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Changing one's mind Tue, Mar 03, 2015
I feel like changing one's mind about something is unfairly looked down upon.  Obviously I'm a little biased because I've changed my mind about some pretty big things in the recent past.  Oddly enough, I used to feel the opposite about this particular topic of changing one's mind, but then I changed my mind. 

I remember a past presidential election when one candidate was criticized for being a flip-flopper, i.e. he changed his mind about something, perhaps more than once.  I think it's essential for a politician to change his/her mind about issues, both as a result of new information and also to accommodate the changing views of their constituents.  If you're an elected official representing the views of the people, your views should change to match those of the people, not the other way around. 

And this presupposes that people's views change, which they do.  And they should.  If views didn't change, we'd still be burning witches and lynching black people.  If people didn't change, they'd be the same person as a 20-year-old that they were as a 5-year-old.  Or a 40-year-old via a 20-year-old. 

The only thing that doesn't change is change.  It's ok to change your mind. #psychology

Public vs. private entities Mon, Feb 23, 2015
I liked this part of a recent Freakonomics episode interviewing the head of the World Bank: 
Well, I think market forces are critical here. And sometimes people say, "Well, you know, the private sector does everything better." And I don't know that that's really the case so much as the private-sector entities that did it poorly no longer exist, right? Because they go out of business. And public-sector entities can stay in business for a very long time no matter how poor their performance is.
Good take on both points.  Bad businesses can and do fail.  Bad government isn't allowed to fail.  Maybe it should be. #business

HP vs. LOTR Wed, Feb 18, 2015
I started reading the Lord of the Rings a few weeks ago, and I immediately noticed several similarities to the Harry Potter books.  In both stories, the main character, seemingly setting out on his own before being joined by his helpful friends, goes on a quest to destroy an object containing the soul of the antagonist referred to as the Dark Lord.  This main character has interactions with wizards, trolls, and elves, has to avoid undead dark creatures who bring cold sadness to everyone they meet, and receives a nearly mortal wound that somehow connects him telepathically to the antagonist.  I'm no literary critic, but these things were obvious even to me. #entertainment

Grades and money Wed, Feb 11, 2015
When I was in school, my primary motivation was to get good grades.  I think I knew that good grades wouldn't necessarily guarantee me success in the future, but I was pretty sure bad grades would likely set me up for future failure. 

I have almost the exact same viewpoint today concerning money.  I know money can't buy me everything, but I'm also quite sure that a lack of money can't buy shit. #money

AWD success Tue, Feb 03, 2015
I never believed the hype about All Wheel Drive.  People would say how much better it was in snow and ice, but it mostly just seemed to make people drive more recklessly in bad conditions.  It wasn't until about two years ago when I finally drove in a friend's AWD car in the snow that I realized the difference.  My front-wheel drive car would routinely spin its wheels on very gentle slopes, even in my nearly flat driveway.  My friend's car had no problem getting around in slick conditions, even on snow-covered, icy, steep driveways in frigid Vermont, where we often visit for ski/snowboard trips. 

Fast forward to this past weekend, when I got the chance to take my new AWD car to Vermont and drive in snowy conditions.  Not only was it snowing pretty heavily, but Vermont seems to take a wait-and-see approach to plowing and salting the roads.  Several large trucks couldn't make it up and over the mountains in the area, and even a Honda Accord driver had to turn around and give up after spinning his tires on a steep part and making no headway up the hill.  The real coup de grace was on a relatively small side road, where I was driving behind an SUV on a moderately steep incline.  The SUV started spinning its tires and not making any forward progress, so the driver waved me around.  From a dead stop on a slippery incline, I pressed the gas pedal and just went.  I passed the stranded driver and got to my destination without a single problem.  I will literally never own another vehicle that doesn't have four driven wheels. #travel

Black coffee Tue, Jan 27, 2015
Last year I went on a little diet adventure where I stopped eating carbs.  One of the immediate changes I made was to stop putting sugar in my coffee.  For me, coffee required sugar.  It's a bitter, burnt drink that's made so much more palatable with sugar and cream and whatnot.  It's like that meme:  "Not sure if I like coffee, or coffee flavored sugar milk."  Cutting carbs also meant coffee creamers with sugar and even milk for that matter.  So I was using heavy cream as the only additive in my coffee.  This made life a little difficult when I went out for coffee.  Most places don't hand out heavy cream with their coffee. 

Fast forward a few months and I got back into the carbs game, but I didn't want to jump back into my old 2-tablespoons-of-sugar-per-cup-of-coffee habit.  I happened to visit some family and friends over the course of a few weekends where the only coffee creamer options were sugary flavored swill or skim milk.  So I found myself drinking black coffee largely out of convenience.  It was just easier that way. 

