Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Final Stretch

I can't believe it's already almost-May! The thing about having been on a quarter-system schedule is you forget about the most difficult parts of semester schedules: the end of them. I have a giant paper due within the next few weeks, plus a group project, PLUS finals. I've totally forgotten how to do in class essays. It's all kind of a mess.

I feel like everyone's got a giant mess of things to do as well, and I don't really have any suggestions. Budgeting your time and getting into the groove of a schedule is always helpful, though I wish I actually practiced what I preach in that regard. But here's some things I've been doing to release stress, and they might be helpful to others as well:
  • Playing an instrument. I've decided that whenever I get too frustrated with something, I'm going to practice bass. That way, I calm down while doing something productive. It's sort of a win-win, unless, you know, I get frustrated with bass.
  • Playing video games. Same idea, slightly less productive. I feel like Mass Effect is definitely a good option here, unless the idea of a choose-your-own-adventure game scares you.
  • Hiking. I've been meaning to do this more often, but just taking the time to walk for miles with a friend or two in nature is actually pretty therapeutic. Typically, you know what you're getting into and you can decide exactly how much you want to exert yourself.
  • Cleaning? This one surprised me. Maybe it's because I have my own apartment now, but I've actually started... stress cleaning. It definitely is beneficial though, because once you actually get down to do your work, you have a clean, organized environment. It makes the process a little less hectic.

Stay classy,

Monday, April 28, 2014


Managing stress is certainly a big part of personal wellness. With everything that we do in our modern world, it can be easy to neglect ourselves and our needs. If we don't spend a necessary amount of time on ourselves, we won't be as effective in our activities. If we’re constantly frazzled and harried, then we won’t be giving our responsibilities and obligations our best self—we’ll be giving them a self that’s running at half-power or worse. It's very important for us to pay attention to self-care, to maintain our balance in living healthy and well, internally, as well as being externally accomplished.

There are many techniques that we can use to practice good self-care. Exercise is certainly very beneficial to help maintain our mood and energy. Meditation is a tremendous tool, as well. Diet certainly is. Maintaining a supportive network of friends and associates, who we can rely on to provide us with good resources when we need them, or just to lend a sympathetic ear, when that's needed. Having a spiritual practice of some kind can be a great source of comfort and a calming presence in our lives. Even owning a pet can be a helpful way to maintain good self-care.

Make sure to set aside an amount of time out of every day to do something that is just for you. Not for your job, not for your friends or family, not for your schoolwork, just something you enjoy. Even five minutes can be enough to maintain balance and centered-ness. An hour a day is even better.


Dave Roel.
Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
- Joseph Addison

Saturday, April 26, 2014

San Francisco spring break!

So over spring break, I (and, it turns out, at least three other people in my archaeology class alone) went to San Francisco! I’d never been before, so it was kind of an experience.

  • I took more public transit in the span of two days than I’ve ever taken in my life? Their transit system is so great. I’m used to LA/Long Beach, where it’s inconvenient, infrequent, and kind of gross, but transit in San Francisco is the complete opposite (although, yeah, it can still be gross).
  • I think the first day there, my friend (who lives there) took me literally almost everywhere in the span of eight hours. I arrived at eight in the morning and by three or four, we’d gone to SFSU, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Union Square, the downtown area/financial district, the ferry building, and some places along the pier.
  • The second day, we went to Haight-Ashbury and did some window shopping (as it was close to 4/20, a lot of smoke shops were having sales? which I didn’t know was a thing),  then Golden Gate Park, then went back to Union Square, and then to the Mission District for beignets.
  • There’s also apparently a lot of old-timey soda jerk places. Also macaroni places. Both of which my friend has an extensive knowledge of.
In sum, I really enjoyed myself! I definitely think I liked Seattle more, but SF is so much closer and not as much of a shock in terms of differences, so it was fun.

Stay classy,


Friday, April 25, 2014

Situational verisimilitude

So Dan calls me up, and tells me there's a show happening tonight. Cool, I say. What is it. It's a poetry slam. Cool, I like those. It's on a boat. Okay, that's weird. Wasn't expecting that. So we go to it. We get there. It seems to be some kind of birthday party for someone. The boat was smaller than I thought it would be. The gathering was a bit smaller than I thought it would be, too. But you know, new friends, cool. Some of the folks there had instruments and were playing. There was actually a lot more music than there was poetry read. But that's fine. One poem was about battleships in desert, and something about pastries. No, I don't drink, thanks. So, you're into meditation? Yes. What do you know about aroma therapy? Well, not much directly, but that can certainly be a useful technique for some people. You were at KUCI? I used to do a show there. Oh, cool. Foot bath? That sounds interesting. Yeah, I've looked into alternative health stuff, actually, I've interviewed several people from various alternative health fields on my podcast. Would you be interested in coming on sometime? Cool. Hey, have you heard of this author? Check him out, I think you’d dig him. I’ve got a lot of resources on my website. Yeah, give me your email. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Google+, I’m on Skype. What kind of keyboard do you play? Yeah, let’s keep in touch.

