kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
About ten years ago (summer of 2002), while I was working in Yellowstone National Park, I took a lot of time that summer for personal reflection. The the rocks beside the Snake River and the roof of the cabin where I lived became close companions of mine. I took a lot of time to examine where my life was at that time, and there were a lot of things that I didn't like.

Towards the end of the summer, based on my reflections, I started writing a short series of notes to myself. I titled these "Personal Initiatives" and set out what I wanted to change and how I was going to go about doing it.

There were probably 50 or so entries. Some of these were fairly arcane and maybe even silly. Among them:
  1. Get rid of my acne by washing my face twice a day.
  2. Wear contacts any time I'm not at home.
  3. Take better care of my teeth.
  4. Get in better shape.
  5. Pursue financial independence and keep a budget.
  6. Get better grades and get at least a 3.0 from that point out.
After I returned to Auburn that fall, I looked over my Personal Initiatives from time to time. And it occurs to me what a good motivation this was for me. As evidenced, my near term goals in many of my initiatives I achieved within the next 3 years. I never earned less than a 3.0 after that fall. I was financially independent in 2004. I'm in better shape now than I was.

Not only that, but my plans gave me goals. Even the arcane ones ("wash your face every day") gave me little things that I could do to feel like I had accomplished something every day. Not every goal had to be in outer space - I could accomplish 5 things just by walking out the door each morning.

Of course, some of them I completely blew too. There were a lot of entries about future planning that involved me becoming a pilot. Some other entries concern wanting to have a family (not there just yet...). But overall, I would say my success rate for my personal initiatives in 2002 to today is probably close to 75%. 

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I kind of feel a bit like did in the summer of 2002. Lost. Listless. Unsure of what I want in my life but unhappy with where I am. And without a plan. Every day I get up and go to the same job and do the same things I've done for the last five years. Then I go home and do the same thing each night. The cycle usually never varies. Now, to be sure, my life is much better than it was in 2002. I'm married, a homeowner, active in my community. But that seem creeping, nagging unhappiness is still there. 

Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of taking an entire summer off to work and reflect on my life. But I'm seriously thinking that it might be time to write down some more personal initiatives. Having passed 30 now, I can't help but feel that I've entered a new stage of my life and, if I don't want to spend this entire decade listless and unhappy, that I have to begin to plan some things out and set some goals for myself.

Yes. I think it's time for some more Personal Initiatives.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
So someone posted this to reddit yesterday. Man, that made me sad. I've never felt so attached to a fictional video game enemy who was on screen only a couple of seconds at a time.

But, this deep thought was in the comments:
You're not so alone little buddy. I found myself thinking what a lonely life it must be to travel in one direction with no way to slow down or turn around, then I realized that we all do that through the axis of time until the celestial Mario jumps on us all.
kiranlightpaw: (kosh)
So I came up with this really good idea for a novel at lunch time. Unfortunately, like most things, there's a 99.9% change I won't follow through with it. That's kind of the curse of having the attention span of a fruit fly.

But in the course of considering the plot of the book, I had an interesting thought. Our concept of time tends to be relative to that of our lifetime, or at the very least to that of a human lifetime. We date our periods, at least in recent history, to the dates of lifetimes and deaths of rulers. We refer to the Victorian Age (Queen Victoria's rule) or the Roman Empire (Julius Caesar's reign to Diocletian). Even in our own lives, time is relative to our birth and death. Everything we do is framed by those inescapable events.

But, let's pretend for a second, that either through medical or technological advances, you are immortal. What is time then? How do we measure time without an external frame of reference? What is the meaning of a day, or a second, to someone who is going to live forever?

Or, to put it another way, let's pretend that we've figured out a way to download consciousness out of our primitive shells and into a computer. Suppose we upload our intelligence into a space probe and shoot it off in the direction of Tau Ceti. If we assume a speed of 0.1c, it's a journey of roughly 120 years (it would actually be slightly more depending on your acceleration and deceleration rates). But you're immortal. What difference does 120 years make to you? Or what if you want to go to the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy? At the same 0.1c speed, you're looking at a journey of 250,000 years. But what does that time matter to an immortal? Theoretically, you could spend billions of years exploring all the wonders of the Universe.

