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Humancare Wed, Mar 22, 2017
I (perhaps unwisely) posted on Facebook:  "birth control, abortion, health care, or education -- you must choose at least one", trying to prove a point.  All my Republican friends quickly answered "education!" thinking that was the least yucky choice, forgetting that their current Secretary of Education wants to effectively defund public education. 

The point I was getting at was that we as a modern, wealthy society have a moral obligation to care for humans.  We can either pay to prevent them from being conceived, pay to prevent them from being born, pay to educate them, or pay to take care of them on their death beds.  I'll add another option:  Or we can pay to send them to prison.  Either way, we'll pay for something.  Choosing none of the above is delusional and not an option. 

If you're against birth control and abortion, you're pro-birth, not pro-life.  You don't care about saving a life, you just want a child to be born because you think a zygote is equivalent to a human being.  That's fine in a sense, but you can't then throw your hands up in exasperation at the idea of paying for a child's education or making medical care affordable.  If you choose to reject all these options, you're left with the one that can't be avoided, which is paying to send people to prison due to the failure of all of the above. 

You must choose at least one.  My preference would be to choose all of the above. #sociology

Atheism reluctance Tue, Mar 21, 2017
I'm always surprised at people's reluctance to acknowledge their atheism.  Most of my friends and acquaintances have absolutely no involvement in any type of religion, apart from an occasional appearance at a church for an unavoidable obligation.  They have next to no knowledge of what the Bible says, or what their supposed religion believes or teaches.  In fact most of what they believe and think is in direct contradiction to nearly every organized religion's major tenets. 

Yet make the claim that they're an atheist?  "Oh I'm not an atheist.  There has to be something."  Does there?  I feel like that's just a remnant of growing up in a majority Christian nation, likely to Christian-ish parents.  The very idea of atheism is so abhorrent to some people that they won't even consider it as an option.  I understand it can be scary to acknowledge that there's probably no god and probably no afterlife.  But clinging to bits of a secondhand religion while being too afraid or unwilling to come to terms with what you actually believe seems a bit shortsighted.  Admitting to atheism doesn't effectively change your life much, but it's admirable to be intellectually honest with yourself. #religion

Operating temperature Tue, Mar 14, 2017
I like my house's indoor temperature to be 70°F.  There's something special about that number that just feels exactly right.  68?  A little cold.  72?  A little warm.  70 is just right.  I happened to marry a person who has the same temperature profile, so that's good. 

One of my friends likes to keep his house around 62 in the winter.  It's expensive to keep a house too warm, but that's not entirely why he does it.  He's comfortable at that temperature.  In fact, he's comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt in that temperature.  I'll show up in pants and a long-sleeve shirt and have to sit on my hands to keep them warm, and he'll be walking around like it's summertime. 

The point is, different people have different normal operating temperatures.  Some people are warm when it's 62; some people are cold when it's 75.  Putting any two people in a room together nearly ensures that at least one of them will be uncomfortable. #lifestyle

Salespeople at DIY stores Mon, Mar 13, 2017
Like most American males, I was in Home Depot this past weekend buying random household things to replace old or broken existing household things.  And like most times I go to a do-it-yourself store, I was accosted by several different people trying to sell me home services like backup generators and solar panels.  I get that these are viable products that would be expensive or difficult to do yourself, but it just feels like the absolute worst way to sell something like that is to annoy people who are literally doing it themselves.  I don't go to a DIY store to pay someone to do it for me. #business

Take my money, contractors! Fri, Mar 10, 2017
I've been scoping out a few different home renovations recently, and I'm surprised how difficult it is to find a reliable human being who'll take my money in exchange for a service performed.  Just getting someone to pick up the phone or call back can be a pain in the ass.  One contractor answered his cell phone with a loud, "HELLO?", and I assumed I had the wrong number.  Even he seemed a little unsure about why I was calling him.  You're a contractor, right?  "Oh yeah, what do you need?"  *eyeroll*

Then there's the issue of getting a person to show up for an estimate.  Look, I get it.  Estimating a job is easily the worst part of the whole deal.  You're essentially planning out your livelihood and work schedule, with the very real possibility of the customer going with a different contractor.  But hey here's an idea:  Show up to my house at the desired time on the desired day, or let me know if you need to reschedule.  I'm not a slave driver, and I'm not in a rush.  But when your "truck breaks down" and you happen to "lose my number" (this was an actual excuse), you've just wasted my entire fucking Friday afternoon, asshole. 

Finally there's the estimate, which "you'll get in a day or two."  No problem; I'm not in a rush.  A week goes by; where's the estimate?  "Oh I emailed it to; it's probably in your spam folder."  Do we really need to play this game?  It's not in my spam folder; you didn't send it.  Don't be a shithead. 

I just don't get why this needs to be so difficult.  I'm trying to give you money.  Take my money!  I have money!  Take it from me in exchange for doing a job!  Why contractors are so shitty when it comes to customer relations is beyond me.  Look, I get that your job is construction and demolition and not sales, but if you had put in a fucking ounce of effort in this, you'd have about $7000 extra in your pocket right now. #business

Ski resort directions Fri, Mar 10, 2017
One issue that always comes up when skiing or snowboarding is how to get to another part of the mountain.  Ski resorts hand out pocket-sized maps, and big maps are available at the top of most ski lifts.  But planning a route down the mountain rarely goes as desired.  It's often hard to see which trails are linked to each other, and it's sometimes even hard to tell which direction certain trails travel.  A simple solution would be to have an app that could give you directions like Google Maps:  "Go on this trail, turn right at the intersection, take the second lift up to the summit," etc.  It could even have an option for avoiding flat areas, which are the bane of every snowboarder's existence.  Several ski resorts already have apps that tell you the wait time at different lift lines, and cell service at most mountains is now pretty standard.  I'll be waiting for this to appear in the coming years. #sports

Improper smilers Wed, Mar 08, 2017
I just realized I work with a second person who smiles improperly.  Not like bad teeth or anything, but both people generally smile slightly when they talk.  This is fine in normal situations, but they do it pretty much all the time.  Not all situations call for smiling, which is why I've been having such a hard time reading them.  My instinct is to smile with them (either because I'm a sociopath who copies facial expressions or because that's what apes do), but I find myself questioning why I'm smiling when there's clearly nothing to smile about.  I feel awkward, but it's actually them who are awkward. #sociology

Nuclear bomb inevitability Tue, Mar 07, 2017
From reading Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb, it struck me that the invention of the atomic bomb was essentially inevitable.  Particle physics was a hot topic at the time, and scientists were discovering various things about chemical elements and what happened when you applied different forces and stresses to them.  It was eventually found that certain radioactive elements emit a bunch of energy when a small amount of energy is applied to them.  All it took was for somebody to think, "Huh, I wonder what would happen if we started a chain reaction?"  The geopolitics of the time assured that certain world powers were always in the market for more powerful weapons, and the general fear of the era necessitated "the good guys" figuring it out before "the bad guys" did.  The ferocity of the battles in the Pacific against the Japanese showed that surrender was out of the question, so a ridiculously strong message needed to be sent to assure victory.  It's easy to question it in hindsight, but it's nearly certain that human beings would've invented the nuclear bomb eventually. #science

Engineers are tools Tue, Mar 07, 2017
I'm an engineer, and people sometimes like to point out how engineers created things like the atomic bomb and hydraulic fracking.  You know, the bad things.  I don't need to point out that engineers have created good things too, like jet engines and artificial body parts. 

What I do want to acknowledge is that engineers are simply tools.  They solve problems by creating or fixing or enabling or removing something.  They're like a hammer or a screw driver.  Is a tool inherently capable of amazing or terrible things?  No.  It simply does the job it was asked to do.  That doesn't mean engineers are completely free from blame or responsibility.  But it at least adds some perspective. 

In a similar vein, tools are capable of nearly anything.  Or more accurately, there is a tool for every job.  I have a tendency towards pessimism, so I usually have to tell people their ideas are impossible to achieve in the allotted time and for the budgeted price.  One of my colleagues likes to put it another way:  "With enough money and time, literally anything is possible." #science

Luck in competition Tue, Mar 07, 2017
The concept of luck comes up in competition sometimes, like "That was a lucky shot," or "He got knocked out by a lucky punch."  I think the general consensus is that there's no such thing as a lucky shot or a lucky punch.  You could say luck had almost nothing to do with it.  Plus, calling it lucky detracts from the hours and hours of practice and perfection and skill that went into that one event.  It's not just insulting to call it lucky.  It's ignorant. 

But I think there's a deeper level of luck involved in some cases.  Not luck in the sense that a random action was taken at a random time and happened to produce a positive result.  But rather that a series of well-executed actions took place in the exact right order and produced a positive result.  The shot itself wasn't lucky, but it was predicated on the precise timing and exact positioning of the previous event, which itself benefitted from similarly perfect preceding events.  The final result is like a series of probabilities multiplied together:  70% chance of the first event succeeding, 50% chance of the second event succeeding, 20% chance of the third event succeeding = 0.7*0.5*0.2 = 0.07 or 7% overall chance of all events succeeding.  A probability like 7% looks like luck, and it sort of is.  But it's much more than that. #sports

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