We have been on the road lately. This is my first time being on the internet for more than a few moments. Funny and interesting things have happened, but nothing comes to mind immediately. We went to Knotts Berry farms and Phoenix Arizona and Beagle Mountain Utah and are still in Beagle Mountain Utah. We have seen lots of friends and family. Though not as much family as I would like. Haven't seen my brother in over a year now. Eaten lots of food opened lots of presents. We got a vacuum so we can clean up the 3 months worth of pine needles that have accumulated on our carpet making our living room have the benefits of both a home and a forest floor.
We saw both 'Avatar' and 'Where the Wild Things Are' and loved both. I think I may have loved Where the Wild Things Are' more than 'Avatar'. I keep remembering the scene in WtWTA when Carol asks Max if he can keep them safe from sadness and loneliness. It was such a sad and beautiful scene.
Christmas time is fun. Christmas itself is okay but Christmas time is enjoyable. I like the feeling of everyone I know doing the same sort of thing. It creates a nice feeling of unity and togetherness even if we are not actually together doing the same thing. Just the idea that everyone I know is doing the same sort of thing is enjoyable to me.
I have 11 more credits before I graduate from college. It has taken me a long time so I am very excited about this. I need to come up with 6000$ before January 5th for me to graduate by March when I am expecting. It makes me worried that this won't work out. I will find out tomorrow. Hopefully everything works out. Right?



I think what Hitler's problem actually was,was that he killed so many people.


diversity. and neighbors

The neighbor who shares a wall with us is a Japenese American with long hair an a goatee. He has a very loud voice and tends to rant frequently. He yells at his girlfriend (who is also our neighbor) and throws things against our shared wall. He has a sticker on his SUV that reads 'next door neighbors: singing, dancing and cutting people' He has never cut me, or anyone else as far as I have been aware. Every time I have encountered him he has been friendly and once told Marissa and I that we are awesome neighbors.
A handful of times I have locked my door during one of his berzerker phases because I thought it was possible he might come into my apartment. Once he and some friends were up late being loud and listening to music while Marissa and I were trying to sleep so I knocked 3 times on the wall and I heard him say to his friends that he didn't care if we were upset and that if necessary he would come over to our apartment and beat us up. I have several times heard him threaten to beat people up. One person he apparently owes money to, but doesn't mind because he 'is tough' and can take up to 'three of them'.
His girlfriend is very quiet and I almost never hear her speak. One of the few times I heard her she was talking about getting a gym membership, which caused him to go on a rant about how it was a bad idea because she would maybe go once or twice then never again.
Whenever I hear him I feel better about myself because whatever faults I have I am much kinder than he is. And my voice is not nearly as loud. And I don't watch 10 episodes of M*A*S*H each day. And I do things besides watch M*A*S*H, yell or play video games.
The wall we share is very thin in terms of sound. Sometimes I can hear farts or burps. We often keep the fan on our stove on to block out the sound. Recently I have noticed that it seems they having begun keeping their hood fan on. They also keep their downstairs windows blocked out from light for some reason. The layout of our apartments are mirror images of each other, so I am intimately familiar of the layout of their apartment. I know that their downstairs is naturally very dark because ours is. I try and let as much light in as I can downstairs. In the winter time the sun sets here around 4:30 so sunlight feels like a precious commodity. That they would want to make their living room even darker than it already is, is something I find unusual and unrelatable. I sometimes wonder what our neighbors think of us. Whenever I have written about our nieghbor online a part of me worries that he is somehow aware of it. I'm not sure he even knows my name though.
One time he was talking to a friend loudly and Marissa and I paused whatever we were doing to listen and I then heard our neighbor whisper to his friend "I think our neighbors are listening"
Earlier this evening one of my classmates who happens to be about 55 years old and a woman brought out a marijuana pipe and offered it to any of the other 4 people who were in the studio today who wanted a 'toke', which was taken inside of the classroom.


That smell in the air which happens when it is cold and about to snow has arrived in Olympia. It creates a nostalgic and warm feeling inside of me. The sun setting at 4:30 can sometimes be a burden, but I very much enjoy the cozy feeling of being inside a warm bright house when it is cold and dark outside. It seems introverts very much like this womb, heavy sweater and slippers cozy feeling, while extroverts, in general, prefer the sunny outdoor swimming in a lake feeling. I am by nature an introvert.


I think that of all the things which cause me to feel negatively towards religion in general, or Mormonism specifically, is that it causes people who masturbate to feel as if they are evil, despite how 'good' of a person they may actually be.


I have had many different thoughts over the past few months, but have been having a hard time with language, which is why I haven't written much in here. The language part of my brain has felt very foggy lately, but over the past few weeks, the fog has seemed to lift. Hopefully I will write about this mind fog as well as other things.

One thing I will mention now, is that at one point my mind became so foggy that while in class I would think 'so this is what it feels like to be a dumb person' while barely understanding what my teacher was saying. I also felt a greater empathy for people who speak in clichés. When your thoughts are not clear, clichés come to mind easily. I tried to avoid it, but when I had a hard time thinking of what words best described what I wanted to say and cliché statements first came to mind, it was very tempting to use them.


One thing I learned while working the graveyard shift at a youth correction facility is that somehow, even if eating the exact same foods and doing nearly the exact same thing all day girls smell much better than boys while they sleep. (we had to do bed checks every fifteen minutes and boys rooms always smelled bad while girls rooms always smelled nice.)


If asphalt were replaced with nards, driving, and probably life in general would be a bit harder.



About twice a year a group of anti-abortion protesters will come to my schools campus. Each time I have received an email along these lines:

The presence of an anti-abortion group with photographs is expected to be on Red Square today (Tuesday November 10, 2009) from approximately 1:30 pm until 4:00 pm. The images may invoke painful feelings in members of our campus. The Counseling Center staff will be available today in the Counseling Center and Professional staff in the Housing Office will be available throughout the afternoon, if you wish to speak with someone.



One thing I miss about being religious is the sense I could have existed under different conditions than I actually do. For example, had it been 'my time' I could have been born in the middle ages, or in China, or as the world's youngest Taco Bell manager, managing a Taco Bell from the day I was born, and that even though I would have had different genes and parents somehow I would have still been 'me'. Despite the different physical circumstances, because my soul or essence would be within that body, it could still be considered 'me'.

As I believe now, the only conditions under which I could exist, are those within which I do. Meaning, had that particular sperm of my father's which happened to connect with my mother's egg at that particular moment not happened, then I would not exist. To say that I could have been born 500 years ago becomes a meaningless concept. Without something like a soul, in what sense could that individual born at that time be me? Even if through amazing chance he were exactly like me in every way except being a china man from way back, it would not mean anything to say that individual was 'me', anymore than saying any other individual was me.(because we are all made of the universe)

For me to have been born at some other time, my parents would have also had to have lived at that time. and their parents would have had to have lived just before them, and theirs before them and back and back to the beginning of life. Every direct ancestor conceiving their offspring at the moment they did. Had any of that, at any point happened any differently than it did, I would not be be.

I suppose it is a funny thing to miss, this feeling that I could have existed under different circumstances. It isn't that I miss not feeling as if my identity were arbitrary, because even when I was deeply religious I felt an individuals identity was arbitrary even if your particular station during this life were not (your soul happened to have certain characteristic because it happened to be created that way or by chance, or it had always existed and was always that way. Arbitrary).

One reason I think I miss it, is that I often like imagining what I would be like if I had been born in Rome during it's peak, or ancient Japan, or ancient Africa, or a variety of other things, and believing that such a thing is not even theoretically possible(aside from time travel), makes it a little less fun to imagine.

Which isn't to say I entirely do not believe in a soul or an after life. I like the idea of it. Often I pretend to myself I do believe these things because it is comforting and familiar. I frequently pray and feel it benefits me even though I don't really believe it is something more than a psychological phenomenon. There are even rare moments when I genuinely do believe, but mostly, despite how much I may want to, I do not. There are other things I miss. Some things I do not. Maybe I will make a list.


