Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cool It: A Book Review

First, I apologize for any grammar or spelling mistakes. My main computer is still broken so I have to type this up while using a projector on a white wall. Which mans proofreading basically consists of the auto-proofreader because it's near impossible to see text.

So I recently had – got – to read the book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. The book is essentially this:

  1. Climate change is man-made (anthropogenic, not anthropomorphic. Literally every time from my first misuse of the phrase in an Environmental Ethics course I consistently confuse the 2).
  2. Climate change has mostly negative effects (but they aren't as bad as most people believe)
  3. The most effective solution is a slight carbon tax along with extremely heavy investment into R&D for new low-carbon sources of energy.
The book has a lot of great points and it is interesting. It's more or less what I read one reviewer said: if you're going to read one book about climate change, don't make it be this one; if you're going to read 10 books about climate change then you should include this one.

The book has a lot of good points although I don't completely agree with it. For example, because the average income of a person is projected to rise, the author concludes that the income in all countries will rise. I don't think that's a safe assumption but that assumption is what goes into some of his arguments.

For example, malaria infection rates increase when the temperature increases. Hence, global warming means more areas are susceptible to malaria infections. But the author concludes that because average income will go up that that people everywhere will get the ability to prevent and treat malaria infections.

It's a similar thing with the idea behind coping with rising sea levels. He argues that 1`) sea levels have risen a foot – the expected rise over the next century or so – and that there were no calamities as a result. Rising income means rising technological progress and capacity to build things like coastal defenses. So he argues that rising sea levels will be mitigated through increased income. But, again, the problem is that increased average income doesn't mean everyone experiences a rise in outcome.

He also tends to downplay the fact that these changes are permanent. That a rise in, for example, ocean levels means there will always be people having to deal with higher levels.

Another one of his arguments is that it's more effective to use social policy in a lot instances. So, in what I'm learning is apparently the go-to example for a lot of environment economists, he argues that we should stop subsidizing coastal flood insurance. He has a point of course: tax subsidies encourage people to do more of an activity, if the activity is living somewhere you'll get flooded then we would expect more people to do that.

But approaching that issue from the macro standpoint isn't enough. Because some people will be unable, financially, to leave their homes and move inland. So if we remove those subsidies then we get a good macro response but only at the expensive of the lives of the people who stay behind and can't afford flood insurance.

That seems to be what rubs me the wrong way about a lot of the book. Or to put another way: in the trade off between equity and fairness he falls more into the equity side while I fall farther in the fairness side. It's still an interesting book that's informative. But I tend to disagree a bit with the conclusions.

Friday, October 12, 2012

More Romney/Ryan and talk about reality, opinions, and assumptions. Very long, but it has a summary!

Note: this was meant to be a reply to a comment. But it's about 3 times over the size limit for the comment section so I had to post it this way. Here's the comment, originally from the post immediately before this one.:

"have made a strategic choice to ignore one reality and substitute their own. That's frustrating because A) it's so obviously wrong, and B) so many people appear to think that's a good idea. It's baffling"

Obama has been doing this for years and is doing his best to down grade America to the same level as third world countries, but you're more concerned about Romeny messing up the percentage of money that PBS gets. That's what baffles me.

Well, I think you're wrong. I'll try to explain why and you can tell me what you think. Also, this went way longer than I intended, so there's a summary at the end. There are 2 basic methods for advocating political issues. 1 method is to disagree over something using a shared reality. So, for example, one could say: 

I think:
1. Obama's healthcare reform (PPACA) represents an inappropriate overreach of the federal government.
2. While the health insurance market currently (pre-PPACA) is bad, PPACA is not the best way to go about fixing it and in fact is an undesirable thing overall. 

And that's fine. I think the above statement is wrong but it's dealing with facts. It's a situation where there are real things we agree on and differing opinions based on those things everyone acknowledges are real. But there's a second way to say things, I'll use a similar example from the above argument, this one has the crucial differences that I'm trying to elucidate:

I think:
1. Obama's healthcare reform (PPACA) represents a government takeover of healthcare.
2. PPACA is a socialist program.
3. It creates a death panel: a board of bureaucrats who will be rationing health care (a situation which does not exist now).
4. The healthcare market is fine pre-PPACA. We have great healthcare! In fact, no one dies from lack of health insurance (note: I'll talk more about this one in a bit).

