The Most Valuable Things For Real-Life I Learned From Teaching

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Part 1: The Importance of Framing

It seems unfair, especially for laconic introverted people (my favorite kind), but the attitude you use to present / convince / ask things is extremely important to how people respond to it. Even if you have the best, most brilliant – or necessary – ideas and plans, if you don’t use a little people-person enthusiasm, then nobody is going to listen to you or follow you. I know. People are stupid. But you’ve got to work with that. Continue reading

Which Nazi War Criminal Are You? (Character Personality Quiz!)

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There have been a lot of personality / which-character quizzes going around recently whose quality I’ve been very disappointed in. Especially those Buzzfeed ones where you just click really big picture squares that all have clip-art copyright text and then at the end it just has a one-sentence result: “You are [result]. So yeah.” Can’t we put a little effort in this? I was making personality tests for friends on paper when I was 15 and also even at 15 I could already read, so I didn’t need big picture squares.

And everyone on Buzzfeed always gets the same result because there’s a type of person who takes Buzzfeed character tests and they’re all exactly the same. Yes, that means you. There are other results possible but anyone who’s different from you doesn’t take Buzzfeed character tests. You are an internet-hipster drone. Your quirkiness is imitative.

Your opinions are copied from those you hope are smarter than you; the cute way you speak is just parsing things memes have said with a few words changed. You’re hiding behind a bland veneer so no one can see your insecurities within. I have taken it upon myself to create a few much more meaningful personality tests to find out more about who you really are, the way personality-tests should really be done. Enjoy below: Continue reading

A Day of Lifetimes

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I’ve noticed that a lot of people aren’t doing what they think they’re doing. What I mean is they think they’re heading in a certain direction – a goal, or a dream, or a lifestyle – but what they’re doing is actually not taking them in that direction at all.

The striking thing is when you know what you’re doing on a daily basis is not taking you where you say you’re going. But you keep on doing it anyway. I think there can be a lot of sadness in the space between who you are on a daily basis and who you want to be in your lifetime.

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The Good Old Days, When Things Were Not As Good

Critics are jaded out of nostalgia for when they were less jaded. A common criticism of critics is that they no longer seem to enjoy anything: every movie, every band, every game, every book is cynically ripped apart. But we are all critics – I mean, we all watch movies, listen to music, play games, and read books looking for something that we’ll enjoy, and are disappointed when they aren’t “good.” But we’ve all gotten jaded.

We compare things today with great things of the past, or of our past. We remember when we fell in love with a movie or book or band and most things now just don’t cut it. But have you watched your favorite old movies lately? I’ll bet if you watch the movies you used to love objectively, in a new and critical lens today, you won’t be that impressed.

Yes, part of it might be that they were new in the world back then: for example, The Matrix was the first movie to have bullet-time action scenes but now that every action movie has them it seems a lot less special. I think its more important, though, that they were new to us. Continue reading

Scott Adams’s School of Smart Knocks

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Everybody wants to be awesomer. That’s a part of the appeal of books by authors like Malcolm Gladwell: they offer research and fun stories that can also teach us tricks on how to be more awesome. Those things can translate into more money, sociability, and positive outlooks. Their focus, though, remains on the story, whether it’s personal experience or a massive idea. Books in the “Self-Help” category, on the other hand, try to offer you direct advice and paradigms you should believe, like a how-to manual. Self-Help Books tend to be poorly-written, over-simplistic, and lacking nuance.

I first read Scott Adams when I was a kid. Dilbert was my favorite comic, and led me to Adams’s “thought-experiment” book, God’s Debris, which was fascinating and exciting: most of the ideas in it are bullshit (like an alternate hypothesis of gravity), but they’re interesting bullshit that makes you think, and some of it turned out to be right (like an evolutionary idea of the internet). I also read books like The Dilbert Principle, most of which were boring for a kid but proved that Adams was a smart and funny man. When his new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, came out last week I picked it up. Continue reading

You’re Doing It Right

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There are discomfiting questions about ourselves like why women’s bodies respond to even forced sexual contact with physical arousal or why all men’s bodies show some level of physical arousal towards adolescents. These are definitely not polite dinner party conversation but they are scientifically demonstrated reality, and couldn’t being brave and logical enough to address these questions help us make sense of ourselves and each other and how to evolve as a human society?

Jesse Bering thinks so, and in his book Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, his well-researched answers (read it and find out) have to do with our evolutionary past, and how our belief of right and wrong behavior can be in conflict with our biological human nature. Continue reading

The Rubber-Tree League

Hogwarts_at_Wizarding_WorldOccasionally I’ll get a call from my Alumni Association. Some peppy volunteer is on the line, asking if I want to share some of my wealth in gratitude to my Alma Mater. Ironically, these calls always come when I have no job. When I explain, the girl expresses her understanding and, it seems, a little bit of guilt, as if she understands it’s her fault, and the University’s, for giving me a useless degree in something like English, and they all feel bad about it now, the big mistake.

I’ve gotten plenty of jobs, of course, as a teacher and an office drone, but never when the Alumni Association calls. I like to think it’s the same girl (Karen, I call her) and Karen has been calling me randomly for the past 5 years, rooting for me to finally land a gig somewhere, but I never do. Karen thinks I live under a bridge somewhere and marvels at my upbeat attitude, an inspiration to all of them at Alumni Call Center, constantly being denied, perhaps berated. “Stiff upper lip,” Karen tells her compatriots. “We may not get donations, but I just spoke to Jeshua again, and I’m sure he’s drinking ditchwater.” “That poor son of a bitch.” Continue reading