Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The number of people alive today is greater than the number of people who have died in all of human history.

Clocks made before 1687 had only one hand, an hour hand.

Studies show that if a cat falls off the seventh floor of a building it has about thirty percent less chance of surviving than a cat that falls off the twentieth floor. It supposedly takes about eight floors for the cat to realize what is occurring, relax and correct itself. Two question this fact begs to be asked, who conducts these studies, and how do they conduct them?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance. - Laurence J. Peter

Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary. - Robert Louis Stevenson

It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree. - Charles Baudelaire

Monday, April 27, 2009

A scubba diver cannot pass gas when diving below 33 feet

A dogs sense of smell is one of the keenest in nature. If a pot of stew was cooking on a stove, a human would smell the stew, while the dog could smell the beef, carrots, peas, potatoes, spices, and all the other individual ingredients in the stew. In fact, if you unfolded and laid out the delicate membranes from inside a dogs nose, the membranes would be larger than the dog itself.

Statistically one bungee jump is about as dangerous as driving 100 miles in a car. (About a two in one million chance of death) There have been millions of safe bungee jumps, and only a few accidents. Almost every accident was caused by the jumper not being properly connected to the cord or the cord not being properly connected to the jump platform.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beatrice Arthur: Thank you for being a friend

Saturday, April 25, 2009
from The New York Times

Beatrice Arthur, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actress best known for her role as Dorothy Zbornak in TV's "The Golden Girls," has passed away. She was 86 and was suffering from cancer, according to the Associated Press.The actress died early today at her home in Los Angeles with her family by her side, said family spokesman Dan Watt. He did not give further details.Tall and husky voiced, Arthur won her biggest audiences for her television roles in NBC's "The Golden Girls" (1985-1992) and CBS' "Maude" (1972-1978). But it was on the stage that she began and ended her career. In 1966, she won the Tony award for best featured actress in a musical for "Mame," in which she co-starred with Angela Lansbury.In 2002, she returned to New York for her solo show "Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends," which was nominated for a Tony for best special theatrical event.A version of the show played at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood in 2004.Her other notable New York stage appearances include the original Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof" in which she played Yente, the elderly matchmaker, and "The Floating Light Bulb," written by Woody Allen.In 1995, Arthur appeared on stage in L.A. at the Tiffany Theatre's production of "Bermuda Avenue Triangle," in which she co-starred with Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor. The Times reviewer wrote that the play was "a great reason to see three seasoned pros serve up the best shtick around."Arthur also performed at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1997 in a production of Anne Meara's "After-Play."In an interview with The Times in 2001, Arthur said: "I love performing for different audiences. Their reactions are not always the same. The towns do begin to drift together. Sometimes I forget where I am. But I always leave the light on in the bathroom."-- David Ng

Friday, April 24, 2009

Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn't block traffic. - Dan Rather

What's another word for Thesaurus? - Steven Wright

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. - Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On average people fear spiders more than they do death.

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

When opossums are playing 'possum, they are not "playing." They actually pass out from sheer terror.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On Human Diversity

"What's wrong with these people?" I didn't have an answer for her. Normally I'd have a problem with complaints. What's the point in trying to elicit sympathy for a situation you're either unwilling or unable to change? I try not to indulge people in their complaining, but this may not have been a complaint, but truly an inquiry. Sometimes people act in ways that are perplexing. I believe in the basic goodness of people. I trust people. I sometimes wonder why because everyday I'm faced with overwhelming evidence that I'm wrong. I keep getting confounded by the absurdity of people. I instantly recognize the judgement in my thinking, but still what's up with these people? They're everywhere. They look and act like normal people. They hold down jobs raise families, have friends, cars, and lives, but when you talk to them you realize they might as well be from another planet. Sometimes it's even destructive, but because I such a peacemaker it seem like I only perpetuate the problem.

The particular situation involved my mother and her students. She can't get them to behave in class and when she called their parents she's confronted with such hostility that she's better off dealing with the children. We had discussed it before she'd said that it "shouldn't have to be is hard", but having no real knowledge of the way the world "should" be we can only speak of the way we wish it was. She has surrendered to the situation, come to terms with he fact that the young people she teaches now aren't going to be as respectful the students she had when she started her career. Times have changed and not all those changes were for the better. She now wants to know why. Why are these people so messed up? How is it that they get through life so uninhibited as to think their behavior is acceptable? By not confronting the parrents does she in some way bare responsibility for accepting it ?

