This video has been making the rounds on the social networks so it’s possible you’ve already seen it, but on the off-chance that some of you haven’t I’m posting it here as it’s some of the best life advice I’ve ever heard:
THIS IS WATER – By David Foster Wallace from The Glossary on Vimeo.
In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.
We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested.
Read the full speech here.
I find that this resonates with me on a personal level because it’s how I try to live my life. I couldn’t tell you when or where I learned this, but somewhere in my 45 years on this planet I’ve managed to find ways to alleviate the boring tedium that makes up the vast majority of our daily routine. Often by being a goofball.
The video gives an example of standing in a busy supermarket checkout lane and the inherent frustration that can provoke. I’ve experienced such situations countless times and most of the time I’m able to remind myself that I’m not the only one standing there and that many of them may have significantly more troubles than I do. I always try to make any harried cashiers I deal with smile if at all possible. Usually through an attempt at wit, or at least an approximation of it. Same thing with waitresses at restaurants. I try to live by the rule that the last person I want to piss off is the person who is handling my food.
It’s easy to get the impression from my ranting here on SEB that I don’t like people, but the truth is I love people. We are an amazing species capable of astounding acts of beauty, bravery, and plain old simple good heartedness. The things we can accomplish when we use our brains and work together seem to be unlimited, which is why I get so frustrated with those folks who refuse to use their brains and act as though they are the center of the Universe. Note I didn’t say they were incapable of using their brains, but refuse to do so.
That said, we all have our off days where using our brains is just too much effort and I try to keep that in mind when interacting with others as well. Life can be tough and none of us are getting out of it alive, but while we’re here we can choose how we deal with it and our attitude about it. I vent a lot here, but when I’m out in the real world I try to make at least my little corner of it a little less of a pain in the ass for myself and everyone around me. I may not always succeed, but I try.
At the Calgary Comics Expo this past Saturday a new mother asked Wil Wheaton to explain to her daughter why it’s awesome to be a nerd. She recorded the video to show her daughter in the future when she’s old enough to understand.
Here is his response:
Like Wil, I was a nerd growing up and I had to deal with the the taunts and bullying that came with it, but by the time I hit Junior High I had managed to find other nerds and started friendships that have lasted right up to today. Countless hours spent playing video games, pen and paper RPGs, and watching sci-fi movies and shows and discussing the latest books with these friends have left me with some of the best memories I could hope for. If I had it all to do over again I don’t think I’d change a minute of it. Being a nerd is awesome and we ended up taking over the world.
Found via Geeks are Sexy.
… and not in the United States. His answer? People in other countries are idiots.
OK, he didn’t actually use the word “idiot”, but he may as well have. Instead he said that they are “more simple” and “humble” compared to us “sophisticated” Americans. Which apparently are the qualities God looks for when determining who to show miracles to.
Really. He said just that:
Truth be told, he’s kinda right. The more educated you are the less likely you are to believe, not just in miracles, but in God(s) of any kind. This is part of the reason that various religions have been hostile to education of the general public over the millennia. This is why so many on the Religious Right encourage their fellow believers to homeschool their kids and rail against the evils awaiting at most non-religious universities. Knowing too much can be dangerous to your faith.
So, yeah, if you don’t know any better you’re probably more likely to accept “it’s a miracle from God” for whatever phenomena you can’t readily explain otherwise.
Hell, if you’re unsophisticated enough you’ll even accept mundane events as miracles from God. Every so often on Facebook or Twitter I’ll see the image to the right. I asked someone about it and they told me that the fact that they woke up in the morning proves that miracles really do happen. I had to ask them just how shitty their health was. They said they were perfectly healthy. Then how, I asked, is it a miracle? Barring major health issues or some unforeseen accident there’s really no reason to not expect to wake up the next morning. It’s really setting the bar pretty low for what qualifies as a miracle.
And I won’t even get into how it’s an ironic thing to be thankful for given how so many Christians consider this world to be a shithole compared to what waits for them in the afterlife. You’d think they’d be eager to kick off and get to the good bit.
