Archive for January, 2012

Funerals and socks.

I have a big and important blog post coming up, but I didn’t want to write it tonight because I’m tired and not thinking well. So, in the meantime, I’m going to discuss some lighter topics.

Sometimes I think about the world that I live in and wish that it were different, such that certain things would be socially acceptable that currently are not. I will discuss two cases where I’ve thought about this.

The first was inspired by my dear sister Erin, and a conversation that sparked between her and the rest of my family at dinner during winter break. My mother asked her if she was wearing mismatched socks that day – Erin confirmed that she was. Mom presumed that this was because the laundry had not been done, or else that Erin had simply lost some socks. In reality, Erin was just too lazy to match socks, and often paired two random socks together, with the provision that “they both have the same texture.”

This seemed strange to the rest of my family, but it got me thinking. After a few minutes I thoroughly convinced myself that almost all socks should be sold individually. I thought to myself, In a world where socks are sold individually, everything is much more interesting and efficient. When a sock goes missing, there is no unmatched sock that also goes to waste. When putting away laundry, there is no need to map each sock to its counterpart. When choosing an outfit, one can choose any combination of socks, and this can make the look much more interesting. You have more flexibility in the quantity and characteristics of socks you buy at any given time. Socks can tell twice as many stories as they are able to do in a world where all socks come in pairs. Socks can still be sold in pairs – notably socks with special properties, like athletic socks or business socks. However, most socks that I wear are just random socks to keep my feet protected, and I see no problem with having different looking socks on both feet as long as they are comfortable. Overall I believe that this would streamline many activities such as doing laundry and buying clothing, as well as open up new possibilities for interesting socks which can lead to cool stories and gift ideas. Think about it.

This next idea was completely random and I’m not sure why I was thinking about it in the first place. Here goes. There comes a time in all of our lives when it pleases us to imagine how others would react if we died. Perhaps you think about it in the shower, or as you lie in bed at night – you’ll picture yourself having died in some freak accident, say a car accident, and the imaginary ghost of yourself observes your friends and family to see who really cared about you. You would go and visit your own funeral to see who would show up and what they would say. You would hope that everyone would finally appreciate you and acknowledge all of the good things about you, the things that they loved, that they didn’t care to say while you were alive because they took it for granted. Some people want to know what would happen so badly that they entertain the idea of faking their own death, just to see how people would react to it. I doubt anyone I know would really go that far, but it’s nonetheless interesting that anyone would even consider this. It is clear that we as humans, generally speaking, care very much about what other people truly think of us, and we yearn to match what we believe about how we are perceived by others with their actual perceptions, which are ideally revealed in some way once we die.

So, now for the crazy social experiment idea of the day: Mock funerals. Take your standard group of friends, and pretend that one of them has died. Lay them down and make them close their eyes, and put them under a table that’s masquerading as a casket or something. Then have everyone else make believe as though it were a funeral, and each person can recall fond memories they experienced with the “deceased” friend, discuss the friend’s enjoyable personality quirks, talk about how the friend touched their lives, and everything of that sort. I imagine despite its apparent silliness that it would be rather touching, and especially interesting if everyone were a bit buzzed and could manage to be sincere about it all. The idea of staging something like this seems pretty morbid and weird, but really, wouldn’t you want your friends to know how you really feel about them? It seems even stranger to me that you should only say something important about a person once that person is dead and can no longer hear it. It’s much more useful to tell them while they are still alive, so that they can appreciate it and maybe have a little more self worth.

This mock funeral idea is probably a bit too weird for many people to actually go through with, but I honestly think it’s a decent idea. It certainly has the potential to strengthen friendships. And (this is probably the most important thing I have to say on this topic), even if you never do something like this with any of your friends, strongly consider telling them what they mean to you anyway. Doesn’t really matter when you do it. Maybe when you’re drunk at a party and you feel like texting someone. Or when it’s 3 AM and you can’t sleep and you just want to feel like you’re doing something with your life. Contact a close friend and tell them what you love about them and why it would suck for you if they died. Why not?

