|A lot of people see Donald Trump as the physical embodiment of narcissistic xenophobia and Hitler-esque hate tantrums. He is exactly that, to be clear. He's an orange, ignorant, pig-faced, clown of a human being, whose business model consists entirely of writing his name on things. Bravo, sir.
But I really don't think Donald Trump is the problem. Donald Trump is a representative, possibly the elected representative, of a large group of misinformed, Bible-thumping, gun-toting racists that make up a good percentage of the United States. And that's sad. I'm not even sure Trump believes the things he says, or even realizes how many people like him and why. He's almost like an unwitting pawn in the grand game of thrones. We're a nation of self-made, superstitious, white, Christian, hyper-nationalists who hate poor, black people. Of course Donald Trump rose to power. It had to happen eventually.
But that's not completely fair. Not all Trump supporters are misinformed, or Bible-thumping, or gun-toting, or racists. Some of them are only one of those things. And that's the other sad thing: The Republican Party is a mess. They say cool things like, "Let's lower taxes," and follow it up with, "and imprison people who perform abortions." Or "Let's lower the national debt," and "make Christianity the official religion of the United States." I can get behind fiscal conservatism. But that bullshit social conservatism needs to die a long overdue death. We've progressed as a society. Move on.
I keep going back to this video of Republican blowhard Newt Gingrich. If you can't bear to watch his stupid fat face say these childishly ignorant things, I'll quote:
Gingrich: Current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics which theoretically may be right, but it's not where human beings are. That right there is a problem. And again, it's a representative problem. Gingrich, and Trump, and every other dim-witted, sexist, meat-peddler is -- or at least pretends to be -- immune to facts. Statements of fact, scientific polls, verifiable measurements -- they're all worthless to a certain large subset of the American populace. But feelings fly. They sell. They get you votes. That's one of the [many] reasons people don't like Hillary: She's too unfeeling. I just wish people could recognize when a mouth-breathing, petulant, pussy-grabber was selling them feelings, and when a cold-hearted, robotic, career politician was selling them policies. It's a dangerously unbalanced false equivalency. #politics
CNN: But what you're saying is ... liberals use these numbers, they use this sort of magic math. These are the FBI statistics. They're not a liberal organization, they're a crime-fighting organization.
Gingrich: But what I said is equally true. People feel more threatened.
CNN: They feel it, yes. But the facts don't support it.
Gingrich: As a political candidate, I'll go with how people feel, and I'll let you go with the theoreticians.
|Libertarianism is something I know relatively little about, but I find its tenets somewhat attractive yet completely unrealistic. The general idea is a smaller government, with more personal freedoms. Sounds good so far. A common talking point is which functions of the federal government a libertarian candidate would remove. Department of Education, Department of Commerce, that type of thing. But when you start considering the effects of these policies, things get a little ridiculous. For one thing, the government employs a lot of people. So if you removed parts of the government, you'd have a fairly major increase in unemployment. People generally frown upon that type of policy. Second, the government does a handful of things that literally no one else wants to or is able to do, such as garbage collection, wastewater treatment, and food safety enforcement. Yes, there are private companies that do some of those things, but the government pays them. Either way, we pay for those things. You can't just get rid of them. As for food safety, many people think we should just get rid of food and consumer product safety regulations because they're part of a slow, bloated government. The problem is, there's no profit incentive to make your products safe, or free from bacteria, or medicinally effective. The government establishes and enforces those guidelines because literally no one else will. And in fact, you really don't need to dig that deep to find out what the world was like before food safety laws and the FDA existed (hint: meat is a great way to kill people). The overwhelming fact of the matter is the government is important. Can it be better? Yes. Can it be smaller? Yes. But running on a platform of gutting the federal government is just unreasonable. #politics
|Cormorant design by committee
|Cormorants look like they were designed by a committee of non-experts, probably at an old government office full of mid-level managers and underpaid engineers. Here's how I imagine the process went:
Person 1: We want a bird. Thankfully version 2 never made it to market. #nature
Engineers: No problem.
Person 2: But the bird can swim.
Engineers: Uh ... yeah we can do that. Webbed feet and whatnot.
Person 3: But it needs to swim underwater to catch fish.
Engineers: Oh ... hmm ... ok. Just remove some buoyancy so it can sink better. It'll need to have gills so it can--
Person 1: No, it needs to breathe air!
Engineers: Ok ... I guess we can have it resurface every so often. But it's just gonna stick it's head and neck out of the water because it's midsection is too dense to float, so it'll look like a snake.
Person 3: That's fine. And then it can fly away and do other bird things.
Engineers: Not exactly. Because of its extra density, it'll have a hard time taking off out of the water.
Person 2: But it can fly, right?
Engineers: Yes, but it'll need to dry its wings before any amount of extended flight. The decreased buoyancy and underwater swimming mean its entire body gets soaked to the bone, so it'll need to stand around with its wing outstretched, which is a perfect time for predators to attack it.
Person 3: Can you put a gun on its head?
Engineers: We'll try that in version 2.
|I find it immensely ironic that people are offended by Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protest which consists entirely of kneeling or sitting during the playing of the national anthem. It's like saying, "This is America, where we blindly assert our allegiance to our national identity, and if you don't participate, you're a traitor." Read the fucking Bill of Rights. #politics
|"Do you want to hear our dinner specials?" Oh you mean, do I want to hear you ramble through a ridiculously long list of food choices which would be infinitely better communicated on paper, which there is zero chance of me remembering, just so you can check an item off your "Waitressing 101" checklist and sell more food that didn't sell well yesterday? How about no. #food
|If I could reincarnate as anything, I'd obviously want to be a bird, because ... flying. But not just any bird. I'd want to be a water bird. Not a water bird like a stupid penguin, which can't fly. But an actual flying, swimming bird. Birds like ducks, geese, and seagulls can walk, they can fly, and they can swim. Fucking badass.
Ducks are cute, but lack a certain fearsomeness. Geese have those long necks and they just look at you like they want to cause you physical harm. But only a seagull can survive just as well near the ocean as in a random suburban parking lot. I think it's due to their ability to eat anything and everything, including garbage. As hated as they are, they have possibly the best chance of surviving the near-certain apocalypse that awaits our dumb bipedal species.
Seagulls: Land, sea, and air. And garbage dumps. #nature
|When I was a teenager, I assumed command of the family's lawn-mowing responsibilities. That was fine and all, but what I really liked was using a weed whacker to make nice clean edges along the sidewalk. There's just something appealing to me about a well-defined border between two separate spaces. This is the grass, and this is the sidewalk; here is where one ends and one begins.
This idea has carried over into my adult life in a different way. I currently have a beard, and it's a little ridiculous and unkempt, but I always make sure I clean up the edges. Clean lines and borders give the illusion of order, despite the fact that I haven't fully shaved in several months.
I was reminded of my affinity for borders on my recent trip to the jungles of Peru. I didn't necessarily mind walking around in mosquito-ridden forests or trying to avoid the glowing eyes of spiders hanging from overhead palm leaves. But spending two nights in an open-air cabana with mosquito nets over the beds was more than unpleasant. It wasn't simply bad in and of itself; it was bad because there was no difference between outside and inside. The border was weak, as evidenced by the bats flying around in the bathroom.
Taking this a step further, I think this is why I tend to form strong opinions fairly easily. I like when things are black or white, right or wrong, winner or loser. It makes it easier for me to group ideas and to see a difference between sides. Unfortunately, most of life consists of borderless, edgeless gray areas. I need to learn to live with messiness. #psychology
|Teachers not teaching
|I'll never forget the time I failed to learn an important school/job skill: Interpolation, which is a fairly simple mathematical operation to get a specific value from a table of numbers. I was in class in college, and the professor said something about using interpolation to find a number. One of the students raised their hand and asked him to explain. He responded, "You know what interpolation is. I'm not going over it." And that was that. Several students complained, but the professor just moved on without teaching it. The concept itself isn't all that complicated, and it can be taught pretty easily, especially to engineering students who are already well-versed in math. I ended up learning it on my own and still use it today on a very regular basis. I still can't believe I had the privilege of paying to not learn something.
It happened again another time in college, when I first encountered the concept of a hyperbolic trigonometric function. It happened the same way, with the professor casually breezing through a part of a problem that had to do with hyperbolic functions. I'd heard of them before, but had no real idea how to use them or what they were for, and several people in class agreed with my ignorance. The professor said something along the lines of, "You should already know that," and simply moved on. To this day, I still have no idea what a hyperbolic function is or what it can possibly be used for, and not only do I not care, I firmly blame that educator for my lack of knowledge. #education
|Large groups and cliques
|I was hanging out with a big group of people this weekend (around 50), and several of them lamented the fact that there were cliques. I've heard this complaint before, and it's never made any sense to me. How are large groups of people supposed to spend time? Sitting in a giant circle, with everyone splitting the airtime evenly between everyone's individual interests? It makes no sense mathematically. Large groups split into smaller groups very naturally, as people find shared interests and relatable personalities. It's not a negative thing, as in, "You can't join our clique because you were in that other clique." It's simple logistics: Not everyone is identical, and time can't be split between more than say 6 or 8 people. Any more, and one or two people will dominate the group while the rest sit around and listen. Trust me as a quiet person, I can only listen to you for so long. Not to mention the fact that a person like me will almost never say or do anything in front of a group of people that large. Cliques make large groups of people operate in a realistic setting. #sociology