Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Pen is Blue. Or, Why I Try Not to Pay Attention to Politics Anymore

The Pen is Blue

There are certain facts and happenings in the world that should be the center and launching point of all politics in my opinion. These facts present us with issues that need dealt with, for which we all have differing opinions. 

The issues and problems that need to be solved are what is represented by the Blue Pen. The pen is blue. Let's debate what to write with the blue pen.  

This, in my view, is how politics should work. But, alas, it doesn't work this way.  

Examples of Blue Pens

1. Global warming, climate change, or global wierding, whichever you would like to call it, is happening. It is happening because of what we're doing. 

2. Vaccinating children is necessary to prevent life threatening diseases. Vaccination does not cause autism.

3. Humans have evolved from lower life forms over millions of years.

4. Making abortion illegal causes more harm to women and does not decrease the incidence of abortion. Creating legislation that makes abortions harder to obtain has a similar effect. This is a historical fact.

5. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and transexuals are people, too. Their orientation is just that. It wasn't a choice. They deserve equal rights and freedoms as everyone else.

Why I Try Not to Pay Attention to Politics Anymore

Given all those blue pens above, we aren't discussing what to write with the blue pens. Instead, we're trying to convince all of you that the pen is actually blue. This has become a huge waste of my time. 

In several cases, 40-50% of Americans don't think the pen is blue. That just means 40-50% of Americans have been misled, have been lied to, have eaten a big piece of bullshit pie, or are just plain stupid. The pen is blue. The GOD DAMN PEN IS BLUE!

So, I try my best to smile, get on with my day, and ignore the fact that a large portion of you think a blue pen is some other color than what it actually is.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


The Instigator: Getting the Job at Washburn

In early February, I made an announcement that I would be stepping down as Chair of the Department of Statistics at Truman State. I had made this decision earlier in the semester, but was waiting for an opportune time to make the official announcement. The reason for this decision was because my wife and I are living in a long distance relationship at the moment. She is the Highland Community College Perry Center Director in Perry, KS.

I wanted to make sure that the Department of Statistics had more stability than my life. I wanted the flexibility needed in traveling back and forth on any given weekend. As a small side note, I really didn't enjoy being chair. It was a great experience, and I will be a better faculty member as a result, but I'll just say it really wasn't a passion of mine. 

About a week or two later, Erin brought the position at Washburn to my attention. A tenure-track position was listed as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Actuarial Science. The title of the position is a little deceiving, however, as it requires teaching mostly statistics and actuarial mathematics. 

My plan was to search the following academic year, but a position like this seemed to fit me well. The only problem was that the applications had started to be reviewed in December 2014. I assumed I was WAY too late. 

After contacting the Chair of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at Washburn, I found out that they had identified top candidates and had invited them to campus, but that I should still apply. 

Well, okay then.  

I applied. Two days later they called to invite me to campus for an interview on Monday, March 9th, the first day of my Spring break. On Friday, March 13th, after the last candidate interviewed, they called me to inform me I had been selected for the position. I called the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on the following Monday (March 16) and accepted the position after negotiations. 


That week, Erin listened to the audio book "Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life." She wanted me to read it so badly, that as soon as she got back to her place in Lawrence, she ordered the paperback on Amazon to be sent to me. Interestingly enough, after reading it, I found that this action in itself goes against the minimalism philosophy. I could have checked it out through Mobius. But... whatever. 

This truly excited me. I immediately wondered if Erin could actually minimalize as much as I could (figures that I had to turn this into a competition). I don't have the collections that she has. I don't have the sentimentality that she has toward inanimate objects. I knew it would be tough for her. 

It is tough for both of us. The rewards, however, are worth it. 

The book, and the essential essays you can find here, highlight five main things on which you should focus for a meaningful life. 

1. Health
2. Relationships
3. Your Passions
4. Personal Growth
5. Contribution

What you will find in thinking about your day to day activities, is that most of the shit that you own, and most of the shit that you do, does not contribute to any of those five areas. What may shock you at first, is that you don't even know the passions you have in your life. You should let that be a HUGE SLAP IN THE FACE.  

If you don't know what your passions are in life, then you've been letting your daily routine, and all of your stuff get in the way of discovering these passions. Imagine coming home to a place without cable, without internet, without a TV; a place where all you had were the essentials to living. What would you want to do? If your answer would be to go to somebody else's place to watch TV, that is borderline pathetic, but at least you'd be working on your relationships. 