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The Baconvore’s Dilemma.

New life goal: Drink this. This can be my bacon substitute.

Today I’m going to talk about my decision over the past few months to eat less meat. It sounds pretty inconsequential, because it is, but enough people question me about it that I figure I should justify my reasoning.

First of all I’d like to apologize for not adhering strictly to my Commandments, in particular, the one that says to make a blog post every week. You will note that it is now two weeks after I said that. I’m currently trying my best to uphold my 8th Commandment – that is, to fulfill all of my obligations. I have spent my free time catching up on one particularly important obligation, which I will show to you all once I’ve finished it. Status report of my resolutions is at the bottom.

Now, to discuss my diet.

General diet rules I follow:

1 – The larger the animal, the worse to eat

2 – The more processed, the worse to eat

3 – Food is a tool to live, flavor is not very important by comparison

4 – Avoid throwing away or otherwise wasting food

5 – Maintain fluidity of social interactions

The first rule has resulted in me eating substantially less beef and pork recently than I ever have in my life. Large mammals are a very unsustainable food source, because the time / energy / resources put into producing things like beef are disproportionately high in relation to the benefit of eating it. I generally avoid buying things that contain beef or pork (or lamb, etc.), so that I minimize my contribution to the demand for these meats. I worry less about chicken and fish, because they are much smaller and require less energy to produce, although I still lean towards vegetarian choices. I avoid tuna because there is massive over-fishing of tuna.

The second rule just kind of makes sense – again, it’s primarily a matter of efficient energy use. More processed things tend to take more energy to produce and tend to be worse for your health. I still eat snack foods like cheez-its and chips and the like (in fact I’m eating goldfish right now) but I try to avoid it for major meals. I prefer to either prepare food myself or eat somewhere where it is prepared on the spot from raw materials.

The third rule is very important to me, and I feel that it is something that many people scarcely even think about. Food, to me, is primarily a way to provide my body with energy. When deciding what to eat, I mainly care about how much energy I’m getting for the price I’m paying and the time invested. I also try to eat balanced meals, so I make sure to have a carb, vegetable, and source of protein in everything.  Of course I prefer my food to taste good, but that is not my primary concern. It also happens that most food tastes fine to me anyway, especially when I eat out. Burritos and fried rice are among my favorite dishes, because they have everything I want and are cheap and easy to make.

The fourth rule should be new to no one who knows me. I eat everything I can, so if you have leftovers that you intend to throw away, please just give it to me. I don’t care if the leftovers have any kind of meat in them, because discarded meat is far more wasteful than the meat itself.

The fifth doesn’t really seem like a dietary concern, but it is. A prime example would be when I went to in-n-out burger about a week ago with old friends. It’s hard to get a good meal at in-n-out and still avoid meat – you either have to get a sandwich without a patty, or fries and a shake, which are not very nice options. The first is not enough food and the second too unbalanced. My only other option would be to suggest a different place to eat, or else refuse to eat and just eat somewhere else. I would rather not do this because it would adversely affect my interactions with my friends, and if you know me at all you know that I care about my friendships a lot. I would prefer if my dietary considerations, at least for the time being, minimally impacted the lives around me. Perhaps at one point if I ever go full-vegetarian I can start preaching the virtues of it, and I certainly think there are virtues, but until then I want this decision / these rules to inconvenience only myself.

A general summary of my eating habits would be to say that I care about efficiency. I want to take energy from the sun and put it into my body in a way that is time efficient for me and energy / resource efficient for the world. I want to promote sustainability while leading a happy and healthy life, and that must be reflected in my diet. The only real advantage I get from eating meat is the taste, as I can easily get the necessary protein from other sources. Flavor is so transient, so ultimately inconsequential to overall personal happiness and the happiness of the world, that I can’t reasonably justify giving it a higher priority than efficiency. Even if it means that I get to eat less bacon.

