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May 30, 2006

Remembering the dream

If he only knew

What will happen if I keep focusing on being happy now instead of sacrificing current happiness for that mythical future moment when I have "earned" it?

I'm fighting the voice in my head that says "you looser, you are not doing anything. Just sitting there playing with your camera and taking pictures and running and reading and "planning"! Always planning but never doing. Always dreaming, but never waking up. You can't make money doing that, and if you don't get off your ass you will never be able to make money in Tokyo again. You will end up in a box on the street.

That voice has a point. It's only logical that if I don't get off my butt and start doing something I will soon find myself with nothing and be force to either live in a box or go back to one of the many jobs I have discarded as "not for me".

On the other hand, I am constantly amazed at how much closer some of my ideas and projects get to becoming reality each day, even though I don't feel like I am working on them as hard as I should or could.

Yesterday I got some more news that my situation with the current big dream has improved - another connection that I was not looking for. One that can only help. And yet, I feel so guilty that I am not focussed 24/7 on making it happen. I am not the ambitious self-starting entrepreneur. It takes me a week to get something done that the people I read about in FastCompany would get done before lunch.

No, I'm just a lazy guy with a dream who, for some reason, the world takes pity on. It's almost as if so long as I remember the dream, the world remembers me.

can't stop the rain

May 29, 2006

Enjoying nature is more expensive than I thought.

DSC_5442.jpg

I've been making several trips to various sporting goods stores recently.

I haven't been buying anything though. I always chicken out at the last minute wondering why I even need any of it. I mean, our ancestors tread through much harsher conditions with much less sophisticated stuff.

* * *

Let me first give a little background - just to say that I will be taking a two month course this summer for outdoor guide type folks. The list of required gear is a mile long and I can't believe I really need all of it.

I mean, I went the whole year in Sweden with a spring-fall sleeping bag and no mattress pad. When sleeping in my tent, on a deserted island after breaking my way through the ice, I would simply sleep on my side to lessen the contact area and prevent the frozen earth from sucking the life-heat out of me.

The whole year, be it kayaking, biking, cross-country skiing, or just walking in the frozen wastelands of the north in the middle of the winter, I used the same combination of one synthetic t-shirt, one synthetic long-sleeve shirt, a fleece of unknown weight, and a $10 Michigan University wind-breaker.

I had a pair of $1 fleece work-gloves (confession: I did buy some cheap gloves made out of wet-suit material so I could Kayak in the cold.)

Probably the most high-tech of gear I had was a few pairs of really comfortable socks given to me by a sporting-goods-importing friend a few years ago (valued at $15 / pair). When it was a really cold night I wore two pairs.

Sure there were times that I thought "wouldn't it be nice if I had..." but the fact that I was still alive led me to believe I didn't need it.


* * *

So, a few weeks ago I got the list of stuff I need. It was just before our bike trip, so I ran out to buy anything that would be useful on the trip as well. Unfortunately, the only thing I felt it would be worth to carry along is perhaps a gore-tex style rain gear pants and jacket set.

I paid $100 for a Japanese brand while the "cool" American brands were $250 or more. In the end, I guess I should have just gotten a pair of rubber fisherman's pants and a rubber jacket which would have run me about $30. But I, like most of us, am a sucker for fashion.

I used the rain gear on the second day of our trip in which we were awaken in the morning by thunder and pouring. We rode over the mountain pass in the rain, and I was "happy" that I had the rain gear, but I also remember one of our early trips a few years ago where we rode from Tokyo to Nagoya. Then I had no rain-gear and it rained even harder. I was wet, yes. But I had a dry towel in my bag, and that is all I really needed. (it was much lighter too).

* * *

There was a point in our trip to Nagano this month that we looked at our increasing load of bags in dismay. I remember how on that first trip we each had a single back-pack. This time I had two saddle-bags and a backpack. Likewise, Tomoe also has a saddle-bag and increasingly bulging backpack - and a fanny-pack. (I carry the tent, dishes, and first-aid kit which is why I have more bags)

If we survived that first trip without most of what we brought this time, what did we need it for?>

* * *

Getting back to my shopping list, I have found myself frozen, unable to justify purchasing new gear. The money - the environmental damage. Is it really worth it?

Disclosure: I did order a new bike light online which I can't wait to get (my previous one was stolen out of a pocket on my bag on the last day of our Nagano bike adventure.) This new light is hand-crank powered. One minute of cranking lasts 3 hours.

The hand-crank light is also going to have to double for the head-lamp that is on the shopping list. Yes, my favorite head-lamp, the one that made me famous in the small-town of Karlskrona, Sweden, as "that guy who walks around at night reading a book with a head-lamp", was stolen along with the bike light.

I looked for a solar or hand-crank powered head-lamp as well, but was not able to find one, so I am just going to have to affix my new bike light to a head-band.

* * *

So what else is on "The List"?

