Thursday, April 26, 2018

It's the Carbs?

So this thought is tied to my last post, the conversation I had with the guy in Germany, about obesity in the US and the growing problem in Germany, elsewhere, and mutual suspicion we shard about industrial food being a contributor.

Currently it is in vogue to blame it on carbs, but I just took at look at the ingredients list on a "Healthy", whole grain, multi-grain loaf of bread....

The white bread, which is more common traded in the brown sugar for corn syrup.

The bread in the picture below, is also white bread.

It contains flower, water, salt, and yeast.

I'm  thinking maybe the carbs aren't really the problem here....

Monday, April 23, 2018

Adventures in Ireland, Germany and Seattle

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend almost a week in Ireland, Followed by a Few days in Germany. It was the first business travel fro me in over a decade. Let me share a few of my observations and adventures.

I have concluded Europeans in general have amazing bladder control. They must. Because how else can they get through day in a city with virtually no public toilets? I did finally manage to find one in the open market in the middle of Cork, Ireland.

Oh yeah, when you travel in Europe, you are going to want to have a few coins in the local currency. The door to the toilet doesn't take credit cards.

Fortunately, a compassionate shop-keep noticed my plight and provided me with the necessary coinage to spare me from disaster.

The fish market in Cork was amazing! Perhaps more so to an inland dweller like myself than to others but...

And there was a restaurant right upstairs which was supplied directly from the market.

I grew up during the cold war, so the "enemy du jour" was the communists, specifically the USSR. But It was still close enough to post WWII, that I was privy to considerable WWII propaganda, in the form of cartoons, Hogans Heroes, etc... I also have vague memories of News reports during the Red Army Faction Era. So, I entered Germany with some subconscious bias, that Germans were abrupt, stern, easily angered... I did my best to ignore it, but it was still there.

My travel plans for that leg of the trip were not especially solid.I arrived in in Hannover late at night, needing to travel to Einohoven, which was a considerable distance away. I couldn't bring myself to spend the roughly $150 for cab fare (even if it was the company's money), so I decided I would try to get there by using the trains.

I don't speak German.

I managed with some small amount of luck to acquire a ticket. I even manged to find the right platform for the first leg of the trip. I knew the name of the stop where I would need to switch trains. I had no idea when that stop would occur.

I managed a timid "Sprechenzie English?" to the  train conductor, who gave the the correct stop count, and he even let me know my next train would be at platform C. Arriving at the correct stop I exited the train.


There was platform A, and Station B. There was no platform C. Just then a sweet old lady tapped my shoulder, she had overheard my query on the train. Observing my panic she came over to direct me to  a staircase which would lead me to platform C.

I Finally arrived in Einhoven at 11:30 pm. My heart sank. All I could see was darkness. This was a tiny station, not directly in the city. It was unmanned. I was arriving in the dark of night, and oh yeah, my cell phone wasn't working. I had a brief vision of a news article about a stupid American found beaten to death by an angry Neo-Nazi gang. As I exited the train, I saw a young woman ahead of me. I ran up,  got confirmation that she spoke English, then began to explain my situation, I asked if she could possibly call a cab for me to take me to the Hotel. She called the cab, and then walked me to the location the cab would arrive, letting me know he would be there in 3-5 minutes.

At the end of my work, I got back to the Airport in Hanover the same way. relying on the kindness of strangers. In one case the individual didn't speak English, but by pointing to the tracks and saying "Flughaven?" I was able to express my need to get to the airport. He helped me get onto the correct train.

I spent a bit of time just wandering the streets in Germany. I didn't think to ask about safe or dangerous parts of town. I never found myself concerned for my well being. Everyone I encountered was very kind, very warm, very willing to help.

I contrast that with Seattle.

Due to a medical emergency which delayed our departed from London Heathrow. (That is an intimidating airport. It is enormous, you need a big layover just to get from one part to the next. But, once you understand their process, it is incredibly efficient, and consistent. It is also nice that virtually every airport in Europe uses the same security procedures, unlike the US, where I am never sure when or where I need to remove my shoes, belt, etc...). Once I arrived I went looking for the correct place to work out alternate arrangements since I had missed my connection. The airport employees were too busy playing on their phones to even bother to look up as they gave me terse, and generally inaccurate directions. It took me losing my temper and becoming... ahem... assertive... to finally get some attention. It won't hurt my feelings if I never set foot in Seattle again.

