what's been floating my boat lately:

"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
-Albert Einstein-

1/6/18 (19:12)

  • i may have written about this before...there's a study that found that people listening to a story had different brain activity than people telling the story...at first. after a while, the listener's brain activity would match up with the person telling the story. this is in keeping with the theory of hypnosis that scott adams talks about when he talks about the success of trump. i've heard adams on a few podcasts talk about the power of hypnosis (apparently he's a student of it) and how he thought trump would win because of his understanding of its principles. interesting stuff. depressing stuff.
  • was working the other day and i parked in the customer's driveway. i came out to the truck to get something and noticed this guy in a wheelchair trying to get around the truck without success. i quickly said i'm sorry and i'll move the truck. he said "i'm not worried - working man pays my social security." that dude made my day.
  • it sure seems as thought chiropractic and acupuncture are dog and pony shows that only have any effect when it comes to subjective measures like pain. they've shown that pain can be reduced by simply spending more time with patients. it sure makes sense, then, that fancy charts that show where your chi flows, along with an elaborate ceremony and exotic asian doctor, could help with the subjective issue of pain management.
  • it's amazing how many different world views a person can have. first, there are a lot of views that seek to explain the majority of what we may encounter in society. but, second, there's so much experience out there that there's actually enough evidence and data to support some number of these worldviews if you just view the world through that lens long enough. so, for example, a person might view the world through the lens of the myers-briggs personality types. they could tell you that trump is an ESFP (making that up) and that ESFP types do well in popularity contests when cynicism is high. this person could view the entire world through this lens of personality types as defined by myers-briggs and probably explain why people act the way they do, why our society is how it is, etc. another person could use astrology and do the same thing. another person could view everything through a racial lens and they could see racism left and right and they could explain everything that way. this person exists and his name is david duke, and also ta-nehisi coates.
  • it's actually an interesting exercise to think like one of these people for a day. just read up on personality types or read what a person says about the world and view the world that way for a while. everything can be explained by race or by personal choices or by the restrictions on freedom. everything is the fault of corporations or big government or white culture or whatever. it's very easy to find a few facts throughout the day that confirm that bias. if you keep studying one of these worldviews and keep looking for this stuff then you will find it. cult leaders can concoct the most outrageous worldviews that get adopted because they have enough truth with enough dumb people to make sense. scientology is a great example. when i was studying nietzsche this was true. you start to view the world in terms like apollonian and dionysian. you think about the will-to-power. you think about living life as an artist or a lion or whatever. his philosophy makes a lot of sense and explains a lot and you see it more and more if you look for it.
  • but that's the point - if you look for something you'll find it. i believe in the way of no ways, which is really the way of all ways. this is the bruce lee philosophy. all these worldviews have some truth to them and some are more useful than others, but none of them is perfect. and the fact that so many of them can be so intoxicating is a warning that we can fool ourselves into thinking anything. i think the only way around it is to actively seek out different points of view. if you're a liberal then reading the nation every week isn't helping you. if you're a conservative then going to breitbart or reading the national review isn't doing much good either. we should actively seek out different opinions, but not only to have them flow through our mind long enough to piss on them. instead we should cogitate on those ideas for a few days. view the world as a conservative does. and i'm not talking about a straw man conservative...."howdy there you libtard, i like guns, telling women what they can do with their bodies, and i believe in the literal interpretation of the Lord Jesus!" i'm talking about a steel man. you only know if you disagree with a worldview or given proposal after hearing the strongest argument that that worldview has to offer.
  • speaking of worldviews...i find that a lot of scientists (especially in the social sciences) get enamored with a particular point of view that explains the world. the problem is of course what i've already written about - they engage in confirmation bias and reject or forget anything that doesn't comport with this view. a lot of times you talk with these people and they're very certain that they understand how everything works. of course this is what you want from an expert, but it's also somewhat alarming to hear from someone who is supposed to be a scientist. i remember asking johnny about his opinion about some social things while we were on the glacier. there were several times when he said he didn't have enough information to form an opinion on the issue. this is the kind of thing you don't tend to hear from the academics (or people) i've encountered. you'll very infrequently hear pundits say they don't know about something or have mixed thoughts or need more information to comment. it can be frustrating during a conversation, but it's actually the perfect answer for a scientist to give. "we have a high degree of confidence about this, but don't have enough data on this other thing." or... "the current science suggests x,y, and z." vs. "x, y, and z are true and anyone who says otherwise doesn't know anything."
