Sunday, December 30, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be

     I know it's the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone is full of good cheer, and I'm sorry for being a Grinch or a Scrooge, but I wanna talk about suicide.
     I think it's really closely related to the recent portrayal of violence in the media, among other things, and so warranted. (Let me take a moment to express all of the QBA authors' deepest condolences for the victims of not just the Sandy Hook tragedy but all of the atrociously violent events of the past few weeks. Feels like society's falling apart sometimes.) Also, it is a main theme of THE greatest Christmas movie and the most inspiring movie ever, It's a Wonderful Life, so, really, no topic could be more fitting. (Many people don't know that Hamlet's famous soliloquy, probably the most famous passage in any literature ever, which lent its first line to this essay's title, is actually a debate over suicide.) So, let's talk about when suicide is a bad idea and when it maybe isn't. I will try not to be facile and say suicide is always wrong, because it's an issue I've given some thought myself.
     Right off the bat, if you believe in a religion that dictates that you will suffer eternal damnation if you commit suicide, or that you will be reborn as something worse if you commit suicide, or you wanna follow Pascal's Wager and hedge your bets, don't commit suicide. Yes, no matter what. Cost-benefit analysis says the costs are larger than the benefits in those cases. Stick it out no matter what, because you can always have hope that there is something better to come.
     What a wonderful segue point. Next, if whatever is making you consider committing suicide feels like it will pass and things will get better, don't commit suicide, because, like above, you can always hope for better things to come. It would behoove you to wait it out, because after it has passed you will not have to deal with it again. Even if there is an equal chance of things getting better or not getting better after your situation changes, you should wait it out. It would be dumb to miss out on a life that is blissfully happy on average because of a temporary patch of desperate misery.
     Now, what is left? People who are considering suicide who have not yet been dealt with believe that their committing suicide will not affect their position in whatever comes after life (whether they believe they will achieve salvation regardless or they believe in nothingness) and believe that this situation will never pass. If you are one of these people, the next step is to seek out people who have been in your position before and see if it is possible to go on to lead a happy life, or at least neutral and functional life. Many situations seem like they will never pass, but given some perspective you realize that it wasn't nearly as bad as you thought. (For example, in It's A Wonderful Life George Bailey almost kills himself over $8,000, but all is perfect in the end. For another example, in the genius movie The Apartment, C.C. Baxter recounts a story of how he attempted suicide over a girl but accidentally shoots himself in the knee instead. As he says, "Took me a year before I could bend my knee - but I got over the girl in three weeks.") If you haven't sought out perspective, you shouldn't take your own life; you'll just miss out on the girl you'll move on to in three weeks after you get over this one.
     If you seek out perspective, but can't find any examples of people who have made it to the other side, you should try to exhaust every other recourse of action first. My friends, jokingly, say that no one's allowed to commit suicide until they've had sex, because they've never really lived. I wouldn't know about that, and I imagine that's not the most constructive action, but the idea is sound; you should try to find happiness and meaning in all other avenues first. As Grant so poignantly pointed out, it's up to you to figure out what the meaning of your life will be. If you kill yourself over something that was never really important as far as what makes you happy, the direction you want your life to go in, and the meaning you want your life to have, then you'll certainly miss out.
     Also, you must consider the people who will be miserable if you commit suicide. Keep in mind that a decision to commit suicide says that you cared more about the release of your own unhappiness than you did about those people's happiness. Like I always say, there's nothing inherently wrong with being selfish, but if you are going to commit suicide, you need to come to terms with that truth.
     I have one last suggestion: give it time. This one I'll leave as a suggestion, because to say it is necessary would obviate the need for this discussion of suicide; if you give it enough time, you'll die anyway, of course. (Although, really, that's a pretty good argument against suicide. Just wait till you die, you know.) However, I do find that time, change, and perspective heal most wounds, albeit not all. Maybe you should consider taking the gamble that your wounds are of that kind.
     So, in conclusion, unless you: believe that your decision to commit suicide will not negatively affect your fate after death, believe that your situation will not pass and things won't get better, can't find anyone with greater perspective who has been in your situation and come out okay on the other side, have exhausted every other recourse of action to find happiness and meaning, care more about your own happiness than your loved ones', and have possibly given it some time to no avail, you should not commit suicide. Life is usually worth living, guys, and it's pretty short anyway. Don't throw it away.

"After all, tomorrow is another day." - Scarlett O' Hara


- Adarsh Nednur

You'll wanna live another day after you like QBA on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Crime Might be a Crime

