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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It’s good to be wrong

Our lives are not a football game

Eagle Statue in Riverside Park, NYC, UWS

I didn’t vote for Obama. I felt he didn’t have enough leadership, management, or business experience to run the country.

Having said that, two terms in:

  • Unemployment is at 5.9%, versus 7.8% when he first took office.
  • Both wars have significantly drawn down.
  • The markets are significantly up – the S&P is up 126%.
  • Gas prices are just over $2 a gallon here.
  • We have nationwide healthcare, based on a Republican plan, for the first time.

I was wrong. Obama has been a pretty good president – his foreign policy, or lack thereof, notwithstanding.

I think that most people don’t actually understand politics, economics, or history. But they want to look like they have some deep-seated knowledge.

So they imitate one side or another – like when you’re a kid and become a genre of a person – and have a team. The same way they root for a football team. And they are incensed when their side loses.

But we are the side. If the country is doing well, that means we’re doing well, irrespective of the team.

I’m glad I’m wrong because it wasn’t, he would have been a terrible president and our situation as a whole would be much, much worse. Instead, my investments are going up, my family has health insurance, and we can take the whip for a spin without breaking the bank.

The world would be vastly different if people could say, I was wrong, that’s a good thing.

Those that don’t look at it as a negative mark against their intellect rather than a positive mark for their character.

Eagle Statue in Riverside Park, NYC, UWS

Above is a chart from the non-partisan Factcheck.org.

Location: home, waiting for an appraiser
Mood: better
Music: seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
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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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What does religion mean?

Arguing your religion

Cathedral in Spain

While I’ve been pretty busy lately, I’ve not been so busy to avoid getting embroiled in religious arguments – online and off.

And I’ve gotten into no less than three just in the past 24 hours – mainly due to Pope Francis supporting evolution, which the Church as done since at least 1950.

Oddly, all three arguments have been with atheists. The thing is that they don’t understand the basic definition of the word, “religion.”

Is religion a belief in god?

No, because that would mean that religions like Taoism and Buddhism, which have no god, are not religions. Yet they are.

Religion is “an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.”

It’s how we organize the world for ourselves.

The reason why you get so annoyed with all those gun enthusiasts, staunch vegetarians, rabid animals righters, virulent Liberals/Conservatives, etc. is because you’re tired of having their religion shoved down your throat.

It’s how they see the world and they want – badly for some reason – for you to see it the same way.

In any case, atheists see the world and our role in it sans god. And that is absolutely fine with me.

But just like you probably don’t want to be harangued at the airport by (American) Christian fundamentalists, I don’t want want to asked to explain how I see the world as it relates to me while eating a late-night gyro.

Logically, there’s zero difference in those that utilize peer pressure and shame to put down a religion as there is to build one up. The core point is the same: see the world as I see it, or you are dammed/wrong/stupid, descended from apes, etc.

It’s this weird militant atheism that people seem to have that I find the most peculiar – like furiously sleeping. As if how I see the world affects them.

Some people just wanna eat a gyro in peace and I say, let them.

Him: You don’t really believe in god do you?
Me: Why does what I do in my head matter so much to you?

Location: work
Mood: wishing for a breakfast gyro
Music: can’t stop can’t stop, I’m still looking now
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You can’t be afraid if you laugh

If only something was enough

Old Fashioned with Rye

Met up with RE Mike the other night at a bar in midtown. Had myself an Old Fashioned with Rye and met some folks.

The usual summer swing.

Church in Manhattan

Lately, the press is all about Robin Williams’ suicide. There’s a number of a things going around that somehow glamorizes the whole notion of suicide in general, which bothers me no end.

Years ago, I wrote about a much less well-known comedian named Richard Jeni doing the same thing.

Felt then, as I feel now, what a colossal waste.

And the other time I wrote about suicide was with another comedian named Richard Gethard, who’s thankfully still alive.

I like Richard Gethard. I liked Richard Jeni. And I grew up watching Robin Williams – remember seeing him first appear as Mork on Happy Days back when it first came out. They made me laugh.

Stephen Colbert once said that, “If you are laughing, you can’t be afraid.” That’s one of the truest statements there are. I suppose that it’s why the people that have some of the saddest experiences laugh the hardest. It’s the only way they survive.

Sometimes, though, I think people just get tired of being afraid. And sometimes it’s not enough.

If I could have wished them something, woulda wished them something that was enough.

————-

Here’s a really good page on suicide, including the main question, “Are you thinking of committing suicide?”

Location: prepping for travel
Mood: disappointed
Music: Oh how can I survive? Will I make this drop this dive?
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We love death more than you love life

At the very least, they’re honest about that

Polished concrete floor

A few years back, had to replace a large section of floor and was given a number of options like ceramic tile, wood, etc.

One guy suggested stained polished concrete, which we chose because of its versatility.

The guy that installed it said that he worked with concrete because it’s one of the oldest, strongest, more durable construction materials out there.

We stained it a leather brown, polished it to high gloss, and sealed it with wax. Everyone that comes by always asks about it.

It cost me about half of what it would have cost to put in anything else because, while the labor costs were the same or more (for the specialized knowledge), the raw material is just so cheap.

60 pounds of concrete costs $3.00 here in Manhattan. Three dollars.

And everything’s more expensive in Manhattan.

Recently, I’ve had a number of heated discussions with well-meaning but staggeringly ill-informed people regarding the current Israel/Gaza strife and lately, I’ve just been asking one question:

Where are the bomb shelters in Gaza?

There are at least 30 tunnels – at a cost of $30 million and  at least 1,780 rockets (all fired). Where are the bomb shelters?

There answer is that there are none. There is nothing to protect the people of Gaza by the ersatz government of Gaza because that’s not how Hamas sees the role of government.

But no one says it better than Hamas themselves:

We are a people that love death for the sake of Allah as much as our enemies love life.

That is their slogan. Their motto. Their trademark.

And the trademark lawyer in me cynically thinks, “Well, at the very least, they’re honest about that.”

Location: the interstate
Mood: cynical
Music: A spray of stars hit the screen As the 10th impact shimmered
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Conversations with the wife and politics

Putin knew what he was working with

New York Historical Society - Old Police Equipment

Felt rough all week; my leg was swollen like a sausage and I was under the weather. So I stayed home one day, put on my most comfortable, ratty tee-shirt and what can only be described as capris for men.

I’m not (terribly) proud.

The wife saw me puttering around and pulled me close, nuzzled me, and gave me a kiss. She then pulled away and looked me deeply in my eyes.

“You look like a homeless person,” she said.

———-
On a more somber note, the news is full of what’s going on in Israel and Ukraine. On the former, it’s a complex subject and one I’m not qualified to address, although I have my own particular views on the matter.

On the latter, however, I read with interest how Putin is publicly shocked at what’s gone on despite being actively involved in the unrest in Ukraine since the first day. Which immediately recalled to mind a story I once told you years ago.

Putin’s been working with murderous thugs for years and he’s suddenly surprised when they start acting like murderous thugs.

He knew what he was working with when he started.

Location: home, with an ice pack
Mood: old
Music: Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!)
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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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