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I have had the most exciting summer in years. To the untrained eye I appear to be a slack-jawed and lifeless form on the couch. But in reality I am deep in philosophical thought. I finally had the chance to rewatch the Matrix trilogy and go WOOOOAH DUDE! Do I dare to project my stereotypical nerdiness out into the world? The Matrix has once again turned me onto philosophy. I fell down the rabbithole and took the blue pill (or was it the red pill?) or was I just dreaming?

I know it is a ridiculous nerd cliche to have this movie make you think really hard about the nature of reality but you just can’t stop me from going there, so there I go. If you can’t handle it you can take the blue pill and wake up or just hit the back button on your browser and escape my insane ramblings.

The first time I saw this movie it was late at night and I was by myself. I was just looking for a bit of fluffy scifi fun. Being naive I thought the Matrix would fit the bill. Wrong! The scene where Neo takes the red pill and gets unplugged and sees the world as it really is freaked me out so bad. What a powerful metaphor! Nobody sees the world as it really is and waking up is scary and painful so just stay asleep. How would I feel if I saw the world as it really is instead of the way that I want it to be?

Just think about what Morpheus says to Neo, “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

Isn’t that true of every sentient being on the planet? Everybody was born into bondage and we are all slaves. We had no choice in the really important decisions in our lives. We don’t get to choose our names, genders, ages, birthplace, family of origin or socioeconomic status. Or even whether to be born at all. As a living breathing sentient being you are a slave to your biological impulses. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe. In order to meet those needs you have to have a place to live and food to eat. Which means you have to find a group of humans to live with and have your needs met. There is no easy way out of this mess. Being born creates an obligation to stay alive which necessitates making certain choices. Those choices are very limited but they do exist. You could avoid all this nonsense and just kill yourself but that would create a huge burden to all the people who have to take over your responsibilities when you die. Suicide is not a realistic choice.

We are slaves to our biology and to the wider society. We can choose which occupation to follow. But we can’t opt out of earning a living. We can choose who to marry or to stay single. But we do not get to choose our sexuality. We have to make peace with it and express it in a socially approved way. Even if you are homeless you still spend a large amount of your time fulfilling your physical needs. We can’t yet choose to be pulsating blobs of happiness. We have to be a part of the world to survive. When we are born we are plugged into the matrix. There are so  many systems that we are plugged into that we had no choice about. You are attached to all the other humans, sentient beings and the environment.

That’s just talking about physical needs. What about all of the ways that your mind is enslaved? We have no say in the way our society is structured. I didn’t choose the government, the education system, the language, family structure or the national anthem. All of these things had nothing to do with me. I have been taught to see the world in a certain way. I like to think I am an intelligent and well-read person but I am merely repeating memes that I learned from the wider environment. My views are so biased that I can’t even see how biased they really are.

Just think about the ways that families are structured. We usually think of the family as containing parents and their children. The base of a family is a couple. We take it as a given that people will come of age and form a pair bond as a foundation for a new family. We are slowly coming around to the idea that there are different ways to make up a family. We have hetero couples and gay couples and single parents. But there is still the idea lingering that a married couple – the nuclear family – is the preferred foundation for a family. There are many other ways people could structure their families but this is the one that is dominant. We just accept that and don’t question it. Why not live in small communes or families with three or four parents? Our society is structured around nuclear families. Our tax forms force us to define our families. Common-law? Married? Single? Divorced? The nuclear family mindset is so engraved that we don’t even think about it.

There is no possible way to be free. The idea is laughable. The only thing we can do is make the best choices we can.

This is why I love this movie so much. It makes you think about these things.

This was supposed to be a movie review but it is turning into some philosophical ramblings. So here you go. This was inspired by Stacy’s book review.

Everybody is against bullying. Parents post pictures on Facebook of their kid standing on a street corner holding a sign stating “Shame on me for being a bully”. It makes me sad that they do not recognize that public humiliation is a form of bullying. We have pink t-shirt campaigns and we spend a lot of time campaigning against bullying. In the same way that we Just Say No to drugs, we Just Say No to bullies. Thankfully the kind of abuse I endured and perpetrated as a small child is not tolerated as readily anymore. Gone are the days when kids would facewash their classmates in snow with the full confidence that nothing would be done about it. I do believe that our society has become much less violent and abusive. But the anti-bullying campaigns have been partly misguided.

