Monthly Archives: May 2010

strategic euphemizing

I’m thinking of instances when a group has made efforts to change the proper name or term for something in order to influence public perception about it– to get around the negative connotations of the original term.  Some examples I can think of:

creationism –> creation science –> intelligent design
global warming –> climate change
sewage sludge –> biosolids
GMO (genetically modified organism) –> GE (genetically engineered)

Help me out, I know there are a lot more.



My favorite thing about being an INTP is the internal world I inhabit.  I live mostly in my mind, thinking in multiple dimensions in a mental universe much more colorful and absorbing than the external world that I usually find myself in.  Who has time to remember where I put the car keys or keep an organized filing system when there are mental landscapes to explore, mysteries of the universe and multiple future possibilities resulting from each minute action to think about?  My mind is so meandering that when I sit down to write a blog entry or an essay or email, I have usually composed the entire thing in my mind before my hands have reached the end of the first sentence, and then I forget all of it as my brain is already onto something else.  My writing process is rewriting and reading and rereading until I can force my mind to marinate in a thought long enough to fill in the blanks left by dreaming, like trying to force a fence-jumping horse to trot in circles until eventually the steps become regular.

It’s extremely hard for me to escape the internal labyrinth of my mind and focus completely on something external.  Often after being lost in thought I look down and am actually surprised by the fact that I have a body, that I’m not just a neural blob floating in infinite dimensions of mental space.  Where did these arms come from!? Like the piles of papers and articles scattered in disarray around my desk, I know my body’s there, but it’s just so easy to forget when my mind is somewhere else.

There is a scene I remember vividly: last summer, I’m kayaking on the ocean on a sunny day.  The landscape is not outrageously beautiful, but the colors are bright and sparks of white light bounce off the waves crests on their way to my retinas.  I felt as though I’d opened my eyes and suddenly found myself there.  Suddenly I felt very much a part of the world of hard things: rock and bone and muscles and skin.  I felt like a different person, but I didn’t know how or if it was good or bad.  I was so stripped of my internal universe that I had no automatic value system to reference.  It wasn’t a feeling of depersonalization, when the self dissolves into the solvent of spacetime and seems to disappear.  It was the opposite: I was as aware of myself as ever, but had hopped across the event horizon between my mind and the world.  For a rare moment, I had shed my internal landscape for an external one, and it was so complete that I didn’t realize it until many months later.

I’ve had many eureka moments, consciousness-raising experiences, and epiphanies.  I’ve had entire universes opened in my mind by a single note in a violin concerto or a gesture of a dancer’s arm; months of thinking and nested tiers of ideas brought on by a single comment heard at a scientific conference.  For an INTP, consciousness-raising experiences are a dime a dozen.  They are pretty much a hobby of mine.  But paradoxically, some of the most profound consciousness-raising experiences I’ve had were occasions when I’ve been able to escape my own consciousness.

winter reading

I read a lot of mediocre books this winter.  These are some of the good ones:

“Await Your Reply” by Dan Chaon.  Normally I don’t like novels that are too current.  For some reason, I get weirded out when a novel even mentions email.  This one is about online identity theft, but that’s just the surface.  It has a sparseness that takes it out of the present and makes it feel like a three-dimensional Hitchcock movie.

“Gossip of the Starlings” by Nina deGramont, a novel about boarding school and cocaine set in the ‘80s.  There are some gems of universality hidden behind the anorexic blonde on the cover.

“Stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers” by Mary Roach made me want to donate my body to science.  I have an irrepressible habit of reading while I’m doing other things, especially while cooking and eating.  My meals were much less palatable the week I was reading this book, but I didn’t want to put it down.

“Denali: a literary anthology”.  A collection of Native legends, stories about the mountain, and accounts of early expeditions to Denali (Mt. McKinley).  I picked this up after a short visit to the Denali region this winter and immediately began dreaming of a summertime visit.

One of the best things I read this winter was actually an essay in the Patagonia winter catalog, “Bread crumbs in the dark” by Katie Ives.  The style and voice are a perfect echo of what I would want to write.

a perfect alaskan weekend

A fun evening with old and new friends.  Such a motley crew of people, who would never be found sitting around the same table except in Alaska on a summer evening while towering spruces sway in the blowing rain and wind outside.  Talking about all manner of things, in a cocoon of the tiny radius of human community in the vast expanse of nature.  It felt so familiar to me, but so good, that I wanted to remember how to see it from the outside.  Thinking: I want to remember this.

The next day I hiked up a mountain with a friend in the pouring rain and howling wind.  We sat at the top of the world while the wind whistled around us, sounding like it would blow us right off the exposed shoulder of the mountain.  I could have sat there forever, watching the obscuring waves of rain moving toward us from the horizon, ridgelines disappearing and reappearing in the mist.  The wind leaving its footprints on the landscape.  I want to bring everyone I know up there, to sit with our backs to the 50-mph wind, to watch the rain come toward us in sheets and the wind blow patterns on the ocean; to see the contrast between flashes of bright sun, barely muffled by cloud, and the dark gray impending horizon.  To be a person with a beating heart, sitting on the shoulder of a mountain, cradled by the bigness of the air.

With fresh air in my lungs, raindrops assaulting the hood of my jacket, my feet sucked into holes of mud, I thought: life is so sweet.  I felt so keenly alive and aware, so surrounded by good things, that the idea of someday dying and leaving this behind was unfathomable.  When life is perfect, when I am so solidly on this earth and so solidly in my body, it seems so tender, so beautiful, so fragile and improbable.  Who gets to do this?  Who gets to experience this forest, this natural beauty, this powerful wind and rain?  Who gets to be alive?

This is what I love about Alaska: nothing is the way it would be in my imagined perfect world, but the good things are way better.


Every once in awhile I come across a piece of art that seems to know me.  I see in it something that has been pulled directly from my heart and allowed to expand in the open air.  The artist has pillaged my dreams; he has not only stolen an idea from my mind, he has also given it the very same form it would have taken in my own hands.  Stumbling upon one of these rare pieces of artwork is like walking into a foreign place and seeing my internal organs on display.  In these moments, being a beholder of art rivals the experience of being a creator.  And it gives me hope– knowing that some quiet, diaphanous thought is shared by another person in the universe.


I love the feeling of sleeping so hard that I am pulled through many thick layers of slumber by the sound of my alarm clock, and the futile struggle against melting back into dream. I love the feeling of leaving some subterranean story. I love wondering why, upon waking, I have a certain piece of music from a film score by Hans Zimmer stuck in my head, with harp chords dropping like rain.

small talk

Now and then I like to spend a few minutes perusing  This always results in me laughing out loud because seeing other people say exactly what’s in my head makes me realize how funny it is.  Even the subject titles make me laugh because I know where they’re coming from: “Expression…it’s….uh…..something…”   “Small talk – how the hell do you do it?”   “How on earth do you know you ‘love’ someone?”  So INTP.

Here are some funny and true comments from the “small talk” thread:

I can’t seem to get past square one – never can think of the first few questions to ask, and never can successfully pretend I’m interested if I find the topic boring.

I usually think of the most boring, normal questions, and then end up not even listening to the response because it’s oh, just so dull.

I can’t really think of any issues I care about, that I could discuss with a person I’m not that close to. And then my complete lack of patience steps in, the thought of having to go through a few rounds of small talk before it becomes socially acceptable to talk about something I really care about gets me completely demoralized, so I usually just sigh and give up.

I used to think I was warm and friendly, but eventually I realised that if someone says something that doesn’t interest me or prompt a reply, any expression is dropped from my face and I don’t respond.

Small talk sucks so much ass.

It’s not that I never care about “small” topics of conversation, but I care about them much less often than big topics.  It’s kind of backwards.  The mark of a friendship is when I can tolerate and even enjoy small talk.