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Rooting for underdogs Wed, Nov 16, 2016
I support underdogs.  I support people who are categorically marginalized, who have been at the receiving end of unfair treatment throughout history.  I support gay people, immigrants, brown people, women.  People who feel they were born the wrong gender.  People with different brain chemistry than my own. 

I haven't always felt this way.  I feel naturally inclined to reject people who are different.  Get over your problems.  Just be normal.  Figure it out. 

But something shifted in my thinking a few years back.  It wasn't a specific moment or event.  It was more a gradual realization:  People aren't different because they want to be.  Nobody asked to be born gay, or black.  Nobody wakes up one day and decides they want a sex change operation for the hell of it.  Depression and anxiety aren't hobbies people pick up because they want attention. 

With very few exceptions, people are different because they're different.  That's it.  They didn't ask for it.  And to reject them for being different, or for being "unnatural", or for being "gross" is just ridiculous.  Imagine someone rejecting you for your gender, or for your nationality.  You didn't ask for those things.  In fact, you had no say in those things.  You're a victim of your birth. 

For me, the opposite of rejecting people isn't ignoring people.  It's championing people.  It's rooting for the underdog.  I don't have the same experiences as a black person who's dealt with racism.  I don't have the same experiences as a person who feels they were born the wrong gender.  It may even be a little weird for me to imagine.  But I'm compelled to trust the people who say they're marginalized, instead of assuming they're all liars.  I just think people should be treated fairly and equally, regardless of whatever makes them different. #psychology

Post election 2016 Wed, Nov 09, 2016
So Trump won.  That's disappointing.  Not so much because my candidate lost, but because Trump is very obviously the bad guy.  Hillary's not great, but she's at least not the villain in the story. 

At least we'll stop hearing about Hillary's emails.  And the Clinton Foundation.  And Benghazi.  And Whitewater.  And whatever other somewhat -- or very -- shady things she's done in the past and will do in the future.  Speaking of which, her political career is over.  She'll be a little too old for the next time around.  Plus, she's probably dead on the inside from this ridiculous farce of an election.  I say good riddance.  Get some new blood in the party.  There are better female politicians than Hillary Clinton. 

Trump is truly a political outsider.  So this should hopefully put to bed whether or not having an outsider as president is a good thing.  I'm open to either answer. 

Apparently a lot of rural white people were angry about jobs, and that's essentially what won the election.  I guess we'll see if Trump the businessman can create jobs as Trump the president, instead of simply painting things gold and filing for bankruptcy, then cheating on his taxes.  I personally don't think presidents have much to do with the job market, but I'd gladly change my mind in the face of countervailing evidence. 

It's kind of funny to hear people demonstrate their lack of understanding about how elections work.  Several fellow New Jerseyans proclaimed their pride in voting for Trump, and I had to hold my tongue from telling them that since Hillary won NJ, their vote literally had nothing to do with Trump winning.  You could almost say their votes didn't count. 

I feel slightly numb and a little stressed about the whole thing.  Yes, I knew Trump had a chance.  But I half-hoped people would come to their senses at the last minute and make the adult decision.  Sadly, that didn't happen.  And as much as I don't like the guy or anything he stands for, I think the biggest source of my anxiety is just the uncertainty he brings everywhere he goes.  I don't trust him, because he's proven himself to be untrustworthy.  I guess we'll see.  We've had a good run, America. #politics

Halloween economics Tue, Nov 01, 2016
I think Halloween is actually great financial and economics training for kids.  On this one day of the year, kids enter the labor market and perform a task (door-to-door trick-or-treating) to receive payment (candy).  Some kids are faced with harder working conditions (hills) than others (apartments).  Some receive better compensation (full-size candy bars) than others (fruit).  But in effect, everybody does work and gets paid.  That's a great lesson on labor markets, working conditions, and wage inequality. 

Later that night, there's usually some sort of trade-and-barter system.  Some candy is objectively better than other candy, and some people are just weird and like all the lemon-flavored things.  That's a lesson on value and free market economics. 

