Resolutions and Laughter December 31st, 2010
Today is that day when many people set New Year’s resolutions. According to one study, about half of us make them, and only about a fifth of these people will succeed in keeping them.
I’m in the first half that doesn’t make resolutions. Not because I don’t have goals or I think that I can’t keep them, rather it just feels wrong to wait for a date that comes once a year to make important changes or affirmations.
Instead, I try to keep a list of things I want to do and a list of things I’ve done. After I had been doing this awhile, I realized there are a few things I should try to do every day:
- explore somewhere new
- learn something new
- meet someone new
I think the first one is the most important; not only is laughing personally fun, it can be positively infectious. I don’t feel like I did enough of it in the past few years, so I’ve been making up for lost time. In doing so, I realized that my laughter falls into certain categories. I’ve seen others describe laughter in as many as 16 stages, but I approach it a little differently and have come up with a more manageable 4 types:
- Normal Responsive Laughter – this is your basic situational laughter that comes from jokes, sitcoms, irony, mildly goofy friends, etc. It generally includes snickers, chuckles, cackles, etc.
- Giggling – this type originates more from a generally happy feeling within rather than from some external source. Just after Thanksgiving I was having a good day at Eldora with my cousin Mark and I found myself in this stage, giggling at my snowboarding foibles. (As an aside, I know I’m in a happy place when just saying the word “foibles” starts me to giggle.)
- Side-splitting / Pulling a Muscle – I considered grouping this one in with the next stage but it isn’t quite the same thing. It’s sort of an extreme on the Normal Responsive Laughter type, accompanied by a brief jolt of physical pain in the abdomen somewhere, but with no crying. Usually I have to rely on a good friend surprising me with something that should have been obvious for this one. Or possibly something from Urban Dictionary.
- In Tears – this is probably the orgasmic equivalent on the laughter scale. It happens infrequently for me (I’m talking about the laughter kind; the timing of the other kinds are none of your business). Like other orgasms, it’s best when shared. I remember a time in La Crosse with my friend Travis, heading down to the bars on 3rd Street one night, I don’t at all recall what was so funny, but for several minutes I was uncontrollably in tears.
Happy New Year everyone – make those resolutions if you have to, but don’t forget to laugh!
Beyond the Hype of Skype December 25th, 2010
I’ve been using Skype for quite a few months now, mostly to video chat with my mom who lives a considerable distance from me.
Some basics about the technology: Skype allows you to make voice calls and more over the internet. You can use it just to talk on like a regular phone, or you can also video chat, instant message, share your screen, pass files, audio/video conference with multiple parties, etc. Cost is free to reasonable depending on how you use it. There are alternatives out there too, such as Google Talk, VoIPBuster and iChat. More generally these applications are called VoIPs, or Voice over Internet Protocols.
You can refer to other sources for some of the more basic info, but here are some more subtle, personal observations about using Skype – again from the perspective of mostly using it for video chatting with family.
- You find yourself chatting with family or friends you haven’t talked to that often, because they’re on Skype
- It’s contagious – people you Skype with end up seeking out others to Skype with
- Quoting a friend: “It’s amazing the emotions and feelings that can be conveyed with a smile, frown or one of a billion other expressions.”
- The younger kids sometimes tap on the screen and ask, “how did you get in there?!?”
- You can share your pets with people too
- You’re talking with your mom and she tries to show you something in her apartment – then disappointingly realizes that she cannot, because she’s talking to you on a normal phone, not video chatting on Skype
- If you’re someplace that has no or limited phone service, but you have a reasonable internet connection, Skype is a great alternative
- Along those lines: it’s a great option if you’re in a foreign country; you pay some for this but the rates are quite good. You can get it as an App on your smartphone too.
- It really is the next best thing to being there. It was nice to open presents together and spend an hour with my mom this Christmas, even though we were 2000 miles away.
Your Fears Erased Here Daily December 20th, 2010
Neat idea, huh? A lot of people like the airing-your-fears-out-in-public aspect, but I thought it would work even better to do this on a whiteboard in my closet where no one else can see, ‘cause the worst fears are often far too embarrassing or personal to share.
So, a little over a week ago I started doing just that, and things were going along as expected. But a few days later, I found myself staring at it one night, and I couldn’t think of anything to write. Then again the following morning, I still couldn’t think of anything to write. I wasn’t sure if this had anything to do with just getting into the habit of putting this stuff down, but, it was a great feeling nonetheless.
I did eventually come up with something by nightfall, a healthy fear that I know I can actually do something about:
Since then I’ve recovered more fears, both the healthy and unhealthy kind (though I would argue that you need both to really be healthy), along with an (I think) irrational one that sort of came out of left field. I guess irrational ones can be useful too – it served as a reminder that maybe I should think more carefully about being so openly exuberant, lest I be misunderstood.
Anyway, I guess this means I’m back to normal now.
