Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thank You Ursula LeGuin

I received a signed book plate from Ursula K. LeGuin in the mail today! LeGuin is a giant in the science-fiction world and most famous for her 1969 groundbreaking and multiple award winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Earlier this month I read The Left Hand of Darkness, and although I found the first 100 pages of this 218 page book quite boring, the back half of the novel depicts a peerless tale of friendship, courage, and endurance.

After I finish a novel it's my custom to research the book on the Internet; reading reviews and criticisms post facto. While researching The Left Hand of Darkness, I found Ursula K. LeGuin's website and learned that she is alive and well in Oregon. Her website provides her physical address so fans can write to her and receive a signed bookplate. On her website, LeGuin writes that she can no longer sign people's books because of the weight and hassle of returning said books; but she encourages those wanting a signature to send her a self-addressed stamped envelope and she will return a signed adhesive bookplate. Needless to say, I sent LeGuin a short letter and a return envelope and today I received my bookplate!

How cool is that?! A living legend who cares about her readers and freely sends them signed bookplates for their volumes when asked. Everything I read about LeGuin describes her as a tender and caring woman, and I think her personality softly radiates in her main characters in The Left Hand of Darkness, and in the bookplate she sent to me. Thank you Ursula LeGuin.
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I stuck my bookplate in my first book club hardback edition of The Left Hand of Darkness, I purchased at a local book store; what a find!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Going Synthetic

Tonight I made the switch from conventional motor oil to synthetic. I'd been thinking about switching over to synthetics for a while now but didn't want to shell out the extra money for the technologically superior oil. But since school let out I've been in mechanic-mode so I figured now was good time get under the truck and change my own damn oil and make the switch. Now I'm running Castrol GTX High Mileage in my Dodge Ram (107,500 miles).

I've known how to change oil since I started driving, and for the first few changes I kinda liked doing it. Yet as the years rolled on and time grew scarce I began taking my truck to those quick-change shops, or the Tire & Lube center at the WalMart. I figured $30 wasn't too much to pay to have a professional (in the sense that they get paid to do the job) do all the work properly and dispose of the used oil. I'd never had a problem with their work and it gave me 30 minutes to mine the $5 DVD shit-bin for movie gold.

But I've been in mechanic-mode lately due in part to watching two hours of Spike TV's "Power Block" --a block of four shows all devoted to wrenchin': Extreme 4x4, Horsepower (my fav.), Trucks, and Muscle Car-- every weekend for the last month. All those TV shows recommend synthetic oils and I figured changing my own oil would satisfy my "manly" gene and give me a chance to investigate the synthetic hype.

I went to my local auto parts shop to compare the prices of conventional oil (Pennzoil, Quaker State, etc.) to synthetic oil (Castrol, Royal Purple, etc.). To my surprise, a quart of Castrol GTX High Mileage was only a buck more than a quart of Pennzoil motor oil! That, in my opinion, is a small price to pay to go synthetic. Seeing as how my Dodge only needs 4.5 quarts that translates into a $5 difference. Not too shabby. Also while I was at the auto parts shop I picked up a Haynes repair manual for my Dodge Ram. (I felt slightly embarrassed that I didn't already own one, as any do-it-yourselfer needs a manual for their vehicle.)

Before I took the leap and shelled out my dough for the oil, I figured I'd see what WalMart charged for a synthetic oil change; and here's the price gouge that will really blew me away: $55. That's a shit-ton of money for an oil change, especially when one aisle over you can buy 5 quarts of Castrol GTX for $14 and a Fram high mileage oil filter for $7. Add those together and you can do your own synthetic oil change for $21; a savings of $34! That's huge!
So that's what I did. I bought the fancy filter, 5 quarts of the super synthetic oil, drain pan, funnel, shop towel, and a jug of windshield washer fluid (I was dry), and my grand total: $37. Even factoring in the cost of the Haynes manual I still only spent $57, which is $2 more expensive than the synthetic WalMart oil-change, but lands me all those essential shop tools and the invaluable repair manual.

This post probably sounds like a consumer alert piece, and it is a little bit, but if you have the gumption to change your own oil you will save money and get a better bang for you buck. I'll leave you with one last cost comparison: WalMart conventional oil change-$30; changing it yourself oil with synthetic oil and fancy filter-$21. Now that's thinkin' with your dipstick!
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The torque rate for a Dodge Ram oil plug in 25ft/lbs. Thanks Haynes!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sacred Safety Sticker 交通安全ステッカー

I know how dangerous riding motorcycles can be, so the more I can stack the deck in my favor the better. I keep myself as safe as possible by wearing a helmet, and I keep my bike safe with my Shinto "safety in traffic" sticker (the yellow one with the red shrine gate in the pic).

As Americans, we don't customarily put these kind of stickers on our cars. Sure we've all seen the "Jesus is my co-pilot" bumper stickers, but these are totally different from the "safety in traffic" sticker.

Across the top of the sticker are four Japanese characters (kanji): 交通安全. The first two characters, 交通 (koutsu) mean "traffic," and the last two characters 安全 (anzen) mean safety. Beneath the "safety in traffic" characters is the name of the shrine whose god is looking out for you and your vehicle, which in this case is my favorite-and coolest-shrine in all Japan: Washinomiya Shrine, 鷲宮神社; the shrine of the small town I lived in for two years. 僕の鷲宮の友達宮内Shinya君が「交通安全」のステッカーを僕に送りました。本当にありがとうございました内友! Underneath all the writing is a drawing of the shrine gate and the eagle (FYI: "washi," as in "Washi-miya" means eagle 鷲).

As I've written about in earlier posts, most if not all Japanese people are Shintoist--at least culturally. Shintoism holds that all objects contain a god, kami 神. Things like trees and stones, rivers and mountains all have gods in them. That's peaceful to think about. But man made things also contain gods, like coffee mugs, pencils, and even, you guessed it, vehicles. In fact, it's not uncommon in Japan to see a new car and its proud owners being blessed by Shinto priests in the middle of the shrine grounds. Nothing like seeing a Mercedes getting blessed. (Click here to watch a Shinto car blessing video on YouTube.)

When cars are blessed (if that's the right word for it), the priests bless the car's spirit and ask that the car be a good and safe car for its new owners. After the blessing, many Japanese people will buy a "safety in traffic" sticker from the shrine and put it on the back window. Some shrines also sell "safety in traffic" stickers for bicycles, which are both smaller and cheaper. The going rate for a car sticker is 1,000 yen ($10) and 500-800 yen ($5-8) for a bicycle.