One of the main points that I thought screamed loudest in the book was to try and associate more pain with NOT CHANGING.  Understand that the long term pain of regret from eating that piece of cake, from not working out, from not doing anything, is greater than that short-term pleasure that you are receiving from eating that piece of cake, and from plopping your ass down in front of the luminescent television. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mad Dog 20/20, Hitchhiking, and a Date Rape Parade

A significant portion of my senior year in high school was spent in the basement at my friend Mikey's. Cory, Dave, Mikey, and I made quite a team in high school. We called ourselves the T. & A. B. D Committee.

On one particular late afternoon, there was a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 that was available for us to drink. Upon consuming it, I got a spark for adventure. "Anyone want to come with me?" I asked. Cory joined me and off we went.

At the time of this adventure, there were corn fields and woods between the neighborhood and I-34 that we had to traverse. If we made this adventure today, we would run into a huge Wal-Mart Supercenter or Menards.

Once we came upon I-34, we were tired from walking. With the much needed wisdom and guidance a previously consumed bottle of Mad Dog could provide, a decision was made to begin hitchhiking for a ride downtown. Oddly enough, someone who had just been fishing pulled over to give us a ride. We hopped in and he started driving us downtown.

As we were riding over the Wapello St. bridge, we told the driver that we wanted out on the bridge where a set of stairs led to the downtown area. Seeing that we never walked down these stairs, it was prudent that we give this a try.

We thanked the fine gentleman of a fisherman for our ride and got out on the bridge to walk down that staircase to downtown Ottumwa.

When we got to the bottom of the stairs we found something interesting. There was a police car moving slowly down the street followed by several people holding signs and chanting something. It was a Date Rape Awareness Parade. Well, up to that point in time, Cory and I had never participated in a Date Rape Parade, and so, it was very sagacious of us to join this parade. It just so happened that this parade was going in the general direction that we wanted to go. Lucky us.

One of the coordinators of the parade gave us some signs to hold so we held them high and marched along, chanting "Two, Four, Six, Eight, No More Date Rape!" slowly creeping our way further downtown. It felt like much longer than two blocks, but that was how far we were willing to go. We gave back the signs and thanked them for the opportunity to give them some support before heading to the parking lot where hoodlums like us hung out.

Whatever happened the rest of the night wasn't as interesting as how we got there, and I can't remember the rest. Most likely, it involved meeting back up with the other two and causing some further mischief.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Faking My Own Death In San Diego

Somewhere between the ages of 13-15, mom, dad, and I flew down to Phoenix to spend Christmas time with cousins on my mom's side, and my Uncle Stan and Aunt Pat on my dad's side. This was our second or third year doing this.

When we arrived, I found out that Jody and Julie (the second cousins that were my age) were about to go to San Diego for a small vacation. My folks gave Jennifer, their mom and my first cousin, money, and let me go with them.

I swam in the ocean for the first time using a wet suit. I can't remember much else from that trip. Oh yeah, except the time when I faked my death.

We were all at the hotel getting ready to go out to eat at a Japanese steakhouse where they prepare the meal right at the table. Being the young boy that I was, it took me vast amounts of LESS time to get ready to go than it took for all of my female cousins.  So I began to wander the halls of the hotel.

I made my way to the elevator room, and was standing there lost in my own mind when I decided it would be a good idea to lie down and stare at the ceiling.

There I laid, staring at the ceiling thinking about life, the universe, and everything.

Then I heard some people making their way down the hallway. I adjusted my position into a much more awkward one, making it look like I had fallen. I picked a spot out on the ceiling and stared, unblinking, at that one spot.  As they neared the elevator shaft, I took a deep breath and held it.

The couple came around the corner and saw me lying there. They asked if I was okay. They came over and looked down at me. I didn't flinch. I didn't blink. I wasn't breathing. In a panic, the guy kicked me.  He then nudged me a little harder with his foot, yelling "HEY BUDDY, WAKE UP!" Again, I didn't flinch or blink, and continued to hold my breath.

The couple turned around and sprinted down the hotel hallway back to their room to call someone (this was WAY before cell phones were a standard). I let out a breath, got up and ran down the hallway in an opposite direction to the vending machine room where I hid behind a soda machine.

