Tuesday, 24 July 2012
I've wanted to research the connections between school shootings, low-self esteem, and our culture's emphasis on masculinity for a while.
Our culture stresses gender roles, and I'm pretty sure that emphasizing the typical features of masculinity tends to increase bullying - which can hurt self-esteem and increase drug/alcohol abuse and aggression in victims. And since teenagers especially seek approval from their community, those factors probably interact in a way that can lead to shootings.
Anyone know anything about this?
Friday, 04 May 2012
Sunday, 08 January 2012
- Got engaged to my best friend of ten years.
- Got the Rebecca Mason Perry 2010 Award as a first-year teacher in the MA in PWE program.
- Presented a paper about therapeutic nonfiction writing at a graduate colloquium.
- Appointed as the Senior Editor of The Collegiate Journal of Economics.
- Got a technical writing summer internship at Administrative Technology Solutions that turned into a graduate assistantship and replaced my teaching assistantship.
- Flew to Minnesota to meet fiance's extended family after he got out of the Navy and moved back to California.
- Stopped getting calls or hearing much from fiance after he moved back, found out he spent a week living alone with and taking a girl out behind her boyfriend's back and behind mine. Broke up with him and returned his ring.
- Met up with a high school friend who taught me how to play racquetball and dance salsa, cha-cha, bachata, meringue, and cumbia. Went to Pittsburgh every Friday to dance at the Cabaret at Theater Square.
1. Sleep better.
- Get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
- Go to bed no later than 1 AM.
- Wake up no later than 10 AM.
2. Eat healthy foods.
- Drink no more than one soda per week.
- Carry around a water bottle.
- Eat breakfast at home instead of at work. (maybe later this semester when I have time to both sleep and eat at home).
- Switch my lunch at work from ramen to turkey sandwiches, grilled chicken salads, and leftovers.
- Switch my snacks at work from chocolate to almonds, clementines, and apples.
- Cook dinners at home during the week instead of grabbing fast food.
3. Exercise more.
- On weekdays, switch between doing my home routine and jogging for 30-60 minutes on the treadmill.
- On weekends, take a morning class at the Rec Center. (no time!)
4. Stop wasting time.
- Eat without distractions instead of in front of the TV. (Does watching Hulu count?)
- Only visit Youtube if I have a specific clip in mind.
- Only check Facebook once every three hours.
5. Practice piano for thirty minutes at least three one day per week.
6. Drink no more than three beers or two shots in one night.
Monday, 19 December 2011
In my last post, I explained why I don't think anyone can claim to have absolute knowledge and why I think science represents the most accurate and reliable view of reality. In this post, I examine how the belief in absolute human knowledge can impair critical thinking.
The Importance of Doubt
As I explained in my last post, I don't think anyone can claim to have absolute knowledge; our biological limitations, previous experiences, and biases distort our perception of reality. But we have to develop a way of thinking to understand the world, and those ways of thinking become our beliefs. For example, I base my understanding of the world on scientific ideology because, as I also explained in my last post, science represents the most accurate and reliable way of understanding reality that we know of. And science bases its reasoning on critical thinking and empirical evidence.
Critical thinking requires doubt about the accuracy of our perception of reality, even doubt about science. Economist Deirdre McCloskey expresses this relativistic worldview when she reminds us that “scientists are human speakers,” and even Nobel prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr once said that physics is not about reality itself but “what we humans can say about the physical world” (qtd. in McCloskey 186). If we doubt the accuracy of our perception of reality and become willing to evaluate our beliefs, we can recognize how they influence the way we understand--and interact with--the world.
But the belief in absolute human knowledge discourages critical thinking because it discourages doubt. People who believe they have absolute knowledge subsequently believe in the accuracy and infallibility of their perception of reality. A prime example of this is the scene in Bill Maher's Religulous in which the truck driver states, "I know there's a god. You can't change my mind. Nobody can change my mind." People who believe they have absolute, perfect knowledge have no incentive to question their beliefs, and this disincentive impairs critical thinking.
I can see why many people resist critical thinking. First, it is mentally draining. Listening to and evaluating arguments, putting aside biases, tolerating the discomfort of uncertainty, and changing beliefs requires “considerable mental activity” (Browne and Freeman 308, Mason 346). Second, critical thinking threatens to destabilize our sense of identity: People shape their identity around their beliefs, so threats to the stability of their perceived reality also threatens their identity (qtd. in Gorzelsky 74-5). So, people often resist questioning their beliefs to protect themselves from losing control of their existing psychological structures. Self-analysis takes courage.
