Finally, my thoughts are important!

Theme Chooser

graphite  green  orange  purple  yellow  grey

People Who Still Have Blogs:

  • Me


August, 2018
July, 2018
December, 2017
September, 2017
August, 2017
May, 2017
March, 2017
December, 2016
November, 2016
August, 2016
July, 2016
April, 2016
January, 2016
December, 2015
November, 2015
October, 2015
June, 2015
May, 2015
April, 2015
February, 2015
January, 2015
December, 2014
September, 2014
August, 2014
July, 2014
June, 2014
May, 2014
April, 2014
March, 2014
February, 2014
January, 2014
December, 2013
November, 2013
October, 2013
September, 2013
August, 2013
July, 2013
June, 2013
May, 2013
November, 2012
October, 2012
September, 2012
August, 2012
July, 2012
June, 2012
March, 2012
February, 2012
January, 2012
December, 2011
November, 2011
September, 2011
August, 2011
July, 2011
June, 2011
May, 2011
April, 2011
March, 2011
February, 2011
January, 2011
December, 2010
November, 2010
October, 2010
September, 2010
August, 2010
June, 2010
May, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010
November, 2009
October, 2009
September, 2009
August, 2009
July, 2009
June, 2009
May, 2009
April, 2009
March, 2009
February, 2009
January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008
July, 2008
June, 2008
May, 2008
April, 2008
March, 2008
February, 2008
January, 2008
December, 2007
November, 2007
October, 2007
September, 2007
August, 2007
July, 2007
June, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006
June, 2006
May, 2006
April, 2006
March, 2006
February, 2006
January, 2006
November, 2005
October, 2005
September, 2005
August, 2005
July, 2005
June, 2005
March, 2005
January, 2005
December, 2004
November, 2004
August, 2004
July, 2004
June, 2004
May, 2004
April, 2004
March, 2004
February, 2004
January, 2004
December, 2003
November, 2003
October, 2003
September, 2003
August, 2003
July, 2003
May, 2003
April, 2003
March, 2003
February, 2003
January, 2003
December, 2002

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Valid CSS

On Absurdity

Less than a decade ago I had a cousin quite suddenly become ill and die.

Looking back, that has colored my life more than I would have guessed.

I mean, cousins are family, but really, most of us spend a majority of our day to day lives, not thinking about our cousins.

They are people to be considered during holidays, or perhaps slightly before, almost never at any other times.

So if you had asked me beforehand, how I would have reacted to a sudden death of a cousin, I would have guessed that I'd be suitably distraught, but that life would go on.

Life did go on, certainly. But in the 5 years that followed, not a day did not pass without me thinking about my cousin who no longer was.

I think it is safe to say that I used to be a strong adherent to Absurdism.

It is a seductive philosophy, simple at it's core, and seemingly easily applicable to all things.

Everything is random, nothing matters.

It is joyous and freeing idea, and I found it a cool balm to the alternative: "there is totally meaning, and you just haven't figured out what it is or where to find it"

The random death of a relative seems to fit right in with Absurdism. Something terrible happened to someone who absolutely did not deserve it. Wham. That's meaninglessness for ya!

But it didn't at all to me.

I realize looking back, Absurdism is also an excuse to avoid looking to close at terrible things that happen. If there is no meaning than there isn't much point in even acknowledge unfairness or uglyness.

When you swallow a foreign, indigestible object, your body tries to slime it with a slick lubricating substance, to help it pass.

Absurdism is normally that slick substance. Terrible thing? Let's just shrug and shake a fist at a star filled void! Ploosh! Away and in the toilet and forgotten!

The death of my cousin, however, was thoroughly lodged in my throat. A structural card in the castle of my psyche that had been placed before I made memories.

For a simple reason, that her death mattered very much to me. It meant something to me, and therefore could not be danced away with a knowing wink at the swirling chaos

I often long and yearn for that old feeling. Especially these days? Oh, what an unburdening it would be, and how natural it would be to revel in the stark silliness of current events. When truth is literally incontinent. Turning about and confronting the fourth wall of the stage we seem fit to be on seems to be a far more logical choice then nail biting our wringing hands.

But I am an old man now who will never learn how to do that again. For I have fallen into the trap of caring deeply about stuff and things.

