Stupid things

A farewell to blogging

Well, life has many twists and turns.  Sometimes we look at the path we’re on and decide it’s time to change courses.  I sure know my life is changing, and, boy, it’s been a fun ride.  Everyday I’m thankful for having the opportunity to do things and learn so much.  This blog has chronicled my thoughts and ideas for a long time.

I always knew I’d stop blogging someday.  And today I say farewell.  Farewell blogging.

You might ask: Why?  My answer: Because I thought this blog was going to make me rich and famous, and my dreams did not come true.  I tried to make this blog the ultimate destination for everyone.  I did everything in my power to try to make everyone love me.  And what did I get?  Indifference.  Neglect.  Sure, there were some good times.  But c’mon, were they as good as I dreamed better times would be?  No.  No, they weren’t.

So I have to say goodbye to blogging.  I know I won’t be able to do it anymore.

You might ask: When?  My answer: When I die.  I have no idea when that will be.  Until then I’m going to continue blogging as normal, of course.  But I just wanted to go ahead and say goodbye in advance while I had the chance.  Some people have the chance and never take it.  And then we’re left wondering if they ever even really meant to say goodbye.  I think everyone should say farewell to their blogs right now if they haven’t done so already.  Because you can’t take blogs with you to the afterlife, probably, maybe.

You might be thinking: Hey, Sean, I can take over your blog for you after your demise, just leave it to me!  To which I say: Blasphemy!  Blasphemy on high!  Only I can write this blog!  How dare you admit such hubris and arrogance!  Oh, woe upon you!

OK.  I’m glad I could get this farewell out of the way.  It was really bothering me because for a long time I thought I had to blog in chronological order.  And I do, for the most part.  But when saying goodbye to a blog, it seems best to step out of the temporality of nature and give a respectful nod into the blurry fog of the future, because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that an end to blogging lies somewhere in those clouds of dust.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Stupid things

Frogs

The frogs (not your hoity-toity intellectuals) are starting to return from a thin nearby stretch of woods to breed in the rainwater on the cover of a nearby swimming pool.

It’s going to be a froggy spring!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Philosophy

Dumbledore’s existential crisis

I was recently reminded of Dumbledore’s words from the last Harry Potter film. Harry Potter has been killed, or thinks he has been killed, and has a vision of the old dead wizard. He asks his vision something like: “Is this real? Or is it just happening inside my head?” To which Dumbledore (or Harry’s vision of him) replies something like:

Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?

Questioning the nature of reality is in and of itself all well and good. But I have trouble having much respect for a wizard who would encourage, nay, corrupt the youth of this world to fail to distinguish between the objective existence of this world and the fantasies of the mind. No, it cannot be happening inside Harry’s head and be “real” in the sense that Harry is talking about at the same time. Dumbledore, YOU FAIL! This is a stupid quote.

Or maybe he’s not even answering Harry’s question, and is just trying to tell him it’s not real using the Socratic method?

By S P Hannifin, ago
Stupid things

Age 26

What great men did at age 26:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Wrote an opera for an emperor

Albert Einstein: Published a paper that introduced the equation E = mc2

Orson Welles: Directed and starred in one of the greatest films in cinema history

Sean Patrick Hannifin: Ate some toast

By S P Hannifin, ago
Philosophy

Facebook Parenting… is sad

Ugh, this just makes me sort of sick. I obviously am in no place to judge the whole situation, but I can judge the side of it shown in the video. If your child treats you with disrespect and breaks your heart (or at least embarrasses you publicly), you do not respond in kind. That is irresponsible, immature, and objectively morally wrong. Seeing people applaud the man fills me with sadness. Why would you ever applaud someone hurting someone else? Even if this punishment was just, it would be a tragedy for it to be needed.

According to posts made later by this man, everything is OK, the teen is not scarred for life, the computer wasn’t that important, etc. That’s good, but it doesn’t excuse the objectively bad parenting, and him claiming “because that’s the way I was raised” as justification seems to imply baseless judgment. Do you think you were raised perfectly?

I’m not saying that I think parents can be perfect all the time, but they do have the higher position in the relationship, and they should at least try to use that position to admit their imperfections, ask for forgiveness when necessary, love unconditionally, guide with behavior, and keep themselves from descending into petty shouting matches or games of revenge. Easier said than done, of course, but they should at least agree that that is the standard they should hold themselves to. If this father doesn’t realize what he did was wrong, what will the child learn? How will the vicious cycle break?

Finally, here’s Inigo Montoya to sing you a song…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Stupid things

Evolution cares not about overpopulation

Every now and then I’ll hear someone say something like: “This [insert trait here] makes perfect evolutionary sense! It prevents overpopulation!” But it shouldn’t take much thought to realize that this doesn’t make much sense.

