Stephen Bahl (nedu) wrote,
Stephen Bahl

Re-post from new blog (November 28th, 2009)


Some stuff I've been thinking about around the time that is now or perhaps in the very recent past...

In The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, there are sections that seem to outline what one might call the mainstream skeptical views on certain claims (about stuff). I've seen pretty much the same line of reasoning elsewhere too, and the typical skeptical view on UFO's (unidentified flying objects) is that claims about them are the result of various things but that there is not nearly enough evidence, if any really, that these sightings reflect actual space aliens. The sightings can be attributed to hoaxes, hallucinations, simple lies, and misidentifications/embellishments of real events. It's that last one that is given the most weight. People really do see things in the sky. I myself once saw a UFO (it just looked like a big red light up in the sky though). So the idea is that they see these things and their brains play tricks on them or they get confused about the details or simply make extraordinary claims about mundane things. Under this view, sightings might be attributed to weather balloons, satellites, aircraft, the planet Venus, etc. I understand that UFO proponents (believers?) have some counterarguments against this and without really knowing much or bothering to learn much about either camp, I find myself rejecting both with what is practically a "plague a' both your houses" mentality. What do I attribute sightings to? Hallucinations. Sure, there are some known hoaxes and there have probably been some unknown ones too, but they're pretty rare. And yeah, maybe sometimes people see ordinary things and get confused about them, but the actual reports I've seen are hardly ever like that (although my own sighting might very well have been in this category). They're just too extreme. Finally, maybe some of them really do represent sightings of real space aliens. It's possible, I suppose. But I think most of them are hallucinations. It happens. People hallucinate. I hallucinate. I think most people hallucinate. Is it really that crazy to think that there might be circumstances under which a lot of people hallucinate about similar things? In fact, there are some areas where this is well known to be the case. Just ask people who have experience with psychoactive substances: some of them tend to produce the same results for lots of (or even all) people. I've yet to see anyone articulate this stance on UFO's, but it seems more plausible to me than any of the other stuff I've heard.

I doubt I'll be going back to some point in my past with all of my memories intact anytime soon (unless I meet a magic genie with a penchant for that sort of thing), but I think if given the opportunity, I'd take it. And not out of regret: I am more or less happy at the moment and quite optimistic for the future. It's just that if I wasn't going too incredibly far back, I would jump at the chance to see what would happen if I knew then what I know now. What might hold me back would be the prospect of losing what I've already accomplished, but so little of that is tangible. Most of the things that I have now and didn't have in the past that I really appreciate are experiences, and I'd be taking those with me. There are also relationships with people. Even though I would remember them, other people would not. Of course, I could still know and interact with those same people, just with the odd bit about me having some memories of things that, as far as everyone else was concerned, never happened. It's not so simple as only that, though. Other people, having different experiences than they have now, would become different, if only slightly. But if they don't like that, too bad. I'd still be much too curious to abstain from going back. I'd jump at the chance, to a point. I'd probably go back without hesitation if it were to when I was in high school. If it were when I was really young, there would be consequences to being that young and knowing all the things I know now (unless I did a good job of hiding my knowledge) that I'm not sure I'd want to bother with, even if they'd be interesting. This leads me to wonder what the "point of no return" at which I would refuse to go back might be. And will it change as I get older?

I go back to Green River in January. This seems far stranger to think about than it should. I haven't been there since June of last year. But there was a period of time, not sure how long, where the place was like home to me. Seriously, at some level of consciousness I thought of the library in particular (and the science buildings too, but they're torn down now, which is another thing that might make going back weird) as home moreso than my house. But when I was finally getting ready to graduate, I was really looking forward to leaving. I even remarked that I'd never to have to enter a certain building again (and now apparently it turns out that I was wrong about that). It's not that I didn't like going to school there. I think it was that I didn't like working at UPS while I was also going to school there. I didn't like falling asleep all the time because I was incredibly tired from my stupid job and it was too early in the morning. I didn't like certain assignments. I didn't like mistakes I'd made. But overall, I was pretty happy there. Going back though, I don't know. I think the main problem is that the classes I want to take are not available at Green River. I am taking statistics and German. But I want to take more chemistry, dammit. That was the whole point of applying for the University of Washington. So I'm going back to a place I really liked, but I'm going back. I want to move on. I should have moved on already. I was trying to move on. And instead I'm going back. But it's to a place I really liked. And I think the conflict between those emotions is what makes it strange.

