Thursday, June 28, 2007


With Americans becoming ever more clueless about the world in which we live, I applaud MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, who refused to report a "lead story" about Paris Hilton. See for yourself (courtesy of M.Bieler):

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I was driving along this morning to clinic for practicum, like any other Wednesday morning, amidst throngs of other commuters in the urban haze of summer. I certainly hadn't been preparing myself for the moment, but out of nowhere, a vision appeared before me. I was surprised and scared, but also rapturous.

I never really expected to merit prophetic endowments, let alone to perceive the image with such clarity. I reproduce it here:

When the vision presented itself, the world went on around me. Traffic continued to ebb, and I continued to drive while experiencing this epiphany, lest someone crash into me.

Though the image was clear and persisted for the duration of my journey (until I parked and turned off the car), I realize that gleaning its interpretation for myself or mankind is the challenge. What do I make of it? How am I to understand the word "CHECK?" Should I skip dessert and get the bill? Is it time to reorder my Donald Duck checks? Am I about to be slammed up against the glass? The numerical value of CHECK is 30 or 3 (3+8+5+3+11 = 30 = 3+0 = 3), but what does that mean?!

And what of the glyph? Maybe it's a four-winged seraph trying to convey a divine message. Is it a map or schematic? Of what? Which way is north? Maybe it's a studio with walk-in closet and two balconies.

My intuition, my gut sense, takes this as an ominous portent of things to come. I'm still not sure, but it fills me with foreboding. I can do naught but sit and wait for another sign to appear and guide me. Maybe it's on YouTube.

Update (or, The Oracle)- So AutoZone will check your car's diagnostic codes for free with a scanner that plugs into a port in your car (in my car the port is on the steering column- who knew?). What was the problem with mine? Code P0442- a small fuel vapor leak in the Evaporative Emission Control System. Most common cause? Loose gas cap. Indeed, care of the gas station attendant in NJ (where competent self-service is illegal), my gas cap was not fastened tightly.

A satisfying solution to a perplexing mystery.

Monday, June 18, 2007

לא תקלל חרש ולפני עור, לא תתן מכשל

Last semester, I took a course in Cultural Diversity as it relates to psychological and clinical practice. It was enlightening, though remarkably biased. You see, the instructor is black and virtually all the case studies presented were of black people who had achieved great success despite backgrounds of poverty, abuse, neglect, and/or discrimination. These were all great and inspirational stories, but the curriculum seems to have gotten swept up in the mistaken notion that diversity=minority. (If you think this is racist, get an education, see the world, and have a neurologist check out that knee-jerk.)

Anyway, we had a guest speaker one day, a hearing psychologist who had worked for many years in the deaf community. The presentation was fascinating and enlightening, but I learned one thing that greatly disturbed me.

Because they cannot hear, deaf people often miss out on a lot of background information. Think about it; how much useful information do you collect every day by overhearing (not eavesdropping)? Because of this information deficit that leaves them out of the loop, deaf culture tries to glean the information directly and places a great value on information. The consequence of that is that deaf people are very self-disclosing and will ask very personal, intimate, and private questions (e.g., "How much do you make?" "Were you always overweight?" and the like). When communicating with a deaf person, it is considered an affront to deny them information; it says you don't trust them.

The guest speaker related a conversation she had with a supervisor about how to respond to these probing inquiries if disclosing the information made her uncomfortable. Her supervisor told her that there is a practice that has arisen among interlocutors of the deaf. The solution is to simply lie. That way you're not disclosing and not insulting.

Personally, I find that even more insulting and disrespectful. I learned growing up and in my professional, clinical development that the way to demonstrate your respect for someone (and indeed, to actually respect them) is to be honest with them. Sometimes the truth is scary, painful, or inconvenient. You don't have to deliver it with a sledgehammer, but you don't sugarcoat it, beat around the bush, or lie about it. The truth with compassion is the ideal.

This earth is blessed with myriad overlapping cultures. It is inevitable that many of them will clash. The mature, productive reaction should be to address the clash and reconcile differences; it doesn't mean everyone will walk away happy, but they should feel respected. Shirking away from this responsibility by misleading or misinforming the deaf, in this case, is a twisted, selfish, and cowardly response to personal discomfort.

