Thursday, June 23, 2011

Basic Instincts

  Remember what I said about tolerance a while back? Forget all that. Just kidding. [PS: Apologies for not posting lately. My internet's been down ): ]
    Why is that we feel it's okay to stop tolerating people? Or not tolerate certain people. Certain people "bring it on themselves" or "have a bad attitude" or are just "different" that they don't deserve our acceptance. At least, this is what we like to tell ourselves. I'll admit, as preachy as I may get, I'm guilty of this one. Every now and again, I'll meet a person who I immediately just don't like. This dislike may occur for various reasons--while I like to blame it on pheromones, that may not be the entire truth of the matter. It's physiologically possible for us to dislike people based on the pheromones they excrete, just like it's physiologically programmed for us to be attracted to certain people based on their pheromones. It's a tactic we've evolved to help us find the most suitable mates and most evolutionarily compatible (i.e. non-threatening and non-harmful) companions. But pheromones may also warn us to stay away from certain people the way taste buds warn us about harmful foods.
    I'm no scientist, by anyone's standards. So, take this scientific speak with a grain of salt based on my limited understanding of how the body, and brain, work. If something is bitter, our taste buds let us know, and many times we will tend to avoid that food in the future. If someone's pheromones are distasteful, so to speak, our brain tells us we may want to avoid that person. Here's a question: should we trust our initial physiological instinctive reactions, or should we give people a second chance and try to let them overcome their biology with their psychology?
    Normally, I'd say the latter, but these physiological reactions exist for a reason--self-preservation. Maybe these people aren't all axe murderers or evil geniuses, but what is the reason that our bodies react against them? Perhaps they aren't physically harmful, but psychologically, it's possible. Misery loves company, as they say, and these people we instinctively dislike may be psychologically harmful, if they are negative people, pessimistic people, or just unhappy people. The question is, does our biology pick up on this negativity and send a message to stay away from them so as not to pollute our own psychological well-being? Or am I just whistling dixie out of my ass to justify why we dislike some people?
    As much as I'd like to believe that we all have it within us to be kind and generous and good-hearted towards everyone and anyone, I do believe that there are some people that we will just never like. We may be able to be civil to them and put on a good face, but there will always be something about them that will rub us the wrong way.
    While there aren't too many people out there, I'm talking real people that you meet--not celebrities, politicians, or athletes--that I honestly dislike for whatever reason, there are a couple. I can get along with most anyone, and I try to. I hate confrontation, and I suck at arguments, so staying on people's good sides is something I work very hard at. But every now and again, there comes a person that I genuinely just don't like. I can never put my finger on exactly why. I can give reasons, they have a bad attitude, they're too cocky, they're disrespectful, etc, but those things are not the whole story. They're reasonable reasons for not liking someone, but the dislike goes beyond that. There is just something about them, a je ne sais quoi, but in a bad way, that turns me off about them.
    Clearly, I haven't really made much of an argument for either side of this topic, whether we dislike people for a real physiological reason or whether we make up reasons for why we dislike them, and then there's the further thought: do we trust our instincts about people or should we give them the benefit of the doubt?
    Personally, I think we do dislike people for physiological reasons sometimes, and when that happens, we ought to give them a second chance, or even a third, to redeem themselves. Sometimes they'll surprise you. But sometimes, you're not going to like them no matter how hard you try, and the most you can do is just be nice to them as best you can, and not let the negativity you get from them eat away at you.
Attraction or aversion: which is more easily overcome?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Drama, Drama, Drama

  Much to the chagrin, disappointment and confusion of pretty much everyone I know, I have been watching Days of Our Lives regularly for 9 years this summer. While soap operas are cheesy, irrelevant, and completely unlike anything in real life, they have their moments, and their merits. Don't believe me? Well, I'm not here to convince anyone, or convert anyone, as much as I would like to bring more viewers to DOOL for their ratings sake, I doubt my reach is far enough to accomplish that. I'm only going to make a case for myself and my reasoning.
    Nine years ago, I was approximately two months away from starting high school. It was not only a big maturity mile marker, but also, it was to be my first experience at a public school after nine previous years of private school. I was afraid. I didn't know what to expect. And one day, home by myself, I happened to find Days of Our Lives on. There were four teenagers, at the prom, and I started watching. I was enthralled with how beautiful they all were, and how their little world, Salem--a fictional Midwestern town, worked. I kept tuning in. I guess I thought maybe I might learn something about high school or being a teenager or something. Probably not the best place to take my social cues from, but I was 14--what can I say?
    One of the best things I liked about my new-found afternoon program was that everything always worked out for the best. Good triumphs over evil, eventually--though in Salem it can take a really excruciatingly long time--and the women were beautiful and the men were all knights in shining armor--most of the time--except for the villains. The familiarity with the characters was comforting too. One month, Sami may be your favorite character, and the next, you'll think she's being horrible and decide that Nicole is who you want to root for. Loyalties change constantly as you watch the show, because the characters change and go through periods of extreme personality conflicts, sometimes by choice, sometimes by accident, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
    I will, only because I feel addressing it is necessary, go over the parts of soaps that turn people off. I've seen evil twins, people who were thought to be dead come back to life, people with amnesia who recover (often through hypnosis), medical miracles, kidnappings, more near incestuous relationships than I can count, and brainwashing, plus an array of other bizarre and wildly fantastical plots play out over the years. And, the plots have gone so far as to turn me off a few times so that I would quit watching for a few weeks or months until something interesting happened again.
    But, in spite of these plotlines, I continue to watch. Because I've known these people for so long, I care about what happens to them. I want this person to go to jail and that couple to have their happily ever after. It's not because I still think stuff like this actually happens or because I still think men can be as romantic and perfect as they are in the show--they're not, but they have their moments too.
    I've come to realize that one of the main reasons I still watch this ridiculous, unrealistic, and sometimes poorly written show is because I appreciate the stability. Every day, Monday through Friday (unless it's Thanksgiving or Christmas or some horrific news event occurs that NBC has to take over broadcasting that information for), there will be an episode of Days of Our Lives. There are no reruns. And even during Wimbledon or other sporting events. The show doesn't completely disappear. They show that day's episodes late at night, which I'm never able to stay up for, but through the magical world of Hulu, I can still follow them.
    There is, and unless--God forbid--it ever gets canceled, always will be, one constant in life: Monday through Friday, an episode of the trials and tribulations of the people of Salem will air. This fact is extremely comforting when everything else around me moves and changes rapidly so much that it's hard to keep up. I defend the need for some stability in life, and if this is the only place I can get it, I'll take it. But I do enjoy watching. Not every character all the time, but it's still entertaining. And, one of the salable points of it: you can always say, well, at least my life isn't that messed up.
Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Go Viral

  So, I had a computer virus on my trusty laptop last night. Another Trojan Horse, as usual. But since I hadn't had a computer virus in about two and a half years, I was quite panicked. This one was extremely malicious, as it knocked out Avast! and shut it down completely. After logging into Windows (Yes, I'm a PC), my entire screen was black except for a small pop-up window in the center that said something like: "An unauthorized change has been made to Windows limiting its functionality." Yeah, a virus snuck around my firewall. And then I was left with two options: Learn more online, or Close. Understand, dear readers, I had no desktop, taskbar or anything, none of my programs would open using shortcut keys, and yet, amazingly enough, my computer was connected to the Internet.
    I quickly discovered if I clicked Close that the virus kicked me back to my start-up screen asking me to log into Windows again, returning me to the same black screen with the same pop-up. Clicking Learn more online opened my web browser and took me to an interesting URL trying to upsell me on Windows 7. It almost looked like a legitimate webpage, but the graphics were a little off, the functionality was suspicious, and when the URL opened, it appeared that it had redirected from another funky URL that was much longer. I managed to get through to Microsoft tech support via chat (after managing to contact what I assume was a malicious chat person who asked to remotely log into my computer), and they helped me install new virus protection software, which was able to catch the virus and remove it.
    I rather enjoy live chat. They may not be from around here, but if they know what they're doing and can help me, I got nothing against them. I then updated my security measures on my computer, compulsively, trying to make them even harder to break through than before. And what gets me is I don't shop online. These guys attacked a computer and failed miserably because they can't even steal any financial info from me. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Trojan Horse creating dickheads.
    Reminder to all: use a password for EVERYTHING. Don't use the same one for them all either. And make them challenging. Numbers, capitals, characters (when allowed) are all good. Definitely don't use passwords that can be guessed at by looking at other stuff on your computer. And always have more than one virus protection software on your computer. Avast! failed me for the first time in two years. Try another one, or two, on top of it and together, you'll have a better chance of preventing serious damage.
Can't touch this. Hackers :P

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nonconformity Is Not Always Rebellion

So, I just saw the new X-Men movie: awesome.
    But there's a deeper point to this one than just lots of action, cool special effects, and pretty people fighting each other. I don't want to read too much into it, but the premise of the X-Men has always been about conformity or nonconformity. Whether to fit in or rebel. Coexist or take over. The conflict is always present, and the decision at hand is something that is terribly relevant for anyone having an identity crisis or experiencing a coming of age, which is one reason the comic book was so popular with young people.
    We may not be quite as unusual as the mutants in the film are, but we all have had that moment or era in life (and if you haven't, don't worry, it's coming) where we had to decide to go along with the status quo or speak out against it. Sometimes this speaking out is peaceable, and sometimes it's violent or disruptive.
    Personally, I can only go along with some things for so long. Eventually, I have to put my foot down and say: this isn't working anymore; or no, I'm not going to do this. But all too often, we conform almost without thinking about it. Or we conform directly as a result of not thinking about it.
    I think we should stop that. Stop not thinking and start thinking. What do you think about the issues? Not what does your favorite television personality think about it, what do YOU think about it? If you come to the conclusion, after careful and deliberate consideration, that you do agree with your TV actor/commentator's opinion after all, fine, but at least you gave it some thought and can back up your reasoning.
    Conformity is about many things. In high school, it's about wearing certain clothes, listening to certain music, watching certain TV shows, or other things that are focused on your appearance, style and likes/dislikes. As a grown up, sometimes it's still about these things, but because your microcosm now extends a little farther beyond yourself, you have to worry about other things. Politics (even if you think you don't care), economics, society. Like it or not, it's important to think about these other things. We can't be egocentric forever.
    Coexistence with people we disagree with is necessary. Just because we don't all agree on things doesn't mean we have to eliminate the opposition. That is called fascism. And we should probably try to avoid that direction. But coexistence doesn't mean we have to keep our mouths shut. We can still argue for what we think and believe in. If we have our opinions, but keep them to ourselves, it's just as bad as not thinking about things and not having opinions, because then a certain group of people can make all the important decisions about politics, society, economics, etc, on their terms.
    Make up your mind and make a stand. It may not always seem like it makes a difference, but it could make all the difference.
Caring is not creepy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Heat Is On

  It was a not so sunny 85ish degrees today. One of the first (if only) days this year so far that was that warm. The moths are out in force. Four times in the past twenty four hours, I've opened my car doors and a moth flew out from the crevice between the door and the car. And there were two in the office this afternoon. (I suggested we get a cat to take care of that problem.)
    But I'm not going to talk about the weather. The heat is on because I have 29 days to find a new apartment. My lease is up at the end of June and I not only refuse to stay and pay the outrageous (to put it mildly) month to month rent at my current apartment, but I also semi-refuse to move back in with my parents temporarily until I do find a place. I was living there for about 3 and a half months last year after I got my job, but the commute is a little farther than I'd like, and I was hoping, trying to be a grown-up and all, that I wouldn't have to be in that position again.
    But it's sort of slim pickins. There are plenty of places out there, but many are either: A) too far from work; B) at the basement or ground level (I worry about flooding out here); C) too expensive for my barely double digit an hour salary; D) do not allow cats (I would like to finally bring my cat up to live with me so my dad can stop babysitting him for me); or E) just aren't very nice (old, bug infested, or in a bad neighborhood). I have a few prospects, which my wonderful boyfriend has agreed to call for me since I would rather not make personal phone calls while I'm at work. Hopefully there will be something out there. It doesn't need to be that big or fancy or modern. It'd just be nice if it had a dishwasher and would let me have my cat. I'm probably too picky, so it's good to have a second opinion along to keep that in check.
    On the bright side: I paid my last month's rent today to the apartment nazis I currently have a lease with. 
Countdown to new apartment: 29 days (or less). I hope.

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