Firstly, any given trait of any given animal cannot be said to exist only by having provided an evolutionary advantage to past generations. That is, some traits can be passed on from one generation to the next despite being a burden to the quality of that organism’s life, as long as it does not too greatly hinder the reproduction of the population as a whole.

Secondly, how would overpopulation reduce reproduction of the population as a whole anyway? Overpopulation comes about when the ability to breed is easier than the ability for all members of a population to access needed resources to live long enough to continue breeding. This will prevent the reproduction of some members of the population, but it would not affect the reproduction of the population as a whole. Therefore no evolutionary traits could possibly be passed on to prevent overpopulation. If a trait by itself hinders reproduction, it won’t be passed on. Overpopulation does not hinder the reproduction of the species as a whole — therefore it causes no evolutionary effect in and of itself. (The fight for needed resources may have evolutionary effects if those without the necessary access to the resources die off, but the cause of the scarcity of the resources is irrelevant; it doesn’t matter if the scarcity of a resource is caused by overpopulation, by competition from other populations, or if the resource is just naturally scarce.)

Every population will continue to reproduce until it reaches the limits of its needed resources, or until the limits of the resources change or the population is gobbled up by some other population (or controlled by humans). In this way, you could say it is natural for every population to breed until overpopulation occurs. The only population that can escape this nature is the human population, because we can make the conscious decision to not breed.

So, if you ever find yourself asking: “Hmmm, I wonder why [insert trait here] is passed on from generation to generation even though it does not aid reproduction?” and then find yourself answering: “Oh, to prevent overpopulation!” — please take a moment to consider your lack of logic and amend your thinking ways.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Stupid things

Make high school mandatory?

Whenever anybody starts talking about solutions for education, I get very sensitive about how wrong they usually are. So when Obama said that he thought it should be mandatory for people under 18 to stay in school, I had trouble understanding why.

I suppose the theory is that they shouldn’t drop out of school because it will just make it that much harder for them to get a job later on. This is partly true, but I don’t think it’s just the lack of a high school diploma that prevents them from getting a job, it’s also the factors that went into them not getting a high school diploma.

I don’t personally know anyone who didn’t graduate from high school. But my guess is that when people don’t finish, it’s because they’ve got problems, both financially and emotionally, with their home life. I don’t see how forcing them to stay in an often prison-like environment until they’re 18 is going to help much. Even if they get their diploma, their backgrounds will hinder their ability to find a job.

Perhaps the other theory is that law enforcement will better be able to prevent drop outs from forming gangs and committing crimes? Eh…

I have already described a better solution in a previous post: If I were the God of Education. If educational institutions followed my system, high schoolers wouldn’t want to drop out in the first place. School would naturally be a fun and interesting place to work in, not the prison that it is today.

So… should we make it mandatory for high schoolers to stay in high school until they’re 18? To be honest, I don’t know. Ideally, no. I don’t think teens should be forced to do anything in general. But with all the other societal enforcements that are already in place, will a new mandate such as this ultimately make life better for them? Since I have no experience with an environment in which dropping out of high school was ever a possible option, I really can’t say. Which is not to say that I would immediately trust the opinion of someone who was from such a place; I just have little basis to form an honest opinion myself.

However, the idea that a law such as this is needed completely misses the point of the problem. The problem is not that high schoolers are dropping out of high school. The problem is why they’re dropping out. It would be wiser to search for and attack that problem.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Stupid things

More serious thoughts on SOPA

This is not a comment on SOPA itself, but a comment on other comments about it:

What has emerged on the Internet is this system in which people who want to help piracy, or who are at least indifferent to it, start websites which allow anonymous users to upload and share data. If that data is copyrighted, making the data exchange illegal, the owner of the website can say: “Well, it’s not my fault!” Well, yes it is; you’re the one allowing people to anonymously share data on your site. You don’t have to do that. I can understand the argument that you shouldn’t be swiftly punished for an infraction you weren’t even aware of, but I don’t accept the notion that all website owners out there are truly doing what they should to stop piracy, or that there’s not much we should do about it. If drug dealers are ridiculously easy to find, shouldn’t they be ridiculously easy to arrest? Yes, and they are. Hence their usual discretion. If piracy sites are ridiculously easy to find (which they are, just Google around), why aren’t they easy to stop? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say it’s because a lot of people just enjoy pirating stuff and eating up my bandwidth.

I think people get easily paranoid. Even now, people can leave drugs in your car and get you arrested. Or they could just go ahead and stab you if they wanted to hurt you. If we’re thinking worse case scenarious, the physical world already provides plenty of them. That’s what makes many of Hitchcock’s movies so compelling. But we’re used to living with those risks; if it’s a new digital risk, the worst case scenario suddenly seems more palpable, more threatening.