House husband

Lately I have been living my dream of living the house husband lifestyle. Marissa's schedule is much more full than mine, so I have taken upon myself the responsibility of cleaning and cooking. I really enjoy this. Having lived on my own for many years this is nothing new, but now getting to do it for another person as well is very enjoyable.
This isn't too suggest that Marissa does not also help with household things, but she works in a funny restaurant where she is on her feet most of the day, while I do things draw pictures of birds. This allows me the time and energy to take care of the house. I have always liked the idea of being a house husband, but wasn't sure if I would actually enjoy it. Turns out I do.



I normally take classes where we discuss abstract concepts, but recently I have been taking classes where we learn technical skills such as how to use a letterpress or mix ceramic glazes (I am now in a ceramic sculpture class and we have been learning how to mix glazes).
Being in classes like these where a lot of task doing goes on leads to a lot of people making little mistakes here and there. Being in an environment like this has reminded me how much people love telling others what to do. Very often, as soon as someone is noticed doing something differently than it was demonstrated to us by the teacher another person will immediately point it out. While I'm sure this is sometimes done out of genuine concern for the other person, wanting to help them get their work done as efficiently as possible, much more often it seems to be done as a way for the corrector to seem knowledgeable.
Ever since I wrote about the role serotonin plays in terms of our perceived status among those around us, I've been thinking about it often. It seems to help explain so much of human life. When people tell others they are doing something the wrong way, it then raises their perceived status relative to that person, which then raises their serotonin levels. Considering this it is no wonder that whenever my teacher spells something wrong on the board the students jump to correct him even though we all know what the word is he is trying to write and it doesn't matter if the e is supposed to be an I based on an entirely arbitrary rule. When they correct the teacher's spelling, their perceived status relative to him goes up, raising serotonin levels.
However, like so much of life, these attempts at raising their status often have the reverse effect and make the person seem unpleasant and insecure.


Google news

I have been experimenting with using Google News as a way to check the news, which has led me to reading news sites that I had otherwise only vaguely heard of, such as the New York Daily News.
I don't know a lot about this paper. It all seemed to be gossipy and boring, but I was amazed to see that their number 3 most read news item was:

"Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie take twins, Vivienne and Knox, out for ice cream"

This is news? That people find interesting?!?!?!



Yesterday, as I was driving back from Trader Joe's with a bag full of foods much fancier than I normally eat, such as Champagne, Creme Brule and pasta that is kept in the refridgerator rather than the shelf, all this because it was the one year anniversary of Marissa and I becoming 'official' in our coupledom, I began thinking back to what I had written about the economy. I had written about how having a less than ideal economy may actually be beneficial for individuals. While thinking about it yesterday, I felt some misgivings, realizing I had probably been mistaken. Then this morning I come across this from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
(not that I read Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but I read Discover, which includes highlights from various journals):

Researchers found that when the economy takes a turn for the worse, public health actually improves. Mortality rates fell during the Great Depression, the study found, possibly because people couldn’t afford to smoke and drink as much, and because the unemployed have more time to sleep and less chance of dying in industrial or traffic accidents.

While this isn't exactly the same as what I had written about, it was similar and reversed my previous misgivings and gave me new misgivings about yesterdays misgivings.



Sometimes I like to imagine that the way I choose to live my life, the counter-culture, interested in things like art and philosophy and nature and trying to to sincere in what and why I do things. Trying to do things for the 'right' reasons, rather than because of societal expectations. All of these things and others that go along with them. Sometimes I imagine that this sort of living is somehow better than others. That in some real, objective way it matters if people live this way, or if people live their more ordinary lives of suburbs, television, celebrity culture, chain stores, cliched speaking and catch phrases. That their way of living is somehow a lesser than mine.

But in reality, I imagine it is probably just a matter of taste. And that these tastes are based on our disposition. Because our tastes and dispositions lean a certain way, we then develop reasons to justify and explain why these ways are better or more 'meaningful'.
But when it comes down to it, it seems more of an aesthetic choice. Something entirely subjective. Even seemingly noble traits like sincerity or fortitude are just aesthetic preferences. And if they are just aesthetic preferences it would mean that for me to feel as if me and my friends or people who are like me are superior for being holding these particular interests is no different than feeling that same way because someone doesn't like a certain song I like. Or a certain food I like.

Ultimately, isn't that what rules so much of our lives? Taste? Suppose we could be happy, completely totally fulfilled happy if we took a drug and sat alone in an empty room for the rest of our lives. Most people don't like the idea of that and I suppose I don't either. But what if the end results could be the same, what would be the difference between that and achieving complete totally fulfilled happiness through having lived a fulfilling life with hard work and family? The difference is merely aesthetic. Of course, on a practical level, at this point in time, we do need certain behaviors to achieve certain mental states. But what if we didn't? If something seems like it took hard work to achieve, we admire the results, but if those same results were achieved through fortune or laziness, then we don't. I imagine that we admire hard work because we evolved in an environment where hard work was necessary for survival. People who were lazy would have made our lives more difficult, brought the tribe down and us in the process. Because of this, we would have evolved a negative feeling towards that type of behavior so as not to reward it. And this feeling manifests itself as an aesthetic preference, which becomes a value.

I guess what I am trying to say is that more and more I am coming to realize that much of what I value, while it may have some practical value, is largely based on an emotional pull in the same way aesthetic or food preferences are. And it is the rational explanations which comes later. In many ways, the overall idea of the life I would like to live and the person I would like to be is mostly just based on an aesthetic preference rather than something objective. It can sometimes be a disheartening thought to feel like the primary driving force of my and our lives is nothing more than aesthetic taste. For some reason, I like the idea of their being some way to live that is objectively better than others. Probably because of my Mormon upbringing I am conditioned with a desire for their to be an ideal way to live that is based on some objective measure. Which isn't to say their are not things which will not improve the quality of our lives and things that will not. But as I talked about above, an optimum state of well-being is not something people value above all else. If that were the case, people would feel no discomfort with the idea of us all taking a pill which would make us happy for the rest of our lives while sitting in a blank room alone, even if it were guaranteed to work.
I have several more thoughts on this. and more specific examples to explain the idea more clearly. Maybe I will end up writing those additional thoughts and examples. Maybe not. Hopefully I will.


Honesty to myself.

I have found there is a certain peace that seems to come along with being honest with myself.

For example:

A couple months ago in a class someone told a riddle and in trying to solve it I asked a question which I didn't really think about before it came out of my mouth and when it actually did come out of my mouth it turned out to be a very dumb question.

After I asked the dumb question the teacher made a joke about it and one of my nerdier classmates responded with an annoyed 'no! jeez!'. (it had been a 'yes or no' question)

After this moment I find myself stewing over it a little bit, coming up with a variety of reasons why the question may have seemed dumb but was actually very smart and that it was my classmates who were at fault for laughing at the question. I felt a feeling of frustration and resentment that seemed to linger for a while as I kept thinking about it, thinking of more elaborate explanations of why the seemingly unintelligent question was actually clever.

After a while I finally realized what I was doing and I acknowledged to myself that the question had in fact been stupid and I would have laughed as well if I heard it asked by someone else. The truth was, I had been embarrassed because I felt it made me look dumb, so in an attempt to defend a certain image of myself in my mind I was trying to think of explanations which allowed me to maintain that image. Once I acknowledged this to myself the frustration and resentment that I felt while trying to defend myself in my mind was released and became replaced by a sense of calm acceptance.

It was a simple realization, one I am sure many people have at various points in their lives. One I have probably had before and will probably have again.
But since that moment it has been something I have thought about often and in moments when I am feel frustration towards another person or thing, I try and think if my frustration is actually a defense, if it is me trying to rationalize something to myself in order to protect my ego or the image I have of myself. When I am able to recognize and acknowledge that I have been doing this, I have found that I will immediately feel sense of relief and release. That moment of recognizing and letting go of your defenses can be such a freeing experience.

I took a picture of myself while moving my eyes back and forth as fast as I could and this is the result. Doesn't it look creepy?



I feel as if those, (such as Jimmy Carter and most everyone on Npr) who claim that Joe Wilson yelling 'you lie' at Obama was an act of latent racism diminishes the significance of obvious and verifiable acts of racism.
Of course it is possible that J Wilson's comments were spurred by racism, but suppose his comments were not, how would they have appeared then? Probably just the same. How then, are we supposed to distinguish between angry disagreements inspired by racism, and angry disagreements inspired by being angry and disagreeing in and of itself?

