Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thermodynamics and the Degradation of Society, Part 1

A lost horizon in an ocean of flames.
Def Leppard, “Desert Song

Remember back to when you were younger, playing with your friends. When you were in constant contact or communication with them your bonds strengthened and you grew closer. In a sense, you became second nature to each other. The same could, perhaps, be applied to your first girlfriend or boyfriend or such. On the other hand, when you were out of contact for enough time things had a tendency to decay: You were not so much as in-sync as you were before; what was second nature now becomes a glimmer of a sense of what once was. You grow out of touch, what synergies existed because of what you had now lack the true functionality of what could be.

Physics is the study of the relationship between matter and energy. Thermodynamics is the study of energetic interactions or the lack thereof. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that, over time, a system will gradually grow more into disarray. When a system is being formed if there are any chaotic elements involved, those chaotic elements will only grow more prevalent throughout the life of that system. The only way to avoid complete systemic entropy is for the addition of energy to take place.

Energy, to the physicist, is anything ranging the continuum from heat to electricity; from the grand force of gravity to the strong nuclear force that holds the stuff that comprises us together. Energy, to you and I can be anything from effort to affection. Remarks that build confidence to those that seek malice. There are multiple types and factors involved with these kinds of energies that we use to interact with the world in everyday life. We could do something evolutionary: A task performed with a degree of competence, confidence, etc. We could, on the other hand, do something revolutionary: Not something that is a simple degree of effort and task-oriented, but seeks to be transformational to the end being sought. Additionally, this can be positive or negative. Things that are positive in nature will add positive energy to the system at hand; while negative things done will add to the chaos of the system in the same way that entropy seeks the complete disruption of it.

This Law of Thermodynamics applies to closed systems: A sense of the Galilean approach to physics shining through—simplification for the sake of simplification. The lives we live are rarely in a closed system unto themselves, rather they are open to the context of the environment surrounding it. Energy can be exchanged or events and situations otherwise influenced by the goings-on of the systems surrounding it. In other words, our lives are often directly influenced by our environment and indirectly influenced by those situations and environments around us. This is why context is always very important in, well, anything.

Now, for the bigger picture: Laziness and apathy are things that breed chaos. Have you ever wondered why Patton was such a great general? His famous adage that “something done now is better than something perfect tomorrow” goes to this end. By doing nothing in this moment and waiting for another for your plan or execution to be perfect you risk the system growing more entropic than you could handle or that could fit into your plan’s parameters.

Consider this a multi-part entry. More to follow.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Play the game—You know you can't quit until it's won,
Soldier on—Only you can do what must be done

—John Parr, “St. Elmo’s Fire

When you are confronted with a task, what is your paradigm: Do you view a potentially difficult task as something to avoid or something to be overcome? How you have learned and continue to learn new tasks is not solely done through the effects of your own actions: Instead, humans being the social creatures that they are, we learn through coding information that we see modeled in our everyday lives. New information has greatly become democratized in the world of today: Much more so than it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Our ability to take in this information and apply it towards our success has not increased along with the availability of the information, however.

Social learning has pre-requisites: Many of them being tied closely to the communication model of sender-message-receiver with their associated barriers. While many environmental factors can cause a person to be less apt to take in new information en route to success, there is—as is nearly always the case—at least one thing able to overcome any barrier to success.

Mental states are a vital part of the learning process: Intrinsic factors such as self-motivation, self-discipline, and a sense of—you guessed it—self efficacy all contribute to a person being in the proper paradigm to take away ample return from their learning activities.

Adults, for the most part, are experiential learners: We learn with a kinesthetic approach as opposed to visual or auditory. In most adults this not only contributes to the usefulness of a skill set, it also helps with retention and continued motivation: When you are successful at something, your proclivity at being successful increases: Success begets success.

Success is all about the behaviors that we have and how they converge with our environment. The relationship between individual, behavior, and environment are all intertwined in an interdependent yet causal interaction with one another: Each can have a bearing on any of the others in the triad. The individual can affect the behavior can affect the environment can affect the individual or the environment can affect the behavior or any other combination therein, for example.

The trick is to take charge and make the individual have more bearing on all else instead of allowing the individual to be controlled by all else.

