Sometimes I need to be reminded that the world is not Entirely Awful.

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I had a bad week.  This means that when I looked at the world and my life all I could see was disaster.  I felt like I was on a short road to Dystopia.

But then the smoke curtains lift and I can things a bit more clearly.  And then when I look, I can see that there is always something good.  Someone good.  Things that matter and are good happen.

There are always helpers.  It’s a terribly good thing to remember.

 

Lab Grown Meat

Scientists are growing meat in labs.  They are taking stem cells from a cow and then growing the muscle cells.  It’s still in very early stages.  But it seems like a likely solution for some of our basic problems of providing food for our future without killing our planet and ourselves.

It also seems vaguely horrific so far.  Certainly if you watch this brief video it doesn’t seem appetizing.  But that is to be expected.  It’s early in the development, the only thing they have is tiny strings of white “meat”.  It’s white because there is no blood feeding it.  It probably tasteless because there is no fat cell accompanying it.  It’s early.  But it is a demonstration of possibility.

The implications of this are far reaching.  Literally.  Imagine taking such a kit to Mars to feed the inhabitants there.  The fact is that if you can clone meat, you can also clone the wheat and vegetables. And voila – we have solved food in outer space.

Cloning meat will eliminate a huge amount of greenhouse gases produced by raising animals for food.  This is good. It will eliminate the horrific way we treat animals in giant factory farms and slaughter houses.  Fewer and fewer family farms exist anymore and with their loss came the terrible cruel treatment of animals in the name of efficiency.

But Lab Meat is also very sad to me.  The food we eat is more than the cell.  It’s the particular combination of cells that make it taste good.  A strawberry grown in hydroponics tastes different than a strawberry grown in the ground in your garden.  It’s because the plant, and therefore the fruit, is absorbing a different set of nutrients.  There is also a different set of stresses on the plant, which I would guess would make the plant change slightly.  Even after they perfect their meat cells and combine it with the appropriate other cells of fat and blood, the lab grown food will almost certainly lack that earthy good flavor of food grown normally.  We will be missing something important to the enjoyment of our lives.

Also, because humans are humans, people with money will be able to buy “real” food and people without enough money will be stuck with Lab Meat.  It is always the the way.

I don’t suppose that is anywhere near the immediate future though.  I expect to be dead before Lab Meat is perfected and so broadly available.  And for once I’m grateful that I won’t be around to see the future.

 

 

We all change

But it’s worrying.

What if future me is someone present me wouldn’t like? What if I stop caring about what other people need or think and just care about me?

How do I stop that from happening?  Should I write down what I am, what I believe right now and make sure I adhere to it like a religious fundamentalist adheres to their holy book?

Should I really stop change and thought from happening?   Because it isn’t like present me is the President of All of the Mes who will ever be.  I don’t know anything about future me, but maybe there are things I don’t know that make future me the right me.  Although I cannot imagine a future where not caring about other humans is ever a good plan…

Any strict adherence to one ideal stops me from thinking, doesn’t it?  I don’t have to think through an issue because I have it referenced in black and white.  There’s the answer of how I think.

Ultimately, I think I will risk my possible evolution away from things that are important to current me in order to maintain my ability to think through and consider myself in relation to the world at ever stage of my life.

 

In the muddy middle

I’ve been struggling this weekend with my depression, all the while contemplating hopefully a possible path to having ECT to treat it.

Depression doesn’t usually conjure images of hope but somewhere in the mire of stillness is this small ray of hope.

See, that’s the thing about depression and life in general.  Nothing is ever entirely one thing.  We are never really living in extreme in our head, but we feel compelled to describe our thoughts and feelings and opinions that way.

We see any sort of contradiction in thought or emotion as being hypocrisy or making a statement false.  We have fallen into this binary world where everything must one thing or another, when in fact, very little is actually just one way.

Life is not clean.  Its not divided simply into halves for us to choose.  Its a big field of possibilities and many of them can co-exist inside our heads, inside the world.

In morality, most of us would condemn murder.  But we have all recognized at least once some situation where a murder seemed justified.  The father who beat his child’s sexual molester to death, the idea of sending a time traveling assassin to kill Hitler…. Somewhere, at sometime you have considered a murder as not contemptible.

In politics, most have some kind of bias as liberal or conservative, but when you talk to individuals, they will often identify in some fashion with platform position of the other guy.  Many liberals feel the government should be more monetarily conservative.  Many conservatives have positive feelings about gay marriage.

