Friday, September 3, 2010

One year mark

Ho-ly shit.  I've been blogging for an entire year.

What started out as a way for me to pass time during work has turned into...well...a way for me to pass time during work.  None the less, I'm enjoying it.  I've never really fancied myself much of a writer (still don't, for that matter), but it does feel good to periodically string together coherent sentences, during a day otherwise spent functioning at an 8th grade level.

In honor of a solid year of blogging, I was tempted to do a big "updates" post, encompassing everything that has happened to me in the past year.  Unfortunately, that would send my depression scale off the chart.  So, instead, I've decided to describe some of my actual interests.  I figure it will be a nice, optimistic, break from the usual complaining and it will explain some of the more obscure links on my sidebar. (If the complaining is what you're here for, you might as well stop reading now because things are about to get kind of nerdy and boring.)

Exercise/Martial Arts
I'm an exercise fanatic.  My day isn't complete unless I spend at least half an hour feeling like I'm going to pass out.  I'm also a big enough nerd that I enjoy reading about new (well, new to me) ways of working out. 

Majored in it and actually really liked it.  I know a lot of people think philosophy is pointless, but it legitimately taught me how to think.  My philosophy courses were more valuable to me than 95% of the rest of my education.  Many of my other interests actually stem from my background in philosophy.

This is the area I wanted to get into with my philosophy major and which, I thought, I'd be able to do with a law degree.  As it turns out, regardless of what you study, having a career in bioethics is about as likely as having a unicorn take you to work in the morning.  Maybe you can pull it off as a part-time gig, but don't bet on it.  That being said, I still like to read up on bioethics issues.  It's the only aspect of law I've ever found interesting.

Cognition & neurology
My philosophy reading eventually branched into some epistemology and also popular science books on cognition and neurology.  I really started to get into it after reading The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge.  It's a great book and will give you a new respect for what the brain is capable of.  If I could go back in time, I'd probably pursue a medical degree related to neurology.

I studied some philosophy of language in college and have since been interested in how language works.  It's interesting to think about how words refer to objects, the nature of meaning, how our language is connected to our actual thoughts and assorted other language topics.  I've read a decent amount of philosophy on the subject, but it just dawned on me that linguists might also have a lot to say (I can be a bit slow).  I'm currently reading The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker, and it's fascinating.

Also, my French teacher has a ridiculous understanding of grammar and it brought to light how little I actually know about my own language, much less French.  So, I'm trying to brush up on some grammar in order better understand how languages work.

That wasn't a comprehensive list, but it gives a pretty good background on some of the things that interest me and why.  If have any suggestions about books and/or articles you think I'd like, feel free to mention them.

The usual complaining will resume next week.


  1. Wow, you and I have a lot of the same interests.

    Martial Arts & Exercise: I trained BJJ (under the late Carlson Garcie: who actually lived in Naperville of all places) as well as Muay Thai. Pre-UFC 1 (before 1993), I trained Wing Tsun. I never actually fought in a cage; and now I’m too old to. I used to lift weights like crazy in college. What style(s) of martial arts do you train?

    Philosophy/epistemology/cognition: I became interested in law school when I encountered people who are intelligent but have different beliefs than I do. Socratic dialog was interesting as well. This got me thinking about how equally intelligent people can disagree and about rationality, truth, etc. I guess law school was useful for something, thought it has nothing to do with practicing law. I became very interested in Logical Positivism as well as Karl Popper’s Pancritical Rationalism. From there I became interested in Bayesian statistical inference, theoretical computer science, Solomonoff induction, and the like. I recommend that you read Jeff Hawkins’ On Intelligence, Rita Carter Mapping the Mind, David Deutch The Fabric of Reality , David Chalmers The Conscious Mind , and Murray Gell-Mann The Quark and the Jaguar, and Gerald Edelman’s Neural Darwinism. What areas of cognition/linguistics/epistemology are you interested in?

    Bioethics: This is fascinating. I like Peter Singer a lot; though his ideas are kind of obvious. He gets credit for saying things openly and honesty and taking slack from the general public who don’t understand this area well and are kind of shocked. Derek Parfitt’s Reasons and Persons is a classic. I also like Nick Bostrom and James Hughes. What areas are you interested it?

    I predict that you will like being a lawyer when you get the opportunity, which you will.

    You’re a very smart guy. I would hire you if I could, but this is a horrible economy, and we don’t have the budget. I’m happy to share any advice that I have.

    Let me know if you ever want to grab lunch when I’m at the Daley or Dirksen.


  2. Martial arts: If you really want to know what I do, shoot me an email and I'll happily talk about it. It kind of hurts my anonymity, so I don't really want to go into specifics on my blog.

    Philosophy and stuff: Thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely check some of those out.

    Right now, most interesting to me is philosophy of mind and language stuff. I think it's interesting how our language relates to our actual thoughts, what our words refer to, how we mean what we mean, etc. Most recently, I recently read some Kripke and Putnam and then struggled through some Wittgenstein. Kind of needed a philosophy break after the Wittgenstein.

    Regarding cognition, I think it's a natural progression to be curious about how the brain works, from a scientific perspective, after studying a bunch of theoretical philosophical stuff. I recently read the article, Does Neuroscience Undermine Deontological Theory? by Richard Dean, which, whether you agree with the article or not, illustrates the potential connection between neuroscience and philosophy.

    As far as linguistics goes, aside from the links on my blog, I've only read one book on the subject. Like I said, it's a new interest.

    Bioethics: Brace yourself, but I'm actually interested in the legal implications arising out of medical ethics. Patient autonomy, beginning/end of life issues, informed consent - all of it is pretty interesting. My medical ethics class in law school was one of the only interesting classes I had.

    Lunch: No offense, you're definitely one of my more interesting and helpful commenters, but meeting people from my blog kind of creeps me out.