The Ease of Condemning our Connectivity

People are always looking at their phones!

No one just lives, they have to take a picture and post it!

Why don’t people stop looking at their phones and just be present in the moment??

That’s what you hear people talk about, that’s what most of the think pieces say that I’ve read.

It’s easy to think because until 10 or so years ago the lifestyle that we lived didn’t exist and so we have nothing else to compare it to.

And maybe that is true.

But think about it differently for a moment.

Never in our whole history have we been so connected to each other.  So able to reach out and just touch each other with thought and images.  Either individually, with texts or phone calls, or in mass, with social media.

We connect with people, we feel each other’s joys and worry and laughter and fear and curiosity and sadness.

Is that a bad thing?

Would we have been able to generate $34 billion in crowdfunding if we didn’t have these connections?

How much music have you learned about because someone posted it on social media?

How many artists have you discovered?

How much art have you bought or funded through Patreon?

How many more people in how many different parts of the world are you tethered to through that phone?

And how many times has the support given to you on the screen been the thing that helped you through a moment?

We are connected.  Connection is not a bad thing.

It’s not all sunny days.  There’s lots of issues.  But the fact that we carry around our phones and want to connect our existence to the larger one that exists in our phones is NOT really a bad thing.

I’m not convinced that people are so disconnected with the moment because of the phones.  I lived most of my life without a phone and I’m not particularly addicted to it now.  I don’t check social media on it except in waiting rooms.  I live with you guys on my laptop.

But I don’t live my life present in every moment because I’m not checking my phone.  I live in my head, easily distracted by daydreams and memories and worries.  And I’m not unique. Most humans were not super present in a moment before phones.  It’s just wasn’t as obvious.

I would not be surprised to find out that people with phones are more present in the moment because they are looking for things to share and connect. Where as I’m just drifting through, only aware enough to keep from falling into holes.

The phones aren’t the end of civilization.  They are just the newest iteration of it.

Imagine the future historians

Looking back at us.

People worry that our time in history will be a blank.  That our electronic life will degrade and be erased.  So there are active efforts to create archives.  To curate a picture of our existence.

Imagine how much there is.  If you have kids, you’ve probably already taken 2000 pictures of them so far this year.  Maybe more.

Heck, maybe it’s 18000 pictures.  For many of us taking pictures of our daily lives is just part of how we live our lives.  So 18000 pics a year is probably not unreasonable.

But the archivists, they are just trying to curate a historical record.  They don’t want 18000 instagram photos.  They want a few representative ones.  And I think that’s a mistake.

I think there is a deeper value to our 18000 pictures per year.  That maybe curating is NOT a good thing.

We have posed pictures and artwork from MOST of history.  We have mostly curated historical records because the vast majority of humans did not have the knowledge or the means to write their own records and thoughts.

But now.  We document so much individually. It’s not a complete picture, obviously.  But it’s a much more REAL picture of human life than has ever previously been recorded.  It’s pictures of us being us in real time.

Imagine how absolutely fascinating it would be to see CCTV footage of a busy street corner in London or Beijing from 1000 years ago!   Imagine being able to pull up an ancestors instagram and see their garden and their baby and their dinner!    If only!

I think about how I pour over old 1880s photos of street scenes in NYC.  I want to just SEE what it was like.  What the people were doing and how they lived. I find it so much more fascinating than the posed pictures. We are the first to provide that level of minutia to future generations.

Maybe it will degrade.  But I bet technology will find a way to preserve it better.  And as long as we continue to be technologically advanced, our massive documentation will be valuable and interesting.  Better because it wasn’t curated.

Regulations in the Financial Industry are Necessary Burdens

Quoting from NPR’s article : House Passes Bill Aimed at Reversing Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations

“Hensarling’s nearly 600-page bill would defang Dodd-Frank by repealing the so-called Volcker Rule, which prevents government-insured banks from making risky bets with investments. It would also scrap a requirement that retirement advisers put their clients’ interests ahead of their own, which goes into effect on Friday.

Perhaps the biggest partisan flash point — the bill aims to scale back the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFBP, to regulate large banks and payday lenders.”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  THIS IS A BAD BAD IDEA.

The financial industry is not going to self regulate.  If the world learned anything from the subprime mortgage crisis, it’s that the Financial Industry is going to do whatever makes the most immediate money.  Period.

But on a personal note, let me ASSURE you that the financial professional that you deal with for your investments is just a sales person.  He or she was hired solely because they are good at sales.  They would be just as good selling waffle irons or cars.  They have the barest, sketchiest understanding of the financial instruments they claim to advise you on.  They only know how to sell it.

