Author Archive

Fotos de Abril

Photos from a walk around Lambertville and Geocaching on Baldpate Mountain. (more…)


Some thoughts on Reference and Natural Kinds

I wrote the following after my metaphysics class in which we are reading and discussing Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity:

Everything collapses under scrutiny. When we theorize about something we are attempting to locate a boundary that separates one thing from what it is not. The harder you push though, the more fuzzy the boundaries become. You see things you didn’t notice before, get more detail, or see things where you thought there were none. At the end of this perhaps the only claim you can make is “it is what it is.” This claim can mean different things at different levels of scrutiny. On one level, to pick out one thing, gold for instance, it may be enough to say “it’s shiny.” This will allow you to pick some gold out of a pile of dirt so long as that’s all you’re concerned with for the moment. Obviously this level of specificity is below that of most of our vernacular speech, because we can think of other shiny things, or gold that isn’t shiny, etc. Fools gold is an obvious counterexample. So we add more detail to allow us to deal with gold on a deeper level. A certain degree of malleability. Now we can tell the difference between gold and pyrite. At some point we get atomic number 79. That’s where science is now, but maybe we will discover that there is another thing with that atomic number, some division between different types of gold, or something. Which one does “gold” refer to? One? Both? It doesn’t matter, because in the end “gold” is just a word. It is functionally attached to a concept that has evolved over the course of history and will continue to evolve, but the designator itself is not connected to the actuality of the thing. We can always know, gold is gold, but, be we have to remember that “gold” is not that thing. Our usage of the word has to change according to what we know about the thing, and at a certain level of scrutiny, we will always be able to find a case in which the designation doesn’t quite hold. The best we can do is attempt to describe new situations accurately, and our language will adapt to accommodate the new information. That’s what has happened, and it will continue to happen. Metaphysics as a form of inquiry is really just the process of elucidating the epistemology behind our conscious interpretation of what is. What is has always been what it is, but our knowledge of it has morphed and changed, as has our knowledge about that knowledge. We can’t get too attached to words and concepts, but at the same time, we can’t really move about in the world without them. Theories about the relationships between words, concepts, and things, are themselves subject to the same concerns. Their value lies in their functionality, not their truth, and they are necessarily distinct from the world they describe. That they break down if pushed to their limits is to be expected.


Sea|Mester Part 2: Nevis

Charlston, Nevis was our first stop after leaving the BVIs, and an extremely welcome port after a brutal 30 hour passage through gnarly squalls and 8-9 foot swells from Peter Island. (more…)


The Happiest Dream Ever

Last night I had a very interesting and frustrating dream. I can’t remember any of the specifics of what happened; No setting, no characters, no events. All I can remember is the overall feeling of the dream, and one thought that came into my head at some point during it: “This is the happiest dream I’ve ever had. I need to remember this.” I felt sublimely happy and very content, but I knew that I was experiencing something very important. It seemed like I had come to some great realization or something, and I wanted to remember what it was.

Of course, when I woke up I barely remembered the dream at all. But gradually, as I was getting ready I recalled thinking that thought, and remembered the feeling that went with it. Now that though has been bubbling up every now and then all day, and it’s very frustrating not to be able to put together any more of the dream, but at the same time it is comforting to recall the experience, however incompletely.


My First Tarot Reading

Today I had a Tarot reading done at work by my friend and co-worker, Angie. She just got a deck as a gift and we had a snowy day with nothing to do, so she read my cards. I’d never had one done before but it was a pretty cool experience, and the reading I got seemed pretty relevant to my life right now. I had to shuffle the deck with a clear head and break it into four piles. The photo shows the cards that came up on top of each pile: Justice, The Sun, the 4 of wands, and the 9 of swords. The first card I think was supposed to represent the main subject/problem of the reading, the second and third food for thought about the problem, and the fourth the solution. The first card, Justice apparently represents objective and rational thinking, and as a problem can be interpreted as bureaucratic struggle or intellectual conflict. Based on this card, Angie advised me to seek the council of elders and to do healthy things, both physically and spiritually. The Sun card linked personal growth to self expression, enthusiasm, and self-assurance, and the the 4 of wands advised against getting stuck in old patterns of behavior. The 9 of swords suggested that the answer involves depression and self doubt, meaning perhaps that I should be aware of these obstacles and not lose focus.

