Believing in aliens
I was asked recently if I believe in aliens.  Here's what my response would have been if I wasn't drinking: 

1.  I fundamentally believe there's a natural explanation for everything.  This is called naturalism, and it's the opposite of supernaturalism (e.g. religion).  Human beings have, for a long time, come up with supernatural and sometimes absurd explanations for things they didn't understand.  "God created the earth, then the sun" (oops, wrong order).  "Earthquakes are god's punishment for something" (oops, plate tectonics).  "You're sick because of bad air" (oops, germs). 

That's not to say people are big dumb stupid idiots.  I would go with less aggressive words like "ignorant" (i.e. didn't know) or "naive" (i.e. didn't know enough).  As we learned more, there was less of a need for supernatural explanations for things because we discovered natural explanations.  There are literally countless examples throughout the history of scientific discovery. 

I believe aliens fit in that category.  The pictures, videos, and eyewitness testimony all follow the pattern of, "I don't know what I'm looking at, so it must be aliens."  It's the same with "ancient aliens" who supposedly helped us build the pyramids and whatnot.  "I can't imagine a way humans could've built this structure, therefore aliens did it."  It's a failure of imagination. 

I don't have a good answer or explanation for things people attribute to aliens.  And I understand the thought process of appealing to that logic, because it does make a certain amount of sense.  But based on our well-documented human history of mis-attribution, I'm holding off judgment until we get some better data. 

2.  However, I also think the existence of aliens is pretty likely.  Another common theme in human history is thinking we're the center of everything and assuming we're unique.  We used to think the earth was the center of the solar system and the center of the universe, but it turned out to be sort of the opposite.  We used to think biological life was temperamental and rare, requiring just the right mixture of air and water and sunlight, but then we found things on hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.  Life is not difficult, and we're not unique. 

If there are [whatever] billions of galaxies in the universe, and [whatever] billions of stars in each galaxy, the idea of a rocky planet in a goldilocks zone hospitable to some sort of life is at the very least conceivable, if not a near certainty.  It would be the ultimate example of human hubris to assume we're alone in the universe.  It might be alien bugs or alien lobsters instead of alien humanoids, but still. 

3.  That being said, I think the pro-alien lobby (just made that up) is a little short on evidence.  Claiming a certain rock couldn't have been cut or moved by people of a certain era because they didn't have the proper tools, and then claiming it's aliens -- this is like answering a question with a question.  You couldn't come up with a reasonable explanation, so you went with unreasonable.  Or capturing a shaky-cam video of some lights in the sky that look weird -- like seriously have you never heard of image stabilization?  It's like Bigfoot sightings:  You're telling me in the 200 or so years of the existence of cameras, we haven't been able to capture a single clear shot? 

Discounting government cover-up conspiracy theories (a topic for another day), the evidence has yet to be compelling.  Interesting?  Yes.  But conclusive?  No.  However, to quote Bill Nye when he was asked what if anything would change his mind:  "Evidence." #science

Cory Doctorow writes about why internet things keep getting worse
HERE IS HOW platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two-sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.
I don't have problems with Google, but Facebook and Twitter have taken a dive lately, and Amazon used to be a good place to compare product reviews. #technology

Weird facts
I always come across those listicles that are like, "17 Amazing Facts About Nature," and I'd say my favorite facts are these: 

Dog smell and sound
I might be on the spectrum, but either way I'm sensitive to strong smells and loud noises.  But only certain ones.  I have trouble going in stores that sell candles and soap and whatnot because it feels like my brain is so overly stimulated by the smell that I can't function.  But at the same time I love the smell of a nice fire-charred whiskey barrel, or a big greasy bacon cheeseburger.  It's the same with sound.  My human child occasionally likes to scream, and it's sort of like my ear drums go numb, except it's still painful.  But at the same time, I go to loud concerts and don't have a problem. 

It occurred to me recently that this is why I don't like dogs.  All dogs, literally all of them, have "the smell."  Dog people think their houses don't smell like dog, but I can identify a dog owner after spending a millisecond in their house.  And all dogs are loud, despite "Oh he doesn't usually do this" or "Wow she never barks this much."  Dogs are smelly and loud.  I don't like them. #nature

NJ culture
James Carville on Club Random with Bill Maher
Connecticut does not have a culture, ok?  I'm serious.  New Jersey actually has a culture.

City business
Certain cities are known for certain things, and it's sort of part of their identity.  Like Las Vegas's business is gambling, Los Angeles's is movies and TV, and Detroit's (at one point) was cars.  I went to Nashville recently, and their business is country music.  The city I live in now is Huntsville, AL and our business is rockets.  For Tuscaloosa, a city I recently visited which is home to the University of Alabama, their business can best be described as "football team." #business

Rule enforcement
I often encounter rules that aren't enforced and have no consequences if they're broken.  A rule without enforcement or consequence is a suggestion.  Just because you put it on a sign doesn't make it more serious.  Like, "Employees must properly mark all documents."  Who's checking, and what happens if we don't?  Or, "No bikes on walking path."  Is someone patrolling, and what's the punishment?  It's not that I'm a contrarian, I just don't recognize authority that's absent and impotent, especially when the rule seems trivial and annoying.  And here's the thing:  If the rule is easy, I'll follow it.  If it's convenient and simple, I won't even question it.  But if I have to go out of my way, or it's a hassle or difficult or time-consuming, I'll happily ignore your silly little suggestion and go about my business. #psychology

RedZone good bad
The RedZone Channel is simultaneously the best thing and the worst thing that's ever happened to football, and perhaps all sports, on TV.  Instead of watching a single game interspersed with commercials (or more accurately, commercials interspersed with gameplay), I can watch up to 8 games simultaneously.  But wait it gets better:  Instead of just watching 8 games at once, the producers simply splice all the games together and only show the good parts.  It's phenomenal.  I literally can't bring myself to watch a regular game because they're too slow and boring.  Like many technological advances in our society recently, this has further destroyed my dwindling attention span. 

ESPN tried a similar thing a few years ago for college football called Goal Line which didn't have quite the same feel because of the inherent dispersed nature of college football (many divisions, many channels, etc.).  YouTube TV has a thing currently called Multiview which lets you watch 4 games at once.  As soon as the early afternoon games finish, the quantity of multiviews decreases until you're left with just one or two games at a single time.  Going from inserting copious amounts of live sports directly into your veins, to sipping on a single primetime game is like switching to diet soda, or de-cocained cocaine. #sports

I spent the weekend in Nashville, and I think I can never go back there.  It's too over-stimulating for me.  I'm a sucker for live music, and even though I don't like country, it really didn't matter.  The talent level of the casual musician in any bar in Nashville was orders of magnitude better than probably any person I've ever met.  And once you recognize what you're witnessing, it's impossible to look away.  I stayed in one bar for way too long, listening to some band play what I would describe as "old-fashioned Sunday country" if that means anything.  I walked past another bar late at night whose open window was projecting the voice of a girl singing a sad country song, and it sent chills down my spine.  Every bar on Broadway has a live band playing (seemingly) 24 hours a day, and most bars have more than one floor with more than one band.  The place is fucking sonic chaos.  Add in a little alcohol (a little) and some interesting people-watching, and Nashville is literally too much for me to handle. #music

Expensive empty lot
I always find it weird to see an empty lot in an expensive area.  There's a neighborhood near where I live where a bunch of houses have marble statues and curved stairs leading to their ornately decorated front doors.  But a few lots in, there's an empty lot complete with overgrown grass.  Like, what's the deal here?  No one wanted to build a nice expensive house in just that very particular space?  Is it flood-prone (that's solvable).  Haunted? 

I was at the beach in New Jersey last week, and there's an area with multimillion-dollar houses, interspersed with empty lots, directly on the waterfront.  The property taxes have to be $5000-$10000 per month, so I can't even imagine what the owners of the empty lots are doing.  I get the idea of waiting for the right offer, but come on.  And there's literally no way they're waiting to "save up" $5 million so they can build their dream house.  Either you have that kind of money or you don't. #lifestyle

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