Even though my motorcycle wasn't blessed at Washinomiya Shrine, I believe it still has a spirit or god in it--after all it is a Yamaha--and it's nice to know he's being taken care of. My "safety in traffic" sticker helps keep my motorcycle safe and functioning properly, and that keeps me as safe I can be with my helmet on.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Your Best Worst Weakness

Anyone of us who's ever interviewed for a job has been asked this age old question: "What are your biggest weakness?" It's a standard question that all of us have answered successfully; well, those of us with jobs at least. Isn't it strange that our weaknesses will actually land us a job providing those weakness are good ones?

I know interviewers love to ask this question; but is it a good question? I was kicking this issue around the other day at work after one of my supervisors finished interviewing a potential student assistant, and the more I think about this question the less I like it.

It's not that I don't have weakness or that I hate talking about them, but I just wonder how valuable the "weakness" question is when it comes time for employers to choose the right person for the job. Asking the "weakness" question could easily be paraphrased as: "Why shouldn't I hire you?" Now if you think like I do, you're thinking about pleading the 5th on this one.

Here's the standard reasons for asking the "weakness" question:
-It makes interviewees think on their toes.
-It tells interviewers what they need to watch for if they hire the person.
-It humbles the interviewees and forces them to quit boasting about themselves.

All of these are good reasons to ask the "weakness" question; only there's a few flaws in the reasoning. For example, the whole question-and the entire interview process-hinges on the interviewee telling the truth. Undoubtedly, it is stupid to lie about where you went to school, your employment history, or any criminal convictions you might have, because the interviewer can verify your answers. But how can they verify your greatest weaknesses? Sure, they can call your old bosses and find out about the quality of your work, but they've probably already done that if they're interviewing you. So when it comes down to answering "What do you feel is your greatest weakness?" why not spruce up your answer, I mean, they're asking you a subjective question anyway.

And there are even more flaws in the logic of asking the "weakness" question. Chief among these being that no one is surprised by the question anymore. The few moments interviewees spend thinking of an answer to this question is not spent introspecting their characters, but is spent deciding which of the canned answers are most likely to please the interviewer. There's a ton of canned answers out there, the standard good ones are:
-"I work too hard."
-"I'm a perfectionist."
-"I'm too detail oriented."

The problem with these good answers is that they're too good, and because they're too good everybody's heard them before. However, giving a good canned answer might be better than giving one of my true answers, which are at the moment:
-"I eat too many potato chips. I can't resist those damn things. Got any?"
-"I talk too much. I'm a very curious person."
-"You mean work related?... uh..."

These are bad answers. I know the interviewer could care less about my potato chip addiction, but it is a big weakness for me, I can't resist those damn things. And thus we arrive at the moral dilemma: is it better to tell the truth, or kinda lie and get the job? Do you see the catch-22 the "weakness" question places on applicants?

Here's my solution that removes the moral dilemma, requires little in the way of lying, and is generally a fun loving question. My question to interviewees would be: "If you could have any superpower what would it be?" You might think that's a stupid question, but it meats the three criterion the "weakness" question supposedly satisfies. The question makes the interviewee think on their toes; it tells you what to watch out for if you hire the person (after all, what if they really possess that superpower?), and it makes them stop boasting about themselves because usually, psychology tells us, that people want superpowers that compensate for their perceived weaknesses. (I'm not sure what psychology tells us that, but it makes good sense to me.)

So for all you interviewers out there, think about the moral implications of asking the "weakness" question and consider asking the "superpower" question instead. The latter will spice up the interview, but watch out for canned answers: flying, teleporting, and telekinesis. Be especially weary of people who want invisibility and telepathy--those people are most likely greasy voyeurs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zip it, Clamp it, and Haul Ass

let's go
motors fire exhaust pipes chant potato-potato-potato

shouts: followin' you
how far can you go before you gotta fill that thing up
don't know
what ya mean ya don't know
no speedo no odometer
followin' me then

15 miles out of town they pass a tractor-trailer at 85 mph

how ya feel
great man
hows 75-80 suit ya
i prefer 70
yeah that's what we're goin'
yeah
ya'll were hittin' 85 passin' that truck
well we had to pass 'em
cool man
next stop roswell and the aliens
there's a dealership there
need parts for that old thing
my exhaust clamp snapped
bad
the pipe's shakin' off the front head
better zip up tight dark clouds up the road
leather jackets zipped and belted, motors fire, exhaust pipes chant potato-potato-potato

20 minutes outside roswell new mexico the clouds open up and soak the heros
a rooster-tail streams water into one of their faces

where's my front fender when i need it
looks cool though
feels cold

at the service counter at the dealership

what year you say it is
83 shovel
well it looks like we don't carry parts that old
you got anything else that'll work
i can sell ya this one for $10 but i can't garuantee it'll work
let's go with it

in the parking lot full of leather clad dentists and new machines

he didn't try to sell ya a shirt with that did he
nah man
let's bust out the tools and get this rigged up

brake lever detached, old clamp removed, new being pounde like a horseshoe, leather jackets thrown on the wet asphalt as workbenches

you guys know there's a repair shop in the back of the dealership
yes sir we do but we'd rather save the extra $100 for beer and smokes
alright good luck then

30 minutes later the repair is finished, brake lever reattached

looks good man
better than stock
that shit anin't comin' off again
hell yeah man little roadside maintnance
cool
ruidoso
let's go
motors fire, exhaust pipes chant potato-potato-potato

25 minutes outside ruidoso the heavy clouds dump a large late-afternoon mountain rain

damn front fender
-shouts-ya look cold man
damn water's runnin' down my back

after 30 minutes of looking for the lodge in the wet crowded streets the heros find it

turn on tha heater
throw me a beer
that was the shittiest ride i've ever done
hell yeah

there is nothing at the rally worthy of an adult male's attention

two days later they fire up the machines and ride home under a brilliant sky
a falcon attacks a bird in flight
antelope look up from their grazing and gaze at the machines hurling by them, chanting potato-potato-potato at high tempo

everything holdin' together
taillights rattlin'
one thing or another
hell yeah

safely back at home, under lone star's special spell, the heros conjure memories of heavy rains, busted exhuast clamps, and falcons preying
little is said of the rally, just as it is written here

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Judge a Book by Its Cover

There's an old maxim which goes "Never judge a book by its cover," and this maxim, unfortunately, applies to more than just books, but also to people; again, unfortunately. But we do judge books and people by their covers. And while there is a bead of truth to the saying, one cannot deny that reading a book with a cool cover feels cooler, just as kissing a stunning woman is all the more compelling. With this idea in mind, I present the five coolest book covers in my collection (in no particular order) with a brief note on why I like each of them.