Yes, it is a cartoon!

TimTom from Romain SEGAUD on Vimeo.


Dave Roel.
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.
- Bessie A. Stanley

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fact Checking

You've probably seen plenty of articles that sound something like "Lorde Gives Anti-Capitalist Speech at the Grammy's", "How GMOs are Doing _____ and We're All Going to Die",  or "Something Nuclear Happened and We're All Going to Die." And while some of them are at least partially true (for instance, nuclear particles from the Fukushima meltdown are supposed to hit the west coast by, well, now and allegedly it won't have any negative impacts on humans or sea life, but maybe stay out of the water just in case?) a lot of them are exaggerated, misinterpreted, and sometimes straight-up fear mongering. Some articles are easy to disprove-- the Lorde example, for instance, was posted on a parody news website-- but when it comes to science-related things, it can be hard to tell what's correct if you yourself are not really scientifically (or statistically) educated. I'm obviously no expert, but here's what I look for when I try to fact check things beyond my scope of understanding:

Check the sources, author, research, etc. If the news comes from a website called something to the effect of "The Daily Sheeple", "Only Organic Foods", or anything referencing conservativism or liberalism, it's probably a biased, unreliable source. If the article got its information from something that has very little to do with what they're writing about, it's probably inaccurate. If the author is writing about the effects of nuclear waste but they're a nutritionist rather than a nuclear scientist (which has actually happened when I tried to fact check something), they probably can't be trusted to write about it accurately. And so on.

Google it. Not that this necessarily yields better sources, but I've found that a lot of scare articles were written based on misunderstandings or exaggerations by googling things. Or I've found mainstream news articles (which aren't necessarily much better) addressing the same subject and alleging to have consulted actual experts on whatever topic, which suggests that their story may be more accurate. If nothing else, googling certain headlines allows you to see what kind of news outlets are reporting the story-- and, if a majority of them are from places like The Daily Sheeple, you pretty much have your answer.

Snopes. I actually doubt that Snopes is the best way to fact check things, but generally Snopes gives you a definitive answer with lots of reasoning and sources. So you can always just fact check the fact checking.

Check the chart. There are a whole bunch of scientific/statistic procedures that may be completely meaningless to you if you haven't studied either subject in much depth, but the gist is that these procedures have a HUGE impact on the results. So, if they're not followed correctly, the results could very well be inaccurate. For the sake of convenience, I found a chart that pretty much outlines them.

Stay classy,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pressure per unit area vs. deformation per unit length

So we're getting to the point in the semester when stress starts to get to us. Do you know the origin of the concept of stress? Hans Selye was an endocrinologist who developed much of the way we conceive of stress today. He was the first to study and describe the physical effects of stress. Selye was fluent in at least five languages, and chose the word "stress" to describe the process he was observing. It is said that, much later, he came to realize that, in his rough facility with English, he had made a bad choice. He was unaware that the word stress was used in physics, in dealing with elasticity. When a force, or stress, is applied to a surface, deformation, or strain, results. Selye realized that he had mixed the terms, and what he had called stress should rightly have been called strain. The term has stuck.

Stress should properly be considered as the pressure put on something; strain is the deformation that results. Stress comes to us (speaking on a mental/emotional level, not physical) in the forms of our obligations, responsibilities, our jobs, our schoolwork, or relationships, friends and family, unexpected emergencies, etc. Stress can affect us in many ways, and can have a negative effect on our health. It's important to remember it's not the pressure that hits us—it's whether that pressure bends us out of shape. Stress isn't the problem—strain is. Stress is a trigger for growth. As long as the stress is handled gradually, our mind and bodies can adapt to it, and grow stronger as a result. It's when the stress happens too quickly that we don't accommodate it, and we get strain. The system under strain breaks down.

We all need to learn how to manage our stress, to prevent it from becoming strain. Breathing exercises, physical exercise, meditation, yoga, massage, journaling, healthy eating, calming music, a trip to a favorite environment, etc. All good techniques for unwinding and decompressing.