When people attribute racism to areas where there are no obvious or clear reasons why it is racist other than that a black man was involved, then obvious acts of racism become diminished. It places genuine and serious acts of discrimination that actually cause harm to people in the same category as ordinary human interaction, in effect cheapening the claim of racism. If people continually hear acts that may possible be racist but may just as easily not be racist labeled as racist the charge of racism begins to lose meaning. If people become desensitized to the charge of racism because of it being used too freely, then it may lessen people's attention to it in times when necessary.

Because racism can be so harmful and destructive in subtle ways, I understand why people may feel extra vigilant about looking for it to reveal itself in concealed ways, but there is a fine line that when crossed dilutes the its meaningfulness.



There has been a lot of talk on the Left lately on radio shows I listen to and websites I read about the growing incivility of political discourse. To me it seems like the Left are being babies. When Bush was president I heard equally harsh, if not more harsh criticisms and protests against him.
A big deal is being made about people who have been comparing Obama to Hitler. Bush was compared to Hitler on a regular basis and I didn't hear this sort of lamenting over the loss of civility then. It seems their issue is less that people are making over the top exagerated criticisms, and more that a person they support is being criticized and so now they take issue with the way those criticisms are being done, even though they seemed to have no problem with similarly carried out criticisms against someone they didn't like. All of a sudden people on the left are talking about 'respecting the office of the presidency' which before I only heard from the right.


I'm beginning to recognize in myself the less positive aspects of aging. I'm finding that it takes me longer to learn physical tasks. I recently learned how to use a letter press and noticed how much longer it took me to grasp than it would have once before. I notice I have become less creative. I used to have new ideas constantly, so much so that I felt overwhelmed by them because I couldn't bring them all to realization. Now the ideas come more slowly. And are more similar to other ideas i've had.
But I have also experienced positive aspects of aging. The ideas I do have, I spend more time on and think them through more clearly. I feel much more stable and content than when I was younger. I know myself better and know better what actually makes me happy versus what things I just like the idea of and wish would make me happy. At the same time I can be less inclined to experiment or try new things. I day dream a bit less. I feel less compelled to be understood. It seems young people want so strongly for people to understand them and 'get them', which i know I felt as well, but I no longer feel that in the way I may have before.
I listen to way less music than I ever have before. Overall I prefer being older.


Cat Burglar

At some point during the night last night I woke up hearing a foreign noise that I later decided was probably our next door neighbors having sex.
But when I woke up, perhaps because of the sound, the dream I had been having, and confused sleepiness, I was suddenly stricken with fear that someone might break into our apartment.
I wasn't worried that the sound was of someone breaking into our apartment, but that someone might, in a few, moments break in.
This is not something I normally worry about. Rarely do I even lock doors. In the house I lived in before I didn't even own a key.
The feeling of fear and concern was so strong that I felt as if it was a spiritual impression telling me I needed to lock the door.
I generally don't think in those terms and now that it is morning I feel somewhat amused by it.
But I lay there for a few moments, unable to think of anything besides someone opening our unlocked front door.
Since Marissa and I don't have a bed yet, we sleep on the futon in our living room.
It would have been a strange and scary experience to be laying in bed(futon) watching a stranger open your front door. I imagine it would be uncomfortable for the burglar as well since he or she would have been expecting us to be upstairs in our room.
Instead, we would make eye contact, since I was looking at the front door. For a moment neither of us would know what to do, and ideally the cat burglar would just back out and close the door behind him or herself.
After a little while of laying in bed full of fear I got up and locked the front and back door, somehow knocking a painting off the wall in the process.


Never Forget.

It is funny how 'never forget' or some variation based on the idea of not forgetting has become the slogan of September 11th. As if anyone is at risk of forgetting what may be the most momentous event to occur in their lifetime. Not only is no one at risk of forgetting, but is this even a mantra we want to be repeating? Never forget, keep fear, anger and resentment burning inside of you?

It would be interesting and nice if instead of being constantly reminded to not forget, we had a mantra about forgiveness. As a Christian nation, a mantra of forgiveness would be more inline with Christianity than one of never forgetting, Something no one is at risk of in the first place.

Here are a few pictures of the new place Marissa and I have moved into. As well as a couple pictures of a morning glory flower I have been growing which recently bloomed.



Sometimes in the morning I will check the news and my email and click on links. I will start to get this overwhelmed but excited feeling I used to get when I was younger and interested in discovering as many new bands as I could. Overwhelmed because I know that no matter how much looking I do there will always be many things undiscovered, things that could possible be very interesting. This feeling is also very exciting. The excitement of unknown treasures. I can spend several hours clicking from one link to the next with this sense of urgency that I might miss something interesting. As anyone who has been with me while using the internet knows, I might have 15-20 different tabs open of things I want to read.
But then I force myself to close it all, and suddenly all the urgency is gone. Tabs that I felt such a strong compulsion to keep open and make sure I read, once gone are not missed at all and I feel myself
I guess this is a good example of how having too many options can decrease our enjoyment. As much as I love the internet this part of why I prefer books. When reading a book I only have one option and don't have the sense that there might be some incredibly interesting bit of information just around the corner that I might be missing and must keep my eyes open. With a book, I only have one option, which unfolds linearly allowing me to be satisfied with what I have and the order I take it in. I know it will all be there, and I won't miss any of it, even if I forget to bookmark the page for later.



Imagine your discouragement if you were doing a scavenger hunt worth $1,000,000 and you reached the final quest which was to find an Asian person (from oriental Asia.) whose native accent is Irish.

Chinese leprechaun


Are Humans good or Bad?

Whenever I hear the issue raised of whether human nature is essentially good or bad, I feel the question is misplaced. It seems like asking whether cats are essentially good or bad.
We have evolved certain tendencies which are good in some circumstances and bad in others. In modern life, many of the features which may have benefitted us while living in the plains of Africa 100,000 years can now be a hinderance, such as our almost insatiable appetite for sweets and fats. When we lived life as hunters and gatherers, it was difficult to accumulate material goods, and so being in a state constant craving for more and more likely served us well. This perpetual craving was necessary to stay alive. Since the invention of agriculture and much more so with modern technology, this state of constant craving leads to excess and waste. But is this something that can be held against us? Is it a moral failing for our technological advances to occur far faster than the rate of evolution? Can humans be held responsible for having evolved particular tendencies over millions of years, some of which can be destructive to ourselves and others, particularly when in a different context than those tendencies evolved to be helpful? I don't believe this judgment is anymore fair than it would be to condemn a grizzly bear as evil if you let it run loose in a mall and it eats people or a bunch of large pretzels. Yes, the bear may end up with a stomach ache and the pretzel shop owner is now without pretzels or life, but the bear shouldn't be blamed for following desires which are otherwise beneficial, but within that context were harmful.
I am not trying to say that certain human tendencies and actions are not harmful and destructive, because some are. But in general, they are harmful because of context. In the context within which those tendencies evolved, they were beneficial, otherwise they would not have evolved.
There are very few tendencies which might be seen as destructive regardless of the context. A person who today might be a regarded as celebrity because of their joke telling ability may have, in the past may have been regarded as serving little purpose. At the same time, someone who today may be seen as quick to anger or a brute may at one time played a valuable role in the survival of his tribe.

If we had none of the traits we today regard as the failings of human nature, it is unlikely any of us would even exist today, because at one point in time those traits were necessary for our survival. To regard humans as bad, or even good, for maintaining tendencies which were necessary at certain points in time for our survival, some of which are now destructive because of our radically changed environment, is, I believe, an unfair and misplaced judgment.

More on group Hierarchies.

Considering the post I wrote below, on the role of serotonin and a person's perceived status relative to those around them. I wonder if this phenomenon is one aspect of what makes religion such a powerful force. When God or Gods are part of a person's life, it creates a separate social hierarchy aside from the observable one. Aside from whatever additional hierarchies are created by the physical aspects of a religion, such as a priesthood class, there is also the invisible hierarchy with God or Gods at the top.