3+ pr Liner Socks (Thin polypropylene) Why 3 pairs? And do I really need polypropylene socks? I realize it is more comfortable than wearing wet socks, and may reduce the fungus. But is that worth it? Maybe I will compromise and get 1.5 pairs - when I wear the .5 pair, I will alternate feet.
4+ pr. Outer Socks Medium to heavy weight socks I guess I already have this, but I have never needed anything more. Again I wonder about the special polypropylene socks.
2+ pr Lightweight hiking socks Cotton is okay. Hmmmm.. My lightweight socks are the same weight as my heavy-weight socks. If they can keep me warm in Sweden all night after a miss-step into the icy Baltic...
4+ pr. Underwear Quick drying fabric is best, cotton is okay. I have never owned more than three pairs of underwear at one time in my life. If I can wear the same underwear for three days in a row to the office, why can't I do that when I am "roughing it" in the forest? - Just kidding, and checking to see if anyone really read this far.
2 sets Long underwear, top & bottom Mid-weight: Capilene/silk/polypro Hmmm... I have one pair of spandexy type long running pants that tend to keep me warm enough in any situation I have faced so far. I wonder why I would need two pairs - and tops at that. Especially when I have to bring all kinds of fleeces and what not as well.
1 set Rain gear I guess they assume that I am afraid of getting wet.
1 pr. Fleece pants 200 weight polar fleece or wool Even if I have the long underwear?
2 pr Shorts Quick drying (no cotton) Why 2 pair. I have one pair and I am not worried if anyone notices that I wear the same thing twice.
2 Swimsuit or jog bra and shorts Quick drying (no cotton) My shorts are my swimsuit.
2+ Short sleeve shirt Cotton is okay and dark colors work best. No problem
2+ Short sleeve shirts Synthetics are best. Hmmm. I have one.
1 Long sleeve shirt 100 weight Fleece or Medium-weight wool sweater Or maybe I can just wear both of my long-john tops...
2+ Long sleeve shirt For sun protection, cotton is okay. No problem.
1 Jacket 200 or 300 weight pile / fleece (no leather or cotton) I just bought a rain-gear set that has a jacket. Am I only allowed to wear it when it is raining?
1 Warm ski hat/Watch Cap Synthetic or wool fibers- no cotton blends No problem.
2 Sun hats One broad-brimmed hat with tie and on baseball hat or visor. Why 2? Is it in case I loose one? Or is it a fashion thing? How about if I tie it to my collar?
2 Bandanas For washcloth and sun protection, Kleenex, etc. - you can purchase at www.outwardboundwilderness.org/gear No problem. I can make a bandana of a pair of old underwear (whity-tighties)
1 pr. Gloves or mittens Synthetic fibers-no cotton blends I have a pair of leather ski-mittens I love (it was before I knew where leather came from). The only problem is they weigh a pound each. What to do...
1 pr. Non-padded paddling gloves Bicycle, water skiing, sailing or cotton work gloves Now, my kayak gloves are very different from bike-gloves. And bike-gloves are very different than working gloves. I am a little confused.
1 set. Cut-able clothing For first aid simulations $1 at the local thrift-shop. Not a problem.
1-2 sets Street Clothes For classroom settings and for trip home. Footwear: Gotta take this anyway or the others at the Seattle-mini-reunion for "Masters of Strategic Leadership for Sustainability Masters Program" won't let me join.
1pr. "Wet" running / tennis shoes For boating, swimming, wading I have this.
1pr. "Dry" running / tennis shoes Sandals For land activities and for use in camp I do NOT have two pairs of running shoes! What are they thinking? Why would anyone have two pairs of running shoes unless they are hard-core runners?
1pr. Teva/Chaco type sandals Must have ankle buckle/fastener Oooooo. I have wanted these for a long time. Unfortunately, when I was in Malaysia last year I picked up a pair of extremely well-made and long-lasting flip-flops for $3. I have worn them all summer, winter, and spring since then. Getting a pair of Teva sandals may be good for the trip, but afterwards they will sit on a shelf collecting dust since they are not as convenient as the flip-flops. Maybe my one pair of tennis shoes will be OK.
1pr Medium Weight Backpacking Boots Please see attached boot sheet. I have a pair of hiking boots which I have been using for years. I just hope they are "up to spec".
1 Sunglasses with keeper strap Polarized lenses can help you see through the water’s surface reflection to observe marine life. Keeper strap should float I guess that makes sense. I don't have sunglasses now because I usually only wear my glasses, but I will probably be wearing contacts for some of the more "adventurous" portions of this trip.
1 Prescription eye-wear (if applicable) Contacts ok w/glasses as backup - bring extra glasses and hard cases The best suggestion in the list. the most haunting movie scene in my life is in Lord of the Flies when the chubby kid gets his glasses taken and smashed. I would die.
1 Simple pocket knife With can opener (no sheath knives) I am not going to pay for a new knife just because mine does not have a can-opener. I have opened cans with the "blade" part many times.
1 Headlamp A light worn on your head to keep your hands free. LED is best. I can't wait to make this out of my hand-crank bike-light.
2 sets Batteries for Headlamp No batteries needed here unless my arms break - and if that happens I can't change the batteries anyway.
1 Waterproof sunscreen SPF 30 or greater, unscented Of course.
Notebook & Pens 8”X5” notebook/steno pad, 2 pens and stamped envelopes. What's a "stamp"? I seem to remember it from my childhood...
1 Moisturizing lotion For dry feet & hands, unscented OK. I thought this was a hard-core trip. And besides, sexual activity with other course members is strictly prohibited (it's not a reality TV show). Why do I need smooth skin?
1 Toilet kit Toothbrush, small toothpaste, earplugs, comb or brush, small unscented biodegradable soap. Can bring small deodorant for class days. Otherwise makeup, hair products and deodorant, etc. are unnecessary. Because after spending a few weeks with the smelly Kevin in the mountains, they will be offended to smell me in class?
1 $75 For traveling money and to pay for lost or damaged school-issued course equipment. I really wish $75 was enough to cover traveling expenses!
1 Small towel Optional, synthetic towels dry quickly Finally, the one thing that means I don't need rain-gear, and they only say 1 "small" towel. I could by 50 small towels for the price of the rain-gear.
2 32 oz. Water Bottles I'm sure someone will let me drink out of theirs if I am showing signs of dehydration.

