26 November 2016

Make Love, Not Babies; reframing "trying" to conceive

I should start with a disclaimer:
The opinions and experiences expressed in this post are purely that of the author.
This is not meant in any way to be directed at any particular person or be in response to any particular comment.
I fully acknowledge that my own personal experience is nothing more than an anecdote, and a data set of one (1) generally proves nothing.

My wife was (is!) really excited about starting a family. I've been looking forward to it too.
I convinced her to agree to wait just a couple more months after we got married to save up some money so we can both take 6 months to a year off to be full time parents.

And I also asked for one critical thing:

Can we please not "try" to have a baby?

Can we instead just make conditions such that it is possible, and then "allow" it to happen?
She agreed to this.
No testing kits, no books, no thermometers, no fancy expensive lubes, and no pills of any kind.

Of course she took vitamins with folic acid and DHA, and she has a free app where if you put in the dates of each period it will predict the next one as well as likely fertile days based on the historical pattern. But she was doing both of those things for the past year anyway.
The app has the option to add temperatures to improve accuracy of fertility prediction, but we just took the calendar based prediction as a good enough rough guide. Fertile days start several days - up to 5 days - before ovulation anyway, and only last about a day after, so knowing the exact day is of limited usefulness anyway - once you know for sure its basically too late.

Here's what we did:
We had sex often.
At least once every day (with possible exceptions during her period), usually twice (or more) on suspected fertile days.

The conventional wisdom, and what "everyone" recommends, is to avoid having sex every day, however it isn't backed up by science.  If you read the studies (not just "expert opinions"), people who mate every day tend to be more successful than those who only do it every other day.People who mate every other day are more successful than those who try to "time" it.




As far as "depleting" sperm outside of the fertile window, that simply doesn't matter one way or the other, it just doesn't work that way - there is no reserve. Each time all sperm available are used, and the count is reset to zero. So it wouldn't make any difference if he had sex twice a day, every other day, or just once the day before, the first time during the fertility window will only consist of what built up since that most recent time, in this example 24 hours ago.

Meanwhile, ovulation testing will tell you when, or more likely the next day after, ovulation occurs. But the fertility window is the 5 days leading UP TO ovulation. If you wait until testing says it is the right time, its actually just about too late. You want (healthy) sperm already waiting in the fallopian tube by the time the egg gets there.

The egg has no way to distinguish the number of sperm in it's general vicinity that come from any particular ejaculation. Sperm live as much as 5-6 days (hence the 5 day window). So even if the sperm count per sex instance were half as much, the total sperm available for conception is the exact same amount. In other words, 2 consecutive days with 30 million sperm counts leads to the same total sperm in her reproductive tract as 60 million once. Except that his body will more likely ramp up production to the maximum it can with more frequent sex (though it would take 1-2 months to make a difference, since that's how long sperm production takes), so it is likely slightly more total, (for example maybe instead of halving with doubled frequency, the sperm count drops to 31 million per time as it tries to keep up, resulting in a slightly higher total of 62 million).
Ultimately, the "minimum" sperm count thing is just a probability/statistic thing, not an actual reproductive biology rule. Ultimately, it only takes a few dozen sperm. 
There is evidence that production rate in several species of animal (the ones that have been tested) matters more than absolute count, and it's documented that production rates vary in humans based on a number of factors including environment, diet, drugs, possibly age (conflicting reports) and notably testosterone - which in turn is known to increase with more sexual frequency. 
Unfortunately, the study that would give a more direct answer to the question of why is daily sex more effective than every 2nd day has never been done, but the bottom line is that couples who have actually had sex every day tend to get pregnant faster than ones who do every other day. What ever the reason(s) turn out to be, whenever real world results conflict with "expert opinion", reality wins.

But of course all suggestions of frequent sex are always reported with the caveat that if you feel like its a chore, it can backfire.

And that last bit is what brings us back to that very important thing we agreed to:
not "trying" to get pregnant.

It's sort of how work is better when you don't need the money.
Or if you reward a child for playing their favorite game, they stop playing it spontaneously.
Why volunteering feels so much more rewarding than employment.
Or why monetizing a hobby makes it less fun.

Anytime you do something for some other external reward, it takes away from any intrinsic value that activity might have. Its just human nature.
So we didn't have sex "to get pregnant".
We stopped using birth control, and we had sex because sex is fun, and it feels good, and we are attracted to each other, and it makes us feel closer to each other and strengthens our relationship.
All the same reasons we did before.

And, if we end up with a baby, well that's a great bonus for an activity we would have wanted to do anyway, because we would both love to be parents!

Instead of looking at it as we "have to" have sex, we looked at the whole baby situation from a different perspective - the fact that we want this outcome is a great excuse that ALLOWS us license to have sex all the time.
Well, not that we couldn't have anyway, but maybe "reminds" or "inspires" us, would be the better term.

But if you aren't timing sex, I don't really see what the point of knowing when ovulation occurs is... I don't think there is any good reason to do much special besides have lots of sex (and take enough folic acid)
...Finally, some women can conceive perfectly fine but have something funny about their cycle that makes the 'just have sex a lot' advice not effective. Like super short fertility windows, or maybe way early ovulation that happens closer to their period than they realized (in which case maybe they weren't in the mood then).

True, there are times one or both of us feel like it more than others.

Though, notice, I didn't say "have lots of sex - if and when you feel like it". I just said "have lots of sex". That would include even when one or even both don't feel like it.

Now, granted, at first that seems to contradict everything I said earlier about doing it for fun instead of the reward of a baby, but it actually fits with my (and my wife's) general philosophy on the subject...
See, even when we don't already spontaneously happen to feel particularly horny, if either of us allows ourselves to be seduced by the other, we always, 100% of the time, end up getting into it and enjoying it. Knowing that from past experience, we are both in the habit of saying "yes". We believe this is good relationship policy, regardless of whether you are trying to get pregnant or not.

Obviously there are exceptions; cases like injury, illness, running late or needing sleep. But mostly its a shift in mindset.
Its kind of like a yummy treat. You can feel hunger, and then you make a point to find food. But if someone offers you a bite of something delicious, you are likely to accept even if you aren't at all hungry, because you know it will taste good. Similarly, when you "feel like it" you may seek out sex, but even when you don't, it will still end up feeling good, so why not accept - or even make! - the offer anyway?

So, anyway, this is what we did.
and, if that free app is actually accurate, then, based on when we stopped using birth control, it took exactly one day(!) to conceive...
...well, that would have been a little too easy.
Turned out to be a "chemical pregnancy" (an odd choice of term to mean "very early miscarriage"), only 2 1/2 weeks later, basically immediately after implantation.

