The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Why I am Running, and Something I Have Never Written About

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“…And perhaps, until we are tested, we don’t know what we’re made of…”

–Aimee Mullins

I am ashamed to admit that it has been quite a while since I’ve pushed my body far enough to feel like an athlete. Over the past year I’ve been making small changes to make sure that I can get back on track when it comes to physical fitness. I am not a big fan of extreme training programs, or quick solutions, so I decided that I’m going to run a half marathon on September 16, 2012 in Philadelphia. Although I’ve been training since the beginning of the year, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I formally began to put myself through a 13 week walk–run beginners program designed to facilitate the transformation I am hoping to achieve. I am supplementing my training sessions, which I’m supposed to undertake three times a week, with yoga, which is also a new discipline to me.

So far, there are four main personal motivators, and one spiritual, and I use the term spiritual loosely, that I hope will keep me going through the months leading to The Rock ’n Roll Marathon. Here’s a list:

  1. I’m running with my wife. We are not proud of it, but we both have been leaning towards the potato side of the couch for a few years now, and we decided to end that cycle back in January. We see the half marathon as an opportunity to change our life, and to prove to ourselves that we have it in us to stick to a new lifestyle. Although we’re still finding out about it, we want to run for science education, or health education. We feel like both are worthwhile causes that can make a huge difference in the world. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.
  2. I have told somebody I deeply respect and admire about my commitment to run this marathon. This person is also a runner, and agreed to keep me accountable as I find my way into this brave new world.
  3. I’ve had a couple of health scares over the past months, and feel like I need to take ownership of my fitness, and physical my body. There are many health issues that are preventable simply by eating a better diet, learning to manage stress, and exercising. Additionally, exercise can help to make you smarter, more responsible, and better looking. If you want to learn about the effects of exercise and the brain check out this book, which was instrumental in motivating my nerdy self to exercise.
  4. I have discovered that running has become a little bit of a spiritual practice. Although I do not believe in the supernatural, I feel like there is some kind of evolutionary connection to my ancestors whenever I push myself on the treadmill, or make my way to the hiking trails around my house. I am probably going to be writing a lot about this particular topic as I delved deeper into it through personal experience.

I am, of course, taking my training slowly since injury is not something I want to have to deal with. I am sure that I will be filling my blog with posts about this particular subject. It is not my intention to push anyone else into running, but rather to inspire people to exercise regardless of their situation, and fitness level. To do that, I’m going to share something that I have never shared in a blog post before. I haven’t mentioned it because it hasn’t been important, considering the kind of stuff that I usually write about, but it may be relevant now that I am talking about physical exercise. Although what I am about to mention is obvious to anybody who knows me in person, it is actually impossible to figure it out just for my writing. Okay, so here it goes: I am missing my forearm right below the elbow.

Although not having a body part has never been an issue for me, or for anybody I care about, and it has certainly very little effect on my running ability, I do require some adaptation in my newly discovered yoga practice. I do not necessarily think that my disability qualifies me as inspirational. There are people out there who have done greater things while facing much greater challenges, or opportunities, depending on how you look at them.

So far, I given four personal reasons for running, and one that, I hope, is bigger than myself. I want to show you that there is something in you that has the ability to turn an otherwise drab story into a journey. I understand that comparing life to a heroic quest can be considered, by many, to be an overused simile, but the truth is that life is all we have. I am going to drink in the savage beauty of the world, and I want to share it with you, not because of some self important compulsion to document all but I do, but rather because it is my hope that we can walk along the path together, even if we are not in the same location. Will you join me?

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Written by Hector

April 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I Couldn’t Stop Watching This

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Written by Hector

September 3, 2011 at 2:17 am

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Judgement Day

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Today is the day of the Rapture. Nothing is going to happen, but a very large group of people will be disappointed. They will be made fun of, and ridiculed by the media. They will get a lot of attention, and may become more proselytizing than before, or may move on, who knows? Although it s tempting the poke fun at them, I don’t believe that this is an appropriate reaction. Many of us hold unexamined beliefs that have derailed our lives at one time or another. Those of you who know me will know that I’ve had more than my share of weird ideas.

Today, I think, should be a day for the rest of us to think about or or unexamined beliefs. I used to think, for example, that a good use of my time off was to rest and for the next day. Experimental evidence, however, has shown that people tend to feel better when they spend their days doing something useful, or productive. After spending more of my time doing things that I want to do, rather than passively absorbing media, I feel better for it. After examining the evidence,  I actually went back to college to begin working on my Masters degree. Again, an unexamined belief was keeping me from fully appreciating my life. If it is true that it is judgement day, let us judge our own thought processes instead of pointing and making fun, because no one has a perfect model of reality built in to their brain. Of course, the idea that we should face the world with out denial may also be wrong.

Do hold any unexamined beliefs? If so, how can you test them? What would be the benefit of abandoning them, if any, at all? It may be a good idea to talk to people you trust about those ideas. Fresh perspectives seem to help a lot. Please feel free to share some of your own experiences on this topic.

Written by Hector

May 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Spring!

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Triptolemos' departure. Side A from an Attic r...

Image via Wikipedia

After a few false starts in April, spring is finally here. Every year, since I moved to the East Coast I cannot help but be reminded of the story of Persephone and the pomegranates. As the tale goes Persephone was kidnapped by the God of the underworld. Her mother Demeter, the mother Goddess, could not bear to be separated from her daughter, and so she quit doing whatever it is that goddesses do to bring life, and abundance to Earth. After a while, some of the other gods began to worry that humanity would perish if they didn’t do something about it, so Zeus–who witnessed the whole kidnapping thing–told Demeter about that Hades did it, but the God of the underworld refused to let Persephone out of his realm. Eventually, when Persephone was allowed to leave, she ate a pomegranate seed, and, of course, anybody who eats anything from the underworld has to stay there for eternity, however, being that Demeter had some influence with Mount Olympus, her daughter was allowedto leave for the first half of the year, which is why we have spring and summer, but also have to put up with fall, and winter.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I miss Persephone when she  is not around. Having lived the first part of my life in Mexico City, and the second one in California, I found it difficult to adapt to the winters of the East Coast. I actually had never seen snow before, so seasonal affective disorder had a blast in my brain. This was the first year I actually managed to deal. It wasn’t that I was happy without Persephone, but I didn’t miss her as much. I discovered that a healthy dose of exercise, friendships, books, green tea, and the occasional glass of red wine made the season a little more enjoyable. Of course not having her around always made me idealize her. I thought about her warmth, and the way in which the soft winds of spring surrounded me, as I hiked through the many public parks in my area. She became like the goddess that is her mother.

Needless to say, when she returns I’m all smiles, and lay outside surrounded by her warm embrace. I look forward to her reign, as if it was the return of a long, lost lover. At first things are great! But towards the middle of the summer, she starts to annoy me. The constant heat and humidity surround  me and  make me wish that it was winter again. When she leaves again I am almost grateful.

In the story, when Demeter is at her darkest and about to give up on the search for her daughter, a Greek maiden with a sense of humor, makes a joke that brings laughter to the goddess, and it is through her laughter that she manages to free herself from the depression that has almost made her give up. I suppose that the irony of the seasons kept me together this time around. I found comfort in friendship, and books, and exercise, and tea, and family. Like many myths, this story is not just about the changing of the seasons, but about the changing of the heart, and about how we must learn to deal with life regardless of what it brings, because we get easily used to things. Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, we all must learn to find comfort in what we have, because if we learn to remain constant, diligent and aligned to our principles when things are good, maybe we will have the flexibility to sustain the when they are not so good. Let’s face it, we all lose our way, sometimes. We all bemoan the tragedy of our lives when things are good, so maybe we can learn from the myth, and laugh a little when things are bad. The things that matter are important regardless of seasonality.

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Written by Hector

April 22, 2011 at 2:48 am

My Stab at Economic Theory

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Lately, I have been reading a lot of books about economics. I know that reading a lot about something doesn’t make me an expert, but I’ve really been wondering about the value of things, and sometimes, I wonder if spending a certain amount of money on entertainment would be worth the amount of joy I’d derive from it, so the other day I came up with a formula to figure it out. Just for fun, I decided to take a stab at quantifying the whole thing, though I do not believe that it is a good idea to put numbers on everything. I did ejoy trying to think like an amateur economist though. Here is the result:

First, take your hourly wage, and figure out what percentage of it you would be willing to spend on entertainment. For example, if you made minimum wage, and you were willing to spend 10% of your income on entertainment, you would take $7.25, and multiply it by 0.1 (to figure 10%). You would get about $.72, then you would multiply that amount by the number of hours that you plan on spending with the book. If you were thinking about one of Brandon Sanderson’s books, you could look forward to about 20 hours of unadulterated, epic fantasy and joy, so you would multiply $.72 times 20. You should be willing to pay about $14.40 for the book. A variable on the formula allows you to multiply the ideal price of the book, by the number of people who are going to read it, so if your roommate, Joey, is going to read it, then you could pay $28.80 for the privilege of owning the material in question–assuming you like Joey.

This formula varies widely, specially when related to disposable income. Some people may make more money, but be unwilling to spend a lot of it on entertainment, others may make less, but be able to spend it more freely.

The other factor is that this works only for books you read for fun. Text books, or self-development books may be worth more for some people.

Here is the formula (I’m not a mathematician, so correct me if I expressed it wrong, and feel free to send the right one):

((HW*X) FT)) P=IP

HW = Hourly wage.

X = The percentage (in decimals) you are willing to spend on entertainment.

FT = Fun time the ride from the book.

P = the number of people, you like, who will have access to the book.

IP=Ideal price of item

 

What do you think?

I got the image from the Wikipedia and it is in the public domain.

