No Miracle People

I really enjoyed this short video. Richard Feynman discusses what it takes to be a great scientist.

There are no miracle people.  It just comes down to getting really interested in something, putting a great deal of time and energy into understanding it, and enjoying the entire process.  That’s all there is to it.

More Thoughts On Rap Music

Geraldo Rivera is taking a lot of heat for comments he’s made about rap music and how it’s a toxic influence on young people.  Watching his TV interviews, I agreed with him.  Maybe that’s a sign that I’m getting older, but a short exercise reviewing hip-hop lyrics will illustrate my point.

Take Dr. Dre’s song Bitches Ain’t Shit.

Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks
Lick on these nuts and suck the dick
Get the fuck out after you’re done
And I hope in my ride to make a quick run

Or Eminem’s song Kill You.

They said I can’t rap about being broke no more
They ain’t say I can’t rap about coke no more
(AH!) Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore
’til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?!
(AH!) These motherfuckers are thinking I’m playing
Thinking I’m saying the shit cause I’m thinking it just to be saying it
(AH!) Put your hands down bitch, I ain’t gonna shoot you
I’ma pull +YOU+ to this bullet, and put it through you
(AH!) Shut up slut, you’re causing too much chaos
Just bend over and take it like a slut, OK Ma?
“Oh, now he’s raping his own mother, abusing a whore,
snorting coke, and we gave him the Rolling Stone cover?”
You god damn right BITCH, and now it’s too late
I’m triple platinum and tragedies happen in two states
I invented violence, you vile venomous volatile bitches
vain Vicadin, vrinnn Vrinnn, VRINNN! [*chainsaw revs up*]
Texas Chainsaw, left his brains all
dangling from his neck, while his head barely hangs on
Blood, guts, guns, cuts
Knives, lives, wives, nuns, sluts

That’s lovely. Let’s share another gem from DMX, Bring Your Whole Crew.

I got blood on my hands and there’s no remorse
I got blood on my dick cuz I fucked a corpse
I’m a nasty nigga when u pass me nigga look me in my eyes
Tell me to my fuckin face that u ready to die
U be a dead mutha fucka red mutha fucka
Don’t be stupid you heard what I said mutha fucka
Who shot u ohhh nigga like u don’t know
Stickin you for your doe while I’m fuckin your broke ho
Yo don’t u get the picture niggaz can’t touch me

Raping a bloody dead corpse to prove your social worth.  Just take a moment and think about those words; let it seep in. Create a mental picture and vividly imagine yourself doing just that.  You’ve just shot a man or a woman many times with your gun.  Their corpse is sitting in a pool of blood and you proceed to have sex with it.  As you finish, you’re covered in blood and slowly remove your bloody penis in animal like satisfaction.  What sort of mental place are you in right now?

This culture’s role models seem to be violent drug dealers.  Take Rick Ross and his song Rich Off Cocaine.

Bitch I’m busy baby go and suck anotha cock
Fuck a hater make me throw away another glock
Money in the mansion, yayo in another spot
Guns in the attic, mama help me put ’em up


Miami nights,
I’m livin the life
Cause I’m rich off cocaine
Cause I’m rich off cocaine
Let’s fly through the coop
I lose the roof
Ain’t nothin but the wind in my hair
I’m not bullet proof, I’m full of proof
That you can make it here
All that livin’ fast
It ain’t got to last
Now I can slow it down
Because I’m sittin’ on top of the world and I’m not comin’ down

According to studies, roughly 37% of rap songs are misogynistic. Women are referenced in derogatory ways, violence against them is legitimatized, we are told to distrust them, and prostitution and pimping are glorified.  Roughly the same percentage of their songs deal with rape, drugs, murder, knives, guns, and other similar things.

I don’t feel any of this is art or culture.  Rabid sex, poverty, tribal violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and the suppression of women’s rights are nothing new, believe me; just study your history books.  This is barbarism and an expression of the absolute worst of mankind.  Real culture lifts the human spirit to seek higher things, to understand the cosmos, and to think about the universe and our place in it.