And here our methods served us in an unexpected way: We had a couple of days of suspecting it might be possible from how she felt, but we didn't actually have any confirmation there had ever been conception until after we knew there wasn't any anymore - the advice nurse had her come in the the doctor's office because her symptoms could possibly have indicated an ectopic pregnancy and her HCG levels indicated she had been pregnant, briefly, but wasn't currently.
That meant a situation that for many is mildly traumatic was more of just a mild disappointment.
It turns out likely somewhere in the range of 50-70% of all conceptions end in either "chemical pregnancy" or official miscarriage.
(You see the range 20-25% a lot online, but that is only counting "medically confirmed" cases. The likelihood of being confirmed by a doctor goes up with each passing week, but the likelihood of losing it goes down, which means the majority of cases are unlikely to ever be medically confirmed in the first place. The earliest ones - those that occur in the first 1-3 weeks - often won't produce any symptoms at all and a period may not even be late, so no one ever even suspects it happened.)

So this wasn't necessarily a sign of any real problems, and it let us know we are both fertile.
In fact, supposedly fertility increases after a miscarriage, so, statistically speaking, this put us "ahead of schedule" so to speak, since its expected to take 6-12 cycles, and we were only at number 2.

Then the next cycle, similar circumstances: 5 days after the soonest she might have ovulated again she started feeling nausea and sore breasts, which increased a couple days, but then there was either a miscarriage (if she had been pregnant at all), or a period (no conclusive tests this time).

So now we have to make a choice - statistically this is still not particularly abnormal, and could easily just be coincidence. So we could do nothing.
Then again, there was some reason to suspect (from some completely unrelated things a long time ago) that there may be a mild hormone balance issue. We could wait a month or two and run a bunch of tests and possibly have a better idea what, if any, issues there may be (but still not a conclusive answer, because medical science rarely gives conclusive answers to anything.
Or we could just use a little bit of over-the-counter progesterone supplement - which would deal with the most common and likely source of this specific issue, other wise keep doing what we are doing, and see what happens next time around.
For now at least, we are going with this last option.

And here's the most significant part: despite the complications we ran into so far, there is still no reason we should have done anything differently before hand. It wouldn't have changed anything. We would still be at exactly the same place we are right now. The only difference is the process would have been a lot more stressful (and we probably would have had much less sex - and the sex we had would have been less fun!)

Guess now I'll have to check back in in a few months with updates...

I started with a disclaimer acknowledging that this story is an anecdote, a sample size of one.
But that isn't entirely true.

In the US 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned.
That's about 3 million people every year who get pregnant without having done anything special to "try".
In fact, most of them were probably trying NOT to!
They definitely weren't charting, or timing sex to ovulation, or using special pro-sperm lubes
(which, by the way, have not been found any more effective than regular commercial ones in practice, in real life studies of actual people trying to conceive. The lab tests that supposedly confirm it's superiority were done in grossly unrealistic conditions that don't simulate real sex. Also, the lab tests that have purported to compare special lube to "regular" lube have used weird stuff like "warming" and "tingling" and thick gels. The ingredient lists of ordinary, inexpensive, no frills lubes is nearly identical to the specialty stuff)

So, my point in all this is this: try not to worry so much!
People have been having babies for hundreds of thousands of years. Millions, if you count all the living things that aren't quite "people" per say.
It seems entirely possible (and there is even some evidence to support this), that the mere fact of stressing about it makes it a little bit harder to actually succeed.

I'm not suggesting anyone actually change any behaviors or do or not do any particular thing.
But what I am suggesting is reframing the process, mentally, emotionally.
You probably won't get pregnant any sooner (or later) by reframing. But you are very likely to have a more pleasant experience in the meantime if you do.

23 September 2016

Landlord Who Supports Rent Control

[Background - the city council of my town, Richmond CA, has had a very heated political debate for a couple years now over whether or not to institute rent control.
Richmond is currently one of the more affordable pockets in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially for being close enough to the center to have its own BART stop, but like rents everywhere in this popular and rapidly growing area, they are climbing fast.
With rent control measures, landlords would only be able to raise rents they charge by a certain percentage (generally close to inflation levels) each year, and could only evict tenants if those tenants actually did something wrong (or if the landlord wants to move in), not just as a way to get new tenants to pay higher rent (rents can be increased between tenants, assuming they move out voluntarily or are evicted for a legitimate reason).

In the public discourse around the issue, those against it are constantly making the claim that it would "hurt small-time landlords".
I posted the following to a couple neighborhood discussion groups on the topic:

Not that any one cares about one random individual's opinion, nor that they should... 
...but since so many who talk about the subject feel entitled to speak on my behalf, I just wanted to set the record straight. 
I grew up in Richmond, and I live here now. I worked for the downpayment money for our triplex home from scratch, on an ordinary working class salary (averaging around 20k a year). I was able to save money by living in trailer parks most of my adult life.

Today I am a "small time" landlord. I own just a couple of units, which share the same land as my own home is on. I put a lot of money and time and work into upgrading it and making it a nice place for my tenants to live, and I still have a giant mortgage on it.

And there is absolutely no way I could honestly claim that rent control would "hurt" me.

My mortgage is a fixed amount, and repairs and vacancies are reasonably predictable. I make a profit on my rentals - that's why I got them - even though I charge my tenants below "market" rent.

There is no specific dollar amount or percentage of profit that I am "entitled" to. While being a landlord does require more than zero work, so does managing a stock portfolio. The fact is I am making unearned income. No one has any right to claim to be entitled to unearned income.

Further, rent control does not require me to LOWER my existing rents.
All it does is prevent us from arbitrarily raising rents to whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay.
Not getting MORE money is not the equivalent of having money taken away.

As land holders, we are controlling a basic human necessity.
In other human necessities, for example, clean water and other utilities, the companies that control the supply are not allowed to make up whatever prices they think some people will pay. The government steps in in the form of the public utility commission, and caps what they can charge.
With the affordable care act, there are limits to how much individuals can be charged for access to basic and emergency health care. That's a human rights issue.

Living on the street, or in a park, or in a doorway, is considered a crime, so even if we wanted to pretend that was a reasonable way to live, it isn't a legitimate option in our society. That means every individual HAS to have housing. We don't need to make unlimited profit from having control over a basic human necessity.

It is entirely possible that some, or even all, of my tenants make more money than I do. I actually wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. That is irrelevant. Nobody proposes that people who make more money should have to pay more than everyone else for food or furniture or computers or anything else. If someone who can afford a bigger place or one in a better location, and chooses not to (to save money to buy their own place, or any other reason), that's their choice.

All rent control does is say that I can't arbitrarily kick people out of their home just so I can make more profit than I am already making, nor arbitrarily jack up the price from what we originally agreed to, just because silicon valley hired a bunch of people from out of state.

