Saturday, June 11, 2016

End of the Day round-up for 6-11-16

Here were a couple of things that I thought about today, or interacted with.

I listened to most of Tim Ferris' interview with Kevin Kelly today.  It was super interesting, and more than a little inspiring.  It sounds like Kevin Kelly has a desire to make impactful changes in the world via technology and statistical analysis.  I found his enthusiasm contagious.  He spent some time talking about the impact that AI and robotics would have on the workforce of the developed world.  While it seemed dire in one sense, I was struck by how exciting it would be to have our world have another industrial revolution.  It would be uncomfortable at first, but at some point we would have made it though a major upward change.

In my mind I linked the interview to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast that aired a little while back.  In that podcast Dubner talked about a guaranteed national income and the effects that it would have on a nation.  The precipitating factor for the discussion was the same advance in technology that Kelly was referring to - a lack of available work because of the "rise of the machines".

One of the points that was made in Dubner's podcast was that some of the great advancements in science and technology were made by people who didn't have to work.  Isaac Newton was an example of someone who lived off their parents' wealth, giving him the time to make a number of important scientific discoveries.

One of the theological thoughts that I have been entertaining for a long time is the function of "sin" as a reaction to need.  For example, gluttony is an unhealthy response to the need of hunger.  A lot of the "sinful" behavior that we observe in the world can be conceptualized this way.  So, imagining a world that is progressing toward fewer and fewer human needs is amazing.  It could be one of the ways that God is redeeming this earth and causing us to become more like Christ.

Political thoughts I posted on Facebook

This is my post on Facebook as it appeared:

Here's a rant about our political system in the immediate context:
In the United States we use a "first-past-the-post" (FPTP) system for most of our elections. Basically, this means that winner takes all. If a republican wins a district with 51% of the vote, that whole district is red. If a democrat wins a district with 80% of the vote, that district is blue. Winner take all. This seems reasonable, and has been the tradition of our country for a long time. It is difficult to say that it is without worth or merit.
However, this system has some negative unintended consequences. - this video gives a great explanation of the problem, but essentially it boils down to this: in a FPTP system the voters are eventually incentivized to vote for the candidate that they hate the least, rather than the one they like the most.
In addition to this, FPTP systems also tend to collapse into two-party affairs because it is in everyone's best interest to ally with each other. If you have two conservative-leaning parties and one liberal-leaning party, the chances are high that the liberal party will win and the two conservative parties will merge for the next election. It's just good game theory. It's also considered a law in political science known as "Duverger's law" -

The result of this is that the diversity of political thought evaporates and the two parties become more and more polarized in their view in relation to each other. Political platforms become more and more defined by how opposed they are to the opposite party than their own merits.
And that influence is deep and long lasting. Our high-level elected officials are the product of more than two centuries of this political inbreeding. They have found success by being more and more extreme, opposed, and disparate. I blame this on the FPTP model.
Here is a current example of the effects:…/americans-distaste-for-both-…/
 - The strongly unfavorable ratings for both Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are higher than any other major party candidate since 1980. And it's not JUST that they are polarizing - in terms of just strong feelings, both of them have an historic unfavorable bent.

So why are they the nominees? I would suggest that it's because they were considered to be the candidates most likely to not lose to the other. That is what our political system has devolved into - voters holding their nose and voting for the "least-bad" candidate.
In addition, our ability to communicate political thought has deteriorated. If a person is pro-gay marriage and is fiscally conservative, who do they vote for? They have to pick one issue and vote on just that issue. And then via the process of Cognitive Dissonance -
 - people will do their best to achieve internal congruency. How does a politically active person achieve internal congruency when the two political parties have such established platforms? Well, either people live in the tension (which is excruciating,) or they slowly conform to one of the two offered political ways of thinking. An article about that here:…/political-polarization-in-th…/

The same guy that made the video in my first link has made a bunch of other videos outlining different electoral processes. Please check them out. This year for president we are choosing between a demagogue and a secretary of state who mishandled confidential information. This is not a choice that we should have to make in a country that values free thought, logic, research, and ethics.
I know I have some politically interested friends and family on Facebook, and I hope that what I have has been more thought-provoking than offensive. I tried to back up what I said with some articles, and if you want more citations let me know. Feel free to share this yourselves - I would much rather see a debate about the electoral system that has caused our political inbreeding than a debate about the two descendants of it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

To podcast, but what about?

Tim Ferris interviewed Sebastian Junger on his most recent episode of The Tim Ferris Show.

One of the thoughts that I internalized from that interview was that the point of writing is to share with the world the things that we care about that are inside of us.

I have been kicking around the idea of starting a podcast, but I don't know what the topic should be, whether I should do it on my own or not, or even how to start.  I feel stuck.  I want to do this, but I don't know how to begin.

Being stuck is anxious.  It's like internal tug-o-war.  Inertia vs. desire to be known and to make an impact.  I want to believe that my thoughts will change the world, but it's so hard to even present them.

Here are some things that I want to present to the world:

In regards to society:

Recently I have had the experience of my internal liberal voice awakening.  Mostly through listening to podcasts, I have become aware of the struggle of people in minority groups in a society that is so centered around the dominant culture.

If I were to go through a checklist of privilege, I would likely be able to check off all of the boxes.

  • Young
  • White
  • Able-bodied
  • Christian
  • Male
  • Born in and living in the USA
  • Educated
  • Middle class
  • Straight
  • Cisgendered
Because of these privileged positions I have received the "wind at my back" my whole life.  This is not a source of guilt, but it should be a source of reflection.

I have wanted to learn more about the effects of privilege, and also seek out ways for people to hear each other's stories.  If you hear someone's story, how can you not appreciate them more?

However, there is often a gap.  It's so hard to listen to the experience of someone unlike yourself.  Or in contrast, it's easy to co-opt the experience of others as just another aspect of our own story.

An example of this would be a podcast I listened to in which two white men discussed racism.  It fell flat to me.  There was no attachment to the pain.  Racism became simply disgust at their own group. There was no story of the oppressed except as it was retold through a white lens.

Isn't that part of the problem with privilege?  That there is an invisible filter that privileged people have that disallows them from truly experiencing the effects that the lack of privilege have on others?  People need to tell their own stories.

Which comes back to the problem of people being able to listen to unlike people.  There is a tribal resistance to really hearing others.  When the Black Lives Matter movement speaks about their experience of injustice, white folks often have a hostile or defensive reaction.  They can't understand.  They need an interpreter.

The best case of this was in an episode of the Liturgists' Podcast in which the two white co-hosts had two African-American guests on the show to discuss racism.  It was a remarkable conversation because the hosts (one in particular,) did the work that the privileged listener needed.  As a white person, I benefited from having a white person listen intently to the story of someone unlike me and give that story the empathetic weight that it deserved.

The co-hosts were "windows" for me into the conversation.  I was able to see myself in someone like me who was able to affirm the story of someone unlike me. At the same time, I got to hear the story from the guest directly.  In this setup, I got all of the pieces.

I want to do that.  I want to be the privileged window that allows privileged people to have a safe way to be vicariously empathetic to another person's story.

My goal is this: each episode of the podcast would be about some aspect of privilege or a related topic.  On that episode there will be a guest that has been or is personally affected by that element of privilege.  For instance, in an episode about heteronormativity I would have a guest who is gay talk about their lack of representation in the media.

I am hopeful that this would be a project that could help bridge the gaps between groups of people.  Perhaps that is overly hopeful and I will be humbled, but I would like to pursue the idea.

I want to stop this post here, mostly because this section is larger than I anticipated.  I'll continue on with other podcast ideas that I have.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Renewal of the Fragrance-Free Blog

I have way too much time on my hands.

So I'm going to do what every self-indulgent person who has a lot of time does and write my own personal feelings in a public forum for everyone to read.

This more for me than for you, America, so I apologize if this blog isn't really your cup of tea, but my apology isn't really that sincere.

Here are the things that I care about that you will be able to read my thoughts on if you read this blog:

Gender Issues
Magic: The Gathering
And probably a lot of other stuff.

As an inaugural topic, I'm going to link a video about Miss America.

This video is great, and here's why:
It highlights a very important truth about gender embattled world: Our culture likes pretty women and is willing to help them succeed at the expense of others.

Why does the leading supplier of women's scholarships make women wear swimsuits to get them?
Why are we asking complicated questions and only giving people 20 seconds to answer them?

So why is our world like this?  Let's talk about it, America.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dumb Cute Things IV

This dumb idiot child can't even figure out that the same hand that he's trying to use to grab the water is the one that's making the water come out!  What a nincompoop!

Besides, how do you grab water anyway? Short-sighted little dummy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dumb Cute Things III

Here is a gif of one cute idiot panda trying to wrestle a much bigger and angrier panda unsuccessfully.  What a dolt.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Shift in Thinking

As people in New York occupy Wall Street, I begin to think that we have started a fundamental shift in thinking in this country.

First, it's just natural human nature that not all people are successful financially.  In fact, the vast majority of people (the protestors at Wall Street call them "The 99%",) are not rich.

Until recently, everyone just assumed that people who were rich just worked harder than everyone else. I still think is true.

However, since the economic recession, people have noticed that the rich are still rich and secure, while the middle class is losing jobs and losing security.  This really shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone, since that's exactly what happened in the Great Depression.  Money makes money, simple fact.

And in a recession, it's even harder to get to financial security based on hard work alone.

So, in a jealous rage, we have people protesting at Wall Street.  They want to rearrange the system so that it's easier for the other 99% to be financially stable.

But the 1% will always be richer than everyone else.  That's just the way it works.  Money follows money, and if you cut the knees of the top 1%, they will fall on everyone else, crushing them too.

The fact that we have 1% of the population that has all the money is a good thing, because the money's still in our economy.  If we make them leave, that money won't circulate here.  The more money the top 1% has, the more money the rest of us has the chance at getting.

In short, financial fairness won't exist, unless we all end up equally poor.  No sense getting mad at the rich.