Friday, October 13, 2017

Subtlety and Deeper Thinking About Current Events

I have little to say about the whole Harvey Weinstein mess, because so much has been said fairly well that I don't think I have much new to contribute. He's a pig and he's not alone.

I've been interested in what other have said, actually, as some interesting little bits of cognitive dissonance have surfaced in some comments. For instance, clothing mogul Donna Karan, said
 'I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it's been a hard time for women. 
'To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? 
'And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?' 

 'I don't think it's only Harvey Weinstein. I don't think we're only looking at him. I think we're looking at a world much deeper than that.' 
'Yes, I think he's being looked at right now as a symbol, not necessarily as him. I know his wife, I think they're wonderful people, Harvey has done some amazing things. I think we have to look at our world and what we want to say and how we want to say it as well.' 'You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble,'
Now, she messed up here, obviously, because he has no one to blame but himself, but I think she voiced a rather conservative idea that there are larger issues about our culture and how we portray, dress, and define what it means to be female. Can you believe she had the audacity to suggest that maybe, just maybe, sexualizing our girls from an fairly early age might be a bad idea? One of my never-to-be-said-aloud arguments against some feminist thought is similar in that it's hard to be a guy in these times when we aren't supposed to so much as notice that a woman is attractive and has body parts that are well-formed, unless we are supposed to notice how pretty/sexy/attractive a woman is when she wants us to notice it. 

For example, whenever I hear "how dare you even notice that a nursing mother whip out a life-giving food supplier for her nursing child, I mean, this is EXACTLY what breasts are for," I want to reply, "did you never, ever, ever use that breast for your pleasure? Did you never, ever, ever dress to highlight your chest for any reason whatsoever? Did you never, ever, ever, consider buying or not buying, wearing or not wearing a garment because of how it made your torso look?"

See, it's more complicated than "Harvey is a rapist, that's all you are allowed to say." He is, and yet, that doesn't make Karan's other point invalid. As I've said, two things can be true at the same time.

I also hate to bring this up, but let us not forget that there are women who do take advantage of these situations to forward their careers and interests. I've told the story of working at a concert venue and the gross security guys getting all kinds of offers from girls to get backstage. There is such a thing as groupies. So, while this guy is a pig, there were probably also girls that threw themselves at him at some point. Ewwwww.

Jane Fonda had some comments that included this:
 “We have to be helped by men. It’s important to know that not all men are predators. There are good men and the good men have to stand up and defend us and embody other ways of being. We have to believe the women who come forward. We have to speak out.”
Now, here is another conservative idea, right, this idea that men should be chivalrous, should not just mind their own business "because girlpower" but rather act like men.

I would suggest that the emasculation of men over the past 40+ years has actually made it worse for women in a few ways, one of them being that guys like Harvey Weinstein, maybe would have gotten his lights punched out by guys like Brad Pitt had he not been educated away from that type of masculinity (kind of like how all the years of attacking capitalism has made the real problem, crony capitalism, much much worse).

Anyway, I'll finish by saying that all the people slamming the victims for not speaking sooner have no clue what it's like to be a victim of the kind of harassment these folks were. If you've sacrificed (not just risked, but actually had to sacrifice) your livelihood to call out someone, maybe you can share that and blame them, but I won't. I've learned too much about this kind of stuff as a teacher and coach (and what to look for to identify victims) to blame them. Read a book before you spout off.

We have issues as a culture. It's a shame that valid points about it are lost in the shuffle of the valid outrage over this guy's disgusting behavior. I hope that as we root out the sickos in Hollywood (and other industries) these other issues can be confronted as well.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Trump Is In Their Brains

So, this gets retweeted or liked into my twitter stream:


He gave a very reasonable answer, that he was a little busy to be bothered with Twitter in light of the bombing.

