Thought Cluster: Happiness and Sadness

I’ve been struggling to come up with a good post idea, but I’ve had plenty of semi-philosophical epiphanies and questions about happiness and sadness recently. Here they are, concepts that otherwise would have made it into the rejected pile.

  • Why is there a medical condition for extreme sadness (depression) but not a corresponding one for extreme happiness? (taken from my diary)
  • Studies have shown that people feeling sad can analyze and edit a document better, while slightly angry people are better at distinguishing between good and bad arguments. Seen from another perspective, depression is an evolutionary adaptation to help us focus and analyze.  Is it any wonder that so many people dislike school?
  • In response to Miley Cyrus’ new-ish song Wrecking Ball: I feel like you almost can’t criticize it because it’s so emotionally desperate. Not much separates it from a normal pop song, yet the haters are seen as “insensitive” because it’s “expressing her true emotions”, while most cheery pop can simply be passed off as shallow. What makes criticizing happiness more acceptable than depression?
  • On “the real me”: Often times, we only acknowledge our “true selves” when we’re depressed and secluded with no one around to see us, and consider all other interactions to be fake and artificial. (read: school) However, I refuse to believe that the times I spend hysterical and hyper are any less “real” than the not-so-pleasant emotions at the other end of the scale. (I have a feeling this is mostly an insecure teenage girl problem, but an extremely prevalent one.)
  • News reporting is ridiculously biased on reporting tragic events, while the rest of the media and society (including social media) is preoccupied with portraying happiness. What’s causing this huge gap, and is it distancing us from reality?
  • And…the overarching question: What makes sad emotions carry more weight than joy in general?
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Google Doesn’t Have All the Answers

It’s almost midnight, and I’m in a state of desperation, trying to read a textbook chapter that I may or may not remember the next morning for a test. “Crazy” by Simple Plan is softly blasting through my headphones, as the internet keeps distracting me from what I’m supposed to be doing.  The lyrics circulate through my head, and my mind unconsciously agrees with them. Can someone tell me what’s going wrong, tell me what’s going on, if you open your eyes, then you will see that something is wrong.

Nothing seems to process in my head, and I’m wondering what the heck I’m doing. My fingers float onto the keyboard and instinctively open another tab on Chrome, distracting me from my textbook pages once again. (Who needs to read about the significance of each island in Indonesia anyways?)

But I don’t know what to do. I’ve checked all my social media and used up all my distraction sites already. The textbook has no meaning to me, yet it’s the only thing keeping me awake.

The allure of the bright screen draws me in, the lights stimulating my eyes, as I blankly stare at the “New Tab” What am I trying to do?

My fingers slowly press a familiar combination of letters. Google.com.  And then the enter button. The page quickly loads, and the cursor below the multi-colored Google logo blinks at me invitingly. Now what?

That’s when I realize that I’m stuck. What can Google do for me? The company that has given me countless homework answers, that has answered random questions I had with thousands of responses, that has been my go-to for anything and everything, can’t help me now.

My situation can’t be answered through an enter and search function. In fact, I’m not even sure what the question is, or what I’m trying to figure out. Why am I even at Google?

All that I know is that it’s past midnight already, and I’m supposed to be studying for a test, and that it’s not going well.

Stories from Middle School: Partitions and the Quadratic Equation

The instructions  from our coach were simply to “review the problems we did yesterday.”  To our Mathcounts team, this came as a surprise. We had sacrificed nearly a month of our lunches to work on math problems, and we were used to reviewing each set after we finished.  But an entire lunch period for reviewing? That worked too.

The four of us, three girls and a guy, grabbed our papers, sat down at random desks in the room, and began going over the problems we had missed. However, this didn’t take very long, since most mistakes in Mathcounts occurred because of two reasons: 1) carelessness, or 2) a failure to recognize one clue that would unlock the entire question.

After a bunch of “OHHH”s and “NOOOO”s (or maybe they were all from me) we had finished “reviewing,” except for one question that none of us knew how to solve involving something called partitions.