May 27, 2006

Who needs 'em. We can't inhibit human development for the sake of other species like those bugs!

a stroll in Nakano

So I just got back from a Hash and although I did not have too much to drink that I couldn't ride my bike home, I guess I had too much to do anything productive the rest of the night. I guess that means I should ramble on my blog.

* * *

A great new discovery (for me) on NPR. In Radio Expeditions, NPR takes us into the Amazon to listen to some all-to-often considered "insignificant" bugs. I can't understand how people would listen to them, listen to their incomprehensibly complex language, hear about their social activity, and still say "eh, so what. Who needs 'em. We can't inhibit human development for the sake of other species like those bugs."

I wont go so far as to say we all need them, but then again, I don't need most of the people I see every day, so why not just get rid of them?

What I will say is that they are living creatures, just the same as me, and I have no reason to think that I am any more special or deserving of the earths resources than they are.

Sure, if a mosquito is biting me I will slap it dead. Much in the same way that a bear who finds me between herself and her cubs would slap me to death. I have no problem with that. That is nature. I take a risk if I get between the bear and her cubs just as the mosquito takes a risk when it bites me.

But I have never heard of a bear attacking a human simply because they want (not need) a cup of coffee in the morning, and the human is living in the increadibly bio-dieverse ecosystem where they would like to plant grow that coffee.

This is where I can no longer empathise with the "all other species be damned" people.

Don't get me wrong. I understand how people have come to think this way. We are raised to belive that humans are "better" and animals have no feelings or thoughts. It is only recently that science has begun to show what (let's face it) we all knew to some extent. That is that animals have emotions and are fundamentally no different than humans.

Sure, if I kill a chicken or Awii (one of my cockatiels) he will never know what hit him, but the same is true if I was a sniper taking a shot at Joe Shmoe. (I hope there is no one really named Joe Shome - if so, I mean you no harm)

Yet, he had a very productive life ahead of him. He had seeds to eat and spill, walls and books to chew and destroy, and lots of places to poop. He is a busy bird.

Now, you may think this is not worthy of life, but come-on. Is writing emails, making spreadsheets, or designing a web-site any more valuable to the world? I think not. If I kill Awaii, his potential (including the potential of making me and Tomoe happy) will be lost.

What's more, if I kill Awaii, Klee (my other cockatiel) will be very lonely. Yes. Birds have emotions. Birds feel loneliness and boredom and pleasure. How is this any different than killing my neighbor - who may be missed by her children.

I can no more kill a bird than I can kill my neighbor (and my neighbor annoys me much more than the birds do - even though they poop on my face in the morning when I am sleeping.)

Now, there are some instances when the bird may seem less "valued". For example, when Guri (my parakeet) died, he died from an illness that had been plaguing him for a long time. I had the option to take him to the hospital or not. i knew what they would say (because they had said it so many times before), and so I decided that I can't really help him. Was it just to save $50. Maybe.

But if it was a relative who was just as obviously living in pain and so close to death, would I do everything in modern science's power to save them? Maybe. But I really think that that choice would be based more on wanting human society to look on me favorably, than on what I think is best for the suffering relative. I think that the best thing for guri at that time was to just die, rather than spend the rest of his life puking.

On the other hand, if letting Guri die would have brought the wrath of parakeets across the world to my doorstep, would I have been so free about refusing medical care? Maybe not, but the decision would have been for my best interest, not his.

* * *

These are just my random thoughts that I jotted down one night after drinking some beer. I don't know if it is really what I think, but I think it is what I think.

When I came back from Sweden in July, Tomoe and I made the move to "almost" vegan. I say "almost", because we still consider ourselves "strategic eaters". That is, we don't make all-encompassing rules about what we eat, but we judge it on a situational basis.

If we am in complete control of what gets ordered, we order no meat or animal products. If we are not in control, and someone orders some animal products, or spends time and effort making us a hamburger, rather than see leftovers get thrown away, we will eat it with full knowledge and acknowledgment of the poor living conditions the living, feeling animal endured that we may eat him/her, as well as the environmental damage caused in the production and transportation of such low-efficiency food.

In our house there are still some legacy animal products remaining. We have eggs. We have butter. Once they are gone, that is the end. The only problem is that the eggs and butter have been sitting there for months, and we have no appetite for them.

