Wednesday, September 5, 2012

San Diego: The Mecca of Beer

In Russia, there is a saying, "There is no such thing as 'too much vodka' -- either there is none or not enough." Similarly, for San Diego, this translates into: there is no such thing as too much craft beer.

I agree with the Alesmith founder, who says that beer can be just as complex as wine, and nobody ever complained about the countless wine brands.

With over 40 breweries and counting, let's make San Diego the beer capital of America!

With a total of 17 medals wins from the 2010's Great American Beer Festival, San Diego County is proving to the rest of the country that it is a major player in the beer game. (By comparison, the whole state of Colorado took 45 medals, California 39, and Oregon 22.) Also awards include small brewery of the year, 2007: The Lost Abbey, and large brewpub of the year 2009: Pizza Port Carlsbad. San Diego’s local homebrewing club, the Quality Ale Fermentation Fraternity has been named “Home Brew Club of the Year” by the American Homebrewers Association going on three years now. Many hail San Diego as a dignified beer mecca, and it should definitely be included in any beer-centric road trip.

Most popular brews in San Diego are definitely the hoppy IPA's, IIPA's. My favorite IPA is Alesmith, Lagunitas, and Dogfish Head 90 Minute; but I also love the belgians, such as Van Steenberge's Piraat, which won Gold in the Belgian-Style Pale Strong Ale category (out of 33 beers)

Some of the most popular SD Breweries:
  1. Stone Brewing Co.
  2. Ballast Point
  3. The Lost Abbey/Mission
  4. AleSmith
  5. Green Flash
  6. Pizza Port
  7. Karl Strauss
2012 Beer World Cup was held in San Diego:

Pizza Port Ocean Beach won three awards; Pizza Port Carlsbad, Lost Abbey, AleSmith, Green Flash, and Karl Strauss all took two apiece; Alpine, Manzanita and Rock Bottom La Jolla one each, for a total of 5 Gold, 3 Silver, 8 Bronze Medals. In comparison, Portland, OR, only had 1 Gold Medal.

Category 8: Coffee Beer, 56 Entries
Gold: Bacon and Eggs Breakfast Coffee Imperial Porter, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

Category 56: French- & Belgian-Style Saison, 44 Entries
Gold: Carnevale, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA

Category 73: English-Style Brown Ale, 30 Entries
Gold: Longboard Brown Ale, Rock Bottom La Jolla, La Jolla, CA

Category 82: Irish-Style Red Ale, 31 Entries
Gold: Red Trolley Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 89: Imperial India Pale Ale, 93 Entries
Gold: Poor Man’s IPA, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Bronze: Palate Wrecker, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 64: Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale, 41 Entries
Silver: Two Tortugas Belgian Quad, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 80: Old Ale or Strong Ale, 51 Entries
Silver: AleSmith Decadence 2010 Old Ale, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 93: American-Style Black Ale, 49 Entries
Silver: Tarantulas 2.0, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

Category 81: Barley Wine-Style Ale, 62 Entries
Bronze: Old Numbskull, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 92: American-Style Brown Ale, 47 Entries
Bronze: Great American Brown, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA

Category 17: American-Belgo-Style Ale, 48 Entries
Bronze: Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 57: Belgian- and French-Style Ale, 22 Entries
Bronze: Gift of the Magi, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA

Category 94: American-Style Stout, 34 Entries
Bronze: Achievement Beyond Life’s Experiences American Stout Brit Antrim Benefit Beer, 
Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

Category 7: Chocolate Beer, 34 Entries
Bronze: Odin’s Raven, Alpine Beer Co., Alpine, CA

Category 14: Experimental Beer, 42 Entries
Bronze: Where There’s Smoke..., Manzanita Brewing Co., Santee, CA

Other notables and "to try":

Category 63: Belgian-Style Pale Strong Ale, 33 Entries
*Gold: Piraat, Van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium
Silver: Thor’s Hammer, Bastone Brewery, Royal Oak, MI
Bronze: Prisoner of Hell, Dock Street Brewery, Philadelphia, PA

Category 51: South German-Style Hefeweizen/Hefeweissbier, 85 Entries
*Silver: Baltika N°8 Wheat, Baltika Breweries, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

Category 18: American-Style Sour Ale, 14 Entries
*Bronze: Supplication, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA

Category 61: Belgian-Style Dubbel, 39 Entries
Gold: Leffe Brown, AB InBev, New York, NY
Bronze: Ovila Dubbel, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA

Category 55: Belgian-Style Witbier, 50 Entries
Gold: Allagash White, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME
Silver: Hoegaarden, Hoegaarden Brewery, New York, NY

Category 58: Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale, 32 Entries
Gold: Ommegang Rare Vos, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY
Silver: Leffe Blonde, AB InBev, New York, NY
Bronze: Troubadour Blond, Brouwerij The Musketeers, Ursel, Belgium