Finally, there's a lesson on the time value of money, as the kids who save their candy are able to enjoy it long after all the gluttons blow through their savings in a week. 

I think this is largely why I grew out of celebrating Halloween.  Sure, it's weird to trick-or-treat as an adult or even as a teenager.  But honestly I can work for way less time and buy way more candy at a store whenever I want because I have a real job that pays well.  It's economics. #money

Trump supporters Mon, Oct 24, 2016
A lot of people see Donald Trump as the physical embodiment of narcissistic xenophobia and Hitler-esque hate tantrums.  He is exactly that, to be clear.  He's an orange, ignorant, pig-faced, clown of a human being, whose business model consists entirely of writing his name on things.  Bravo, sir. 

But I really don't think Donald Trump is the problem.  Donald Trump is a representative, possibly the elected representative, of a large group of misinformed, Bible-thumping, gun-toting racists that make up a good percentage of the United States.  And that's sad.  I'm not even sure Trump believes the things he says, or even realizes how many people like him and why.  He's almost like an unwitting pawn in the grand game of thrones.  We're a nation of self-made, superstitious, white, Christian, hyper-nationalists who hate poor, black people.  Of course Donald Trump rose to power.  It had to happen eventually. 

But that's not completely fair.  Not all Trump supporters are misinformed, or Bible-thumping, or gun-toting, or racists.  Some of them are only one of those things.  And that's the other sad thing:  The Republican Party is a mess.  They say cool things like, "Let's lower taxes," and follow it up with, "and imprison people who perform abortions."  Or "Let's lower the national debt," and "make Christianity the official religion of the United States."  I can get behind fiscal conservatism.  But that bullshit social conservatism needs to die a long overdue death.  We've progressed as a society.  Move on. 

I keep going back to this video of Republican blowhard Newt Gingrich.  If you can't bear to watch his stupid fat face say these childishly ignorant things, I'll quote: 
Gingrich:  Current view is that liberals have a whole set of statistics which theoretically may be right, but it's not where human beings are. 
CNN:  But what you're saying is ... liberals use these numbers, they use this sort of magic math.  These are the FBI statistics.  They're not a liberal organization, they're a crime-fighting organization. 
Gingrich:  But what I said is equally true.  People feel more threatened. 
CNN:  They feel it, yes.  But the facts don't support it. 
Gingrich:  As a political candidate, I'll go with how people feel, and I'll let you go with the theoreticians. 
That right there is a problem.  And again, it's a representative problem.  Gingrich, and Trump, and every other dim-witted, sexist, meat-peddler is -- or at least pretends to be -- immune to facts.  Statements of fact, scientific polls, verifiable measurements -- they're all worthless to a certain large subset of the American populace.  But feelings fly.  They sell.  They get you votes.  That's one of the [many] reasons people don't like Hillary:  She's too unfeeling.  I just wish people could recognize when a mouth-breathing, petulant, pussy-grabber was selling them feelings, and when a cold-hearted, robotic, career politician was selling them policies.  It's a dangerously unbalanced false equivalency. #politics

Libertarian unreasonableness Fri, Oct 21, 2016
Libertarianism is something I know relatively little about, but I find its tenets somewhat attractive yet completely unrealistic.  The general idea is a smaller government, with more personal freedoms.  Sounds good so far.  A common talking point is which functions of the federal government a libertarian candidate would remove.  Department of Education, Department of Commerce, that type of thing.  But when you start considering the effects of these policies, things get a little ridiculous.  For one thing, the government employs a lot of people.  So if you removed parts of the government, you'd have a fairly major increase in unemployment.  People generally frown upon that type of policy.  Second, the government does a handful of things that literally no one else wants to or is able to do, such as garbage collection, wastewater treatment, and food safety enforcement.  Yes, there are private companies that do some of those things, but the government pays them.  Either way, we pay for those things.  You can't just get rid of them.  As for food safety, many people think we should just get rid of food and consumer product safety regulations because they're part of a slow, bloated government.  The problem is, there's no profit incentive to make your products safe, or free from bacteria, or medicinally effective.  The government establishes and enforces those guidelines because literally no one else will.  And in fact, you really don't need to dig that deep to find out what the world was like before food safety laws and the FDA existed (hint: meat is a great way to kill people).  The overwhelming fact of the matter is the government is important.  Can it be better?  Yes.  Can it be smaller?  Yes.  But running on a platform of gutting the federal government is just unreasonable. #politics