That argument deviates from reality. It's no longer opinions based on real things, it has become opinions based on falsehoods. The government is not taking over healthcare, it's not a socialist program, while literally everything is rationed (i.e., there is only so much "stuff" in the world and health care is no exception) the idea of a death panel is false (although that doesn't mean the opposite is true: there will be unlimited care), and the healthcare in the US pre-PPACA produced horrible results for much higher amounts of money than similar countries. 

When someone puts forward and argument of the second sort then the conversation is already over. There's no way to disagree and yet become better informed, or better understand their position, or even - gasp - examine the beliefs we hold going into the conversation (I'm talking more about this in the blog post I'm writing at the moment, specifically Romney/Ryan vs talking with extremely conservative Econ professors). In other words, when someone uses an argument of the 2nd sort then they're not showing interest in having an honest conversation whereby each side fairly examines the issues at hand. 

The assumptions behind some of the opinions are falsehoods, that's what I mean when I refer to not abiding in a shared reality. To go back to the last point in the second argument: Mitt Romney two days ago suggested that no one in the US dies from lack of health insurance as part of an argument against PPACA. The actual number is between 45,000 and 48,000 per year. In other words, Mitt Romney is claiming that 45,000 to 48,000 is 0. And he's hoping other people allow themselves to believe it! 

That's a perfect example of what's so soul-grating about Romney/Ryan. It's not that they have opinions different from mine, it goes beyond that. It's not that Romney is against PPACA, it's that one of the assumptions that's built into his opinion is that 45,000 to 48,000 is equal to 0. When someone expresses an opinion which is based on a clearly false assumption then it's frustrating to me. And when people are persuaded to hold opinions based on assumptions like 45,000 to 48,000 is 0 then it's even more perplexing

That's why, for example, I think your comment shows both types of opinions. You say that Obama has been doing what I'm accusing Romney of doing. Well, that's fine. I think you're wrong but that's an opinion based on actual performance. It's your opinion based on real assumptions (e.g., Obama is President, Obama has a performance record, you're aware of his record, etc). 

But the second part is clearly false. It's bizarre to claim the President has spent his time in office trying to turn the United States into a 3rd world country. I mean, for starters he could have just allowed the financial sector (and thus the world's financial sector) to implode and allowed us to enter into a depression. He wouldn't even have had to do anything! He could have simply allowed the consequence of what his Republican predecessor had done. I mean, it's just obviously totally wrong to claim that Obama has been actively trying to make the United States a 3rd world country. And what's frustrating isn't that I think that opinion is wrong, I think plenty of opinions in the world are wrong and that doesn't bother me, it's that the assumptions built into the opinion are clearly false. 

In other words, to break it down a bit:

1. Obama did XYZ
2. XYZ are actions one would take if one wanted to turn the United States into a 3rd would country
3. So, Obama is trying to turn the United States into a 3rd world country. 

The conclusion isn't the precise thing which frustrates me, it's the premises. It's believing that he's done things which he hasn't, and not believing he's done things which he has. We can break down the Romney healthcare argument as well: 

1. 0 people die from lack of health care in the United States
2. If 0 people die from lack of health care then it's not a major problem
3. If it's not a major problem then PPACA was bad
4. Therefore, PPACA was bad. 

Again, it's not the conclusion which is frustrating. It's the assumption that 0 people die when the number is 45,000 to 48,000 in the United States per year. It's clearly a false assumption and therefore shouldn't be held or espoused to be true. 

Finally - I know... - that's the sort of thing I refer to when I say we don't share a common reality. I guess reality in this context could mean something like "reality is a set of shared assumptions upon which we all form differing opinions". From the extremely basic (e.g., the Earth is more or less round, the sky looks blue, gravity is real, etc) to the more complex (a study done by Harvard on the number of people who die in the United States each year from lack of health insurance is reflective of the correct number). With the really basic there are no problems aside from people taking Intro to Philosophy and thinking getting high and saying "dude, is the world, like, real?" is philosophy. But with the latter there have been a lot of problems. 

And, I'm sorry, but the problems have been overwhelmingly on the Republican side. They "don't let [their] campaign be run by fact-checkers". They claim 45,000 to 48,000 is 0. They claim their budget is "too complex to run through the numbers right now" and when basic addition and subtraction says it doesn't add up then they claim they'll hammer out the details later. They insinuate that going after something which is .00012% of the federal budget is an effective way to cut spending. They've left the arena of having differing opinions on real things and instead created their one reality, one where 45,000 to 48,000 is 0 because that helps their argument, one where addition and subtraction can be overcome by getting elected, one where .00012% is actually 1-5% or even over 50%. I just don't see that from the other side. 