But when you think about it, even the very definition if "immortal" is a construct based on a human timescale. Everything will die eventually - even if we live a really, really long time, eventually the Universe will collapse around us. At least one theory of the Universe's final fate where heat death and proton decay have left a universe devoid of matter as we currently understand it. So no matter what our technical evolution, our current understanding of physics suggests that there will always be an upper bound to a human "life."

But at a life that long, would be begin to use the big bang and the heat death as our frame of reference? What is a few billion years spent exploring the universe when a life is measured in trillions of years?
 

Hoarding

Jun. 28th, 2010 01:51 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
My latest television interest has been the show Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC. Come to think of it, it may be the first show I've watched on TLC since Wonders of the Universe in the mid 90s.

If you haven't watched the show, it's a show about compulsive hoarding, its effects and treatment. In watching the show, you begin to understand that the hoarding itself is not really the problem, but a byproduct of deeper psychological issues - most often obsessive-compulsive disorder. Almost every person on the show exhibits characteristics of various mental illnesses. There was one lady who couldn't handle people even touching anything in her house despite it being so full you could barely walk. She'd break down into tears and panic attacks if you even moved something.

The thing I find interesting is that, on the show, the hoarders are overwhelmingly female. Not trying to sound sexist or anything, but after watching about 10 episodes or so, I can think of 2 cases they've profiled where the hoarder was a male. I'm kinda curious as to why that is - it would be a great study for some academic to undertake.

It also got me to thinking. My grandmother was a hoarder. They didn't have a term for it back then - they just called them pack rats and dismissed it as harmless. I remember as a kid going to her house and there were whole rooms of the house that you couldn't even go in and could barely get the door open. When my grandfather died, my mom moved in with her and spent the next few months cleaning out the house so they could sell it. It wasn't as bad as some of the people on the TV show, but it was definitely bad.

And I know that I have some hoarder tendencies too. Why the fuck have I kept every pay stub from every job I've worked in the last 10 years, for instance? I have no idea, but they're filed away in my records box/filing cabinet. But at the same time, I know I can be like this and I constantly fight against it. Thus the reason we took two truckloads worth of stuff out of the attic and got rid of it. I'm forcing myself to get rid of things I will probably never need again (four parallel cables? really?)

However, one area where I continue to be a digital pack-rat - or computer compulsive hoarder, depending on how you look at it - is in files. I keep pretty much every file I create, and work hard to preserve what I already have. I've written before about going through boxes of floppies to preserve whatever I find on there. I now have gigs and gigs of random data covering 15+ years - papers I wrote in high school and college, old journal entries and stories, etc.

Lots of neat stuff, to be sure, but is it still hoarding even though it doesn't clutter up my physical life? I'm very close to maxing out a 1TB external hard drive with stuff, and if I lost it all tomorrow I'd be pretty fucking distraught.

I probably wouldn't off myself or anything, but it would definitely ruin my week.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
It never fails to amaze me how a song can bring up a memory. In this case, one from a little more than six years ago. Hell, I even blogged about it.

I was on my way to spring break ... my last spring break as a college student. As the story goes...
I got on at the Wire Road exit (#42) and started crusing. For about 15 miles it was great and then we hit traffic. Seems a semi decided now would be a good time to catch fire and block three lanes of traffic, so traffic was coming to a standstill. Only the girl in the Nissan a few cars up didn't notice it and rear-ended a Corolla.

Being the nice guy I am, I stopped over to help. The chick was very, very cute, wearing but a black corset, ribbon around her neck, and a pair of jeans. I wanted to bend her over the car and ... nevermind. But I behaved and comforted her for about an hour and a half while we waited for the State Trooper to get there.
It's funny. I can't believe I didn't post this in the entry, but I still remember peeking in the back window of her busted car, and seeing a copy of Frank Herbert's Dune in the her partially open bag. We spent the time waiting for the State Trooper to get there discussing Dune and other science fiction classics (I myself was working on some Heinlin at the time). Then, once the State Trooper got there, we said goodbye and I got back on the road.