I will not plead that all readers become "strategic eaters", but I do plead that you think about where your food comes from.

What if it was you that was locked in a stall your whole life to produce eggs for some other species to eat? Do you really believe that somehow chickens are not stressed by their lifestyle? Is your argument that "That is how nature works"? If so, I urge you to really examine that belief and look for examples. And then take it a step further and think about how you would feel if you were the one who was in the little cage for your ENTIRE LIFE. It makes it even worse if you are an animal without the ability to reason as we humans can. Imagine you are in a situation you don't like, but you have no ability to calm yourself with reason.

I know that this argument will mostly fall on "unwilling-to-listen" ears, so I don't know why I even write about it. I guess it's just something I have been wanting to express for a long time, and it takes a little beer to make it possible. Sigh... if only I hadn't had the beer I could have expressed it much better.

May 26, 2006

Nothing clever to say today.

May 25, 2006

I'm Hap - hap- happy again

Waaaaiiiii

I don't know what to write about. For some reason I am a negative type guy who likes to complain a lot, but when things are going so well as now, I have nothing to say. I guess its because I don't want to make all the rest of you who can't possibly be as happy as me even more dissatisfied with your miserable lives.

Hey! Maybe happiness is a good topic to talk about!

It just so happens that I have been hearing and seeing quite a bit about a new book by some Harvard Psychology professor about how to find happiness. I haven't read the book, but the most comprehensive interview I have heard so far was on Diane Rehm.

The most memorable point he brought up was about how there is a "disinformation war" regarding happiness, and it is being waged on us on two fronts.

On the one hand, our genes are tricking us into thinking that having babies will make us oh-so-happy. Happy happy happy. After all, if we don't believe we will be happy when we have kids, those pesky little genes will die off.

On the other hand, our cultural system is telling us that being rich will make us happy. After all, what would happen to our culture if we only consumed what we actually needed? And what is the best way to get people to consume more? Make them think that being rich will make them happy. They will not only sacrifice more of their life in the pursuit of getting rich, but they will also consume more to "pretend" that they are rich in the hopes, I guess, that it will lead to happiness.

Which little voices are you listening to?

The author points out that while most parents say that their children are the greatest joy in their life, the data does not agree. In fact, when people have children their overall happiness level drops, and it doesn't go back up until the kids move out.

Of course, looking back, people remember the experience as happy, - but that is (he believes) because our genes trick us into believing it. At the actual time of the experience, however, the participants in his studies generally claimed to be unhappy.

I guess it like how feeling the pain of a good "dove pose" in yoga makes me want to quit, but as soon as I let go of that awkwardly contorted leg, my head is full of beautiful thoughts.

The next trick is money.

The data shows that winning the lottery does not make people happy. They end up being the same person they are now - just with a lot of money. For one thing, people adapt to that level of income very quickly.

The data also shows some diminishing returns. Money makes really poor people happier, but once they reach a certain level (middle class), more money generally brings less happiness.

Of course there are reasons for this. He sites lottery winners being called parents asking for money to save a dying kid - not a pleasant experience by anyones standards. Its specially a downer if it happens on a daily basis.


What does make people happy?

His studies show that engaging in altruistic acts is a great way to make people happy. (but I suppose if you do it with the goal to be happy its no longer altruistic).

So why don't more people do more altruistic things?

The problem is that people can't anticipate that happiness. We can more accurately predict our future emotions by looking at other people's experience than imagining it for ourselves. That is to say, when presented with an opportunity to commit a random act of kindness, we are unable to envision how it will make us happy. Of course, when watching a movie, we always know what the protagonist should do - he or she is the only one that seems to be in the dark.

This is similar with marriage. Evidence suggests that arranged marriages end up happier on average than "love" marriages - because we can envision the outcome of other peoples actions better than our own. If the person who arranges the marriage knows the two participants well enough, they can choose better than the participants themselves - who for some reason have this inability to accurately envision the outcome of their own actions (often because the decision is made when they are literally "blinded" by love - meaning that their body is full of some endorphins and what not that prevent them from thinking straight).

On a final note, he gives his secret to happiness: monotony.

He says that what makes him happy is wearing the same pants every day of his life, and eating the same meal every Sunday of his life. Because choice brings unhappiness.

Yes, Variety and choice decreases happiness.
Perhaps this Is this why the people in poor (but not poverty-stricken) countries that we are trying to save by bringing into our consumption lifestyle seem so happy without all the crap that makes us unhappy.

Now, I am not saying at all that I will give up the incredible amount of choice that I am exercising this very minute, as I sit at home writing on my blog (after four hours of workout, a nice bike-ride, and attending to some other non-profitable ventures) while other people are sitting in their office making money. I can make that choice because I know I don't have to worry about the future. I know that I have the skills and smarts to never go hungry, to never need for more.

What makes me most unhappy when I am exercising that ability to make money (in some office somewhere) is knowing that I could be doing something different, something more in line with what I (think I) want to do. Of course I can never be sure because apparently we humans suck at seeing what will really make us happy. I do feel lucky though in that I don't appear to be as tempted by my genes to make babies, or by society to make a crap-load of money, as it seems many of the people around me are. (and I guess that having a baby probably leads to the idea that the parents need more money, and conversely, working so hard to make a lot of money that doesn't make one happy may lead to the idea that having a baby might make them happy... a vicious circle?)

