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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Among the flowers

I went back to one of my favorite places near Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

Per tradition, here are my favorite shots from my visit.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Camping at Little Jimmy Campground

Camping seems to be turning into one of my favorite activities as I partake in it more often. I recently went hiking in Angeles National Forest and camped at the Little Jimmy campsite. Here are some pictures from my outing.

Also, this quote about camping from a National Geographic Article is relevant and hilarious:

It seems like well-off white people trying to experience homelessness in a safe, natural setting

Failures of our educational system

I believe that the rise of Trump (and others like him) is a failure of our education system. I would like to point towards one very specific aspect of this failure.

It's becoming more and more evident that our thinking can be flawed in numerous ways. We can make choices through emotions alone. We tend to overemphasize the needs of the immediate present over the future. We actively look for information that confirms our conclusions and disregard valid information that goes against them. Having disagreements and genuinely considering ideas we disagree with feels uncomfortable and we avoid it often. The list goes on and on. This is a small sample.

Now consider this; how many people are actually aware of these failures of thinking? How many people actually know about concepts such as cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias? How many people are aware of the findings that giving into our hatred, anger, fear, and demonizing the "others" actually FEELS good at a neuro-chemical level and gives us a hit of dopamine?

Essentially, how many people are aware (at even a very very basic level) that we can so easily be irrational and make poor decisions? We should create required courses in colleges and universities on how we can fail at thinking. We should have courses that teach us about irrationality and foster a basic level of self awareness about our thoughts and emotions.

Until we actually teach people to think about their thinking, the situation will not improve. People like Trump will rise again and again.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"Everything is all right."

I am currently reading the book "Hallucinations" by Oliver Sacks. I came upon a passage that I thought was emotional and it moved me. I would like to share it.

Ray P. wrote to me after his father died at the age of eighty five, following a heart operation. Although Ray had rushed to the hospital, his father had already lapsed into a coma. An hour before his father died, Ray whispered to him: 'Dad, it's Ray. I'll take care of mom. Don't worry, everything is going to be alright.' A few nights later, Ray wrote, he was awakened by an apparition:

'I awoke in the night. I did not feel groggy or disoriented and my thoughts and vision were clear. I saw someone sitting on the corner of my bed. It was my Dad, wearing his khaki slacks and tan polo shirt. I was lucid enough to wonder initially if this could be a dream but I was certainly awake. He was opaque, not ethereal in any way, the nighttime Baltimore light pollution in the window behind him did not show through.He sat there for a moment and then said "Everything is all right."'

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why must you eat my plants?

My reaction towards recent experiences is perhaps an indication that I am not meant for raising plants outdoors. When I take care of a plant, I can’t help but feel affection towards it. The feelings are not as intense as those for a child or a pet but they are still strong enough to make me seriously disappointed, upset, and saddened when a plant dies due to a variety of unpredictable reasons.

The most recent disappointment involved various critters destroying succulents that I had taken care of for over four months. Even after protecting the plants with bird netting, the scavengers managed to get under the net and bite off pieces of several plants. They also managed to completely uproot a few plants that I especially liked. This whole experience left me very upset and it made me realize how problematic it is to get emotionally invested in a project that is full of unpredictability. Outdoor plants can die due to a variety of factors ranging from disease, unexpected cold or hot weather, and various critters such as squirrels, pigeons, and crows. Perhaps the most upsetting part is that you can prepare for all these problems and you can still lose the plant. It reminds me of a quote by Captain Picard from Star Trek:

It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.

As frustrated as I am, I have to accept the fact that every living organism on Earth is fighting to survive and it will destroy other life forms if it needs to for the sake of survival. For instance, my own existence involves the destruction of living things. I eat meat, fruits, and veggies. I consume paper and use numerous other products. My consumption involves destroying plants and killing animals. Scavengers that destroy plants are living things as well. Their existence also involves the destruction of other living things (such as the plants I am raising). The death of living things for the sake of preserving life seems to be an unfortunate reality of the universe. This certainly isn’t true in every situation but it definitely seems to be a running theme that is present in numerous contexts, both locally and on a cosmic scale (e.g. galaxy formation and the destruction of stars).

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