The Influence of Absolutism on Moral Development and Ethical Behavior
Why should we care if people refuse to question their beliefs? Because people act upon their beliefs, and doing so ultimately influences the rest of society. People who reject critical thinking prevent themselves from evaluating their beliefs, protecting themselves from manipulation, recognizing their own potential for change, and understanding alternative beliefs. For example, a lack of understanding about alternative beliefs affects society when the individual votes on public policies.
Critical thinking, on the other hand, encourages behavior that generally benefits society:
- It allows individuals to protect themselves from coercion by learning how to identify false or deceptive claims within their belief structures (Browne and Freeman 307).
- It encourages individuals to consider alternative beliefs and the contexts (cultural, political, religious) in which those beliefs are embedded—what Janette Ryan and Kam Louie call a “meta-cultural awareness” (Mason 345). This awareness encourages tolerance instead of “egocentric and sociocentric thinking” (Mason 341).
- It shows that people can change their beliefs and behavior, despite the fatalistic assumption that people exist in a “static state of being” rather than a “dynamic state of change,” an assumption that “denies and undermines a person’s potential for change and insists that a person forever remain handicapped by past views and actions” (Parker 85). This abillity to change encourages compassion instead of resentment.
Critical thinking benefits society, but it depends on doubt. If we protect others from the discomfort of doubt (e.g., by avoiding disagreements), we ultimately do them--and ourselves--a disservice.
Browne, M. Neil, and Kari Freeman. “Distinguishing Features of Critical Thinking Classrooms.” Teaching in Higher Education 5.3 (2000): 301-309. Web.
Gorzelsky, Gwen. “Working Boundaries: From Student Resistance to Student Agency.” College Composition and Communication 61.1 (2009): 64-84. Web.
Mason, Mark. “Critical Thinking and Learning.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 39.4 (2007): 339-349. Web.
McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen. “The Rhetoric of the Economy and the Polity.” Annual Review of Political Science 14.1 (2011): 181-199. Web.
Parker, Douglas H. “Rhetoric, Ethics and Manipulation.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 5.2 (1972): 69-87. Web.
Friday, 09 December 2011
I disagree with Plato on the nature of human knowledge. Plato believed in a “transcendent truth,” an absolute knowledge that already exists in our “divine souls” (“Plato” 81). I don't, and here's why.
Biological and Technological Limitations
Absolute knowledge requires a reality that exists independently of us. But I don’t think we can ever know for sure whether or not we are perceiving a reality separate from us.
First, our biological constraints (e.g., eyesight, mental health, etc.) limit the information we perceive. For example, humans have a limited range of hearing that prevents us from detecting sounds above or below certain frequencies, and colorblind individuals cannot detect certain colors. These biological constraints prevent us from perceiving all available information. And even a mentally and physically flawless individual couldn’t process all available information every second of the day, at least not at this stage of our brain’s evolution.
Second, once our biological constraints filter the available information, our previous experiences and biases affect how we then process and interpret that information. This process further distorts the completeness and accuracy of the information. When a huge wolf spider ran across the inside of my windshield last year while I was driving home, my arachnophobia filtered out just about everything but the spider. I didn’t know which lane I was in or if there were cars around me; I just saw the spider inches in front on my face while I couldn't move.
In addition to biological constraints, Robert Scott asserts in his essay “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemology” that only infinity contains truth, since it also contains all experiences and possibilities. So, our finite experience prevents us from gaining absolute knowledge through infinite possibilities (136).
To be fair, an objective reality might exist beyond our perception, and our perceptions might align perfectly with that reality. But we cannot know for sure that we can perceive that reality, and if we cannot know for sure, then we cannot know whether or not we have absolute knowledge.
The Nature of Scientific Knowledge
If we cannot perceive a reality independent of our limitations, then even scientific theories supported by empirical evidence cannot represent absolute knowledge. Scientists, too, have constraints that influence the completeness and accuracy of the information they perceive and interpret. And although most scientists strive to remain objective, dominant social structures like the government often distort research via the incentives created by funding certain types of research and stating specific goals.
