Genetic Fallacies and the Citibank Building

Listening’s a lot harder when your ego’s on the line

Citibank Building in Manhattan 3

Him: I don’t understand what happened.
Me: Maybe there’s a reason why they went with someone else.

That’s a picture of the Citibank building here in Manhattan. I took it along with the picture below in March of last year for another entry.

About a month after I took it, read this article that said that the building was ridiculously flawed.

How ridiculous? There was a 1-in-16 year chance that the entire building would come tumbling down with a strong wind.

That’s pretty ridiculous.

But the weirdest thing about how this all unfolded was that a female college student from NJ figured out it was flawed, tracked down the lead engineer, and contacted him to tell him that his design was fatally flawed.

And despite haven’t any number of reasons to not listen to her, he did.

Then, as Hurricane Eva was barreling down onto the East Coast in 1978, NYC and these engineers all secretly fixed the problem. All without most of the city finding out. In fact, most people didn’t learn about it until 1995.

Citibank Building in Manhattan 1

I thought of this recently when a colleague of mine was wondering why he lost a major account. I knew why. So I told him.

There’s this illogical argument called a genetic fallacy, where you don’t want to believe something that someone says because of the person saying it.

The engineer could have sneered at any one of the things about the person contacting him: her sex, where she was from, her age, her experience, etc.

But he didn’t. Because he was smart enough to realize she was right. That’s something I still find really amazing.

People wanna have any number of reasons they believe what they believe. Even if it’s not true.

Him: (later, upset) What do you know? You’re a lawyer, not a psychologist.
Me: This is true. But what I said is also true.

Location: midtown east
Mood: tired but super happy
Music: You’ve got the talkin’ down, just not the listening
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We were given treasure

People don’t realize what they have

Vases in a Window Display

I have a problem with people’s ingratitude.

That’s probably why I get so irritated with people who’ve never lived in NYC in the 70s-90s and miss the “gritter days.”

It’s easy for them to miss something they romanticize in their heads.

Me? I look at the ability to walk down the street and not be concerned about getting shanked a gift.

Speaking of gifts, after 9/11, people around the world sent their condolences and … stuff. Nations flew their flags at half-mast, dignitaries cried. What one might expect.

But a small tribe of Masai warriors in remote Kenya also heard about 9/11. Most had not even seen a plane before and couldn’t fathom buildings that tall. But they understood the magnitude of what had happened.

And so these incredibly poor people – “poor” in our economic understanding of the word – sent the United States 14 cows.

For the Masai people, cows are everything. They are, in fact, the single symbol of wealth as their entire culture revolves around cattle.

In any case, these 14 cows were accepted by the US but cared for in Africa – along with a reverse donation from the US of scholarships for the children there.

They’re still there, now numbering 35 or so.

I can only assume that the American ambassador that was given these animals realized that he was given treasure. Things that these people had worked for their whole lives.

Wonder what would’ve happened if the Ambassador didn’t realize what he’d been given and instead thought he was just being given a random buncha dirty animals.

It bothers me when people are given treasure and do nothing but complain about how it’s not good enough.

A 30 year-old man here in NYC just allegedly killed his father because he wanted more allowance.

People don’t see what they have – often through sheer dumb luck – they only see what they think the don’t have.

They possess treasure but no understanding that they do.

Exhibit at a Museum in NYC

I wrote this entry before I turned on news today.

Gunmen broke into an office building in Paris and executed a number of people including a wounded police officer.

It’s a scary world we live in today.

Location: in front of a large cuppa joe
Mood: sad
Music: I guess we thought that’s just what humans do
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Survival of the strongest

Most people misunderstand the phrase, Survival of the fittest

Fishes off Bermuda Docks

Been meaning to post this for a while.

My coach just forwarded an article by a Ph.D named Dr. Rhadi Ferguson about who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman. You can hear the author read it in his own words here.

Now I agree with almost everything the doctor says with one major exception. He says:

In battles the strongest guy does not [always] (sic) win, nor (does) the fittest, but the one that has those qualities and is the smartest.

