Finding your passion

I have heard the phase “Find your passion!” repeatedly for as long as I could remember.

“Find your passion!”
“Do what you love!”
“The key to happiness is finding your passion!”
“Every day will be like playing instead of working.”

I think this is a little unfair, and here’s why:
There are two types of people– people who LOVE things, and people who like things.
People who LOVE things love to taste, love to feel, love to smell. They love trying new things and having new experiences. They are very hungry and very passionate. They are very happy (or very depressed) with their lives. They can be impulsive.

People who like things like to try new things too, but they are a few degrees detached compared to people who LOVE. They are interested in their work, but not emotionally attached. They are not as hungry, but are disciplined.

The phrase “Find your passion” seems to apply only to people who LOVE.
So does this mean that only passionate people will succeed in life? Does this mean that only passionate people will be happy? If you don’t LOVE your job, will you be miserable? Most humans lie somewhere near the middle of a normal bell curve, which means most people are not Very Passionate. Does this mean that the vast majority of us will not be happy and find our career? Does this mean our society was set up so that most of us would fail?

“Find your passion.”

I’ve met some people who take this mantra to heart, and as a result can’t find a career path that suits them. They can’t take the first step in selecting a path, or they constantly switch careers. Am I passionate about A? … no. B?….no. C?…. eh, it was good at first, but now I’m cynical and disenchanted….so no. Etc.

The Passion is either external or internal.
Finding Your Passion is a matter of finding where your passion lies. Is it something, one specific Thing maybe, that makes you happy? Or can you find happiness within yourself?Is it finding a Passion (one of many), and then making it belong to You? Or was it Yours to begin with, but just needed to be unearthed?

Many of us envy these people who have found their Thing and seem to have their lives planned out. But every field has its ups and downs. There is always some politics, corruption, and bullshit in everything. What happens when a field becomes less tasty? Do you feel stuck? Get burned out? Quit? Change careers? Which narrative do you pick to rationalize this with yourself? Is it because the world is corrupt and you stayed true to yourself, or is because you lack discipline?

The key is to find both passion and discipline. Find what gets you up in the morning, and discipline yourself to withstand the hard times and fly through the good.






Election 2016

I’ve had a couple of days to process/mourn the results of the election.

I have never worried about a presidency, because all previous candidates were intelligent and extremely qualified. I’m glad Obama won twice, but it would have been okay if McCain or Romney were elected.

Watching Trump get elected was like going through the stages of mourning.

Denial. The polls haven’t closed yet… Hillary will pull through and get the swing states.

Anger. Those Bernie Sanders IDIOTS! Where did you come from, Jill Stein! WTF America, half of us are women! Who the FUCK voted for Trump and WHY?!

Bargaining. (After the election… if we sign this petition the Electoral College will meet in December and Hillary could get the presidency!)

Depression. (The entire week.)

Acceptance. (Starting now.)

In the first couple of days, we have seen an increase in hate crimes and harassment of minorities. Trump has appointed a climate change-denier as head of the EPA. He has named his kids transition team members. There’s talk of cutting funds for research and environmental advocacy. This is so, so terrible.

I hope that the increased hate crimes are due to confirmation bias and mean-spirited revelry from the other side rather than a newly established social norm.

I sincerely hope that we as a country, as a people, will be okay.

A man who has empowered bigoted people to become open about their hatred will be our leader. But this is a country for those who love freedom. We ARE free people. We are free to be nonjudgmental, we are free to be racist, and we are free to be bystanders to racism. The president is merely a persuader. He cannot control our actions nor can he change our attitudes. If WE do not want to be racist, then we will NOT be racist, and we will NOT permit others to be racist.

There is less we can do about the possible de-funding of scientific research/EPA… but we can also try to be greener… generate less waste, turn off the lights, keep the heat low, drive less, etc. This is the part that scares me more about Trumps upcoming presidency….


Birthday resolutions

For my birthday, I resolve to improve my communication skills.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that my communication skills, in particular, my speaking skills, have gone down since college and grad school. I am inarticulate and rambling. I work in a lab every day and don’t talk to a lot of people. I have been asocial for way too long.