One last thing: I am opposed to building more housing too.
There is a reason I have never lived in San Francisco, and it isn't just the cost of housing. There are 17,000 humans per square foot there (10 times the density of Richmond). As a result the city has 24 hour gridlock, $50 per day parking garages, and an ocean of garbage is cleaned off the street every day. For all the negative reputation Richmond has, San Francisco's crime rate is higher.
It has been found by researchers that the single biggest variable in crime rate is population density. The more people, the worse life.
Instead of trying to accommodate every single person from out of the area who wants to live here - either by pricing out existing residents or building infinitely more housing, what if we simply *don't* accommodate all the new people who want to move in? Demand will be high - and go partially unfulfilled - and that's ok.

Today I am a "small time" landlord. I own just a couple of units, which share the same land as my own home is on. I put a lot of money and time and work into upgrading it and making it a nice place for my tenants to live, and I still have a giant mortgage on it.
And there is absolutely no way I could honestly claim that rent control would "hurt" me. 
My mortgage is a fixed amount, and repairs and vacancies are reasonably predictable. I make a profit on my rentals - that's why I got them - even though I charge my tenants below "market" rent. 
There is no specific dollar amount or percentage of profit that I am "entitled" to. While being a landlord does require more than zero work, so does managing a stock portfolio. The fact is I am making unearned income. No one has any right to claim to be entitled to unearned income. 
Further, rent control does not require me to LOWER my existing rents. All it does is prevent us from arbitrarily raising rents to whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay. Not getting MORE money is not the equivalent of having money taken away. 
As land holders, we are controlling a basic human necessity. In other human necessities, for example, clean water and other utilities, the companies that control the supply are not allowed to make up whatever prices they think some people will pay. The government steps in in the form of the public utility commission, and caps what they can charge. With the affordable care act, there are limits to how much individuals can be charged for access to basic and emergency health care. That's a human rights issue. 
Living on the street, or in a park, or in a doorway, is considered a crime, so even if we wanted to pretend that was a reasonable way to live, it isn't a legitimate option in our society. That means every individual HAS to have housing. We don't need to make unlimited profit from having control over a basic human necessity. 
It is entirely possible that some, or even all, of my tenants make more money than I do. I actually wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. That is irrelevant. Nobody proposes that people who make more money should have to pay more than everyone else for food or furniture or computers or anything else. If someone who can afford a bigger place or one in a better location, and chooses not to (to save money to buy their own place, or any other reason), that's their choice. 
All rent control does is say that I can't arbitrarily kick people out of their home just so I can make more profit than I am already making, nor arbitrarily jack up the price from what we originally agreed to, just because silicon valley hired a bunch of people from out of state. 
One last thing: I am opposed to building more housing too. There is a reason I have never lived in San Francisco, and it isn't just the cost of housing. There are 17,000 humans per square foot there (10 times the density of Richmond). As a result the city has 24 hour gridlock, $50 per day parking garages, and an ocean of garbage is cleaned off the street every day. For all the negative reputation Richmond has, San Francisco's crime rate is higher. It has been found by researchers that the single biggest variable in crime rate is population density. The more people, the worse life. Instead of trying to accommodate every single person from out of the area who wants to live here - either by pricing out existing residents or building infinitely more housing, what if we simply *don't* accommodate all the new people who want to move in? Demand will be high - and go partially unfulfilled - and that's ok.

31 August 2016

Bakari Willsky Kafele*

I had no expectation that my partner would take on my last name.

My intention was to do like one of my clients when they got married: he took her last name as his middle name, and she took his last name as her middle.

But my partner wanted everyone in the family to have the same last name, which certainly seems reasonable.
She also wanted to keep both of her parent's last names, in honor of them.  But she didn't want to have 4 names.  Also reasonable.
So she decided to hybridize her maiden middle and last names (one of each of which were her parent's last names) and make that her middle name, and then take mine for a last name.

Brotsky Williams becomes Willsky.

Me, being all egalitarian and such, found it acceptable for her to take on some of my name only if I was doing the same.  And, conveniently, I had no middle name.  So I'll take her new middle name as my own as well.

25 August 2016

I'm So Fancy: On the Consept of Cultural Appropriation

I used to have I'm So Fancy, by Iggy Azalea, as my phone's ringtone, for the express purpose of annoying Social Justice Warriors.


Because she is white (so say the SJW), she has no business making rap music.
Black people invented hip-hop, therefore only they have the right to produce it.
White people can listen and enjoy it, perhaps, but they should not be able to make any money off of it.

As counter-point, allow me to introduce "Unlocking the Truth"

20 August 2016

The Mechanic and the Bumper Stickers; On Cultural Isolation

I broke the axle of my truck.

Turns out, even though the truck model is very popular, and the company made parts interchangeable for many years before and after mine came out, mine just so happens to have one of the rarer weight capacity and gear ratio combinations, which means if I replace it I will most likely either not be able to haul as much or I will lose MPG on the highway.

There is only one place I could find in the area that rebuilds axles, so I removed the wheels and hubs and took the axle to them.

The city of Hayward, where the gear shop is, is two cities south of Oakland, CA.  Oakland, which is the next city south of Berkeley, and across the bay from San Francisco.  This is where Gavin Newsome, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Lee are from.  The center of the anti-Vietnam war movement, the gay rights movement, and the birth place of the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter.
It doesn't get much more liberal than the Bay Area.

But, see, I was heading to a gear shop, a place that rebuilds transmissions, axles, and transfer cases, primarily for big trucks and off-road vehicles, plus the occasional hot-rod or classic car.

I was expecting a couple of middle aged to older white guys.  I would not have been the least surprised if they ranged somewhere between conservative and libertarian.

But I sure didn't expect this:

18 August 2016

Random Thoughts (dot fyi)

As you may have noticed, I now have a much simpler URL (the words in the address bar)

Instead of "biodieselhauling.blogspot.com", which really has nothing at all to do with the blog content - it just happens that I hosted my first blog on my business website's server, and then when I moved to a Google server, I didn't put any time or thought into the new name!
Plus, having a free domain meant I had to have ".blogspot.com" tacked onto the end, as an ad for google's blog platform.

I thought about doing a custom domain a few years ago, and came up with "random thoughts" - but it was (and still is) being parked by one of those amoral "buy something you have no need for and no intention of ever using so that you create and artificial scarcity and can turn a profit without having contributed anything of value to the world" type companies, (in dramatic contrast to my experience when my desired business website "biodieselhauling.com" was parked!)

I contacted the company that was holding my idea hostage, and they said they would be more than happy to sell me the rights to the name they were not using and no intention of ever using, for just $5,000!

Hmm, I guess biodieselhauling.blogspot.com isn't so bad, especially given I only have around 30 subscribers.

