Of COURSE my life’s movie will be an indie hit about childbirth.


When Zach Braff was writing the movie Garden State, the soundtrack was one of the first things he figured out. So I hope you have Spotify, because I accidentally had mine ready (NSFW Language!).

I am the culmination of everything that has happened to me, as I will be 10 years from now. So any movie about me isn’t just about me doing things, it’s the story of how I met your mother I got to be that person. That being said, so many experiences are universally relatable- people respond to flashbacks because they have their own version of those memories. Anyways, this movie is about childbirth.

Specifically, it’s about Future Me in the days leading up to the birth of my first kid. As I think about the fact that this is a major landmark in my life, I immediately think about the fact that all through college, I separated my history into two parts: before and after my brother was born (I was 9 or 10). I think back to when I shouted on a plane that I wanted a brother, when I first held him, and when I accidentally helped him take his first steps. For so long, there was no dividing line bigger than his arrival, and yet here’s another one coming up. I’m terrified that I’m gonna screw things up somehow, I’m excited for snuggles, and at that point, I probably even don’t realize just how sick of diapers I’m about to get.

10 years from now, I’m working a desk job in the city, and I volunteer at a radio station (I couldn’t give it up!). I didn’t meet my wife there, but she thinks it’s awesome that I have that- she listens and texts me whenever I play a song that she loves/hates. So in these couple of days, I try for life as normal, all the while anticipating. Since I was young, it was my main “life goal” to be a great husband and father…

Flash back to a long montage of when I was a little kid. It alternates between joyous and depressing. Childhood was great sometimes, and awful others. I don’t want to think about me as a little kid trying to cope with my crazy and dysfunctional biological family, but with that are great memories with my adoptive mom. As many different versions of me across the years explain, family is what you make it, not what you’re born into.

It’ll flash back to all of the romances in my life, up through my wife. This starts with Kindergarten, when I got “married” to the teachers daughter(!), includes all that high school awkwardness, and lots of complaining about my city’s dating scene.

One night, I’ll have trouble sleeping. From here we see the development of my narcolepsy (in high school), and all the tests I went through before we figured out what it was. Emphasis on my stubborn refusal to accept that there may actually be something medically wrong, and it’s something that better self-control won’t actually fix. The movie goes back in time when I realize this is just like when I was convinced that there was no way in hell that I needed glasses.

At work, I have a great idea for an equation to fix the predictive model I’ve been trying to make work, and I catch myself almost getting too involved in that and losing track of everything else (like my pregnant  wife!). Flash back to last-minute overhauls of projects in elementary school, endless tinkering through high school, and the sleepless nights spent in the radio station in college. Continue on to a huge fight with my wife because I got lost in my work again. Back to the Future/Present where I save and close.

…And so on and so forth. This movie will really hit all of the highlights, up and down. Decorating nurseries, getting my grandfather’s tools, making dinner and remembering little smartass me “making egg drop soup” by dropping eggs, the whole shebang. My first encounters with life, death, love, and sorrow: the point is, it’s the highlights of my life, as they tie into these nerve-wracking couple of days. 

Anyways, before people get too bored of reminiscing, “Echoes of Mine” from the above playlist starts playing (SERIOUSLY PLAY IT NOW), and I’m rushing into/through the hospital and I’m there with my wife because it’s about that damn time. Here there are lots of disjointed clips of Future-Present me, and lots of the highlights of what we’ve just sat through, at least one clip from every major part of my life. Then, I have the baby and the entire focus is on right now. Everything has led to this moment, and that’s what there is to focus on.

Life moves on, though, and the Every-Award-winning ending shows it. As I’m standing there with our new baby, the circle of life happens, and I instantly picture him growing up, in [some] of those same scenes that I was remembering me in. The future is coming, and Future Me is trying to picture what it’ll be like for the next in line.

