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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

Offensiveness and apologies (1) Tue, Jan 06, 2015
Another day, another company apologizing for offending someone.  Just once I'd like to hear about a company not apologizing, as in, "Hey we noticed you're offended; oh well, that's your problem." 

The thing with being offended is that it's a feeling, and while it may be caused by someone or something, its responsibility rests entirely on the feeler.  You can say, "But you made me feel this way."  I don't know how else to phrase this, but that's your problem.  That's on you.  You're allowed to get offended, and you can cry all you want, but in the end you need to get over it.  You know, like a child gets over things. 

Being offended by something doesn't give you special rights or magically require your voice to be heard.  It mainly just makes you annoying. #psychology

Corporate war Wed, Dec 31, 2014
I wonder when the first corporation will declare war?  It's not that inconceivable.  Guns and ammunition are already made by private companies.  And the U.S. has used private military contractors in the recent past.  So the equipment and skill is there. 

There's certainly a question about legality, but I feel like that's not all that hard to circumvent.  It probably won't be much longer before the first company establishes their corporate headquarters on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean.  It's kind of already happening.  It's not that much of a stretch for a "service economy" company like Google to simply build a few floating platforms in the world's oceans and continue to rake in cash while also continuing to avoid paying taxes.  I'd say the incentive is right there. 

The final thing would be motive, and I think a perfect example of that is the recent Sony hack.  A giant corporation has little or nothing to gain from a legal investigation and subsequent trial.  But they have everything to gain by preventing hacks from happening in the first place, both by increasing their network security and by personally attacking offending parties.  Plus, it wouldn't take a D-Day invasion to take down a group of computer hackers.  It would take a Seal Team 6 type of group, but without the legal niceties and Geneva Conventions that sovereign nations have to follow.  Businesses are already considering this

In short, the next major development in warfare will be Company X vs. Nation Y. #business

Consistent logic Mon, Dec 08, 2014
One of the unsettling things about religion is that it causes people to inconsistently utilize logic across different subject areas.  No reasonable person, for example, learns how to drive a car but then suddenly decides to attempt to decelerate by slamming on the gas pedal.  Logic consists at least partly of adhering to facts.  Famous Christian Joel Osteen said, "Choose faith in spite of the facts."  I have a problem with that line of thought.  Facts are what allow us to store knowledge.  They are the result of our observations and experiences.  You can't just ignore facts because they contradict your worldview.  That is profoundly narrow-minded and wrongheaded. 

I say all this because I used to employ this religious peculiarity.  It bothered me that I had an education and was in a profession that valued causes and effects, while in my free time I hoped an invisible sky fairy would grant me my wishes.  I've known tons of religious people who are otherwise extremely intelligent, but who persist in fencing off one part of their brain to devote to mythology and magic.  It would be better if it was just the idiots and the children who believed in things they couldn't see and couldn't hear and couldn't prove.  But it's more like the majority of adult, sentient humans.  That's scary. #religion

Vaccination ruse Tue, Nov 25, 2014
In 2003, Nigeria boycotted a polio vaccine because they were suspicious of anything that came from the West, thinking America was trying to sterilize Muslim women and spread AIDS as part of the war on terror. 

In 2011, when America finally tracked down Osama Bin Laden, it was learned that the CIA used vaccinations in Pakistan as a ruse to find Bin Laden

After the Nigeria thing, we were like, "What a ridiculous thing to think.  We're just trying to help.  Why don't you believe us?" 

After the Pakistan thing:  "Oh." #politics

Do no harm Thu, Nov 20, 2014
I was thinking it would be kind of cool if there was something like the Hippocratic Oath, but for everyday life.  I was falsely under the impression that the Hippocratic Oath says "do no harm," but I was wrong.  Either way, I was thinking there should be an oath like that.  But then I thought, why not just exactly that?  Do no harm.  I feel like that perfectly sums up how to be an adult, a co-worker, a spouse, a citizen, a student, a human.  Do no harm.  Don't hurt people.  Don't cause pain.  Don't be abusive.  Don't be mean.  Don't cheat, steal, rape, kill, pillage, plunder.  Don't be a dick

I feel like a good starting point for introductory bipedal primate morality would be just that:  Do no harm.  Everything follows from that. #psychology

Right to die Tue, Nov 18, 2014
There's been some stuff in the news lately about a person's right to die, plus the obligatory condemnation of that idea by the religious authorities.  I'm not personally pro-suicide, but I think people should be free to do what they want with their own lives.  I think the Declaration of Independence should say, "Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and Death."  What greater freedom is there than deciding how to live your life, and by extension, how to die?  I realize suicide is a touchy subject, but this really isn't about suicide.  It's typically about terminal illness and allowing a person to regain a little dignity in a situation that depletes it.  Scott Adams has quite a bit to say on the topic, and I don't disagree with any of his points.  Overall, I think it's odd when people who aren't affected by something end up rallying against it.  You can think and feel what you want, but don't take away someone's freedom just because you don't agree with their choice. 

Related:  How to die. #lifestyle

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