Day 14 in Melbourne, Australia

Hi all,

melbourne_downloadContext:  I moved from San Diego to Melbourne, Australia to pursue a PhD in psychology…  eventually.  First I have to knock out the undergraduate requirements, which I’m doing this year, and then a thesis “honours” year , and then my PhD. (yes, the U in ‘honours’ is intentional, attempting to switch to the Aussie bastardisation of English, not the American bastardization)

Random thoughts in no real particular order:

  • I’m being really academically challenged with this Graduate Diploma; even more than when I got my MBA.  They’re lecturing 4 hours per day, 5 days per week, and jumping straight to the material that the professor/lecturer found most challenging in school, not starting with definitions or any sort of structure from a book/journal.  I’m doing well in terms of marks (grades), and I’m exhausted.
  • I feel like an alien who was lost and found his home planet.
  • The spelling of the American “curb” is “kerb” here.  It’s totally screwed up and messes with my head.
  • At 5’9″ 155 lbs I went from somewhere between skinny and average to straight up average.  The lack of fat people here in the city astounds me.
  • I walk almost twice the amount of steps compared to what I did in the U.S.  I can get almost everywhere I need to by foot or tram living near the city.
  • I have not seen a kangaroo or any kind of dangerous animal; the only thing dangerous are cars driving on the opposite side of the road that I’m used to.
  • Coffee is so much better here it’s ridiculous.  If you ever come to Australia and you like espresso/milk try a ‘flat white’.
  • Iced coffee is ice cream and espresso and served as a desert.
  • A 1 bed downtown flat (apartment) in a high-rise costs about $1300-1700 AUD per month from what I’ve been told.  That’s currently about $1000-1300 USD per month.
  • Living in a dorm dedicated to international/grad students is amazing.  Intellectual conversations everywhere, and people looking to make friends is awesome.  That, and I have 7 breakfasts / 5 dinners prepared for me included in the rent, along with weekly maid service.
  • Orange juice is less expensive than a soft drink.
  • The Aussies shorten almost all verbal expressions but not the phrase “soft drink” to my knowledge.
  • One new local friend was sincerely excited that my name was Dave.  He had no other friends named Dave, which confuses me because in the past I couldn’t get away from other Daves (seriously, this was a problem in certain circles, and still is).
  • My Aussie informal nickname would likely be Dave-o.  I’m excited about that.
  • The Aussie (and Kiwi) offensive slang for having sex is “root”.  To say that “I’m rooting for USC” during college football would lead to questions as to exactly how many men are on that team and am I using protection.
  • I have an infinitely stronger compassion for people where English is not their native tongue.  I have to ask the Aussies to repeat themselves from time-to-time; I can’t imagine what it’s like for ESL people.
  • For dating, I suddenly became exotic. It was also incredibly refreshing to be approached by a woman, and interesting to witness the nervousness that goes along with it from the flipside.
  • I haven’t met an Aussie yet who likes Trump.  Still looking for one. Closest I’ve gotten is that they acknowledged one thing they liked (random bus passenger said that he liked Trump was aiming to pay for the US’s ‘fair share’ of the U.N.).
  • Aussies make fun of the Asian stereotype for not pronouncing their L’s or R’s, and fail to do so themselves frequently.  Hypocrites.
  • Asians:Australians are analogous to Mexicans::Americans in the sense that there’s a feeling that the Asians/Mexicans are stealing jobs, and are often sadly the victims of discrimination.
  • Both Native Americans and the Indigenous Australians are sadly given the shittiest land and given alcohol to drink themselves to death.
  • My health insurance here for the *year* cost me about 150% of a single *month* of my COBRA payment from my last job.
  • I went in for a routine doctor’s visit already.  Got an appointment within a couple of days despite the holidays, 2 pages of paperwork, and no copay.
  • Reducing my “stuff” down to 3 1/2 suitcases worth was incredibly liberating.

I’m certain there are things I’m forgetting; please feel free to ask in the comments if you’d like to hear about anything in particular.


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Terror and Fear Causing Reckless Abandon of our Civil Liberties

With the recent tragedy in Boston, there was an alarming amount of demand to violate American Constitutional rights in the wake of the arrest.  The Daily Show summed it up nicely:

Following the Boston bombing, the freedom lovers at Fox jettison Constitutional amendments like Han Solo dumping his cargo at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser. 


The point is that the biggest advocates of our freedom to bear arms as guaranteed in the Second Amendment are often the most willing to abandon the rest of the Bill of Rights.  Here’s a breakdown of how many of our civil liberties certain people would jettison in the name of “terror”.

Bill of Rights Amendments Rejected by Media Pundits

First Amendment

As soon as it came out that the people behind the bombings were inspired by radical forms of Islamic faith, the blanket idea that all of Islam (and accordingly anyone who calls themselves a Muslim) is to blame reared its ugly head again.

The First Amendment guarantees, amongst other things, the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.  Many oppose the freedom of Muslims to assemble and practice because some terrorists, especially Osama Bin Laden, have done horrible things under the guise of being a Muslim or citing a holy war against America.  While it is arguably reasonable to profile the extremists, the prevention of people establishing a Mosque or practicing their faith is completely unreasonable.

Furthermore, these Muslims, whether American or not, are usually just as horrified as we are that these terrible people.  This is self-evident because Muslims often self-report when there’s someone recruiting for terrorist activities.  The overwhelming number of good people who happen to worship Allah do not condone the terrorist activities, and those who would punish these good people for the few acts of the heinous should be ashamed.

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, where a search has been interpreted to include a right to privacy when reasonably expected.  Allowing prevalent wire-tapping without cause would undermine not only the rights of someone suspected (potentially wrongfully), but allow for government entities to overstep their bounds.  The Constitution protects us from being monitored constantly as if we were constantly potentially going to do something wrong, and to give up that right would allow a slippery slope into many areas, including electronic communications.

Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment addresses the concept of being held for a felony without indictment by a Grand Jury, shall not be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against themselves, and shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.  All of that tends to go straight out the window when discussing a suspected criminal in a heinous crime – the masses tend to forgo due process and want immediate retribution.  While emotions are totally understandable, if we were to consistently do this, it would erode one of the fundamental ideas behind our fair trials.

The people who orchestrated the attack in Boston certainly instilled fear and terror amongst people, but that in of itself should not cause us to describe them as “terrorists” using “weapons of mass destruction” (which they weren’t using WMDs, but this term has seem to caught on in portions of the media and subsequently, the public).   They should be entitled to, amongst other things, a fair trial where they are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based upon evidence outside of their unwilling testimony.

There is some concern about reading the suspect their Miranda rights given that there may be more bombs and an imminent threat to society.  However, the Miranda rights do not prevent law enforcement from asking about things that potentially threaten public safety, ranging from a gun that is missing from its holster to the possible bomb, and all of that would still be admissible in court.  So this theoretical concern about asking questions about bombs or other devices that might hurt someone is a reasonable thing to do, and would still be used as evidence in a court of law.

Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment ensures the right in criminal prosecutions to a speedy, public, and fair trial where he is judged by a jury of his peers.  The idea of treating a criminal as an “enemy combatant” simply because they are accused of mass murder would completely circumvent this amendment and the right to Due Process as enumerated in the constitution.  Again, this is just simply a gross violation of one of our fundamental Constitutional rights.  These college students are not military or paramilitary – they are simply horrible people who committed a terrible crime.  Assuming they are guilty, there is no need to give them some sort of “superstar” status by giving them a special trial, and they should receive the justice that they deserve.  Civilian trials for mass murders happen and are generally effective at finding people guilty, causing them to rot in prison or be put to death – that should be sufficient in this case.

Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment addresses cruel and unusual punishment.  In this situation, people advocated water-boarding and torturing this person to find out more information, and in my personal opinion, as vindication pre-trial for the horrible events that happened.  Torture has repeatedly been defined as cruel and unusual punishment, but that seems to not matter anymore if we really don’t like the crime the person is accused of.

Bill of Rights Amendments Excluded Because They Don’t Apply

The Third Amendment discusses involuntary housing of soldiers.  This doesn’t apply in this situation.

The Seventh Amendment discusses civil trials by juries.  Again, it doesn’t apply.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments discuss limitations on Federal powers and reserving the rights not specifically enumerated to the States and the People.  These are largely about how to apply Amendments 1-8 and the Constitution, so they don’t apply either.

Bill of Rights Amendment Suspiciously Not Mentioned?

The only Amendment remaining is the Second Amendment.  The untouchable right to keep and bear arms.  Note that the types of arms (i.e. guns) are not specifically stated in the Second Amendment.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suddenly calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment and keeping everything else.  However, isn’t it a little suspicious that there’s no discussion about preventing violence given A) these bastards killed, maimed, and injured a whole lot of people and B) they did have a gun on them?

I am not suggesting that we remove the right to bear arms.  I am simply astonished (but not shocked) by how short-sighted someone can be to focus exclusively on one amendment that suits their purpose and not speak up our be outraged about the trampling of other rights at the same time, or even worse – call for the infringement of these rights while hypocritically claiming that this one Amendment is untouchable.

If someone is to call themselves a scholar of the Constitution and to protect all Constitutional rights, they should think carefully before acting in a way that would violate all the principles that happen to not apply to them in this moment.  Those who would instill fear and terror win when they affect our psyche and way of life, not just by a body count – by allowing our lives to so dramatically change because of an tragedy encourages those who would harm us to attempt more heinous acts.


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An Atheist’s thoughts on Good Friday


So, I’ve heard enough pre-suppositions lately about Atheists that I chose, on one of the days most significant to Christians – the day that Christ was crucified – to write about the misconceptions that I’ve observed religious people assert about being an Atheist.

The purpose here is not to chide Christians or other religious people, to put them down, or say that all Christians don’t understand.  I’m writing with the intent to share my thoughts with those who are interested in this one atheist’s perspective.

Misconception #1:  I need to wage an assault on Christianity.

While there are definitely some angry Atheists out there who are fighting for an agenda, I’m not one of them.  I believe more along the lines of what Neil deGrasse Tyson said:

I don’t associate with movements.  I’m not an “ism.”  I just  – I think for myself.  The moment when someone attaches to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you, and when you want to have a conversation they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association…   Atheists I know who proudly wear the badge are active atheists.  They’re like in your face atheist and they want to change policies and they’re having debates. 

So while I am writing this musing, and I will have a casual discussion, etc. I don’t consider myself a “militant” atheist.

However, I can definitely understand why those who are atheists are alarmed by organized religion’s impacts on things such as politics and our legal system. I wholeheartedly agree – especially in America where the separation of church and state is so entrenched in the foundation of our country.  The strength of organized religion is alarming.  It commits heinous, egregious acts, such as hiding child molesters from justice so that they can molest more children.

There’s a very important distinction though – Do I hold the wrongdoings of organized religion against individual Christians?  No.  Which leads me to my next point…

Misconception #2:  I think Christians are stupid for having their beliefs.

A Christian friend of mine asked me if I think that “all religious people are stupid?”  My answer was that when I was a teenager I used to, but I now realize that there are some very intelligent people who are devoutly religious, including that friend who asked me the question.  In fact, it fascinates me and makes me want to understand more when an educated, logical, intelligent person is passionately religious.

Even if that person isn’t someone who impresses me as well-informed or intelligent, their religion works for them for whatever reason, and I wish them well.  Many religious people are brought up with great principles, and I like them, respect them, and call them my friends.

Misconception #3:  I don’t want to have Faith.

Actually, I would prefer to believe in God.  I think life would be a lot easier that way.  To have continual Faith that things will be alright in times of hardship would be fantastic.  


I don’t have this Faith. I can’t know that it will be taken care of.  When something bad happens, there’s a a good amount of anxiety and fear that could probably be mitigated by Faith.  Instead, I put my “faith” in something else – the continual constant chaos that is this world.  I can’t control it.  Ironically enough, I think of the “Serenity Prayer”:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

So what is this atheist doing looking at a “prayer”?  It’s pretty simple.  I can’t control almost everything – in fact, I can only change a little bit.  Omitting the word “God” doesn’t change the principle, and I happen to like it.

Misconception #4:  I don’t want to be a Christian.

Being an atheist is not generally accepted either.  In fact, to a lesser extent than being gay, you have to “come out” to people.


Sometimes, right in the middle of a simple conversation, I’m pressed with a hard choice. I’m forced to choose between outright telling this person I don’t necessarily agree with their fundamental beliefs or choose to stay “in the closet.” For example, at work, a new acquaintance and I were having lunch.  We were talking, and I told him about a frustrating situation with the girl I was dating at the time.  His response was “Don’t worry, Jesus will work it out.”  It’s my coworker.  Do I tell him?  This time, I choose to smile and nod, withholding my disappointment that this person doesn’t know or understand me.

Another reason to want to be Christian is that the benefits in American society for being Christian are great.  Being a Christian affords you the ability to go to church –  any church – for a support group.  Anywhere, anytime, some organized non-profit with a whole bunch of money who will help you because you believe.  A community of built-in friends if you move to an area.  A life-counselor on-demand who can give you wise advice because of his years dedicated to helping people.

I’ve also had my beliefs (or lack thereof) held against me when dating.  A couple girls I dated suddenly didn’t return my calls when they learned I was an atheist.  I’m thankful now that they made their exit, but at the time, that sucked.

So, I don’t really desire to be an atheist.  It’s not all that easy.  However, I’m not about to change my belief system because something is easy or not.

Misconception #5:  I don’t want be a good person.

Sure, there are some people who refuse to be Christians because they are evil.  Granted.  But to dismiss a whole bunch of people as evil because they refuse to accept Jesus is backwards.

I believe in a lot of the tenets espoused in the Bible.  I’m just not buying into a number of portions – especially the ending.  And contrary to what Bill O’Reilly believes, Christianity isn’t a philosophy, it’s a religion.  As Jon Stewart said,  “…you have to believe Jesus is God to be a Christian.  For instance, I like a lot of Jesus’s philosophy.  Love your neighbor, little cheek turning, stone not casting…  but while I can get an A in his Philosophy class, I don’t get to go to the after-party.”

So, I admire a lot of what is taught in the Bible, but I don’t believe in God.  Not the Old Testament or New Testament one.  So I’m straight out.

Misconception #6:  I can be saved.

This one might upset those who care and think I may be going to Hell.  However, according to the Bible, if you’re right and I’m wrong, I can’t be “saved” by repenting, even if I chose to.  Here’s why:  I question the Holy Spirit.  And according to the bible:

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come,” Matthew 12:32 (NASB)

I’ve said it aloud too, in case there’s a technicality about these things.

And I’ve come to accept this theoretical fate, which is much easier if you don’t actually believe it.  If such a God exists that I can be a good person all of my life but be damned to Hell because the only sin I committed was questioning his existence, then so be it.  Not that I haven’t sinned, but this premise is ridiculous to me.  So, there you have it.

I suppose then, the only hope I have is that I’m right.

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Aliens just might save the human race.

Let’s start today’s musing by talking about aliens.  Yes, aliens, assuming they existed (which I don’t know one way or the other if they do).  I am going somewhere with this idea, so bear with me.


According to a number of scientists, if aliens invaded, we are beyond screwed.  If aliens have the technology to travel through space to get here, we will be primitive by their standards.  They most likely aren’t going on vacation checking out the planet and wanting to be friendly like E.T. and enjoy some tasty Reeses Pieces. The aliens are going to be coming here for some resource that the Earth has.

Hopefully, it’s not going to be like War of the Worlds…  where that resource is humanity, whether it be eating us or enslavement.


In movies, generally an alien invasion usually causes something miraculous:  we unite as a society.

The irony about this unification:  we come together to bomb the new class of brown people, again tapping our inner hatred and dislike of those who are different than us.  Think about it – so many aliens, especially aggressive ones, are dark skinned.  And as George Carlin (R.I.P.) so eloquently summed up American foreign policy:

“We like war, we’re a war-like people! We like war because we’re good at it! You know why we’re good at it? Because we get a lot of practice. This country´s only 200 years old and already we’ve had ten major wars. We average a major war every twenty years in this country, so we’re good at it! And it’s a good thing we are, we’re not very good at anything else anymore! Hah? Can’t make a decent car, can’t make a TV set or a VCR worth a fuck … got no steel industry left, can’t educate our young people … can’t get health care to our old people … but we can bomb the shit out of your country alright!

Especially if your country is full of brown people. Oh, we like that, don’t we, that’s our hobby! That´s our new job in the world: bombing brown people! Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya – you got some brown people in your country – tell ’em to watch the fuck out … or we´ll goddamn bomb them!”

Just check out these examples of popular aliens, and Hollywood’s recognition that we innately are not trustful (at best) or want to kill (at worst) those that are different than us:

brown_alien ALF

chewbacca    hydraliskmen_in_black_coffee_aliens  ETklingon11 jarjar

Hell, Jar Jar makes me want to bomb some Gungans.  Damn you George Lucas for making me a racist.  Anyhow, I digress.

