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Expecting a baby Mon, May 21, 2018
I'm expecting a baby in a few months, and it's an odd sensation.  I know it will completely and permanently alter my life in countless ways, but I'm just not sure of the details.  I mean I know I'll never sleep again, and I'll never have free time or energy again.  But how will I feel about that? 

Having a due date is sort of like planning for a major event like a wedding, where you're saving up money, buying various necessities, and generally counting down the days.  Except it's less like a wedding and more like a natural disaster.  You know something big is gonna happen, and it'll affect every aspect of your entire life, and so all you can do is sit there and wait for it to happen.  Also it won't happen gradually like a slow-moving volcano in Hawaii; it'll be all at once like a fucking meteorite.  In short, I'm panicking, but only a little bit at a time. 

I haven't spent much mental energy worrying about things -- will the child be a human, will it have a sufficient number of limbs, will it inherit my baldness?  And the simple reason is that it's too late now.  You can back out of a wedding; you can cancel travel plans; you can get a tattoo removed.  You can't undo a pregnancy (I mean obviously you can, but we're past that point).  It's happening, and as much as we can paint and prep and read books, we're still just sitting around waiting for that meteorite to land on our heads. #lifestyle

Learned disgust Thu, May 03, 2018
A recent episode of NPR's Hidden Brain called Crickets and Cannibals talked about the idea of disgust and how it's a learned instinct.  Most, if not all, traits we consider instincts are ingrained from birth.  Survival, how and what to eat, and rearing young are all generally things that will happen without learning them.  Disgust is sort of different in that young children aren't disgusted by things like poop and snot, but they learn those reactions and then internalize them as a sort of instinct. 

This is especially obvious when considering the diets of different people groups from around the world.  What we eat is essentially prescribed to us by our culture, and that's not entirely a bad thing.  But you really don't have to look that far to see cultures that eat horses or bugs -- animals that are considered immoral or repulsive to most Americans' palates.  But there's nothing inherently immoral or repulsive about eating those things.  Horses are essentially just skinny cows, and bugs are called shellfish when they live in water.  We obviously have no problem eating either of them. 

The main problem is that disgust is a particularly difficult instinct to break.  It's clear that certain "disgusting" things really aren't disgusting and are merely the instincts learned from our respective culture.  But knowing that fact doesn't change how we feel.  I ate a cricket protein bar once, and aside from it not tasting very good, it was hard to get over the idea that I was eating crushed bugs.  It really shouldn't bother me; plenty of people and animals eat bugs, and crickets are an efficient source of protein.  But it still wasn't a pleasant experience.  I wonder how long it would take, or how many repetitions would be required to break a person's learned disgust? #psychology

Bees vs. wasps Mon, Apr 30, 2018
As I stood next to my blooming cherry tree the other day, bees were happily buzzing around the flowers, doing their pollinating thing and generally disregarding me.  Bees serve a very obvious, beneficial purpose.  Humans and bees can happily coexist. 

Wasps (and yellow jackets and hornets), as far as I can tell (though I haven't done the research), serve literally no purpose other than to get mad and sting you when you disturb their conspicuously-placed nests.  They're like the little man of the bug world, always looking for a fight and using their tried and true sucker punch to win on a technicality. 

Bees and wasps are both flying, stinging insects.  But bees are fuzzy and good.  Wasps are angry and evil.  This is how I justify using Raid to gleefully massacre an entire wasp nest. #nature

Baby holders Tue, Mar 27, 2018
I'm expecting a child ("congrats" thanks), and for the first time in my life I checked out the children's sections of Walmart and Target, and immediately noticed that there are a plethora of products designed solely to hold babies: 
  • strollers, for holding babies while you stroll
  • papooses, for holding babies while you walk
  • car seats, for holding babies while you drive
  • cribs, for holding babies while they sleep
  • boppies, for holding babies while they lounge
  • bumbos, for holding babies while they sit
  • high chairs, for holding babies while they eat
  • baby tubs, for holding babies while they bathe
I'm new to this, but can babies do anything? #lifestyle

Girls get guns Tue, Mar 27, 2018
Since America has a bit of a gun problem that I doubt we'll ever solve, I think one thing we could do is take guns away from men and give them to women.  In fact, when a female child enters the world, she should be given a gun.  Maybe like a small one that's practical and cute for a female baby.  But seriously here's why:  The overwhelmingly vast majority of mass shootings are committed by men.  Men are bad at handling life appropriately.  They're aggressive, and often violent.  They shouldn't be allowed anywhere near guns.  I don't know that switching the ownership of guns from men to women would create fewer mass shootings, but I also don't know that it wouldn't. 

The other incredibly major reason to give girls guns is that they're more likely to be the victims of domestic and sexual violence than men.  I feel like a really easy fix would be to put a gun in every girl's hand.  Try slapping a girl who's aiming a gun at your forehead. #sociology

Russian meddling Wed, Feb 28, 2018
It's clear at this point that Russia meddled in America's 2016 presidential election, and that's mostly bad, but I don't think it's that big of a deal.  They meddled in the sense that they made some candidates look bad and used social media to emphasize political divisions.  That's what political action committees (PACs) do anyway.  This time it came from a foreign country instead of a corporation.  Big deal. 

It doesn't take away from the fact that Trump won the election through votes which filter through the Electoral College.  The dude won, and people (not me) like and support him.  It might be a slightly different story if Russia somehow hacked the voting machines or some sort of server infrastructure to make votes for other candidates count for Trump.  I don't think that's what happened, and it doesn't appear to be the case. 

A trickier issue is whether Trump or his minions colluded with the Russians to win the election.  The reason this is tricky is twofold:  (1) what exactly counts as collusion (and is there evidence) and (2) did they do it on purpose?  The evidence thing is being investigated at this time, but the intentionality of it is muddied by the fact that Trump and many of his allies are political novices who (I believe) literally do not know what they might have done might be illegal.  Ignorance isn't a valid excuse for a crime, but in this case it might actually be the truth.  So far many of the legal cases revolve around making false statements to law enforcement and in court, e.g. "I forgot I met with Russians before the election." #politics

Student protests Tue, Feb 27, 2018
Not to minimize any current topic, but I'm always a little skeptical of student protests, especially when they involve absenteeism.  I was a student once, and I would've taken any opportunity in the world to not go to school.  Mass shooting?  Let's not go to school.  Tests are too hard?  Let's not go to school.  I think it's important for young people to express themselves and determine how they stand on important issues.  But when the result of that is skipping school, it looks a little suspicious. #sociology

Non-local drivers Wed, Feb 21, 2018
I find myself getting irrationally angry at people driving in or around my area when said people are not from my area.  Part of it stems from how different cultures drive.  My home state of New Jersey tends to breed aggressive drivers, while neighboring states tend to breed the exact opposite.  Similarly, state laws sometimes differ in whether the left lane of a two- or three-lane highway is strictly for passing or not.  My opinion is that if you're in the left lane and someone is behind you, move. 

Related to this is the fact that I mostly use local roads to commute to and from work, which I do every day of my life.  It's a routine.  I know the speed limits.  I know the stop signs and traffic lights.  I know when I need to turn and when someone in front of me is going to turn.  A non-local driver typically doesn't know where they're going or what they're looking for.  This used to happen to me all the time when my road was the seventh left in my neighborhood.  I'd get stuck behind someone who clearly wasn't local, and I'd see them pump their brakes at every single intersection.  In that sense, a non-local driver is just an obstacle between me and my home. 

Another thing, especially across state lines and near tourist attractions, is the matter of money.  I live here.  I pay high taxes, and part of what helps me maintain my sanity is the thought that my taxes go towards paying for the roads I use.  I don't really like the idea of some freeloader using something I paid for, especially when that freeloader is a bad driver.  I realize that many non-local drivers work where they're driving, and so their employer likely pays local taxes.  Regardless, my feelings are the same. 

But I think the main thing that gets to me is the idea of any one road being a through-street from one location to another.  I grew up on a through-street, and my entire goal in life has been to live on a non-through-street (mission accomplished, by the way).  But for whatever reason, it just really bothered me that someone would drive their vehicle, with their loud engines and creaky suspensions, blasting their music and throwing their trash out the window, in the location where I lived and ate and slept.  It didn't help that our house was really close to the road.  It sort of felt like the street was part of our property, and it sort of was since we shared a fairly long border.  Having unwanted people invading my borders was a real source of anguish. #travel

Death traditions Thu, Feb 15, 2018
I've talked about this before, but I find the entirety of human cultural practices regarding death to be completely ridiculous.  Viewings consist of dressing up a corpse in formal wear and makeup and storing them in an open box so people can look at them.  Why that's comforting for people, I'll never understand.  I find dead bodies to be fairly repulsive, not only because historically they've been the carriers of disease, but also because of this weird psychological thing I have where if something looks alive but isn't it makes me uncomfortable. 

The two funerals I've witnessed recently have both consisted of an open-casket viewing on one day followed by a formal memorial service and burial the next day.  Why do we need to extend this process any longer than it needs to be?  Another funeral I went to had a closed-casket memorial service, followed by a trip to the cemetery where there was an additional memorial service, followed by everyone standing around confused because the body needed to be cremated.  Did the first memorial service not count? 

Storing corpses underground in heavy wooden boxes is weird.  Storing them next to a bunch of other corpses is even weirder.  "This is where we keep all our corpses."  Ok, bro.  I just can't comprehend why a person would want to visit a location of corpse storage to remind themselves their loved one is dead, as opposed to remembering their memory through pictures or ... memories.  A lot of it feels like we do it for the dead person, but I'm nearly certain they don't care. #sociology

Subjective medicine Mon, Feb 12, 2018
I was talking to my doctor about treatment options for an ailment, and I said I wanted to approach it scientifically.  I wanted to take some sort of measurement before treatment, then a measurement after treatment to quantify the effect, instead of relying on how I feel before and after, which is subjective.  He said something that sort of blew my mind:  It might be better to measure the outcome subjectively if the outcome is subjective in nature.  In other words, if I could measure some quantity before and after and they showed no difference yet I felt better, the treatment is a success despite the measurement being inconclusive.  I feel like a more rigorous response would be that the process needs a better metric, but that's not the point.  I thought his response was pretty insightful coming from a profession that often operates from a sort of guess-and-check framework. #health

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