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You are currently viewing archive for January 2009
Posted By Bakari

I read something recently about psychologists and neurologists who decided to put people in the early passionate stages of new love into an MRI machine.  They showed the volunteer subjects various pictures, some of the object of their affections, some not, and watched how their brains responded differently.

As it turns out, the analogies with drug addiction aren't just a matter of poetic license.

The craving, the irrational behavior, the withdrawal when forced to go without, they seem similar because the same parts of the brain respond to each, and in the same way.

The author of the article I read said that love was like a drug.

But of course, evolution didn't develop our brains to respond positively to cocaine, heroin, or nicotine.  There would be no incentive.
There is, however, very strong biological incentive to have people fall passionately in love.

Which means its far more likely that drugs are like love, not the other way around.

Perhaps the whole reason drugs have appeal in the first place is that they artificially take the place that passion and romance are supposed to.

Makes me think about narcotics in a whole new way.  Sure seems simpler than dating.  I guess there could be a downside I'm not considering....

Posted By Bakari

Happiness is due to outlook, not circumstance.

Psychologists have found that after major life changing events, both positive and negative (examples included winning the lottery and becoming permanently paraplegic), within a few years people tend to return to the same baseline of life-satisfaction they had before.

Stop chasing dreams.

Start appreciating the life around you right now.

Posted By Bakari

Total number of fatal shootings by Oakland Police in 2008: 5

Of those, number which inspired a wrongful death suit: 2 (both of whom had been resisting arrest, one of whom may have been armed)

Number of potentially unjustified fatal shootings by BART Police: 3.
Ever. Since BART opened in 1972.

Number of homicides (not by police) in Oakland in 2008: 123

Again: One hundred and twenty three.

I'm not saying that police going around shooting people is ok.
I'm not saying being in fist fights on the train is grounds for getting shot.
I'm not saying that cops shouldn't be held to higher standards. We are trusting them with our safety, with our very lives.

If the person Oscar had been fighting had been the one to shoot him, it would have been on the news for one day. There would have been no protests. We wouldn't be thinking about it. But his family still would be.
Young black men shooting young black men is a far larger problem than cops shooting young black men, yet we seem to take it for granted.

Again, this is not to say don't protest in this particular case, which was obviously over the line, obviously unjustified.

When we claim it is a pattern, representative of something larger when in fact it isn't; when we use it as an excuse to condemn all police because we really just have an adolescent resentment of authority, all we are doing is increasing the polarity, increasing the mutual distrust between the police and the community, which in turn increases the likelihood of things like this happening.

When someone starts out hating and distrusting all cops, and he gets detained, he is a lot more likely to be resistive, to fight back, and this, understandably, is going to put the officer on guard. When they have to deal with people like that on a regular basis, they are going to become more likely to be aggressive right from the beginning.

There are larger social and historical issues involved, surrounding the legacy of slavery, poverty is inherited just like wealth is, our education system is deplorable, and as a society we value maximum production of wealth over equitable distribution.

None of these things is in any way an excuse for individual behavior.

Are young black males stopped disproportionately? Of course we are. It might have something to do with committing a disproportionate amount of crime. My advice, if you feel like you are being harassed: Don't get into fist fights. Don't smoke weed or drink alcohol in public. Don't sell drugs. Don't drive like a fucking jack-ass. Don't evade the fare or play amplified music on the train. Don't shoplift. Basically, in general, don't be obnoxious.

Chris Rock explains this very well: How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police

Posted By Bakari

In Spanish the term for "I love you" is the same as "I want you"

Contrary to what English speakers might assume, this isn't meant to imply lust.
Te quiero is just as applicable to love for family or friends (with te amo reserved for romantic love - though te quiero is appropriate for a spouse or lover as well)

This is perhaps no more than an idiosyncrasy of language and translation, but it strikes me as the dominate view of love in our own culture.

We might say "I love ice cream" or "I love that movie", meaning that you really really enjoy it.  When something brings us great pleasure, we love it.
Certainly our friends and family and lovers ought to bring us great pleasure.

This type of love, possessive and self-centered, can certainly be applied to people.  I love you because you make me happy, I enjoy your company, I want you around.

It is perhaps unfortunate that we have one word that should cover such a broad range of emotional experience.

Love can also mean "I want you to be happy".  For objects it never means this, but hopefully for people it often does.  While in the 1st meaning it is dependent on my own happiness to exist, in the 2nd I am willing to deliberately sacrifice my own happiness for the benefit of the object of my love.  Ideally a good relationship (any type, not just lovers) will have both types, but really they are two different things.