A person's perceived status would no longer be based simply on how they fit with people around them, because now the hierarchy has another element: God. Serotonin has been shown to play a large role in spiritual feelings, and perhaps that is because a person who is feeling something spiritual is feeling they have high status within the 'God hierarchy'. The individual may be feeling a sense of God's love and approval which would allow them to see themselves as having a some sort of "higher status" than they otherwise would.

Serotonin and the Grandiose

Something about mania that had long seemed bizarre to me now, I think, makes sense.
A common element, when a person is experiencing a manic episode, is grandiose thinking. Depending on the degree of the episode, a person may come to believe they are God or Jesus or something relevant to their experience and culture that is at the pinnacle of that particular field.

It didn't seem that their was any obvious connection between someone feeling euphoric, and believing they occupied the highest possible position in their social group.

However, as I have learned more about the role of serotonin, it seems to make perfect sense.

Serotonin is probably one of the most well known neurotransmitters. Most anti-depressants on the market today work by affecting serotonin in the brain. Like most neurotransmitters, serotonin has a variety of functions, not all of which are entirely clear, but one of it's primary functions relates to a person's status within a social group.

When a monkey, (or a person or an ape or a gorilla and other non-primates even lobsters ), has high social status relative to those around them, their serotonin levels increase. Dominate primates, with high levels of serotonin exhibit certain behaviors that allow them to be recognized as the leader of the group such as confidence and calm. Subordinate primates with low serotonin levels also exhibit characteristic subordinate behavior and demeanor. A study was done at the University California by Michael McGuire which showed that Human beings, even children who observe a group of captive monkeys can quickly recognize who is the Dominate individual.

It is not simply that those with high Serotonin levels tend to become the dominate individual(though this may play a role as well.) When the group hierarchy is artificially altered so that the subordinate monkey becomes dominate, the once dominate monkey's serotonin levels decrease, while the currently dominate monkey's serotonin levels increase. And similarly, if certain animals are injected with serotonin they then exhibit behavior characteristic dominance. The same effect has been shown in humans as well. An individual's serotonin levels has a direct correlation to their perceived status relative to those around them. I think a little bit of introspection on our lives experience also shows this to frequently be true.

Considering this, it seems clear why, when a person is experiencing a manic episode, and their serotonin levels are extremely high, they would then perceive themselves as having as much status as a person could possibly have, ie. feel like Jesus.

I have a lot more thoughts on this, but I don't want this entry to be too long.

While I was writing this I was reading about different dominate animal behavior, one interesting thing I read "Chimpanzees show deference to the alpha of the community by ritualised gestures such as bowing, allowing the alpha to walk first in a procession, or standing aside when the alpha challenges." This stood out to me because it sounded so much like L Tom Perry said in reference to the functioning of the Quorum of the Twelve:
"We are certain to follow the order of the Church in our meetings and in all we do. This has been clearly established. For example, I would never think of going through a door before Elder Packer. He is the President of our Council."


Imagine being given a choice between two options.
The first option is that you would be given a desirable attribute, such as being intelligent or gifted in a particular art. Whatever trait you most admire in others, you would have. However, no one would ever know you had this trait. In fact, people would believe you were deficient in that area. So if you were actually very smart, everyone would think you were dumb.


The second option would be the inverse of the first. Everyone would believe you were extremely gifted in an area where you were actually not.

No matter what you did, no one would ever find out the truth, so there would be none of the stress of having to maintain a false appearance.

I imagine most people would choose the second option.
Wouldn't it be weird if these were choices we actually had to face in life? I suppose we do to some degree, in terms of weather or not to lie or cheat, or pull a Milli Vanilli, but it would be weird if choices of this magnitude were things we faced occasionally.

There was something I had been wanting to write, but it slipped my mind. So instead I wrote about this and the heatwave. I hope I remember.
I haven't been online much. Well, i've been reading the news and watching hulu, but haven't logged onto anything social for about a week. Partly because school is so busy during summer. Partly because once I miss a couple days of keeping up on things, the effort required to catch up feels unpleasant, so I will put off email/blog/facebook checking .And with all things, the more it is avoided, the greater it becomes in our minds and often in reality. Now a week has passed and I have so many things to catch up on.

I don't mean to sound as if I feel extremely overwhelmed and burdened by internet responsibilities. It is not something that weighs on me throughout the day. Only for split seconds when I think to check my email, then remember how many hundreds of messages there will be, so I decide to wait until later. I have no trouble being able to put out of my mind things I don't want to deal with at the moment. This is both positive and negative. It helps me be generally free from anxiety, but also can also cause me to not follow through with tedious, but important tasks. If there is something unpleasant, that I cannot do anything about, and dwelling on it will only cause worry and anxiety without helping the issue. In these situations it is to my benefit to not worry or think about future responsibilities. However, other things that are unpleasant, but are made worse by my inaction, such as turning in a form to my bank, are also very easy for me to not worry about. And because I am not worried about it, I often end up not doing it, which often leaves me having more to do than before.

I guess this illustrates why many spiritual attributes are difficult to attain. They are not helpful to our survival, so evolution would not have favored those traits. In this example I suppose I am specifically thinking of 'being in the moment'.

As much psychological benifit may come from 'being in the moment', it is clear why this was not a trait favored by evolution. It is easy to imagine why someone who is able to think about and be concerned with future events, is going to have a much higher survival rate than someone who is perpetually 'in the moment'
Very young children and people with brain damage are good at being in the moment, and that is why they aren't able to take care of themselves.
Our ability to constantly think and worry about the future, as well as consider our failures and successes from the past are a lot of what has made humans so successful at a variety of tasks. Yet this same attribute which helps us survive, makes it difficult to enjoy our survival. When we can slow down and appreciate things, it allows us to enjoy and savor the experience of being alive. But when we do this too much we don't take care of responsibilities necessary for survival.

I read a book last year about a woman, who was a Neuroscientist but then had a stroke. She damaged much of her left brain, and lost many of the functions that help us survive such as linear thinking and a sense of self. In essence, she had achieved the Buddhist conscept of Nirvana. She felt literally one with everything around her, because the part of her brain which tells us where our body begins and ends was damaged. She also lost her ability to reason forward or backwards, so she was very much in the moment. She described feelings euphoria and ecstascy and all the things one would hope and expect to feel if you had reached Nirvana. And yet, because of these very same things, she lost all her survival skills. She had to be taken care of by her mother until she recovered those functions which allowed her to survive, yet took much of the euphoria out of survival.


One thing that hadn't occurred to me about summer living at this latitude is how long the days are. The sun rises before 5:30 and doesn't set until past 9. I find myself waking up around six and not being able to return to sleep. I realized I didn't have any reason to fight this, so I have begun making the most of my morning hours, which I love.

Perusing various news sites this morning, it occurred to me that Cnn isn't quite the reputable news source I had previously imagined. Not that their reporting seems flawed or overtly biased, but the stories covered and emphasized barely reflect what I see as the important issues of the world. I feel I could thoroughly read Cnn.com every day and still be relatively uninformed about actual news stories. On the other hand, I would be very informed about celebrity news and crime stories. I would know all about who had been kidnapped lately and who the prime suspects were, in addition to any minor setback a celebrity may encounter, but I would only have a shallow awareness of any other event.
It still doesn't compare to fox news in terms of vacuous coverage, but it is much closer than I had previously thought. I'm not saying Cnn.com is terrible, it just isn't what I had imagined before I tried using it. I had imagined it being more in depth and relavent, instead of gossipy tabloid. It does have articles on 'important' issues, but they are far from the focus. For example, a very important bill was enacted today effecting the federal student loan program, CNN.com has reported on it, but one would have to search for this article to find it. What you wouldn't have to search for are articles like 'Disco Saves man's life' 'photo may show children's grave' about a murder which happened over a decade ago.

Other people's beliefs.

Sometime more than one year ago, but less than two, a person made a comment to me about how the beliefs of religiously fundamental people are best explained by psychological factors. At the time I agreed, however there was something about it I felt uncomfortable with.

I have thought about the comment frequently since it was made, and only recently did I realize why I felt uncomfortable with it.

