March 29, 2011
As long as I can remember I have been a night owl. I’m also somewhat of an insomniac. Those do not go well together since I tend to want to stay up late naturally and when I eventually do decide to hit the proverbial hay I can lie in bed for a long time not being able to sleep because my brain keeps on turning wheels and riding from one tangent to the next.
Over the years I’ve found ways to overcome both of these nasty traits. The most effective is to exhaust myself to the point that when my head hits the pillow I’m absolutely gone. However, exhausting myself to the point of collapse makes for a lousy couple of hours before I hit that pillow.
The most practical way I’ve found to overcome my insomnia is to crowd out those tangential thoughts with something else; something that I know well enough that I don’t have to pay attention to in order to understand what is happening. That something is watching a TV show or movie and putting the TV on a sleep timer.
Since this has gone on for years I have run through many different TV shows and movies. Some of which I have grown a tad tired of. The Office is one of those TV Shows. It’s not that I dislike The Office, I simply do not derive the same enjoyment out of it that I once did. Other shows have shared this fate. In fact, all shows that I regularly fall asleep to have declined slightly in how much I enjoy them. All except for one.
Arrested was one of the first shows I bought for myself. I have watched it more times than I know. I used to keep it on while I would play games or do homework. When one disc ended I’d just pop in the next. Each of the 8 DVDs for the show have run through beginning to end in my DVD player dozens and dozens of times, if not hundreds. Seriously.
I just never get sick of it. Even more than that, I enjoy it MORE the more I watch it. It’s so terribly clever and the episodes are so intertwined with one another. I absolutely love how the running jokes begin to build and then fade out over the course of several episodes.
Not too long ago I used an audio extraction program to get the off of my DVDs and convert them to MP3’s. Now I have all 53 episodes on my ipod. I just pick an episode, set the sleep timer on the ipod, and let things go as I drift away into dreamland. It’s really interesting to listen to just the audio and not have the video to go along with. But it’s still quite funny. I regularly chuckle into my pillow, which would probably be somewhat creepy to a roommate if I shared a room. “Why is he always laughing at night?”
It is such a terrific show. I can (and have) watch the same episode back to back and still enjoy it. I am always in the mood for Arrested Development. From being half-asleep to wide awake and the whole range of emotional states, I can always put on Arrested.
If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it and if you’re interested in watching it I am always willing to sit with people new to the franchise and veterans alike.
January 6, 2011
I feel like a lot has happened in the past ten months or so. At the same time, though, I feel like not much at all has happened. I’m still the same Neal, but I’ve learned a fair amount; especially about math. That is to be expected considering that I’ve taken a handful of math classes.
The education classes I’ve taken were really eye-opening. It’s super wacky to catch a glimpse into our education system and see the flaws in it but not be able to reach a consensus on how to fix them. I had a couple truly shocking moments in a multicultural education class. They surprised me enough that I had to check with others to make sure I had heard correctly.
This coming semester should be interesting. I think I’ll be pretty much living on campus during the week. Maybe I’ll go on a quest to find the most isolated desk on campus and make it a second home. Take in a blanket and pillow so I can have comfy naps. We’ll see about that.
Because of USU’s scheduling of classes, I won’t be able to graduate as soon as I previously thought. The very last class that I have to take before student teaching is only offered in the Fall semester. I’m in the process of deciding whether I should spread out the other classes and make each semester easier or take only that class for the semester. It might be fun to take only one class for a semester. What would you do?
January 5, 2011
It’s been a while.
I tried posting something a week ago but forgot my password and WordPress’ reset system must have been down because I never got a password reset email until I tried again today. That’s probably for the best, though, since that post I was going to put up was rather lame in hindsight.
I’ll have to get back to you about life and things another time. Right now I am tired and must sleep.
Good night, moon.
February 8, 2010
In my last post I introduced some of my thoughts on truth and why relative truth can’t work. I also mentioned that I would cover one of the strongest supporters of relative truth; the opinion. Certainly an opinion is relative, right? After all, it’s an individual’s perspective on anything. That HAS to be relative. Or does it?