Slugging Through The Mud

When I woke up this morning, I found myself thinking about how it’s much easier for us to waste our lives  than it is to make something of ourselves.  This world has a million different things competing for your thoughts every second; it’s unrelenting.  I wanted to take a brief moment to share some thoughts on this.

As I studied philosophy many years ago, I became interested in the nature of space and time, as well as what makes up physical matter.  I wanted to know what this world is, how it came into existence, and why I was experiencing it.  I’d look at myself in the mirror and see this strange human body and wondered why the things around me existed in the way that they do.  So, I set out on a journey to understand.

It’s been well over ten years now, maybe more;  I can’t really remember.  What I do know is that a while back, I had this comfortable job, sitting in this nice desk, working in an office, and I was bored out of my mind.  What was the point of going through that routine each and every day?  I’d wake up early in the morning, go into that building at 8 AM, stay there all morning, work until noon, have a one hour lunch break, and then head back to the grind for another five hours, and then come home.  I’d do that five days a week, the vast majority of my waking hours.  If I factor in the amount of time it took to shower, prepare breakfast, get dressed, the drive there and back, and everything else, if was my life.

But it gets worse.  Even the small amount of free time I had, by the time I would get home, I was tired, so I’d just plop down on a computer and play video games, watch movies, or do some other passive activity.  I struggled to find the energy to exercise and found myself falling out of shape.  If I would’ve stayed on that track, I would be completely miserable today.

Strangely that was the easier road to stay on; it had the least resistance.  In order to escape that, in order to have a meaningful existence, I had to completely abandon everything.  I came to the realization that in order to have anything worth having in this life requires you have to be ready for an uphill climb.  The natural progression of affairs in this life is not anything you want.  If you just go with the flow, this world will deal you a bad hand.

I had to completely reevaluate all of my pursuits and how I was spending my time.  I would encourage all of you, especially if you’re still young, to take time to just look at your life and where you are.  Write down how you spend your waking hours and just ask yourself, “Is this what I want my life to be?  Am I satisfied with this?”

I can tell you exactly what will happen if you actually take me up on this little exercise.  You’re probably going to say that you’d like more from life, but when you look at what would have to change, it will scare you.  There’s going to be some obstacle or some change that’s going to ask a lot out of you.  I’ll share my own story.

I never wanted to attend college.  I can’t stand universities.  I hate classrooms.  I hate homework.  I hate tests.  I hate grades.  I hate most everything about that place, but I knew that the only way I was going to be able to spend time thinking about space and time, and do some form of meaningful work for me was to become a physicist.  For example, I could become an astrophysicist and study the universe, work on big simulations of stellar evolution, and other things.  But here’s the catch — it was going to to take years and years of education in a university.  There was no way around it.  I couldn’t find any sort of backdoor around it.

I could’ve stayed where I was, writing business software, creating reports, doing financial accounting, data entry screens, and other boring things.  The money was good.  Why not?  After all, nobody gets everything they want in life.  Be thankful, right?  Or is that terrible advice?  I’d say it is.  That’s the very sort of thing you can tell yourself each day, and one day you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve wasted all your time.  You’ll look in the mirror, you’ll be old, tired, and out of energy.  You’re done.  And what did you do?  Nothing at all.

I enrolled and told myself, “Whatever.  Let’s just get this thing over with.”  I paced myself and adapted to this university hell by using an almost Zen like meditative state. In each class, I was solely in the moment, not thinking of anything.  Thank God for Alan Watts.  When I was attending mandatory lectures and doing homework, I never let myself think, “I don’t want to be here.  I don’t want to do this.”  I didn’t think about anything at all.  I just did whatever I was asked to do, and when I finished all assignments, I didn’t think of that place at all.  I worked on my own things afterward, and slowly trudged through the valley of death.  And you know what?  I’m almost done!  One step at a time does the trick.

But I look at people who were at the same place I was fifteen years ago and they didn’t make the change.  They didn’t make the effort.  They stopped moving forward.  You know what?  Not only have they not moved forward, but they started sliding backward.  Most of them are in worse positions now than they were then.  As I said before, the natural progression of things in this world is to be sucked into this black hole of crap.

