Monday, March 30, 2009

As the pendulum swings!

I totally called this. The Huffington Post (which I don't read), the website that writes about originally researched news articles and explains them the way your friend would: opinionated, with a point of view, will now CREATE journalism.

Awhile back, as I was thinking of the future of my job, and the tension right now between blogs and newspapers. The problem is that newspapers put a lot of time and money into their articles, and then earn money through subscribers and ad revenues. Blogs put very little time and money into their pieces, but can turn a profit by writing "voiced" opinions of the news.

I predicted that blogs would cannibalize on newspapers until they no longer existed, and there was no more original content to mine. Then, in order to survive themselves, they would need to come up with original ideas themselves. With journalism and its big budgets already flaming out, the new projects would be on a smaller and more manageable scale (or, in this twist, funded by a non-profit). Journalism will rise from the ashes; a baby instead of a Jabba the Hut, overgrown menace.

I see this happening more than once, as blogs struggle with the investments they must make to create original content, that in turn are cannibalized by other blogs. There will definitely be a few pendulum swings before everything settles. I even see subscriber-based New York Times as within purview; I know personally I cannot live without my newspaper, and if the subscription is cheap and information again becomes barrier-based, I will need to pay money to cross the barrier.

Oh, journalism.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Goal: improve elderly-level memory

I've felt like I've been getting dumber for some time now, in a very specific way. This blog post today on the NY Times, about working memory, nailed it.

-I find myself thinking of something to say and then forgetting it: I can't hold a thought in my mind.

-I find it difficult to hold a thought in my mind in order to mull it over.

-I find myself having trouble remembering basic things, and must Google them.

These are all working memory problems. Thankfully, just as it can slip easily (or so it seems to me) it can also be regenerated with some effort. I think my problem with working memory is exacerbated by certain personality/lifestyle attributes.

-I'm no longer in college anymore, forced to do these things.

-I drink and smoke and sometimes try to hold intellectual discussions while doing both of these things (although don't know if I'll give up the wine at the book club, I think that actually still comes out a net positive)

-I am selectively stimulated in my new job. I miss interacting with people, which I don't do as much, and throwing ideas off of them. I can't be awesome in a vacuum. (ha, ha) I need to talk things out. It's annoying, because my job requires the skills I feel are slipping, but it doesn't nurture them, especially given my blog/RSS feed addiction. I totally overcheck those sites instead of working.

I feel like the best analogy is diving, where you need to be incredibly fit and flexible to dive, but actually diving does not work you intensively and long enough in order to make you more fit and flexible. You have to go elsewhere to improve yourself.

I think it's going to be my goal to improve my working memory and the depth of my thoughts.
This is going to include:

-yoga, which I do already. My instructor the other day mentioned that people who practice yoga are more mindful and listen to people when they speak to them. It requires focus and concentration, and it also decreases stress, etc., and a host of other things.

-intensive exercise. and figure out a way to get back into the water. I need to increase blood flow, push myself, and just feel activated and invigorated. I've been running on the treadmill at the gym, and I'm excited to go outside and run and rollerblade once it gets warmer.

-purposely check the ADD tendencies

-be selective about multitasking. Even listening to music, gchatting/working, etc., can be bad when I need to focus. Doing mindless work while listening to "This American Life" (which I do sometimes when I have to do data entry) is okay. And apparently doodling while thinking about something improves concentration, so situationally-dependent multitasking is okay.

-limit the amount of times I check RSS feeds. I will say this yet again.

-DISCIPLINE myself. Just because it crosses my mind to check a blog/email/bank account/that one thing/etc. DOES NOT MEAN I NEED TO DO IT THAT SECOND. More likely, I am stuck on a sentence and want to avoid it rather than buckle down and think of an answer. Knuckle down. It's my new motto.

Of course, it should be mentioned that I am doing this as I prepare to write a 2,000 word piece essentially straight through, due to my procrastination yesterday. Still, I think this was a good piece of time to set aside and think about ways that I have lapsed as of late and ways that I can fix them and be happier and smarter and more engaged in everyday life.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why abortion is murder I am okay with

The inspiration for this post comes from two things: one, the documentary I am in the middle of watching, Lake of Fire, and two, the fact that I just read The Easter Parade and a character starts to write an article about her duo of abortions but stops.