But since 2013, "the internet" has been coming up with new TLDs (the thing after the dot), and now there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of options besides .com, .net, .org, and .gov.

I haven't really been writting much since 2013 though, so I hadn't really thought about it.  A long boring day of Coast Guard Reserve duty motivated me back into the writing habit, and today is randomly popped into my head to see what options there were these days.
So, I paid Google $20, instead of that $5,000.  I probably could have found cheaper, but this was it was trivially easy to integrate my existing blog with my new domain (basically just clicked one button in my admin page, done).

So here we are.
The original address is forwarding here automatically, and I expect it will indefinitely, so your existing bookmarks should continue to work, but now typing my blog into the address bar by hand or doing a google search should be a lot easier.

15 August 2016

The Last Taboo

Disclaimer / “Trigger Warning”
This is easily the single most "triggering" topic in our culture.  Its about the only thing which causes Americans to react as strongly as a True Believer reacts to an insult of Muhammad.  Its about children and sexuality.  If those two words in one sentence were enough to cause some strong feelings inside you, it may be better to just skip this post.

12 August 2016

Your feelings don't determine ethics

I recently started reading the Odyssey by Homer.

Its always fun to see how entirely different cultures view the world, which things are apparently universal and which things we make assume to be universal but actually are specific to our own particular place and time.

For example, we think of empowered female sexuality as a recent invention, appearing only after modern feminism, but in the ancient Greek story, as patriarchal as any culture, the hero is held captive for seven years as the demi-goddess Calypso's personal sex slave (though in his heart, he wanted always to be faithful to his wife back home).  Another time the witch Circe, having turned all his soldier into pigs for future eating, decides, upon learning that he is the legendary Odysseus, not to turn him into a pig after all - on condition that he have sex with her; which he agrees to only on the condition that she turn his companions back into human afterwards.

But what really struck me was realizing how the worldwide human sense of morality appears to have made a fundamental and permanent change following the creation of the League of Nations (the original UN) and the various Geneva conventions.  They date back as far as 1864, but on the time scale of human civilization that is a trivial time span.

Today, a culture which violates certain specific international agreements is considered by the rest of the world to be the very embodiment of evil - using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, deliberately killing civilians or captives, or taking advantage of an occupation to engage in theft, rape, or slavery.
Oddly enough, shooting people, blowing them up, and restricting access to food and other necessities is considered entirely normal and acceptable behavior...

05 August 2016

A Technique to Terminate Tantrums: Directed Self-Calming via Incentivized Alternative

I'm not totally sure on the name.  I just came up with it this morning, and hadn't spent any time thinking about it before.  I like the directed self-calming part...
How about I actually start at the beginning, instead of the end, eh?

Kids throw tantrums.

By tantrum I mean any combination of yelling, crying, and flailing, which is triggered by a conflict with another person which doesn't allow them to get whatever it is that they want.
Crying because an errant football hit them in the head as they were playing in the park would not count as a tantrum.

Kids, unfortunately, do not come with instruction manuals.

One would think that evolution would naturally guide us to instinctively know the best way to deal with children in a species that instinctively provides "parenting", but for some reason it doesn't.

This technique may have been come up with plenty of times, but many different people, and it may even be written down many places, but I personally have never seen anyone else use, have never read about it.

25 July 2016

A Conversation on my Post Before Last

I got some in depth feedback on my post before last.
That's the parts in black.
My response follows in red.

Hi Bakari
My reply is too long to post into your "comment" box, so I am emailing it instead:

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to try to articulate your thoughts and beliefs more clearly so we can understand what you are thinking. 

Thanks for this reply!

I think that I understand your beliefs a little better now. 
That being said, I have many mixed feelings about your analysis and conclusions. ... who cares enough to want to influence things to be more just and fair and better for all; and ... that you are so intelligent and do so much research to try to discern what is real and true and what is not; and that you have the courage to express your beliefs regardless how unpopular. 
However, I believe that you oversimplify many things to make them fit neatly into your analysis

That is without a doubt true!  Topics the encompass hundreds of millions of different individuals can never possibly be discussed without oversimplifying.  If I were to flesh out every caveat, I'd end up with a book instead of a blog post.

22 July 2016

Cat Superstition, and the Origins of Religion, Astrology, and all forms of Supernatural Beliefs

A few years ago, my (late) kitty cat friend and roommate Fushi jumped up on the table.
On the table was a large object of some kind - I don't remember exactly what, maybe a book, maybe a pot; whatever it was, it was kind of near the edge.

Supposedly cats are naturally graceful, but that seems to vary as much by the individual as it does for humans.
He bumped into this object, which teetered a bit from the impact, and he jumped right back down.
And the thing tipped over and came down behind him, crashing just barely behind him.
As anyone would, in such a circumstance, he quickly jumped out of the way.

But then he did something more interesting...

He continued to run.
In fact, he ran not only completely across the room, but right out of the room, and kept right on going across the entire house, before finding a safe hiding place in the bedroom.

Now, Fushi was not a particularly skittish cat.  He wasn't bothered by loud noises, he trusted human strangers, and even strange dogs as long as they didn't chase or bark at him.  He stood up to bully cats and went on adventures, sometimes for days at a time.

But this object, set in motion by his own actions, and continued in motion by gravity, had just scared him away.

19 July 2016

Protesting Police Shootings VERSUS *not* Helping Your Kids with a College Degree and DownPayment

From the outside, it could look an awful lot like the liberal Left is populated with tens of thousands of Donald Trumps.  Trumps that just happen to have different values; but watch them on mute for a while, or listen to the emotion without the specifics, and there is the exact same self-righteousness, the exact same outrage and contempt for who ever they consider the "other" side. And with it, a complete and total obliviousness to anything they or their allies may be doing to exacerbate the very problems they rail against, while instead placing blame on the most immediately visible target. 

There are lots of details that vary, but they are fill-in-the-blank details that everything above applies equally well to.  Everyone is angry and loud and makes proclamations of fact which are just plain false.  Everyone is so confident that their own values are the "correct" ones that it doesn't even occur to them to qualify conclusions of what "should be" with an "if we want..."

But nobody seems to notice...

17 July 2016

Surprise! A Flamboyant Introvert Blog Post!

I've been trying hard to avoid the news and social commentary for the last couple years.

Humans naturally focus on bad things more than good, are irrational, and there are patterns that have been around for as long as there has been such a thing as human society (despite what many idealistic amateur anthropologists choose to believe).

For a while it made me feel better to write about my own take on various interpretations of events out in the world, but I have a total number of 36 subscribers - my writing is not going to change the world.

I just found it forced me to focus on the worst parts of humanity all the time, which could start to cloud my experience of all the wondrous things in real life in front of me.