I stayed there to listen to the people return with someone else. The guy was explaining to some unknown face how "he was RIGHT here! Just a second ago.. HE WAS RIGHT HERE!"

At this point he probably wished he had kicked me MUCH harder.

There I was, hiding behind some soda machine, basking in my own little Andy Kaufman moment. Unlike Andy, however, I didn't have a Bob Zmuda to share the moment with. Just me, myself, and I, giggling at my own little prank.

Such are the exploits of an only child while vacationing in San Diego.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Attack on 149

In the summer of 1996, several of us decided to go cliff jumping at a private rock quarry just north of Fremont, IA. We piled into Hillary's car. Dave always called shotgun, so for any expedition on which he was not driving he was always in the passenger seat. He was so ridiculous, that at the mere mention of an idea for a trip in the future, he would shout out "shotgun."

That put me, Cory, and Sara in the back seat. I sat behind Hillary, Cory sat behind Dave, and Sara was in between us. This is how we rode to and fro the rock quarry. I used the earth setting on Google Maps and was able to capture this picture of the quarry. 
Rock Quarry north and a little west of Fremont, IA
We had to hop a barb wire fence and walk through woods to get to the "beach" part of this quarry on the north east side. If you look closely at this picture, you'll notice a slab on the left side of this quarry. That was where we would swim over, climb up, and jump off. Fun times. I still have a scar on my leg from one of our outings. The barb wire fence that we had to jump got a hold of me once.

On our way back to Ottumwa that summer, we had to go through Fremont. As we passed through town, there were two rough looking dudes at the gas station that appeared as if they were about to get into a fight. Cory yelled out "Kick his Ass!" as we passed by. A few of us chuckled and thought nothing of it. 

Somewhere on 149 south, a van passed us in a very dangerous maneuver. There was oncoming traffic on a two lane road. Cars had to swerve to miss this van. The van then began to try and slow us down. Whenever we made a move to pass, it would pull out in front of us, and in front of oncoming traffic. They would not let us pass. Soon, a car came up behind us and pinned us from the back. There were various levels of panic among us all.  

What happened after we were sandwiched in has played through my mind countless times throughout my life. It has plagued my mind and psyche.

I remember a long haired, fatter dude getting out of the driver's side of the van, and a skinnier, short haired dude getting out of the passenger side of the van. They both were coming right at us. I completely froze. Dave got out of the car. 

All of a sudden, with the dudes from the van still in front of us coming our direction, I was punched in the nose by the guy that had gotten out of the car behind us and approached from the back. While i was stunned and bleeding from the nose, he opened the back door and piled in on top of the three of us. As blood gushed from my nose, he was throwing punches at Cory while yelling "Who SAID IT?!?" using very slurred speech, reeking of booze. 

The rest seems like a blur. At some point, I believe the guy got bored of us, sitting there in the car, not giving him an answer. Dave was occupying the driver of the van in the field to our right. He was defending himself. They eventually felt that time was no longer on their side and that cops could show up at any moment, so they got out of there. 

We gave the cops are statements. They would eventually find them. I'm not sure what kind of fine was imposed on our attackers.

Even today, I want to relive that day so badly. I want to go back to the moment when we were pinned in, get out of the car, and defend myself, whether it was dodging punches or throwing them myself. But I can't. I have to live with myself. Me. The guy who froze. 

I would like to think that having had that experience, if anything like that were to happen again, I will be ready. Will I be? Today I have a cooler and calmer head, but can I get it into action mode if the situation calls for it? Or will it be too late, again, if that time comes? 

Every time I think about this attack, I end up swallowing a piece of humble pie. I was never trained for situations like that. If an attack ever happens again, I'll have to let you know how I handled it afterwards. Because there is no way I could tell you what I would do ahead of time.

The reason this event came back to mind recently, was because Erin and I watched the movie Force Majeure. It follows a Swedish family on a ski trip. An avalanche occurs that creates a state of panic. When it is evident that the avalanche doesn't seem controlled, the father picks up his cell phone and runs leaving his family behind. No harm comes to anyone. The movie then explores the consequences of his actions, both through the relationship with his family and living with himself and his own psyche. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The First Time I Went to Jail

Yes, there was a second time.  This is a two part series.

The first time I went to jail, I was barely legal. I was a senior at Ottumwa High School. It must have been a weekend, and it must have been in the spring (since I was 18), so the year was 1995.