            I mentioned in iPhone 6: for Toddlers that I was writing from outside the office of one of my professors. While I was sitting there pondering what to do with my time, I found a stack of journals that were free to a good home. Being the nerd I am, I offered them a good home. This essay was inspired by The Rich get Richer and the Poor get Prison:Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice (TRRPP), but does not have any connection with the journal and does not endorse all findings presented in it.
            Crime is a wonderfully ambiguous term. It is a crime to drink alcohol if one is below the age of 21 if he or she is in America unless the individual is married. Alcohol in general was completely illegal in America for a time. It is a crime to profess certain religions in some countries. It is a crime to smoke marijuana in Utah but not Colorado. It is a crime to do something somewhere even when it is not a crime to do the same thing elsewhere… probably.
            The above paragraph leads to several possible conclusions: there is no right definition of what crime is and what it is not (this approaches Adarsh’s view in Hitlerwas a Good Guy.); there is a society or culture out there that has the right definition of crime, and everyone else is wrong; there is a proper definition of crime, and no one has reached it yet (my view in Save $ by Not Killing People). There are other essays on QBA that state what the authors here think is the truth, but this essay is focusing on why we are at this point of legal ambiguity, regardless of if it is right or wrong.
            One of my favorite movies is O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In it, a bunch of relatively cheesy stuff and awesome songs happen, and then the line, “The law is a human institution,” spoken by the sunglasses wearing uber-sheriff, pops up, followed by even more cheesy events. What does this have to do with TRRPP and this essay? Almost everything. Stating that laws, the means through which actions are made criminal, are a creation by Man as opposed to a discovery explains why it varies so much from culture to culture.
            While two squared will always equal four no matter what symbols are used to represent the quantities and operators, the same is not true with the law. The law is the creation of precedent piled on compromise piled on making what was legal in an old country illegal in this one as a form of rebellion. They drive on the wrong side of the road in Europe, for those of you who didn’t know. However, those alterations to the law were in areas that dictated morally neutral actions. It is just as illegal to murder in America as it is across the pond.
            So what does this mean? Good question, but we generally don’t get answers here.



-Jason Rossiter

It's no crime to like QBA on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Get Your Feet Off the Table

          I’ve often heard the importance of etiquette brought into question. Why must we put on a show of our good manners at the dinner table? Must the conversations we have with new people always revolve around the weather? Personally, I too find the silverware arrangements on the tables of fancy restaurants a bit ridiculous, yet I do believe that certain social practices are extremely moot and useful in life, and that adhering to certain manners, similar to dressing well, can make life that much easier.
From a definition standpoint, I describe manners as a compilation of rules and etiquette norms. Some are more obviously useful than others. Most table-centered manners can be traced back to simple hygienic roots. For example, putting your feet on the table will sprinkle the dirt and grime from the street floors onto the chicken pot pie. And others, like never wearing brown shoes with a blue suit, are more based on taste.
In a way, observing certain manners is all a show, a way to uphold an image, yet I wouldn’t put it on the level of peacocking or “Korean pretty boys” as Jason commented about my ‘importance of dressing nicely’ essay. To me, manners are a behavioral rather than visual aspect of upholding an image. Having manners differs from having an outward fashion sense in that the main principle of manners is not to show yourself off, but rather to add to the comfort of those around you. You open doors and pull out chairs for your date. You don’t bring up uncomfortable subjects at the dinner table. You avoid laughing at a funeral and don’t talk in a movie theater.
I personally get giddy when a guy opens the door for me. It’s not like I wouldn’t be able to do it myself, (knowing me, I’d probably run straight into it before I did) but in the most subtle way, the act shows that he’s attentive to you and is looking after your comfort. That, I believe, is the basic description of the effect of most manners. The lack of them is not necessarily detrimental, but following them makes the receiver feel appreciated and can also score major points for the doer. So boys, take note. With every door you open and every chair you pull out for her, your chances of getting laid increase by that much.
               My main example comes from a dating perspective, but we can see the benefit of the application of manners in many aspects of life, such as school, work, and among friends. You don’t talk over your professor in the middle of lecture, you say 'Excuse me' when you bump into someone in the hall, you’re on time to scheduled meetings, and you cover your friend’s movie ticket if he or she forgot cash at home. And, as an extreme example, you’re generally courteous with your girlfriend’s parents. Why? Because you want them to like you and to accept you and be comfortable around you.
If you want people to view you a certain way, being courteous to them is a way of showing them that you’re worth the effort and that you care what they think of you. It’s a very direct and personal way of shaping your image in other people’s eyes; much more powerful than the clothing you wear or the car you drive.
But in that case, if you aren’t courteous, does that make you a disrespectful person? Not necessarily. However, someone who follows the rules of etiquette will end up reaping the potential benefits of following the basics and end up with an advantage in his or her social circles simply because he or she will be seen in a different light by those around him or her.

 -Julia

It's considered good etiquette to Like the groups you enjoy on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"(500) Days of Summer": Love Yourself, Maybe