 Oh, there was an amazing Motorcycle museum in Einhoven also, which I got to tour. That was a treat!

They discussed the various unsavory aspects of Germany's history as well in the tour. It was - I felt - impressively frank, fair and honest, without being unnecessarily condemning.

Oh, one particular note I observed which I thought worth considering and taking heed, lest we continue on the path of history repeating...

I also learned in both Ireland and Germany that America has a solid stereotype. Large portions and large girths. A few jokes were made in both sites about my size and appetite being atypical American. Though both sites also commented that was probably an unfair stereotype. More interestingly, In Germany the individual observed that Germany was beginning to experience a problem of growing waistlines. We conversed about it at some length, and concluded the likely key contributors were the growing number of sedentary jobs, the proliferation of electronics (games, TV), and the increased consumption of industrial food (i.e. not fresh, high in preservatives, sugar...)

We also talked healthcare. That was an enlightening conversation. I concluded that there really is no such thing as socialized healthcare. In the countries we classify as having socialized medicine,  there are essentially two healthcare systems. There is the "Socialized" system that we clamor for - that we believe will solve all our problems and make everyone equal. This system is the one for the average and lower class folks it is the one the government pays for. It is the one with four to six month waiting times to see the doctor. Then there is the healthcare system for the upper-middle and wealthy. It either exists as a 2nd tier, or as an under-the-table (aka bribery) system.

In every conversation we came to the same conclusion. We all want everyone to have good healthcare. And we all recognized that "Good healthcare" is entirely too objective, entirely too relative, and is ultimately infinite in size and cost. We all seem willing to give up some of what we have to help others in need, but at the same time we all seem to agree that those who have gotten to where they are by blatant disregard (emphysema from smoking, diabetes from a consistently bad diet...) should be held accountable for their bad choices. We all seemed to realize and acknowledge that at some point, tough decisions must be made, and compromises must be established. Who then makes those decisions? That was the unanswered question.

I noticed that architecturally, Germany was kind of... boring. The houses were all square boxes with unadorned, simple roofs. They all looked the same. And it struck me how incredibly practical it was. They were built to get the most real estate for the least money. Not to impress the neighbors.  It is worth noting I did not see large swaths of the country, and much of what I saw, though on the western side, was near the east/west border. I did catch a glimpse of a castle, sadly I wan't prepared and missed the photo opportunity. :(

While In Germany, an article was released in a business magazine, essentially blaming Germany for Europe's financial struggles. The argument was that the Germans were too thrifty, they were "hoarding" their money instead of "investing in the economy". It occurred to me, that what the business article was actually complaining about was that fact that the German people  hadn't bought into the  popular "eat, drink, and be merry" mindset that everyone else has. Instead of living right on the ragged edge of disaster and hoping someone will come along and bail them out when something doesn't go according to plan, the Germans are largely living within their means, saving for that inevitable rainy day. Good on them.

One last interesting observation: During one of my Heathrow layovers, I was sitting near a group of young British girls (as in mid 20's to mid 30's). I overheard them discussing various locations in the US, which were far superior in culture, custom, politics, etc... than their own home country. That was an unexpected eye opener for me. Perhaps it was naive of me, but I honestly thought Americans were the only people people who spent a couple days in another country, and then went about snobbishly denigrating their own country based on their now "vast knowledge" of said other country.
 People really are the same everywhere.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fixing Terrorism and Mass shootings

After this post, I will likely have a new “regrets” post to write. But as I have watched the conversation around mass shootings, I feel compelled to write.

First, let me explain to you why I feel I am qualified to have a voice on this topic (here comes the regret post). When I was around six or seven years old, one of my best friends tried to psychologically manipulate me into participating in anal intercourse with him. No, I new nothing about the birds and the bees at the time. Nor did I at age nine or ten when I was exposed to hard core pornography. Nor did I at the age of 12 when I was molested by a leader at a scout camp (I didn’t connect the dots until roughly ten years later, when I saw a new report of that individual being arrested for similar offenses).

I was… am… moderately socially incompetent. I am also an introvert, with a social anxiety disorder, and a predisposition to compulsion and addiction.
On my mission, I had a companion who was fostering a relationship with a young woman. Everyone else figured it out, I didn’t catch on until 3 days before I got called in and yelled at for not reporting it.

