Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Whoops, I just deleted my entire post. It wasn't any good anyway. I stopped briefly by a blog about comic books the other day and I remembered that I have a box of X-men, about 100 issues, and etc comic books in my apartment. I have no idea what to do with them. I like the idea of buying a cool house and wallpapering my bathroom with them. Some guy on MTV had this done. They are probably less valuable than wallpaper and farmore interesting. I used to think the new issue of X-Men would be so awesome. I kept hoping for a good story and cool action. I was pretty disappointed every month. At the time, I was reading a lot of Dragonlance books and I don't know which was the bigger waste of time and money. At least now I am not curious about either comics or Dragonlance books.

And now for something completely different...

I just finished reading The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. This is the sixth book in the Chronicles of Narnia, but the first in chronological order. It details the creation and founding of the land of Narnia. I found it to be a quick read and pretty good. I like Lewis's style and brevity. He could easily have made that book longer but it was totally unnecessary, unlike R. Jordan. I suppose that since it was written for children, simple language is helpful. The action was not simple and the Ruined World of Charn was pretty cool. It reminded me of some of the stories written by Lovecraft and about some of his concepts. If you haven't read any of these books, Lovecraft or Lewis, I recommend that you do. I have also liked Lewis' The Great Divorce and Out of the Silent Planet. My next book is Perelandra, the second in the Space series by Lewis.

Tomorrow's post is all about Socrates and the law.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Microbrew Review Monday

This Week's Beer: Foggy Bottom Ale

I bought a six pack of this brew because I have lived in DC for five summers since attaining approved alcohol consumption age and never tried it. The label claims that it is an 'english style pale ale' and 'elegantly hoppy'. Some pale ales have a flavor that requires you brace for impact while raising the bottle, I'm talking about you Sierra Nevada, but I found this to be a beer that is quiet in comparison. The ale did not have any yeast in the bottle, which I have noticed seems popular these days, as if pale ales need to further segregate themselves from any Macrobrew by being cloudy. I found this to be a welcome change, as if the brewers decided to let flavor do the talking. It has a decent flavor without overpowering your chosen appetizer or snack. I would recommend this brew to accompany any indian style curry or even a tikka. On the whole, my current mood has me looking for a beer with subtelty and flavor and this beer has a goodly amount of flavor but all the subtlety of an ox.

Overall Review: Sure

As this is my first beer review on the blog I will clarify my review positions. They are in order of the first being worst: Only if the 30 pack costs less than $10; When there is nothing else; So long as we keep this between us; If the alternative is wine or soda; Sure; Why not?; Sounds good; As long as I haven't been drinking it every night of the previous week; Any given morning; Even in class or at work.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Friday Afternoon Philosophy

I bike to most of my destinations in DC and on one route, I pass by a Church of Christ, Scientist. These people believe that sickness and injuries will be healed by God. Doctors and medical practices and such are strictly off limits. I am not certain of the foundation of these beliefs, but I bet it is from an obscure section of the Bible and a guy who thought this up a while ago. My question is this: In relation to the discussion of Crito, in that no sane person willingly wishes to do themselves harm or evil, is this practice of refusing medical treatment according to spiritual guidelines a harm?

The Christian Scientist(CS) belief holds that medical treatment is against God's will. God's will is evident in the occurrence of sickness or injury and a human has no authority to reproach God by seeking medical assistance. These people pray and seek forgiveness for whatever reason they have incurred these sickness or injury. In the Socratic dialogue of Crito, Socrates establishes that the sane do not wish to cause harm to their bodies or souls. He also establishes that the soul/mind is more important than the body and the implication is that we can still seek enlightenment with a damaged body. By denying medical attention, the CS thinks that he/she is obeying God's will and thus their soul is improved by their possible death. However, since the medical treatment is readily available for a variety of situations that are mostly nuisances now, like appendicitis (which will be included in my refutation of Intelligent Design next week), but that are lethal if untreated, are they causing themselves harm? Since they believe that medical treatment would harm their souls and chances of salvation or entrance to heaven (to covered in an additional further statement) and as it is more important not to worry as much about the body as it is to worry about harming the soul, I guess that these people are valid from a Socratic stance in their refusal of medical treatment. Please discuss at your leisure.

