Wednesday, September 29, 2010

illusory correlations.

"of course i failed--i forgot to wear my lucky trousers."

the most clear and concise explanation of illusory correlation that i've found comes from wikipedia: "the phenomenon of seeing the relationship one expects in a set of data even when no such relationship exists.
" data here can be taken as traditional data (statistics, reports, etc.), and can also be applied to a broader scope in understanding it as events, experiences, perceptions, and so on.

this is a common phenomenon and examples of it can be found in most any context. stereotypes are an extremely common example, studies claiming correlation between environmental factors and personal effects can readily fall victim to it, and people simply seeking explanations will typically find them, though they may be completely irrelevant and utterly incorrect (conveniently animating this principle). this is why someone may think that people named trace are not as handsome as neils or rogers(after people meet me, neil, and roger), that pot roasts cure colds (after an ill child pips up after a bit of beef), or that a pair of trousers dictates his or her academic fate (after a success or failure in a pair of 501s).

i've not failed any tests as of recent, but illusory correlations have certainly seemed to have played a role in many of my recent actions. both in the way i make decisions and in the way i explain the reasons of their successes or failures, retrospect and further experience seems to be showing where various correlations were indeed illusory.

from merriam-webster:
based on or producing illusion.
the state or relation of correlated. specifically : a relationship existing between phenomena or things.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

conversations with sheila.

"good mornin' starshine, the earth says hello.
you twinkle above us, we twinkle below.
good mornin' starshine, you lead us along
my love and me as we sing our early mornin' singin' song.

glibby gloop gloopy, nibby nabby noopy, la la la lo lo.
sabba sibby sabba, nooby abba nabba, le le lo lo.
tooby ooby walla, nooby abba nabba,
early mornin' singin' song."

--sheila (hair, 1967)

the preceding selection contains one of the most unappealing bits of lyricism i've ever heard or would care to imagine. i find them such for the two main reasons of one) them being nonsensical, cheap rhymes and two) failing to make up for that by not even being pleasing to the ear. they don't roll off the tongue, and they don't flow to the ear, and they don't drive to the heart--or anywhere else in the body for that matter. now don't get up in arms--i do like this song. i hate the "early morning singin' song," but do enjoy the bulk and presentation of it. and besides, to a degree i can appreciate the fact that though sheila sounds ridiculous (not in an entertaining or mutually enjoyable way, but in an "it hurts to watch" kind of way) she very well may be trying to say something very reasonable--maybe even important.

i can relate to that at times. i've something relevant or important to say and all i can do is speak the early mornin' singin' song. it's rather frustrating, as i'm sure at least one of you two readers can relate. but oh, the things i would be saying if i could be saying it. what secrets are being held hostage by sheila's inability to escape the early mornin' singin' song? maybe many, maybe few, but the tragedy is that we'll never know. at least until the sequel to hair comes out...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

clever harry.

"Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack."
--Harry Emerson Fosdick

harry was a clever guy. i don't agree with all that he supported or lead, but some i do. and whether or not i agree with any of it, i can at least acknowledge that he is a very clever harry. a very clever harry indeed.

cynicism isn't a good thing. i'll rarely be so absolute in my statements (the fruit of being a psych major--you qualify everything you say with "usually," "often," or something equivalent), but i feel bold enough at this moment about this particular point that i'll just go hog wild. webster defines a cynic as "a faultfinding captious critic; especially: one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest." "captious" being "marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections." honest, practical, pragmatic, realistic--these are the vessels or reasoning that, often, cynicism will use to present itself. the fact is, you can be honest, practical, pragmatic, and realistic without being cynical. it's the difference between "we've poor odds" and "don't bother trying" or "i haven't had the best experiences in dating" and "screw dating."

i'm a cynic at times. depending on subject and timing, i certainly can have a cynical streak as i suppose many of us can. i guess it depends on when and where you talk to me--but if you know me well, you probably don't even need to. either way, like harry pointed out, it's typically an absence of something, and i'll add negative experiences, that lead to cynicism.

this being the case, i think just about every person i know has "discover[ed] what [i] lack" already.

logically, though, i can't seem to make the connection that this means one can see what a person is optimistic about, and see what they have. my best conclusion is that an optimist is a person who may or may not have a lack in a given area, but fails to see the point in being a cynic about it, and sees the value of positive outlook.
in some areas i'm quite the optimist. in others, eh, not so much. but according to the logic i've pieced together--that's very stupid. i should just be an optimist.