  So, it's been a long while since I've written about a movie, and I rewatched "(500) Days of Summer" today, one of my top 5 favorite movies ever probably, and was struck (as I always am) by its emotional and philosophical depth. I thought it was worth talking about. Also, if you have not seen the movie, GO WATCH IT NOW. The remainder of this essay's gonna assume you've seen it, so SPOILERS ABOUND. (This is my own interpretation. If you disagree, that's cool, let me know what YOU think.)
  Right off the bat, we learn Tom's problem: "The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met 'the one.'" And this, in essence, is the conflict of the film: the existence and nature of love. This movie provides no easy answers, either; it has one of the most ambiguous endings of any film I've ever seen.
  We are taken through the disintegration of Tom and Summer's relationship, and we are shown Tom's misery. We get a very distinct and simple dichotomy of emotions: happy Tom = things are good with Summer, sad Tom = things are bad with Summer. The lesson we get is that Tom's problems all come from the fact that he has decided to define himself by his relationship with this girl, and that's why we see such a lack of consistency in his emotions. In fact, it really extends far before he ever met her; he's always defined himself by whether or not he has found love, and his old happiness was dependent completely on his hopeless romanticism. The fact is that Tom Hansen is a man of my own kind; he's in love with love itself.
  The first time we see Tom feeling not just happy, but also optimistic and independent, is when he finally quits his job at the greeting card company and slowly puts his life back together. He goes back to architecture and goes to look for jobs. In other words, HE FINDS HIMSELF. The lesson to be found is that defining yourself by external factors, people, relationships, anything, can only lead to misery, or at least inconsistency; what will really give you happiness is when you find yourself, when you are a strong and independent person, and everything else comes second to that. (Say it with me: "I'm a strong independent black woman, and I don't need no man!")
  But then we see Summer, and she's happier than she's been at any other point in the movie, all because she finally gave up her precious "independence" to settle down with someone else. "You didn't wanna be anyone's girlfriend, and now you're someone's wife," Tom says. And in the end, Tom goes after this other girl, Autumn, too. But we don't see if he ends up happy or not, just that he tried again.
  So what lesson are we supposed to take away?
  I think the lesson is that you have to know who you are and love yourself before you can let go of your inhibitions and really love someone else, but, after you get to the point where you truly love yourself, it's okay to take that risk, that leap of faith, and love someone else too. Of course, the lesson could also be that people who are happy in love have just immersed themselves in their own ignorant bliss and will never really find a consistent source of happiness, and, as Summer says, love doesn't exist, it's just fantasy. Or that love exists, and it's every bit as good as all the pop music and movies and hopeless romantics make it out to be, and those people that don't believe it will eventually discover it themselves. Or it could just be that one should never lose hope, because things always work out in the end, and fate really exists and time heals everything, or something cliched like that.
  I would suggest that you watch the movie and decide for yourself, but that you and your happiness should always be independent of other people. It's okay to love someone else, but your happiness shouldn't depend on that person loving you back. I'm worse than most at this, but I'm trying too. Be your own person first.
What a wonderful film.
- Adarsh Nednur

If you like and follow QBA, we promise we WILL love you back.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Go to College


            One thing that always rubbed me the wrong way in high school was my district’s take on college education. Somehow, the folks that decide what kind of tests and talks are given equated a degree with success; that’s a narrow worldview I don’t understand. We will now dive into possible reasons for why that view is held and attempt to form a logical rebuttal.
            College graduates make more money. As this publication from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, those with a bachelor’s degree earned, on average, 1.7 times the amount that was earned by those who were only high school graduates in 1999, and advanced degree holders earned 2.6 times the amount. Also, college students are supposed to know and understand more. At least, that’s what the shiny piece of paper they’re given symbolizes.
            That’s the argument for. Let’s poke holes in it.
            The secret to the first pro-college point is the little phrase “on average.” This is, of course, taking into account every major from Ancient Egyptian Wigs to Petroleum Engineering. There are majors that pay less than “uneducated,” or blue-collar, jobs. And the second richest man in the world according to Forbes is a college dropout. In fact, here's a list of rich and influential college dropouts. Someone with a passion, talent, or work ethic that makes the cost of college more of a burden than a benefit shouldn’t waste his or her time with it.
            In response to the second point, I have met many intelligent individuals who don’t have a degree to their name and know of many close-minded individuals who flaunt expensive PhDs, i.e. politicians. While college can help one think more critically, it is not the only instrument that does so.
            Everything eventually boils down to a simple question: Is college worth it? The answer is a resounding “maybe.”
            For some, like me, college is a must. I’m not a good enough musician, writer, chef, thief, or creative mind to challenge myself and live comfortably without a degree. I crave the knowledge that higher education can provide. I love that almost anyone I talk to on my campus has a favorite author and can tell me why. My college and career path will constantly challenge me, and I’m a junkie for the climb.
            For others, college is absolutely pointless, and there’s no shame in that, which is the exact opposite of what my school district preached. Not everyone is wired the same way. I’d feel unfulfilled if I weren’t on the path I’m on now, and others wouldn’t trade spots with me for anything.
            There are absolutely valid arguments that can be made saying more people would be able to go to college if they were given the correct motivation, but, in response, there are plenty of people in college who shouldn’t be there because they’re just wasting time, money, and space that could be occupied by a student eager to learn. A plethora of movies have been made that focus on the exploits of college students that participate in activities that are anything but academic.
            High schools shouldn’t implant guilt in their students if they don’t have the characteristics necessary for college. Humans are too unique for a one-size-fits-all life plan, so how they're treated in school can't be universal either.

[Original artwork credit Carol Fairbanks]

-Jason Rossiter

Whether you're edumacated or not, like and follow QBA.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jews for Palestine

I've avoided revealing my religion, and I'm still going to do just that. However I am of Jewish heritage. You might think because of that, regardless of what I believe in terms of superior being(s) that I support Israel, and you would be right! However I am of what I believe to be a small group of Jews (for all intents and purposes we're going to think of me as Jewish for this essay) who believe Palestine should be an independent sovereign state.

Ultimately it boils down to a very simple concept, any group of people who want to have a government should have a government. Miconationalism aside, a people or a nation with a legitimate claim to statehood should be given that right. A nation is different than a nation state. A nation is a group of people who have a common history, culture and language. A state is a political entity. Austria, while an independent state could be considered part of the German nation  because they share a similar history, language, culture with Germany and most bits of Switzerland. While on the other end of the spectrum the Cherokee Nation has an independent culture but is not recognized by the international community as sovereign (more on sovereignty later). Palestine is a nation, without a doubt. Now that they have been given observer status at the United Nations they can be seen as a state as well. 

