Sunday, October 23, 2005

Carmen Sandiego

I am in marvel of the awesomeness that is Carmen Sandiego.

While I was growing up, it was tough not having Hispanic role models in the media. I mean, there was Maria from Sesame Street... God, I hated her. She'd say, "Si means yes in Spanish!" then they'd cut to the next scene. She was a good little wife to Carlos and was always terribly well-behaved.

Sensitive, subservient, sickeningly sweet.

'Hmmm, if that's what Hispanic is, I'm certainly not it,' I used to think to myself. I searched for somebody to tell me that I could be someone in the world. There were all these programs on prime time about people-who-didn't-look-like-me doing all this cool stuff... and I got Maria.

The not-awesomeness that is Maria
Major let down, I tell you.

Dark clouds were on the horizon. Most people who looked like me on tv couldn't speak English, were being beaten by the cops, or lived in poor neighborhoods that seemed like they were made more of chain-link fence than houses.

Until she came along.

Carmen Sandiego just stole your underpants

That's right, suddenly there was a Hispanic woman that not only spoke perfect English, but she could get away with wearing a huge red trenchcoat and wide-brim fedora without looking like she was about to undergo nuclear combustion. Now that takes style.

She was amazing. She laughed at the racist system that had oppressed her for so long, walked right up to the Eiffel Tower, put it in her briefcase, and walked away like nothing had ever happened. Man, that was so much better than all the other Hispanic people on tv that couldn't even steal hubcaps properly!

And best of all... she was smart. She was so smart, she created these cunning plans to steal major landmarks and left clues for the helplessly white detectives, who simply had no chance of matching her criminal mastermind. She had no fear. I was in love.

In all honesty, I totally related to Carmen Sandiego as a kid. I'm not sure if you know the story behind Carmen, but I would never forget. She was an orphan that eventually joined the Acme Detective Agency in hopes of making the world a better place. However, after realizing that the system was corrupt, she took matters into her own hands by stealing the treasures of civilization. It was almost like she was telling mankind to not use overly-large obelisks to validate our civility, which is too often strained in our modern world. She became the most feared evil genius ever known to man.

I mean, last time I played the game, she was hiding in New Deli with Antarctica. That takes talent, I tell you.

She even seems to have transcended to different levels of existence. I mean, now there's 'Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego' and 'Where in Math is Carmen Sandiego.'

I think 'Where in Existential Philosophy is Carmen Sandiego' should be next.

"Do you even exist anymore, Carmen?"

"Define 'exist,' Gumshoe."

Now there's a character I can be proud to call my childhood role model.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Dear Bed:

I realize that we haven't spent as much time together as we used to. We used to be so close. You used to keep me warm on cold winter nights. I miss your soft embrace.

It's for this reason that I write this letter. I need to make myself clear; I still love you. Even if I am not there, you are always in the back of my mind. When I grow tired of the things life throws across my path, my first thoughts are of you.

Recently, with so many tests, projects, and general menial life taking up my time, I have not gotten around to expressing how much you mean to me. I am sorry. I did not mean to leave you cold and empty. Since I cannot bear our estrangement, I assure you that I shall make time for us to be together.

Someone wise once told me that you should always make time for something you love.

I'll clear my schedule. I promise.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I am astonished at how much Genetics has affected my basic philosophy.

In my Women Studies class, we are required to read articles meant to establish a historical context for 'masculinity.' One article is about how Theodore Roosevelt linked gender and masculinity to race. He supposedly did this by establishing American white supremacy by means of taking the masculinity from other cultures. The article mentions that he might have justified this cowboy novel attitude with Darwinian logic.

I though to myself, 'How naive to let Genetics affect your philosophy in such a way without stopping to think about it.'

Then it struck me.

I believe that the best model for establishing a model for truth is to create an idea, then take this idea and smash it to the ground. Whatever part of the idea survives is probably more right, what is left should be adapted. Smash, rebuild, repeat. I know we'll never reach a perfect model of truth, but it's fun to try.

But... but, isn't that survival of the fittest except taken out of context and used toward Truth!?! Wow. Unwittingly, I have allowed myself to be indoctrinated and then have been spreading my personal view as a philosophy. I have used this philosophy in action many times. It has affected my own and other's lives through my activism and readiness to 'test' another's ideas in order to test its validity.

A Girl Genius representation of me unwittingly affecting others with my Darwinist philosophy
So, it's time to think about how I impose my world-view on others again... and it makes sense as to why I'm sometimes viewed as being a bit aggressive when it comes to making positive change.

I'd probably be kind of irked if someone came and hole-punched my personal philosophy looking for bits and pieces to apply to someone else's Darwinian theory.


