Friday, December 19, 2008

Africa, Apps, Assorted Angles

Man it's dark.

The darkest time of the year is a time of great contrast. For people who are in school, the strapped-down weighted feeling of stress gives way to some therapeutic family time at home for the holidays. On Christmas, in the blackness of the night, there is light of the lord. There are presents and there is coal. You give gifts and receive gifts. There is cold snow and hot cocoa. There is sullen sadness and jubilant joy. The waning of 2008 becomes the dawn of 2009.

All this contrast makes it a good time to evaluate one self and where they plan to go. If the year is like a springboard, this is the time when it is pushed all the way down. There is a lot of potential energy waiting to be released.

My time has been spent (in addition to holiday shopping/decorating/cookie consumption) filling out graduate school applications and planning for a trip to Africa in February. Both are time consuming. Friends and I have agreed that the application process is so arduous that all applicants who successfully submit an application should, without question, be granted admission. Due to "these times" more people are applying to grad schools than ever before, making an already competitive field seem insurmountable. Schools also have none or limited funding to take on new students. It's tough this year.

Africa is a whole other animal. Holy shit, what a chaotic place. I have been reading up on all the diseases and recommended innoculations and it frightens me. I've recently lost considerable sleep about it and I rarely lose sleep. Simply put, every shot is recommended. Even polio, a disease I thought the world had conquered decades ago, is a real threat. Ninety percent of people with malaria caught it in Africa. Yellow fever, also called black vomit or american plague, breaks out sporadically between the tropics. AIDS is abound.

I got started on my shots today. I received a typhoid shot, malaria pill prescription, and antibiotics to settle the stomach after I inevitably eat something dirty. Insurance doesn't cover this stuff. Generally, doctors and insurance companies are not completely supportive of administering and covering vaccinations, because they know what going to Africa means. I've even lost the support of my parents and my family regarding this trip. They all think I am young and foolish, which I admittedly am. But we are young only once and we are only for awhile.

For all the tribulations of travelling to this rampant continent, I know it's beauty is bound to astound. In Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe I will bear witness to most extreme conditions and upon my return I will be a messenger of it's wild majesty. Please pray for Rob, Karen, and I that we may return safe, unharmed, and unplagued.

I've been having some deep life-thoughts. These thoughts arise from a comparison of life in the USA and my impression of life in Africa. In developing countries like Africa, they seem to value nature, the gift of life, and each other. In developed countries like the USA, we seem to value money, things, and perhaps each other. Places like Africa have chosen the simpler stress-free life with it's resulting flaws. Places like the USA have chosen the stress-saturated life with it's resulting benefits. Neither country is "better" than the other. An 80-year life of hard work in the USA with all of it's pleasures might not be much better than a 40-year life of faith and joy in Africa. I think somewhere in the middle could be the best way to live.

Now I would like to whine about fashion, treadmills, and outdoor heating.

Fashion. I was hanging out with a desirable girl wearing a coat with three buckles, like the ones that hold up pants, fastened across her front. She also had matching triplets of buckles on each of her high boots. It took me a few minutes to notice these buckles. Why did I find this girl to be desirable? She certainly was not extraordinary. But then I figured out the psychology of the buckles. What do you do with buckles? You undo them. By appearing all locked up, I think it triggered the manliness in me and I subconsciously thought of unfastening those buckles. Having three of them emphasizes this point further. Those fashion designers know how to flirt with men's minds.

Treadmills. Our family owns a treadmill and no one uses it. What a waste. This dust-gathering aspect is the first thing I find wrong with treadmills. The more important, more aggravating thing about them is their inefficiency with respect to energy. Who uses a treadmill? Fat people or people trying not to get fat. How do people get fat? They eat too much and exercise not enough. To begin with, it takes lots of energy to harvest food (machinery/farmhands), ship it (trucks/barges), and maintain it (refrigeration/packaging). Then eating this food supplies a person with calories or energy. The energy of producing this food and the energy contained within this food have now been consumed by this person. Persons all too often consume too much, so they buy a treadmill to burn off energy they should not have put into themselves. What does a treadmill need to work? It needs electricity or energy. This energy is supplied by power plants, which convert tons of energy into electricity on a power grid. To sum up, treadmills expend excessive energy to help people expend their own excess energy. I think it would make more sense to eat less and to run outside.

Outdoor heating. Sometimes in the winter certain outdoor establishments will light up fiery heat lamps so they can still do business. Sure, it's neat to be outside in December, but think about how wasteful it is! These lamps are burning full blast and all the heat and energy is lost to the endless vacuum of winter cold. What makes it worse is that the lamps don't really keep you warm. All the heat is emitted from the top of the lamp about 7 feet up. The hot air rises, but the people stand below--they are cold. Outdoor heating should be abolished. Either stay inside or wear a thick coat instead.

I am going to finish off with an idea about the roots of success. I think you need three main things: drive, talent, confidence. If you don't have one, then you get stopped up. It's damn hard to have all of those, especially since the best way to get confidence is from some prior success. The bottom line here is that you need to find a way to be confident BEFORE you achieve success. Confidence is everything.

Cheers to the season,