The Second Question

In my examination of life, the universe and everything, I come back to physics quite often. This is especially amusing for some because I have never taken a physics course, something I intend to rectify as soon as I can afford night school. I am reading The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan and he states that there are far more brain states possible in the human brain than there are elementary particles in the universe. I have two questions: does he mean the variety of elementary particles like quarks, gluons and protons or does he mean atoms comprising the entire universe? The first question is not hard to grasp. There are a limited number of atomic and quantum particles and eventually we will discover evidence of all of them. The second question has never made any sense to me. You may have heard it in this form: there are more grains of sand on a beach than atoms in the universe. How is that possible? Atoms are the basis for all matter that we know, sand included. So each grain of sand must have atoms in it, unless sand is a sort of atomless matter and we live in the Matrix. (This would seriously suck because those movies really weren't all that. 6/10 at best and 2/10 at worst.) Energy is ions and electrons and stuff zipping around making our brain's will known to the body. If we can be thinking all that we think, are we not using a serious amount of the finite resources of the universe's tiny particles? I had a Chemistry teacher in junior year of high school who made these statements about the beach and the fact that a given lump of matter had one hundred thousand atoms in it. I then asked them how that was possible given that sand all had atoms in it. She told me to stop being a cheeky little shit and finish the assigned experiment. Does anyone out there have a rational explanation for the validity or invalidity of this statement?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Life is pretty sweet, I guess

I may not have regular employment, but I have enough money to live for three months. I have plenty of time to look for a job and squeeze in a few hours of whatever activities my heart should desire. I have a clean apartment in cool neighborhood and some friends with whom to hang. SO why does my life seem completely useless. I pay my taxes with no complaint and I have all the amenities about which most people on the planet won't even dream. When I am employed this feeling subsides somewhat, but mostly I just sit and stew in my own discontent.

I think that discontent is a far better state than contentment, so maybe that is why I foul up job after job. I wonder what my life would be liek if I were happy. It would probably suck, I wouldn't question the facts of my existence as often because I would be swimming in my my pool of happiness and love and all that crap. I am content in my cynicism and discontent, I guess.

Further on Apology

Per our conversation of the night before, I am posting this question. How does an examined life or knowledge of the self lead to wisdom in the greater world? If I know my motivations and needs, how does that help me to help others? Should I even be concerned with helping others? fulsome responded with the position that once a person understands their being, they will know how to act in every situation. Maybe this knowledge could not be used to help others, but one could lead an examined life as an example for those who are struggling through life. This reminded me of the small bit of Confucius that I have read which states that in order for s person to rule, he (gender is now irrelevant) must understand the motivations of his people. In order to understand the motivations of his people, he must understand the motivations of his household. Following this line to its finality, a ruler must understand their own motivations before they can rule anyone. Self-knowledge must be an awesome power and it is no wonder that so many people have written about it since. fulsome pointed out, again, last night that many have claimed that all of philosophy is but a footnote to Plato. Start at the top and make your way down.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Regularly Scheduled Inanity

Recently approved regular articles for your consumption.(Alliterations are sweet!) Microbrew Review (Monday) and Friday Afternoon Philosophy. The currently scheduled Western Thought (WeT) Wednesday maintains it's headline status. Microbrew Review will be posted on Monday following the scheduled Saturday/Sunday imbibing. I will either be purchasing these at random from Magruder's in Northwest Washington, DC for Sunday consumption or at the Brickskeller in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, DC. Friday Afternoon Philosophy will consist of my attempts at a new understanding of myself. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Response to Apology

Well, this is only a week and a few days late, so I am actually ahead of my college schedule. However, given the fact that my college schedule could have been maintained by anyone who rode the extremely short bus to school, the fact that I keep such a schedule should mean that I am quite the putz. Well, that is my defense, or in Ancient Greek, my Apology. This is my response to Socrates’ Apology in the court of Athens.

Socrates was, in my estimation, the greatest man that has yet lived. Marconi, Babbage, Newton, de Beauvior, Curie or any others are fairly insignificant in their influence by comparison. This dialogue is the simplest evidence of the verity of that statement. Socrates is direct and uses plain language in his dissection of his accuser’s arguments for his prosecution. He outlines his quest for wisdom, in present times this would be called the path to enlightenment. The Oracle at Delphi declared that there was no one in the land wiser than Socrates. He marched all over Athens asking questions of those whom others called wise and found them all lacking. Finding none able to satisfy his need for a wise being, be concluded that perhaps the Oracle was being sly and claiming that all are equally wise or, more likely, equally stupid. For those who don’t know the story of the Oracle of Delphi, the Oracle was a massive, say two storey, hollow statue inside of which the priests could give answers to seekers and pilgrims, while they lit torches and incense to provide atmosphere and invoke a godly presence. These things are pretty impressive even today, I saw one in one of the roman ruins along the west and southwest coast of Turkey. It was smaller and looked like it could barely fit one person inside at a time, but if I were a man less erudite, I would think it rather godlike. But I digress.