Written by Hector

April 14, 2011 at 4:43 am

Posted in Comics, thoughts

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Myths Upon My LIfe

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I took this image from the Wikipedia, and it is in the Public Domain

Normally, I prefer to read science fiction, and science non-fiction, but all throughout the end of December and most of January, I’ve been consuming large amounts of mythology and Urban Fantasy.  Most of my reading falls under the umbrella of delicious escapism. I have particularly enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, The Dresden Files, and even Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, as we well as the more literary works of Charles De Lint and  Padraic Colum.

I think everyone needs the kind of fancy that comes from the raw imagination of humanity. When I was a child, I used to pretend that I was somehow related to Poseidon–way before The Lightning Thief. My first crush ever was Aphrodite (Venus), as portrayed by Uma Thurman in Terry Gillian’s The Adventures of Baron Münchausen. I think my early relationship with myths was a healthy one. Everyone needs to hear a good fairy tale, and to be terrified or elated by the unfolding images it brings into our consciousness.

By the time I was in my teens, my fascination with mythology had grown a little bit outside of the ordinary, and I became very interested in spirituality and religion. I think I might have tried almost everything under the sun, from astrology, to meditation, homeopathy, and prayer. I became suspicious of science, because it didn’t fit my world view, and I even had the audacity to believe that my improbable ideas had a better foundation than other people’s improbable ideas. I don’t know how many hours I spent working to understand the mysteries of the universe, by browsing  the religion and spirituality sections of my local bookstore. I am not about to count my early explorations as wasted time, since I did learn some valuable skills, some even based on fact, for example, lucid dreaming and relaxation.

My problem was that I expected too much from practices that time and time again have shown themselves to be useless. Homeopathy never quite worked, neither did dream interpretation, and, other than teaching me to feel amazingly relaxed, I do not think that meditation ever opened my “third eye.”

It wasn’t until my early twenties, after completing some of the basic biology courses required by the general education standards set forth by the state of California, that I began to look into science once again. Particularly, into the theory of evolution. The sweepingly beautiful saga of life blew my mind, and invited me to question the layer of stories I had placed upon my world. Many of the spiritual meetings I attended  began to feel like playacting. At one point, I finally quit going to them, especially after I was criticized, and even verbally attacked for believing in science.

Emergence theory, Information science, and the idea that we can test reality have enriched my life immensely, as well the reading of philosophy, neurology, and skeptic thought. I am oversimplifying my journey into skepticism, but I am glad to have made it.

I am enjoying, however, revisiting mythology and dreams in the form of metaphors, and playful wraiths of the imagination.

Stories are important. According to Paul Bloom, they teach us how to behave. I   sometimes feel like they imbue us with the ideals, and the patterns of their heroes and characters, as they stitch themselves into our minds. I am glad to once more feel the pull of the gods deep within myself, this time around, however, I do not fear them, for I know that they reside within me. Of course, most of my reading is just light fun, an escape into a world where the primordial personifications of our fears and hopes mingle with soapy drama, and inane tensions. It’s fun.

I am happy to have recovered a healthy relationship with the beautiful sights of the imagination, especially when they are personified by Uma Thurman.

The image comes from the Wikipedia, and it is in the public domain.

Written by Hector

January 30, 2011 at 1:29 am

A Trader’s Tale

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I am currently reading A Trader’s Tale, by Nathan Lowell, a space opera about growing up and learning to find a place in the universe.

Most space operas deal with the adventures of space cadets in some kind of military organization. Lowell’s books, by contrast, stay away from cliches and provide us with hours of delightful immersion in the world of Ishmael Wong, a charismatic, and intelligent, but otherwise average kid, who finds himself thrust into the world shortly after his 18th birthday, and the dead of his mother.

Ishmael has to learn to survive, and even thrive as a member of a trading space ship. The story does without the exaggerations many other space adventures relish, and reads like a light picaresque novel mixed with pinch of beautiful American realism, but without the heavy existential overtones, or saccharine outlook.

Like all good literature, the books have a way of siping into life and perceptions. Although I’ve only listened to the first two and a half books of the series (Quarter Share, Half Share, and Full Share), I find myself looking forward to spending time with Ishmael, Pip, Brill, and the other characters, and when I am not reading, I am inspired to apply Ishmael’s outlook to the rest of my life.

Through the books, I can see my daily duties as an adventure, and a set of challenges and opportunities to make the world a little bit better. It has been a long time since I’ve interacted with literature capable of touching me at such a deep level. I actually don’t believe it has happened too often since I got my literature degree.

A Trader’s Tale is a vindication of hard work and ingenuity without being preachy, or overly romantic. It is really hard to encapsulate the story, but it is immersive and a pleasure to read.

Note: Lowell’s series is available online as a podcast. If you download the free audiobooks, and enjoy them, don’t forget to make a donation, or, at the very least, to tell a few people about them. Authors like Lowell deserve to be supported and encouraged. Also, I accidentally deleted this post, so here it is again. The original one contained a kind response from Mr. Lowell himself

Written by Hector

November 24, 2010 at 4:54 am