Try as I might, sometimes an event just gets so much attention that I can't avoid it, and even though it may be a topic I have gone over plenty of times already, I notice a new side of it, another piece that everyone else is apparently missing, or I realize that something I took so much for granted I never wrote down is not even on most people's radar, or that something I have said in verbal debates and discussions many times has never made it into the bog in writing.

And then when that happens, I usually try to ignore the unsettled feeling that leaves as long as possible, and then at some point I end up with a bunch of free time and nothing in particular to do, and so here I am, I find myself typing a bunch of words into a keyboard...

11 January 2016

Ninja Warrior

Compressing my entire life into a minute and thirty seconds was almost as much challenge as actually doing the obstacles! 
This is a quick summary of my life followed by some samples of stuff I can do. Even if I don't make it on, making this video was a whole lot of fun already.

Guest Starring the beautiful intelligent and generous Rachel Williams, (who took most of the video I didn't take myself)

Cameo by Didi the dog

Extra Special Thanks to Joe Zimmerman of Alameda Ninja Warrior (i.e. Joe's back yard) who encouraged me to try out. Dude built a whole mini course by himself, and then invited people to come play there - for free! Awesome guy.

Music credit: Pork and the Spork / Flumberger Fishbulb (i.e. my high school band, music and lyrics by Alex Staten and Bakari Kafele)

The wall at the end is "only" 10ft high, but on the other hand, all 10ft of it is straight up!



Oh well,
Though, with at least a little comfort from caveats...

The new Tick Tock took me out.
Along with most of my fellow competitors.

Somewhere between 100 and 200 got to attempt to run the course at Universal Studios Hollywood, but only about 30 got past this one. 
As the ANW producer's often do, this was a brand new obstacle, different than anything they've done so far, and of course the course is a secret until the night of competition, so nobody had any possible way to train or practice, or heck, even try it one time, before doing it with the cameras on.

Add to having no idea what the right technique should be (several swings to increase momentum, or one single smooth jump?  Aim high or aim low?  Catch with arms first, or legs, leaning forward or back?), I was among the very last to go.  They told me to arrive by 10pm.  My run was just slightly before 5am.  For almost 7 hours I stood around waiting, on the fenced in asphalt waiting area off to the side of the course, with not even chairs for the waiting athletes to rest on.  By the time I got to run, cold, stiff, and not having slept the entire night, I wanted to get it over with and go home almost as much as I wanted to finish the course!
At the very least, I wasn't taken down by the new version of the quintuple steps - harder than the old one, but basically the same.  A few people went down there, so at least I wasn't dead last :-P
In fact, I came off the rope smoother than many.  But on the trapeze, I felt like I didn't have enough momentum to make the jump, swung back and forth a few times, and landed high on the pendulum with a bit too much speed and force, and basically bounced off before I could get a grip on it. 
I wasn't planning on falling, so it was not a graceful dive.  I pretty much landed flat on my back, but there was no time to pay attention to little things like stinging pain, because I was on the bottom of a giant pool.   The water has a weird smell to it.  Probably some kind of sanitizing agent.  I started to climb out, but the crew told me I was on the wrong side.  Across to the other shore, they gave me a blanket (with a sponsor logo :) ), and they asked what happened.  I slipped.  What else is there to say?

23 July 2015

Or... maybe its neither

I am not really sure exactly what to think or feel about the fact that within the span of a couple months I can be accused of being both a libertarian and a communist.
By different people, of course.
But on the same general topics, and with my stance staying consistent.

As far as I can tell, the reasoning goes something like this:

"This guy [me] doesn't agree with my viewpoint, therefor he must hold the views of those other people".

In discussions I am regularly told, after stating my beliefs and understandings, something along the lines of "I bet you think ___________, too".
Well, no, I told you exactly what I think.
That other part you just made up.

That is always a pretty good sign that the statements the other person is making aren't even really their own.  They are things that person heard, and agreed with, and now they are repeating them.  Possibly in their own words, but unoriginal none-the-less.  It means they have subscribed to an ideology.
There is no "right" ideology.  There is no good ideology.  By very definition, one must accept an entire ideology as is, which intrinsically means not questioning anything.  It is exactly like a religion: all of your beliefs are handed to you, externally.
It is anti-scientific, and it is intended to be.

07 May 2015

OUTRAGE! (is to the left as fear is to the right)

I've heard it repeated a few times from different sources recently how people who tend to lean politically "right" frequently have a slightly larger amygdala, which controls the basic fear response.  As a result - so the theory goes - they are more easily frightened, and this leads to a desire to take the safe option in all questions; generally we think the option with the least unknowns is "safest", and so those more prone to fear are more likely to stick with things that are tried and true - in other words, to be "conservative".

Proponents of this theory - the scientists who noticed the trend in the first place, certainly, but much more so activists and armchair politicians - will point out the fear-mongering used by conservative political leaders and media.  Crime!  Terrorists!  Illegal immigrants!  Communists!

And since I've heard it, sure enough, I do notice just such a trend in media and speeches geared toward conservatives.

But then, since I was looking at news reports with the kind of eye you use to catch marketing psychology in advertisements, I started paying attention to what media geared toward liberals always tends to have in common.

Its outrage.

06 May 2015

On an objective basis for right and wrong

Many years ago I got into a conversation with someone about ethics outside a Buddhist temple.

They were of the position that, without an external authority to dictate right and wrong - i.e. without Commandments from God - there was no possible way for ethics to have any meaning.

This is an argument I've heard elsewhere, but until then it was only from true believers in one of the big religions (but mostly just Christians).
Of course, if the reason a person does or refrains from doing something is because of the threat of punishment or promise of reward (whether that be in the form of heaven and hell, karma, or 72 virgins), then the ultimate motive is selfish.  If you believe in an ultimate judge or that everything somehow balances itself out, then no action is taken purely because it is the right thing to do.  Moral absolutism, then, is itself actually a-ethical.

This instance struck me because it came from an atheist.  I started to explain the objective basis for ethics which I am about to explain here, but this person interrupted to say that they had explored the debate thoroughly in philosophy class a few years before and they were 100% confident that there simply was no possible alternate conclusion, and so it was pointless to even listen to any response.

So of course I wrote that person off entirely - but the statement did provide me a new insight.

05 May 2015

I don't think in terms of "us vs them" - it's those other people who do that (Part II - real life)

In the Star Wars universe, it is understood that the Jedi are the good guys and the Sith are all evil.
Yet, when you look at their actual behavior, the differences are few, while the parallels are many.  The Jedi act on their own behalf, outside of the government they are supposed to serve, in blatant disregard for democracy, going so far as to internally authorize military and political executions - even the democratically elected head-of-state.