Either my friend Dave Roland or I had somehow scored a case of Busch Light. A case of beer as a high school student is like gold. One protected it as such. You just didn't give that stuff away for free.

Dave was not yet 18, but as you will soon find out, that didn't matter. There were two others with us, one of which was 16 year old Melinda Chadwick, the other was Jake Hammond, who was either 16 or 17.

My memory isn't good enough to recall the events that lead to all four of us hanging out under the Jefferson Street bridge on the north side. There we sat, enjoying bottles of this elusive substance, talking about what high school students talk about.

Then, an Ottumwa Police officer turned down the alley in which we sat. In a ridiculous panic, I remember screaming something like, "Oh shit! Cops!" and running away as if I were a fugitive.

Once I got around a corner, I remember jumping in some bushes. There I was, an absolute idiot in the truest sense of the word, hiding in the brush. An officer shined his flashlight at me and told me to come out of the bushes. I remember being crunched up in a ball with my eyes closed thinking there was no way he could see me.

After finding some half empty bottles under the bridge (we didn't even have the intelligence to dump out the contents), I was hauled to the station with a charge called "Persons Under the Legal Age." They informed me that since the other two were under age, their parents would be called and they would be picked up. I remember wondering what had happened to Dave.

They gave me an option of calling my folks to come and bail me out for the night. I declined. They put me in an orange suit and gave me a tiny cell. If there was anyone checking out the video feed from the camera in my cell that night, they got some cheap entertainment.

I didn't sleep well that night. There was a long wait in the morning before they hauled me over to the courthouse in shackles. I plead guilty, left, and finally went home that Saturday. For the rest of that day, I made the foolish and futile attempt to convince the Ottumwa Courier not to put my name in the paper the following day.

What happened to Dave? When I was overcome with panic, Dave simply sat there. He watched as the cops drove by chasing us, then got up, picked up the case containing what remained of the beer, and walked away. Hearing this story later made me absolutely furious. It wasn't a fury at Dave. It was fury at myself. I had a humbling moment, in which I had to wallow in my own stupidity.

All we had to do was walk slowly away from the beer. To not spark suspicion, we should have walked directly toward the cop car. Nothing would have happened. We probably would have had to answer a few questions.

While I believe it was complete overkill for the police to put me in jail for the night in an orange jump suit, and drag me to the courthouse in shackles the next morning, it was definitely something that I needed as the young, immature, dumb-ass that I was.

If my friend Dave wrote about all of the stories he has of narrowly escaping trouble with the cops, he could easily fill a book. I can think of at least 4 chapters off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are a few more. He is by far one of the luckiest people I have ever known.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Revised Shaw Index

It was suggested that I continually update the Shaw Index.  I'm only a few weeks from my first attempt, but have found several ways to improve it since then.

Obviously, nine decimal places was overkill.  I have also noticed that many other "indices" in the world are on a 100 point scale.  I adjusted accordingly.  

There are five indices used to compute the Shaw Index, each weighted equally, so that it ends up as a simple average.  

The original three that were used were the Brewery Index, Democratic Advantage Index, and the Religious Index.  Two additional indices added are the Bicycle Index and the Well-Being Index.  
The first three are creations of my own.  The last two are borrowed from the Bike League and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.  

The Brewery Index is the most complicated.  The original one I used was based only on breweries per capita.  The revised one is based on total number of breweries in a state, breweries per capita, and breweries per 100,000 square miles.  I created a 100 point scale index for each of these three measures.  

After collecting data on the population and square mileage of each state, I then calculated a Brewery Index as a function of these values.  It was created so that if a state has a large population and large land mass, then more weight was placed in the total number of breweries (California, for example).  If the state was extremely large in land mass but had a much smaller population, then more weight was placed on the breweries per capita index (Alaska, for example).  If a state has a large population and a smaller land mass, more weight was placed in the breweries per 100,000 square miles index (Massachusettes, for example).  The smaller a state is both population and land mass wise, the more equally the weight is spread among both per capita and per 100,000 square miles, and less on the total number.  

In doing this, California jumped up to number 2 on the Brew Index scale which seemed more appropriate than 19th.  Vermont remains number 1, while Mississippi is dead last.  

