Saturday, January 29, 2011


A point that I have come to know many times was reiterated today: I get way, way too worked up about sports. Whether I'm playing or watching, I let my emotions go. Through sheer force of training, I thankfully don't release profanities, but that doesn't make my conduct any more acceptable. When things don't go well, or don't happen the way I think they should, in a game, I get downright angry. As if I wasn't frightening enough already, I become a towering mass of vindictive bitterness. Many of you have seen this for yourselves. And that is what today's post is about. Today, along with that realization that I've had many a time, came the realization that I do a horrible job of apologizing to the people who I affect when I get like that. I'm sure I've ruined the experience of many a person through my wrath, too many for me to remember them all. I wonder how many people have vowed never to sit by me at a sporting event or play a game with me ever again. I'd like, therefore, to publicly apologize to all of you. My conduct is unacceptable. I'm sorry for the games I've ruined, the anger I've caused, and the disturbances of harmony I'm responsible for. I'm sorry I haven't apologized before now. I am working on this; progress has been made, and I hope I will continue to progress. Thank you for those of you who have put up with me despite this, and especially thank you to those of you who have been brave enough to call me out on it. I hope one day to be able to play or watch any game with anybody and not become enraged. I'm not anywhere near that yet, but I will keep working on it.

Monday, January 24, 2011


DISCLAIMER: This is one of my most scatterbrained pieces of work ever. If you thought some of my previous rants and raves were bad, wait until you read this. I could take time to polish it up, but frankly I just don't care enough. I put this down to put my own thoughts into words to help me look at the issue in a new light. Whether or not you get anything out of this is of no concern for me. I wouldn't post this at all if it weren't something to write about, and I want to keep Dania happy with me.

It's a funny thing. On one hand, it can be absolutely crippling. On the other, it can be what gets us through the day. From an evolutionary standpoint, it can be downright baffling. Often, it detracts from the cool intellect that is so great for adaptation and survival. Because of emotion, humans have a remarkable ability for spite. Most observed organisms do not exhibit spiteful behaviors: ones that harm the other individual at the cost of harming that individuals fitness. In a very real sense, natural selection is a very level-headed process. It's a pure cost-benefit analysis. Behaviors are selected for benefits to the fitness of individuals. Spiteful actions seem to not make sense, unless the action would harm the other individual's fitness more than their own and therefore there would be a net gain by that individual. Many human behaviors caused by emotion, however, do not have this effect. For example, I watched the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps with my roommates the other day (I do not recommend this film unless you have some sort of filter; although it is PG-13, it has some very strong language). It depicts the story of several Wall Street insiders who, through their thirst for vengeance, cause the stock market to crash--the film is set in 2008, but it is not an actual representation of the events that led to that crash. In the end, everyone involved ended up worse off. Such behavior should theoretically be selected against, yet it persists in humans.

Examples such as this are way I am a firm stoicist. I do my best to keep my emotions in check at all times. It's part of why I am sometimes labeled as a pessimist (part of it is because I kind of am). I rarely express positive emotion, so I must think every thing is not going well. However, if you notice, I also rarely express negative emotions. Emotion often is an enemy of logic, so while I do my best to understand my own emotional reactions and, to be blunt, manipulate the emotions of others, I keep my own emotions in check. I honestly think I make better decisions because of this. At times when my emotions do run away from me, as has happened all too often in the past couple of weeks--to both positive and negative extremes--I try to refrain from action. Passionate emotions tend to impede judgment, and decisions made while under these extreme emotions can often lead to unintended consequences.

I do not wish to put forward a full on condemnation of emotion, however. While emotions can lead to poor decision-making, it is partially emotion that makes good decisions a desirable goal. I also recognize that stoicism can be taken too far. When we abandon all emotional reaction and go based off purely cold intellect and reason, we can arrive at horrible conclusions. Look at Johnathan Swift's A Modest Proposal if you need any proof of that. The work is an wonderful example of satire, but when you look at the idea he puts forth, it makes absolute perfect sense. Removing emotion entirely can lead to horrible ideas like breeding children for food.

The answer, then, is a healthy mix. It is one of life's great difficulties. I know that I have not yet arrived at that healthy balance. The exact mixture between intellect and emotion that we should use is elusive. Much like the old game Lemonade Tycoon, the key is experimentation. The trouble is that likely by now you have found a combination that seems to work pretty well for you. My formula seems to work rather well right now, and adjusting it might lead to a decrease in effectiveness. I am also fairly confident, however, that my current formula is not ideal, and as circumstances change I will have to adjust the balance. In the end, I'm willing to risk it because I'd rather live with a bunch of human beings than a bunch of programmed robots. It makes life worth living. Yes, humans have a remarkable capacity for spite, but they also have an astounding ability for altruism, and the source of both types of behavior is the same.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

D.C. Project

I was sitting in my kitchen last night, just kind of goofing off and relaxing after the week, when Dania started chatting with me. She mentioned the fact that she still hadn't gotten over Dona Nobis Pacem, and I said I felt the same way after the band completed the DC Project. That got me thinking, reminiscing, and laughing about that experience. For those of you who aren't familiar with the DC Project, it was an undertaking of the Timpview High School Band. Dr. David Fullmer, the director of the Timpview Band, received an invitation for the band to participate in the National Cherry Blossom Parade in April of 2008. Previously, the Timpview Band had helped to commemorate the 60th anniversaries of both Pearl Harbor and D-Day. As part of those trips, Dr. Fullmer had every participating member of the band go through a rigorous process to prepare them and help them understand more about what those events meant in the history of the world. Upon receiving the invitation for the Cherry Blossom Parade, he decided it was time for the Timpview Band to do another similar project.