In my late twenties, my employer took all his employees to the lake one weekend. As we were unloading his personal water craft, a young woman came and very overtly came on to me. Everyone at the lake could tell. Except me. I got teased mercilessly for that. Later that year, the same employer took us to see a comedian in Las Vegas while at a technology convention. This comedian’s humor consisted mostly of picking on audience members (aka bullying). I was in the front row. Nearly his entire 1 hour on stage revolved around jokes about a nearly 30 year old computer nerd/virgin/loser from Utah. I went to my hotel room that night and cursed the window locks that prevented me from jumping.

Prior to that job, I was in college, relying on a scholarship to pay my way. Somehow, when trying to transition to off campus housing, I got trapped with two apartment contracts, one on-campus and one off-campus. I tried to get help resolving the situation, but… large bureaucratic organizations aren’t sympathetic to quiet, introverts who have neither the social nor financial connections to get the wheels turning. At the time I was struggling to keep myself fed. I had no idea how I would pay two contracts. I was shuffled around from one bureaucrat’s office to the next, listening to a steady drone about “policy and procedure…”. When I finally lost my mind and had a full-blown screaming meltdown in one office, they finally released the contract, and sent me on my way with a token for a free ice cream cone.

I tried to get additional scholarships after that. I spent a fair amount of time perusing an enormous book of scholarships, looking for some I could apply for. There were pages upon pages of scholarships with requirements I could not meet; African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Female (there was one specific scholarship restricted to women over 6 feet tall in fact)…
I finally had to drop out, of school due to illness brought on by stress. Every test was a trigger. Group critiques were even worse. Finances were always a matter of just getting by. I had found it necessary to take on school loans when the one scholarship I had ran out. So, I left the university – without a degree -  to a low paying job, with the burden of student loan debt, and a maxed-out credit card to cover medical costs.

A decade later, I managed to finish a degree by taking one class a semester, and thanks to a series of fortunate events which placed me with an employer who funded those courses. and with a manager who saw my intellectual and ethical value, in spite of my social incompetence and lack of degree.
Sadly, such things don’t last. The company was acquired by ever larger corporations, and once again I find myself a quiet, insecure, introvert in a boundless bureaucracy which rewards extroverts. And grinds my lot to dust.

I live In a world which continues to send the message that I am somehow inherently bad because I am white, male, straight, religious (it is funny how exclusionary the inclusivity rhetoric can feel)…
I live in a world that utterly disregards my struggles with addiction, deriding any who dare speak out about the proliferation of sensual media as prudish, and demanding their freedom of expression.
I live in a world that produces mountains of negative, contentious media which overloads my introverted anxiety-ridden mind. I live in a world where I am all to often alone in a crowded room, enduring levels of stimulation I cannot bear because it is “the norm”, and because I must, in order maintain my career, to feed my family.

I believe I am qualified to speak on this topic because I understand. I know the feeling of hopelessness, of Isolation. Of not fitting in. Of seeing no path forward through the morass of rules and regulations, policies and procedures, cliques and clans, social barriers…
More rules and regulations won’t fix this. They are in fact part of the problem…the frustrating, uncaring, bureaucracy they foster helps create the environment where isolation, hopelessness and anonymity wreak havoc on the tender mind.

The mental health conversation as it stands won’t help either. This group already feels like victims of discrimination. They are already isolated, already on the outside. Do you really believe further stigmatization, further restriction, further discrimination will help?

What will help? For starters, practice that “Inclusiveness” that you pretend to believe in. stop picking winners in the victim game. We are all victims in one way or another. Life is hard, bad stuff happens. Demonstrate a little tolerance and empathy. For everyone. Especially those individuals you don’t easily relate to.

Don’t demand that everyone conform to your standard of “normal”. We as a society spend millions to accommodate the hearing impaired, the blind. We construct modern buildings to accommodate those who are wheelchair bound. We have special schools for the autistic and for various mental handicaps to tailor the learning experience to their specific needs, we create work environments to accommodate their limitations, capitalize on their strengths and help them to be able to thrive as they are. Yet those who deal with attention deficit disorders, anxiety, even to a lesser degree introversion are expected to conform to the “norm”. and if they are unable to do so sufficiently on their own, then we medicate them to make them behave more “normally”.