I ran into this phenomenon at work. A coworker and I seen around. We exchange friendly nods and hellos. One day we actually spoke. I couldn't tell if she was flirting. I think she was. The conversation was pleasant enough. She asked me if I was married. It made me feel old because I realized that is wasn't a ridiculous question. Then she asked, "How many kids do you have?" I told her I had none. She said, "I'm sure you've got one or two running around somewhere" She thought it would have been a normal thing for me to have several kids with a few former girlfriends and she went on to tell me about her kids each from different fathers. Further conversation revealed that she and baby daddy were still friends. When she used the term baby daddy it almost floored me. Most of the time I hear there term used in jest or jokingly but here this was a no joke. And I realized she and I had a totally different ideas of what normal was. And it occurred to me in order for her to believe this was normal she'd have to be stupid, which she was not, or live in a world where this was normal, talking to people, living with people who shared she worldview. And of course she must have never been confronted by anyone who didn't world view or at least not enough time in order for her to question it.

Some people just have different standards than we do. I don;t mean to sound elitist, I'm not. It's not something that I'm judging. I am just observing. It's like there is a parallel reality all around us. People with a whole other set of norms and a whole different way off viewing the world. What's interesting about it is that it's difficult to challenge a world view that may be destructive. If I were to have put my coworker on blast for the assumption she'd made about me what good would that have done? It may have given her a value that she was living in a parallel reality, but it would have been quite unlikely to make much of a difference. In a way I was a facilitator of her destructive behavior. By not challenging it I was accepting it. So what's a socially conscience upstanding person to do? Honestly I'm not sure.

Everyone is different for a reason. I may not understand those reasons. I know that in many cases I feel the way my mother does and what to change people, but now I slow down and think about it first before I trying to remake people in my image. I have come to accept that many people are in their own stage of development, that everyone no matter how inconvenient they may be, serve their role to making things in this world work. Human diversity is a good thing even if it isn't always good on an individual level. They serve to teach me patience and the importance or education and good parenting. They sever a contrast against which the good of the people I do associate with can shine. And these may not even been the real reason for that difference, that I may never fully understand. But I do hope to grow in my understanding.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog. - Doug Larson

Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong. - Dr. Thomas Fuller

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The sentence "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter in the English language.

There is no time at the north/south pole as all time zones fall in to one place making it impossible to define

The average chocolate bar has 8 insect legs in it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
- Thomas Jefferson

The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning. - Rick Cook

Saturday, April 11, 2009

About half of the bones in the human body are located in the hands and feet.

More Monopoly money is printed in a year, than real money printed throughout the world.

For every year of education, wages increase by a worldwide average of 10 percent.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The best way out is always through. - Robert Frost

The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. - Frank Herbert

If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity. - Bill Vaughan

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Obama returns to Washington after jam-packed trip

By JENNIFER LOVEN – 1 hour ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — "There is still a lot of work to do here," President Barack Obama declared in Baghdad. He could have been talking about every stop of his jam-packed, eight-day, six-country overseas trip. Or his to-do list now that he's back in the United States.

In London, Obama joined other world leaders in trying to tackle the spiraling global economic crisis. In France, he sought help from NATO allies in dealing with the deteriorating war in Afghanistan. In the Czech Republic, Obama pledged to end the threat of nuclear weapons. In Turkey, he sought to start repairing America's dismal standing in the Muslim world. And in Iraq, he pushed for Iraqis to "take responsibility for their own country."

The pile of problems on Obama's desk was high before he left, and remains so now that he's home.

The president returned to Washington in the early hours of Wednesday morning, bringing his lengthy debut on the world stage — including his first stop in a war zone as commander in chief — to a close.

Aides said he brought home achievements both large and small, evidence, they said, of the benefits of the extended travel that turned attention away from all the pressing matters at home for the first time in his less-than-three-month-old presidency.

"It's tangible and intangible," White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said of the trip's value.

For a nation gripped with worry about its economic future, among the concrete things Obama achieved was an agreement out of the Group of 20 summit in London. The wealthy and developing nations promised to get a handle on risky financial transactions, to act to further stimulate their economies if growth doesn't improve, and to help poorer nations feeling more effects from the global financial meltdown than they can mitigate on their own.

Obama didn't get European nations to step up with the kind of immediate stimulus spending that might quickly jump-start their economies and in turn boost America's, but he billed the meetings as a success nonetheless.

