Random: #175

Excellent

  • Did China Eat America’s Jobs? – Freakonomics Podcast
    • …beware the punditry, no matter how well-degreed they are, or well-spoken, or well-coiffed. Don’t assume they can know the future any better than you do; and don’t assume you’re such a genius either.
  • How to stop an autocracy – Ezra Klien
    • Donald Trump is a paper tiger. But the US Congress is a tiger that we pretend is made of paper.

Miscellaneous

Quote

  • I’ve never yet a moron who didn’t think he was a genius.
    – online commenter
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Random: #174

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Quotes

“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.”

– unknown, possibly Sinclair Lewis

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Misc Thoughts

I’m finding that sometimes it helps to write these things down. I suppose I could get the same benefit writing it down in a private paper journal and not publishing it. But that feels pointless. I highlighted “feels” because in the end the same number of people will read it. I’m okay with that.

1 – How does everyone believe so strongly that they are in the right?

We often over simplify people in to two sides. Examples:

  • Trump vs. Hillary
  • Democrat vs. Republican
  • Conservative vs. Liberal
  • Christian vs. Muslim
  • Abortion vs. Pro-Life
  • Hitlers vs. Non-Hitlers

Doing so can make sense at a macro level, but it often doesn’t make sense at an individual level.  Yet I see so many attacks at an individual level using blanket labels. I often wonder if it’s somehow due to some facet of human nature that requires argument and confrontation.

More importantly though, how is it so many people are so confident in their position?  I often think about Nazi Germany ahead of WWII.  These days we consider Hitler as if he was evil incarnate, and rightfully so.  But Hitler did not steal power in Germany. The people elected him.  And though maybe controversial to say, I believe many of the political messages Hitler was spewing would resonate well in today’s America.  And so back to the simplified decision of “Hitler vs. Anyone Else”, many, many people chose Hitler. I believe they were unaware to what extent he intended to act on some of his beliefs, but regardless, they chose Hitler vehemently. To the extent that they bullied others that had reservations about that choice. How is it that people can be so confident in their stances that they forget history, and that the world is almost never black-and-white?

2 – Too Gentle to Live Among the Wolves

I bought a book of poems a long time ago when I was ~20 years old:

There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among the Wolves
by James Kavanaugh

I really liked it, though a bit sappy in parts and sad in others.  However, the title and signature poem always stuck with me, and bothers me even to this day.

I am generally considered quiet. I’ll avoid confrontation unless there’s good reason to do otherwise. I am not a type A personality. I’m sure the vast majority of people meeting me would put me in with the sheep.  But I am not a sheep, and I refuse to be a sheep. I’ve seen the world, and the wolves are in control.

Does that make me a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I feel like an ass saying it, but if it ever comes to it, then the answer is yes.

3 – Christians and Muslims

This has been discussed ad nauseum, but this is my outlet, so I’ll write my thoughts anyways.

These two religions share more in common than they do not.  If we admitted the conflict was usually because of resources (land/oil/money/fear/etc), then I would understand it. But such major conflict because of subtle religious belief differences? It makes no sense.

I suspect one reason people are spouting religious intolerance is because we’re rarely precise in terminology. Some facts:

  • Islam is not an intolerant religion. Only some of the minority fringe denominations are intolerant.
  • Radical Muslims should be called terrorists, and they are in the minority. They represent a fraction of a percent of all Muslims.
  • Saying these fringes represent the core of Islam is like saying ISIS represents all Muslims like the Church of Scientology represents all Christians.

I suspect another reason, and perhaps the stronger one, is that America (and many other world powers) are shifting back towards isolationism and protectionism.  It’s not going to work, but for now, “make USA great, and only USA” is the prevailing sentiment of the people in control.  In terms of race/religion/background, it the same as saying “make people like us great, and only people like us”.  We live in a global world now, more so than ever before in history, especially in terms of macro economics. Perhaps we could go backwards on that for a while. But unless we destroy ourselves in the meantime, I believe an eventual shift back to globalization is inevitable.

Many of same people spouting a fear of Muslims seem to believe America should be a Christian nation, and are unaware of the many important reasons for separating church and state, regardless of religious beliefs. I can only guess that they’ve never had to deal with a government that changes its religious leanings to something they disagree with. Either have I, fortunately, but I have read history books.