I believe that to a considerable extent this country exists because of ADD. It would take a certain degree of dissatisfaction and disregard for personal safety in order to cause a person to leave the “civilized world”, cross a massive ocean on a little wooden boat, then attempt to carve out a livelihood in a new, untamed, unfamiliar land. Yet we now consider that trait which played such a key role in the creation of this nation as a blight, an undesirable trait that must be quashed. That is part of why I don’t think it is valid to compare Europe to the US. The US was created by those who could no longer tolerate the European way of doing things. They came here to get away from that. It is simply not in their DNA. I don’t in any way imply one is better than the other. They are simply different. If you are so fond of the European way, then perhaps you should move to Europe, and leave America for the “Crazy”, Anxious, ADD Americans.

Can we not find a way to accommodate their needs, and capitalize on their strengths, and help them to be able to thrive as they are? Must they be forced to deal with the cost and side effects of mind altering medications in order to fit in? Can they not also be included, accepted and celebrated for who they are?

Do you know what kept me from being one of the headlines? My Family, and my religion.
I love my family. I feel loved by them. The thought of causing them pain or sorrow has more than once brought me back from the precipice.

My religion gives me hope that at least some portion of what I think and feel is because I am “broken”, just as a person born without limbs, or eyes, or hearing, or with a malfunctioning heart… is broken. That it is not really - who I am. It gives me hope that someday - perhaps not until after my time on this earth is over, but someday – Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I will be made whole. I will be repaired. I will be able to think and feel as I really am, without the limitations imposed on me by this imperfect, mortal body.

My religion gives me the book of Mormon and with it, stories of a few brief periods when groups of people on this earth managed to live “after the manner of happiness”. Periods when they treated each other with respect and kindness.  When they reached out to their neighbors and made sure that none were left without food, clothing, or shelter. When they spent their time looking for opportunities to serve and lift rather than working to get their government to make sure everyone conformed to their particular view of “fairness”, or compensate those who in their eyes suffered more. I cling desperately to the hope that someday, maybe I can experience that.

Of course this, will likely be ignored or “poo-pooed” by many because I am just another one of those  “uneducated backwoods folks, with his inherent privilege, clinging to his religion”. And because “statistics say blah blah…”. What you are failing to understand is the people you are talking about are part of the three, four, or even six sigma. They don’t fall within the standard deviation. They are the anomaly in your statistical analysis. Your way of viewing the world fails to account for their experience. Your intellectual superiority is really just blind arrogance, and lack of real empathy.
You really want to make a difference? Then YOU make a difference. Be kinder, be more tolerant, look for opportunities to encourage, serve and lift others.

Stop spreading negative memes and stories. The country has survived over a century of “bad presidents” who were going to be the “ruin of the nation”.  Some of those terrible presidents are even revered today. This president won’t be any different, nor will the next one, so long as “we the people” make kindness our watchword. And that starts with you. There have always been groups who were misunderstood, mistreated. Continuing to dredge up the past in order to lay blame, or claim reparations only perpetuates the problem. All the negative rhetoric does is contribute to the sense of hopelessness that threatens to engulf those who deal with anxiety and isolation. All it does is make us look down, rather than up. They become Self-fulfilling prophecies.

If everyone stops watching the negative news, then those who produce it will be forced to find more productive ways to earn money. It will dry up, and the cycle will stop.

You really want to make a difference. Make a sincere effort to see the world through the eyes of others. For example, you know those Victoria’s Secret posters and other sexy ads you feel are no big deal and are protected by free speech? Those yoga pants that show off those curves you’ve worked so hard to achieve, and deserve to show off? To those struggling with sex addiction, those are roughly the equivalent of a handful of cocaine blown into the face of a recovering drug addict. Imagine taking a super soaker full of bourbon and hosing down a struggling alcoholic. It’s kind of like that. I’m not suggesting passing restrictive laws. I am asking you to consider the millions of people around you every day, and make an effort – if not to make their lives a little better, then to at least not contribute to their personal hell.

You really want to make a difference? Then Serve. Love. Follow the Example of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to believe he is the Son of God to study his life – his example of kindness, healing, serving, humility, encouragement, mercy… – and emulate it. A staunch atheist can appreciate and emulate him as easily as a faithful devotee.

