Finding time to socialize isn’t about time

I’m on vacation. I’m maintaining a schedule though, up at 8 to go jogging, and I have a chart next to my computer at my defacto desk, the kitchen table, that gets marked off each day when I exercise, read, write, film, edit, make music, and if I stayed sober that day.

It also has a column marked ‘socialize’. I do tend to become a monk when given the option and it bugs me at the end of the day if I haven’t gone out and done something or hung out with friends. But only at the end of the day, only when the day is over and it’s too late. During the day I incessantly feel like I have to get things done before I can choose to relax or enjoy anything.

I can push myself through a bunch of projects in a day feeling great until after dinner when I realize the day is wrapping up and suddenly I feel like I wasted the day. And strangely it’s actually happening earlier and earlier in the day. I’m cranking out blogs, making movies, reading important books, exercising, usually all before noon and I guess because it’s become routine it no longer fills the desire.

I’m putting in some time to learning more different and difficult things on guitar to get a reward fix, as well.

My obsessive need to be working, creating, doing something that lasts, invades every aspect of my life. Why just talk to friends when we could be recording a podcast? Why just hang out when we could be filming?

I don’t see an end to this need to pile on value to everything I’m doing. It puts me in a detached mode more often than I think is gratifying.

That’s why socializing is on my chart. I know that if I do it too much I can’t enjoy it because I’m not accomplishing anything and I’m recognizing now that if I do it too little I feel the same way.

Posted in Pragmatism

There is no “after all we’ve been through”

It’s called loss aversion. The feeling that because you’ve put a lot of time and effort into something you can’t walk away with nothing. It’s not a bad internal mechanism inherently, once it kicks in it’ll keep you on your diet for example, but it’s also what keeps gamblers at the table when they’ve been losing for hours and it keeps people in terrible on/off relationships.

It’s a trite metaphor that when you break a bone it heals stronger than before, in relationships though – as opposed to biology – this is actually a disastrous way to think.

The brain gets a huge spike of dopamine when you reconcile after a conflict, that’s why those on/off couples keep having bigger and bigger fights then seem so suddenly blissful when they make up – these habits are getting ingrained on a neurological level.

And if both people are drama cases I don’t feel sympathy and I’ll just avoid them as a couple. I feel bad if one person is on the more sensitive side and I see them being beaten down by the whole process, wishing it were different and not knowing what to do.

Until my cynical patience is exhausted and I see that they’re holding on to an illusion. People don’t turn off movies they hate, they absorbed the whole thing not even in the hope it will get better but just to collect all their complaints to share in other contexts.

And a tanking relationship always feel like the middle of a movie, there’s action, there’s twists and turns, there’s nothing approaching resolution. People leave safe relationships out of boredom a lot more often than they leave train wrecks out of a desire for safety because when you’re bored it’s easy to feel that the story is over, that the relationship ran it’s course. You have safe time to think about what it might be like outside the relationship and tell yourself it’s for the best.

When your relationship is always hanging off the side of a cliff though loss aversion instinctually makes you pull it back. The narrative mind keeps telling you it can’t end like this, not after everything, it can’t end with a fight about water shoes at a weekday yard fire. So the quest for resolution goes on.

The question you have to gut check is what have you really been through, is the feeling you’ve come through hardships together really just the hardships you put each other through? Are the ‘good’ times actually just the absence of fighting and therefore what anyone else would call ‘normal’? And those qualities you love about them, the quiet moments when they’re sweet, insightful, and nurturing, are they only present in the aftermath of a fight when you’re both relieved it’s over?

And as an aside, everyone should be asking themselves if they’re resolved what they were fighting about or if they simply stopped fighting out of a desire to feel good again because if you didn’t actually resolve something and come out the other side with a better understanding of each other’s goals then it’s just going to a bigger, more confused fight when it comes up again.

The first step of a good life is knowing what you want and the first step to knowing what you want is knowing what you don’t want. If you find yourself using the word but when you talk about what you want (I want this relationship but, I love him/her but, etc) then you know it’s not all you need it to be.

Sometimes the biggest trap in life is when something is two thirds right for you because that’s the ratio where you’ll keep telling yourself not to give up.

Most of the time though people change when circumstances change. And I mean actually change, not threaten to change.

Posted in Gender, Pragmatism

Lawrence Krauss on (and off) conspiratorial thinking

I’m fascinated by plausibility these days, why one person can hear something and find it ridiculous and another person find it to be of earth-shattering significance. But I know a big part of it is that everyone thinks they’re a skeptic. Everyone. Which means not everyone is a good skeptic.

