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Friday, July 30, 2010

On Chaos Theory (Or Rather, A Smaller Part of the Much Larger Field)

Ever since I discovered what chaos theory was a few years ago, I have been very intrigued by the field (Yes, I know it is a Wikipedia page, but the website has become much more accurate over the years).  In an incredibly abbreviated synopsis, chaos theory states that even extremely small changes in a system (i.e. weather system, ecosystem) will result in a completely different end result had the change not been made.  For example, one of the men who helped develop chaos theory, Edward Lorenz, had a computer that generated weather patterns based on equations that he put into the machine.  He would switch through various functions to produce different weather scenarios. One day, out of laziness, he left off the sixth decimal place in his equations (so a number such as 4.928472 became 4.92847) and let the machine run and generate weather patterns.  When he came back several hours later, the end result was extremely different than that for the equation that used six decimal places.  This slight variation in the complex system caused the system to behave in a completely different manner.  Lorenz compared the difference to a butterfly flapping its wings, and this is where the term "butterfly effect," which theorizes that a butterfly flapping its wings in, say, Australia, could cause a tornado in Kansas due to the change in the chaotic system, came into use.  Another classic example is the novel-turned-movie Jurassic Park, in which scientists try unsuccessfully to control nature, which is too complex and thus gets out of control.  Chaos theory seeks to predict what would otherwise be incredibly random and unpredictable events (like the weather).

Technicalities aside, I wanted to note a few smaller observations of what I consider to be chaos theory in action.  They involve the parking lot that I mentioned a while back.  Generally, people park in an orderly fashion.  Nevertheless, and this happens more often than not, once one person goes out of order (i.e. parks somewhere else, does not park great), it disrupts the whole system.  People begin to follow this one disruption.  I have seen many cars park neatly, and as soon as one car is a little off, cars after that one begin to park more and more off.  In a sense, the system becomes chaotic.  This parking lot also double parks cars when it gets busy.  Some nights, however, double parking is not allowed.  People do not always know this, and sometimes one person will accidentally double park.  As soon as the one person double parks, many accidentally follow.  It's not their faults, it is just chaos theory coming into play.  Once there is that one deviation, chaotic behavior follows, and it is difficult to undo.

Since I enjoy this subject a lot, I will definitely continue to mention any future observations of chaos theory.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Discovering What Has Been There All Along

For the many people who are fortunate enough to live near the beach, only a few take advantage of going to this place at nighttime.  Both of us blog contributers go there often, and we both find that there are few people there past 7PM or so.  You will most likely not see a single other person or group up and down the beach.  It is without a doubt a great place to just relax and either watch the waves or lie down in the sand.  Just last night, we watched the moon rise from the horizon - it was an awesome and almost bizarre sight.  No one ever bothers you at night (unless you are on beaches that close at certain times, which seems paradoxical since you shouldn't be able to "close"nature - thoughts?), and during the summer it is rarely too hot or too chilly.

An idea concerning this "under-usage" of the beach at night is that of naively ignoring what has been there all along.  Some simply do not realize what great opportunities or places are right in front of their noses, but it is not their fault; no one ever told them about these things. This also makes discovering what has been there all along a very rewarding process - it requires thought and effort to discover these opportunities and places.  Instead of saying "Wow that was there all along, I'm an idiot for not realizing this," my reaction has been that of amazement and excitement of finding something new that many cannot find or see.

As another example, I run at a local park a lot.  I would usually show up, get my run in, and go home.  One day, however, I decided to take a small side trail, and it lead me to an awesome lookout on top of a cliff.  For years I ran by the trail, disregarding it completely, but the one time I decided to take "the road less traveled," to be cliche, I discovered something amazing that I had been within only feet of seeing for years.

Discovery does not require venturing far; an enlightening and new experience could literally be only a few feet from where you stand.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More Thoughts on the Spread of Civilization

Over the past couple of days I've put more thought into the last post I made.  A new thought I have had is that we never truly get the chance to be detached from anything.  What I mean by this is that we are practically always connected to somewhere/someone else through our use of the internet and cell phones.  Cell phone coverage exists almost everywhere these days, and losing reception is something that people need to worry about less and less.  I could be deep in the woods and still have great reception.  In a sense, fewer and fewer areas are free from not only humanity's physical presence (roads, houses, other projects), but humanity's unseen technology is practically always present.

Nevertheless, I went for a run in a more isolated park the other day, and in spite of what I said in my last post about even the park being unisolated and tamed, I did feel separated from the outside.  As I ran along a  trail that usually takes about an hour to complete, I only saw four people, all of whom were on the main part of the trail.  I was in fact able to get a feeling of escaping the developed outside world, if only for a brief moment.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On the Spread of Civilization

So, what do I mean by this?