What baffles me about the anti-Palestinian Statehood sentiment that Israel has is that Palestinian statehood is only a positive thing for Israel, yet they oppose it. It seems as though Israel is worried about a nation state run by terrorists and they have reason to fear terrorism, yet if Palestine is welcomed into the international community then it will also be accountable to international law. Thus while a terrorist organization may still exist within Palestine the Israeli government can work in conjunction with Palestine's government to bring an end to the terrorism and violence. It is in Israel's favor to have a Palestinian state. Of course what is a draw back for Israel is that it would have to stop its people from illegally settling in the Gaza Strip of West Bank. Yet even still, what's better? An end to terrorism and violence or two small extra bits of land?



-Grant 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Optimism


I am not known for my optimism, cheery attitude, nor smile. Honestly, the only notoriety I have is from my blunt and sometimes loud speech. However, in the past year, I have realized a truth that should be obvious- be happy. Be happy with what you have. Be happy about who you are. Be happy about the things you can control, and damn the things that you can’t.

This wakeup call was a longtime coming. It seems that I have spent most of my life since age eleven moping. I wasn’t moping about things that were superficial, my attitude was understandable, and my troubles were common. But I could have been happier if I just had a better attitude. I sound like a well-meaning but annoying parent right now, but hear me out. The things I was once anxious about, like my breasts (or lack thereof), my skin, growing up, friends fading away, they all have a common denominator: they are things I can’t control, and while they are sad, disappointing, and sometimes heartbreaking, I still can’t do anything to solve them.

Last October, I was told that I had a giant fibroadanoma in my left breast. To those who don’t speak medical mumbo-jumbo, a fibroadanoma is a moveable clump of cells or mass which can spontaneously develop in breasts. They are usually benign, and I was lucky, because mine was. My fibroadanoma was medically classified as “giant” because it was more than 3 centimeters long in diameter. Giant fibroadanomas are most frequently found in African women. I am as white as you can get, so my case is as statistically random as breast cancer among women can get. How often do doctors diagnose sixteen-year-olds with breast masses? Not often at all. It’s very, very rare. My fibroadanoma was no new appearance in October 2011. It had been growing exponentially since September 2010. Between the months of July and October, the size of the mass doubled. By the time October rolled around, it dominated my breast. It was hard to the touch, and really, really embarrassing.

It was removed. I had a great surgeon who specialized in removing breast masses. My teachers were flexible; I did great in school that semester after it was over.
But after my surgery, all of my friends were embarrassed to talk about why I had been absent from school. The parents of my close friends didn’t know what to say. It was a painful procedure, I still have a dent where the mass had been, and the scar is still quite clear.

But after I woke up from anesthesia, and after I found out that I did not have breast cancer, I decided that life was too short to be perpetually upset about things I can’t control. So I’m limiting my moping about politics, my lack of a social life, and school to thirty minutes. Because even though my school is really difficult, I have met so many amazing people and learned so many things about the world I would never have learned otherwise. Because even though the outcome of the presidential election determines a lot about my life, I can’t vote, and some things will never change. Because, despite the fact that it was more likely that I get into a car wreck than have a breast tumor, it happened; and I got my choice of doctors and surgeons and hospitals because I live in the best possible place to get a procedure, and thousands of women don’t have that privilege.

I have friends and family who love me, a school that has taught me more than I can say, a religious community that supports me, and a loving partner who makes me laugh on the bad days.

I am so very blessed.

So I no longer complain about how I don’t fill out bathing suit tops, nor do I despair over guys’ (stereotyped) tendency to go for girls with big boobs.

Because I’m lucky that my scar is relatively small, and that I even have any breast let over after surgery.

And while I know that this blog is mostly devoted to the things that are going wrong, and that is important to acknowledge, I just wanted to make sure that at least one entry was about something that was right.

It’s a cliché, but don’t sweat the small stuff. The things that you can’t control, while significant in your life, are not worth your angst.

It’s better to move on. 


Helen

QBA is on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

iPhone 6: for Toddlers


            A popular concern in the modernmedia, and the topic of an essay from one of our guest contributors, iscreeping privileges. Objects that were once only in the possession of the mostwell-off adults now find themselves in the grubby little hands of ourelementary school crowd. Because of the now socially acceptable action ofbestowing game consoles, state-of-the-art cellular technology, and money on children, it has beensaid that children are becoming detached from their immediate surroundings,rude to their superiors, and coddled beyond any healthy state. I would like topropose that children are no more annoying today than they were hundreds ofyears ago; the difference is that the average American (the only view I’m evenremotely enough of an expert on to state my opinion) is now living long enoughto see what was once difficult to acquire when they were children become available for a fraction of the cost and with none of the sharp edges or radiation.
            Picture yourself in Salem, Massachusettsaround 1692 and 1693. This is the height of the frenzy created over thestatements of several young girls who claimed to be possessed and controlled bywitches. Because of their accusations and the hysteria that followed, at least25 people died (I’m using Wikipedia figures; read with a grain of salt) andarguably hundreds of lives were ruined or made more difficult. One of the girls laterrecanted her accusations. The point of this example? I just wanted to givethe backstory to the play that was turned into a movie that was the basis forone of my favorite Motionless in White songs.
            Actually, the main reason for thatexample was I wanted to show historical precedent for how bad kids can be. No child nowadays will kill a Mitt Romneyquarter (one-fourth of one hundred) for attention; he or she will just whine onFacebook, and Twitter, and Tumblr, and MySpace (recently renovated), and LiveJournal,and Instagram, and in class. The idea that children are being made worse by theprivileges they get today seems implausible, but they are getting less sunlightbecause they’re playing Modern Warfare 24 instead of dancing naked in the woodstrying to conjure the Devil.
            Another reason people make such aruckus over what privileges kids get is because of how quickly what once wasexpensive and a novelty becomes everyday expectations. I’m writing this essayon the laptop I got for college while waiting for my professor to finish talkingto another student, a concept that would be the basis of science fictiontwenty-five years ago but is so commonplace to me I’d be confused if I didn’tsee at least one other student on his or her laptop in the hallway, and thereis a girl right next to me on hers as I type this. The idea thatlittle kids are spoiled by PS3s and iPads only works if one is stuckconsidering what that item would have meant when he or she was the same age. IfI got my first laptop when my dad got his, I’d be the envy of every child.Since I didn’t get my first laptop until I was halfway to 19 (and it’s not evena MacBook!), I’m probably considered underprivileged as far as folks from my part of the world are considered. Not to mention I didn't get a car for my sixteenth birthday. How's that for a shocker from a middle-class brat?
            There is no doubt that children canbecome treacherous little gremlins if given undue privilege, but the idea thatchildren are becoming those little gremlins because they get forlittle effort what would have cost an average year’s wage in 1970 doesn’t seemconvincing upon closer inspection. There's a deeper force at work, their perception of how the world works as shaped by those in power over them. The toys can, but don't have to be, merely a symptom. On the other hand, I still don’t have aniPhone, but every middle-schoolerdoes. Little jerks…