Let’s all just agree to get over ourselves, or “The World Doesn’t Care About You, and That’s a Good Thing”


I’m not accusing you of anything (or you, for that matter… yeah, I saw that look). I’m not even accusing you of not doing anything! So what am I actually saying? Well, in a moment I’m going to backpedal and explain that my title was meant really just to get you to read this (spoiler: it worked), and my 60 Second Idea was that we need to get more …around ourselves. But before I say that, I want to tell you about my personal philosophy.

See, at my core, I’m a firm subscriber to the concept of what I now know as subjectivism. The entirety of the world as I see it has been shaped by all of those things that make my life mine. I know a different world of people than you, with some overlap, we’ve had different experiences, and focus on different things. And that’s awesome. We each have our own “bubble” that is the entire world; people are fascinating because they experience the same things in totally different ways.

At this point, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been getting excited about philosophy and not talking about changing the world. Kudos! Now hold on to your existential hats because everything that I just talked about is actually the problem. See, it’s so incredibly easy to get caught up in our own World that we forget that other ones exist.

Unexpectedly relevant.

Think about it: when you’re walking around through a crowd, there are a lot of people that need to just get out of your way. You’ve got things to do, and even if they may be cool people, you just don’t really have time to care about everyone else. Except, to each and every one of those other people, you’re probably awesome, but you’re in the way. That’s right, what I’m saying is that the votes are in, and 7,000,000,000:1 says that you are part of everyone else. So the problem here is that we’re disregarding that fact because we’re inclined to believe that we’re special. I hate to be That Guy, but each and every one of you is a beautiful snowflake, and a multitude of snowflakes is really just a blizzard.

Why is that a good thing, like the title claimed? It gives us unparalleled opportunity to change The World an impossible number of times. See, we don’t really need to “get over ourselves,” just more… around ourselves (told you!). Here’s my challenge, especially in the 1.5-degrees of separation here at Bucknell: step outside of your bubble, and try and see things from someone else’s. That guy who bumped past you on the way to the LC? Sorry, he just (for all you know) had a killer exam and was stressed and couldn’t sleep last night. Etc.

When you change the way that you think about people, you inherently change the way you interact with them. It’s all just very humanizing. And here’s the kicker: you might just accidentally make a someone’s day, which just changed their world for the better.

It’s no Kiva, but it’s a start.

PS: This was longer than expected, but I could read it aloud in around 50-55 seconds.

“It Takes a Village…” Group and Individual Morality in the Manhattan Project


The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address

 

I know that with your love of men, it no light thing to have had a part, -a great part-, in a diabolical contrivance for destroying them.”

-Dr. Edward Teller, Letter to J. Robert Oppenheimer (7August, 1945)

The Manhattan Project, started in 1942 under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves and overseen by Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer, existed for the sole purpose of creating an atomic bomb to give the United States an unprecedented advantage in World War II. Though there were major components elsewhere, the bulk of the project was done at the isolated Los Alamos Laboratory, built specifically to house what is often referred to as one of the greatest collection of scientific minds in history. The workers at the laboratory eventually developed a working prototype of the weapon, first tested at a site known as “Trinity.” Interestingly, however, some of the top minds involved in the project, especially Oppenheimer himself, came to be some of the nation’s most vocal detractors of the weapon and nuclear war in any form. While it is a fairly simple task to recognize these scientists’ remorse over the use of the bomb –it caused unprecedented amounts of damage and ushered in a new, terrifying, standard into wartime tensions- the true paradox lies in the fact that everyone involved in the Trinity test knew exactly what they were creating, and the potential consequences thereof (Roland 461). Discussion about the motivations behind many scientists who helped develop the nuclear bomb must, then, be presented in an organizational context, because the Los Alamos Laboratory was perfectly designed by Groves and Oppenheimer to facilitate intense, fast-paced collaboration with the singular purpose of constructing what the scientists liked to refer as the “Gadget.”