My response was this:


That's the thing, isn't it? The media is obsessed with Trump and has been for some time. As they say, he's living in their head, rent-free. It's why he won the primaries against better conservatives and Republicans.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know they had no choice but to cover him and his, uhm, antics during the campaign, because they had to as he was running for President. See how smart he was? Free coverage because the media had no choice but to cover him. They couldn't ignore him, as critics wished they would (which would work with, say, Westboro Baptist, to make them go away), because that would be negligent as he already was news worthy. Brilliant manipulation on his part.

BTW, if you aren't aware of Scott Adams' ongoing dissection of the rhetorical and persuasion tools that the Trump Team has been using, you're missing an education on what's been going on. I don't even agree with him on all his points, but he isn't a Trump fan or defender (as the folks who hate Trump are painting him), and he is seeing the manipulation for what it is. (of course, this could be me in a moment of confirmation bias because I also thing Trump is playing the media like a fiddle).

Back to the point (and there is one).

I have long held the belief that when we've experienced something, we tend to adopt that (or those, if it's plural) experience into our lens, our perspective through which we interact with the world. A simple example of this bias I think about is the old red car metaphor. It's not just red cars, per se, it's the familiarity bias and observational selection bias working in tandem to make you think that "now that I have a red car, I see them every where. There must be more red cars being made then before." Nope, you're just paying attention to them. Indeed, what we attend to creates our reality.

Another version is the sudden appearance of pregnant women everywhere when your wife becomes pregnant. (hint: they were already there). A more serious example I think about is racism. If you are black in America, you have experienced it, and that makes you see it everywhere, even in situations where it isn't present.

All of this is to say that Trump as so successfully implanted himself into the minds of his detractors that they can't refrain from checking his Twitter feed, because, well, they have to because he's already newsworthy because he's the US President. Note: I don't follow him on twitter. I don't have to (or want to), mostly because he gets retweeted into my timeline so much. Argh.

So, we have "Trump-Glasses" wearing idiots like the reporter that thought that (because the lens/perspective through which he or she sees everything is smeared with Trump) asking the London Mayor his thoughts on a Trump tweet was a reasonable, worthy, or necessary question.

I have written and talked about my Trump thoughts, feelings, and impressions. I don't like the guy, but I have enjoyed how he has played the press, driven the leftists insane (literally, in some cases), and shone a light on our electoral processes like the primary system and electoral college. I think he's a progressive and crony capitalist at heart and that scares me. But what really scares me is the way his detractors and enemies (which includes the majority of our media types) have become so consumed by their hatred/fear/disgust that they are literally blind to their own obsession with him and things like his tweets that it's literally all they appear to think about.

I think he should keep tweeting, seriously. It's how he talks to his base without the media filter, and I guess that's why they can't help report on it, to try to control it, to shape his message like they would if they were the quote-conduit. If would serve them better to ignore the tweets and not make them into news stories, frankly, but I'm not giving them that good piece of advice. It's too much fun watching them lose their minds.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Random Thought About World History

I happened upon a cool photo via Instagram today that got me thinking..

Does anyone remember the PBS-style (probably a BBC show) called Connections from back in the 80s (it actually was the 70s, as it turns out)?

It may have been the 2nd or 3rd iteration that caught my attention as the host was explaining some cool thing about Europe in the 300s AD and then, with a jump cut was in India or somewhere to explain what was happening there at the same time.

What a great concept!

This informs my ADD-ish brain often when I learn stuff. So, naturally, when I read the Wiki on step-wells and saw that the first rockwall step wells were built some time around the aforementioned 300AD (see what I did there?), I thought "what were Germans/Aboriginals/Native Americans/Irish building then?"
from http://www.mid-day.com/articles/mapping-indias-forgotten-stepwells/17185189

There's probably a cool book or website along these lines, so look for an edit of this post with some links, but for now, just sharing today's little thought process.

There is a website devoted to mapping and archiving stepwells mentioned in the article the above image came from, stepwells.org. There are a lot of them!

Here's a good article from another person trying to catalogue and save them. Lots of pictures.