Dave Roel.
Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.
- Stephen R. Covey

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stay or go

I posted an article of ten signs you should leave a relationship. Someone commented that one should try to work it out, rather than give up. Sometimes it can be worked out, and sometimes it can’t. There are some cases where getting out is the right call. Sometimes it really is time to quit. Sometimes it can’t be fixed. Knowing when that’s the case, and when it’s taking the easy way out is not a science, it’s a judgement call. There's no blanket prescription for anything. Everyone has to make a judgement call on their situation. I have known some people who have been in truly terrible abusive relationships. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how strong your own drive to fix it is; if the other person is unwilling to work towards or is incapable of working towards improvement, then there is no possibility for fixing it. A relationship can’t be fixed by just one person. Sometimes the person you’re with can't be worked with. Sometimes all you can do is get away from them.

Sometimes people stay in a bad situation out of fear, out of lack of self-agency, lack of self-esteem, financial constraints, fealty to commitment, out of shame, etc. Unhealthy thinking leads to bad decisions. If we’re in a healthy, supportive place, mentally and emotionally, we can use that as a solid foundation from which we can make positive, healthy choices.

″Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

It’s a cartoon!

Bibo from Anton Chistiakov on Vimeo.


Dave Roel.
The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
- Epictetus

Monday, April 14, 2014


Whenever I’m asked about whether I believe in something, I always say the same thing. I say that it makes no sense to believe in anything. When you say you believe in something, you are saying that you are 100% certain that this is the case. We can’t be 100% certain of anything in this existence. There’s always some room for doubt, no matter how small. Godel proved that with his incompleteness theorem (that says that we cannot know 100% of the information of a given system), as did Heisenberg with his uncertainty principle (that says that we cannot know 100% of the information of a particle). There’s always some amount of incompleteness or uncertainty in our knowledge, and since we can never be 100% certain of anything in existence, it makes no sense to say that we believe in anything. We have our best guesses and our best stories and our best bets on what’s going on, but they are just guesses and stories and bets. We can always revise those theories upon the receipt of new information. This is the scientific approach.

When I say this, sometimes someone responds that that is a depressing worldview. I don’t see it as depressing in any way. I see it as a sane and rational way to approach the world. It leaves us open for new information, and prevents us from falling into mental traps of rigid, orthodox thinking. It seems to me to be a better way to live, anyway.


Dave Roel.
Basic human contact - the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words - is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain.
- Martha Beck

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Scientific Literacy

One of the reasons I liked my physical/biological anthro class so much this semester is because it stressed the importance of having some degree of scientific literacy. I knew that was important to have, but I never really realized to what extent. And I myself wasn't-- and still am not really-- scientifically literate.

There's a lot of benefits to knowing at least a little bit about how science works. I think mainly, if nothing else, it's important to know how the scientific process works. As in, while its aim is to be objective, it doesn't always succeed in that. It's also correctable; what may be the accepted theory now could change drastically, as more tests are done and new technology aids scientists in figuring things out. Science also strictly applies to things that can be tested/repeatedly retested and (dis)proven. So if there's no real way to test it (i.e. palm reading, ghosts, creationism), it's not scientific.

(That doesn't mean belief in those things is wrong, by the way. That just means it's incompatible with science-- for instance, my teacher compared religion and science to oil and water.)

The important thing to take from that is how to distinguish science from pseudoscience. The ability to do that ensures that you'll most likely be getting the most accurate information available at the time, rather than fall prey to misinformation, which often relies on fear-mongering.

The other important thing is that you realize how important knowing even a little bit about science is. It can inform your opinion on a wide variety of topics-- anything from vaccinations, to GMOs, to global climate change, to sex ed. So many of the decisions we make have something to do with science, and knowing how to educate yourself and get the most accurate information in order to make the best decisions is immensely important.

Stay classy,

Friday, April 11, 2014

Benevolent intricacies

Dig the use of the “Verb all the nouns” Hyperbole and a Half meme on the Job Fair sign. Allie Brosh would be pleased, right before siccing the copyright monster on us.

Holy wow, are the chairs in the computer lab hurty on the spine. Think I ought to bring a pillow.

My nomination for most under-used bathroom: science building, second floor.

I’m giving a small (and by small, I mean tiny, negligible, paltry, limited, meager, microscopic, minuscule, modest, short, slight, diminutive, little, sparse) presentation at the Personal Wellness Symposium on April 23 at CSUF. My presentation is an introduction to meditation. Although I’m really not going to say anything that different from what I usually talk about on my podcast, and I don’t promote that on this blog. Why is it different when it’s in person? There seems to be some kind of gravitas and weight and formality to speaking on a stage, in front of an audience of people physically present in the room. Seems more important, somehow. I don’t think it is. The information is the important thing, and it’s the same information regardless of the medium it’s delivered in. And yet, here I am promoting it anyway, like it is something different. I guess I’m just a slave to my culturation, as indeed we all are. Well, anyway, come and learn some things about personal health, wellness, general life improvement, etc. It really is a good line-up of speakers, despite my inconsequential presence on the bill.

More extensive details than the above link.

Feel like a cartoon?


Dave Roel.
No matter what's going on, or how unusual the problem, somebody else dealt with it before you. Find and learn from them.
- Daniel Keys Moran

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


It's weird, because since entering college (and ruling out environmental engineering, which I am so not cut out for) I've been pretty dead set on becoming an urban planner. The introductory courses I took at UCSD-- which really were more like urban sociology/economics/history than urban planning-- absolutely fascinated me. I didn't consider myself to really be a science-minded person, so I thought urban planning would be perfect.

My plan was to do anthropology for undergrad and then go to grad school for urban planning. That may well still be my plan, but in the course of preparing for my anthro degree, I took  a biological anthro class this semester and it's totally caught my interest. I can't put my finger on why I never liked science before-- though I suspect it has A LOT to do with my high school teachers-- but I guess when it's applied to human history and cultures and current socio-environmental issues, I suddenly become fascinated. I totally didn't expect to come out of that course with a undiscovered passion for biology and evolutionary theory.

I'm fortunate in that biological anthropology is still applicable to urban planning, or I'd probably have to make a decision between the two. Which would be scary, because while I know I'm probably cut out for learning about urban planning, I don't know how good I'd be at doing it. Alternately, I might be interested in biological anthropology now, while I'm just reading/writing about it and no labs/chemistry/physics are involved, but were any of those things to be introduced, I don't know if I'd really grasp it.

So, I mean, I was trying to come up with advice for people who might be in similar situations, or situations where they HAVE to choose between their interests, but I honestly don't have any. Except maybe that's it okay to go for something more broad but still applicable to whatever you may want to do. That's the advice one of my urban planning professors gave to me, which is partially why I'm majoring in anthropology.

Stay classy,

Monday, April 7, 2014

Short term vs. long term

Actions reveal priorities. If we say that today, we're going to exercise, but we end up spending all day watching television, that reveals our priority. Basically, we like pleasure, and dislike discomfort. Exercise or studying can be boring, difficult, uncomfortable. Playing video games or watching television is enjoyable, pleasant. We go towards pleasure and away from pain, as any organism does. Makes perfect sense, right? And it is true, as long as you view it in a short term perspective. For this afternoon, playing video games or wasting time on Facebook is pleasurable, but if you did that every day for ten years, in the long term, you'll have a whole lot of pain. You won't see it immediately, but you're building to it. And exercising or studying may be uncomfortable now, but in the long term, there will be pleasure to come from it. It’s like those studies with kids where they give them the option of taking a marshmallow now, or waiting for a while and getting more marshmallows later. Some take the immediate marshmallow, and some wait, knowing that there will be greater pleasure if they wait. We’ll want to be the kid that understands that what is short term pleasurable now will lead to long term pain, and what is short term uncomfortable now will lead to long term pleasure. And if we’ve got that, if we’re able to correctly see what leads to pain and what leads to pleasure, it won’t be difficult to have our priorities in a good place.


Dave Roel.
The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.
- Wayne Dyer

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The (Book) List

So I'm making another list, one that I will (hopefully, eventually) actually complete this time. Except now with books-- I've read some things by some of these authors, and I already highly recommend them. If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments!

Jamaica Kincaid - I've read her short piece Girl and decided to check her out. She was born in Antigua and moved to New York to become an au pair, and a lot of her writing has to do with the subsequent experiences she had.
  • A Small Place
  • Annie John
  • Lucy

Gabriel Garcia Marquez - He writes a sort of absurd brand of magical realism, which totally appeals to me.
  • 100 Years of Solitude
  • Love in the Time of Cholera

Marie Howe - She's a poet, and I've read "Practicing" (which is sort of explicit) and "What the Living Do" (which is not-- it's also the poem one of her collections is named for) and thought both were really well-written and emotionally impactful.
  • What the Living Do

Virginia Woolf - I've never read anything by her, but lots of people have suggested her to me.  I was told to read her works in order of their publication, since the evolution of her writing style is amazing in itself.
  • To the Lighthouse
  • The Waves
  • The Years

Octavia Butler - She's a female African-American sci-fi writer, which is unfortunately not something that ever seems to happen with sci-fi. She's also amazing, so there's that.
  • Patternist series
  • Lilith's Brood series

James Baldwin - I don't know much about him, but he was a civil rights activist. I read his short story Sonny's Blues and got really into it.
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain

Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books, but I never ended up reading anything else by him.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Dandelion Wine
  • The Martian Chronicles

Junot Diaz - I've only ever read some quotes of his on activism, but he's incredibly well-spoken  and powerful.
  • This Is How You Lose Her
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Haruki Murakami - I don't actually know anything about him, but he's been recommended to me loads of times.
  • IQ84
  • Norwegian Wood

Catherynne M. Valente - Ditto with Murakami.
  • Deathless
  • Palimpsest

Friday, April 4, 2014

Reticulated observancies

So I think it's become pretty obvious that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, etc., have no compunctions about being colossally intrusive to our privacy or handing over our information to anyone who asks. Which is fine, I'm not particularly enamored of any of those guys. Actually, I'm kind of sick of all of them. I still use their products and services, but I don't trust them. I keep my identifying information to a minimum, and I don't post anything particularly personal. I put up with them. But I won't be sad to see any of them go. Which will be history's final laugh on them, of course. They think they are irreplaceable. They're not. In a matter of a few decades, they will be history and dust. As all things eventually are.

Gigantic media and data empires will never give us a satisfying way of life. They are designed to keep us complacent consumers. I wouldn't mind throwing out every electronic device I own and replace every one with open-source, self-built Arduino stuff. I wouldn't mind living surrounded by fab lab furniture and open-source utilities. I wouldn't mind being a fringe eccentric, living on the outskirts of society's game. That can be a very fulfilling way of life.

The great philosophers, Heidegger, Nietzsche, etc., have usually told us that the modern world has turned in unhealthy directions. Our potentiality is being blocked. We have unwittingly been sent on a track; we are following programs that have been laid out for us by historical cultures — Platonist, Socratic, etc. We're repeating pre-fabricated, pre-designed, pre-configured projects that were laid out for us before we were born. This limits our potentiality — we might be something different, the philosophers tell us. We can choose to be in the world in different ways.

How about a cartoon?

The Reward from The Animation Workshop on Vimeo.


Dave Roel.
There comes a point in life when you realize everything you know about yourself, it's all just conditioning.
- Brian Buckner

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Staying on track

If you're taking online classes, keeping up with them can be difficult, especially later in the semester. I know for me, I have the most trouble with them at the very beginning of the semester-- when I'm still getting used to having to do actual work-- and towards the middle, when I've started to lose all motivation. Here's some tips for staying on top of your classes, online or otherwise:

  • Schedules. I've started making spreadsheets in Google Drive (or you could do them in Excel, or whatever else) of all the work I have to do for each class and when it's due. Even just updating it, I feel productive. Everything's all color-coordinated. It's much cheaper than a day planner and much more organized than a simple to do list, but it provides the satisfaction of both.
  • Set aside time. If you get into a weekly rhythm of, say, Do Class A & B's homework Monday and Wednesday, Class C's homework Friday morning, Class D's homework on the weekend, it's really easy to stay on track. Assuming, of course, that nothing unexpected bumps you off your schedule.
  • Keep track of your grades. I mean, it's good in general to know where you stand in a class so you know what you need to do to get the grades you're okay with (and whether you may need to consider withdrawing). But what I learned to do in high school is to calculate what scores you need on tests in order to pass the class and study however long you feel you need to meet that minimum. Ideally, we'd all devote our full attention to all the classes we're taking, but it often doesn't work out that way. So it's definitely helpful to know which classes you can afford to wing your way through, especially by the time finals roll around.

Full disclosure: I don't devote as much attention to school as I should or as I'd like to, but I think that's the case for a lot of people as well. Many people just can't afford to, with jobs and other responsibilities. But my point is, these tips are pretty much the minimum-- as in, even I do these things, so clearly they don't require that much effort. In my experience, they work, too. As long as you know what amount of work you personally need to put in to get passing grades.

Stay classy,