Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Football and love songs.

Oh, hey, BYU won the MAACO BOWL LAS VEGAS. Kicked the snot out of the Oregon State. Of course, it was only because the Beavers weren't motivated and didn't care. Their season ended with their loss in the Civil War a few weeks ago. Nevermind putting up a good show against a "lesser" opponent or going out on a high note or notching another win for the sake of pride and history. Game doesn't count, guys! Bowl games, apart from the National Championship mean nothing, everyone! I'm sure that will be an easy stance to stick to consistently. Whatever.

Utah beat Cal earlier tonight. Cal definitely looked listless, but that's their own damn fault. Get up for the game or get out. I'm seriously tired of the excuses. You're an 8-5 team and you lost to Oregon by 39 points who lost to Stanford who beat USC (and who, incidentally, lost to Oregon State). Find some motivation or don't even bother showing up. Or, you know, do, and keep getting waxed by the WAC and MWC.

I was thinking today that there's about a 20 year dead zone between when new technology can be referenced in love songs without sounding silly. I don't really have anything to back that up, but take "answering machine" or "answer phone," for instance. I mean, I can only think of two songs off the top of my head that use it--Nice Dream (Radiohead) and a Joseph Arthur song I think I know the name of but can't be sure and I don't want to be wrong or look it up, sorry--but think about it. When answering machines were first invented, it probably would have been weird to hear someone mention them in a song, but not anymore. When's the last time you heard a love song that seriously referenced new technology like, "Hey baby/I texted you and you weren't on Facebook/why don't you poke me back." Yes, I know back and book don't rhyme. But really, songs like that would sound kind of stupid. When VCRs first game out, I don't think you had like Linda Carpenter or Paul Simon throwing a lot of "I saw your face on my tape-recorder" type lyrics. But now it's not all that weird, is it? So maybe in 20 years we'll have Miley Cyrus telling us about her Twitter love affair and no one will boo her off the stage. Well, I mean, I still would, but..

Monday, December 21, 2009

5 Gifts For The 27 Year Old Bachelor

If you get the 27 year old bachelor in your life any or all of these gifts for Christmas, he will love you forever, until next year.

1. NBA basketball -- I don't mean an NBA size basketball, or an NBA brand basketball, I mean an actual NBA game ball. They're like $100. TF-1000s are great, don't misunderstand, but this is the real thing. What better way to show off to your friends than to show up at a pickup game with an actual NBA ball? And then of course proceed to play expertly, proving beyond a doubt that you belong in the NBA.

2.  A pig -- Every guy wants a pig. While most guys love dogs and plan to own about 16 of them as soon as they can, pigs are that one pet that will make everyone understand just precisely how awesome you really are. Look at me, I am eclectic, I have a Piano Magic b-side and swine in my house.  Pigs are smart and adorable. And they're pretty easy to care for. Just don't feed them dog food. They go feral and chew your face off.

3. A new Xbox 360 -- They break all the time, so chances are that while your 27 year old bachelor already has a 360, it's probably broken and the warranty has expired. This is an important gift because 27 year old bachelors need to unwind after a long day of not having any responsibilities. Video games are a fantastic way of doing this.

4. A guitar -- Every guy wants to play the guitar. Even if a guy already knows how to play the guitar, a new one is always wonderful. Martin acoustic guitars are fantastic for the price. A set each of light/medium and heavy gauge phosphor bronze steel strings are necessary, electric input not. Your 27 year old bachelor needs a new guitar to impress a lady, marry her and please his folks.

5. Camping things -- He may need any or all of these items: a backpack, stove, sleeping bag, tent, hiking boots. You never know when he may want to take a sudden trip to, say, Greenland.

A lot of guys would also want books, but the problem with 27 year old bachelors is that they often buy books on impulse, which results in them having more books than they've read and being well-stocked for at least a year in advance. Adding more books to his collection will just confuse and possibly upset him.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Down with capitalism/TV execs.