Another reason I’ve heard is that it’s for security: No muslims, no terrorists.  The statistics don’t support the logic of that argument, but it hones in on a fear for many. Especially those with minimal exposure to people of different ethnicity and religious backgrounds. These are often the same people that pulled themselves up in life, are fiercely independent, and believe in the need to protect themselves and their families. All valid and commendable. Except for the part whereby they don’t understand that the vast majority of people anywhere in the world want the same thing they do. Fear is a strong motivator. Maybe the strongest. And it doesn’t matter if it’s unfounded.

I have some friends in the military that are coming out strongly in support of the blocking of refugees and immigration from certain parts of the world.  If the only Arabs I ever saw were trying to kill me, I’d probably be biased too. It still doesn’t make it right.

I don’t put much stock in popular religious figures, or manuscripts written thousands of years ago that have been rewritten numerous times to fit current prevailing views, but I do find this excerpt from Muhammad’s last sermon to be relevant:

Hurt no one else so that no one else may hurt you.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by taqwa and good action.

To be clear though, I’m not a pacifist. There are times when war and violence is required.  But not often, not without serious consideration, and not because of petty religious or cultural differences. As has been demonstrated through human history and at every level of society, violence begets violence. In the current case, people didn’t wake up one day and decide to be terrorists, no matter how convenient that might be if it were true.  Two of my favorite quotes regarding war:

“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” – John Adams

“Life is simply shades of grey. War is the greyest conceivable shade.” -Iian (online comment)

4 – Religion Customization

I find it interesting that many people will customize their religion to fit with their own personal beliefs.  I’ve noticed this since I was a kid. A great modern example is the current Catholic pope. Many conservative Catholics do not like him, and so they pick and chose which of his teachings to follow and fully support. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I just find it interesting.

A much darker, and more extreme, example is ISIS.

5 – Infinite Greed

This is a thought that I haven’t been able to fully work out even for myself yet. It’s the idea that greed is subtlety driving many beliefs and motivations. I’m starting to think it’s almost at the same level as fear.

It’s a recurring thought I have while looking at Trump’s cabinet picks. I have a special interest in observing the actions of Andrew Puzder (Labor Secretary pick). I’ve been told by someone close to him that he’s a good man, a humble man, and I believe that was told to me with real sincerity. But his public views sound like self preservation to me, and at best, he seems out of touch with most people’s reality.  The only thing I can see his proposed policies doing is to help the rich get richer, and poor poorer. I strongly believe that free market capitalism has limits in its ability to support a stable society and we’re close to reaching them.  I don’t get the sense that Puzder would agree with me.

So on a more relevant level, I’ve been wondering how greed and fear are driving some of my closest friends. And perhaps, even myself.

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Remember when facebook was sometimes interesting?

Something to consider. If you feel that more people are starting to agree with your point-of-view, and thus you are feeling justified in posting and liking anything that supports your own moral/religious/political views, then you might also want to at least consider the possibility that the bubble you are in is shrinking.

If you think that doesn’t apply to you outside of facebook perhaps, then I would ask, do you like to blanket label people as liberal or conservative? If so, then I think it very likely does apply to you. Applies to me too, but I like to think I’m trying.

It’s definitely my choice to login to facebook, and I can (and do) ignore many things I see there. And no one ever asks my opinion, so I never give it. But I remember when facebook was primarily a place to share photos with family and friends, keep up-to-date with distant acquaintances, and maybe show off your life a little. Now, simply logging in puts so many things in my face that I don’t care about and or vehemently disagree with, that it has become counter productive to bother doing so. The ratio of my “that’s cool” to my “wtf?” thoughts has heavily skewed in the wrong direction. I suppose it’s highly dependent on one’s ‘friends’ list. But I’ve continually whittled my list down just to the people I care about, and it’s still toxic. That’s sad.

To my type A personality friends that are generally overly confident and loud in whatever they do (you fill up my facebook feed more than anyone else) … I’d ask you to remember that just because a person is usually quiet doesn’t mean they don’t have a very strong viewpoint on things. And quite possibly, a viewpoint different than your own. And they might be the type person that will defend their viewpoint if ever truly necessary. For as long as it takes.

In the meantime, as for me I’ll just try to ignore you unless you insist on making it impossible. I suspect there are more people out there like me.

