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

If you're thankful for QBA, get more of what you want on our Facebook and Twitter.

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

Work out your neurotransmitters and Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Be adventurous; check out QBA on Facebook and Twitter.

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

It would make us all laugh and smile if you were to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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

QBA is on Facebook and Twitter!

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

Agree? Tweet about it. Disagree? Facebook it.