One guy I’ve known for ages just plays video games all day long.  There are all these gaming websites these days and I pulled up his profile and saw that he spends forty to fifty hours each week playing video games.  He doesn’t have the job he wants, he doesn’t have the relationship he wants, or much of anything he wants.  But it’s easier for him to turn on those games and just get sucked into them, and that’s what he does.  And life for him continues to slide backward.  I talked with him recently and told him, “Dude, we’re not getting any younger.  In seven or so years I’ll be forty.  That’s not long, think of the last ten years.  You’re not far behind me.  Is this what you want your life to be?  Or do you want more?”

I have other friends from my business days, and we get together and they talk about their next venture.  It’s like having the exact same discussion we had ten years ago.  It’s the same sorts of projects, same stuff.  I sat across the table and silently thought to myself, “I’ve left all of this behind a decade ago.  It’s not for me.  I’m not spending any more time or thought on these things that don’t matter to me.”

Every day I run anywhere from four to eight miles.  Why do I do that?  That’s the fight against the natural progression of things.  That’s what it takes to keep your body healthy.  You have to take control of your diet and exercise.  It’s the same with anything else.  Your mind requires stimulation.  You have to keep pushing.  You can’t stop.  You need to read books that are over your head, that take you time to digest, the sort of books you have to re-read several times, and maybe look up several things while you’re doing so.  Work on your education and skills.  It’s not always fun, but that’s how you get somewhere.

Today there’s a common mindset that you’re to pursue your bliss.  That’s only partially true.  To be anywhere you want to be will ask a lot out of you.  The rain will be pouring, it’s going to be cold, and you’re going to want to stay wherever you are.  You have to put on your rain coat, get out your tools, and trudge forward through the rain, slugging your way through the mud.

There are a lot of things you’ll never experience if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort required.  If you’re interested in physics for example, you’ll never get as much as I do out of it by watching popular science programs, or reading introductory level books written for the general public.  You have to get your hands dirty, study all the nitty-gritty mathematics, and really get in there.  It takes years and years of intense study before you’re even ready to approach something like quantum mechanics.

University Life

I feel bad that I haven’t posted anything in the last two weeks.  I’ve had a lot of things in mind, but this semester I’ve taken a large load of “mickey mouse” courses (my adviser’s description, not mine), and they’re taking up all my time.  I’ve finished all the mathematics and physics courses that I’m required to take for my undergraduate degree, but I’ve put off my humanities, social sciences, and other things I’ve been dreading.  I decided to lump them all into one big pile and do them all at once.

It’s been a nightmare.  Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but seriously, I find them psychologically draining.  Take one of my classes I’m forced to take – an introduction to C++ programming.  I’ve won computer programming competitions and have spent the last fifteen or more years writing software, and they have me taking introduction to computer programming.  They won’t allow me to test out of it and I don’t know how else to get the stupid credit.  So I go to these programming labs where I sit in this big room full of students for hours and they go over how to do basic floating point arithmetic, while loops, and displaying text menus on the screen.  I can’t help but scream in my head, “Why am I here?”  On one assignment I used a function and the teacher’s assistant was freaking out.  “You’re not supposed to use that!  We haven’t learned about those yet. You can’t do that!”  I slumped down into my chair and just thought, “Whatever.  I don’t care anymore.  You want me to code this the long and hard way?  Fine.  This such a waste of time.”

For my humanities classes, I’ve just been taking whatever seemed easiest.  Another class I’m in is an introduction to psychology.  I haven’t learned a thing.  It’s mind-numbingly basic and boring.  We have a textbook and the teacher goes over these Power-Point slides which summarize things in the book.  Tests are multiple choice, rote memorization of bold-face terms.  So I make up these flash cards a week or so before each exam and cram my mind full of things, going over and over all the cards.  It really wears me down, but I’ve gotten 100% on everything so far.