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Random: #173

Miscellaneous

Technical

Quote

By attacking the very notion of shared reality, the president-elect is making normal democratic politics impossible. When the truth is little more than an arbitrary personal decision, there is no common ground to be reached and no incentive to look for it.

– Ned Resnikoff

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Random: #172

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Random: #171

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Poem

Differences of Opinion
by Wendy Cope
_____________________________

HE TELLS HER

He tells her that the earth is flat —
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong,
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

(complete poem)

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Bubbles

It seems last night Trump was elected to become the next president of the USA.  I was wrong. About a lot of things it seems, but mostly about other people, some of which are good friends. I am sad about this.

I think the anxiety and fear being felt by many is probably overblown. It is the first time I’ve ever personally cared about a political election though, mostly because of what electing someone like Trump represents regarding the importance of integrity in a person. But alas, a vast segment of the American population has spoken and my personal thoughts on it are inconsequential. I wish they were less inconsequential to my friends though. Especially the ones that voted for Trump.

I would like to express many thoughts, points, and counter points. I have wanted to repeatedly over the past few months, especially on social media.  But I have refrained. I haven’t refrained out of fear or shyness. I feel quite strongly about some of the topics of late, and I believe taking a stand on some things in life is important. I refrained because most people aren’t interested in what other people think, especially if not in agreement. People generally talk with an intent to be heard, not with an intent to listen. And I think few really want to work through complex issues or be independent in their thinking anyways. Cognitive bias is powerful force, and it leaves little room for objective discussion.

I also believe there is little point in arguing a topic with someone when there is not a shared reality to work from.  For example, if one person believes 2+2 is 4, but another person believes 2+2 is 5, then there’s little reason for them to argue about 2+3. Fundamental logic should transcend language, feelings, and personal interpretations.   But I have noticed this type of missing basis in many arguments I’ve witnessed lately, especially those with any underpinnings of science, statistics, or economics.

Discussion would also be easier if people could acknowledge that many strongly felt beliefs should be represented as probabilities, not absolutes.  That’s not an alpha mentality though.

The reasons so many people insist on viewing the world as black-and-white are not clear to me, but my guess is that it’s because human nature tends to be self-centered. It could also be due to illogical fallacies, and ignorance of how fallacies work by the people using them. Or maybe they are not ignorant and just don’t care if it pushes forward an agenda they already believe in. I don’t know.

At least a few of my friends, if they would’ve bother reading up to this point, would likely have slapped with me an elitist label of some sort by now.  I would find that ironic, but whatever.

If there is one thought that arises above all others for me from this election though, especially with regards to media, is that people, myself included, should be careful about living too much in their own bubbles.

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Random: #170

Miscellaneous

Technical

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Random: #169

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Random: #168

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Quote

“And if i asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?” – unknown

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Random: #167

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Quote

Data Scientist (n.): Person who is better at statistics than any software engineer and better at software engineering than any statistician.  – @josh_wills

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Random: #166

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Quote

“I told her we were going to get married, and all she could talk about was frogs.

She said there’s these hills where it’s hot and rains all the time, and in the rainforests there are these very tall trees and right in the top branches of the trees there are these like great big flowers called . . . bromeliads, I think, and water gets into the flowers and makes little pools and there’s a type of frog that lays eggs in the pools and tadpoles hatch and grow into new frogs and these little frogs live their whole lives in the flowers right at the top of the trees and don’t even know about the ground, and once you know the world is full of things like that, your life is never the same.”

— Masklin, Terry Prattchet’s The Bromeliad Trilogy …related:  XKCD: Terry Pratchet

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Random: #165

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Note

  • Augmented Reality (AR) = addition of virtual elements to real world
  • Mixed Reality (MR) = addition of real elements to virtual world

Quote

A customer walks into a bar. He asks for a beer made out of wine. The project manager agrees. Both question the bartender’s competence. – @mendezfe

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Random: #164

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Random: #163

Miscelleanous

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Random: #162

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Quote

  • QA Engineer walks into a bar. Orders a beer.
    Orders 0 beers. Orders 999999999 beers.
    Orders a lizard. Orders -1 beers.
    Orders a sfdeljknesv.
    – @sempf  (follow-up responses)
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Random: #161

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Random: #160

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Random: #159

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