The bit about the poets is still very true today. The arrogance I have encountered among those who consider themselves artists continues in nearly all forms of art. The funny thing about artist’s arrogance even extends to those who relate to the artistic community. Like Jim Jarmusch’s film, a director I find quite funny, Coffee and Cigarettes or the movie Reality Bites, those who think they live some sort of bohemian lifestyle and aren’t even artists think that they have some sort of knowledge of the universe that can only come from being outside a society. I find the people that aren’t even artists that claim a sort of wisdom from being in proximity to artists or supporting artists to be extremely ridiculous. The artists are at least tapping into their inspiration and transforming this into some tangible product, but the neo-bohemian does nothing of the sort besides drinking lots of coffee. The artist has inspiration but no real comprehension of that inspiration or whence it comes. This is not wisdom. This reminds me of something I read in my high school philosophy class, probably by Jung or Capra, about the difference between Modern Man and Pseudo-Modern Man. Defense Exhibit 1 in the case for Socrates being the philosophical Elvis and doing everything first. On page 23, section 38A-B, you find elements of existentialism. Socrates discusses his desire to live an examined life and an implied pity, or perhaps disgust, for those who refuse to reflect on their existence. Defense Exhibit 2, your honor. On page 25, section 40A-41D there is a sort of Pascal’s wager. Death is either a sweet release or a meeting of all those who have died and reside in the underworld/Heaven. Defense Exhibit 3.

My favorite part of the dialogue is when he is directing questions to Meletus. Socrates seems to get pissed and really skewers the shit out of his accuser’s claims. In comparison with his jocular tone while conversing with Euthyphro, one gets the feeling that Socrates seems extremely angry and I can feel his voice rising in volume and forcefulness as he continues his obliteration of the frivolous claims of his accusers.

Socrates was never overconfident or frivolous in his defense, except perhaps for the part where he suggests the amount of his fine of one mina (something like one hundred or one thousand dollars), but even then he was making a sentence that was in accordance with his situation and the laws of Athens.

Buddha was an important thinker and so too with Confucius, Chief Seattle and many others from many cultures, but Socrates did so much so early and we are lucky that Plato’s writings are complete and have been saved throughout the years. To conclude, Socrates is and always shall be The Man.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Battling Stars

This is probably meaningless but I am going to write it anyway. I love the new Battlestar Galactica show on the SciFi channel. Well written and fantastic production in all respects come together to make an hour of television that I prefer not to miss.
I also like Dead Like Me but since that is dead and not likely to rise to undead status like the reapers do, I'll just buy the dvds.

Live Music Free!

Well, live anyway. I am going to see The Wrens ($12!) on Sept. 9 at the Black Cat and Q And Not U ($10!) on Sept. 23. You should come. Fulsome over at Well-Rounded Nerds says they're good bands and he even has people (who aren't all me) read his posts and comment on them. The Pietasters are playing in September sometime at the 930 Club.

Absence Excuse

Well, umm, work dragged from Sunday night straight through to Monday afternoon. I was on the job from 9 pm to 445 pm. It sucked. The usual work related issues apply, in that as soon as we finished a section, someone would point out that there may be some changes made in an hour and so we would end redoing a crap load of work. If I wasn't such a dutiful guy, I could have gotten away with a bit of fudging, but someone might eventually notice. The cynics always notice the most crap and end up fixing it. I guess that is just because we are smarter than everyone else.
Anyway, I read the City Paper. On Thursday mornings, I go to my local and have a coffee and read the paper all the way through. If the lead story is good I will even read it in page order. I flip through the classifieds for the cartoons and then read some personals. I like the 'I Saw You' section. It is a reminder to me that every encounter has an opportunity for something else. You could be talking to somebody about something innocuous and if you think they are attractive, you must leave them with some form of contact. The best encounters are the brief. Briefs also make for a good encounter, but ladies usually call them panties and that isn't as good a pun, unless she is wearing Jockeys. If she is only mildly attractive, or I am drunk and in no state to judge(see also; last train at 330 am, just been on date, etc), I steer the conversation to haunts and as I leave I saw that I hang out at frequently at this place. Sometimes, it is even true.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Meditations on Meditation, Part 1