Regardless of the reason for a worldwide epiphany, we universally realize that there is something much bigger than just us, our city, our country, or the Earth.  The human race unifies, much like an anthill or bee colony, for a common cause:  betterment of mankind. Our society could be so much greater if we united as humans and stopped hating each other, killing each other, and going to war with one another.  If we accepted that we are all different.  What seems unusual to one person is customary to the other.  And that’s just fine.  No need to attack each other for opposing religious views, politics, or other differences of opinion.

It is in our global best interests to not be at war with each other, and ideally working in harmony to research new technologies and ideas to better mankind.

If we were to simply invest in our humanity like we do in our warfare, our civilization would be incredible.  The finances already easily exist to invest in research, and we could even reduce taxation spurring worldwide growth. Worldwide, there was over $1.5 trillion US dollars spent on “defense” spending in 2012.  One year.  Alone.  That is just incredible if you think about it.

Here’s an infographic on how much we spend on “defense” from each other.  Or “defence” as those wacky Brits spell it.


Imagine if we could reduce the “defense” spending needed to 10-20% because we didn’t feel the need to defend ourselves, except from the extremely insane people, such as those who decide that their natural choice for a U.S. diplomat is Dennis Rodman.  Spend perhaps 30% of that $1.5 trillion on research and development for human advancement.  That still leaves over $750 billion *annually* that gets put back into the world economy.

With so many countries having budget crises, people starving and impoverished, it is horrific how much we spend on having the capacity to kill each other.

It’s not only about the money though.  It’s about our attitudes towards each other.  If we fundamentally changed our mindset to accept the other person as a human being who has just as much a right to live as we do, and to live the way they choose to live, we could be so much better off.

Or we could just continue with our global infighting, wait for some cataclysmic event such as an alien invasion or a giant asteroid coming towards the planet, be reactionary, and see how well that serves us.

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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”


I find myself focusing too often on doing.  I feel pressured in general to do something and make something of myself.  I daresay others probably feel the same.  Even though this mentality has caused me to achieve a lot, it hasn’t led me historically to take in life at that particular moment;  pausing to relax, observe, and enjoy when possible.

The focus on doing leads to planning the next thing to do.  In excess, this perpetual state of planning to do something leads to constant deferral of rewards for the sake of a mythical future prosperity and happiness.  The normal retirement plan:  I can enjoy life when I’m old, half as spry, and hopefully still have my wits about me. Sounds like a fantastic plan.  All predicated on living that long of course.

Not that I haven’t enjoyed life – I do, and I have met many wonderful people who I am thankful that I’ve gotten to share it with.  Until recently though, I focused too much on how I was going to achieve my next ambition as opposed to being in the moment and savoring it.  Realizing that tomorrow will come, but the present is continually passing.

Not that I aspire to be Ferris Bueller with reckless abandon, because I’ll admit that it’s just not me.  Even though he’s cool as hell in that movie.  What I don’t want to happen is to suddenly go from Ferris Bueller to this guy in the blink of an eye:


Yes, the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is 27 years old.  I hope Matthew Broderick has enjoyed those 27 years, because he got old fast, and so did I.

I’ve have done an enormous list of things since I was born.  I still do things that I’m proud of, but I’m increasingly focused on what life has brought me in this present moment, not planning what to do or how I might do something tomorrow or in the future, or wondering if I did something correctly in the past.

A state of being, as opposed to doing, is so much simpler and refreshing.  It’s relaxing.  You simply look around, and see what life has brought today.  What am I going to do with this opportunity at this moment?  Of course, life isn’t all sunshine and flowers (as evidenced by the heavy, wet snow shoveled yesterday), but every moment is a fleeting chance to enjoy all five senses if you choose to.  For instance, I am choosing to listen to music when there is silence, but sometimes that silence could be soothing.

Taking the idea of a state of being one step further:  finding what works for me, and serves my needs and wants.  Often, there’s many ways to do something.  What works for me might not work for someone else, and vice versa. It is up to each of us to come up with our own sense of wisdom of what works for us and how things should be.  We define our state of being;  if we let others do it for us we are doomed to not explore our own existence.


So if the guy above wants to shove his face into a book and call it Facebook, who am I to tell him he’s doing it wrong?  Sure, it looks goofy, but hey, if that’s what works for him, I’m happy to let him be.

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