Of course I imagine none of what I have written matters. I remember a conversation I had with someone not long ago, somehow the subject of Marijuana came up. He said that "If there were any real medical benefit to be had from Marijuana, the big pharmaceutical companies would have already capitalized on it. Having worked in close proximity to Big Pharma, a Noted that Marijuana was a difficult play for them, because as a natural substance there was little opportunity for patents or other means to be able to recoup the inordinate cost to bring a product through the regulatory hurdles to market. Additionally, int he US at least, the legal classification of Marijuana makes it more difficult to work with than Heroin. Finally, I noted some studies which have shown efficacy relating to certain specific treatments. He stared at me blankly for a moment, then repeated the exact same comment as before, nearly word for word.

In other words. Nothing I have said will matter, because nobody will really listen. 

And with that, I will close this, and begin my cycle of regret for having written it in the first place.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Moore's Law, Hanlan, and Empathy

"Never attribute to malice, that which can be adequately explained by ignorance or incompetence"
                        -Hanlan's Razor

This is my closing thought on a series of three posts you can find the first one here, and the second one here.

In the prior two, I presented a model, based on the methodology of Moore's law, for fixing America's social and political problems. It is a well-documented methodology, known by many other names, including positive affirmations or law of attraction. You assume the desired state, and behave as though you are at (or very near) that state.

But what about those pesky outliers? What about the individuals who... "Don't play along", What do you do when you are running around acting like racism is a thing of the past, and someone makes a racist comment? How do you deal with a police officer who is flaunting his authority, while pretending that police are good guys?

The answer, it depends. There are two crucial tools you rely on: Hanlan's Razor (stated above), and empathy.

First, a word about Hanlan's Razor. It sounds very insulting; "Ignorance or incompetence". It really isn't. Ignorant means "Lacking knowledge or awareness". It can mean in general, but more practically - and for our purposes in means in particular. We are ignorant about some things. When it comes to cricket, corporate accounting, the saxophone, advanced biology or chemistry (probably remedial biology or chemistry as well), I am ignorant. I have very limited knowledge. In fact, I am relatively ignorant regarding most subjects.

Incompetence means "not having the necessary skills to do something successfully". In addition to being ignorant with respect to the saxophone, I am also incompetent.

It isn't necessarily bad. It can be inconvenient. It is problematic, because we are all fairly incompetent when it comes to gauging our level of incompetence. And it is also problematic because once we are competent, we tend to forget what it was like to be incompetent, and therefore assume everyone should be competent (and we are often impatient when they do not live up to our expectation of competency, based on our ignorant evaluation of our level of non-ignorance).

So make Hanlan's razor a mantra, and then apply a little empathy.

Some examples:

You are stopped by a policeman, you follow all the rules: hands on the steering wheel, fingers extended, driver's license on the dash in front of you. You smile and address him politely. And he responds curtly, unkindly he is rude.

Invoke Hanlan and your inner empath. What might be going on? Maybe he has had a bad day. Maybe he just learned this morning that his wife has cancer, and it is stressing him out. right now. Maybe he just heard about an officer who got shot during a routine stop, and he's having a hard time remembering the most people are good. You might be thinking "or maybe he is a pompous jerk." What makes our fantasy any more valid than mine? You already know (part 2) how this is going to go down if you assume the latter and react. What if you assume the former, and the latter is in fact true? It may not get better, but it is incredibly unlikely to get worse. And when the encounter is over, you can contact the police station, and (politely) provide feedback to his commanding officer

If you find that the officer is particularly polite, I would also recommend calling and giving feedback. I did this once. I was in an accident. It was my fault. The officer was very polite. He took all the information, and almost apologetically informed me that he would have to write me a citation. I called a few days and let his superior know how impressed and appreciative I was. His commanding officer in turn expressed appreciation to me for giving him a rare bit of positive feedback. It was great!)

What about something like this "What are your thoughts on intended insults and racism? You may not have the opportunity to take someone aside and say "when you called my son the n-word, that was hurtful and racist" or when someone shouts "go back to China chink!" From a car to someone walking."

Again, Hanlan's Razor and empathy are the mantras. Who made the insult?

