Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Think I Live in the Quantum World

Some people get really rattled by their world shaking just a little. It doesn't take much for them to freak out. One bomb miles away, but in their safe country or one bad grade that hardly threatens their academic career and they panic. I like to think I'm a bit more hearty than that. I suffer from the same anxiety as everyone else, but for some reason it doesn't surprise me when something I thought was true isn't anymore. You're expecting me to say it's because my world was shaken when I had a heart transplant, but I think my mistrust of everything started long before this blog.

I won't go into the physics of it here, but a fact is that when you look at electrons or atoms, you can't really talk about where they are. The truth is that in the real world most things don't have an actual, fixed position. Everything we see every day could be anywhere. It is only most likely to be where you think it is. It makes all of matter seem sort of sketchy. Most people have a hard time with this concept. I think I have an easier time than most. People trust their eyes far too much. I don't. Playing frisbee or catch with me is quite the experience. I'm always guessing. The thing isn't there until I catch it. When somebody throws something at me my depth perception isn't good enough to give me a location of the object, only a vague idea of where it was thrown from.

I've never trusted my eyes. I've never trusted the world around me to be stable because things don't exist until I touch them. When there are bombers in my city or extra tests at the end of the semester that come from nowhere I am slightly less surprised than everybody else. I don't like it. I hate change. I resist anything being different partly because once I let go of the known I can't trust anything again, but I'm not alarmed. I just get sad that the atoms I thought were there, the things I thought I knew, really were optical illusions all along.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing

On the books Patriots Day celebrates the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but really Paul Revere has little to do with why Boston has a holiday the third Monday in April. It has much more to do with the Boston Marathon than the Battles of Lexington and Concord. We call Patriot's Day "Marathon Monday" because that's the point. This year was the 117th annual Boston Marathon, the longest running marathon in the country. It's a day where the Red Sox play baseball in Fenway Park, the people go out to the pubs, and the populace gets together to celebrate itself as a city. For many people it's the happiest day of the year. It's a holiday because the streets shut down so people can show how strong they are. Only somebody with massive mental toughness can run twenty-six miles. That's what Boston's celebrating; since the British were coming in 1775 this has been a city of people who are tough and face the threat. 

I think to be really "from" somewhere you have to grow up there for at least a few years. I didn't grow up in Boston. I'm not from here. When Patriots Day happened in the past I remember being jealous that my mom, who worked with Bostonians, didn't have to go to the office, but I had to go to school. Now I've been here for two years and I get it. I understand this city even if I'm not from here. 

A tragedy is something that is sad because it takes away something sacred. Today was a tragedy because somebody bombed the marathon our city loves. They killed children and civilians who thought they were safe. 20,000 people from 96 countries came thinking their only challenge would be the running, not bombs. The people who were there will never be the same. They will be traumatized and saddened by this holiday that is meant to show Boston's endurance. When a tragedy happens the poets and writers have to be the first to respond after doctors and nurses finish healing the bones. We  remind people that the the acts of today are pieces in a massive human puzzle. The people killed and the people saved are only pieces of a larger story. The individual stories matter, but writers put the whole thing in perspective.We have to tell the truth about the situation. We have to say that it doesn't really matter who did it; violence isn't acceptable if it's one person or a whole cell of terrorists. We have to say that we know there are other countries that America bombs every day. We have to say that it's beautiful that there are eight hospitals in Boston (including mine) and we have the best healthcare in the world even if it's the most expensive. We have to say something about the state of the world when even a bombing in Boston can't unite the country politically. We have to remind people it doesn't matter why it was done because knowing won't undo it.

I live in the hospital district and even now the ambulances and police are trying to contain the horror. I haven't liked helicopters since my transplant because I consider them harbingers of death so, like many, I had a hard day full of bad memories. I'll never be the kind of person who can run toward disaster. My roommate is a nurse and wanted to go help, but I just wanted to crawl into my bed and sleep until the tragedy was over. I think it's important to be a witness of the acts of kindness and the acts of aggression some will try to commit following this horrible Patriot's Day so I won't hide under my pillow. I'll sit here and tell you how my friends were attacked and the only reason I was spared was because I wasn't athletic enough to run or kind enough to volunteer. I'll tell you I'm scared, but I will not lash out in that fear to any person or group. I have practice feeling like my life is in danger, but even you, who maybe has never really felt threatened before, can watch without blaming the wrong people for this event. Please join me in witnessing. That's a good thing to do.

The only other good advice I have for the people of Boston is from one of my life idols Jane McGonigal "Focus visual attention on something highly engaging (like a videogame) and stay up late/sleep less. " so your brain can't convert traumatic images into memories. It's science. It works.

Monday, April 8, 2013


My family and friends have never taken the test, but I feel I can guess what Harry Potter house most belong to. If you don't know the Harry Potter house reputations you are really missing out on something. You should read the Harry Potter books just so you understand cultural references if not for the awesome story and interesting characters. My mom would most likely be a Ravenclaw. My dad and brother are almost certainly Gryffindors. My college roommate Victoria is a Hufflepuff for sure.

I've never told anyone this, but I am a Slytherin. I have been on Pottermore for fun and I found out this shameful fact. Slytherin is portrayed poorly in the books so I was pretty mad when I found out. Most people want to be a Gryffindor because that is what Harry was. People should want to be Hufflepuffs because they are the most loyal and kind people. I didn't get either of those though. I am a Slytherin.  I don't have enough of a disregard for the rules. I'm not quite as rebellious as I should be, but I understand why the sorting hat put me there. I'm not fighting it. Here's some of the traits of a true Slytherin. I think they describe me pretty well, but you can judge.
  • Slytherins are ambitious. I've had goals for my life since I was seven and I haven't given up on any of them. Ambitions are different for everyone, but I'm at college taking more classes than you are supposed to, overseeing the student government, making good grades, and working at a job that is twice as good as the norm. That feels ambitious.
  • Slytherins are shrewd. I've never truly grokked the word shrewd, but I think my use of the word grok says that I notice the thing around me and take the best bits. Academia is all about distilling what's important and I'm doing alright at college so shrewdness is not my greatest weakness.
  • Slytherins are strong leaders. I have done the Emerging Leaders Program, I'm part of Student Government, I love teaching large groups. Trust me, I'm a leader.
  • Slytherins are achievement-oriented. I think the only thing I can say to this is that I'm a gamer. A quest log or a list of achievements drives me most of the time. Nobody who loves RPGs isn't achievement oriented.
  • Slytherins also have highly developed senses of self-preservation.  Six words. Not sick four years after transplant...
  • Slytherins tend to hesitate before acting, so as to weigh all possible outcomes before deciding exactly what should be done. If you've ever asked me to decide anything ever you'll know this is true. There was a point when I was nine where I couldn't make any decisions, but I grew out of that into a subtler, but ever-present caution.
  • Slytherins are clever. Clever can be defined in many ways and I've never taken an IQ test because I just don't care, but I think I'm decently intelligent
  • Slytherins have determination. Six more words. Fastest heart transplant recovery ever seen...
  • Slytherins are proud of where they come from. I'm not going to cause a war about it or perform a eugenics experiment or anything, but I love my home. I like America even though I think we do evil things internationally. I like Queensbury even though I recognze it's just another little town. I'm proud of my family even though many of them were "just" farmers.
  • Slytherins have a dark sense of humor. My favorite joke... (six more words) Could have been a double lung
 So I'm a Slytherin. I admit it on the internet. I'm not ashamed anymore.