Making Memories December 17th, 2010
Little did I realize that Tracy’s idea of “snowshoeing” is trudging straight up the ski slope about halfway up the mountain. And fast, because we’re running a little bit behind.
Effortless for her, sure, but my lungs don’t adjust well to elevation when I live at 800 feet. Hence I don’t fare so well, gasping, sputtering, muttering, grumbling, cursing…
Somewhere during this drudgery she tells me to think of it this way: I won’t forget this, she is “making memories”.
How poignant. How true. I will never forget. How can I, when my lungs still have scars with her initials carved into them. And I am glad for that, because, yes, it is one of my fondest and most memorable memories. That’s the good stuff. Thanks, Tracy.
I think I’ll be a bit more prepared this time though, living at mile-high. So, you’ll have to find something else this time. Bring it on!!
Otherworldly Experiences December 14th, 2010
When I was in high school, a good friend of mine was Native American and lived on the nearby Lac Courte Oreilles reservation. She claimed her house had been built on an American Indian burial ground and was haunted. She had some stories of physical manifestations of these spirits, but I don’t remember all the details. While this sort of thing has always interested me, I don’t recall really thinking much of it, until one night. I was staying at her house, and we had just settled in in her room. I think I was on the floor, and she was in her bed. We were chatting on and off about things, not yet tired enough to sleep.
All of a sudden I had a very strange feeling, like someone else had just entered the room. But the door was closed and had not been opened. Before I really had any time to think about what it might be, Jennifer exclaimed: “Oh my God, they’re BACK!!”
Nothing manifested itself physically, and the strange feeling departed, but Jen did confirm that it was sensing the spirits or ghosts that caused her to make that remark.
If this was not a case of spiritual activity, the only other explanation that fits is that one of us read the other’s mind. Either of those things are unbelievable to most skeptics. I wonder what a skeptic would say if he/she experienced something like that.
I will always remember that moment as one of the most awesome experiences of my life. Not really very dramatic, I know; something like that would never make it into a TV show or movie. But it was very real and personal to me.
At other times in my life I’ve tried seeing if I could send or receive psychic energy (telepathy). With another childhood friend we tried a crude type of concentration exercise on each other using a deck of playing cards. I could not receive at all, getting almost none right, but she did get more than a few cards right when I tried sending / her receiving. I also took a class once when I lived in Greensboro, covering various phenomenon including past life regression, clairvoyance, etc. We did the card thing there too. Again, I was lousy. The instructor was very good though, getting most of the cards right. I suppose he could have found a way to “stack the deck”, so to speak, but, it seemed genuine.
Some things have happened to me lately, making me question whether I am sending and/or receiving telepathically. Maybe I spent too much time playing Spider solitaire this past summer and that had some sort of strange hypnotic effect. Or maybe I simply spent too much time in Boulder (maybe it’s good I moved to Lafayette, out on the plains a dozen miles away from that wonderful hippie town). But at least twice I think I have received. Maybe once I sent. I was trying not to; I was really just trying to be observant, thinking maybe I’d find an answer to a question, not influence anything. I’m not real sure, and I may never know.
In physics there is something called quantum entanglement (Einstein mockingly called it “spooky action at a distance”), and I wonder about whether it has anything to do with otherworldly phenomenon. (Actually… I just realized I’m not alone in thinking that.) In college I minored in physics but I only did well in it because I could do the math; I didn’t really care about or grasp what the theories were. Now, I can’t do the math, but I want to know more about the theories, because there’s actually some really intriguing stuff there. Around Halloween I picked up a book called Quantum Reality and read a few chapters, but I’m a procrastinating reader so it is now just gathering dust on my headboard. I’ll probably get back to it someday though, and give a report here.
Trying GIMP, Part 1 December 9th, 2010
It’s been eating away at me for some time now that I should get a proper photo editor. Laziness and frugality mean I’ve been using a combination of some software that came with one of my cameras along with Flickr’s online photo editor, Piknik. Mostly this allows me to scale (change width/height), reduce quality, and crop photos, which gets me by for my Plant of the Month proto-blog and various other little tasks. However, there is not much flexibility in reducing photos (finite options), and I want more features, for instance something to help me make favicons and design a business card.
A little worried I would get stuck in a cycle of over-analysis, I started researching. I quickly found GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) and decided to give it a try. Pros: it is free, flexible, feature-rich. Cons: hard to learn, even with the newer supposedly easier version 2.6. A couple of observations so far on this note: what to do e.g right-click, shift-click etc. doesn’t seem all that intuitive to me. I think this is probably an initial reaction, though, and once I learn the style of the interface I will overcome this hurdle. The other observation is that there are tons and tons of menu options. I’m reminded a little of Microsoft Excel, in a way that I may come to appreciate: many of the menu items have keyboard equivalents, so if I take the time to learn the shortcuts I can move faster than with the mouse.
More next time.