For example, a 2005 study in Nature revealed that 33% of the several thousand respondents funded by the NIH admitted to engaging in at least one of the top ten behaviors during the previous three years, including:
- Falsifying data;
- Ignoring major aspects of human-subject requirements;
- Failing to present data that contradicted the scientist’s previous research;
- Overlooking others’ use of flawed data; and
- Changing the design or results of a study in response to a funding source’s pressure (Martinson et al.).
Science cannot produce absolute knowledge when the human elements of science distort information.
Having said this, science as a discipline does bring us as close to absolute knowledge as we can get by combining collaborative inquiry, instruments that expand the scope of our observation and analysis, and self-correction. The reality created by science represents the most accurate reality we can perceive, given our biological constraints.
Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg. “Plato.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Second ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. Print. 80-138.
Martinson, Brian C., Melissa S. Anderson, and Raymond de Vries. “Scientists Behaving Badly.” Nature 435 (2005): 737-738. Web. 3 November 2011.
Scott, Robert L. “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic.” Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader. NY: Guilford Press, 1989. Print. 131-139.
Monday, 28 November 2011
This weekend, I met JT aka Zerowing21, who recently moved to WWJTD so if you lost track of his blog, go check it out. We spent the weekend discussing everything from ideology to music, and after he explained polyamory to me, I'm seriously considering trying it.
Polyamory appeals to me because like traditional monogamy, it emphasizes respect, open communication, and personal accountability... without restricting the concept of "love" to strict sexual/romantic exclusivity. According to JT, polyamorous individuals and their partners agree upon rules to protect each other's emotional and sexual well-being. Polyamory appeals to me more because:
- I have always been attracted to other people while in monogamous relationships
- I value my partner's happiness, which means I often feel guilty for restricting my partner's freedom to bond with other people
The only obstacle I foresee is jealousy. I think I can tone down any discomfort by focusing on how much I value my partner's happiness and by getting to know and care about the people in my partner's secondary relationships. I want to be able to see them beyond the typical "me-or-them" mindset by relating to and bonding with them, too. And although I overwhelmingly prefer guys, I have been attracted to several girls, so that might help.
So, have you tried polyamory? If so, can you offer advice?
Tuesday, 01 November 2011
...Oppose Forgiving Student Loan Debt
Didn't anybody in the government learn from the subprime mortgage crisis?
First, forgiving current student debt would (1) punish the students who have paid back their loans but aren't getting a bailout, and (2) encourage students to borrow irresponsibly by showing them that they can borrow tons of money without repaying it (which reduces the perceived long-term costs of borrowing). Second, how would we pay for such a huge bailout? That unprecedented number of government-approved defaults would bankrupt the private financial institutions involved (which means thousands of jobs lost) and deepen our national debt by another trillion dollars.
Now Obama is proposing a plan to lower monthly payments and shorten the time it takes for the government to forgive a loan. That means fewer students would probably have to pay back their loans in full. How would that not further discourage responsible financial decisions and encourage recklessness?
Yes, outsourcing threatens job security, but its benefits far outweigh its costs. Competition drives productivity and innovation because companies (and nations) must compete for customers, and they do so by offering better goods and services that benefit consumers. Plus, a Dartmouth economist found that outsourcing creates jobs, increases GDP growth, and lowers inflation. Outsourcing also benefits foreign workers by giving them a better job than the local alternatives.
I hope the government does not try to stop outsourcing because doing so will actually hurt everyone involved. Banning outsourcing would prevent American companies from lowering costs or increasing profits, which means they'll lay off workers or pass the higher prices onto their customers. Imposing trade tariffs would discourage foreign companies from buying from or selling to Americans. All the government would do is kill jobs at home, rob foreign workers of a better future, and stifle innovation.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Most Americans blame the recent economic disasters--the housing bubble, the bailouts, etc.--on capitalism.
Except there's one problem: We do not have capitalism. We have corporatism, or "crony capitalism." The differences extend beyond just definition to the effects of each system. Capitalism encourages responsibility and innovation, while corporatism encourages irresponsible reckless business practices.
This is why I worry that so many citizens now vilify capitalism and the free market because they have contributed more to global prosperity than any other economic system in history. No, it's not perfect, but it's the best we've ever had. To maintain capitalism, we need three tenets: a profit-loss system, competition, and property rights. Without these, capitalism cannot exist. And the U.S. government has been undermining those tenets for decades.
Profit and Loss
Capitalism requires a profit-loss system. According to George Mason University economist Russ Roberts, profits reward risk-taking while losses encourage prudence. Same as conditioning: positive reinforcement and punishment. But the U.S. government consistently undermines the profit-loss system by socializing the losses, and as Sam Bowman says, there’s no better recipe for irresponsible behaviour than the knowledge that someone else will pay for your mistakes..
Consider the bailouts, which encourage reckless business practices and discourage responsible investment. Government policies helped create the housing bubble and the subprime mortgage crisis via the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), but that's another post. But even now, bailing out companies that made bad decisions (e.g., AIG, Bear Stearns) allows those companies to collect the profits but avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of their mistakes. And as Russ Roberts states, "when you subsidize recklessness, you unsurprisingly get a lot more of it."
Not only did the bailouts reward reckless business practices, but they also punished responsible investment. The bailouts allowed recipients to artificially lower their prices, which hurt competitors who profited legitimately by making wise investments. Capitalism requires loss; the current system takes loss out of the picture.
A second necessity for capitalism is competition. In a capitalist economy, companies cannot legally form monopolies or just take money from their customers, which is why government-provided services automatically funded by taxes often fail to effectively compete with the private sector. So, the only way for companies to profit is by appealing to customers, and companies often appeal to customers by offering better products and/or lower prices.
But competition encourages companies to provide more than just better materials. Companies can also compete by appealing to their customers' values: by donating to charities, increasing employee wages/benefits, or establishing environmentally-friendly business practices. If watchdog organizations keep consumers informed about company practices, consumers can reinforce the practices of the companies they support by buying from those companies (and boycotting companies they oppose). Hence how competition can encourage not only innovation and productivity but also humanitarian responsibility.
Again, however, government policies often stifle competition and destroy its benefits. Both the bailouts and government subsidies stifle competition by allowing recipients to artificially lower their prices and undercut competitors (47). These lower prices can drive competitors out of business and give the bailed-out companies more control over the market.
Strict regulations stifle competition the same way: by driving out small businesses. I know it sounds backwards, but regulations (e.g., rigorously testing products) drive up production costs. Big corporations can afford the higher expenses, but the smaller businesses that can't afford them get driven out of the market. So, in the long run, strict regulations actually empower corporations by giving them more control over the market. That's why corporations often support regulations.
In these cases, the government squashes the incentives for innovation, productivity, and humanitarian responsibility while encouraging inefficient business practices and enabling monopolies to form, all at the consumer's and taxpayer's expense. Capitalism requires competition; the current system stifles it.
A third necessity for capitalism is property rights. Property rights give owners the right to exclusively use and trade their property. Because owners can sell what they own, property rights give owners the incentive to take care of their property (e.g., repairing a car) and use it productively (e.g., restoring a house) so they can then profit from it.
But the current government is undermining secure property rights by using eminent domain and preventing homeowners from renting out their own homes. I'm not even taking into account the limitless tangle of regulations that slow and restrict owners from using their property.
Eminent domain gives the government the right to take private property for public use as long as it provides "just compensation," but according to the Cato Institute, the government's only sanctioned use of force is to secure our rights, not to provide public services (349). We can debate whether or not eminent domain is constitutional, but in this post, I'll just show the effects of eminent domain and how they undermine the secure property rights necessary for capitalism.
Eminent domain undermines the incentives created by property rights. If the government might decide to build a highway over your neighborhood and bulldoze your home in the process, that possibility increases the risks homeowners take when they decide to build on their property. If those owners might end up losing their home anyway, then eminent domain will discourage owners from using their property productively.
Yes, eminent domain only affects people in specific situations, but consider a policy that affects every homeowner and renter in Minnesota. Several cities in Minnesota have "arbitrarily mandated that only 30 percent of the houses on any city block can be rented out." Policymakers wanted to enact this rule to stabilize rowdy college neighborhoods, but homeowners are upset because there are two problems with this.
- The ban itself reduces the value of the homes anyway because it also applies to future owners. So, homeowners are struggling to sell their homes, and they can't even rent out their homes in the meantime to make money, which increases the likelihood of foreclosures. Plus the ban increases the price of available rental units, which hurts the students. It also pushes the student population farther from campus.
- The city officials are violating basic property rights (the right to exclusively use and trade one's property) that give owners the incentive to take care of their property. That violation is not only unconstitutional, but it also sets a bad precedent for future laws to undermine property rights. Capitalism requires secure property rights; the current system violates them.