On Entitlement

I feel like a lot of America, the NYT included, has spent the last two years thrashing about trying to explain what/why people support Trump, and are so ready to defend/embrace/be excited by his policies.

There are a lot of shallow answers to that question, painting entire swaths of Americans as "Ignorant", "Racist", "White Trash", etc... Those answers involve dehumanizing and *unfocusing* on the details of the problem, neither of which ever seems the path to solving vexing complicated issues.

But I am here to offer a hypothesis that *possibly* explains their support and their very real human reasons for it

Originally I was going to describe it as "privilege", but am going to avoid that term because it sounds too close to the concept of "white privilege", which is really the concept of "living with the absence of person of color hardships day to day". Instead I'm going to go with "Sense of Entitlement".

The tricky thing about Trump voters, is that they seem to be both well-to-do and not. How can such vastly different economic castes of people team up politically?

The answer, is that people are able to feel entitled be either:

  • "Seeing themselves as better than everyone else"
  • "Seeing that everyone else seems to be doing better than them"

The first one seems pretty straightforward. Some people think they are better than others, and therefore deserve preferential treatment.

The second one, is the case of "Since everybody else is doing better than me, I deserve something". Arguably a plea to fairness, but strictly for your own self.

I sometimes play the lottery, and I actually sometimes dread winning, because of this second rule of human nature. The expectation that extraordinarily acts of luck in-debt that user to everyone around them.

Lottery winners to a one are forced to change their phone numbers and often addresses to avoid pleas for money. Some from scam artists, some from people in genuine plight, *all* from people who truly believe that they are entitled to some of that windfall.

The important thing about the entitlement I'm talking about here, is not the place upon the economic fulcrum. This teeter-totter can be ridden freely from either end.

Money, lack or excess is not the infection vector here. There are plenty of poor and rich people who do *not* feel entitled.

I believe it was the Buddha who said "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems", by which he was trying to say that rich or poor, everybody has problems in their lives. Rich and poor people have *must different problems* (with different stakes) but we are ultimately all just troubled humans imperfectly spending their limited time on this planet.

So yes, yes, "everybody has problems", what's the point?"

My point is that people generally do one of two things with problems. They admit that they exist, and work on them, or they ignore them and pretend they don't exist and/or that the problems *are not in their control to fix*.

As an example. Let's say a successfully banker, who has sacrificed much achieves all he wanted, all the success he hoped for, and yet, after the elation of his promotion, and new car, and new house, and new wife... Still feels unfulfilled. This guy has a problem. Now, he can either admit that money has limitations in it's ability to bring him sustained joy... Or, he could squint at his tax bill and blame "high taxes" for his restless unease. "If only he didn't have to give all that money to the government, then, surely, he'd be happy.".

Choosing to feel entitled and victimized is a great distraction from facing into the onyx eyes of a terrifying problem that has no clear easy solution.

On the lower economic spectrum, there are no end to problems. Jobs are changing in this country with terrifying speed. There are certainly people out there facing stark economic choices, with few answers. Some might be able to weather it via going to college or job training. Some by pulling up stakes and moving. Some, possibly a majority, there might not be a good answer.

You could see, why some of these people might choose to not face those problems. Not admit that they have those problems, or any power over them, but rather choose to feel entitled and victimized. Clearly somebody *did* this to them maliciously, and if we could just stop them from doing it, things would go back to how they were. Somehow be made great again.

So that sounds pretty sympathetic, but I believe much of these poorer, white Trump supporters are riding both sides of the entitlement teeter-totter.

While they definitely have an accurate reason to see themselves as "less well off", they still feel, individually superior to several classes of people.

And I know I said "racist" was too broad a brush, so I really want to dig into it.

Racism, the belief that one race is superior to another.

I honestly believe that none of them believe that.

That said. If you asked them whether they thought that *they themselves*, as an individual was *better* than most members of a race, and/or was entitled to better treatment because they were "more/better American". I think they would secretly think so.

And it is certainly not just race. Maybe they're fine with gay people marrying, but they totally still believe that they are *better* than gay people. More pious, more just, more entitled to them.

This feeling of superiority is a splendid and convenient distraction from the numerous problems they have. Feeling "above" someone is a super helpful way to not think about your precarious economic position.

So poor Trump supporters definitely field besieged at both ends, victims both economically and they see the raising up of people who have, for so long, been reliably below them as a personal threat to their "righteousness buffer" from the bottom.

Which ultimately, the desire to not be *last* seems a sympathetic one. In the great game of globalism dodgeball, nobody wants to be picked last. So when it comes down to a poor white man and a Mexican immigrant. You gotta believe that poor white man is going to shout some hateful stuff to try to convince you to pick him over the immigrant. Stuff he might not believe and certainly wouldn't say in other circumstances.

The thing I like most about this, is it also explains Trump's policy behavior.

Giving more money to poor people might have softened and addressed their problems. So he didn't do that. Giving more money to rich people is *not* going to be a balm to them either. In fact, the worse he makes the problems they are trying to avoid thinking about, the more they will want for distraction, the stronger their feeling of victimhood ("If only those late night comedians weren't mocking us!").

All this is not to say that non-trump supports never hide from problems or are plagued by delusions or other self-reinforcing cycles. Trump supporters certainly didn't invent hiding from your problems. Perhaps this is how conservatives felt when Obama was elected. "It is so obvious you're all just doing this so you don't have to thoughtfully consider the everyday plight of African-americans!"

We're all flawed beings. The extent to which we allow ourselves to be driven and weaponized against the collective good by those flaws seems to be the major disagreement.

On Certainty

I have complained before about the seductiveness of the Newtonian worldview. That we are all just atoms in motion. It seems so applicable and so complete, if not for the niggling unexplained quantum weirdness, an exposed, unexplained string that unravels the whole thing apart if tugged on.

I have jabbered about information, and how the Newtonian model seems to ignore it. Take a snapshot of the room you are in, and then tell me which direction the in-motion photons are to travel to next...

In a Newtonian world we are indistinguishable from a pile of rocks of similar mass.

If "Information" were a dimension, we would be as massive as a star in comparison to the dull piles of rocks.

I sometimes wonder if we don't have the whole thing backwards.

We "follow the atoms" in our search for the beginning. Tracing them all the way back to the large noise that shot them all out, and developing theories on how those atoms eventually got stuck on a small planet and started to think about themselves.

Which is fine, and I don't dispute any of that excellent science or their conclusions.

The more I read about Bell's theorem of non-locality, and of quantum computers, and the theories cosmologists have come up with to explain it all, the more I think that this is chasing the wrong question.

The more I learn about the Universe the more I think it's default state is that of non-committal quantum uncertainty.

I think the fundamental particle of existence is an atom who doesn't want to get out of bed. Who wants to keep sleeping and remain dormant, clinging to the ethereal dreamland where they can be anything, rather than the stark choice of being one type of atom forevermore...

The interesting question is not "Where did all the atoms make us come from?".

It is "What convinced an infinity of uncertainty to form solid, definitive atoms?"

One of my two favorite things in mathematics, is Pascal's Triangle.

I would often calculate it in my notebooks at school when I was bored, although in my versions I accompanied it with several lines beforehand, of all zeros... It made me smile thinking about how a "1" just showed up one day, in the middle of an infinity of zeros, and completely fucked shit up forever more.

Perhaps a more relatable example would be an Excel spreadsheet. Where all the cells rely on their neighbors to the top and left to calculate their values. With each cell showing "blank", until you place a value in the upper left, and begin to force certainty on all the cells, in a cascade of decision.

In my mind, the equations in the cells, are all the lovely deterministic newtonian and einstein equations that dictate what happens where. The things that take the reins when *something* forces all quantum states into the uncomfortable situation of being a tangible single thing that has shit to do.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying something as simple as "The Big Bang" was caused by the first quantum-uncertainty being collapsed. Afterall, if the value I entered into my spreadsheet at "A1" was zero, that wouldn't be the top of my pascal's triangle. The top would be wherever in the cell I added a single *+1* to the equation. That would be the point at which *definite nothing* (zero) transformed into *definite something* (non-zero).

Especially, since we know that quantum mechanics and entanglement seem perfectly capable of working out results backwards. Finding the necessary state required to make something true.