That all being said, since I plan on boarding at the Hoyt Hall coop this semester, where the kitchen and pantry are already stocked all the time, I’ll already have access to meat without having to worry about contributing to its demand. Even so, I don’t plan on eating that much of it, and I won’t encourage anyone to order it. I’m more worried about promoting the production of meat, not about eating it myself, so as long as I’m not doing that then I don’t mind much. This way, I can at least get some bacon into my life.

Now before I go, here’s a quick status update on my resolutions two weeks into the new year:

1) Maximum 1 hour of reddit each day.

Pretty good. I don’t actually time myself when I’m on reddit, but I haven’t spent too much time on there so far. Maybe just a few links each day.

2) Minimum 1 hour physical activity each day.

It’s been closer to every other day for me so far. This is a failure for now, but it’s going to get better very soon because I’m going to start doing P90X with my friend Nicole who got it for Christmas. She’s very focused and intense, so she’ll make sure that we stick to the schedule, which will involve about an hour a day of exercise.

3) Minimum 1 blog post each week.

Fail. I missed my first week. I’ll try to make 2 this next week to make up for it – I certainly have enough ideas, just no time.

4) Maximum 10 minute showers.

Success! I shower practically every day, and have not broken this rule so far. My showers are now almost exactly 10 minutes, and often faster.

5) In person > call > email. Text only when necessary.

I’ve been trying to call more and text less. Time will tell if I can keep this habit up. I expect that it will be harder during school. This one is going to take a while to perfect, because I’m so bad at calling. I don’ t even think about it – it’s just automatic for me to text.

6) Eat at Hoyt 5 days a week, home 2 days.

Can’t know if this will work yet. I still need to actually sign a contract to board at Hoyt.

7) Fulfill all obligations.

I’m working on it. I need to finish this project I’m working on and I need to do quite a lot of work for CalSol, and then I will be caught up in terms of obligations.

8) No more porn.

Fail. I don’t think I need to explain. I think this will be easier to do during the school year when I’m more busy. I had a bit too much free time over break.

9) Collect mementos.

Success! My dresser at home is now decorated pretty nicely with mementos, and now I have a growing collection at school as well. Fond memories all around.

10) Never lose perspective.

Hard to say if I can keep this one up. There’s no way to directly measure success. Being constantly reminded of it helps, which is why I wrote these Commandments on my white board.

There you have it. I think I’m doing alright – I didn’t expect to be perfect at all my resolutions right away, but I’m getting there. Doing P90X is going to be tough. I’m excited though.

This was in Breaking Bad’s season finale – the recorded version is actually much better sounding than this version, but this was the only good video I could find, plus the younger kid is cute. Recorded version is in the video description, and also on Spotify.

Resolutions.

It's a new year, with new possibilities.

It’s a new year, and we all know what that means. It’s time for some good, old-fashioned new years resolutions. Most of the time, I do not make resolutions on new years – and if I do, I certainly don’t document them, and I forget after a little while that I ever made them in the first place. Well, now that I have this awesome and useful blog, it’s time for some documentation. And besides, it’s a well-established fact that the world is ending next December – I better make the most of my time here.

It seems a bit arbitrary to make resolutions on new years – why can’t we just make resolutions whenever we want? Why do we need an arbitrary date, a rising of the sun sometime in winter, to signify when we want to start improving our lives? I guess it’s all just a matter of psychology. It seems arbitrary because it is arbitrary, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. With Christmas and New Years celebrations behind me, and with many friends returning to school at the beginning of January, this is time I have to myself to focus on what I want to change about my life. This is the time for me to sow the seeds of habit, to start a routine and keep it going into the school year.

