernova into thoughts of life, death, happiness, and of creation and the conscience mind.

Seven hours to go. I have never wanted to be back in Florida the way I yearn for her now.

Movies

This post was done while speeding down  I-95, posted through my iPhone. It will be terrible, but you will damn well read it anyway. That is the power of the internet.

I love movies. I love watching them, talking about them, fighting about them. I am nearly constantly watching something while I am doing school-ish things or other nerd-ly pursuits on the computer. I have a 120′ projector  screen permanently mounted to my living room wall, and a projector hanging from the ceiling that begs to be used more than it is. I am not refined in any way when it comes to movies, I like Godfather II as much as I like Super Troopers (meow, do you know how fast you were going?) so I can’t speak to the importance or significance of any filmed piece. What I can mention is the problems I see with movies, and how we view them.

For instance:

1. Why do we watch bad movies? Wy do I find myself paying $10 a person to see movies like The Change Up? Dude, Where’s My Car? There are thousands of other movies I’m sure I would remember if I weren’t worrying what exit we should take next or if my sister will pull us off the road. How can we sit through two hours of filth, paying full price just to recline our fat asses back and watch whatever is rammed through our pupils? Even worse, how are we convinced that a bad movie is good, and we are ready to watch the same damn shitty move again (I’m looking at you Hangover 1 &2)? I wish I had an answer.

2. Why are movies considered first date staples? Let’s pretend that I’m normal, boring and predictable (a far stretch to be sure) and we were to hypothetically go on a first date. I would take you out to a dinner where I would talk about the limited food knowledge, all while attempting to maintain my masculinity somehow in-between words like creme freche and  mir pois. I would laugh vapidly at your jokes while trying to suppress my need to correct your grammar and hide that I am a huge nerd. Perhaps we were having a good time, and we head out to the movies after. I buy our $50 worth of tickets and popcorn and we hunker down.  The movie starts and our conversation stops. We can longer longer talk, get to know each other. We can share a quick glance at the burgeoning gut of the guy eating the nachos in front of us but that is about it. It’s just awkward advances and self loathing for getting the large soda and needing to pee.

3. Why are we so passive during and after movies? We can watch an epic and not even show the slightest show of emotion. On my second watching of the last Potter I did more crowd watching than movie, and I wasn’t surprised to see 100 people sitting perfectly still while Severus dies. There was only one person showing any sort of emotion, and that would be my dear mother not-so-silently sobbing, it was her first viewing but I can assure you that if it were her hundredth she would need just as many tissues. After the theater lights go up, the most emotion you see is a yawn, stretch and the compulsion for half of the occupants to piss. Why is it that even the most well made and  intriguing movies do nothing to incite us. I have yet to watch Food, Inc. and not be disgusted yet I’ll down a slice of Smythfield ham without another thought despite my own reservations learned from the movie.

I can’t really answer any of these questions personally. I would say I could only offer an opinion of the 3rd bullet:

Stop it. Stop the malaise. Don’t just sit there prostrate in your chair, become involved with the plot or message. When I watch LOTR I can relate with the inferiorities of humanity, the steadfast determination of friendship of the hobbits, and more. I think that we are passive movie-goes because of our postures. Sitting in a poorly cleaned theater chair with a bucket of butter free buttered popcorn leads to complacency and our current lassies-faire attitude towards what could be an innervating moment, or movement.

 

I’m now barreling down I-95 somewhere in Virginia. My next post can’t tracert’d to Vermont.

Very recently I had the opportunity to meet a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We shook hands, I laughed at his jokes and then the conversation was over. The interaction was brief but it had some indelible marks on myself, and my motivations. While some may be happy with excess, abounding responsibilities and of course power, I think that my motivation lies internally. I don’t care how others perceive me or my role in life, as long as I find a measure of happiness out of it.

The CEO I met with made statistically more money than I will make in my lifetime in a single year, which is fine by me. That amount of excess has never made sense to me- who actually needs ownership of a jet, island, or more houses than digits on your combined hands. Unadulterated greed like that will always be unsettling to me. The fuel he put in his jet instead of taking a first class flight across country could have fed thousands of the most destitute. Yet if you can read this, you are guilty of similar greed. Amy Winehose died yesterday and while in life she was cracked out or drunk nearly any hour she was around consciousness it was a surprise and people were sad, and Casey Anthony was found guilty a few weeks ago and then there was a rallying cry of outrage: “how could she get off, the murder of a young child will have no vengeance”, yet very few people are bothered with the irrelevant deaths of 16,000 children due to starvation. You can read this because I assume you spend money on electricity, a computer, internet, etc- money that technically could have been spent feeding these children. We are all guilty of greed to some degree but we individually usually can’t influence the outcomes of thousands a day. You and I can bear the burdens we carry, but I would hope that if you or I were given such an excess of say, $5 million a year we would do as much as possible to help others.

That was quite the ramble. I start out talking about happiness and find myself lecturing about starvation. Lets see if I can’t make a conveyable point out of the next paragraph.

Getting back to personal ideas of happiness.If I were to quantify what would make me a happy, enjoyable person for myself and my loved ones I would say it would be the ability to do something new/exciting at least monthly. Small joys during the week are great: sharing a joke with coworkers, a well prepared dinner(by myself of a chef), a successful night of insomniatic interneting(or even a square eight hours of sleep) but I think there needs to be something more in any given 30 day stretch of time. If I knew what this would entail I would list it, and pursue. Amazingly I would like to think that I am not too dogmatic in my hobbies, exploration is a must. I certainly cannot achieve all this currently as I am a full time student and an upper-level retail peon, and neither pay remarkably well currently.  When I complete school I can step into any multitude of fields and  be well equipped to pursue anything I have listed.

It’s all about my individual measure of happiness and motivation to achieve my own set goals. Not the goals, or perception of necessary goals that society places on people. I think that is the difference between a full and happy life and a shallow, tepid life. Define and set what genuinely makes you happy. Push aside any external forces attempting to influence your persuasions and decide: what makes me happy. It may make for a paradigm shift in your life if you realize you are unhappy, or it may just solidify your path. Anyway your introspection goes at least you will know how you will be happy. I have recently done this, and am moving forward with life. Change for the better. Be happy and enjoy life.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzJY96m3lkg