Monday, October 10, 2005

I've noticed that many people get caught up trying to justify why they are right, as opposed to attempting to reach their goals. I mean this specifically in the context of organizations, but it could hold true for quite a few situations

So many organizations initially form to create positive change. They know what change they would like to see in the world. Let's feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, create equality...

After not too long, the group (or individual) creates an action plan... their specific vision of how they will make this change manifest. After a while, people gain experience; they develop their theories and their opinions based on their own observations.

However, many fall into the trap of defending these new opinions and theories because it's the action plan they think will work best. In arrogance, they seem to stop admitting their own ignorance and cease to evaluate their methods. The group begin to break apart because, instead of focusing on the goal of making the world better, they are too busy defending the opinions and methods they have formulated.

I've seen many good groups fracture due to this lack of evaluation. Even the most liberal group can get caught in the conservation of their own beliefs. I've been guilty of this before, but I'd like to think that reality smacks me around afterwards. I'd like to think I know my ignorance.

In my opinion, any good scientist will tell you that whatever we think will be wrong one day. They would approach the world knowing that they will never understand how anything truly works, but what is most important is that we refine ourselves and our tools in the attempt to understand. True exploration embraces ignorance, because it is our ignorance that allows us to explore anything in the first place.

Here's a scary thought... statistically speaking, you are wrong in any particular thing you say, despite the research or validation you find in books or other people.

Take jars of jelly beans, for instance.

A completely unassuming jar of jellybeans

If I ask you to guess the number of jellybeans in the jar, whatever quantity you give as your guess is very likely to not be the correct answer.

However, if you take many people's guesses as to the number of jellybeans in the jar and average them, the number is usually quite close to the actual quantity. Sometimes, the number is only off by fractions. Try it yourself sometime.

Anyway, I think that realizing our own ignorance is one of the most important qualities of exploration and learning. Once we embrace our limitations, we begin to focus on how our methods are flawed and how we can improve them to achieve our goals.

Whether the subject is an organization or a person, we must always take a moment to adapt and reevaluate why we are doing the things we are doing. Asking ourselves how we can do better is infinitely more important than declaring why we are right.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Girl Genius

Comic books feature these amazing characters with earth-shattering, cosmic powers.

And, yet, they expect the average comic book reader to identify with the protagonist's struggle against evil. Most comic book readers I know have a hard time struggling with their shoelaces. Obviously, this is a diabolical plot in the name of evil.

So, my ex was into comic books. He told me that I simply had not read enough comic books to find a hero that inspired me.

I went to the comic book store and tried a few of the story-lines out. This is what I found:

Subject One-

Laser vision, super strength, and the ability to fly... not things I do on a regular basis. I can't even think of what good super strength would be nowadays. I mean, I could move that red sportscar that keeps parking in my assigned spot, but then the alarm would go off and it just wouldn't be worth it... No, I am not able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. I can't even bring myself to leap more than one stair-step at a time.

I'll wait for the elevator, thank you.

Subject Two-

Yes, I'd like to be a whiny spider... that's my idea of heroism. I'll climb buildings and fling sticky stuff from my fingers. Not to mention, I'm terrified of spiders.

I just don't think I'm creepy enough to pull that one off.

Subject Three-

I'm far too brainwashed by my Genetics major to buy into the whole mutant-powers thing. I keep trying to figure out how they get recessive traits like that to stay dormant so long, then pop up in only one person. The equations must be nightmarish... like the ones in Population Genetics that are so horrid they incorporate surprise (!) into the calculations.

No, that won't work either.

What is a boy to do without a hero? So, I gave it one more shot.

And what I found was intriguing...

1. The main character is a female. While this is not, in itself, astounding... the fact that she wears tweed is. Well, the fact that she wears clothing at all is pretty amazing. What is it with comic heroines and spandex?

2. The heroes and the villains have the same power. At least this is a little more believable... but it gets better!

3. The power is the coolest thing ever. It's called The Spark.

Ok, The Spark can be identified by three main qualities. Firstly, a person with this gift is highly predisposed to blowing up laboratories.

Something I can go with... though that last explosion wasn't entirely my fault.

Secondly, The Spark grants the hero or villain the ability to analyze and understand any complex system they are interested in.

Finally, a power that doesn't lead me towards bludgeoning the enemy to death with my fists! Evil-Death-Rays are so much more chic.

Thirdly, whenever a Spark comes across a situation where they can't figure something out, or when something could be improved upon by means of Mad Science, they go crazy.

Now you're talking! Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!!! The name of the comic?

How much better can it get? A whole comic book about the adventures of a female mad scientist in a world besieged by other mad scientists! It's drawn with astounding beauty and the humor is undeniably quirky, yet clever.

So, I'm going to have to put a link to the comic, which is available online, in the sidebar of my blog.

And... and maybe I could add a few graphics into the sidebar... and some words for the day... and and Subliminal Messages! Yes! Subliminal Messages encoded into the...