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The problem with social media Wed, Nov 07, 2018
Crazy people have always existed.  Lots of people have crackpot theories and racist views.  Some of them would even form a club (Flat Earth Society, the KKK) to join together with other people who shared their terrible opinions. 

The success of social media is that it connects people.  Friends from childhood, relatives of relatives, and even people who live on opposite sides of the world but share the same interests. 

The problem with social media is that it connects people.  Connection is good, but certain ideas that used to be relegated to hushed conversations in dark basements are now championed and amplified by social media's ability to bring people together and give them a voice.  It's not really social media's fault.  It's the users, i.e. us.  Social media just made it easier. #technology

Political salesman Mon, Nov 05, 2018
A few days after the birth of my child, when our house was still dim and quiet as we figured out how to address the needs of a newborn, a stranger knocked on our front door to talk about the upcoming election.  He was a young guy, probably in his 20s, handing out information about the candidate he supported.  No big deal; he was nice about it, and voting is important.  He mentioned the current politician in office and how he's had some corruption allegations waged against him.  I vaguely remembered hearing about it but didn't know much other than that.  I thanked the guy for the information and was about to close the door. 

Then he said, "As you know, the Communist Chinese are trying to hack our elections, and any vote for a democratic candidate will ruin our country."  He continued to say some words, but I literally put my hand in his face and said, "Let me stop you right there." 

It's hard to stress the difference between the calmness of my home and the invasiveness of this stranger.  But it was abrupt and unwelcome enough for me to interrupt a person (which I don't normally do) and tell him to leave my property.  I wouldn't say this interaction informed my voting decision, but it definitely didn't help. #politics

Paternity leave fiasco Thu, Nov 01, 2018
So I had a child recently.  In the months leading up to the due date, I informed my boss and coworkers that I'd be taking several weeks off for paternity leave.  Obviously I didn't know the exact date it would start, but most people are reasonable and can accommodate uncertainty like that.  When the date rolled around, I emailed my boss and a few coworkers to let them know. 

A few days later, I took a brief trip to my office to pick up my laptop in the hopes I could keep up with a few minor things while I was out.  As I entered the door to my building, one of my coworkers spotted me and said, "Ah, just the person I wanted to see."  I happily informed him the baby had arrived, so my paternity leave started and I was just stopping in the office real quick.  He said a brief congratulations, and followed it up in the same breath with "the project manager was hoping for a status update on that thing you were working on."  My smile turned into a half-smile as I reminded him of the words I had just spoken, i.e. I'm on paternity leave.  His face started to show a little distress as he reiterated that a person had requested information regarding a task I had been working on. 

A little background on my job without going into too much detail:  I work in research and development.  Schedules routinely slip.  The atmosphere is largely relaxed, and work gets accomplished when it gets accomplished.  Most people aren't in a rush.  It's probably less than ideal in terms of productivity, but it is what it is.  That said, the work I do in general is fairly unimportant, and this task in particular was a side project I agreed to do as a favor.  Actually it was a favor to this coworker who hasn't kept up with modern technology and is unable to do things as quickly or efficiently as me.  I'm not mad about it; it's really not a problem for me to write some code to automate some tasks.  That's why I agreed to do it.  But as a favor, it held fairly low priority for me.  That, coupled with the fact that the originator of the task wasn't very forthcoming with instructions or specifics, signaled to me that it was of somewhat low importance. 

Anyway, I got to my computer at my desk and sent out the birth announcement to some coworkers.  I got several sincere congratulations, which I appreciated.  But my boss sent a reply that basically said, "Congrats, also what's the status on that task?  The guy was asking about it." 

The vindictive, passive aggressive part of me thought, "If you expected the task to be delayed a few weeks, you can tack a few more weeks onto the end of that."  But instead I sent an email to all involved that detailed the status of the task before I left, and an expected resumption of the task upon my return from paternity leave.  About a week later, I got another email from my coworker who said they wanted me to finish the task while I was out and that my boss "was traveling for one of YOUR programs" (actual email) and so he was unable to do it himself. 

This pissed me off for a few reasons, not the least of which because my 50-year-old coworker sends emails like a teenage girl.  One reason is that I think birth and maternity leave and paternity leave and sick leave and vacation time and really any personal thing should be respected by employers and coworkers, especially for employees who are solidly reliable workers, and especially for first-time parents.  And especially when the work is unimportant. 

But the other, bigger, reason this pissed me off was because these two people, grown adults with children of their own, should've known better than to intrude on my time like that, and they should've had the balls to stand up for me and tell the project manager that I was on paternity leave and would complete the task when I returned.  If that answer was insufficient, they should've found somebody else to do the work.  End of story.  There's really no need to pester a person about a meaningless task during a vulnerable time in their lives, and grown adults should really be able to stand up for their peers.  I really don't think it's asking too much to request that a coworker literally just tell the truth to a manager.  It doesn't look bad on them, and if somebody thinks it looks bad on me, I don't give a flying fuck.  I'm too good of a worker to get fired (see the aforementioned about automation and efficiency). 

In the end, I ignored that last email and just didn't do anything about it, completely out of spite.  And when I finally got back to the office, it turned out they found somebody else to do the work. #business

Athletic talent and loss Mon, Oct 29, 2018
Athletic talent tends to filter up.  The best athletes in middle school get invited to play for the best traveling teams.  The best athletes from those teams get selected to play at the best private high schools.  The best athletes from those schools get signed to play at the best colleges.  But then the system breaks down.  The best athletes in college get drafted by the worst professional teams because of the lottery system. 

Something I've been noticing for a while now is that good athletes don't know how to lose.  You'll have an athlete who's won state championships in high school and national championships in college, but then lose their first several or dozen games with their professional team.  They literally haven't lost since they were children.  As much as it's a good thing to select for talent and success, I feel like it sometimes hurts the process when a person never experiences losing. #sports

Millennial ghosting Thu, Oct 25, 2018
Millennials get blamed for everything, and it's unfair.  But there's this thing called "ghosting" which is when you cut off all contact with a person without telling them a reason.  This is apparently a thing millennials do. 

So at my job, we go through booms and busts, and we've recently been under a hiring freeze.  That freeze was lifted, and we looked for some people to fill some positions.  I work in a pretty specific industry that requires some pretty specific skills, so there aren't a lot of qualified applicants.  But we finally managed to find a few and gave job offers to two of them.  One of them accepted and started a few months ago.  The other accepted, but then we lost contact with him.  Emails and phone calls went unanswered.  The dude ghosted us. 

Ghosting isn't even a thing.  It's a lack of a thing.  It's a temporary method of avoiding an uncomfortable situation.  Instead of calling or emailing to tell an employer, "Oh hey actually I got a better offer from someone else, so thanks but sorry" you just ignore the problem and go on your way like nothing happened.  Guess what?  That employer selected you over other applicants.  They spent time and energy and money trying to employ you, and you can bet your ass you'll never get that courtesy from them again.  Grow the fuck up.  An entire population is criticizing your generation for being lazy and entitled, and you interact with them by being lazy and entitled.  Be an adult.  Stop ghosting. #sociology

Midwives Thu, Oct 25, 2018
I mentioned the midwives a few times in my birth post, and I wanted to elaborate on them a bit. 

Midwives seem to me to be simply women who have some experience with childbirth.  They're sort of like older, wiser tribeswomen with experience doing the thing you're nervous about.  They have a lot of experiential knowledge, and tend to have practical suggestions for things.  Their methods tend to be less scientifically rigorous than I'd like, but sometimes you don't need proof to know that a certain treatment works for some people sometimes. 

We went with midwives (certified nurse midwives, to be exact) instead of the traditional ob-gyn doctor route because Wendy felt more comfortable with them in general.  The doctors were a little too clinical for her tastes, and she wanted more of a say in the actual birth process than a doctor would've allowed.  Specifically she wanted the option of doing a water birth and possibly a home birth, which doctors typically aren't on board with.  Also she didn't want a needle in her back. 

My initial opinion of the midwife-sanctioned home birth was not positive.  What if something goes wrong?  What if they need to do emergency surgery?  What if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck or the baby gets stuck in the birth canal or the mother's blood pressure drops too low while delivering?  There are like a billion legitimate reasons to not do a home birth. 

But the midwives have a simple and interesting philosophy:  Childbirth is a very natural process.  The baby will come out of you whether you want it to or not.  Yes it can be dangerous and deadly at times, but humans have been giving birth to babies since before we were technically humans.  Nothing that happens during a childbirth is too much for a woman to handle.  If it was, none of us would be here. 

Modern medical practices have reduced infant and mother mortality by a ton, but some doctors are a little trigger happy.  The rate of C-sections isn't uniform across the board; it depends what hospital you go to, or what state or country.  A lot of the treatments during childbirth are linked to statistics:  If you're not progressing at a certain rate by a certain time, they induce or cut you open.  Also, by inducing childbirth with drugs or procedures, you're short-circuiting the body's ability to produce oxytocin and other chemicals that further help the process and reduce pain.  I'm 100% not an expert on this stuff, so I'm a little out of my element, but the general outline makes some sense to me. 

The midwives' guiding principle is that it's all about atmosphere.  So everything they do, from using a tub, to talking quietly, to having calm lights and sounds, is to relax the person giving birth.  There's no rush, as long as the labor is progressing at a medically reasonable rate (they measure mother's and baby's heart rate).  The cervix is a sphincter, and that type of body part tends to tense up in stressful situations.  So anything that can relax that muscle will allow the mother to relax, which will make the process begin and go smoothly.  They mentioned an anecdote that many women start their labor on the toilet, because that's one of the few times they're alone and in a quiet environment.  Wild animals tend to find a quiet, secluded place to give birth.  Humans should be no different. 

Even before the birth process and after the baby came out, their principles stay the same:  Just relax about the whole thing.  Still take it seriously, and do blood tests when necessary, and measure pulse and weight and whatnot.  But just relax.  I really like that entire worldview. #lifestyle

Social progress Tue, Oct 23, 2018
I like this idea of a social progress index from a group called the Social Progress Imperative that measures overall human well-being: 
  1. Basic human needs
    1. Nutrition and basic medical care
    2. Water and sanitation
    3. Shelter
    4. Personal safety
  2. Foundations of well-being
    1. Access to basic knowledge
    2. Access to information and communications
    3. Health and wellness
    4. Environmental quality
  3. Opportunity
    1. Personal rights
    2. Personal freedom and choice
    3. Inclusiveness
    4. Access to advanced education
It's a cool idea to see how different countries and groups measure up against each other in terms of providing their populations with a set of basic human rights. #sociology

Good teams vs. great teams Tue, Oct 02, 2018
One thing I've noticed while watching hours upon hours of football is that great teams tend to do two things pretty consistently:  (1) continue to play the game or run the ball or juggle field position despite trailing the entire game, and (2) capitalize on the opposing team's mistakes while also minimizing their own.  These aren't easy things to do, which is why not all teams are great.  A lot of teams are good in the sense that they have good coaches and good players who make good plays, but they tend to break down over the course of a game or have a hit-or-miss feel.  Great teams are like boxers who wait out their opponent's initial flourish, then pounce in the final rounds.  A score on the opening drive doesn't guarantee a win, but a score on the final drive almost always does. #sports

Male contribution Tue, Oct 02, 2018
It's pretty remarkable how insignificant the male contribution to birth actually is.  Jim Gaffigan covered this pretty well in his standup special.  But really, aside from the initial part (sex), here's a list of things the male participant doesn't do: 
  1. Grow a fetus inside their body.
  2. Grow an addition organ (placenta) inside their body.
  3. Figure out how to use an organ they've never used before (uterus) to safely eject the fetus from their body.
  4. Feed a human with their body.
I knew I would be mostly on the sidelines for this, but honestly it's kind of embarrassing. #lifestyle

Standalone movies Fri, Sep 28, 2018
It seems like most movies these days are either sequels, prequels, or remakes.  I appreciate a good standalone movie, something that exists entirely in itself.  Bonus points if there are no product placement ads, merchandise tie-ins, or things like that.  My Cousin Vinny, A Bronx Tale, and the Sandlot are good examples of this.  (Sequels or prequels were attempted or talked about, but nothing really came of them.)  They told a story, developed interesting characters, and had a beginning, middle, and end.  They weren't tarnished by some greedy movie studio realizing they could eke out a few more bucks by making the exact same movie and calling it a sequel.  A few more recent examples are the Adjustment Bureau, In Time, and Looper.  Sure, some of these movies might borrow some themes or plotlines from other movies or stories, but they're also entirely self-contained. #entertainment

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