I think abortions are an incredibly tricky issue. I have been pro-choice from day one, and while I haven't wavered from that stance, my reasons for staying on this side of the debate have changed drastically.

Here's the first one: I do think that abortion is killing something, so essentially I condone murder. Before, I didn't think of a fetus as alive, just a mass of cells, even though I have seen jarred fetuses before. While watching Lake of Fire right now, they opened a scene with a glass cylinder with a tube attached, kind of a permanent, glass IV. The movie is black and white, but the cylinder abruptly filled with a fluid that could only have been bloody, pulverized mass. The camera pans right, and you see a vagina with a tube inside it. The doctor says, "It's over," and pulls out the speculum-like thing inside the vagina. Twenty weeks.

Then, because the girl was so far along, he puts the bloody mixture on a metal screen, and rinses much of it with water. He tweezes out a foot, an arm, part of the torso and head. He needs to make sure all of the baby got out for the woman's health. It's like a puzzle, like panning for gold.

That's the first operation like that I've ever seen. I assume it's dilation & extraction (or evacuation), the most common abortion procedure. I paused the doc (which, by the way, seems more pro-choice than pro-life) and immediately googled pictures of fetuses, thinking about what I would do if I were in such a situation.

It's hard. I definitely believe there is life in an unborn child, but it's a twilight life, and in between murder. The child is more alive than not, but its first breath, its integration into Earth, and being held and accepted makes it perhaps no more alive, but its existence more real and visceral.

Whenever I think of the question "When does life begin?" I think of a practice of a culture (I've forgotten which one) I studied. The babies there are not named until the seventh or tenth day. If they die before that time, they are treated differently, because they are not fully alive. To me, this seems like a practical way to deal with a high rate of infant mortality, a way to minimize the emotional impact of stillbirths and babies that die shortly after childbirth. It also shows me the range of where "life" begins. Some think it happens even before the egg is fertilized. Some think a soul is floating out there before that. Some it's at birth, some it's at conception.

I think of the legality of abortion, philosophically, as utilitarian. One is able to create more good for the mother at a time one can conveniently distance oneself from what you are truly doing. I think there are circumstances under which almost anyone would murder someone, and the unformed, unknown entity of a fetus is a particularly apt candidate. If murder is simply saying yes, pressing a button (and we know how easy that is to 'execute' from the Holocaust), then many people would do it. And do it.

Here's another thing. Even pro-lifers often hesitate when you ask the question, "If abortion were made illegal, what would you recommend as a punishment for women who have abortions [commit murder]?" No one asks for the death penalty, or even life in prison. They want the woman to recognize what she has done, to repent, to realize she has committed a sin and killed an unborn child. Which almost makes me think that they view abortion as grey murder themselves.

It's difficult to know what one would do in a situation of an unexpected pregnancy. I believe that I would seek an abortion, especially given my current situation, but I think I would also believe that I was doing something wrong and in fact selfish, and putting my needs above that of the other life. Although I think that knowing that I would not be able to provide for my child would make me feel less selfish, and more a statement of my cruel and cold practicality. I also think that if I had one abortion, I would be less inclined to have a second.

Anyway, I find the process of abortion horrific and a sad but necessary part of American society. As long as the right to choose is safe, I actually have an incredibly amount of sympathy for many pro-lifers, especially the ones without the crazy talk about a woman's place and whatnot.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One month

So I've been dating this boy for one month now, today actually, though I'm not really the type to keep track and celebrate that kind of thing. I like him. After our first weekend together we said we wouldn't date anyone else, which is essentially a bf/gf relationship. But I'm still scared to call him my b*******d. I've tried throwing the word around, and I like the idea of shouting it out from the rooftops in the abstract (i.e. facebook, where all those ex-hookups can see and hopefully be jealous), but the idea of introducing him to strangers as my boyfriend freaks me out. I mean, I guess I'm comfortable having close friends know, but I think what I must be scared of is how I judge couples. I always evaluate to see if they are a good match, if one of them seems to be dating down or up, what they see in each other. I also look at how confident a couple seems with each other, which can influence my judgment, making me care less or care more about a quality that, unmediated, would have a very clear reaction in me.

Anyway, I think I'm almost ready. Soon, soon.