I wonder what it would be like if I lived a choice where I really had no choice... If I was a Chinese factory worker who has to sew the eyes on dolls in order to live. I suppose then so many more little things would make me so much happier - like that 15-Minute Maternity Break.

Maybe that's what I chose someone to marry who takes away all my "choice" by telling me exactly what to do and where to go:

DSC_5303.jpg

May 23, 2006

My Amazing Body

My body feels amazing.

- and not just to the lucky people close enough to rub up against it on the crowded train. It also feels amazing to me - the person lucky enough to be inside it.

Why is this?

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure if it is simply because I have been spending 3 - 4 hours per day running, working out, and yoga-ing recently, or simply because of the yoga. I have a hunch that the yoga plays a big role in it though, because I have gone through long periods of workout in the past and, while I always feel better, I can't say that I felt this dang good.

I feel like water.

While in daily life, as I reach for the cup on the top shelf, my body usually send me pangs of regret-like feelings, thinking to myself "Dang, I gotta stretch more", I now have the feeling of fluidity - not in my bladder (well, sometimes) but in my entire body. I feel as though my body is not even there - I don't even notice that I am moving. This feeling of non-noticing is great.

As for the yoga, I have been intrigued for some time now, and wanted to try it out a few years ago, but it just seemed like a lot of work to fit it into the schedule. I have not taken any classes, so I am most definitely doing it "wrong", but I am using a DVD which seems to fit my purpose.

One thing that intrigued me on an intellecutal level, but at the same time made me extremely skeptical about yoga, is the image of "spiritual-ness" it has. I can tell you the truth when I say that I have never felt the spirits of the earth flow through my body as I do it. I have however, although it is not prescribed in the DVD, concentrated on "feeling" or paying attention to different parts of my body, and what sensations are coming from them - and while it was not the "spirits" of the earth, I have, for the first time, "felt" the points on my feet that exert the most pressure on the floor when I stand, and what a breeze from the open window feels like on my toes, knees, and ....

I think the main benefit from yoga though is that it gives me a program to stretch, and that program reminds me to push it to the limits.

While in the past I stretched when working out, it was usually boring and I had no motivation to stretch more - I was just going through the motions with no specific goal. Listening to that ultra-flexible lady in the DVD, however, telling me to concentrate on stretching my back so that "all the back-bones are pulled further and further" (a rough translation), I am reminded to go the last inch- something I would not do when I was just doing it because "that's what your supposed to do when you work out".

Another indication that having the video to focus my attention on the task at hand is a good thing, is the fact that I can usually go for 40-50 minutes before my mind even begins to wander to "what I have to do today". Somehow, that drone-like voice and the hypnotic music of the DVD have the ability to focus all of my attention on my body, how it feels, and the task at hand.

It has an amazing effect.

Amazing.

That's all I can say.

I find myself totally addicted. Even when I decide not to work out on a given day, in order to get some other stuff done, I can't give up the yoga.

May 21, 2006

The Economics of Morality

As you may know, I generally don't do political posts on the blog, so keep in mind that I am only posting this because it is too funny not to. On the other hand, it's not as funny as this

(Sure, the Daily Show is always funny, but only check the site once every two months or so, so I miss a lot of it.)

* * *

In other news, I continue to be bothered about the new "pro-CO2 accumulation" ads I mentioned the other day. I looked up the organization that creates them on Source Watch to see who is paying them to produce this crap.

They provide a list of the companies actually seem to support both the view that increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere is a good thing. (note, the stance of these ads is no longer focused on the contrived "controversy" of human caused climate change, rather, they take a bold new stance, effectively saying "yeah, CO2 is increasing. Yeah, it's due to human activity - but it's a good thing".)

The list is a lot of the usual suspects - companies you would expect to lie because their entire business model is based solely on the burning of fossil fuels. But among them, there are also some companies that have attempted to make more serious claims about "environmental responsibility" such as IBM, and ones that I would expect to care more about their brand, such as Coca Cola.

The thing I found a bit more interesting though - and was not expecting - is that it shows the 1999 salaries of the top employees:

  • Fred L. Smith, president, $134,940
  • Sam Kazman, general counsel, $89,103
  • Thomas P. Miller, director, economic policy, $82,775
  • James Gattuso, vice president, policy/management, $82,213
  • Clyde Wayne Crews, director, competition & regulatory policy, $75,615

Now, I don't think it would come as a shock to anyone to hear that I am not making 134,000 / year. I don't know if that would tempt me to make such bold-faced lies as these ads just to keep the job (although I tend to doubt it). Nor do I make even $75,000 a year. (in fact, I recently make the decision to once again be "partly employed" making less with lots of free time). Regardless, I would have thought they must be making a lot more... I can't understand how $89,000 a year can be enough to suppress this Sam Kazman's conscience... Now, there is always the chance that he knew nothing of these recent ads (or many of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's past projects), after all, sometimes those at the lower levels are very good at pulling the wool over the heads of those poor, poor executives at the top (cough, cough).

