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Mirth & Happiness

Aug. 18th, 2007 | 11:49 am
mood: euphoric

Gun Toting Laproscopist pinged me the other day for some clarification around what "mirth" meant within the context of a gtalk status message.

This got me thinking about The Happiness Project. Gretchen's been at it for a year and some change trying to figure out what it takes exactly to be happy. Now she's creating a grassroots blogging movement on it.

I'm reading this book, Feeling Good, which had been getting mad props as a paperbound shrink. Crux of the argument being the old saw about life being 5% what happens to you and 95% how you react to it -> control your reactions and you won't be depressed. Right. Then it elaborates that we build these value systems that set us up for failure. Basically become addicts for approval, love, perfectionism, achievement... I wasn't so sure about achievement.

So Petrie's synopsis of objectivism was: your value is based on what you achieve. Applied outwardly, one could infer that some people are intrinsically more valuable than others. Probably not the best way to approach life in the overly cooperative environments a lot of people hang their shingles in. Applied inwardly, it gives you a pretty agnostic code of honor. You will be judged not based on how much time you put in or how closely you followed a particular code of ethics, but how much value you created within the world.

This explains a lot to me... like how I'm skeptical about people who make their professions doing what sounds suspiciously like speculative churning of stocks/currency/etc. The problem is it runs aground against this Feeling Good book's stipulation this sort of value system will result in an unhappy life.

I could see that might be true, based on what riders you have on your "am I adding value?" mantra. For instance, if you expect to be equally or increasingly productive consistently throughout your life, that may not fly. You might need to be comfortable with moderate free riding for time to time in your life, like if you're learning a new skill. Plus "value" is a pretty difficult thing to quantify, so it may be disconcerting if you want a concrete measure of worth and if you went for a simplification like "am I making a lot of money?" you might strafe away from examining ethical considerations that might really matter to you. Another kind of gross thing you could do is get too caught up measuring your relative value against others or commenting on theirs. I think that could easily disintegrate into nasty uncooperative potentially value destorying behavior.

I guess I'm not ready to give up on believing it's ok for achievement in the form of value generation to be a driving force.

So maybe I should follow Gretchen's exhortation to dig deeper and start a happiness project of my own...

Lemma 1. Invest money in awesome people-centric experiences/stories rather than objects

+++ DefCon: Def worth it. Got to meet cool people, learn neat stuff, pick up some awesome stories and even earn myself a 1337 }{4x0R name.
+ HighLife Adventures: Only been on one outing, but promising; having the logistics covered is a godsend and meeting new people can be pretty energizing
+++ Makeover: OK, so I did spend a pretty good chunk of change on tangibles with this one, but what was most awesome was getting recommendations, demonstrations, etc. from cool chicks that knew their stuff... These chicks all had men, so it was a huge departure from HS, where I was convinced chicks used the appearance card to put each other down.
+ Petrie's peeps: Again, probably wouldn't've dropped a $40 on dinner if I was thinking about it in terms of the paltry $650 I pay per month for shelter, but this was cool. I got to meet some interesting characters, get in a pseudo debate about white collar offshoring, and have a good time
++ Chillin with Sbrad: I'd forgotten how cool it was to be around people who already have a pretty good understanding of you, saying controversial things without having to explain yourself, doing mundane things without feeling like you have to pull off some wickedly pyrotechnic stunt for an out of towner

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Logic v. Values

Aug. 18th, 2007 | 11:21 am
mood: quixoticquixotic

Petrie commented on how frustrating it was to work with people who make emotional arguments. We had been in the throes of advocating a flat tax, touching lightly on Laffer curves, weakly regressive consumption taxes, tax evasion, and the analog between frittering away millions of productive hours and dollars collectively leveraging arcana to minimize our tax burden and TPS reports. Libertarians were conflated as socialists; told the flat tax rate would have to be at least 50% nationwide (never mind no one currently pays more than 35% on any marginal dollar earned in the US and sales tax at its hypothetical highest could go up to 16% in some obscure CA counties).

"It's cool to have value-based beliefs, as long as you acknowledge that they can't be substantiated with facts and try to 'prove' me wrong based on them." Right. So then I got to wondering whether this desire to substantiate all arguments with concrete, logical reasoning wasn't in and of itself a value based belief as opposed to one that could be substantiated... and I tripped over a tautology and moved along...