Well, to be fair, I do see it in the various clips which inevitably get shared - but only by white conservatives, which is weird - of a black person saying he supports Obama because the President is giving him something. Those are always accompanied by comments along the lines of "see! this is why people support Obama! lazy black people looking for a handout from me" and probably an anecdote like "I was at the store and saw someone use SNAP and then get into an expensive care - SNAP is broken and a waste". And always a few self-congratulatory "all people would be conservative if only they were hardworking, hardnosed, realistic people - the proof is this video of a lazy [black] person saying that he's voting for Obama because he wants free things". I think it's safe to say that the people in the "Obama's giving me a car; I'm giving him my vote" have pretty effectively left reality (or, base their opinions on obviously untrue assumptions). 

But that's different from, for example, the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates centering their campaign around the same reality-eschewing methodology. And that's just not something I see happening when it comes to Democrats in general or Obama specifically. One could try to make the case that they do, but I'm pretty skeptical that one could make a decent case and I'm near certain that no one could make a good case that they do it with equal fervour.


I know I said finally already. It probably gave you false hope. But really, this is the appropriate place for finally! 

I believe I told you, but it may have been a long time ago, that I use StatCounter. I have a sensitive ego and I like to know people are reading what I write. Anyway, StatCounter shows me the city, state, computer OS, browser type, time, etc, of everyone who loads any page on my blog. It also usually shows any referral link, for example Facebook or Google or whatever which is pretty cool IMO. I say all this because I originally couldn't figure out how precisely to get my point across. For example, my first attempt at a reply was just over 500 words and this one is clocking in at near 2200. 

I say all that because I saw that you were frequently checking back to see if I had replied, so I felt an obligation to make my best attempt at clarifying why A) I think you're wrong and B) why the gist from what I was trying to say wasn't simply that Romney was saying something untrue. It goes a lot deeper and wider than that, but I think that's a good starting point or example. 



I define reality, in this context, as something like: "a set of shared assumptions about the nature of the world". The Earth is more or less round, the Sun gives off heat, gravity is pulling us down, etc. Then there are more complex assumptions: studies done by Harvard are generally accurate, the role of the government should be limited to property rights and national defense and contract enforcement, the Obama administration's handling of Mubarak leaving Egypt prevented unnecessary bloodshed in an inevitable revolution, etc. 

We of course base our opinions on all of these sorts of assumptions. And assumptions on assumptions on assumptions and so on. There are 2 ways of disagreeing: 1 is to have differing opinions on the same basic assumptions, the other is to have differing opinions based on wildly different basic assumptions (i.e., one opinion is necessarily based on a false assumption and is therefore the wrong opinion). 

The Romney/Ryan campaign is a great example of the second sort of opinions. They've based their campaign on obvious falsehoods. For example, saying that 0 people die per year from lack of health care in the United States and using that assumption as part of an argument against PPACA. The actual number - the assumption based in reality - is 45,000 - 48,000 per year. So that's an example of abandoning reality and making up their own reality (one in which 45,000 to 48,000 is sometimes 0). 

It's that abandoning of reality that's frustrating. It's not holding opinions different from mine, it's not the conclusion of the argument (PPPACA is bad). I disagree with the conclusions and opinions of Romney/Ryan, but hey I disagree with a lot of opinions. To paraphrase Rick Perry: "that's an opinion that's out there, and its got some gaps in it". But differing opinions don't frustrate me - loads of people abandoning reality and basing opinions on clearly false assumptions does. I fundamentally don't get why they don't see reality for what it is. And I also don't get why the care so little about what reality actually is. 

22 million people think .00012% is greater than 50%. Because they haven't bothered to find out the first number, they just sort of feel in their gut that it's bigger than 50%. That's an abhorrent opinion to hold! When I see Romney insinuating that the unknown number is significant then I see Romney furthering a clearly wrong opinion based on obviously false assumptions. Everyone should see that and I can't figure out why they don't. 

And Romney/Ryan do this all the time and millions of people are OK with it. Heck, they welcome it with open arms! They embrace a false reality and yet continue to abide in this one. They hold obviously wrong opinions (e.g., 45,000 to 48,000 is 0, .00012% is greater than 50%, basic rules of arithmetic can be overcome by electing Romney/Ryan, etc) and I can't figure out how or why.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Romney, Ryan, TSA, Reality, PBS

This is going to be brief (edit: should have been brief), I have to leave for class pretty much immediately.