-Jason Rossiter

Like QBA on Facebook, and follow on Twitter on your nifty iPhone, you spoiled creature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From Mick Jagger's Mouth to Your Ears

  Dear readers, usually my QBA essays concern topics that I really think most people haven't thought about or have accepted prematurely or about ideas that I think worth sharing. However, today I want to write about something most people have thought about, and probably have reached the same conclusions as I have, because I think it's something that needs to be written down and said: "You can't always get what you want." This is about what to do when that happens.
  I kind of wanna define an algorithm, or flowchart, if you will. There are three responses to not getting what you want out of life, as I see them. Which you should pursue depends on the situation and your priorities.

  First choice: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. We must clearly define this choice, however; trying again does not mean doing the same thing over again. Albert Einstein defined insanity thus: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Repeating yourself is actually the third choice, which we will get to in due time. Rather, trying again implies taking things to the next level, trying a new way to reach the same goal, increasing your resolve and resources and trying harder.
  Now, should you try again? That depends on your answers to three questions. Is this worth enough to you to invest more time and energy into it? Is there any higher level at which you can try from your previous attempt? Is it possible that trying again, at a higher level, will produce a different result? If the answers to all three of these are "Yes," then the first choice is for you.
  Let's provide an example, as examples are our friend in sound logical thinking. As always, love is the most accessible field in my mind. So, let's say you ask that girl (or guy) that you really like to prom, and she says no. If you really like her, and you think she kind of likes you too, and maybe if you bring her some flowers this time and ask again she'll say yes, you should try again. (Okay, so it's not the best example. Shush.)

  Second choice: If at first you don't succeed, consider giving up. If you try, and you don't get what you want, and you don't think it's worth trying again, move on. In other words, if your answer to the first of our three guiding questions ("Is this worth enough to you to invest more time and energy into it? Is there any higher level at which you can try from your previous attempt? Is it possible that trying again, at a higher level, will produce a different result?") is "No," then you should move on.
  Given our above example, let's say that after the girl says no, you decide that you don't like her enough to waste more time on trying to convince her instead of finding another date. That's a perfectly serviceable and efficient decision, and at that point you should pursue other options.

  Third choice: If at first you don't succeed, wait it out. A while back, I would have thought that this is really no decision at all. "Choosing not to act? How can that be an action?" But to explain why it is, I shall use economic terms, which is how Jason phrased it.
  In economics, supply and demand curves are defined using ceteris paribus conditions. Basically, supply and demand curves show how much quantity of a product is supplied or demanded based on changes in price. Ceteris paribus translates roughly to "All other things held constant", meaning that every variable except for price and quantity supplied or demanded is held constant. The interesting thing is, however, that if one of those other variables changes, the whole curve shifts, and it completely changes the equilibrium point. In fact, not only that, but in perfectly competitive industries the curve shifts on its own given enough time. This means that, if you can cover at least the cost of the building you're working out of, waiting it out is a perfectly legitimate option in economics.
  In real life as well, waiting it out is waiting for a change in ceteris paribus conditions, which'll change the equilibrium point completely, completely redefine the status quo. This may be the option for you if, given our three guiding questions ("Is this worth enough to you to invest more time and energy into it? Is there any higher level at which you can try from your previous attempt? Is it possible that trying again, at a higher level, will produce a different result?"), you answer yes to the first question but no to either of the other two questions.
  Maybe you're in love with that girl, and you asked her to prom using a personal fireworks and parade show and bankrupted yourself and she still said no. Maybe it's time to wait for her to come to her senses and see things differently, at which point she'll say yes.
  Buyer beware, though, at a certain point, it may be time to move on regardless of whether you want to or not, regardless of how much it sucks. You could go insane otherwise fixating on the same thing forever.

