Rolling Stones gather no Confirmation Bias

Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires

Buskers at 50th St Subway Station NYC
While I enjoy Kanye West as an artist, as a human being, he seems like a lout.

So when a posting came up on Facebook that said that he did another douchebag thing, I shared it only to find out later it wasn’t true.

The thing is, I assume he’s a douchebag so when I read something that proves it, I immediately believe it.

What irritated me most about that was that I should’ve known better.

One of the few things I remember from my first year in Prof. Maas‘ Psych 101 Class – waaaaaay back in 1990 – was the idea of confirmation bias, which essentially echoes poet Jean De la Fontaine idea that Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.

So when the Rolling Stone article about the UVA rape case was found to be completely false over the weekend, I thought of Prof. Maas and De la Fontaine again.

Rolling Stone and the authors wanted to believe that colleges are a hotbed of rape and misbehavior and found evidence to prove their position.

Only they didn’t. Instead, they just made it harder for genuine rape cases to be believed.

I see it every single day on Facebook. People that have evidence that aspartame and tilapia will kill you, Obama is a secret Muslim, and that jet fuel cannot melt steel.

It’s a daily thing – and something I perpetuated myself with Kayne West, because I wanted to believe he’s a douchebag and found evidence to support this, even when I didn’t.

Beliefs are dangerous things and they cloud judgement, even from those that should know better.

Still, it’s better to appreciate this with the smaller, insignificant things, than to realize it with bigger, more meaningful things. Just ask Rolling Stone magazine.

 

Location: in midtown later at midday for some afternoon cognac
Mood: hopeful
Music: People around gotta find something to say now
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Robinson Crusoe died wishing he was on the island

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us

Home on an island in Bermuda
In my spare time, I’ve been writing a break-up book. Figured it’s the logical extension of the other two dating books I wrote

One thing I truly believe is to try to distance yourself from the pain of the breakup – or any pain, really – and try to appreciate the good things that come out of it.

While I don’t believe in that old saw that “everything happens for a reason,” I do believe what this poet named James Russell Lowell said:

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or by the handle.

I started blogging during a really bad period of my life. But during that period, I had some pretty fun nights, met some incredible people – some of whom are among my best friends today – and, of course, met my favorite person.

And during that time, I listened to songs from singers like KT Tunstall, Camera Obscura, and Imoegen Heap; now, whenever I hear anything from them, I’m reminded of that time. And I look back on it fondly.

Did you know that Robinson Crusoe was based on a real guy? He was a fella named Alexander Selkirk that ended up alone on an island for four years and four months. After he was rescued, he became a multimillionaire and celebrity.

But he realized that that time alone ended up being some of the best times in his life. He died wishing that he was back on his islands with his goats and his thoughts.

In fact, when he could live anywhere in the world, he lived in a cave by himself for a bit. And one of his last thoughts was, I am now worth 800 Pounds, but shall never be so happy, as when I was not worth a Farthing.

Now, this isn’t like my usual rambling post so much as it is a letter to a friend to whom I say this:

Most people handle life as they do bad weather: they wait for it to stop.

Don’t be most people, because you’re not most people.

Try to enjoy these difficult times while you can, as odd as that might sound. Because it’s only just for now and it’ll be over before you know it.

In any case, I’m always (not so secretly) on your side.

Location: back to the gym again
Mood: content
Music: that time of year, leave all our hopelessness aside
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Black suit and a white shirt

It’s the right tone for a wrong day

Black suit and watch
I bought another suit a while ago. My tailor isn’t in the US so it takes a few months to reach me.

Got it because my old black suit was looking worn. And the reason I need another solid jet black suit is because I seem to at an age where I’m going to funerals and memorials a lot more than anyone might want.

Not that anyone ever wants to go to them.

Have a memorial coming up next week for my buddy Bobbie and the suit arrived in time for that. Unfortunately, sad events don’t follow anyone’s timeline.

About two years ago, went to a funeral for my buddy’s mom.

Then, unexpectedly, had to go to one for his brother just last week. It seems terribly cruel for such misery to visited upon anyone, let alone someone so young.

In any case, my suit arrived the very next day. I found that odd.

Writer Neil Gaiman said in one of his books:

I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult. Today they gave me comfort of a kind. I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.

I agree with that.

For me, a black suit is comforting in it’s own way. It strikes the right, somber tone for a very wrong day.

Me: I’m so sorry, man.

Location: last week, upstate
Mood: hopeful
Music: Sometimes it seems like lately I just don’t know
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Bad luck is better than worse luck

You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from

Fire in the UWS
A few days ago, rented a car to go that birthday party and also pick up a buddy from the airport.

