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
 Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

A piece of home

Even dirt means something if it comes from home

Harold

When the Revolutionary War was over, George Washington vowed never to set foot again on British soil.

But by 1924, we were allies and a statue was given by us to the UK. To honor George’s request, the City of London put Virginia soil down where the statue stands so that he kept his promise.

Similarly, when Lafayette died in 1834, he was buried in Paris, but under US soil.

And here in New York City, one of the two main highways that encircle the island is built on debris from Bristol, England after the Nazi’s bombed that place.

There’s something about taking a bit of the landscape of some other land that was part of home. Even if it’s only dirt or rubble.

As I said in my last post, I said goodbye to an old friend. It’s a joke. Kinda.

See, I gave my plant Harold to my buddy Brandon that owns Evolution Muay Thai here in the city.

Harold came from a cutting of a plant that my mom brought decades ago from Taiwan to here. I took a cutting of that plant to my first apartment in NYC just off of Times Square.

Everywhere I moved, he came with me. And with every move, he got a little bigger.

But he just got too big for my small apartment. Brandon, who practically has his own nursery of plants, agreed to take him.

So in 9 degree weather, I bundled Harold up for the last time and brought him downtown.

Brandon: Man, the pictures didn’t do him justice.
Me: He’s a big boy.

He’s just a plant, I understand. But he’s a bit of my hometown and my parents’ hometown. I found myself more sentimental than I might’ve imagined I’d be as I took him on his last subway ride.

A short time later, I asked another buddy that works there,

Me: How’s Harold doing?
Cary: What is up with you and Harold!?
Me: He was my roommate for over 20 years.

Like I said, there’s something about having a piece of the place you call home.

But then again, we just need a little piece.

And so I took something from Harold before I sent him out into the world.

Harold Jr. (Jr.)

As a bit of comic relief, here’s the owner showing how to defend the jab – pay special attention to the quip he gives at 1:07, which is simultaneously brilliant, rude, and hilarious.

Location: in front of Harold Jr. (Jr.)
Mood: cold
Music: The earth that is the space between
 Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Have you ever heard of combat juggling?

Another thing I find oddly interesting

Thought I’d be done by now with my week but I’m not.

Had an unexpected expense of paying for some critical data I needed for a client project – which was astronomical because I didn’t know I’d need it until the 11th hour. Unfortunately, since this was a new client, it had to be done.

So I ended up agreeing to yet another project that will fill my time until the end of the month.

Maybe it’s just as well as it’ll force me to take some time off from the gym, especially since I’ve injured my rotator cuff.

Getting older stinks.

Speaking of the gym, a friend of mine knows that I fence so sent me the above video on something I’ve never heard of, called combat juggling.

It blends athleticism and strategy in a surprisingly interesting way.

One of the simultaneous pro/con things about getting older is that you really have to be thoughtful with how you spend the days you have left. I’m guessing I’ve got about 11,315 left.

There are any number of things I’d like to be able to try out/learn but my reserve of spare time is getting less and less by the day. I think in my 20s, I might have given this a go; it looks like fun.

On that note, it’s back to some decidedly unfun things.

Location: chained to my desk
Mood: still busy working
Music: searching for good times but just wait and see

 Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

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
 Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Everything is easy once someone shows you how

Bart-Oh-Low-May-Day and the Egg

Egg of Columbus from WikiCommons
(c) Wikicommons

Today is Columbus Day here in the States and for years, I rolled my eyes at people that felt it should be renamed. Tradition and whatnot.

Then someone sent me this Oatmeal comic, which I found pretty eye-opening. Ended up doing some more reading and he really was a horrible human being.

So now I’m in the other camp and agree that the name – although not the holiday itself – should be reconsidered.

Still, there’s this apocryphal story I like about him, which is called the Egg of Columbus.

The story goes that a buncha dudes were sitting around Columbus and essentially saying that, at some point, someone from Europe would have “found” America.

Columbus ignores them and, instead, asks for an egg.

He says to the men, “Stand this egg up one side.” The men can’t. So he then takes it, cracks the bottom of it, and then stands it up.

Then he says something like, Everything is easy once someone shows you how.