Thanksgiving Holiday Note: This is an essay about not getting what you want, but I'd like to remind everyone to be thankful for the times they do get what they want. It's a miraculous gift from the universe, and you should cherish it. For example, I'm thankful for the fact that a few times a month I get to get on my soapbox and share my thoughts with the world (or at least the Interwebz), and that you people are on the other end to make me not feel insane. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day!
- Adarsh Nednur

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Tick Tock, Tick Tock



You are alive. Your heart is beating. Electric impulses are shooting across the neurons in your brain. You are now aware of the fact that you are breathing, swallowing, and blinking.
The physics major in me likes to look at life from a science-y perspective. We are clusters of particles that configure into amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids that are further clustered into tissue, bones, and fluid. The only reason you’re here, at this very moment, reading this essay, is because generations upon generations of first unicellular and later multi-cellular organisms have mutated and evolved into what we at present acknowledge as the natural world. The smallest difference in the construction of this delicate balance of material, and the world as we know it would be completely different. Trees would be purple, and who says there would even be trees? For example, many astrobiologists debate that life on other planets could be supported by silicon as opposed to our current carbon.
               Many will probably disagree with my cut-and-dry view of the origin of life, but to each his own. Another thing that 100% of the world will disagree with me about is what to do with the life we’re given. We exist, we can think, walk, and talk, now what? No two people on earth have the same response to this question.

In his earlier essay, “The Meaning of Life”, Grant suggested that in life we seek “metaphysical and spiritual joy”, a premise that I personally agree with and will use as the base assumption of this essay.
 We all experience joy in different ways, and we tend to cluster and connect with those who do so similarly to ourselves. But the beauty of it is that on one’s view can be valued higher than anyone else’s. We can claim to have accomplished more in comparison to others, but the value of these accomplishments in itself is based solely on personal opinion.
The simple fact that there is no singular, concrete answer is the cause of so many losing hope in life as they drown in doubt. I’ve found that those who manage to keep afloat have either depended on religion for an answer or have made up their own.

When contemplating existence and what we should do with our short time on earth, we often hear the phrase, “Find something you love and stick to it.” However, it’s easy to see how this phrase could get distorted into, “But I love getting high, playing Halo 4, and jerking off. Sometimes all at the same time.” You just either nodded and smiled or cringed in disgust. But for those of you who did just gag, I must ask this: why is what I said so wrong? Why, if being a couch potato is what brings a person the greatest joy, is it so frowned upon? In QBA’s first published essay, “On Aiming Low”, Jason made several great arguments for laziness. He brought up the principle that if we are already satisfied with our lives, we should not waste our time putting in more work.
In many ways, I agree with his assertions, antithetical to his own beliefs as they may be. But I’d like to explore the topic more and investigate the reasons why many people do, in fact, choose to put in any additional effort into their lives.
We are taught to have a bad association with idling and laziness. Hell, it’s even in the 10 commandments.  I believe that the main reason we are constantly being pushed to perform past our own level of satisfaction is because society thrives on it. Sleepless nights and overworked bodies are the backbone of progress.  If everyone decided to scoot away from their desks, put down their power tools, and pop open a beer because they were satisfied with their current situation, the world as we now know it would crumble to pieces. We are always being pushed to want something more. A new car, a new bag, a promotion; anything to get us up at 8am in prospects of our next paycheck.
            Another point is guilt. Many ex-couch potatoes eventually get a job and clean up because they see that their poor existence is straining their family’s well-being and that they are hurting them by doing nothing with their lives. So many people set their goals on the basis of “making someone proud”, or “doing it for someone”. But what if you really don’t care about anyone else other than yourself? What if you are perfectly comfortable with burdening your relatives and friends. Then you don’t have a reason to get up off the couch and you won’t feel guilt for not doing so. The only reason this type of motivation works is because we are brought up with and conditioned to respond to it. 

Everyone at one point or another is concerned with the what they should do with the rest of their lives, but when it comes to that point, in all honesty, DO WHAT YOU WANT. I agree with Jason on the premise that life is too short to spend it grade grubbing and making people happy. But if both of those fit the agenda for something you are passionate about and have focused your interests on, by all means, toil away.

And now, dear reader, I must leave you with the rather uncomfortable question to consider of: “How are you planning to find happiness in life?”