Here in the real world, Bill Maher outspokenly calls out Islam, saying in a recent interview:
"The vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But here’s the point people don’t bring up: They’re not terrorists, but they share some very bad ideas with terrorists, and bad ideas lead to bad behavior. You couldn’t put the Muslim equivalent of The Book of Mormon on Broadway. You can’t write a book like The Satanic Verses without millions going jihadi on you. You couldn’t have an art exhibit like Piss Christ, which made Giuliani mad in the 1990s. Hundreds of millions of Muslims believe that if you leave the religion you should get killed for that. Try walking down the street in Muslim areas—even in more tolerant places like Amman, Jordan—wearing shorty shorts or a T-shirt that says HEY, I AM GAY. That shit is not going to fly, not at all."

Elsewhere, in the very same magazine that published those words, it is mentioned in passing that in 1988 Christian fundamentalists fire-bombed a public movie theater for showing the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ".
1988 is hardly going back to the time of the Crusades or the Inquisition, it is within this current generation.  The majority of people alive today were alive in 1988.  There have been plenty of other terrorist attacks right here in the US by Christians and far right Conservatives, from 7 murders of doctors and staff of clinics that provided abortions in the 1990s to the Oklahoma City bombing.

The more "other" a particular group is, the easier it is to call them out.

04 May 2015

Us VS Them (Part I, the Star Wars analogy)

"There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. "

So says the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith)

Yet this message gets lost and forgotten as soon as it is off the screen.
As a viewer of any of the Star Wars movies, it goes without saying that the Jedi represent Good, and those who practice the "Dark" side of the force are Evil.
The Jedi and their allies say as much explicitly, at every opportunity.

Paying slightly more attention to the politics behind the action, though, it appears the reality is much more complicated than that.

In this Universe, roughly 50 thousand planets have agreed to a broad alliance, the Galactic Republic, roughly equivalent to the UN - each member state retains some degree of autonomy, and each sends its own representative to be a part of the Senate.The Senate is headed up by a Chancellor who gets elected by the Senate.  Each planet's government picks their Senator - if the planet happens to be a democracy, the inhabitants may vote on the senator, but if the planetary government is a monarchy, then it may unilaterally decide who will be the planets representative.  
The roughly 50 thousand planets are divided into groups of 50 (called sectors), with the senate floor consisting of 1000 chairs - some of which are taken by representatives of extra-planetary organizations such as trade federations.
That leaves one not-necessarily-democratically-elected individual to represent on average more than 50 entire planets.

(Much like the US), although they preach Democratic values consistently, the Republic makes no particular effort to practice them in actuality.

The Jedi were originally meant to be a security force that answered to the senate and the Chancellor (much like the CIA answers to the president).  They protected the Republic government (like the secret service), and enforced senate decrees (like Federal police), since the Republic did not originally have any military force of its own.  They were also considered a "moral authority", making them in some ways akin to Mutaween, the religious police that enforce Sharia law in some Islamic nations.  

01 May 2015

No One Ever Claimed Black Lives Don't Matter

That is what is called in logic and rhetoric a "straw man argument".

First you build a straw man (an argument that nobody was making in the first place), and then you knock it over (by making a reasonable and logical argument against it).

It is very easy to knock over a straw man - because he is made of straw, there is no resistance.

But then the logical fallacy comes in: you then jump from that made-up argument to your actual belief, one which is on the same subject, but which is not directly relevant to the argument you just made.  You state your conclusion as though what you just said proves your conclusion, and imply that unless someone can prop up the straw man, they have to accept your conclusion as well.

They can be very effective - especially when the topic is a highly emotionally changed one - which is demonstrated by these real life examples:

"In a 1977 appeal of a U.S. bank robbery conviction, a prosecuting attorney said in his closing argument[11]I submit to you that if you can't take this evidence and find these defendants guilty on this evidence then we might as well open all the banks and say, "Come on and get the money, boys", because we'll never be able to convict them.
This was a straw man designed to alarm the appeal judges; the idea that the precedent set by one case would literally make it impossible to convict any bank robbers is remote.
An example often given of a straw man is US President Richard Nixon's 1952 "Checkers speech".[12][13] When campaigning for vice president in 1952, Nixon was accused of having illegally appropriated $18,000 in campaign funds for his personal use. In a televised response, instead of addressing the funds, he spoke about another gift, a dog he had been given by a supporter:[12][13]It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, six years old, named it Checkers. And, you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that, regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.This was a straw man response; his critics had never criticized the dog as a gift or suggested he return it. This argument was successful at distracting people from the funds, and portraying his critics as nitpicking and heartless. Nixon received an outpouring of public support, remained on the ticket, and was elected by a landslide."

I've been trying to let this go - its not like ranting really changes anything - but it keeps showing up everywhere.  I can ignore most media, but its on my local online groups, in the windows of cars and houses, it even comes up in conversations in real life.

This entire movement bugs the hell out of me.

Black men are murdered by civilians 50 times as much as killed by police officers.
Of those murders, other Black people are the perpetrator in 90%.
None of the activists had anything to say about that.

Blacks have a significantly higher death rate due to heart disease and diabetes. Ads and stores target Black communities with cigarettes, alcohol, and junk food.
No protests. No outrage.

So it isn't really about Black lives mattering. When a Black person gets shot and killed by a gang member or drug dealer - even when its an innocent person caught in the cross fire, nobody cares. Including all the people rallying and chanting over the supposed police violence.

30 April 2015

Nudity - the Default State

There's a special type of pedal used by serious bicycle riders which has a locking mechanism that attaches to a special metal cleat on bicycle shoes, which snaps the foot and pedal together, allowing for more efficient pedaling and more control.

The old fashioned way was to have a tiny metal cage called a "clip", with a cloth strap around it, which you would slide your foot into.  Some commuters still use these, but basically all racers and serious amateurs have gone to the new system.

Since the new system no longer has the metal bracket - the  "clip" - sticking out of the pedal, the new system was initially called "clipless".
The name stuck and caught on, and now, even though a young rider starting out today would find the interlocking-pedal-and-shoe-system the standard default, cyclists still refer to them as "clipless" pedals.

I was thinking about how odd it is that we would designate something's identity in the negative like this.  In other words, a "clipless" pedal is defined by what it isn't.
Which is odd, especially now that the new system is the standard.

Defining something as ______-less implies that whatever it isn't is the default.

I tried to come up with other things which we define by what they aren't, and couldn't think of much.  There used to be "horseless carriage", which is what automobiles used to be called, but today we have long since dropped the connection to horses, and even shortened "carriage" down to just "car".

Looking it up (powerless nameless worthless purposeless doubtless flawless motionless regardless endless fearless homeless reckless restless spotless useless) the majority of them refer to intangible states - mostly states of mind, or otherwise determined subjectively. None of them refers to a concrete, definite, observable state of being, the way a pedal either has a clip on it or it doesn't, a carriage is either pulled by a horse or not.
And they are all terms in which the opposite would indeed be reasonably considered the default state.

