Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Just a side note before I get to the point:

It's no secret that I love Ayn Rand's novels and (very generally speaking) the philosophy that her work embodies. A couple of years ago, I had to do a research paper on a well-known author and I chose her. As part of the paper, I sent away for some literature from the Ayn Rand Institute and signed up for emails. I typically don't get all the way through reading the emails before becoming irritated. It seems the authors of the articles take individual rights to such an extreme because of their word choices that it is actually hard to read. I enjoy well-supported view points, and I can't say that I theoretically disagree with the articles, but when the attitude the author takes is so absolute that I find myself trying to find some flaw in their logic just so I can argue, I have to walk away. Last night, I decided to read one and I actually loved it, so I am going to share.

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions last year and I wasn't planning to this year because it's become such a routine thing that no one ever seems to stick to, so what's the point? But, this article was rather motivating and I will dig deep and come up with something meaningful to resolve myself to and get back to you.

Anyhow, here's the article:

The Meaning of New Year's Resolutions
By Alex Epstein

Every New Year's Eve millions of Americans make New Year's resolutions. Whether the resolution is to get out of debt, to spend more time with loved ones, or to quit smoking, these resolutions have one thing in common: they are goals to make our lives better.

Unfortunately, this ritual commitment to self-improvement is widely viewed as something of a joke--in part because New Year's resolutions go so notoriously unmet. After years of watching others--or themselves--excitedly commit to a new goal, only to abandon the quest by March, many come to conclude that New Year's resolutions are an exercise in futility that should not be taken seriously. "The silly season is upon us," writes a columnist for the Washington Post, "when people feel compelled to remake themselves with new year's resolutions."

But such a cynical attitude is false and self-destructive. Making New Year's resolutions does not have to be futile--and to make them is not silly; done seriously, it is an act of profound moral significance that embodies the essence of a life well-lived.

Consider what we do when we make a New Year's resolution: we look at where we are in some area of life, think about where we want to be, and then set ourselves a goal to get there. We are tired of feeling chubby and lethargic, say, and want the improved appearance and greater energy level that comes with greater fitness. So we resolve to take up a fun athletic activity--like tennis or a martial art--and plan to do it three times a week.

Is this a laughable act of self-delusion? Hardly. If it were, then how would anyone ever achieve anything in life? In fact, to make a New Year's resolution is to recognize the undeniable reality that successful goal-pursuit is possible--the reality that everyone at one time or another has set and achieved long-range goals, and profited from doing so. Indeed, not only is it possible to achieve long-range goals, it is necessary for success in life. To make a New Year's resolution is also to recognize the undeniable reality that rewarding careers and romances do not just happen automatically--that to get what we want in our lives, we must consciously choose and achieve the right goals. We must be goal-directed.

Unfortunately, a goal-directed orientation is missing to a large extent in too many lives. It is all too easy to live life passively, acting without carefully deciding what one is doing with one's life and why. How many people do you know who are in the career they fell into out of school, even if it is not very satisfying--or who have children at a certain age because that's what is expected, even if it's not what they really want--or who spend endless hours of "free time" in front of the TV, since that's the most readily available form of relaxation--or who follow a life routine that they never really chose and don't truly enjoy, but which has the force of habit?

Too often, the goal-directedness embodied by New Year's resolutions is the exception in lives ruled by passively accepted forces--unexamined routine, short-range desires, or alleged duties. It is the passive approach to happiness that makes so many resolutions peter out, lost in the shuffle of life or abandoned due to lost motivation. More broadly than its impact on New Year's resolutions, the passive approach to happiness is the reason that so many go through life without ever getting--or even knowing--what they really want.

It is a sad irony that those who write off New Year's resolutions because so many fail reinforces the passive approach to life that causes so many resolutions--and so many other dreams--to fail. The solution to failed New Year's resolutions is not to abandon the practice, but to supplement it with a broader resolution--a commitment to a goal-directed life.

This New Year's, resolve to think about how to make your life better, not just once a year, but every day. Resolve to set goals, not just in one or two aspects of life, but in every important aspect and in your life as a whole. Resolve to pursue the goals that will make you successful and happy, not as the exception in a life of passivity, but as the rule that becomes second-nature.

If you do this, you will be resolving to do the most important thing of all: to take your happiness seriously.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

iStuff Has Officially Taken Over the World!

I intensely dislike the stronghold iTunes, iPod, and all of the iStuff that goes with it has over the whole music enjoyment process. I give you some background:

A couple (maybe a few) of years ago, I asked for nothing but Target giftcards as gifts for my birthday and Christmas. As they are so close together, I tend to get alot of stuff at the end of the year. On this particular year, I had wanted to purchase an iPod.

I received ample giftcards to purchase my iPod, but iPods were scarce that year. Target (including online) had no idea when they would be restocked. It was into January when I decided to research other brands.

I found one I liked online that had triple the features of the iPod I planned to buy for the same price. The only problem was that it was an off brand, something I'd never heard of. I bought it anyway.

I was so excited to get my MP3 player, but still had alot to learn. As it happened, I had no idea that iTunes was only friendly to an iPod and that their music wouldn't play on anything else. I had purchased iTunes cards with my remaining giftcard money and they were useless. Until I found Hymn Project.

I downloaded some software, rather tentatively, that would convert my iTunes protected files into unprotected files that I could put on my player AND they would work. The software runs in the background and automatically deposits the unprotected files into a folder each time I downloaded something from iTunes.

But, it was too late. I had already developed my intense dislike for all that is iStuff. It was taking over the world. After I used up my iTunes credit, I vowed to never use iTunes again. I later discovered that most online music services have the protected files (and now I understand why), but, for the most part, the other files could be played on my player. But not iTunes. No, iTunes only works with iPod.

Back to now. A few months ago, my off brand gave up on me and would no longer work. I set out to buy a new one and this time iPods were in excess everywhere. But, I sure as hell wasn't going to buy an iPod after I had developed such a strong dislike for iStuff. By the way, the MP3 player I bought is awesome and way better than an iPod, I'm sure of it.

Anyhow, there are very few shows on TV that I HAVE to watch. One of these is "The Office." I don't watch shows as they are scheduled, I DVR them and watch them at my convenience.

Last night, I was sitting down to watch TV and realized that I hadn't watched the special-one-hour-Christmas-party-episode-of-the-office. Before starting it, I began deleting the many episodes of "Full House" and "Sabrina, the Teen-aged Witch" that my daughter wants me to record, but rarely watches. I think you see it coming. I got so "delete" happy, that I accidentally deleted "The Office." *GASP*

After spending time trying to find it on the internet, I realized that the only way I was going to get it was to download it from iTunes. It was certainly worth the $1.99, but was it worth using iTunes?

I regret to inform you that I broke my 2-year long iTunes abstinence.

And that is why iStuff has officially taken over the world.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Single Moms v. Single Dads

I stress ahead of time that the following did not bother me in the least, it's just a general observation on one of the disparities between men and women... for now.

When I was out last night, I struck up some excellent conversation with one of my male classmates (not Simon, Lori, although he was much more fun than I would have ever expected). After a while, the excellent conversation evolved into one of those martini-induced warm and fuzzy feelings one gets when one discovers they are being flirted with. Not everyone gets these warm and fuzzy feelings just from being flirted with, but yours truly certainly does as it has been a long time since I have felt "attractive" in this way.

Now, this male classmate is not even close to my "type." He's very muscular, in fact, he's a bouncer. There is nothing that will turn me off faster than huge muscles. But, while I wasn't attracted to him, I will admit that he was attractive. Naturally, it's pleasant to find an attractive person who can hold a good conversation and also have some good, harmless flirtation going on.

Since I had never talked to this person before- he's quiet, I'm antisocial- and most everyone else there knows me, eventually those of us who have children wound up discussing said children.


The nearly imperceptible noise of previously mentioned male classmate's reaction to the fact that the object of his alcohol-induced affection is not as young as he is, and, what's worse, has children.

"How old are you? You don't seem old enough to have kids!"

I assure you, I am. This is all strictly inferential, but it turns out that said classmate is only 26, and while he would normally be very up for whatever with a woman 5 years his senior, this would not apply if that woman is a mama.

Throughout the night, he had been edging closer and closer to me. Suddenly, he found a much more comfortable seat at the other end of the table. It was quite funny, actually.

This may have been a problem for me had I actually been attempting to "go somewhere" with the whole flirting thing. But, I wasn't, I was just being reminded of how awesome it is to be female.

However, an interesting question is raised. When I do decide to date, how will my status as a mother affect my options? Now that I'm so determined to be more selective, do I actually have the luxury of being selective? And, if I were a man, would this be a moot point? Aren't single dads way more sexy than single moms?

School's Out, School's Out...

It's midnight and I'm rather content to come home tonight. I went out for drinks with some classmates and a couple of teachers and it was fun. That's a big step for me, people, I don't normally go out for drinks and I certainly don't normally have fun.

Treasure had fun. Just ask her. She won't remember, that's how you'll know she had fun.

I'm guilty of being a procrastinator to a nauseating degree. Thus, I have been awake for the past few days for more hours than I care to count. There were many papers to write, thematic units to finish. My online class has another week, but it's nothing. I carried 22 credit hours in 10 weeks, and I got through it with all "A" grades... and one "B" (although we'll probably have to add another "B" to the mix at the conclusion of my online class). It was the most challenging quarter of my very long career as a professional student. I'm tired.

Yet, it's only midnight. Much earlier than I've been going to bed lately. I don't want to sleep this early because Todd took the kids tonight and I want to sleep in tomorrow morning.

That makes absolutely no sense. I want to stay up late so I can sleep in. Wouldn't I get the same amount of sleep if I went to bed now and got up at the normal time?

The point is, what am I going to do for the next 4 weeks until I'm back to the next 22 credit hours? Study for my certification test in April, which won't exactly fill up my time the way school does.

I need school (or work... work will be good). It makes me function correctly. To be a stay at home mom for the next 4 weeks is damn scary. I always have to do that in between and it's rough.

I know, I sound like I'm whining and all of my friends out there who have tedious, full time jobs are saying "I'd like to have her life for a week... she doesn't know what the fuck she's talking about." I'll have you know that I do know what the fuck I'm talking about.

Everyone kept saying "fuck" tonight and it's catchy. It's going to take me a couple of days to get back into the habit of saying "eff" again.

As I was saying, it is draining to be around two children everyday, no less for four weeks straight. In January, it's Silverstick season, which means that Todd will go almost 4 weeks without picking the kids up. So, really, I have the next four weeks off of school, but he'll have them for 2 weekends of that, and then I have them for 4 weeks with no help from him when I'm back to school. But, he'll have them for 2 weekends in a row in February (1 because it's his weekend and the other because I'm going to The Tragically Hip and he's most generously taking them for the weekend so he can make up for January... on what planet does taking them for 2 weekENDS in a row make up for not having them at all for 4 WEEKS? I'm not bitter because it's about me, I'm bitter because it's about the kids).

Do you all see what just happened here? I was content when I came home because a very stressful quarter just finished up and I don't have to go back to school for 4 weeks. Now I'm bummed that I don't have school for 4 weeks and bitter about something that hasn't even happened yet.

Quintessential woman.

I'm rambling. I'm tired.

Good night.