Friday, September 1, 2017

More Evidence For Small Government

Just a quick post today as I ponder the bloated mass that is our health care economy....

Got an email at work about my HRA (not FSA or HSA or...you get my point here, right? TOO MANY TYPES OF ACCOUNTS) and in trying to figure out what the "HRA Wellness Credit" was as opposed to the HRA itself, I poked around to determine what I can use the money on.

There is, of course, a site to help you know what is eligible and what is not. It's a very detailed, user-friendly site, in fact, I give it high marks for interface and use. The only reason that such a site is necessary, of course, is because of the aforementioned bloated mass that is American Health Insurance and Care, Inc. That's right, folks, because the US Gov't has a hand in all of this, there are strings attached to the $$ that your company GIVES YOU or that you have WITHHELD FROM YOUR PAY expressly for the purpose of offsetting uncovered medical costs.

Chard Snyder has a handy site to help you spend your FSA (and HRA?) dollars, in fact. Of course they do, why in the world would they miss out on this opportunity to keep the dollars that they manage for you? Seriously, they would be stupid not to!


I am trying to point out that all of this economic activity (building websites to help wade through the ridiculous restrictions on what you can spend health care dollars on, companies existing to manage your HRAs, FSAs, etc.) is only necessary because the Federal Gov't is so thoroughly enmeshed into what should be an independent sector of the economy. Ridiculous.

I tell you, this thought has roots in an old realization when working for a small family business that they had to waste money employing an accountant and payroll service because of the morass of taxes imposed by the federal government and the requirement to withhold payroll taxes rather than a much simpler (for the business) idea that I, the earner, am responsible for paying my quarterly income taxes and must therefore save a portion of my income and write that painful check a few times a year. These businesses are essentially forced to do the work (and pay for the privilege) of the IRS. Ridiculous.

Imagine the tax revolt we would have if there was no such thing as withholding?



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Photos and Words, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Here's my version of a pithy travel article based on my time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber....

Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a fascinating history for sure, and if you are a fan of Rick Steve's as-seen-on-PBS travels, you know that he is a fan of this completely walled medieval city located on Germany's so-called Romantic Road in the Franconia region of German Bavaria. However, you won't find it on many of the "best-most-whatever-walled city" lists populating the web.


Why?

I have no idea, but maybe because its history is checkered with one really glaring modern sin: it expelled all its Jewish citizens in 1938 and became used as a propaganda tool for the Nazis as a kind of "perfect German town."

It was also famously saved because of the intervention of U.S. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, whose mother had visited as a tourist and had a depiction of the town hanging in their home during his childhood (according to the Night Watchman, Hans Georg Baumgartner, on his entertaining tour).

He personally called US Army General Jacob L. Devers and halted further bombing. An offer to spare the town in return for a peaceful exit by the Nazi soldiers was accepted and the significant damage was repaired in part because of the international donations that flowed in to this well-established tourist destination.


Indeed, that is the only reason I can imagine it being excluded from any "best-of" lists, as it is lovely. The cobbled streets, tiny alleys, shops, buildings and museums are as charming as one could hope for, and Rothenburg hosts many tourists and visitors each day. Every turn takes you onto a quaint street filled with shops and restaurants, private homes, and a museum or two.


Fantastic views can be had from above.





The wall can be walked via a rampart on the inside for nearly the entire circumference, and the layers of rooftops, mostly terracotta red, lead your eyes to the towers and steeples of Rothenburg's historic buildings.


The inside of the wall is home to many personalized bricks that commemorate the donations from all over the world that financed the post-war repairs, and the walkway is, while in great condition, not designed for people with mobility issues. If you can manage the stairs up to it, you will be rewarded with some truly marvelous views.









Outside the walls is a typical German town as well, but a modern rather than medieval one. if you turn you camera outside the walls, you may see a factory or a swingset, or just the wooded surroundings of the Tauber River.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Gallup Does Mention One Thing....

