Tuesday, December 16, 2008

361. 3 Weeks, 5 Drives, 10 Starbucks Coffee Cups, 30 Fishermen, 1 Break-Up, and 1 Faculty-Student Meeting Later... It Was All Worth It in the End, Pt1

Okay. Where am I at? It is finally "safe" to reflect.

Today is a momentaous day. It is an "open window" for blogging. I finally had a meeting with my advisor, Dr. Oran Young, and it was by far the most productive and best meeting I had with him. We are on the same wavelength, and it is fascinating to me that my three-year obsession with scale-based reasoning and its metaphorical applications to the human-environmental condition would be the concern beyond my own. It would be the concern of Dr. Young, as well to the fascination of Dr. Osborne, a historian and philosopher of science. It finally feels good that my individual intellectual and emotional turmoils actually help others. I don't feel alone anymore. It is a collective venture, a collective adventure. I am walking away from this meeting with Oran feeling like I have survived Fall Quarter of 2008. It is the first time in the entire history of my graduate school experience--which started in the Fall of 2003, that I feel proud of my existence in the context of the university, and that I had "moved forward" in a collective academic context. Graduate school is not just the pursuit of a science experiment, but it is ultimately an engagement with the "campus culture" as a social experment.

The last three weeks had been a blur. On Wednesday morning, I woke up and panicked and cried. My mind and body said I could not take it anymore in terms of having Dr. Zardock on my committee. For the last 8 weeks of the quarter, I had been building inside me an internal accumulation of fear and anxiety, simply because the structure of the conversations between myself and Dr. Zardock had been "deconstructionist" "you can't do that" without providing any alternatives, hence placing my head in the box. And the main reason why "I couldn't do that" is because "I don't have the credentials to do so" and not that it makes sense in terms of "common sense" and "intuition." I had come to a previous melt-down after blogging about a "typical conversation" with Dr. Zardock and coming to realize that I vented out about him to about 10 different people. I had come to the grandiose epiphany that Dr. Zardock had become "a tumor in my mind" and that I must berid it in order to move on with my life. Dr. Osborne argued with me that I shouldn't surround myself with a bunch of agreeing "yes men," but I need critical thinkers on my committee who can provide "constructive criticism:" which means picking apart my logic, but providing "alternative options" or "alternative approaches." Plan B, C, D, E, F, etcetera.