Friday, September 17, 2010

fluid inspirations.

there are several years between the writing of stephen king's "pet semetary" and its being published. this is, in part, because of its inspiration. the book was inspired by a series of events taken place in his rented home in maine. the house was just alongside a major truck route which would be the cause of death for man local pets. because of this, there had been established a pet cemetery on the other side of the freeway. after burying his daughter's cat (a victim of the busy road), the principle of 'the cat came back' came to mind. the idea of this dead cat being buried and coming back, as he puts it, "alive but fundamentally different." a zombie cat, if you will. the question was then, what would happen if a person were to be buried there? it was this, in combination with a recent experience of narrowly stopping his son from being struck by a car that gave inspiration to the feelings, ideas, and story of semetary. however, when king had finished the book, he didn't review or submit it for publication for several years. he saw the inspirations of the work, and he simply wasn't ready to touch something with roots in the idea of a loved child coming back from the grave to kill--particularly as that idea was at least partially rooted in the experience of his own son nearly being killed. not for a period of time, anyway. eventually it was published, of course, and gained great popularity.

i'm not writing a novel, and nothing that i'm working on has near as deep or upsetting roots. however, to a degree, i can appreciate the idea of creating something and whether in the act or ex post facto, having some serious misgivings about it because of what inspired it. i think that's why i tend to take the more liberal feeling towards art and say that art's inspiration and meaning are flexible according to the environment surrounding it.

i don't normally post stuff i write--mainly because i feel if i'm going to share it at all, i'll play it. but, for this once, i'll break that rule. this is a song i wrote on my mission while in boston, england. we drove by a fish and chips shop called "queen of the sea" with the word "fish" before it and the word "chips" after it. i scrapped the "chips" and stole the remaining words to make the title of a very simple song. at the time, it had some loose inspirations. about two years later, the meaning would change, affecting my perception of the inspirations, happened again about a year after that, and is still changing today. anyway, i thought i'd share it. and as a sidenote--this is a sad song, but it's played with cheer. so as you read it, don't let it sound too tragic.

"fish, queen of the sea."
so swim, oh swim away. swim away oh sea queen.
you know i love you dear, but we know you're no ruler here.
you off and heading home, with and among your own,
means more than you being mine.

so swim, oh swim away. swim away oh darling.
both families wondering now why we are even bothering.
i wish that we could be, a royal family.
you know i'd walk and swim the line.

but you are a sea queen, and i'm a man king.
we fell into love's trap, now we have to mind the gap.
the problems we're to face aren't solved by being in love.
where could we even live--what place is neither underwater nor above?

and my people say of me, "our king is crazy.
he sees her fleeting whim, he sees it as her loving him.
he sacrificed and sought her, old retired triton's daughter--
did he think fate would care?"

but please my lady, do be pleased to know
it's i that's over them, and i still love you so.
put water out of thought, still if you i'd caught
you're optimistic dreams i would share.

but you are a sea queen, and i'm a man king.
we fell into love's trap, now we have to mind the gap.
the problems we're to face aren't solved by being in love.
where could we even live--what place is neither underwater nor above?

sea queen, oh sea queen. stranger love old time has seen--
but no doubt we're the strongest love that's been all as strange.
cruelest of jokes it seems. tinkering with our hearts and dreams.
no doubt we're the pride or shame of all the loves time has arranged.

you know i love you but farewell.
me to the sea, you to the land.
we do not match though we belong.
i hope our hearts will understand.

was this song originally written with a girl in mind? why yes, yes it was. over the years, has this been about the same girl? no. has it always been about girls? no. in fact, for quite a while it was about my not being a theater major. long story short, at this point, the inspiration (though sentimental) has given way to application. i apply this song to my current situations when i play it, as i do with everything i've ever written. i like it that way.

so. why was stephen king able to publish this story? i think, in part, because there comes a point that you can stand apart from your own work and its inspirations and at least begin to appreciate and view it objectively. when that happens, you can enjoy what you made without having to enjoy where it came from.

wow... this post has gotten long winded. i'll try to wrap it up.

i started a song on monday and finished it wednesday. its inspirations and implications are already changing. that fluidity is greatly appreciated. so what's the moral of this post? could be that some things are changing, could be that i'm a non-linearist when it comes to time, could be that whatever is causing a person upset can be altered by perception, or it could be that i've a motive i won't bother sharing.

ironic as it may be, its changed a few time while writing it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

doin' the fresh water jive.

just a quick note. the last post up, "fresh water," is an assignment for a biology class that was requested to be turned in via a blog. i figured you, my two readers, may be confused as to why i decided to post such. so there's your explanation. and to make this post more than just a paragraph of announcement, here's a delightful bit of music for you to enjoy.

with hippie love,

fresh water.

Imagine, for a moment, a dinner party. You've enough food for ten guests, but you only have five guests present. You've more than enough. However, if you were to have twenty guests, the food which was so abundant before is now hardly enough, if enough at all. This problem is kin to the problem facing us today with our supply of water. We are not losing water per say, but we are increasing in the number of people requiring it. As mentioned in Kingsolver's article, the same water that was here for the dinosaurs remains here today--but the demand is dramatically increasing. There are two basic components to the solution to this problem. The first is that we must preserve our current supply by preventing and, as best we can, reversing the effects of pollution on our water sources. The second is actively seeking to distribute water in a way that that allows needs to be met while ineffective or abusive uses of water are minimized.