The Religious Index stayed the same, but was converted to a 100 point scale. Using the State of the States, that Gallup produces regularly, I took the percentage of individuals in a state that claim to be Nonreligious (meaning that religion is not an important part of their lives, and they seldom or never attend services), and subtracted the percentage of individuals in state that claim to be Very Religious (meaning that religion is a very important part of their lives, and they attend services every week or almost every week).  This provided a raw score that I converted to a 0-100 point scale.   Vermont was number 1 with 100 points, while Mississippi was number 50 with 0 points.  

The Democratic Advantage stayed the same, but was converted to a 100 point scale.  Using the same State of the States that Gallup produces, I took the Democratic Advantage score that they provided and converted it to a 0-100 point scale.  Massachusetts is number 1 on this scale with 100 points.  Utah is number 50 with 0 points.  

The Bike Index just used the bike points that the Bike League published directly.  Washington was number 1 with 66.8 and Alabama was number 50 with 17.4 points.   

The Well-Being Index, which didn't have much variation if used directly, was calculated using rankings instead.  Alaska, which was ranked 1 on the list, scored 100 points for this index.  West Virginia, which was ranked 50th on the list, scored a default of 2 points.  

Averaging these five indices produced my revised Shaw Index for each state.  The top 10 states according to the Shaw Index are 
  1. Vermont, 78
  2. California, 73
  3. Massachusetts, 71
  4. Maine, 64
  5. Colorado, 64
  6. Washington, 62
  7. Oregon, 61
  8. Connecticut, 60
  9. Hawaii, 59
  10. New Hampshire, 57
Wisconsin, a state I really do like, comes in 11th on this new scale.  The worst 10 states according to the Shaw Index are
  1. Alabama, 16
  2. Mississippi, 18
  3. Kentucky, 23
  4. Arkansas, 24
  5. Tennessee, 25
  6. Oklahoma, 25
  7. Louisiana, 25
  8. West Virginia, 27
  9. Kansas, 28
  10. Indiana, 29
Missouri, the state in which I live (if you pronounced it "misery" just then you probably got a laugh), comes in number 11 on this list with 30 points.  

Iowa, the state from which I came originally, and one that is dear to my heart, comes in right in the middle of this list.  It is ranked 26th best or 24th worst, however you want to look at it, with 45 points.  

My future project is to extend this to communities rather than entire states.  There are several communities within states at the bottom of the list in which I don't mind living and I believe would have a much higher Shaw Index.  

Until then, enjoy this little joke I heard yesterday: 

Q. What is the difference between a pick-pocket and a peeping Tom?

A. A pick-pocket will snatch your watch.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I Was a Pig Packer Once, And Young

In 1995, during the summer before my first year at college, I worked at Excel in Ottumwa, IA.  Excel was a subsidiary of Cargill at the time, and the company is now just Cargill.

There was a week's worth of orientation.  I learned how to sand a steel and keep an extremely sharp knife. I also learned some things about not cutting yourself and keeping the stuff you wear on the kill floor away from the break room where everyone eats.

As if it would somehow help, and bring relevance to the menial task I would be doing on the vast processing line that was needed, they gave me a detailed tour of the entire plant and how every little part of how the killing and processing would work.  

Looking at the numbers and trying to make a conservative estimate, there were probably at least 10,000 hogs coming through the plant to be killed every day.  That means my shift went through around 5,000 hogs.  So, that summer, in a little over 2.5 months of work, I cut the ears off approximately 400,000 hogs' scalps.  

During orientation, I watched as hogs were coaxed onto a conveyor belt, as if they were luggage. When they reached the top, someone would drop a two pronged electrical thingy on the pig which would send a shitload if volts through the pig's body, making it stiffen up as if rigor mortis had instantly taken effect.  This electric shock would not necessarily kill the pig.  The next guy on the line would put a loop around one of the back hooves of the pig.  The pig would then be lifted up and swung upside down on a long line of other pigs.  The third guy would take a sharp, ice pick like knife and shove it through the throat to pierce the heart of the pig.  A river of blood and life would then exit the pig as it continued down the line.

After going through an inferno to burn off as much hair as possible, it would come out on the kill floor, where I worked.  Someone in my line of view would cut off the head and scalp the pig in such a way so that both ears and the scalp meat would be one.  This, they would throw on another conveyor belt that would then come to me.  My job was to take my knife and "roll" the ears off the scalp meat, and then cut each lobe off the ear.  

