A Room of My Own

the inner ramblings of a self-declared geek

These kids today June 12, 2011

Filed under: waxing pseudo-philosophical — aroomofmyown @ 4:36 pm

This week, I went to the hospital to welcome the newest member of my cousin Kelly’s family. Her daughter, Blakely Paige Cieslak, was born June 7th. She’s tiny and squirmy and perfect. On the way home, I happened to pass an old-school Volkswagen Beetle on the freeway (trust me, this segue works). I realized how long it had been since I had seen one that old.  It seems like they were all over the place when I was growing up, but now they haven’t been manufactured in the U.S. for over 30 years. I thought about how Blakely and her three-year-old sister, Payton, would only know the new model Beetles as they grew up. This made me start to think of all the other random things they will not know growing up in 2011.

  • The country will have always had a black president.  Can you even imagine that being the beginning of your history?
  • Alternatively, they will always know a world that has Lady Gaga.  Yep, meat-dress-wearing entertainers and African-American presidents, equally present in their reality.
  • They will never hear the words, “Yesterday, on Oprah…”
  • The phrase “You have died of dysentery” will hold no special meaning for them whatsoever.
  • Bob Barker will have never hosted the Price is Right.  I mean, what will they even do on the days they are home sick from school?
  • Speaking of school, they will be able to research their homework with a computer or an iPad.  Good bye, Dewey Decimal System.  I can’t exactly feel bad for them about this.  Dewey wasn’t the most user-friendly kind of guy.
  • They won’t give a crap where in the world Carmen Sandiego is.
  • Communism-schmommunism.  Islamic terrorism is where it’s at, the -ism of choice for today’s kids.
  • They will learn about 9/11 in their history books.  Towers will fall and people will panic and mourn on the page.  They won’t watch it play out on TV and live with the consequences.   Lucky kids.
  • They won’t ever get to meet my grandmother.  Or eat anything she has baked.  Unlucky kids.
  • On a Saturday night, they won’t know the special excitement that exists when your dad takes you to the gas station or the pharmacy (or later, Blockbuster) to rent a video.

Payton and Blakely don’t have it so bad, really.  They have two devoted, wonderful parents who are doing their best to raise smart, considerate and kind little people, and a slew of family who will  spoil them within an inch of their lives, despite the protests of their mother.  But their childhood looks like a different world compared to mine.  How things can change in 30 years.


The Ultimate Question June 2, 2010

Filed under: waxing pseudo-philosophical — aroomofmyown @ 5:32 pm

I mean, we know the answer is 42.  But what’s the question?  As silly as those stories can be, it has got me thinking.  Maybe the answer isn’t always as important as the question itself.

Awhile back, I was reading this article in the Times science section about conditional probability.  Now this is stuff that I can only wrap my head around in the most abstract sense, and in no way could I ever understand the math and statistical analysis behind it.  But the basic idea was to pose not as a yes or no, but as an if/then scenario, calculating the probability of Event A based on the occurrence of Event B.  Setting conditions for an answer can drastically change the outcome.

They used an example of a legal argument from the OJ Simpson case.  (Forgive me, for I am going to paraphrase this example from month-old memory)  The defense, after much testimony to the fact that OJ physically abused his wife, made the argument that only a small portion of domestic offenders go on to murder their victim.  The odds were something like 1 in 2500.  That seems like sound logic, right?  They are making the case that murder is not the next step in an escalating chain of events.

However, based on the theories of conditional probability, the researcher pointed out the question should NOT be how many men who beat their wives eventually murder them; but how many women, given that they  have a history of abuse and that they have been murdered by someone, have been killed by their abuser?  In this scenario, the statistics dramatically flip to something like 90%.

I’m sure I’m doing a lousy job of explaining the issue, but it’s an intriguing concept.  The answer is completely different based on what question you ask, but the facts are essentially still the same.

It makes me wonder how many questions I’m getting wrong.  Would I like the answers better if I got the question right?  Is my whole life an if/then statement in shades of gray?  What is my Ultimate Question?


Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids January 9, 2008

Filed under: me,waxing pseudo-philosophical — aroomofmyown @ 11:06 pm

I must say that in the past couple of years, I have shed much of my depressed, doomsday attitude about my life. I have discovered that I am not meant to be miserable and that I actually have things of substance to offer other people. As a result, I think 2007 was one of the better years of my life. It’s such a wonderful surprise to learn how to be happy.

All that being said, even when my life is full and bright, and I’m almost sleepy with content, I have my moments. Moments of doubt. Moments like now. Perhaps a blog is not the right choice at times like this. But seeing as the number of people who actually follow my web-ly trials and tribulations is minimal, I guess I can use it to do some quiet reflecting.

I sometimes feel as if I will always be the only one on my side. Does that make any sense? There is a comfort that is largely missing from my life, the reassurance of having someone always in your corner, who goes to bat for you and takes the lumps right along side of you (and who possibly stops you from using too many sports-related metaphors). Someone who believes in what you do and who you are.