We feel real care and concern for others, we want to make them happy as they do us, but in a culture obsessed with the self it can be all too easy to get caught up in prioritizing selfish love.

There have been a number of studies out there which confirm in scientific terms what we have known from folk wisdom forever: it is better to give than to receive.  It turns out this isn't just a way of conning the populace into desirable social behavior, its an innate truth of human nature.  Spending money on a gift does more to raise subjective well-being than spending an equal amount on ones self ( 

It seems that love as a feeling of care for others as opposed to a feeling of enjoyment of others, particularly within romantic relationships, is strongly de-emphasized in our culture.
We each spend our time focusing on our own needs being met, giving little time left over to question how much we are meeting theirs.

I see people being quick to point out that it would be unhealthy to prioritize another over ones self - but see, as long as its mutual, it balances out.  Its just like in society: everyone does better when everyone does better. 

Imagine a game of tug-of-rope.  Two equally matched opponents face off.  They pull and struggle and sweat and the knot in the middle stays more or less right in the middle.
If either lets go, they lose, and the consequences may be miserable.  But say they both agreed to stop pulling.  The knot still stays in the middle.  But they don't have to fight anymore.  Things are still the same as they were, but both are better off.  This is what happens when you focus on being good to your partner instead of just on them being good to you.  In the end, instead of a sacrifice, you are both better off than when you started, which is how a good relationship should be.

[click here to read the rest]

Posted By Bakari

I looked it up, and supposedly "middle age" is supposed to consist of the 3rd quarter of life.
Now that doesn't make a lick of sense!
The term "middle" doesn't mean "third out of four".  The term middle means second out of three.

So, even if the official designation disagrees with me, I still maintain that if there is a middle age, it should be in the middle; equal parts between youth and elder.
Assuming that people tend to live to around 90, then it divides neatly up into 3 parts. Most people can agree that 0-30 qualifies as young, and that 60-90 constitutes old, yet no one I've talked to about it (and most especially those approaching or just over the threshold) want to admit that 30-60 is in the middle of those, and is therefor "middle aged".

While our society today is an exception, in most places in the world and in most places in history a person would be married, have a kid or two, and most likely a stable job or even a career and a house by 30, so that measure lines up neatly with the math.

Unlike a lot of people, I don't expect to adjust my definitions as I get older. I consider it a matter of integrity.
Besides, I am already heading that way by a number of personal measures as well: I own the place I live in (granted, its only a trailer, but I did have to pay off a bank loan before I got the title), I run my own business, I've not only been married but I am already divorced, and while I used to imagine myself as a human bullet as I raced down 880 at 105 miles per hour in the middle of the night, these days I drive the same motorcycle at 50 in order to get better gas mileage.

If the middle third is what constitutes middle aged, then I've got one year left of being "young".

I don't generally do anything for my birthday, and I'm not much of a party person, but in this case I think the milestone calls for something special.
I don't really plan things in advance with any consistency; this may change by the time 364 days go by, but here is my plan for a year from yesterday (my last day of youth):

On Saturday, January 9th, 2010, there will be several separate consecutive events.
There will be go-karts and mini golf, either at Scandia or Malibu Grand Prix - (its so hard to decide! Malibu has better, more powerful cars, and a challenging curvy track you can drift on, but Scandia lets you race each other instead of just the clock).
There will be tag (and possibly freeze tag, or even monster tag) at a large playground.
There will be Full Contact Spoons and Amtgard (foam sword fighting) in the park.
And there will be dancing inside of my RV trailer.
I suppose there will also have to be meals in there somewhere.

I also expect a decent amount of drinking and yelling and general galavanting about and carrying on.

Obviously, anyone who knows me know this will hardly spell the end of my endless string of life adventures, youthful indiscretions, and general craziness. Never-the-less, supposedly commemorating the end of it seems as good an excuse as any to coax my friends, many of whom behave as though they think they are supposed to be "mature" already, into playing and having fun and looking stupid in front of other adults.

I don't need much materially, and I am not quite intoxicated by our consumer culture. Plus, I live in a very small space, and am all out of room for more stuff. The best gift you, dear reader, can get me would be to come to at least one of my day-before-my-birthday parties (I expect my best friends to come to all of them!) Mark your calendars.

The last time I played at the giant playground in Scandia with a bunch of friends was my 18th birthday.
Perhaps I shall do this again at 59 and 364 days.
Yes, I do believe I shall.

