30 April 2006

Demon Dog has a heart

This is Demon Dog.

The other day I got out of my car and noticed that the neighbor's pit bull was staring at me. I've always had this thing with animals and babies -- I always try to get into a staring contest with them. At the supermarket, it's amazing how many babies I can get to smile at me just by maintaining eye contact with them. Sometimes the moms give me dirty looks, but most of them smile, just being happy that someone is noticing their offspring.

Back to the dog. So this dog and I get into a staredown to end all man-beast staredowns. I thought he had me for a second when I felt a smile trying to crack through my mask of pure intimidation, but he barked first. And just to punctuate my victory, I did my little intimidation move (a kind of jerky forward thrust of the shoulders).

It was then that I noticed that my wife Kristy had been watching the entire exchange from the balcony.

We've been calling him "Demon Dog" since he is a pit bull and he spends most of his time thrashing a doll that resembles a very lifelike toddler. Disturbing. However, I've been watching our demonic canine friend from the balcony while I study and I've recently discovered that he's not demonic at all. He's rather quite the child. He derives such intense pleasure from thrashing the entire backyard that I can't help but smile myself as I watch his innocent masterpiece of mayhem unfold. No, he's no spawn of beelzebub. He's just really good at what he does. Everyone, meet Demon Dog.

22 April 2006


Avoidance behavior.

This blog is becoming quite useful in its facilitation of avoidance-behaviors. I'm very pleased.

I may or may not be engaging in avoidance behavior at this very moment. Has anyone else had the experience of situational narcolepsy? There are certain activities that, no matter how interested I think I am, always throw me into an epic struggle to stay awake. What an unfortunate conjunction of circumstances when such an activity is absolutely necessary at 3:00 a.m.
It's not that reading my chemistry book just makes me a bit drowsy. No, it mechanically shuts my body down. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I only read my chemistry book in the middle of the night before a test.
But my body has other similar behaviors that couldn't be explained by mere association. Take, for example, the fascinating reaction that my body has developed in the context of bookstores and libraries. Whenever I visit a bookstore, without fail, I have to visit the restroom. It's rather embarrassing, now that I mention it.
So, we've got situational narcolepsy and situational digestion, both mechanically induced by activities that seem removed from sleeping and digestion, respectively. I don't have the time to elaborate, but I think this proves that the big bang theory is wrong.
Well, I'm fully re-invigorated. Back to the chemistry books!

21 April 2006


What can I say? I'm a lucky man. This is immediately after the wedding ceremony in Brampton, Ontario. As you can see, it's a bit windy. The temperature outside was -14 degrees F. Getting married in Toronto in February? Advice: only if absolutely necessary.

19 April 2006

on language

I've launched an effort to avoid studying for a stats quiz tomorrow, and it's reaching heroic proportions. I've been thinking about language.
One of my favorite philosophers, Merleau-Ponty, thinks of language as another sense organ. It is something that makes the world around us more concrete; it helps us get a grip on things, helps us apprehend the world(in both senses of the word, perhaps). He has an interesting story about the development of language where, among other things, the babbling phase in children corresponds to pre-vocalized thoughts and dreams in adults. There is a reaching for (but not quite a grasping of) a thing or situation that remains fuzzy precisely because it isn't fleshed out with language. Accordingly, he also says that the word is the flesh of the thought. The use of the word "flesh" in this context means that Merleau-Ponty is trying to say that the word makes thought both something sensible and something we sense with.
We've all had the experience of having a brilliant thought that we try to express in words. I know I've had my share of brilliant thoughts, oh yes. As soon as I open my mouth, however, my brilliant thought seems downright silly. This is a general rule for me. I've also had the experience of describing my dreams to others--I feel like I'm half-reporting and half-creating-on-the-spot. And when I'm done describing the dream it always feels like I've left something out and put something in that wasn't there before. These are the experiences that hint at the sense of language that Merleau-Ponty is giving us.
I'm fascinated by this account of language. I still have to suspend my endorsement of it since I haven't had the time to consider all of its implications. But as a practicing member of the LDS faith I get the feeling that it is right. In the church we often talk about "bearing" our testimonies. This refers to the practice of avowing a conviction that certain doctrines of the gospel (and certain historical facts about the church) are true. One church leader, Elder Boyd K. Packer, is well-known for encouraging members to get up and bear their testimonies even when they aren't so sure what they believe. He says (paraphrasing) that "a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it."
For a long time I've thought that this statement is best understood from two different perspectives: (1) as a statement about cognitive conditioning, from the perspective of a non-believer, and (2) as a statement about the kind of spiritual knowledge that results from taking a leap of faith, from the perspective of a believer. For the non-believer, this must be a frightening statement. Somehow, if you want to believe in something and you say you believe in it, it suddenly becomes true to you. I've tried this on multiple occasions and my experience has always confirmed Elder Packer's promise. But now we're led to ask ourselves if we're only deceiving ourselves.
Not from Merleau-Ponty's point of view. By putting some sentiment (or maybe even a pre-sentiment) into words, we are giving it flesh. But this creation, the word, now acts as something with which we can try and grasp at the world. If these words fall flat and fail to hook up meaningfully with the rest of our world, they become a negation of themselves and we realize we have said something wrong. But if, by hearing these words we speak, the world becomes sharper and more focused, then these words become evidence for us that we have spoken truth. This, of course, is more of a phenomenological assessment, rather than a logical one. Logically speaking, all of us have had our worlds "focused" by a logical fallacy, or even by something that was, in some respect, untrue. But this is no problem if you consider that even a logical fallacy or a "partial truth" can bring us closer to truth. After all, the whole history of science is a story of partial truths bringing us closer to what we hope is a particular realm of truth.

18 April 2006


This is a grub.

This is my first post. Once I was talking to a friend who had a blog and I was like, "No offense, but who in the world wants to spend time reading what you have to say?" I was almost offended at the very idea of blogs. So here I am, blogging away.

I think "blog" is a great word precisely because it is so ambiguous. It is a verb? "Yeah, I blog now and again." Is it a noun? "Hey, dude, check out my new blog." Is it an adjective? Nope. Is it a definite article? Certainly not. The word "blog" is up there on the top of the list with other ambiguous words, like "grub." Grub is an adjective, a noun (in more than one sense), a verb, perhaps more. It can be subject, object and modifier. Behold. "The grub grubbed on some grub grub."

Allow me to take this opportunity to disabuse you--I'm not under the impression that my life is any more interesting than the next guy's, unless the next guy happens to be my nextdoor neighbor, in which case I'm pretty sure my life is more interesting than the next guy's. Just kidding, my nextdoor neighbor is very interesting.

Guess what? I love my wife. We just got married in February and today is our two month anniversary.