I’m taking a leaf from a good friend’s book and restricting my resolutions to merely 10 that I deem really important, and as she did, I will call them my Ten Commandments. I haven’t thought about this list overmuch, but they are all things I definitely want to do and I think they can get me started on the road of optimizing my time and my life. Without further ado, here are my Ten Commandments for the year of 2012:

ALCUEV’S TEN COMMANDMENTS

1) Maximum 1 hour of reddit each day.
2) Minimum 1 hour physical activity each day.
3) Minimum 1 blog post each week.
4) Maximum 10 minute showers.
5) In person > call > email. Text only when necessary.
6) Eat at Hoyt 5 days a week, home 2 days.
7) Fulfill all obligations.
8) No more porn.
9) Collect mementos.
10) Never lose perspective.

I tried to make everything intuitive and brief, easy to remember. Just to humor you, I’ll provide a brief explanation for everything.

1) Maximum 1 hour of reddit each day – Straightforward. It’s easy to get lost on reddit and spend hours of time. It’s fun at the time, but it’s just not worth it in the end. I’ll leave myself an hour to check the front page, r/berkeley, and r/picturesofiansleeping. One day I might cut it out of my life altogether, although to be fair, it does keep me updated with some current events / cultural phenomena, and is really entertaining.

2) Minimum 1 hour of physical activity each day –  Although I feel pretty physically healthy (strong, energetic, thin) there is always more I could do. I want to strengthen my cardiovascular system by running, and build up a bit of muscle. Goal: look like Dexter Morgan by next Halloween so I can dress as him. A boy can dream. I’ll be going to the school gym more often, and probably also playing some frisbee or badminton if I’m lucky. I might try to get into rockclimbing – I hear that’s what the kids are doing these days, and it’s great exercise. Useful in real life, too!

3) Minimum 1 blog post per week – I really like doing this. It helps me share my ideas, document my important decisions, and be a motherfucking hipster. I don’t want to let this die, so I will be sure to post at least once a week, maybe twice if I’m bored or if something notable happens.

4) Maximum 10 minute showers – this is an easy way to save water, energy, and time. Showers are very relaxing, but they often don’t need to be long. If I need to take a long shower for some special reason, then fine – but if I’m just waking myself up or washing myself off after a workout, then 10 minutes is more than enough, and I’m sure I don’t even need that long. I never timed myself in the shower before, and my showers are probably about 10 minutes already, but I will start timing now. It’s easy enough to do.

5) In person > call > email. Text only when necessary – I rely far too much on texting and emailing to convey information. Although those mediums are very useful, I don’t call nearly as much as I should. This is not out of sheer laziness. I have an irrational fear of calling people. It doesn’t bother me to call people that I’m very close to, but otherwise, I have a strange mental barrier to calling people that I really want to get over because calling is convenient, fast, personal, and overall the most effective form of communication in many scenarios. Meeting in person is always the best if you really need to get things done. This commandment is going to be very relevant when I do CalSol work.

6) Eat at Hoyt 5 days a week, home 2 days – This requires some explaining, and is also the least strict of the rules. Hoyt is a coop (pronounced co-opp) residence, which means that a bunch of students live there and it’s all student run. It’s very cheap and fun to live in a coop, the main disadvantage being that you have to do regular chores and deal with other people being messy / a general lack of regulation because you are largely self-governed. Hoyt Hall is an all-girls coop where many of my close friends at Berkeley live. Next semester I am planning to board there, which means that I pay some flat rate and get to eat there for the whole semester. This will give me some much-needed “coop points”, which will help me get into the coop I want in the fall. The cheapest of such boarding plans is a 5-day-a-week plan, and thus I will eat at Hoyt about 5 days a week, and eat at my apartment the other 2, which gives me ample time to bond with my housemates as well as Hoytians. I plan to get closer to Hoytians that I didn’t know very well before. Even though this plan is more costly than just cooking for myself, it will give me some extra time by eliminating the need to grocery shop, it will facilitate social interaction, and it will make my diet more diverse since the Hoyt kitchen is infinitely more well-stocked than my own.