With all due respect to Dr. Ferguson, he gets what everyone gets wrong about the term “Survival of the fittest.”

If I say to you the words, “Survival of the fittest,” what do you hear?

Dr. Ferguson – and most people – invariably people hear, “Survival of the strongest.” They define fittest as being physically fit.

But this is an issue of logical equivocation: The meaning of “fit” in this phrase doesn’t mean physically fit, but appropriate to the situation.

In that sense, then, the actual meaning is the opposite of what most people think.

The phrase: Survival of the fittest, means: Survival of the most appropriate.

If you were locked in a smoke-filled room having a 3-foot window with a small girl, a strongman, and a billionaire, while the girl is the weakest, the poorest, and the most inexperienced, she will most likely survive because she is the most fit – the most appropriate – for survival in that situation.

I think that’s why I have so many interests; I wanna have the broadest skill set possible for any situation that arises. One of my goals for 2015 is to dust off some skills I had that were once pretty good and sharpen then up.

Tank in Staten Island

Speaking of 2015 and having skills, I started the year, as usual, by making a huge pot of chili and by fixing some technology around the house.

We were originally planning on heading out for dinner but the weekend was rainy and my shoulder was killing me.

Her: (canceling a dinner reservation) Open Table will be so mad at me for canceling that reservation.
Me: You know that OpenTable isn’t sentient, right?

 

2015. Maybe this will be our year.

Homemade Chili

One more nerdy pet peeve of mine; people seem to think that Darwin coined the phrase, but he didn’t.

A fella named Herb Spencer, who read Darwin’s work, came up with the term. Darwin used the term himself five years after On Species came out.

OK, now I’m done.

Location: at my desk again
Mood: hopeful
Music: You can get along if you try to be strong
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Asian-ish

The Story of Sessue Hayakawa Pt. 1

When I was in college back, quite literally before the last turn of the century, I wrote my college thesis on The Hidden Asian in Film.

Did you ever notice that there were no Asians in any of the original Star Wars trilogy?

But the Asian influences were everywhere:

  • The Emperor / The Emperor
  • The Shogun’s helmet / Darth Vader’s shogun helmet
  • Martial arts / Martial arts
  • The force / Qi
  • Yin-Yang / Dark-Light Side of the Force
  • Jedi knights / Shaolin warrior monks

In fact, the story of the original Star Wars “borrowed” heavily from the Japanese film Hidden Fortress but Lucas didn’t think any actual Japanese merited any screen time.

And that’s pretty much how films and television treated Asians for years – Asian-ish. Even characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were Asian-like – caricatures played by Caucasian actors.

But there was this fella named Sessue Hayakawa, who is not the fella pictured above but was the first sex symbol of Hollywood – ever. He pre-dated Rudolph Valentino by several years.

And his story goes just a little bit in explaining why there’s always been an Asian influence in Hollywood and television but few actual Asians.

For that part of the story, I’m going to head over to my friend Jocelyn’s website: Speaking of China for part 2 of this entry.

Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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Zebras cannot be tamed because they live with lions

Environment isn’t everything, but it’s a lot

Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, ...
Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, but not to lions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a kid, I wondered why no one ever rode around on a zebra. After all, they’re just a type of horse, right?

Well, it turns out that they cannot be tamed. They’re just too ornery and wild. Which, of course, begs the question, Why are they so ornery and wild?

The reason is because they live where lions live. And, over thousands of years, they’ve adapted to dealing with them.

For example, when they kick, they don’t randomly kick like a horse with one leg, instead, they balance on their front legs, aim, and then kick – with both legs.

While I didn’t have the most pleasant childhood here in NYC, it wasn’t all bad. At this age, I think that, overall, it’s been a net positive that I grew up in this particular corner of the world.

It’s made me anti-fragile.

And people don’t really understand why I spend my free time swinging sticks at people or being smashed by sweaty dudes. Suppose I do it to keep me that way.

Zebras don’t look like much. But you can only kill them, capture them, or let them be; they can’t be controlled. They won’t be submitted.

You gotta respect that.

The Men Made of Stone

On a different note entirely, I dropped the price of The Men Made of Stone to $0.99 on Amazon for the rest of this week because I’m trying out a few things with them.

If you enjoy my writing here, give it a go!

Location: in rainy NYC
Mood: rainy
Music: didn’t even stopped to see that, that It was breaking me
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The people that make NYC miserable

Demolished a room and got hit by a car

Hit and try-to-run-but-cannot-run-driver
Had an interesting weekend.

Walking out of my gym in midtown, met a young guy who worked at a masonry shop a few doors down.

Yes, it’s odd that there’s a masonry in the middle of Manhattan but where we are, there’s still a lot of old NY there.

After a little chatting, mentioned that I was thinking of fixing up part of my apartment and exchanged info. Got a call later on that week that he was in the neighborhood. Within ninety minutes of that call, cabinets and appliance were ripped out and hauled away.

Sometimes, things  just move quickly.

Which is the opposite of what was happening on the street in front of my apartment on Saturday morning because of the garbage truck you see in the picture above.

This was enough to cause some jerk sit on his horn and wake up everyone in the hood.

When I came out to take a picture of him, he proceeded to bump me with his car.

Again: He hit me with his car even though he could not move because of the garbage truck in front of him.

I was unhurt – although it’s my ACL leg so it’s a little sore. Shoulda called the police but I had my usual bout of insomnia the night before and didn’t think it through.

Ended up calling the cops afterward, but by then, figured it wasn’t worth it. Interestingly, the cop that came was actually another student from my old gym and we chatted about my current wrasslin partner, whom everyone in NYC seems to know cause he’s such a nice guy.

The opposite of this guy here, who’s the type of self-important NYC douchebag that make life miserable for everyone else.

He drives a fine German automobile and wears a button-down shirt but was clearly raised by wolves.

Like I said, young broken people grow up to be old broken people.
Selfish New Yorker
And now, a new week. Let’s see what happens.

Location: back to wrasslin in just a bit
Mood: sore
Music: you know it don’t matter anyway. You can rely on the old man’s money
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We handle life as we do bad weather

Someday we’ll know

Sunset at sea

Her: I don’t think of you as 41…
Me: Thanks, that really…
Her: …mainly because you act so immature.

For my birthday last week, Paul and his fiancee took me and the wife out for sushi around the way; they recounted their first date with us, which I’d not heard before. The funny thing about first dates is that you never know if that first date will lead to something more or less in the future.

Speaking of the future, been thinking about it more and more these days as I (slowly) accept that I’m 41. I’m nine years away from 50. I’m solidly middle-aged. And, when I fill out forms, I’m in a totally new age bracket.

But, it’s better than the alternative.

This Austrian named Alfred Polgar once said, “Too often man handles life as he does the bad weather. He whiles away the time as he waits for it to stop.”

So I try make these moments worth something, if only to myself.

Suppose someday we’ll know if it was worth something to anyone else.

Location: the middle of my life
Mood: pensive
Music: bought a ticket to the end of the rainbow
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Dating advice from someone that doesn’t look like you?

Doing a Reddit AMA for The Men Made of Stone

Me: I never even thought of that.
Him: Well, why would you have?

After I put up that video on A Great First Date, something interesting happened: My sales essentially froze.

Now I first thought this was perhaps due to something I said or some way I came off, but my very talented marketing friend said simply, “I don’t think people expected you to be Chinese.”

It never occurred to me that might be an issue. But then I realized that all my popular dating posts had no mention of my ethnicity nor a picture of me; there was no reason for it.

JK Rowling was never actually called “JK” in her life. She made up that name because her publishers weren’t sure anyone would buy a book about a boy wizard from a woman.

That may have been a good move on their part. We’ll never know.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have written it under a pseudonym. But I suppose we’ll never know that either.

Being Asian has never been a problem or plus for me as an adult, it was just a fact of my life. No more or less.

Suppose time will tell how this all plays out.

On a related matter, I’m actually going to be doing an AMA on Reddit Books (/r/books) on the other book I wrote, called The Men Made of Stone, which is completely different from A Great First Date. It’s a full length novel on Asian gangs in NYC during the 1990s.

People that read that book first and then read the dating book are probably a bit surprised, and vice-versa.

In any case, I’ll tell you more about it as we get closer to the date – which is supposed to be March 27th at 5PM EST. So stop by and ask me anything!

And thanks to the guys at Flow Athletics for encouraging me to go do the AMA.

Location: yesterday, home, waiting for a sofa
Mood: chagrined
Music: no, I’ll never give up and I’ll never look back
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From the Archives: Thanksgiving 2013 and 2008

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow; the wife’s already left to see her family.

Her: What’d you have for dinner?
Me: The usual, chili and rum. Oh, and some pretzels.

One of these days, I’ll write something better for Thanksgiving than what I did in 2008. But I still think it’s one of my best, for whatever that’s worth. I read it myself every so often to remind myself for all there is to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving 2008
The world is ridiculously unfair, but if you can read this post, chances are high it’s ridiculously unfair in your favor.

Back on Monday.

Location: getting dressed for the gym
Mood: tired
Music: I like to reminisce about a time I’ve never had
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I’d rather have a king or emperor than a Weiner or a Palin

In praise of kings

Town Crier for William and Kate's baby

My brother went to London a little while back and it turned out to be during the Queen’s Jubilee celebration and he wrote the following: Celebrating 60 years of non-merit-based ultra-lavish living by hereditary entitlement.

Now, if you’ve ever met my brother, you know that he’s far smarter than me. But I think that there’s more to royalty than simply that.

When I was a kid, I remember reading once that Alexander Hamilton, and to a lesser degree, John Adams, argued for an American king. Hamilton envisioned that George Washington would be made king for life with the ability to veto all congressional bills.

For those of you that don’t know much about Hamilton beyond him being the dude on the $10 bill the guy that was killed by Burr, he’s a fascinating – rum-drinking – fella.

The current arguments now about states rights (Republican/Jefferson) versus federal rights (Democrat/Hamilton) were essentially started between him and Jefferson and continue to this day.

I’ve always believed as my brother has, which is that non-merit based leadership is wrong. But Hamilton was a brilliant man, so I wondered how he could have stumbled so much on this topic.

Now that I’m older, I see things differently.

You see, Hamilton was a founder of the Society of the Cincinnati, which honored Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus – a man who did not want to lead Rome, but did in one of its darkest hours, and then immediately abdicated after he had done what he needed to do.

Yes, there are centuries of stories about rulers that simply took from the population, but in modern times, are the people that have nothing but naked ambition any better?

Are Anthony Wiener or Sarah Palin any better to rule just because they have over-sized egos and ambition? Are they really any better than two exceptionally educated men that lost their mother in youth and put themselves in harms way like Princes William and Harry?

I’m not advocating a return to a monarchy. But if there’s one thing I know to be true – and that history has shown over and over again – it’s that power corrupts.

And some of the best leadership humanity ever had was had by people like Washington, Cincinnatus, and Gandi; people who never really wanted power in the first place but did it because it was their duty. What was the film The King’s Speech about if not about a man who did not want to lead but had to?

Baby Prince George VII will never lead in the pure sense of the word, but I hope that he “leads” as King George VI did, and as his grandmother Diana did, through service, grace, and a sense of duty.

In fact, King George VI’s wife, when asked why the family didn’t go to Canada during the Axis bombings said, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.”

I suppose what I’m really saying is that good souls come from all parts. By extension, good leaders.

A friend on Facebook once wrote scathingly of Alice Walton – who essentially gives away much of her fortune – purely because she was born a Walton, as if she had any control over that.

In other words, she detests Alice because of original sin; that she was even born.

I say we judge people on what they’ve done with the life they’re given not on the life their given.

To do otherwise makes about as much as sense as being super proud that one is right-handed.

Location: enjoying the weather finally
Mood: stuffed
Music: My life’s become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles
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