 -Julia

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rise of the Introverts


            This may surprise some and be obvious to others, but I don’t like socializing with people. In my free time, I like to be as far away from social contact as possible. If I was given the choice between a night alone with iTunes and homework or a party (and I have been given that choice before; I’m at a certified party school) it would be no contest. I would be found still up at 2 in the morning on a Friday finishing some homework or other and not having said a word in hours. That’s just how I seem to be wired.
            I’m not one wont to lean heavily on personal stories to convey a point in my essays, but I feel like I must here. The University of Texas (my school) has over 51,000 registered students and 1,100 student organizations, and every one of those organizations is vying for as many members as possible. Big clubs look great on resumes, etc. In order to get a large membership, or, in the case of the various religious institutions surrounding campus, keep students involved with that specific institution, a plethora of social events are held.
            I abhor social events. Personally, I don’t understand them. If I enjoyed someone’s company enough to want it in my free time, I wouldn’t need an organized event as an excuse to hang out with him or her. This is the premise of A Christian Against Christmas. And if the point of the social event is to get acquainted with others who have the same interests or talents, wouldn’t I meet them at work, or class, or a cultural concert (if it’s a cultural club), or a political rally (if it’s a political group), or at a service (if it’s a religious club or institution)? No one joins a club or a church to socialize. At least, in my opinion, the right reason to join an organization is never to socialize. So why do groups set up social events?
            The majority of Americans are social people, 50-74% according to the first study that came up with a Google search. People of importance that would fall into this category are: three fifths of the QBA writers, my roommate, and my girlfriend. Okay, people of importance to me; you might not know them. Anyway, because the majority of people are social, or extroverted, to start using the smart-person terminology, it behooves groups to be social on the surface. Many people, especially my contemporary college students, will advocate any cause if they can do so in a crowd of talkative peers with light refreshments.
            I, and my fellow introverts, join clubs based purely on alignment of the clubs’ ideals and our own, go to religious institutions for the service and the food, and are frankly sick and tired of a thousand people making small-talk for no reason. We understand the need for interaction, of course. (Susan Cain actually has a wonderful TED Talk on introverts in the work place and in general.) Some introverts are less social than I – yes, that’s possible. To be honest, I'm probably an ambivert since I have periods of desiring stimulation and periods of ignoring everyone  – so I can’t assume that they all would react like I will, but I will happily work in a large group; I was very active in marching band in high school. And I have no problem with crowds and can hold amiable conversation when necessary. I’d just love for it to be acceptable to eat in peace and not to have every staff member of every organization I’ve been to an event for think I was lost and depressed since I wasn’t talking with anyone.
            Another fun personal fact: When I was a kid, my dad tried to entice me to go to a block/pool party by having the cutest girl at the party knock on our door and invite me. I went to the party long enough to tell my dad that he should either tell me I was required to be there or for him to leave me alone and then went back to my computer games. I was one awesome jerk of a kid.


-Jason Rossiter

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Value of Comedy

What value does comedy actually have in our world? Obviously its something that makes us happy, but does it contribute anything to our society. Some dramas, be it literature or film, makes the audience think about a given topic that the book/film was based around. What can be said for Comedy?

Comedy in a slapstick or silly form may be of little value beyond making people happy. Happiness is something that society needs though. If we didn't have comedy suicide rates would almost certainly be higher. After a long day of skull numbing work it's nice to be able to take yourself out of the equation and not worry about what goes on in the outside world. This was big business during the Weimar Republic when scores of Cabarets opened in Berlin to capitalize on the people's economic woes. In this sense comedy is worth quite a lot.

Comedy is also a medium that makes you think, or at least some of it is. Satire is particularly useful. This is a form of humor that does make you think. Satire is a genre that requires active participation for it to be funny. In order to understand satire one must be conscious of events outside the humor, and while The Onion might have funny articles for the "politically illiterate" those who are aware of National and International goings on will find these articles much funnier. For those people who understand events and concepts beyond the satire it makes them think about those issues, or at least it makes me think about them. The reason for this being that satire brings into question the topic and criticizes it. By suggesting the extreme of the same issue or by going to the other extreme to make a point about how ridiculous the subject it brings into question how sane the people who actually believe in whatever the topic of the satire might be. Perhaps for some the best way to make them think about an issue is through the absurd, because it really brings into question the various beliefs a person might have in a way that is engaging and fun.

So the value of Comedy? I say that it's worth quite a lot.

We don't live forever, so smile!

-Grant

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trust Politicians To Be Politicians

  Behold! A politically themed essay for election week. (I'd normally not write anything politically themed and risk exposing my ignorance, but a topic presented itself this past week.)
  You know who confuses me? People who become "disenchanted" or "disillusioned" with the American political system of representative democracy because of their increasing cynicism in politicians confuse me. They don't make sense. My economics teacher (who also teaches a government class which I am not in) likes to make it a big point that the primary goal of political parties and political candidates is to get elected to office and hold positions, not to help people or make a difference in issues or any such thing (answers he seems to consider idealistic hogwash and dismisses offhand). He seems to imply that because of this goal of members of our political establishments, we should lose faith in our governmental structure and believe it isn't functional anymore.
  Here's the thing. I accept completely that political parties and candidates just want to win office, which is proving to be true, and increasingly so; even those candidates who enter politics for idealistic reasons are forced to play the game so they can get reelected and make some marginal difference. (By the way, The Ides of March. Watch it. Good movie, and a scathing indictment of the political system that runs completely counter to everything I'm going to say here and validates it all at the same time.) What I disagree with is that this is any reason to lose faith in our political system.
  What people seem to fail to remember is that cynicism is built into our political system. Representative constitutional democracy, especially one with as many checks and balances built into the constitution as the United States of America has, is founded on the principle that if everyone does what's best for themselves, the government can do what does the most good for the people. The fact that some people also try to advocate the best position for those outside of their own group is an added bonus, certainly, but not inherently necessary for most issues, unless those groups are underrepresented in a way that means they do not get their voice heard. The United States of America is pretty good about getting everyone's voice heard on most issues, though.
  Our economics teacher brought up the example of Obama using the Hurricane Sandy disaster as a photo op with a woman (who wept with joy over the fact that the president came to see her personally) so close to Election Day. Maybe he IS exploiting a disaster, but the point is that he is doing good things regardless, he made someone happy regardless, whether his intentions are selfish or selfless.
  This, of course, brings up the important question of what you actually want in your political leaders; do you want them to be good and ethically admirable people or effective leaders? That's up to you, and, I guess, if we can't have both and you would forgo effective leaders for ethically admirable people, you have a right to be upset with the state this country is in. I, for one, expect my political leaders to be political leaders, ones who agree with my positions on issues and such. I'd much rather get moral satisfaction from other types of people, like friends or role models.

