*we put the "mmm" in communism


This is the personal blog of Tim. Here, Tim writes on anything he has enough inspiration to finish a post on. That usually ends up being matters of science, pop culture, technology, religion, and philosophy.

This blog is around nine years old, which is over a third of Tim's current age. Back in 2003, it was called "Of Tim: Tim's life - or lack thereof", and it was as bad as you might expect the blog of a freshman in high school to be. Tim hopes that his writing is a little better, these days.

Tim welcomes any input that you, the dear reader, might have. Comments are very much appreciated, especially if you have a dissenting opinion. If you'd like to learn more about Tim, you might want to see his facebook or google+.

Also: Tim is a very avid consumer of various sorts of music. You may be interested in his playlists!

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I can't pretend that Ithaca could be called a city, but the resemblances are budding if you look closely enough. At the State St. house, I was precisely halfway between collegetown and downtown, which are the focal points of most activity in the area. It's as busy as this town gets, which is quite dull. Still, it's a few steps away from suburban, and I was surprised at the quantity of adjustments I found necessary. It took me a while to sleep through sirens a few times a night (on weekends especially), or just the generally constant passing of traffic. Once I adjusted, though, it became like white noise not unlike the whine of cicadas. Not unpleasant, and perhaps even a welcome reminder that the world is still going on. It even made me feel a bit jealous on those days I was bedridden with disease, knowing that everyone else was doing their thing while I could not.

There was, however, a sense of aesthetic disconnection from nature. This feels strange to say given the sometimes awkward artificiality of suburban landscapes (even in Ithaca), but there is something to be said for the sheer quantity of greenery consuming the visual field. Roads, sidewalks, power lines, and buildings gradually become more densely packed while trees and bushes seem more at odds with their surroundings. The roof was a delightful escape from this offense; at somewhere between three and four stories tall, the house was just tall enough to see above the tree canopy. It was distant enough from the ground and obscured from the main road by trees, so it bestowed just enough privacy to feel at ease. It was also well above the street lights, allowing for a very wide view of the stars at night. It was a place of intense excellence.

Growing up, I didn't pay a lot of attention to nature - even in a place as overwhelmed with natural beauty as Ithaca. Boy Scouts provided the majority of my outdoor experiences, but I valued the hiking and camping more as a social activity than as an opportunity to experience genuinely natural environments. I biked a lot, but I was much more focused on my speedometer than on the landscape. I just didn't have any innate curiosity towards the natural world.  It lacked movement, meaning, and excitement.

Of course, it could also be argued that I didn't have any curiosity in the structure of the world - natural or human - as an adolescent. At fifteen, I remember arguing with my father about why in the world I would ever want to go on a family trip to Germany. I believe I actually uttered the phrase "Dad, castles are boring". Admittedly, this had far more to do with pissing off my dad than making any kind of value statement. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the priority that such forms of enrichment held for me. I saw nature in much the same way that I saw history: a quaint novelty, best left for eccentrics and enthusiasts.

Although I'd spent a lot of my childhood watching Animal Planet, I'd never really been exposed to anything but the most classless of nature documentaries (I love you, Steve Irwin, but I did not learn much from you). My brother was the first to introduce me to Planet Earth, which was probably the first time I began to see how the complex interactions of nature form something uniquely beautiful.  It left me excited in the same way that, previously, only philosophy seemed able to do. I had this sense of understanding just a little more about the elements of existence, and for the first time, evolution descended temporarily from the abstract.

At the State St. house, Matt and I watched and re-watched Planet Earth again and again. Every viewing seemed to reveal something new and exciting about the natural world, and we spent many hours discussing how the environments presented before us engendered the adaptations of the organisms in question marveling at the seemingly infinite complexity of nature. Just as we grew tired of Planet Earth, another David Attenborough masterpiece came out - Life - and we quickly devoured that, too. Side note: if you're a fan of Planet Earth or Life, I would strongly recommend checking out The Life of Birds and The Life of Mammals on Netflix. No one does nature better than David Attenborough.

As soon as winter began to fade, we were back outside.  As early as April, we were down at First Dam for a swim in some frighteningly balls-cold water. We spent many days and nights in the Wildflower Preserve, hunting for good vistas and discussing whatever features of the environment struck us as novel. For the first time, the environment became truly alive to me. Trees were no longer just the concrete of the forest, but a living organism existing on entirely different time-scale. Walls of slate were no longer just impressive for their size and dominance, but evidence of an ice age that saw glaciers slicing up the landscape. Even the deer, which I once saw only as a pest, came to represent something more - an absence of wolves, an abundance of resources, a challenge of urbanization. Evolution had leaped from theory to reality, and it was revealing significance and qualities worthy of fascination in even the most mundane aspects of the environment.

Which just so happened to coincide with my employment at a publishing office for ecological science.

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As little as I post, the blog weighs heavily on my heart from day to day. I think often of the posts that I should and could be writing, but the last three years have found me incapable of seeing the process through to the end on a consistent basis. I have this overwhelming sense of potential for this place, reinforced by a nagging awareness of how cathartic writing actually always ends up being for me. I'm easily discouraged, however, and if I don't find myself spewing forth beautiful imagery with every keystroke, I wander away to other corners of the Internet that promise more immediate satisfaction. I'll leave a tab open with the two or three half-fulfilled paragraphs just waiting to be injected with life, and every time I sit down I am forced to conjure a new reason why I can't complete the entry. At this point, I feel with certainty that I would benefit greatly from lowering the bar for what's worth publishing. I have been awkwardly using social networks to do what this blog is much better equipped to do. Shorter posts will go a long way by placing less pressure on each individual entry. But enough melancholy.

At a friend's recommendation, I read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (wiki). It's a philosophical text written in the form of the Socratic method. As it happens, the last book I read was also written in this format, so I guess I have an affinity for the style. Halfway through the book I began to realize that the author was genuinely crazy, which was a shame given how valuable a lot of his insight had been up to that point. Still, I enjoyed his perspective on culture and mythology.

Quinn's idea begins pretty simply. If we were to go back to the age when jellyfish were the most advanced organisms on the planet, and we asked them to tell their creation story, the jellyfish would say that the pinnacle of creation is the jellyfish. They would describe the earth as being made for jellyfish. Quinn then goes on to examine the words we humans use when describing our origins "then there were marsupials, then mammals, then came primates, and then, man!". It ends at humanity - not just because we can't see into the future, but because, by and large, modern culture sees man as the end product of the evolutionary process. In reality, the forces that brought us into existence are still acting, and will continue to do so long after humanity goes extinct. He uses to then describe various ways in which modern culture is violating the basic rules of sustainable engagement with the community of life. What's really interesting, however, is his integration of the Genesis story into his analysis.

While in England, one of my big turning points was reading a commentary on the book of Genesis. I'd started reading it because a new student had showed up that was very passionately resistant to evolution, and I found my lack of genuine understanding about Genesis to be inhibiting my ability to engage with her (she interpreted the Bible quite literally). I wish I could remember who the author was, but it was positively brilliant, and it was the first time I'd been exposed to the idea that Cain and Abel could be a metaphor for the conflict between farmers and nomads. Quinn takes it a step further and retells the entire story of the Garden of Eden as being a metaphor for the agricultural revolution. It's surprisingly apt. The agricultural revolution is wholly responsible for the development of technology and collaboration, and marked a significant change in lifestyle for Homo sapiens. Compared to the absurdly difficult work of farming, nomads led relatively leisurely lives. The agricultural societies were waging war on the nomadic cultures for land, and so the story the nomads passed down to their children emphasized the folly of the farmers - giving up an easy life in an attempt to take more control over their own fate. Not knowing what agriculture would eventually give rise to, early farmers really must have seemed like the worst kind of assholes.

Of course, every word Quinn writes thereafter is a snoozefest of complaints about the evils of modern society. I should have known, really, as from the first chapter he claims to have the answer to today's problems. That's always a dead giveaway that the author might be a douche. Now it's time to move on; I started on Walden, but I think I may shift gears to fiction and dive into Game of Thrones.

On the documentary end of things, I finished Ken Burn's series on the Civil War. If you've got Netflix (and 15 hours), it's a mighty fine documentary, even if it seemed to revel in its dryness at times. I've now started on a series by Ric Burns (younger brother of Ken Burns) following the development of New York City, from 1600 to the present day. I don't really have any particular interest in NYC above any other major city, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for good information presented well.

Hey, look at that. A finished post.
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