This is an interesting bit of data, certainly, and I'm not here to minimize the effect of the HodgesObergefell decision (I've (jokingly) mentioned that I've known Jim was gay longer than he has, right? College friends from back in the day), or even really comment on that. As usual, I have this odd take on this bit of data (and one point that isn't mine at all)

LGBT marriage rates have increased, but not as much as you might think. Indeed, as the text of the article points out, it may have actually slowed a little after the big push last year when it all became legal.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued the Obergefell decision. As would be expected, the number of same-sex marriages has increased, though the rate of increase has slowed.
One thing I can't figure out is the two different numbers cited:

Two years after the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states could not prohibit same-sex marriages, 10.2% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) adults in the U.S. are married to a same-sex spouse. That is up from 7.9% in the months prior to the Supreme Court decision in 2015, but only marginally higher than the 9.6% measured in the first year after the ruling.

But then says:

As a result of these shifts, Gallup estimates that 61% of same-sex, cohabiting couples in the U.S. are now married, up from 38% before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015, and 49% one year ago. 
 
Huh?

Anyway, here's someone else's point (Rush Limbaugh): not as many gay people want to get married as everyone seemed to think, so the issue was overblown in many ways. Yes, there were plenty of folks that wanted to get legally married, don't mistake the point, it's just that the storyline overstated that number, and therefore the reach of the "historic" decision was far smaller than the average ally thought. There is data to support that idea in this story:

An increasing percentage of LGBT adults now identify their marital status as single or never married. That has always been the dominant status among LGBT individuals, but has increased from 47.4% to 55.7% over the last two years.

Now, I immediately noticed a line in the data (my emphasis below) that I am impressed that Gallup chose to include:

 LGBT Americans are still more likely to be married to an opposite-sex spouse (13.1%) than a same-sex spouse (10.2%), but the gap is narrowing. According to prior research on LGBT identification, roughly half of those who self-identify as LGBT are bisexual, helping explaining the high proportion of LGBT individuals who are married to opposite-sex partners. Gallup's question does not probe specifically for whether LGBT individuals are lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender.

Interesting, eh?

With Gallup reporting that according to their research
Overall, 4.3% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Gallup's latest estimate from its June 2016-June 2017 tracking data. That is up from 3.9% a year ago and 3.4% in Gallup's initial estimate in 2012. 
I find it interesting that it's still a tiny percentage of the population that was affected by this massive media story (although it's still a largish actual number: 2015 census says 247,773,709 adults, so that's like 10.6 million people), and the subset of that number that got married in light of the Supreme Court decision is pretty small. Let's do some math.

Using the 2015 number above, and that 4.3% percentage according to Gallup, there are approximately

  • 10,654,269 adult LGBT people in the US.
  • 841,687 married prior to HodgesObergefell (7.9%)
  • 1,086,735 married after two years (10.2%)
  • so 245,048 adults got married as a result, so far. (this is off by a little, as we are using 2015 numbers, I get that.)
That's .000989% of the adults in the US. 

That's a lot of hubbub for a very very small group. I have said that the US Constitution has been described as a document to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority (not my line, obviously), so this fits into that mold, I guess, but wow, what a lot of attention given to an issue that has a ridiculously tiny reach. Perspective, people. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Organic Foods Have Downsides? Who'Da Thunk It?

Life is a balance between all the choices we have presented before us and all the decisions we make. Yin and Yang, karma, The Secret, et cetera, all speak to this idea that everything has an effect (and affect?) on something. I have written before about our hubris in toying with nature, and our old friend The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Here's an interesting look at the research from some sources (and I am sure that there are others with different results) from a writer at the UK Telegraph, or, more appropriately, a professor that has been known to write about how the environmental/climate movement doesn't pay attention to the above-mentioned Law. I say that to be sure that you read this with a critical eye, knowing that I feel the same way he does and could be experiencing some Confirmation Bias (as I admittedly do, do you?).

