Please note that my opinions are my own, and the opinions of the anyone or any institution quoted are theirs. The opinions expressed herein do not reflect the opinion of North Carolina State University, its board of directors, the College of Management or any other college, Student Media Authority, or WKNC Raleigh.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Smoking Bans and Tax Addiction

This article is from a work I completed recently for an ag/resource econ class. Due to nationwide academic integrity policies that vary from school to school, I must request proper citation if this text is used. Please refer to the proper handbook (MLA, APA) or your professor for information on how to correctly cite an internet journal article.


Smoking, like many other issues in contemporary politics, has become an exceedingly controversial subject whose coverage by the news media lacks any substantial positive information. Discussion of the topic appears limited to opinionated slogan-slinging, however valid they may be. A brief social and political overview with the author’s assumptions and opinions will be followed by summaries of two articles published in the popular media. Conclusive statements will be drawn from their content.

Tobacco is an interesting consumption choice. Whole books are devoted to the development and use of the plant, including its history, its medicinal properties, and the social perceptions of its use. Prior to the U.S. Surgeon General’s report Smoking and Health, published in 1964, smoking had not been observed as a potentially hazardous product, though it may have been looked down upon in Victorian times as inconsiderate and common. After the publication of Smoking and Health, the general public was made more aware of health implications of various forms of tobacco consumption. On this premise it can be assumed that the information now available factors into consumption decisions, but only recently has the public consumption of tobacco become the focus of those not making the choice themselves.

In the presence of a negative consumption externality, it has become the general practice of government to take action in order to maximize social welfare based on the information available. Noting the lack of policy initiatives in the three decades following the publication of Smoking and Health, it seems strange that the issue should become so pressing in recent years. With recent cries of the public to reduce “second-hand” smoke, it may seem surprising to some that no new reports have been issued from the Surgeon General’s office; the lack of federal funding for such studies inspires awe but is not surprising given the responsibility of local government to create and enforce policies. Where are local governments getting their information to make policy decisions? Other than Smoking and Health, few comprehensive scientific studies have been published recently. Perhaps of more import is the fact that the studies which are published never receive public attention because their results simply do not follow conventional perceptions. In fact, no studies exist which correlate the effects of smoking on the environment or on others’ health to a degree that is not laughable—an assertion whose argument is beyond the scope of this essay but whose discussion is easily accessible through the Internet.

In all fairness, the presumed externality has been addressed with the banning of smoking in certain facilities, with a per-unit tax on consumption imposed at the local and state levels of government, and with a generally successful advertisement (read: propaganda) campaign which has created a level of concern which is manifested through smoking/nonsmoking decisions of firms, institutions, and individuals. One of these measures, the per-unit tax on consumption of tobacco, has produced an interesting “political” externality unpalatable to some legislators and their constituents. “Tax addiction” is a process whereby a government attempts to eliminate an externality through tax imposition only to build the revenues into unrelated areas of the fiscal budget. In the case of smoking, tobacco tax revenues seem to be spent everywhere except ad campaigns and healthcare costs. In both of these areas the continued reduction in the smoking population would justify with reduced spending in each area in that a completely nonsmoking society would lack their necessity. Instead, funneling revenues into balancing budget shortfalls in welfare and education creates a disincentive to reduce smoking.

The article “Smoking bill attracts fire,” published in Caterer and Hotelkeeper offers some insight on how a national smoking ban in the UK might affect local business and the economy as a whole. The UK government has had trouble passing a comprehensive smoking ban due to competing lobbyist organizations attempting to charm legislators by flouting catchy phrases and conclusions drawn from faulty premises. It is thought that a miniaturized version of the bill, applying only to hotels, bars and pubs would bring about the desired change in sentiment making a “blanket” ban more palatable in years to come. Charges that the exemption of private member clubs from the bill are a “gross distortion of the market” implies that a small ban would be enough to cause patrons of community clubs to drink liquor and enjoy tobacco privately. In light of this, some pubs may opt to drop food in favor of tobacco license eligibility, creating an environment conducive to “binge drinking,” an externality notable by itself. This article lacks hard evidence or economic statistics to support the claims of lobbyists in Parliament and this is likely indicative of their attitude toward the subject—that is, it is important enough to raise a ruckus by promoting catchy slogans but not important enough to warrant serious consideration of policy implications. A decrease in the patronage of local pubs might upset the economy as the utility of smokers (and bar owners) is likely to be decreased by a greater amount relative to the small increase in utility for nonsmokers (a large percentage of whom might not have a desire to frequent said bars once they become smoke free).

