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December 30, 2004


Next year, for instance, will finally be the year that I redo my front walkway, and also the year in which I figure out how to get my state rep. to introduce legislation banning the private ownership of primates in Maryland

There has got to be some sort of story here.

Oh, and welcome back!

Thanks -- it's good to be back. The holidays were great, and I got to, well, encounter my little brother's first unborn child for the first time. Then the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meetings, which combine the fun of seeing people I like with such things as interviewing fellowship candidates (they were quite nice, but interviewing in general is not my favorite activity), and giving a talk (stress!), and the fact that the Eastern Meetings are the job market meeting in philosophy, which means that the atmospherics are set by a mass of hungry and stressed-out job candidates and an equally large mass of tired interviewers, and so a pall of gloom and desperation hangs over the whole affair. Ugh. Plus, every time I go, which means every year, I get to relive my own job market experience, which I would rather forget.

Primates: no story at all, actually. I think about the moral status of animals, and how we should treat them, in the course of my work, and when I discovered that it's perfectly legal to buy a chimp in Maryland, I was appalled. And I have this odd idea that the world would be a better place if everyone who discovered some part of the law that could be better, even if it's a relatively tiny part, actually tried to improve it.

hilzoy, please do me a favor, and when you're ready to tackle that issue, email me. My wife runs a website in her spare time that deals with animal protection issues -- it has a very large readership and has even had a little real-world influence on these kinds of things, and I'd like to put the two of you in touch.

Phil -- sure. I was thinking of posting on it later, after I read von's comments. But it will have to wait until after I get back from going to see a Varied Thrush that has turned up in PA, which I have been waiting and waiting for the free time to go visit (it appeared a few weeks ago, and it's still there -- unlike the Gray Kingbird, which usually spends the summer in Florida and winters even further south, which popped up in PA at around the same time, but has since vanished, probably because it is not at all equipped to deal with the cold.)

Unfortunately it is legal to buy exotic animals in many states. I tithe monthly to several animal refuges that specialize in abused or neglected lions, tigers, bears and elephants. where did humans ever get the idea that we are an intelligent form of life?

"hitherto unsuspected"??

And welcome back!

Anarch: hitherto unsuspected because it doesn't exist. Only enormous effort keeps me from being the most disorganized person in the entire world.

hilzoy, do you have a secret you can share with us as to how you get yourself to live up to your resolutions? The only self-improvement projects that have worked for me have involved the active involvement of an enforcer to make sure I don't slack off, and the areas of improvement for which such an enforcer is available to me are a tiny subset of all those that I'd like to pursue.

Well, the "trick" I use is to make most of them fun, and all of them specific. I mean: if you get into it a little, both of the ones I mentioned are actually fun, at any rate if (like me) you have a streak that says: I refuse to concede that I can't think of SOMETHING new/good to do.

The other trick (for self-improvement ones) comes from rather lengthy experiments with using bets to write my dissertation. (Lengthy because various arrangements kept not working because the person I made bets with and I kept letting each other off the hook.) We realized that if we bet each other that we would write, say, 15 pages a week, or even 5, we would find ourselves saying: but I had nothing to say. Often it was, or seemed, true. Finally we hit on the right trick: you have to stipulate at the outset that you can write 5 pages of anything, including the alphabet over and over if necessary. That way it cannot be true that you "can't" do it. And since we gave our pages to one another, shame precluded our actually using the alphabet instead of actual prose.

The analog for NY resolutions is: (minor coercion) make what you have to do to keep it very small, and be too ashamed to actually count walking to the end of your driveway and back as "exercise" (for instance.) Major coercion: same as above, plus tell someone what you're doing, make them ask you what you've done every week, set up a penalty if you don't keep your now-embarrassingly-easy resolution, and make it really clear that they have to exact the penalty and are doing you no favors at all if they don't. (I have never yet had to use major coercion, but I think it would work, if you had a suitably remorseless friend.)

Anarch: hitherto unsuspected because it doesn't exist. Only enormous effort keeps me from being the most disorganized person in the entire world.

The fact that you make this effort leads to me to believe my suspicions were correct ;)

(Lengthy because various arrangements kept not working because the person I made bets with and I kept letting each other off the hook.)

Heh, this is what always happens with my wife and me. My only success in recent years (running 25 miles per week) is due to having a friend at work who took my offhand "hey, I should go running with you sometime" comment and wouldn't let it go. For a year he needed to wield the whip and not listen to any of my silly excuses, until finally I internalized the discipline.

If only I had a friend like that around when I was writing my dissertation -- I would've finished a couple years sooner and I might still be in academia. Hmmm, maybe it's just as well.

Anyway, thanks for the tips. You've inspired me to give the resolution thing another try.

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