I’m going to go through this Lawrence Krauss video basically line for line because I felt like it was ratcheting back and forth on encouraging then discouraging conspiratorial thinking.

I like to keep an open mind, but not so open my brains fall out

I think I’ll chalk this up as anti-conspiratorial. As much as conspiratorial thinkers like to say the mainstream have no brains the idea of being so open minded you become an idiot is the spirit of the quote.

We have to skeptically assess the information we receive, we can’t be gullible because when we get a lot of information it’s absolutely certain that some of that information is wrong

I’ll call this conspiratorial because people love to think everyone except them and people who agree with them are gullible. I find the comment about some of that information being wrong really interesting because in the conspiracy community I see this silly idea that all information is important, that everything is a piece of the puzzle, there’s not even coincidences, and it drives me nuts.

When someone tells you something you have to ask is this consistent with my experience? Is it consistent with other people around me? And if isn’t, there’s probably a good reason to be skeptical of it, it’s probably wrong.

This drives conspiracy thinkers nuts, the idea of consensus reality. What’s really interesting for me though is that ‘consistent with my experience’ is true for conspiracy thinkers and conspiracy skeptics alike. Upon hearing a conspiracy people either find it plausible or not and I’m fascinated by that. Distrust is so high that people can find anything plausible if you tell them someone doesn’t want them to know it.

We should never take anything on faith, that’s really the mantra of science

This a conspiratorial mantra. And yet I think distrust has become a kind of faith of it’s own. I watched a video claiming to prove the Orlando nightclub shooting was a hoax (as an aside I hate that every shooting is a hoax to take away guns and conspiracy thinkers don’t acknowledge that guns laws never change and sales always go up. If it’s a conspiracy it’s been woefully counterproductive) and the assumption that it was a hoax, the faith that shootings are hoaxes, caused people to read into the behaviour of a woman who’s son was murdered and when she was rational she was too rational and that meant it was a hoax, and if she was irrational that proved the script was terrible.

The thing is everyone considers themselves a skeptic. It’s not that mainstream thinkers believe what they’re told by authority, it’s that they don’t believe what they’re told by conspiracists.

Skepticism plays a key role in science because we are hardwired to want to believe, hardwired to want to find reasons for things. In the Savannah of Africa the trees could be rustling and you could choose to say there’s no reason for that or maybe it’s due to a lion. Those individuals who thought there maybe no reason never lived long to procreate. So it’s not too surprising we want to find reasons for everything and we create them if we need to.

This is what I credit with conspiratorial thinking, the wanting to find reasons for things. The world has millions of competing forces and interests in it, far too much to understand, so the desire to have everything explained kicks in and the invisible hand of conspiracy makes everything simple. Conspiracy fills the god-spot, in some ways.

What makes sense to the universe is not the same as what makes sense to us and we can’t impose our beliefs on the universe.

The earth isn’t flat. It just seems that way from your point of view. And when you start declaring everything that doesn’t align with your point of view a hoax or a conspiracy you’re not being a skeptic, you’re not even being dogmatic. I can have a sliver of respect for people who are dogmatic, dogmatism is saying you don’t understand every tenant of your holy book (or secular equivalent) but you’re going to treat it with the same regard as the tenants you do. The perpetual state of distrust is sort of the opposite of that. The post truth world is about claiming everything is equally meaningless when you don’t like it’s source.

The way we get around that inherent bias is constantly questioning both ourselves all the information we receive from others

Conspiracy thinkers love the idea of questioning everything. What they miss is the part about questioning themselves, wondering why they’re primed to believe some things and not others.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself right away, first of all you can ask yourself ‘do I like this answer?’ and if you do you should be suspicious

Thank you. People tend to stop thinking about things when they get the answer they want without realizing it was the answer they already came in with.

Another thing you can do, especially if you get information from a source you don’t know, look at many different sources and see if they all agree, if they all agree it doesn’t mean they’re right…

Something you see all the time these days is one actual source saying something, dozens of people quoting or supporting that source, and then dozens more saying they’re are dozens of sources, and then it’s treated as just something ‘everybody knows’

Science doesn’t prove what’s absolutely true, what science does is prove what’s absolutely false

Thank you. One thing culture needs to get away from is that ‘science’ is this voice from a tower declaring that what used to be true isn’t and giving us modern, inevitably disposed, truths.

What doesn’t satisfy the test of experiment, we throw out

As an aside this is why not to believe in god. And really god is the ultimate conspiracy theory. Whether or not a god exists is immaterial but it’s a fact that every test ever devised and any test you could devise will never show any data that supports a god hypotheses so for any use you might have for god it’s pragmatic to look somewhere else.

That is why we shouldn’t turn to echo chambers and just read the sources that we like. Now having said that if you look at many sources you can also decide which ones are not reliable and throw them out.

It’s this sort of thinking that got us into the state of distrust, unfortunately. If the New York Times, with it’s prize winning teams of investigators and the fact that it’s under a massive cultural microscope, has to issue a retraction or even fire some people it’s taken as confirmation that everything they say is untrustworthy. Despite the fact that the reason we know about it is often their own internal method of correcting course. This leads people to start believing single, anonymous, untestable sources not because they’re true but because they offer the counter narrative to the sources we’ve already decided are untrue.

When I talk about being skeptical it’s important to recognize that you can be surprised

This is something I’m guilty as much as anyone, I’m never surprised. But then again that’s because I’m always thinking and trying to find surprising angles to think about.


Posted in Uncategorized

On being rude

We all know there is a threshold where people are too dumb to realize they’re dumb. In bars I always end up eavesdropping on people and a character I love to hear and hate to be noticed by we’ll call The badger.

The guy who just watched a video on something and thinks he’s opening a conversation with strangers by asking extremely specific questions from his latest knowledge base.

They lean forward as you lean away, they answer their own questions as you shake them off, they inevitably dip into politics which always gets The Badger quickly into sexism, racism, or any of the social phobias and will keep talking if although they don’t find an eager audience.

What I don’t get about these guys is why they can’t interpret stimuli.

On the topic of taboo subjects we all suss each other out with language. In a radio documentary I heard a gay man talk about how he gets a little gayer around new people and especially people he thinks might also be gay. His point was ‘gaydar’ isn’t about receiving information in a vacuum, it’s a mutual send and receive.

I started to notice the same thing with guitar players. Throwing out little terminology here and there, gauging a new persons level before asking any direct questions.

And most importantly, letting it go if none of those terms elicited a response.

Which is where our unaware rude barfly The Badger comes in. They want to talk about their guitar, or whatever conspiracy theory, or which minority or generation is ruining the world, and they don’t care that you don’t care.

Or they seem to not care. Because they’ve surely run into people who agree with them and should be able to tell that this interaction isn’t going that way.

It’s that they think what they’re saying is more important, and the fact that they’re talking is inherently important. They figure you’ll get on board when they just make enough points strong enough.

I’ve been dealing with this type of person forever. You don’t just find it in bars, you find it in high school guys who are destined to become barflys. And I’ve yet to come up with a consistently good strategy. I’ve been extremely rude by ignoring them, I’ve been extremely rude by engaging and demolishing any idea they present, I’ve been super nice in an attempt to creep them out, I’ve been authentically nice out out of a feeling that I never give people a chance, and it always winds up feeling like a theft of my time.

I know it shouldn’t be our job to work around the unworked faults of others but pragmatically we have to acknowledge some people will not perceive their flaws on a timeline that suits us and we, with the curse of awareness, do have to do what we can to try to make the world a less awful place for as many as possible, objectively including ourselves.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Aim Of Getting A Total Annihilation Tattoo

I’ve been saving my left arm tattoo real estate for a Total Annihilation sleeve since I started getting ink. I’ve always thought it would be best done by a fellow fan of the game because they’d have an image of how the units look from something more artistic than the top down pixel cubes or the existing game art.

When I got my Greystone tattoo from Jay at Scythe & Spade I asked him if he knew the game and he thought maybe Tieka at Bushido would know because she does a lot of game tattoos.

It took me forever to call her because cold calling people inevitably makes you feel your question is stupid, right?

Eventually I did call her and the shop was delightful about it but she hadn’t heard of the game.

So the search goes on.

Posted in Pragmatism

My counter argument to essentialism

I’ve been a believer in essentialism since before I knew the word.

And I suppose I should define essentialism before I rattle on about it. Essentialism is the idea that the thing that makes a thing a thing – as opposed to a different thing – should be valued and anything that can be excluded probably should be.

Consider a knife. Two things make up a knife, a handle and a blade. If you have a blade and no handle it’s still a knife. If you have a handle and no blade – you do not have a knife. The blade is the essential bit and the handle only works if it’s working in support of that bit. In the realm of knives blade work is a priority and ornate handles are just a bit of a wank.