In a Quantum Excel spreadsheet, all one would have to do is pick a cell and declare a specific value, and it could figure out at what point our Pascal's triangle needed to start at and what value.

The initial "definitive choice" and the first cascade of non-zero values would be entirely different in that case.

The Big One becomes far less important in this case. An afterthought, deterministic result of a different decision.

I'm also not saying that we, on Earth, had anything to do with the inception of the Universe, or that some supernatural entity had to crack their knuckles, log into Google Docs, and fill out a value.

Quantum uncertainty itself is perfectly complicated enough to not be inert. Just like we are pretty sure long chains of amino acids and energy sources can somehow manage to fight against the force of entropy and become self-organizing and replicating. So too something in quantum interactions did as well.

A chance, self-referencing or self-viewing interaction millions of light years away could have been the catalyst that atoms have been frantically been forced to dance to, ever since. Spreading at the speed of light.

I don't have a definitive answer, I only have the question.

On Running

So I have been jogging with my dog in the morning on weekends for about six months.

She is an energetic dog, and seems to like it.

I, on the other hand, absolutely hate it.

Despite that, I've stuck with it, waiting for all the numerous benefits to kick in.

I don't feel more energy, in fact, jogging puts me in a foul mood for the rest of the day.

More discouraging, it isn't getting any easier.

Sure at first, I was sore in some weird leg muscles I hadn't used, mostly the ones that allow you to walk down steps without looking geriatric.

But that has gone away. No soreness at all afterwards now.

No, the problem is that the latter part of my run, I feel like I am being asphyxiated.

It is highly unpleasant. So unpleasant that my thoughts during that period of the run turn pretty dark. Where I start enumerating the things I'd rather be doing.

Safe to say, if "cutting scars into your skin with a razor blade" was suddenly discovered to be good for you, I would be there an instant. Not joking. I would 100% seriously prefer carving my flesh to feeling like I am being choked to death.

I do other exercises like kettle bells, that get as intense, that make my arms, legs and muscles burn, and I don't hate that in the same way.

Worse, is my jogging run is *so* short compared to what everyone does. I only jog one mile. It is pathetic.

In my school days, the thing I spent the year fussing about was the coming "mile run", as I hated it even then, for very similar reasons. Even in middle school, where I eventually began being able to run the mile in under "Presidentical Fitness Standards" dictated, I still fucking hated it so much.

It quickly becomes a battle of wills to see how much oxygen deprivation I can mentally force upon myself. So you see where my metaphor of self-torture with razor blades comes in. Somehow it is worse when it *you* having to torture yourself "for your own good".

The thing I enjoy most about mornings, is my first cup of coffee. Jogging ruins that. I come back hot and sweaty, and it eliminates all pleasure from my hot bean juice for a good two hours afterwards, even after showering.

It seems like just a cop out to blame it on physiology, but I have to honestly wonder if I just have a fundamental problem with my lungs that makes this activity unsuitable for me. Occam would frown on that, as there are no other activities I can't perform, so his Razor would probably just point to me being a whiny bitch.

That, or perhaps like food, art and beauty, everyone has different opinions and levels of appreciation for different exercise types.

Which said, god damn do I fucking hate jogging.

On Purity

Noted film, tv and mad scientist musical creator Joss Whedon has come under fire this week, due to public allegations from his ex-wife that he had multiple affairs with actresses while married to her. Therefore, she posits, he is, and never was a feminist.

I will not be defending the morality of Joss Whedon's actions. Affairs, with people whom he is in a position of power, while married is morally indefensible.

I also won't directly quibble with the retconning of him as suddenly no longer a feminist, as certainly one's actions should reflect the ideals you wish to uphold


The Man Who Cried Wolf in His Youth

As of this writing, two things are true.

Reasonable people are looking at facts and actions available in the public record and coming to the conclusion that the Trump administration is acting like a guilty criminal party would, and that there is a whole lot of circumstantial evidence that they did commit a crime.

What is also true, is that the GOP representatives are largely doing nothing, possibly, with good reason, as the President still enjoys a nearly 40% job approval rating.

That seems like a very high number. Far too high to just say "They dumb".

I have a hypothesis.

For the last eight years of the Obama administration, the GOP and its supporters transformed what it meant to be the opposition party.