The only reason I got into meditation was because I couldn't sleep. I ended up sitting in the middle of my shitty apartment, naked, cross legged with my eyes closed. All I could hear besides the noise of the building or the guy next door trying to keep his ex-wife out of his apartment was the raging furor of my mind. All I could be then was neutral or angry. Sometimes I just sat in my chair, my only piece of furniture, for hours and shivered. Some nights I would work out two or three times and paint minis until I had only three hours to sleep and then pass out. It was pretty weird. Some of the articles I have read at work indicate that I may have been a tad traumatized by the experiences of the previous summer (that is for another entry) but I think that, like so many major catastrophes in history, it was a confluence of events. All the shit that leftover in my head from high school and my family collided with the remains of my psyche from the beating it took all summer and I just imploded. There was so much going in my head that I could only deal with it in the dark. Walking to my various jobs, I would practice holding my breath and a kind of non-thought. I would walk a mile or three and not have a single higher thought. I lived only for my body while the sun was up. Once I got home and was trying to sleep, all the little cracks in my mind would leak a steady flow into my conscious and I had to face everything. The shivering came from trying not to cry. It took me an entire year, all of 1999, to move into a state of wholeness about my being. The parts of my previous life that I needed or wanted were kept and the others were either combined into usable features or, for the most part, discarded as harmful. I can't say that I am a finished person, because I never really finish anything, but there are some things that just don't end. My being isn't a process that has stages, it just is what it is. Lately, it has been feeling out of frame, somehow, and I think I should meditate on this development.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Food Angst

I am reading articles for work about eating disorders and general American problems with food, diet and body image. These articles have freaked me out a little. I know that I don't eat right and my excuse is that I am already carrying around some probably unhealthy fat and should get regular exercise. I already walk almost everywhere and if I am not walking, I am biking. It is my nutritional intake that sucks. I live basically alone and have no reason to cook for one. It is a little lonely and a lot of hassle. I take a multi vitamin in the morning and usually drink an instant breakfast drink, but at night, I tend to go without, rather than eat a balanced meal. If I had regular employment, I tell myself, this would be a different situation and I would eat right. It's not like I don't have the brains to get the right info on a proper diet, by which I mean the food groups and not the Atkins or South Beach.
According to some psychiatrists, nearly everyone is a borderline case of eating disorder, mostly due to the way we think about food and partly due to what we eat on a regular basis. However, according to psychiatrists, nearly everyone is a borderline case of ADHD, so take this as you like it. I think ADHD and ADD, or whatever d's, h's and a's you want, is a crock and a case of parent's refusing to force a kid to behave in an appropriate manner, but this is subject of another rant on another day. In my case, cooking for one makes me feel good because I made something and put effort into being me, while simultaneously making me feel lonely because it is harder to deny my loneliness when I sit across from myself.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I am writing tests for continuing education credits for social workers and psychiatrists at my current job. I have been instructed not to make them too difficult as the goal is to allow the people to pay the fee and pass the test and then keep coming back to spend money and earn CE credits. I have been told that I am making the quizzes hard enough that they are worried that people will not become return customers. If I make them as easy as asked, the takers will not need to read the articles to pass the quiz. What is the point of continuing your education if you don't actually learn anything? There is no point at all. This brings me to my next point.

Euthyphro is a nice dialogue and great cause for conversation, but not a controversial subject. It is a fantastic introductory dialogue but I am not a neophyte. I feel as if I have let myself down and thus shall read a far more challenging selection for next Wednesday. Given that Euthyphro is the only Socratic dialogue I have ever read all the way through, any dialogue ought to be quite good.