Let me just begin by stating that I don’t believe opinions are relative. Opinions are absolute because they are true regardless of place and time, but let me explain my line of reasoning. I’m not saying that your distaste for a restaurant isn’t true or that your preference of a particular ice cream is wrong.
I said before that truth is identified in statements. I’m going to apply this concept to an opinion and say “The best ice cream flavor is chocolate.” Obviously that’s an opinion; an opinion you might not share. If we don’t agree on the truth of this statement, how could truth be absolute?
I argue that the truth in such a statement IS absolute because of complimentary truths that are implicitly being stated. If we break down what is actually being said, you’ll see what I mean. When I say that the best ice cream flavor is chocolate, something else is being said; a few things, actually.
First of all, I am saying it (emphasis on who is saying it). I, Neal, am stating my opinion. Even though I didn’t explicitly state so, I was saying it I implicitly. You recognized it was me saying it because that is how our communication skills have developed. It’s important to recognize that because it gives the statement ownership.
Time is also implicit in my statement because I am saying it now (or whenever it is actually being said). Giving the statement a time is equally important to giving it ownership. By giving the statement a time we can then refer to that time. Opinions change for people. Chocolate wasn’t my favorite ice cream flavor as a child, so at some point in time that opinion changed.
So far we’ve identified two important, inherent properties to any statement made. I’m going to modify my original statement to show these. “The best ice cream flavor is chocolate,” is actually saying “For me, Neal, the best ice cream flavor right now (Feb of 2010) is chocolate.” That statement feels completely different, but nothing really changed. I only brought to light the implicit truths being stated in addition to the main statement.
What’s been identified here is vitally important for truth. What once seemed to be a completely relative truth has now become an absolute truth. Regardless of who someone is, where they are in the universe, or when they are in time, the statement “For me, Neal, the best ice cream flavor right now (Feb 2010) is chocolate,” would be true.
There are additional unspoken truths made in all statements that deal with other problems of language and philosophy. You’ve already recognized one of them without me saying anything about it, too. “Who is Neal?” The question of identity is for another time, but suffice it to say that in terms of this argument you know who “Neal” is (unless you’ve wandered upon this blog).
There’s a couple more elements of truth that I’d like to cover. How is truth verified? Something is either true or it is now true, but how do we recognize which it is? We can’t simply rely on our senses to let us know what is true. Taking the above example, I could tell you my favorite ice cream is chocolate. All my life I could eat only chocolate ice cream when given the choice and do everything else necessary to demonstrate to you that chocolate is my favorite, but do my actions make the statement true? If so, what if I performed all the actions required to make you believe that chocolate was my favorite ice cream, but it was all a ruse? It would appear to be true, but wouldn’t actually be true. Verifying truth becomes a very sticky area to get out of. You’ll just have to wait to see if I’m up to the challenge.
It’ll take me some time to put together my thoughts about verifying truth. In the meantime, I’m thinking about covering some different theories of truth that I’ve come across. Keep your eyes out for more if you’re interested.
February 7, 2010
This is going to be at least a 2 part post about truth. These are just some thoughts I’ve put together and wanted to put up for people to read and see if I can get some feedback on. We need to start out on some basic ground that can generally be agreed upon.
The first major question is “What is truth?” (A precursor question would be “Does truth exist?” but I want to define it first and will leave an aside at the end regarding this question.**) To me, truth is an abstraction of an absolute concept. It does not exist itself, but its’ influence exists inside of things. Truth is a property or attribute of something that is. If something exists in some form, it contains truth. The item does not need to be tangible, though. Ideas can be true and we can’t touch them.
Next, how do we view truth? This is a basic but important question. If truth exists in things that are, how can we see that? We need to make statements about truth. Think of statements as pointers to truth. Imagine holding an apple in your hand and saying, “This is an apple.” We would be able to recognize that statement as a bearer of truth that you are indeed holding an apple. Your statement did not make truth; it, instead, pointed to the truth contained within the apple.
How is truth verified? Truth is confirmed by our experience and our senses. That apple in your hand was recognized by me through the sense of sight. I then recalled prior encounters I have had with apples. From there I confirmed that what you were holding fits into the criteria of what I have learned an apple is.