I found these cards very interesting. I immediately connected the first to my ongoing struggle to finish college and the difficulties I have with concentration and time management. I have a great desire to express myself (both academically at school, and otherwise – through music, photography, and other projects) but often find myself very unproductive, and have difficulty getting things done at all without approaching deadlines, and even then don’t always finish them on time. At school, this often results in me feeling quite overwhelmed and sometimes depressed.

The cards interestingly seem to reiterate the things that I know I need to change in my life. I need to avoid my habit of procrastinating, and be more assertive and self-assured. I’ve been meaning to take on new projects – like yoga, bass lessons, building a coffee table, etc. – and I need to just suck it up and go for it. The bit I found especially intriguing was the fact that the depression card was “the answer.” This, combined with the advice to seek the advice of elders also plays into a thought I have had about a possible action I could take. My grandmother is a Jungian analyst, and I have thought of asking her to refer me to another analyst for counseling. I have heard that counseling (and Jungian analysis in particular) can be a very fulfilling and illuminating experience, and I think it might be of great help to me, both pragmatically and spiritually. So, I think I am going to try and get rolling on some of the things I’ve been meaning to do, try to stay optimistic and productive, and I’ll shoot my grandma an email about an analyst.


Sea|Mester Part 7: Return to the BVIs

After an awesome time in Saba, our trip was finally coming to a close, and it was time to return home to the BVIs. We arrived at about 8:00 am after a starry overnight passage from Saba.

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Sea|Mester Part 6: Saba

Saba was the Fifth stop on our Leeward Islands tour. It was easily the most bad-ass place we visited. Surrounded by a sheer rock face hundreds of feet high, covered in dense jungle, and with roads so steep you could barely stand up straight, it is an imposing place to say the least. It’s also the home of the Saba Triathlon, one of the most intense races I’ve ever heard of. Even so, Saba still has plenty of good Caribbean chill, and everybody there is super nice. It also has a very diverse local ecology, with lots of fruit trees and a wide variety of plants, birds and animals. All around, it was one of my favorite stops.

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Sea|Mester Part 5: Surf Day & Ile Fourche


After a long night of partying in Gustavia, the next day was “Surf Day!” I’d never surfed before and was very excited to try it out. I couldn’t have asked for better weather or a more beautiful beach, and I had a lot of fun paddling around and trying to catch waves, although I only managed to ride a few. (more…)


Music Monday

Last.fm

I stole this idea from a friend’s blog… Anyway this is what I’ve been listening to recently. (more…)


Sea|Mester Part 4: St. Barthélemy

The fourth stop we made on our voyage was the French island of St. Barthélemy, or St. Barth’s. The island is an “overseas collectivity,” making it basically a part of France. As such it really felt like a little piece of Europe in the middle of the Carribean. It was easily the most expensive island we visited, due in part to a not-so-favorable dollar-euro exchange rate, but it was well worth it, as we all had a great time feasting on crêpes, going to bars, trying to speak french to drunk locals, surfing, and shopping for souvenirs.

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Day 7 – Do you want to get married and/or have kids?

I don’t care if I get married. I wouldn’t mind it, nor would I be upset if it didn’t happen. I do care about having a meaningful relationship (which I happily already have! – Christie and I are pretty much functionally married already). I would like to have a wedding though, whether or not it is official. Weddings are fun.

I do want to have kids. I think I’d make a damn good dad, and I feel like having kids is an experience I wouldn’t want to miss out on. I also might like to adopt a kid (in addition to a child of my own). I’d feel guilty adding new people to an already overpopulated earth, especially when there are already so many kids on it that need help and love, and adoption could present a partial solution to this problem.


Sea|Mester Part 3: Antigua

This summer I did a 20 sailing trip with Sea|Mester. We sailed from the British Virgin Islands to Nevis, Antigua, St. Barths, Saba, and back to the BVI’s. It was a thoroughly excellent adventure, unlike anything I’d ever done before. It was my first time flying alone, first time leaving continental North America, first time being on a boat for more than a few hours, first time visiting a foreign country other than Canada, first time sailing, first time surfing, first time cooking a meal for twenty people, and probably a bunch more that aren’t coming to me at the moment. Because I have so many pictures, I am going to split my account of the trip into several parts, and because I haven’t developed some of my film yet, I am starting with part three: Antigua.

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Day 6 – What are your views on love? Do you think it’s real? Do you think we only experience one love per lifetime? Does everyone have a soul mate?