Certainly, the case could be made that the GOP party of the 90's, who successfully indicted the democratic president via nakedly partisan reasons that in hindsight, few people would construe as "high crimes and misdemeanors" that in any way jeopardized the country.

But even then, the opposition party limited itself to using the existing *facts* to make political attacks. Their tether to reality thin, but at least attached.

The election of Barrack Obama as President snapped this tether completely. Largely, because President Obama was careful, and never gave them substantive facts to use against him.

Here is some of the stuff they did:

  • Called him a liar.
  • Tried to stop every action he took, regardless of merit
  • Raised questions of his legitimacy as a president via his birthplace and parentage
  • Claimed he was a secret Muslim working against America
  • Had numerous radio and television stations pushing outrage that was primarily motivated by entertainment and politics foremost, journalistic accuracy third, if at all.

So look at that list, and compare it to the current claims against President Trump:

  • That he and his staff frequently lie.
  • That the democrats and courts have blocked many of his actions.
  • Raise evidence that Russians intervened in the election on behalf of Trump
  • Claiming he seems to have significant ties to a foreign power
  • Multiple newspapers leaking damaging stories about him

After eight years of doing it, Trump supporters believe what they were doing was and is acceptable and normal. That it was the job of the opposition party to make things up and scream.

They either kinda, sortknew it was made up, and/or grew so mad that the rest of the country ignored those facts, that they assumed the "other side" was brainwashed and can't be trusted.

Either case would mean a Trump supporter, hearing the above news, would assume that it was either fueled by the same, fact-free generated fake outrage that their critiques of Obama were, or that they alone are the ones with access to accurate news reporting, and "the other side" simply has incorrect facts.

The attacks seem equivalent, and since the ones they made against Obama were complete fabrications that ultimately led nowhere, they believe the same must be true of the Trump attacks..

The moral of the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is that integrity is important, lest everyone ignore you. However, as that boy grew into a man, surely one lesson he learned was "Don't trust anybody who cries wolf, because they are all untrustworthy, self-serving pieces of shit"

On Foolishness

I recently read "In Praise of Folly" by Desiderius Erasmus, or rather, i did something resembling reading it.

I had a hard time with it, despite being only 70 pages long, I found it difficult to "read" in a traditional sense. I more "swam" through it, my eyes and brain making labored strokes through its dense paragraphs and 500 year old cultural references. It would be more accurate to say that I "successfully traversed it" rather than read it. With some droplets of it having incidentally clinging to me afterwards

So please take that as a warning that I am a poor authority on what the intent and meaning of the book was, but rather I can tell you what it meant to me.

Folly, or, appearing foolish, I realize now, is something I have been at war with for much of my life.

Drawn on a two axis graph, the height of my foolishness would assuredly be in Junior High, where puberty, lovelorn ache for any female attention and forced interaction with poor company in PE changing rooms where a daily source of feeling out of place and utterly foolish.

Each day I would glance back at my action of yesterday, pitying and hating the fool I was, and was likely to be that day.

That finally changed in late high school and especially in college, where each day I'd look back, still pitying the fool of the past, but seeing the progress of becoming less foolish each day. Finally starting to put miles and then leagues in between me and my embarrassing past self.

That still continued, even into my mid-20s. Brains still develop, and you realize how selfish you were, and are. I started my professional career, where it all sort of started over. I didn't know how to do things. I made embarrassing mistakes, but I got better each day. I learned, and with those failures looming large in my mind I made them less and less.

I matured and stopped being a fool, or at least less of an obvious one.

This feels good, and one thing I took from the book, was that this can also be a trap. This superior and pure feeling of *not* being foolish. It can limit you, make you afraid to try new things. It can stifle you, and make you always choose steady comfort over chances at adventure or other expanding experiences.

I have tried, in this very blog, unsuccessfully to voice what about being a parent was bothering and me, and I think this book finally dragged out the particulars.

My wife and I, pre-children would go to restaurants quite a bit, and we would share a smile at the shows that parents with children would put on, confident that we, as non-foolish people would not ever be in their shoes.