I believe that anyone can learn anything. Adaptability, like mathematical reasoning, spatial awareness, artistic ability, and empathy, is an intelligence. Adaptability is the ability to learn new things, to quickly glean the essence of a new skill and plan a course of action that culminates in the mastery of that skill. It is the ability to become more intelligent.

The trait that comes hand in hand with adaptability is attitude. Having the right attitude is not indulging in the delusion that “I CAN DO ANYTHING”. It is accepting that I can’t do it now but might be able to tomorrow. It is acknowledging that I can change.

On that note, I will start by writing in this blog again. I noticed that during times when I write more, I am also more articulate. I will aim to write every day, but will set a goal of making at least one post per week. That’s one post per week for the next 52 weeks.

I drank the Kool-Aid, or maybe I just like doing extreme things.

Bikram yoga sounded like a stupid idea. I tried it anyways and have nothing but positive things to say about it.

I don’t like exercising indoors. I like running around outdoors. When I hit the treadmill in February, all I can think of is that I’m working hard but literally getting nowhere. I also can’t stand fitness classes. To me, they seem like forced enthusiasm for becoming less sedentary, like taking a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

So of course, I don’t like the idea of yoga. It’s hippie-ish and fad-ish. It targets 20 to 30-year-old white females who may also be Zen Buddhists. It markets itself as exercise but involves a lot of sitting down and staying still.

So of course, I already hate the idea of Bikram yoga– yoga in 105-degree weather. Ugh. I am the person who bikes in shorts in 40-degree weather. The only thing I hate more than sweating is sweating when you’re not supposed to, and in my mind, you are not supposed to sweat when you are barely moving.

Well, I attended my first Bikram class (and my fourth ever yoga class) at the Hot Yoga Spot in Albany, and there is a lot more to it than you might think. You know I’ve drunk the Kool-aid when I’m pretty much convinced that the inventor, Bikram Choudhury, is a fricken’ genius. Bikram yoga is practiced at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity to replicate the environment in India, and all Bikram sessions consist of the same 26 poses.

A lot of people say that the heat revs up your metabolism and allows your muscles to work more effectively/efficiently to achieve the correct poses. Another idea is that sweating helps flush out toxins. I don’t buy that. Your metabolism will speed up at a certain point beyond our physiological temperature range, but you will also be hindered from accomplishing strenuous exercise by the fatigue and despair that accompanies heat or cold. The temperature range at which human metabolism increases beyond 37 degrees C is also very narrow, because after that we tend to die. And peeing, not sweating, flushes out toxins.

In my (amateur) opinion, the REAL reason heat is so beneficial is that it functions not as a metabolism-booster, but as a psychological aid in achieving focus and form. I may be wrong, but this is what I observed from attending that class:

1. Each Bikram class consists of the same 26 poses, so the Bikram philosophy clearly emphasizes achieving proper form and attaining perfection. Unlike Vinyassa, which is movement-oriented, Bikram focuses on still poses. Each motion is carried out with deliberation until the final pose is attained and held. The heat and humidity is so pervasive that it forces you to focus on perfecting your poses. I am a very easily-distracted person, so focusing on holding a pose would normally bore me. Bikram, however, simplifies the task– either focus on the heat and suffer, or focus on the pose and survive. The end result is that your mind ends up somewhere in between and you end up dissociating a little (that’s the best description I have). I remember holding a one-legged squat and realizing that both the heat and the muscle pain had faded to a buzz. I was aware that there was heat and pain, but I felt that I could almost choose not to feel it. It was very weird.

2. This may or may not apply to all forms of yoga, but Bikram in particular emphasizes self-awareness. The air is so heavy that every breath you take must be controlled and deliberate. You are physically not allowed to pant or become out of breath. There is also no instructor to imitate, so every movement must be conceived in your mind before it is synthesized by your body.

The purpose of heat is not to speed up your metabolism or warm up your muscles, it’s to slow your mind and body down so you can concentrate on perfecting your pose.

I am a convert.

I highly recommend that everyone who is young and healthy try Bikram yoga at least once in their lives. Just remember to drink a lot water beforehand.

I have too many hobbies.

At a friend’s graduation party, I spoke to a guy who happens to be an avid snake enthusiast, and was reminded of my obsession with birds back in middle school and high school. I sort of dropped birding in college. I birded Normanskill Saturday morning sans binoculars, and I can confirm that I’ve gotten bitten by the birding bug again.