These are all rudimentary questions with rudimentary answers. They are not all encompassing by any means and do not attempt to define relatable concepts to truth such as language, knowledge, and similar problems. These issues can be dealt with individually at a later time. Right now, truth alone is the subject.
A critical property of truth that cannot be denied is that truth must be absolute. Something is true regardless of space and time or it is not true at all. It cannot be any other way. Truth fundamentally cannot be relative. The statement, “Truth is relative,” cannot maintain itself. If that statement were to be true it would have to be absolute; defeating itself. It cannot be claimed that all truth is relative since the claim itself is not relative. This leaves open the door for absolute truth which utterly destroys the idea of relative truth. When I think of relative truth and real world applications I think of the following story:
A philosophy teacher in college devotes some time during the semester on the issue of truth. He spends much time going through the various theories of truth and one student in particular picks up on the concept of relative truth. The professor tries to show the flaws in relative truth, but the student is undeterred. Finally, the end of the semester nears and the professor informs the students of the grades that they will be receiving, most are happy with their grades. However, this one student is not because he was told his grade was to be an F.
Understandably upset, he approaches the professor after class and defends his work. He’s been to class, turned in assignments on time, and earned excellent grades on the tests. In short, he deserves an A. To which the professor calmly responds that everything the student has offered is correct, but that the student would still receive an F. Flabbergasted the student flies into a rage and demands to know why he has earned this unfair treatment. Again, calmly the professor answers that despite the student’s excellent work, to the professor it was only worthy of an F, and because the professor was applying a relative view as he saw it, the grade would remain an F.
The situation then sets into the student’s mind. Any attempt to counter the professor’s relative view would counter his own view of relative truth.
The point of this story is to show that while the idea of relative truth seems attractive, when push comes to shove most reasonable people will turn away from the notion of relative truth. I want to get more into this. I’ve worked on an argument that is even capable of countering the strongest point for relative truth (opinion), but that will have to wait since this post is already getting long.
**I said that I would leave a note about the question “Does truth exist?” Truth either exists or it does not exist. If anyone, anywhere, anytime were to ask the question “Does truth exist?” there could only be two answers: yes or no. Whichever answer you receive doesn’t matter, actually. Does truth exist? With an answer of “yes” you can end the line there. Ok, truth exists. Equally so, an answer of “no” would lead to truth. It would HAVE to be true that there was no truth. Simply asking about the existence of truth demonstrates truth’s influence.
November 4, 2009
Not too long ago I came across an article about adjusting your sleep schedule, quickly. Rather than reset your internal clock with a few weeks of personal discipline by waking up to an alarm and going to bed earlier than you really wanted to, this article presented a method that was much faster. It needs to be faster because it is targeted towards people who travel regularly and have a general distaste for jet-lag.
The theory is as follows: Your brain knows when it should be getting food so it sets your sleeping habits accordingly. If you haven’t consumed enough calories in a day it won’t want to go to sleep because it wants you to put more food in your belly. Because of this food/sleep relationship (according to the article) you can use your brain’s selfish motivations for your own good.
If you refrain from food for 16 hours and end those 16 hours of fasting with sleep, when you wake up and eat breakfast your brain will say to itself, “Hey, this is when I get food. I need to remember this time so I can wake up and eat more the next day.” When I read this I thought it was an interesting theory, but didn’t put it to the test.
I’m a man who enjoys sleep. Maybe too much. I also enjoy just being in bed and bundled in blankets. I’ve also never been a morning person. I have much preferred going to bed late and waking up late. And by late I mean about 2 or 3 in the morning and not waking up until 11. That’s not a schedule very conducive to my current classes, though.
Along comes a couple weekends ago. I spent the Saturday night at some friend’s place before making the return trip to Logan Sunday morning. I had some pretty odd dreams that night so I kept waking up (one such time I woke up while Alex was playing a game and what I saw was so strange it broke my brain) so all in all my sleep was fairly lousy.
I’m not sure why, but I also didn’t eat a whole lot that day. I think a pack of ramen was the bulk of my intake. After some reading I was talking to my roommate and decided I was too tired to do anything else but sleep, this was at 8 PM. After plopping down onto my bed (futon) I pulled my blanket over me and zonked out.