  • back in the early 60s they found that a low fat diet was best. in 1980 the federal government codified this and it had a domino effect...the recommendations go out to schools, prisons, etc. food companies market and develop new foods based upon these guidelines. what ends up happening is that fat is seen as the enemy and carbs take their place. carbs are at the bottom of the pyramid and make up the majority of the ideal diet according to the leading scientists and the federal government. butter is bad, margarine is good. red meat is bad, pasta is a low fat food. diabetes increases and scientists can't really explain it. now it sure seems as though that diet was a bad idea. michael pollan's general attitude is that we should eat real food and that makes a lot of sense to me. part of this, though, is that we end up avoiding a lot of these fake and processed foods that seem to have been a response to the low fat recommendation. things like crackers and chips and margarine - all of which are process, all of which have carbs or oils instead of natural animal fats, which i contend are good for you. i'm not a huge proponent of the ketogenic diet or atkins or paleo, but i do generally think that carbs are a major issue in our diets and that there's nothing wrong with a high fat or high protein diet. i'll concede that some health risks may increase with those diets (colon cancer or prostate cancer or something), but that those risks are probably outweighed by the benefits of lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, lower weight, etc. this is another example of believing a certain worldview, the possibility of scientists getting it wrong, and the trouble with confirmation bias.
  • what story do you tell yourself about yourself? how does that affect how you live going forward? i think this is a huge deal with a lot of people who are stuck in a rut. change the outlook, change the outcome. it's something i see a lot. someone might feel down about themselves, they try once or twice and they fail and that confirms that trying isn't worth it. once or twice isn't enough data. i've written before about the percentages you need in life vs. what you need in other areas. if you hit the ball in baseball 40% of the time you're the best hitter in history. if you miss 60% of the time in life then you'll be living in the streets.
  • it's way easier today than ever before to live a decent life. i've written before about the fact that there are certain soft skills that basically all derive from effort and don't really need a lot of teaching - they just need sufficient motivation. but if you couple effort with an internet connection it's possible to live a very decent middle class life in this country regardless of your background (assuming sufficient mental and physical capacity). basically any question you may have about how to live your life, what to do with your money, how to get a good job and keep it, how to develop a budget, what cars are reliable, etc. can be answered online. go to reddit, ask the question and do whatever the most upvoted reply is. search for others who have had similar questions. it's very unlikely that you will go wrong if you stick to implementing the suggestions of the crowd. knowing what to do is really not an excuse anymore. it sure seems as though not putting forth the effort is the biggest hindrance to modest success today.
  • 1/3 of millennials say it's essential to live in a democracy versus 2/3 of non-millennials.
  • one beef i have with a lot of reporting is the lazy modifiers and adjectives they use. they'll write things like "most millennials don't think it's essential to live in a democracy." okay, that's somewhat informative, but what's the number? is it 53% or 88%? big difference, but both would be accurately described as "most." basically the editors are asleep at the wheel here. a basic rule should be "don't use a general or broad word when a specific one can be substituted." presumably if you're saying "most millennials..." then you have at your disposal the actual number...so give us the actual number. another one is "some people might say" which is kinda useful, but also lazy. if you're a reporter then i think you need to be better than that. instead of "some people might say that this bill will increase the debt." say "university of arizona economist joe blow says that this bill could increase the debt according to the chicago school of economic philosophy." there's a lot of this kind of writing. not sure if it's always been this way.
  • i used to think that being a sell out was one of the worst things you could be. if you were a musician and you did something for money then you weren't to be respected. this is a prevalent opinion and i'm not sure why it's so appealing to so many. art and commerce aren't supposed to go together i guess...and we wonder why people are starving artists...and then the starving artists complain that they're starving and then they complain when someone sells out (does well, which is exactly what most artists would actually want). it's a strange, non-sensical dynamic. i think within the "selling out" argument there is a grain of goodness and that is the idea that the artist shouldn't be swayed by market forces. that is, they shouldn't change their art for money. it stems from the idea that the artist should be pure, i suppose.

  • 1/2/18 (19:36)
  • one day later than my goal, but i finally got it done. became a general contractor today. paperwork finally went through and i'm official. feels pretty good.
  • pac-12 stank it up big time this bowl season. big 10 looked real good other than michigan blowing a good lead. none of the 4 teams in the playoffs are appealing to me. i picked OK to beat AL and that didn't work out. i figured that, with a new coach, OK would get their shit together finally. nope, they still found a way to choke during the bowl season.
  • obviously USC was a disappointment. the o line continued to be a problem and it made us look really bad. poor showing.
  • now that ethan is with us full time and i'm a GC, i'm basically turning away all small jobs from now on. it's just finally become too much of a pain in the ass. if there are some easy layups and ethan needs some work then i'll send him to take care of it, but that's pretty much it.
  • as luke pointed out the other day this blog has now been continuously updated for 20+ years. this is the 21st calendar year of me writing in here. for a long time it didn't really have much of a point. lately it's got a lot of political and social stuff on it. overall, though, i think the best thing about it is that my kids will be able to read it and learn about their dad in a pretty unusual way. plenty of stuff in here that probably isn't flattering because i've never edited it, but maybe that's for the better so they can see me as a real person who has/had flaws and grappled with all sorts of things over the years. some pretty immature ramblings in there so it's always good to go back and check myself from time to time.
  • this weekend we had two 1 year old birthday parties. one was a friend of meryl's and the other was luke's daughter so we went to santa cruz. had fun at the boardwalk afterwards. since it was the last day of the year a woman was using the last of her coupons from a season pass and she gave us 3 wrist bands and a half off parking coupon. i attribute the freebie to luke since he sent us and he's the freebie magnet.
  • a couple things i've been thinking about a lot lately.
  • one is how different cultural norms or values shape individuals and populations. so, one culture might value hard work and another might value having a good time. one might be lax when it comes to drugs and alcohol and another might think they're to be avoided at all costs. same goes for people on an individual level. do you teach your kids to keep a regular bed time or do they stay up with you until midnight? do you talk to your kids a lot or ignore them? when you talk do you only tell them to stop doing annoying things or do you offer positive reinforcement? do you let them eat whatever they want or do you think your body is your temple? do you and your culture emphasize the importance of academics or sports?
  • thinking about the importance of culture is something conservatives do a lot more than liberals and i think it's a valuable insight that is missed. there are societal things that we can't change that may have some impact on our lives, but then there are cultural and individual norms and choices that we have a lot more influence over. what things do you focus on and what does that say about you? are you focused on the society level hurdles that you face or are you focused on the things you can change? does the culture and community you're a part of value looking good or looking smart? is bravado and "face" more important than rational behavior or good outcomes? is success applauded or met with derision and jealousy? if you work 90 hours a week is that seen as a good thing or excessive? if you haven't looked for work in weeks are you seen as a deadbeat or is it no big deal? what's the right mix of all these values? what cultures and populations do what things right and what things do they have wrong?
  • one fact of life is that our larger american culture basically is what it is. it will move a bit over time and that's sometimes for the better and sometimes not. but, on the smaller level, we can't lament our lot in life as many do. it's really easy to say "well, if only our culture didn't value money/work/economics/individual determination/etc. so much i'd be much better off." this is the argument some will use to justify where they find themselves. i'm not saying that we value all the best things in the world, but the system is what it is. you can't sit around and cry about it. it's basically an if ifs and buts were candies and nuts type argument that they use. "if artists were valued as highly as hedge fund managers then i'd be a billionaire" type reasoning. it's a nice sentiment and, to some extent, our culture is arbitrary in its rewarding certain people/skills/services...and it's not only arbitrary, but i don't think the compensation in society is always aligned with our best ideals...but that's the world we live in. ultimately, we live in the world and have to find a way to make things work within it. we can't yell into the ether and expect it to change around us.