Posted By Bakari

I've been driving more conscientiously ever since I read the article on hypermiling, which I posted about in November of last year ("Some more stuff other people wrote")

I didn't quite take it to the extent of the guy profiles in the original article (he drives on the edge of the road to avoid the extra friction from the tire grooves, and knows exactly how far from home to coast to a stop exactly in his driveway without touching the brakes) but I did slow down, accelerate gently, shut the engine at long stop lights and coast down hills.  There is even a 2.3 mile stretch of highway 13 (which I take on the way back from Bike Patrols) where I can put it in neutral, shut the engine, coast down one hill, up the next, back down, off the off ramp, around a tight curve, through a yield sign, back on to the freeway entrance for 580, off at the next exit, and down to MacArthur before starting it back up again.

In the past, on the motorcycle I have generally accelerated fast, just because its so easy, and so much fun, and because as hard as I drive on it, I've never gotten less than 50mpg.  I stopped zipping about at 100mph+ after a couple accidents and a whole bunch of tickets, but I still would top 75 at times.
Since reading the article I kept the speed down between 50 and 55 on the highway, and stayed ducked down behind my big aftermarket windshield, out of the wind.  It took a long time to find out the results, because it went so much farther on a full tank.
Where I used to average around 55mpg, on the most recent tank I got 70.2mpg, an increase of 28%.

In the truck I wasn't expecting to find a big difference.  I can't as easily coast around since it uses loses both power brakes and power steering without the engine running.  I was already driving at 55mph as it was, so reducing my speed to 50 didn't seem likely to have much effect.  I already kept the windows up on the highway to reduce drag, and it doesn't have an AC to shut off. 
Even so, from my usual 15-16mpg, it went up to 19.7 on the most recent tank, an increase of 25%.
Its hard to say how much its related to driving habits, because some days I am moving 3 tons of dirt, other days there may be a queen size boxspring sticking straight up into the wind, and others I am just moving a single 2-person love seat, but after almost a month and over 300 miles its likely to have balanced out.

So there you have it.  In both the smallest most efficient vehicle you can find or a big old work truck that can haul several tons, you can save 25-30% on fuel by just making small changes to driving habits.  If this gets out, it could just spell the death of the hybrid.

Posted By Bakari

I still do not put any real stake in sexual compatibility.
What I want is a partnership.
What matters most to me is being able to fully respect my partner, admire her.
I want us to enjoy each other, have fun together, teach each other, challenge each other, support each other.
I want intellectual and emotional compatibility.
I want shared values and priorities.
What matters to me is who she is as a person, not just what I get from contact with her.

It is very early, we have a lot to learn about each other; I can't say anything with any confidence. We haven't had a chance to talk about these things. I don't even know what she is looking for in terms of a relationship. I have always had a tendency to idealize people, to emphasize the good and overlook the bad, and especially now I am not in a proper emotional state to judge - that being said, I have not felt so positively about a new person so quickly since... well, actually, I don't think I ever have.
I am learning more and more exactly what it is that I want, raising my standards by having contact with various people who were each wonderful in their own way, and seeing those things which I might have thought I wanted, but turned out not to work for me.
As I became more selective, it has become harder and harder to find someone who held my interest. I tried not to even think about concepts like "settle"; a slippery slope atop depression.
When I was young the focus of my infatuations were completely random and baseless. It had more to do with accessibility, proximity, than it did on personality. I remember in junior high intelligence became a prerequisite. Then independent thinking.
Kathy, in the first year of high school was the first where looking back, I know exactly what I saw in her. Aside from my crush, she was also my best friend.
But then, she was my friend first. It was based on who she was, not just what she looked like or that she happened to be in my class. But my interest developed slowly, bit by bit.
And so it was with my ex-wife, Aileen. We became friends first, and for years after our first conversation I had not the slightest romantic interest in her. We had sex before we kissed. We still both considered our relationship to be friendship after we were sleeping together regularly. I felt that I loved her before I felt in-love. That was definitely a first. The feeling of love, not romantic, not passion, but caring deeply for a person, caring as much about another human being as you do about yourself, that does not come easily for me. I have felt it only very rarely, and usually transiently. She earned my love by being the wonderful person she is. We became partners, and romantic feeling developed with time. That made it no less real, no less strong. I felt as deeply in love with my wife as I did in any obsession before her. Combining the feeling of "love" with "in-love" produced an attachment so strong it is a wonder to me that I was actually able to function in the real world day-to-day. (It is actually a good thing that she didn't feel as strongly as I did, because we may very well have never left each others sides, and would in fact have not been able to function in the real world).

All this to say I don't especially value what most people today consider a prerequisite for a new relationship, a chemistry or passion or attraction...

[Actual blog no longer blocked at MySpace; just be aware, its gets pretty explicit]