You Can Quote Me On This

I’ve written a lot of little thoughts down lately, as opposed to full-length posts. But that’s no reason to keep them to myself. Here’s a list of them, and I hope you can get something out of my experiences. Enjoy.

If you find yourself surrounded with people who bring out the best in you, hold on tight; you’re moving in the right direction.

Listen and you will learn about the world. Create and you will learn about yourself. Practice both equally and often.

Whenever I look around a room of strangers, it always appears that everyone is confident in who they are and have it together. But it only takes a few minutes of actually talking to them before you realize no one does. Life is easy for no one, and the worst thing you can do is feel intimidated by illusions. You’re better than you think.

If you’re not completely happy with something in your life, and you’re not making changes, you’re wasting your damned time.

Stop expecting and just roll with it. The best things in life are usually unplanned.

Snapping out of denial is like waking up from a dream. Whether it was a good dream or a nightmare, nobody likes to get out of bed.

Every once in a while you need to stop. Reflect. See where you are. Decide where you want to go next. Cut off any dead weight holding you back. And latch onto the things around you that will take you where you want to be like rockets.

You’re never going to find a person who doesn’t have some irrational moments here and there. You just need to find one that can laugh at their self afterwards.

Never let your past define you. Take each day to evaluate your life and live how you want to live from now on, and not just how you’ve been living so far.

The world isn’t black and white. But it also isn’t gray. It’s full of color.

It seems like every time one person disappoints me, five people step it up and impress me. And here’s the key to enjoying life: focusing on those five people instead of the one.

Measure success by how many people are there for you when things get tough.

Just keep pushing the limits of patience, understanding, open-mindednes, and responsibility until one day you find you’ve matured into a respectable adult, and not just some kid who got a little bit older. Then push a little more.

Just spent some time in my dark empty house. Went into the attic and found a box of old cute love letters filled with ink from a time where not being together seemed impossible. Found a box of old video games from a time where 3D graphics seemed unimaginable. Found an old guitar from a time where learning to play it seemed terrifying. And it all reminded me that the future is going to surprise us no matter what, and we’re so much more than the confines of our limited imaginations. That’s exactly what I needed to remember tonight. To not forget.

We need to continue to be there for each other and reach out any chance we can because the best way to not feel alone is to be constantly reminded that you aren’t and never will be.

You never know where you’ll be in a year. Or six months. Or a week. Not even tomorrow. But just as things can take a turn or the worse in one day, so can they take a turn for the better the next. Keep moving, you never know what the tide is going to bring in tomorrow.

How Many Real Friends Do You Have on Facebook?

Take a look at your friend list on Facebook. How well do all of these people really know you? Sure, you might have seen them at a party once, went to school with them, work with them, maybe even hang out sometimes. But does that mean you’re really friends with them? Let’s test them.

Login to Facebook and change your birthday to any other day. Better yet, change it to tomorrow (if your birthday really is tomorrow, use your imagination). Now all there is to do is wait. How many people will wish you a happy birthday because Facebook told them it was your birthday?

Aside from some close friends who really know your birthday (and hopefully won’t call you out on it via your wall), most people will probably see everyone wishing you a happy birthday and hop on the birthday train.

That’s my theory… but let’s test this one. I’ve changed my Facebook birthday to tomorrow’s date. I will update with the results tomorrow.

Further speculation:

I also think this is going to cause some problems and possibly make my “friends” feel bad when they realize they did a nice deed that ultimately made them look foolish. Does that make me mean for doing this? Maybe. But what can I say? I’m a curious scientist.

UPDATE:

After letting this go on for the full fake birthday, I was surprised with some of the results. Many people wished me a happy birthday, including some family members and close friends, while other people, who I didn’t expect to know my real birthday, actually called me out on it. The best part was that when I went into work, I was greeted with “happy birthday” from several people (who I had to awkwardly tell the truth to). I would like to do this again soon, except with some interesting variations to it (maybe just removing my birthday and having a few people purposely wish me a happy birthday to see who follows their lead). I won’t be posting that one, though, until it is complete.

Reckless Driving? There’s an App For That Too

Technology is getting better and more portable every day, and unless you’ve been living in isolation, you’ve seen it all around. While these new gadgets are making life much easier for everyone, they are also creating quite a distraction from our surroundings.

When cell phones first began to grow in popularity, laws were quickly made to prohibit their use without a hands-free device. The misconception was that people were getting into accidents because they were driving with only one hand. We now know that this is not the reason for all the accidents because nothing changed once people started using hands-free devices.

What’s actually happening is focus that normally is 100% devoted to the road (minus distractions from the radio or people talking in the car) is now transfered over to the conversation. So, while these laws had all the right intentions, they were not solving the problem.

But now we have a new problem, which I feel is more dangerous than having a conversation while driving: texting a conversation while driving.

With texting, now people are literally taking their eyes off the road to have a conversation. This is considerably more dangerous than a loss of concentration on driving because things on the road can change very quickly, and if your eyes aren’t paying attention to it, you’re just asking for trouble.

Now, I am not even close to the first person to recognize this problem, but I would like to suggest a solution: the text away message.

For years, online messaging services have used the “away message” which send an automatic response to anyone who tries to contact you while you’re unavailable. I think it’s time that cell phones adopt this feature as a standard in text messaging service.

As you’re getting into your car, you would switch the phone into driving mode and you will not be alerted of messages until you arrive at your destination. During the trip, every text message you receive will automatically be responded to with a personalized message like “Hey, I’m driving right now, I’ll text you back in a little while.”

I’m sure there are some apps out there for phones that implement similar features to this. But I’m not talking about an optional add-on for people who are obviously responsible enough to search for the app. I’m talking about a standard feature, just like silent mode. On top of this, these automatic responses should not be charged to your account, but instead come free as a part of any cell phone plan.

All of these things (standard feature, no charge for texts, easy to switch to) are very important because any hurdle placed between a person and desired action lowers the chance of them actually doing it. If this was a hard-to-find/use feature, it might as well not exist.

Why We Don’t Mind The Smell of Our Own Gas

It’s no secret that one fart can clear a room of people in seconds. But have you ever noticed that when you’re the one who “dealt it”, it’s really not so bad? In fact, we actually kind of enjoy it. We don’t seem to mind the smells of our own bodily functions, but we can’t stand it if it comes from anybody else in the world.

So why is this?

Well, it’s also no secret that the sense of smell is the sense which is most related to our memory. The reason for this is the primary olfactory cortex is connected (I’ll spare you some details here) to the limbic system which is responsible for both memory and emotions. This is why when you smell a a fragrance that your ex used to wear, it not only brings back memories of that person, but resurrects some old feelings as well.

Now, back to farts. When you pass some gas, or even have a bowel movement, the emotion that is usually most prominent is relief. You felt uncomfortable, you released something out of your body, and now you feel better. Over the course of your life, your brain has now associated these smells with feelings of relief. The reasonable part of your brain understands that this is a bad smell, objectively. But the emotional part of your brain subjectively enjoys the smell because every time you’ve experienced it, you’ve felt pretty damned good.

So don’t feel crazy the next time this apparent phenomenon happens to you. Enjoy your own odors. Just don’t expect the rest of the room to share in your enjoyment.

I’m a Y2K Survivor!

As we begin the year 2010, I would just like to take a moment to reflect on the once dreaded Y2K.

Back in 1999, millions of people panicked as they believed that once the year 2000 came, the world was going to end. Why would they think that? Because somehow, they were convinced that no one foresaw the year 2000 coming and so the computers attached to nuclear weapons were all going to malfunction and launch atomic missiles all over the world. This type of mass hysteria seems silly to us now ten years later, but people were genuinely scared back in 1999.

Does any of this sound familiar? These “end of the world” scares seem to never go away, and people always manage to find a new year to point to in fear. It is now 2010 and I am certain that for the next two years we will have to deal with hearing countless ignorant babbling over the year 2012 being the end of the world.

The fact that a movie has already been created to cash in on this new fear-year is only a precursor to what silliness is to come. Somehow, the Mayan civilization was able to foresee the end of the world with the accuracy and precision of pinpointing an exact year, but they could not foresee the Spanish conquerers coming to end their own civilization. Let’s get real here.

Just as the year 2000 was not the end of the world, nor will 2012 be. If someone tries to start a speculative conversation about it, just change the subject in an effort to stop wasting your precious time.

There’s No Such Thing as a Peaceful Alarm Clock

Hearing a beep or buzz as the first thing to bring you out of your sleep is the most unpleasant sound to start your day with. So in an effort to start my day off a bit more peacefully, I invested in an alarm with a CD player built in. I then proceeded to stick one of my favorite albums in there, and went to sleep knowing I would be waking up to one of my favorite songs.

This was pretty nice the first day, and even the second day. By the end of the month, I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day and I grew to hate the song. Since I didn’t want to end up hating any of my favorite songs just for the cheap payoff of waking up slightly better, I rethought my plan.

Next, I invested in an alarm clock that had nature sounds built in. What could be more relaxing than waking up to the sounds of waves, or a lake, or even birds chirping?

For the first few months of this new system, I was thrilled with it. I woke up every day with a smile on my face and felt great about my new technique. Then, suddenly, the whole plan backfired. I began to hate the sounds of the ocean, and a long list of other sounds that most people would find soothing.

I had completely conditioned myself to associate these sounds with the unpleasant feeling of being disturbed while trying to sleep. This association was drilled so deeply into my subconscious that I now cringe and feel anxious when I hear these sounds in real life.

It’s a bizarre feeling, but it has led me to a final conclusion:

There’s no such thing as a peaceful alarm clock.

Whatever sound is waking you up will slowly, subconsciously associate itself with feelings of anxiety and turn the sound from calming to clamoring. I hate a bunch of songs now, and I cringe at the sound of waves, but I definitely learned my lesson.

Here’s My Law: Urinal Etiquette

Situation: You enter a men’s public bathroom. There are five urinals in the bathroom. The one all the way on the end is taken. What do you do?

Well everyone knows you don’t take the one right next to him. That’s the creepiest thing you can do, and you run the risk of being punched in the face before the guy washes his hands.

Next up is the middle one. This is a safe bet because it tells the first guy that you’re giving him his space but also that you don’t feel so insecure with your sexuality that you need to overcompensate by picking one too far away.

The fourth urinal is the tricky one. By picking the fourth one, you are at a perfect balance of space from the first guy, but you’re screwing over potential man #3. The next person who walks into the bathroom enters a dilemma. There’s three free urinals and all three are directly next to someone.

Sure, you two are now both peeing happily with plenty of space, but you’re also pissing all over man #3.

Here’s My Law: Never use the second or fourth urinal.

If the first guy uses the fourth urinal, he forces the second guy to choose one that will screw over man #3. If the second guy uses the fourth urinal, he himself screws over man #3. If the third, fourth, or fifth guy uses the fourth urinal, he is definitely directly next to someone else (granted the first two men are following urinal etiquette).

Don’t be that guy. Please, follow urinal etiquette, and look out for man #3 while you’re doing #1.

Our Colorful, Interesting World

As a child, it was very natural to see the world in black & white. Every situation seemed to have a right answer and a wrong answer. Usually what your parents think is right and everyone else is wrong. As you get older though, the world starts to become more and more grey. Things don’t seem so concrete anymore, and decisions become much more complicated. This can be very disillusioning, and at this point, how you respond to this new grey world determines a lot about how your life will be.

You can look at your life and think “well there’s no clear answers, so it doesn’t matter what I do”, which, of course, will get you absolutely nowhere. Or, you can take a completely different view of it:

While a black and white world would be simple, easy, and reassure every decision, it would also be a very bland and boring world.

Yin Yang

With no chance for variation, life becomes formulaic. Although there is a high level of certainty, there is also no uncertainty. While this means there are no unexpected problems, there are also no pleasant surprises.

In a grey world, there are nuances that make life more meaningful.

As humans, we need a certain level of uncertainty. It’s what allows us to appreciate life. You would never know you were on top of a hill if you had never looked up at it from a valley. Just as you would never know life was going well unless you had a means of comparison. We need the bad times to appreciate the good. Adding the infinite amount of points between black and white makes a huge difference for the better.

Now, I’ve compared the false impression of the world (the black and white) and the actual way the world works (grey), but I’m going to add one more dimension: The way to appreciate the real world.

While, as an adult, it’s easy to see that the world is not cut and dry, it is not easy to see the beauty in it. The world is not black and white, but neither is a rainbow. Once you can see life as colorful and interesting, you can really appreciate every moment. But for every bit of good you allow into your life, you allow its shadow as well. Just as Dorothy found the colorful world full of songs and munchkins, she also found  the wicked witch. What you’re left with is two ways of seeing things:

1. Don’t allow anything into your life for fear of its shadow (for example, not allowing yourself to fall in love out of fear of getting hurt.)

2. Keeping your door open, and enjoying the good with the knowledge that all things must end, and everything casts a shadow.

I prefer the latter. There’s no lesson here, just an exploration of thought. A glance at ways to view the world. No right, no wrong, just color.

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The Golden Rule

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

A very famous quote from Luke in the bible, but also stated by a ton of philosophers throughout history. This is the Ethic of Reciprocity, but is more commonly referred to as “The Golden Rule.”

While I don’t have a problem with this idea, I do feel it is too universal of a statement. I would tend to agree more with:

“Do unto strangers as you would have them do unto you, but do unto friends as they would want done unto them.”

What is missing from the original is the acknowledgment of the “other’s” personal feelings and preferences. If you’re dealing with someone you know nothing about, it is a good universal principal to treat them how you would want to be treated.

However, if you know something about the person, you should take that into account before doing anything unto them.

For example, your friend doesn’t like anyone to touch them when they’re upset. Even though you might feel better when someone gives you a hug when you’re upset, you wouldn’t give them a hug because you know it’s not what they want.

It’s very important to take someone else’s personal preferences and feelings into account before applying the golden rule because not everyone wants the same things in every situation.

Nothing complicated here, just an examination and specification of a very old principle.

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