Cormorant design by committee Tue, Sep 27, 2016
Cormorants look like they were designed by a committee of non-experts, probably at an old government office full of mid-level managers and underpaid engineers.  Here's how I imagine the process went: 
Person 1:  We want a bird. 
Engineers:  No problem. 
Person 2:  But the bird can swim. 
Engineers:  Uh ... yeah we can do that.  Webbed feet and whatnot. 
Person 3:  But it needs to swim underwater to catch fish. 
Engineers:  Oh ... hmm ... ok.  Just remove some buoyancy so it can sink better.  It'll need to have gills so it can--
Person 1:  No, it needs to breathe air! 
Engineers:  Ok ... I guess we can have it resurface every so often.  But it's just gonna stick it's head and neck out of the water because it's midsection is too dense to float, so it'll look like a snake. 
Person 3:  That's fine.  And then it can fly away and do other bird things. 
Engineers:  Not exactly.  Because of its extra density, it'll have a hard time taking off out of the water. 
Person 2:  But it can fly, right? 
Engineers:  Yes, but it'll need to dry its wings before any amount of extended flight.  The decreased buoyancy and underwater swimming mean its entire body gets soaked to the bone, so it'll need to stand around with its wing outstretched, which is a perfect time for predators to attack it. 
Person 3:  Can you put a gun on its head? 
Engineers:  We'll try that in version 2.
Thankfully version 2 never made it to market. #nature

Kaepernick's pledge Mon, Sep 19, 2016
I find it immensely ironic that people are offended by Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protest which consists entirely of kneeling or sitting during the playing of the national anthem.  It's like saying, "This is America, where we blindly assert our allegiance to our national identity, and if you don't participate, you're a traitor."  Read the fucking Bill of Rights. #politics

Trump on Fallon Mon, Sep 19, 2016
People are mad that presidential candidate Donald Trump wasn't asked difficult questions when he appeared on Jimmy Fallon's late night talk showLike really mad.  I really don't think it was that big of a deal.  I mean, sure, Donald Trump is a buffoon, and deserves to be ridiculed for his stupidity and lack of capacity to hold political office.  But this was a talk show.  A late night comedy show.  It's really not the time for serious matters, like comparing your foreign policy plans to your opponent's.  It just doesn't fit the format.  Plus Trump is already constantly in the limelight getting grilled, not to mention the upcoming debates where he'll surely prove his ... merit.  Get over it. #politics

Dinner specials Mon, Sep 12, 2016
"Do you want to hear our dinner specials?"  Oh you mean, do I want to hear you ramble through a ridiculously long list of food choices which would be infinitely better communicated on paper, which there is zero chance of me remembering, just so you can check an item off your "Waitressing 101" checklist and sell more food that didn't sell well yesterday?  How about no. #food

Avian reincarnation Thu, Sep 08, 2016
If I could reincarnate as anything, I'd obviously want to be a bird, because ... flying.  But not just any bird.  I'd want to be a water bird.  Not a water bird like a stupid penguin, which can't fly.  But an actual flying, swimming bird.  Birds like ducks, geese, and seagulls can walk, they can fly, and they can swim.  Fucking badass. 

Ducks are cute, but lack a certain fearsomeness.  Geese have those long necks and they just look at you like they want to cause you physical harm.  But only a seagull can survive just as well near the ocean as in a random suburban parking lot.  I think it's due to their ability to eat anything and everything, including garbage.  As hated as they are, they have possibly the best chance of surviving the near-certain apocalypse that awaits our dumb bipedal species. 

Seagulls:  Land, sea, and air.  And garbage dumps. #nature

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