Critical Terms for Religious Studies, by Mark C. Taylor, University of Chicago Press, 1998.

This postmodern dictionary isn't what you'd expect from its title. A gripping cover wraps this edgy volume. I don't even know what painting this is but I like it. One of my favorite features of the cover is how the painting is so oddly framed by angled black borders. Another pleasing aspect of the cover is the use of different fonts --an interesting touch, and one we'll see more of as this list continues-- which keeps the eye bouncing and the orangish dot containing the "for" lends the cover a vintage detail, as does the dominant typeset.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Penguin Books UK, 1998.

This cover is real gem which is only out shined by the magical story inside. I came across this edition while in Japan. The Japanese tend to import books from British publishing houses more than from American ones. The green, leafy swaths on the blackish background gives the cover a vegetative, cool, and junglish feel.
The messy, typed over fonts spelling out the Marquez's name and the book's title gives the cover a dangerous and somewhat schizophrenic feel, as if someone kept typing the letters with a dirty typewriter. The praise blurb by The Times isn't thrilling in itself, but the fact that it's printed in a different font, akin to Garamond (the classiest of all fonts), lends a classic touch to the disjointed design. And what would a Penguin book be without the little oval-celled penguin, this time appearing in light blue.
Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, Gilles Deleuze, Zone Books, 2001.
Here's a short but extremely deep French, postmodern philosophical text. More than the text though, the book cover captures the viewer with its graceful eeriness. It almost looks like a face there in the middle, but who knows. The book is published by Zone, an extremely stylish publisher of modern intellectual pieces.
In keeping with all the covers designed by Zone, the cover utilizes a different font and color for each of the lines of texts. The burgundy, yellow, and white go well together and contrast perfectly with the cool green smoke of the background image. The black blocked publishers mark in the bottom left smacks some solid boldness into this ephemeral, wafting design.

The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson, Scribner: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Here's an eclectic cover chocked full of everything that makes a great cover. Designers should take notice of this cover. Thompson's drunken tale of his Puerto Rican nights is wonderfully represented by this colorful pallet. So what's great about this cover?
To start with, the colors are all bright and vivid. The solid red title bar syncs up perfectly with the bright, kinda light blue author type. The tart green negative picture clashes in just the right way with the other colors (and it doesn't really matter that the photo wasn't taken in Puerto Rico).

Not only are the colors spot on in their oddness, but the fonts alternate, with the title and author in a tough, military looking font, and the praise blurb in a stylish Garmond. Brilliant!
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse, Picador USA, 2002.
The Picador cover of this epic novel which helped Hesse win the Nobel Prize is soft, subtle, and dreamy. Blurry marbles, glass beads, what is that a picture of anyway? It fits the book's personality and more than that, the cover stands on its own as a beautiful piece of tranquil photography.

Though the font is consistent throughout, even in its use of all upper-case letters, the lines are cleverly arranged around the space and in different sizes. The shifting location and size of the text lines makes the eye bounce around, just like a glass bead might in a Master Ludi's hand (if that's how the game is played).

The bright white text contrasts cleanly with the rainbow of smudged colors at work in the background. This is a fresh, clean cover that bids the reader a curious welcome. A must read for sure, but be sure to read this edition so you get the fresh cover art.

So there you have it, five amazing book covers that will make you want to read these books whether you have any idea at all what they're about. That's what a good book cover does: it compels you to read the damn book, if only for the reason you'll look cool reading such a cool looking book. And just to further prove my point about how a great cover will make you want to read a book, how would you like to read this thrilling volume:

Ethics: Treatise on The Emendation of the Intellect, Baruch Spinoza, Hacket Pub. Co., 1992.

Do you want to read this book? I think not. Even if you like Spinoza you'll dread reading his philosophy out of this boringly covered book. Hell, the only interesting thing this cover has going for it is the line separating the author's name from the title.


This book cover is like being in Delaware, "Hi, we're in Delaware."

Friday, July 10, 2009

World without my Superman

I always assumed my father would die in my lifetime -just as every child assumes of their parents- I just didn't know the event would take place so soon in both of our lives. Death is unpredictable and sudden, non-sensical and absurd.

"This is non-sense," that's all I kept uttering as I gripped my father's swollen hand in the hospital room. He was home when I clocked into work, and in the hospital when I clocked out. So many people's lives changed so quickly without notice.

But there is comfort in the non-sense, tranquility in the uncertainty, and a shining presence in his absence. Of all the deaths my father could've had, in light of all those dark possibilities, I'm glad Dad's death was swift, and I'm glad death found him on his motorcycle: the machine that always made him smile as it carried us hundreds of miles down the highway together.

Dad lived an amazing life, a life that amazed most of the people fortunate enough to befriend him. He constantly amazed me with his hair-brained ideas, and just the right amount of luck and skill to make them happen. Dad always believed in himself, even when he had no sane reason to do so. And that, in my opinion, was Dad's most admirable quality: the ability to face any challenge confidently- with a confidence that bordered on a foreknowledge of success (or at least a good time).

I miss you Dad, and I know a solid handful of your mannerisms live on in me. And your spirit, it too animates me and drives me forward. Everyone loved you, and we all miss you coming through the door.

My father Thomas Neil Burrus II, was killed in a motorcycle accident on 29 June 2009. He was 53 years old. He leaves behind a boat load of friends, family, and my precious mother, all who miss him dearly. He went ahead of me, his proud son- the only one who can claim that honor.
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For my father's memorial service, my cousin Amy and I made the following video that was played in the chapel. I hope all of you enjoy seeing Dad smile as he did all the things that made him happy. Please enjoy:



Peace Always,

Justin Burrus

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It Never Stops, Still Going Hot, it's a Stingray

One of things I love most about being back stateside is working on motorcycle in the garage with the radio blaring rock n' roll. I didn't listen to the radio too much in Japan, but now that I'm back in the States, if I have wrench in my hand I've got rock in my ears.

It was during a wrenching session that I heard a totally insane song called "Stingray." I had no idea who sang it and I had no idea what in the hell the rockers were saying-- except for the word "stingray" haunting the chorus.