This is a strange question to me. I think we all (or most of us, at least) have feelings for other beings, some of which we identify as love, and these feelings are real, to the extent that any feelings are. I do not, however, think that love exists in and of itself as some kind of platonic form or whatever. That said, I think that the feeling of love is a very powerful and unique force with great transformative potential, and one that we could definitely do with more of in the world.

As for the bit about one love per lifetime: I don’t believe in predetermined soul mates. I think that the potential for love – romantic or not – exists between any two people (or combination of people, for that matter), and whether that potential is realized depends on infinite chance happenings, the choices we make, and our ideas about ourselves and others. I also see no reason to believe that we cannot love more than one person simultaneously. I would say that I love hundreds of people, each to different extent (I don’t like the idea of measuring love quantitatively, but I can’t think of a better word here) and expressed in a different way. I’d also say that I love all people, but in a general sense, as I obviously haven’t met everybody and cannot feel specific feelings toward everyone.


Day 5 – Do you think sex before marriage is okay?

Yes, I think sex before marriage is perfectly fine. I don’t really care much about marriage, and I think that sex is just one facet of human interaction. It can be powerful and special, yes, but I don’t think it is fundamentally different than shaking someone’s hand, having a conversation, or making out, and it is certainly not as evil or dangerous as some people make it seem. It can definitely be very meaningful, but I don’t think that the act itself inherently carries any one particular meaning. We are animals and animals have sex. What we make of it is up to us.


Day 4 – What is your view on gay marriage?

I think anybody should be allowed to get married to anybody else. In my opinion, the real problem in this issue is that our idea of marriage itself is kind of confused; marriage as a legal entity is too tangled up with the Christian idea of marriage. Legally, there is absolutely no reason to continue denying a right that we claim is basic to our society to some citizens, and pretty much the only opposition to legalizing it is coming from a religious perspective. How particular religious institutions choose to interpret their scriptures is one thing, but in a country where so many religious beliefs are represented, those of one religion cannot be allowed to impact government policy so blatantly.


Day 3 – Are you proud to be from whatever country you are from?

This is a tough one. I definitely recognize that I’ve had a lot of opportunities that may not have been available to me if I hadn’t been born in America (and a boy, and white, and straight, and Christian, and not handicapped, etc etc…), so I am thankful for that i guessssssss, but I also see that my privilege has come at the expense of others’, and I don’t feel any more worthy of it than anyone else. I’m generally not a fan of the American government, American capitalism/big business, or the “American Dream,” “American Family Values,” or any of that nonsense. History has seen arrogant white men do some pretty disgusting things to basically everyone else, and I think that despite all the progress we’ve made, this country still has some way to go to escape that tradition.


Day 2 – Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you believe happens when you die?

No fucking clue. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.


Day 1 – Do you believe in God? What religion are you?

I don’t really take stock in any particular religious/metaphysical stance. I feel that any belief of this kind, no matter how sophisticated or elegant, is merely an attempt at describing The Way Things Are, and since none of us have the ability to step outside of our own experience to observe this, we don’t really have a vocabulary to talk about it. We do the best we can to make sense of things from our limited perspective, and religion, science, and superstition are just attempts at finding meaning in all this sense-data we are swimming in. The difference between statements like “God made it,” “It made itself,” “It is because…,” and “It just is,” is really just where they place that meaning and the terms they use to describe it. So, while I do think it is worthwhile to theorize and experiment to try to uncover as much about the universe as we can, we have to recognize that any conclusion we reach is extremely limited.

I can say though, that I personally don’t think about the universe in terms of a personal god. My view is more along the lines of a Daoist perspective, based on balance and harmony between opposing forces (Man/Nature, Heaven/Earth, Masculine/Feminine, etc). I try to align my actions with the natural way of the universe, and maintain balance in my life. I was raised Quaker, and that also had a large impact on how I look at the world. Quakerism generally emphasizes pacifism, equality, direct relationship to the divine, and thinking/feeling for oneself rather than accepting the interpretations of authority, all things that I try to employ in my life. Sorry if this was long, but I don’t have a simple answer, haha.


The Touchy-Tumblr-Is-Going-To-Fight Challenge

I’m doing this challenge on tumblr, and I’m going to post my responses here as well.