Follow the picture's link and read the mouseover text, and that's basically what representative democracy does for politicians.

- Adarsh Nednur

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Case for Halloween Sluts


Foreword: "We" will generally refer to me and the female population.

The costumes we wear on Hallow's Eve change steadily over time, more noticeably for women. I would image most guys will always be OK with dressing up in the same Batman costume, but Snow-White's skirt seems to get shorter every year. Many of my friends seemed truly disgusted each time they spotted a scantly-clothed female strutting around campus. Personally, I went as Korra for Halloween, and yet I see little fault in these girls who choose to dress so once a year while containing themselves in modest dress for the rest of it.

 In one of my earlier essays, "Silly Grown-Ups, Flying is for Kids", I equated childhood with a worry-free existence during which our minds wander and we are convinced we can do anything our little hearts desire. It's a time when our wildest fantastical thoughts and dreams are free to run wild and are as real as our 96 Crayons box. On Halloween, we dress up as princesses and fairies because to us, they represent the ideal happiness we yearn for, even at an early age.

 As we near adulthood, these dreams and fantasies become increasing real-world.  We learn (to our great disdain) that unicorns aren't real and Prince Charming likes to take his time exploring his options. Our goals become more down to earth, so too do our desires.

However, we may still use Halloween as an outlet to satisfy our fantasies, even though they may no longer involve tiaras and horse-drawn carriages. Many women choose to spend that one night in the skin of a girl comfortable with her body and confident in her sexuality, which is the equivalent of a fantasy for many. Just as the Disney princesses spend that one night curtsying and twirling in place, their older, sexy bunny counterparts spend it shamelessly flirting with the surrounding superheroes and naval officers. 

  I believe that Halloween, much like a club or rave, gives "grown ups" an opportunity to shed their public face for one night and revert back to their childish ways as they express their inner desires and fantasies that they keep under lock and key the other 364 days of the year. So while the younger generation is out groveling for candy, their older siblings are out in their fishnets, doing everything they would never do on any other day.

So even though we may be quick to slander and name-call the various lingerie-clad animals, they are, in theory, guilty of little more than adding a real-world, PG-13 factor to the fantasies they've had since their first Halloween. Plus, what's a party without a sexy Snow White?

Hey big boy. You look like you could be my Prince Charming ;)
-Julia

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Balance?

            Balance, they say, is healthy. Do too much of something, and you’ll burn yourself out. You’ll drive yourself mad. You’ll send yourself to an early grave. Without balance in your life, you will be a stressed and miserable excuse for a person, teetering on or flying, screaming, over the edge of insanity. Everyone needs time to relax, time to think about other things. No one can focus on anything forever. You’ve got to recognize that you’re human and accept that. Cut yourself some slack. Go easy. Step back and firmly inform your harried mind that it is not a robot and, being such, cannot act like one. Even if it wants to try. We are all human, and humans are fallible, and that is perfectly fine and normal, and you’d terrify everyone if you were perfect all the time. And they tell you this over and over again, and pretty soon you can reach back into your head and press a little button, and a perfect audio recording of them saying it plays back in a practically endless loop because you can’t find the button that makes it stop. Then you wish you’d never pressed play, but you get the irritating feeling that it would probably have switched itself on even if you’d never touched it. 
            No one likes being told that they aren’t capable of things, and now you’ve got that stupid tape going in your head, and it’s even less willing to stop telling you you’ve reached your limit than the actual person was. Clearly, drastic measures are needed. Let’s look at the options available. The one the voice seems to like the most is giving in. Admit that you’ve stretched yourself too far and actually do something about it. That, however, is unacceptable. It would be way too hard. You know you’re right. If you were to even consider that you were wrong… No. Those thoughts are locked away in an underground vault with twelve-foot thick walls of reinforced concrete for a reason. The doors, though, are in terrible shape. You distinctly remember ordering that one twelve-inch steel door be put in place, but somehow during construction, you ended up with seventeen splintery wooden doors plus a rather inexplicable yellow plastic cat flap. They’re holding, but you’d rather not get too close. Besides, you’re not supposed to listen to voices in your head. Obey them once, and pretty soon they’re telling you to brutally murder everyone you love. 
         What else is there? Becoming that robot everyone says you aren’t seems like a pretty attractive possibility. Of course, even robots have flaws. Walking, for instance. Even the ones that are capable of walking aren’t fantastic at it. The band director would be extremely displeased, and he’d probably kick you out which, if you think about it, would reduce your workload, thus obeying the voices. Robot’s out. Time travel? Lovely idea, a shame it’s still in the gruesomely imperfect testing stages. Besides, the risk of destruction of the universe or, at the very least, discovery is simply too high. Also, more time for the same amount of work would be basically the same as the same amount of time for less work, so that would probably please the voices, and we really can’t have that. You want to crush them, not appease them so they leave you alone. So no time travel either. 
          Let’s see – gah! Look at the time! And you’ve still got a physics worksheet and history reading and a chapter of chemistry and those pre-cal problems you should have finished a week ago and that English project you were assigned a month ago and haven’t even started working on! You can’t waste time thinking about whether you’ve got more work than you can handle, you need to get it done! How could you let it go like this? Forget about the stupid balance issue, that pesky sanity thi – Wait. Forget about it? Yeah, OK. Ignore it. Maybe it will go away? Stop thinking about it. Right. Physics. Let’s see… 
         One moment. Is that… laughter?



-Emma Foster

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