Take something that is objective.  The colors black and white.  Except.  No.  The human brain decides a color based on context.  So that colors stop being exactly one color.  They change based on context.  Remember the dress?

There is no right or wrong.   There is no liberal or conservative.  There is not even black and white.

We need to stop pretending that life is a T/F test.  It’s not.  Extremism is fueled by this thought that every question has a clean simple answer.

As humans, we would be far better off if we recognized that life isn’t clean.  Its a big muddy mess.  And inside your head are lots of ideas that don’t necessarily seem to belong together – but they exist there anyway.  And that is OK.  Because that is the way life is.  Complicated.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. ~Walt Whitman

Lost: Sense of Humor

I don’t get April Fools.  It’s a variation on practical jokes that I also don’t get.  But stupider – because of course we all get that its April 1st. so….

I don’t think I have ever laughed at the implausible, the elaborate, the stupid, the mean or the subtle lies that get told in the name of “good humor”.

I’m not sure what its point is.  Indeed, no one is even sure how we started doing this particular tradition.  Scholars speculate, but no one seems quite sure.

I suppose it’s good in that it’s participatory and it reinforces those group bonds we have when we all agree that this is a thing we do at a particular time.  But I find it particularly pointless.

Its only agreeable trait is that it doesn’t appear to be commercialized the way so many of our holidays are.  It truly is a non-money making celebration.  If celebration is what you would call a world wide day of tricking people.

Anyway.  Enjoy the day.  I guess.

Canadian Geese.   

goose201I am not a fan.

I used to think they were nice until I worked someplace that had three ponds, two in front of the entrance to the building, requiring me to navigate a narrow path that held a multitude of geese.   And that’s when I realized that Canadian Geese are really just militant bat shit crazy birds.

Trust me on this.   They are evil and they plotting to take over the suburbs.  It’s just a matter of time before they are elected to government positions.

DON’T be fooled by adorable pictures.  These are asshole birds.  AND they have no self regulation on their sanitary habits.  In other words, geese poop all over the damn place.

I have advice for those of you young novices on how to deal with goose patrols.  NEVER show any weakness.  NEVER.  Look them in the eye and keep walking toward your objective, even if they are in the way.  They expect you to walk around.  But that is weakness.  Do not do it.  They will move.

If you show weakness they will attack for arbitrary reasons that no doubt seem valid in their brains.  But since their brains are the size of peanut, we can assume there is no valid reason.  So don’t show weakness.

If one attacks or shows aggression, it will mark you to all the others.  So never show weakness.

I’ll be honest.  It is only the strictest sense of animal loving integrity that stops me from buying a shot gun and slaughtering them wholesale.  They are dicks.

Get some Perspective

Stop being afraid of being bombed by a terrorist.

Unless you live in Syria or similar locality, your odds of dying or being injured while driving to work are far far far greater.

You aren’t afraid to drive to work.  And no one is spending billions of dollars to save you from death by driving to work.

In fact, you may not realize it, but if you live in North America or Europe you really don’t experience much in the way of terrorism from ISIS.  You don’t realize it because our media don’t report too much on the horrible terrorists attacks in the Middle East and Africa.

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Can’t find the original to attribute this.  A correction – It should be San Bernardino, not San Diego. Also Baghdad, Not Bagdad

As you might naturally conclude, ISIS is almost universally hated in the Muslim World.

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Metrocosm:

 

So, lets assume that you are a Syrian Refugee.  Your sister was killed 4 feet from you and you have fled with your family.  But now you are separated from your family who are all in different refugee camps.  No country wants you because they have ignorantly branded all Muslims as terrorists.  So now people think you are the very thing you hate so much.  Imagine how unfair and horrifying that would feel as you remember holding your dead sister in your arms screaming in terror and anger at ISIS.

Muslims are not our enemies.  They are not evil.  They are humans.  Just like you and me and they are being persecuted by both ISIS and Western Nations.  ISIS, I won’t try to explain.

But us.  We are treating them like garbage out of ignorance and fear.  Its horribly unfair and stupid.  Stop adding disdain to their horror.

Stop the Panic.  Get some Perspective.

Stop feeding the terrorism with irrational fear. Start treating your fellow humans with compassion and kindness.

I’m worried about the polarization

of human political discussion.

In my lifetime, I’ve never before felt like the everyone is either a Conservative or a Liberal. I didn’t even think about their political thoughts.  I just met them as people.  Their political leanings didn’t enter into my judgement of their character.  But over the last 10 years, I have evolved an unconscious bias of judging people based on conservative or liberal.   ITS VERY DISTURBING.

The reason that I do this new character assessment is that for the last 10 years I have been breathing the ether of the internet on a daily basis.   When I’m on Twitter or Tumblr or Reddit – politics is everywhere.  Memes abound.  And what is interesting is that these people who post all seem to agree with ME.

Because the internet serves us our portions with algorithms that assess what we like and then give us more of that, our politics become a defining character of our internet experience.  Google, Twitter, Tumblr  all know that I’m liberal.  They feed me what I want to see.

Some of it I do to myself.  I chose my followers in Twitter – my first social media experience based on some things I was avidly interested in at the time.  Those things tend toward the liberal side of the coin – science and skepticism.  Then I started to play Favstar on Twitter.  I naturally followed the other people whose funny tweets I liked.  I, of course, thought tweets that reinforced my own liberal bias were funnier.   So I was choosing my own echo chamber.   I started on tumblr by following all my twitter followers and so it went.

I’m keenly aware that I’m living in an internet bubble because I work in a conservative fish tank.  There are 3 liberals and 47 conservatives where I work.   And this reminds me daily that being a conservative is NOT a character flaw.  Which is the message that is served to me daily in twitter and tumblr.

I’ve tried not to create my own echo chamber at WordPress.  We will see if it works.

Here’s the thing.  These echo chambers isolate our viewpoint.  They reinforce it and coax it out toward the edges of extremism.  Because there is nothing to temper it.  To remind us that perfectly reasonable people have different views.

The isolation of a viewpoint is how they create a terrorist.  They physically isolate them from seeing any other viewpoint and then keep hammering in the same ideas.  And those ideas become the ONLY way.  The only right thing.  It makes an unnatural extremism seem normal and right.

On the internet, we don’t have to physically isolate ourselves to only see one view point.  We only have to go to our favorite hangouts.  And the algorithms and our natural tendency to choose people who agree with us will do the rest.   Of course we all experience real life, so we aren’t in danger of being terrorists, but we ARE in danger of creating an unnatural dichotomy.  Of a confirmation bias that is setting us up for failure.

I’ve read from credible sources that this extreme polarization has happened before in the US, and I suppose it’s happened elsewhere.  But I can’t help seeing that uniqueness of our current lives on the internet is contributing.

That girl with the bad attitude.

I think there are 2 different kinds of “bad attitude” people. (In the US we often label complainers as having a bad attitude)

There’s people who resent having a job that for one reason or another they don’t like. So everything is wrong and they have no interest in a solution because they get their satisfaction from the complaint.

And then there’s the people who care. They care deeply and they get angry when things are going badly and no one is fixing it. They complain as well.

A key to good management is sorting the difference. You can turn the people people who care into idea generating dynamos. They come up with effective ideas and make managers look awesome.

The thing is – it is easy to just lump anyone who gripes into a pile of bad attitude and dismiss them with a big “no one likes change” response. But the reality is that it is a bad management technique not to listen to anyone. And it is worse if you can’t discern who is complaining because they resent the job and who is complaining because they actually care about the job.

Complaints are the most important thing a manager can listen to. That is where you get the information you need to make things better.

Foolish Assumptions

So, the other day a troll landed on my site and told me I couldn’t use the term “It’s a Thought” because he wrote a book with that name.

I decided not to feed the troll and among the very valid reasons was a petty one.  I thought he used “It’s” wrong because he used an apostrophe.  I have been using its instead of it’s for the contraction it is.  Convinced that I was doing it right.

Then K E Garland and I started to chat about it and she pointed out, quite kindly, that I was wrong.  

Here’s the thing.  I was utterly sure.  I didn’t question myself.  I didn’t check it.  I was SURE so there was no need to check it.

Think about that for a while.  I mean apostrophes are unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  It’s just a funny “I’m an idiot” story.  I have had this happen to me before.  On a much larger and more soul horrifying way.  But it points to the fact that I am wrong about other things that I don’t even know to question.

How many things in my life are there that I am so convinced of that I don’t even think about them and I’m WRONG.  How Many?     This is a silly reminder to stay vigilant to my assumptions.

Hundreds and Hundreds of tiny assumptions and some of them are WRONG.