Wednesday morning was essentially an internal "tipping point." I frantically found the phone number of Maria, Oran's multi-dimensional aide, and she said not to worry and that "Dr. Zardock is NOT a tumor in my brain but he is externalized. He is OUTSIDE of you." She said not to worry and that this matter will be taken care of soon enough. After stating this, Maria calmed me down right away (What a psychologist!), and since that moment, I hit the ground running and started to organize and synthesize information in a rather frantic manner--for the last three weeks. I lived through several events--like Thanksgiving (showed up at 3pm, 3 hours late! horrible traffic in Pasadena), a ridiculously adventurous excursion with Wilson to the Royal Falconer English pub, two days in a Motel 6 off of University Ave. in Riverside, California, a meeting with Hugh Marsh at the cafe on north side of campus (giving Hugh a copy of my Question Reality book! a moment of great glory for both of us), spending another night at a Motel 6 in Carpinteria, off of Casitas Pass (I started at 5pm, I got cheated by four hours in my pay, and the other Motel 6 in Carpinteria, near by the Chevron next to the freeway, had their internet service down), surviving my first fisheries stakeholder meeting as "objective note-taker" (tagged along with Carrie Culver and John Richards to a somewhat swanky corporate hotel near by the Los Angeles International Airport, in a drabby room full of colorful, charismatic fishermen), proposing to Dr. Sam Sweet to work on the specifics of the Adaptive Grid Model for macro-evolution (which is more like an Adaptive Grid Model of human perception to me--I have applied Adaptive Grid Models to a lot of aspects in my life... but more later), was 20% present in a collective study session with Andre and Anna, two top-notch undergraduates under Armand Kuris (they should be grad students, I had so much fun studying with them!), I was entering references while Andre and Anna were discussing primary themes of the course, reviewing the final exam (to which I printed out), I kept ranting on about misinterpretations of Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons (and Andre pointed out that even primates are eusocial creatures, they make decisions in light of the group), so I was a distraction for a study session, I married Endnote figuratively and literally, now a wonderful database for maintaining notes on the literature, continued to enter 200 references in Endnote, then transitioned into writing phase. I wrote frantically about 10 solid pages in one day--the day before the group gathering at Dargans, an Irish pub that Tariel claimed there were great burgers there, but I ended up ordering some kind of chicken-potato-rice-curry dish (I called Jaime the day before and he said the dinner was going to be at 7pm, but he couldn't make it because he had an exam), and I ended up talking with Wesley a lot and we're going to be teaming up most likely in attending some fishery stakeholder meetings--it ends up that the MLPA process is very useful for his homeland of Ireland! But most importantly that night I had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Ernst von Weiszaeker, the Dean of Bren, who stepped down from being the Dean of Bren, returning to Germany, just a couple of days after meeting him! Ernst received a very prestigious environmental prize just earlier that month, so it was kind of a surreal event to have a lively conversation with him at an Irish pub in downtown Santa Barbara, California; it was a very rewarding moment for him to say "I very much enjoy talking with you" and we agreed to talk more a bit the next day, and it is sad that we hadn't met earlier. Ernst also lamented for the loss of my grandfather and wishe that I had a loving support group all along, because I deserve it. That was very touching. I flashed back to my encounter with Dr. Dolf Seilacher, a famous paleontologist and recipient of "the nobel prize for ecologists" (Mercer Award?) in Europe. When I was talking with Dolf about my qualms on the human-environmental condition (back in fall of 2005), I didn't even know that he was a "big-shot" scientist ("big shot" by society, but actually very humble, he is a survivor of World War II, here you go from defending your life on the battle field, to doing something absurd and far removed from the pursuit of barebones survival, like studying the "architecture" of fossils). My conversations with Ernst--largely in the dimensions of environmental media, our values and perceptions of it--mostly the notion of viewing the world in Pictures--and the concept of "expanded interactions between science and society," part of my Alternative Addictions program, ha ha. Ernst commented that he has "few allies" in the world, Oran being one of them. It was a funny gift that the lab gave to Ernst: a big block of red duct tape, symbolizing the Bureaucratic Red Tape of Bren and the University of California, in general. We also discussed the notion of "efficiency" and "elegance" in technology, as well as the priorities of scientists--"rigor" and "methodology" and "precision" and "quantification" when environmental media does not necessarily conform to such standards--such that it suits my own brain "I am just a rational person who decided to accept there