Never really understood why people get so wrapped up in their ideas. It's like they take it personally if someone disagrees with one facet of one idea they happen to ascribe to. I can see why it's said that ideas don't prevail by dint of convincing people of the err of their ways, they prevail by being taught more extensively/compellingly to naive learners.

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Ware the LJBF

Jul. 3rd, 2007 | 09:09 pm
mood: amusedamused

Somehow we got on the travesty that is "let's just be friends." How people say it to come to peace with themselves. How it just creates this awkwardness vacuum where if they're saying it, they definitely don't mean it. Then we get on going big or going home. Basically calling the BS when you see it and not groveling around like a kicked puppy for the closure the inevitably dissatisfying Explanation will afford.

I come off this smug because homegirl doesn't LJBF. She stops answering your calls if you drunk dial her at 4:52 AM Sunday morning. She may confront you if the process of dismounting from lofted bed to ascertain from caller ID what blessed soul has passed, necessitating a 4:52 AM Sunday morning notification, has resulted in one or more leg despoiling bruises. If you can't get a hold of her after 3 strikes, face it homie, you're out.

But alas, even I am not immune. Some lad decided to feng shui his myspace account and left this little nugget for me to viddy over my 5:30 AM bowl of twigs.

Subject: PsiFer

Body: I don't want to delete you but we haven't talked in awhile. Message me back sometime. It would be nice. I'd like to be friends.

Good mourning!

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Communism 2.0

Jun. 17th, 2007 | 07:21 pm
mood: lethargicjet lagged

So after unwittingly getting myself nominated onto the corporate green committee, I'm starting to think environmental responsibility is more pervasive than cicadas. Carbon-neutral banks here, carbon offset start ups there, bike to work there. I run across perplexing political platforms revolving around simultaneously decreasing the price of fuel while decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil (any other classically trained economists feeling a tinge of cognitive dissonance?)

What could we do individually that would be collectively impactful? I think that in the long-long run, the balance will probably hang on how individually greedy we are in terms of our space and stuff. We have a bias towards having the shiniest, newest toys for our personal disposal... but then like, what percentage of the day, would you say your dryer actually gets play? Or your kitchen? Or what percentage of the population really has the skill to warrant professional grade cookware? So if one were to lop off some of your laundry and cooking capability, give you a convenient communal alternative and cut you a discount on rent, would you be better off/worse off/neutral? What about these communal restaurants that seat you with new people-- address the whole bowling alone social ill and get you fed in one fell swoop. Plus you don't have to wait for an octagonal table to come available for the party of eight you rolled in with.

The challenge will be that people feel like they're paying more when they pay per use as opposed to sinking a ton of money into a one time purchase (like a car). When you work it out, mass transit is staggeringly cheaper than car ownership, but so few people breakdown their car ownership by trip.

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Roll with it

Jun. 9th, 2007 | 12:57 pm
mood: chipperchipper

cntl + x desk chair alt + i rubber ball.

α(improved posture)>.05 | I perfected the classic PsiFer hunch t< 30 mins

I did manage to figure out a novel way to massage my lower back/butt and achieve some semblance of a heavily assisted back bend/headstand. Not sure if there was any correlation between this and conquering lotus position in yoga today. The world may never know. Have no clue how BBA's dudes accomplished a tetrahedron stacked formation without something to hold the base together.

Acquired yet another $50 parking ticket when my assiduously filled out guest pass came unaffixed to my windshield. Seriously contemplating hanging up the Tumi and taking a more permanent gig someplace more liveable.

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Mystery Classics Theater 3000

Jun. 3rd, 2007 | 09:28 am
mood: boredbored

So I've watched a few movies and my memory is notoriously bad, so I figured I'd leave some synopses to jog my memory on why these were cooler/lamer than anticipated. I tried to cut the major spoilers out, but if you want absolutely no context on the movies you may see, might make sense to skip.

The Godfather Parts I & II
Didn't realize there was the whole Cor de Leon, Italy piece which got me thinking about the social work class I took and how people have family myths and can unintentionally end up playing out similar stories in various settings.

Pulp Fiction
This is like Joyce translated into cinema. So complex you can keep coming back and getting a deeper understanding of all the ways a given point or theme is articulated

I appreciated the war symbolism in the way people related, but still wasn't finding this technically complex or provocative enough

More mob movies, but I thought the Irish glass ceiling in the Italian mob was interesting... Plus these guys did a better job with making the extreme paranoia aspect of mob life subtle but real.