I ran across this article on Gawker while eating breakfast (well, if ramen noodles and coffee counts as breakfast). The takeaway is that the TSA did some bad things to a woman dying of cancer. Specifically, they treated her poorly, punctured a saline bag, and generally were as invasive as possible while completely ignoring the idea of privacy or dignity. Then the A TSA spokesperson sent out an email that said:

"We work to make our screening procedures as minimally invasive as possible while still proving the level of security that the American people want and deserve,"

And it's a glaring ballsy example of completely ignoring reality and just saying what you want people to think is real. It feels like they skipped the traditional step of trying to persuade people of something (e.g., adding something like "out of X million passengers we only have Y complaints" or "we have extensive training for handling how to deal with cancer patients, if it was mishandled then the fault is of the local supervisor and we will deal with it appropriately" or whatever). Instead, they've skipped right to the "X happened? Nope, X doesn't happen" stage. They've gone past trying to convince people of something and instead just straight up skipped to flatly denying the obvious truth which prompted the whole thing in the first place.

It seems like that's happening more and more. And people seem to be accepting of it as if it were normal. As if the idea of honesty, or more precisely the idea that reality is non-subjective, is unnecessary. A great current example is Mitt Romney. For example, here is a link to an article showing 27 lies Romney said during the latest Presidential debate. And yet Romney "won" the debate. Again, it seems like the idea that reality is non-subjective has gone out the window.

That might not bother me so much if so many people weren't stupid, but more accurately weren't just wrong. Because if we accept the idea that truth is relative, that one can simply boldly lie and that's accepted because the truth aspect of words are superfluous, then we lose something valuable. Another example: there was a poll taken about what Americans think the share of the federal budget that CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) receives.

Forty percent of those polled believe funding the CPB receives takes up 1 to 5 percent of the budget, 30 percent believe public broadcasting takes up 5 percent or more of the budget and 7 percent of respondents believe the non-profit receives 50 percent or more of the federal budget.

And you know Romney is aware of that. Around 22 million people think that CPB receives half or more of the federal budget. That's mind-bogglingly stupid! The number is around .00014 of the budget. And we have the Presidential candidate for the Republican party capitalizing on that stupidity, ignorance, and an unbelievable level of apathy, by telling bold faced lies and "winning" the debate as a result. There's something wrong when that happens.

Or when Paul Ryan spends years trying to redefine rape as "forcible rape". He's on the record, it wasn't some sort of mistake, he spent years advocating for that change. It's not hard to figure out why: it's insinuation that non-forcible (whatever that's supposed to mean) rape isn't "real" rape. It's a pretty shitty stance to take. But recently he flatly denies precisely what he's spent years advocating! He doesn't deny it in the sense that "I was wrong; my views have evolved" rather he simply changes the subject and says "rape is rape, that's the end of the story". This isn't a unique example. Rather, it's indicative of a trend particularly among Romney and Ryan and the Republican party as a whole, it's frustrating when vast amounts of people manipulate or allow themselves to be duped into thinking their reality is something entirely different from how it is.

It's incredibly obvious that both Romney and Ryan, and increasingly society as a whole (see TSA), have made a strategic choice to ignore one reality and substitute their own. That's frustrating because A) it's so obviously wrong, and B) so many people appear to think that's a good idea. It's baffling - and I'm now late for class.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Childish Gambino and the Classroom

If you've never listened to Childish Gambino then I highly recommend giving him a listen. It's Donald Glover's stage name, he also plays Troy Barnes on Community. There's one particular song that's struck me lately: That Power. A YouTube link. Also, a link to the lyrics.

The whole song is wonderful but one part in particular seemed relevant for something that I realized today:

[T]his is a story about how I learned something and I'm not saying this thing is true or not, I'm just saying it's what I learned. I told you something. It was just for you and you told everybody. So I learned cut out the middle man, make it all for everybody, always. Everybody can't turn around and tell everybody, everybody already knows, I told them.