In my blog post about spring break a week later, I dedicated the lyrics to Bowling For Soup's Girl All The Bad Guys Want to her.

I never even got her name. I guess it just wasn't meant to be at the time.

I wonder what ever happened to her...
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
This weekend Sarah and I were cleaning out the attic. It's the first time I've truly parted with anything major since moving out of home ten years ago - nothing like going through ten years worth of accumulated junk. I kid you not, we took two pickup truck loads worth of junk out - one went to Technology Recycling, and the other is going to Goodwill.

We also built shelves to hold what was still there - sentimental stuff (a few boxes of college and fraternity stuff, and a box of high school stuff), Christmas decorations and stuff we can't store elsewhere in the house due to lack of space. All in all, a productive weekend.

In one of the bins I came across a stack of CDs. I set them aside and started going through them once the work was done. Unsurprisingly, most of them were audio mix CDs. I never burned a lot of data CDs, but in a time before I had an iPod (or an iPhone now), I used to burn CDs to listen to in the car or in a mobile CD player. And there were four or five mix CDs of various stuff I burned while in college.

Full circle from burning them years ago: I went through each one and created a playlist in iTunes to match the CD.
kiranlightpaw: (avatar)
I told you I would be a lying sack of shit if I said I wasn't going to write about Avatar again. This entry, however, is only tangentially related.

Long before that movie, I was a big fan of the idea of interstellar travel - the idea of travel between the stars. Not so much in the Star Trek sense of warp speed leaps in hours between stars, but in a realistic, scientifically accurate understanding of what it would take to get to another star. It's something I've been following since about the age of ... probably thirteen or so, and has waxed and waned over the course of my life from and idle curiosity to a near obsession at some points.

Now, I'm not an expert by any means. I only consider myself to be a well-read amateur on the subject.

For those of you have reading for awhile, my first piece of published fiction (and, unfortunately, so far the only, but more on that at a later date) was a story called Beneath the Sea of Stars, that ran in the conbooks for Furry Weekend Atlanta 2004 and Rocket City Furmeet 2006. It was set aboard a sub-light starship. While mostly a little slice-of-life romantic story, I added in a few touches of reasonably accurate science (a sub-light starship featuring rotating compartments and a weightless center section, a reasonably close star system, gravity boosting, etc).

When the first trailer for Avatar came out about six months or so ago, the first thing I noticed that made me say "holy shitballs, I have to see this movie," was this shot of the spacecraft seen at the very beginning of the movie. My thought process at the time was: holy carp, a movie about space travel with a reasonably accurate picture of what an interstellar spacecraft would probably look like based on our current understanding. Umpossible! So I was reading a little bit about the ship today over at Pandorapedia. Once again, I was blown away by how much work Cameron and his team put into getting everything right in their universe, including the science on interstellar travel. Just read the article about a spacecraft that was featured on the screen for about 30 seconds.

Anyways. Enough fanboi. Back to interstellar travel.

In reading the article, a lot of the science and engineering work on it is pretty clearly visible. Acceleration, relativistic time dilation, methods of propulsion are accounted for in the article and all, really, are nothing that hasn't been talked about in most of the books and papers I've read on the subject. It keeps within the realm of current thought. So I kept reading.

Further down in the article where crew is discussed, I came across this:
Unfortunately, the cost of shipping back personnel precludes returning individuals still under contract who have medical problems that cannot be treated on Pandora, so they are euthanized there.
Ouch.

But then I paused. And at one moment, I realized that, in all my thinking about this subject from an engineering and scientific standpoint, I realized I had never considered the ethical, moral, and humanistic aspects of the subject. Even now, considering that this type of research is confined to the bleeding edge of space travel science (and these guys are thinking about it in their spare time), it wouldn't surprise me to know that, probably, not many ethicists, or psychologists, have been brought in to consult on the subject of interstellar travel.

In many ways, people on manned expeditions to another star would be more alone than any human in history. I mean, hell, even the journey of the Mayflower was about 10 weeks from England to the New World. Under the absolute best of conditions, we're talking years before a person on an interstellar expedition would see home again ... if ever.