When you get down to the roots of the matter, I am not the kind of guy to really finish a project. It took me eight years to finally get my diploma from college. I joke that I did it on my own terms and in my own way, but the reality is that things get finished in my head long before they are at a point that anyone else would call complete. Once I consider something over, I basically never return to it. I have boxes of miniatures in my apartment filled with assembled and half painted plastics putzes. I have shelves of books that I read all the way to the middle of the final chapter and then said to hell with it. Sometimes, I think that I do this because I may not have a problem never talking to a person again after I write them off, but I seem to keep useless half complete crap around long after it has ceased provide any benefit. So now my life is entering a new era/paradigm/phase/decade/whatever. I am shifting my style from a person who starts to a person who finishes.

Tonight I have to work out with an ex Navy Seal Video, paint some models and read a chapter of The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan. The video is a crazy workout. The models are Legion of the Damned I converted. The book is about his ideas on the evolution of intelligence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Crito Club: Euthyphro

This is one of my favorite Socratic dialogues. Socrates really lays into Euthyphro and shows what a sarcastic old guy he was. Most dialogues can be read on their own, but this one is helped by a little basic knowledge of the ancient Greek mythology. In it, Socrates and the eponymous interlocutor discuss the nature of holy and, by implication, the nature of other such indefinable concepts like good, evil, piety, love, etc. This is the basis, if I remember correctly, for the whole monad theme. There is a certain quality about anything that gives that thing its unique identity. Such that a tree has a certain tree-ness to it that, regardless of language, makes it a tree no matter the perceiver. Modern philosophy really loves this whole theme.
I guess that my question pertains to the relevance of this dialogue in our current society. Can this dialogue be applied to a society with one god that is all good? I don't personally believe in God as others do but I wonder about the nature of holiness. Holy is an attribute of a thing. I would say that to be holy is to have some aspect of the divine. However, that would probably all depend on the perceiver. For instance, every now and then a tortilla will pop up with a smudge that looks remarkably like the face of the Virgin Mary or Jesus or whomever. Is this tortilla holy? I guess my definition would declare it holy if someone claims that the tortilla has an aspect of the divine. Some part of God is perhaps easier to perceive in the Mary tortilla than in a plain tortilla. This definition is falling into the same trap as Euthyphro's first. I can only declare that certain things are holy while giving no definition of the concept. It may be easier to say that to be holy is have some aspect of the divine but that leads to the question, what is divinity? Following even further, what is the nature of god and how do we find these aspects in our world? Even in monotheistic cultures such as ours, we all struggle with varying definitions of God, good, piety and holiness. I love this dialogue because you can just keep thinking about it and because this question can be asked of almost anyone.
I think Euthyphro would make a great short movie.
As a final bit, people who claim that philosophy has little or no bearing on real life should read this dialogue. There is a section about going to an expert in times of uncertainty. I personally follow this advice all the time. When I am approaching a task I know nothing about, I imagine a man in my mind who has far greater knowledge on the subject and I ask myself, what would he do? It usually works out pretty well.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Crito Club

Tonight's reading, for those participating, is the Socratic dialogue Crito. This a grand plot of mine to read all the stuff I was supposed to read in college. Fulsome, being a Well Rounded Nerd, will also be posting his reaction to the dialogue and then we will commerce harshing on each other's opinions and comments.
Since Socrates was probably the coolest guy to have yet lived, besides me, I have always found his dialogues useful and maybe you will, too. Although, since only two people know about this experiment in digital exposition, I am betting there will not be a huge amount of comments.

All Fulsome's Fault

I have created this blog so that fulsome over at Well Rounded Nerds (not a comment on weight at all) and I could argue without using cell phone minutes. It should work out well, except that the power in my apartment shuts off a cat sneezes in Greenland.
Since these things are all inherntly selfish to a degree matched only by US Weekly, I will now expound on the nature of my being. What does it mean to be in this world? Existentially speaking, I am at a constant state of irritation with the world. I am smart enough to be outraged at the situation we are currently in and our near future looks no better, based on presently stated goals of the G8. Unfortunately, I am still at a loss as to how I can help mold the world into a closer approximation of my ideal or indeed even move through it as the world is now. Maybe I'll just run for congress.
In terms of life, I have a few friends with the ones who understand me the best living an average of three thousand miles away. The closest one is a great friend and usually up for anything, but he has no hunger that I can discern. As human beings need drives us to commit great acts, both terrible and magnificent, and if we are happy and content, complacency rots away our need. I find it hard to stir my own blood when I am surrounded by those who graze. I long to be surrounded by those who wish to hunt. As I may soon become self employed, I am fairly certain I will spend my well-gotten gains flying West.
Read you round.