I think it represents something many of us, including myself, do frequently. That is, to limit the beliefs of those we disagree with to merely fulfilling some psychological need, while feeling our own beliefs are free from any such entanglement. In a sense implying that if others had all their psychological needs met then they would believe and see the world as we do and that our beliefs are the only 'pure' beliefs.

Religious people often feel that those who don't believe in God or religion are in reality looking for excuse to 'sin' and be 'bad' and so pretend to not believe in God so as to allow themselves justification for behaving immorally.
At the same time many Atheists and non-religious people like to limit the beliefs of religious people to being nothing more than a tool for comfort (ie. opiate of the masses).
To be sure, it seems both views have some truth. I am sure there are some people who would otherwise believe in God but suppress that belief to reduce whatever discomfort they might otherwise feel when engaging in certain forbidden behavior. As well I'm sure there are religious people who hold their beliefs only as a useful tool to comfort themselves.
However, by and large I think most people hold their beliefs because as they see the world, the evidence supports their beliefs.

(I am using religion as an example because it is an easy one, but this phenomenon applies to all sorts of divided beliefs. One could apply it to meat eaters and vegetarians, or conservatives and liberals or a million other things)

For some reason, it seems we have a hard time accepting that others don't see the world as we do, and so we need to create reasons why their way of believing is less pure than our own. If we see those who disagree with us as being irrational then it is much easier to feel comfortable with our current beliefs than if we recognize that their are intelligent psychologically healthy people who simply interpret the vast data surrounding us in different ways. It is funny how often people accuse other groups of people of having cognitive dissonance. I am reading a book called 'The Spiritual Brain' where a neuroscientist tries to make a case for the spiritual realm via neuroscience(it is not good, I do not recommend it). The author repeatedly accuses non-spirit believing scientists of cognitive dissonance and avoiding contradictory evidence. I know many materialist scientists accuse faithful scientists of the same thing.

It is true that certain belief systems fulfill psychological needs in some way. Probably all belief systems do to some degree. But just because a belief does fulfill a psychological need or desire, doesn't mean that belief isn't true (it also doesn't mean the belief is true). Someone may have an interest in science because they find it comforting or interesting to learn mechanisms of how our world works, this doesn't make science less valid. Many people practice religion because it brings comfort and order to their lives. This doesn't make religion any less valid. Of course, if a belief system only fulfills psychological needs, and the only reason a person could possibly hold a certain belief is because of wish fulfillment, then that belief would be suspect, but very few beliefs are actually this way, despite how much we often see our opponents beliefs as being this way.

We often experience cartoon like exaggerations of opponents view points. When I read critics of evolution, I notice their portrayal of evolution is often grossly mistaken. They claim it would be irrational for someone to believe such a thing and often they are right, because as they portray the theory of evolution it is irrational for someone to believe such a thing. Since we generally only interact with those we agree with and read things by those we agree with, we tend to develop very distorted views of our opponents beliefs, to the point that if someone actually held the beliefs we think they do, they would irrational.

Having held radically opposed belief systems myself has been helpful for me to recognize the sincerity of others beliefs. When I had a strong belief in God and religion, I think there were times when I saw those who didn't as wanting to justify a certain lifestyle. Now that I do not have a strong belief in God or religion, I recognize that whatever factors may be behind my belief, I am no more or less sincere in my current belief than I was in my former belief. When I look back on my believing self, given what I knew then, I feel it was reasonable for me to believe as I did then, which is something I need to repeatedly remind myself when I think about others who are currently in the circumstance I once was.

I think many of our conflicts in life, both on a large scale and small scale, would be a lot more productive if we allowed those we disagree with us the benefit of holding rational beliefs. As well we would be able to see those we disagree with as more human if we recognized that given a person's knowledge and situation it is reasonable for them to hold the beliefs that they do. Most people generally don't take an argument against their belief seriously unless they recognize that the person arguing against them really understands what the belief is, as well as how one could reasonably hold such a belief.
The more segmented we are becoming because of our diverse media options, the less we are exposed to any opposing views. The less we understand opposing views, the less we can relate to the people who hold them and see them as having the same rights and worth that we do.

There and Back again

Marissa and I have returned from our Arizona vacation. We had went to to see her 19 year old sister get married.

On our way to Phoenix we drove down the coast of Oregon and California, which was beautiful, then cut over in Los Angelouis (Armstrong). On our way home we drove up through Utah and Idaho, which is, surprisingly, slightly longer than the coastal route, but not surprisingly much, much more boring. Though, if i had air conditioner, I wouldn't be bored driving through the most monotonous desert for 48 hours because of how much I love road trips. Why am I not a cross country trucker? Because I am a fool.

One highlight from the trip was our stop in San Francisco, which I described as a cross between New York and Portland. Some describe it as the homosexual capital of the world. It has the Highest percentage of homosexuals of any other city, with 15.4% homosexuals, only my neighboring city Seattle comes in close with 12.9% preferring butt piracy to other pirate forms.

We wanted to explore the city and our inner fudge packer, but our first priority was to find a Rite-Aid. We had a prescription we needed to fill in Olympia, but the rite-aid in our town was closed for a so-called 'Memorial Day', and there are no rite-aids in Arizona, so this was our last chance before the stores would close, or we reach Arizona. We had the address for a Rite-Aid and spent almost two hours on our feet, (most of it in a ghetto, that was actually really fun and exciting for me) trying to find it. We finally realized the reason we were having such a hard time finding it is because it had just been turned into a Wal-Greens! We were both fairly discouraged, tired and hungry by this point, but it turned out we were right by one of the best vegetarian restaurants either of us had ever eaten at. And a car crash occured about 15 feet from our seat while we were eating.

As we left the restaurant, we noticed police redirecting cars and buses away from the street we were on. I had earlier noticed several people carrying signs about prop 8, which I thought might be due to some anomoly in the fabric of space/time, until I remembered this happened to be the day when the California Supreme court was voting whether or not to uphold Prop 8.

Not long after we witness thousands and thousands of people marching down the street, carrying signs and chanting. At the very front of the group was a nerdy 18 yr old Asian (ie. Russia or India, j/k, the Orient) guy texting on his phone, who seemed as if were unaware 20,000 people were behind him protesting. As if he just happened to be walking in the middle of the street at the same time the march formed, but felt too uncomfortable to either change his route or join in.

We debated whether we should join the texting Asian guy or the protest group, and eventualy decided to let peer pressure decide or values and we joined the larger group, marching and chanting and being filmed by the local news. It was exhilarating to be part of such a group. I have participated in protests and rallys before, but never in a way that felt so relevant. Protesting the Iraq war in downtown Salt Lake doesn't have the same feeling as protesting in the homosexual capital of the world hours after the California Supreme Court voted to uphold discrimination against them.

Other interesting and fun things happened on the trip. Over all it was very enjoyable. I always love to travel, especially by car. I love the high that comes after hours and hours of driving and drinking caffeine. I love getting to see places I have never seen. I love the feeling of freedom I have while traveling. Whatever obligations, responsibilities and commitments I normally have to people and things while at home are all gone on the road and in it's place a sense of freedom and wonder.

Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor seems to be one of the most misused and misapplied concepts I have noticed to be used by otherwise intelligent people. I notice it being evoked frequently in many of the forums I regularly read. And in Science Fiction.

The general idea of Occam's razor, what people most often mean when they refer to it is: "the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one" (this is somewhat different than the original concept of Occam's Razor, but this is what I believe most people mean when they evoke Occam's razor) Occam's razor is not a bad idea at all, and can often be a helpful guide in choosing between competing ideas. But many people seem to take it too far. They seem to feel as if Occam's razor is some sort of scientific law that all matter must obey, rather than a useful way of to approach explanations. I have frequently experienced people assuming that any time there are competing theories to explain an idea the simpler one will always be correct. People will even go so far as to try and prove their idea true simply by invoking Occam's razor. Aside from there being many theories which are true yet more complex than other seeming possibilities, the idea of what makes one explanation more simple than another can be highly subjective? The idea how 'simple' an idea is, is often based on our previous experience and expectations. Newton's ideas of gravity and motion seem more simple to us, because they describe the world as we typically interact with it. However if we had evolved so that we regularly moved extremely fast, making the effects of relativity a common experience for us, then Einstein's Ideas of gravity and motion would strike us as being more simple.

Also, it seems unlikely that any phenomenon could be entirely and accurately explained by two different theories (though there may be such a thing, and it would interesting to know what an example would be). Once all the facts are known about a phenomenon, all but one theory will fall short of explaining every possible aspect of it. Whatever theory ends up entirely explaining a phenomenon, regardless of how complicated it may be, will by necessity be the 'simplest', because it will be the only one. While Einstein's theories feel less simple than Newton's theories, Newton's theories can't explain such things as light bending around a star, so using it explain that occurrence would not be the most simple because it would not be possible.
What would be more simple explanation, that there is one universe or two? Or twenty? What makes one universe more simple than two? What is more simple, there being one human to have ever existed on earth or many billion? (how would only one human come to be?) If we were able to discover that there were two universes, than the 'two universe theory' would be a more simple explanation of what we observe than the 'one universe theory' because the 'one universe', while seemingly more simple, doesn't explain the existence of the 2nd universe.

In most of our everyday experiences, using Occam's Razor can be a useful rule of thumb, but it is often misused and can lead people astray when it is seen as something more than a useful rule of thumb. Determining what makes an explanation simple can be subjective and misleading. It would be strange to think that operations of the universe would be restricted to following human notions simplicity.


One thing that may or may not surprise people is that I am inclined towards praying often. Part of this is from habit and conditioning, having been raised with a worldview that placed a heavy emphasis on prayer, an emphasis I felt drawn to more than other aspects of the tradition.

I never prayed much as a child. As the youngest child in my family I felt my upbringing was much less hands on than my older siblings. I don't know If my parents had instructed my older siblings to pray as children, but by the time I came around I certainly never experienced it. We did have occasional family prayers, but it never even occurred to me that I should be praying regularly on my own.

I don't remember what first motivated me to begin privately praying on a regular basis, but I remember fairly clearly when it happened and how much of a difference I felt in my life. I quickly developed a more positive outlook on life and myself and a sense of connection with something wonderful and loving, which was helpful to have during the difficulties of adolescence. I don't think any particular event motivated my sudden interest in prayer. I imagine it was simply stemmed from becoming old enough to be aware of my spiritual life and wanting to take an active interest in developing it. I was about 13 or 14 and had a paper route for a brief period. It may likely have been the increased time for introspection I had each day as walked around my small town delivering papers which turned me towards prayer, but since that time, It has been a regular habit of mine. Rarely have I prayed in a formal way, on my knees with my head bowed. It is something I do regularly throughout the day as a part of regular activities, such as drawing a picture or walking.

I wouldn't say that I have a strong belief in prayer as being a genuine supernatural experience. But I do have a strong believe in the ability of prayer to evoke in me a spiritual feeling. I'm aware that this may be nothing more than an entirely physical process.

Through brain scans of various religious people engaged in religious ritual, we know that certain parts of the brain become more (and other parts less) active during prayer, meditation etc.. When the frontal cortex is active a person begins to feel a loss of their sense of 'self', which creates a feeling of connectedness and oneness.
Depending on the religious activity, different parts of the brain may become active as well, adding additional qualities to the mystical experience, but in general, the frontal cortex seems to create the underlying aspect of a spiritual experience.

It may be that act of imagining God and talking to him/her/whatever in my mind activates, or is carried out by parts of the Frontal Cortex, which then creates the sensation of 'spiritualness', and it may be nothing more than this.
It may be that some genuine spiritual activity is taking place, and the Frontal Cortex is merely the vehicle for this to happen. Since we are physical beings whose emotions are created by chemical interactions, even if there were some outside influence creating the spiritual experience, it would need to act on the mechanisms already in place for creating experiences and emotions within us. If it were a genuine spiritual experience, I would expect it to look and behave (as seen via brain scans) exactly as it has observed it to. As well, if it were nothing more than a physical process, some anomaly of our evolution, we would also expect it to look and behave(as seen via brain scans) exactly as it does.

We know these experience can happen by 'artificial' means, such as drugs, damage to the brain, epilepsy or mental illness. Since we know that these experiences can occur by merely physical means, adding a supernatural realm to the mix seems like an unnecessarily complicated addition.

While I am inclined to believe the experience of prayer is little more than an interesting chemical reaction, some fluke of our evolution, there is some other part of me that believes it to be more than that. Not because I have any good reason to. My reason, as far as I can tell, is no more than that I want to believe there is something more. Believing it is something more is more enjoyable for me, so I find myself doing it. I realize that my desire to believe something true, in no way makes it more likely that that thing actually is true. If anything, my desiring for it to be true, should make me even more cautious, since I know my objectivity is compromised.

But whether I believe prayer is something truly divine or not, I have found matters little in terms of what I experience. When I first began to disbelieve the Church I was surprise to realize that regardless of my disbelief in a particular thing, its ability to evoke spiritual was unchanged. Regardless of my belief on the subject, the act of prayer(or various other rituals I enjoy) evoke the same results, a feeling of peace, calm, and connection to the Universe.

Of course, there are aspect of prayer that goes beyond just the emotional experience of it. People pray to influence events and people. People pray for knowledge, wisdom and other sort of divine help. That deserves an entry of its own.

Why I feel inclined towards seeking spiritual experiences probably has a lot to do both a genetic tendency towards spiritual feelings and my upbringing in 'personal spiritual experience' centered religion. I do not deny that growing up in the Church I felt what I thought of as the Holy Ghost quite frequently. This was something I enjoyed and sought for. When I found I couldn't maintain a belief in the Mormon church anymore, it was partly my experience with spiritual feelings that kept me as a member of the Church for a few more years, as well caused me a fair amount of confusion and heartache. I knew I had experienced and could continue to experience spiritual feelings in Church, and things related to the Church, and felt this was evidence of it being true. Yet almost everything else I saw as evidence of the Church being untrue. I tried hard to reconcile these seemingly conflicting concepts, and spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out a way I could believe in the Church. Gradually I found that while the Church does an excellent job at fostering environments that create spiritual experiences, this was not nearly as unique as I had imagined. Once I realized that I was able to comfortably step away from the Church yet maintain and pursue a spiritual life without the intellectual pain and cultural discomfort I felt as a member, I did so. Now that I have been away for a while and see how enjoyable it is, it seems almost strange to me I tried so hard to stay in. If anything I have found it easier to enjoy a the feelings of spirituality that comes from prayer and other things, because I no longer see certain things as being prerequisite to spiritual experience. Whereas before I felt I could only feel the spirit under certain specific conditions, and so rarely attempted or allowed myself to outside of those, I no longer have such limiting expectations, closing me off to the bountiful experiences all around us.

Making us Human

It is funny how often I, and probably everyone else, hear people say things along the lines of 'the thing that separates human's from animals is _____'. And often what the blank is filled with is something related to the speaker's field of interest. I remember once hearing a lecture on the virtues of some bitter vegetable I can't remember the name of, and the speaker actually said that being able to enjoy certain bitter tasting foods is the one attribute separating human's from other animals. (though usually something less silly is said such as 'empathy'. note: many other mammals feel empathy. Doing a google search on this topic I have noticed almost every possible human trait is mentioned as being THE thing which separates us from other animals.)

It seems unlikely to me, that despite millions of years of shared evolution there would be one attribute unique to only humans, and that this one attribute would be what distinguishes us from other animals.

What distinguishes us from other animals is not a single trait that we have and others don't, but many many traits, shared by many other animals, that exist in humans to different degrees than in other animals. It is the sum total of these traits that make us different. For example, humans are distinguished by being more intelligent than other animals.

Nearly every trait that seems special to humans ends up being discovered in other animals, such as laughter, culture or use of tools. Yet despite discovering seemingly unique human traits in other animals, we don't feel ourselves any less human or unique because of it. We don't feel that since other primates also use tools there is no nothing significantly different about us, because we all realized it wasn't the mere having of that one trait which defined us.
Even if there did happen to be one trait only shared by humans, such as, just for example,...artistic expression, we don't consider those unable to express themselves artistically as inhuman, and if the species as a whole lost the ability for artistic expression we would not feel we were no longer human. Why? because it would not have been merely that one trait which made us human, or separated from other animals, but many degrees of traits, of which that was only one.