“The new Facebook is being created in a garage somewhere, and nobody will want to invest in it because they’ll be too scared that it will be shut down too easily! The Internet will die!” That’s ridiculous. Investors would have no choice. That’s like claiming employers would stop hiring people if our nation’s stupid degree system was retired, and the end of the world would follow. No. Employers are still going to need workers, and retiring the degree system would force them to change. If investors have to work within the confines of new anti-piracy laws, they will. They may upset about it, especially if they were hoping to go into the piracy business, but they won’t all suddenly just stop investing altogether.

Or: “My blog will be shut down because someone will post copyrighted content!” Yes, you’re little blog there is so important.

Then there’s the other argument that those who fully admit to being pirates often make: “If content providers would just give me access to their offerings at a reasonable price, I wouldn’t have to steal!” What they fail to realize is that if they all collectively just stopped consuming the content altogether, the content providers would have no choice but to change their distribution business. But that requires too much organization and discipline, which most people don’t have, which is why unions exist in the labor force — people can’t make intelligent collective decisions otherwise. (Not that unions always make intelligent decisions, but that’s beside the point.) And this digital content is not like food. You don’t need it to live. Maybe you should just do something more useful with your time? I just can’t sympathize much with your plight, and the legal leniency of piracy sites is not worth defending for your sake.

All that said, I don’t know enough about SOPA to comment on it specifically. The arguments, however, should’ve been centered around its details in enforcement and how to make sure it’s not easily abused, not its principle of making website owners responsible for content, or making shut downs easier to enforce. If you disagree with our need for such a bill, you’re either a pirate or an idiot.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Philosophy

“I really wanted to like it, but…”

Sometimes when I read reviews, the reviewer will say something like: “I really wanted to like this, but… blah, blah, blah.”

This phrase really annoys me. Taken at face value, it seems like an attempt of the reviewer to place the ultimate blame for his disliking on the creators. After all, how can it be the reviewer’s fault if he wanted or tried to like it? What more could be asked of an audience member?

I would ask audience members to be not so self-conscious of whether or not they like something; just let the artwork affect you in whatever way it will, and you’ll find whether or not you like it by the end without even having to think about it.

You don’t get any credit for wanting to like something. Of course you wanted to like it; finding some kind of pleasure in the experience of art is the reason we put ourselves in the position to experience it in the first place. But one should always realize that the possibility of disliking something is there and beyond one’s control. You can’t predict how certain pieces of art will affect you; that’s one of the really fun things about experiencing it.

Ideally, one shouldn’t go in expecting to like something. That way, one won’t be disappointed with the occassional but inevitable disliking. Of course, this is easier said than done; there’s always some reason we’re interested in a particular piece of art; there’s always some quality about it we think we have a good possibility of liking. But we can and should still manage our expectations realistically, realizing that they won’t always be fulfilled exactly as we naturally daydream them to be. (Mentioning this reminds me of my older post about goals.)

When you dislike something, the fault is yours and the creator’s. That’s OK. You don’t have to be ashamed of that. You don’t have to make excuses about how you “tried” to like it. Everyone has different tastes and backgrounds they bring to the experiences they have, and while some would like to think of their tastes as being better or more sophisticated or more real than someone else’s, there really is no basis for thinking such things. We can claim another person’s tastes are immoral if there’s something someone else likes that we think they shouldn’t on moral grounds, but this has nothing to do with sophistication or intellect (as we tend to assume it does because of observed behavorial correlations, but that’s another matter). There’s also the possibility that you won’t like something because you’re not experienced enough with the piece’s background, or what material it references, or what historical influence it had. Some academic snobs might look down on your opinions for your “misunderstandings” of such great works of genius and claim that your low opinions of the piece are invalid because you are dumb, but they’re wrong. Yes, your ignorance (and your past experiences) will affect how you respond to a piece, but how does that make your natural emotional reaction any less valid? The validity of your liking or disliking does not get to be decided by a show of hands or a scholar’s analysis. How much your liking or disliking might predict someone else’s future emotional reaction can certainly be debated (such as: “Oh, I disagree with Roger Ebert 70% of the time, so I’m not worried that he didn’t like this film I want to see…”), but not your opinion’s validity. It’s not as if your emotional reaction is somehow faked by your ignorance.

Finally, how do you actively “try” or “want” to like something while experiencing it anyway? Do you consciously ignore stuff you don’t like in hopes you won’t notice them anymore? Do you think of pretty ponies prancing through the praries in your head? Do you eat loads of candy hoping to trick yourself into thinking that the joy of devouring sugar is actually from the art you wish to like?

My main point is this: you can’t control your emotional reactions to works of art, and should therefore not be ashamed of liking or disliking something. It may be informative for you to think about what specifically you didn’t like and what you think would’ve made something better. But you never need to try to justify your response. Such justifications will be invalid anyway; nothing justifies your response other than the fact that it was truly your response. Your desire to like something is irrelevant, and it’s silly (if not just plain stupid) to mention it.

Thanks for reading this post; I hope you liked it, or at least tried to…

By S P Hannifin, ago