Emanuel also cited the commitments from NATO allies "to do their part" in Afghanistan, even though nations agreed only to make modest new contributions to short-term security and training efforts, and not to join the heavy fighting in the volatile south and east of the country. Obama also made some strides toward addressing the international nuclear threat by launching talks with Russia toward a new arms-control pact.

There was a less quantifiable side of the ledger, as well.

Between Obama's outreach to local students at town halls in France and Turkey, as well as speeches and well over a dozen private meetings with individual foreign leaders, aides felt the president established a new-sheriff-in-town vibe.

Obama said over and over that he was in Europe to listen, not dictate. The subtext was that his leadership would be a sharp U-turn from that of President George W. Bush, and that he hoped that putting a new stamp on U.S. foreign policy would pay dividends from more cooperative allies.

The two-day stay in Turkey, a Muslim-majority nation that straddles Europe and Asia, was a key part of that strategy. Obama hoped to refresh relations with a Muslim-world partner with whom relations became strained over the Iraq war.

"America is back," was how Emanuel put it.

There's no doubting that Obama was well-received.

The question is whether the world's problems will get any better as a result, and the answer won't be known for a while. Diplomacy is a slow process and so is changing the policy of any one nation, much less several — "moving the ship of state," as Obama likes to put it.

Also unclear: where the line will fall with the fickle American public, between excitement at having a leader who makes a big splash overseas and annoyance that that same leader is lavishing attention on the pet priorities of other parts of the world.

The previously unannounced Iraq trip was confined to the main U.S. military base there, Camp Victory. Attention from the new commander in chief proved a huge morale booster, judging from the wildly cheering audience that greeted the president at a former palace of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"I love you," shouted one of the hundreds of soldiers gathered in a marble-covered atrium. "I love you back," yelled Obama, positioned before a massive U.S. flag.

Although violence is down overall in Iraq from its peak, it has surged lately with a string of deadly bombings, including one in Baghdad just hours before Obama's arrival. The White House scrapped plans for the president to helicopter into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone to see Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders, citing not security fears but a sand and dust storm that reduced visibility. Instead, the leaders traveled to see him at Camp Victory.

Obama publicly noted the bombings, expressing concern that recent security gains could deteriorate around the upcoming national elections. He said his administration would "use all of our influence" to keep that from happening. He also urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make quicker strides in reconciling the country's still-divided factions — for instance, by integrating minority Sunnis into government and security forces, something the Iraqis have repeatedly promised and had trouble delivering.

Obama had a message for Americans, too. With over 4,260 lives lost and $600 billion spent, he paid heartfelt tribute to the "enormous sacrifice" made by the U.S. in Iraq.

"It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis," he said, earning the loudest applause line of his five-minute address to troops. "They need to take responsibility for their country."

And now Obama is back home, focused on his own.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The system of democracy was introduced 2 500 years ago in Athens, Greece. The oldest existing governing body operates in Althing in Iceland. It was established in 930 AD.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history. Spades--King David, Clubs--Alexander the Great, Hearts--Charlemagne and Diamonds--Julius Caesar.

In some situations you can be fully clothed and still be naked. "Naked" means to be unprotected. "Nude" means unclothed.

Monday, April 06, 2009


How do we know what is really true? It is the question at the core of postmodernist philosophy. My first real encounter with postmodernism was in a church group. Sometimes we'd go to other churches and temples and have discussions with people of other faiths and denominations. In order to be polite we glosses over the real rifts in religious belief. A good friend in our group who refused to do it. He couldn't get over Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the light" and that "there is no other way to the Father but through me." He pointed out that we believed that all Jews are going to hell. Now to him this seemed pretty cut and dry, but everyone looked at him like he was crazy. When it came down to it people didn't believed what they profess to believe. The consequences of such beliefs never seem to penetrate the walls of their sculls into their actions. If all the Jews were going to hell then why didn't we stand up now and try to save their souls? Because no one actually believe this to be literally true.

Another time we were at the temple I spoke with the rabbi and were were talking about Moses and the Torah. We talked about how the book speaks of things Moses couldn't have known say about his own death and things that happen after he dies, but traditionally it is said that Moses wrote the Torah. He said something remarkable to me. "There is literal truth such as what happened and there is the traditional truth, the ideas that shaped the thinking of Jews for hundreds of years" and he said "the historical Moses probably existed". He probably existed? Not only only didn't he write the Torah he probably didn't even exist? How does he read for the Torah each Sabbath and say the prayers and and claim t be a rabbi without being a hypocrite. He's a postmodern rabbi, or at least that how he described himself. He believe the truth of the Torah in a general and traditional sense that it's shaped his life and that of his ancestors, but that specifically none of it may have actually happened. I asked him if he felt conflicted by it. He didn't. In fact he seemed like the most peaceful person I'd ever met. His level of intelligence and profundity of his speech about God is one of the most impressive people I've ever met. And so while I still have some trouble wrapping my mind around this idea of postmodernist philosophy, I have a certain reverence for it because of my respect for him.