Norman Borlaug, who got the Nobel Prize for starting the Green Revolution, liked to point out that organic farming on a global scale would leave billions without food. “I don’t see two billion volunteers to disappear,” he said.
Exactly. That's just one zinger, read the article to see the research about how organic fails at feeding large numbers. Here's an interview with this guy, Bjorn Lomborg, called The Reasonable Environmentalist, which I love, as that's exactly how I've described myself (conserve! reduce, reuse, recycle!), indeed, I try to be reasonable above all else.

His recent column, Trump’s climate plan might not be so bad after all, lays it out. The pledges agreed to in the Paris treaty would cost $1 to $2 trillion a year by 2030 to implement, with virtually no impact: At most it would reduce global temperature by a fraction of degree by the end of the century.
He says money would be better spent developing breakthrough technology that would truly be transformational to our economy (not solar and wind, which are piddling) and funding efforts to combat malnutrition and provide safe drinking water in the developing world.
The upshot is, if you truly care about two billion people living in dire poverty, the Paris treaty is the wrong way to help them.
THIS!!!! I once had an article from the "founder of Greenpeace now a skeptic" that had a great chart about the costs/benefits of spending allllll that cash on AGW versus not that came to the same conclusion, a reduction of a fraction of a degree. I can't find it!!!!

Oh, here's another article of his about the fact that there are good things about a warming world that don't get discussed because of HOW DARE YOU. I have said this as well, that fewer people will die because cold kills more people than heat....

Don't be led around by your nose, think, doubt, and verify from scientific sources not PuffHo, or WinfoArs and their ilk.


Friday, March 10, 2017

I Must Rant For A Moment. Triggered, Indeed.

I admit it, I was "triggered" by a Facebook post of a high school friend, a clickbait headline about Science Disproving Transphobia or some similar drivel.

Are people phobic about trans people? I don't think so. I mean, that's a catch-all kind of statement in the first place. Yes, there are people who are scared of trans people, the idea of trans people, etc, just as there are people in the country (and the world) that are racist, but I believe we are no longer what any sane person can call a "racist nation."

The entire bathroom flap about trans people was started by the prog/lib/dems deciding that there was a problem for this unbelievably small number of people and THERE NEEDS TO BE A LAW to decide that THEY CAN USE WHATEVER BATHROOM I IDENTIFY WITH BECAUSE they said so.

Now, is it reasonable that people should be able to go to the bathroom? Yup.

Is it reasonable that people should not be bullied or assaulted because of this? Yup. How often was that happening? I dunno. Too often, no matter them actual number

However, when you say PAY ATTENTION TO THIS TINY ISSUE, WE ARE MAKING A LAW ABOUT IT, people pay attention.

This resulted in conservative/repub lawmakers saying YOU CAN'T MAKE US ACCEPT THIS LAW because Religion and stuff! Dems lit a fire, Repubs threw gasoline on it, like always.

So, the last POTUS signed an order about schools and bathrooms, then the new POTUS signed an order rescinding it, saying clearly "this isn't a federal issue, schools can make whatever policy suits them about bathrooms without a federal mandate." **It's worthy to note that Trump has been by far the most LGBT-friendly presidential candidate in our history, if you are paying attention.

This, I assume caused the post (and article) that "triggered" me.

So, where's the rant?

People aren't afraid of trans, they are afraid of perverts and pedophiles. That's the objection. We have been carefully taught (catch the South Pacific reference?) that ALL MEN ARE PREDATORS by the extremist lefty prog anti-rape-culture feminist pogrom for my entire time on earth and maybe longer than that. All. Men. Are. Predators.

Every class, training, sensitivity session that has taught our young men and women about harassment, rape, etc, has emphasized how bad men are, and this is the fruit of this education, folks.