Those that went on the trip met twice a month from September through December at six in the morning, once for a music rehearsal and once for a lecture about various wars. That bumped up to every week from January until we left. Additionally, we had pass-offs for memorization of music and historical documents, and occasionally an extra rehearsal on Saturday mornings. Homework for the project was a significant length research paper on a topic of our choosing and watching several movies depicting the various wars. For eight months, we devoted a large portion of our time and energy into this project. It culminated with a week spent in Washington D.C., which I can honestly say was one of the best weeks of my life.

We had performances at the Air Force Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and Gettysburg. Each one was special. Because of the time spent learning all the information we did, the entire project meant a whole lot more. It is my most treasured memory of high school. The tenderest moment on the trip was I was walking along the Vietnam Memorial wall, and I happened upon a letter wrote by one Natalie Cooper. She was writing on behalf of her father, Gary. I wish I had remembered the name of the fallen soldier she addressed the letter to. I do, however, remember reading the words "He doesn't know I'm writing this." This young girl, who seemed to be no more than 14, knew what a sacrifice her father and his fellow soldiers made. She understood and wanted to express appreciation. She had the capacity to see how much it meant for her father, and expressed her love of her father in that note. That moment, beyond anything else I experienced on the trip (and believe me, there was a lot), made it all worthwhile. It remains one of the more profound experiences of my life to this day.

There are a multitude of other experiences I could share. It was quite simply one of the best weeks of my life, and a lot happened during it. It had such an effect on me that when I received an invitation to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security: Exploring American Defense, Diplomacy, and Intelligence, I jumped at the opportunity to return to D.C. I was not going to pass up the chance to go back and visit those places again and relive the moments. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in that, and grateful that I had a director who did his best to help us young, stupid teenagers discover what it was really all about.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


This semester I am taking a first-year Thai class. When it was time for registration back in October, I had an extra slot in my schedule, and I decided I wanted to take a language class. Unfortunately, the majority of beginning language classes are taught at 9 in the morning. My neurobiology class is also taught at 9 in the morning, and there was no way I was going to give up that class. Luckily, with persistent searching I found a Thai class offered at 12 and decided to take that. So far, it has been my favorite class this semester. It's so nice to have a class that consistently challenges and engages my brain. Most of my classes move too slowly for me, and I find teachers going over and over material I learn the first time around. In Thai, however, we move along pretty well and keep adding new stuff in. For a guy who has pretty much been on cruise control as far as schooling goes for a long time, it is a breath of fresh air. I'm enjoying it so much, I figured I'd share some of what I learned with you. Keep in mind that the romanization is not perfect, but it gives you an idea.

Sawad-dii khrab (Hello)

Phom chuu David khrab. Khun chuu arai khrab? (My name is David. What is your name?)

Khun mii chuu leen mai khrab? (Do you have a nickname? In Thailand, part of the culture is having a nickname given by the parents to each child)

Khun sabaidii mai khrab? (How are you?)

Phom sabaidii/ruay ruay/mai sabai/bpen wad/bpuad hua/bpuad thoong khrab. (I am fine/so so/not feeling well/have a cold/have a headache/have a stomachache)

Chookh dii khrab. Leew phob gan mai khrab (Good luck! See you later. You don't say goodbye much in Thai, but if you did you would say laa goon)

Yin dii thii dai ruu jag khun khrab (Nice to meet you)

Well, that's some of the basic phrases. I've learned a lot of other stuff as well. Bear in mind that if you are a girl you need to replace all the Phoms with Dichans and all the khrabs with khas. Also, I'm too lazy to figure out how to do tone markers, and the tone in Thai can make all the difference, so be sure you get someone to demonstrate it for you before you attempt it. It really is quite a cool language.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Friend Like You

Tonight I say goodbye to my close friend,
But to me you mean so much more.
I don't know when our paths will meet again,
But 'til then I'll be thinking of you for sure.
And when I'm far away and feeling low,
I'll remember times we spent back home
With a friend like you,
Always by my side.
With a friend like you,
We laughed until we cried.
Together you and me,
We were always known as one.
With a friend like you,
I know I can go on.

I knew in time that we would have to part.
Oh, how I didn't want to see the day
When we would stand and say our first good-bye
And I just wouldn't know quite what to say

To a friend like you,
Always by my side.
To a friend like you,
We laughed until we cried.
Together you and me,
We were always known as one.
With a friend like you,
I know I can go on.