Water here in the past is water still here today. However, if we are to use it we must maintain the integrity of our water sources. Returning to the dinner party analogy, polluting our water sources is the equivalent to setting out a portion of the already limited meal to rot. We cannot seek to successfully meet our water needs without ensuring we're maintaining our water sources. Hottam makes note that the sources of the pollution may come from a variety of sources as it does for the Ganges river, including refuse, as well as corporate and human waste (2010). It is not a situation where any one is the sole party responsibility. Instead, the polluting was a group effort, as will need to be the correction.

In addition, the results of pollution are not simply directly into water sources, but also in affecting climate. Moving weather patterns and adjusting water flows have significant impact on those who reside in places where the water will no longer go. Humanity's role in these changes is a topic of research and debate for another time. However, it is important that we recognize that at the very least, we may play a part in it, and that we certainly have reason for concern over it. Again, we must act as a society in a direction that minimizes our impact on the environment.

We all need water. We all want water. Where these to divide is an important place to mark. If we all are to have the water we require, we must be able to distribute and share our limited resource amongst ourselves. Kingsolver mentions the example of cattle ranchers sharing a pasture. Without self-imposed, agreed upon limitations to grazing, the resources of the pasture are quickly lost as it is over grazed. Limiting use is the key to maintaining the resource. In the same way, if unchecked, use of water without consideration of the whole of society leads to overuse in some areas, limiting its availability in other areas. An example of this is present in Beijing. As noted by Zhang and colleagues, in 2003 Beijing's population overcame it's water supply with demand from a growing population. While currently making do, it was not without some adjustments being made to the operations and use of water that the city was able to do so (2010). Applying this principle on a global scale allows one to begin to appreciate the potential problems we are facing. Likewise visible is that it can be addressed in a way that it can be managed by public law and policy concerning the appropriate distribution and use of limited water resources. This may be on local, national, or global levels, but are necessary whatever the path they take.

Water is a building block of life, and it can be difficult because of this to think of it as limited in more than a personal sense of sprinklers and water supplies, but in a broad, global way. Water can only be spread so far, and we must act in a way that allows what resource is available to be used effectively and equally between all of us. By addressing concerns of pollution and taking action to keep track of and effectively control water use we can address this issue in a way that allows needs to be met. In short, ten plates can be enough for twenty guests.

Works Cited

Kingsolver, Barbara. "Fresh Water. (Cover story)." National Geographic 217.4 (2010): 36-59.

Hottam, Jyoti. "How India's Success Is Killing Its Holy River." Time 176.3 (2010): 28-33.

Yingxuan Zhang, Min Chen, Wenhua Zhou, Changwei Zhuang, and Zhiyun Ouyang. "Evaluating Beijing's human carrying capacity from the perspective of water resource constraints." Journal of Environmental Sciences. Volume 22, Issue 8, August 2010, 1297-1304.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

george michael.

my friend laura is currently undertaking a project having to do with grief, made up of visual and written components. whilst discussing it, one thing she pointed out is the fact that often grief is sourced in the death, not of people, but of relationships or opportunities. and that made me think of george michael.

i should have thought of wham, but i thought of george michael. forgive me, andrew.

this is one of my top ten songs of all time. possibly my top five, depending on when you ask me. this is the song i listen to when i'm grieving, so to speak. not death related grief, but for grief related to everything else. end of a relationship? missed internship opportunity? red head didn't return my flirtatious advance? time for some wham.

i could go into an in-depth analysis of why this is. but i shan't. suffice it to say that this song is perfect for it. this song is a lament of the loss of something loved, the acceptance of a loss, the celebration of the future. i can dig that.

that being said, i don't want you, two readers, to think that things are bad right now. things are going well for me, and i'm enjoying them at that. this conversation just sparked this thought and i thought i'd share it in case either of you needed a good break up/grief song. it is, in my opinion, the best of its breed.

and in case you need a pick-me-up more than a break up song, don't worry--we're still covered. enjoy!

check a box, before you go go.

p.s.--one of these days i'll have a reason to post the best "things are great" songs. i guess... i gotta have faith.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


four months is a long time to neglect a blog. i don't feel guilty for the months i was at scout camp. i only had the twenty cents a minute kiosk from kinkos in logan to access the internet, and only on saturdays at that. i do, however, feel i owe you an apology for the weeks since i returned that i spent not writing to you. you understand it wasn't an issue of not wanting to do--but simply not doing. it doesn't excuse it, but perhaps it can help you understand that i meant you no ill.

things have been good for the last while. school is busy and my reappearing social life is treating me well. i'll spare you the slur of more detailed updates and assume that you'll be content to know that things are mostly good with enough bad to keep things interesting. it's a balance i'm comfortable with for the time being and will be enjoying until the equilibrium changes. i've been following the epicurean ideals in my own way for a while, and plan on straying from that soon. we'll see if the wave goes up or down after that.

sorry i've not a lot that's especially exciting to share with you. hopefully i will soon. i hope that if nothing else the break has been a time for you to relax, enjoy the slow pace of the summer, and that my returning to you will be a welcome back and not a 'let's have one more month' sort of situation... either way, you know we were made for each other. and i appreciate that.

with love,