Usually, when this happened, our coach would pull out the solutions manual, show us their brilliant way of solving the problem, and we would all be enlightened.

This time though, their solution was to make a  list. The brute force method that was always looked down upon. Not that we never used it, but in an official solution? No.  We weren’t satisfied. (or maybe it was just me again)

So we set out to find a pattern instead and crowded around the chalkboard as one of us began listing partitions. (The only way to find the intelligent method was by using the stupid method first, right?)

A few minutes later, we had filled up the entire board with partitions and supposedly spotted a pattern. Now we just had to keep testing it.

“Let’s go list the partitions for 8!” I exclaimed, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

“Yeah!” my friend replied. (a little  overly eager as well) She grabbed a sheet of paper and a marker, and we sat down and began listing.

 “Ugh, you guys are such nerds!” one of our team members told us as we methodically said partitions and wrote them down.

“Dude, you can’t say that since we’re probably all nerds,” our other team member pointed out.  He picked up the chalkboard eraser and started erasing our beautiful list of partitions.

“I’m going to derive the quadratic formula.”

 I’m not sure if that was supposed to come as a surprise or not.  I mean, I know middle schoolers typically don’t derive long algebraic formulas in their spare time, but my friend and I were the ones listing partitions. Neither of us were really better off.

So we stuck to our list as he wrote ax^2+bx+c=0 on the board.

Our team member who had called my friend and I nerds walked over to watch him, and I couldn’t resist calling out, “Who are you calling a nerd now!” Which maybe was slightly misdirected, but it  felt nice to say.

Anyways, our “pattern” for partitions ended up not working, and there wasn’t much we could do about it since finding a new pattern would be too difficult . We decided to leave our partitions and go watch the derivation of the quadratic equation that was taking place a few meters away.

At this point, I had no idea what was going on, but I watched as the left side of the equation gradually got smaller and smaller and the right side got more and more complex. And soon, the left side of the equation was just x and the right side was negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4c. All over 2a. We had the quadratic equation!!!

No wait. We didn’t. We almost had the quadratic equation. An “a” was missing in the middle.

incorrect derivation

Because I can, and because my handwriting is kind of horrible

For some reason, this cracked all of us up. Here we had this brilliant board of algebra with beautiful process and beautiful everything (ok maybe the handwriting was a little questionable, but still) and all of it was invalid because of a puny little “a” lost somewhere. Oh the irony.

“Where’s the ‘a’???”

“How do you forget an a?”

“Where’s the ‘a’???”

“I don’t know! We messed up somewhere!”

“Where?”

“WHERE’S THE A???”

Anyone walking in on us these next few minutes would have seen four hysterical kids chanting “WHERE’S THE A???” every few seconds in front of an algebra-filled board that obviously had many a’s written on it.

And that’s exactly what happened when the lunch bell rang and next period’s math class started coming in. They probably thought we were maniacs. But we didn’t really care. We just had to find that “a” (if that weren’t obvious enough already)

Our coach came up behind us and said “I see where the mistake is…”

“Where?” I immediately asked. “Wait no don’t tell us!” I wanted to find it ourselves.

But it was ridiculously hard to find a single mistake in a huge sea of algebra, (especially when we were laughing our heads off)  and our coach finally had to point out the line where we messed up.

We spent the next 30 seconds staring at the middle of the board, still saying “Where’s the A???” and still being partially hyper.

Then…I saw it.

“I FOUND THE MISTAKE!!!” I gasped in between bouts of hysteria. ” Right there! If you multiply the bottom by this then the whole fraction’s supposed to be changed because of that rule, you know, the –THERE! That’s where the a is!”

No one could understand me. They went back to searching.

A couple more seconds passed. The late bell rang. None of us moved.

Then…

“I SEE IT!” the original person doing the deriving exclaimed.

He managed to sanely explain the problem to everyone else and changed the string of mistakes it had led to until the “a” was restored to the last line. And we had it– a step by step derivation of the quadratic equation!