With a friend like you,
I know I can go on.

--"With a Friend", Octapella

Today was Shane McQuarrie's farewell talk. Today, I said goodbye to the best and longest friend I've had. I probably won't see him again for three years. We've been best friends since 5th grade, when I was advanced into the Pre-Algebra class that Shane was already in. Everybody else was older than us so we had to stick together. As big of an impact on my schooling that advancement had, it does not compare to the impact it's had on my life through having Shane as my friend. Because of the best elementary school principal in the world, I was able to get the greatest friend. I'm not good enough with words to adequately express what he means to me. I can explain any logical concept I can understand, but I've never been able to say how I feel. That's why I posted these song lyrics. As much as I don't like relying on the words of others, I can't say enough on my own. Shane has been with me through so much and for so long, words honestly fail me. Compared to saying goodbye to Shane, saying goodbye to Brodi, and even Nick, was easy. I didn't know Brodi long enough, and I my final goodbye to Nick was at the temple and therefore full of peace and joy. With Shane, basically a part of me is leaving. Shane has been one of the columns I lean on for support all my life. No matter what was going on in my life, I always had Shane. And now I don't for three years. Thank you, Shane, for all that you have done. For being an example and a rock in my life. For sticking with me, even in the times when I wasn't sure I wanted to stick with you. For showing me what I was doing wrong and helping me see how to fix it. For being, all around the best friend I have.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Home Alone

No, this is not a movie review. This is actually going to be about the actual position of being home alone rather than a silly movie about it.

As I sit here writing his post, a dance is going on in the Wilkinson Student Center. It'a big to-do, and all of my roommates have gone over to it. Those of you who are at all familiar with me will know that I do not like dances. I have only truly enjoyed myself at one dance. Accordingly, I declined all invitations extended to me for this dance. It follows, then, that I am home alone. I've found myself in this position all to infrequently since I've been at college. I love my roommates, but it seems to be party time in Broadbent 23 almost 24/7. At times, I'm OK with this; sometimes, I even enjoy it. A lot of the time, however, it bothers me. I, if you couldn't figure it out, am an introvert. As such, interactions with multiple people at once can be stressing to me. In order for me to be content with my situation, I have to have a significant portion of time where I can be by myself. I wish people would understand this better. Sometimes people who are alone actually prefer it that way. It seems our society is too focused on including everybody that we forget that sometimes some people need to take a step out and be alone for a bit. The idea of going and sitting by somebody that looks lonely may not actually be an act of service. Being alone gives us introverts a chance to rest and recharge. Some of my happiest times come when I am by myself. For example, every Monday morning I go to the temple at 5:30 (Dania got me started on it, and I just can't stop).  At first, I made the relatively short walk by myself. Now, there is always at least one person accompanying me. I don't begrudge them the opportunity to go to the temple; I'm glad they're coming, but at the same time that used to be some of my highest quality alone time. Sometimes I wish they would just sleep in 5 or 10 minutes so I could go by myself.

The next time you have the opportunity to spend some time at home alone, try it. You may surprised with how relaxing it is. You may also freak out and need something to do. Different personalities respond differently to being alone. As for me, I sit by myself, doing almost nothing besides thinking (and listening to the music I enjoy). So next time you see me sitting by myself seemingly doing nothing, don't worry. Most of the time, that's all I want to do.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Too Much Complaining

Sorry it's been so long, loyal readership. I understand that for some of you it is important that I write on this. I still don't understand why. It's not like I post anything that's of actual value, but whatever floats your boat. Anyway, the long absence was unintentional, unlike some of the others have been. No, I was going to post something on Friday or Saturday, but I just couldn't think of anything to write about. I don't want to post those top 25 lists too often. You'd probably get sick of them, and I know I would get sick of coming up with them if I did them all the time.

This post is going to be a little different than many of my posts have been. Because of my personality, I tend to comment on the bad more than the good. I am a natural critic. I rarely remark on the positive aspects of something, and when I do it usually is only a very terse acknowledgement. I do not consider this a negative aspect of myself. I still recognize all the good in the world, I just don't expound on it. It's already good, so discussing it doesn't really help to improve anything. It is rather in fixing the stuff that isn't good that we can make improvement. In order to fix the bad stuff, we need to understand it, so it is expedient to discuss in detail negative aspects.

However, today I'm going to take a break from that. A confluence of events has caused me recently to reflect more deeply on how great my life is. I may not have exciting experiences that are worth sharing about on this blog, but in the end that doesn't matter. Just because I live a boring life does not mean it is not a good one. I honestly live in what I believe to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, with the great snow-capped mountains surrounding the valley and just a few hours south absolutely gorgeous red rock. I've had the opportunity to grow up in around and on that beauty; so many people never get to experience it at all. Add to that the home and family I grew up in and you've got one kid who was fortunate enough to cheat probability. On top of that, I also have some truly great friends. Some I've already mentioned in earlier posts, but there are many, many more on top of them. Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you are counted in that number. So thank you.