Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Philosophy, Cognitive Psychology, Religion, and Happiness

I've been reading a fair amount of cognitive psych lately, catch as catch can, and mostly second-hand (that is, I'm not reading original scholarship, just other people's writings about it), and wanted to dump some links here so I can come back to them, as well as dump a little bit of writing I've done today here, too.

This guy is of like mind. In some ways at least. Here are some more links to his stuff.

Try You Are Not So Smart on as well, plenty of good thoughts there.

Alan Watts: “This is the real secret of life, to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now….”

You see, the thing is, all the answers of your problems have probably already been found. I know we are all unique individuals in this universe, but we are also all a part of the ocean of humanity that has existed for years upon years. Ultimately, our lives are so much more similar than they are different, no? That is why we read and re-read works of literature that are hundreds and thousands of years old: the basic themes of being a person haven’t changed. To love and be loved, to eat, to have shelter and freedom, or whatever other hopes and needs and wants that you can imagine which a Mesopotamian or Hittite or Incan (or whatever name you want to assign to any ancient people) was able to imagine just the same as you.

The “thing” is that it is no “secret,” especially not in this modern age of information literally at your fingertips. The “thing” is that so much of our drama, our comedy, our music, our art is telling you the “secret” all the time. So is our science! All you have to do is listen.
Listen. Listen to your heart, that “still, small voice” inside you that philosophy and religion will tell you connects to all humanity, to the Universe, even. Listen to the voices of the past and the present, and be open to the voices of the future, but know that you already know the answers, if you are brave enough to listen.

Alan Watts’ quote above sounds easy, and for some it is, I suppose. For most, it will be the most difficult undertaking they will ever attempt. What does it mean to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now?

I believe that you make your own reality. Let me explain. Cognitive psychology shows us that our perceptions are flawed and because of things like confirmation bias, hindsight bias, the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, among other problems with our ability to sort of irrelevant from relevant data in front of us, we believe, indeed, we think that we know things that simply are not so. Essentially, we tend to focus on the things that we give our attention to, and give our attention to that which we focus on. Sounds like a load of crap, right? I mean, I just said the same thing forwards and backwards, right? Not exactly. The best example I can give you involves pregnant women and new cars. Not at the same time, silly people!

If you have ever been pregnant (or been a part of “we’re pregnant” if you know what I mean), or shopped for a new car (new or used, but new to you) you already know what I mean, right? By the time you finished reading that sentence you went “oh, yes, I get it,” but just in case, let’s elaborate briefly: when you or your spouse, partner, whomever, was pregnant for the first time, suddenly you saw pregnant women everywhere! You were surrounded! There was no escaping. It was like a nightmare scene from a movie (or a dream sequence, I suppose, if you weren’t’ scared of the impending chaos of parenthood?) Same for the new car, right? My family plays a game similar to the old “punch bug” or “slug bug” game with VWs, called Cheesy Squeezy, which we got from a friend, in which you squeeze someone in the car on the arm, knee, leg, when you see a cheesy-yellow car. Suddenly, there were lots of yellow cars I never noticed before!

The thing is, they were already there, of course. It’s just that we hadn’t noticed, we weren’t “attending to” the expectant moms or yellow cars or Hyundais until we were focused on them for selfish reasons.

So, I have a few questions for you. What are you attending to? (I know, never end a sentence with a preposition. To what are you attending? BTW, that grammar rule is totally arbitrary, it was Dryden’s folly). Where is your focus? What affects your focus? That one, I’ll answer: all kinds of input, much of which is both out of your control and, if I may use a controversial term, subliminal. We can talk about “priming” another time. Why are you attending to that? Is it urgent? Important? Does it make you happy? Does it give you pleasure? Joy? Or, rather, does it give you stress, anxiety, or even pain?

In my quest for how to say the things that history, philosophy, religion, science, and existence have taught us so that you can benefit from the accumulated learning of the ages (not a big deal, right?), there are a few themes that emerge.