“YES! I FINALLY GOT IT BY MYSELF! I have to write this down!” He did deserve most of the credit. The rest of us were just watching him and getting lost. (or was it just me?)

That didn’t stop us from telling each other and the class looking at us weirdly, “WE FOUND THE A!!!”

Except there was another problem with our success. We were late to our next class. So as the beautiful derivation was being copied, my friend and I hurriedly ran out of the room, hysterically laughing, and hoping that our next teacher wouldn’t mind too much.

Not Written by Me: The Cheapening of Words: Genocide

I generously received another post from my friend Dinah a few days ago, and after being relieved that it wasn’t about anything that could potentially get me arrested, I decided to post it. This isn’t the type of stuff I normally write about but hey, that’s the whole point of guest posting, and any of you guys are welcome to submit posts! Here goes:

The Cheapening of Words: Genocide

It annoys me to no end to see people cheapening the word genocide. The more we use genocide to define things that clearly aren’t genocide, the less impact it has.

The word genocide was made to define the Ottoman Turks attempt to exterminate the Armenians (a crime the Turkish government refuses to apologize for, teach, or even admit happened).

When we’re calling black-on -black crime genocide, we’re making an egregious mistake. Genocide is the systematic attempt to eliminate an ethnic, national, religious, or racial group. Unless black gangbangers are trying to destroy the African race, it’s not genocide. Abortion isn’t genocide either and it’s not a Holocaust. Women who get abortions aren’t trying to destroy a race or religious group – it’s a fetus; it doesn’t have one yet.

By the time humanity is through comparing everything to the Holocaust and genocide, when one actually does happen, it won’t have any impact. The word genocide denotes a massive attempt to eliminate a certain group in an organized, conscious effort. Don’t dilute the word’s meaning for your purposes. There’s a reason Jews use the word Shoa for the Holocaust – too many people slap the word ‘Holocaust’ on anything they want to make look bad.

Here’s a basic checklist before you describe something as genocide (courtesy of the UN):

“Article II:  In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a)     Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

So, once you’re done, has one or all of these conditions been fulfilled? If yes, then you may call it a genocide and rest easy in the knowledge that both the dictionary and the United Nations are on your side.

Life’s a Show

I feel like now is a good time to explain the tagline of my blog– “Life’s a show. Here’s mine.”

Ever since I was little, I’ve noticed that life is essentially a huge show of impressing people, and the people who “win” are the best actors/actresses. (assuming that it’s possible to win at life, which it isn’t)

I learned that it’s not worth doing anything unless everyone  else sees it and that  how others perceive you is more important than who you actually are, because it’s all about appearances.  And this really annoys me, because almost everyone (including me) does things just to improve their own show and not because they want to.

Especially in terms of school and around other people, there’s always this pressure to act happy and “cool” and witty and un-awkward or whatever people these days need to be, or else people judge you. I would love to say that I don’t care about what other people think and that I do what I want, but that’s  not the case. I do care about other people’s opinions of me, and most of the time, I don’t think it’s good.

So this blog is a continuation of my show to prove to you guys that I am cool  and interesting and completely not awkward at all. And I’m only being half sarcastic.

If people are going to judge me, I might as well choose the show that I  put on, and if I get to choose the show I put on, I might as well choose one that I like, which hopefully is what this blog becomes. My online show to the world. For the most part, I write about whatever I want, no matter how obscure or crazy the topic is, and I’m not really on a set posting schedule. (as most of you have probably noticed)

To those of you that actually read this far, would you mind telling me your opinion of my blog?  I didn’t want to ask when I first started blogging because there wasn’t enough to base stuff off of, but now that there’s a substantial number of posts, I’d appreciate some feedback.  And tell the truth please. People have said that I write like a 50 year old and that my posts are long and boring, and I’ve accepted that. (Although if you’ve read this far, it shouldn’t be boring…right?) Anyways, I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the comments!

Writing Rants in Class

Instead of paying attention in class the other day, I decided to write  this rant.

I know it’s completely disorganized, and I wrote this in one take without a a plan and with messy handwriting, but I just wanted to be able to say everything.

I was originally planning to fold origami with this paper (hence the diagonal fold) but then I realized it wasn’t cut straight, so I wrote on it instead. And I guess I can’t connect pictures  without a noticeable line in the middle either.

Stories from Middle School: The Yogurt Ritual

My friends and I were eating lunch one day when one of us pulled out a yogurt and a spoon. Nothing special, until my friend wondered aloud, “Hey! Let’s try poking holes in this!”

And thus began one of our most bizarre lunch traditions.

After attacking the yogurt with the back of her spoon for a few minutes, my friend eagerly tapped me on the shoulder and exclaimed, “Look, look! My yogurt!”

She had poked holes onto the lid to form a face, complete with two eyes, a nose, and a wide grin. I smiled back at her.

Then she started pouring key lime pie yogurt out of the happy face. Globs of smooth yogurt came out of the Yoplait container as it happily regurgitated its green contents.

The whole scene was pretty gross to look at, but we couldn’t stop cracking up as the yogurt kept drooling onto the spoon and kept cheering on the yogurt until the last drops finally dripped out.

IMG_1579

Hopefully, this is the only drawing you’ll ever see by me.

A few days later, another one of my friends brought a yogurt for lunch.

We all chanted, “Poke holes in the lid! Poke holes in the lid!”

So we did it again, but with a couple variations. Instead of only pouring yogurt out of the mouth, we tried the eyes too. Now our yogurt was draining slime out of its eyes like a Halloween skull.

After a few more faces stabbed onto yogurt lids and excitedly spilling out their colored guts, we started referring to this as the “yogurt ritual” and we performed it religiously every time someone brought a yogurt.

This so-called ritual also had weird side effects. One of my perfectly sane friends would innocently proclaim, “It makes me happy!” in an angelic voice every time this ritual was performed, as if it were normal to enjoy watching yogurts throw up on a weekly basis.

Finally, one of us was civilized enough to realize the horrors of our actions and started complaining, “Stop doing that! It’s disgusting!”

We still did it.

However, over time, the ritual lost its…uniqueness, and then one day, my friend that started all this held her spoon in one hand and a yogurt in the other and declared, “I’m going to eat this the normal way today!”

“Yippee!” we all cheered. No more, “It makes me happy!” (even though it was pretty interesting) and “That’s disgusting!”

And there was the end of our historic yogurt ritual.

Not Written By Me: Democrats Revise Religious Policy in Favor of Pagan Gods

In exchange for reading a book, my friend Lucian agreed to write a post for me to make up for the reading time that I would have spent writing another post.

And after spending a while setting regulations on what he could and could not write about, (for instance, no South African neo-Nazi posts), this Onion-style article (read: completely fake and satirical) was produced. No offence intended to anyone.

Democrats Revise Religious Policy in Favor of Pagan Gods

WASHINGTON D.C.- Major leaders of the democratic party have unanimously decided to revise the party platform in favor of the worship of pagan gods.

This move comes after other revisions such as mandatory gay marriage and abortion for all citizens, a complete ban on all firearms and a Communist economic system where the rich and talented are systematically hunted down and executed.

This decision will favor the worship of ancient gods of Babylon and Assyria over modern religions such as Christianity and Judaism.

” I believe that idols as Baal(a Levantine god of fertility derided by the Hebrew bible as false) and Belial(the Assyrian god of war) are the true path forward for America. Shall they have the worship and sacrifice they demand, our nation shall have many glorious harvests and our warriors shall never falter!”said Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who was draped in thick scarves and robes symbolic of a high priest of Baal.

President Obama has also taken the change to heart. Last night, he lead the first official sacrificial ritual in American history. After rounding up all of the “vestiges of a false religion” like bibles, crosses and holy books of other faiths, his followers piled them around the national Christmas tree and lit a great bonfire.

The President than strode out, decked in the garb of an Hittite King. He proceeded slaughter a live goat in front of a massive, cheering crowd.