The birding bug starts with, but doesn’t end with, birds. No no no. It starts with birds and purchasing a pair of binoculars. I’m looking at the Celestron 71332 Nature DX 8×42, which is $125 on Amazon. I’ll eventually want to get a spotting scope to look at shorebirds and hawks (probably $300). I’ll eventually include mammals and reptiles/amphibians. I’ll want a way to document everything, so I’ll want a camera– probably a DSLR ($500+). Now comes the question– do I want to try taking pictures from a distance, or focus instead on macros. The answer is: both, of course– birds at a distance, and herps up close. I’ll start with “digiscoping”– mating the camera with the spotting scope to achieve high magnification, but eventually I’ll want a real telescopic lens ($$$) to get real quality pics. I’ll also want a macro lens ($$$) to capture the fine details on the snakes and salamanders I plan to find. I’ll want to photograph other things too, so I’ll start looking for flowers, fungi, and bugs as well.

I just spent an hour talking myself out of dropping $125 on the binos. What starts out with looking for birds can very easily (I know myself) lead to a zillion other expensive hobbies, which I don’t have time for. It’s almost as if my need to pursue these follow-up hobbies transcends my desire to do them. It’s very weird, but I know myself. I have no self control.

My current hobby list includes:
-riding road bikes (Spring, summer, fall. This is the major time consumer.)
-riding mountain bikes (seasonal, between road biking and running season)
-fixing bikes (constant)
-running (I sort of do this when I put the bike away in the fall/winter. It’s seasonal, so not a problem!)
-collecting shells (also seasonal)
-fossils (on occasion)
-reading and blogging (constant. Well, blogging is new.)
-cooking and baking (constant. I keep cooking logs now.)

I’m planning on adding guitar to this list at some point– maybe as a winter thing. Ugh. I have too many hobbies.

Recycling bike tubes

I carry a brand new bike tube in my saddle bag (along with a glueless patch kit) when I go for a ride. I put a second spare in my jersey pocket for trips over 50 miles long. When I get home, I always patch my flat tubes. Several people on club rides have given me shit for this. “Life’s too short– get a new tube.”

Well, first of all, if a patch is done right, it is permanent. Just make sure you use the ones with vulcanizing fluid- not the glueless ones. I have several tubes with 4+ patches on them. Why waste money and resources on a new tube when you can just patch it? (Soapbox time. Cycling is about getting fresh air and outdoor exercise, enjoying nature, efficiency, sustainability, and environmentally-friendly transportation. If we enjoy filling our lungs with clean air every time we ride, then maybe we should adopt lifestyles that make it possible for us and future generations to do so. Reuse, reduce, and recycle- in that order! Ride your bike to work (but don’t be a dick about it). Ride your bike to group rides. And follow traffic laws. If we want to be respected by motorists, shouldn’t we apply the same laws and standards to ourselves?)

Second of all, if you are getting a lot of punctures in a short period of time, there is probably something wrong with your tires.

There will come a time when your tube invariably fails and cannot be patched. Broken valves, leaks near the valve stem, and leaks from bad patches means your tube is useless. But don’t worry! There are plenty of things you can do to recycle your unpatchables!

1. Rubber bands can be fashioned by cutting the tube into rings. This works better with wider mountain bike tubes.

2. Bike lock. Cut off the section that contains the stem, and slip a chain (or an old bicycle chain) through the resulting hose. Get a padlock and you have yourself a bike lock!

3. Balloon pump. This one is a little silly, but was instrumental in filling my PI’s desk with balloons on her birthday. Cut off the stem of the tube and trim as much material from the area as possible. You will be left with a rubber donut at the base of the stem. Stick the rubber end in a pen cap, stick the valve end in a bike pump, and you have yourself a balloon pump!

20150403_221840   20150403_221950

4. Rubber spacers/protectors for bike accessories. Wrap a section of rubber around your bike as spacers or to protect the paint when you stick panniers, fenders, lights, etc. to your frame.

5. Bungees, when used with caution.

6. Stretching bands.

7. I’ve heard that some people have fashioned wallets, clothing, and jewelry out of their old tubes.

Ok, this is getting silly now.

Note: I have tried making patches out of old tubes and rubber cement– I had no luck, unfortunately.