Americans are right to oppose the current alliance between corporations and government, but they draw the wrong conclusion. The current economic system is not capitalism; it's corporatism/crony capitalism. It devastates economies by encouraging reckless business practices, punishing responsible behavior, stifling innovation and productivity, enabling monopoly formation, driving up prices, and preventing owners from using their property productively.
But people are blaming this destructive system on capitalism, which is the complete opposite. Capitalism--through the profit-loss system, competition, and property rights--encourages responsibility, innovation, and productivity. People should oppose the current system, but attacking capitalism in this country threatens to undermine the source of 200 years of unprecedented humanitarian and technological progress. If the public advocates for the destruction of capitalism in favor of government intervention, they will advocate for a long-term plunge into misery.
(Quote by Benito Mussolini)
Friday, 21 October 2011
Monday, 17 October 2011
Christ, I haven't posted here for over a year! So much has happened in that time, good and bad.
We left off last summer after Bryan and I had broken up. Of course, Jay and I got involved. I fell harder for him than anyone I've ever met. I thought he was my ideal guy: We shared the same taste in music, the same sense of humor, the same political and religious views, and the same interests in economics, psychology, genetics, etc. He was brilliant, ambitious, and attractive. We spent almost every night together, he introduced me to all his friends in Pittsburgh, and we had dinner with his mom two or three times every month. He even took me to their home in Pittsburgh to have dinner with her, his brother, and his brother's fiance. Jay and I also went grocery shopping together, attended the Econ club/Econ book club/seminars together, and talked on the phone for hours.
Within a month or two, red flags started popping up. He habitually snorted cocaine, ketamine, and ecstasy (for starters). I never saw him turn down a drug, and we actually missed his director's party one weekend because he spent all day snorting coke. I wonder if it stems from his childhood abuse; his father abused and neglected him, and Jay even showed me the literal scars.
Jay told me he didn't want anything exclusive or serious, so I decided to see if a nonexclusive arrangement worked for me. Long story short, it didn't. I got way too attached, and according to his friends, he did too but didn't want to admit it. Toward the end of the summer, I noticed he wasn't the guy I wanted, but I was too invested to break it off. He would say he was okay with something when he wasn't, and when I went along with it because I thought he was being honest, he would get pissed off and blame me for not reading his mind. He also cussed me out when we had a misunderstanding. Lots of red flags... lying about his expectations and then blaming me instead of taking responsibility for the consequences of his actions, jumping to conclusions and then resorting to insults instead of talking it out.
When I told Jay I wanted an exclusive relationship, he told me he'd wanted a relationship since he met me but didn't want to pressure me because I'd just gotten out of a relationship, so he'd lied to me. He then said he wasn't sure he wanted a relationship anymore, but he said he was only interested in me and that if I broke it off, it would hurt him because he cared about me a lot but he would understand. I told him I'd have to break it off if he didn't want a relationship because I couldn't risk getting further attached. We didn't hang out or talk much after that, and after a month, I told him I didn't want to see him anymore because it wasn't ideal for us anymore. He agreed, said he couldn't relate to the "whole caring thing," and threw a few insults at me for "talking about my feelings." So after I broke it off, I cut ties with him because of the dishonesty, rudeness, and drug habit. And because seeing his posts online would tear me apart.
That pseudo-breakup hurt more than anything I've felt in years. I only saw him a few times on campus, but I cried myself to sleep for months. To distract myself, I hung out with friends and buried myself in graduate school and teaching. All the friends I met through Jay still invited me downtown and to their parties. In fact, they started disliking him because apparently he was turning into a dick, and he stopped hanging out with them. His former roommate did tell me that he'd never seen a breakup get to Jay so much for so long. By the end of the year, I heard his own colleagues and professors call him "arrogant," "rude,"and "obnoxious," and say that he "burned his academic bridges." I guess he went into a downward spiral after that. He also harassed me via my comment on a mutual friend's stats, so I blocked him.
In May, Jay showed up at a pub while I was hanging out with our mutual friends but didn't harass me. We were both drinking, and at one point, he asked me if I was still mad at him. I told him I didn't want him in my life and why, and he just laughed, then texted some girl who showed up within the hour. Later, I heard him tell someone I had "excellent taste in music," and when he told me he was changing his name and I remembered the name he wanted to change it to, he said he was either impressed or flattered that I remembered it. Before he left with the girl, he sent her over to try to get me to go home with them, but I said no. Later that month, he moved to Florida.