While taking off from the airport a few weeks ago, I looked out my window and noticed how civilized the world is (the world being the New York metropolitan area).  For as far as I could see, highways, commercial centers, cul-de-sacs and developments dominated the landscape.  This sight saddened me a bit, as I never really thought of the world being so tamed.  When I go running in some of the larger parks that are near me, I think of being in a massive, unclaimed part of the world.  Nevertheless, as the plane gained altitude, I noticed that even the bigger parks were surrounded by far more developed areas than "natural" areas.  I also realized that the parks themselves are a bit tamed too.  They close at dusk, and the trails are worn and heavily-used.

As I flew over the Midwest, I felt excited to look out the window and see unclaimed and unyielding wilderness.  Once again, I was saddened a bit; the sight was taunting, really.  Massive farms spread out for hundreds of miles.  Sure, there were plenty of "green" spaces, but it was cultivated and tamed.  I am not attacking farms, we need food obviously and I give those people a lot of credit, but there was absolutely no untamed land.  Everything was owned; everything was developed.

This flight was to Alaska, and I will admit that seeing this state was a great relief.  There is increasing development in the state, unfortunately, but a huge portion of it is still untamed.  A person can live in a cabin with no other human being nearby for hundreds of miles around.  There are mountains and valleys everywhere with no highways, cul-de-sacs, or developments.  One of the larger parks up there, Denali National Park (which is larger than the state of Massachusetts), has one road that goes through it.  There are barely any trails, and people (with a permit of course), can get off of this road and walk into the wilderness at any place they choose.  This is wilderness with (almost) no limits, and I sincerely hope it will forever remain that way.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Being Efficient

This past week I have tried to make use of every second I have had to accomplish everything I need to do, and what I find myself having is more free time. More free time to relax and enjoy life, your friends, your family, and most importantly, yourself. A lot of wasted time goes into video games or just lying around saying you are 'going to hangout with a friend later' you do nothing all day until you hangout with them. Well, that's just an instance, but say you always say 'well, I can't do this or that because I am doing this today.' You won't accomplish anything you need to do and it is just going to end up taking forever for you to do so.

So, by being efficient I mean, when you wake up in the morning, instead of taking that down time to allow yourself to wake up, eat a healthy breakfast first, then go out and start accomplishing your goals, chores, and/or errands for the day. By taking the initiative and doing this, you will find that you feel less bored on a summer day where seemingly there is nothing to do. In addition, you feel a sense of relief afterwards and you can then do anything you want for the rest of the day and night. Just remember try and balance you with the world. That's the most important thing of them all. Being efficient is just another step in creating a more enjoyable lifestyle.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On Taking the Initiative

Taking the initiative is a concept nowadays that seems quite challenging for some, well for a lot. This particular topic popped into my mind after listening to my cousin complain about having to work at a summer camp where he isn't going to get paid. It actually isn't the paid part that bothers him, it's the "work" part that irks him. Regardless, he will gain invaluable experience aiding younger kids in tennis, which will help him in the future, as he intends to be a gym teacher for a career. Taking the initiative comes into play because no matter what comes along; he always waits for someone else to do the work for him and he has made it all the way through high school this way. Living off the capability of having everyone do his work is something that he can get away with at a young age, but once he is ready to go into the mainstream world...he will get crushed.

One who tends to take the lazy way out of things and have other people handle various activities or duties for them is doing no good living here on this planet. Basically I bring this topic up because one can only take so much of someone's constant, continual inability to work. How can someone expect to get somewhere in this world without ever doing any work along the way? How some people live this way is beyond me. Just take the initiative...go beyond your shyness, your fears, your doubts, your frustrations, your flaws, and take a chance. Take a chance to put yourself out there and try new things and be confident in your own personal abilities because at the end of the day, every person possesses certain qualities that make them worthy to the world. People similar to my cousin who are content with being stuck in the mud at the same place are just wasting their abilities and affect the lives of people who actually go out and take command of their role. So as I finish, I want to just say take the initiative in anything you want to do in life, whether if it is simply wanting to have a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, going after that crush you've had, or going after something you feel you have no business going for, be confident...take the initiative and go for it. Good things will only come if you decide to act upon your wants and desires. Don't let your laziness or lack of ambition get in the way. Act now and be the person who always strives to finish their work first.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Commuting

