Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Can you feel that boomboomboomboomboomboomboomboomboom PAC?

I'd never heard the names Harold Simmons, Bob Perry, Miriam Adelson or James Simons but each has personally donated over $10 million to one of the major super-PACs. Though I suspect I'll be hearing some of those names again in the near future. Is this legalized bribery? The only upside is that at least we know who's doing it!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Brilliance from the Onion

God Distances Self From Christian Right
“What these people are saying betrays a worldview that is, frankly, completely different from my own, and it embarrasses me to even hear my name mentioned alongside theirs,” God told reporters, emphatically. “For example, I’m not into capital punishment at all, or really killing in general, so I’m not sure where that whole talking point came from."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Something Different

I'm going to try something different here. Instead of writing about facts I'm going to think, write and speculate about a subject that I know little about. Then I'll do some research and see where I was right and where I was wrong.

For the past few days I've been trying to answer, can you choose who you're attracted to? Is attraction innate or a product of society? Is it shaped by past experience or a product of present circumstances? And if I were living somewhere else, in a different time, would I find the same physical features and personalities attractive?

This question really touches a dozen different topics. First, what do I mean by choice. I suppose what I mean is can attraction be willed, if I'm not attracted to someone but for whatever reason I want to be, can I make myself feel attracted to them? So its similar to the question, does believing something make it so? First I'll go over what I already know about this. No doubt part of attraction is due to nature and a part due to society. Fundamentally it is necessary for the continuation of the human race, plus throughout history many of the same physical features have been considered attractive even if other aspects have changed. For example while tanned skin is generally considered attractive today a few hundred years ago it signaled farm work and peasantry and consequently not leisure and nobility. So there are certainly components of both.

But how big are these two components? As I grow older, have more experience and my circumstances change will what I find attractive change as well? Or is my current perception of attraction set for life? And if it does change should I consider how it will change in my choice of a long term partner? So far over the last 14 years or so there really hasn't been much change, with the exception of being attracted to women my age - thankfully as I've grown older I'm no longer attracted to 14 year old girls. But that makes me wonder if I was or if that attraction was just a product of my circumstances?

Now that I've been writing for a while I realize that I haven't made clear what I mean by attraction. Its one of those things that easier to feel than to describe. In the spectrum of positive and negative feelings it certainly falls on the positive side. Being around someone I'm attracted to makes me feel good and being apart creates a desire to be with them. I can simulate the feeling of attraction via certain thoughts, not much differently than simulating happiness or sadness, but can I change the trigger for those feelings? Its hard for me to think about WW2 and not feel sadness, much less force myself to feel happy while thinking about it. Is it similarly difficult to change who we find attractive?

And finally is there is a difference in all this with respect to men and women? Is one sex more influenced by society? More capable of shaping their feelings?

What I've been up to (while not blogging)

The past 5 weeks have been pretty crazy but pretty incredible, thought with little time for blogging. After getting my wisdom teeth out I went to Europe for 10 days, Barcelona and Munich. It was my first time in Europe since 2004 and it was incredible! Looking back it was one of the best, if not the best vacation of my life. The trip also confirmed a long held belief of mine that its not so much where you go but who you go with. For the last few years I didn't really travel abroad at all, unless you count the Caribbean. And I hate saying this but it was largely because traveling with my ex was not very much fun. We just weren't on the same page on a lot of things. We didn't really get into fights when we were on trips but it just never felt right - though I guess that was a broader issue in the relationship. I also don't have anything against traveling alone but its difficult to justify a solo week long trip to Europe when you're in a serious committed relationship. Now I did find some incredible traveling partners who were on the same page about nearly everything and it worked out incredibly. Further evidence that who you go with is just as important as where you go. Maybe that's good advice for life in general.

Anyway, in summary Europe was great, it was my first full week of work since 2009 - and I feel ready for another! Lots of random funny stories, many of which probably shouldn't be made public :). Barcelona may be my favorite vacation city ever, it has beaches, culture, food and nightlife. What more could anyone want?? Though its probably best to visit before the age of 30 since I imagine 5 or 10 years from now I'd have a lot less patience for it. Oktoberfest was pretty incredible as well, I'd highly recommend the Hofbrau tent to anyone who goes. It has the most international people in it but a good number of Germans too. Of the tents we went through it seemed to have the most diverse / English speaking place to go, plus the beer was very drinkable.

After Europe I was in Chicago for 10 days, then off to the West Coast for the wedding of two incredible friends - Jillian and Ilya. The wedding itself was perfect, ideal size, beautiful venue and a great blend of religious and secular elements - I only hope my eventual wedding works out so well! The whole wedding night I could see the two of them in their own world, not entirely separated from their guests but in a world that we could only glimpse into, one which only the two of them know. Seeing this was truly incredible, such a deep and dynamic connection between two people!

Now after all my fun its back to reality, and to blogging. I have piles of work in front of me that I'm dutifully procrastinating! My vacation days have dwindled to nearly 0 so I'm going to be in Chicago for a while. I feel like I've barely spent any time here recently. Last night I was walking around my neighborhood and noticed 3 new places had opened up! Time to do some exploring!

Writing is Hard

Writing publicly or for any large audience is gut wrenching. Most of the time I prefer public speaking to public writing because once something is written, saved and published its out there forever. When I'm speaking my words are ephemeral and they seem to hold less weight than the words I write. Consequently whenever I'm writing I will analyze every word, every sentence and every paragraph. I'll go through a dozen synonyms, multiple sentence arrangements and periodically restart the whole thing from scratch. Needless to say this process takes a lot of time, but I'm trying to get better at it. Part of why I started this blog was to force myself to write more. I figure the only way for me to become better at writing is to keep practicing and judge my own successes and failures. Or better yet have others judge my successes and failures - though I get enough of that at work. Although blogging has definitely helped I've found that recently I haven't been writing enough of my own thoughts in my blog.

Today is the unofficial 1 year anniversary of my blog. The actual anniversary was a couple of months ago but that day came and went and I entirely didn't notice. I guess I'm not very good at being sentimental. Maybe that's what I should work on next. Which reminds me that I need to send someone a VERY belated happy birthday message. It seems like for some people being sentimental comes naturally. On the spectrum of rational vs. emotional I fall pretty squarely on the rational side. I've always thought, what's so special about doing something for 1 year? Like one of my friends often says "every day I'm setting a personal record for consecutive days alive." Now I'm starting to think that's the wrong attitude. It's not that there's something extra important about a year but rather that its a convenient time to reflect. I can't spend all my time reflecting, if I did I would never get anything done. But without reflecting every once in a while its all to easy to live without asking "why am I doing this?" or "what do I value about this?"

So what is it that I value about my blog? First is the sharing aspect, here I get to share whatever I might find interesting and my thoughts about it. To me sharing has been one of the most rewarding parts of life, watching other people get excited about things that I get excited about is incredible and hearing their take on it even more so. In a way it becomes a virtuous cycle of sharing. Second it helps me keep track things that I found interesting for later on. On several occasions I've been in the middle of a conversation and referred people to something I've written about in my blog - always an awesome feeling. And finally it helps me organize and focus my thoughts. I find it really easy to get overwhelmed by information and my endless to do list that keeping focus for a blog post, especially one this long is difficult. By forcing myself to sit down and spent 15 or 20 minutes writing and thinking about one subject I feel that I can understand it much better than if I didn't have to write about it.

Now finally what more do I want to get out of it? I want to write more about experiences and feelings rather than thoughts. I try my best to think and write objectively. This is good when thinking about politics or economics but bad for life since so much of life is subjective and its the subjective parts that are unique and interesting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

From the Department of Crazy Tax Policy

26 highly valuable public companies who paid their CEOs more than they paid in taxes:


Gang of Four / A Eulogy

Dear wisdom teeth, it was nice sharing the last 27 years with you but deep down we all knew it could never last. I'm very sorry that our parting was so traumatic for you but it was no walk in the park for me either. I will always fondly remember the meals we've shared, the fights we've had and the friends we've lost. But alas, it is time to move on, I hope you can find it in your roots to forgive me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Zurich Style

I can't believe I didn't discover Gangnam Style until I was in Zurich! (more on Europe later)

The message behind the video according to time: