Glad to Know

You know what’s irritating? Most of the time I spend “learning” about something new isn’t spent actually assimilating concepts; it’s spent trying to tease apart information from misinformation.

That is, most of the information out there concerning a given topic is contradictory and most of it is crap. The new health care bill? Try to find an unbiased view of its effects. Global warming? Salary comparisons by sex in the US? It’s all hopeless. I get the impression that on many of these issues, if I just knew the real facts (if such things exist — most statistics out there are already subject to huge selection biases) I could make up my mind about them. But to do that I have to wade through a huge amount of bogosity and waste tons of time trying to sort it all out.

Okay, so this isn’t a surprising observation. But it still strikes me as strange: facts lie all the time.

Anyway. Vacation was good. Had a lot of fun in San Diego with the family. Went to the Wild Animal Park, played Boggle, exercised, almost played a round of golf (rain!), had dinner with Wing and his family, which was quite entertaining. Really enjoyed hanging out with my sisters and parents. Then Umesh and I had a big New Year’s party back up here in Berkeley, which was a success.

Earlier this week I had dinner with Jen and friends in SF. Jen’s flying back to Spain soon (of course, stopping on the way to see Wing in Boston) so it was great to see her — as well as wittlebc and yayu, and a bunch of others! At some point during dinner conversation turned to the Myers-Briggs personality test. (Apparently conversation always turns to MB when Wendy’s around. :) I mentioned that I was INTJ with leanings to E. I was told that I was more of an INTP, and after hearing the descriptions of a P, I found myself swayed, even though every online test I had taken indicated J. I also mentioned how bogus these self-taken tests generally are, since you answer questions based on the type of person you think you are, rather than the type of person you actually are. I wonder if I think I am more of a J than I really am, and why (or maybe I don’t — I was pretty easily convinced that I was a P, anyway). On the other hand, there are things you know about yourself that no one else does; for instance, most people peg me as an E but I’m definitely an I.

Later that night we played Taboo and I think I annoyed a bunch of people with my strict adherence to the rules. Not sure why, but I’ve always liked playing by the rules (at least when the outcome is inconsequential and otherwise arbitrary, as in a game) — fairness is really important to me. It’s definitely another Myers-Briggs thing, no doubt… e.g. “You value justice higher than mercy” :).

Oh yeah, read a bunch of good books recently: Moneyball, Darkness at Noon, The Namesake. Also, buying lots of stuff now with my new credit card: new electric guitar, probably also a new electric shaver, digital camera, and sound card. It’s a good deal of money but I haven’t bought anything substantial in a loooong time.

Another random thought: people just aren’t built for long-term happiness, although we all seem to be searching for it in one way or another. Happiness is nearly always induced by delusions or novel stimuli. That’s pretty much how it works, and as soon as things cease to be novel or you cease deluding yourself, it’s back to the status quo. I guess two observations precipitate from this view: first, humans are probably so successful because we’re not always happy, and thus always trying to find ways to achieve happiness again (and so this “deficiency” is probably evolutionary in nature and almost certainly advantageous), and second, it’s bizarre that we all intellectually understand than long-term happiness is unattainable and yet we strive for it anyway. Maybe that’s another winning quality, survival-wise.

Blargh. Speaking of annoying things (as I did to start this entry), it’s annoying that I’m incapable of expressing my thoughts coherently with words. Why must they always emit themselves in such a staggeringly inelegant fashion?

Sometimes when I’m sitting around, an entire melody will appear in my head, so fully developed and natural that at first I’m convinced that I must have unconsciously stolen it from somewhere. I wish that kind of thing would happen with words; songs are (for practical purposes) useless for conveying ideas. Unfortunately, I’m in the business of conveying ideas.

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