When I opened my eyes I looked around and thought, “It’s still dark outside. I don’t see any indication of the sun. My alarm hasn’t gone off. I wonder what time it is. (grab phone) It’s not even 5 AM!? What am I doing up?” I plopped my head back onto my pillow because I clearly had more time to sleep, but sleep would not come.
Rather than waste the time, I grabbed a book and started reading. At 7 I made some cereal and watched a video on my computer. Waking up so early was just a fluke, right? Nope. It wasn’t. Since then I have unintentionally been waking up in the 5 o’clock hour as naturally as if I was camping in the desert and the tent became to hot to support human life (though the relative discomfort of the tent is not in my apartment).
One Friday night I didn’t go to bed until 11:30. Then on Saturday, when I have no reason to wake up early, I still woke at 5. I ate a bowl of cereal and some OJ, watched a couple episodes of My Name is Earl, and fell back asleep.
The point is this: if you need to readjust your sleep schedule, this is something you might want to give a try.
September 25, 2009
I love peanut butter. I’m a Whitlock after all, and one thing you’ll pick up on quickly when you spend time with Whitlocks is that we love peanut butter. (Olives too. And cheeses of all varieties.) I enjoy all peanut butters from the heavily processed and smooth jar of JIF to the all natural, oil-separating Adam’s.
Recently, however, I’ve become more and more interested in various other nut butters (yes, peanuts are not actually nuts, but stay with me). I was at the grocery store with Wong last week and ended up in the natural foods section where before my eyes I beheld jars of almond and cashew butters.
I knew such things existed but had never before sought them out. They turned out to be quite expensive. About 8 bucks for a small jar. Too rich for my wallet, so I returned home a sad and lonely man (in terms of nut butter varieties).
Then the oddest thing popped into my head. I was sitting on my futon looking at my shelves of food-stuffs when I noticed the container of high grade mixed nuts from Costco and my mortar and pestle.
Years ago I was in a self-rewarding mood at the same time I was in an Asian marketplace (which no longer exists) and ended up purchasing a fairly nice and fairly cheap granite mortar and pestle. I’ve used it here and there but had never fully taken advantage of its potential.
As I sat on the futon the gears began turning and the light turned on. Silently (though it just as easily could have been out loud) I proclaimed “I can crush nuts in that mortar until they turn into butter!”
Without further thinking I grabbed the items, sat back on the futon, poured a handful of nuts into the mortar, and started smashing them with the pestle. It was so easy I couldn’t believe it had never occurred to me before. Not only was it easy, though, it was delicious.
After tasting it I wanted to yell “I have made mixed-nut butter!” ala Tom Hanks in Cast Away. “Mixed-nut butter” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as fire, nor is it as dramatic of a discovery in regards to humanity as a whole. However, it was quite the accomplishment.
No longer will I be purchasing prepackaged peanut butter. Instead, I will purchase nuts and force them to submit to my mighty forearms! Then I will consume them on sandwiches or whatever else I fancy. The possibilities are endless! I plan to make mixed nut butter cookies soon.
This change in my life has made me a new man. I see the world differently. I see it covered in a delicious blanket of nut butters as far as the eye can see.
And it is beautiful.
September 14, 2009
For almost the past month, hardly anyone posted anything on the blogs that I regularly enjoy reading. In the past couple of days that has since been remedied by a couple of the blog owners. It was just a little downer when I would check to see if anything new was up and nothing was. Little Neal would climb into bed, pull up the covers, and shed a tear. Poor little Neal…
I want to catch you up on the stuff that’s been going on with me. If any of you were unaware, I have transferred to Utah State. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this in a post and I don’t care to check. I changed majors a couple times while at BYU and the major I decided I wanted to get my hands on has a better program at USU.
It’s fairly odd adjusting to the little differences between the two campuses, though. I love all the large trees up here. Both on campus and throughout the Logan. I’m not a tree climbing guy, but I’ve seen a few which made me want to become one.
