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  • Meg N. Vitale 9:29 pm on 11/02/2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: This I Believe   

    Rocking Chair Logic 

    The following is titled “I didn’t wash my car last month” and it was submitted by a Jeff from Columbia, Maryland on April 28, 2006. It is a part of This I Believe, which describes itself as “an international project engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives”.  It’s based off of a radio series in the ’50s. It’s really interesting to see how different people see the world. Some of them seem trivial, while others seem to tackle some heavier topics. However, although these essays are brief, each and everyone of them has a point that really touches upon what they think.

    And now, without further ado,  Jeff’s story:

     

    I have something shocking to tell you. Are you sitting down? Brace yourself. Are you ready? Here goes.

    I didn’t wash my car last month.

    Isn’t that awful? What’s worse is this: I don’t intend to wash it this month either. Isn’t that terrible?

    Washing my car is one of the things I don’t do because it doesn’t pass my rocking chair test. When I’m an old man sitting in my rocking chair looking back at my life, I’m not going to be saying “Gee I wish I’d spent more time washing my car. If I’d only scrubbed those whitewalls a little more often, I could have had a really happy life.”

    Applying my rocking chair test keeps me from doing a whole host of wasteful things from dusting furniture to holding a grudge to eating spinach. It also keeps me from doing some really stupid things. I know I’m not going to be sitting in my rocking chair thinking “I wish I’d snorted coke”

    Of course it’s not always that simple. Take television. It’s not likely I’ll be sitting in my rocking chair thinking “I wish I’d watched more television.” However I might be thinking “I wish I had relaxed more” and watching television is a form of relaxation.

    Even trickier is reading. Will I be sitting in my rocking chair wishing I had read more? Or will I have wished I’d spent less time reading and more time experiencing things firsthand? Tough call.

    The best thing my rocking chair test does is to remind me that it’s better to do than to own. I may be in my rocking chair wishing I had taken more trips, gone to more ballgames, attended more concerts. It’s not likely that I’ll be thinking “Gee I wish I’d bought a bigger house and a fancier car”

    I’ve made this essay personal because the rocking chair test is personal. Thinks that flunk my rocking chair test may pass yours with flying colors and vice versa. But there’s one thing I suspect is true for all of us.

    That rocking chair is closer than we think.

    Check out  This I Believe for other personal stories and essays. Some of them are pretty unique and they may give you some perspective on life. It’s almost like being able to see through other people’s eyes, if only for that brief moment on one particular idea.

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  • Meg N. Vitale 7:02 pm on 10/28/2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Mixed Messages and Twenty-Something Troubles 

    Dear World, Do you want us to become responsible go-getters, or would you rather still treat us like meddling kids? Make up your mind before you subject yourself to even more ranting posts from similarly frustrated college students.

    College is supposed to be a time where young adults take on more responsibility. Whether it’s working on time management skills, living away from home, and just dealing with how the world actually works, college is a time of learning. Advisors tell you to go out and get summer jobs, work on your resume, intern, and get some experience before you commit to real life. The advice is sound and students get their experience. But, it’s also a structured environment. They apply, interview, and either get the job or not. Not much variability in how it works out and being attached to some company does wonders for the getting in the door. However, when you are only a student trying to do something on your own, the results are not the same.

    As part of one of my classes, I am supposed to be writing a policy paper on an issue that affects adolescents. We were supposed to be working with a non-profit organization based in Trenton so that they could help us in developing the paper by putting us in touch with people and helping us get our foot in the door for certain elements of the research. The only stipulation was that our topic would have to be approved by them since they would be associated with the project, which is perfectly acceptable. Almost three weeks ago I emailed the lady who was supposed to be helping us requesting her approval of a topic we had chosen. I still haven’t heard back from her, but that’s not really the issue. I can admit to not following up. The issue is that we called the place twice after the lack of a response via email and have yet to actually be approved. While I can understand being busy, there is no excuse to go over a week without getting back to people who rely on your answer in order to move forward with a project. It’s really simple; you could just call us and tell us yes or no. We have deadlines, too, and the lack of respect for us really shines through. In addition to the lack of a response from them, we tried another place that might have been able to help us with the research. Although there was no one there that could help us at the time, they took a message down asking for their superior to call us. Nothing much from them either. However, maybe we aren’t being forceful enough. Maybe we need to be more annoying. Call and call and call until somebody gives us an answer. Maybe that’s the experience we need.

    This may just be a fluke case. Maybe us twenty-somethings are not pushed aside for better things, but I just find it ridiculous how they couldn’t take five minutes to call us back. It’s not like we wanted everything they had on the topic. All we needed was one word and it just wasn’t there. If this is the experience we should be getting, I’m not sure I want to even deal with it. Such a lack of respect for anything until it becomes a nuisance and you just have to deal with it. Not cool. At all.

     
    • John Gallino 7:16 pm on 10/28/2010 Permalink | Reply

      Unfortunately I don’t think this has anything to do with age. The cynic in me would tell you that people just normally treat each other like shit, and that most people just aren’t very good at their jobs usually because they don’t really like them. They put in just enough effort to keep their boss from getting on their backs because they can’t wait to go home and do stuff they actually enjoy. From my brief time working in an office setting, it’s common practice for people to have to call someone again and again, to the point of annoyance, just to get a simple response. I’ve even been guilty of it myself a few times, deciding that “If they really care they’ll ask again later.” but I realize how shitty that is and try to get back to everyone quickly. In fact that’s one simple thing that is suggested to improve any small business – get back to people with the information they want as soon as you can. In a world where no one else bothers to do that, it commands a great level of respect.

      • John Gallino 7:18 pm on 10/28/2010 Permalink | Reply

        On a lighter note however, you can take comfort in the fact that your realization of this lack of common courtesy and your devotion to not submitting to it will probably take you pretty far in life. Sometimes all you need to do to stick out from the crowd is not be an asshole.

  • Meg N. Vitale 11:54 pm on 10/27/2010 Permalink | Reply
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    The Issue with Equality 

    The inspiration for this post came from “Harrison Bergeron”, Kurt Vonnegut’s short story about a dystopian future where everyone is equal. I also watched the short film “2081”, which is based off the story and follows it pretty closely. There are still differences with the handicaps and Harrison, though.

    Here’s a link to the story: http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html

    And the trailer: 

    I am better than you at some things; I am worse at others.  This is how society works. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s how it should be.  Would you really want everyone to be the same as you?  Would you really want someone better than you to have the same weaknesses as you? And if you were better than them, would you really want to be at their level?  It might be tempting to say yes, especially if you are jealous of other people being more skilled at certain things; however, if you were to think about it on a macro scale, society would be screwed.

    Do you really want your doctor to be just as smart as the guy who bags your groceries?  And what about entertainment value? I’d much rather listen to someone with an attractive voice rather than someone who stutters over each word.  Let’s assume no one is prettier, smarter, stronger, faster, more creative, etc.  Then everyone should have a handicap. This handicap would more or less cripple society. And I do mean cripple, since some people can’t walk. No one should be able to. This logic can be applied to any of the things that are being handicapped. What about the intelligence factor? If everyone is equal, then the handicap should be applied to anyone who is not mentally challenged.

    I can the intelligence thing a step further. There should not be any schools since education would be pointless to the society.  The ballerinas should never practice.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Let’s assume that some people don’t have handicaps because they are in charge.  It defeats the whole purpose of handicapping. To quote one of the seven commandments laid out by the pigs in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.  This leads to trouble. Society is screwed.  Fun.

     

    Going back to my original point, society works because people have strengths and weaknesses.  In economics, international trade works because of the same thing. There are two terms that can be applied to this topic: absolute advantage and comparative advantage.  Let’s say, for example, I can produce 10 books or 5 video games in a day and someone else can produce 6 books or 4 video games in a day. I have the absolute advantage, because I quite clearly am better at making both. However, the other person has the comparative advantage in video games because to make 1 video game, he only has to give up making 1.5 books where as I would have to give up making 2 books in the same time frame.  If we were to trade, we would both be better off because he would focus more on making the video games, which he is relatively better at, and I would focus more on making books. At the end of the day if we trade, we would both have more of both.   If I was to be handicapped and make the same things at the same rate the other person does, then I’d be wasting my skills and the people I might sell my video games or books to would also lose out.  It’s more ideal that I’m better.

    Everyone is good at something. Or at the very least, not the worst at something. And everyone has their weaknesses. Doctors are hopefully good at surgeries. Filmmakers are better at making films. Economists are better at doing it with models.  Society functions because everyone is not the same.  Equality is good to a point. Once it crosses that point, it’s not longer that great. There can’t be perfect equality, as hard as some may try on the educational front with making sure everyone is literate and educated. Some excel, but there will be people who fall behind.

     
    • John Gallino 12:11 am on 10/28/2010 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting points. Also helps me feel better about all the things I’m not good at.

  • Meg N. Vitale 8:23 pm on 10/21/2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    TerraCycle 

    I don’t know how familiar you are with Terracycle, but I think this is very much worth sharing. Terracyle is an innovative company that makes money from upcycling garbage. Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. For example, if you ever made a bracelet out of Starburst wrappers, that would be upcycling. My favorite wallet is another example (it’s made from Spanish candy wrappers). For my sister’s birthday over the summer I gave her a Terracycle product. It was a wristlet made from chip bags, but looks nothing like the chip bags it was made from.

    However, Terracycle does not just make bags.

    Terracycle’s first product was a fertilizer made from, as they call it, worm poop. They liquefied it and put it in used, but clean, soda bottles. To distribute the fertilizer, they used nozzles from other products that may have gone through an image change i.e. the color of a Windex nozzle changed and could no longer be used with the product for consistency sake. This product (sans the label) was completely made from items that would have been thrown out, which is awesome, because it’s green.

    Now, Terracycle collects juice pouches, chip bags, yogurt cups, pens, cell phones, and more to make new products sold at a variety of stores. The best thing of all though is that you can give them back their own products for them to make additional goods. If you visit http://www.terracycle.net, they have their products on the site.

    In conclusion, I’m certain I love what the company is doing. I would definitely rock a binder made from chip bags or really anything else. As an avid recycler (I go out of my way to find a recycling bin and will hold onto whatever if there are none around), this is amazing. BONUS! Upcycling is more eco-friendly.

     
  • Meg N. Vitale 12:11 am on 10/19/2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Suspension of Disbelief: Superman Edition 

    Disclaimer: Plot points from Superman (1978) will be revealed.

    Until recently, I never understood how people could be so critical about the plot points of movies. There were always people on IMDb claiming how unrealistic certain elements of the story were. I always thought that it was a movie, not everything had to make perfect sense. After all, the only thing that you would need to do is to suspend your disbelief and realize that in Hollywood, anything could happen. As a fan of movies that involve superheroes and fantasy and insane action sequences, I thought I could accept anything that was thrown at me.

    I was wrong. There is a point where your suspension of disbelief just crashes down due to the sheer absurdity of what just happened. I reached that point while watching Superman. In an effort to save Lois Lane’s life (he realized too late that she was in trouble), Superman shoots up into space and using his super strength and flying abilities changes the direction of Earth’s rotation. The result? He goes back in time and saves her life. As much as I can believe, or more actually suspend my disbelief of, not being recognized with glasses on, flying, super strength, X-ray vision, and being weakened by Kryptonite, being able to go back in time the way he did, makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Time cannot be changed by altering how the Earth rotates. Are we to assume that if Earth just stopped rotating that everything would remain just as it is for all eternity? I do not think so. While we measure time by using the positioning of the Sun and Earth as guides, it by no means is dependent on where they are. Time passes regardless of whether Superman wanted to go back a few minutes by turning the Earth the other way. If anything, his actions would have postponed nightfall. Nothing else should have changed.

    As crazy as it sounds or as common sense as this may be, apparently there are limits to how much can be accepted. Some things just do not make sense. For me, it was the messing with how time flows. For others, it might be how stupidly oblivious the people of Metropolis are. Regardless of where this line falls, I think everyone has a point where s/he realizes what is happening on screen just seems a bit crazy.

     
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