is a lot of slop in the world." I finally finished the essay (rough version) on the day of my last conversation with Ernst. I tried to work late into Friday night, with not much hope. I fell asleep early. The next morning, I woke up, struggling to edit my essay, not sure what to do. I ended up using the entire morning toward designing a couple of "immaculate" cartoons: the "observer-interactor principle" and the "zooming eyes," to which I sent off to several people, most notably Dr. John Bohannon, a correspondant of Science who is my Science Journalist Hero for creating the concept of "the Gonzo Scientist," and for intergrating science, art, and culture--it further validates my existence in the university. So my standards for the cartoon were very high, simply because I had a sophisticated, high standard audience to send it to. By then, I was really suffering in my room in Goleta and I called my cousin Mike in Los Angeles--I am going to visit you! He was happy and invited me to come on down. Mike and his girlfriend or not sure what the definition of the relationships is--her name is Jennifer and she is very kind, thoughtful, pretty--were shopping all day as Mike was frantically preparing for a trip to Baltimore and then a cruise ship--I remember him talking about Brazil--all by himself--and I showed up around 6 or 7pm. Mike and Jennifer were at the apartment (on the south side of the Santa Monica peer), and we were off for some adventure. It most certainly broke my train of thought in writing the essay! We headed toward the iceskating rink (a temporary pleasure near by the Third Street Promenade, for the sake of Christmas times, otherwise an "unnatural ecosystem for human pleasure") and there ended up being a lady who lost her wallet--with 200 bucks in cash sticking out--most likely drunk. Mike attempted to take matters in his own hands, as we were up for spontaneous adventure. Finally, we encountered some policemen and the wallet was finally in their care. All three of us proceeded to the Iceskating Rink, which was the epitome of the Tragedy of the Commons: 300 bodies of human flesh crammed in a tiny rink. Nevertheless, Mike and Jennifer were my "reference points" of fun, and so this chaotic experience ended up being rather organized, for I fixated on two human subjects amidst a chilly arena of moving human objects. Then we went to Starbucks and retrieved our "Free Coffees"--for me, an Eggnog Latte (super!) such that we ended up waiting in a long line that is usually encountered in a Disneyland. Then we headed home, sore from our limited ice skating experience (I skated backwards for a little while!), and I had a horrid craving for Mexican Food, so we went out to La Cabana (open very late, very decent priced, need to take Bub) and I ended up ordering chicken nachos, while Mike ordered carnitas and guacamole side, and Jennifer ordered two sides, an enchilada, and something with egg and pepper (touch base with me later), and then we went back to Mike's apartment, ALL FULL--oh ya, the Third Street Promenade Street performers were KILLER GOOD. Freaks. Stupid human tricks deluxe. Wished I could do half the things they were doing. Like break dancing, playing superb guitar, gymnastics. *Sigh.* One day! So I fell asleep on the hardwood floors in the living room. Mike and Jennifer woke up very early the next morning--Sunday morning, the day Mike was supposed to head toward the airport--they left while I was half asleep and groggy from being full on Mexican food--and as soon as they left, I was SURGING with energy to finishing editing my essay that I couldn't finish at UCSB. I emailed Oran that afternoon with a second working draft, then started working on Table 2--the initial set of "tools" and "metaphors" used to construct SBR on the human-environmental condition. The table ended up being 22 pages, and there are still lots of "reference blanks" to fill. I finished around 2 or 3 Monday afternoon. I left the apartment and looked outside, only to see the rains had coated human infrastructure and all landscapes with water droplets and coatings of moisture. The waves crashed violently along the Santa Monica pier, and I felt severe withdrawal from the entire ordeal. I started to drive north--emailed Oran and asked to meet on Tuesday--we agreed 11am Tuesday--and I hit horrible traffic on the 405. I ended up taking the Sepulveda Blvd "side road" to bypass the traffic on the hill by the Getty museum. Quite a ride. Then started heading home, meaning the "Santa Barbara" home, though through the time of withdrawal, I wanted to be in Riverside and collect hugs from my bubsy, mumsy, and sister. I called all of them, while I struggled to see through my windows during some light showers of rain, observing the beauty of the oncoming darkness of rainclouds, outlined by a radiant reddish-pinkish glow of the sunset above. I suppose it parallels Neo's and Trinity's fleeting moment of peace and tranquility above the clouds amidst the storm with the machines below. I was rushing to Santa Barbara to meet a character by the name of Jeff--to which we finally decided to convene at the Natural Cafe across the street from Mercury lounge in Goleta, California. It took about a month to meet up--given my crisis with one of my advisors--and also given the passing of my grandfather....