Now that I've expressed my criticism, what solution do I have, what would I do? I would consider the nature of the question asked of me. I may find that though I am unaccustomed to disclosing the requested information, I may not really take that much issue with it and wouldn't really mind that much answering the question.

If I truly don't want to reveal the information, I would tell the deaf person that I understand their culture's value of self-disclosure and that while they are not lacking for my trust, my cultural background makes me uncomfortable answering the question. If the deaf person is sufficiently mature and culturally responsible, he or she would endeavor to understand or at least respect my culture (which Randy Cohen failed to do) while accepting that I am not being insulting.

This may not occur, and the deaf person may adopt a view that hearing/male/Jewish/etc. people are culturally obtuse and offensive. That would be sad, but at least I would have met my responsibilities.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Words for the wise

I'm introducing a new feature today that I hope will improve your vocabulary and/or social mobility & life-long financial security. Every once in a while, I will present a word I find interesting, one you probably hadn't known before, but can now use with abandon in small-talk, doctoral dissertations, amortization calculations, marriage proposals, challenges to duel, and pet care. Who knows how far you can go if you introduce these incredible words into your life.
So without further ado, the first word:

arachibutyrophobia (n.) - the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth

Sufferers of this devastating condition can be helped and often look to the most famous recovered arachibutyrophobe, George Washington Carver, for inspiration.

This inaugural post is dedicated in honor of my friend Daniyel's recent dissertation abstract submission and proposal acceptance.

The other words in this series can always be found here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Birthday Manifesto 2000

In 1997, I wrote my first birthday manifesto, an epistle I sent out in a mass email on my birthday. I continued the tradition for a number of years until life got too busy (READ: lazy) to compose new ones. For those of you who did not have the pleasure of knowing me in those days or the privilege of being in my address book, I am posting them here, not necessarily in order.

This particular one, from 2000, received the most vocal and appreciative responses. Friends said it helped jar their perspective a bit, enough to regroup and pursue their goals with renewed purpose and vinegar- um, vigor.

Well, the year 2000 has come. I remember thinking years ago, "Man, I'm going to turn 21 in the year 2000." It seemed so far away, so foreign. What was once the future is now here, and will soon be past. Time is a funny thing, it can seem to resist our wishes to just move along or it can slip through our fingers in blatant disregard of our need for it to slow down and give us pause for rest. Sometimes though, things are simply perfect. But that passes, too. As human beings, we are fickle, and the world changes around us. This is not pessimism, it is fact. So we must learn to deal with it.

I once made a sign that I posted on my desk to motivate me to work when I was slacking off or got distracted. It said, "Lost seconds count." It was meant to remind me that as a conscious entity, I am aware of the passage of time, on a scale of seconds to years. I can count seconds as they pass by. One, two, three, four... These very seconds can be spent working productively or they can be wastefully squandered. Whichever seconds I spend "playing" are lost forever, I never again have the opportunity to spend them more wisely. These lost seconds count as part of the sum total of my allotted time on this planet (before they call me back to my home planet). I can't disqualify them and say, "Those don't count, I didn't mean them. Let me do them over." The sign worked. I would look at it, realize how foolish wasted seconds are, and get back to work. What was once future is now here, and will soon be past. What is now future will soon be here...

There are intrinsic elements to my life now that I could not have possibly imagined in the past. That is another property of time and our place in it: we only know the past (one would hope), occasionally the present, but never the future. The future will bring what you make of it, what you make for yourself, with an added dose of FATE thrown in for good measure. I see people I know and care about get frustrated by the pace of their lives, saddened at the absence of certain things that they feel should have been achieved, granted, or found by now. To these people I say, there is a "before", a "during", and an "after", nothing else. If you are at the "before" part of your life, there will be a "during". It will come. It just hasn't yet. If it is not yet to be, there is nothing you can do about it. But if it will be, it will be. Effect change when you can, but accept when you cannot.

Patience is a virtue. It is an elevation past the base state of "I want it now, it's not fair." You can't change the passage of time, but you can change your perception of it. The old adage, "A watched pot never boils" comes to mind, as does "Time flies when you're having fun." When you can relax and let go of your need for a premature future, things happen smoothly. They happen in what feels to be (because it actually is) their right time. Things have a tendency to fall into place with a perfection that can't be anything but divine.

What is now future will soon be here...

Which brings me to the closing.
Thank you, everyone, for your love, your friendship, your support, help, and good wishes.
Zei gezunt.