I kept singing that one damn word over and over in my head. There was something primal and vicious about the way the singer said that brutal word. Stingray, the word triggered so many images in my mind: a Corvette muscle car; a graceful terror of the sea; and just the pure sleekness and danger inherent in the word itself. A true word, one that expresses its meaning in a vacuum.

I spent the better part of an afternoon searching the web for the song. I came up with some bizarre results, mostly from the 80's when oceanic exploration and imagery ran rampant through American culture. After hours of surfing the stingray-less waters of Internet music charts, my fascination only grew.

Later on the evening whilst playing pool (the game of kings) with my buddies from work, I named my two man team "Stingray." My partner wasn't too thrilled about the moniker at the time, but after we swept the floor with the competition the name stuck. There's something 50's about it, something 80's about it, something hinting into the unknown future about it.

My friend was picking songs at the digital jukebox so I asked him to search for a song called "Stingray." He found it. Static X sings the song, and team Stingray marches the green felt of the pool table to its terrifying refrain.



The video really ties the song together, like a nice rug. It has all the elements needed in a kick-ass hard rock video: a psycho styled lead singer, a trollish bassist, a smoking hot and highly temperamental babe, a muscle car, hints of sex; all set in an abandoned crack house. High octane, neo-primordial symbols of chaos, destruction, danger, and coarse toughness. When I listen to the song I redline the throttle in my brain and I feel every surging blood cell speed through my tense muscles. That's what rock n' roll is about: venting the will to power--the ultimate aim of every organism.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hawgs of Texas

This past April my father and I headed down to south Texas for the annual "Hawgs of Texas" motorcycle rally held at Welch Park at Somerville Lake. It was a wild time full of the 3 B's: bikes, babes, and beer. An amazing time was had by all despite the turd-floater rain on Friday night. It was my first motorcycle rally and one that is tough to beat-- at least as far as the second B is concerned. Below is video I made from the "clean" pictures of the rally. Enjoy... and next year leave your golf carts at home.



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As a side note, I'm very disappointed with YouTube and the greedy music industry for muting all videos using unlicensed music. I originally set the video to The Doors "Roadhouse Blues," an amazing song that fully captured the mood and atmosphere of the rally. However, when I uploaded the video with "Roadhouse Blues" onto YouTube it was muted. YouTube sent me an email saying a violated a copyright. What a load of bullshit. I could understand if I was making money off the video but I'm not. This is just another example of the music industry cracking down on audiophiles with the hopes that the public will spend $18 on a CD with only one or two decent songs on it instead of listening to, or downloading, those songs freely on the internet. Shame on you Warner.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Smarts Podcast

My first semester as a Texas Tech student wrapped up nicely and I have a slew of new skills for display, both in the classroom and here on my blog. The final project for my Instructional Theory and Design class called for a learning podcast for classroom use. My podcast aims at improving reading comprehension and enjoyment by teaching people how to read better using their hands.

I chose to illustrate a learning strategy because I think teachers spend to much time assigning homework and not enough time teaching students how to improve the skills needed to complete it. A study found that less than 10% of teaching time is spent teaching students how to improve their skills in a given area. With that said, please enjoy my prize-winning podcast dedicated to helping you read better.



This podcast was entered into the Texas Tech podcast tournament open to all students and spearheaded by the Colleges of English and Education. Six winners were chosen from the thirty plus entries to move on to the Digital Sandbox podcasting tournament which is being held this summer. I'm very pleased that my podcast, as monotonous as it is, was chosen for advancement. If you have iTunes you can listen to and watch the other entries on Texas Tech's iTunes University page.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Compost Happens (and smells like $hit)

I've got a wooden box in my backyard that smells like shit. No, I'm not talking about the outhouse, I'm talking about my compost pile. Even though composting is a stinky hobby, it gives me great satisfaction knowing that I'm keeping reusable stuff out of the landfill.

I had the idea of starting a compost pile while working in the kitchen at my part time job. Over the course of a lunch rush a lot of little bits of food fall on the floor which get swept up and thrown in the dumpster. Tired of seeing all this food go to waste, one day after sweeping the line I put all that waste into an empty pickle bucket, closed the air-tight lid on it, and brought it home for composting.

Composting the process of decomposing organic matter in a controlled way. Decomposition happens naturally in forests and other wild places, but in the city it takes a little effort on our part to occur. The goal of composting is to combine left-over organic matter so that it creates bio-matter, a scientific term for good dirt, which can then be reincorporated into the ecosystem to help plants grow harder, better, faster, and stronger. In a way, compost (the finished product of composting) is like a nutrient rich super fertilizer that can be used with almost any planting application.

I left the bucket on the porch for about week while I went around town gathering discarded shipping pallets that most businesses toss by their dumpsters. After gathering enough pallets I set to work breaking them apart, cutting the pieces to size and building the frame and side slats. Using discarded pallets as material for a compost pile is not only free, but it also keeps those pallets out the landfill as well. It's reusing wood to help reuse organic matter.

My compost pile roughly measures 3' x 3' x 3', and has slatted sides and a chicken-wire back which helps with air flow (an extremely important ingredient in composting). It only took an afternoon to complete the build and only required a hammer, nails, and circular saw for construction. Later I'll hinge the side so I can easily access the finished compost.

Ingredients

There is a whole science to composting which can be intimidating if you lose sight of the fact that you're just making dirt, albeit super dirt. Ideally, a compost pile should have a 3:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Carbon materials (browns) include: dry grass clippings, dry leaves, sawdust, hay, paper, and cornstalks, just to name a few. Some of these materials are difficult to find in the home but should be included in a good batch of compost. To boost the carbon matter in my pile I use sawdust, shredded office paper, and collected dry leaves.

The nitrogen (greens) half of the ratio is much easier to come by in the common home. Most vegetable and fruit wastes work great for composting, but stay away from meats and dairy products. Another great source of nitrogen matter is coffee grinds and tea leaves, as they decompose quickly and are fine in consistency. A general rule in composting is to break the matter down into as small of bits as possible so that beneficial bacteria have plenty of raw surface area to attack. So any matter you use in your compost, whether it is a carbon or a nitrogen, should be chopped into small bits. No one wants clumpy compost.

So far in my compost mix I have grass clippings, sawdust, leaves, and office paper, balanced with waste food from the restaurant which includes plenty of veggies and some bread. I also added dirt to give the mix consistency and some earthworms from the tackle shop, though the worms aren't required. Along with adding food to the pile, I turn it each day with a pitchfork (which adds to the "I'm a farmer, I work the earth" mentality) and add water to the pile.

Although I've only been composting for a week now, there's already a variety of insects like flies, ants, and worms dwelling in my pile that aid the decomposition process. A compost pile is a miniature and controlled ecosystem in itself, and I'm happy to give these beings a free source of food. Composting places me in symbiotic relationship with the material in the pile and the beings it feeds.

If you're tired of filling landfills with food scraps and grass mulch, I highly recommend composting. All these materials we usually throw away can be used to create nutrient rich planting soil which reincorporates waste into the ecosystem in a beneficial manner. Sure the process may be a little stinky, but it definitely smells better than a landfill.
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If you're interested in composting check out the compost manual.

Friday, May 1, 2009

地球は僕の下に

後三ヶ月、新しい好きな歌を見つけた。今月の好きな歌は80’sの音楽です。テレビでこのビデオを見た時にすごく元気くなりました。歌の名前はMajor Tom Coming Home、ピター・シリングが歌う.ピター・シリングはドイツ人ですから、最初にドイツ語原文の歌を聞きます。このビデオを楽しんで下さい!



すごいだいよね!声うまい、うまい、うまい。

次に英語の訳を聞きましょう!



素晴らしいーーい歌!皆さんこの歌を忘れないよ。僕がドイツ語ぜんぜん分かりませんだけど最初のビデオのほうが好きです。あなたはどちのほうが好き?
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もしい日本語を読めなればそれは大丈夫ですよ。その上僕があまり日本語書きません。

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On the Behavior and Health of Organisms

My Instructional Theory and Design class keeps me pretty busy these days making photo-essays and narrating videos on educational theories. The following video deals with the theories of B.F. Skinner, the lead figure in psychological behaviorism.

Skinner is a polarizing figure among educators because his research and subsequent theories focus solely on observable behaviors, and the powerful role reinforcement plays in shaping those behaviors. Skinner's theory in a nutshell (or in a "skinner bed") follows these lines: to achieve a desired behavior it is essential that proper reinforcements are used to encourage the behavior.

Skinner's research was interesting to say the least. His experimental animal of choice was the common pigeon; the "fresher" the better. He also experimented using rats, but he really loved his pigeons. Based on his studies he found that if you reward desired behaviors the organism will continue to do them because of the positive consequences. The question is knowing which reinforcements will motivate the behavior. Skinner solved this tough question simply by depriving the pigeons of food until they were operating at 80% of their normal body weight. I suppose after a good starving any animal would peck a dot or push a lever for a bite.

Skinner's theory of behavior makes perfect sense; the problem is figuring out what kind of reinforcement will allow students to reach the teacher's behavioral aims. In the following video I try to show how Skinner's theory operates, but I also ask an important question which I do not feel Skinner ever answered, namely: what makes a reinforcement positive?





In the video, the behavior I'm struggling with is studying. The cigarette acts as my positive reinforcement (or reward) for my work. Skinner's analysis of the video would stop here. What I seek to show in the following pictures is that my positive reinforcement actually interferes with the behavior it is supposed to encourage--the studying. Not only that, an addictive behavior begins to form: smoking, which not only interferes with the studying behavior, but has aversive consequences upon my health (the coughing). Now I need a need a positive reinforcement to counteract the smoking behavior which was meant to encourage my study behavior. And the cycle continues.

My conclusion: positive reinforcement must encourage the desired behavior and be healthy for organism doing the behavior; otherwise the adverse side-effects of the reinforcement interfere with the desired behavior (along with poisoning the organism). Of course Skinner never had to worry about figuring out what kind of reinforcement to use; he just deprived his subjects of food, and for some reason I don't think school districts would go along with that kind of teaching method.
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I like this picture because Skinner actually made a pigeon-guided bomb for the U.S. Military. The "pigeon-guided bomb" proposal was rejected; but its development demonstrated Skinner's awesome ability to shape pigeon behavior. Imagine a world with pigeon-guided bombs...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Washinomiya Shrine: Animated Animism

What I loved best about visiting Japan's shinto shrines was that everyone's welcome. It doesn't matter what you believe or what you're praying for; you may not even know what god you're praying to anyways. That's the beauty of shinto: everything has a spirit, real or fictional. And that brings me to this piece I wrote almost a year ago about the amazing happenings at Washinomiya Shrine, the oldest shrine in the Tokyo area which was only a 6 minute walk away from my apartment. I sent this piece to the editors of two of Japan's leading English newspapers and never heard back from them. So finally, after almost a year of procrastination, I'm publishing the piece myself for my greatest fans.




Anime Craze Enriches Small Town Washimiya
J. N. Burrus


On April 6, 2008 over 4000 anime fans gathered at Washinomiya Shrine to walk in the fictional footsteps and meet the real life voices behind the Hiiragi sisters, the lead characters in the smash anime/manga Lucky Star. The event was held at the shrine but organized by the Washimiya Chamber of Commerce. The festivities came after Mayor Kenji Honda made the sisters “special town residents,” solidifying relations with the anime series and easing the locals’ anxiety about the visiting fans and cosplayers. The huge event brought devoted members of the anime sub-culture to the conservative small town that is relishing the attention, and the business.

“Washinomiya Shrine is a sanctuary for anime fans,” said Lucky Star fan Masashi Yamada, 29, an apprentice kimono maker from Washimiya, Saitama. Yamada was thrilled to see so many fellow fans welcomed to his local shrine. The event celebrated the animated sisters’ official, albeit special, residency status. The mayor’s gift of citizenship signals a new milestone in the unfolding relationship between the townspeople and fans. The same fans that were once thought strange and stereotyped as otaku are now welcomed by city officials and marketed to by businesses lining the roads to the shrine.

Visits to the shrine skyrocketed after the popular anime magazine Newtype released an article detailing how to reach various Lucky Star locales around Saitama in August of last year. The article called the locales “holy places” and Washinomiya Shrine is, hands down, the holiest place of all. Though most at this latest Lucky Star event hailed from the Tokyo area, some fervent fans made pilgrimages from Osaka, Fukuoaka, and even Hokkaido to attend.

Long before becoming the home of the fictional Hiiragi sisters, Washinomiya Shrine was famous for being the oldest Shinto shrine in the Kanto region and home to Saibara Kagura, a Heinan period ritual dance that is designated an important national cultural property.

At first the townspeople didn’t know what to make of the “strange” anime pilgrims drawing cartoons of big-eyed girls on the shrine’s prayer tablets. Every so often a handy fan will make a mega prayer tablet and fill the thing full of high quality work. These pieces are true works of religious art, most of them at least.

While the prayer tablet manga adds a modern touch to the ancient shrine, not all the pilgrims express their fandom with markers and wood. After all, an anime sanctuary without cosplayers is like a church without a choir. The cosplayers (people dressed in costumes playing like they’re anime characters) show up wearing red school girl uniforms and neon pink, blue, and purple hair just like the Hiiragi sisters and their animated friends.

Despite the appearance and practices of the fans, the locals are warming up to them, or at least to their wallets. Tape a Lucky Star poster on your shop window and watch business boom.

In a highly successful move, the town Chamber of Commerce printed up 10,000 crisp color copies of the Hiiragi sister’s “special residency certificate,” put them in a Lucky Star poly-folder and sold them for 300 yen a pop. The certificates went on sale just before Sunday’s event outside Washimiya Town Hall. Commerce head Shozo Suzuki said that on the first day alone 2,763 copies were sold raking in 828,900 yen. 1,000 more copies were sold before lunch the following Monday to late coming fans. [That's $11,000!] Sales will continue until all 10,000 certificates find homes.

Washinomiya Shrine has never been so active. The first Lucky Star event held in December gave fans their first chance to meet the Lucky Star voice actors. This first event brought over 3500 people to the shrine and helped spread the shrine’s name around just in time for the 2008 New Year’s celebration. Suzuki stated that over 300,000 people worshiped at the shrine this past New Year; almost four times the previous year’s 80,000 visitors. 2008’s New Year’s attendance is especially staggering considering the town’s population only sits at 34,866 people.

The influx of visitors to the town’s greatest (and only) landmark worried townspeople at first but shrine priest Hideo Watanabe said they haven’t had any problems with the non-traditional visitors. Just the opposite is happening, instead of bringing problems and worries to town, anime pilgrims bring prosperity and a sense of unity to the shrine and the surrounding community. Watanabe is glad Lucky Star fans feel welcome at the shrine because “a shrine is supposed to be a safe place for all people.”

Watanabe had no theological hang-ups about the secular event held on shrine grounds as "the most important thing,” he said with a glowing grin, “is that people are visiting the shrine and learning about its long history. That’s good for the heart.”

His words were right on target. Throughout the day I spoke with many fans that aside from being Lucky Star aficionados have also become shrine historians and armchair Shinto theologians. Local fan Masashi Yamada gave me a tour of the shrine where he told me the details about everything, from the shrine’s ancient ritual dances to the gnarled old trees planted by rulers past.

While showing me around the shrine Yamada also told me his interesting anime theology. “In the West,” he explained, “you have the word ‘animism’ which means that everything, rocks and trees and so on have spirits. That’s what Shinto teaches. Anime works the same way because it makes still images move, it gives them life and spirit.” Yamada doesn’t just watch anime; he engages it in depth.

Yamada is not the only one expanding his knowledge. On the organizational side of the event, Suzuki of the Chamber of Commerce said the shrine’s growing popularity among the anime community inspired him to start reading the comics too. Everyone is curious about what is happening at the shrine - both in the comics and in real life.

The Lucky Star events held at Washinomiya Shrine mix Japan’s modern anime culture with its traditional cultural heritage like no place else. The encounter between these two worlds enriches, both financially and spiritually, anyone who is willing to look past stereotypes and open their mind to something different.

Washimiya machi is located in northern Saitama just one hour north of Tokyo on the Utsunomiya Line. At Kuki, transfer to the Tobu line and get off at Washinomiya station, the first stop after the transfer. Washinomiya Shrine is a ten minute walk from Washinomiya Station on the Tobu Line.

To learn more about Washinomiya Shrine and its Kagura dances be sure to visit the shrine museum located on the second floor of the town library located across from Town Hall.
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Here's a video showing all the Lucky Star "ema" boards. These boards are bought for 1,000 yen ($10) and are traditionally used for writing prayers on. The boards are left at the shrine keeping one's prayers close the gods. In the case of Lucky Star fans, many of them use them to draw their favorite characters. See, real or fictional, everything has spirit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Imaginative Encoding: Fun Ways to Remember Things

My educational theory and design instructor has us making more movies explaining learning methods and psychological theories. For this assignment we were to make a "photo essay" depicting scenes from the Cognitive Information Processing theory. I chose imagery and mnemonics as my theme and used the learning of Japanese characters as my example. I hope this video causes you think about the little tricks we use to help us learn new, and sometimes foreign, information. Enjoy:




I chose Japanese Kanji as my example for two reasons: 1) they are pictographic in nature, and 2) this is the way I really learned to read Japanese Kanji - at least the nouns. It's easy to see the chicken and the elephant in the two kanji below, all it takes is a little imagination.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

90 seconds

In one of my graduate education classes at Texas Tech University, my professor Dr. Hamman assigned a multimedia project. The assignment was to compare and contrast the developmental learning theories of the psychologists Piaget and Vygotsky. The only requirements for the project are that the pieces must have intro and exit music, and a voice recording discussing the two figures. And, oh yeah, the explanation can only be 90 seconds long. Here's the video I created. Maybe you'll learn something new.




This is the first video I've ever made on my own. I used Window Movie Maker that came with my 2003 PC. Aside from my computer freezing up on two occasions, the software was super easy to use, and, best of all, I never felt that my creativity was limited by the software's capabilities. Though some the slide transitions are bit choppy and the sounds levels are touch off, I'm really pleased with the video.

The course I'm taking is called "Instructional Theory and Design," and the title is an apt description of the course. Thus far we have studied the learning theories of Dewey, Popham, Vygotsky, and Piaget. By reading these theories about how people develop and learn, we are enacting Dewey's ideal of the "linking science" wherein educators study such theories in order to teach their students better. On the design side of the course, we've mainly dealt with how to present classroom material using self-made videos. My professor Dr. Hamman is a bit of a tech-head and he's trying to pass his passion for technology on to us students. The video "How We Learn" is my midterm project, and for the final project, each of us will make a longer podcast that will be entered into an educational podcast tournament.

Making videos about the class topics isn't the standard for assessing students' comprehension, but it's perfect for this class where we need to know about developmental theories and present those theories with multimedia projects. Creating your own videos is definitely an innovative to reach students and to challenge your own creativity; I just wish the process didn't challenge my computer's processor so much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I've been Schmapped!

One of my pictures of downtown Austin was recently selected by Schmap Online City Guides for their website! This fortuitous publication of one of my favorite pictures, though small (only 150 pixels to be exact), is a tremendously satisfying experience.

To the left is a screen shot from Schmap's website displaying my picture of Frost Tower in the top right corner.

The coolest part about this digital publication is that Schmap contacted me about the photo after finding it on Flickr. They emailed me saying that the picture was shortlisted for inclusion in their new Austin guide. About two weeks later it was selected and now flashes before visitors' eyes.

I took "Downtown" in early September while visiting my cousins in Austin, just after returning from Japan. I'm sure I looked like the stereotypical tourist, walking around downtown Austin taking pictures with my big Nikon (standard equipment for all dedicated tourists). A mesh khaki pocket vest would've completed the outfit, but I'll be damned if I wear that without a press pass.

Here is a larger version of "Downtown" complete with a link to my photostream on Flickr:

I took the shot with a Nikon D40 using a polarizing lens. The cloud pattern was not my doing, but being in the right place at the right time is, for better or worse, necessary for taking decent pictures.

So thank you Schmap for selecting my photo for your travel website. Everyone, keep on traveling!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Frames Like Mine

Earlier this month on February 3rd, was the 50th anniversary of the death of Lubbock's number one son, rock n' roll pioneer Buddy Holly. It's impossible to talk with anyone here in town who hasn't heard of Buddy Holly; he's got a street named after him and another one named after his band "The Crickets," his bronze statue stands in front of the Civic Center, and a museum dedicated to his life sits in downtown Lubbock. Though everyone knows of Buddy Holly, not too many know about him, especially the young'ns (me included), so I took a trip to the Buddy Holly Center to learn more about this enigmatic rocker.

The museum itself consists of a large, one room exhibit, a video room that rolls a biographical feature, and a small gift shop. I thought the place would be bigger than it was, but as I wandered through the exhibit and learned more about Holly, I began to understand why the museum is so small: Holly's career only lasted three short years before the plane carrying him and his band crashed outside Clear Lake, Iowa.




Although Holly's career was cut short, it was action packed and truly international. Long before the "world touring rocker" was born, Holly was off touring in Brittan and Australia, inspiring some of music's greatest talents along the way. His appearance on a London band show sparked the creativity and admiration of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, aka the Beatles, who chose their band name reflecting Holly's own band, the Crickets. Buddy Holly influenced so many bands and songs, e.g. Weezer's "Buddy Holly" just to name one, that you'd think no one had heard the electric guitar before Holly started strumming it. Now if only Bono would give him a shoutout.

I've been listening to Buddy Holly's music for a couple of years now, but it wasn't until I visited the museum that I learned how groundbreaking much of it was. Because I wasn't a part of Holly's era, I really don't have the cultural experience of hearing his music as it shakes up the status quo. A sign of the times, it's easier for me to appreciate innovations in electronic music by Daft Punk, or identify with "geek rockers" like Weezer. But a lot of what Holly cut onto records was innovative and utilized every circuit of the day's technology.

One example of Holly's inventiveness can be heard on the cheery song "Everyday." The drum beat behind the chimes doesn't quite sound like a heavy drum smack, and that's because it's not. Holly wanted a lighter sound to express the light-hearted spirit of the song, so instead of using drums, he placed a microphone up to his knees and slapped out the beat with his hands, giving him just the sound he wanted. Holly had a clear vision of how he wanted that song to sound, and he devised a way to realize that vision using the resources he had--low tech or not.

As a son of Lubbock myself, Buddy Holly's short but packed career is inspiring and challenging to emulate. I'm not saying I long for rock n' roll fame, but I do aspire to creatively actualize my passions and see where those passions take me. I wonder what Holly's friends and family thought when he came back to flat and dusty Lubbock with tales from Europe and Australia. Shoot, in his day flying anywhere-and landing-was a story in itself, much less flying overseas with a guitar in hand instead of a machine gun. Holly's ambition must've been bigger than the State of Texas, and ambition is well worth emulation.

Even after learning about Buddy Holly's life, I can't say that his music moves me. It is nice to play while lingering about the house, but it definitely wouldn't carry a road trip. No, his music doesn't make me like him, it's his qualities like his work ethic, his uncompromising devotion to his craft, and his openness to the world that I admire.

I also like his glasses, the black horn-rimmed glasses that define his image. I think in his day those were the only kind of glasses for sale, but nowadays a pair of Holly-esqe frames are hard to come by. Almost three years ago before I left for Japan, I searched all the Lubbock eyeglass shops for a pair just like Holly's but came up short. Oddly enough, I found my Rayban Wayfarers in a small eyeglass shop in Kuki City (久喜市), a town half the size of Lubbock and neighbor to Washimiya Town where I lived. At least once a week I'm complimented on my glasses and asked where I bought them. "The closest place to buy 'em," I say "is just north of Tokyo." It's regrettable that in Buddy Holly-crazed Lubbock, you can't buy a pair his frames anywhere. (However, you can get the conservative-sheik Sarah Palin frames, the very same ones, at a few shops in town.)

So while Buddy Holly and I may have nothing more in common than horn-rimmed frames and being from dusty ol' Lubbock, it's what's behind the frames that counts, and his example is one that hits close to home.
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Buddy Holly's real last name was spelled with an 'e' in it but was shortened for the stage.

Monday, February 16, 2009

21st Century Silence

boin
voom

taka taka taka,,,tak tak, dum dum
ling ling ling

-Yeah it's due tomorrow
-Are you kidding me

click click, taka taka toka, dum taka taka click, click, dum toka

boin
fuip fuip fuip
-Spiritual stuff, remind me agian

taka taka
boin
boin

erooooun, erooooun, boin
taka taka tic tic tic click boin, erooooun, -um, we'll see what she wants us to do, posterboard

boin

ling ling ling, ling ling ling, ling ling ling, ling li
-hey,...I'm at the library

Friday, February 6, 2009

zi Daft Punk riotinae: Classically Modern

Ever hear a song that throws you so far off kilter it leaves you asking, "where has this song been all my life?" Then you start imagining all the highlights of your life with the song playing in the background. Maybe that doesn't happen to you, but it inexplicably happens to me about every four months or so; and today was one of those days. The song: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (live)" by the French mixers Daft Punk.

I have a love / hate relationship with electronic music--a song is either total shit, or a hyper-creative work of mind blowing genius on par with the best of Beethoven or Def Leppard. Since I don't write about shitty things (well there was that one post;), it's safe to say that Daft Punk is a powerful composer of the electronic symphony, an art elegantly unleashed in "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (live)." Watch and listen:



Many people I know find techo music annoying, and many of these same people tend to think classical music is boring. I think they feel this way because 1) they haven't heard exemplary pieces from the genres, and 2) because they don't have the mental framework with which to appreciate what they are not hearing. Connecting classical music and techno is not a stretch even though the two genres sound completely different and presented in drastically different atmospheres: you hear techno in dance clubs and classical in concert halls.

Underlying techno and classical music is a detailed and delicate mode of progression wherein a theme is built upon, dissolved, and recapitulated in a tsunamic climax. The theme is the baseline, the familiar musical phrase that hooks and carries the listener through the piece's movement. The dissolution of the theme, the breakdown, is the dispersion of the supporting elements built upon it during the rising action. During the breakdown, the artist will slowly and carefully recapitulate the supporting elements of the piece, culminating in a massive emotional climax that hits harder than original theme did in the first place. Different musics with similar underlying structures.

With this structural similarity in mind, I wonder when electronic music will be classified as "classical," or "later classical." Although the genre term "classical" applies to music delivered using traditional instruments, i.e. violins, cellos, pianos, etc., "classical" music wasn't considered "classical" in its own time, it was considered extremely modern.

Moving forward to the present, stop and consider what instruments are used for musical composition: keyboards, synthesizers, electric guitars, and above all, regardless of the genre, the computer. Perhaps someday in the future, when computers become tools of antiquity, techno music will be seen for what it is: the creative use of the era's breakthrough instruments, those powered by electricity whose sounds are compiled in bytes.



The future of music has already arrived, carrying its past upon its technologic shoulders.

Friday, January 30, 2009

the Amazing oBA Man!

Over the last 6 months, Barak Obama has been on the cover of every major U. S. magazine, but I never expected him to be on the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man. Though Spiderman has never been one of my favorite superheroes; Barak Obama is. I've seen presidents make cameo appearances in some of my favorite comics, like when Regan appeared in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, but I've never seen a president star in his own special feature like Obama does in this latest edition of The Amazing Spider-Man.

The Amazing Spider-Man #583 now entering its 4th printing, features a bonus inauguration feature where Spiderman saves Obama from the crappy character called the Chameleon (named so because he can shape shift). If your spidey sense is working you've probably already guessed where this moronic storyline is going. Chameleon disguises himself as Obama hoping to be sworn in as president and subsequently rule the world. Good thing Peter Parker is nearby photographing the event and quickly comes to the rescue. A punch, a web-wrap, and a sad villain later, Obama is sworn in and history is made.

Thanks for saving the day Spidey, and thank you Marvel for this cheesy commidification of our new president to boost your sales. Now that's American, all too American.
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Pictured above is the 2nd edition of The Amazing Spider-Man #583. Spidey says, "Hey, if you get to be on my cover, can I be on the dollar bill?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Zen and the Art of Self Maintenance

As he was testing hypothesis number one by experimental method a flood of other hypotheses would come to mind, and as he was testing these, some more came to mind, and as he was testing these, still more came to mind until it became painfully evident that as he continued testing hypotheses and elimating them or confirming them their number did not decrease. It actually increased as he went along.

Over the last 10 nights I've read a chapter out of Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance before going to sleep. It's a big book, but at my current pace I'll finish it in a few more weeks. Though this sounds like a slow way to read a book, Zen Moto. is a book that should be read slowly and pondered. It a spiritual journey driven on two wheels across America.

Many times this book has made me pause and reflect on my own life's journey and future course. With this new year comes a new course for America and a new course for my life as well. Three weeks ago I began taking teacher certification classes at Texas Tech University here in Lubbock. Though I've still got a few semesters between me and my goal of teaching high school English, I feel like my life is on a good course.

Pirsig's round and round thoughts on the scientific method and testing hypotheses struck a deep note within me; not because I had never thought about my life in such terms before, but because I know that he has thought about his life in a way I have, too. I've viewed my life as an experiment or a test many times. I didn't start thinking this way until I reached a sort of emotional literacy wherein I'm somewhat capable of relating my innerworkings to external experiences.

My own self literacy began as I packed for my journey to Japan. I was nervous, unsure about my sucess, but confident I would suceed nonetheless. As the plane's wheels left the earth I looked around at the jet load of new JETs flying into the unknown. Everyone seemed pretty excited, and I posed as much. Yet inside I kept asking myself if I had made the right decision. That's when I realized, "This what I feel like when I take tests." I've always passed tests but how well I passed them is another issue. In school I had always envied those kids who walked in, took a test, and walked out like it was no big deal. I always posed and acted as if it wasn't a big deal either.

I had a simuliar feeling when I left Japan, only then I had a tender mass thoughts and emotions running through my that I hadn't experienced before and had nothing to relate them to, except maybe a test I was still taking and wasn't quite sure I was passing.

What Pirsig writes about the struggle in the face of multiplying hyotheses is what I felt, and still feel inside. In the laboratory of life, hypotheses are commonly called "hypothetical situations," and these situations tend to multiply as well. One "What if..." question quickly leads to more "What if..." question until one's whole life is up for grabs. The real problem with multiplying hypotheses is that there is no way to test them all. I am a being in time; I cannot go back and alter my life, nor can I try on different roles and return to point X in time should a role not work out. I am a being in time, and truth is in the present; as Pirsig asks Einstein, "did [you] really mean to state that truth was a function of time?"

It is impossible to test all the hypotheticals in my life or your own. At bottom of all these hypotheticals is "a gap of pure nothing." Maybe you've tried, as I have, imagining a bridge between life and the hypothetical life that might've been or still could be. I've imagined amazing lives for myself, and thus far I feel I'm reasonably passing the "Are you living a fulfilling life test."

Marking this new year, 2009, I've chosen one hypothesis out the infinite before me: to become a high school English teacher. There is no way of knowing now, in the present, if this choice will be better than the other choices might have been. But that is not a question to ponder on too deeply; because like all hypothetical questions it has no bottom. A man is not judged by what he could've done but what he did; for, unfortunately, it is only the man's that judges him by the former.
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All qoutations from chapter 10.
If your computer can't read Japanese you will see a box where a more meaningful symbol resides. I feel this Japanese symbol better expresses my sentimets than multiple English words.