Was it a grouchy old man? There are people alive still, who lived during periods of real institutional racism. That term has been misused a bit of late - watered down, but during world war two there was genuine institutional racism. People of Japanese descent and German descent were interred in camps (POW camps, for all practical purposes) throughout America. They were "the enemy." (Refer back to my comments in the second post about our natural tendency to categorize and gather the herd). And as the enemy, who we were at war with, we also applied a... let's call it a coping mechanism. In order to suppress that little voice (conscience, holy ghost, the light of Christ, the spirit...) that whispers that killing other people is wrong, we do things to dehumanize them. Terms like "jap", "nip", "jerry", "kraut" came into fashion. The media churned out all kinds of programs, including children's cartoons, which present them as dumb, vile, or both. After World war II came the cold war, and we switched to "ruskies", "chinks", "charlie", "commies"...

There are some for whom those habits are deeply ingrained you may not be able to do much other than show them kindness, feel pity for them (They are as addicted to their fear and hate, as an alcoholic is to his whiskey bottle, and they will quite likely die with that burden). Explain this to your children, so they can develop a better understanding of the horrible toll war takes on people. Be kind to them if you can (sometimes it works). That failing (avoid them if practical). Failing that, notify the authorities if absolutely necessary.

What if it is a youth, or a teen? Youth today have not experience real institutional racism. While it is possible the youth has learned and is evoking real racism, it is actually more likely what they are actually exhibiting is plain old-fashioned bullying. Race just happened to be a convenient target, which provided sufficient shock value. How do you deal with it? You treat it as what it is; bullying. Bullying is bad, it doesn't matter if the victim is black, Chinese, handicapped, female... or a white male. It is always wrong. It is always bad. Deal with it accordingly.

If you can have a (polite) conversation with that youth, or that youths parents, perhaps you will find that the behavior came as the result of said youth getting bad information from somewhere, and you may be able to correct that issue peacefully (refer to "My Experience With Religious Persecution" for an example). The key is to let go of your assumptions, your biases, and engage empathy and attempt to understand where the behavior is coming from, then (and only then) you can hope to respond appropriately (Another Mantra which you should commit to memory, which may help with this "People almost never do things TO others, they do thing FOR themselves").

If you run into the "It's just kids being kids" talk, repeat to yourself. "It used to be that way, but we are better than that now." (Another use of positive affirmation). It might be worth saying it out loud too.

What if that fails? Then take it to appropriate authorities. What if said authorities don't take it seriously (for instance if a boy is the victim of racial slurs and death threats, and the school officials decide a couple days suspension is sufficient)? Take it to the next level of authorities (This may be necessary at times, in a case like the a well meaning official who is a friend of the family, may fail to recuse himself, and may feel compelled to let the boy of easy so as not to "ruin his future" Hanlan's Razor is once again at work. Said official fails to understand that he is setting the bully up for future, and more damaging- failure.

It may seem from that last paragraph that we got to the same place with considerably more work on our part. But there is a very significant difference. We gave the offender every chance to make a course correction. We made it easier for them to make that correction by NOT feeding their desire for attention, or their potential misplaced fear, or their potential misconception that the world is out to get them. ( I wish I could find a Garfield comic I remember seeing as a teen to sick here. It shows Garfield standing behind Odie, thinking about all the means things Odie MIGHT do to him. It ends with Garfield clobbering poor, oblivious Odie and then proclaiming "I hit him back first!").

Will this complete fix every person in America? No, people are people (Depeche Mode reference). However, presently, Active, card caring white supremacists make up less than one one-hundredth of one percent of the population. They are irrelevant. One the other hand. Polls indicate that roughly 9% of Americans are... on the fence... (and that number represents a roughly 17% increase from 2014, according to some polls) leaning in favor of white supremacist views. Would you rather continue to have "Hard conversations", continue to berate them over their "privilege", continue to make them feel attacked, continue to drive them to "Circle the wagons", continue to push them form borderline to violent... Or would you rather show them a better way. Invite them to be part of a truly inclusive world? A world were the insignificant majority simply has no voice;  are no more than 'that crazy guy on the corner' that the world pities, but ultimately ignores, until they simply fade into the background.

Don't write this off as psycho-mumbo jumbo, or new-age, crystals and snake oil nonsense. There is a considerable body of psychological, and Neuroscience research to back the efficacy of affirmations (I will list a few below.

And I won't pretend this will be easy, we aren't at the baseline image I offered up in the second post, we have let the Natural man run the show for a while, we have a bit of ground to make up. But it is achievable. But it is your choice. Continue to focus on the future you fear, or begin to focus on the future you desire.