Day 1 – Do you believe in God?/What religion are you?
Day 2 – Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you believe happens when you die?
Day 3 – Are you proud to be from whatever country you are from?
Day 4 – What is your view on gay marriage?
Day 5 – Do you think sex before marriage is okay?
Day 6 – What are your views on love? Do you think it’s real? Do you think we only experience one love per lifetime? Does everyone have a soul mate?
Day 7 – Do you want to get married and/or have kids?
Day 8 – Do you think any drugs should be legalized? Do you think there should be an age for drinking?
Day 9 – Pro-life or prochoice?
Day 10 – What do you think about straightxedge?
Day 11 – What do you think about prostitution? Should it be legal?
Day 12 – What do you think about bisexuality?
Day 13 – Do you think there should be an age to get tattoos/piercings without the consent of a parent?
Day 14 – Do you believe in aliens?
Day 15 – Do you believe in regrets? do you have any terrible ones?
Day 16 – What do you want to happen to your body when you die?
Day 17 – Have you experienced your ‘first true love’ yet? Do you believe you ever will?
Day 18 – What is your take on people who self harm (cutting, burning, scratching etc etc.)
Day 19 – Do you think high schools should give out free contraceptive?
Day 20 – What do you think about plastic surgery?
Day 21 – What do you think about the death penalty?
Day 22 – Do you say your country’s national anthem/pledge of allegiance when it is said/listened to?
Day 23 – What do you think about thinspo?


Solomon!

A very important update in my life, which I have not yet mentioned on this blog, is my cat, Solomon! Christie, Enrico, and I adopted him from the Ewing animal shelter in April, right before we left 1146, and now he lives with us at our apartment in Lambertville. He is the cutest little cat you could imagine, and he is incredibly strange. He loves running around the house like a maniac, sleeping in the bathroom sink, playing in water, and socializing with English bulldogs. For the story of his first day with us, when we thought he was a girl, as well as his subsequent gender dilemma, see Enrico’s blog: here and here. And to have your tumblr dashboard overloaded with cute pictures of him, follow our all-Solomon-all-the-time tumblr, Solomon Done Fly.


1146

These photos, of the house in which I lived the past year, were taken as an exploration of the concept of “constructed landscape.” Taking these pictures was an interesting experience for me. At the time, I had already signed the lease for a new apartment, so the project, which had started as a school assignment, also became a last chance documenting of a place I was about to leave. It also gave me a chance to explore a new way of photographing – seeing a landscape as a unique space in time impacted and brought about by various forces (people in this case) – that has informed the way I look at the world in the time since. The images are scans from 4×5 negatives.

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Hello Again

Poor Blog, I’ve been neglecting you. I’ve been very busy though, and some interesting entries should be forthcoming. I hope. I just got back from a 20 day sailing trip in the Leeward Islands, and have been enjoying a few days’ rest before packing up again and heading to Minnesota with my family and my Christie. See you in two weeks!


Mango-Ginger Fried Rice with Sausage

(serves 2)

About a cup of leftover white or brown rice
1-2 tsp coconut (or other) oil
2-3 tsp each minced garlic and ginger
1 tsp minced chili pepper
1/2 small onion, diced
Dash of ground or crushed coriander seeds
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/2 mango, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled vegetarian sausage (I used Field Roast Italian, but others would certainly work, as would pre-cooked real sausage)
Soy Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Fresh coriander to taste, chopped

Heat oil in wok. Add garlic, ginger, pepper, and coriander seed; saute until fragrant. Add onions and cook until translucent before adding peas. Continue to cook until peas are just tender. Add sausage, mango, and rice and combine, tossing with soy sauce and Worcestershire until rice is just slightly colored and everything is heated through. Remove from heat and mix in fresh coriander; serve.


White-on-white Still Lifes

These were shot with a 4×5 view camera, scanned, and printed digitally for my photo II class at TCNJ.

We have class in a brand new building, and the facilities are really nice, but unfortunately they are also really unfinished. The darkroom is not dark, has no chemicals, and has sinks that aren’t yet hooked up to the building’s plumbing. As such, I had to get these developed at a shop, and some mysterious black drips appeared on them. I actually like the way they look though, especially in the following one.

The class is going really well regardless, and I love working in large format. I’m currently scanning and editing another series of still-lifes of memory-charged foods, which I will be putting up soon. We also have a class blog, which can be found at: http://tcnjphoto2.blogspot.com