Thursday, March 19, 2009

The all-nighter: tools of the trade

Material to be covered:
Clinical pathophysiology and therapy for all things pertinent to diseases of the endocrine system, liver and biliary tract, central and peripheral nervous systems, psychiatry and rheumatology.

Large beef fried rice (1)
Cinnamon raisin bread (1 full loaf)
Quarters for vending machine-derived liquid rejuvenation (1 pocket full)
Baby carrots (1 large bag)
Apple (3)
Toothbrush and toothpaste (1 pair)
Razor for morning shave (1)
Stick of deodorant (1)
Eye drops and contact lens case (1 set)
24/7 library (2)
Fortune cookie (1)

"It's nice to be remembered, but it's far cheaper to be forgotten." This seems negative, and therefore will be taken as a bad omen.

Study and eating time left as of this posting (10:15pm):
10 hours and 15 minutes

Exam duration:
5 hours

Time left as of this posting until I leave for Israel for spring break:
41 hours and 45 minutes

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A final moment of procrastination before my final exam

My final exam for the winter quarter is this week. Just one exam, but it is five hours long, so I'll still consider it finalS week.

Naturally, I've been procrastinating a fair amount, but I'm trying to buckle down as of today and power through until the exam. Starting after this blog, of course. A few of my wastes of time over the past few days have included:

- Re-reading a good portion of Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo;
- Reading a few interesting articles, including one in which I learned that the average American, when all requirements are accounted for, gets the equivalent of about 40mpg walking, and as low as 10mpg walking if one has a very meat-heavy diet. It's actually really fascinating;
- Getting into an absolutely hilarious blog called Hot Chicks with Douchebags, which I highly recommend;
- Typing out and submitting a bunch of lyrics that were missing from lyrics websites. Man, now that's getting desperate for procrastination.

And, of course, I had a good friend from college in town for a conference with whom I was able to catch up along the way. That's not procrastination, just a very pleasant something-else-to-do.

In only a few days, I'll be heading to Israel for a second time. I leave the day after my exam, and will be there until March 30th. Here's to good times just beyond the horizon!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Waxing poetic, waning motivation

In light of today's mid-March flurries and my lack of desire to brave them, I've composed a poem:

"Snow Day? Missed Meeting"

Flurries today—curious.
Furious I was when I heard of this.
(But stealthily it became a mist
As soon as the freeze could not persist;
Cats feet came and cats feet went,
And with them went my last defense.)
Yet injuriously I demurred a tryst,
As there I lay in lazy bliss:
With eyelids closed, my heater hissed
My poor excuse for abstinence,
So that only I appeared remiss,
Left hoping not to be dismissed
—A fear of professors’ omnipotence
To punish my careless countenance.
Now only of this do my hopes consist:
Their very sweet kiss of ambivalence.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Let's all leave the theater excerpt from...
The Man Without Qualities, Part 2: Pseudoreality Prevails
by Robert Musil

Ulrich presented them with his scheme for living the history of ideas instead of the history of the world. The difference, he said to begin with, would have less to do with what was happening than with the interpretation one gave it, with the purpose it was meant to serve, with the systems of which the individual events were a part. The prevailing system was that of reality, and it was just like a bad play. It’s not for nothing that we speak of a “theater of world events”—the same roles, complications, and plots keep turning up in life. People make love because there is love to be made, and they do it in the prevailing mode; people are proud as the Noble Savage, or as a Spaniard, a virgin, or a lion; in ninety out of a hundred cases even murder is committed only because it is perceived as tragic or grandiose. Apart from the truly notable exceptions, the successful political molders of the world in particular have a lot in common with the hacks who write for the commercial theater; the lively scenes they create bore us by their lack of ideas and novelty, but by the same token they lull us into the sleepy state of lowered resistance in which we acquiesce in everything put before us. Seen in this light, history arises out of routine ideas, out of indifference to ideas, so that reality comes primarily of nothing being done for ideas. This might be briefly summed up, he claimed, by saying that we care too little about what is happening and too much about to whom, when, and where it is happening, so that it is not the essence of what happens that matters to us but only the plot; not the opening up of some new experience of life but only the pattern of what we already know, corresponding precisely to the difference between good plays and merely successful plays.


...with contemporary commentary...

What can be said that hasn't been said already? Turn on the TV, and you see a show--whether you're watching a sitcom or the news, even when the news is simply a direct feed to political happenings: a show. And as a show, the plot becomes paramount. This is old and forgotten news by now, but it really irritated me when, following Obama's town hall forum a few weeks ago when one woman requested help from homelessness and a man requested a job, the President AND the public mobilized to address these concerns. Nothing more than a transient show, a play-along to the plot, of course. We're unexpectedly confronted on national TV with a homeless woman, a woman pleading for help from homelessness, and we respond as if she's the only example of the problem, as if we had never heard of homelessness before and we find it so appalling that we must wipe the blight from the Earth at one fell swoop. Or, more accurately, we feel the need to try to fool ourselves into believing that we've actually helped, that the problem has gone away. Are we really that easily fooled or delusional? If we aren't, why do we even go through the charade? Could we not live with ourselves if that woman wasn't given a place to live, yet feel good about ourselves since she is, even though so many more like her (or with stories far more compelling than hers) are out there? I'm sure I'm not the only one who's tired of the theater. Perhaps if the stage weren't our impetus for action, we might actually achieve some real gains. The curtain closes, the lights go out, and the problem disappears--or so we're anxious to believe.

This reminds me of a related point--related in my mind, at least. Such a theater production more deeply entrenches a problem rooted in any number of things before this. Put most basically, as Maynard James Keenan sings on Tool's first album, Opiate:
Consequences dictate our course of action
And it doesn't matter what's right;
It's only wrong if you get caught.
What's wrong with this? So long as the rules are written well enough to elicit the "proper" consequences to any given action, we should be okay. But what if the rules and their respective consequences are insufficient? The lyrics continue:
If consequences dictate my course of action,
I should play God and just shoot you myself.
Obviously this is an extreme. The point is that what's right no longer matters in this scenario; it's only the relative cost or benefit of an action, irrespective of its rightness. We're guided not by the rightness or wrongness of an idea, but by the common perception of any given act, because perception to a great extent dictates consequences--and I use the word "act" deliberately here, as in many respects the acts become theater. It's all perception, not substance. But I'm repeating myself.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

What is money, and where does it come from?

For all the talk about the economy today, and of debt in particular, one subject of immense significance that goes essentially unmentioned is monetary policy. Please do yourself the service of watching this video, which serves as a primer to the monetary system that is currently in place, not only in the United States but globally. If this is something you've never read about or looked into before, I think you'll find it especially fascinating, and you'll undoubtedly be left with a vastly different perspective on our current economic circumstances.

You may want to follow the link to watch the video so that you can see it in a larger window.

"Money as Debt"