It felt good to reject him after he hurt me, but I cried myself to sleep that night. Hanging out around him reminded me of how much fun we had hanging out. But I learned a lot from that relationship. I learned that I need a monogamous, long-term relationship because I get too attached and because I don't want the health risk. I learned that I don't want to date anyone who lies about his expectations, uses drugs habitually, or talks down to me.
My first year of graduate school rocked:
- I applied for and received my third consecutive WV Writers Annual Conference Internship
- I was offered an editing internship by the CEO of an editing company
- I received a retroactive pay raise for my internship
- I was asked by the CEO if she could keep me on as a full-time editor after the internship
- I completed my first year of teaching
Me teaching and looking like a Q-tip
- I received great student evaluations:
- "Don’t be nervous when you teach--we all like you!"
- "Amazing instructor."
- "I wouldn’t change a thing. You’re doing a great job!"
- "Speaks clearly and adheres to syllabus. Always available out of class, really understanding. Amazing teacher!"
- "She did very well at correcting my papers and teaching me how to write more clearly. This is the most I have ever learned about writing in an English class."
- "Very nice and helpful with everything. Treats everyone with a smile and very much liked by students because she is so nice. No low ratings for my teacher."
- "Overall, Professor Murphy was an excellent teacher. She made every student get involved. Activities like the group work we had to do made it easy to connect with all the other students."
- "Instructor Jessica Murphy was prepared for every class. Her enthusiastic [sic] helped keep me interested and wanting to learn. I could sell she really loves what she does. She is a wonderful teacher."
- I met bestselling authors Diana Gabaldon and Lee Maynard
Me with Diana Gabaldon, international bestseller of the Outlander series
Me with Lee Maynard, author of Screaming with the Cannibals, The Pale Light of Sunset, and the banned-in-WV novel Crum
- I copyedited a coauthored manuscript for an award-winning Economics professor
- I emceeed a reading for two well-known authors
- I was appointed the vice president of the Undergraduate/Graduate Organization for Professional Writing and Editing
- I bought a Yamaha NP-30 Digital Keyboard
- I got my name published as the Senior Editor of the Collegiate Journal of Economics for editing submissions
- I learned how to play “La Valse d’Amelie” by Yann Tiersen and "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" by Michael Nyman on piano
- I impressed the director of the Center for Writing Excellence when she did her teaching observation
- I wrote a research paper about the economic, environmental, and social benefits of property rights over wild animal populations
- I wrote another research paper on bibliotherapy: how the process of writing and sharing personal essays about emotional experiences can promote psychological and emotional well-being by allowing writers to (1) make sense of traumatic experiences, (2) understand how it affects them, and (3) connect with other members of society and prevent isolation
- I presented the bibliotherapy paper at a colloquium
- I won the Rebecca Mason Perry 2010 Award for outstanding first-year graduate student in my program
- I was asked to judge the WV Writers high school contest entries and present the awards at the annual conference
Presenting the awards
- I got a summer internship as a technical writer at Administrative Technology Solutions that turned into a year-long graduate assistantship, complete with a tuition waiver and health insurance
The research I did for my bibliotherapy paper helped me understand what troubled me about Jay's behavior. I read case studies that show how child abuse can lead to mental and emotional instability, withdrawal from social relationships, poor communication, substance abuse, and aggression. I saw all of this in Jay's behavior: avoiding emotional situations, lying and withholding information, constantly doing drugs, driving while blacked out, getting into fistfights, and so on.
After I cut ties with Jay, Greg and I started talking again. We emailed each other while he was in Japan or visiting Thailand, the Phillipines, South Korea, and the South China Sea. He told me he still loved me even though I hadn't spoken to him for over a year, and we talked about dating. He flew me out to Japan for Christmas, and we spent New Years in Tokyo. I felt so at home with him. While I was there, we agreed to date. He told me he wanted to marry me and would fly me out to California to propose to me in front of his family. I thought about it and talked to my parents, then decided that we've known each other for ten years and I wanted to be with him. So we started dating, and when he flew me out to California and proposed to me, I said yes. All throughout my spring semester, we Skyped and sent long emails. He even sent me a Valentine's Day package. When he moved back to California in June, he flew me out to see him in Minnesota in July to meet his extended family.
Me and Greg at the Sagamino train station.
Me wearing Greg's uniform.
New Years in Roppongi.
The octopus tentacles I bought, cooked, and ate.
Over the next month, he turned into a completely different person. He started talking to his friend Monika behind the back of her boyfriend of three years, who was in Cuba and had asked her not to hang out with guys while he was away. Instead of telling her boyfriend that she didn't like that arrangement, she hung out with guys behind his back--including getting black-out drunk with Greg and crashing in his hotel room with him. I was upset but I didn't want to act controlling. Later that weekend, Greg told me he wouldn't mind if I slept with other guys while we were separated, but I told him I didn't want an open relationship.
By the end of August, Greg stopped calling or Skyping, and I almost always had to text him first. He gradually stopped telling me he loved me or showing affection. He said he didn't want to talk to me about his life anymore but that he wanted to talk to Monika about it instead because she could relate. It upset me, but again, I didn't want to seem controlling.
Last month, he drove up to Washington to find an apartment and see Monika. He'd been planning the trip for a week and told me he was staying at his friend Kevin's apartment while Kevin was out to sea. While in Washington, Greg spent all his time with Monika whenever she wasn't working. He took her out to eat, went hiking with her, and brought her back to the apartment to watch movies. I told him I wasn't comfortable with her spending a lot of time with him behind her boyfriend's back, but Greg just said, "He’s in Cuba." That really upset me because he was justifying her deceiving her boyfriend, which meant (to me) he found nothing wrong with dishonesty and cowardice. I don't trust people who are okay with that.
The day before he went back home, I found out Monika had been living alone with him at the apartment during his entire visit rather than just hanging out with him in public. And Greg had never told me, even though he knew for two weeks that she would be living alone with him. When I confronted him about it, he said he must've "forgotten" to tell me, even though before that weekend, he always asked me if I was okay with any situation involving him hanging out with another girl, let alone living with one for a week behind her boyfriend's back. He'd also been in two similar situations before in which he (1) cheated on one girlfriend and (2) came onto me while staying alone with me in Parkersburg when I was having trouble with a boyfriend.
When I told him all of this, he didn't try to explain or anything. I told him to call me the next day, and when he said he'd be "too busy," I told him to make the time. He called, and when I asked him if he'd known she'd be living there when he made plans, he said he had known but "didn't think I'd consider it inappropriate." After that call, he avoided contact, even when I drunk texted him to tell him I loved him. Nothing the whole weekend. He called that Monday and when I asked if he’d gotten my text, he said, “Yes.” That was it.
So I told him I didn't want to be in that relationship anymore. I told him that him actively participating in deceiving another person went against all of my values. I told him he took away everything we used to talk about and do and started doing those things with Monika. I had tried for over a month to help him find a job and keep in touch, but I was miserable and he didn't seem to care at all. He didn't try to explain or apologize or anything. I said I'd send his ring back and he said he didn't want it but then said, “Whatever. Fine. Send me the ring.”
After we broke up, I deleted him from my Facebook and sent back his ring. I also saw that Monika had gone out of her way to to look me up on Facebook and block me, even though we'd never talked. Later that week, his friend said that Greg had told them what happened but had conveniently changed the story to "I never knew Monika would be there; I just showed up and she was there." Even though he'd told me he'd known she would be there during that week and he'd made plans with her the week before.
For a few weeks, I burst into tears at random moments and cried myself to sleep. I don't know why Greg changed so much. He used to randomly email and message me to tell me he loved me and wanted me and couldn't wait to be with me. And then he just stopped everything. Now, I think it's ultimately for the best because I discovered how different our values, interests, and lifestyles have become. I love animals and he dislikes most of them; I like being active (racquetball, dancing salsa) and he prefers drinking beer and watching TV; I love intellectual stuff (economics, psychology, genetics) and he either didn't understand it or didn't like hearing about it. I probably would've been miserable with him. Unfortunately, that's also the second guy in a row who turned out to be dishonest, so I might have a hard time trusting guys in the future...
Now, I'm focusing on my career. I am taking two classes ("Composition and Rhetoric" and "Recent Literary Criticism") and doing my technical writing internship at Administrative Technology Solutions (ATS). Next semester, I plan to take three classes ("Humanities Computing," "Language and Society seminar," and a nonfiction workshop) so I can graduate in May.
I'm also researching companies for whom I'd like to work. At least seven companies at this semester's career fair actively pursued me once they heard I'm (1) getting my Master's degree in Professional Writing and Editing and (2) already working as a technical writer. I also met a correspondent from Science magazine named Ann Gibbons at the Professional Writing and Rhetoric Symposium at Washington & Jefferson College a few weeks ago, and she gave me her email address and website.