I realized I was slowly adopting a related sentiment in the classroom, particularly in the Spanish classroom. There are people in there who speak Spanish much better than I do. My writing is better than my speaking since the Internet enables one to write anything to any audience at any time. Anyhow, I try to take every chance I get to volunteer to do things like read even though that then gets critiqued. Similarly in another classroom, when the professor asks a question and everyone is silent then I'll volunteer an educated guess if I have one. I've noticed that we all know the people who have no idea what's going on. It's sort of like a perversion of Abraham Lincoln's (?) maxim:

"Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt"

Fellow students seem to think that if they're silent then they're perceived as being wise. But that's not the truth - we're all pretty much aware of how much material each person knows. Particularly in the Spanish classroom! When one is called upon to read the word "ciudad" (roughly: see-yoo-dth-a-dth) and they pronounce it "key-ooh-dad" it's pretty freaking obvious their Spanish speaking skills need a lot of work. And they won't get better by keeping silent.

So I've realized that's better to make my Spanish failures "for everybody, always" because A) that's how we actually get better and B) "then everybody already knows, I told them". I didn't intentionally decide on this strategy, rather I think the song helped me subconsciously choose it. Either way, I care for it and for the music of Silvio Rodriguez.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A story in Spanish

We had an assignment in Spanish, we received it the day before the final exam. Something like "write about Daniel and Sandra, they meet on vacation and fall in love then leave and go back to their respective cities". The resulting story I produced amused me greatly. The translation, at least the translation I meant, can be found after the story. 

Also, it sounds much more clever in Spanish. Not just because writing it itself feels like an accomplishment, but also because of things like Vazquez meaning shepherd. And there were a list of several phrases I had to use and a number of different tenses I had to use so, alas, I couldn't maintain full creative control. Does that make me brethren with Dan Harmon? Not for me to say, so I won't say no.

Daniel no está in ese cuento, pero Rodrigo Rodriguez está aqui. Sandra es Sandra Vazquez. Rodrigo Rodriguez es de David, Panamá. Sandra Vazquez es de Santa Marta, Colombia. Ellos son en un vacacional in España. Momentos, ellos en un oscuridad bar de humo. Se habla español. Se hablan.

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Hola chica. Me llamo Rodrigo Rodriguez. Mi apodo es "Hot Rod". ¿Qué pasa?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Hola. Mi nombre es Sandra Vazquez. Ese es un nombre ironico porque soy un pastora."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "¿Hablas con personas sobre Jesus Cristo?"

Sandra Vazquez: "No. Tú eres estúpido. Soy una pastora ni una clériga. ¿Hablas español?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Sí, pero estoy burracho. ¿Y tú?"

Sandra Vazquez: "No."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "¡Debe!"

Sandra Vazquez: "¡No puedo! Se hablan."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Lo siento. Por favor, bebe."

(Después de treinta minutos.)

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "¿De dónde eres?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Soy de Santa Marta. Santa Marta es en Colombia. Tambien, me gusta divertirse."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "¿Quien no les gusta divertirse?"

Sandra Vazquez: "¿Y tú? ¿De dónde eres?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Soy de David, Panamá."

Sandra Vazquez: "¿El nombre de tu papá es David y tú es de Panamá?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "No. Tú eres estúpida. Soy de la ciudad David; el nombre de la ciudad es David. El nombre de mi papá es Rodrigo. ¿Hablas español muchacha?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Sí, pero estoy burracha. No es la primera vez. Caminé a la baño a las diez de la noche, y ahora es las diez y medio de la noche. En aquel momento necesito caminar otra vez."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Sal al baño."

(Después de treinta minutos.)

Sandra Vazquez: "¿Qué pasa?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Pensando a año pasado. Tenía un empleo de la Servicio Nacional Aeronaval en Panamá. Estaba piloto."

Sandra Vazquez: "¿Qué ocurrió?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "A dame. Lo siento, hablo inglés y español. Una chica; su nombre es Brigid O'Shaughness. Ella estaba bonita y peligrosa. Ella fue muy peligrosa."

Sandra Vazquez: "Y... ¿Qué ocurrió?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Ella disparó a mi. Ella robió de mi."

Sandra Vazquez: "¿Y entonces?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "¡Entonces corría!"

Sandra Vazquez: "Necesito dormir. ¿Desee tu mañana?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Sí. ¿Ojalá a las diez de la noche?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Sí."

(Mañana, Sandra Vazquez y Rodrigo Rodriguez se reunen.)

Sandra Vazquez: "Te amo."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "¿Por qué?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Porque tu eres un chico mal."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Es la verdad. Soy un chico mal. O in inglés: "I'm a bad boy". Pero necesito voy a mi casa mañana."

Sandra Vazquez: "No necesitas vas hoy."