  • the other thing i've been thinking about a lot is the role of time in social sciences. i was talking to my mom the other day about the tax package and basically said that she's rich and she pushed back on that and said that it wasn't very nuanced because she lives in the bay area and it's an expensive place to live, etc. etc. etc. but this is the way most people think about things, and frankly it's the fault of both parties...maybe even the democrats more than the republicans. basically to a lot of pundits there are rich people, middle class people and poor people. a lot of times what happens is that all three of those are the same person, but in different periods of their lives. when i was 18-27 i was poor. when i was 28-36 i was middle class. now i'm 38 and i'm rich. i'm the same person, i just finally got to a place in my career that i was able to earn enough money to be considered rich. by rich i mean the top quintile (household earnings of $113k+) on the federal level. this doesn't take into account the fact that my house is worth the median value in the bay area or that 60%+ of our income goes to taxes, housing and childcare. it doesn't take into account the fact that being self-employed means i have to pay 100% of my own payroll taxes.
  • this isn't just about earnings, though, it could be about anything. it could be the idiot at the light who doesn't turn in time because he's distracted by the kids in the car or the phone conversation or whatever. you were that idiot 3 weeks ago.
  • didn't write about our trip to philly....it was our first vacation in 16 months and we went out there for the army/navy game. the girls stayed with grandparents. philly is a good place. good architecture. i liked the sports fans, too. we were able to catch a 76ers game and the fans definitely lived up to the hype. the legend of them throwing snowballs at santa claus was not quite was i experienced, but they're definitely a different breed. lots of hating, even on their own team members, and some rowdy, loudmouth characters. mets fans are still the best, but philly fans are pretty awesome too. there was actually a lakers fan next to meat the game who wouldn't shut up. most people were annoyed by him, but i was laughing the whole time. i gave him some shit when things started getting close and was calling traveling on the fakers players and all the rest. it was a good time giving him a hard time.
  • the army/navy game was pretty cold at 30 degrees. it snowed and the fans definitely were enthusiastic. i saw one trump hat in the crowd which isn't too bad for an army/navy game.
  • we also went to eastern state penitentiary which is a hub style prison that was hugely influential for prison design and ideology. it was also unusual for today because the prison was in the city, not the exurbs. very photogenic as well. they have a great audio tour and some good exhibits about the prison system and the criminal justice system. i've written about this before, including pretty recently. basically i think we need criminal justice reform and both parties should agree on this. also, as they pointed out, and i've pointed out as well, both parties are to blame for the injustice we've perpetrated on our citizens for too long. they also reaffirmed what i've written about regarding private prisons not being a significant portion of the problem and the same goes for non-violent drug offenders...they're just a very small portion of the total population yet they get talked about all the time as supposedly being the reason our prison population is so high. they pointed out our prison population relative to other countries and the rise over time. if you care about personal liberty then you should care about this issue. if you care about racial justice then you should care about this issue. if you care about gender inequalities then you should care about this issue...unfortunately "gender inequality" almost always means women being oppressed, when in fact men are given much higher sentences and go to prison at a higher rate. not sure why people are upset by these facts when you compare blacks to whites, but when you compare men to women they get silent. anyway, it was a great place.
  • we also visited NYC while we were there. we were only there 4 days, but we fit a lot in. we went to the 9/11 memorial first thing in the morning before many people were there. i had no expectations for this, but it was a really moving experience. you walk up to the memorial and it's a large square pool with water that disappears into a deep well that appears bottomless. it's just so simple and clear and plainly symbolic that i couldn't help but be moved by it. it's not pretentious in any way. the negative space is just so harrowing and present... it's perfect, and probably the best single art installation i've ever seen.

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