I'm too busy with school and planning the future to attempt a relationship right now, and my past three relationships hurt me pretty badly, so I'm trying to avoid getting attached to anyone. I almost slipped up this past month by getting my hopes up for a friend named Jesse I'd known for about five years. The night I broke up with Greg, Jesse and I Skyped for over an hour. We chatted a lot over the past month, and he told me how much he missed me and wanted to date me. I've liked him for a long time because he's intelligent and attractive, and we have similar political views and a similar taste in music. But he lives in SC and I don't want a relationship right now, so we didn't try to date. Still, we didn't mind flirting.
Then, he (1) started constantly talking about sex, and (2) sent me pictures when he was drunk of him having sex with other girls. I told him I didn't want to see him screwing other girls and he apologized, but then I found out that he'd started dating someone but was still hitting on me hardcore and making sexual comments. I decided I don't want to get close to a guy who will share nude pictures of other girls and behave like that toward me while involved with another girl. When I told him how I felt, he said, "Don't worry, you'll never hear from me again," then blocked me. Apparently, he doesn't consider six years of friendship worth it if he can't behave obnoxiously toward me. Why do I attract guys with a few fantastic qualities but one or two repulsive qualities? After the last two years, I might as well go for girls.
Aside from graduate school and my assistantship, I play racquetball several times a week and dance salsa/meringue/bachata/cha-cha/cumbia in Pittsburgh with my friend from high school named Stephen. We told each other up front that neither of us want a relationship, so there's no pressure. I love hanging out with him, but he graduates in December. I'll be too swamped next semester with my three classes to do anything else anyway.
I'll wrap up this update with pictures:
Getting mobbed by the German guys at the Pittsburgh Rennaissance Festival after I made the mistake of speaking German back to them. "Oh, she speaks the tongue!"
Making the second mistake of falling asleep at the ren fest with my colleagues after they bought wooden swords.
At the Sports Page for my friend Neumann's going away party with a shirt that looks way more revealing than it really is.
Friday, 23 July 2010
Blog post by Sandy Tritt, CEO of Inspiration for Writers, Inc. Primarily about creative writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, etc.) but can also apply to technical writing.
1. Get it on paper. Once you’ve written it, you can edit it. But until your story is on paper, in black and white, you have nothing.
2. Focus. Write one sentence—yes, one sentence—that states what this manuscript is about. Once you have that, you can refer to it to know if a scene belongs in this manuscript. If a scene doesn’t support the focus statement in some way, it doesn’t belong.
3. Ground your reader at the beginning of each scene. Make sure your reader knows where the scene takes place, when the scene takes place, and who is present in the scene. If you’re using a controlled third person point of view, the first character mentioned should be the viewpoint character for that scene.
4. Know who your narrator is. If you are using the omniscient point of view, your narrator will be an invisible character who is present in every scene, but will not be any one character (although your narrator will have the ability to pop into any character’s head). If you are using a first person point of view, your narrator will be the “I” character. If you are using a controlled third person point of view, your narrator will be standing right next to your viewpoint character and will only be able to see, hear, smell, etc. what that character sees, hears, smells, etc.
5. Act it out. Yes, it’s been said over and over, but it’s still the first rule of writing. Don’t tell your reader what is happening—allow your reader to experience it through action and dialogue.
6. Use active voice. Don’t start a sentence with “there is” or “there are” or “there were” or “there was.” Doing so automatically puts you in passive voice. Instead of saying “there were seven cheerleaders at the mall,” say “Seven cheerleaders shopped at the mall.”
7. Use the strongest verbs possible. Replace “was” with “moved.” Replace “moved” with “walked.” Replace “walked” with “strolled.” Constantly search for stronger and stronger verbs. For truly, it is verbs that give a manuscript its power. Avoid adverbs—instead of saying “He walked slowly,” say “He strolled.”
8. Use an action or body language instead of dialogue tags. Challenge yourself to replace EVERY dialogue tag with an action by the character speaking. You’ll be surprised at how your story comes to life.
9. Never name an emotion. If you say, “He was angry,” you’re telling, not showing. Let us see him slam his fist on the counter. Let us feel the breeze as he storms by.
10. When in doubt, leave it out. If a sentence makes sense without “that” or “of,” leave it out. Leave out any word or phrase or paragraph or scene that is optional.
I added the bold. Original post here.
weblog entry from agnophilo