L.A. Confidential
More corrupt cops movies. The plot on this was decent, but the only thing I'd come back for is this idea you can mold women into icons.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Kind of interesting twist on the whole good guy wins allegory. Sure, the good guy always wins, but the problem is it's a little tricky ID'ing him as a good guy in medias res. The bad guy's name is "Angel Eyes" and the good guy is busy profiteering off bounty hunting.

Seven Samurai
The relationships in this felt flat to me. I like the idea of samurai like I like the idea of Jedi now. These guys are on all the time, they have a sixth sense for when they'll be ambushed.

Rear Window
Dynamics in this felt flat as well. I think the discourse about privacy has moved on since this was shot. It would be interesting to see a remake that was an electronic version of inadvertant reconaissance... like a bug in the system lets you see some other dude's account information and there's something fishy about it.

12 Angry Men
I thought this would suck, but it was pretty solid. Some of the acting around sore losers was a little unreal, but it was an interesting treatment of how to do persuasion socratic style and the characters were a little rounder.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Meh, I wanted this to be more even handed about the usefulness of chicks. They're not just objects of acquisition and sources of trouble. Though this chick's ability to drink like a sailor was a step in the right direction.

Citizen Kane
The approach to this was interesting, like almost all of the action happened in the past. The Rosebud mystery was kind of how I saw my book plot unfolding. Overall, I think the movie is overrated though.

I think allusions to this are so prevalent, it wasn't really interesting because I kind of already knew what would happen. Marianne had a kind of transfixing old school femininity that was fun to watch though.

City of God
That this was a true story is pretty cool. I liked how geeky Benny is the coolest guy in the hood. As plots and conversations go, though, it could have been tighter.

Cool Hand Luke
The guy was so spartan, persistent, straight forward. Really neat aspirationable character.

The professional
I was blindsided by the brilliantly done adolescent-older dude dynamic. So you're totally anticipating his tragic heroism could end by making a move on this nymph.

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Cultural Literacy-- Continued

May. 27th, 2007 | 09:02 am
mood: boredbored

So I don't have a full 101-item list, but I figured I'm happier when I'm busy and/or accruing fun-adventure stories, so I'm giving this a shot.

Stuff I've finished:

9. Bake Cookies (5/12/2007)
Since I'm the ref, I decided buying refrigerated dough and baking it counted.
Major lesson learned: Share.

15. Get into Plow Position (5/5/2007)
It's weird to feel fear of falling when your head and shoulders are already planted on the ground.
Major lesson learned: blasted tight runner's hamstrings!

17. Go to court (5/25/2007)
No, I wasn't standing trial. Maybe I'm sick and twisted, but I think this would make an awesome field trip for school-aged kids. What disturbed me the most was how inept "bottom of the barrel" lawyers can be. One dude represented his client in a wrinkled, tattered Salvation Army raincoat/sportcoat and sweat pants. Another didn't show up to defend his client.
Major lesson learned: Stay out of trouble.


2. Watch 101 of the IMDb top 250 (77.23% complete)
13. Drink only water for 2 weeks (57% complete)
10. Eat 101 unique fruits and vegetables (18.81% complete)
6. Run 101 miles (6.65% complete)

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Green Peace

May. 13th, 2007 | 06:11 am
mood: artisticartistic

The reason I love Chicago is the commitment to green space. I remember when I was really depressed because it was cold and everything was dead and my classes were dissatisfying, I went to LP Conservatory. It was amazing. A jungle under glass. I wanted to build a house like that conservatory-- bring the outside in. Show off orchids instead of plasma televisions. And my first apartment had a gorgeous view of tennis courts and Chicago park lawn as far as the eye could see. And now, I live next door to a park where I can take $3 yoga lessons.

I guess what amazes is me is this sort of dedication wouldn't come out of purely pragmatic, utilitarian ideals. The city could get a more revenue by contracting park space out for buildings. After the mini-coup I staged last week, I got to thinking work grapples with a similar difficulty. On the one hand, delivery is our bread and butter. On the other hand, if you do straight delivery for an extended period of time, you get tired.

They created a monster when they introduced me to the sandbox. Sure, it's not a park per se, but how many people of my level get an opportunity to monkey around with some ideas, throw them into a deck and have Really Important (at least locally) People do everything in their power to try to sell what feels to you like pie in the sky doodles? The problem is that the whole firm isn't a sandbox.