Another difference I like is that the student body feels a little older. Explanation: I don’t mean older in years, but there were times at BYU when it felt like high school. Not all the time. But sometimes. That got to me. Along with that, there’s a bell in most of the buildings to indicate when class starts and ends, just like high school. That sort of threw me for a loop when I’d be reading somewhere, a bell would sound, the halls would fill with people, a bell would ring again, and the halls would be empty once more. I would think to myself “Aren’t we supposed to be adults responsible for being somewhere by a certain time? Do people really need a bell to indicate class has begun instead of a professor beginning to talk?”
Those things aside, there are differences which I miss about the BYU. Parts of the honor code. Not the whole thing, mind you, just bits here and there. When I get lost in the beauty of the trees I catch the distinct scent of something that snaps me right back to reality with a frown. I really don’t like cigarette smoke. I know people that don’t smoke and say they like the smell. Really? I want to smack those people when they then tell me it’s because they think cigarette smoke smells like a campfire. Again, really? What campfires do you make? They smell nothing alike.
I also miss religion classes. Sure, I’m taking an institute class, but it’s not the same. I’m not being graded on anything so I sometimes phase out of the discussion without a real urge to come back to it since I don’t need to remember anything for an exam. I haven’t taken any tests this semester yet, but when I do I can promise I will miss the BYU testing center. Being able to go in and take a test anytime was terrific.
This post is beginning to get a little long. I’ll stop now.
So.. uhhh… bye.
July 23, 2009
When it comes to symbolism (whether it’s in art, music, movies, religion… whatever) I tend to not be a fan. Perhaps it’s because I don’t understand it completely. Perhaps it’s because I do understand it and just don’t like it.
I just watched the second half of Black Hawk Down on FX. I enjoy this movie and similar wartime stories like Band of Brothers. It’s a single scene at the end that put me onto this train of thought. If you’re not familiar with the story, the U.S. military is trying to take down a warlord in Somalia. Everything goes awry when a helicopter (a black hawk) is shot down. The movie then encompasses the attempts and eventual extraction of the survivors and bodies of the dead.
At the end of the movie, the general in charge of the operation walks into a medical tent. Without the expertise to help save the soldiers in the tent, he grabs one of those medical covers and leans over to clean up some blood on the floor. Instead of cleaning the blood, he ends up just smearing it more and more all over.
The symbolism being that despite this man’s efforts in the prior events, he only caused more deaths and injuries. The more he tried to get his men out, the more harm occurred. I get it. But it’s a stupid point to make and an even more stupid way to make the point.
It’s as if the filmmakers wanted to say that the U.S. military had no business being in Somalia in the first place. Never mind the genocidal cleansing going on that the general populace was in no position to prevent. Never mind that supplies delivered to the people were taken by this warlord and horded for himself and his men. What I’m taking from this moment of the movie is that the whole thing just shouldn’t have been.
My other problem with the scene is the way it is portrayed. The general grabs a surgical cover and tries to clean the blood. That’s not how you clean up blood. Those things aren’t supposed to absorb liquids. Grab a towel or something. An item meant to clean fluids, especially blood.
Maybe that’s really the real symbolism going on in the scene: there are better tools we can use to stop the spreading blood. If that’s the case, it’s still not satisfactory for me. The U.N. was trying all it could to peacefully resolve the problems in the country and they weren’t getting anywhere. In fact, their attempts to aid the population by airdropping supplies could be seen as directly providing power to the warlord since he would take those supplies and only give them to people who joined his little army.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
However, despite my distaste for it generally, there are some instances of symbolism that I absolutely adore. Single lines in songs or scenes in movies that make me sigh and grin while I think about how beautiful they really are to me. I don’t want to go too in depth into them, but I will list a few.
Brick, by Ben Folds Five. Interesting note, when this song came out it coincided with a running joke I had made about a brick. I like the symbolism of the song and certain poetic snippets. It’s easy to imagine the image of Ben Folds in the water with a brick tied to his leg as he struggles to reach the surface for one more breath. Also, “The smell of cold…” That’s genius. “For the moment we’re alone. She’s alone. And I’m alone.” Oh Ben.