So here you are, on a remote planet orbiting a star 11.9 light years from Earth. Even at .5c, it's about 22 years home. You are a pioneer, on the frontier just like the pioneers in wagons of old. There may be only a couple dozen people on the expedition. In a situation like that, if you are injured or become ill beyond whatever field medicine would be available, would euthanasia be acceptable?

It sure would make a fascinating paper.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
It seems like a lot of people are considering this the end of the decade. Considering that we didn't start with a year zero, it's technically hard to justify considering this the end the decade. Still, as is often the case, popular sentiment wins out over technicalities, so I'll consider it true that we're about to roll the clock off the first decade of the 21st century.

I remember how this decade began: in my parents' old house in Tennessee, with some of my friends. Y2K was the big worry at the time, and I remember my friend Tripper, seconds after the ball dropped, flipped the light switch on and off and pronounced "still works!"

Fuck it went by fast. And, at least for me, I look back and see a decade long, incredibly strange journey. More than any decade in my (admittedly short) life up to this point, this decade changed me. Or maybe it's because, this time, I was conscious of the change and able to more or less independently affect change along its course.

With that in mind, let's look back at what the 2000s have been like:

Kiran's Life: 2000 - 2009 )

So yeah, it's been a pretty crazy decade. One that started as a wide-eyed teen in the mountains of Tennessee and ended as a twentysomething married software engineer in Huntsville. Along the way, earned a high school diploma and college degree, went through 7 jobs, 5 cars, 3 states, countless movies and places to lay my head.

And you know what? There aren't very many things I'd change. It's been a hell of an adventure, and I hope the next 10 are just as crazy.

JB Speaks

Dec. 17th, 2009 12:05 pm
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
http://www.accessatlanta.com/atlanta-music/john-j-b-bell-238262.html

A thoughtful interview by Widespread Panic's John "J.B." Bell. A little bit more light than I would have expected out of a hard rocker, but he did have this to say:
... Negative judgment of others (and myself) is probably one of the most important things I can leave out of my “diet.”

Some other nonfood items I try to leave out of my diet: hate, fear, jealousy, unwillingness to forgive — and all the other idiots the ego “roommate” in my head likes to invite over for a party. From time to time, we all see people act in ways that ignite these feelings within us. For me, I know I just don’t feel well when I hold on to these negative emotions too far beyond noticing my initial reaction. In my personal experience, this is probably one of the most overlooked areas when considering one’s well-being. Personal attacks may be intentional or products of one’s own perception. In either case, I can’t imagine that holding on to negative emotions will “fix” another person or be healthy for ourselves on any level. I still feel it all, but I try to move my thoughts to those of discernment, forgiveness and love.
I LIKE that.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
The project that began last week - tagging all 1,843 LiveJournal entires I've made since December 2001 - is finally, and at long last, complete. 310 tags now cover that entire time period for easier reference. It was a great voyage through the last nine years of my life, and I find that, each day that goes by, I'm glad I've taken the time to write down over all these years what was going on in my life at that time.

Back in 2004, just before my first MFM, I was musing on music (as I often do) and wrote this:
Did you ever notice how a song that you once hated and couldn't stand you now like?
I followed it up by mentioning a few that came to mind at the time: The Spice Girls - Say You'll Be There and Duncan Sheik - Barely Breathing.

It occurred to me today, as I went shopping for some new clothes to wear (see my previous entry about not having much left to wear), when another such song popped up on my iPhone. At least one song I didn't care for that, in the intervening years, I've come to like: Maroon 5 - Harder to Breathe.

I think at the time I hated it because it was just freaking everywhere at the time. One of my annoyances with the Clearchannel radio world we live in now is that, when a song has the potential to be popular, every radio station everywhere drives it straight into the ground by playing it seemingly every other song. That's what the station(s) in Auburn were doing at the time with this song.

But ... I think that, precisely because it was everywhere during my senior year at Auburn, every time I hear it now, that's what I think about. Which may explain why I like it now.

So what about you guys? Are there songs that you didn't like when they came out but now do?

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