Archive for November, 2002

I said if I ever had a weblog that I wouldn’t just put quotes from other people and links to other pages. I guess there is a value in aggregating other people’s stuff, but if you keep a weblog, most of your visitors prefer to hear something about you.

So I should say something about me right?? Well, another thing I always said….hmm. Better to tell a story:

I met this guy in Romania. He came to the hostel to drink, but stayed in town at a private residence…five bucks a night, which was 5 bucks less than it was to stay at the hostel, which gave him the 5 bucks to come to the hostel and drink.

He was living in Prague teaching English…..30something, unassuming, easy to sit with but a little unengaging…..overall harmless and unchallenging. He drank well and was an aspiring writer….liked to waste time. I tend to attract those types so he always talked to me.

(I’m eating a pizza and drinking a beer. He is just drinking.)
me: Why are you in Prague?
him: I can’t go back to the states.
me: Why?
him: I never paid back my student loans. That was almost 10 years ago.
me: How is life in Prague?
him: As good as it ever was in the states…which isn’t saying much.
me: What kind of stuff do you write about?
him: Usually I rant. You know, just talk about stuff and rant about it.
me: Yeah I know. How is that working out?
him: Not well at all. No one wants to read it.
me: Yeah….I try not to rant when I write. Other people don’t seem to care how much you hate the world, no matter how well its written. There is a super fine line between pointing out amusing inadequacies and sounding tired and bitter. Its hard to rant well.
him: The stuff I write is really good though. Everyone I ask tells me its good. I have some with me if you want to read it.
me: Uhhh….no thanks. I’m in a good mood sitting here drinking my beer. Why would I want to get all ruffled and have to think about some injustice or whatever? Ranting is fun to write I guess, but its like if you have a friend thats always in a bad mood. You quit calling them. Who wants to hang out with someone that always has something negative to say?

So we kept talking and stuff, but the moral of this little snippet is that I refuse to rant about stuff in my weblog. A little ranting is ok, but a lot is annoying. Keep it to yourself. There is way too much “sharing” of feelings going on these days. I like all that too, but there is a limit. Not everything buried is treasure.

Its odd how much there is to rant about and how little there is to inspire you. Have you ever read The Brothers Karamazov? Dostoevsky wrote Ivan’s little diatribe about “everything is lawful” in two weeks. It took him months to write the soaring religous wanderings of…….who was it?? Father Zossima I think. Its telling that I remember who ranted and what it was about while I remember the other only because it was the foil of the rant.

All this being said: I am now starting to rant about ranting….how annoying.

Maybe I should just be silent??

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I didn’t write any of these, but they’re funny:

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

After a year in therapy, my psychiatrist said to me, “Maybe life isn’t for everyone.”

Someone said to Voltaire, “Life is hard.” Voltaire replied, “Compared to what?”

And my personal favorite:

The only once in a lifetime experience I know of is Death.

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In response to myself concerning my last post “Why not put an international bounty on Osama’s head?” I would like to add: Why not put an international bounty on my head?

I have a nice head and there are those that might have an interest in it if the proper opportunity presented itself. I realize the reward would not be as substantial as for Osama’s, but I argue that my head has its uses as well:

  1. It is not nearly as controversial. This, in itself, means it can be more readily prepared for its final use (whatever that may be). There is no extra baggage associated with my head. No NGOs, middle eastern governments, nor secret terrorists groups would oppose my head. It is neutral and nicely shaped.
  2. It is newer. There are less lines on it. Whatever use could be had for Osama’s head would work with mine as well, except I think I could safely guarantee a longer shelf life. Think of it as a head with an extended warranty.
  3. The present condition of my head is impeccable!! In addition to being chronologically younger, my head is virtually unused. I could, given the opportunity, provide ample documentation to show my head is almost “good as new”. There are my projects from school, videotapes of my behavior, photos, eye-witness testimony….all pointing to a complete flat-line.

The reason I’m promoting the idea of an international bounty on my head is for the excitement. Think James Bond. I want people to chase after me. I want to have a reason to be paranoid.

Life is crystal clear when people want your head in a basket. Staying alive is an heroic act. If no one is trying to cash in a bounty on your head….what meaning is there?

Think of how dramatically different your life would be if you were a “wanted man”. I can only think of one word: Cool.

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Why not put an international bounty on Osama Bin Laden’s head? Wanted Dead or Alive. We used to do it. There was a bounty on Billy the Kid, a government bounty…and Pat Garrett, a former friend, sold him out. We all saw Young Guns II right?

Why drop bombs and gather intelligence? It ain’t working. Get one of his own group to turn him in. Let the people that harbour him get a billion dollar reward…its cheaper than what we’re doing now. People will be coming out of the woodwork trying to catch this guy.

Osama will be hiding in some moutain cave somewhere and this old goat herder will look out over the wrecked wasteland that was his fields and scratch his leathery face with an emaciated finger and think: The goats I could buy with a billion dollars!!!

And he’ll call the hotline and we’ll make a TV movie out of it and the old dude will get to visit the Playboy mansion, appear on Leno, and die a fat, happy bastard. Ahh…the American Dream.

I guess the only caveat is if another terrorist turns him in and uses the billion to finance more terrorism. But the US govt should be used to that. We’ve been playing musical fringe groups all over the world for years now. Step 1 – Finance rebels. Step 2 – engineer a coup. Step 3 – install a new government……only to have that group come back to haunt us years later and have to engineer another coup. Is it any wonder rebels don’t make good politicians?