The next time I heard this term postmodernism was in the comment to an earlier blog post called When I Tell The Truth I was talking about self identity and how defensive people can get over their worldviews. In the comment my friend spoke of how he is a postmodernist and that it's possible that light and sound as we currently understand them are tentative truths that will one day be proven to be more complex or completely different than what we now believe them to be. At first I was admittedly disturbed by this. Disturbed because this is a pretty intelligent guy and he just said something really stupid, but did he? I started to think about it and about postmodernism and about the rabbi. It wasn't stupid it was challenging, and far from stupid. The more I looked into it the more I realized that my aversion to what they were saying may be in part to do with my own postmodernist philosophical beliefs. I'm probably in the same place as the rabbi and my friend. Does Jesus have any historical significance, or course he does, but does that me he really existed? No. And half the stuff people exclaim to be actually true I take a face value but I don't believe.

How is it possible to believe something is true and false at the same time? I must have compartmentalized believe and scientific reasoning because clearly I do believe in Jesus and science and they conflict and it doesn't bother me at all. I love being a christian and I love going to church. What does it all mean if it isn't literally true? I've learned so much about life from christian theology. Beyond the usefulness of the church's teachings is the fact that I love the stories of the bible and the traditions of my faith. I mean there is no better book than the bible to find depth and complexity. It seems the serious way in which people interpret passages kills the spirit of the text. My brother is perfect example. He may be considered an agnostic. In discussions about theology our core views on the literal truth of christian theology doesn't differ much. The major difference is that I have a great deal of respect for religious people and religion in general where as he does not. Our mother has often tried to reason with him to try to get him to pray or to believe in God or go to church. Her arguments are rational and it isn't going to convince him. He needs an emotional connection with the tradition.

And so there's this split where intelligent people aren't going to believe in the reality of ghosts or angels or demons or men in bellies of fish or man living a thousand years. I remember Bill Maher saying that "If Jack and the Bean Stalk were in the bible these people would believe it's true" and I don't disagree. Because the actual reality of it is ridiculous. But Jack and the Bean Stalk isn't of the same sort of story as the Prodigal Son or the Good Sumerian. The people behind the phenomenon that is Christianity include many profound thinkers that describe in religious terms what is real. We can speak of the psychology of the religious mind or we can respect the intelligence and sincerity of the tradition and speak of it as if it were real. We can do this because the consequences are real and because it could be real. I don't know if that makes me a hypocrite, in someways I feel like I am, but if my the rabbi and my friend are hypocaust's that puts me in good company.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

If little else, the brain is an educational toy. - Tom Robbins

I am a deeply superficial person. - Andy Warhol

An economist is a surgeon with an excellent scalpel and a rough-edged lancet, who operates beautifully on the dead and tortures the living. - Nicholas Chamfort

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Everyday Insanity

It's 6:30 a.m. and I'm on my way to work. It's a 10-minute ride. Usually my coworker and I will do a little small talk to pass the time, but not this morning. She’d been going through some difficult times in her life and she told me about how she’d been preying to God for help. The exact content of the prayer isn't the point so much as the method. She said as soon as she stopped asking for change is when it happened. She let go and handed it over to God’s will her prayers were answered. We were talking about surrender. It much like the 12 step process. After we admit we are powerless we submit our life to a higher power. Having never been in a 12-step program all of my experiences of them are from movies and television. We got to work and I started to think about the concept of surrender in my own life. How got rid of the “should” statements in the background of my thinking. And I started to think how so many people in my life could benefit from this concept of surrender I had to write about it to better understanding for myself.

In the movie You Kill Me Ben Kingsly plays an alcoholic hit man who is forced into AA or else get whacked by the mob. He’s an atheist. If you're not familiar with AA I did a little wiki for you and pasted a link to the original 12 steps. Let’s just say there is a lot of God talk in AA and is a real obstacle for non-believers. AA is by no means a perfect solution to alcoholism, but it’s helped countless people overcome addiction and its model is used by copycat support groups of all kinds. While in the movie the conflict of ideology made for some hilarious dark comedy, fact is there really isn't any real conflict between surrender and atheism. In the movie Kingsly's sponsor told him to choose something big he chooses The Golden Gate Bridge as his higher power. It didn’t really matter what he surrendered to, he just had to let go. Seeing him surrender control to the bridge was strangely beautiful and hauntingly real. He almost jumped off that bridge, something two people every week. The ultimate reason people jump is because they can’t surrender.