Still, I am intrigued at the economics of morals. How much is enough to make a man or woman give them up? And is that why the execs get paid so much? And is that why there are fewer women executives - it costs more to get them to give up their morals? (I doubt that last one, but I'm just thinking out-loud.)

I want to be clear, of course, that I am not arguing the legal issues of what the CEI or Sam Kazman and his crew are promoting - apparently that CO2 should not be classified as a pollutant. Obviously they know more about the law than I do, and if they are just "doing their job as an attorney", it is a slightly different story - much as a public defender who defends someone they believe to be guilty would. But these ads are just bullshit, and they have nothing to do with law and everything to do with trying to manipulate folks who have not had the time or privilege to take a close look at the science.

And I have no idea why it upsets me so much...

May 19, 2006

I call it lying

Empty Bath

Movies I want to see:

Thank You for Smoking.

Movies (or rather short video clips) I want you to see.

"Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. we call it life."

Although I remember hearing an interview with the "Thank You For Smoking" creator, I had no idea it would be such a fun movie (check the web site).

I was reminded of it when I saw a link to it on Real Climate, which also reminds us of this classic Doonesbury comic about the white-house "situational science advisor".

Situational science is about respecting both sides of a scientific argument - not just the ones supported by facts.

The article was in response to a set of ads that appear to be parody (what else could they be) but in fact they are a real attempt to convince people that increasing CO2 emissions is a good thing?!??!?!?!?!?!

CO2: We Call it Life:

There's something in the air that you can't see. it's essential to life... it comes from animal life, the oceans, the earth, and the fuels we find in it...

The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from back-breaking labor...

Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. we call it life.

As Real Climate: Thank you fro emitting points out (more details at The Island of Doubt).

They only discuss one scientific point which relates to whether 'glaciers are melting'. Unsurprisingly, they don't discuss the dramatic evidence of tropical glacier melting, the almost worldwide retreat of other mountain glaciers, the rapid acceleration of fringing glaciers on Greenland or the Antarctic peninsula.

...

The only studies that they highlight are ones which demonstrate that in the interior of the ice shelves, there is actually some accumulation of snow (which clearly balances some of the fringing loss). These studies actually confirm climate model predictions that as the poles warm, water vapor there will increase and so, in general, will precipitation. (emphasis mine) In the extreme environments of the central ice sheets, it will not get warm enough to rain and so snowfall and accumulation are expected to increase.

Even if you disregard the science, and try to use the "common sense" approach I assume the ad makers are going for, they make no sense - at least none that is common to me. As one commenter puts it:

I do like that nice spin about CO2 though - "we breathe it out and plants breathe it in."

Of course, we require water to live as well. On the other hand, drop yourself in seven feet of the stuff and you won't last too long. You can also get very sick and die if you drink too much of it and wash all of the vital salts out of your body.


I constantly find myself wondering how the people involved in producing things like this live with themselves.

I mean, it's one thing to be working for Ford, maybe the guy who controls the machine that paints the SUV... at least if that guy says "Just doin' my job" it is credible. - But the people who conceived of, wrote, directed, and did the voice over in these videos??? There is no excuse but for blatant lying. They can't really believe what they are saying or they would not have been so careful to conceal the real findings of the report... And although I understand how the "organization" could be fine with creating such bullshit, but an organization is made of people - and I'm pretty dang sure those people are not poor. They most likely have every opportunity to make an honest living.

So what happened to make these people like this?

May 17, 2006

Not Tomoe

I made it my goal to get through all of the photos from Nagano before the weekend. Somehow 75% of them are portraits of Tomoe.

This is from the other 25%.

I would write more, but I have an appointment with the Tokyo Hash, a running club I used to be quite active with when I first got to Tokyo. A few years I fell out of the habit, but am trying...

May 16, 2006

Being a Treat

I've learned a lesson. That lesson is that even if what I write may be boring as hell (although hell would probably be pretty dang interesting), there may be people who depend on me writing something, anything (boring as it may be) each and every day.

I realize this because ms. Write Again Soon has not updated in a few days and it is really annoying. Hers is one of the sites I absent-mindedly type into my browser when I am ready for a break.

Interestingly, although I read a higher percentage (100%) of her posts than I do of the blogs that I am subscribed to, I don't subscribe to her blog with RSS. Probably because I like to save it as a treat - like the chocolate for desert. Half of the joy is typing in the URL and holding my breath to see if she has updated.

There are two other blogs that I read religiously but don't subscribe to as well. I never thought about why until now.

I can only hope that someone out there sitting in office-land feels the same way about my blog. And I don't want to let them down. So from now, even if it is just five minutes, I will try to write some kind of crap every day that I have access to the computer.

Which brings up another topic. This summer I will have 59 days with NO internet or phone access.

I can't wait.

When I began to think about it, I realized that it will be the longest that Tomoe and I have been apart. Sure, for three or more of the eight years of our relationship we have lived in different cities, sometimes halfway or fullway across the globe, but even then we had phone, email, and chat. This will be two months where the only communication will be by paper and pen - and two week delivery times.

Dang exciting it is.

May 12, 2006

The INTP in Me

Rare

So I had to find five words that describe myself for the application procedures for a little event I am going to be taking part in soon.

The first things that came to mind were "un-focused", "willpower-less", "inability-to-complete-ish", "lazy", and I never made it to the fifth word before I decided to go for a long run which eventually turned into a short run when I was distracted by the used-camera shop along the way.

I did go to the gym though, and hope to be in at least a little hurt tomorrow.

Actually, to find a more positive way to express all these negative sounding traits I looked up my personality type (INTP). It fits me almost exactly, and I actually sound pretty good. (any other INTPs out there, please contact me if you would like to join the INTP Club, which has had, for the past year now, only two members, including myself and Ms. Propelling. We are planning an annual event in which we will protest extroverts and their evil ways)

As an INTP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

Yep. Very internal. In fact, everything I do is mostly for internal, personal reasons, such as my year in Sweden was not to learn about Sustainable Development for work, but rather to find out what it meant for myself. I am finding now that just working for "the good of mankind" without any personal joy is not my cup of tea. (yeah, I know it is obvious, but I had to try it out to be sure)

Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

Right again. And here I thought it was just because I was too lazy to do research before making a decision.

INTPs live in the world of theoretical possibilities. They see everything in terms of how it could be improved, or what it could be turned into. They live primarily inside their own minds, having the ability to analyze difficult problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations.

Yep, yep, yep.

And here I was always beating myself up over having lots of ideas about how things could be better, but little follow-through to actually implement it.

They seek clarity in everything, and are therefore driven to build knowledge.

I did just pull out that Biology textbook I started reading almost a year ago. Last night I read two pages of chapter 5.

They are the "absent-minded professors"

This is the most "suggested" profession people I know have for me. The only problem is that becoming a professor (even an absent-minded one) requires some stick-with-it-ness to complete a doctorate degree.

Their natural drive to turn theories into concrete understanding may turn into a feeling of personal responsibility to solve theoretical problems, and help society move towards a higher understanding.

This is obviously the motivation behind this blog - helping society move towards a higher understanding of cockatiel poop and photos of Tomoe.

They seek patterns and logical explanations for anything that interests them.

OK, this one is true, much to Tomoe's disappointment. I mean, love is just a chemical reaction to a situation right? Physiologically very difficult to distinguish between other emotions, which is why taking your date to an amusement park or scary movie is a good idea. The date may confuse the fear or excitement from the movie or roller-coaster with feelings of "love".

Not that love interests me - but I do seek out the logical explanation.

They're usually extremely bright,

Finally a word I can use on my application form - "usually-extremely-bright".

They love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. They love to discuss these concepts with others.

The only problem is that I can rarely get past the boring "nice weather isn't it?" stage, so I never get the chance to really discuss the interesting things.

They may seem "dreamy" and distant to others, because they spend a lot of time inside their minds musing over theories.

The number one adjective used by others to describe me (when they first meet me) is "cold". Sometimes it is "very cold", "extremely cold", "mechyakucha tsumetai", or some derivative.

They hate to work on routine things - they would much prefer to build complex theoretical solutions, and leave the implementation of the system to others.

Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.

INTPs do not like to lead or control people.

Well, I don't like to control people, but the word "lead" can be taken several ways. To me, the best leader is someone who sits on the sideline simply offering to help people do what they are passionate about, giving them hints, but not controlling.

They're very tolerant and flexible in most situations,

Tomoe really likes this aspect about me...

unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance.

But she really hates this one.

Although, I am always looking to try on a new belief, so it depends on if the "firmly held belief" is being challenged by something that I have already tried and judged to be inferior to my current belief, or if it is an intreaging new belief that might be interesting to test.

The INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people. On the other hand, the INTP is very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well, or when discussing theories which they fully understand.

Probably the statement that fits me most from this whole INTP description.

Especially the part about "around people they know well". I met the folks at my current client's office six months ago. I still don't really "understand" them or feel close to them, and it really effects the way I am able to interact with them. I loooooongg for the days working on the thesis with partners Amity and Roya. Even though my first impression of Roya was that her personality is way to different from mine that I can't work well with her, as I gradually got to understand her more, the differences were actually positive (plus, I "would much prefer to build complex theoretical solutions, and leave the implementation of the system to others.", and her personality type is gracious enough to do all the hard work of editing and formatting the final paper).

The INTP has no understanding or value for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings. They strive constantly to achieve logical conclusions to problems, and don't understand the importance or relevance of applying subjective emotional considerations to decisions.

Well, I wouldn't say *no* understanding. I do understand that humans have this flaw. Ideally, decisions should also also be able to be rationalized.


For this reason, INTPs are usually not in-tune with how people are feeling, and are not naturally well-equipped to meet the emotional needs of others. The INTP may have difficulty giving the warmth and support that is sometimes necessary in intimate relationships.

This is the one thing that I have been trying to work the hardest at over the past year or two. Trying to figure out this whole "empathy" thing, and then how to react accordingly even though it makes no logical, rational sense. It is further complicated by the fact that I am totally uncomfortable on the receiving end of irrational "warmth and support".

If the INTP doesn't realize the value of attending to other people's feelings, he or she may become overly critical and sarcastic with others. If the INTP is not able to find a place for themselves which supports the use of their strongest abilities, they may become generally negative and cynical.