I think this sense of wanting only one definable attribute to separate one thing from another runs deep and occurs all over the place, making some distinctions seem more puzzling than they really are, so it isn't surprising it would often be used in reference to people as well.

The differences between ourselves and other animals are already pretty clear that I find the similarities to much more interesting and surprising. As for whatever sense of specialness or uniqueness we might come from realizing unique human traits, I think our overall uniqueness and ability to dominate every other animal has shown itself enough that we couldn't possibly need any more of a boost to our collective self esteem. If anything, I find learning of the attributes we share with other animals to be more inspiring since it is a reminder of our shared heritage and interconnectedness with both other people and everything else living.

The world wide internet

I recently learned something surprising and interesting about the internet.

Scroll down to learn more.

The Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing.

The distinction is somewhat subtle. The internet is the connection of computers and software which one uses to access, among other things, the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web is are pages with texts and pictures etc which link to other pages, such as what you are viewing now. If one is talk about surfing the (world wide) web, then the internet would be the surfboard. I think most people, and myself generally use the terms interchangeably, and even knowing what I know I will probably continue to use the words interchangeably because:
a)It doesn't really matter.
b)When it comes to word definitions I think it is more important what most believe believe a word to mean than what the 'real' meaning of a word may be. If most people believe a word means one thing, but the dictionary defines it as another thing then, in my opinion, it is the dictionary that is wrong and not most people. (I consider certain descriptive nouns to be an exception to this) I believe the role of a dictionary should be descriptive and not prescriptive.
Because of the swine flu, and not wanting to be a swine fool, I have found myself today reading about the flu in general.

I remember how surprised I felt when I first learned about the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic which infected about 20% of the world's population, of that 20% who were infected up to 5% of those died! That means about 50-100 million deaths world wide from the Spanish Flu. Almost all of these deaths took place within less than a year!

(Knowing this, it is understandable why governments would be so quick to sound the alarm whenever a new flu strain strikes, however unlikely it may be to create a pandemic.)

I am sure I must have been taught, at least somewhat, about the Spanish Flu in High School history courses, but I guess it wasn't emphasized enough for me to have any memories of it.
When I first begun to study the Spanish flu on my own, I felt amazed that something so enormous and devastating, could have taken place so recently yet be discussed so infrequently(I wonder if it is more commonly known in other countries). Yet, interestingly, the Black Plague, which happened about 700 years ago is something most people have heard of and are somewhat familiar with. I would expect that with all the news coverage about Swine Flu more references would be made to the Spanish Flu, yet of the 100,000 news articles on Swine Flu brought up by Google, only about 2,000 of those make reference to the Spanish Flu. (Interestingly, there is a Government website devoted to an in depth examination of the Spanish Flu in the United States, which I found engrossing).

I can imagine that for religious of that time it must have seemed obvious that the end of the world was soon at hand, with 2 world wars, plagues, famines, complete economic collapse happening all within a time frame of only a few decades.(Plus Israel was beginning to be re-settled by Jews at this time)

Reading about Flu Pandemics led me to read about the Flu Virus itself. Not having had much education in biology most of the specifics about the Virus were over my head, but looking at pictures of the Virus and reading about its functioning causes a certain amount of awe and wonder at the elegance of these viruses and that all around and inside of us are billions these tiny machines as complex as an automobile.

Reading about Flu pandemics, one naturally draws parallels in their mind to the Holocaust and other similar man made catastrophes, yet what most amazes and in some ways disturbs me is that while these little machines can collectively cause such world wide devastation to a species whose intellect and capabilities exceed its own by such immense proportions I wouldn't even know how to describe, it has no sense of consciousness or purpose.

Looking at the two pictures below and imaging them infecting 20% of the world, it is hard to not imagine them as having a consciousness and motive.

While my sense of reason tells me these beings, while in some sense 'alive', are little more than than mechanical doing all they can to reproduce. But even language like that gives them a sense of will and consciousness. It is not as if there is a little mind inside each one trying and wanting to reproduce, let alone infect a person, let alone kill them, it is just something that happens. Somehow, when molecules are arranged in this amazingly complex pattern it causes them to divide and infect and sometimes kill. It is amazing to me not just that such things do exist but that they CAN exist. That because of the particular way our Universe is composed, when certain fundamental building blocks come together in certain ways they then take on amazing properties that can also have devastating consequences. As grand and awe inspiring as things like stars and moons appear to us, something as seemingly simple as the flu virus is far more complex, and to me, inspires wonder and awe.

Time Travelers wife.

I've seen previews for the Time Travelers wife, and decided I probably won't see it. I enjoyed the book very much, but the movie looks like it has missed the spirit of the book and become a typical hollywood romance/Notebook type movie.


The dawning of a new era.

I finally set up my new blog. If you click on the following link you will be taken to the correct page. I will still occasionally update this blog about top secret subjects, but for the most part my new blog will be the primary source of my blogging bog. The link occurs after this sentence. Www.getreadytoreadchristopherallmansnewblogeveryoneihopeyouenjoyitandfindthelayouteasyontheeyes.com


Choir of angels.

As you may have noticed from the numerous photos I have posted depicting the place outside my bedroom window, my house in a swamp area. I think this is why there are not many houses around ours. Our house is set up a little bit, to avoid flooding, as the road does, when it rains.
Starting about a month ago, in the evenings, when the weather is warm, we have been serenaded by a choir of frogs. There must be several thousand frogs who live across the street from me. And every night they express their love for me via a symphony of croaks.



It was my birthday a few days ago. Marissa and I went camping at the beach and then I didn't even check my email till yesterday. Lately, whenever circumstances leads me to not check my email one day, I find myself then putting it off for one, maybe two or three more days, knowing I will have an overwhelming amount of emails to respond to. Even though I know that putting it off even more just increases the pile up.
I started a new blog. If you click on my profile, you can get the link.
Here are some birthday photos:

At the Dollar store ($) Marissa came across and purchased two kites. They worked a little better than I imagined, but despite the perfect weather for kite flying, we weren't able to get them above 5 feet in the air.

Even though I don't typically like to support businesses like Burger King, nor do I generally enjoy the food they offer, the BK VEGGIE is one of the best, possibly the best veggie burger I have had. I try not to eat them too often. I think of them as sort of a guilty pleasure. But on special days, such as my birthday, I love to eat one. Marissa had one as well. It was her first. She enjoyed it, even though she got it without the toppings, which, in my mind, is what makes it so good. She also got it with a slice of Swiss cheese on BOTH sides of the patty.

This wasn't on my birthday. But it IS a photograph. We are playing Magic the Gathering in Priest Point Park. A stunningly beautiful park in Olympia. Marissa as talking on the phone a while ago to one of her friends and mentioned that we had been playing the card game 'Magic the Gathering' her friend asked if it was a cult. I found and find this so so funny. What would it mean for a game to be a cult?

We came across this jealous jelly fish on the beach. It was the first Jelly fish I have seen with my own eyes.

We decided to hop in the water and see if we could find more jelly fish.

At Bk still.

Curious about the texture and durability of the jelly fish, I poked it and pushed it with my foot until it kind of broke apart. I ended up kicking it really hard to see how it would withstand. I felt kind of gross while I was doing it. I am not sure if the jelly fish was alive and I am not sure if Jelly fish have an advanced enough nervous system that it could feel any pain, but I felt bad destroying, with my foot, a living Jell-o dish.


To wrap everything up, I would like to which everyone a happy 420. I would like to wish everyone a sober and sad Hitler's birthday and Columbine anniversary. But, if it is getting you too down to think about it, you should get high on Marijuana.


Ganesh drinking milk.

Ruth was over at my house the other day and was talking about Ganesh Statues drinking milk. Marissa looked it up online and found this video: http://www.milkmiracle.com/
The 'miracle' involves placing a spoonful of milk at the mouth of a Ganesh statue and watching it 'drink' the milk. I recommend watching the video. One day, in a spiritual pandemic, this miracle spread across India, causing thousands of people to spoon feed statues of Ganesh with milk.

I suppose if I were from India I might not have found this so strange and humorous. I can imagine to a foreigner our 'miracles' of crying statues or representational stains take on a similar quality.