But then I eventually thought of one other common word which is defined by what it isn't - it had alluded me because it has become the de facto assumed "default" state to such an extent that the term doesn't even have the suffix -less in it at all.

You can probably guess, given the blog post title...

Or naked.

What those terms actually mean is "clothes-less".
They are defined by not having some form of cloth wrapped around the body.

We've all grown up in the modern world, so we take it for granted, but if you think about it, this is kind of strange.

29 April 2015

If It Had Happened That Way Instead...

I think this might be backfire effect - actually writing down the words that I'm trying to let stuff go that doesn't affect me directly and that no amount of talking or writing is ever going to change has just had the effect of making me hyper-aware of people's biases and prejudices, misconceptions and irrationalities.

Partially rebound, also partially several conversations I've had lately, starting to pile up in the head.

If writing purges them, no harm in that, right?

One place I see an equivalent logical fallacy (to that which I'll get to after this introduction) that isn't evidence but serves as further "proof" to someone who has already decided the answer, is the debate over the efficacy of bicycle helmets.

A lot of people assume that its a given - how could an extra layer of protection not make you safer?
Of course, mistaken assumptions about complicated physics problems often seem obvious, (for example, that heavy vehicles are safer than lighter vehicles: both the physics AND the statistics show this is false)
Hell, it's intuitively "obvious" that heavy objects fall faster than light objects, and the entire human population accepted this without question for thousands of years, until the world's first scientist (Galileo) came along and actually tried it and discovered everyone was wrong.

08 April 2015

Megan's Law and The Sex Offender Registry (is a seriously flawed system)

Any sexual contact with a minor is automatically classified as "abuse"

23% of "child sexual abuse" is "perpetrated" by another minor.
Of those, 80% were NOT "forcible" rape.  In other words, it is considered "rape" only because the "victim" is a minor.
In other words, any two children exploring their bodies, playing doctor, or "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", even if everything was entirely consensual, and both were the same age, for purposes of crime statistics, both children "abused" each other, and they are legally both sex offenders. If caught, they can end up on the list.  Sometimes for life.
"Teenagers and even young children who engage in certain sex-based conduct may find themselves subject to sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws. Some children are on registries because they committed serious sex offenses, such as forcibly raping a much younger child. Other children are labeled sex offenders for such non-coercive or nonviolent and age-appropriate activities as "playing doctor," youthful pranks such as exposing one's buttocks, and non-coercive teen sex." http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/us0907/7.htm

The registry also currently includes "Internet crimes", in which there is not even a possibility of any physical contact.  All any "victim" would have to do, if they felt uncomfortable, is log off.

Which means that when ever you see some seemingly scary high number of how many children are "victims" of "childhood sexual abuse", that number is ridiculously inflated with things which aren't actually abuse, to the point where the numbers are meaningless.  This is similar to the recent redefinition of "rape" to include any sexual activity that takes place after entirely voluntary self-intoxication.  Have you ever had one too many glasses of wine with dinner, or stayed at the bar just a little too long before going home, and then had completely consensual sex with your partner?  Nope! Because according to the law in most states, the fact that you were intoxicated automatically makes it non-consensual.  You were actually raped, and your partner is a rapist.  Which, incidentally, means your partner, too, "deserves" to be on the registry.

55% of all Americans have sex by age 17.  Legally that means that more than half of all Americans, male and female, were "raped".  23% have sex (consensual) by age 14. When various crime statistics come out, almost never do they make a distinction between "forcible" and "statutory" rape.  They are treated as interchangeable.

29 March 2015

Hospital Births - A Distinctly First World "Problem"; (Slightly) Less Crazy Than The Anti-Vaccine Movement...

One of, if not the primary argument of proponents of home birth is that the process of giving birth is a natural process, one that the female human body was literally designed to do, and therefore barring the occasional special complication, there is no reason to treat it like a medical emergency or disease.

And superficially - especially looked at from our current generation's time - that seems to be a pretty reasonable argument.

There's just one big glaring hole in that argument: prior to modern medical interventions, giving bilth was the single most likely thing to kill a woman of child bearing age.  In the 1850s, those with no access to even the rudimentary level of medical care (i.e. slaves) had a 20% chance of neonatal mortality.
In other words, the "natural" process of birth killed 1 out of 5 humans who attempted it.
"In the 1850s, the infant mortality rate in the United States was estimated at ... 340.0 per 1,000 for African Americans"

In addition, another 1.5% of mothers die from the process with no medical intervention.

"Bearing a child is still one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. It’s the sixth most common cause of death among women age 20 to 34 in the United States.""In the United States today, about 15 women die in pregnancy or childbirth per 100,000 live births. That’s way too many, but a century ago it was more than 600 women per 100,000 births. In the 1600s and 1700s, the death rate was twice that: By some estimates, between 1 and 1.5 percent of women giving birth died."

That makes it a medical emergency.

26 March 2015

Reading list to assist in understanding everything about everything

While I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who think I'm an idiot, I think (hope?) its fair to say there are at least a few who find me to have an above average grasp of how the world works.

I don't really think I'm all that much "smarter" than average.
I may have a slightly better than average ability to spot patterns in complex systems.  Side effect of being a touch closer to the Spectrum than your typical NT, I guess.

But part of it, I think, is just that its much more my goal to understand things than for most.

It seems for a lot of people a lot of the reason for adopting particular beliefs is to fit in and be popular.
That, and having those beliefs justify what people would like to be true, which is comforting or justifies something that would otherwise conflict with ethical values.

Since I've never had much interest in large groups of people, I've never had any real use for conformity - including conforming to any non-mainstream sub-cultures.
Beliefs that feed rationalizations to avoid cognitive dissonance?  Well, who knows, maybe I'm as susceptible to that as anyone, I suppose if I were doing it, I wouldn't know, would I?

Anyway, another advantage I've had is just that I've been exposed to some good sources of information that tie it all together.

25 March 2015

Conversations on gender and sex

A collection of 4 emails I wrote to different people within the last year or so.


[Written to my future sister-in-law, after she emailed a link to a Ted Talk on gender by a friend of hers]

...The real problem has nothing at all to do with sex or gender.  The root issue is the expectation of conformity.

If, instead of moving between archetypal roles, we simply reject archetypal roles completely, this entire issue becomes moot.

A transsexual is a person who has (or would like to) actual physical sex reassignment (whether surgery, or just drugs), one who feels that their actual body is wrong.
The term "transgender" doesn't really mean anything - in fact, it confirms and reinforces the idea that gender is actually a valid concept to begin with, when in reality it is a social construct.

Sex -male or female - IS a binary.  Contrary to what lay people commonly believe, sex is not defined by testosterone v estrogen levels, secondary characteristics like beards or breasts, or even genitals.  It isn't even defined by chromosomes, which differ from one specie to another.
The universal characteristic that defines sex among all sexual species (almost every multicellular life form) is the precesnse of either testicals or ovaries.  Males produce sperm, females produce eggs.  This part isn't social.  Its basic biology.
That part isn't "assigned" by culture.  And there is no spectrum - no one, not even "intersex" born people, produces both eggs and sperm, and there is no hybrid or in-between reproductive cell.

People who reject our mainstream system (such as Carly) still talk about gender as though it were a real thing, as though it had some underlying validity.  
Gender - masculine or feminine - is no more than "that set of characteristics which a particular culture tends to associate with one sex or the other"
Since by definition it is associated with a sex, and sex is binary, gender is also binary.

There is no reason for any individual to accept the roles of gender in the first place!
One needn't be a transexual (pre or post op, with or without drugs, in body or purely in desire) or transvestite to reject gender roles!

24 March 2015

Cops are the New Blacks

Go back about 90 years.  And about 350 miles South (from where I am, in N. California).
Slavery has been abolished long enough ago that there has been almost (but not quite) a total generational turn-over; most people alive don't actually remember it, though it was recent enough that everyone is very aware.
Since reparations never actually happened obviously there remains a dramatic disparity along race lines.
Combine poverty, a lack of education in the parent's generation, and unequal public school services for the current generation, and you have not just a wealth gap, but sharp class distinctions.

Whenever there is a sharp disparity of wealth and class, combined with cultural isolation, increased crime is the result.  This isn't a "racial" phenomenon, per say - the same pattern happens within a "race" when the same conditions apply: the "untouchables" (Dalit) of caste system India, the Irish immigrants in mid 1800s America, gypsies of medieval Europe, or the Burakumin of Japan today; people indistinguishable from the main population by appearance, but separate culturally, and substantially poorer.
Predictably crime is higher - driven not only by poverty and desperation, but also by a mutual feeling of "otherness" relative to the main society which makes it easy to rationalize the harm done to the victims - to start with if the victim comes from the "oppressor" class, but resolving the cognitive dissonance of unethical acts against one group opens the door for setting aside morality altogether.

But here's the thing: In all of these examples, while the average crime rate may be higher among the sub-group than it is in the general population, it is never remotely as high as approaching 50%.  Even at it's very worse, rates stay down in the single digits per 100 population - for example, as excessively high as the Black incarceration rate in the US may be, it is only 1.2% of the Black population.

In other words, the vast majority of the marginalized population are ordinary ethical law-abiding citizens, even despite the prejudice they face.

07 March 2015

Some assistance in freeing your life from the influence of marketers, and using your money to buy freedom instead

Here it is, Bakari's anti-consumer / anti-waste / anti-cog-in-the-capitalist-system resource guide (compilation inspired for Isaak Brown's money management class):

1) Documentary on the history of American consumerism, marketing, and government manipulation of popular emotion.
One of the most significant transitions in modern western history, and most of us have never even heard of the main players who led it!  A lot we take for granted was actually unheard of just 100 years ago. 
This documentary may well serve as more of an AdBlock for the mind as anything possibly could in just an hour:

19 February 2015

On not posting many blogs anymore

At first it was work. Was working as the manager of the building I lived in, along with all my other jobs.
And filling most of my free time with dating.

Then I actually ended up finding her.
Not even somewhere I was looking.  A series of very random and fortunate events.
I'll probably write more on that later.

So she's been getting most of my free time ever since figuring out that that was settled.
But she works full time, and I most certainly don't.

I have had just about as many thoughts, but been much less motivated to take the time and effort to actually write.

I think I may slowly be getting to that final stage.

Maybe there is so little writing from the wisest because they realize how little impact it would have, and so don't bother. (Or at least, that's what I'm going to keep telling myself.)

As the robots say: "all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again".
The more I learn, the more I start to believe that.

11 December 2014

I can't stand it anymore; OR - No, actually, violent Black men don't represent all Black people.

I tried, so hard, and for so long, to ignore the news, to ignore the protestors, and to not learn anything about the latest liberal outrage.

I'm not sure what finally broke me, but it may have been the FaceBook post ironically claiming it to be "Open Season on Black Men" in the wake of Officer Darren Wilson's acquittal.

Even then, I put off writing anything.
Because I know human psychology.
I know about the backfire effect.
I know that humans - and particularly Americans, it seems - actually enjoy the feeling of outrage, it is like a drug, something about our start as a revolution perhaps, who knows, but the real point is having something to protest, something to be angry about, someone to rebell against.  The details are just the excuse.

The chances are really really good that you, who ever you are, have already formed your opinion.
And that opinion is based 99% on emotion, and only 1% on having actually read the available evidence yourself and trying to form a logical conclusion from facts.  Of course you don't think you do this - nobody does - and yet psychologists and marketers alike know with absolute certainty that damn near every single person does.
And the crazy fucking thing is that if I present some of the available information, and I point out some rational conclusions that can be drawn from that information, if the conclusion contradicts what you already believe, not only will you not change your belief, it will make you believe it even stronger!

And so I'm tempted to not even write, because the last thing I want to do is make anyone believe this stupid, racist, counter-productive crap even more strongly than they already do.

And yet, I know me, and this is going to bother me forever if I don't get it down in print, and besides, about 4 people read this blog, so there's pretty limited damage I can do no matter how controversial I am.

So ok, lets go:

Oscar Grant.  Trayvon Martin.  Michael Brown.
What do they all have in common?

I know, I know, what the media wants to have immediately spring to mind is "Black Man".
There is something they have in common which is much more specific, and more uncommon, than that.
And I don't mean getting shot.
I mean in the moments leading up to getting shot.

Do you remember the actual details of these cases?

That is what triggered the events that led to each of them being shot.

14 October 2014

Gentrification is a myth

A friend sent me a report he had read on gentrification in Oakland, and asked for feedback, after a conversation in which I claimed gentrification was largely a myth.
This was the report:

This is a report in which they are specifically looking for signs of it, trying to play it up, and focusing specifically on neighborhoods and time spans with the most dramatic rent increases.
And even by their own numbers, even at its worst rent increased more slowly than inflation.

The thing about housing prices and inflation - if a loaf of bread goes up from $1 to $1.50, its not really a big deal, its 50 cents more.
If a house goes from 200,000 to 300,000, that seems like a dramatic increase, $100k is a lot of money. 
But they are both the exact same 50% increase.

Below is my more in-depth analysis of the specific report, including hard numbers instead of thought experiment numbers: