Finals and Nostalgia

Last night was the first night the Knight Library was open 24/7. In light of the fact that my XBox kept distracting me (damn you College Football 2003), a change in location was most certainly welcome.I brought my laptop with me because a) it has all my homework on it and b) I finally figured out how to keep the damn thing charged. My AIM program, despite me never using it, was running. At about 3:00 a.m., one of my friends from Japan logged on. She’s currently in Uzbekistan doing whatever it is she does when traveling to various under-traveled parts of the world, but she took the better part of 20 minutes to chat with me.

We talked about finals, how she was graduating and securing a job, and how we both just wanted to be carefree for the next few months of our lives. I remember last year at this time, her, I, and another friend were doing the same thing I did last night; staying up all night in the library busting our butts for our classes and distracting each other at the most inappropriate of times.

Despite the amount of stress I was under, I really miss those moments. I miss spending hours talking about the various political ideologies that went into developing certain positions, or about how Roger Federer really is the best tennis player in the world. I miss going to China Blue, or Sweet Basil, or wherever and talking about everything and nothing. I miss outside japanese lessons, skipping Japanese class because my friends were better teachers, throwing surprise parties for friends, spontaneous coctail parties, Wednesday night trips to Highlands… it’s all stuff associated with last year, and my friends from last night brought that flood of memories back to me.

But it’s all stuff from last year, and it’s stuff I’ll never get back. Looking back is something I cannot afford to do, because then I’ll miss all the great stuff that’s coming.

Do you REALLY believe that?

Something I’ve noticed: in 95% of the arguments I’ve witnessed or partaken in, any of the two positions the debaters take is logically defensible. Excluding the irrational arguments I’ve witnessed, arguments generally center around a small group of positive statements with the disagreements being concerned with normative statements.In high school forensics, we always, always played devils advocate as an exercise in argumentative discourse. The point was not so much as to understand the other side’s view as much as it was to see how easy it was to construct a defensible position on almost any public policy question.

To change subjects slightly (I’ll bring them back around in the end… I promise), my own personal beliefs have been constructed via the following process: investigate the positives, reconcile my normatives with the positives, and form my own beliefs around them. But after starting college, I noticed an interesting trend; friends started adopting other friend’s normatives, then seeking out positives to support them. While I feel my normatives are based on a philosophical structure (in which I hope none of my opinions cause me to ‘backtrack’), I felt because my friends normative values were unstructured because they weren’t a result of their own investigations. In listening to their opinions on various public policy, I’ve found them to have stances on an issue that cause them to contradict a stand on another. I’m by no means saying I’m not guilty of the exact same thing; in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I have one or two beliefs that may contradict each other (but when they come to light, I’ll do my best to reconcile them). My concern is that I feel people are taking positions on policy because their friends are taking them. Just because a person can defend a piece of public policy doesn’t mean they’ve thought out how that piece of policy reflects their own personal philosophy. In other words, I really feel that people advocate positions without contemplating how those policies, or what those policies imply on their moral/ethic/philisophical structure (the dashes are ‘or’s because some people have no ‘moral’ structure for philosophic reasons).

In one sense, I really don’t believe it matters, based on my own personal philosophy, but on another level, I think it’s sad for the person because having been easily swayed one way, it’s simple for a person who is adapt at arguing to sway the other person, and that person’s position based on their own highest values is never realized.

Removing the Crutch

I discovered this while studying Japanese, but I think it applies to all learning. The experts that troll this blog can comment and say otherwise if I’m wrong (I’m looking at you, Adelle).

After 1 term of studying Japanese, we had learned both Japanese phonetic alphabets. Each of us had the ability to pronounce any of the characters, but it took us a considerable amount of time. At the end of the first term, and for the rest of our time spent studying Japanese, our instructors posted all lessons in the Japanese phonetic alphabet.

The first time we had to read entire scripts in Japanese was humorous to say the least! Everyone read extremely slow. What’s more, we hated reading using Japanese characters. It was such a struggle because it felt like such a topical regression. In English, native speakers have become so accustomed to recognizing words that we don’t bother looking at spelling for pronunciation as much as we look at word recognition. In Japanese, we experience somewhat of the same phenomenon. Instead of being able to recognize entire words, we were forced to examine and consider every pronunciation. Word distinction at that stage was nigh impossible given that there are no word break markers in pure hiragana/katakana (phonetic reading) Japanese.

But as time went on, and as we learned additional Chinese symbols (they go a long way in helping with word recognition and word breaks), we all became much more proficient in reading comprehension and pronunciation. I can read a Japanese text MUCH quicker than I was able beforehand.

I’m grateful my instructors removed the roman letters crutch. I know for a fact that had I been studying by myself, I would have been much more reluctant to use only Japanese characters… or maybe I would have never done it. But by removing that crutch, we were forced to adapt, and that’s something I think we as a species are amazing at doing. The problem, of course, is us not wanting to step outside our comfort zone. But the more we do, the more we learn and grow, and the more that a particular subject/area we’re working with becomes a comfort zone.

Being quick to abandon what’s comfortable, always looking toward the unseen path… that’s a personality trait I hope to develop.

Ron Paul

An Oregon Daily Emerald columnist writes an article not exactly bashing Ron Paul. Within 24 hours, 64 comments, most of which attack the columnist’s criticism of Paul, have been posted on the Emerald’s website. The only other article receiving this sort of attention was the one bashing Anime.

Screw Liberals posts “Ron Paul sucks” repeatedly. 73 comments.

In fact, search Google blogs “Ron Paul sucks” and take a look at the number of reactionary comments received (I’m expecting a huge increase in the number of hits I receive for typing “Ron Paul Sucks.”)

All this despite the man not even being one of the top 7 candidates. Barack Obama, despite being ahead in the USA Today poll, doesn’t have nearly the internet presence of Paul.

So even though Paul doesn’t have much of a shot winning this term’s election, what does this mean for internet candidates in the future? With the rise in the number of people using the internet and an increasing number of older people logging in constantly, will the internet play a larger role in which candidate is selected? If Paul were to be the most popular candidate on the internet four years from now, would he have a significantly larger fan base?

Issues: Everybody’s got ’em

I like being a sociable person. I like talking with my friends. I like having food with my friends. I like studying with my friends.

But I don’t like to involve others in my problems. I like to be along in my times of weakness.

I had dinner with a friends who talked to me about that very issue. We had been in and out of contact for a while, so it was nice to finally see her. After dinner, we were talking about the stresses of life after school, especially pertaining to her status as an international student. Without going into much detail, she admitted the reason she hadn’t seen many of her friends was because she was stressed about being able to work in the US as a citizen and that getting citizenship would be difficult. Her thesis was that in her times of weakness, stress, or difficulty, she tends to shut out people and try to deal with her problems by herself.

I see that in myself a lot. I don’t like to talk about issues. Sure, they exist, and I’m sure others around me know they exist, but I hate talking about them. I’m not even sure why I do. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to see like someone with “issues.” Perhaps it’s because I want to come off as responsible, as someone who has stuff under control. I have problems admitting to little problems; having bad habits such as procrastination, excessive expenditure of personal funds, and even inheren, out of my control things like learning disabilities. I don’t know why, but I don’t like to talk about or seek help from outside sources about these things.

I also realized that I haven’t been taking advantage of the wisdom of some of my friends. When I was talking to my friend tonight, I couldn’t help but remember another friend express regret about using my friends more in a professional role. I was thinking the same thing with the exception of not taking advantage of her wisdom. She’s been through a lot, confronted the same types of problems that the rest of us humans confront, and is extremely intelligent to top it off. I’m glad she shared some of that with me tonight, because it seems like a confrontation with my isolationist perspective on personal issues was long overdue.

Just on a final note, I hope things go well for her in the future. And I hope after tonight I’ll be more willing to be open with my friends.

Whispers and Shadows

One of the things I love about PR is that practitioners are taught early on that transparency is next to godliness (as opposed to cleanliness).  Hiding things, even things seemingly harmful to a client, is taboo. Even though the rational isn’t rooted in ideology, it provokes an ideological trait  I think is worth discussing.

Reading through some of my old blog entries (pre “Bryan’s Sophia”), I feel there was a lot of room for ambiguity. I was, and still kind of am, afraid to define specifics as exemplified by ambiguous pronouns and situations that can be universally applied. Some of my friends privy to my older blogs have claimed that while there is a lot of ambiguity in my writing, the ambiguity gives my writing universal application. This would all be fine… if my posts hadn’t been meant for personal reflection.

I feel that some parts of me are completely transparent, but I also feel that some parts are needlessly ambiguous or opaque. Obviously, nobody should be 100% transparent. Everyone has, and probably should have, their secrets, but I think I would benefit more from being a little more willing to share with people. I know where my unwillingness to share comes from (insecurities, obviously), but without putting myself “out there”, am I not missing an excellent opportunity for personal growth?