(Nota del editor: inapropiado.)

Un mes en futuro, Rodrigo Rodriguez hablando con Sandra Vazquez. Se miran por la cámara web. Este es la última ves se hablan.

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Tengo un novio. Estoy homosexual."

Sandra Vazquez: "Tengo una novia. Estoy lesbiana."

Ambos: "Adios. Vaya con Dios pecador."


Daniel is not in this tale, but Rodrigo Rodriguez is here. Sandra is Sandra Vazquez. Rodrigo Rodriguez is from David, Panama. Sandra Vazquez is from Santa Marta, Colombia. They are in a beach vacation resort in Spain. At this moment, they are in an obscure smoky bar. Spanish is spoken in the bar. They (Sandra and Rodrigo) are speaking to each other.

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Hello girl. My name is Rodrigo Rodriguez. My nickname is "Hot Rod". What's up?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Hello. My name is Sandra Vazquez. It's an ironic name because my job is to be a shepherd.

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "You talk with people concerning Jesus Christ?"

Sandra Vazquez: "No. You're stupid. I'm a shepherd, I'm not a member of the clergy. Do you speak Spanish?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Yes, but I'm drunk. What about you?"

Sandra Vazquez: "No."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "You should!"

Sandra Vazquez: "I'm unable to! We're talking with each other."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "I'm sorry. Please, drink."

(After 30 minutes.)

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Where are you from?"

Sandra Vazquez: "I'm from Santa Marta. Santa Marta is in Colombia. Also, I like to have fun. [note; not part of translating: we had to include the phrase "me gusta divertirse" which is roughly "I like to have fun".]

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Who doesn't like having fun?"

Sandra Vazquez: "And you? Where are you from?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "I'm from David, Panama."

Sandra Vazquez: "Your father's name is David and you're from Panama?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "No. You're stupid. I'm from the city David; the name of the city is David. The name of my father is Rodrigo. Do you speak spanish girl?

Sandra Vazquez: "Yes, but I'm drunk. It isn't the first time. I walked to the bathroom at 10pm and now it's 10:30pm. In another moment I'll have to walk again."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Leave to go to the bathroom"

(After 30 minutes.)

Sandra Vazquez: "What's up?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "I'm thinking about last year. I was employed at the National Sea and Air Service in Panama. I was a pilot."

Sandra Vazquez: "What happened?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "A dame. Sorry, I speak english and spanish. A chick; her name es Brigid O'Shaughness. She was pretty dangerous. She was very dangerous."

Sandra Vazquez: "And... what happened?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "She shot at me. She injured me."

Sandra Vazquez: "And afterwards?"

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Afterwards I ran!"

Sandra Vazquez: "I need to sleep. I wish to, will I see you?

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Yes. God's will permitting at 10pm?

Sandra Vazquez: "Yes."

(Tomorrow, they meet up.)

Sandra Vazquez: "I love you."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "Why?"

Sandra Vazquez: "Because you're a bad boy."

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "That's the truth. I'm a bad boy. Or in english: "I'm a bad boy". But I need to go to my house tomorrow."

Sandra Vazquez: "You don't need to go today."

(Editor's note: inappropriate.)

One month in the future, Rodrigo Rodriguez is talking with Sandra Vazquez. They are looking at each other through a webcam. This is the last time they will speak to each other.

Rodrigo Rodriguez: "I have a boyfriend. I'm gay."

Sandra Vazquez: "I have a girlfriend. I'm gay."

Both: "Goodbye. Go with God sinner."

Monday, August 6, 2012

I just don't get it.

There's something wrong with the world and I don't know what it is. Perhaps I simply shouldn't turn on HBO and see se7en when I can't sleep.

I don't know the word I need. Triviality? Banality? Evanescence? That emotion evoked when looking at a photo album of someone's vacation and while you couldn't care about the fish they caught using a special fishing rod in Jamaica but you nod and feign interest.