 

The Scientific Mecca

In many ways, the research facility at Los Alamos (and the scientists inhabiting it) is better described as a collective unit. In stark contrast to General Groves’ traditional vision for compartmentalized research groups, an open collaborative atmosphere internally marked the site, and the free exchange of ideas was encouraged. However, the formation of this work environment relied heavily on a potent combination of individual motivators (Bennis and Biederman). On an discrete level, many of the involved scientists were motivated for their own reasons, but the potentially impossible goal would have remained such had Oppenheimer not carefully designed a working environment with the specific goal of channeling each individual’s talent and motivation into a common “stream.”

At an organizational level, there were several uniting factors that, together, defined the Los Alamos Laboratory: a common enemy, a common cause, and several inherent shared traits found in those involved. Unlike the vast majority of the institutions from which scientists at Los Alamos came, every aspect of daily life was in place for the purpose of developing the bomb. Instead of individual research and the intrusion of everything else upon it, everyone was working on the same project, and everyone knew it. Even as people worked in the area of their specialty, the ultimate goal was singular; I believe, however, that this merely laid the groundwork for other factors to unite the scientists, acting as a metaphorical bridge for information to cross (Biederman and Bennis). Left as the only thing bringing people together, a common goal is far more likely to spark furious competition than to welcome collaboration.

Therefore, in the scope of the entire project, other common motivators played an equally important role in the formation of the uniquely driven group effort. In a more facetious sense, General Groves served as a common “enemy” to the distinctly non-military personnel, and the military itself served as the butt of a collective joke. Groves’ strikingly military manner of leadership[1] was at complete odds with the open atmosphere cherished by the scientists, and rules were openly mocked[2] (The Day After Trinity).

Legitimate wartime fears cannot be discredited, as nearly every member of the research team believed that the work they were doing was only preemptive in that if they failed at their job, others could succeed and American lives put at risk. Adolf Hitler served as essentially the perfect supervillian in the scientists’ eyes, especially considering the fact that many of those involved were Jews driven out of Europe (Kelly 26-27). Werner Heisenberg’s similar work on developing a bomb (which focused largely on heavy water and was eventually aborted), even in the eyes of former friends, existed conceptually as a looming threat; the possible existence of another nuclear weapon was very likely scariest to those who were trying to develop just that (Stimson, York, Kelly).

This unconscious disparity in thinking, however, ultimately served as the final uniting piece at Los Alamos, because, above all else, each of the scientists believed in their work. Oppenheimer, when recruiting potential team members, purposefully touched upon a uniting characteristic of most of the people involved: their egos. For months, he travelled across the country, personally inviting researchers in whom he had taken an interest on account of their distinguishing place in their respective fields. With regards to the perspective of these scientists, Oppenheimer made it extremely clear that they were needed. When this intrinsic motivator was universal and placed in the context of a common goal, it tied everything else together; each scientist didn’t simply envision a solved puzzle, they focused on their piece of the puzzle  (Kelly).

Pictured: Scientific Frenzy

Ultimately, all of these factors fail to shed light on the complete inner workings of the laboratory. As a unit, the group was marked by more commonalities than anything else, but similar to Himanen’s Informational Economy, the collective could only sustain growth and innovation by remaining internally indefinite. Against the facility’s breakneck speeds and creative scientific milieu, it was critical for anyone actively involved to feel useful (York). Oppenheimer’s challenge was then to satiate the same egos that he’d specifically invited[3]. As he knew, the state of progress enjoyed by the scientists was fragile, and the well-functioning organization could not be sustained without constant maintenance. It was for this reason that individuals who weren’t making any real progress in their area or were unhappy with their current work would be relocated until they were happily working again (Biedermannn and Bennis). With the overwhelming sense of community created in the lab, it was typical for scientists to get completely swept up in the constant flow (York). That flow, however, was not self-sustaining, but rather heavily curated by Oppenheimer who became the central figure in a community of 3,000 (The Day After Trinity).