  1. While common, it is also individual. Your conclusion are yours because you are, as I like to say, the “sum of your life experiences to date, including this right now.” You can’t step in the same stream twice, and you aren’t the same person you were yesterday because you’ve had another day of being you to add to the ingredients that make up you.
  2. Being a “searcher” leads to unhappiness, because it’s ultimately disappointing. “Let go, let God” is actually more peace-inducing, much like “everything has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.”
  3. Another Buddha quote says “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” Or perhaps you prefer “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” I like that one. Our thinking defines our reality, just ask a paranoid schizophrenic. This may be the most important thing, really. Try this one: “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” Dale Carnegie said that. Go read Norman Vincent Peale. You make your own reality.
I want to talk about that a bit. I read a story of a lady that was being taken to her retirement unit in the home by her son, telling him how much she was going to like it, he interrupted “Mom, how do you know? You’ve never even seen the place. The room could be tiny, the residents could be mean.” She replied, “It doesn’t matter, I’ve made up my mind that I will enjoy myself there, that I will meet new people and have a good time there.”  You can choose how you go about your days, it’s not a matter of which side of the bed you get up on! Choosing to have a good day is something you can do.


Happy people don’t have more pleasant things happen to them than unhappy people, they just attend to the good and let go the bad, so the overall impression of their life experiences is one of happiness! It really is that simple ultimately. Do things that make you happy, avoid the things that make you unhappy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Mustangs And Other Vehicles

Well, there's this:



That's right, it's a new old Mustang, upgraded but classic.

Pretty sweet. Starting about $120,000, not unreasonable compared to what other similar-ish vehicles cost. I tagged my best college pal, Doug Clark of Garage Knights and he replied "back to the good old days. Well, I'm down to just 5 of them now and only 2 run LMAO" (to which I answered, "I'll take one off your hands if you like; let me count my change jar...LOLOL").

That was fun. Somehow I ended up looking at motorcycles on Craigslist. (you know that I was looking at Things, right?) Now, I'm not in the market, shoot, I don't even have motorcycle temps, but here's some old bikes I like.


"1982 Honda 250 Custom. No title. Needs carburetor work. Easily repaired or used for parts. $400"



"I have owned this for MANY years! It has been in inside storage until 3 days ago and now it must go. If you are looking to restore it nothing is frozen. It rolls with ease and the cables are not frozen. Or you can part it out on eBay. There is no title but I will provide a bill of sale. It has been so long that I do not remember the year or CC of the bike. I have no interest in it anymore, it came out of storage and the first one to get here takes it home. $250"


"Honda CB360 for sale. Clean title, good cosmetic shape for a bike of this age. New brakes, brake lines, points, condensers, battery, rectifier/regulator. $1400."

Somehow I found my way to a page about these, and thought that it's right up my alley: a good beginner bike, on and off road, 70+ MPG. Reminds me of the Scramblers I like so much.

Let's retrace the steps, for fun:

A Supercompressor article about the aforementioned Mustangs led to

Please God, Let Jeep Make These Concept 4X4s which led to

Keanu Reeves' Motorcycle Company Debuts First Bike (I think) which came from this page of links.

However, my search history has me thinking that I just clicked on this Yahoo story after logging off my email. Not as much fun, eh?

I then Googled the TW200 and found this story and thought, "that's a bike I could ride!" There are plenty available on Craigslist, and they can be had pretty reasonably, if you ask me. New ones are around $4500.




Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Drive-by Media Strikes Again and Again and....

So, this is making the rounds today: Gay activist faked own kidnapping.

Let me say but one thing: the fact that he is a "gay activist" has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY as far as we can tell at this time. That, however, is the headline.

Like the 3 students killed at UNC over a parking space, the media grabs the most sellable part of the story, even if it's not a part of the story, to entice the idiots.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Little We Know

A couple of stories came by my internetting today, one from NASA regarding the sun, one about the deepest borehole in the world, and one about the oceans' role in ending the Ice Age.


We all know the Sun is a big burning ball of gas, but the text in this article reveals something to me (remember, by the way, the principle of Confirmation Bias: I don't believe humans cause global climate change, so these things jump out at me): we don't understand the sun very well.
“The images that have all the pretty loops and arches are extremely hot material,” physicist Dean Pesnell said in an interview with Yahoo News. “We would like to understand where all those arches come from. They are filled with things that are about 2 million degrees. The sun itself is just about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The borehole article is filled with things we didn't know, and it's from Mother Nature Network, no doubt a bastion of "humans are killing the planet" thinking (caveat: I haven't checked that claim).