We all now know beyond that shadow of doubt that men cannot be trusted with children, or women. I cannot even so much as coach my children's teams without approval from the school, archdiocese, FBI and state police. I cannot be alone with the team even after that (2 adults always!) because I still may be a predator or perv (or may still be accused of predatoring or perving if alone without a corroborating witness, who is there to protect me and my reputation just as I am there for them). When I first went through the vetting process as a M Ed student, we were carefully instructed to never being alone with students, or if conferencing, keeping the door open and alerting a colleague to the sensitive situation if no one could chaperone so that we couldn't even be accused of the unavoidable, expected sexual assaults we couldn't help but perpetrate on our students....

So, excuse us if we think giving adult-males-that-may-be-predators the legal ability to share our daughters' (and sons') bathrooms and locker rooms. We aren't afraid a trans kid is going to hurt them, we are afraid a predator is going to waltz in right in front of us instead of having to sneak in while we are trying to protect our kids.





Friday, February 10, 2017

New Year, New Job, New Post

Sorry that it's been so long since I've posted on here, what with the election and all, and another new job (that seems to be an issue in my life, a lack of job satisfaction (not a lack of security, I tend to leave of my own volition mostly)), but it's time to talk about a few things that are on my mind.

Firstly, let's talk about an avocation of mine, acting. I don't perform very frequently, although I have representation, but I have gotten the odd job here and there, including some barely-noticeable-paid-extra work on actual movies shot here locally (but not as many as I would like). I've seen a couple of "Urgent casting for volunteer extras" posts on Facebook from a local casting agent and shared them, but I personally won't do those. Why? I value what I do. I gladly volunteer at church and school, but if they are going to make money on the movie (it is a capital project, no?), why should it expect my labor to be free? I understand it's not a big deal, and there are many that will happily volunteer to be a part of a film, but if I'm doing this work for pay (thanks, agency), it devalues me to do it for free.



Trump derangement continues unabated all over. I've been clear about my feelings about the guy, but, boy am I enjoying the derangement. Seriously, to see him poke the hive successfully over and over again is pretty amusing. Maybe, just maybe, some of his opponents will see the merit of advocating for a smaller government. Ok, just kidding, they won't.

There have been openings in the freakouts, however. A Jewish H.S. classmate of mine actually posted a blog from a guy saying "my Dad was obsessed with Hitler and the Nazis, and he was a killer and maniac from day one. Trump isn't and isn't going to suddenly become one," which was perfectly timed for me to read, as I had been pondering that very line of logic. Did Hitler "grow" into Hitler-ness, or was he like that all along? Because, to say that Trump is a modern Hitler leading us down the same path ("I have studied Nazi Germany and this is how it started" say so many idiots), means that he actually wants to KILL A BUNCH OF PEOPLE RIGHT NOW, right? 

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame (among his many accomplishments) has been on fire explaining the persuasiveness and success of the Trump campaign, if you haven't read him, do it. He's all over Twitter, too.

I still say the best line about the new Prez is that progs and libs take him literally rather than seriously, when it should be the other way around. He also continues to play the press like a fiddle, which is hilarious. One NBC person has it right (I can't find the tweets), that covering his rantings (specifically, it was the "under reported terror attacks story) only brings attention to the issue (and she was totally correct), but the media can't not cover him, just like it couldn't during the campaign. It's worse for them now that he's POTUS! That's how he won, right? Well, that, and his opponent was the worst Dem prez candidate since Mondale.

I am amazed at the cognitive dissonance on both (all) sides of the aisle. Most recently, this Nordstrom Dropping Ivanka's Clothing Line Flap has me chuckling at the lefties that actually believe that it was a business decision. Seriously. It was political, as is TJMaxx's, and my wife is pissed off about it because she actually like the quality of some of the clothes in her line! 

Everyone thinks they are thoughtful, everyone thinks they have formed their opinions based on reflection and education, but, as has been described well by others, that's just not true. I give people the benefit of the doubt, but there's just so much stupid out there, and the Internet makes it inescapable. Alas.

Photography continues to amuse me, so if you aren't already, follow me on instagram. I get the honor of an episode of the Hashtagged Daily Podcast here in a week or so, look for episode 77. If you like instagram and photography, it's an interesting podcast!