On Thursday, I spent my day at work looking forward to the Colts vs. Jaguars game. I naturally assumed a mid-week NFL game with an undefeated team in week 17 of the season with 0 realistic ratings competition would be on network TV. Well I got home to find out that the NFL Network had snatched the game at some point and my basic Comcast package doesn't get the NFL Network. Sigh. Right now my cable bill is around $32 a month, and my roommate and I would have to pay around double that to get the NFL Network (along with a buttload of other channels I'll never watch). So weak, you guys.

So I had to settle with following the score online while I watched Mythbusters and I became increasingly disappointed that I was missing the game with each touchdown. It was a shootout, with Manning, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne essentially castrating the entire Jaguar defense for 3 quarters.

That's what makes Peyton great. He surgically removes the opponent's will or ability to fight by being maddeningly consistent and precise. Quarterbacks in the NFL are basically like hedge fund managers--they play statistics and odds from ground zero. NFL QBs have to manage the game, looking not necessarily just for points on every drive, but to maximize the optimum position for each move made--putting their defense in a position to get the ball back, running the clock, confusing the opponent's defense, etc etc. In order to do this they have to be in two places at once: present in the moment, on the field, making the plays, as well as constantly assessing the meta-game by understanding the odds. Knowing where each receiver is supposed to be on each play, knowing when to get rid of the ball and when not to, and also knowing the probabilities of certain outcomes, if we get here and punt from this position, what are the chances we get the ball back in how long at what position and so on. Tough job. And Peyton is great at it, possibly the best ever.

Bill Simmons talks sometimes about how amazing it is to see certain players who really, really get it retire and then go into coaching/managing and fail spectacularly. It's curious. You would think guys like Isaiah Thomas or Kevin McHale or Michael Jordan (for crap's sake), all guys who really understood team dynamics and how to manage games, would be ideal coaches or general managers. But they often aren't. It's like once they're removed from the game itself, they have a difficult time understanding how players on a team interact and work together. In Isaiah's case, he made one boneheaded move after another spending money on players who had numbers, but he never created a team, miring the Knicks in 10+ years of mediocrity. Makes me wonder what kind of coach Peyton Manning would make.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm going to Greenland.

Okay not really. The other day after work I spent about 6 hours looking at Greenland on Google Earth. Now I want to quit my job and go wander the frozen wilderness for a year. I started in Nuuk, which looks like a decent place but somehow stuck between trying to be a normal Danish town and a suburb of a city run by clowns. It's the biggest city in Greenland, but apparently the airport there is useless, so all major air traffic comes in through Kangerlussuaq, which is a tiny little place far to the northeast of Nuuk with a population of 500. I would guess approximately 490 of them are boat drivers (to Nuuk), 9 of them are cooks or hotel owners and 1 of them is a bum. That's the worldwide ratio of normal people to bums, right? 499 to 1?

I found Kangerlussuaq by accident--in fact, all of my Greenland discoveries were accidents which I happened across by mindlessly clicking my way north for several hours--and when I found it I was delighted to discover that even in Greenland tourists are under the impression that they are the first and only people to discover a touristy gimmick. As far as I can tell, there's only one touristy gimmick in all of Greenland and Google Earth has about nine thousand photos of it. So if you've penciled in time on your schedule to click through photos of Kangerlussuaq, be warned that as you search for more interesting photos of what is essentially the only viable commerical airport which also happens to be a town on the world's only subcontinent with an icesheet the size of Mexico, you're going to see a lot of one thing. Here, I'll save you the trouble:

Every other photo anyone has taken of Kangerlussuaq is either that signpost or some part of a red plane with white polka-dots (Air Greenland, go figure).

As I made my way north along the western coast up to the icesheet, I had to keep zooming in and out because certain photo icons won't appear if you're not close enough to the surface, but being close to the surface means you move slower, so it was this tug of war between wanting to see as many photos as possible while also not wanting to spend the remainder of the year squinting at blurry, green-brown satellite imagery. After I tired of Kangerlkajsdlka, I began viewing photos people had taken of the surrounding area. They were absolutely gorgeous. I picked up the trail of some guy called "marcus_weidler" who was headed west with a companion or two, along what looked like a general route some other people also take (give or take 50 miles of latitude), and some of the pictures blew me away. This is virtually untouched, untapped wilderness for hundreds of miles with vast canyons and huge mountains and beautiful, clear blue lakes. Truly epic. Going there right now might be a mistake since it's -600 degrees, but I'd love to someday.

About the clown comment, I found that virtually every settlement in the country was full of brightly colored houses, red, blue, green, etc. I decided they painted them those colors because when you live in the freaking Arctic, bull crap if you're gonna let anyone tell you you can't paint your house a garish shade of yellow simply because you freaking feel like it. When it's cold enough outside to freeze piss every day of the year, you're gonna paint your house any damn color you want, and if we're being honest, deep down everyone wants to live in a yellow house. I know I do.

(marcus_weidler's awesome photos, my favorites around pages 15-17)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger commits adultery, moves to Sweden.

I watch golf on TV sometimes. It's certainly not any more boring than baseball. I watch it because I appreciate the madness-inducing difficulty of hitting a little ball with a lopsided club into a small hole a few hundred yards away, and I appreciate that difficulty because I am awful at golf. Golf is completely immune to any natural sports aptitude I have. I've tried playing for years. I've never been good at it. It's a whole other game from anything else. Personally I blame genes or sorcery.

I make fun of my brother sometimes cause he watches golf usually only if Tiger is playing. Recently he watched like ten hours of the Tour Championship just to watch Tiger lose at the very end to Phickelson. He was all upset about it, as though his ten hours of watching golf were suddenly a waste because Tiger lost. While one could (and did) argue that watching ten hours of golf was a waste regardless, I think it's odd that people follow an entire sport for one guy. It seems to me that in a way it devalues the sport itself. I also get fussy when people follow an entire team for one guy (coughLakers fans), so while I've always had a bit of a man crush on Peyton Manning as well as some respect for the organization (and its previous coach), I didn't feel I could legitimately favor the Colts until Austin Collie (former BYU receiver) joined Indianapolis this year as a rookie. I get a little annoyed when hundreds of Mexicans invade Rio Tinto stadium every time Chicago plays RSL just so they can scream out their love for no-neck Cuauhtémoc. They wouldn't be there if he weren't there, and the whole notion of it cheapens his team, because the moment he retires (which he will soon, because he's older than France), Chicago loses a bunch of fans. I think there should be loyalty toward the team, not just an individual. (Then again, if you can draw people in with an individual--David Beckham, for example--with enough continued exposure some of them might just become actual fans).

And by that logic, I've somewhat vindicated my brother and a billion Tiger fans who follow golf only when he's on TV, since golf is an individual game.

Anyhow, it took the revelation that Tiger had a harem to turn my mostly sports-averse mother into a Tiger follower. The other day she said to me, "Do you think he has a sex addiction?" (Sex addiction is the new thing male celebrities say they have to excuse an appalling lack of self-control). No, mom, it's not a sex addiction. It's just about access. It is my opinion that men are wired to want sex from any available source. That doesn't mean they have to linger on every little fantasy, let alone act on one. Many don't. Many do. But the truth is that when a man sees or interacts with an attractive woman, some part of him desires her. At that point the overarching question is, morality aside, one of self-control. If he's married, the question often takes the form of loyalty and respect toward his wife and his marriage as well as access. If he's not married, the question is largely one of just access. For the happily, loyally married man, the thought may not even register consciously. He has no reason to consider such infidelity. For a different type of married man, one like Tiger, there is apparently nothing to hold him back morally, and he seems to have little, if any, respect or loyalty for his marriage or his wife--so at that point it's just a question of access, and Tiger has no restrictions there. He's rich, he's famous, and he has a gaggle of people waiting to do anything for him. Tiger's not addicted, he's just utterly uninhibited.

It's not all that simple, obviously, but I think it's a big part of why he did what he did.

It's a shame, too. You'd think a beautiful wife, two kids and more money than he could possibly spend would be enough, but it often seems the opposite is true. The more someone's potential to buy their way into gratification increases, the more their desire--and sense of entitlement--to be gratified increases. As Joe Thiesmann said about his own infidelity, "God wants Joe Theismann to be happy."

And now golf ratings will be in the toilet. And Tiger will be the punchline to every sports-related sex joke for the next ten years. Wonder if it was worth it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


TCU will play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl instead of what I said before. This is actually worse than what I said. Instead of at least one "mid-major" team having an opportunity to prove itself against an "elite" program, two undefeated mid-majors will play each other. Proving... well, nothing of consequence. Whee. I don't know to what extent--if any--the BCS itself engineered this matchup (the Fiesta Bowl has some power over who ends up in its game), but to me the whole thing stinks. Like crap.

It makes sense to pit the two together for big-6 conference and BCS execs. An elite program playing a non-elite is a lose-lose for the elite program. For example, if Texas plays TCU and wins, they feel they haven't gained anything besides maintaining the status-quo--they're expected to win, they're Texas. If Texas plays TCU and loses, well now, that's just downright embarrassing, isn't it? And the same thing works in reverse in TCU's favor. So it's no wonder rising programs like Boise State can't get any big-name programs to schedule any games with them--meanwhile a lack of "quality" wins over big-name programs is referred to whenever teams like Boise State or TCU ask for a little fairness in rankings, respect, bowl matchups or what have you.

That is what we call a Catch-22, and it's no accident.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Championship Saturday

Really couldn't have gone much worse than it did, assuming you agree the BCS makes about as much sense as an animated movie starring Megan Fox.

Cincinnati beat Pitt, meaning the BCS have reason to place them ahead of TCU under any scenario. However, I'm not one of those guys who thinks it's funny to call it the Big Least instead of the Big East, so let's examine the facts. Cincinnati started the season off by beating Rutgers 45-15 and if we.. oh screw it, the Big East sucks. Come on!

Then Alabama beat Florida. Wait, "beat" isn't the right word. The right word is "pantsed." Since they were ranked 2 and 1 respectively, whatever outcome really wasn't going to throw a wrench into the BCS's diabolical schemes. I guess I wanted Florida to win because Alabama disrespected Utah last year before and after the Utes beat them, and like many people, I happen to be fond of Tim Tebow, because shut up, he's a good guy. It takes a big man to cry on live national television with scripture written under your eyes. Or a crazy man.

Nailbiter between Texas and Nebraska. REALLY wanted Nebraska to pull this one out, since it'd make room for TCU to move into the number 2 spot for the championship against Alabama. This would have been very entertaining because it's a win-win. Either the BCS caves and allows a "non-elite" school into the biggest party of all, or they scramble and find a way of shutting TCU out, further fanning the ever-growing flames of opposition to their lucrative, immoral little racket. Nebraska had it all but sealed up after a field goal with about 2 minutes left, until their placekicker thought it would be amusing to belt the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Seriously, dude. You just watched your other kicker kick the ball between two goalposts 19 feet apart from like 50 yards away. You have 160 feet to work with and YOU don't have 11 savage monsters running at you when you do it. How hard can it be to keep the kick in bounds?

Soooo Texas gets the ball at their 40. Then they complete a pass and Nebraska's tackler got in on what must have been a shared joke between him and the placekicker by horse-collaring Texas' receiver and giving them another 15 yards added on to the end of the catch. So approximately -5 seconds after Nebraska kicks a go-ahead field goal, the Longhorns are themselves in field goal range. Kicker comes out, puts it up, game over.

So it'll be Texas and Alabama in the national championship game. Texas will get crushed. TCU will be given a consolation prize in a BCS bowl against an inferior opponent, and an undefeated Boise State will be conveniently dismissed to a mediocre, anonymous bowl against a mediocre, anonymous opponent. But hey, what do we care about actually finding out who the best team in college football is? There's money to be made here.

And poor Greg Oden. His body is clearly not built for basketball at the professional level. Misses his entire 2007 rookie year to an injury, comes back and performs adequately though never wonderfully the next year missing 1/4th of the season due to nagging health issues, comes back this year, starts out nicely and then freaking Aaron Brooks* blasts him in the kneecap and breaks it 21 games into the season. That just SUCKS. That photo of him laying on the court with a crushed knee is just totally depressing.

So RIP Greg Oden's NBA career. There's a reason you don't take a risk on an injury prone big man. Not at a number one overall pick. You most certainly do NOT leave someone like Kevin Durant on the board while you're at it. You take the sure thing and build yourself into a team that can attract and accomodate a proven, durable big man. Maybe not one with as much upside, but at least one that can give you at least 70 solid games a year for 5-10 years. Not that I'm complaining. It is Portland we're talking about, after all. They can shoot themselves in the face for all I care. Every one of them. Except Greg Oden, poor guy.

* I would like to add that Aaron Brooks looks like Chris Rock. If Chris Rock mated with a Chihuahua. A Chihuahua that itself was the product of an alien... and Chris Rock. What I'm trying to say is that he's a small, funny-looking black man.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BYU vs. Utah (fans)

I went to the University of Utah but grew up a BYU fan. My dad's dad started taking me to games in Provo before I could reliably maintain clean underpants, so I guess you could say in a way I imprinted and really had no other choice. I actually don't even like Provo. I lived in an apartment down the street from Lavell Edwards Stadium for 6 months on a yearlong lease. That's as long as I could stand it there. Nothing personal against anyone who lives in Utah Valley, but you all seriously freak me out. Not that Salt Lake is much better, what with the overcompensating for the southern crazy. But at least from about Lehi north I can rent Saving Private Ryan and not get a lecture from a friend's girlfriend about how I should start heeding the word of the Lord because, like, seriously, I should know better.

Lifelong BYU fan. I get crap for it--"You graduated from the U but you're a BYU fan? What's wrong with you?!" Nothing is wrong with me. Okay, that's not true. Several things are wrong with me but I just looked at the list and that's not on it. But really, what are you suggesting? That everyone become a fan of whatever university they attended over the university they cheered for for their entire life? That seems unfair. That's kind of like me moving to New Jersey and becoming a Nets fan over the Jazz. Ouch. Isn't it enough that I'm moving to New Jersey?

So BYU beat Utah, and being that I'm one of those who can be legitimately both a Ute fan and a BYU fan at the same time (except when they play each other), I can see this thing from both sides. The rivalry got kind of ugly around this year's game. Five thoughts:

1. Max Hall is a mediocre quarterback. He excels against crap teams and folds against good teams. He made one excellent pass during the game last Saturday which essentially saved his career from being summarized forever as "how did THAT guy break Detmer's records?" accompanied by a dismayed shake of the head and that sound people make when they're disgusted or just voted a turd sandwich into the presidency.

2. Max Hall needs to think before he speaks. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that fans on both sides don't say awful, mean, ugly things about each other all the time. They do. Everyone does, except me. And we're going to demonize him for doing what everyone does? I don't think he lied; I'm sure Ute fans did some crappy stuff to his family. He may have exaggerated, but you can't honestly believe he made the whole thing up. The problem was that he vented about it a year after it happened, during an interview. He's allowed to vent and it's obvious he doesn't LITERALLY hate half the state since it's been scientifically proven that you can only hate 150 people at a time, but to do it when and where he did it was dumb.

3. Ute fans are paranoid*. Right now a bunch of them going ballistic about something that happened in the stands immediately after the game. Apparently a BYU fan was using his phone to take pictures of despondent, sobbing Ute fans and a certain Ute fan (rumors say Coach Whit's son) grabbed the phone and wouldn't return it. So people got punchy and Whit's wife got involved and ended up with a fat lip. So of course Ute fans get whipped up into a frenzy and start claiming that Whit's wife was viciously attacked and Ute fans were spit on and dogs were forced to fight each other and fair maidens were raped and so on. And then the same people that complained endlessly about Max Hall's comments take this incident to mean the entire BYU organization and its fans and Mormons are bullies and defilers of decency. But really, we don't have the facts. We don't know what actually happened. It looks like just an unfortunate incident with a few people losing their tempers and being stupid, and I'm fairly sure hardly anyone got raped. So maybe let's calm down. I'm just saying.

4. Ute fans are insecure*. Another group of Ute fans who can't stomach the loss are pretending that the loss was meaningless because BYU had a senior QB in Max Hall and a healthy backfield meanwhile Utah had a freshman QB and were missing their "star" RB Matt Asiata. So clearly if Utah had a senior QB and Asiata wasn't hurt, they would have won. Right? No. That's just idiotic. That's not how anything in the history of the world has ever worked, ever.

5. Ute fans are irritating*. Discontent that BYU fans don't come out of the womb with a degree of self-loathing that would bother Kurt Cobain, we're going to hear for the next year all about how BYU is going to get demolished next November because all the pieces will be in place. Fine. Talk about it when it happens. For now, shhhhhhhhhhhh. We're trying to enjoy our 3 out of the last 4 and a PG movie.

 * Not all of them, just the ones who do or are these things. Sadly, BYU fans are the same when they lose. And in Max Hall's case, when they win.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Utah is great.

i used to despise my state. back in high school, it was cool to hate Utah. i guess because it was full of white people? that's what people always say when they make fun of Utah. it's full of white people. just once i want someone to make fun of Alabama and justify their position with "because it's full of black people." obviously they'd have to immediately apply for the FWPP but still, that would take balls and they'd have something interesting to write about in their journal.

also, it's full of mormons. i never really got the white people thing, but the mormon thing i think is part of the reason i used to be a hater. which is odd because i'm a mormon. but i thought of myself as a "cool" mormon. the kind who didn't judge you and didn't gossip if you wanted to live with your girlfriend or adopt little asian babies with your life partner or drink yourself into a puddle four nights a week. stories i heard detailed sordid encounters with jerk mormons who drove well-meaning (but sinful!) neighbors and co-workers right out into the cold night of ostracization (new word). mormons i knew myself were guilty of this as well. that always bothered me, and other things bothered me, like certain aspects of mormon culture i couldn't wrap my head around. so, you know, hating on other mormons and the state was logically sound. i was one of them, but not one of THEM. like, heaven forbid i marry a girl with a tattoo, you know?

after living in a 3rd world country and visiting other countries and hearing the experiences of others as they have traveled the world, the gears in my mind churned a bit and i have drawn some new conclusions about the rest of the world as it relates to Utah. and mostly, those conclusions are that it sucks. it began to seem absurd to have such meaningless complaints about somethings that barely mattered. i mean, yeah, judging people and making them feel bad for their choices is a pretty douchey thing to do but in time i've come to the conclusion that i prefer accept everyone rather than piss on the judges for pissing on the judgees. seek to understand and learn and help and all that.

which brings me to the present day, in which i still have brief moments of weakness when it comes to not judging. i was reading an article online a little while back and some people had made some comments about the article, and somehow or other someone brought up Utah and some guy says something to the effect of "Utah sounds like a great place, except.. it's Utah." and there were some other various comments to that end by others. now, i'm not a betting man (mormon, remember?), but i'd take 10 to 1 not a single one of them has ever been to Utah or knows anything about it that doesn't have to do with a preponderance of mormons, white people and/or swirling rumors of lingering polygamy. i became incensed. i'd read comments like this before elsewhere many times, but i felt like i'd had enough of the cheap shots from clueless internet tough guys. i wanted to find each one of them and subject them to a verbal and psychological beat down that would render them completely incapable of ever again spewing nonsense of things which they know nothing. and having children. a tirade so virile their genitals shrivel into useless raisins. unfortunately, i do not possess such awesome powers of elocution, so i must make my point the only way i know how--raging impotently on the same internet. so there. and now i'm over it.

and, you know, hey..

Monday, August 24, 2009

Enemy of many, friend to all.

i finished reading ayn rand's The Fountainhead a couple months ago. this came some months on the heels of finishing Atlas Shrugged. i don't remember what i read in between. probably an assortment of CS textbooks and news articles on how barack obama will simultaneously be the next messiah (JL!) and the anti-Christ.

i love ayn rand. she's completely insane and i love her for it. her ideas are both brilliant and ridiculous. she believes so totally in her world that a willing mind can't help but be sucked in completely, left to wander the vast halls of her intellect, listening as voices boom and then furtively whisper from all sides, examining the reliefs carved in the walls of places where people compete to cooperate and destroy their loved ones and the treasures of their souls in order to save them.

i borrowed The Fountainhead from a friend who had read it, but had not read Atlas Shrugged yet. it only made sense that we exchange the books and share our thoughts. my friend read Atlas in about two weeks. less even. i don't know how. i was floored. such an accomplishment is on par with running a four-minute mile barefoot on broken glass while a band of unruly mexicans throws frozen bananas at you. it took me, i think, four months to read Atlas. i don't remember how long it took me to finally finish the Fountainhead, but it was way longer than two weeks, and the Fountainhead is about 400 pages shorter than Atlas.

and it turns out that i loved the Fountainhead more than Atlas. it's strange because the two main characters of Atlas are my favorites of ayn's, but the content and presentation and story of the Fountainhead are more appealing. i half-jokingly like to pretend that i am a shadow of Hank Rearden, one of the protagonists of Atlas. there are some similarities, both in physical description and in the way i see the world. i don't know what it says about me that i identify more strongly with Hank instead of Howard Roark (the equivalent protagonist of the Fountainhead), since at the end of Atlas (spoilers) Hank ends up losing the the woman he loves to that pompous savior John Galt, whereas Howard gets the girl at the end of the Fountainhead. perhaps i am destined to look for my own Dagny Taggart forever, coming close but never succeeding. or, more likely, it means nothing and says nothing about me. quem sabe.

my friend who has now read both books along with me does not seem to share my enthusiasm for all of the same things i love about ayn rand. ayn has a very peculiar attitude when it comes to certain kinds of people and certain kinds of professions, and she has a noted bias against those she perceives as weak of mind or heart. compassion for those unable or unwilling to help themselves is therefore a waste of time and effort, time and effort better spent on creation, innovation, on bettering the state of the world through universally mutual self-interest. this is very different than the attitude a compassionate, generous, person is supposed to take. it's not a very Christian attitude and ayn was decidedly nonreligious. this makes it difficult to reconcile things you know to be true with other things you believe should be true. you know you should help those in need. this is a fundamental tenet of my religion and our society at large. but why do you help them? what is your motivation? this touches on a basic question of human motivation. how do you define a selfless act? if you're helping someone in need, are you doing it because they need help or because it will make you feel good? probably some combination of both, right? which would mean your actions are not entirely selfless, which means your motivations are tied up in your own self-interest. if you can accept that you're motivated by self-interest, why is it such a leap to accept that there are certain actions you can take that are entirely motivated by self-interest that still benefit humanity as a whole? ayn advocates a rational, objective notion of self-interest. there is a mutual exchange or allocation between rational parties, legal and, assuming these, resulting in a pareto-improvement (an exchange that makes at least one party better off without making any other party worse off). if we can accept this as a worthwhile goal, then where does that leave those who cannot or refuse to help themselves, who time and time again fall into self-destructive patterns, who harm themselves and others through bad behavior? would a bright, intelligent, mature person's time not be better spent improving the state of the world for those who are willing or able to help themselves? where do we draw the line?

all questions i don't have the answers for. i respect ayn's point of view, one of hard-line competition between rationally self-interested parties without room for weakness, but at the same time i recognize its faults. ideally, everyone would be rational and able to understand how to overcome their weaknesses and would be willing to do it, but that's simply not reality and we can't dismiss a large swath of humanity with legitimate disadvantages and legitimate problems simply because we don't have time for them. ignoring them or marginalizing them in order to further improve the part of the world and the part of our society gilded with the light of our understanding and capacity is not only impossible, it's immoral and self-defeating. my friend is a social-worker who understands this better than anyone. the fact that she was independently willing to not only read ayn rand's writing but openly discuss its merits and ideas says a lot about her strength of character. it's easy for me, removed from much of the sheer ugliness of the world to pontificate on "the way things should be" and the "the way people should be," but it's much more difficult for someone, like my friend, to see how truly awful things are on a daily basis and not only not succumb to the pervasive sense of despair and ubiquitous unhappiness and hopelessness of such people and places, but to also explore the possibilities of something better through ideas and concepts presented in such a cold, unfeeling manner. would that i were similarly capable of such a thing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New year, same as the old year.

So far. Maybe I should give it more time.

The video card I bought in November, I remember I had some concerns about my power supply being adequate. I inherited my current computer and was unable to conveniently figure out the wattage of the power supply, so I decided I'd just install the vid card and see what happened. Well, it worked all right, for two or three weeks. Then I started getting odd errors (HD cache write errors or something) and random locking up and restarting. Finally the computer wouldn't turn on at all, so I backed up my HD, unhooked it and borrowed another computer over the holidays and finally got my computer fixed just the other day. I figured it was the power supply and sure enough, it was. My power supply was outputting 500 watts, it turns out. Not nearly enough. Anyway I looked online and found some decent 750W+ power supplies for around $150 and up, but I figured I'd make use of my computer's free service warranty and just take it down to its vendor and have them install a new one right then and there. I expected the price to be around the same, maybe $30 or $40 more than the $150-ish I'd found online. Nope, try $100 more. I thought about it, and decided having it installed by guys who do that for a living (like I used to, haha) and having it done right then instead of waiting a week or so more was worth $100, so I paid up. Never thought I'd pay $250 for a power supply. Cost like $80 more than the video card did. Fascinating story.

My school, the University of Utah, just went to the Sugar Bowl, busting the BCS for the 2nd time in 4 years. Maybe 5. Whatever. Either way, I predicted a major loss, and instead they kicked the crap out of the mighty SEC's runner up, Alabama. It was gorgeous. Now, I say that, but I'm actually not a native fan of the team. I grew up on another, nearby, in-state team and my loyalties to that team will never die, but I am extremely proud of what Utah accomplished and have nothing but well-wishings for the program. However, I still want my team to beat them next year.

My Jazz are doing about as well as can be expected, considering the ridiculous amount of injuries they've been dealing with. Deron is looking more and more like his old self. 25 and 15 last night in 36 minutes, started 8-8. Crazy man. Boozer will be back in the lineup approximately never, and when never comes, he'll suck for 2 months while getting back into playing form and then IF the Jazz get into the playoffs he'll accidentally not play defense as usual en route to another disappointing 2nd round exit courtesy of the Lakers, or the Spurs. Meanwhile contract years for two more of the Jazz's biggest other players spell all around messiness in keeping this team together. This was supposed to be the year, man. Boozer and his elusiveness/duplicity is beginning to bother me, and if he manages to sabatoge my team during his quest to "get a raise" I will finally join the ranks of moron Jazz fans who unconditionally boo every former player regardless of the way they left/were booted from the team. At least when he's in town.