I just found out that animals that are active primarily around dawn are "matutinal." That's right, there is a word to describe the infernal behavior of being up and about in the morning. Why any creature would do such a thing, I do not know. Insects and other lower lifeforms I will excuse. They are practically slaves of their own circadian rhythms or whatever. But humans? And it occurs to me that in a little over a month, I will once more join the ranks of the matutinal damned. Well, it would have happened if I got into the University of Washington and it's happening anyway. Sometimes, we must make sacrifices. And sometimes, those sacrifices include being awake when any sane individual would be sleeping. And I am determined not to sleep through my classes. I don't know when I will sleep though. Maybe at night? Can that work? Is that even possible?

Back to the subject of college, I took two years of chemistry (one year of general chemistry and one year of organic chemistry). I guess I actually took three years of chemistry because I also had chemistry all through my junior year of high school, so I've studied it more than any other subject (depending on how you count). And yet it was not until well after I left college that I was able to say that chemistry was what I wanted to do. How was my reaction so delayed? How was I able to go to class that whole time without thinking, "This is so awesome that it is more awesome than anything else"? Am I retarded? Did I wake up one morning and go, "That chemistry stuff that I used to do: I want to do that for the rest of my life"? I really don't get it. I would think that this should be some sort of warning sign, that maybe I am fooling myself somehow. But how?

And speaking of the chemistry I took in high school, I almost forgot about that because it was mostly the same material I covered in Chemistry 140. At the time, I thought of 140 as a review of high school chemistry and was really annoyed by this. But somehow the most significant thing about this to me was that I managed to be annoyed about the college class and that I was needlessly reviewing basics. It adversely affected my attitude and my performance. It might be part of why I didn't realize just how fond of chemistry I was, now that I think about it. What now seems easily more significant than my own petty and quite temporary inconvenience is that 140 lasted one quarter. My high school chemistry covered two semesters. Alright, so high school quarters are different from college quarters. Whatever. They still covered the same material in a quarter in college that they did in a year in high school. And better. So what's the explanation? They went into more detail in high school? No, not really. They did more labs? Well yeah, there was a whole damn year to do them. Proportionally, I don't think they did more labs. The instructors in college were just that much better? Well, they were generally better, but they weren't superhuman. I don't think this accounts for everything. High school students just can't handle the pace that college students can? Bullshit. Green River is full of running start students anyway and I was only a year out of high school at the time and I'm still immature compared to the average high school student anyway. This is even more pronounced with the biology classes. But that gets me thinking about education in general.

And speaking of education in general, I know that my understanding of it now is completely different from when I was in high school. And it's not because I'm more mature or have some adult perspective or something. It's a direct result of going to college (which is sort of the theme for this post apparently, even though I did not plan that). After reading something this year that I wrote back in 2005 (before I'd started at GRCC), I've been thinking ever since that my notions about education and what it should be like were really stupid back then. I've become a bit obsessed with education and what it should be like, really. But I'm sure my perspective is still a bit warped because I've given almost zero thought to, uh, younger ages. That seems odd. I think when most people see or hear the word "education" they think of kids and probably kids in elementary school. That's my impression anyway. I know that when I see or hear the word "education" I think of myself. Vain? Maybe. Anyway, nascent people are people too. Important people, even. Or so I hear. And education has to address them. How? Man, I have no idea. I don't know how to teach kids anything. And this is hilarious, because I know I've complained about the educational system being messed up somehow, but as children go, what needs fixed and how would we go about fixing it? I have no idea. For all I know, it could already be optimal. That makes me complaining about it being messed up seem pretty funny, don't you think? I think so. I mean, I'm pretty sure that at some point not all that long ago I said education was the number one political issue for me, and now here I am admitting that I know nothing whatsoever about it!

Uh, I fully intended for this to pretty much be the replacement for my old Livejournal and I thought the only change was going to be that this is a blogger instead of an LJ. Same old stuff, just a different place. That does not seem to be what happened. I mean, I had some self-deprecating stuff on LJ, but this is different. Or is it? I think so. Probably. Anyway, I have to stop writing this post now. I thought it was going to be contemplative, but it seems that instead I just keep trying to tear my own psyche to shreds. Yeah. Not sure what's up with that. Bye now.
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