I guess the secret to experiencing the really impressive miracles then is to do your best to stay as stupid as possible. One way to achieve this is to watch nothing but FOX “News” 24 hours a day. Or, if you’re impatient, a semi-major head injury would probably work pretty well too. If you go the latter route be sure to make a recording of it for a chance to be on a TV show like World’s Greatest Injuries and Dumbfucks.
…they’d probably look just like this one:
Things are a little better in places where there’s some actual competition. Here in Ann Arbor you can opt between AT&T U-Verse (which is what I have) and Comcast. When I say “a little better” I mean very little, but you take what you can get. This is part of why I’m hoping Google Fiber eventually comes to AA. They would probably eat the competition’s lunch if they did. In places where they’re rumored to be considering their next expansion you can see the incumbent cable companies bending over backwards to kiss their customer’s asses and lower rates. Google has the rest of the market very nervous indeed.
I’ve posted about Watchdogs in the past, but a new trailer done in the style of a official report on the protagonist gives us a little more insight into what the game will be like.
Yep, still looks wicked cool.
I’m a liberal so I’m supposed to be all about the socialism and wealth redistribution. The truth is that I’m more or less fine with the capitalist system and the idea that if you work hard and apply yourself you’ll be successful so long as there’s enough regulations to keep it fair. The problem is that it’s not fair and that hard work often doesn’t result in anything more than an early grave. The Republicans seem to think that if we just pay the rich more and the poor less it’ll somehow make both of them work harder.
Pretty much everyone knows that the distribution of wealth in this country is out of whack if you want a healthy economy for the country as a whole, but most folks don’t really understand just how fucked up it really is. I know I didn’t until I saw this:
How is this situation in any way fair? Do we really think the top 1% of the country work hard enough to justify having 40% of all the wealth in the country? Just how much fucking money do you really need before you can live comfortably? I know I could get by more than fine with less than 1% of what the top 1% earn, but I’m not even close to that. I’ve managed to make it to the middle class, like my parents before me, but things have declined so much that I’m not able to afford half the things they did at my age.
Here’s the thing I don’t think the upper classes, particularly the 1 percenters, realize. You can’t keep making money off of people if they can no longer afford to spend it on anything other than the basic necessities (and often, not even that). History shows us that long-term it’s only going to cause problems for you down the line. It’s in your interests as well as ours to try and make things more equitable before the whole thing comes crashing down.
Or maybe they do realize it and just don’t give a shit so long as they have theirs.
Wow! It’s a good day for science videos tackling age-old brain stumpers. Earlier today we had one that took on the Chicken or the Egg question and now here’s one that deals with the old mind bender of what would happen when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object:
I just tickles me pink that we live in a day and age when we not only have almost all of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, but that there are folks out there who are applying science to silly questions and sharing the results with the rest of us.
This is one of the things I love about science. It can take a relatively silly question like the old one about whether a chicken or an egg was first to come into existence and apply a little thought to it along with our understanding of theories such as evolution and put forth an answer to a seemingly impossible question.
What I like most about this video is how it points out how ambiguous the original question really is: The answer depends in part on how you define your terms. It also highlights one of the problems with dealing with reality when we have a tendency to think in absolute terms.
Thinking in absolute terms is one of the problems I think Evolution deniers have. “I’ll believe in evolution when I see a dog give birth to kittens” is one of the common arguments you’ll hear from them. Evolution doesn’t work that way. It’s the result of the accumulation of small changes over long periods of time.
In the evolution of, say, the wolf into what we know today as the domesticated dog there’s no one point along the line where you can point and say that’s definitively where it stopped being a wolf and started being a dog. It doesn’t help that there isn’t a “line” to point to because pups in a litter are not clones of each other. Each one has its own small mutations that make it slightly different from its parents and siblings. Each batch of pups starts a bunch of different potential branches which, depending on if they survive and manage to breed themselves, produces that many more potential branches with their own mutations. That’s why we call it “the tree of life” and not “the single file line of life”.
Given enough time you will eventually get different, but related animals. Given even more time you’ll get much more different animals that can be difficult to tell are related to something in the past (e.g. birds being the descendants of dinosaurs). That’s apparently hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. Hence you get silly questions like: Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
I needed a quick laugh today and found this did the trick: