December 21, 2012

Not Lying to Your Children About Santa: A Christmas Compromise

My adamant refusal to let my daughter believe in Santa Claus is one of my least popular belief systems.

For the small minority of us whose childhood trauma resulted in parental resentment, it couldn't be simpler. We don't want our children to similarly resent us.

But for those who transitioned out of adolescence without spite, they fear my child will lose a sense of magic they remember so fondly of as a kid.

My rebuttal to date has been, "It's the presents that make it magical. Not who they're from."

They disagree. And I'm not entirely sure. So, what about this for a compromise?

What if I simply don't go out of my way to stop her belief, similarly to how I don't go out of my way to convince her the Transformers aren't real. "Now you know the Decepticons are just pretend, right sweetie?!? They're NOT real!"

I'm comfortable with the larger world of make believe we all learn to separate in our minds (some better than others).

But, I just can't lie to my daughter...about this at least.

December 20, 2012

A Post-Newton Pre-Shouting Primer on Gun Control

The United States does indeed have the most gun violence and least restrictive gun laws out of any developed country.

However, individual states and cities in the United States with the most restrictive gun laws (see Washington D.C. and Chicago) tend to have the most gun violence. For instance, my home city of Chicago is on track to reach a haunting 3,000 shootings by year end.

But, are these really contradictions? Couldn't it be that Chicago instituted these harsh gun laws in an attempt to solve an existing problem? Absolutely. It would be absurd to suggest "no-gun" policies created the problem. But, as this year's data continues to sadly stream in, it would be equally absurd to claim these policies solved it.

Surprisingly, it turns out that those who act out in murderous rampages don't respect gun-free zones. In fact, gun-free zones such as malls and schools are where mass shootings most often occur.

It was sad to see last Friday turn into a "This proves my point about gun control!" shout-fest, well before the facts of the Newton case were in. Some might argue we needed to start talking about solutions while all eyes were on Newton - that this was just another example of a growing trend of mass gun violence in this country (it's actually not).

The problem with this is people think they can throw out your entire argument when the present situation didn't unfold like you originally thought.

Because initial arguments such as "How did someone with reported mental illness receive a gun permit?!?" could be later shot down with, "Ha! It wasn't his gun! It was his mom's!" While, of course, the crux of your argument was really his ease of access. But if you had waited, you could have better constructed your argument to compete against the gut feelings people tend to have regardless of statistics.

With all that nuance in mind, you may now resume shouting.

December 17, 2012

6 AM? What am I, a milkman?

I'm still stuck on my recent discovery that while I no longer find the same jokes funny that I did at the age of 13, new 13-year olds do.

It makes me want to add comedy to my theory of transitional art. That one needs to get through slapstick comedy and yo mama jokes before thinking Russell Brand is funny (this is his audition from the film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Because Brand's comedy is a play off everything else. It's a new punchline to the same joke. (It also involves a rich vocabulary and a bit of pretention, which I can't help but admire.) But it only makes sense if you've already heard the joke.

For instance, if someone provides you with a set-up line referencing 6 in the morning...

"6 AM? What am I, a milkman?" is the correct and obvious answer. As a humorist, this should be your instinctual response.  But more often, we're attempting to entertain an audience who has already heard that joke before. So, you need to go further. And this is what I argue Brand does better than just about anybody else right now. His humor fools you. His punchlines are unguessable.

Now, many comedians do this well. For instance, Tommy Johnagin, one of my favorite stand-ups from the last five years offered his take on that same punchline with, "I don't get up in single digits."

Same joke. New angle on the delivery. Made me laugh again.

Now, I haven't heard the Russell Brand take on this premise. But I assume it would be something like, "What sins are you attempting to hide from the sun?"

It's all the same joke. But the new slant prevents staleness.

Always be listening for set-up lines. But don't offer the easy punchline, unless there are 13-year olds present.

December 10, 2012

I Respect Your Beliefs, As Long as They're Especially Crazy

People's diet choices, their political choices, we fight them on.

We question the nutrient density of a vegan lifestyle if we believe differently.

We question the long-term fiscal responsibility of a Keynesian agenda if we believe differently.

Yet, if they're Buddhist, we respect that without question. If they're Mormon, we respect that without question. Oh, you believe in an invisible god? That's cool. That's your religion.

Or, perhaps it verges on psychosis?

We respect people's right to their beliefs, as long as they're especially crazy.

Everything else, we fight them on.

I think it's time to put religion on the table with everything else.

December 07, 2012

Digital Hoarders: Choosing to Delete

It won't make a good TV show. Because, it's much harder to see.

But, I'm afraid it's going to become a problem.

Saving everything, because we can.

Hoarding digital garbage.

It's not as visibly unsettling as your plastic milk top collection.

But, it's time to be free from both. Choose to delete.

December 05, 2012

Telling Old Jokes to 13-Year Old Boys for the First Time

I overheard two teenage boys talking 'Family Guy'.

The scenes and jokes they recalled surprised me - particularly the things that drove them to hysterics.

It wasn't "new" humor. It wasn't a sophisticated evolutionary deviation from what we've all experienced the past 20 years.

But then I remembered, they haven't experienced our last 20 years. The only reason I keep evolving my humor is to keep myself and my wife interested and entertained.

But every year, there will be a new generation of 13-year olds on the precipice of understanding the beauty of foundation-level sarcasm.

You don't need to be original to make people laugh - as long as it's their first time.

December 04, 2012

Using Irrational Optimism to Successfully Gamble on NFL Football

Every morning, I fill my coffee mug to the brim before carefully attempting to climb into my car.

About twice a week, I spill my coffee while doing so. While these spill sessions should teach me to fill my mug slightly lower the next time, my habits do not change. Because I don't want "less" coffee. I just won't spill it next time.

I am irrationally optimistic. And perhaps, so too, are we all. At least Dan Ariely seems to think so (my favorite TED talk ever.)

So, I think the question we're all left asking is how can we use this intrinsic knowledge of human irrationality to successfully gamble on professional football games?

NFL BETTING RULES
When betting on professional football games, you don't just pick the winner. You have to bet against the "spread". So, let's say the Patriots are playing at home against the Browns. You can't just bet the Patriots, because who would bet against you? That's what the "spread" is for. So, let's say the spread is (-8). Your betting options are to either bet that the Patriots will win by more than 8, or bet that the Browns will lose by less than 8. This spread fluctuates as bets come in, in order to try and keep even money on both sides of the bet. That way, no matter who wins, Vegas wins, since they take a commission cut from all winning bets.

So, is there an edge to be had in a game against really smart analysts who have a lot of money vested in this, who constantly look for advantages and instantly adjust to match the best information possible? Well, it's incredibly difficult. In fact, many "experts" are well under 50% for the year.

But are these "experts" immune to irrational optimism? I wondered. So, here was my theory, based on a noticed flaw in my own logic. By default, I had been picking the better team, even before I saw the spread. And only switched to the underdog if I saw a spread number that convinced me to change. But, like Ariely mentioned, it's always easier NOT to do something. So if even a slight majority were doing what I had been doing, there might be an irrationally high number on the 'better' team.

That's the theory I came up with 5 weeks ago. So to rectify this irrationality, for the last five weeks, I've been picking the worse team by default. Then, only switching my pick if the spread convinces me to do so. Since then, I'm first in my 20-team league.

Might I be confusing correlation for causation? Perhaps. I'm only 5 weeks in to the theory.

But, at least I'm not gambling anymore. I'm no longer trying to get lucky. I'm simply betting on human irrationality.

November 29, 2012

Venting Isn't Helpful

Venting isn't helpful. It rationalizes your hatred.

You must separate the individual from their behavioral patterns you find to be difficult.

Venting rarely accomplishes this.

November 28, 2012

The Selfish Man Wasn't Always That

The kid who grows up with a video camera perpetually attached to his hand isn't a materialistic sell out.
The kid who grows up wanting to be President isn't held hostage at the mercies of special interest groups. The kid who grows up watching episode after episode of Perry Mason isn't sucking the very essence of the medical profession dry with frivolous malpractice suits.

The truth is, our circumstances can indeed change our motivations over time. But, the politician isn't inherently corrupt. The lawyer isn't inherently crooked. The film director isn't inherently a sell-out.

Deep within them are still the children who desire to do beautiful things.


November 27, 2012

Finding Middle Ground with the Environmentalists

He doesn't take environmentalists seriously, because he finds the value of a seal and a human to be intrinsically different.

He doesn't take global warming seriously, because he believes their $80/ton carbon tax solution to be an economic death sentence.

And so he retaliates. He lowers the value of a seal to nothing, which is less than he truly believes. He denies any and all consequences of living on a warmer planet, which is less than he truly believes.

November 26, 2012

Respect Must Always Be Earned

The day will never come when you can walk into a room and command respect simply because of your title or position. Respect must always be earned.

Consider the President of the United States. Half the country disdains him. The other half thinks they could do some things better.

So what makes you think that getting a promotion - becoming a manager - also grants with it some sort of commanded respect? Now, those who report to you might provide you with some sort of reverent deference - but only because you possess firing privileges over them. We must not confuse that kind of quasi-fear with genuine respect.

To get that, you must earn it. Every time. And with every person.

November 12, 2012

Rethinking the Now Non-Threatening Romney

Once someone's no longer a threat to be in charge of you - they instantly become a little harder to dislike. Consider the Republican quasi-admiration Bill Clinton has garnered post-Presidency. So, I started thinking about it last week - what a "CEO" President would have looked like.

I think the average person would have liked Romney as President.

Of course, not after beating "their guy". But in general. The guy's fairly middle of the road - in practice if not rhetoric. He's where a lot of people are. Perhaps only because he specifically caters to the masses. He governs, rather than legislates.

I think most people would have liked most of the decisions he would have made. Of course, I'm only saying that because I know it's no longer an option.

November 09, 2012

Moneyball Works For Everything

This year, Nate Silver shocked the world by correctly predicting, to a remarkable degree, how each and every state would turn in the Presidential election - despite many Republican pollsters predicting a Republican edge...

But I wasn't shocked...because Silver was 49/50 in 2008.

This stuff works. Not just for baseball. Not just for politics. And it's not computers replacing people, either. But people USING computers, and in-depth and beautiful data analysis to make better decisions than ever before. Get on board folks.

(My league's fantasy football rankings as of this morning - want to guess who I am?)


November 07, 2012

The Republic Will Stand...

FOR THE JOYOUS
Do not stop. Your desire to pursue the alleviation of the social injustices you see does not end at the voting booth. There are non-profits around the world doing amazing things. Join them. Help them. Do not wait until others are forced by legislative mandate to fund these next social programs you desire, but pick your priorities, and work toward them yourself, while persuading others to join your fight.

FOR THE DESPONDENT
Do not stop. A boring rich, white robot just about tied the coolest President we've ever had.

November 06, 2012

Why Hurricane Sandy Doesn't Really Matter and Why it Does

Presence in the Age of Trivialities
by Quinton Peeples

It came as no surprise that as Hurricane Sandy brought devastation to the Eastern Seaboard, the internet lit up with arguments, tweets and Facebook posts about the Disney/Lucasfilm merger. We are what we practice and we practice trivialization on a daily, almost hourly, basis. We have second screen experiences, scrolling headlines, live “timelines”, niche markets, microbrews and on and on and on. While I enjoy having choices, what has happened along the way is an unintentional and devastating reality: we are unable to stop choosing. We have lost our ability to sit, to simply be present with something painful and discern its relative value. While I am not criticizing a serious discussion of entertainment conglomerates merging, I am concerned that in the current context, it is better suited for a later date. We are limited, finite beings, with limited and finite energies and resources. Our ability to choose, and choose wisely what we think about and engage reveals who we are and what we value. Averting my gaze from people in need to discuss rich people getting richer, says an awful lot about me. Things I might not want to consider. And why should I? Someone just “liked” my post on Pinterest.

The Subjectivity of Horror
by Eric Olsen

Quinton argues that Hurricane Sandy is one of those moments that deserves our full attention. Perhaps because of its cataclysmic nature (and powerful imagery), its financial destruction (~$30 billion), its human devastation (current death toll: 110), and likely also, its placement in beloved New York City. It is unquestionably a tragedy of epic proportions. And yet, like Quinton mentioned, we are limited, finite beings. And we are surrounded by tragedy. There is so much horror in the world that if we choose to focus on it all, we run the risk of being swallowed up altogether - we could mourn with those who mourn until we question whether there is indeed goodness left in the world at all.

So, often without choosing, we prioritize what we allow our heart to hurt for. And Chicago's record homicides this summer (we're on track for 500 for the year) hit me harder than Sandy. Now, I can actually argue that Chicago's tragedy is "worse" objectively. Acts of man, not mother nature. Acts of hatred. Pride. Jealousy. Evil. But, it's probably just because I live here. New York is a somewhat fictional Woody Allen backdrop in my mind - despite having been there. Chicago is real to me. And there will be always be subjectivity in what we find important - what we feel connected to - what we cry for. If my daughter were diagnosed with diabetes, I would likely devote my life to finding a cure. Many in that situation do. The circumstance they find themselves in instantly changes their empathy.

I don't want to live in the trivial world Quinton described. I don't want to ignore the true acts of horror that really exist - to hide in the beauty of the world, of which there is also enough to rejoice in forever. Yet, I don't want to fall in the pit altogether, despite the seeming nobility of lying in the ashes.

November 05, 2012

7 Debate Questions I Wish the Candidates Were Asked

Don't get me wrong. I think saying as little as possible as aggressively as possible is brilliant debate strategy. I really do. But here are 7 questions I'd love to hear honest answers for, just for the sake of our greater understanding. Feel free to add your own questions, or answer those you'd like in a way that empathizes with the "gray" nature of the questions themselves.

  1. What if any ethical concerns do you have with the use of drone strikes?
  2. What do you see as the pros and cons of decriminalizing non-violent actions, such as drug use?
  3. Under either a universal or single-payer healthcare system, does the government then have a fiscal responsibility to either incentivize people to make better health choices, or penalize individuals for preventable healthcare costs caused by their lifestyle choices?
  4. Often, even the most well-intentioned legislation has unintended negative economic consequences. Should the sheer complexity of our economic markets slow down our belief that any legislative interventions we make can be moderate, predictable and wholly positive?
  5. Does your foreign policy distinguish between acts of national defense and acts of national “offense”?
  6. In late 2011, it was still illegal for openly gay men and women to serve in the U.S. military. Is it silly of us to assume the federal government can ever be a true leader in social progress, rather than a laggard follower of mass opinion?
  7. Should our social service budgets (and all budgets for that matter) be prioritized on a good-per-dollar basis? Therefore, we stop doing quite as many “good” things in order to focus on the “great” things – the ones that produce the most economic good per dollar?

October 26, 2012

The Myth Behind the Chase vs. the Catch

The misconception of comparing the chase with the catch is the incorrect belief that the "catch" is a finality.

Because 50% of people end up saying, "You no longer have me."

The chase never ends.

October 15, 2012

Where Can I Find Your Music Online?

My friend asked me this question the other day. And I wasn't sure.

Then, I realized how crazy that was. How do I not know where my own music lives online?

Well, the reason is that I wanted to get paid for it. So, I paid $ to get my music listed on sites where I could make $ off it.

Shortly after, I discovered the $ it cost to get my music listed was > than the $ I made off the sales.

Therefore, my 'Why Every President Sucked' is only up in iTunes and Spotify for a little while longer. My Relevant Reverence stuff has all expired.

This is silliness. A simple database issue. I used other's databases in order to try and protect my music, and have ended up making it an impossibility for people to listen to that which I created for that specific purpose.

October 05, 2012

Minimalism Week: Feng Shui Your Psyche

We're talking minimalism this week.

More than just materialistic minimalism, there's a whole other life minimalism strategy focused on mental heath, based on the concept that your brain is a fatiguable muscle.


Every notice that Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day? Every notice Mark Zuckerberg does the same? I recently got some possible insight into this fact through author Michael Lewis' recent interview of President Obama for Vanity Fair.

"I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one's ability to make further decisions. It's why shopping is so exhausting. "You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia."
Think about it. The days when you get home from work with big plans to get something done, and you just can't? You collapse on the couch. And it's not always as if you've spent the day conducting heart surgery in the E.R. Your mind is simply tired from the junk of the day.

So what if we try to automate the unimportant decisions in our life, so we can focus our full attention on the things worthy of it?

October 03, 2012

Minimalism Week: Clothing Simplicity is Easier for Dudes

We're talking minimalism this week.

Minimalism Example #3:
Cut your wardrobe to 7 essential items, and wear only those for a month.

Jen Hatmaker's book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess recounts a 7-month social experiment in her own life, in which for one month, she ate only 7 different foods. The next month, her wardrobe consisted of only 7 different items. You get the idea. Short-term (doable) attempts at rediscovering what's really necessary.

So, there's a big part of me that really likes the clothing minimalism concept - long-term.

1 - white dress shirt
1 - gray dress pants
1 - black dress shoes
1 - gym shoes
1 - light sweater
1 - jeans
1 - white t-shirt
(She gives you socks and underwear as freebies.)

Because I dress fairly "classic" as it is, and almost prefer the aesthetic of minimalism. (Think Uncle Jesse). But, there's two hold-ups here. One, I work in a creative field, and two, I work in an office setting. Would this repetitive nature of dress (making others think I'm homeless or simply have awful style) damage my career/reputation?

I also think this method has got to be a lot harder on girls than guys. You actually NEED 30 outfits, because your golden blouse is so memorable it'd be super awkward if you wore it 3 times a week. Then again, maybe you could just minimalize your color palette. Go the white/black/light method that I chose for my own fictitious wardrobe.

This one's interesting. Anyone see any other big downsides here?

Yes, I know the right answer is you shouldn't care what other people think of you.

October 02, 2012

Minimalism Week: Apple or PC

We're talking minimalism this week.

Minimalism Example #2:
Do you buy an expensive laptop that lasts a while, or a cheap laptop you have to replace every 2 years?

Because buying a cheap $300 laptop was a no-brainer for us compared to buying a Macbook. But our first one barely last 2 years. Then, we bought another $300 replacement. And it's been awful, too. I can't imagine doing it again.

Similarly, we loved buying the Magic Bullet over the expensive Vitamix. But we're on our 4th.

At what point are we just being stupid through our attempts at being fiscally smart?

Give me answers, as well as new examples to talk about this week.

Yes, I know the right answer is "you don't need a laptop."



October 01, 2012

Minimalism Week: Home Decoration for Perpetual Thanksgiving

A whole week on minimalism sounds a little much, no? ...get it?

But, as the concept of "life minimalism" has become more and more mainstream (perhaps due to financial necessity), and as my friends are getting more and more involved in evangelizing the movement itself, I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and want to talk this one through.

In general, I'm not sure many people disagree with the premise.

Spend less money. Care less about money. Spend less time on the non-important. Spend more time on the things you love most.

But, let's talk through some examples this week.

Minimalism Example #1:
Furnishing your house for special occassions or for everyday living?

We buy a dining room table that seats 10 so we're prepared to do so. Except not only do we only have 2.5 people living in our household (which would occupy only 1/4 of this table at mealtime), we don't even eat in that room at all.

The average American dining room is perefectly designed for Thanksgiving...once a year...if you host.

Our living room also comfortably seats 5. Twice what we need.

Now, I think being able to entertain is awesome. I think living in community is everything.

But theoretically, you could furnish your house for everyday living, and spend the savings to take your friends out for extravagant events throughout the year, right?

When I think about the furniture in my house I use daily, it makes me wonder if that should become the standard to which you decide to buy it?

Give me answers, as well as new examples to talk about this week.

September 27, 2012

Only Hire Artists

Artists are unrealistic in their brainstorming. They are overly attached to their ideas. They are moody.

But they care deeply. They love beauty. And they are passionate about creating.

Why would you want to work with anyone else?

September 21, 2012

The Purpose of Art is to Communicate

Art is a blessing to its creator, but how selfish to be only that.

The artist should spend half their time discovering something worth saying.

And the other half determining ways to say it most beautifully.

September 19, 2012

Art That Persuades: Love Through Song or Show?

I often complain about the empty nature of modern music. That most songs don't even attempt to communicate. Catchy without content.

This often segues to my broad and incorrect dismissal of guy-girl romance songs as being too shallow for the beautiful and powerful potential that is the art of music.

Yet, at the same time, I find myself rooting for the love storyline in every new TV show I watch.

So, where does my hypocrisy come from? I obviously don't think we are out of things to say/show/feel in this grandiose world of love. So, what's the difference?

Is it simply because it's harder to build tension and work to a satisfying resolve in the huge span of a 3-minute song - whereas a season or more of television gives you plenty of time to fall for the love story yourself?

More simply put, do the brevity of songs require a different way of telling a love story?

September 17, 2012

Getting Smarter vs. Getting Art'r

Not until college did I develop a real passion for learning. But, I fell pretty hard for it.

And for the past few years, I've been relatively obsessed with becoming the smartest person on Earth. But now (perhaps due to the fact I have not yet become that), I'm questioning the tactic altogether.

Whether or not possessing knowledge is all that valuable if you are unable to persuade others of its merits?

Whether or not it is even mere knowledge that truly persuades, or whether art is more effective at doing so?

For instance, I can provide you with economic statistics that speak to the real societal problems of gender preference, neglect and abuse.

Or I can show you this video.


And the video wins.

Because while knowledge is persuasive. So is emotion. So is beauty. So is music. And the arguments get better when you include them.

So, while I currently have what I believe are the "arguments" for a few things I am particularly passionate about, should my next pursuit be, not to enhance these argument, but rather determine the most artistically compelling way to present the information I currently have?

We're going to keep diving into this this week, until you've convinced me what to do with the next small part of my life.

September 14, 2012

Why Declaring Yourself 'Independent' is Stupid

Declaring yourself 'independent' is stupid.

Now, this isn't a "you're throwing away your vote" rant. It's about the uselessness of the word itself.

You saying, "I'm independent", tells me absolutely nothing about your political convictions.

I get it. Believe me, I get it. Neither of our two major political parties accurately define you. In fact, perhaps the hypocrisy, inconsistency and corruption downright embarrass you - so much so you wouldn't dare have someone make the mistake of lumping you in with one of...them.

And so, you declare 'independent'. But, that tells me nothing.

Perhaps it's because another term would suffer the same downside. If you claim "libertarian", I might paint you as one who either hates poor people or really likes weed.

But that mistake would be on me - my misunderstanding of the definition of the word.

Whereas, your claim of "independent" offers no definition at all. It communicates nothing. It's entirely useless.

So let's stop using it.

September 11, 2012

Do Pragmatists Lean Democrat and Idealists Lean Republican?

Last week, I ran a quick social experiment on Facebook and Twitter to test a theory - whether or not a correlation existed between those who self-identify as either "pragmatist" or "idealist", and whether or not these might be more helpful philosophical identifiers when it comes to our political debate.

This theory stemmed from anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann's research and subsequent book, "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God".

While Luhrmann is quite delicate regarding the intent of her research, I will more crudely summarize it as, "How is it possible that smart, rational people can believe in an invisible God?"

The topic lends itself to interesting political curiosities, and yet, Luhrmann intentionally avoids them. Yet, she makes one particular comment I found incredibly insightful.
"Secular liberals want to create the social conditions that allow everyday people, behaving the way ordinary people behave, to have fewer bad outcomes. When evangelicals vote, they think more immediately about what kind of person they are trying to become - what humans could and should be, rather than who they are."
And this is a different debate than we're currently having. Between what's possible and what's realistic?
Between how we SHOULD live? vs. how we should govern based on how we DO live?

For example, a conservative's malice toward the Social Security system may not only be perceived fiscal unsustainability, but that it incentivizes unpreparedness. That (ideally) we would be better off if people all planned ahead. The liberal replies, "But people don't, and if you take away social security, you'll have 50 million new homeless people tomorrow." The conservative counters with, "But they should plan ahead!" The liberal replies, "But they don't!"

This theory might also explain a common critique of inconsistency with a conservative's claim in a desire for small government, while simultaneously desiring deep government intervention on social issues. While this is assuredly hypocritical if small government is truly their desired end game, a belief in both fiscal and social conservatism could be considered intellectually consistent with their personal philosophy of "idealism" - what they desire man to become.

So, did my social experiment and your results match my theory?

No. This theory - that self-identified pragmatists would lean democrat, and self-identified idealists would lean republican, only barely edged out the opposite, 9 to 8.

Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)

Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Pragmatist (R)
Pragmatist (R)
Pragmatist (R)

However, I wonder if this variance stems from a definitional problem - what we all thought "idealism" meant Let me know what you think now - if this more comprehensive explanation changes your vote.

Because all too often, we leave political discussions wondering how the other person can be that stupid? But what if we're trying to create totally different looking end games?

September 07, 2012

How Politically Inconsistent We All Are



This video is not a knock against Democrats.

You could easily make dozens of similar videos poking fun at Republicans.

This is simply a reminder of how incredibly politically inconsistent we all are.

But we don't have to be. Start over.

Thanks to Sean Carter for the recommendation.

August 31, 2012

The Skill of Finding Context: Spotting Straight vs. Satire

Ever seen an article from The Onion get linked to with a shocked, "Can you believe this???" caption from one of your friends attached to it?

No, I can't. And you shouldn't.

Not just because it's from The Onion. But because I expect you to be able to instantly recognize the context of a headline that says "Gay Marine Beaten to Bloody Pulp to Fire Up RNC Crowd."

You shouldn't have to know The Onion writes (amazing) satire. I expect you to be able to recognize the absurdity of absurd statements (even when they're perhaps all too close to potential truth.)

This is a problem I deal with on Facebook fairly often. I use satire (I lie), in the hopes of making people laugh. And to my continued shock, people seem to have a real problem with this. They can't seem to tell the difference - can't spot the context clues.

Now, these people have no context confusion when watching a comedian start off with a line, "So last night, I met this woman..." While this premise is very plausible, we assume it's not true. Comedians tell jokes. The context clues aren't in the wording itself, but in the fact that the speaker is a comedian.

Of course, that prevents a guy like Bill Murray from being able to answer any normal question with any sort of seriousness. If asked what he thinks about the Presidential election, no matter what he replies with, we're going to laugh. Because we have a built-in assumption that he's going to be funny. Bill Murray's existence creates a context clue of satire in our head.

But we need to be able to get past this. We need to be able to recognize satire no matter whom the speaker.

Is this a learnable skill? Because it seems like an incredibly valuable one to possess?

August 29, 2012

The Ethics and Temptations of Driving an Armored Car

An armored truck driver recently admitted to stealing $15,000 from his truck.

Upon his dismissal, the man's boss told reporters who had found humor in the story, "It happens all the time."

It's there every day. Sitting behind you. Bags and bags of cash. The opportunity is always there.

So does the profession of "armored truck driver" really attract a more malicious individual, or do the temptations of those job responsibilities simply bring out the criminal within you?

Or put differently, is Kobe Bryant innately immoral and an adulterous wretch - or might you eventually break to countless women perpetually begging to sleep with you every night?


Were the guys at Lehman brothers innately immoral - or did they just have an easier opportunity than most?

Ever pirated music? Are you immoral? Or was it just really easy to do?

Are we good because of our innate goodness or because of a lack of opportunity to be all that bad?

August 28, 2012

I Don't Care if You Vote for my Guy

I don't care if you vote for my guy.

But I refuse to let you think you're voting for a "slash-and-burn budget cutting extremist" when their most drastic budget actually increases our federal spending over the next 10 years.

I refuse to let you think that just cutting the "pork", the "waste", without touching social security, defense spending or medicare, does anything of real significance to solving our long-term budget problems.

You can vote for whoever you want. As long as you can separate your candidate's fiscal rhetoric from objective fiscal reality.

August 23, 2012

That's Just the Way You Are? Well, it Kind of Sucks.

I'm typically bothered when someone uses the phrase, "That's just the way I am."

Because typically, this is an excuse for one's lack of moral progress.

I'm just a little racist. I'm just a little lazy. I'm just a lot chauvinist.

Well, the "way you are" might suck. How dare you pretend you're stuck there.

August 15, 2012

The Ethics of Paying the Homeless to Be Signage

What if financial planning companies paid homeless people to wear custom-designed and branded t-shirts that said something like,

"If I had saved through Edward Jones, I wouldn't be here right now."

As a marketer, I loved this idea. As a human, I see it as borderline evil.

As a capitalist, I can see the win-win. The homeless guy has a job opportunity (despite it being demeaning, there aren't too many other viable options right now), and Edward Jones gets HUGE PR from it.

Plus, Edward Jones offers all of their new homeless workforce free job training/pre-professional education to mitigate the backlash.

I kind of think this should happen?

August 13, 2012

United By...Well, You Know

We instinctively recognize the power of unity. And so we call for it.

We ask individuals to unite together for the good of our country. Our church. Our workplace.

But, the "what" we are to be united behind is often left unsaid. Because it's so obvious?

And yet, I have absolutely no idea what it is.

An assumed foundation of what America is supposed to be? An assumed design for how the local church might best function? An assumed vision for what all our colleagues are working together toward?

The problem is - I think we have very distinct visions. Wholly and mutually exclusive.

And I'm not sure a call for unity can take place until it is determined what we can all get behind, believe in and be willing to fight for.

August 09, 2012

Why We Think the World is Getting Worse and Worse, and Why We're Wrong

There was a 50% drop in domestic violence from 1993 to 2008.*
There was a 50% drop in physical and sexual abuse against children from the early 90s to 2007.*
There has been an 85% drop in rape since 1991.*
Divorce rates have been falling for the past 25 years.*

Through information saturation and glossy screens, we now have an up-close and personal look at the depravity that exists - forgetting it has always existed.

The world is actually getting better. We just see the "worse" more clearly.

*Reason, April 2012 p. 46-47

August 03, 2012

If You Could PROMISE My Daughter a Future Gold Medal...

My daughter is 1.

And if you could PROMISE me that if we were to take her to the gym for early morning workouts 6 days a week for the next 14 years, that she would be absolutely guaranteed to win an Olympic gold medal...I still wouldn't do it.

I think these kids are crazy. I think their parents are crazy.

One person in the world gets their dream come true - and their life peak occurs at the ripe age of 15.

The rest are given the consolation prize of little to no freedom or fun throughout their childhood, and the resulting chronic depression that stems from getting beaten out by that one said person.

I don't get it.

But it sure is fun to watch, since in my head, they're not real people.

July 31, 2012

Finding Your Roger Ebert: Human Filters Required for the Infinite Internet

20 years ago, Siskel and Ebert were the most practical movie filter we had. Two thumbs up, and you'd probably enjoy your trip to the movies that weekend. Two thumbs down was a warning to stay away.

It was a very helpful system.

Of course, over time, you started learning that when Siskel and Ebert disagreed, you tended to regularly side with one or the other.

Perhaps Ebert's single thumbs up was a better recommendation to your personal preference than the aggregate of the two?

Therein lies the problem with digital recommendation engines like Pandora. Because an aggregate of Bon Iver fans are not going to be nearly as similar to me in their musical tastes as an individual I can find among them.

It's why a news site's "Top 10 Most Read Posts of the Day" are rarely your top 10. As an individual, you just don't have enough overlap with the aggregate. And until Pandora robots REALLY get you, human filters are going to be better at picking out great things.

Until recently, my primary music filter had been Paste mPlayer, a wonderful weekly exposure to new music that I pay $2.99 a month for. Absolutely worth it. But, then my friend Carl Ryan sent me his May 2012 Spotify playlist.

Carl lives in L.A. and has worked in the music business since college, first at Warner Bros. and now at Interscope Records. He eats, sleeps, breathes music. He's at a different concert every night. And we have a lot of overlap in our musical preferences.

His monthly Spotify playlists are simply better than my Paste mPlayer subscription. And he's doing it for free on his own, just to organize his favorite new music for himself.

There's something big here. And it seems kind of old school. Heck, Roger Ebert was doing this in 1980.

We just need to start finding our own Roger Ebert for movies, music, technology, food and everything else.

July 25, 2012

Penn State's Student Rebellion and the Problem with Nationalism

Recently, when rumors arose that Penn State may potentially remove the 900-pound bronzen idol of Joe Paterno from outside Beaver Stadium, a mass student rebellion rang out in support for JoePa.

And from the outside, none of us could understand what they were thinking - still in support for this fallen man, this proven myth?

But, we see this all the time. Next week, you will see massive Russian pride when the Summer Olympics begin. You will see athletes from every country have pride in that which we don't understand.

Nationalism causes you to overlook that which outsiders see so clearly.

July 24, 2012

Rid the Temptation or Fight the Flesh?

During college, I remember hearing a story about a guy who threw away his computer.

He was so serious about sexual purity, he decided to get rid of his greatest temptation to give in.

I remember thinking that was pretty stupid.

Not the desire for purity of course. That was admirable.

But, I remember wondering whether getting rid of the temptation altogether was the same thing as overcoming it?


For, I can chain you to a wall in order to prevent you from making foolish decisions.

But, is that the end-game?

Do we rid the temptation or learn to overcome the flesh altogether?

July 19, 2012

What Makes Us "Us": A Guest Post

Today's guest post is by frequent contributor, Dianna Zisman. We share nearly identical interests, philosophies and senses of humor, so I requested she attempt to find the source of the commonality. To try and find what it is that makes us "us", so we can find more of us, and go build a city together. The following is her thoughtful, humorous and insightful reply.

(guest post by Dianna Zisman)

In our day, video games featured an 8-bit plumber dodging fire-breathing plants while throwing turtle shells at  brown blobs. My voice is in the background of half my cassettes because I had to tape songs I loved off the radio...using more than one cassette player. Long phone calls meant chaining yourself to a wall and meandering around the kitchen for 20 minutes. The allure of 5th Grade computer lab was losing half of your possessions in an ill-conceived attempt to ford the river in Oregon Trail. Our GPS was Rand McNally.

Now? My iPod now has four times the hard drive space of my first computer. My Kindle has over 150 books. I probably sent more e-mail in the last month than handwritten letters in my entire life. I’m no longer startled when my GPS talks back to me (recalculate this, lady). And I’ve taken lessons on how to play the guitar, juggle, and perform surgery (at the same time!) from people I’ve never met, half the world away, on YouTube.

Anyone born between, say, 1977 and 1987 has the unique pleasure of knowing two completely different worlds (pre- and post-computer age) and appreciating bothUnlike those whippersnappers born in the early-to-mid 90s, we can send 20 texts a minute and work a rotary phone. And tell you why Tetris > Halo. At the same time, we don’t look at a ringing cell phone and ask “how do you stop this jukebox from playin’?!?” [actual quote from a friend’s grandma]. We get the most out of social networking because we’re young enough not to scoff at its perceived triviality, yet old enough to understand the best way to use it in combination with other media.

This shapes us beyond the tech, too. A lot of us avoid being stuck in the old v. new paradigm because we say “forget old, forget new...what’s the RIGHT way?” Hence the increasing popularity of a certain political philosophy with us young’uns. Obviously, not everyone in our generation shares the same mentality, but when we open the conversation with “what doesn’t work in our society, why, and what’s the best way to fix
it, grasshoppah?” we attract a lot of like-minded people.

Oh, and just as important: we share an appreciation for Arrested Development. In fact...yeah, forget everything I said above. It’s all about Arrested Development.

July 18, 2012

If Your School Has a Penn State Story

Remember when the Catholic church child abuse stories started to break, and we started thinking these were just random outliers. "Not my church." We had no idea how widespread this behavior and cover-up were.

So, why do we think Penn State is the end of the story here, or even the worst part of it?

Just because it's so inconceivably horrific?

Right now, sports talk radio is full of people debating how hard to come down on Penn State - whether or not to strip away the school's NCAA designation entirely - and the need to send a clear message to other schools.

But, what message does that actually send to schools who are currently sitting on their own cover-up? Who, like Penn State, thought there might be a better way to handle it. To stop the problem without the catastrophic PR consequences.


Now, you're telling me coming forward might mean the certain destruction of the entire University, and potential jail time for me as an accessory?

While coming clean on my own might be better than getting caught, I think I just have to cross my fingers and hope I can get away with the secret forever.

If our goal is for whistle blowers to find the courage to speak out against power, we need to be certain we don't incentivize staying silent.

July 17, 2012

How to Enjoy a Nice Tall Glass of Meth After Dinner

Boy. What a tough day. Time to go home, lay down on the couch, and unwind with a nice tall glass of meth.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against drinking, aside from the liver damage and the family destruction.

I just wonder if there's something about the romantic nature and utilitarian ease of a glass of red wine that makes it is a more socially acceptable form of drug use. Similar to why painkillers are such a growing addiction. It's just a pill. Like my multivitamin.

Now, if imbibing a glass of red wine forced you to rubber cuff your arm heroin-junkie style - there's no way that's taking off.

July 13, 2012

If Amazon Completely Replaces Local Retail

If Amazon completely replaces local retail...which is looking more and more likely...what will our streets start to look like?

What if we begin to not only have a bunch of empty warehouse big-box stores (ex-Kmarts, Best Buys and Circuit City's), but a bunch of smaller empty buildings, too?

Because, in this seemingly inevitable future of instant online-to-real-life gratification, what does a town really need to have nearby?

Restaurants and fresh food grocers (aside from the non-perishables that can now be delivered same-day), and basic service locations, e.g. gas station, hair salon, dentist?

All other retail gone?

It's crazy to think about what a town will look in 10 years. And to think about what we're going to do with all those buildings...

July 12, 2012

Waiting Room Economics: Why a Doctor's Time is More Valuable Than Yours

Your doctor's time is likely more valuable than your own.

In fact, their skills as a specialist likely outweigh the value of any of their patients.

Therefore, having to wait at your doctor's office makes sense.

You tell the patient to come at 9, but you don't plan on seeing them until 9:15. This gives them an acceptable cushion in case they're late, without making them too angry, and ensures the doctor's time is always being maximized.

What I don't understand is a perpetual hour-long wait. I don't understand the economics there, and yet I experience this all the time. And now, with a recent mass addition of healthcare participants to the game, things might get crazy-town.

Solve either problem.

July 10, 2012

Your House. In Bangalore. The Circumstance of Comparison.

If you had your exact same house. Exact same possessions. But positioned squarely in Bangalore - overlooking the slums, would this constant perspective forever remove any notion of feeling sorry for yourself?

Perhaps it's not our circumstance that determines our joy?

July 03, 2012

Give Sympathy. Not Advice.

For better or for worse, Facebook now gives us exclusive access into the highs and lows of our friends and acquaintances.

And I have noticed a peculiar pattern of comments which inevitably arises every time someone makes their small or large tragedy public.

We try and cheer them up.

A cat dies. A bad medical diagnosis. A job loss. We desperately try to fix the situation with a petty turn of phrase.

"Think of all the good times you had with Mittens!"

"Everything's going to turn out ok! I just know it!"

"When one door closes, another one opens!"

Why can't we just let people mourn? Why can't we, just for a moment, allow people to sit in the reality of their suck? Why can't we join them?


When your friends go public with their grief, they aren't looking for your advice. They're looking for your empathy.

So don't try and fix the situation. Because you can't.


Simply say, "I am so terribly sorry."

June 28, 2012

3 Obligatory Observations from Today's SCOTUS Health Care Ruling

Some quick obligatory observations from today's SCOTUS ruling, in which the Supreme Court upheld President Obama's healthcare law, including the individual mandate which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance.

1) Our news organizations are pretty terrible. I'm the first to preach about the benefits of being first-to-market. For instance, Coke is beating Pepsi today primarily because they got there first. Unfortunately, news organizations understand this reality. And today, we saw too many examples of the desire to be first, above....any sort of accuracy whatsoever.

2) For conservatives who see no real, practical difference between an Obama and a Romney candidacy, this court ruling may end up creating a Romney enthusiasm that didn't exist before, these particular conservative's only hope for a full repeal of the healthcare bill.

3) I'm still not sure how we expect this to actually lower our health care costs in a game changing way, without either incentivizing people to healthy living or penalizing individuals for preventable healthcare costs caused by lifestyle choices. We can make fun of Bloomberg's banning soft drinks 16 oz. and up, but IF (and that's a big "if") we are going to collectively pay for everyone's healthcare, this is the only thing that makes any sort of economic sense, liberty be damned.

June 25, 2012

Why I Hide 70% of my "Friends" on Facebook

Everyone's Facebook experience starts out pretty great.

You immediately "friend" the people closest to you. And now you have this news feed of your favorite people, sharing with you in real-time, news about your very favorite people.

But by definition, as your # of Facebook friends increases, the quality of your news feed goes down.

Because you stray further and further from your inner circle each time you add someone. From closest friends to college friends. High school friends. Church friends. Extended family. That guy I met that one time that I think is friends with Jeff somehow?

If you add a new Facebook friend today, it's probably because you either just met the person, or you were never that close to begin with.

Now there is a small chance this new friend will enter your inner circle over time, but the odds are greater that the quality of your news feed just went down a little.

"But, what if they're really interesting and funny, Eric?"

They absolutely could be. But we also might disagree on what "interesting" and "funny" are. After all, the reason your closest friends are your closest friends is because you probably happen to think, act and live fairly similarly. You share interests. You share humor. You share worldviews. You share the same preference for what Facebook should be.

For me, I just want to be entertained. I want you to make me laugh. I want you to make me think. I want you to show me cool things I haven't seen. That's why I'm on Facebook.

And if your Facebook posts don't do those things, I'm going to hide you.

But, we can still be friends.

June 21, 2012

What Makes for Socially Acceptable Textual Pornography?

Would you feel more uncomfortable sitting on a plane next to a woman reading 50 Shades of Grey or a man leafing through a Playboy?

Because I'm taken aback when I hear a woman talk about how she's reading (or has read) 50 Shades of Grey, and is seemingly unembarrassed to do so.  (Note: for those unaware, this is a romance/erotica book that has uniquely achieved mainstream status, and New York Times bestselling success, despite what I am told is fairly uninspired writing.)

I guess I don't understand the difference between visual and textual pornography.

They are both created to do the same thing - each targeted to a different gender, based on biological differences.

...but the Playboy seems worse, right?

June 19, 2012

Encouraging Childhood Invention Challenge: COMPLETED

Five years ago, I put forth a challenge on this blog.

"The next time you see a child entrepreneur (lemonade stand, etc.), pay $5 for the cup of lemonade."

This weekend, I finally completed my own challenge. I was driving in my car when I saw the four 9-year olds and their makeshift box stand. Remembered my challenge. Had my wallet. And pulled over.


They were selling Arizona iced tea for a quarter.

I bought a cup for $5. They were thrilled. I heard one whisper, "...fill up the cup as high as you can. he paid $5 for it!"

As I drove away, I heard another shout out to his mother, "He bought one! And paid $5! For just the one!"

I left happy, believing I had instilled a beautiful belief in entrepreneurship for these 4 young kids.

It was only later that I questioned whether or not I may have instead birthed a forever love of money itself.



June 14, 2012

Stop Evangelizing Capitalism as if it's the End Game

People need to stop evangelizing capitalism as if its the end game.

Because it's not. Capitalism merely maximizes the total pie. It's a given.

Now what we choose to do with our greater slices, that's worth evangelizing.

June 11, 2012

You Can't Choose Your Family...But...

You can't choose your family.

But you can make different Thanksgiving plans.

As long  if you decide to define family as those people you love and enjoy spending time with.

Likewise, you can't choose your co-workers.

But you can change where you work.

As long as you decide to define loyalty as a 2-way street.

June 06, 2012

How to Better Filter Your Information Intake?

I love learning.

I have limited time in the day.

Most of my learning comes from reading.

There are a lot of bad writers out there.

There are a lot of great writers out there who don't write things I'm interested in.

So, this ends up with me reading a lot of different articles each day about politics, technology, education, faith and more. From blogs I subscribe to. Magazines I subscribe to. Twitter links from people I follow. Facebook links from people I follow.

Only approximately 10% of the content I read in a day is really worth reading.

Any tips on how to better filter my information intake?

June 05, 2012

The Moral Responsibility of Dentist as Health Care Professional

I went to the dentist.

He told me I'm grinding my teeth so hard at night I'm actually wearing down my fillings.

He told me this is typically a symptom of stress, before recommending I wear a mouth guard at night.

As a health care professional, shouldn't he at least have entertained the possibility of trying to lower my stress, rather than resign to the fact that my molars will perpetually attack each other?

May 31, 2012

You Really Don't Want That Job

Recently, I was talking to a friend of my mine who works as a professional political blogger - about his ideal long-term career goals.

I was surprised he didn't mention any sort of political office - even as a pie-in-the-sky fantasy job. So, I asked him why?

He replied, "Dude, those jobs are awful. They're no fun at all. The campaign is ok. But the day-to-day...if you want to do it right...reading thousand-page bills, taking angry phone calls... it's the worst job ever."

And it made me wonder if the jobs we all think we want aren't nearly as romantic as we'd hope. The fantasy of the chase might get us through the day. But, good God, if we were to actually catch these new careers?

When it comes down to it, I think I just want to be paid a whole lot more money and worshiped for my current work, without any new real responsibility.

May 30, 2012

The Secret to Having No Regrets

The easiest way to make decisions you'll never regret - is to simply decide not to regret the foolish things you've already done and will continue to do.

Of course, that level of self-deceit can be difficult.

You better decide to not regret that, too.

May 29, 2012

How a 20-Year Old's Design Fair Helped me Realize I'm Still Needed

I recently attended my friend's student design gallery, and was floored by the talent of these 20-year olds.

To the point of fear, in fact. That if this was the future, I'm falling behind.

But, then I started talking to them about their work.

One student had designed a 12x3 flipbook-style calendar. The imagery was amazing.

I opened it up to January, and the calendar snapped back closed because of the size and weight distribution. I asked him how you're supposed to hang it? He said, "Oh, I don't know. I just wanted to do something different."

Another student won an award for her beautifully designed wine bottle, branded "Lonely Housewife".

No one will buy wine that labels them as a stay-at-home boozer. No one will buy a calendar that doesn't work.

These kids are phenomenally talented. I can't do what they can.

But they still need me...for now.

May 24, 2012

4 New Rules for Staffing Your Business

1) Hire less people.
2) Hire only great people.
3) Give the people you hire highly strategic roles.
4) Outsource the busy work.

Way better output. Way less $ to get there.

May 23, 2012

"Entertaining" Means Being Others-Focused

I recently had a friend visit, and offered him something to drink. He asked for a soda.

Embarrassed, I told him we didn't have any. We don't carry soda in our refrigerator, because we don't drink it.

But, my diabetic grandparents kept Coke in theirs. Why? For me.

I'm still learning.

May 22, 2012

Do You Have the Same Diet as a Poor Person?

Do You Have the Same Diet as a Poor Person?

Soda? Burgers?  Fries?  Pizza? Ice Cream? Cookies? Chips?

You live in a better house. You drive a better car. You wear nicer clothes.

And yet, you eat like a poor person?

May 21, 2012

I Will Not Volunteer My Opinion Unless Asked: Challenge Results

Final update on my For one week, I will not volunteer my opinion on ANYTHING unless I am EXPLICITLY asked for it." challenge.

VICTORIES:

"I believe in democracy and free speech and all that, but..."

Before I had even heard the rest, I had made up my mind to remain silent.

An argument arose concerning whether it was possible to "spam" e-mail your friends.

I stayed out of it.

RESULTS:

My ideal end-game for this week long challenge was delusional - I was hoping by the end of the week to be explicitly asked for my opinion on something.

It never happened.

I did get a "You've been awful quiet this week, Eric." But that's it.

And honestly, that's really good feedback to get. Because it means I had merely been noise. That those around me had not been waiting with baited breath for me to make my decrees. So what a waste of time to act like it.

I'm going to try to stick to this silence. And I'll let you know if this actually ends up increasing my respect/authority over time.

It reminds me of my grandfather. He wouldn't say much. But when he did, it was something that mattered.

May 17, 2012

I Will Not Volunteer My Opinion Unless Asked: Day 2 Results

Update on my For one week, I will not volunteer my opinion on ANYTHING unless I am EXPLICITLY asked for it." challenge.

VICTORIES:

I was caught in a roundtable discussion about the best methods for introducing (forcing exposure upon) your kids to different activities (piano lessons, tee-ball, dance class).

This was easy to stay out of, because my daughter is still 0, and I haven't had to think about it yet.

Then, the topic shifted to how awful video games were for kids.

This was harder to stay out of, but I did.

I found out my friend started smoking again.

I didn't try talking him out of it. But honestly, it's 'cause I really don't care. He's awesome. When some people take up bad habits, I try talking them out of it, thinking that by correcting all of their flaws, they will somehow be transformed into a person I enjoy being around. But, this guy's already awesome.

FAILURES:

I'm a worship leader at my church, and we had practice last night. It's a fairly autocratic gig. You have to be the one to make the call. Perhaps that's where most of my tension in this experiment comes from. I'm used to those dictatorial parts of my world, and want to unleash this power upon the others.

For those of you who participating, any stories yet on your end? It's hard, isn't it?

May 15, 2012

I Will Not Volunteer My Opinion Unless Asked: Day 1 Results

Update on my For one week, I will not volunteer my opinion on ANYTHING unless I am EXPLICITLY asked for it." challenge.

VICTORIES:

This was said in my presence.

"I don't just think the drunk driver should be held responsible. I think EVERYONE in the car should be held responsible."

And I didn't say a thing.

FAILURES:

I'm not sure what to do about meetings. I'm in the room. So, by default, I'm at least passively being asked for my opinion? To be short, some stuff was being decided on that was going to be decided on wrong, and I spoke up. But, I was super Socratic about it - they totally thought it was their idea...yes, I know this was cheating. I'm going to try avoid meetings the rest of the week.

For those of you who participating, any stories yet on your end? It's hard, isn't it?

May 14, 2012

I Will Not Volunteer My Opinion Unless Explicitly Asked: 1 Week Challenge

Ok, late notice. But, I am issuing a week-long challenge.

"For one week, I will not volunteer my opinion on ANYTHING unless I am EXPLICITLY asked for it."

For me, this is going to be incredibly hard.

Because this is more than just not being the individual to raise the topic. But, this means not participating AT ALL unless specifically asked to.

There is an end-game I'm hoping comes out of this. But, we'll see at the end of the week if it happens.

Until then, I will be sharing the flawed logic that arises, how desperate I was to shout it down, and if I let anything slip.

Let me know if you're in.

May 10, 2012

The Practicality of Obama's Evolving Embrace of Gay Marriage

He probably only loses a handful of voters - individuals from liberal churches that don't consider themselves THAT liberal.

And he gains millions of dollars from Melissa Etheridge for his campaign this Fall.

It was the smart decision.

Do you really care if he actually believes it?

May 08, 2012

The Creator Gets to Decide What Their Creation Is

Yesterday's post spurred a couple of great offline conversations regarding the difference between art and pornography - specifically, who gets to decide. Here were our takeaways.

So recently, I had a little fun playing the role of 'subversive' in this political video.




For the most part, those who knew me understood what I was doing. While strangers who stumbled across this video mocked me in the comments as a nutball with a speech impediment.

The point being: the creator gets to decide what their creation is.

You can decide if it's funny. But you can't decide if it was supposed to be. Content can only be judged against the creator's intention.

And that was my point from yesterday. My realization that the ancient artists were indeed trying to mimic sexualized perfection. And with that knowledge, I now judge it as pornography, since that seems to be what they were going for.

May 07, 2012

Venus de Milo Pornography

As a kid, I was embarrassed to walk through The Art Institute of Chicago.

Because you couldn't turn a corner without a fat naked lady painting or sculpture jumping out at you.

And I remember my teacher saying something about artistic merit, and our evolving perceptions of beauty - and I simply rationalized this as yet another thing I didn't really understand.

But just last week, I learned an artist has decided to re-create the famous Venus de Milo statue (a topless and armless depiction of the Greek goddess Aphrodite), by updating it to our modern-day perceptions of beauty.

Because it turns out, that's what the Venus de Milo was originally designed to be. In fact, it turns out that's what ALL of these naked paintings and sculptures were intended to be.

Not creepy, fat "realistic" depictions of women. But incredibly sexualized depictions of the female form.

So, now I'm not sure why it's art and not pornography?

May 04, 2012

The Knowledge Economy: Rethinking Higher Education

This week, we are discussing the entity of Higher Education. The costs, the curriculum, the desired outcomes, and the alternatives.

The moral of this week's story is that we are getting closer to the point where the self-determined individual can receive a world-class education, for free, online, from the comfort of their home/hut.

So, what does that mean for us as Americans? It means our head-start is over. Because currently, our wealth affords some us us the exclusive luxury of going on to these higher levels of education. And therefore, we're getting the higher-paid strategic jobs and outsourcing the manufacturing/labor overseas.

But, what if our respective levels of education are no longer unique?

What if 1 billion 22+ year olds soon have the equivalent of a highly advanced undergraduate education?

Then, what does your differentiation become? Who gets the great jobs? The Masters degrees? The PhDs?

Or the innately creative?

If I can train a bright 16-year old to take over a large portion of your current 8-hour work day, you're not going to have that job 10 years from now.

Everything's changing for the better. Everyone's getting smarter for free.

And it's going to be awesome.

In the future, the losers will not be the poor, but the apathetic.

May 03, 2012

Alternative Certification Badges: Rethinking Higher Education

This week, we are discussing the entity of Higher Education. The costs, the curriculum, the desired outcomes, and the alternatives.

Yesterday, we explored some of the amazing, world-class, and very FREE educational resources sprouting up due to the wonders of technology - that could essentially replace, at the very least, the "liberal arts" part of a college education.

But, this only works if either:
A) Colleges recognize this alternative as official transfer credit, essentially halving one's out-of-pocket costs for a college education
OR
B) Human Resource managers stop caring whether or not you have a degree

But right now, having a bachelors degree is the single easiest assurance a company has that you'll be a productive fit. After all, you made it through college. Your degree is an field related to the skills we're looking for. You can't be a complete bozo?

But some of the free resources we went through yesterday aren't just "equivalent" to Gen Eds, but in many cases, are arguably superior to them? And if I'm a hiring manager, and see that a prospective employee enrolled in Khan Academy, I might actually prefer that individual? After all, they're intuitive, tech-savvy and resourceful. As long as I can prove they actually "attended".

Because at a traditional college, you are penalized if absent from class (your body if not your mind), and tested to measure some sort of knowledge retention (regurgitation).

But, the Khan Academy is doing that, too. They have implemented testing and "badge" certifications. Once you test proficient in all skills related to a particular subject, you receive a "Proficiency Badge" in Calculus I, Algebra I, Geometry I, etc. Mozilla is trying to help create a universal Open Badges System to mainstream this idea. Other institutions like Microsoft don't offer the education itself, but offer the certification test itself that you can prepare for in whatever way you desire.

For example, let's say someone learns graphic design on their own time. Through library books, and YouTube tutorials.

Two candidates walk in your office.

One has their degree in Graphic Design from Bradley University.

One has their Liberal Arts education Proficiency Certification from Khan Academy, Crash Course certifications in Color Theory, Typography, Logo Design and Digital Photography, and Adobe Master Certifications in InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, Premiere and AfterEffects.

Now, I'm not sure what looks better. I think the first is still safer.

...but the second one is FREE.

May 01, 2012

Making College Free: Rethinking Higher Education

This week, we are discussing the entity of Higher Education. The costs, the curriculum, the desired outcomes, and the alternatives.

MAKING COLLEGE FREE

There is a big political push right now saying Higher Education should be free. Ok, but does "free" mean the Federal Government subsidizes our tuition to traditional Universities, or does "free" mean free access to the education itself? Because, as a currently debt-laden nation, the latter seems more achievable? And here are a couple of my favorite options.

Khan Academy
Dedicated to providing a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere. This site currently has 3,100 lessons and counting, all produced by site founder, Salman Khan. Bill Gates' kids learn via the Khan Academy. This is the biggest non-profit stand-alone educational resource out there right now.



Crash Course
This new venture offers super high-quality and beautifully produced liberal arts overviews, currently only for the fields of "World History" and "Biology". But this is incredibly exciting. Let's say like-minded professors help create these full courses for 60 different fields, the wide spectrum of liberal arts "Gen Eds"...



Could these free options essentially replace one's first two years of college?

Sure...if schools begin to recognize them. But, that's a big "if". And that's where we'll start tomorrow.

April 30, 2012

Gen Eds: Rethinking Higher Education

This week, we will discuss the entity of Higher Education. The costs, the curriculum, the desired outcomes, and the alternatives.

GEN ED REQUIREMENTS

My first semester of Freshman year, I enrolled in Pysch 104, more excited about this course than any other on my schedule.

In fact, I was confident I would end up minoring in Psychology. After all, as a marketing student, I wanted to better understand human behavior. The way the mind works. What motivates us. How we learn. Instead, I was given multiple choice tests on the different biological parts of the brain. Disenchanted, I never took another Psych course.

This course was also the entry point course for my friend Diana, a registered Psychology major.

Why were we both taking the same course? Why is the entry level course for a Psych major the same broad "liberal arts" version of Psychology the rest of us are assigned as a Gen Ed?

If our goal within a "liberal arts" education is to give non-majors a broad understanding of the inner-connectivity of all these different fields, shouldn't we design the course more broadly? Not merely boring foundational curriculum that assumes you'll be moving on to next-level stuff next semester?

Why was I memorizing brain parts with the one chance they had to open my mind to the science of Psychology?

April 27, 2012

Caine's Arcade and a Public School Takeaway

Take 10 minutes today during your lunchbreak to watch this beautiful story of children's entrepreneurship.




There are a lot of great takeaways from this video. So, I'll give you a crazy one you probably didn't think of.

I want kids like Caine to be plucked away from the traditional public school system.

I understand the theory behind maintaining/improving our current public school system. That in a charter or private school environment, rich parents will all flock to the same schools. That the best teachers will then flock to these schools. And that the poor kids will be stuck in the poor schools with the worst teachers - permanently stuck in their lower-rung socio-economic world.

And so, if we maintain a system that spreads the wealth a little more evenly, it will give the poor kids a better shot.

It's absolutely true. But, there is a downside we have to acknowledge. By definition, spreading out the best teachers and the best resources will make the privileged kids' schools a little worse.

Is this fair? Maybe.

But, I want us to understand the downside. Because while every child has enormous potential, Caine is uniquely special. He could be Edison. And I don't want him in an avg. school. I want kids with Caine's potential to be plucked and groomed.

We used to do this. In the 60s, Kennedy said, "We're going to the moon." And we tried to find the geniuses who would help get us there. We took our perceived best and brightest out of high school and sent them to specialized schools.

It's a completely different way of looking at education. To some, it looks cruel. To me, it seems obvious.

So, I'm re-asking a question I've asked before.

Is our educational system designed to help geniuses create the future, or to help the average kid follow instructions?

April 26, 2012

Placating the Stay at Home Mom

When I was a kid, Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) hosted America's Funniest Home Videos.

And he would always interview the family of the winning video the at the end of the episode, and ask the parents what they did for a living.

Frequently, the wife would say, "I'm a stay at home mom."

And every time, Saget would quickly interject with, "And we all know there's nothing harder than that."

For some reason, I always thought this was a 'save' attempt. That everyone in the room knew this wasn't true. That the mother was partially embarrassed to admit she didn't have a real job.

Then, I had a child. And every day I'm home alone with her is the most isolating and exhausting experience of my week. Work is a vacation compared to it.

Yet, from the 'Ann Romney' gaffe from the other day, I realized that there truly is bias against the stay-at-home mom.

And I don't understand anyone who has had kids having it?

April 24, 2012

Earning the Respect of the Crazies

I keep trying to win the respect of people I do not respect.

I do this purely for career reasons. But all too often, I take the results personally.

Now, if someone you respect has issues with you, that is a great indicator that it is time to stop and self-examine. You should take their criticism seriously.

...but crazy people are crazy. And expecting them to objectively appreciate you is a no-win game.

April 23, 2012

Important People Live Awful Lives

Consider the most important individuals in modern history.

We remember these lives through an almost romantic lens, but imagine what it must have been like to actually live them?

Lincoln's life sucked. Overwhelming stress, despair and melancholy. With so much at stake, the gravity of your importance can simply be overwhelming.

And almost never do you get to experience the fruits of your labor. Rather, you are simply laying down your life as a foundation for the future to cross more smoothly.

Lives of importance are rarely grand in the experience. Yet, we think we want one?

April 18, 2012

Confusing Our Desire for Celebrity

Even the shy among us enjoy feeling appreciated - important - may even relish a mere 15 minutes of fame.

But, I wonder if we've confused that innate desire? "Being important" as opposed to "Doing important things".

Were you to be cast in a reality television show, you may feel important. If the show were to be successful, you may in fact "be" important.

And all without doing anything of real importance.

This short-term celebrity might satiate our innate desire of importance, but wrongly so.

Your desire for importance is a good thing. But the desire is meant to provoke us into becoming an agent of restoration. Not mere celebrity.

April 13, 2012

Smart Fish in a Dumb Pond

I say I want to move to a city where everyone is smarter than me.

Because I truly do believe in the Aristotelian practice of finding mentors - surrounding yourself with intellectual giants, and growing from their knowledge.

But, could my ego really handle this?

Or would I actually prefer becoming a big fish in a very small pond, and deluding myself into thinking I'm the king of the world?

April 12, 2012

Television News is Pornography

I get that news is a business.

I get that I am more interested in the real-time coverage of a roadside bomb than the story about a new hospital wing being donated.

That I probably wouldn't watch the utopian news channel I could concoct in my head.

But that doesn't let you off the hook for being a willing part of that system. For claiming journalistic integrity in promoting, magnifying and shouting the worst in humanity night after night.

You create pornography. It does not fill, nor educate us. It tricks us into believing in an ever-worsening reality that does not exist.

April 11, 2012

Spotify Embed Feature is Only 1/2 Cool

Spotify just got 1/2 step cooler. Give it a try with my embedded "Why Every President Sucked" album below.

1/2 of you probably think this is awesome. The ability to embed any song, album or playlist on Spotify - directly into your Website or blog.

But those are the 1/2 of you that already have Spotify running in the background.

For non-Spotify users, this embedded player does nothing and isn't useful at all. And that prevents this new innovation from being the "holy wow" of awesome I originally thought it may be.

April 10, 2012

Give-Give Relationships

Is it wrong to only invest in relationships you personally get something out of?

After all, we have certain time constraints on our lives. It is physically impossible for me to pursue genuinely deep relationships with all those around me.

So, if I'm being honest, I'm looking for your permission to bail out of those relationships with people I dread but guiltily maintain, and instead, focus on building the ones where I inherently enjoy the other person?

Fully aware you probably won't let me off the hook...

April 05, 2012

My Wife and I Never Fight

My wife and I never fight.

And it has nothing to do with us being really good at being married.

It has to do with the fact that we're so similar. Now, this has surely been a progression. Over the past 10 years, we have undoubtedly shaped each other. But, in general, we have always been extraordinarily similar in the way we view the world.

We don't fight, because we consense so quickly.

Our marriage is great. And we haven't had to work very hard at it.

So, here's my marriage counseling advice.

Marry better.

You're welcome.

April 04, 2012

Faking Excitement Over Friend's Crappy Decisions

We don't all share the same dreams for our lives.

In fact, some of the things people so passionately pursue would be my greatest nightmare if they were to come true.

"Oh, you got into Med School? I'm so terribly sorry! What an awful next 8 years of your life."

But of course, they wouldn't share my disappointment.

These are their dreams. Their passions.

When someone tells you they bought a puppy, they don't see it as a dirty little burden.

They're not making foolish decisions. We're just different. Be happy that they're happy.

April 03, 2012

Social Media Marketing Major? Please Don't.

When I first heard of colleges starting Social Media Marketing majors, I thought it was pretty cool.

After all, social media has become a significant part of my marketing career, and likely, my future.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that majoring in Social Media Marketing would be like a design-minded individual majoring in Billboard Design.

It's just marketing.

We don't need to create a social media marketing major. The marketing major itself should change based on the ever increasing importance of social persuasion.

March 30, 2012

A New Dad's Tips for Dressing Your Baby

Trust me, I have 9 months experience talking here.

Buy your baby miniature versions of clothes you would wear yourself as an adult.

It's not weird. It actually looks really great.

You know what's weird? Bonnets. You know why? Because no one besides babies wears them.

March 29, 2012

Hoodie Prejudice

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death has captured me.

We were introduced to this story as a hate crime. George Zimmerman, a Latino man who heads up his neighborhood's volunteer watch program called the police to report a suspicious individual in his neighborhood, Trayvon Martin.

The neighborhood had recently suffered a rash of burglaries, and Zimmerman was hot on the trigger. He called the police to report, started following the individual on foot despite the 911 operator's insistence he shouldn't, and the story ends with an unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin lying dead from a fatal gunshot wound.

The moral we were told to take from this tragedy was to stop being prejudicially suspicious of black youth.

The mere idea that Trayvon "appeared" suspicious was troubling to us all. That the mere presence of a young black man in a hoodie would warrant a police call. That, if we were being honest with ourselves, we might also pause unsettled and take another look at Trayvon Martin if we noticed him walking through our neighborhood.

It was a convicting story.

And then, the story kept unfolding.

It still is.

It turns out Travyon Martin may not be altogether innocent. He may have escalated the incident, attacked Zimmerman and beaten his head repeatedly against the curb before being shot,  as a lone eyewitness seems to corroborate.

And whether or not you deem it relevant, it appears Travyon may have a troubling past. School suspensions for drug (residue) possession, vandalism and possession of theft implements.

Does his short rap sheet make his death any less tragic? No.

But, the issue here is stereotype.

The moral we were told was that television and the media have corrupted us all into prejudicing young black youth into the same scary bucket. We were told this prejudice was without merit, and to magically stop being suspicious of fictitious fears our culture has wrongly ingrained within us.

And now what do we do with this new information? This unfortunate example that builds up the very stereotype this story initially led us to fight against?

Perhaps our society/media/culture has indeed wrongly influenced us into our expectations of a young black man wearing a hoodie.

But, is Trayvon Martin immune to that cultural rub-off? Or is there a part of him who willingly chose to embrace that identity? Who found strength in it. Power in it.

That's the issue I'm stuck on.

And I think we need a Cosby episode about it.

March 28, 2012

Passionate Career or Passion and Career?

You can either find an incredibly demanding job you're passionate about...

Or you can find an incredibly boring job that gives you time to spend on your passions.

March 27, 2012

Sabbath: Taking Sunday Off

I never understood the idea of the Sabbath.

Taking Sunday off.

I think I thought something about the day itself was holy. That since Sunday was church day, we were supposed to honor the rest of the day, too.

Now, I'm starting to think God just wants us to take a break.

And it wasn't until this new period of my life when I'm busier than I've ever been that I realize I need this.

I need a day of rest.

So, the last few weeks, I've been making my Saturdays a little worse. Staying up late and making sure all my freelance work gets done in order to make sure my Sundays can be free - with only church and spending time with my wife and Daylia on the schedule.

And it's been pretty awesome. Refreshing. Recharging.

It doesn't always work. Stuff gets in the way sometimes. But, it's become a priority we're shooting for at our house.

I get the Sabbath now. Just like other "God rules", they're not weird legalistic things. They're just awesome advice designed by the one who intimately understands how we work and what we need.

March 26, 2012

Moneyball Works for Everything

Thought I'd better post this screen grab now in case Ohio State loses next weekend...



And yes, I'm "Sabai". For those of you who only know this blog as "All Opinions Are Not Equal", it started off as sabaisays.blogspot.com, a less Socratic, more dictatorial blog approach with daily spouts of why everyone are morons.

I think it's better this way...or at least now my dictatorial rants are better disguised as group think...

But back to the point. Seriously, Moneyball works for everything!

March 23, 2012

Look at it This Way

Today, you have to go to work for 8 hours whether you care to or not.

So, you might as well figure out a way to care passionately.

March 21, 2012

You're Selling the Wrong Thing Nutra-Fast...

I don't think most exercise and diet infomercials get it.

I'm not looking to change my life.

I'm looking to look better and live longer with as little lifestyle change as possible.

March 16, 2012

Please Don't Invite Me

I don't invite people to events I participate in because I'm confident they wouldn't be interested. And I don't want to put them in the awkward position of either an obligatory attendance, or a guilty decline.

That's why I'm always confused why people invite me to their own events regarding things that I have never shown a shared interest in.

Now I'm realizing that perhaps people actually enjoy doing things...

March 15, 2012

Should the Weather Control My Joy?

Because apparently, it does.

March 13, 2012

Child Rearing by Science and by Odds

When you find out you're going to have a kid, you realize you start having to make important decisions regarding things you are completely ignorant about.

Should I have an epidural? Should I breastfeed? Should I vaccinate? Should my kid only eat organic foods? Should I throw away my laundry detergent? Should I throw away everything plastic in my home?

And we spend the 9-month gestation period trying to become experts at things we had never thought of before in our lives.

Now if you spend 9 months learning French only in your spare time, and I put you in Paris today, alone, you wouldn't be able to get very far.

Yet, we make these decisions with such confidence that we then evangelize them to the masses.

"Don't you dare vaccinate your child!"
"Don't you dare feed your child that!"

And we kind of know what we're talking about. But, at the very least, there needs to be some humility here. Because how confident can we be in these decisions? How can we make objective decisions regarding the very important job of parenting?

My wife and I are slightly unique in the fact that we had already jumped on the crazy train a few years before Daylia was born regarding organic eating.

How convinced are we that organic eating is better for you? Pretty convinced. And this is, at least partially, where sheer probability comes into play. Is something with pesticides in it probably worse for you than something without? Probably. Does a diet with animal protein (meat, milk) carry significant health risks? We find the correlating evidence pretty convincing. Do vaccinations cause autism? No, we're convinced they don't.

So, our child slept in a co-sleeper. We solely breastfed. Went with cloth diapers. Non-toxic laundry detergent. And we are vaccinating her (except for Hep B thus far).

We're playing the odds as we understand them. These decisions weren't black and white. And we are fully aware that even the smartest in the medical community don't fully understand the cellular effect of our food, our drugs and our environment at a microscopic level. So, we probably lean more toward the "natural" and the cautious than even science dictates we should at this point.

But, these are not only decisions based on science and odds. But, on value as well.

Because would Daylia be safer if we moved to a much nicer neighborhood? Probably. What if we spent $20,000 on a state-of-the-art security system for our home? Most definitely.

Yet, we have done neither. Our relative poverty also insists upon relative neglect.

In short, people who yell, "Don't you dare vaccinate your child!" think they have a chance to save your baby's life. That's why they're passionate. They just also happen to be wrong.