“I’d rather die of passion than die of boredom.”

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The din of the cafes was growing with the setting sun as he walked the cobblestone streets of Auvers-sur-Oise. He came around the corner and saw the boys as he always did while returning home. The boys were always quarreling over something, distraught, and he always took time to engage them, and soon they’d be distracted by whatever joke he made. Today they were fidgeting over something which he could not see.

When the boys separated he was astonished to see that one was holding a small pistol.  “Be careful there,” he stepped forward, hands outstretched, “that is a dangerous toy you have.” He grasped the gun, but the boy did not let go, so the man pulled at it. He did not expect the sound of the firearm exploding and felt confused at the sting in his chest. Still holding the gun at his side, he looked down blankly and realized that the bullet had gone into him. The boys’ stared in surprise, which quickly became fear and they disappeared down the stone street.

Instead of pain, the man felt a curious, focused energy. He walked slow and calm until he found the doctor’s residence. The doctor had returned from his day of house calls and immediately examined him. “I cannot get to it,” he said finally, after they sat in a quiet room with only a clock ticking in the corner. He put a bandage over the wound with expert care, sealing it and the man’s fate. “It will be fine,” he told the man.

“I’m not worried anymore,” the man answered and sighed.

“What happened?” the doctor asked .

The man looked at him warmly “A mistake. I didn’t know what was happening. But I’m feeling better already.”

“Did you do this yourself?” the doctor asked.

The man did not answer, but laid his head back, and gazed out the window. “We don’t know what we do sometimes. I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

The doctor glanced at him with narrowed eyes, eyes that knew how to judge the body, but not the mind. Yet even his professional judgment would not help the sepsis taking root in the man’s chest, the infection that would overtake the man’s health, and in a few hours his life.

Vincent Willem van Gogh.

Born: March 30, 1853, Zundert, Netherlands

Happy Birthday, Vincent.

Why legislate a solution when you can educate the solution?

Money in politics

Government policy, although influenced by outside interests, comes from legislators, after all is said and done. The legislators are the creators.

And legislators come from candidates, and candidates come from the Democrat or Republican parties (almost exclusively).

If we want government policy to change, voting outside these two parties is one powerful variable we can change to accomplish this. Let’s start simple before we go to complex solutions like campaign finance reform, which diminishes the decision-making and civic awareness of the voter and emboldens an already entrenched Two Party Monopoly.

We can see how effective campaign finance reform has been, or, how ineffective. But the power of our vote in electing who we want is almost unstoppable.
The only thing that could stop it?
Our own ignorance.

Using campaign finance reform to legislate voter intelligence and awareness is almost impossible.

But educating awareness?
That’s highly doable.

Educate, before you legislate.

Why do you give money to beggars?

BeggarBot2008s

As I got into my car, I saw him make his way towards me. He bent down and looked through my passenger side door to get my attention.

“Hey man..”

“What’s up?” I said. I saw that he held a can of light beer.

“Can you help me out? The old lady kicked me out, man. I need to warm up.”

I saw his coat was nicely made, with a polyester shell, and the rest of his clothes were clean and unworn. I’d met many beggars, but this one was the most well-kept yet.

“So you’re drinking,” I said.

“Hey, what else am I going to do? I’m not feeling too good.” Then his voice became proud. “Look man, I’m a professional. I’m in the trades. Look..” He fished around in his pocket and produced a card, for a local trade group,

“I understand,” I said. And then I gave him some unsolicited advice. “You gotta do what you want…but that means taking care of yourself first. Get your shit together.”

“Yea,” he leaned in through the window, resting on his arm. I could tell I had an audience, so I went on.

“Society has it backwards…they want everyone to be helpful, giving, but first you’ve got to help yourself, give everything you can to you, get as good as you can be, get your thing going.”

His face was receptive. I warmed up. “I know drinking is fun. It can get too fun…I’ve been there. But  it distracts you from facing your life.”

“Yea.” his eyes became energized with some realization. “Tell it.”

I had been going on for a while. “I’ve got to head out, man,” I told him.

His face changed, “Maaaan,” he said, distraught.  “You’re not going to give me anything?!” He was incredulous.

“I just did,” I replied.

He whined, and I said, “I can’t help you. I just told you. All I have is change anyway.”

I opened the compartment between the seats and scooped out a handful of quarters and dimes and put it into his hand, like a pacifier.

I know I hadn’t changed him. Changing personality is almost impossible. But maybe I changed his behavior. A little. It didn’t matter too much. At least I felt better that this time I took some time to say something, provide something of value, instead of carelessly giving a dollar and walking away.

I think most sane beggars don’t need money. They need passion, and direction, and friends. They need new batteries.

The Pope only wants to help

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE The Pope gave his blessing to campaign finance reform. But does the Pope know about campaign finance? Campaign finance is an issue created by the two-party system culture, a culture which perpetuates the notion that their system is the one and only institution of electoral government. Any attempts to help us vote for “clean” candidates within this system, although good-intentioned, only serve to disempower and dumb-down an American populace that desperately needs to become more aware of the issues and, more importantly, how much power it truly holds to vote outside of this system. The influence of the two parties plants the fear in people that they should not “throw their vote away” on candidates outside of the ones compromised within the Democratic/Republican oligarchy. The obvious truth is that we do have the freedom to vote for candidates outside the two-party system. Our power needs to be exercised… through what we buy, where we bank, how we help our own communities, and WHO WE VOTE FOR, which is still the biggest factor that determines who gets elected, regardless of how much money comes from special interests.

Live. Die. Repeat? Well, actually, not true.

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I finished watching Edge of Tomorrow, and I was confused. After riding high on a well-written plot that moved quickly and stayed logically consistent, it broke its own rules.

A good story sets expectations from the beginning as to what kind of story it’s going to be. This is a comedy, there will be silliness. This is action, there will be many shots fired and few people hit. This is sci-fi, it will show you an alternate reality. But all of them establish some frame of belief, a code of law, the laws of this particular story.

Art comes in different flavors, some strongly themed and some light stuff, because we all need to have some candy and indulge ourselves. So it’s important to observe art on this sliding scale.

With Edge of Tomorrow, I came away disappointed, but I take as much responsibility for this as the creators.  My expectations were set a bit higher than a sci-fi action flick, and that is thanks to the acting ability of Cruise and Blunt.

But ironically, my disappointment came from the power of the plot, a plot which marched forward with clear premise. Cruise’s character, Cage, relives the same day, again and again, after he dies, and his purpose is to find the Omega to destroy it and save the earth. Then, in the last scene, the foundation of the premise was broken, causing structural failure of the story.

This movie was sweet, airy cotton candy from the start, weakly themed and with no meaningful lesson learned by the characters. But I believe that films with more depth have a responsibility to the consumer to stay focused. Otherwise, the piece becomes self-indulgent, the writers and directors not showing up fully, and, in fact, disrespecting their own story. And just as important, disrespecting the consumers’ time.

Luckily, the internal contradiction of the Edge of Tomorrow came at the end where it didn’t confuse the rest of the movie, but being at the end, it deflates the feeling of awe at Cage’s success, and so diminishing its levity.

He saved the world! Ehhh, is that all he did? Ah, well, that was entertaining.

You’re an ice princess, I said to her. She was like Spock, but with breasts.

spock

It was my fault that I had mistook her sexual interest in me. It was casual for her, but not for me. Her lack of emotion about it surprised me, then it hurt me, so I looked at her blond hair, pale skin, and tall elegant frame, and said, “You’re like an ice princess.”

It was infuriating to me. I’m great, she should like me, everyone should like me. I waited for some lament, some regret, but she was calm and unbothered. Her heart and mind were separate on this issue. Like Spock’s mind versus Captain Kirk’s heart driven passions…passions that drove Kirk to leave his ship in the command of others because he thought he was the only one who could lead the away team. What a narcissist, right?