7) Fulfill all obligations – This sounds very vague, but it’s very important that I do this. One of my prized strengths is my reliability – I want to be dependable, and I don’t like to feel like I’ve failed someone by not doing what is expected of me. I owe some people money, favors, lunch dates, presents, and I need to pay everything back in full to have a clear conscience and to show people that I really care about them and that they can rely on me. I don’t want to be flaky, and I don’t want my flakiness to negatively affect others. I took on a lot of responsibility on CalSol this past semester (google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about), and I feel as though I let down my team. I will make up for this. I have the time and I have the motivation. I will not let people who are relying on me down because I was unable to fulfill obligations. This commandment is going to be time consuming and hard, but it is of utmost importance to me.

8) No more porn – Stop the presses. This will take a lot of my friends by surprise. I realized that porn, like many other things on the internet, is unnecessary and largely a waste of time. I apologize to people who read this who didn’t realize that I watched porn, but come on, what did you expect. NOTE – this is not to say that I will stop masturbating. That’s foolish. But I have a beautiful girlfriend, and when she’s not near, a vivid imagination. I don’t see the need for porn anymore, so I will cut it out of my life. I will not allow myself to irrationally cling to something that I know will not help me or improve my life or others’.

9) Collect mementos – A few days ago I was cleaning my room, and I realized I have a bunch of old shit. And a lot of that old shit has a lot of memories that I never thought about. This past semester a good friend of mine graduated, and the year before that, I lost a few good friends to unfortunate circumstances. Not being around people makes you forget them easily, but I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget anything ever. Even the bad times I want to remember, so that I can learn and grow from them. And most of all, I don’t want to forget the people I love, or once loved. I decided that thinking about them sometimes is not enough, so I will start keeping little trinkets to remind me of friends or of fun and exciting times in my life. One day I hope to have my own “wall of stuff”, such as the one owned by charlieissocoollike. Until then, I have cleared off the top of my dresser and have started putting mementos up.

10) Never lose perspective – While the rest of the list is largely unordered, this is placed at the end because it is the most important to me of all. There are two very powerful opposing forces in my life, and those are focus and perspective. These are sort of loaded words, but this is what they mean to me: focus means concentrating on one task or thing or mindset in particular, so that I can excel at that thing. Perspective means having an open mind, understanding other people and their goals, understanding larger contexts than myself or the task that I am currently working on, and in general being aware of everything. Focus is depth, and perspective is breadth. Historically my problem has always been with focus. It is very difficult for me to concentrate on one task and just get it done. This is why I even make these resolutions. With stricter rules and regulations I place on myself, I can become more focused and more productive. However, while I endeavor to do this, I must never lose perspective. I need to know why I am doing what I do. I need to know how my actions are affecting others. I need to know what future I’m working towards. And most of all, I need to always remember that I live in a world larger than myself. I must be always focused on conserving energy, conserving resources, promoting sustainability, and in the long run, making a positive impact on the world. Things I do now, in the short term, to improve myself are only a stepping stone to get where I really want to be, which is helping the world in whatever way I can. Right now I haven’t done any of that. But if I can learn how to optimize my time and how to improve myself, then one day I might be prepared to make a difference. You can start to see, I think, why a powerful sense of perspective is the most important to me of these resolutions.

So there you have it. This year I can sink or swim. I can take hold of my life and make good decisions for the future, or I can leave these resolutions aside and let them dwindle into obscurity. If any of you reading this are truly interested in my success, check in on me every now and then and see if I’m actually holding true to these Ten Commandments. Maybe if I’ve forgotten or abandoned them, some decent guilt-tripping can set me back on track. Or perhaps I will have reevaluated my goals. Regardless, I have a lot of hope for 2012.

One last thing I’d like to mention – this past year has been amazing for me, one of the best years of my life. I’ve made a ton of friends, grown as a person, joined an awesome club, improved academically, fit into my new minor (computer science), completed my first (paid) internship, and dated two beautiful women, one of whom I became very good friends with, and the other I am still happily dating – I love her very much. I have a lot of momentum now. Everything is getting better for me, and I won’t let it stop now.