When he cast the goat into the fire, he began chanting in Ancient Assyrian, the language of the priest caste.

An expert has translated the President’s statement: ” Oh, great lord and master Baal, I implore you grant our pleas for a bountiful harvest! Bask and be pleased with us, lord, for we have brought thee tribute, in form of lamb and the idols of your false competitors. Grant us strength in battle and cause torment to those who would oppose us!”

The President then lead a mob of supporters towards the National Cathedral, where he lead them in tossing torches through the multi-million dollar stained glass windows and tearing down the stone façades.

There has been very limited support for this decision in the general public and the Republican Party.

Time

At the end of every year, people always say, “Wow, that year passed by quickly.” or “I can’t believe the year is already over.” or “That year really flew by!”. I say these things too so I can be wonderfully cliché along with everyone else, but also because I believe it too at times.

Was I still in middle school at the beginning of the year? Did I only start my blog half a year ago? Is my winter break already half over?

Why are we always surprised about time passing even though we’ve lived with it our entire life? What determines whether time passes slowly or quickly?

My explanation for this is that we’re rarely aware of time passing.  We live in a series of “nows,” and “now” is the only time that our brain is able to understand, if we even choose to notice it in the first place.

In fact, we’re so unaware of it that we need other machines to keep track of time for us.

I’ve always wanted to do an experiment where I would lock someone in a room with no clock and nothing to do for an hour (without them knowing), and ask them how long they thought they spent in there once they came out. I bet people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an hour or two. I know I wouldn’t.

This also explains the reason why “time flies when you’re having fun” When you’re being distracted (or having fun), time isn’t a concern, so theoretically, you expect to be staying in the same moment forever. However, if you’re just staring at the clock with nothing to do, all your effort is being focused on time, so you’re aware of more “nows,” therefore making the moment seem longer.

And there’s another one of my crazy theories explained. Happy New Year’s eve/early New Year’s/New Year’s/ late New Year’s depending on when you read this and what time zone you’re in right now.

Depressing Realistic Fiction

I finished reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson last night, and instead of writing another review, I really just feel like talking about the book.

Cassandra and Lia are wintergirls, two former best friends who stopped talking to each other and made a blood oath that they would be the skinniest girl in the school, skinnier than the other. Six months later, Cassandra is found dead alone in a motel room with no explained cause of death. What no one knows is that before her death, Cassie called Lia repeatedly for help. 33 times to be exact. And Lia never picked up.

Now, Lia is haunted by Cassie’s death and her guilt for not answering the phone that night, as well as dealing with her parents and stepmother who keep trying to help her with her eating disorder when she doesn’t want to get better.

wintergirls

Wintergirls reminds me of a phase I went through last summer where I just kept reading depressing realistic fiction. And honestly, I liked it. The characters are more insightful even if they’re depressed and screwed-up. In fact, it’s the screwed up-ness that gives them their free-spirited personality.

These books always makes you wonder why you even bother conforming with society when you could just do what you want and still be happy (or at least independent in a sense)

“I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how anybody does it, waking up every morning and eating and moving from the bus to the assembly line, where the teacherbots inject us with subject A and subject B, and passing every test they give us. Our parents provide the list of ingredients and remind us to make healthy choices: one sport, two clubs, one artistic goal, community service, no grades below a B, because really, nobody’s average, not around here. It’s a dance with complicated footwork and a changing tempo”

-from Wintergirls

That quote almost completely describes me, which is kind of scary, because I’m not too sure why or how I do it either. Maybe I just don’t have the nerve to go against what everyone else says. And that’s another theme that keeps going around through all these books:  You have to be strong in order to be different. Lia referred to her refusal to eat as “being strong,” and in other books, the main character either doesn’t care or manages to deal with everyone judging them or trying to “help” them.

So now that I’m questioning all of life now, on to the next book on my list: 1984. If anything, I feel like this book’ll make me go crazy and start talking in newspeak like most of the people I know who’ve read it, or just make me start thinking about everything and make me confused. Again. Yay.