Leaving my constrained little beach was a rude awakening. It was compounded by a comment the other day that this client couldn't attract creative resources. This client's structure was such that they could secure temporal work-life balance (i.e. 9-5), but that this wasn't the sort of balance creative types wanted. Creative types wanted to know if there was a foosball table in the lounge and beer on tap. Creative types wanted to know if there was a place for them to crash if they stayed late doing work. Creative types were hothouse flowers that really didn't do well without the glass walls of the conservatory buffering their reality.

On the one hand, I worry that my temperment and performance wouldn't warrant the fuss-- that while I may have an independent streak, I am basically a dull person that wants a lot of exogenous direction. On the other hand, insatiable curiosity, financial security, and an ongoing sense of ennui lead me to wonder if there's something to this...

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Cultural Literacy

May. 5th, 2007 | 08:34 pm
mood: tiredtired

So we had another round of EC interviewing today and, unsurprisingly, got to talking shop about training-- what works, what's ideal, what doesn't work at all. This, coupled with my heavily caffeinated state and nearly 2 hours of pouring over Time's 100 most Influential People (since when do I have a subscription to Time?) resulted in what could be broadly defined as my attempt to overwrite the country's education system...

Except, when I got into it, of course you need upgrades on basic skills-- like reading (preferably speed read/skimming as well as something deeper and more nuanced), writing (similar breeds-- the 2 minute pyramid principal email and the Joycean deep dive into artsy stream of conscious). Touchtyping is a plus.

What I discovered once I got past the nuts and bolts functionality was that there was a ton of interpersonal/cultural literacy issues I felt that people were missing out on. It could have to do with the dude who came up with "The Long Tail" theory being featured in Time, but I got to wondering... if a thousand people come out of the same book store with different books... what sort of shared culture will they be able to relate to each other through? Furthermore, in a culture where "face time" is getting less and less play (this, as I have alluded to in the past and will probably revisit in the future as not necessarily a "bad thing") does require us to thin slice interpersonal interactions from an increasingly shrinking experience base.

So my education overhaul began to morph into something that looked more like a personal development overhaul, which ran the gamut from being CPR certified to knowing the location and capital of every country in the world to having seen most of the movies on the IMDb Top 250. This will probably turn into one of those 101 in 1001 days sorts of memes, but in my old age, I've become less of a planner and more of a doer. So, if you'll excuse me, I've got 2 Godfathers and one LA Confidential to knock out before my flight on Monday...

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On selling PsiFer insurance...

Apr. 27th, 2007 | 08:13 pm
mood: annoyedannoyed

So I check in for my "free" financial advisory, paperwork in hand. Rapport building, his daughter lives near me, she goes to Columbia. My first thought is "hella commute" until we clarify there's an obscure school in the Chicagoland area with the same appellation. Off to a rough start.

We proceed to belabor the 2x2 matrix. I already understand. Growth and Security x pretax and post tax vehicle matrix. At my age, pretax security doesn't make sense (and yet post tax security does?) We proceed to establish my 401(k) is pretty well funded (pretax growth). So's my Roth (post tax growth). We need some post tax security (for his job security).

He fixates on my overfunding my emergency fund four to seven times over. He proceeds to suggest cash value life insurance. I draw a blank (usually used to terms like "whole" and "variable" but apparently this is the dumbed down version). I work in insurance. I have no dependents. I have no significant other. No debt.

The only reason I'd want insurance is to draw it down without paying capital gains tax... Provided the tax-advantaged return was better than what I'd get post tax on the market. Evidently this questionably profitable maneuver is generally feasible only in retirement.

Now. I bring up that this framework doesn't seem robust for interim savings goals. For instance, going back to school or buying a condo. It seems fundamentally risky to lock my money up in "secure" vehicles I can't spend down until I'm decrepit and still renting.

He wants to make an appointment to feed my data into the matrix(based on the dearth of detail in the forms I've given him, I'm reasonably confident that I can do this myself). I demure. I need time to think. He obliquely guilts me about his "good faith" probono consulting services. I start getting pissed off he's gunning so hard to close the sale Right Now.

I would respect him more if he'd just tell me I was directionally on course and I should talk to him when I've populated my new condo walls with MBA's and carpet with kids.

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