Last week I had the privelage of joining morning commuters on their way to work in New York City or surrounding areas. Regardless of their final destination, each individual was on their way to work. I took the 5:41am train to the airport as I was going out to visit Chicago for vacation.
While waiting for the train, I saw some of the craziest, weirdest looking people I have ever seen in my life and trust me, between all the kids in my high school and just traveling around...that's an accomplishment for me to say that these people are just out there. The line of people waiting for the commuter train all fit the stereotype of the 'sit at the desk job all day long'. Every man had protruding bellies hanging over their belts...about a good 1/2 a foot too. It was not only depressing but it also was disgusting. This just proves as some fodder for me to remind myself that I don't want to have to commute on the train to work everyday or have a desk job my entire life. If I turn out like these cold, unhappy faces, then I truly will be one of the unhappiest men and won''t be able to look myself in the mirror when I'm older and know that my life was wasted away.
The thing that fascinates me about this particular subject is that people commute because he/she wants to make the big bucks, as do I and well, most people. But, at the same time, it's amazing how miserable these people are. I understand that on the 5:41am train, it is very early in the morning, but these individuals are used to waking up this early and I should be the grumpy one. I tried to evoke a smile out of others by simply just standing in line smiling at others as they passed me, or even in the train, as swarms of people crowded onto the train, I gave them a little grin but...nothing. I couldn't even sit on the train and try to enjoy my the sunrise as I peaked out the window because these people just drained all that positive energy away. I know this just seems like a bunch of banter, but really the whole point of this little experience was to remind me and you that if you want to end up miserable like these collective soulless individuals, then be my guest go for the big $$$ and commute. I refuse to be unhappy and turn into an out of shape, insane zombie. Not only for myself, but for you...follow your heart and want happiness.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Reactions to Immediate Danger

Now that July 4th and all its firework displays are upon us, I remember a near-disaster that occurred at a fireworks show I was at last year.  I was away from home, and I went to go see fireworks at a nearby college.  The area where the fireworks were being launched was roped off, but the area was a little small.  When evening came, the fireworks were lit, and everyone was enjoying the display.  Out of nowhere, however, a lit firework spun around in the air and landed on the ground about 15 feet away from me.  It had yet to explode, and everyone was apprehensive.  I say apprehensive and not scared because no one seemed to be moving - they were all frozen.  I personally ducked down because there was not much for me to do at that point, but everyone else just stood there staring. Luckily the firework just fizzed out and never went off, and a serious situation was avoided.

Nevertheless, why were people simply staring and not trying to find some sort of cover?  They all recognized the immediate danger, but none of them made any effort to place themselves out of the danger.  I read an article a few years ago about this very topic.  I have never been in a disaster situation, thank God, but according to the article, people normally do not run around screaming in the face of imminent danger.  Instead, they freeze and do not know what to do. The article cited an example of a ferry boat that sank in the Black Sea a number of years ago.  When the boat started sinking, people did not try to escape or get to higher ground.  One survivor explained how everyone around him seemed to be paralyzed with fear.  He calmly made his way to a lifeboat and escaped.  The people who simply froze unfortunately perished along with over 1000 other passengers.  According to this man, many more would have survived had they simply moved and fought through the panic.

I bring this up because I find this to be a paradoxical aspect of human nature.  Normally we think of the "fight or flight" adrenaline response, but this is neither.  It's simply staying put and doing nothing, and I think people need to recognize this flaw if, for whatever reason (and I'm not trying to scare people), they ever find themselves in a disaster scenario.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Bad Business Ethics

So today on CNN's website I stumbled upon this article about how Chinese companies are "renting out" white people, or just foreign-looking people in general, who make the company look like more of a global powerhouse.  These rented people can "work" for the company for several hours, if not days or months.  Typically, they give speeches or attend conferences, pretending to be foreign partners.  The main objective is appearances, however, and the person not so much as say anything as show up and be looked up to.  As the article states, "the requirements for these jobs are simple. 1) Be White 2) Do not speak any Chinese, or really speak at all, unless asked 3) Pretend like you just got off of an airplane yesterday."

This of course is downright lying, and clients and potential customers are deceived.  There have been lawsuits, and the actors have gotten in trouble as well.  This also brings up an odd situation to consider.  China has been working diligently for a long time now to become the world's next superpower.  Nevertheless, it still relies heavily on the "approval" of the United States, or just people who look like they could be from the United States.  Its own people seem to have trouble trusting each other, so the competition needs to come in and give its approval.  Now, is this a strategy that is worth the sacrifice, or will it keep the country from reaching its full potential?  China also depends heavily on American markets - how long can this cycle last?  So, what does the country do if it is so reliant on the superpower that it wants to pass?  To me, it is amazing how something as small as appearances can make or break an effort.