Friday, July 29, 2011

Sensitivity/Insensitivity to Change

Here's some stream-of-consciousness on change.

I often discuss various random things with my co-worker Jesse. The other day, we had a conversation about change. He and I are both people that are very welcoming of life changes. He even mentioned that "change for the sake of change" is good. I often think that as well.

A major point of discussion was Robert Krulwich's 2006 piece on NPR entitled Does Age Quash Our Spirit of Adventure? When I heard this story, I was immediately interested in the ideas presented by Krulwich and Robert Sapolsky which are, in short, that as you get older, you become less interested in trying new things. I immediately decided that I would try at least one new and out-of-character thing per year to help maintain my openness to experience (something Jonathan Haidt mentioned in his TED Talk). This year, my new experience will be skydiving. Next weekend, actually, I am going to Duluth with Luke and some of his buddies for his bachelor party. We're kicking it off by jumping out of a plane.

During this discussion of change, I couldn't think of any particularly great adjectives for "accepting of change" and "unaccepting of change". The term "conservative" -- as in the typical old maid or grumpy old guy set in his ways -- contrasts with "liberal," but those terms have too strong political connotations. How strongly people react to change and whether they react positively or negatively may not necessarily be correlated to social or economic political beliefs. So what words should be used?

The best terms I could come up with at the time were "sensitive" and "insensitive," though "averse" and "amenable" may also be good. Someone sensitive/averse to change prefers (all other things being equal) to stay with the comfortable and known, while someone insensitive/amenable to change doesn't avoid or even seeks out change.

Referring back to that NPR piece, the three examples were taste in music, willingness to try sushi and getting a body piercing. The former may be the best example with which to use these terms. If you're "new music averse," then you stick with the music you like ("breakthrough minus twenty") and rarely try new stuff. So when I'm an old fart sitting in a rocking chair, I will still be listening the Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins -- if I'm particularly averse.

The point of the story, however -- "breakthrough minus twenty" -- is that pretty much everyone becomes less adventurous as they age. So while you're insensitive as you're young, you become more sensitive as you get older. Certainly there are exceptions, but as a general rule, is this necessarily true? Is it part of aging -- like getting wrinkles and gray hair -- or is it something that can be avoided?

Alzheimer's was once thought to be inevitable for certain people, but new research shows it can be slowed by Vitamin E, marijuana, and various lifestyle choices -- even hobbies. So if one is constantly trying new things, will they train their brain to be more "change plastic"? I think to test this, I would need to try new things more than once per year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The score is oogy to boogy

This last weekend, we went to Luke & Shannon's Wedding Party extravaganza at her parents' place in Eden Valley. It was a shindig for the wedding party and their significant others, and we had a great time for the half a day we were there. One thing that got me thinking was the shirt that Luke wore: a Calvinball design he saw on originally made by a fella named Joe Wright. The shirt got me reminiscing about Calvin and Hobbes. I always enjoyed reading that comic as a kid, but as an adult, I think I appreciate it even more; the philosophy, the mischief and the joy of being a kid -- no-nonsense worldview and all -- are great.

Every time I think about Calvin and Hobbes, I necessarily think about how it ended. The last strip itself is of C&H going off into the woods to explore. More interesting -- and emotional -- is how Bill Watterson ended the 3160-strip-long comic: he quit the game while he was ahead, opting to "leave the party early" in order that in people not "[wish him] dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like [his]."1. People often seem to hate how C&H ended, but I guess I liken it to movies that don't end cleanly or the way you would have predicted (think The Sixth Sense, Seven, Memento). Those are the movies that you're thinking about days, weeks and months afterward. The typical happy endings that you can predict early on -- those movies you forget about as you leave the theater or as you put the DVD back in its case.

I prefer the former. And while I certainly wish Calvin was still causing more mischief, I can appreciate Watterson's early departure from the party and that that is probably the precise reason why I'm thinking very fondly about Calvin right now.

We've been working on some serious house cleaning the last few days. We'll be doing a garage sale this weekend, and so far, we've moved four (or five?) vanloads of stuff over to the Ballmans' house. After spending a little time organizing things there after work, we went home and laid low. I think the heat has taken a toll on the boys. Jacob was gulping down water like crazy this evening, and he was rather quiet during his bedtime routine. I looked over from the computer to see him zonked out:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why do trees exist in this world?

Jacob has the best philosophical questions. He asked me that one yesterday as we were driving to Doug and Sarah's house to get Reed's glasses fixed. I'm wholly unprepared to answer questions like that without diving headlong into evolution, competition for resources (eg, sunlight), and so on. That's precisely what I tried to do despite the fact that a four-year-old won't understand what I'm talking about. About twenty seconds into my response, he said, "Is it because they like to grow?" That's a pretty good answer, I think.

Jacob: 1. Daddy: 0.

It's a good thing Mandy isn't here to ask me to describe gravity.

This weekend wasn't particularly eventful. It was actually scheduled as one of our "lazy weekends." A few months ago, Andrea and I started going over our calendar for the summer. First, my eyes started glazing over as I tried to take in everything. She knew she had to stop when I broke out in a cold sweat thinking about everything that was happening. Thankfully, she had mercy on me, and we setup a few weekends where we agreed we wouldn't plan anything, and I could get a reprieve from the madness.

How did our lazy weekend play out? Well, Andrea took the boys to Little Falls to pick up her cousin, Alyssa, from horse camp. That gave me some time to work on some programming for Babbage. That evening, the four of us plus Alyssa had some homemade Oreo Blizzards. Reed especially liked his:

Ice cream doesn't stand a chance with this one
My parents got back from the cabin yesterday and brought his glasses back. (We forgot them up there when we went the previous weekend.)

I also finally got around to watching a movie I borrowed from Abe: V For Vendetta. I really enjoyed it. Afterward, I started a new book: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Game Theory.

Speaking of books, I recently read two that I liked. The first is The Razor's Edge by M. Somerset Maugham. It's a story (apparently true) about a former WWI pilot who becomes disenfranchised with the typical American Dream of achieving wealth and status. It wasn't a particularly dramatic or surprising book, but I liked it nonetheless.

The other book I just read was Only Pack What You Can Carry by Janice Holly Booth, the former CEO of a North Carolina Girl Scout chapter. This was something of a motivational, overcome-your-fears, don't-fear-change kind of book, which I happened to read at a time when I was particularly troubled about major life changes. It was a quick read -- about 190 pages or so

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's a good thing we've eradicated malaria in the United States

... what with the abundance of mosquitoes and all.

We had a pretty laid back if not relaxing (due to the heat) Independence Day weekend. The boys went up to the cabin with my parents on Friday while we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Saturday morning, Andrea and I made the trip up to Merrifield. We visited the neighbors, went out on the boat, watched fireworks, and were otherwise not productive, save maybe for some reading in our books. (I'm reading Yes!; Andrea finished The Da Vinci Code and started Angels and Demons.)

My parents have some bald eagles nesting outside the cabin, which was actually pretty neat, as we were able to watch them bringing fish in for their eaglets, staring ominously into the distance and hopping around on tree branches. I brought my camera and telephoto lens and was able to get a few shots. Unfortunately, for a tree that's not terribly far away, my telephoto lens didn't zoom in as much as I was hoping. I wanted to get right up in the eagles' faces, but this is the best we could do:

Not bad.

This afternoon/evening, we're going over to the Days' house for a barbecue and some fireworks. We'd talked about doing some Dominion with Aaron, Elissa (new website!) and her brother Lawrence, but I think that will have to wait until tomorrow.