Self-Affirmations Can Boost Performance, Study Shows

Brain Scans Can Help Explain Why Self-Affirmation Works

The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention

Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Moore's Law part 2: Whether You Want it or Not...

In my previous post, I proposed a methodology for solving America's social problems, based on the concept of Moore's Law.

The reality It will happen, whether you choose to actively, consciously try to apply it or not.

But it probably won't go the way you want it to. Let me try to explain with a few, poorly made diagrams (My prose isn't great, my artistry is considerably worse).

Let's use police violence as an example. First a baseline...

[This is really just two bell curves - one rating people, the other rating police - with respect to their relationship to one another. The upper (positive) end of the two has been removed as it is not relevant to the visualization. The people curve has been mirrored, and they have been linked at their intersection ("Basically Good").]

Now, there is an event- a police shooting. For one reason or another, it seems questionable. Maybe it was a sociopath who somehow managed to make it onto the force, maybe it was an officer with insufficient training who made a bad call, maybe it was a person who was committing suicide by cop, maybe it was a punk with an attitude who assaulted the officer.

It is difficult to tell, even by those closest to the event. Friends and family often tend to think the best of the individual question, and assume the other is to blame. Such events often happen so quickly, that everything is reaction, and the brain tries to piece together the "truth" after the fact.

In the absence of intentional control over our response, the natural response tends to go something like the image below. Those who are already predisposed to distrust or dislike the police will "Blow up the internet" with op-ed's, memes, angry rhetoric about those "jack-booted thugs". There may even be intimations of violence ("Pigs in a blanket! Fry 'em like bacon!"). The message will be generalized. In return, the police will respond naturally by "Circling the wagons". They will band together to protect each other. They will be wary, more distrusting.

There will be a migration, due to the divisive rhetoric.

There will be more events, more anger, more violence - both by, and against police.

And the cycle will continue, hollowing out the "basically good". This is the natural progression - the default behavior of "the natural man". It is the survival mechanism of the brain. We sense danger, we categorize (skin, color, religion, uniform, political party), we gather the herd...

But we humans are gifted with a greater capacity for reason. We have the capacity to ascend beyond basic instinctual thought. We can choose instead to say "This was a bad thing that happened. Let's work together to understand the truth of the events, and then respond appropriately". We have the ability to distinguish the individual from the race/religion. We have the ability to CHOOSE to apply a laser focus to an instance of bad behavior, and still respect, even embrace the "others".

We have to choose.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Moore's Law as a Model for Solving America's Social Problems

In 1965 Gordon Moore,, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel made a prediction regarding the exponential improvement of the microprocessor. He stated the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double approximately every two years.

What was particularly interesting was that Moore had virtually no data from which to extrapolate this prediction. That law has held true for 50 years. But it wasn't because of some natural order on the universe. It wasn't some mere chance that Moore's prediction has held true.

Moore's law become a target which the industry strove to achieve. Brilliant minds worked at a feverish pace, constantly searching for new innovations which would allow them to MAKE Moore's law hold true. It was a sort of manifest destiny for the semiconductor industry.

And oh how we have benefited from that drive to fulfill Moore's prophecy! The amazing gadgetry, the advances in healthcare, travel, communication.... nearly every facet of our lives has been improved because the of ever more capable processors which were innovated to meet the demands of Moore's law.

This idea, this methodology is not unique to this one use case. The concept is known by many other names: Positive affirmations, The law of attraction, "Fake it 'till you make it"... self-fulfilling prophecy...

It works. It is one of the first concepts I wrote about when I started this blog (String Button Mind Magic).

So why don't we use it more often? Why don't we use the methodology to fix some of America's social challenges? Instead of constantly going on about "White Privilege", "Institutional racism", "Police brutality", "Illegal Immigrants".... (Which doing so, according the the above mentioned methodology, will tend to lead to increased racism, increased brutality...), focus instead on the goal?

"America is unified", "Police are generally excellent!", "People of religion x are good people!"

Say it. Believe it. Act it. Say "high" to a police officer every chance you get. Introduce yourself. Get to know them by name, and address them by name. Invite them to your neighborhoods. Invite them to neighborhood events. Talk with them about what you can do to help them do their job more safely and effectively.