Out of all the people I encounter through transactions of the internet, I do think that Jeff is perhaps the most "interesting" and "striking" character that I have met, though it is too bad that he himself had encountered me at a time in which I was attempting to snap out of being in a three week stupor of the collective consciousness. Not to mention that I had only had four hours of sleep the night before. Well, let's see, in terms of character analysis. From image and appearance, he is a splitting image and personality of Dr. House, except much younger, without a cane, a limp, and a collection of pill bottles in his pocket. Jeff is of great aesthetics--go genes! Go biology! Lucked him out! You could see right away, he is full of WIT. INTELLIGENCE. Radiates, but not in say... "logical positivism." A mixture of positive and negative thoughts all along the way. We paid for our own meals. I was still in a Mexican mood so I ordered a Taco Salad sans meat, oh well. Commentary on my "fat and sludge" of sour cream and guacamole. He's vegan.

Commentary of my shorts. I always wear shorts. Even on post-rain freezing nights.

We both took good, hard looks at each other, a couple of times. He was born and raised in Santa Barbara. He has relatives here. Spent quite a bit of time in San Diego. Cal State San Diego. Art. Photography. Musician. Guitar. Loves Daftpunk. Eclectic tasts. His latest phase in life is “socializing” the last six months.

I suppose you could stereotype Jeff as "an insanely intelligent, bitter intellectual who decided not to channel his wit and energy through the embetterment of society." I have met these characters before, but Jeff is the most striking case I had ever met. And the most interesting thing is that he constructs all these stories and witty, snarky comments that are used to justifying himself to "being where he is" versus "being where he could be," like a famous musician, a great artist, a nobel laureate, or nevertheless a superb, multi-million-dollar actor along side Dr. House or Jim Carrey or whoever.

Jeff claimed that he has “a method,”—a system—but no one has ever figured it out. And I said, well that’s frustrating, because I need to learn the system. I need to solve the jigsaw puzzle. I need to learn how to “push people’s buttons.” As of the “data” I had collected last night, Jeff’s system is “that he has no system.” He creates a chaotic system insided himself to justify his existence of “being” rather than moving forward into “what he ought to or could be.” As soon as there is a rule or habit or pattern that is implanted in his head, he breaks that rule or pattern. Part of his system is spontaneity and living in—being in the moment. Jeff attempts toplace his mind fully immersed in the moment—and he says that most people are NOT in the moment, they are ultimately living in their PAST—as if that is a “bad” thing. “The present is BUILT upon the past, Sir Jeff. Your code of conduct around me today is a mass accumulation of events of the past, whether you want to acknowledge that or not.” That is what I wished I said, but my neurons were slow to fire (due to my three week stupor of meditation). So, I have a problem with Jeff’s attempt to live in the Impulsive Moment, as opposed to the Contextual Moment. I don’t want to live the moment, interpreting in impulsivity. I would be responding to environmental stimuli as a newborn baby, if that’s the case. But living in the moment contextually leads to UNIQUE and INSIGHTFUL INTERPRETATIONS that would have not otherwise existed.

In the end, after some reflection, the conversation was partly orally abusive, and I do not find solace in being around upfront embitterment, to a point in which he makes judgment of my own character to my own face. Which only represents HIS PERCEPTIONS of me VERSUS MY PERCEPTIONS of me. Total discrepancy. For example, he made a comment on how my writing was very different from my ability to converse. Maybe it’s about meeting a new person. Maybe its’ truly me. Sure, I was slow in responding. I slurred. I stumbled. Or maybe he had not accounted for my three week stupor of essay writing, coupled with sleep deprivation. Maybe I should have made a “clearer disclaimer.” Jeff caught me on a horrid baseline of existence. My physiology was ready to fall apart—I looked pale and even my housemates were concerned. Perhaps I shouldn’t have met him due to my condition. But in another way, I was glad to “get it over with.”

I asked him how much of my blog he skimmed through. He said it had been quite some time. He vaguely remembered some “rants, campus matters. Not of my interest. Science is not anything I partake in. I affiliate myself with artists. Once you take a step outside the box of science in the university, it all looks absurd out here—your pursuits I science. No one gives a fxck / shxt / hoot about science anyway.” Yep, that is what he said, perhaps in my own negative enhancement of paraphrasing. I stumbled upon explaining why I transferred three graduate schools and struggled to find an advisor that would allow me to pursue the intersection of science and art, to which I seemed to have failed myself in coordinating my failing brain with my fluttering lips that were firing as randomly as the neural impulses of a hydra.