The emphasis should be on reflecting on your own personal behavior and making amends for any kind of bullying that you may have done in the past. The problem with the majority of anti-bullying campaigns is that they point fingers outward at other people rather than getting people to think about they act. Nobody can control the way that other people behave. The only person I have control of is myself. It is reminiscent of anti-rape campaigns that focus on getting victims to change their behavior to avoid being targeted. While it is true that taking common sense safety precautions is a sensible idea, it will not do anything to eliminate the cause of rape. Rape is caused by somebody making a choice to violently violate and hurt the victim. Bullying is caused by people choosing to engage in harmful behavior. They may lack the self awareness of the harm caused by their behavior. Admitting your mistakes is very hard to do but extremely valuable. Every sentient being wants the same thing. We all want to be happy and free of pain. If you hurt somebody you also hurt yourself.

The main reason why bullying in all its forms continues to manifest in all its different ways is due to its pervasiveness. We are so immersed in a culture that ignores and perpetuates bullying that we don’t even see it. That is why teaching people to change their own behavior is so important. The first step towards living in a kinder, gentler world is getting everybody to recognize all the ways that people continue to hurt each other. A parent reacts to a child’s tears by yelling at them. The child learns that it is the way to treat problems that you don’t want to deal with. Why is Gordon Ramsay so popular? Because a lot of people secretly wish they had the nerve to say the mean and horrible things that they are thinking. Buy nurturing mean thoughts towards people ultimately hurts yourself.

A few months ago I went through a period of intense reflection about my life. I have been hurt badly by loved ones. As a part of the healing process I have managed to forgive those that have hurt me. I have also given a great deal of thought to some of the ways that I have hurt people in the past and I have resolved to do my best to never hurt another person ever again. Ever since I did that I have felt happier and more at peace than I have ever been before. Resolving to be as loving as I can has really made my life so much better. If I can do it than anybody can do it.

I know that my legions of worshiping fans have been waiting breathlessly for me to write a post about my fitness journey. Wait no more my friends! I am here to serve you. Here is a previous fitness post, just in case you are interested.

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Have you ever read something and it turned out to be exactly what you needed to hear at that time? I felt like that yesterday when I read Marriage and Love by Emma Goldman. Emma Goldman was a feminist anarchist whose writings were published in the early 1900s. While a lot of her ideas are a bit out-dated and there is no doubt that we have progressed a lot since she wrote the book, there is still a lot that rings true for me.

It is still true that marriage is upheld as a goal for most people to aspire to. It is the mark of true adulthood. Women still sacrifice more than men do. I realize that there are many exceptions, but women still overwhelmingly choose to give up their names on marriage. For some reason, most men do not choose to change to their wife’s name. The children get the father’s name even though the biological mother did the work to produce the child. Why do men get all the credit? For some reason, the woman is usually the one to choose a career that more easily combines work with parenthood. Marriage still conforms to the traditional, hetero-normative expectations that it has always had.

I am so glad that the overall attitude towards sexuality has changed. Exceptions do remain. According to the tabloids at Superstore, the Bachelor and his lucky bride have decided to abstain from sex until marriage. I do not want to pick on them or be a bully but I can see a few pitfalls to this arrangement. Sexual compatibility is very important in a relationship and exploring with your partner before committing to them for life seems like a wise course of action. Sexuality is still a very difficult thing for many people to talk about. Many adults have sex and it is an important part of life and yet we still can’t talk about it freely. Many marriages end in divorce and many fail to live up to the standard of monogamous sex with one person until death-do-you-part. This causes the breakdown of many relationships. I believe that if more people explored their sexuality before making such an important commitment, we would be far better off.