When someone says something that could potentially be misconstrued as racial (remember the lawyer who said the California DMV was a black hole, and the black judge got offended because he thought the lawyer was making a racial slur?)., assume they did so innocently, ignorantly. Unless it absolutely needs to be corrected, let it go. If it simply must be corrected, do so privately, kindly.

Assume that most people are good at heart. frazzled perhaps, overwhelmed perhaps, afraid of change, and the unknown... But good at heart. Assume that you can talk rationally, keep your cool, listen to each other, understand one another's perspective, and then work to find an out of the box solution that works for both sides.Assume that you can find a way to co-exist. More than co-exist. Cooperate.

Sure, it will be hard at first. We have spent years practicing at hateful, unyielding, standing our ground, holding firm in our "righteous cause". Stick with it. It will get easier, we will get better at it, and given time, miracles will occur.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mormon Misconceptions: Heaven

One day 3 dear friends passed peacefully from this life to the next., and found themselves standing before St. Peter at the pearly gates.

"Welcome to heaven! Are you ready for the grand tour?" he greeted them warmly. Then he directed them to a golf cart waiting nearby.

Once all were seated, St. Pete summoned an angel who took the driver's seat and off they went.

Up a beautiful, gold brick street they drove, winding their way among gentle hills covered with the greenest grass, the most beautiful flowers the friends had ever seen!

Around the next bend, they came to a large open field covered with picnic blankets and filled with happy people who were chatting, and children who were playing and laughing... They waved to the passengers of the golf cart and the passengers waved back.

"Those are the Baptists" the tour guide remarked.

Further down the road they came across another group, happily singing and dancing.

"The Pentecostals." The angel reported. Another exchange of greetings occurred.

Further still they found a large pavilion filled with people enjoying an afternoon meal together. They paused briefly from their pleasantries to greet the newcomers.

"That would be the Lutherans."

On they went, passing and exchanging greetings with the Methodists, the Catholics, The Seventh day Adventists.

Then quite suddenly the cart slowed to a crawl, and the guide motioned for silence. Ever so quietly, the group passed a large, well lit house from which emanated singing, talking and laughter, while the occupants of the cart hardly dared breath.

Finally, they passed the house and the cart zoomed ahead again. One of the passenger queried "What was that about?"

The angel replied, "Those are the Mormons. They think they are the only ones here."

I heard that joke while on my mission. From a Minister of a nondenominational Christian church. I didn't find it particularly humorous then. Sadly. It was not an entirely inaccurate description of my perception at the time.

I think Mormons often forget something rather crucial. Probably has something to do with all that talk about perfection, and then somehow, we merge that thought with secular schools and grading.

We start out on the right path - John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions". But then we start thinking about school grades, and conclude that any grade lower than A+ is a failing grade.

I remember a good analogy I heard, and repeated, but somehow missed the point. Say you are a biker, you have an awesome Harley, you love to ride that bike. You love to work on that bike. Now, say you show up at a big shiny mansion, all gold and silver and glass. Everyone is dressed up in Tuxedos and ball gowns, eating little finger sandwiches and drinking from crystal goblets. And here you are in your Leathers, grease on your hands, maybe a spot or two of dirt and grease on your face... Would you feel comfortable? Probably not, you'd probably prefer to hop back on your bike, drive down the street to the local greasy spoon diner, and talk shop with the other bikers.

The analogy is actually excellent, you go where you are comfortable, where you are happy, but somehow, in our narrow, Darwinian model minds, we conclude that everyone wants to be at the palace, and the only reason you are going to the diner is you didn't qualify for the palace. Only A+ is a passing grade...

But, Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 tells us about those "many mansions", and in verse 89 it notes that even the lowest of those mansions, referred to as the telestial - final destination for liars, adulterers, murderers, who choose not to accept gospel of Jesus Christ (verse 82) - the glory of it "surpasses all understanding." It is still glorious! It is glorious beyond human comprehension!

So, in reality, the Mormon perspective on heaven is actually one of the most inclusive. You don't even have to accept Jesus Christ, you just have to not knowingly, willfully reject him.

So, just like in school B, C and D are also passing grades. Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't give your best effort. It does however suggest you might want to make an effort to be kind to those people you are so smugly certain have a seat in the proverbial hand-basket. They just might be your neighbor... for... a very... very... long time...