Sunday, April 27, 2008

Working on the Bachelor's Project, Charlie Jade Premieres Soon and Other Miscellany


First off, for fans of Charlie Jade, those who have heard me babble about the show or anyone interested in good TV, a little news: Charlie Jade premieres on the SCi-Fi Channel in the United States on Friday, June 6 at 8 PM EST/7 PM CST. Watch, help them get ratings (especially you people with Nielsen boxes) and hopefully a second season will get produced.


I've been out of active Internet circulation. At least, that's the best way to put it. I occasionally check out some blogs I regularly visit and reply to e-mails of current events in my life, emotionally tense situations or to someone who has provided some interesting stuff to think about or has provided me with amusement. Keeping in touch with friends has become an important aspect to me, too.

I've also recently taken a slight hiatus from the bachelors project. In large part, trying to nail down one aspect of it had me on the computer just about all waking hours and trying to find reading material in regards to an aspect of the project, at least, an aspect of the current paper that I outlined 22 or so pages and am looking to tighten it and make it more concise. Without this aspect, there's plenty of room for the paper to meander on, ramble and ruminate on plenty of topics without really going anywhere.

The topic of the aspect is prosocial behavior. More specifically, I like to believe that prosocial behavior and/or prosocial thinking leads to a more organized conscious or thought, to more meaning in one's life and a more fulfilling existence than one of anti-socialness or individualism. I once read an article in the Wall Street Journal that pretty much said that Tibetan monks that meditated on compassion for people and the world generally had more developed and healthier brains. I've also read plenty about how social connectedness leads to better health for people. In my experience, these points hold true, since the more prosocial I think and the more I'm connected to other people in a social manner, the better I feel. The same goes for when I engage in prosocial behavior that goes beyond my daily experience.

I just get irritated whenever I think about not having the phrase "prosocial behavior" in my vocabulary until a week or so ago. Even worse, it only entered into my vocabulary through the process of elimination from the ontological set of knowledge available to humanity. Thankfully, searching through the near infinite knowledge of humanity gets helped that I have some parameters to cut that ontology down (I can only read English, the overall topic is the social sciences, psychology to be even more exact, then hopefully even more by the subcategory social psychology or possibly developmental or cognitive psychology. . .but it expands a little when philosophy and religion can provide some insight into the topics I'm looking at. . .then it helps that I've narrowed my search down to compassion, sympathy, empathy and things like that).

Nonetheless, despite having some guidelines that cut down the overall set of human knowledge by a fair amount, there's still plenty of detritus to sift through to find anything useful. And just as annoying, when I find something that I think can really help then it doesn't. . .but it's just as annoying finding information that helps a lot then generates more questions or points me in more directions to get more specific information.

I'm under the impression that having a small case of ADHD doesn't help, either.

Overall, research feels like this to me, and it can get massively frustrating. I hopefully figure out some better tricks once I graduate from college and possibly get into freelance writing. Another option is to take on less ambitious tasks and building up smaller research projects and writing projects into a larger project, one that I've been building up to for months and years and probably planning for a good amount of time. I figure that's a good approach when I do this kind of thing as a living rather than as something on the side that acts as an unpaying vocation for the purpose of education and credentials.

For the last week or so, though, I've taken a hiatus from the project somewhat. On the Internet, I found what I hope will be a good source for prosocial behavior: The Social Psychology of Social Behavior. I found it last week or just a little more than a week ago through frustrating and semi-random Google searches. The Chicago Public Library tragically doesn't have a copy. The wife found it through interlibrary loan at her school, though, so she requested it for me. She can get it tomorrow, so I might be charging into the fray again starting tomorrow night.

I'm pretty excited, but I'm also kind of scared. I fear the possibility of disappointment and having to the random process of elimination with the ontological set of human knowledge again. . ..


So while doing all the in depth research into my latest paper and outlining it, I had been neglecting writing the novel. In the first month after all the holiday crap had been dealt with, I had written a whole chapter for the novel. Until a couple days ago and today, I hadn't written anything in it. Just so busy with the research and the other crap in life.

Something a friend that I commonly get into arguments with (some might call them flame wars) kind of hit home with me, even if the friend doesn't have a full idea of what goes on in my head, cognition and such. He pretty much said that if I had spent the time writing that I was spending complaining about my writing and researching, I would be done with my project. He didn't hit the nail on the head, but he did have a good point. If I worked on the aspect of the project that I wasn't stuck on (the novel), then I could probably get a lot done.

Today, I sat myself down and wrote, four pages to be exact. My productivity surprised me a little. The part I wrote today is the beginning of a section that has freaked me out over the last couple months. It's the section that very much explains the history of the setting, provides plenty of criticism of the setting and basically drives home the rational aspect of the novel. I had put so much weight behind the section that I feared that I wouldn't get it down very well or would have trouble with it. And today, I practically wrote four pages, bang, bang, bang, bang with some good breaks between each page to let my brain have some rest for the next one-page session.

I don't know the next time I will get back to writing in the novel. Hopefully I can do a little research at the beginning of the night and write a good amount in the novel for the second part of the night. When I first started working on this thing seriously after leaving college, I was able to pull that kind of routine off. Sure, didn't have a girlfriend/wife and tons of other responsibilities at the time. . .but I also was able to accomplish the same routine a little more than a year and a half ago when I still had tons of crap to do.


At least I finished writing thank you cards for the wedding and sent them all out (and just a couple weeks before first class mail goes up by one cent, too!).

Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have some major insurance studying to do because I have to get 29 more continuing ed credits before January 2009 to keep my license and not have to be fired, by Illinois law because I let my license expire. Plus, I don't want to have to study and take the initial licensing test again! Those things are horrendous.

Kaplan Financial, however, looks to have some good and interesting classes, though, for a good amount of continuing ed credits. I just wish I knew about more classes that I would just have to sit through and could get a good amount of credits. Nice thing about the Kaplan Financial courses, though, is that the courses range from something like 6 to 15 credits each. If I plan well, I can probably just take two or three online classes to fulfill my education requirement for getting my license renewed. Fun fun. . ..

So yeah, I guess that's the update on my life and some thoughts on things. Don't know when the next entry will happen, with the new research source arriving tomorrow, people visiting from out of town for the weekends, trying to get more involved in social groups and some traveling home for Mother's Day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Something to Consider about Competitive Capitalism

It's economic common sense in the United States that competition is supposed to bring the cost of products down.

At the same time, though, companies spend millions to try convincing us to buy their stuff. Marketing costs get passed onto the consumer by raising the cost at the store.

Competition also leads to more choice, which is supposed to be a good thing.

Too much choice, however, overwhelms people and at some point makes making a choice more difficult. And when there's more choice, it takes time to research and figure which brand of the product, which model of the product, which design of the product, etc. etc. will fit your needs.

Time is money. Time spent choosing a product to buy costs value, either leisure value or productive value.

So. . .do we really gain or lose freedom when there's more competition in the world to win our attention and loyalty? If there were less companies in the world trying to win us to their side, would they have to spend as much money on marketing, would we have to spend as much time researching a product?

Do we live under a tyranny of competition and choice?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The US at War

With all the changes that have occurred in the last 165 years or so, it's amazing how many things have remained the same. Shouldn't those with power have learned by now?

"I wish," he [Theodore Parker] said, "All of this killing of 2,000 Americans on the field of battle, and the 10,000 Mexicans; all this slashing of the bodies of 24,000 wounded men; all the agony of the other 18,000, that have died of disease, could have taken place in some spot where the President of the United States and his Cabinet, where all the Congress who voted for the war. . . the controlling men of both political parties, who care nothing for the bloodshed and misery they have idly caused, could have stood and seen it all; and then that the voice of the whole nation had come up to them and said, 'This is your work, not ours. . . We have trusted you thus far, but please God we never will trust you again.'"

- Quoted from Gura, Philip F. American Transcendentalism: A History. Hill and Wang (New York 2007). p. 221-2, which quoted it from A Sermon of the Mexican War (1848) in The Collected Works of Theodore Parker. Ed by Frances Power Cobbe, 12 vols (London: Truber 1863-65), 7:59-60.