The unique atmosphere did not go unnoticed by those governmental figures who knew of the Project; President Roosevelt personally ordered that the scientists not be notified of the destruction of the rival German lab site, and sent reports designed to maintain the pace after the victory in Europe (Stimson 4-5). The research eventually culminated in a test at Trinity on 16 July 1945, and soon after the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many researchers, most famously including Edward Teller continued research on harnessing nuclear power for applications ranging from new weapons to the early stages of radiology for several years. Others, such as Oppenheimer, however, led the campaign against them.

 

The Frankenstein Complex

“I have felt it myself. The glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it’s there in your hands, to release this energy that fuels the stars, to let it do your bidding. To perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky. It is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is, in some ways, responsible for all our troubles — this, what you might call technical arrogance, that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds.”

-Freeman Dyson

 

“The physicists have known sin, and it is a knowledge they must never forget.”

-Robert Oppenheimer

 

Play this now: [audio http://awmusic.ca/1/mp3/The%20Heartless%20Bastards%20-%20Had%20To%20Go.mp3]

Only one scientist, Joseph Rotblat, left the Manhattan Project, but most of the scientists involved at Los Alamos (and to a lesser extent, Oak Ridge in Tennessee) were haunted later in their lives about the innumerable deaths that they enabled, as some knew they would be even whilst devising the bomb (Lifton and Mitchell 141). Frank Oppenheimer, brother to Robert, recalled first being overjoyed that the bomb dropped on Nagasaki actually worked, and then overcome with grief for the same reason (The Day After Trinity). Fascinatingly, most felt regret not for creating the bomb, but instead for the fact that it was actually used (a decision that provides for extensive analysis on its own, but not here), begging the question, “who is responsible for the deaths caused by the atomic bomb?” (Kelly).  No real answer exists, of course, but the idea provokes interesting consideration of complex morality.

An intriguing ethical perspective is appropriately American in nature, framing the actions of the scientists in the contexts of both Quaker and Puritanical values; each lends some unique insight into the motivations of the individuals involved. As Himanen explains, Weber’s “Protestant ethic” relies on an innate sense of duty, time optimization, and the idea that an end-goal is not a point, but a perpetual system to maximize results. Pacifist Quaker values, ever deontological, center on moral reasoning, and a binary instance of “Good” and “Evil” (Moore 61). Per these beliefs, Rotblat was the only scientist to make the right choice, as it is an individual’s duty to not cause harm. In this context, David Orr’s concept of imposing limits on research and knowledge itself are particularly relevant.

The counter argument is rooted in the Protestant ethic, which Himanen used to explain the organizational model of information networks, surprisingly akin to that of the laboratory. Where the Quaker beliefs focus on the role of individuals, this system applies incredibly well to the collective of workers[4] that was so tightly amalgamated. For each of the scientists at Los Alamos, there was a strong perceived obligation to prevent others from harm, and their capabilities stipulated that this was their means: because they could use their skills to help, they needed to (Howes and Herzenberg, Kelly, The Day After Trinity). Furthermore, the end-goal for many involved was technological advancement for its own sake. Robert Wison, who later forged the field of atomic energy, admitted openly that he and his groups hoped that the Gadget would be so powerful that it wouldn’t ever actually be used[5] (The Day After Trinity).

The main failure of this quasi-religious framework is that it assumes that the scientists acted on moral instinct, when, as established previously, there were other factors. While the individual egos likely contributed to the sense of personal duty (“only I can help in this way!”), the driving force mentioned most frequently by those involved was that of the challenge: the Project offered a unique scientific problem, and an unprecedented opportunity to solve it. Solving nature’s puzzles was, after all, their job as scientists (Lifton and Mitchell).

 

 


[1] He only accepted the role with the title of “General” because, as he recalled later, “I felt that my position would be stronger if they thought of me first as a general instead of as a promoted colonel” (Biederman and Bennis 173). However, as one scientist mentioned, “We didn’t care” (York).

[2] My favorite anecdote involves a security protocol stating that scientists should not audibly refer to each other as physicists or chemists. The staff thusreferred to each other as “fizzlers” and “stinkers.”

[3] Groves infamously was known to refer to the scientists as “primadonnas” (Biedermann and Bennis).

[4] I find this fascinatingly ironic (though irrelevant to the discussion at hand), as in general terms, the societies that grew out of these values were almost the opposite; Quakers found themselves living in more Marx-leaning communes, whereas the Puritans were largely intensely private and founded capitalism.

[5] As a side note, Lifton and Mitchell argue, rather forwardly, that this attitude was essentially a coping mechanism designed to avoid moral consequences by distancing themselves from the impact of their work.

The Internet Apocalypse


Sorry it’s taken me so long to put a prompt together, but I encountered some serious delays when I couldn’t think of a good portmanteau involving the word “facebook.”

Anyways, one of my biggest interests is in human communication, and how technology has affected that. So for this week’s prompt, I’m actually gonna ask you to get creative- really approach this with an open mind, and think about potential implications.

For this week’s post, pick a major means of communication (i.e. Facebook, Google, smartphones, email, snail mail, carrier pigeons etc.) that has had a significant impact on the ways in which we interact, and write about what you would think would happen if it stopped working on little to no notice. For example, how has the ability to look up stocks at any time from anywhere impacted the financial industry? What if people suddenly couldn’t do it? Or, if hackers took control of all of Google’s services, what’s the worst thing they could do (remember, Google does much more than web searching, so “using Bing” doesn’t cover all of it)?

Basically though, I really want you to have fun with it, and it doesn’t have to be all good/bad- this post isn’t meant to only be cautionary about our reliance on new things….

Recipe for Apocalypse

  1. Pick a communications technology
  2. Obliterate it (metaphorically, not literally)
  3. Imagine the horror and/or adaptability that ensues
  4. Get an agent and contact NBC.
  5. http://youtu.be/JwfCRAtkYEI

Uncle Thoreau…

“We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us”

Jordi:

“We do not call on the smartphone; it calls upon us”

They tried to make us go to rehab…


Didn’t get a lot in class

But I know it don’t come in a shot glass

-Amy Winehouse

So, this topic opened a hell of a can of worms. We sawa LOT of impassioned, well-written posts covering an incredible range of topics about social life at  Bucknell. We went to pick some of the best, but there were a lot, so shout-out to these people for staying out of WordPress rehab (or maybe they need a trip there…)

  • Frank Berman: Would you send your kids here?
  • Megan Cautilli: Fraternities and Sororities: Heroes NOT Villians
  • Jennifer Ciotti: Be the Change you wish to see in the world.
  • Caroline Gilbert: The Problem with Pre-Games
  • Jackson Howell: Bucknell and Me: A Journey 20 Years in the Making
  • Kyle Mackrides: Campus Climate Report Lacks Significant Student Involvement
  • Kelly Morque: Freshman Year 101
  • Derek Rowe: Saved by “The Devil”
  • Sal Vallala: Climate Change…
  • Steph Wyld: RANT
  • Di You: The Drunk Bison

 

Most Likely to Write a Kickass Noir Novel: Shon

 

Reader’s Choice (By FAR!): Mike, “You’re Golfing During House Party?”

Image

One more award!

 

Best Example of CYA: Jordi

 

So, instead of the usual, we’re gonna keep the conversation going. Here’s some starting points….

Let’s think:
What was the context of the report? What was it intended to be?

What are some of the benefits of a strong fraternity and sorority presence on campus?

One of the most hotly debated parts of the CCR was the infamous “removal of Greek life” clause. Is that a legitimate cause for concern?

What would it mean to “lessen” the dominance of Greek life on campus? What would the impact be?

Some posts (I am guilty of this!) largely lumped fraternities and sororities together. How are they different? Are they notably different?

Bison Behavior:
Do we think that legality plays any large role in the decisions of students or administration on campus?

Why is it that people join sororities or fraternities here? Why do people choose not to?

What is the role of non-Greek cocurricular activities on-campus? What should it be?

What impact does Greek life have on alcohol consumption habits of students?

How should we define “hooking up?” Is there a dating scene on-campus?