Convenience (or inconvenience, or laziness) stuck.  I transitioned to black coffee full time.  It's made life a lot easier.  It's freed up fridge space.  It's made it simpler to order coffee when I go out.  I no longer have to stand around the coffee condiment station trying to get my drink exactly right.  It's made my travel mug cleaner, because there's no sugar or fat for mold to feed on.  Black coffee is the way to go. #food

Good workers Thu, Jan 22, 2015
I work with a bunch of people who are highly knowledgeable about a lot of different things.  If I ask someone a question about work, I might get an answer, but chances are I'll get a story about how someone once had that answer, and how that person has since moved to a different company or died.  I find myself giving the same kinds of answers largely because some things can't be answered with a simple word or sentence.  Complicated topics require explanations, diagrams, questioning the original question, and so on. 

I traveled for work last week, and I got the chance to work with a bunch of people who were highly knowledgeable about the one specific thing they worked on.  I could go up to them with seemingly complicated questions and get completely simple answers in seconds.  It was incredibly refreshing to work with people who, while maybe not as versatile as my regular co-workers, still knew the ins and outs of their work better than anyone else possibly could.  There's value in good workers. #business

Professional work Wed, Jan 21, 2015
When I initially bought a house, I was cheap and relatively poor, so I figured I would do most home improvement work myself.  Plus, I watched my parents gut and refinish my childhood home, so I figured they were onto something.  For some projects, this makes a ton of sense.  It's probably not worth it to pay someone to paint your walls or replace a door, so I (we) did that.  I've even had the (mis)fortune of doing quite a bit of minor plumbing work and the occasional electric switch repair. 

But recently I've been paying people to fix my house for two simple reasons:  (1) Having money saved up for things like this, and (2) repeatedly failing to complete projects or do them well.  The last few plumbing projects I attempted involved replacing leaky pipes and valves.  It usually happened in the winter, so I would have to kneel on the cold cement floor of my crawlspace, cut pipes open and have them spray cold water all over me, and try for hours to solder a piece of cold metal onto a wet pipe (complete with at least two trips to the hardware store) before finally admitting failure and calling a plumber. 

The idea came to me to simply skip the do-it-yourself phase and call a professional, and that's what I've done the past few times.  I've yet to be disappointed by professional work.  The people I've dealt with are nice, they're quick, and they really don't change a lot of money.  Plus, the mental health savings are huge.  I'd rather pay someone to do something well than to do it poorly myself. #lifestyle

Be yourself Wed, Jan 21, 2015
When I was a Christian, one of the things I spent a lot of time and energy on was acting like a Christian, or at least my interpretation of what a Christian should act like.  This involved being more outgoing, setting a good moral example, and voicing my views when topics came up in conversation that had anything remotely to do with religion.  Looking back, I still don't think I was wrong with many of the things I did, assuming my interpretation of the Bible was correct.  And while that's debatable, certain things in Christianity aren't really up for debate, such as attempting to live a morally upright life and spreading the message of salvation in the process. 

The thing is, a lot of the things I felt compelled to do as a Christian really didn't come naturally.  I'm a shy, reserved person; I'm relatively private and don't express myself too much.  So being asked to "always be ready to give an answer for the reason for the hope that you have" (Bible verse) often felt uncomfortable and unnatural.  I'll be the first to admit that Christianity also created opportunities for me that I probably wouldn't have had otherwise, largely by encouraging me to deal with discomfort.  But this brought up an unpleasant catch-22:  Either I could (a) practice a watered-down Christianity and feel guilty about it, or (b) pretend to be someone else until that someone else eventually took over.  In other words, Christianity told me I was flawed and that I needed to change.  Not that I was acting or thinking wrong, but that I was being wrong. 

The band Audioslave sings a song called Be Yourself with the following simple and precise chorus:  "To be yourself is all that you can do".  It's true.  The alternatives are to not be yourself or to be someone else, both of which are ridiculous.  That's what I always felt like Christianity was doing to me.  It was changing me by telling me to be someone else.  That worked fine for a while because I wanted to change anyway.  It wasn't until those changes started to go against my own desires that I finally paused to consider who I actually wanted to be. 

I'm not the same person I was when I was 5 or 15 or 25, but there are a handful of underlying qualities and interests I possess that feel completely normal and natural to me.  Trying to deny that I'm introverted or rational is the first step to discomfort and unhappiness.  All I can do is to be myself. #religion

Description of sleep Sat, Jan 17, 2015
I really like this description of sleep from UC Berkeley sleep researcher Matt Walker: 
It's probably worth pointing out that we as a field cannot give you a consensus answer, agreed upon, as to why we sleep.  Imagine the scenario:  The birth of your first child.  You're there in the hospital; the doctor walks into the room and says, "Congratulations, it's a healthy boy or girl.  We've done all of the preliminary tests, and everything looks good."  And they sort of smile in that reassuring way that doctors can smile.  They turn around; just before they get to the door, they look back at you and they say, "There is just one thing:  From this moment forth and for the rest of your child's entire life, they will routinely and repeatedly lapse into a state of non-consciousness.  In fact it will look not dissimilar to death.  But don't worry, it's reversible.  And I should note that at times, while their body lies still and peaceful, in their brain they will be having remarkable hallucinogenic delusional experiences.  And in fact this will consume an entire third of your child's life.  And I've got no idea why.  Good luck."
From the excellent Inquiring Minds podcast. #science

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