Yes! More words I can add to my application form... "s-a-r-c-a-s-t-i-c", "c-y-n-i-c-a-l".

they may become unaware of their environment, and exhibit weakness in performing maintenance-type tasks, such as bill-paying and dressing appropriately.

Uh... did I mention that I will be leaving Japan for two months in July / August. And in that time my visa expires. I guess I should have looked into that a little sooner.

And there was that one time I forgot to wear pants to the video-store.


For the INTP, it is extremely important that ideas and facts are expressed correctly and succinctly. They are likely to express themselves in what they believe to be absolute truths.


Uh-oh. Maybe I'm not INTP. My big problem is that I can NOT talk in absolute truths, because I don't believe there are any absolute truths. When I am asked something by the client, I would be much better off saying, with an authoritative tone "Yes, you should do X, Y, Z". Instead, I often find myself saying "Well, it depends on the situation and what you are trying to get out of it, there is no definitive answer. If you want .... " In the end it always just means more work for me.


The INTP is usually very independent, unconventional, and original.

Hmmmm.... I am totally dependent on Tomoe to help me pay my bills and take care of those minor details.

I guess I may be a bit unconventional, but I can't think of anything I do that is really new or unheard-of. I guess it is a matter of defining the term unconventional. I tend to have a very low threshold of how many people can be doing it before it is no longer considered "unconventional" or "original". Unfortunately, I have only done one thing in my life that was really a "first" so far as I can tell, but it was very quickly followed with other people doing the same thing independent of the fact that I did it a few days earlier - so is it really original?

The INTP is at his best when he can work on his theories independently. When given an environment which supports his creative genius and possible eccentricity, the INTP can accomplish truly remarkable things. These are the pioneers of new thoughts in our society.

I'm gonna put that on my resume:

I am at my best when I can work on my theories independently. When given an environment which supports my creative genius and possible eccentricity, I can accomplish truly remarkable things. I am a pioneer of new thoughts in our society.

May 11, 2006

Waking Up

Nagano Farming

Amazing. Yesterday I read a post at Steve Pavlina's site (one of my currently frequent reads), about how to wake up every day with the alarm (this is different than how wake up every day at a specific time). No more of this "Yeah lets get up and jog tomorrow at 7:00." only to wake up at 8:15 thinking "Oh crap! Late for work again."

The method and logic was so simple it seems silly. Train yourself to get up with the alarm when you are fully awake and not under the negative influence of (in my case) deathly low blood pressure.

Yesterday I spent forty-five minutes "training". As per the instructions, I arranged the environment to match my normal sleeping environment, PJs and all. I set the alarm to go off in two minutes, then layed down in my bed and visualized whatever it must be like to be asleep in the morning. When the alarm went off, I got up immeadietly, stretched, took a deep breath, and walked in to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I did this many many times.

While the training got a little boring, and I really had to pee aftwerwards, this morning when the alarm went off at 6:45 I got up immediatly, stretcehd, took a breath, and went into the kitchen for water. It was almost automatic.

I attribute this first time more to my will to see it really work than to having actually internalized that behaviour, but it is a good start, and encouraging to see results so fast.

The only problem is that once I was up I didn't have anything to do. I was not planning to run so early this morning this day, and Tomoe would be pissed if I ran without her. I didn't want to use my extra hours sitting in front of the computer - I do that enough already, and there was not enough time to really dig into any particular project before Tomoe gets up and the regular morning quarels begin.

I ended up going back to bed.

I have however learned my lesson. I will train again today, and tomorrow hopefully wake up with the alarm, but this time I will have a prepared "To Do" list waiting. Be it jog, yoga (yes I do that too), some little tasks such as clean out my hard-drive, practice speed reading for an hour, etc. I will make sure that I don't end up going back to bed.

It is really cool though that it worked in one day like that.


* * *

And just a note - my most visited and most highly recomended web-site/tool, Netvibes, has added a spify new feature that I am anxious to try out. You can now create different pages and tab between them. This *may* be great to keep my feeds related to various situations separate, such as work / personal, or it may just cause me to never look at whatever is on the second tab.

May 08, 2006

Lots of Soba

Overlooking Azumino

We are back from the Nagano bike tour. (in case google is listening, that could also be considered a Japan bike tour, similar to our Kyushu bike tour, Shikoku bike tour, Tokyo to Nagoya bike tour, and previous Nagano bike tour) Although it was only 260km (compared to 400km in Kyusyu last year) it was the best yet (but I say that about all of them). We didn't follow the exact plan I posted last time, but I am in the process of making the updated google earth file.

  • We found another road to add to my "most beautiful roads in Japan" list.
  • We crossed the second highest national highway mountain pass in Japan in the rain.
  • We almost froze on the way down cruising at 40km/hr.
  • We tested our bikes on a little more rugged terrain.
  • We ate soba - lots of soba.


The secondary goal of the trip - secret research for the big dream - seems to be successful as well. I came back with a lot of ideas and a lot of decisions to make. Things are coming together - or on the brink of falling apart. I can't tell which yet, but I like it.

Mugigusa Toge