I told her it didn't seem particularly miraculous for a statue to be able to draw moisture out of spoon. Fired clay and stone, when not covered with glaze is fairly absorbent and tends to 'suck' moisture into it like a paper towel would if only one corner of it were placed in a spoon filled wit milk. This is a well understood phenomenon called capillary action.

We tried it with my Ganesh statue which is covered with a glaze and it didn't drink the milk. I then tried it with myself, and another miracle occurred, the milk went from the spoon into my open mouth and into my stomach where it turned into a beautiful bird which then flew out of my mouth and continued upward until it reached heaven.

Things like this remind me a lot of when I was manic and small things would happen that were sort of unusual and I didn't entirely understand which I would normally have not thought much of, but because of my intensified state of mind I saw as having great significance.

It is not that I think these people who believe in the Ganesh miracle are necessarily dumb or deluded. I can understand the desire to believe and how that desire can make one see more into things than they may be. Or not look as critically at some things as we should. We all do it a fair amount of time. Ever since I learned about the study which compared the minds of theists and atheists, I tend to see situations like this in terms of one's brain chemistry. Some people seem to, because of the particular way their brain chemistry is, see more into certain things then are really there (while others see less into things). Having been manic where I did that about almost everything, I very much understand what this feels like and am sympathetic towards those who do. (I wonder how much one can be conditioned to perceive one way or the other. For example, if a person were raised in a culture that placed a high emphasis on sign seeking, would a lifetime of that alter their dopamine levels making it then easier to see signs where there are none? )

I think for historically recorded miracles, the one I most impressed and mystified by is the Miracle of the Sun related Our lady Fatima.


Since I am not too far off from graduation, I occasionally get emails about graduation related things from evergreen. Today I got one about speaking at the graduation ceremony. Yes, I WAS BEING INVITED TO SPEAK AT GRADUATION! And it wasn't just I, every student who would be graduating was invited to try out to be the graduation speaker. Since Evergreen doesn't give grades, I guess they would have no way to decide who is best suited to speak at graduation.
I thought it seems like a good idea. Graduations tend to be pretty boring. Because a person is good at earning grades doesn't mean they are good at public speaking. But this way, the graduation speaker is instead chosen by there ability to give a good talk. I briefly considered auditioning, but I don't have anything interesting to say to the graduating Evergreeners.


Return to stuff

I haven't written much in this blog lately. I have hardly been online much lately.
One reason I haven't written much in this blog is, i think, it is locked.
I realized that when I know exactly who is able to read my blog, I feel less inclined to write. When writing for a set list of people, it then feels more as if I am sending a mass email.
When I write, as I imagine most others do, I picture the audience I am writing for, and when write something to be read by many people, I tend to write towards the audience of one person specifically. It helps me clarify my thoughts, being able to imagine the response the hypothetical person might have. Rarely do I think of any actual person, but rather an imaginary audience member who is inclined to disagree with and look for loopholes in what I write. When my blog is free for anyone to read, it is easy to imagine that such a hypothetical audience member may actually be reading my blog, but when it is locked, and I am familiar with all of my audience I find that more difficult and thus, feel less inclination to write.
This isn't all of it, but I think this is most of it. Because of this, I am going to start a new blog that won't be locked, but will be a tad more secret than this blog. Mostly more secret to the paolacci family.

In other news, I have been so lazy the past couple weeks. Though I have been reading lots of good books. I read a really well written and insightful book on Mormonism which caused me to, for a couple days, consider going back to Church. It isn't that this book caused me to believe in Mormonism again, but it reminded me of the advantages that came from being apart of such an organization. (Marissa and I have also been watching Big Love, which I think played a role in my thinking about the Church often.)
Over the next several days I immersed myself in reading Mormon related material in a way I have not for a while now. Over the course of about a week I went through a miniature conversion to apostasy. It reminded me of the latter days of being a Church member when I wanted to belief so bad, but the more I learned the less I believed. But rather than spread over a couple years it was compressed into several days.

Sometime within the next few days I will create my new, unlocked blog. As soon as I have, I will type the letters comprising the url into this blog.
I didn't read through this entry, so please correct the type-os and stuff in your mind/brain.



I haven't written in here for a while because I have been too busy reading SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS!!!!!

This is kind of true. I am reading a Science Fiction book right now. And I haven't written in my blog for a while. Are the two related? I dunno. (I do know. They are not related).


I've been sick for the past few days, but now I am doing mostly better. I haven't even checked my email for several days. Welcome back C. Allman.



Since my last post the sky entirely cleared up, and is now entirely cloudy and rainy again.
chrisalmond.blotspot.com: the world's best resource for olympia weather information.


Every state I have been in I have heard people say, in speaking of the weather: 'You know what they say about_____(name of state), if you don't like weather, just wait 5 minutes.'
Marissa confirmed this is also true in Arizona.
The only state I have lived in where I haven't heard this is also the only state where it has been true, which is olympia. Since 11:30 Am it has gone from raining, to clear skies, to raining, to sunny clear skies, to now 1:55 pm, it is snowing.
Dave Bottom, I trust you have found this post to be funny and enlightening.



The internet at my house has been down for a few days. And may be down for a few more days. I'm in a computer lab now but only have 3 more minutes on this computer. On sunday Marissa's mom is coming. I go through moments of intense dread to moments of feeling unconcerned. It isn't as if I have anything to hide or am ashamed of anything. It is just uncomfortable having someone over to your has that has only criticized you. And the criticisms are frequent. It is strange to be so frequently put down. 56 seconds left. Got to go! marissa and I made a pizza yesterday and it was delicious!


Space Race.

I remember when I learned about the space race, both in elementary school and in secondary school, it was taught in such a way that felt as if we, as a country, were still patting ourselves on our back over our collective victory against the Russians.

It is humorous and strange to me that adults would teach this sense of group superiority to children. Not only that they would teach it at all, but especially teaching it decades after the event.

As a child I played sports and other team activities and I can understand the fun and excitement of getting wrapped up in feeling a part of a group that has succeeded.

I also understand that on an evolutionary level, groups and tribes were very important to our survival. One part of being a good member of the group is taking pride in the group's victories, but also, in an earlier time the groups victories had a strong correlation to our survival. If the group was strong and victorious, as an individual our likelihood of survival would be much greater, so it would be to our advantage as individuals to feel a sense of emotional investement in our tribe or teams victories.

But like so much of modern life, things that were useful to us in the savannas of Africa no longer serve the same function, yet because they are so deeply ingrained both biologically and culturally many hold on to them just as tightly.

I also realize that the struggle between the U.S.A's space program, and that of the USSR was more than just a struggle of national super powers, it was a test of idealogies. People saw the success of the space program as being anolog to the success of Capitalisim or Communism. If they were to show that Capitalism was superior to Communism being able to be the first to the moon could supposedly do it.

While I can understand the childhood pleasure of, and the biological factors for, I can not relate to the feeling of group pride. Particularly having the feeling on such a level that I would want to pass it on to young children on an institutional level.

I feel about as much attachment to the Russian engineers working in the space program of the 1950's and 60's as I do to the American engineers at Nasa of that time.(not much). Both groups of people I have never met, nor do I even know their names. Nor does either of their achievements have any correlation to my ablity to achieve. As good as they may be at engineering, I can take just as much personal pride from the achievements of Nasa as I can from from the Sun's ability at being very hot.
The Nasa engineers and the Russian engineers do come from the same species as me, which is something inherent in our nature, but our national identities are totally arbitrary. We should feel the same satisfaction at one countries success, particularly in scientific areas, as we do ours. It would be nice if we could be more concerned about the progression of the human race than particular countries.

One part of growing up and maturity, I feel, is being able to be happy for other people's achievements. As a child I was not able to do this at all. As a young adult I still cannot always do this, but have come much further along than I was before. The more comfortable and confident I am with myself, the less I need external factors confirming to me my own sense of well being, and the less I see the success of others as somehow taking away from me in any way. It is not as if we are in a competition. We are all in this together trying to be happy and figure out what in the world is going on. Our culture is very much about competition and being the best, which I see as emotionally immature, particularly when we as a country and people are still teaching in schools our children to think of our group as better than others.

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