That discontent that leads people to jump off bridges comes from a single word, should. Should. The word represents the separation that lies at the core of our existence. It forms the gap between life as it is and life as we expect it to be. Many people who are driven to jump may feel justified in their reasons. They may have been victims of violence, illness, or disaster. But it isn’t the situation in their life that kills them it’s their inability to deal with it that kills them. We believe that no one should be the victim of rape. No one should ever have to lose a house in a flood, or die of cancer, or go blind. We know that these things will never come to an end, but we believe they should. I’m not saying anyone should be raped, or murdered, or suffer and die, but this the way of the world. These are the flip side of the joy of existence. This is life as it is. Everything is as it "should" be. It is as it should be because that is already that way. It is insane to believe that reality will conform to our way of thinking. Shakespeare said, "There is nothing good or bad, but thinking that makes it so." There's every reason to try to improve the dreadful conditions of this world, but to say they should be any other way then they are is a chasing of wind.

My mom teaches chorus to misbehaving kids. One day after practice she calls me saying "you know it should shouldn't have to be this hard " and I asked her "why? why should it be any easier?" She didn't have an answer. We spend so much of our time arguing with reality. Fact is these kids have emotional problems associated with absent or neglectful parents, kids having kids, and the loosening of acceptable behavior in society as a whole. They act just the way they “should” given their situation. Then we may say they shouldn't have to live in such a world, but why shouldn't they? Certainly they do. Do we know how this world should be? Are we so arrogant that we know better than the infinite intelligence that is existence? We want things to be a certain way, but is that the way they aught to be?

Some of the greatest growth comes from suffering. Some of the greatest nations rise to greatness because of hardship. Had it not been for the economic depression or the War in Iraq we wouldn’t have a great President. No saying that it justifies their existence, their existence justifies itself, but it’s an illustration of how things we think should not exist have consequences we couldn’t have ever foreseen. Not saying that we should stop trying to make the world better. By all means do it. If there is something that you should be doing that you aren't, stop now and do it. If there is nothing you can do about it give up on your belief that it’s shouldn’t be the way it is. Don’t do it just because it will make you happier, though it’s not a bad reason, do it because you realize there is not good or bad outside your own mind. Beyond the substance of your gray matter there is no good or bad, it just is.

Do you ever think of yourself as being richer than you are, smarter than you are, better looking than you are? Do you ever dream of having special abilities? Do you wish you could make someone love you? Do you wish there was a way to make the world better? Do you want to save people from their own ignorance? Either it will happen or it won’t. Find out witch it is and get rid of all the junk in your mind that argues with reality. Like hitting your head against a wall expect the wall break, you are insane if you believe you will can change the way things are. It isn't easy to come to acceptance, to really, but to be happy you have to. No matter how close you come to you a goal, even after achieving your dreams there will always be a gap, a should. Life will never be as you want it to be.

You don’t have to be an alcoholic to benefit from the 12 steps created by AA. We know it works for them, and for our problems being a lot less urgent it can work for us too. The truth of the steps is born out by it's results. The specifics of them aren’t the point but the general truth they point to is profound. So what can they teach us about surrender? First surrender is not defeat. It is the triumph over self-delusion, it’s coming to terms with what is, it’s stopping where you are right now and getting real. It’s ending the unspoken assumption that reality bends to our will. Surrender is freedom. I can't say that I have learned how to surrender completely, but I'm getting better. I'm slowly coming to understand my own unspoken demands on existence. When I think about how almost everyone implicitly demands life to be a certain way it seems like utter foolishness and yet we're compelled to continue to do it. So I guess I’m putting myself on a 12-step program of my own design. It’s process than a destination. Try to close the gap. Try to let go. Acceptance is good. Breathe. Smile.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C. Clarke