Before the hole was drilled, geologists could only hypothesize about the composition of the Earth's crust. Needless to say, the amount of geological data produced by the project was unprecedented. Mostly, it revealed just how little we really know about our planet.
For instance, one of the most surprising findings was the absence of the transition from granite to basalt at a depth between 3 and 6 kilometers below the surface. Previously, scientists had used seismic waves to glean information about the composition of the crust. They had discovered that a discontinuity existed at this depth, which they assumed was due to a transition in rock type. But the borehole drillers found no such transition; instead they found only more granite. It turns out that the discontinuity revealed by the seismic waves was actually due to a metamorphic change in the rock, rather than a change in rock type. It was a humbling realization for theorists, to say the least.
Even more surprising, the rock had been thoroughly fractured and was saturated with water. Free water was not supposed to exist at such depths. Geologists now surmise that the water consists of hydrogen and oxygen atoms that were squeezed out of the surrounding rock by enormous pressure, and is retained there due to a layer of impermeable rock above.
Researchers also described the mud that flowed out of the hole as "boiling" with hydrogen. The discovery of such large quantities of hydrogen gas was highly unexpected.
By far the most riveting discovery from the project, however, was the detection of microscopic plankton fossils in rocks over 2 billion years old, found four miles beneath the surface. These "microfossils" represented about 24 ancient species, and were encased in organic compounds which somehow survived the extreme pressures and temperatures that exist so far beneath the Earth.
The final mystery revealed by the borehole was the reason drilling operations had to be abandoned. Once the drill reached depths in excess of about 10,000 feet, the temperature gradient suddenly began to increase unexpectedly. At the hole's maximum depth, temperatures skyrocketed to 356 degrees Fahrenheit, which was much higher than the 212 degrees Fahrenheit originally predicted. The drill was rendered useless at such temperatures.
The project was officially closed down in 2005, and the site has since fallen into disrepair. The hole itself was welded shut by the rusted metal cap that today covers it, as if to permanently hide the hole's many mysteries from the surface world. 
 Though the hole's depth is impressive, it's a small fraction of the distance to the center of the Earth, which is estimated to be nearly 4,000 miles deep. By comparison, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has reached the outer layers of our solar system, has relayed information from over 10 billion miles away. The human race truly understands less about the ground beneath its very feet than it does about the cosmos that abound. It's humbling to realize just how much mystery still exists right here on our little blue world.


Lastly, let's peruse the article about the oceans.

"The oceans are leaking carbon dioxide to the atmosphere," said study co-author Gavin Foster from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
The findings suggest these regions were pumping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The gas concentrations in the two regions spiked at different times, hinting that different processes underlie the rise in ocean carbon, the researchers said. However, in both cases the scientists think carbon dioxide levels in these two regions jumped because water rich in carbon and nutrients welled up from the deep ocean. 
Yet scientists still puzzle over what triggered these giant burps in greenhouse gas. Leading theories include changes in ocean currents or wind patterns. Some researchers recently suggested that sea-level drops triggered underwater volcanoes to erupt more vigorously, belching carbon dioxide in the process.
"We don't know the ultimate case," Foster said. "[But] we're one step toward the answer."
The researchers plan to test additional sites and examine how carbon dioxide levels changed through the glacial cycle, he said.


Not man, certainly 10,000 years ago. They. Don't. Know. There is also no Cause/Effect relationship proven between CO2 and temperature ("proven" being the important word there, by the way)


Seriously, readers, don't get fussed and have your tubes tied or something. We don't know everything we think we know.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Why Journalism is Dying In a Job Description

You want to know why print journalism is dying in the USA? Here's a job description I came across today, bold, underline, and italics are my emphases:

Cincinnati.com and The Enquirer are searching for a Community Press Content Coach to join our newsroom.
As Community Press Content Coach:
  • 100% of your work is focused on the 25-45 audience.
  • You work with reporters to identify the watchdog questions that will help readers make smart choices for their communities and get to the bottom of their questionsYou ensure the reporter uses public records and the best sources to be authoritative.
  • You ensure watchdog stories deliver clear findings that are unique in the community.
  • You identify stories that are best told through emotional narrative and coach reporters to develop the characters and places  relatable to the 25-45 audience.
  • You ensure that the Community Press/Recorder reporters collaborate well with Enquirer rpeorters. They should share tips, sources, and report stories together to ensure all Enquirer Media readers get the best and most relevant content.
  • You plan for mobile first to determine the best storytelling approach and what assets the reporter must gather to produce content that is complete, authoritative and shareable.
  • You deliver to the planner on time, to ensure our products are interesting every day and the reporter/photographer can build a following.
  • You ensure each content creator is the news leader in their field. They are competitive; they rarely get beat.
  • You can demonstrate ways that you coach reporters to help them be successful.
You report to: the Editor

I like that the idea is an "emotional narrative" because that's what news is all about, right? Emotion. Not facts, thoughts, actions, noooooooo. It must be "relatable" and "shareable" so the reporters don't "get beat" and can "build a following."