The first essentialist thing I remember doing is drinking black coffee. I started drinking coffee in high school because it’s good for cold sores (bonus medical tip) and of course I was putting a lot of sugar it like kids do. But, partly spurred on my dad’s concern about sugar for coffee being a luxury we’d lose because of peak oil, I thought if coffee is the point why dress it up with sugar, why try to make it something it’s not? I took coffee like medicine, for the ends not the pleasure. Then of course grew to enjoy it after because the brain sure does love caffeine.

I’ve aimed to build my life around what is essential. I’ve kept my life sparse. I see people buying gadgets for gadgets sake, getting something to play with for a very brief time and afterwords only enjoying in the context of showing other people. I can do this entirely for free by coming up with new ideas between visits and it doesn’t become a hassle when I move.

The downside of essentialism is that I also run toward being a complete nihilist and it’s as easy as a passing thought for me to feel that nothing can be essential. It’s all handle and no knife in woefully indifferent universe. There is no purpose to life, just an ever-morphing list of things we find gratifying. My all-or-nothing way of thinking that puts me on the brink of suicide a few times a year is, if not caused by then certainly not helped by, obsessing over what’s exclusively important in life(?).

Plato articulated the idea of essentialism and it was tied to the idea of the perfect. The pure essence of a thing. What my thinking was missing is that a perfect knife is not a handle-less one, coffee needs a cup, and everything takes patience.

I think about pancakes. I love pancakes and I can make them from scratch, no recipe. And I was thinking about essentialism one day while enjoying some pancakes and I thought I couldn’t put some flour, eggs, butter, and baking powder on a plate and call it a pancake. The elements of the pancake have to mix until they are indistinguishable and then they have to cook. It’s the process that makes the pancake and you can’t strip anything away.

Everything we do in life is going to add up to being imperfect, everything is going to need support that doesn’t seem inherently vital, but be patient in case you strip away something that just needed time to cook.

Posted in Pragmatism

What Is Stupidity?

We frame stupidity as the lack of intelligence. It’s taken for granted that intelligence is a measurable quality and stupid is just the word for it’s short comings.

Like height is a quality and ‘short’ is a word that describes a lack of it. We don’t think of shortness as a thing someone can have.

But let’s imagine that stupidity is the quantifiable trait and it’s absence is what we refer to as intelligence.

Read that over again to let the idea really sink in.

How would we think differently about someone if we considered them to have a lot of stupidity, rather than thinking of them as missing some intelligence?

A long time ago I framed the difference between smart and dumb people as a response to confusion. Smart people tend to come to confusion with curiosity, with a certain level of enjoyment. Dumb people on the other hand have a fight-or-flight response when they get confused. Fight being when they attack whatever messenger brought this confusion into their life, like judging someone’s character for using words they don’t know instead of asking. And flight being when they retreat to something resembling certainty, latching onto to something that dismisses the confusion.

This leads to a lot of magical thinking and a lot of conspiratorial thinking.

Magical thinking is like a child wondering I have a dad, and my dad has a dad, and my dad’s dad has a dad, how far back can this go? And then buying the explanation when someone says there’s a god who is above the concept of biology and he’s the eternal father of everything. The answer doesn’t explore the question, doesn’t open up new questions, just tries to end them.

Magical thinking isn’t entirely religious either. When people who are all mystic woo woo spiritual say that the first step to knowing anything is admitting you know nothing and then want to dismiss any scientific claim they feel like what they’re doing is saying that world is so big and complex and human understanding is small, biased, and wrong that there’s just no way of knowing anything so they take comfort in not trying.

Relaying on the indestructibility of uncertainty, the certainty of uncertainty if you will, is just as much a way of coping out on difficult questions as saying god did it.

An area where you’ll see a surprising amount of magical thinking is technology. I had a depressingly circular conversation a while ago that started with the notion that once nanotechnology is perfect immortality is possible and my response was that no technology so far has ever become perfect so why would nanotech be any different to which the answer was always but when it is eventually perfect it then immortality. It became a tautology around the notion of perfection and inevitability that allowed the speaker to feel certain when no certainty was available.

If stupidity is to be treated as object then it would be a metaphoric roadblock, keeping people stationary on the path where intellectual growth comes from the notion that it is okay to observe forever, to always wonder. To take notions you consider certain and test them by building on them. And then not getting defensive if they fall out from under you and you have to start over.


Posted in Pragmatism