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I had an interview today. How’d it go you ask? Fine. That’s what I always say. “It went fine.”

Everyone believes that something is wrong with them. We all have some secret affliction that makes us unique, that makes us think we’re different or alone. In perfection we are all the same.

I was in one of my moods the other night. My dad laughed at me. “Son…you sound like a burnout. But you can’t be burntout…you’ve never done anything.” He has a good point.

I didn’t give it another thought until I was talking with one of my old professors in Columbia. She said the same thing. Am I burnt-out?

I did a little research on it. It appears there are three stages to burnout:

  1. Arousal/Exhaustion: This is where you are “working your ass off”.
  2. Cynicism/Energy Conservation: This is where you start to distance yourself from everything.
  3. Burn-out: This is where you want to throw the alarm clock out the window…and actually do it.

Here is a great burnout story:

Consider the case of Naomi Henderson, who was paralyzed by her stress–literally. The 58-year-old CEO of RIVA, a small market-research firm in Bethesda, Md., often put in 120 hours a week at the office and slept two hours a night. After keeping this pace for several weeks straight, one night Henderson woke up to go to the bathroom and couldn’t move her legs. She stared down at her limp limbs, blinking in disbelief. Her mind began fixating on the most improbable of causes: Polio? Some new disease she hadn’t heard of yet? In a panic, she screamed for her husband. He scooped her up and drove her to the hospital, carrying her–still in a bathrobe and with tears streaming down her face–into the emergency room. The diagnosis: stress. The doctor put her on bed rest 14 hours a day for six weeks.

And the crazy bitch didn’t stop working. A few years later it happened again.

Here are a few suggestions to help avoid burnout from the UCLA Center for Mental Health:

  • Exercise
  • Get more sleep
  • Pursue a hobby
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Keep a “to-do” list
  • Learn to plan

Is this supposed to help? All these suggestions either take up time themselves or allow you to better schedule things that do.

I also read a lot about what causes burnout:

  • Lack of control over one’s destiny
  • Overwork
  • Constant conflict
  • Feeling that one’s contribution makes no difference

I have another one to add that wasn’t mentioned: Too much success. If you win over and over and over, you lose motivation…winning loses its appeal. There is no thrill in victory if there is no chance of defeat. Its like when you won Super Mario Bros. for the 100th time…you just quit playing. Either you change the game….or burnout. I am not Sisyphus.

So…am I burnt out? I don’t think so. I like stress to a certain extent. If the strings aren’t pulled tight, there is no music when you play them. Have I had too much success? Well, I am not as competitive as I used to be. Winning doesn’t get me off like it used to. The satisfaction of a job well done is less satisfying.

It isn’t that I always win, or always get what I want. The frequency doesn’t matter. Some other person may win more and get more. What does matter is that I passed that magic point…real or not, it has become an issue for me.

I’m sure this will not be one of my more popular posts. Most people simply can’t relate to what I’m saying. They’re thinking, “That arrogant fuck!! I have no sympathy for someone that complains about chronic success.” Valid point. I refer you to paragraph two of this post: We all have some secret affliction that makes unique. I’m not saying its real. I’m saying I think its real.

Someone once told me that it isn’t good to live all your dreams when you’re young, else there is nothing to look forward to in retirement. I once said be careful about broadening your horizons. The gap between your horizons and the life you live will slowly fill itself with bitterness and cynicism.

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Here is some info about the pharmaceutical industry:

Since the FDA first allowed companies to directly target consumers five years ago the number of research and development (R&D) employees at companies making patented drugs declined slightly, while the number of people working in marketing shot up 59 percent.

Moreover, drug companies have learned that when they can’t create a new drug to treat an existing illness, they can create a new illness to treat with existing drugs. GlaxoSmithKline’s multimillion-dollar promotion of anxiety disorder as a pernicious national problem enabled the company to make billions more selling Paxil–a drug most experts believe is needed by only a small fraction of the people who take it. Unimed is busy pushing the idea that there’s a national problem called male menopause–a problem that just happens to be treatable by a testosterone gel the company makes. The gel is currently FDA-approved for men with rare–and thus relatively unprofitable–problems such as underdeveloped testes.

An existing patent can be extended if a different use can be found for the original drug. This leads to a lot of legal wrangling about the definition of different. “Companies today have found that the return on investment for legal tactics is a lot higher than the return on investment for R&D,” says Sharon Levine, the associate executive director of the HMO Kaiser Permanente. “Consumers today are paying an inordinate premium under the guise of the creating the stream of innovation in the future. But it’s actually funding lawyers.”

Pharmaceutical companies are shifting focus away from disease treating drugs to drugs that enhance sub-optimal conditions. Soon there will be a drug for every discomforting mood. Everytime we feel less than perfect there will be a pill to return us to that unreachable ‘optimal human condition’. Such life enhancing drugs often have the peculiar distinction of treating the same symptoms that the drug itself can create through side effects.

My dad takes Claritin. I went to the pharmacy with mom to fill the prescription: 100 bucks for 30 pills. I know a bit about the FDA approval process. For a new drug to be considered for a patent it needs to perform better than existing drugs or perform the same and have fewer side effects. Claritin and Allegra fall into the second category and there is debate as to whether they even bring fewer side effects (there is also debate as to whether they work at all). Bottom Line: This shit is no different than stuff that’s been on the market for years….it just costs a hell of a lot more money.

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