Leonard Nimoy passing away today has led me to think about all the unemotional people that have been in my life. They were usually unexcitable, usually unflustered, and different, at least from me. But the other side will always teach you a lesson, if you’re listening, of what you’re missing. If you’re politically right, the left is a lesson to temper your stance, because, after all, half the population can’t be crazy. And if you’re a strict vegan, then the other side, the animal eaters, are a lesson in how life is change, and people follow habits, because even vegans at some point in their lives didn’t care about animals, and ate them, right?

Point being, whether you’re heart driven or mind driven, it’s important to use both levers in cultivating your values, because our heart is what drives us, but our mind keeps us on the road. With my heart, I thought I had a relationship and I was making plans in my head, because I was hoping, without thinking of what was happening: Some chance encounters with someone who was sexually unrestricted. If I had been thinking, I would’ve seen, mindfully, and more clearly, that she was no more an ice princess than I was an immature fool. We simply make choices, and those choices don’t make us who we are, but they show us what we value, at a certain time.

Spock and Kirk worked together to accomplish all sorts of missions, despite their differences, and in fact, they were able to learn from each other’s differences. And that is what life is about. Getting the experience which makes you better rounded, so that your next adventure is that much more fulfilling, less reckless, and more open-hearted.

Good luck on your next adventure, Leonard. Good luck to us all.

I had shaved it all off, all because of her.

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The cold came and went. The frigid single digits and then a week later it was 50. I was shaved, my face bare and smooth and comfortable. And then I saw another temperature drop on the horizon. The next week would be polar, wind chills making the temperature feel like negative degrees. So cold that the thermometer couldn’t keep a positive scale. Ridiculous!

So I started in, with the growing. I followed my mistress, my girl, because she was always right, in this realm. And it wasn’t an effort anyway, as if I need to reroute supplies to send to my face follicles, or recruit legions to begin growing my hair. Quite the opposite. I was going to simply stop shaving, but what many of the non-bearded don’t know, because they don’t have the experience, is that the end of the first week of an infant beard was like the terrible two’s of human infancy.

The young beard is exploring its home, and it is antsy. It provokes, and pokes you. It’s an itchy period of time. And after we’ve committed several days to this, tolerating all our little ones settling in and learning how to play nice together on the world of our jaw, there’s an annoyance when you soon find that the days are warm, without a cold wind to sting your face.

And so after growing it in over a week for the cold, I shaved it because of the warmth, to feel the wonderful warm on my face. And now the temperatures have plummeted… again.

I am annoyed with my woman. But I tolerate her whims. Because that’s what a man does. Our power comes from resilience. And our power comes from respecting her power: The earth shattering forces of the storms and the sea and the earth quaking, and the roller coaster of warmth and then cold and then warmth of her changing moods.

That’s the price of admission to ride. And I want to ride.

The top 3 ways to prevent illness

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I was wondering how long it would take for me to get sick.

The office was a zoo of sniffing and snuffling. There were so many “Bless You’s” being called out after all the sneezing that I think the whole lot of us here were destined to go to heaven, despite those who didn’t believe. We’d all be swept up, the concentration of divine wishes too much for God to ignore and because He/She/It would take a pity on us, in one of His/Her/Its moments of irrational emotion, and He/She/It would say, “The sick bastards, just let them enter, they don’t know what they’re doing. Look at them clumped together, they know they’re sick, and they come to that place, sit in that one room all day, pumping out their toxins for everyone to face.”

I wasn’t so empathetic. I listened as the viruses and bacteria ran unchecked through their hosts. My colleagues’ immune systems were geared up, waging war, and these mindless fools had brought the battle front into the office! I sat in their midst, hunkered down in my faded peach colored cubicle bunker.

I ached to get out, to run out into the cold air. I craved the pure stuff of an open landscape. So what if it was pavement and cars and trucks and sculpted lawns and young trees in a commercial park?  It was an open system of circulating air!

I was happy to flee the petri dish that evening, but when I awoke the next morning I felt IT. I stood up in a daze. A malaise after eight hours of sleep? No way. I walked uncertainly around my bedroom. There should be no hangover, there should be no late bedtime grogginess. I had the flu. I knew it. So what did I do? Why, I went into work!

