"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.