And worse than that, they THINK they do understand.  If there is a financial planner who reads this, they will assure me that this does NOT apply to them. They have letters after their name because they passed tests.  NOPE.

The people who build the financial instruments that the sales person you deal with sell, they understand it.  Mostly.  But they are not interested in you.  They are interested in creating a product that is easy for the sales person to sell to you.

It really doesn’t matter if these are individual financial investments or large bank investments.  The ABSOLUTE key to the instrument they are designing is HOW EASY IS IT TO SELL.

They want to make money.  They are NOT worried about your financial future.  They are NOT worried about the economy except how it will effect their particular products financial appearance.

They need the product to look good.  That is why the subprime mortgage thing happened.  They took a thing that is risky as hell but makes a decent amount in the short run, and repackaged it in a way that is easy to sell.  HIDE the moving parts, hide the risk – sell the numbers that look good.

So smart people create a product that is easy to sell and hides all the working parts, marketing people learn enough to come up with a sales pitch.  They then teach sales people how to sell the product without spending too much time actually explaining the product.  And the buyers buy that pretty pretty number that sits on top of every sales pitch.

I dealt with these financial professionals from a home office for many years.  The number of times I explained to highly successful sales people how the product ACTUALLY WORKS was astounding.  They don’t need to know how it works to sell it to you.

In the 90s nearly every insurance company in the country was the subject of a class action lawsuit for their sales practices.  For overselling the future values and benefits of universal insurance.  That is what self regulation is – paying out lawsuits is negative feedback.  The industry should self correct.  But No.

They are still selling universal insurance as an investment.  And the sales people still don’t understand what they are selling.

Do not doubt that they will repackage those subprime mortgage bundles and sell them again quite successfully if we deregulate.  Because they have very very pretty numbers on top of an opaque package that buyers don’t understand.  Even bankers.

Financial Services Companies don’t want products that will benefit the buyer. They want products that are easy to sell. It’s not that they are against benefiting the buyer.  But that isn’t their focus and if they aren’t regulated to consider it, they won’t.  Making money is their focus.

Regulations are cumbersome and expensive for the financial industry.  But let me assure you.  They work.  They force the industry to consider the benefit of the buyer.  They limit their greed.

DO NOT LET THEM do this.

When you cannot see that you own a slave

I couldn’t sleep at all last night.

All I keep thinking about is Lola.  A slave in 20th century America.  One of millions of slaves worldwide.  She merely stands out starkly in our landscape. She’s normal in the Philippines.

My brain just kept warming over the utter loneliness and unfairness of her life.

It kept feeling a sort of nausea at how cruelty can be normalized.

About how something so humanly wrong as slavery can be so deeply denied by the slave owner on an existential level that she is offended when the word slave is thrown at her.

An educated woman.  A doctor.  Owned a slave in 20th century America. But she couldn’t think of it like that.  That’s wasn’t what Lola was in her mind.  Lola was just there.  Always had been there.  No reason to question it even when she learned more about what it meant.  It’s easy to learn things but to assume those things are other.  They are ideas that belong to other issues, they don’t belong to the minutia of your life.

I imagine she couldn’t face it because if Lola was a slave then what was she?

There are 2 options when faced with the rightful shame of your life. And the easier one is to double down into deeper denial and acceptance of the situation as normal.  To loudly fight anyone who points at your disgrace.

The harder one is to deeply expose it to yourself and the world.  To face the condemnation, to face the consequences and to act to correct it in whatever manner is possible.  The harder one does not lead to blue skies.  It’s murky and painful and probably never complete.  Shames this big are not fixable, merely malleable.  But the efforts do preserve you in the long wakeful nights.

The easier one is the path to deeper and deeper levels of personal hell in the long term.  But the short term is just a continuation of habit.  A denial of the reality that surrounds you.  The small moments of not looking too hard at it. The nights are probably hard.  And they probably get harder as time goes on.  Nights are the feeding grounds for shame and self disgust.

There are a lot of people in world managing their life on what seems like the easier path.  But in the long term the pendulum swings.  And then long terrible nights probably start to stretch into the days.

That seems like a small almost just end to a slave owner.  It annoys me that a religion would offer any palliative from that on a deathbed in the form of forgiveness.  Let the crawling guilt strangle us when we die if we have done something to deserve it.  It did little enough to us in life.

But my need for cosmic karma is just another human frailty.  A need for reciprocity.  A need for punishment and justice, when those things cannot fix the crime.  They are merely ephemera against the unbearable past and uninterested universe.

The Weird Sanctifying of Death and Firing.

When my father died, my mother turned him and their relationship into something wonderful I didn’t recognize.  That was my first experience with how we alter our belief and even our memories to fit a narrative that feels comfortable.

James Comey’s actions have a DIRECT relationship to why we have President Trump and not President Clinton.  But many Liberals seems to have forgotten this. Just like my mother forgot that her marriage was on the rocks when my father died.

Trump obviously did not fire him for that reason.  He probably fired him because Comey was investigating him and said things like “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,”

Apparently Trump harped on that comment quite a bit before blundering into this predictably stupid decision.  But he thought he was cleverly pulling it off by listing Comey’s most obvious problem.

Of course he’s an idiot so he blew the slimmest chance he had of pulling that off. Obama didn’t fire Comey because he KNEW the shit show that would happen.  Smallhands Trump didn’t see it coming.

Here’s the thing.  Liberals have suddenly become Comey advocates.  Because Trump fired him.  NO.

Let’s keep focused.  Comey acted inappropriately in his handling of the Clinton email investigation.  He should NOT have announced it or managed it that way.  It wasn’t his place.  It was probably the Attorney General’s place if any.

Comey is not a clean angel being thrown out without a stain on his character.

The wrong that happened is Trump fired the person leading an investigation into him.  It deeply impacts the investigation’s ability to keep a clean search for evidence.  It influences the investigation.  It’s an abuse of power. It’s an indicator of corrupt government.

Trump had a legal way to fire him.  But he had NO moral or ethical way to fire him.  And then capped it by managing the act itself without any honor or dignity.

178 Former US Attorneys sent a letter to the DOJ requesting an independent investigator because they have issues with context, not the legality of the act.  Not because Comey is a saint we should all stand behind.

The key is not that Comey is a wounded puppy.  He is ultimately the cause of his own demise.  He helped put an unqualified dirty racist man in the oval office.  Not really upset about Comey.  Let Comey lick his wounds and move on.

But do NOT let Trump get away with trying to kill the investigation.  He cannot be allowed to subvert the living fabric of our  government. 

The Dangers of Pintrest.

flower pot not going to work

Isn’t that pretty?

It’s a lie.

A.  That is a pansy in that summer mix.  It’s going to die when the temperatures hit 80+.

B.  That is a steel container.  It’s going to bake the flowers.

C.  That crowd has different watering requirements.  So.

Yeah.  It’s pretty when it’s planted.  And it’s going to look terrible inside a month.

The nurseries are filled with this kind of mess.  Buying a mixed pot at a nursery is an exercise in futility except in very careful cases.

They generally put in soil that will need constant support with fertilizing in order to maintain an overcrowded planter.   That crowd ate all the nutrients in a couple of weeks probably.

They often mix things that look pretty to sell but really can’t maintain life in similar conditions.

They always overcrowd them because they need them to look pretty enough to buy and no one wants to buy a planter that you can still see the soil in.

They often put in a plant that will dominate the others to the point that it will overpower them and the others will meekly retire to a thread of their original glory.

Mixed pots look good when they are bought, sometimes look good for a month.  But they rarely look good at the end of the summer unless you know a good deal, and plant carefully and thoughtfully.

DON’T FALL FOR IT.

It’s pretty.  I know.  But listen to my wisdom.  Do NOT fall for it.  Be strong.

The Healthcare Bill – they are trying again.

Please call and ask your congressman to vote NO.

In this bill pre-existing conditions can get a premium 5X higher.

List of pre-existing conditions IS NOT SPECIFIED ANYWHERE IN THE BILL THAT I COULD FIND.  So this is up to insurers.  But a good definition is:

a condition, illness, or injury that can be identified as one that does not necessarily affect your overall good health but could affect the risk balance of all insureds

Read it again.  You could have a condition that doesn’t affect YOUR health but ruins the pool.  It could qualify.  The thing is that insurers get to choose.

It could include things like seeing a therapist. That was considered a pre-existing condition before Obamacare.  As were most mental health issues.

You will also note that there is probably a weight chart.  Obesity is a condition that plausibly considered pre-existing.

You may think this doesn’t apply to you – but it definitely applies to someone you love.  And let me be clear:

This bill penalizes you for losing coverage for more than a few months, by increasing premium by 30%.  If you are working and poor, you can’t afford insurance so you don’t have it.  You get it when you have an health disaster –  A pre-existing condition.  Now imagine:

  1. If you are older (50 -64) – they will be charging you up to 3X more than younger people.
  2. They will then charge you 5X that rate for the pre-existing condition.
  3. PLUS the 30% premium penalty for the break in coverage.

This is what will happen to people who used to be covered for an affordable amount under Obamacare.

They can’t deny you insurance, but they have effectively denied it to the working poor because the insurance will just as unaffordable as the medical care.

I won’t get into all the ways they cushioned it up for the people with money.  But suffice to say – they make sure life is easier for people with money.

But the way they structured this, I think they have creeped the insurance cost barriers into middle class families as well.

This entire thing is going to fuck me.  I have pre-existing conditions.

Please – call.  Again.  Please.

Being Proud of Someone

Is this even possible?

Is it arrogance in it’s grandest form to suggest that we are proud of someone else’s achievement?

What we are really saying is that we are proud to be the parent, brother, friend of someone who did this great thing.

Which is still a wonderful compliment when considered.

And is frankly more real.

Being proud of someone suggests a sort of superior position in a relationship.  Being proud to be their friend, suggests an equal or superior position for them.

Having someone say they are proud of me almost diminishes the achievement to me. I REALLY hate the term.

You can be proud of yourself.  Being proud of someone else is arrogance.

Next time, may I suggest you say that you are proud to be (friend, brother, parent, coworker) to that person?

That distinction makes a difference.

Finding the right places for outrage.

Trump hosted the Teacher of Year Award winners on last Wednesday. Every President since Truman has done so.  It is generally treated as An Event.  Speeches, a meal, etc.  family members are included and the President spends time with them.

This year Trump treated it as an after thought.  A sign of the absolute chaos that seems to reign in the white house.  No event was planned.  The state winners, without family, were ushered into the Oval Office, Trump remained seated throughout.  A casual meet and greet.  The teachers sang Happy Birthday to Melania.

On the surface it just feels sort of not a big deal.  We already know they run a shitty White House.  That they lack the organizational skills to handle with dignity normal Presidential duties.

The part that is more troublesome is this:  “several participants who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear Trump addressing them on Twitter or press secretary Sean Spicer bringing them up at a daily briefing.”

That is problematic.  That is a symptom of a deeper sickness with the country.  But it also feels sort of small because this man is suspected of Treasonand our Congress is shuffling around and looking at their feet with each new piece of evidence.

And no one discusses the fact that the Trump organization may have actually paid for the Russian hackers.   Everyone is busy being upset that the white house is a disorganized mess and he plays golf every weekend.

Shut up about the golf!  I don’t care.

What do I get upset about? How much weight should I put on various things that swing the outrage barometer on the internet.   I refuse to jump into rage for every stupidity that Trump etal do.  He is a fountain of it and raging over minor stupidities makes the huge ones seem less large.  I think that is at least part of why there isn’t more outrage at the potential Treason.

But I also cannot deny that a situation where citizens seek anonymity when exercising free speech because they fear retribution by the leader of the government – that is bad.  That is not a pimple, the way a disorganized event is.  That feels more like an infection in our government.  People in this country should not be afraid to speak out against the government.  Ever.

Am I making it bigger than it is?  It’s not like he’s sending the FBI to arrest people who speak against him.  He’s lighting torches in social media mobs.  The thing is – that is effectively stopping some people from speaking out.

He is undermining trust in our government and is using social media to intimidate people.  Those things are bad. But it feels nebulous.  Which perhaps makes it feel less important to me.  Especially when I compare it to:

He may have colluded with a foreign government to get elected!!!  This is just mind boggling and it never sits at the top of the news cycle for more than a moment.  We need a march about that!

I’m glad we march about science and climate change and women’s rights – but our President probably committed Treason!  Let’s get organized about that.  Let’s blast the social media with that outrage!

But no.  Golf.  Golf, we get endless stupid memes about.

Thunderstorms and Alerts Systems

I got woken up by a thunderstorm at 7am.  A proper one with the cracks right overhead and lots of rain and hail.

I was wondering if I should get up and check my phone for the alerts, but its such a lovely feeling to be cuddled under the covers and have the storm raging outside. So.  Nope.

Can we talk about the weather alerts on the phones?

Is there a more clear pattern of crying wolf than the severe weather alerts on phones?  They alert you for a severe thunderstorm as though it wasn’t obvious.  They alert you for flash floods.  Again – how is that alert going to save my life?  I will see the flood.  My choices happen when facing it  and are not changed by having had an alert that flash flooding is possible.

Then to make the whole thing stupider they send you multiple alerts for the same thing.

So that I no longer feel any real threat if the alert goes off.  No one does.  When an actual tornado comes through no one will even look up at the alerts.

And the Tornado is the thing that I do need to act ahead of time for.  Utterly ridiculous system.