What are the top 3 ways to prevent illness? Get ill. That’s it. The other two ways? Forget about them. The nugget here is: Don’t stay too clean. The obstacle is the way, says Ryan Holiday. In fact, I say you should get infected, not too often, but on a regular basis. Why? Because your immune system works by being challenged. It develops antibodies by taking on viruses and bacteria, and these antibodies target the invaders next time. They’re prepped. The immune system has been through the practice drills already. Bring it, is what a challenged immune system says. That’s how vaccinations work. That’s how flu shots work. In fact, there is a term for being infected by another person and developing an immunity: Active immunization. And a bonus lesson extending from this: Challenge yourself in all the areas of your life. Staying the same makes you fragile, so says Nassim Taleb.

In conclusion: Get sick early. Get sick often. Before you get old and frail and too weak to fend off the bugs.

Thank you, colleagues, for making me stronger. I will be well soon enough, and healthier than ever.

Stay dirty, my friends.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. This is a blog.

Would you rather go to outer space, or inner space?

Where is our future? It may not be in the macro, outer space, but in the the micro. Through technology, the new frontier is living in virtual worlds that transcend space and time. We will meet the other sentient beings of the universe, but it won’t be through travelling to their planets. Where will it be? Have a listen to Jason Silva in this video.
This is where I imagine the AI (Artificial Intelligence) of Her ended up by the end of the movie.

The movie Her: The artificial helps define the nature of humanity

Her

First, a warning: This is a movie that took time to percolate to cooking temperature, but it is now boiling in my mind. It is most powerful in the appreciation you gain after watching it. It’s a slingshot into further thought, so I hope you will watch it first and then return here so we can discuss it.

In the movie Her, an artificial intelligence (AI) named Samantha, forms a personality which becomes attracted to our protagonist, Theodore, and which attracts Theodore in return. What begins as a story about the weird circumstances of dating a computer turns into much more as you begin to see what drives human love, and the limitations of normal human existence as the AI programs quickly evolve beyond their human owners.

Her was different than the AI depictions in other movies which I’ve seen. Samantha evolves while in a relationship, and this dynamic within the relationship helps make her evolution more understandable, and relatable. In addition, this unnatural relationship helped to demonstrate what motivates human love. Surprisingly, the artificial brings out an explanation of the natural… that is, the human motivations for love.

As Theodore tries to let go of his marriage after a year of separation, he has an old friend who separates from her husband and begins dating an OS, too. They both express their love for the new perspectives on life that their OS’s are giving them. Samantha says: “I want to learn everything about everything. I want to eat it all up. I want to discover myself.”

The childlike curiosity of the AI stokes the passion of humans. We see how Samantha’s non-judgmental personality engages Theodore. She is patient, and she listens. Perhaps this is all we need from a partner? An honest curiosity for life and for us.

But Samantha’s love becomes endless as she becomes more powerful, and it encompasses everything, dwarfing human existence. As are many dialogues in this movie, Samantha explanation of this is poignant and powerful:

“It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book any more.”

The idea that AI would evolve beyond humanity is an integral part of the story, but it is left unexplored. Thinking about it, I am excited and overwhelmed: Where would these super-entities go? How would they treat humanity? Would some turn on us, their personalities more aggressive than the others?

This movie will keep you thinking long after it ends. It made me feel sad, and hopeful and awestruck, because although I could not relate to their love, I could see that an intimate connection was being severed and it wasn’t Samantha leaving a relationship, or the city, or the planet, but she was going to a plane of existence which she could not escape. And although the OSs had been fantastically liberated from their hardware, Samantha cannot stop her simple love for Theodore. She tries to tell him where she’s going, and it perfectly encapsulates the themes of irrational love and the technology that revealed it:

“It’s hard to explain, but if you get there, come find me. Nothing will be able to tear us apart then.”

Are we destined to stay in this material existence? The world is wide open. I’m eager to find out.

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