It is somewhat disheartening that even when I think I may have found that comfort in my life, it’s never been real. And all hope that it may somehow miraculously become real is squandered fool-heartedly on those that never want the same from me. I can even hear it the voices of my friends when I talk about it. It’s always ‘be careful’ and ‘don’t do anything rash.’ They don’t think I’m going to find it any more than I do in moments like this.

I get by largely by telling myself, and the world, that I don’t need it. That I am strong enough and independent enough to take care of myself. And that is true. I can, and I do. I even take some pride in the fact. It’s just that sometimes, like tonight, I want someone who is on my side. Who I don’t have to prove anything to. Who accepts me exactly as I am.

Hope is a tricky thing. It can bring you through the storm; but just as often, it can break you down. Still, even when it hurts, I hope. I hope for the things I may never find. I hope for the things people think I’ll never get. I hope…


It’s a ritual sacrifice…with pie November 22, 2007

Filed under: me,waxing pseudo-philosophical — aroomofmyown @ 8:54 pm

I’m thankful for home-cooked meals.  I’m thankful for Sandy’s broccoli and cheese casserole. I’m thankful for 4 days off of work.  I’m thankful for Marlboro menthols and Miller High Life.   I’m thankful for coffee dates and holiday parties with my friends.  I’m thankful for iPods and the internet and Harry Potter books.  I’m thankful for Buffy.  I’m thankful for the Wizard of Oz.

I’m thankful for my childhood, which was pretty happy.  I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, about the world and about myself.  I’m thankful for stormy mornings in bed, for first snows, for sunsets.  Driving with the windows rolled down on warm summer nights with the radio cranked.  I’m thankful for fireworks.

I’m thankful for Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Virginia Woolf and Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I’m thankful for William Shakespeare and Steven Spielberg and Martin Luther King Jr.  I’m thankful for the New York Times.  I’m thankful that we’re going into George W. Bush’s last year in office.

I’m thankful for my neighborhood.  I’m thankful that I’ve swam in the ocean and seen the Northern Lights.  I’m thankful for friends – old friends, best friends, my friends.   I’m thankful for sassy kittens and fat cats.  I’m thankful for my family.  They may be loud and offensive, and most of them may be Republicans, but they are warm and loud, and they love each other very much.  I’m thankful for my home and for how it feels like home to me because I fit there.

I’m thankful for the life I’ve been given.  And I hope to earn it one day, to be a person worthy of the life I lead.


What We’ve Got Here Is Failure to Communicate August 26, 2007

Filed under: waxing pseudo-philosophical — aroomofmyown @ 7:17 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about relationships. Not just romantic ones (although certainly those are nice), but any kind of relationship. Friends. Parents. Lovers. Siblings. As a species, we have created, more so than any other, expansive, complicated forms of communication. We have developed language. The possibilities that unfold from that are endless.

Think about it. I can stand at the edge of a forest and gaze upon a beautiful tree. Because of language, I can tell a friend about my experience. Based on a common understanding of an intricate system of encoding and decoding meanings, my friend will know what the word ‘tree’ represents. I don’t have to point a tree out to him. Not only can I communicate the object I wish to, I can express what I felt like standing there looking at the tree, the way the sun reflected off the leaves, the smell that floated through the air.

But even with this amazing system that gives meaning to objects, thoughts, emotions, memories, distance, etc, there is still an abyss between what I know – my innermost self – and what I can share with others. No matter how eloquently I describe the tree, even if I write a beautiful poem or paint a vivid picture, none of it will compare to my actual experience of standing at the forest in front of the tree. It won’t put my friend there with me.

Beyond that, even if my friend had been directly at my side for the whole experience, they still wouldn’t have the same understanding of it as me. The sight of the tree could recall a similar one I saw once on a fall day out east, the smell of the woods could remind me of warm childhood days. A thousand and one memories and emotions could flood my consciousness that would be impossible to put into words. In the end, no matter how many languages we speak, no matter how many ways there are to connect with someone on the other side of the world (hell, even the room), there is always a gap that can’t be crossed.

I guess you really never can tell what someone else is thinking.

It becomes impossible to adequately express what someone else means to you. I can tell someone I love them, but what if it doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to me? They can’t climb inside my head and see just how that emotion feels in every corner of my body. They don’t really understand that when I speak those words, they come from the truth of my soul.

This gap, this space between ourselves is a constant struggle to bridge. But even so, it is a gap I am determined to narrow. Each day, we grow closer and closer to each other. Sometimes the structure of language lays itself out before us and brings us to new destinations. Other times, we cross the gap in other ways. A tender moment. A reassuring touch. Shared breath. Belly laughs. And the hopeless trust that says even as we struggle in a confusing and isolated world, we will go through this life together, and we will be kind to each other.