Somehow most people have figured out how to be content thinking:

At work I prepare chicken sandwiches which usually isn't hard but sometimes if the wrong manager - Dave, man he's so horrible, you know he only got the promotion because he's related to someone? - is working then sometimes it's hard but that's not because preparing the chicken sandwiches have become more difficult rather it's harder to because harder to work when someone is suuuuch a micromanager and doesn't just let you do your job, I mean I've been preparing chicken sandwiches for almost a year now which might seem like a short time but really it's a long time because all the contents come pre-packaged and there's even timers and everything, the key is to keep rotating the oil otherwise the chicken sandwiches will be soggy and who wants a soggy chicken sandwich? plus even the good manager - Dan, he's so awesome like he "gets it" he knows that letting me just do my freaking job is the way to manage - will get mad at you if you let the chicken sandwiches get soggy, most people wouldn't care but I really love my job because of the people - the people is what makes a job worthwhile if you ask me, I once worked at Whataburger and the people there were just terrible, worst job ever - but they also care about making sure the chicken sandwiches aren't soggy in fact I once had a woman bring back her chicken sandwich because it was soggy and she said she would never buy from us again although we all know she will because the chicken sandwiches are almost never soggy thanks to me.

It's like everyone is caught up in a system where 95% of the thoughts expressed are nonsense thoughts that everyone expresses. The triviality is just shocking. I mean, I had someone once suggest that we get rid of NASA because "the cold war is over". We're sentient animals trapped on a rock in a tiny corner of the galaxy and they're content to say "hmm, I better not let this chicken sandwich get soggy" before heading home and doing it all over again. I had another one suggest that "we should never question the right thing to do because we should already know it". The lack of caring about anything meaningful is flabbergasting.

I just can't understand the fascination with trivialities while ignoring everything that (should) matter. It fundamentally doesn't make sense. Although, again, maybe my perspective at 5:40am is different from one later in the day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-A; Living in Texas

Chick-fil-A is still, thankfully, in the news. As such it's one of the things that people talk about while waiting for class to begin. But because that means shortly after sunrise at 7:45am, I rarely have the energy to bother to argue with 20 people who disagree.

1. This isn't new news
2. This isn't discrimination
3. People have the right to say what they want
4. I don't care; their chicken taste good in mouth

These seem like very curious responses. Inscrutably curious indeed.

At first I agreed with response 1. I thought it was a sort of statement on how odd it is that certain things tend to rise into the collective consciousness when the underlying issue had been there all along. It wasn't until later that I realized it was intended to mean "this issue has been there for a long time, therefore there's no need to address it". Which is just... an odd response once you think about it. One thing does not follow from the other.

Or take response 2. It generally takes the form of "they still sell their products to gay people so what's the fuss?" I don't understand what prompts that either. It's possible for a business to engage in bigotry while selling products to the people they're supporting discrimination against. No one ever claimed that Chick-fil-A refuses to serve people based on their sexual orientation (although why that's a metric that comes into many people's mind is somewhat troubling). The issue is that they influence the government to prohibit marriage equality. That is the discrimination referred to. The odd state of affairs where the government is prepared to grant marriage licenses, then stops to check to make sure their sexual orientations are opposite. "Would you like to start a family and marry your loved one? Oh, sorry, one of you needs a wang otherwise we just can't do it :/".

Response 3 is just plain weird. It seems very obvious that, yes, people have the right to have opinions even when those opinions are bigoted and discriminatory. I'm glad we have that right. But there's an apparent difference between "the government can't take away my right to free speech" and "no one is allowed to disagree with me because Free Speech". It's a tactic that's more often in Internet forums that in college hallways. And yet that distinction appears lost to, well, almost everyone I've talked with or overhead. Just because someone is legally allowed to express an opinion, or to influence the government to discriminate against people, doesn't mean that everyone needs to say "well, it's legal, so really we legally can't consider the content of their speech".

To be honest, response 4 is the worst. It's the Britta of responses. Being wrong is one thing, choosing to life your life in such a way that you don't care about the rights of others is another thing. It's exemplified by the fact that someone said "can you believe that it's mostly straight people disagreeing with Chick-fil-A?" Followed by collective astonishment. That people only care about the rights which affect them is rather depressing. It wasn't too long ago that I wouldn't be expected to share a water fountain with some of my classmates, the fact that it's expected I would say "well, I've got the good water fountain so really it's fine" is just depressing.

Apparently my local Chick-fil-A has to schedule a lot of people for double shifts because they've been swamped. Which is the meta story for all of this: a member of the 80% of the population complains about being victimized by the 20%; they take a "brave" stand for what the law already is; they claim they're willing to suffer the consequences; they actively push for the government to enforce bigotry; members of the 80% celebrate the government enforcing bigotry by buying more from the business; the right wing complains they're being victimized further.

I just don't get it. And now I'm 10 minutes behind in my morning schedule. But hey at least I'm slightly more centered mentally.