So, the next time you see that task that you’ve been dreading think of it in terms of personal growth and having a high amount of internal drive with the end in sight.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


He said look behind your own soul And the person that you’ll see
Just might remind you of me

Collin Raye, “Not That Different

Sometimes the bonds that tie people together and simultaneously separate them aren’t that much at all. While logic dictates the metrics of our relationships, emotions will offer an additional valuation or devaluation to the mix; said another way: We may size a person up…but our hearts determine the risk we’re willing to take.

Look back over the years at interpersonal relationships you’ve had with others: Friends, acquaintances, loved ones, so on and so forth. What has made them tick? Which things made stronger the bonds of friendship and love or otherwise weakened the ties that bind us together?

I travel much for my work. This allows me to listen to many podcasts and music, and to do much thinking. Often a particular song or notion will bring to forefront a thought of the past: A person, a feeling, an episodic extent of my past which lingers much like the pain of a broken heart. Lately my thoughts have been in many places ranging from my previous successes and failures to the relationships that I have had with people. By contrast, those that I have today are much fewer than I’ve had in the past, for one reason or another. They’ve said that a tree that moves much lacks deep roots: Perhaps my roots in my current community haven’t grown too deep. I made new acquaintances rarely, friends even less these days. This is more an issue with lack of opportunity, less lack of ability.

Psychologists have a chapter in text books about the struggles that one will face in different decades, different stages, of their life. In the twenties the grand struggle seems to be between acceptance and aversion. How does this fit in with the risk that a person will take?

Risk is a function weighed by metrics but decided by the heart…certainly this is some sort of oddity. Risk management is a science of numbers, not feelings. Feelings, also, can lead to irrational decisions: Impulsive and maladaptive. Impulsive decisions can rely on faulty intelligence received or bad assumptions made.

One of my current areas of study is decision-making theory: What is the “just the right” amount of intelligence and/or assumptions that need to be made in order to make a decision that is the right one? Diminishing returns are quickly realized when trying to receive perfect information to make the perfect decision, and the practical making of decisions “in the field” requires less time than is allowable for perceptually sufficient intelligence in order to make a sufficient decision. I feel that, in the end, conditioning will need to be done to the individual wanting to learn the method for expedient decision making because the most efficient way for it to work will be in an instinctual basis.

On another note, perhaps the person that doesn’t perceive risk properly, it could be said, likes to feel the pain of poor decisions or maladaptive practices in decision making. All other explanations escape me at this time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Kind of Magic

“One dream…one soul…one prize one goal
…One golden glance of what should be
Its a kind of magic
One shaft of light that shows the way, no mortal man can win this day
It’s a kind of magic”
Queen, “A Kind of Magic

In the ebb and flow of everyday life, people can often lose sight of the goal. A study I recall seeing some years back indicated that the most successful leaders in the business world believed that they had a distinct calling, a destined purpose, and that drove them to succeed in a world where others could not.

All my life, free choice aside, I have felt that I’ve a purpose about me: A destiny. Life is a story that unfolds at whichever pace that you allow it, complete with chapters and climaxes. If you are willing to take the time to step back from the everyday monotony that is life you may find the opportunity to read between the lines, in the absence of life just coming out and telling you things. Sometimes life will come right out and tell you something, sometimes it will be more subtle. Once upon a time, while on a tour in Honduras, I had a chaplain—a lieutenant colonel that was a Vietnam-era medic in the Special Forces—approach me (although he was my superior, we was very friendly and we had become good acquaintances) and inform me that I was destined for great things. At the ripe age of 18 I was partly na├»ve to the full depth of what he was saying, partly stupefied with the notion of what he was saying, and partly feeling happy because it affirmed something deep inside of me.

Have you ever asked yourself what kind of story your life will be? Could it be a tragedy, a love story, or an epic? Will stories be told about your ill exploits, or will people recall your good repute that you have with the community? One thing I’ve learned lately is that it is never too late in your life to make yours the story that you’ve always longed it would be. Focus and effort will beget competence, further begetting confidence in your abilities in shaping the environment around you. The trick: Work on those things that are directly within your influence and that area of influence will grow, given time.

Life is the content that fills the chapters of our lives. Some sentences are simple prose, some dialogue can be profound, and there may be plot twists that boggle the mind: But in the end it is the story that we have woven to fit our personality and how we interact with the world around us is ultimately the one that we’ve chosen to live, the one that we’ve approved to be published, and the one that we’ve written.

Let tomorrow be the first day of the rest of your life written however you’d like it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monkey Kick.

A monkey, a ball, and a tropical island. A fun little Flash game to help you pass the time by.