I have to take an English class for my physics degree, and it’s proving to be my most difficult challenge.  Most of our grade comes from four papers we have to write and the papers are not really judged on content.  He seems to grade almost entirely on grammar.  He’s an expert on every single English rule and how things are supposed to be done. Needless to say, I don’t have any clue what he’s talking about.  The last time I took an English class was 1997, roughly twenty years ago.  He was going over my paper and was marking things, “You used the wrong injunction here”, “… ‘went’ should’ve been ‘gone’.  Didn’t you learn that in high school freshman English?”, “That’s not the proper antecedent clause in this blah blah blah.”  He might as well have been speaking Chinese.  He has these grammar lessons and I don’t have the slightest clue what he’s talking about.  Strangely, I got the highest score on his grammar test, which showed a bunch of sentences and we had to identify parts of them which were done incorrectly.  I guess I’m able to do so well because I’ve read so many books, but when I myself write, I apparently change “voice”, and do other things incorrectly.

We have a writing center and I took my first paper to those guys.  They went over it and thought everything was fine, but apparently my paper was a mess.  So much for them.  After the professor marked my paper all over, he looked it over and said, “Not bad.  That’s an 85.”  The score was just pulled out of the air.  I’ve managed to keep a 4.0 my entire time at the university, which I’d like to keep, so I’m working toward a solution to this grammar issue.  I need someone who really knows their stuff to correct my next papers before I turn them in.  It’d probably be more beneficial if I myself could learn all these grammar rules, but with all the other things I’m having to do at the moment, there’s no way that’s possible.

Another one of my classes is an introduction to philosophy.  After sitting through that course, I’ve realized that I’m not a philosopher.  If the things that guy talks about are philosophy, I really need to change my website’s header graphic.  For example, I don’t really care to get into extremely petty disputes about defining what is and what isn’t knowledge.

Let me paint you a picture of what that class is like.  First the professor went over all these definitions that philosophers have used over the centuries to define knowledge.  Then he gave an example of these farm workers who can look at baby chickens and tell with over 99% accuracy whether they’re a male or a female, but if you ask them to define exactly what it is about those baby chickens that tells them that, they’re at a loss for words.  So now the question: do they REALLY know the difference between male and female baby chickens?

The discussion begins.  This young teenager who sounds exactly like Matthew McConaughey slowly slurs out, “I don’t think he has knowledge.  I mean, there is a 1 in 10,000 chance he’s wrong.  We can never be sure.  He’s just really good at guessing.”  I turned around and almost fell out of my seat.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he hasn’t thought this through. It might be a good idea to write up a simple arithmetic exam.  On it, I’d put 10,000 simple addition and subtraction problems, like 19-5 = ?, 14+2 = ?, 5+3 = ?, and so on.  Then he’d get 9,999 out of 10,000 correct, and then I’d stand up and tell him, “If we’re as strict as you are about knowledge, you haven’t proved to me that you understand arithmetic young man.  I think we need to send you back to grade school.  You’re just really good at guessing.”  If those chicken farmers were simply guessing, they’d have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, and that’s roughly what their guess rate would be.

These elective classes have me so busy writing papers and pointlessly memorizing things that I struggle to find time to blog.  It all really wears me down.  But the end is in sight.  If next semester I take a full load of mickey-mouse courses (lol, that cracks me up) like I’ve done this semester, I’ll be done with them.  It will have taken me five years to get a bachelor’s degree, but who cares!  I endured!  I won’t have to leave the physics building ever again.  I’ll need to take our most advanced physical mechanics course, the graduate level statistical mechanics course, the third tier advanced quantum mechanics course, and the very last advanced electrodynamics course.  That’s it.  I’ll be done.  That will be most every physics and mathematics course offered there, absent one or two which aren’t offered very often.  Then I’ll have a masters degree and I just need to write a PhD paper.  How long will all that take?  Depends on how much I can endure, but the end is near.

I didn’t know how much I had left, but I went to talk with my advisor and he was telling me how I’d pretty much taken everything they had there.  Then he told me about how it all worked and basically said, “Well we can’t keep you here if we don’t have any classes to offer you.  Some transfer students come in and we make them take our classes here before letting them graduate, but you’re done with them all.  You’re near the end, man.”

For my PhD paper, I’m going to do a big computational project, simulating something on a big cluster of computers.  I don’t know what yet.  That won’t be bad at all.   Then you will all have to refer to me as Dr. Summers!  Hah, that sounds funny.  Let’s just stick with Jason.