I did this around 400,000 times one summer. It gave me more of an answer to "Why am I going to college?" than anything else could have given me.  There are people that do that for their entire lives.  I'm proud of those people.  I'm very glad that there are people like that.  It takes a bigger person than me to do something like this.  I couldn't do it.  No way. 

After that experience, I started to notice pig ear doggy chews everywhere. They remind me of a time when I didn't know if I could achieve my goals in life. They remind me of the beginning of a long journey. 

Pig ears. Of all things. 

My journey continues...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Graph Every Student Needs To See

While I indulged in food and drink this weekend in Lawrence, student grievances were divulged.  I spoke about how I should somehow convey to students on the first day of class that the investment that students give in the course is directly related to how much I give a shit about them.

This prompted me to finally create a scatterplot of the real, true, and 100% accurate data I've collected over several semesters on all of my students.  I measured the investment that students gave in each of my courses (that is, their attendance, attention to detail, genuine concern about learning and not the grade, etc.) along with the approximate number of shits I gave about them.  Here is the result:  
Not only will this give students a great idea of the personality of their instructor, it will also give them a quick introduction to bivariate data and what "correlation" or "direct relationship" means.  They can visually see that if they don't invest much in the course, that I will most likely not give much of shit about them.  They can also see that the more they invest in the course, the more I will give a shit about them.  

It's pretty simple, really.  

What exactly is the definition of "10 shits given"? That means I may be a little more lenient with you when I grade your exam and you were a little vague.  It means I would write a glowing recommendation about you.  It means your name comes to mind when other colleagues of mine ask me if I know any good students to recommend for awards or scholarships worth vast amounts of money. 

So, what does it mean if you give 0 shits?  If I give 0 shits about you, that means I'm usually talking smack about you to my colleagues.  I start stories about you with "I have this worthless, incompetent, and completely clueless student this semester that... " yada, yada, yada.  

This isn't just my opinion.  I'm speaking for about every instructor I know.  So, if you're a student, take heed.  Invest in your course.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Meditation on Self

In the movie Calvary, Aiden Gillen plays Dr. Frank Harte (you may know Aiden best in his role as Little Finger in Game of Thrones).  There is a scene in this movie where he is talking with Father James, played by Brendan Gleeson, that I cannot stop pondering over.  Here is the scene:

If you can't watch the video, here is the script of what Dr. Frank Harte says to Father James:

"You know... when I first started working up in Dublin, there was this 3-year-old boy.  Parents brought him into the hospital. A routine operation. But the anesthetist made a mistake. Little boy ended up deaf, dumb, blind... and paralyzed.  For good.  Think of it! Think when that little boy first regained consciousness. In the dark. You'd be frightened, wouldn't you? You'd be frightened in the kind of way that you know the fear is going to end. Has to. Must. Your parents couldn't be too far away. They'll come to your rescue. They'll turn the light on. They'll talk to you. But... think of it. Nobody comes to rescue you. No light is turned on. You are in the dark. You try to speak... but you can't. You try to move... but you can't. You try to cry out. But you are unable to hear your own screams. You are entombed within your own body. Howling with terror."  

This scene had me contemplating on who I really am. When I say "I" or "me," to what am I actually referring? Although it is disturbing and horrifying thinking about being permanently trapped in the state described above, many of us seek out this type of consciousness. On several occasions, I've tried to put myself in such a deep state of relaxation, shutting out all noise, light, and as much feeling as possible.  What is left?  

My memories. 

My thoughts. 

Even trying to shut these off for as long as I possibly can, they inevitably return.  That is who I am.  "I" am memories and thoughts.  This idea is shared.    

Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire fantasy series, wrote the following in his second book: 

"Memory is all we are. Moments and feelings, captured in amber, strung on filaments of reason. Take a man's memories and you take all of him. Chip away a memory at a time and you destroy him as surely as if you hammered nail after nail through his skull."

Brian Falkner wrote the following in his book, Brain Jack:

"We are our memories," Dodge said. "That's all we are. That's what makes us the person we are. The sum of all our memories from the day we were born. If you took a person and replaced his set of memories with another set, he'd be a different person. He'd think, act, and feel things differently." 

We seem to be a list crazy nation. We need the top ten ways of doing everything. Several studies I've read and lists I've happened across about successful ways of making oneself happy include meditation and reflection. This makes sense to me. It is nice to shut everything else out for a while.

My memories are who I am.

If you need me,I'll be out making some good ones.