Being a parent, it turns out, involves quite a bit of looking foolish. Your children are independent people, who generally do what they like. Yet their behavior reflects on you, as the general guidance is that *good* parents can control their children. That may very well be. For the total sum of times I have felt like a *good* parent are slim, whereas the times I have felt foolish are uncountable and ongoing.

This decent, back into foolishness, felt like failure. After having enjoyed the satisfaction that the illusion of being in-control of your own, stable and safe life, being plunged back into the chaos of feeling like an ass, and having no power over that is unsettling. The theft of a victory.

It hasn't affected just the view of my own life, I see coloring everything.

I see it in religion. How much of atheism is the desire to not appear foolish. To not want to be seen as a fool for believing an untrue thing?

How hard is it to follow the teachings of the Bible, while not wanting to appear foolish? What would we say to a friend, who was mugged, and who handed over his wallet, and also offered the thief his jacket? A Lord and Savior who rides triumphant into town on an ass is someone who is not overly concerned with avoiding the appearance of a fool.

The Greek word for baby and fool are the same, and we delight in them, for their innocence, but what is innocence other than the freedom of not realizing how much you do not know?

I see it in politics.

What was the 2016 election other than a woman who was so way of looking foolish that she came off as strikingly inauthentic? Versus a man who was so confident he was not a fool that he constantly shocked the country with foolish things. He mistook this attention for respect, and his followers saw his self-assurances as courage.

Yet, even Trump is not truly free of the Fool's grip. Even as President he wants to be loved and taken seriously, and does not understand why he is not, which pushes him to make more foolish actions.

And so our country has come to be ruled by a fool with illusions of seriousness. To wake up each morning and wonder what ridiculousness we will be subjected to next.

Optimistically, I want to write this page of our history off as a period of awkward puberty. A horrible, acne-scarred time, where we are all forced into poor political company. A four year tenure of deeply uncomfortable times that we will look back upon and cringe at for centuries to come.

On Truth

The more I think about it, the more I think this past election was really a referendum on communication and what we wish was true about the world.

The world is a complex place to begin with. Ecosystems, air and water currents creating chaotic unpredictable weather on both a micro and macro scale.

Atop of this we built more and more complex meta-machinaries. Many the natural result of humans settling in. Laying water pipes, electrical lines, communication lines, transportation lines, economic centers and money transfers. The logistics of our food, economics and politics alone all are so complex that no one human could ever fully understand it, even in a single state, if all they did was study it for their whole lives.

It is scary to think of and of a scale which is breathtakingly horrible when viewed from the perspective of a commercial airplane (speaking of complex machinery that we depend on).

No one likes to think about this. Everyone wishes it was simpler. That we are not all penned up next to one another, fully dependent on the competencies of strangers for a multitude of complex things we require each day.

We crave the simple, and the postulate that accompanies a simplification that we are capable of understanding a thing.


Empathy for the Devil

Last night on the Colbert Report, Neil DeGrass Tyson said that bashing Trump doesn't make much sense. He is an envoy of his voting base. They are the ones who handed him their power and blessed him as their champion.

So if you dislike Trump, your real beef is with his voters. For me the first step is trying to understand their perspective.

I've read a bunch of things, but they are either a bit too vague "they are unhappy with the way things are going" or too specific "they are all racists".

Let's get specific and try to ground this.

Civics class taught us that all political struggles are over differing priorities of the three basic values: Equality, Order and Freedom.


Waging Democracy

I'm writing this on election day, pre-results.

Regardless of the outcome (or absence of a clear one), one thing everyone can agree on is how tough this campaign has been on everyone.

Everyone's primary motivation seems to be a fearful concern for themselves or others. White, uneducated men are very concerned about the direction of the country, and are trying to grab the steering wheel to go anywhere other than the increasing globalized world that is moving their work everywhere else.

White educated people are terrified by the ruinous consequences of a Trump presidency. Latinos are terrified of Trump doing what he says he will. People who distrust politicians do not trust Hillary

The majorities of the ideas being exchanged are highly weaponized. People worried for their way of life.

War, seems like an apt metaphor to describe it.

Words like bullets wizzing past their heads "They'll take your guns away", "They'll take your jobs away", "They'll take your voting power away", "He will become literal Hitler", "He is an agent of the Russians", "She is a corrupt criminal"

Each a fearful dose of existential terror, concerningly close to becoming real

Shot by "enemies" from "the other side". Winner take all, everybody concerned about what they other side will do with the spoils.

It sucks and is stressful.

But what if this sort of metaphorical war we go through every four years is the key to democracy's peaceful transition of power?

Maybe I'm wrong, and all the ratcheted up rhetoric will spill over into physical violence based on the result.

Or maybe our terrible two party system is a really efficient method of venting impotent frustration and rage slowly over the course of the year, to the point where people are worn out and sick of it.

That a proxy ideological war is *necessary* to avoid real inner conflict.

That said, the Civil War was essentially precipitated by Lincoln (the northern candidate) winning the election, but maybe that is because their presidential elections didn't last 18 months. Who is going to have the energy to shot your brother after that?

On the Middle

I read an article called "Rethinking Rich" talking about how you can't judge a person's wealth "status" by what they make, but on how they spend it, or more importantly, do not spend it. Someone who makes low six figures but buys a 600k house and a new BMW every year but doesn't have an emergency fund is just as susceptible to a $20k medical emergency as anyone else.

Unfortunately, despite quite a bit of Googling I can't seem to find the article.

But it did get me thinking about the state of how we think about wealth, the definition of the middle class specifically.

This is a concern professed by both current presidential candidates.

The existing social definition of "Middle Class" is essentially urging the following steps:

  1. Take out $25k-$75k worth of loans to attend a four year college
  2. Get a Salaried Job in your field
  3. Take out a $5k-$10k loan to buy a car
  4. Spend $20k-$40k on a wedding.
  5. Take out a $200k-$300k loan to buy a house
  6. Take out a $20k-$30k loan to buy a nicer car to advertise to everyone that you can afford a nicer car

A millennial born in 1987 will be turning 30 next year, and most of millennials got stuck after #1, as they had problems finding jobs.

Demographically, they are rejecting everything on that list. They don't want to own cars, they aren't getting married, and while they are interested in buying homes it is a lot tougher to get a mortgage than it used to be, especially when you still are carrying $25k+ of student loan debt.

That said, they seem to be saving for retirement far earlier than Gen Xers, and are contributing more.

The other side of the middle class is the assumption of settling down and starting a family.

You'd think with the advent of tinder, Millennials would be having more sex than ever. They aren't.

Above-average appearance Millennials are probably doing fine. For the statistical hump of average looking Millennials, it is a tough game out there which many choose not to play.

As in all things in school, the attractive cool kids set the rules, and now-a-days it is fine to be promiscuous and have a string of hookups as long as you aren't *clingy*. "Clingy" is the new "slut". Shaming people for wanting to begin a steady relationship rather than remaining casual.

Which makes a lot of sense with everything above. In all instances Millennials are choosing freedom versus tradition.

Which is absolutely the prerogative of the young. If their behavior made complete sense to this old man they'd be doing something wrong.

This isn't a "darn kids these days" post. I just think it is interesting, that most of the talk about the declining middle class has been on the "supply" side. There just don't exist enough well paying jobs to sustain a middle class lifestyle.

But from looking at this, it could very well be there is also a declining cultural "demand" to be middle class, or, at least to acquire its common trappings.

Stranger Things

My wife and voraciously consumed all of season 1 of Stranger Things this week.

The series is very familiar in an odd way.

It pays homage to *so* many 80s classic movies that it transcends the standard wink and a nod, and becomes more like a new type of emotional vocabulary. Like someone dusted off Speilberg's emotional harpsichord and began plucking at it a new, the notes still perfectly in tune after decades.

Shaka, When the Walls Fell

The writing and dialog are also really good. The characters, many of them straddle the line between familiar 80s archetypes, while also being very real and grounded, believable people. Sort of a nod that yes, 80s archetypes were a little silly, but many of them were reflections of real life to begin with.

I really enjoyed it, the fact that it just came out of no where with little fan fare also made it more of a secret delight.

Between this, and Netflix's amazing Voltron reboot, from my perspective Netflix's ability to figure out what type of shows to produce from analytic data is nearly indistinguishable from me being able to mind-control their executives.

On Time and Death

Is there life after death?

No. It is right there in the question. Death is the definition of the end of life, there is no life after it.

Do we still *exist* after we die? We're getting closer. But since the word "after" is still there, I'm going to say no again.

So do we not exist at all, anywhere when we die? Given my previous two definitions, you'd think this answer is straightforward. I disagree.

When I have driven up to Duluth on various occasions, there are often railway cars parked along some of the disused tracks. Miles and miles of them.

Now, as I pass them, I can see the cars, count them. Read the faded logos. A mile later I can see different cars, roughly the same, those in the long distance forgotten.

Finally, I pass the final car and continue driving. The last one fades in the view of my rearview.

Does that train still exist?

To all but the solipsists the answer is obvious, of course it does. A traveling perspective is not a destructive force.

Maybe you see where I'm going with this, but that is probably me vastly overstating how obvious I think this is.

So, we are traveling though time. There are no physics observations regarding time that indicate it is anything other than a two-way dimension like the three-dimensional ones we are used to. Everything that could go forward could go backward. It just doesn't. We don't know why.

Yet, we all seem to assume the solipsist's view regarding time, that the times we have passed are gone completely and forever. That there is only the very current moment in all of existence.

But still, burden of proof still exists. Does the snaphot of our universe go away every moment forever? It sure seems like it does to our every sense.

Quantum Mechanics is litered with examples where, while not hinting at all of time continuing to exist, that current events can interact with past moments in a way that seems to imply that there is at least *one additional* entire copy of our universe (time - 1) at work for even day to day operations.

If there was but a single instance of the universe there would be nothing to interact with.

That right there, seems to be strong evidence, that every single one of our past selves at every possible age and moment, still exist.

That left streaming behind us, are the now crystalized quantum moments from every decision or rock you have skipped, etched permanently into the 4th dimension as we speed through the universe on a rock at 483,000 miles per hour.

Vast quantum statues of our past moments, happy and sad. Complicated and simple. Wrapped around and intertwined with everyone we know.

The train cars don't disappear if you drive 100 miles past them, nor a thousand, nor a million, and by even modest standards each of us absolutely wrecks several billion miles of uncertainty. Everywhere around you indecision crushed into a single reality that absolutely indelibly happened, and will continue to have happened even if the universe itself collapses back onto it self over and over again for an eternity.

What if all of your life still exists? What if the lives of all the loved ones you have mourned are still there no less destroyed than the last city you visited.

What if everything we do and have done is recorded and permanent by the laws of the universe?

In any case, I find it an interesting thought experiment.

Of course, all this is assuming there isn't some sort of 5-dimension thing that lives by consuming crystalized structures of certainty. At which point, I should probably stop before one of you calls a loony bin on me and/or I start babbling about Time Cube

Thanks for reading.

On Politics

I found this article to be an interesting view of the current political climate.

The article presents two theories, and it leaves enough room to talk about whether either, or neither are true and/or caused one another.

The first, that the devaluation of the role parties and lawmakers play, is undervalued by the public, which has a growing distaste and distrust for them, and that this weakened the political institutions to the point where they don't control much and chaos dances out.

The second is the devaluation of compromise. Thinking of everything as "black/white", "my team won/my team lost", tribal politics.

Basically politics at it's heart is a game of compromising and wheeling and dealing.

Like most games, the ball needs to be free to bounce around from team to team for interesting things to happen.

Refusal to compromise, and/or viewing disruption of playing the game as an acceptable game state leads to the equivalent of a kid punting the ball onto the top of the school's roof. Except, in this hypothetical, there exists no janitor to step in and kindly retrieve the ball to reset the game.

You see a lot of this in both of the primary races of both parties. Although I do agree with the author, that Democrats seemed slightly more willing to compromise about their candidate (although there are certainly still a sizable number of Bernie supporters holding their ground) .

If a good compromise is a state where both sides are unsatisfied, Hillary seems to be a very excellent compromise indeed.

Lost Objects

I recently began wondering whether the Death Star would have had a Lost and Found.

Does an oppressive military regime still care about returning carelessly lost personal property to individuals, or are they more about "finders keepers"?

Do clones even have personal property?

I know this is pretty derivative of Clerk's Star Wars banter regarding dead contractors.

But still, I pressed on.