So, here is Jeff, right in front of my face, demeaning every once of energy and mindframes in my pursuit of life. Very stereotyping. Very quick to judge. Which is in part derogatory, rude. Or perhaps I can’t take a joke. As if there were all a joke.

Like I said, it was an overall abusive conversation and I am not willing to put up with such wise-xss, defensive commentary of my existence is if this encounter were a couple of apes beating their chess seeing who’s better and more intelligent through the means of impulsive commentary that everything I do is just a piece of shxt and a waste of time. I am getting a Ph.D. not because I am “intelligent”—hardly—but because I realize that I am ignorant, and I that I deeply crave to learn something new. How come everyone in the world thinks they know everything and everyone who is getting a Ph.D. comes to humbly recognize they know nothing and they want to learn something new? In the context of society’s collective consciousness?

Once I had some neurons snapping together the following morning, I started to wonder why this Jeff guy even contacted me through my blog in the first place, if we were only to meet up such that he can just take pleasure to stereotype me to smitherines.

Nevertheless, Jeff gave me a hug good bye, in the freezing dark cold of the new night (930ish pm). He is indeed Biologically Lucky in terms of a Beautiful Image, but with a very dark, chaotic interior, supposedly with a mysterious “method” that no one has ever figured out.

Jeff was the last thing I needed after three weeks of some form of intensive, ritualistic, self-advancement. Jeff was far from a “rewarding experience” to be greeted by an embittered intellectual after three weeks of self-induced, enlightening hxll.

I told my housemate Kyle about Jeff, and Kyle commented on how he’s encountered plenty of “those types of people” before. They’re just momentary amusement for some talk and extracting some kernels of wisdom, but not worth draining your soul on them, because they’ll suck the soul out of you. Very much worth a blurb of reflection on a blog. Might be good use for future character construction in a story. Jeff makes Tariel look like an Angel, and Tristan a subgod, and Oscar Flores a piece of Theoretical Kindness, not that I am religious at all… but most certainly spiritual. Not to mention I need to contact Tristan and repay a debt of kindness.

I don’t know when Jeff and I shall cross paths again. Despite such wicked intellectualism, I found hope and happiness to have encountered such intelligence. I was excited to think that there are other people out in the community who are SOO clever—because the previous people I had met made me seriously question the generic operations of the human mind in the public. The issue is now—to find this intelligence correlated with emotional sensitivity and logical positivism, channeled through productive em-betterment of society. Sure, I am asking a lot. Why is that such a rare combination to find?

Next time I encounter Jeff, I will tweak my head such that I am dealing with a cynical jokester, and that I will conduct myself as if I am around my Uncle Costas in Greece.

Nevertheless, it was all intellectual amusement associated with some pain. How about “the simultaneous experience of painful pleasure.” Worth a follow up, but no longer a drain to my mind. Emotionally and logically.

Moving on.

Additional notes for part 1.

Oh ya. Before visiting Mike, I saw my good friend Kamal on Friday night. We had Indian food together. It was really cool. He wants to combine psychology and engineering for his degree. We are both very interdisciplinary!

Mike Dillin has the ability to engage and interact with any random human you can encounter. His social boundaries are non-existent, and it’s liberating.
Once life becomes too predictable, go visit Mike Dillin, King of Spontaneity.
"Rat bastard kids" RBKs to prevent himself from having kids.

What is very interesting about this last string of thought in this blog is that the closer and closer I approached the present from the near past, my resolution of describing my experienced had become higher and higher and higher.... I talked more about the near present, and the deep-present (like three weeks ago) only received one-liners.


Victoria said...

How come Closed-minded People See Nothing and Know Everything? And why do Open-minded People Attempt to See Everything and Assume They Know Nothing?

Victoria said...

Also, in the last three weeks, I had an opportunity to meet up with Dr. Osborne, history of science... not sure if I put that in my to-do list.