Fistful of Sand, by The Bravery. This is a song you need to listen to if you haven’t. You can listen to it on their website here. It’s track 8. The lyrics are:
Every morning I wake up and you are home
But in your eyes I see that I’m alone
You’ve left me with your body in my arms
But I can’t feel you anymore – You are gone
I can touch your skin but you aren’t there
Frustration burns in me, it’s more than I can bear
I wanna take you in my fists and squeeze the life back into you
But there is nothing I can do – You are gone
And I can hold you in my hands
But you are gone, you are gone, you are gone
You’ve slipped away like a fistful of sand
You are gone, you are gone, you are gone
I am staring straight into your eyes
You never turn away or tell me lies
But you are with some other man while I am lying next to you
And there is nothing I can do, you are gone
It could just be the child inside of me, but I love the imagery of squeezing a fistful of sand. The tighter you squeeze, the easier the sand escapes your fingers. Just like star systems escaping the evil empire!
Stars in relation to traditional religious application. Back when my sister got married, a couple of my brothers spent the time we were in the temple walking around. They happened to notice the stars depicted all over the temple in various forms, including several upside down stars.
What’s the deal with this? It’s true that today an upside down star is a symbol used for satanism, but that has only been a relatively recent adoption of the symbol. Traditionally when used in religious terms a star represents many things, most importantly that of communication between man and God. A star pointed upwards indicates man’s desire to reach the Lord. A star pointed downwards indicates God’s reach to man. You might note in the concept drawing of the star on the right, the point downwards is elongated, meaning that God is reaching further to us than we are reaching to him.
Those are just a few examples of symbolism I like. That aren’t indicative of all types of symbolism I enjoy, they just happened to be the three that I thought of first.
July 5, 2009
The time has come for a mass update. Let’s dive right in.
I solved the headphones problem from my prior posting. I picked up a cheapo $10 pair of headphones at Wal Mart. They are the kind that cradle the ear. The advantage of these? The cradle keeps them in place even when the actual piece is not inside the ear, allowing me to listen to quiet music without blocking ambient sounds. It’s an interesting situation since it feels like I just have a soundtrack to my life. A soundtrack that never syncs up. That’s probably a good thing, though.
I’ve recently begun listening to the Harry Potter books on my Ipod. Yes, it’s finally happened. After years and years of being bugged about not reading them, I’m now listening to them. I finished The Philosopher’s Stone (I got the U.K. audio books) and am onto Chamber of Secrets. It makes for some rather funny moments when I fall asleep while listening.
I spent this past Wednesday night at Wong’s. I only had a few chapters left of the first book and started listening, but zonked out. I woke up in the middle of Harry’s confrontation with Voldemort (should I not even be typing the name?). The reader really goes all out with some character’s voices and for Voldemort, he uses a high pitched sort of nasal voice. In a groggy, confused state my eyes slowly open and I hear “Kill him!” scream loudly in my ears. I started looking around in the dark room thinking “What? Kill Who? What’s going on here?” It took about five seconds for me to catch onto what was going on. It wasn’t fun during those seconds, but after it was. Oh Voldemort, don’t tell me my business.
This past weekend was my ward’s annual river rafting trip. We go up to Alpine Junction and ride down the Snake River multiple times in two days. There were six total runs with three rafts in each run. I was able to work my way into four of the trips. We usually go later in the year, late July or early August, so this year was a totally different river with the Spring runoff still pouring in. The water level had to have been at least seven feet higher than usual since some familiar areas were completely submerged. The current was also running about twice as fast it seemed.
Aside from a couple precarious moments, including one of the rafts hitting a class five whirlpool dead on which knocked two people out of the raft (one week earlier a scout leader died in that very spot link ) the trip was a blast. I thought the river was far more exhilarating because of the speed and danger, but for those very reasons the ward won’t be going this early in the season in coming years.
And finally, the end of the world is approaching. I made a Facebook account. There are a couple reasons I made the leap. I still think the concept of Facebook is silly, but I’ve also come to accept it’s little quirks for what they are. After all, what’s the difference between someone posting small thoughts very frequently and that same person posting larger thoughts less frequently on a blog? I’ll tell you the difference, generally less passion appears in the blogs. Oh, it happens. I’m guilty of it. But when someone writes out a couple of paragraphs they tend to calm down and think about what’s going on.That happens a lot less when someone writes out a single sentence and posts it.