|As of right now, the current American election landscape features two candidates with the lowest approval ratings in the history of elections. It's essentially a choice between a shit sandwich and a shit salad. Literally every human being on earth either hates one candidate, hates the other, or hates them both. They're pretty terrible people. At least we can all agree on that.
But what a lot of people like to ignore, or delude themselves into not believing, is that it's a two-party system. You either vote Democrat, or you vote Republican. Voting for a third-party candidate is literally throwing your vote away, for the convoluted reason that entire states are won or lost in support of a single candidate, which are then fed into the electoral college system to determine a winner. Or whatever. I don't understand how elections work. But I do understand that if I'm a Republican (hint: I'm not) voting in a Democrat-heavy state, my vote will likely be outweighed by the rest of the votes. Not only that, but if I vote for a third-party candidate in either a Republican-heavy or Democrat-heavy state (those are the only choices), my vote will surely be outweighed by the rest of the votes.
UNLESS everyone gets on the same page and votes for a third-party candidate, which will happen exactly never. And of course a side effect of voting for a third-party candidate is that it takes votes away from one of the two main candidates, ensuring the victory of the other.
Anyway, to my main point. Most people say they're undecided about who to vote for, for the aforementioned scatalogical reasons. Or more accurately, they're definitely not voting for the opposite party's candidate, but they're not yet comfortable voting for their party's candidate. My prediction is that all that rhetoric will wash away, and people will vote for whoever is the forerunner of their political party. That's how the two-party system works. You can be as undecided as you want, and you can feel uncomfortable about supporting a candidate, but in the end you'll eat that shit, whether it's a sandwich or a salad, because there's literally no other viable option. #politics
|Black and blue lives
|There's a debate currently going on in our country about whose lives are more valuable: Black peoples' or police. Or at least that's how the debate is framed. Like any issue in our divisive culture, if you're not on one side you're on the other. If you support black lives, you hate cops. If you support all lives, you hate black people. I think in reality most people generally sit the fence, i.e. they believe that black lives matter, and that blue lives also matter. This is the correct answer. Personally, I don't think this needs to be a thing. Black lives matter; this is true. Black people seem to get routinely killed by police, while unarmed and in plain view of video cameras. This is a problem. The solution, clearly, is not to kill police. In this case, violence doesn't defeat violence, unless you honestly think you're gonna overthrow the government (good luck with that). I don't know what the solution is, but I'm pretty sure it's not to scream louder than the people who keep getting shot for little to no reason. As a twitter-er said "#AllLivesMatter is like I go to the Dr for a broken arm and he says "All Bones Matter" ok but right now let's take care of this broken one". And as the infamous Rodney King said 24 years ago, "Can we all get along?" #sociology
|I've felt for a long time that the success or failure of any one particular diet comes down to the snacks you're willing and able to eat. Most diets consist of cutting something, whether it's calories or carbs or fat or wheat. It's not particularly difficult to come up with a meal that meets those requirements. Generally if you stick with lean meat and vegetables, that's all there is to it. But what about all those times between meals, when you used to eat cookies and crackers and chips and candy? Diet snacks are usually crappy things like celery sticks and green peppers. These are unsustainable as snacks unless they're something you normally eat. The key is to find something that meets the requirements of the diet that also doesn't negatively affect your health in some other way, all while being desirable to you. Instead of stupid vegetables, go with pickles. Instead of gluten-free crackers that taste like cardboard, go with corn chips. There are a million ways to stay within the rules of a diet, but a lot of it comes down to finding snacks you can live with. #food
|The wife and I traveled to the nation of Peru recently. I didn't really want to go, but she gave me the option of Africa, Antarctica, or Peru, and Peru sounded like the least worst option. We
It was a good trip. We booked it through a travel agency that organized most of the accommodations and provided tour guides. We had to book some of the in-country flights, but it wasn't too bad. The in-country flights were short and cheap, and the airports didn't make me feel like a criminal (looking at you, Newark).
- flew into Lima and toured around the Miraflores district
- flew to Cusco and acclimated to the 11,000-foot elevation
- toured around Sacsayhauman, Pisac, the Sacred Valley, and Ollantaytambo, visiting various Incan ruins and archeological sites
- took a train to Aguas Calientes and hiked around Machu Picchu (8000 feet)
- took a train back to Cusco, then a flight to Puerto Maldonado, then a boat on the Tambopata River to stay in an eco lodge
- toured around the Amazon rainforest, admiring colorful wildlife and terrible bugs
- flew back to Lima, toured around the historic center, then flew home.
The people were nice and were eager to show us their country and tell us about their ancestors. The language barrier was there a little bit, but most people spoke English way better than our attempts at broken Spanish.
The history and architecture were pretty amazing. Most of what remains are rock walls and structures made of carved granite, worked by hand, and hauled into place by simple manpower 500-1000 years ago. It's mind-boggling to think about, and it's awesome that so much is still there, but it's a shame the lousy Spanish conquistadors hauled a bunch away to built their stupid gaudy churches.
The elevation was a bit challenging at times, but we took it slow and acclimated fairly quickly. We knew to keep hydrated, not drink a lot of alcohol, and generally not overexert ourselves the minute we got to high altitude. By the time we got to Machu Picchu, we felt fine walking all around the mountaintop fortress.
The jungle was our least favorite part for a variety of reasons, the least of which was the size and quantity of spiders. It was the dry season, so at least the mosquitos weren't too bad. We did get to see several species of monkeys as well as a giant gathering of colorful macaws at a clay lick, so that was cool. But living in constant fear of finding a spider in your shoe, or stepping on a spider on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or rolling onto a spider in your bed ... those parts weren't cool. Maybe I was overreacting; maybe I barely made it out alive.
Another thing that diminished our jungle experience was the food poisoning (or related illness) we contracted almost exactly the moment we reached our bungalow in the jungalow. There was limited electricity, and limited plumbing, and that made things less than ideal as we nearly shat ourselves to death. It's ok though, we're better now.
In positive news, the exchange rate was good, so it was fairly cheap to eat, stay, and fly within the country. The food was good, though fairly simple and/or similar to American faire. I did manage to eat alpaca, which tasted like beef, and cow heart, which wasn't great.
Wildlife encounters: At the peak of Machu Picchu, a lizard was on the ground by my feet, looked up at me, jumped on my leg, crawled up by back and down my arm onto the rock wall behind me. Later in the jungle, our tour guided caught a baby caiman (freshwater crocodile) and handed it to me as he explained all about its anatomy and lifestyle.
All in all, this was a good trip. There were some ups and downs, but it was positive overall. That said, we probably won't be going back. #travel
|Capitalism vs. healthcare
|I've felt for a while now that capitalism is inherently harmful to healthcare. Right from the get-go, I think it's morally wrong to profit from sickness and death. That seems pretty clear to me. I don't think everything should simply be free; doctors and medicine cost money. But profitability, especially for publicly-traded companies, shouldn't be the thing that prevents people from affording medicine.
Pharmaceutical companies are harmed (in a sense) by capitalism in two key ways: (1) In seeking a profit, a company will only develop drugs that have the largest market and/or the lowest development costs, and (2) due to the arguably deleterious patent and trademark system, a company can and will charge as much as they want regardless of the actual cost to develop and produce a drug. The standard rationale is that the company needs to recoup research and development costs. But a simple web search shows a number of pharmaceutical companies perform quite well for their investors, which we like to separate from the idea of profiting from sickness and death.
Health insurance companies are a necessary evil because they allow large groups of people to afford unexpected, large expenses. But when an insurance company is publicly traded, which many are, their mission changes from providing a necessary service for humans to providing a profit for investors. This, again, is an idea we like to think of as free market capitalism producing profits, instead of corporations profiting from people dying.
I think capitalism is largely a good economic system, capable of incentivizing great ideas and allowing class mobility. But unregulated free market capitalism, especially with regards to the healthcare industry, directly profits from disease and death. This is a bad thing. #money #health
|Debating climate change
|I had a nice little discussion about climate change this morning with some coworkers. When I say "nice little" I mean "big stupid". It didn't go well, and I got a little angry. Not punch-a-coworker angry, but take-a-cigar-break angry.
First, it annoys me when people are wrong about scientifically verifiable facts. The thing with facts, and the thing with the scientific method, is that it's open-access. Anyone can look at evidence, test a theory, and come to a conclusion. A bunch of climate scientists already did that. This is the closest thing to a fact that science produces.
Let me take a brief moment to point out why the "argument from authority" counter-argument doesn't make sense in this instance. The argument from authority comes from the period of time when a king or a priest could say something and claim that because of their authority, the thing they said was true. The difference with science, I'll say again, is that science and data and observation are available to anyone with a brain and opposable thumbs. Scientists can be authorities in their respective fields, but the things they say can be very easily tested and disproved if so desired.
Second, it bothers me when otherwise thoughtful, intelligent people demonstrate such a ridiculously flawed logic in their viewpoint. If the person was an idiot, or a presidential candidate, I could at least sort of understand. But when I respect your brainpower and you believe dumb things, it causes me pain. Should I now doubt other things you say, things regarding the job that you and I do side by side? If I can't trust you to accept facts regarding one topic, why should I accept your facts on a different topic?
You may ask why this matters, and that's a fair question. Honestly, whether you believe it or not, the climate is changing. So I can take heart that I'll be proven right in the end. But it's not about being right; it's about the flawed logic people use to determine what they think and believe. If this was an opinion about a debatable topic, I wouldn't feel the need to prove a person wrong. When your life is dictated by shitty logic, how am I supposed to know that you'll apply proper logic to which pedal is the gas and which is the brake?
Finally, it pisses me off when issues get politicized. As soon as an issue gets even a hint of political attention, a line is drawn; you're either on the right or the left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. There's no middle ground. Also, if you didn't have an opinion beforehand, your political affiliation will tell you how to think. It's surprising to me that more people don't see how their beliefs are essentially handed to them by the ideology to which they subscribe. I guess I'm guilty of this as well, but I like to keep referencing the idea that I'VE CHANGED MY MIND BEFORE, which I feel establishes the fact that I can occasionally form an opinion apart from the hive mind. #science
|I guess I'm a progressive. I say "I guess" because it's hard for me to imagine being the opposite, i.e. regressive. What's the final outcome of moving backwards from progress? Living in caves, crawling back into the sea, and being subsumed into the Big Crunch? It literally makes no sense to me. In fact many regressive ideas make no sense to me:
I haven't always been progressive. I used to be conservative, which is a belief system that wants everything to remain the way it is, or the way it was, or the way it used to be thousands of years ago. Thousands of years ago, we didn't know the concept of zero. We used to own people as property. We used to publicly execute people whom we believed to be practitioners of witchcraft and magic. These are all ideas that we progressed out of, rightfully so.
- Opposing gay marriage? I think gay people should be allowed to legally marry, because the alternative is arbitrary, benefits no one, and hurts many.
- Anti-abortion? I think people should have control over their own bodies, and I think abortion should be legal. The alternative is state control over personal freedom, which I've been led to believe is a bad thing.
- Anti-immigration? I think people fleeing war should be treated like people who might be criminals, instead of criminals who might be people.
Progress is sort of unavoidable. When machines made farming and manufacturing more efficient, if you didn't jump on the bandwagon, you went out of business. When germs were discovered to cause illness, if you didn't wash your hands, you died of dysentery. Progress is often called a march, i.e. it's happening whether you join in or not.
I'm a progressive not because I necessarily have benevolent feelings towards my fellow man or benevolent feelings at all. I'm a progressive because regressivism is a ridiculous alternative and a dying ideal. #psychology
|Let me just come out and say it: I don't like receiving gifts. I know that makes me a terrible, selfish person who is incapable of enjoying the well-meaning benevolence of others. Oh well. At least I'm honest.
At first, it was about money. I didn't like the fact that someone was spending money on me, because gift-giving is largely a social convention that's often a de facto obligation. That's why there are gift exchanges. You get a gift, but you also have to give a gift. We all like to pretend that's not the case. Go on, keep pretending.
I've realized some people just honestly like giving gifts. It makes them feel better, which is an oddly selfish form of generosity. But I try not to think about that, or the fact that they probably can't afford it, or how many more worthy things they could be spending their money on. People enjoy spending their money, for better or worse.
Getting past the financial aspect of it, there's the practical aspect: If I want something, I'll probably buy it myself. I have a job, and I make money. I buy the things I want. If I haven't bought something, it probably means I don't want it. There are exceptions to this rule, and most of those exceptions are consumables. Honestly, buy me all the chocolate and whiskey you want. I'm fine with that. But don't buy me a large appliance. Don't buy me a decorative object that doesn't serve a purpose. Yes, I have a house with lots of empty space at the moment. No, that doesn't mean I want to fill it with somebody else's ideas.
I know, I know. First world problems. But that's how I feel. #psychology
|10000 hours at work
|The "10000 hours rule" is the idea that people who are great at something tend to spend roughly 10000 hours getting there. I was thinking recently, in light of my post about trusting experts, and I realized I passed the 10000-hour mark at work quite a while ago. If there are 52 weeks in a year and you work maybe 48, and you work 40 hours per week, that's 1920 hours per year. That means it would take 5.2 years to surpass the 10000-hour mark. Of course not all those hours are spent productively performing the core duties of one's job. But probably sometime between 5 and 10 years at a job, a person essentially becomes an expert. #business