I imagine he then throws the deuce, flips the table over, tells them all the screw themselves, and says, peace out.

My brother did something similar when I was a little kid – the balancing the egg part.

I couldn’t figure it out and then he took some salt, poured it on the table, and sat the egg up in that. Some 30 years later, and I still remember it.

Speaking of which, he figured out how to save (most of) the pictures from my camera card.

Smart fella, my brother. Everything is easy once someone shows you how.

Now off to work – no Bartolomé/Indigenous People Day for this fat boy.
UFC Fighter Angela Hill at Formerly Crows

Here’s one of the few pictures that made it through – with Angela Hill from the UFC.

Location: The New World
Mood: excited
Music: baby, as long as skies are blue
 Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Neufchâtel 2

Another entry on our possible pasts

Ship on the Hudson River

Her: What are you eating on that?
Me: Cream cheese. Kinda.
Her: What does that mean?
Me: Well, it all started years ago…
Her: Oh no…

Just had a bagel with cream cheese.

Check that, I just had a bagel with light cream cheese.

Well, that’s not totally true either – I had a bagel with a cheese called Neufchâtel, which I mentioned in passing once before.

Here’s the story: A fella named Bill tried to recreate a French cheese called Neufchâtel here in the states. But, because of the differences in milk, climate, cows, etc., it wasn’t quite right. So he added cream to it to make it more appealing, resulting in what we call cream cheese now.

English: French Neufchâtel is a cheese labelle...

Decades later, with improved technology, companies were able to better mimic Neufchâtel without the cream. As an added bonus, they realized that, without the added cream, it was naturally lighter in calories and fat.

But, because now everyone was more familiar with the name Cream Cheese over Neufchâtel, they simply called it Light Cream Cheese.

If you read this blog, you’ll see that one of the themes I have is how location influences things – sometimes for the better and sometimes not

My last entry was about accents changing as people move around. Or delicious oranges turning bitter somewhere else. Industrial waste turning to delicious rum after an ocean voyage.

I wonder what my life would have been like if we never came here? Suppose it’s a strange obsession I have with knowing my possible pasts.

Me:…and that’s the story of Light Cream Cheese.
Her: (silence)

Location: a building with bedbugs on the top floor
Mood: annoyed
Music: it’s still an obsession

The Past and the Virginia Tidewater Accent

Why is it the Top 40?


Did you ever wonder why the music countdown was always the Top 40? Why not the top 30, or 50?

The reason is because early jukeboxes could only hold 40 songs. So, decades later, we’re still constrained by figures and things that are no longer relevant.

I think about that a good deal: Why things are the way they are.

As I teach my fencing art and continue to wrassle, I’m ever vigilant to wonder if things are done for a good reason or if that’s just how things have always been done – and if the latter, why.

The core of the fulfilled life is the life that wonders why. And I think we all – in our own way – wonder about our purpose.

On a related note, I found the video above fascinating because you can hear how accents changed over time – how a UK accent can become an American Southern accent over time.

It’s a great commentary on how environment and time affects things to make the so different from what they once were that they’re no longer recognizable as what they once were.

On the flip side, though, I probably lie awake too long at wondering.

Lie Awake

Location: a building with someone that is starkers
Mood: irritated
Music: It’s simple and eternal, the sum of where we’re made
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

The story of Tyre, Alexander, and the Elvis Barbershop

The Siege of Tyre and things that matter

Screen Shot of the Elvis Barbershop
Somewhere across the world, there’s a barbershop in Lebanon called the Elvis Barbershop. It’s located at the red marker you see above.

There’s nothing particularly interesting about the Elvis Barbershop except that I like its name – who names a barbershop “Elvis?”

It’s located in the city of Tyre, which is a peninsula off of the mainland.

Siege of Tyre.
Siege of Tyre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it wasn’t always a peninsula. It was an island for probably millions of years when Alexander the Great came by in 332 BC.

Alexander (Al, to his friends) had taken over much of the area and this was the last bit to be conquered. But the inhabitants of Tyre refused to surrender because they were an island fort with 200 ft (60 meter) walls.

And they were so arrogant that they tossed Alexander’s ambassadors over the walls to their deaths.

So Al filled in the land between the mainland and the island, pulled his weapons over, and laid siege to the island – now peninsula – for 70  days.

Afterward, he conquered the city-fortress and destroyed everything.

Fast-forward 2,400 years and there’s a fella in the world – presumably named Elvis – that has a barbershop on the ground that Alexander laid. An act only ancillary to Al’s main goal still affects the world to this day.

I’ve mentioned Alexander the Great in this blog and buncha times, mainly because he had such a profound effect on the world and how I look it.

Thought about all this because someone contacted me and said that something I wrote affected his life.

I think we all hope that the things we do have some lasting good effect far beyond ourselves.

The hope that somewhere in our wicked, wicked childhoods, we must have done something good that means something to someone.

Location: off to wrassle
Mood: thrilled
Music: nothing comes from nothing
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

Stephen Colbert and the good ole days

Depth of character goes deeper than an accent

Graffiti covered wall NYC 2013

Stephen Colbert was born in Tennessee had a southern accent growing up. He realized that having it was a detriment to how he wanted to be seen in life and worked to get rid of it.

I realized something similar when I went to college in 1990 and met non-New Yorkers, you see, New-Yorkers like to share Sublets in NYC, this is because of the high prices and population density. It’s probably more of a necessity than preference!

That year, New York City was the murder capital of the United State. Here are the murder and assault rates when I was a teenager.

And the little slice of the world I called home had one of the sharpest increases in murder and violence in 1988, two years before the height. It wasn’t Bed-Stuy, but it sure as heck wasn’t Stamford, Connecticut.

As I’ve said a number of times before, it’s always someone invariably not from NYC that pines for the good ole days of “gritty” New York. I figure they imagine it from reruns of The Cosby Show or Fame.

Waiting room in doctor's office

Lately, though, I’ve been having strangers tell me that I must have lived an easy life growing up. And my roll my eyes as they try to impress me with the the time they were once mugged outside a suburban mall.

I grew up carrying two wallets, just so I could still have some scratch to get home when I did get mugged. Still do when I travel.

Everyone is so quick to judge others based on how they speak or appear, which reminds me of that quote: We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anyway, Stephen Colbert lost most of his family in an airline crash when he was 10, which is more horrific than anything I could ever imagine – or ever want to.

But you’d never know it from how he is or how he speaks because he controls how people see him so well.

Most people assume that, because the depth of their character only goes as far as their accent, the same must be true of everyone else. I don’t talk like the poor son of a fish monger so I must not have been one.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Him: It’s one thing to grow up in a rough area, it’s another thing to stay there.
Me: Why would we stay there if we didn’t have to? No one who was born poor wants to stay poor. It’s not like you see on TV.

Location: start of a new summer workweek
Mood: amused
Music: Wait for the day when I can save face and come to a happy home.
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.

What color is the sun?

We don’t see things as they really are

Sun setting over Atlantic Ocean
After the craziness of the past weekend, was hoping to find some time to decompress.

Unfortunately, had a full blown night of insomnia that’s thrown me off kilter for the rest of the week.

In any case, my friend Paolina asked me if what happened over the weekend was a Big City thing or not. Didn’t know how to answer her since I spent my entire life here.

It’s like that thing I told you about years ago where a frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean.

Wonder if the fish in the sea’d be surprised to know that that we’re up here shooting each other to death over parking spaces?

Most of us spend our entire lives unaware that we’re in our own little fishbowl in the universe. Some of us realize the net result’s usually the same.

Me? I read anything I can get my hands on, trying vainly to see the world as it is, rather than what I think it to be.

But every once in a while, someone reminds me that I don’t actually see things as they are, I see things as I am. Who I am. Where I am.

The sun is white.

It’s the atmosphere that makes it seem yellow. But it’s not yellow at all and only a handful of people ever has seen it as it really is.

That bothers me some.

But then I get some sleep, eventually, and forget that I once cared to know.

Drinking at Pier I

Location: in a newish room
Mood: philosophical from lack of sleep
Music: You want me down on earth, but I am up in space
Subscribe!
Like this post? Tell someone about it by clicking a button below.