Category 59: Belgian-Style Sour Ale, 27 Entries
Gold: Oude Geuze Boon, Brouwerij Frank Boon, Lembeek, Belgium
Silver: Oude Kriek Oud Beersel, Oud Beersel, Beersel, Belgium
Bronze: Fifth Element Vintage 2011, Squatters Pub Brewery, Salt Lake City, UT

Category 86: American-Style Pale Ale, 84 Entries
Gold: Pale 31, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
Silver: Mission Street Pale, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA

Category 21: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer, 91 Entries
Gold: Samuel Adams Utopias 2011, The Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA

Category 47: Australasian-Style Pale Ale or International-Style Pale Ale, 22 Entries
Gold: 805 IPA, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA

Category 87: American-Style Strong Pale Ale, 82 Entries
Bronze: Alaskan IPA, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK

Category 77: Oatmeal Stout, 49 Entries
Silver: Stumblers Stout, Columbia River Brewing Co., Portland, OR
Bronze: Alaskan Oatmeal Stout, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK

Category 22: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout, 58 Entries
Gold: Barrel Aged BORIS The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout, Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Co., Akron, OH
Silver: Great Grandfather Raven, Black Raven Brewing Co., Redmond, WA
Bronze: The Event Horizon, Olde Hickory Brewery, Hickory, NC

Category 62: Belgian-Style Tripel, 57 Entries
Gold: Westmalle Trappist Tripel, Westmalle Trappist Brewery, Westmalle, Belgium
Silver: Nectar des Dieux, Bastone Brewery, Royal Oak, MI
Bronze: Steenbrugge Tripel, Palm Breweries, Steenhuffel, Belgium

Category 64: Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale, 41 Entries
Gold: Batch 333: The Velvet Fog, Sun King Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN
Silver: Two Tortugas Belgian Quad, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Bronze: Grand Prestige, Hertog Jan Brouwerij, Arcen, Netherlands

Category 65: Other Belgian-Style Ale, 41 Entries
Gold: Seef, Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie, Hove, Belgium
Silver: Gauloise Amber, Brasserie du Bocq, Purnode, Belgium
Bronze: Rhinoceros, Telegraph Brewing Co., Santa Barbara, CA

Category 14: Experimental Beer, 42 Entries
Gold: Petit Obscura, Telegraph Brewing Co., Santa Barbara, CA
Silver: Noble Rot, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE

Friday, August 24, 2012

People Generally Mean Well

Have you heard people say, "I know I hurt you but I meant well"? Fuck those people.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dr. Weil's 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Dr. Weil's Breathing Technique

I have long promoted the benefits of working with the breath as the simplest, most efficient way of taking advantage of the mind-body connection to affect both physical and mental health. Here's a simple relaxing breath technique you can try at home:

1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind and above your front teeth, and keep it there throughout the exercise.

2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

3. Inhale deeply and quietly through the nose to a count of four (with your mouth closed).

4. Hold for a count of seven.

5. Exhale audibly through your mouth to a count of eight.

6. Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 for a total of four breaths

Practice the exercise at least twice a day and whenever you feel stressed, anxious or off center. After a month, if you are comfortable with it, increase to eight breaths each time.

The obvious advantages of this kind of practice are that it requires no equipment, is free and can be done anywhere. It is the most cost- and time-efficient relaxation method I have discovered, and I teach it to all my patients and to all health professionals I train.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rebelling Against Me

When you rebel against me
And deny it
I keep asking you why
You deny every bit

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Dreams Have Come True

Do you know what it feels like to have your dreams come true? Well I do.

I had struggled with depression for two years, and with dysthymia and social anxiety disorder for many years before that. I was hopeless and terrified; "this must be a bad dream, a really really really bad dream. It just can't be reality." But it was. It was like being in the middle of the ocean, floating in the cold, salty water, surrounded by vicious sharks. I thought nobody, for any reason, should be made to feel like this. This pain was inhuman and hellish. I am sill terrified at the thought of ever feeling that pain again.

I did get out of it eventually, through therapy, medication, and many days of grief, anger, and pain. I promised myself - and I felt obliged - to dedicate my life to helping others to avoid the pain I went through.

I never thought I would feel peace of mind and pleasure again, and I did. I didn't think I would graduate from UC Berkeley, and I did. I never thought I would study abroad at Cambridge University, and I did.  I wanted to teach a class (DeCal) on depression, and I did. I wanted to share my story, and I did. I never thought I would have the energy, a healthy self-esteem, and a resilient mind to handle life's challenges with such ease. I never thought I would appreciate everything in my life and be happy. Now I am. And my dreams have come true.

I love my life.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My UC Berkeley Application Essay

These are the essay answers to the three questions asked by the UC application. I wrote it four years after I came to the US and learned English. I was accepted to all the UC's I applied, including UCSD, UCLA, and UCB. I chose to go to UC Berkeley.

UC Application Essays - Personal Statement

Open-Ended, Question 3

This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — that may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application.
Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?
Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the University of California.

I was born on the other side of the “Iron Curtain.” My family comes from Kiev, and the events of my childhood include the aftermath of Chernobyl and the fall of Communism. In many ways, my identity—who I am and where I come from—has been something that I have only recently come to understand. My life has made me more aware of questions of identity—and more sensitive to questions of identity in those around me.

When I was nine, my sister and I were sent to Israel via a program for Jewish children affected by the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred 80 miles north of my home city. My sister was just under a year when the Chernobyl disaster occurred, and we were moving to Israel for our health and to become more familiar with Jewish culture. At that time, I did not imagine that my stay would last a whole thirteen months.

The culture in Israel was different from the Ukraine. However, living in a camp among other Russian-speaking children, though away from my parents and sister, made it easier for me to adjust. It may seem hard to believe, but I learned about the Holocaust for the first time and visited the memorials there. During my stay, I familiarized myself with the Hebrew language, holidays, history, and the rich traditions of Israel. After I came back from Israel, I started attending a Jewish school.

When I was thirteen, my family moved to the U.S. in search of a better life and equal opportunity. Coming to the U.S. was like entering a new world. It was challenging getting used to the new and vastly different culture and school system. When my English teacher introduced me to a boy from Georgia, he started speaking Russian to me, and I froze. It was like a ghost went through me. I hadn’t heard that language in the U.S. outside of my home.

In order to meet our family’s needs, my parents had to work full time, and we were forced to move into low-income apartments. Because my parents were busy working, and because they knew little about the subjects I was taking, they were not involved in my education. Realizing that, I knew that I had to rely on and motivate myself; so I worked very hard in school, overcoming language barriers and tackling difficult classes. As a result, I became much more independent in my studies and was able to take the most challenging courses at my high school. My learning proved to be very gratifying, and I was fascinated to learn for the first time about the history of my country—the Soviet Union and the Cold War—in high school and then hear a personal account from my mother on the harsh conditions, oppression of human rights, and propaganda during the Soviet Union.

In the Ukraine, I was barely aware that I was Jewish, and I didn’t fully understand the history of the Soviet Union or the repercussions of Chernobyl. Ironically, it’s only since I’ve been in the United States that I’ve begun to learn about my past. Now, I am more able to appreciate my freedom and seize the opportunities I have. Living in three vastly different parts of the world under different conditions at a young age allowed me to gain strong independence and appreciation for different cultures. Because of this, I am more sensitive to issues of identity. In school, I am aware that many people have come from other countries and have their own traditions and values. I am eager to learn more about the different cultures and expand my world view.

Academic Preparation, Question 1

The University seeks to enroll students who take initiative in pursuing their education (for example, developing a special interest in science, language or the performing arts, or becoming involved in educational preparation programs, including summer enrichment programs, research or academic development programs such as EAOP, MESA, Puente, COSMOS or other similar programs). This question seeks to understand a student’s motivation and dedication to learning.
Freshman applicants only: How have you taken advantage of the educational opportunities you have had to prepare for college?

I love studying Math and Science classes, but I had taken all of the advanced placement Math and Science classes at my school. To challenge myself and to find out more about the world, I decided to enroll in Philosophy classes at a local community college. The first I took was Introduction to Philosophy: Reality and Knowledge. I was excited about the class since the first day; the Professor was very engaging and talked about the relevance of epistemology (how we know what we know) to science and mathematics. As the course progressed we read Descartes, Russell, Berkeley, and many other philosophers. Their ideas were thought-provoking and challenging, and the independent and engaging manner of learning allowed for reflection on the new ideas. The class required that I understand sophisticated concepts and compare them.

I earned an “A” in that course, and was inspired to take other college courses in Philosophy and Logic. These courses introduced many different, thought-provoking ideas about the world. After this course I was more open to new ideas. I have taken advantage of most of the challenging classes at my school, but my college classes represent the most fulfilling intellectual work I’ve done.

Potential to Contribute, Question 2

UC welcomes the contributions each student brings to the campus learning community. This question seeks to determine an applicant’s academic or creative interests and potential to contribute to the vitality of the University.

I wanted to become a tutor for my school’s after-school tutoring club since 10th grade, which was when I first heard about the opportunity. However, I was appointed at the beginning of my junior year, and have tutored ever since.

I receive great satisfaction in knowing that someone benefited from me. I like helping students reach their goals and potentials in education. I love learning and love helping those who want to learn. There are many things which one can learn by merely paying close attention. My tutoring experience has taught me a great deal about teaching. I learned that teaching is a challenge—a realization that made me greater appreciate my teachers’ work. I also learned that different people learn on different levels, and differ in their strengths and weaknesses in learning.

I am not limited, however, to tutoring at the club. I am always eager to help my friends, classmates, or anyone who needs assistance with a subject about which I am knowledgeable.

I always enjoy learning in a classroom, but after a day’s of hard class work, the greatest satisfaction I receive is knowing that I helped somebody.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

US-Europe Cultural Differences

The first thing I noticed when I arrived to US from Ukraine is, on the way from the airport, all the cars were very large - trucks, SUV's, and minivans. Then, there was paperwork, and a lot of it, for virtually anything, including at school and at the doctor's office. In Ukraine, the cars are small and there is virtually no paperwork - the rules are a tacit agreement. Similarly, when I studied in the UK for two month I notices an array of differences.

In the U.K.

  • "Fries" in US is "Chips" in UK
  • "Chips" in US is "Crisps" in UK
  • "Cookies" in US is "Biscuits" in UK
  • "Underwear" in US is "Pants" in UK
  • "Pants" in US means "Trousers" in UK
  • "Check/receipt" in US is "Bill" in UK
  • "To go" and "for here" in US is "Take away" and "dine in" in UK
  • The date is written dd/mm/yyyy, and they use the metric system (meters, liters, kilocalorioes)
  • Fish and chips (fried fish with fries) is almost the equivalent of a burger and fries in US 
  • Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • In UK they compare your ID signature with your signed receipt, but not in US
  • It is not customary to tip in UK, whereas in US it almost always is
  • UK is half as religious as US
  • Their humor is more dry and literal than in US (UK joke: customer: waiter, what is this fly doing in my soup? waiter: I believe it is swimming, sir.) Also, they think answering "yes" to a question like, "can you tell me what hours the store is open?", is funny.
  • In UK, people try less to be nice than in US, so they are more likely to be direct - and rude. They don't smile as often.
  • UK doesn't distinguish between UK and US movies, e.g. if you ask what're their favorite UK vs US films, they won't know or don't care for the difference.
  • In UK they have smaller cars than in US in general
  • In UK they are less sensitive to issues of race and racism, but they are overtly more racist than in US (example: they have no objection to saying "nee-hao" to every Asian person they see)
  • Many things, such as clothes, groceries, and gas are more expensive in UK
  • There is less of an emphasis on consumerism in UK than in US, such as less advertising and obsession with spending.
  • UK is more sensitive to animal testing than US
  • Soccer and cricket are big in UK
  • UK food is tasteless. There is no national food, but Indian food is very popular.
  • Drinking and smoking laws and conventions are very relaxed in UK, such as drinking age of 18 vs. 21 in US, and students are allowed to bring a bottle of wine to a cafeteria dinner.
  • Healthcare is more accessible and much simpler to navigate in UK than in US, with extensive insurance reimbursement procedures
  • There is less emphasis on masculinity in UK than in US
  • There are more visible social and political protests in UK, and in general more liberal attitude
  • It is rude to ask critical questions of a Professor in UK whereas in US it is encouraged
  • UK is obsessed with Shakespear - they have professional and amateur plays frequently
  • They don't consider that pedestrian has the right of way, so cars sometimes accelerate than slow down when they see a pedestrian
  • UK has Kleenex for Men, while the US has only Man-Size Kleenex. Also, some brand names are different, i.e., the antiperspirant "Degree" in the US is called "Sure" in the UK
  • Tea and scones are a popular snack.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Subtle Influence

Wisdom is hard to define. It isn't quite intelligence or being "smart", nor is it knowing more than somebody else. Sometimes we see wisdom when people deliberately fail to express their thoughts.

Exempli gratia: a daughter-caretaker does not argue with her alzheimer's-stricken mother who wouldn't get up the chair. 

As for subtle influence, getting others to behave the way you want them to - preemptively - is wisdom expressed via statements that project your expectations.

Saying, "Let's synchronize our watches so we're on the same page" before heading out to meet somebody will send the implied message that you expect them to be on time - to the second.

Saying, "My last doctor was a jerk to me, who do I complain about him?" to your new doctor will send the strong message that you will complain about him if he treats you badly - which will cause him to be extra nice to you.

Note: this is similar to being passive-aggressive, but it's not, because you are not expressing your resentment passively but actively and indirectly conveying your expectations. This behavior is more like indirect-projective.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why It's Harder To Be Male

Why is it harder being a male than a female?
  • The idea of modern day masculinity stresses achievement and success in the workplace. 
  • Less social support 
  • Socially unacceptable to share feelings or problems, seen as weakness. 

  • The relationship between experienced workplace aggression and decreased well-being is stronger for men than women. 
  • Men who report work aggression are more likely to experience physical, psychosocial, affective, and cognitive problems.
  • It's harder and takes longer for men to recover from a breakup than it is for women. Women retain their attractiveness to males regardless of the emotional state they are in, allowing them to get validation from other males more easily. Whereas men have radars conspicuously placed on their forehead that tells females that they are suffering emotional or have low self esteem, making them unattractive. 
  • Although females experience depression twice as often as do males, males seek and receive treatment for mental disorders less, intensifying and prolonging the suffering.

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Water Conservation on College Campuses

    Problem: too much plastic wasted on bottled water
    Solution: putting up stickers that say "drinking water" above sinks will encourage tap water consumption, as is the case at Cambridge University.

    After Depression

    The depression after a breakup or any traumatic event is a RARE, although painful, opportunity to transform your life, and not just getting out of the depression. This is a chance to become the kind of person you want to be.

    So why is depression an "opportunity"?

    Depression FORCES you to face and re-evaluate your fundamental beliefs (I am not normal), habits (eating/sleeping/exercising), and past trauma (parental emotional incest, past break-ups). The seeds for depression were probably planted a long time ago through the environment in which you grew up, your genes, personality, and social circle.

    Depression is the most painful and hardest trial in the whole of human experience, including cancer, quadriplegia, and torture. It is literal Hell.

    The only way to get through depression is to face and resolve your hurts and issues, whether deeply ingrained resentment for your parents because of emotional incest and neglect, or a breakup.

    These are your automatic thoughts - thoughts that occur in fraction of a second that go unnoticed and unchallenged - that were deeply ingrained into your psyche from childhood. “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”

    Once you go through all of this you will come out stronger, more attuned to your physical body and emotions, with a new skill set to face all adversity. You also learned what it means to be alive - you gain a new appreciation for all the things you are able to enjoy that you couldn't before and for how easy life is after depression. Not only this, but you acquire the freedom to live your life to the fullest. You gain the confidence that you can face any adversity and recover from it. 

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    What I Hate About Berkeley

    1. It's highly impersonal.
    With over 25,000 other undergraduates and 100+ seat lecture halls, you feel alone and disconnected. The underpaid school staff and advisers are short tampered if you take a little to long to ask a question or have follow-up questions. Professors are extremely busy. You don't get the sense that they have any time to invest to spend talking to you.

    2. It's hard to make friends.
    Being white, it's hard fitting into an Asian-majority environment. Even though I am not Anglo Saxon, nor Protestant, nor from a privileged family, the students discriminate against you by excluding you from their social circles. In addition, I am shy so unless someone reaches out to me, it's really hard for me to make friends, even though I try. Other students are always busy studying or attending various clubs.

    3. It's stressful.
    The highly competitive academic environment, combined with a lack of support from friends and faculty, creates a perfect storm for an emotional breakdown. Everyone puts a facade of being "perfect". They pretend like they are fine while you think that you're the only one loosing one's mind over the finals and a lack of social life. You feel like you don't measure up to others. Always in doubt if you belong here or you got here by accident. Always feeling behind everybody else in achievement, whenever you see somebody get an internship, a good grade in a class, an award, a leadership position, a job.

    4. It's ghetto.
    It's full of that which is weird. Nobody is either friendly or nice, on the contrary, many are rude. There are also the righteous, angry, smug old people telling your friend to put out her cigarette, and that she is too young to smoke because she is Asian, even thought she is 23. There are many weird bums and hitchhikers begging on almost every corner of the street and along Telegraph. It's annoying and distressing to see so many people homeless yet not being able to help them. It makes you feel hopeless - that in case you become homeless nobody would be there to help you. There are a lot of hippies and hipsters, who are mostly dirty, ultra-liberal, pot-smoking, lazy lowlifes. You can smell weed on every corner of the street, even when there isn't anybody within a 50-feet radius. Most students - especially with regards to dating - are socially retarded. There is graffiti on the walls, no large chain book stores within 20 miles of campus. I saw a bum reliving himself on a newsstand in bright daylight on the busy street Shattack. It's terribly uncomfortable to drive in. The myriad of one and two-way roads are deformed and as uncomfortable and complicated to navigate through as in SF. It's terribly uncomfortable to drive in. The housing is vastly overpriced and the housing conditions are deplorable. Most houses are over 100 years old, uncomfortable, with inadequate heating, dirty, and squeaky.

    5. It's too politically correct.
    You have to have an "open mind" about things like people's race, gender, sexual orientation, food preferences, and whatnot. It's frowned upon to say "that's gay", or Asian (vs Asian-American), or "acting black", or calling somebody a "pussy", or asking a vegan/vegetarian why they are vegan/vegetarian. You have to recycle and frown upon Hummers. Environmentalism is almost a religion.

    6. There's no nightlife.
    The city shuts down at 10pm. There is literally one club in the whole Berkeley, the Shattack Downlow. And mostly attended by older non-student population. Most restaurants close by 9 or 10, except for a few last-resort diners and a doughnut shop. Even the 24-Hour Fitness there closes at midnight. The only redemption is the 24-hour Safeway down College ave. Basically if you want to hang out with your friends or a date after 9pm, you'll have a really hard time finding anything to do outside.

    7. Its parking.
    If you have a car (which is essential if you want to avoid the dreadful AC Transit), you'll have to allocate about $500 per semester for traffic tickets, towing, and parking meters. The city has a horrible "street sweeping" policy, where each side of each street has street sweeping on a different day of every month. The parking enforcement is merciless on the poor students who struggle to pay for tuition and have tens of thousands in loans. It is a miracle to find parking anytime before 10pm within two blocks of campus. And the parking meters have a 1 or 2 hour limits. I'd expect more from a city that collect this much money from its meters and parking tickets. If you wish to park near a Starbucks to get a coffee you'll be circling around for 30 minutes before finding a spot.

    8. Its streets.
    The myriad of the dirty one and two-way roads are deformed and as uncomfortable and complicated to navigate through as in SF. The student are completely inconsiderate of the cars and treat the road as sidewalks, assuming they always have the right-of-way. If you are from a suburban area, you'd think every student wants to die. The students are completely inconsiderate of the cars and treat the road as sidewalks, assuming they always have the right-of-way.

    9. Its weather.
    It's cold and it's cloudy.

    10. Its anti-Semitic sentiment.
    From satirical articles in the Heuristic Squelch, to Upper Sproul Plaza "free Palestine" protesters, to bumper stickers sold on Telegraph stands saying "end the occupation", to a professor drawing the star of David to demonstrate the six enablers of capitalism - one on each of the star's corners.

    11. Its "activism".
    In Berkeley, there is always something to protest. Pick an issue. From cupcake bake sales to cutting down a tree. Through protests, students distract each others' learning through occupying classrooms buildings and entire buildings. In addition you have to hear the annoying helicopters circling above campus. The righteous bumper stickers covering the cars are a great example. Maybe it had an impact back in the 60's, but now it's just a cliche.

    12. The students' school pride.
    Although highly stupid, a low degree of school pride and competition with Stanford is healthy. However, you know it's gone too far when students make another cry at a football game for wearing a red shirt, yelling "take off that red shirt". Every freshman wears a Cal sweater, emphasizing their inadequate sense of fashion and sexual inaptitude. And nobody talks badly of Cal, even though it has major flaws.

    This list may give an impression that Berkeley is a terrible city. That's correct! However, there are certain things I love about it: the intellectual environment, ambitious people, countless ethnic foods, bars, beers, best gelato I've had, close to SF, Lake Tahoe, and Napa Valley.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Cell Phone Use While Driving Is Safe

    According to a 2001 AAA traffic safety report, cell phone use is the eighth most reported cause of distraction-related accidents at 1.5 percent. If fact, adjusting the radio/cassette/CD, other occupant in vehicle, adjusting vehicle/climate control, and eating/drinking while driving are all more distracting than using/dialing cell phone (Table 1).

    Table 1

    Crash cases involving distracted drivers constitute under 13% of all cases, which makes cell phone use a laughable 0.2% (.13 * .015) of all cases.

    Here is what Wikipedia says:
    Meta-analysesA 2005 review by the Hawaiian legislature entitled "Cell Phone Use and Motor Vehicle Collisions: A Review of the Studies" contains an analysis of studies on cell phone/motor vehicle accident causality. A key finding was that: "No studies were found that directly address and resolve the issue of whether a causal relation exists between cellular telephone use while operating a motor vehicle and motor vehicle collisions."[10]Meta-analysis by the Canadian Automobile Association[11] and the University of Illinois[12] found that response time while using both hands-free and hand-held phones was approximately 0.5 standard deviations higher than normal driving (i.e., an average driver, while talking on a cell phone, has response times of a driver in roughly the 40th percentile).
    I need to repeat that: "No studies were found that directly address and resolve the issue of whether a causal relation exists between cellular telephone use while operating a motor vehicle and motor vehicle collisions."

    The second study found that cell phone use is distracting - decreases response time by about 10%. Not a significant figure. Besides, this study has nothing to do with vehicular crushes. Of course talking on the cell phone creates distraction but there is no evidence that it causes car crashes.


    As a percentage of distraction-related accidents

    In September 2010, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on distracted driving fatalities for 2009. The NHTSA considers distracted driving to include some of the following as distractions: other occupants in the car, eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting radio, adjusting environmental control, reaching for object in car, and cell phone use. In 2009 in the U.S. there was a reported 5,474 people killed by distracted drivers. Of those 995 were considered to be killed by drivers distracted by cell phones. The report doesn't state whether this under or over represents the level of cell phone use amongst drivers, and whether there is a causal relationship.[5]
    A 2003 study of U.S. crash data states that driver inattention is estimated to be a factor in between 20 to 50 percent of all police-reported crashes. Driver distraction, a sub-category of inattention, has been estimated to be a contributing factor in 8 to 13 percent of all crashes. Of distraction-related accidents, cell phone use may range from 1.5 to 5 percent of contributing factors.[6] However, large percentages of unknowns in each of those categories may cause inaccuracies in these estimations. A 2001 study sponsored by The American Automobile Association recorded "Unknown Driver Attention Status" for 41.5 percent of crashes, and "Unknown Distraction" in 8.6 percent of all distraction related accidents.[7]According to NHTSA, "There is clearly inadequate reporting of crashes".[8]
    The NHTSA report states that there was a reported 5,474 people killed by distracted drivers is 2009 in the U.S., 16% of 33,808 total (Table 2). Of those, 995 (18% of distracted, 3% of total) were considered to be killed by drivers distracted by cell phones.

    Data represents deaths within 30 days of accident. Source: U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, annual; and unpublished data. See Internet site.

    Moreover, the report doesn't state whether there is a causal relationship between cell phone use and distracted driving fatalities.

    Some possible explanations for this may include defensive driving -adjusting to the increased distraction, e.g., slowing down.

    Other arguments stem from the steady decline in automobile fatalities (9.7% decrease from 2008 to 2009) despite the increase in cell phone subscriptions.  

    In conclusion, while talking on the phone may create distraction, it does not translate into auto accidents. 

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Are You Happy?!

    Many things have been said about happiness. To me, I can not feel it anymore. Some say sadness is necessary to know happiness, like the night is necessary to know the day. For me all feeling is unipolar. Being depressed so long I noticed that my perspective on pleasure has shifted dramatically relative to what I used to feel. My average feeling—what I feel most of the time—has slid way down the happiness scale, and feeling "normal"—what everyone else feels and takes for granted in their daily life—is the highest form of happiness that I am able to attain. That feeling, what living is for other human beings, for me is happiness. To me, happiness is the functionality of the serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine receptors in my brain. It is not a choice. One can not be happy drowning, alone, against one's will, and without seeing the end of one's misery—while being expected to function normally in life.

    —Excerpt from my journal, 3/18/10 4:02 AM
    What is the secret to happiness? Is this really the most important question to ask? Then what is? The focus on Positive Psychology has a wide-ranging detrimental effect of people obsessing over being happy to the point where they are in despair over not being totally happy, if such a thing is even possible. If we could put a drug in the tap water that would make everybody happy, would we want that? Is happiness the highest achievement we should seek in life?
    "Nowadays, it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be even happier. The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way."
    —Lori Gottlieb
    "One should never direct people towards happiness, because happiness too is an idol of the market-place. One should direct them towards mutual affection. A beast gnawing at its prey can be happy too, but only human beings can feel affection for each other, and this is the highest achievement they can aspire to."
    —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    What is happiness? It's inner peace. Where does it come from? Your friends, parents, sister and brother. Having something to do - something that you enjoy. A hobby. Having a goal - something to look forward to. But a prerequisite for happiness is a health. A healthy physical as well as mental states are necessities. If a man is suffering from depression, he is unable to feel happy no matter ho hard he tries, due to anhedonia; it is simply impossible. And lastly, having just enough money - $75,000 a year - to cover necessities as well as a little extra.

    This state of happiness is fleeting and always incomplete. It's the "pursuit of happiness" - a constant journey, not a destination. Perhaps we never can experience happiness in the exploited sense that it is made out to be. Appreciation of the present moment - and of what you have - friends, food, legal rights, etc. (whatever it is that you are thankful for) is also necessary.

    "There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state to another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life."
    —Alexandre Dumas
    Maybe one needs to die in order to live. I felt like I was dead. With nothing to look forward to, zero worth, only pain and misery and my unruly mind landing my thoughts on the darkest of subjects. This is not life in any sense. Each day--a drag. I got to the point when I did not want to wake up, because living was truly a trying task—trying to shed off the thoughts of death.

    —Excerpt from my journal, 3/18/10
    "The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."
    —Allan K. Chalmers
    Maybe happiness is having something to do, or, more generally, having a something that you look forward to doing—purpose.
    —Excerpt from my journal, 3/18/10
    So, here are the ingredients for happiness:
    • Mental and physical health (being reasonably free from, e.g., depression and chronic pain)
    • Something to do (to experience "flow" — an activity that utilizes your skills to the highest level)
    • Something to love (a lover, a friend, a pet, an activity)
    • Something to hope for (purpose)
    • Appreciate what you have - for to be happy there must be something that you want but don't have
    • Antidepressants, cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation.