Ever since the very first recording devices for artistic works came along, people have been trying their very best to ensure that they profit from the production of their work. We all have bills to pay and we want our fair share. So when a kid from the nineties tapes a song off the radio on their cassette playing ghetto blaster, it results in social ostracism and tut-tutting from concerned parents about giving the artist their fair share. Well, where was I before I took a trip down memory lane to the nineties? Oh yes, copyright! You see, ever since the printing press and the first recording devices, it has become apparent that a producer of a creative product has very little control over what happens to their work once it is shared. Books can be printed, cassette tapes can be copied and now massive files can be anonymously shared via VPNs and torrent clients. It is quite a fascinating digital wild world.

There is a dispute going on between the people who profit from holding onto copyright and those of us who wish to chuck the whole corrupt, materialist scheme in the nearest trash bin. Just check out the way that the Pirate Bay has fought back from all of the legal attacks and has managed to survive in the face of adversity. The Man succeeds in taking down the pirate bay url (I think it was piratebay.com but I am too lazy to look it up for sure.) Does Pirate Bay disappear? No! A bunch of internet nerds set up a bunch of mirror sites and distribute this information all over the internet. A search of pirate bay on reddit will give you an idea of how to get there. It never fails to amaze me, the things that a well-organized group of people can accomplish. The Man can kick and scream until he is blue in the face but it will do nothing to change the implications of file sharing.

There is yet one other form of file sharing that gets me excited. Have you heard of ?The idea is quite simple. Stick a USB stick into a wall. Anybody can come along and get data off the stick and put data on it if they like. Voila! Meatspace file sharing. The simplicity is genius. My family mocks me for getting so excited about this concept, but there it is.

I understand that it takes a lot of work and time to compose a work of art and you want to get the money from it that you deserve. You especially don’t want people that didn’t contribute to its production to profit from your song. But the whole music industry is a bunch of opportunistic and greedy leeches. They suck the life out of the artists and they get diddly squat the majority of the time. Sure, sure some people make out like bandits. But the vast majority of talented musicians become elementary school teachers.

We are brain-washed into thinking that producing art is about making money and that making money is the most important thing ever. The truth is, as long as you have your material needs met, you are very well off. You won’t be any happier with more stuff. You can join the rat race and spend money you don’t have to buy stuff you don’t need. We all suffer from this affliction to a certain degree. When I see an android tablet I start drooling and my credit card gets itchy. I understand. But once I get it I will complain about all my bills and I won’t be any happier.

All human knowledge is collective and owned by everybody ultimately. Who invented all the languages spoken or the music written? What about the guy who invented the wheel? Should he get a royalty every time someone drives a car? How far back should this attribution scheme go?

True happiness comes from adding to the sum total of all human knowledge. Every bit of truth and beauty you can add to the world is what makes you happy.

People have a habit of stealing my words. As a prolific mouthpiece, there are many to steal. I will use a word or a turn of phrase and pretty soon everybody is using it. At work I used the term living vicariously through others and pretty soon everybody was saying it. I added gregarious to Ethan’s verbal repertoire. Sure he may have heard that word before but in reality he gets all his words from me. I really should take all the credit for his podcast. Anyway, people stealing my words makes me proud. I don’t demand a royalty. I stole those words from someone else and it is impossible to know who I stole them from. Every song that is written is influenced by every other song the artist heard. When you write a song, you use musical instruments and written materials that were made by other people, the vast majority of whom died in obscurity and didn’t get a dime. But I bet that whoever invented a guitar and strummed out the equivalent of “Twinkle twinkle little star” celebrated the truth and beauty in that by sharing it with as many people as possible.

In conclusion, I say don’t lament when somebody likes your ideas enough to steal them. While I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, it is impossible to do that all the time. Give your work away freely. Go open source. There is so much free content around that generous people have made to share with the larger community. Think of all the open source software that exists. I hope that someone invents cheap, easily reproducible energy, prints up the blueprints and calls it open source energy. It wouldn’t take long for the internet to share that one around. Copyright is dead.

It seems like everywhere I go I see bullying. Amanda Todd committed suicide after years of relentless bullying after being targeted by a pedophile. Reddit has been a haven for bullies for years. A highly celebrated bully who got tremendous karma and prestige had his real life identity revealed. If you have the stomach for it, google violentacrez and prepare to be disgusted and horrified. He created forums devoted to posting creepy photographs of young girls that were taken and posted without consent. At school I am dealing with many young bullies who treat each other terribly. People are spreading memes on Facebook promoting corporal punishment as the cure for unruly children. TV and movies seem to glorify bullying. It is clear to me that it is a pretty big deal and a problem that needs to be dealt with. So what are we going to do about bullying?