Invention is the mother of necessity. - Thorstein Veblen

I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty. - George Burns

Thursday, April 02, 2009

When I Tell The Truth

Is it possible to be too honest? A friend posed this question to me and I had to say yes. I didn't know if he was too honest, but often times when people are said to be "too honest" it means they're just rude, crass, or lack tact when criticizing. This was not true in his case. So I was thinking he could have the nasty little habit of shattering people's illusions. I've had friends like this (I had fallen into the category at one time), people who can't help but correct other people's factual errors. We're so invested in intellectual honesty that we get into trouble. What is it that makes us want others to see the world as it is? Being intellectually honest means correcting common errors in logic, fact, or mistaken beliefs. Often others want to hear the truth, but after I tell them they may reject it. If they reject it why does it upset me? The truth is true regardless of my acceptance of it. So why would it be offensive if someone else didn't accept it? Of course not everything is objectively true or false and in situations like those it can threaten our very sense of self. I've learned how not to be "too honest" and it has made my life unexpectedly better.

We can be absolutely right and people may still disagree with us. If I say sound travels faster than light there is no debate. I am wrong. There is an absolute truth. Light travels faster than sound. Anyone who has witnessed a thunderstorm knows this to be true (not to mention a host of scientific investigation into the basic laws of physics). But if I believe that sound travels faster than light why would it matter if I refused to believe you if you told me otherwise? Does it harm you in any way because I don't believe such an obvious truth? Sometimes it can feel that way. When someone doesn't agree with us we sometimes see it as a threat to our self identity. It's said that love is so powerful because your beloved sees you for who you are and accepts you flaws and all. If someone sees you for who you are and rejects you it can seem like annihilation as many a failed relationship can attest to. Babies play peek-a-boo because they need to know the world still exists when they close their eyes, that there is an external objective reality. They confirm this through the gaze of another. We need our worldview to be validated by others, and often it is. We surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and we enjoy their company. And that's just concerning what is objectively true, but what about more subjective aspects of our worldview, like the opinions we base off those facts?

The best opinions are based on objectively true facts and sound arguments about those facts. Sometimes, however, we hold the opinion first and find the facts later. I learned there is a part of our mind dedicated to defending our worldview. I call it the inner lawyer. I told someone this and they said "So he lies to us?" no the lawyer doesn't lie he spins. He presents the best possible case. He uses the facts to serve his client. Maximising the positive, minimising the negative, our inner lawyer works to defend our worldview. When you hire a lawyer sometimes you ask him for advice, such as when you're buying a house or signing a contract. You genuinely want to know all your options. Other times you get arrested, maybe you're guilty maybe you're not, but when you call your lawyer you're not going to want to calmly weigh your options, you scream at him "do something!" In this metaphor you aren't facing jail time you're facing irrelevance. You want a defense of your self-image. Someone disagrees with you. Someone who threatens your worldview. Your inner lawyer goes to work defending your beliefs and coming up with facts and arguments to defend it. It's good to recognize this inner lawyer in yourself, but it is even more important you realize that the people you try to convince of your way of thinking have their own inner lawyers.

People believe some stupid things. In the last presidential election I remember Barack Obama being called everything from a terrorist to a communist. I have many good relationships with Republicans who for no other reason than their ideology hate Barack Obama. We'd be having a discussion about something completely unrelated to politics, then out will come a comparison of Obama to Hitler. Offended as hell, but understanding the concept of the inner lawyer I would say in response "Both Hitler and Obama are very good speakers" and leave it at that. I could have torn their argument to shreds (during the election when I was a volunteer for the Obama campaign I often did so when speaking with voters), but I realize that they have an inner lawyer and they will defend their worldview despite a lack of truth to support it. I so wanted to bust their bubble, but what good would that have done? They will still hate him. It would only have caused an argument, hurt some feelings, and left us both off feeling worse than we did before. Still I have to admit the comments about Obama often upset me and I respectfully ask them to keep it to themselves. I wonder, do they think they are being too truthful?

One of my favorite quotes is by William Blake "When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do." When I worked to defend Obama's record against malicious attacks from conservatives it was a good idea to speak my mind, but now that he's the President it's better to let sleeping lawyers lie. It's always going to feel good to be proven right, but at what cost? Would you rather be right or happy? Not saying the two are mutually exclusive, but sometimes you have to choose peace over conflict. Save your energy for fighting battles that matter. Just because you know the truth it doesn't diminish you if someone doesn't accept it. Be convinced enough in your own worldview so that no one can threaten it, or let go of having a worldview altogether.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

food for thought

Ostriches are not taken seriously. They can run faster than horses, are responsible for more deaths than sharks, and the males can roar louder than lions.

90% of our technology, upon which we base so much of our modern lifestyle, was created within the last 150 years.

Non-dairy creamer is flammable.