    Saturday, February 25, 2012

    Provisional Existence

    When I was depressed I was alive, but being alive was not life in any sense of the word. Viktor E. Frankl, a survivor of the holocaust, in his book 'Man's Search for Meaning', describes the life in the concentration camps as a "provisional existence". Frankl writes that the 'Latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see the end of his "provisional existence" was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, in contrast to a man in normal life'. Frankl explains that when 'a man ceased living for the future...the whole structure of his inner life changed; and signs of decay set in. When a person loses faith in the future and moves into a provisional existence their lives are doomed. A decline in physical and emotional well-being can be seen in people's refusal to see people, to get dressed, to engage - they lie prostrate, numbed by the pain of it all.
    A man who could not see the end of his “provisional existence” was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. [...] A man who let himself decline because he could not see any future goal found himself occupied with retrospective thoughts…in robbing the present of it’s reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist. Often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself (transcend) Most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet in reality they had not. (p. 91-92)
    Man can only live by looking into the future – sub specie aeternitatis. (p. 94)
    Thus, logotherapy.
    From my journal 4/14/10 5:17 AM
    I remember my psychiatrist, Dr. J., said to me when I said I don't want to rush taking medication: "this is the time for you to make the decision that will shape your life. You can take this drug and get better in six months, go back to school, get your degree, and get a job and a family. I want you to make the right decision." That was on November 11, 2009. I feel like this is where I am right now. It is April 4, 2010. 
    Exactly six months later.
    From my journal 4/14/10 5:27 AM
    God, please just take away the pain. Just knowing that it's there hiding somewhere behind the curtains makes me not want to live. And I want to want to live. I hate being this way. I am so scared at every conscious moment because I realize just how close I am to that state. That state of complete loneliness and hopelessness. It is torture just knowing it's there and that I am at its mercy. It is my abductor who caged me in its basement and comes down frequently to rape me. It is like being in the middle of the pacific ocean at twilight, by yourself, dehydrated and hypothermic (thirsty and cold), with sharks circling around you, with the love of your life gone by being eaten by these sharks, and no hope of anyone finding you. You want to die. But you don't want to want to die. You are scared and hopeless.
    When you're depressed you have virtually no coping mechanism (so you need everyone should act completely supportive, neglecting their own needs). Every life challenge you encounter seems insurmountable and menacing. You are unable to deal with anything, and the slightest pressure propels you into a whirlpool of hopelessness.
    I'm always in and out of this state. Now I'm more out than in.
    I am waiting for the day to come when I will wake up and feel the warmth of the sunshine on my body. When I will feel the joy of living. When I will be free of these merciless thoughts. And that day did come. And when I realized that it did I cried. I did not cry out of happiness or out of relief or out of pity for my past suffering. I cried because I didn't think this day would come. I waited for so long. I cried for all the past suffering, for passing of my lost years. But now I'm found! I feel I was liberated from years of inhumane treatment at the concentration camps. Now I'm free, but now I'm tired from the long road. But there is no time to rest, life doesn't wait. Your responsibilities come knocking in like they were waiting there all along, right by the door, just to barge in when I am finally able to get on my feet.
    I feel like all this time was for nothing. "unnecessary" is too light of a word--you wouldn't say "there are people being raped every day unnecessarily". This is an abomination and an embarrassment to the society that failed to respond promptly and properly. It is made even worse by the fact that society stigmatizes those suffering--leaving them to fend helpless for themselves--and condemns those who seek help and those who provide it. It turns a blind eye on the problem, bluntly denying it thereby dooming everybody who falls into the nets of depression, and that is one out of four people. There are one in ten people with clinical depression in any given year. How many people with depression do you know? It's de facto "don't ask don't tell". Each of us is to blame, unless we actively bring this up in conversations and seek out people who need help to let them know you are there for them.
    Whatever the case, I like this life so much better that what it used to be.

    My Diagnosis

    Diagnosis: chronic early-onset atypical depression

    Atypical Depression characteristics:
    • Leaden paralysis
    • Sensitivity to rejection
    • Difficulty forming relationships
    • Social anxiety
    Leaden Paralysis characteristics:
    • carrying a 50-pound backpack everywhere
    • always walking uphill
    • hard to breath
    • full-time exhaustion
    A sensation known as "laden paralysis". I felt the persistent pressure of a hundred pounds on every inch of my body. It was difficult to move or breath, the air felt as viscous as honey. My mere existence took the quality of heaviness. It is the sensation of always walking uphill, as if carrying an non-detachable 50-pound backpack with me at all times. Whenever I walked on the street I was overcome by a strong urge to lie down right there in the middle of the side walk. My exhaustion tramped any care of what others might think. But I knew that even this would not take away my exhaustion, which was omnipresent. Afterward I felt levity.

    Excerpts from my journal:

    October 29, 2008 10:51 PM

    Today my psychological counselor told me I have depression. I don't know why, but I felt relieved and a little happy. It's like all my anxiety and morbid thoughts had been validated. I even wonder if I had the factitious disorder because finding out you have depression should not feel so relieving. 

    I hope I will not internalize this thought and it wont affect me negatively.

    I also read that feeling depressed has positive aspects--creates compassion.

    • Self-doubt
    • Feelings of worthlessness
    • Feelings of loneliness and isolation
    • Difficulty making decisions
    • Meaninglessness
    August 26, 2008 8:50 PM

    I can't think straight, I'm confused and having crazy thoughts, like questioning my gender and sexual orientation, imagining crazy subconscious motives for my actions. I'm experiencing extreme vacillations in feelings in a short period of time. I'm feeling bad for social mistakes that I made which made the situation awkward.

    This is a particular state which I can't figure out. it makes me feel absolutely hopeless. It has something to do with being accepted by a circle of friends. Why do I get so fucked up?

    Who am I? Sometimes I feel like I'm living without a purpose. Having apocalyptic thoughts. I can't find a base, everything is a distraction from this vacuum.

    • Self-blame and feelings of excessive guilt
    • Difficulty making decisions
    • Feeling exhausted
    • Feeling down for most part of every day