I am going to start off by saying that bullying seems to be too mild of a term to describe the behavior of many perpetrators. The name-calling that children do does not compare to what goes on on the Internet. It doesn’t just happen on reddit, it happens on any unmoderated comment section. YouTube comments are completely unreadable and are infested with unintelligible garbage. I feel myself getting dumber if I attempt to consume this junk food for the brain. Bullying is a catch-all term for a lot of harmful behavior which includes posting non-consensual porn, promoting child-beating as the cure for bullying, gossip, spreading rumors behind other peoples’ backs, name-calling, sexual harassment and physical abuse. But for now I suppose I will have to content myself with the term bullying. At any rate, there are a lot of things that can be done to deal with bullying. Here is my list of ways to combat bullying. Are you ready?

1. Talk to kids about bullying. Explain to them all the different ways it can manifest. Repeating gossip and rumors about people is a form of bullying. Saying “OMG do you know what she said about you?” is bullying. If you repeat trash talk that other people are saying, you are part of it. If someone tells you a nasty story, tell them that you aren’t going to hang out with them anymore. This applies to adults as well. Don’t spread rumors.

2. Stop entertaining yourself with mindless trash. Here comes Honey Boo Boo promotes hate against poor people. The entertainment comes from feeling better than them. You aren’t better, you are just luckier. Watching Hoarders seem to encourage people to look down at others for being mentally ill. It’s obnoxious. Cut it out already.

3. Be a good role model for your kids. Little pitchers have big ears. If they hear you gossiping they will do it too. If they see you watching trash tv they will watch it with you and think it’s cool.

4. Apologize when you catch yourself acting like a jerk. We have all participated in bullying. I have done it and you have done it. Learn from your mistakes and do your best to be better. Don’t be a bystander.

5. Support people that are being targeted.

That’s all I have for right now. I will add to this list if I think of anything else. I feel a lot better getting that off my chest. It sure did sound awfully school marmish, didn’t it?

In many schools around the world, children are required to remove their hats while inside. People in favor of the hat rule feel that leaving your hat on is showing disrespect.

This used to be true a very long time ago. When going to church, men took their hats off to show respect and women covered their hair. The hat rule has a religious history. If the school is public, why hold onto this out-dated tradition? You have to wonder if the hat rule should apply to all head coverings. Should all girls be required to remove their head-scarves while indoors?

Social conventions change and wearing a hat is a fashion choice, not a sign of disrespect. Besides, shouldn’t we pick our battles?

A beautiful tomato plant growing in my back yard. This solar collector takes sunbeams, dirt and air and turns it into tomatoes.

I can’t imagine that this idea is new. I wouldn’t be surprised if a group of nerds are working on it right now. I think the ideal solar power generator would steal from nature. It would be a tree-like structure. Leaves are like solar collection devices for trees. They help maximize the amount of sunlight it can collect. What if we put a bunch of tiny, leaf-like structures all over a tree-like structure? That would be pretty cool.

Isn’t this a truly horrific thing to have happen? It always makes me sick when some deranged lunatic murders a bunch of innocent people. This is what happens every single time a disaster like this happens:

1. Murder and mayhem.

2. Round the clock news and commentary. Talking heads come at this from every angle. The following things are blamed:
-Violence in video games
-Mental illness
-Liberalism
-Christianity
-Lack of Christianity
-Feminism
-Lather, rinse and repeat
This list is far from inclusive and I may add to it if I am so inclined. Stigmatization of all these things will result.

3. Then comes the debate about gun control and second amendment rights. “Guns don’t kill people. people kill people.” “But guns allow you to kill many more people.” Blah blah blah. My facebook feed is full of this stuff.

4. If there is a trial it will go on and on while people watch and dissect it.

Then it will all settle down and the public will grow bored of it until the next lunatic decides to murder a bunch of people. Or maybe Oprah will do something thrilling, who knows.