“Across the pond” results are mixed. Here in the U.S., localized smoking bans have had moderate success in the Midwest. In New York and California, it seems that bans have done little more than polarize the population further among political lines. North Carolina has been hesitant to enact such bans at the state level, but things may change soon. In the article “No-smoking talk rises,” News & Observer writer Lynn Bonner presents a partially lopsided argument in favor of the bans. The article claims that most Triangle patrons would not mind a smoking ban; in fact, Alicia Barron claims that the presence of her daughter is incentive enough to not smoke. This author’s mother did not have a problem firing up a Marlboro red during dinner at the Iron Skillet and found no issue smoking inside a house with his single-lunged asthmatic sister; to each her own. Lobbyists in the Legislative Building downtown seem to agree: they emphasize that the government should not limit the ability of individuals to make their own decisions. John Ng, a restaurant manager states that such limitations on choice would be comparable to “saying you could not smoke in your own home” and that he would “pay to go somewhere else.” These two statements suggest, at least to Ng, his marginal willingness to pay for smoking where he pleases may create a market for more private-member smoke bars. Some patrons state they do not see any value in banning smoking in any bars, though to them restaurant bans are reasonable. This article also fails to report statistics and to explore consequences of a ban beyond opinion and assumption. Statistics might not matter, however, if owners believe that bans will negatively impact their businesses, creating an attitude of dependence on smoking customers.

The impact of a smoking ban in a state traditionally and still partially dependent on tobacco growth and consumption appears significant. Such bans could limit the freedom of consumers and adversely impact small businesses, which make up an ever-growing sector of the U.S. economy. Will consumers limit the time spent out-on-town when in need of a few cigarettes? It is likely, but the extent of such decisions on consumption lack statistical support. Furthermore, these consequences may entail an even larger reduction in tax revenues for states which rely on tobacco revenues to cover budget shortfalls, especially those states that continue to raise per-unit taxes on consumption by triple-digit percentage points. Both sides of the argument against second-hand smoke lack accessible and publicized scientific analyses. Until the public becomes better-informed on the topic, misinformation can only lead to mistakes in policy making and to muddled inferences of policy implications.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quotes for Today

These are actually quotes from yesterday that I discussed with Joel while sutdying the Resurrection. The first quote is my own, the second Joel's, and the last is less a quote than an observation.

In today's society, the selfishness and materialism of everyday living can be reflected in: "We love the things we use and use the ones we love."

This quote might require some explanation. The best summation I can come up with is that God does not want good citizens in his kingdom. Any atheist can be a good person by respecting the law and living a wholesome life. In order to receive the reward, you must lead a good life through God, then you will be part of Him. Hence: "Don't be good, be God."

Simply being a good person would not make an atheist qualified for heaven in the hereafter. This is the catalyst for me last observation: "Nothing occurs by coincidence." Everything is part of a plan. I've heard it stated that nothing is coincidence but some things co-incide. That is to say, nothing happens by happenstance, but sometimes things occur at the same time for a reason.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

On Pipes and Tobacco Discussion

In a really strange sequence of events, I've come to realize just how lowsy the forum I formerly used was. Sparing you all the drama and sparing myself the trouble of copying and pasting it all, you may venture to ASP through Google Groups or visit GrayFox Online Forum and search for pipes.org in either place.

The short end of the story:
Due to growing frustration with the lack of interesting material at pipes.org, I stopped posting there around August. In subsequent conversations with two users there I realized that the forum had been managed poorly and was part of my discontent, though not the majority. I retreated to ASP, and though I don't post often due to school work and the like distractions of college life, I enjoyed the communal atmosphere there. Then the subject of pipes.org administration was brought up in a thread at ASP, where I vented my hostilities publicly and found the GrayFox forum. Subsequently I met a lot of my previous mentors from pipes.org having a grand time and really chatting it up at GrayFox. Let's say I've found a new home for pipe discussion and information.

In Other Worldly News

After impatient waiting and unnecessary stressing over the matter, I finally received a motorcycle last weekend. I say "received" because my grandmother purchased it for me in Knoxville without my knowledge, and she even paid for half of it. I do have a wonderful grandmother.

Pictures can be seen at http://community.websots.com/user/caesar424 in the Motorcycles album.

I'm still trying to get used to the bike, but I've logged about 600 miles so far. Time to get some winter riding gear!

On God's Plan

Well, I didn't keep the promise I made to myself walking up to my apartment: I'd post an entry before I read my e-mail. No big loss, I just don't feel as motivated to write anymore. However, I feel like I need to post a few things just to bring this journal up to speed.

In the past few weeks I've experienced what can only be described as a "spiritual awakening." I've been searching for something in myself, searching for God since before my grandfather passed away. I even brought the subject up to him and he gave me the kind of reply that makes me admire him so much as a man and son of God--"I started feeling the need for the spirit in my life, and I did a lot of hard thinking and reading before I finally accepted Christ. If you give it time, and truly feel it in your heart, you'll find him. It's a personal experience than I can't 'make happen.'" I've paraphrased a thirty minute conversation as best as memory permits, but I think you get the gist.

In order to speak candidly about these things, I should point out that the things I say may sound strange to the ears of those who have not experienced, but I must speak so in order to feel the Spirit. If you knew me in high school, or last year in college, I may sound like a completely different person. If you think that, there's good reason to believe so. I am.

My walk with God took a tremendous step in the right direction about three weeks ago and continues 'til today. I want to share that with you as succinctly and openly as possible without writing a testimony:

I came to the realization that all my life I had been viewing God from my own perspective. "Well, duh!" you might say, but hear me out. When focused through the eyes and intellect of man, God appears as some omnipotent father figure high aloft a throne or pedestal far out of reach with man and Christ appears as an intercessor, a messenger. In a small sense that is true, but it misses the point entirely. In order to really get in your spirit, you have to view things from God's perspective, which is impossible with the human intellect. That's precisely why you use your spirit instead of your mind. Somehow this magnificent channel opens and reveals to you the concept of God's plan. The reason that so many people don't understand it is because they lack this perspective, and we all lack the ability to share the experience with one another. It truly is a personal experience.

There are various ways to accomplish this sort of connection, but the best way is through prayer. This is coming from a formerly ardent naysayer of the power of prayer. It's amazing what the Lord can do for you.

There are so many thoughts swimming through my head from day to day, I only come to peace when my mind focuses on the Word. Through the Word I can experience Him, just by calling on His name. I learned this handy technique from a pamphlet entitled "Pray-Reading the Word." To learn more about my experience, the best way is to share in the experience with gropus on campus or in your life that can guide you in the right direction. If you're interested check out the website below for general information and full texts.

Living Stream Ministries

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I can't believe its been an entire month. Life's been flying at me pretty fast and I have a few papers to do now that class has picked back up. Normally I right about my observations and try not to complain too much, but lately I just can't help it.

Pettiness -- Why do people fight over trivial things? Triviality is itself subjective and prone to argument, but really, when I sit down to eat at the restaraunt for which you work, I don't want to hear lame-ass excuses about how your feet hurt because you work three jobs. If I make polite conversation with you, don't bring me down to a silly level by talking about bullshit. I want substance, and I demand it in conversation.

Time to stop wasting words on this one and move on -- just as all you "triflin' bitches" out there need to do.

Monday, September 12, 2005

More Conservative by the Minute

Hastert was right. At least TRY to see it from his side. God, what is happening to my liberal sense of mercy and my bleeding heart?

"Nobody can deny New Orleans' cultural primacy or its historical importance. But before we refloat the sunken city, before we think of spending billions of dollars rebuilding levees that may not hold back the next storm, before we contemplate reconstructing the thousands of homes now disintegrating in the toxic tang of the flood, let's investigate what sort of place Katrina destroyed."

Any comments are welcome.

A More Dangerous Addiction: Taxes

Tonight I was introduced to a new concept, something that had previously not come up in any economics course I've taken so far.

Tax Addiction, when googled, returns the following article:
"If California lawmakers don't want people to smoke, why are they tying the state's budget to smoking? Democrats seek to close the state's $24 billion deficit through the servitude of smokers. Democratic Party leaders proposed this week a steep increase in cigarette taxes -- from 87 cents to $3."

Tax Addiction is simply a condition of federal governments that they tend to cycle taxes aimed at reducing negative externalities of consumption and production into their fiscal budgets from year to year, thereby sending a mixed message to constituents and those affected by the taxes directly.

On the production side: the U.S. government, through its arm labelled the EPA, mandates certain levels of abatement (that is, anti-pollution or pollution-reduction) that certain industries must follow or face per-unit taxes on products. A company will then reduce pollution of its own accord until the cost of producing the next unit of abatament (known as the marginal unit) exceeds the value of the per-unit tax. In this way the government intervenes to fix a market failure, namely to lower pollution.

With industry being what it is, and a large economy that easily processes hundreds or thousands of trillions of dollars each year, substantially revenue stands to be gained from taxing polluting industries. Oh, goody, more money for the government to spend. If I'm starting to sound conservative, its because I'm a conservative economist.

In much the same way, the government taxes cigarettes in an effort to reduce the number of smokers (particularly underaged smokers), and perhaps thereby reduce the number of smoking related deaths and/or lawsuits continually going through a revolving-door legal system. Tobacco is bad... boooooooo tobacco.

Oh, wait, they get tax revenues from that don't they? So they don't wish you to stop smoking cigarettes completely, they just want to make the few that remain on board pay like hell for a few of the cancer sticks. Because gub'ment needs da munny, hunny.

So, I now must disclaim: I do not endorse cigarette smoking, nor do I promote underaged drinking. But, if you wish to enjoy a fine pipe tobacco or cigar with an exquisite merlot, you will be tasting the best life has to offer and likely would have the best sensory experience a man or woman can obtain with legal "drugs." That doesn't mean you should smoke to get a nic rush or drink a keg of beer and get wasted. MODERATION is the key (see previous entry).

Which is worse: The smoker that "pollutes" the voluminous air that each of our cars graciously scurbs clean for us (snicker), or the government that vehemently opposes the devil-weed while quietly accepting a bribe to GRANT you a RIGHT?

Any strict constructionists care to comment?

A Story of the Penny

Once upon a time, very far in the past before the world knew what a "Federal Reserve Note" was, there was a boy that lived with his family in a small rural town.

The boy's family was by no means rich, but they weren't destitute ,either. I guess you could call his family a member of the original American middle-class, hard-working, strong-valued, and patriotic.

When the boy was young, his father would give him a penny every weekend to purchase a treat from the local confectioner's shop. The boy's favorite was bubble gum, which was fortunate because back then you could get five pieces of bubble gum for a penny. And why wouldn't you? It doesn't make much sense to cut up a penny into five parts so you could buy a single piece of gum, does it?

So the boy would wait all week and if he was a good boy, his father would take him to the shop and let him purchase his treat. Sooner than later he realized that he could get one candy bar for a penny and it would eaten before he got home. But, the magic of bubble gum was such that you could chew it forever and ever; or until you went to bed, whichever came first!

Now there was a second benefit from liking bubble gum; because it came so cheaply, the boy was able to have one piece of gum a day (excepting Wednesday and Friday, as he had decided the value in moderation some time after he realized there were seven days in a week and only five pieces of gum). So the boy enjoyed his treat for weeks at a time until he outgrew bubble gum, which fortunately came at a time when the confectioner had to close up shop. Something about a Great Depression... whatever that meant.

Well, the boy grew up into a fine man and had a family of his own. By this time in the man's life, he'd been through it all. In order to pull the economy back together, big Uncle FDR initiated a lot of bank reforms. A consequence was the removal of the gold standard of money and the introduction of "greenback" money. Now, when you tell people that a dollar bill is only worth a dollar because Brother Gub'ment says so, they get a little crazy. Bro. Gub'ment didn't do a great job of controlling the amount of these pieces of paper, so these things called markets started raising their prices until things were about like they were before the greenbacks.

By now the man's own son, another little boy that inherited his father's penchant for bubble gum, had gotten used to going to the local store with his father on weekend outings and purchasing a pack of gum. You could get five sticks of gum for a dime, or one for two pennies. Even better, if you bought five packs of five stickes (that's a total of twenty-five pieces of gum!) you could get it for four dimes (that's 20% off!).

The boy naturally thought this had to be the greatest achievement in human civilization. How fortunate he was to get something he wanted at a good price! His father harkened of times 'Back when [he] was a lad...' but the boy didn't listen much to that babble. So he bought five packs of gum each Saturday, but unlike his father didn't learn the value of moderation. The boy had twenty five pieces of gum to last him all week long! He could practically have a piece any time the mood struck him.

This led the boy to purchase more and more gum, until he could rest assured he was safe for a week, with a week's supply of gum in reserve. The boy became a model consumer and produced his own little consumers when he got older. Those little consumers produced more little consumers, and those little consumers produced you! You little consumer, you! Everyone was happy and finally, due to man's great achievement in the fields of marketing, gum technology research, and gum sales, anyone could have a piece whever they wanted. We're living the American dream!

The moral of this story: impulsivity. There are two fundamental differences between the world of the boy and his father; a basic dichotomy that had not existed previously but continued to perpetuate itself from time since. Impulse, desire, wants, and (to a very minute degree) needs fuel markets and capitalism. The boy was considerably wealthier than his father was at that age, but it wasn't just him. All the little boys were enjoying a higher standard of living than their parents, and that was a novel idea. Even two hundred years ago, economic growth was so slow compared to what it is now that one could be guaranteed a safe, unchanging way of life for their generation.

That is the case no longer. Standards of living continue to rise, and we shamefully want more and more. Should we feel ashamed, or is it only natural in a capitistic society? It depends on your own moral character at the basic level. Is greed a fundamentally evil thing or do you accept it as human nature?

Furthermore, is reckless purchasing power in todays world a sign of a darker future? Again, it depends on whether or not you feel justified in your purchases.

How often do you let little things that are good in moderation overwhelm you in excess? After all, you are the beginning and end of all that you experience.

So do you think things out and plan? Chew on that next time you reach for a pack of gum.

Cleaning Service?

I was out of toilet paper last night. So I was gonna get some today, but forgot. So imagine how surprised I was when I went to the bathroom and the Toilet Paper Fairy had put a fresh roll on the holder.

Emma's in Mars Hill, and I know my roomates wouldn't have done it.

The only thing that's weirding me out is that they didn't tell us we had room cleaning service.

That's my shallow thought for the day! :-)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Life Experiences, Lessons from a Cigar Smoker

Well I mean to write something last evening about this, but I didn't get around to it until now. I'm listening to Enya right now, which I've never done before, and its making me feel contemplative... all this coming from an one-time metal-head. Not sure if I should've disclosed that. Such is life.

And life is appearantly such that I don't know quite what I thought I knew. I guess this is the point when a post-adolescent begins to realize he doesn't know everything, though I'm not quite sure I ever held that opinion of myself. In retrospect, if I had held such an opinion, it makes me appear quite the jack-ass and only reinforces my newly-realized ignorance of life.

I hang out with people older than myself--considerably older--because I enjoy their company far better than my own peer group. Of course, I still have my peer group that I hang out with on a regular basis to catch up on things, chat, waste time, and enjoy each others' company; but there's just something inherently charismatic which I was previously unaware of in older people. After last evening at TofR, I realized that the charismatic appeal came from their life experience, which only naturally appealed to me because of my acadmic nature and love of knowledge.

Among other things, I've learned that it all comes down to number one. Whether its credit, debt, burden, strife, responsibilty, or wealth--I make it so. That's self-empowering in a sense but quite humbling in another. In fact, quite so humbling as to be my non-stop contemplative thought since about 11:30PM last eveing (it's now 12:30PM Friday). I can't put it any other way... I simply am still a novice when it comes to life. This only further affirms my complaint in my last entry. College is sheltering me, and I was looking forward to "hiding away" from reality another 2 years in grad school as a friend would put it.

I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge, but I MUST start living at some point. Academia is for the young and the retired, and for the select few that are TRULY teachers at heart. The earning potential I have being a 19 year old junior in economics is kind of staggering. I shudder to think how much money I could have made in the last few years, building up a nice 401k, some IRAs, or at least some social security "tenure." Of course I also recognize that the same is highly unlikely without being in school. We arrive at an interesting paradox where I realize now that I could have earned more out of school, but yet would have never been able to come to that realization without having been here and having the limited experience thus gained.

Enough pipes and cigars for me last night, don't need any more today. I don't know how much more contemplation I can take.

By the way, does anyone know of a way to take the arrogant tone out of my writings? I was just reading over some older posts in my other blogs... damn, how naive.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

They Remixed the Indy Sounds

Well, I laughed my ass off. Well, maybe I didn't laugh it completely off, but I laughed until it hurt all over. If you haven't seen the original cartoon, watch this atomfilm short and it might rekindle your memory or entice you to do some crafty googling to find the original. All the guys from back home probably know what it is...

Badada-bring-ing-dada-ding-ding--ding----ding-ding-bada-ding- ding-bring-ding-bada-bring-ing-ing-ing-ing-owwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Copy and paste:

Labor Day

Was quite uneventful except for the drive. Less the drama at home it was pretty much relaxing and greatly-needed. I visited friends I've been meaning to visit for along time and learned a few things about myself that I want to share.

I'm a hypocrite on many things. I've made peace with that.

I may listen and understand, but I don't state that enough with positive feedback. Instead I argue.

Analytical minds--that is, perfectionists--tend to overanalyze everything, including themselves. Wait, that's me too.

"Patience is a virture." And it is a virtue which I do not possess in great quantities, though that too I am working on.

I've also learned that sometimes the greatest feeling of complacency and contentment can be found on a cool breezy day when the sun is shining just enough to feel warm on your face; when the scent of the earth fills the air and the intoxicating aroma cleanses your body; when God's beauty is on full display and his truth hidden in science yet undiscovered; when everything seems right only for a moment, but that moment is eternal.

Prolixity & Verbosity: On the Merit of Succinctity

It is essential.

We all talk more than we should, but I've mentioned this before; in repeating it, I've just become verbose, thereby reinforcing what I recently stated.

Ohh, look at all the flowery language.

Damnit, I've said too much.

"Efficient words make lean thought; lean thought, more clarity." Again, feel free to use that, or comment. I needed to get that out of my head.

Oh, There It Is!

I’ve found my creativity. It’s stuck in a dusty closet somewhere in the back of my right brain. Someone forgot to turn out the lights and I saw it through the crack underneath the door. If it weren’t so damn crowded in my left brain, I would have gotten to it sooner.

I don’t know when I “lost” my imagination, my creativity, or my intelligent skepticism. That is, a skepticism contrary to the kind I’ve practiced lately (see below) in a kind of cynical—as opposed to academic—manner. Can anyone be blamed except myself? Well, other than pointing the finger at one of the few surviving members of my family, I’ll say that the senior high school- first year college atmosphere takes the majority of the blame.

I think sometime during the course of applying to college, or writing my first long research paper, I shoved my creativity into that closet thinking I could get to it easier at a later time, when I’d cleared out all that academic mess floating around. Well, I pretty much forgot about it though unconsciously I kept walking by that closet on a daily basis, reaching out for it without knowing. You can call them hobbies, passions, sports, or living life; I kept a barrier between myself and my imagination for a long time—

Because we all know that academia is very mature, and mature is cool. Right.

The reason for my infatuation with higher education? I don’t really wish to list all the details because I can’t really recall them all, but tonight I realized that I admire good, honest, intelligent, and charismatic professors. I’ve been lucky until now. Now I have the professors that know a lot of stuff but lack the character to present it in a digestible and interesting format.

But there I go bitching again—which itself brings up a good point: Do you notice that people get fired up over negative things more than positive things? I mean of course the news media does, but don’t we all prefer to have people listen to our problems than share positive experiences? Must just be my family.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Engel Talks on Dickens and Poe

Dr. Elliot Engel visited campus again today and shared a lecture (he prefers them to be called “talks”) about Charles Dickens. Previously I had been uninspired to read Dickens’ work other than that which I had been previously acquainted. I may not tackle A Tale of Two Cities yet, but his talk is motivational and inspirational.

It is even more so considering I have had a previous connection to the Dickens family. I believe it was Charles Dickens great-great-granddaughter that spoke at a Woman’s Club of Gaston County meeting, and when she heard of my story she was kind enough to send a graduation gift to help out with college. I can’t remember if I’ve sent a thank you note, and it’s a shame to let such a thing go, but I hope a public thank you can suffice until I find her contact information. This kind of unconditional generosity bestowed upon a person whom she’d never met is quite inspiring in itself. That’s why when I heard that Dr. Engel was selling one of his books to benefit the Dickens Society and its work with a children’s hospital in London. I find this kind of philanthropy quite in line with my beliefs as a Christian, a Freemason, and a member of Delta Upsilon. It probably had something to do with my own experience, being orphaned twice and probably three times myself, though the math would be a bit tricky to describe and utterly irrelevant to conveying the sense of compassion I have with children suffering world wide.

The book is entitled A Dab of Dickens & A Touch of Twain. It’s a collection of essays about the life and works of eighteen authors in world and American literature. It includes Dickens (obviously), Twain (a fellow Brother of the Briar), and Poe.

Poe is uniquely interesting to me for several reasons, probably best personified in the attribution of his title as a “twisted genius.” I can relate to the hardships in his life though I’m glad to say I’ve fared better in the realm of personal relationships and relative sanity. Dr. Engel is performing his “talk” on Poe tomorrow, and though I’ll be late because of class I can’t wait to go. I think its safe to say I more appreciative of literature thanks in part to Dr. Engel and in a large part to my middle-grades and high school English teachers. Thanks!

Cynicism and Skepticism in a Rational Mind

Being a cynic and a skeptic isn’t worth the effort I’ve put into it. I mean, don’t we all grow out of this immature stage of rationalization and debate for the sake of itself on trivial issues? If you ask my previous roommate, you’d find that that is not the case.

However, it has become the case for me. Trivializing everyday affairs is trivializing the value of your time. Something similar (more directly related to God’s law) is alluded to in the Bible, book of Matthew I believe. I will spare you the quotation partially due to laziness and partially due to my concern for changing the mood of this post.

It belittles the generally good ideas that come to fruition through the natural creative process. I mean, if one wishes to have the best garden in terms of biomass, he does not prune back any branches or pluck any weed. What he reaps is an ugly mess bereft with several other incumbent problems (insects, snakes, decreased flower yields, etc.). The same is true for the mind.

If one wishes to have a fertile mind, he must prune back excessively verbose thought lacking real substance, which will allow the other vines and branches of thought to bear greater fruite; likewise he must pluck weeds of triviality lest they overtake the garden of thought and prevent it from showing its true beauty and substance.

You may use that if you wish, preferably cited as my own thoughts, but certainly required no further than your own ethics will force.

I guess I haven’t mentioned feeling better since performing some routine gardening of my soul and mind. “I feel better, thanks for asking.”

Have a good evening!

Eating Crow Has Become Common For Me

So I finally did it. I bought an iPod.

See a previous post in my TheCollegeGuy blog from LJ. One of the entries alluded to the “tiny world” these people create for themselves with headphones jammed into their ears. My, I’m really quite the cynic and I have not a clue as to why. Anyway, I speculated on the insecurities these people must hold to feel it necessary to always be listening to some drivel. I believe making statements like that is referred to as “tempting fate.”

I’m enjoying it so far, and its an iPod Shuffle, so its nicely compact and presents a nice novelty when I’m listening and I haven’t a clue as to what’s next on the list. A surprise everytime…

Sunday, August 28, 2005

There's That Song... Who Sang "No More Mr. Nice-Guy!"

I enjoy being that kind of person. It makes me feel good and generally makes others happy too. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want, or that I’m manipulative. Sometimes there is being “too nice” though. Had to learn that today.

Reminded me of a conversation I had last week at a gaming store. But first a quick digression… (I have too many hobbies. Way too many. I think I’ve found that I take on new hobbies mainly to gather new knowledge. I enjoy going in depth in concentrated areas of know-how, wisdom, and ability. Its an outlet for the various forms of passion that have always welled up within me. Having too many hobbies makes me spend too much money. I recognize this and am trying to correct it by dropping a hobby; however, just as soon as I decide to give up a hobby, I pick it back up again with new enthusiasm. Enthusiasm, in my experience, equals more money. Its not wasted as long as I’m having a good time, but in retrospect things always look different. Maybe I should just pick up a new hobby—becoming a minimalist. Right…)

So much for a “quick” digression. Anyway, I walked into the gaming store with the intention of not buying anything. That intention held up quite fine, but I did have a nice chat with the store’s attendant. Turns out a lot of my frustration (some of which was ultimately centered on my roommate and other friends) stemmed from the fact I was a “nice guy” at the expense of being walked upon. I became a pushover, but it took someone else’s insight to fill me in. I recognized some obvious character flaws that lead to being a pushover, one of which is an overconfidence in my abilities as a whole, especially organization and performance. I hold a lot of potential, but as Brock recently stated “[Human] potential is a waste… it is basically doing nothing when it could be utilized or developed. Who said humans were efficient?” Sorry for the paraphrase, Brock.

See “ASSertion” below. Keep in mind however, that being a “nice guy” has its own rewards, even if I’m currently jaded by my status as one.


Just a quick word of advice to everyone: Be assertive.

I mean just that, be assertive. Sometimes that means making a fool of yourself, looking like an ass, or worse. But if you aren’t assertive in most every aspect of your life you are more likely to be exploited.

In the long run you are looking out for numero uno, no? Think about it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Pipe and a Friend

Last night I went to Tobacconists of Raleigh with Brock. I had forgotten that Debbie, the proprietor, cooked dinner every Thursday for all the customers. Finally got to have some really fine eastern-style barbecue, then sat for a few hours and bullshitted with the fellas.

I bought two Fonsecas because they were pluming and BOGO, so you know I couldn’t say “No.” To smoke while I was there, I purchased a Bohemia Maduro that was pluming as well. That was one tasty smoke, first really creamy maduro I’ve had. Finished with some spice, didn’t get too hot and stayed lit. It ran a little uneven, but that’s forgiveable. Afterward I had a pipe full of Solani Silver Flake in my virginia pipe. That was truly a fine tobacco, the only virginia I’ve had that didn’t really bite my tongue, and it had loads of wine-like undertones with full flavor. At $28 for a 100g, I think I’ll shy away from it for now, I’ve got way too much other pipe tobacco to try first.

All and all a very enjoyable experience. Hanging out with real people in a real laid back environment where everyone is just who they are, no fronts—that’s special. I learned a good bit and I think I’ve got my cigar smoking friend to think about pipes. All in all, a good night, I’d say.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I know this guy, Arsenio... No, really!

Today I saw a friend from new student orientation (that’s a bit more than a year ago). His name is Arsenio and I have to say that without really hanging out with him that much, I just feel this unexplained bond between him and myself.

It might have to do with the fact that we are both generally good guys. We respect women, have morals, values, and truly appreciate life. It might have to do with the fact that we both lost our mothers to different but equally fatal diseases. Or it could just be that he is just a really easy guy with whom to get along. See next post if you think that sounded funny.

In any case, I’m really happy for him because he has his website up and running, http://www.harlem101st.com. He’s trying to break out on the rap scene and you should check out some of his music. I don’t typically listen to rap that much, and didn’t know what to expect; I was plain blown away. His lyrics are intelligent and well-crafted but still have that “from the streets” vibe that lends credibility to the hardships he raps about. He’s doing something with his life of which he’s proud; it’s something he really wants to do.

I don’t think I’m that comfortable in my choice of a career just yet. He’s just got an amazing story and it really helps me put my own story in perspective.

Grammar... Why pick on this?

If that last post had some grammar in it that struck you as strange, its because I have only one pet-peeve with written grammar. If nothing else, never end a sentence with a preposition. I speak that way, but can’t stand to see it written. Common examples that get on my nerves are:

  • What are you up to?

  • You know where that guy is from?

  • He’s a cool guy to hang out with.

These are all really strange when you correct them. But I prefer them that way because they are correct. I would never speak like this, however:

  • To what are you up to doing?

  • From where is that guy?

  • He’s a cool guy with whom to hang out.

Just thought I’d share. Enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2005

He Made Me a Brother

Just wanted to share this with everyone. I wrote it last year after accepting the Third Degree and becoming a Master Mason. My grandfather was there at the ritual and it touched me so much I was inspired to write poetry, which rarely do and rarely do well.

He Made Me A Brother

Of few things recalled from days of my youth
Fondly remembered that deep voice that soothed,
Happily sitting on the pilled grey couch,
Sitting tall, trying in vain to not slouch,
Watching the game, “Ding!” the popcorn is done
Shared on his lap, he made me his grandson.

Now losing a parent is something shared
One way or other we all have to bear.
Lacking a mother both we have endured
Not a worse feeling could I have incurred,
‘Til at her funeral, tears come and gone,
Took upon his chest, he made me his son.

Studying his temper I came to find
An even manner, gentle acts, words kind.
His only son, I most desired his light;
Truth I discovered one curious night—
Asked honestly, his reply unfettered
“Good company kept makes good men better.”

Of men as himself, he made me a member
Cherished custom from which I found candor,
Raised from the earth a new man is born.
Naught is dearer than that Saturday morn’,
Once taken by grip stronger than others
Raised to his arms, he made me a brother.

Once taken by grip stronger than others
My Papa made me more than his Brother.

The Origin of the Name

Ok, so the name of my blog is a little weird. The College Guy. Ooo, ahh, that sounds great. Impressive. Not really, but it does have a story.

I come from a remarkably disfunctional but average American household. As such it seems that I'm the first male to actually do something beyond high school in the way of formal education, since dubbed the College Guy by my neighbors back home. It was affectionate, and I like it, so I keep it.

I don't even know if they still call me that, but I imagine they do, even if they don't.

Wow, that was Yogi-ish. Random thoughts without coherent structure are typically a good sign that I should stop writing. Good night!

On the Subject of Losing One's Thoughts

A quote came to me spontaneously as I was avoiding paying attention in my ARE 336 class. How is it that someone can teach me the same material I learned in principles class over and over again? Is it expected that I appear interested? Anyway, I ramble because, to tell you the truth, I cannot remember the quote. Whatever it was, it was enlightening... Let's see if I can remember...

Nope... Gone. Seems that it had something to do with the human condition, our consciousness, our soul. Either that or economics, I can't remember which; but this experience lends itself to a question - where do all the lost thoughts go?

I had pondered something philosophical in my ARE class this evening and had consciously thought to myself "I should share that in my blog, I'd like to get some reaction. Besides, what a good way to record my thoughts." Then I had an urge to write it down in my notebook. I failed to do so, why? I don't know but I'd venture a guess that it was because I suddenly got distracted by the person sitting next to me and his lack of grasping the conecept of consumer surplus. Being the benevolent-sharer-of-knowledge I am (scoffs are welcome) I turned my attention to him, completely losing my train of thought. I wouldn't think twice of helping him again as it really doesn't bother me. What is irritating is that I have no clue where the thought went.

So you know, I have had an intro to psychology course and I understand the correct scientific answer. The memory is a complex process with distinct subprocesses, one of which takes general information about the context of thoughts and experience--that is environment, time, visual cues, and the like--to make the information easy to recall later, perhaps moving to long term memory if necessary. I'm not pondering on that point... I'm pondering on the point of "where did it go?" It's there, somewhere I'm sure, waiting to be recalled as are millions of other thoughts I've had and can't remember. Or is it? Do we "delete" information we no long need, as one might do with a computer file? Is it stored in that mythical (and untrue) 90% of our unused psyche? Is that electrical impulse, that network of nerves connecting to bring about a coherent thought, stored permanentally as magnetic data is on a hard drive even long after its been deleted?

Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it. Let me know how the smoke turns out :-D

Photoshopped a tasteful picture of myself in Germany. Used pencil effect for a nice touch. I'm not artsy, but Adobe helps a lot. Posted by Picasa

Can't get the photo to post as my avatar for this blog. Will be trying again later. For now, you can admire my beautiful visage from here :-).-

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Once again, with feeling.

Its not something I do that often, but its always something I want to do. Often, I'm either dissatisfied with the results or blogging itself falls to the bottom of my priority list. This does two things: 1) it means I post irregularly, which means I post when I force myself and 2) creates crappy dialog in the post itself. So before starting over yet again, let me introduce you to the past three blogs I've done.

Caesar424 - This would be the first journal I created. I was a freshman in high school (maybe a sophomore) and going through some weird times in my life. Academics was my outlet and you'll see this was the geekiest time of my life.

Senior Project 2004 - This is the journal I created as part of my senior project assignment. For the internship, we decided to do something different in this course by using the web instead of paper for journal/progress reports. Mine turned out OK, but appearantly it takes initiative for some people to get online and write. You'll see Scott Gardner mentioned a lot in this journal-he was a great friend and mentor and was killed by a drunk driver July 2005. His memorial site can be seen here - http://www.gardnerfamilycircle.us He was a devoted teacher, and I'll never forget the lessons on life he taught me.

TheCollegeGuy - This was my attempt at making college memories last a lifetime. What you are reading now is my second attempt... I had thoughts of looking back on this in my midlife laughing at myself and everyone I knew. You couldn't tell from the posts... hell, all I did was bitch and moan. No more of that, but check this journal out for some entertainment.

So anyway, there's been a lot of news in my life that you guys my have missed if you actually read (and stopped reading) my last journal. I can hit the highlights but don't feel like posting full entries for 'em yet. Maybe later, maybe not, I'm not forcing a single post this time around.

Brief news:
4/2005 - My grandfather passed away. He was my last true role model and in actuality, probably one of the finest men that ever lived. His example should be studied by all--even temper, generosity when it mattered and frugality when it didn't, endless love for everyone, the ability to change everyone's day. Pretty impressive for a man that left an orphanage at 18 with $5, not knowing where he'd spend the evening. I'd say the biggest testament to a rather normal life and above-average man is the 300-attendee visitation and a funeral nearly a third that size. A man, and a legend in my eyes--a good Mason, a great father. What more can I say?

4/2005 - I started smoking a pipe. He did. He was even-tempered. Maybe it can help me out? Well it worked better than I thought. I'm more even-tempered now than ever before though I still let some things get to me. My biggest improvement is my feeling of maturity. I seem to have regained the mature attitude I lost last year. This hobby has already lead to meeting several new friends, two noted below. Now I should plug the Pipes.org Discussion Board, alt.smokers.pipes, and alt.smokers.cigars for giving me the knowledge I needed to tackle recreational tobacco use in an anti-smoking world. Maybe I'll write more on that later...

7/2005 - I visited Germany. This is where the largest change in my personality occurred. I'm not sure if it was the culture, the pipe tobacco, or the beer, but I came away feeling refreshed and having a newly optimistic outlook on the world. "Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things." Here I met two fellow pipers from pipes.org, Markus Wishchermann and Markus Benicke. I'll post a link to post with more information on that at a later date. In short, they are true gentlemen and scholars and I'm pleased to have had their company in Germany. Just shows to go you (I know) how many exceedingly interesting people there are in the world. Get out of the house!

That's all for now. Enjoy!