That's fantastic. Oh, and let's not forget the typo, "rpeorters" in the text. Wow.

I thought the person that did these things was called an "editor" not a "Content Coach." Welcome to the new age, I guess.


Remember, this is the company (Gannett) that just reorganized (eliminated) a pile of positions, and asked experienced journalists to re-apply for their jobs in an effort to get them out of the organization. Award-winning long-term writers. If you want to work in this field, you are nuts. I wouldn't bring any personal items to your desk, so you can carry everything out when it's your turn to get "re-organized."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chris Rock on Race in Hollywood Is Epic

If you haven't seen it, Chris Rock (who I disagree with on stuff, but still like a lot!) has been writing and talking a lot lately with a new movie coming out, Ferguson, etc. This new essay is epic for several reasons, but I'd like to point out that he says something I have been saying for years (cue: confirmation bias). Our media is liberal but racist. Pretty white females as victims or perps get stories on 20/20 or Dateline while thousands upon thousands of black males get killed and it's not even noticed other than to scare white people from "going downtown" all across the county. The media (and they are all liberals, folks) portray black Americans in the context of crime almost exclusively.

The term "drive-by media" popularized by Rush Limbaugh is so fricking accurate.  This couples with my constant criticisms of sweeps month sensationalism and the ever popular "summer of" series, be it shark attacks, abductions, or West Nile Virus. Ask anyone who has had a reason to be on the news and they will tell you: they got important details completely wrong, or omitted details to create the narrative as they saw it, truth be damned.

Chris Rock isn't the first to make this observation, but he'll at least bring it to the forefront. The people who make our movies are led by scumbags (to allude to Charles Barkley!) molesting children, doing drugs, and excluding everyone that doesn't look or think like them.

We cut it out in Top Five, but there had been a scene where Kevin Hart, who plays my character’s agent, is in his office talking to me, and he finds out that “Zoolander” (Ben Stiller) is down the hall and he’s mad because none of the agents called him. He’s the only black agent at the agency, and there was a line in the movie like, “I’m the only black agent here. They never invite me to anything, and these people are liberals. This isn’t the Klan.
But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A, you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s a part of it that’s kind of racist — not racist like “F— you, n——-” racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. There’s this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I remember I was renting a house in Beverly Park while doing some movie, and you just see all of the Mexican people at 8 o’clock in the morning in a line driving into Beverly Park like it’s General Motors. It’s this weird town.
You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that’s true? The odds are, because people are people, that there’s probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody’s company right now. The odds are that there’s probably a Mexican who’s that smart who’s never going to be given a shot. And it’s not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you’ve got to take that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are inDodgeball or whether it’s the right s—- sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It’s like, “We only let white people do that.” This is a system where only white people can chime in on that. There would be a little naivete to sitting around and going, “Oh, no black person has ever greenlighted a movie,” but those other jobs? You’re kidding me, right? They don’t even require education. When you’re on the lower levels, they’re just about taste, nothing else. And you don’t have to go to Harvard to have taste.
Also, this should sting:

But if we’re going to just be honest and count dollars and seats and not look at skin color, Kevin Hart is the biggest comedian in the world. If Kevin Hart is playing 40,000 seats in a night and Jon Stewart is playing 3,000, the fact that Jon Stewart’s 3,000 are white means Kevin has to cross over? That makes no sense. If anybody needs to cross over, it’s the guy who’s selling 3,000 seats.

Awesome. And remember, this country is 67% white and 12% black. Suck it Stewart, you aren't that popular.

More epic talk:

I couldn’t have made Top Five at a studio. First of all, no one’s going to make a movie with a premise so little and artsy: a star putting out a movie and getting interviewed by a woman from The New York Times. I would have had to have three two-hour meetings explaining that black people also read The New York Times. A studio would’ve made it like Malibu’s Most Wanted. And never in a million years would they have allowed a scene where the rich guy comes back to the projects and actually gets along with everybody. No way. In most black movies — and in most black TV shows and even in most black plays — anyone with money or an education is evil, even movies made by black directors. They have to be saved by the poor people. This goes back to Good Times andWhat’s Happening!!
Go read the whole thing, but here's my parting shot: I remember when Ellen's sitcom tanked and people blamed homophobia. I disagreed, I thought it was because the show went from being about the characters to being about the character being gay, and it wasn't funny anymore. People clearly love Ellen, it seems, and trust me, we knew she was gay anyway.

I'll also throw in that several conservative types I follow say that if we want to win the culture back, just go make good art and the conservative message that may or may not be a part of it will follow. the problem with most "conservative" art right now is that it's conservative first and it isn't good quality art! Anyway, here's Chris Rock:

But there’s been progress. When I was on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, we did a sketch where I was Sasheer Zamata's dad and she had an Internet show. Twenty years ago when I was on Saturday Night Live, anything with black people on the show had to deal with race, and that sketch we did didn’t have anything to do with race. That was the beauty: The sketch is funny because it’s funny, and that’s the progress.

Yes, it is.



 








Friday, November 21, 2014

Black Friday Blues

You aren't going to like this, but I have an unpopular opinion: Black Friday is the fault of American women. There, I said it.

Who drives US retail?

If you've been to an Old Navy over the last 10 years, you know the answer. The stores used to be divided down the middle, pretty much; guys merchandise on one side, ladies on the other, with some kids stuff tucked in as well. Repeat for the Gap, Banana Republic (which used to be a really cool catalogue nothing like the current store at all), Eddie Bauer, etc.....

Old Navy even had old Chevy pickups as the main decoration:

Now, like all the other stores, guys get about 1/3 of the space. Why?

Women shop. Marketing research, no doubt, drove men out of the malls and stores because they weren't the ones buying stuff.

I remember the women in the family shopping on Black Friday back in the day, and we all thought they were nuts, going shopping first thing Friday morning, then it became 6am, then earlier and earlier, then Midnight, now it's on Thanksgiving itself.

Why? The stores want to lengthen the season as much as possible, that's why you can Christmas shop in September at Sam's and Costco. The REAL shopping, however, starts after Thanksgiving, just ask any retailer. Extending that by a few hours is HUGE.

So, women will shop, and if they think there's a deal (whether or not there really is one: see every outlet mall in America), they will shop more, and because of this, stores open earlier, stay open later, and do whatever is necessary to give women the opportunity to shop.

When you complain about the damage to family values over stores being open on Thanksgiving, the sad truth is that it's your Mom's and sister's and Aunt's fault. 

If they stayed home, and didn't clamor for a bargain, Target would be closed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Another Project, New Side Gate

It was time for the old gate to go, and we've had the doors from a friend's old gate for a few years, so out with most of the old and in with the new-ish!



Digging out the woven screen/gap filling support column (the door used to be hinged on this side) was fun, here's the minion hacksawing an obstacle...


Old copper rod, maybe a ground strap, couldn't dig it out, so we hacksaw'd it!

Out, damned post!




Next. I squared up the remaining post to set door #1 as level as possible to measure the distance needed to install a new gap filling panel against the garage leaving the proper room for door #2


Doorstop strip recycled from old setup, of course. Waste not, want not!

Maybe refilling the hole and removing all the attached lumber is a good step, you think?



then, time to re-dig the correct hole for the new installation...



I needed to build a new anchor point against the garage from scratch. This is also from the old treehouse, which was made with lumber from a friends' deck tear-down that got us the gate doors!

Here's where the story gets interesting: I shortened all the filler pieces after carefully measuring the distance between the garage and the edge of the installed gate door, slid them in the grooves of the posts and get it all ready to pour some concrete to set it.

Too wide.

Dis-assemble, trim all the pieces, reassemble. Argh.



This was the easiest part, dump the mix, then add water and wait! Granted, after digging and redigging and shimming and squaring.




Once it had cured, on went door #2, with a little work on the jamb edge to let it close....





The top crossbar is necessary for strength and keeping the doors relatively square.




The lattice on the left remained to preserve the clematis already winding through it, that will get replaced before too long