My personal thoughts on this are the same as most people, why why why why why? What happens in a persons’ head to make them do this? Why is it always young men that do these crimes? You hardly ever hear of a woman doing this. I want to bring up a few points for your consideration.

Giving these guys publicity may be part of what inspires them. They could kill themselves or they could take a bunch of people down with them and become notorious. I am sure being infamous is very appealing. As far as mental illness goes, I do think that having all this anger directed at people could be considered a mental illness. I wonder what would have happen if mental illnesses were treated like every other illness and he had checked himself into a hospital for medication and treatment. What would happen if you showed up at the hospital and told them you wanted to massacre a bunch of people? I really have no idea but I would hope they would try to stabilize him. People who are depressed and angry and losing touch with reality need help.

If it is considered a mental illness it will further lead to the stigmatization of mentally ill people and lead to more people suffering silently further leading to more catastrophes. Suicide is a common phenomenon, far more common than going postal. It is a little known fact that people suffering from a mental illness are much less likely to be violent than everybody else.

As for the angry young man angle, I really have no idea what to say about that. Male violence is a global epidemic and I am not sure how to fix it.

About a year ago I weighed 190 pounds at five foot seven. I craved and ate a lot of sugar. I guzzled down cans of soda pop and I even started eating processed meat. (I hate processed meat!) I could blame the medication that I was on that increased my appetite but I have to admit that it didn’t force those can of soda down my throat. I decided to go on a fitness kick and see if I could turn it around. I replaced the cans of pop with the diet versions and lost twenty pounds in a very short period of time. I lost the craving for sugar water and I soon got bored with the diet pop. I started going to Zumba class and I got myself a gym membership. I made myself eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed garbage. It took just under a year but now I am down to 150 pounds and I am pretty proud of myself. I don’t believe that I need to lose any more weight but I am still losing a little bit. Here are my weight loss tips that I hope you will find handy.

1. Learn the calorie content of everything you eat. Keep track of it. There are a whole bunch of apps and web sites that can help you do this. There is calorie counter and fit day and probably a bunch of other ones I know nothing about.

2. If you are craving something loaded with sugar and fat, eat a few fruits and vegetables before you indulge in the calorie saturated treat. That way you will eat less of it.

3. Set small fitness goals. When you first start out you will want to make them small and attainable. It could be walk the dog for half an hour. Or stay on the treadmill for twenty minutes. Make sure you don’t wear yourself out completely and get discouraged. Try to set personal bests that are slightly better than your last personal best. Once you meet your goal of walking the dog for half an hour try going to Zumba class twice a week. Or running 1 mile.

4. If you fall off the wagon and binge on unhealthy food or lose your resolve to get off the couch, just get back on the wagon and try again. Changing habits is hard and it’s ok to make mistakes. Get back on that pony and try again.

5. Join a fitness group. It can be a great help. I enjoy the solitude of running but it is also enjoyable to work out with others. Bring a friend along on your run.

6. Get a gym membership. If you spend the money you will be annoyed if you don’t use it.

7. Quit eating take out food. It’s horrid crap loaded with chemicals. And most take out food places are generally evil so don’t give them your money.

8. Listen to your body. If it hurts back off. You don’t want to get injured and make working out impossible.

9. I love android so much because of my favorite running app. It’s called cardio trainer and it keeps track of your running routes and all your stats. It maps out your running routes and helps you keep track of how many calories you burn each week as well as your running speed.

10. Have a treat once in a while. Go to Mr. Ribs and gorge on delicious food. Reward yourself with that plate of ribs with a side of baked potato covered in cheese, butter and sour cream. Living off of salad gets old really fast.

11. Don’t be all or nothing. Treat calories like money. Save up for the occasional indulgence. Unless you are a Keynesian economist, this will help a lot. Don’t act like you are a terrible sinner if you enjoy life once in a while. People seem to think that eating a hot dog once in a while is terrible. This all or nothing attitude can really be discouraging.

12. Cardio is great for weight loss and so is lifting weights. I hate lifting weights and never do it myself but it is extremely helpful. Maybe lifting weights twice a week can be my next fitness goal.

There you have it, my fitness tips. I hope you find this interesting and helpful. Stay healthy!

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