Unfortunately, the tiny compact car I’d reserved had a dead battery.

So I called up the car rental company and told them that they needed to get me a replacement.

Customer Care: I’m so sorry about that! The only thing we have is an SUV. Do you want that? No additional charge.
Me: Sure, I’ll take anything. I just gotta go.

After losing about twenty minutes, the wife and I were on our way.

But during this time, the snow began to fall. It was only supposed to be an inch or so but it was clear that it’d be more.

A lot more.

Me: We gotta go.
Her: OK, let’s start saying our goodbyes.

Not long after arriving, we were back on the road. Had to call up my buddy and say we weren’t coming to get him.

Thankfully, we had that larger car so getting back home wasn’t all that bad.

This writer named Cormac McCarthy once said that, You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.

The thing is, it’s rare to actually realize that this is the case. This was one of those rare times.

But really, you could go through your whole life thinking you had terrible luck while, in reality, you’re far better off than if you had gotten what you wanted in the first place.

Moon in the daytime

Alternatively, you could always try and see the positive, however, small, of everything that’s ever happened to you.

This poet warrior – and I think that it’s telling he was a poet and warrior – named Mizuta Masahide once had a poem that went:

Since my house burned down
I now own a better view
of the rising moon

But there’s an even shorter translation I prefer. I told you about it once. It goes:

Barn’s burnt down —
now
I can see the moon.

Location: last night, shoveling all that damn snow
Mood: thoughtful
Music: She is running to stand still
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Bookending

I’m in a funny place, mentally

Child's Birthday Cake
February’s over and it’s been heady.

It was strange in that there were two children’s birthday parties and one death. The children are young: one’s my nephew, who turned one; the other, my niece, who turned two. The death was that of a college buddy about my age, 43.

It was the first time I’d been to any child’s birthday party since I was a kid. And the death was the first time someone I knew well, who was my age, passed.

In any case, my nephew’s birthday party was in Queens, my niece’s was in NJ. It was bitterly cold both days. The kind where every inhale burns the inside of your lungs.

And for the one in NJ, got the added bonus of being caught in a snowstorm so that meant a slow crawl home.

All that traveling gives a fella time to think.

Thought mainly of the bookending of life in these events: Two children starting their journey in the world, one young man finishing his.

Wonder how the children will spend the time they’ll have; wonder how I’ll spend the time I have left.

Clock in West Village, NYC

Oddly, my brother called me last night talking about that very subject.

Told him that I’m pretty content with my life. Wish I had more scratch and less injuries, but, on the whole, I don’t have a ton to complain about. After all, I won the lottery where it really counts.

But I’m turning 42 in less than two months, which makes me think about my own life more and more. I suppose I’ll tell you about that some day.

Of course, it’s all time and tide. We just don’t know what either will bring us.

But, I hope good things.

Man at the birthday party: Have a safe trip home, old man.
Me: (leaving) That’s just cruel.

Children's cupcakes (purple)

Location: yesterday, crawling to the Lincoln Tunnel
Mood: thoughtful
Music: away from you, it froze me deep inside. So come back
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Kill what you eat

If you’re willing to eat meat, you should be willing to kill it

Me: The best part of a chicken is the back.
Him: (disgusted) I’m not eating that.
Me: More for me.

My parents grew up in a time and place where they’ve each had to kill something to eat, my mother in particular.

When I was little kid, I went to Taiwan to see her mother, my grandma, who showed me how to properly kill a chicken. I saw this chicken walking around one moment and decapitated the next. She then proceeded to butcher it in the alley behind the house, careful not to nick any of the intestines.

Her: You’ll wreck it, otherwise. Do it wrong and you’ll get poop everywhere.
Me: Poop?
Her: Poop. Everywhere.

She did all this while smoking a cigarette, which is neither here nor there – just comically funny to me.

In any case, I saw the above video a few days ago; a friend put it up. It bothers me. People who have no problem buying sausage and a visceral reaction to seeing a pig being “slaughtered” for that sausage.

That strikes me as wrong.

If you’re gonna eat something, you should be able to accept that you’re about to eat something that was once a living, breathing animal.

It part of the reason why I find just tossing away food of any type, particularly meat, troubling.

That was once a living thing. Living things should be treated with respect.

Halal Gyro food in NYC

Location: last night, 7PM, watching the game at a buddy’s
Mood: sore
Music: Gonna hunt you like an, an, an, an, an, animal
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Iron fish, soup, kids, and mortgages

What you think makes you better is not what you think

Miso Soup
Me: My shoulder and leg are killing me today.
Her: I married you the day you broke.
Me: No backies.

There’s a massive “historic” snowstorm that’s supposed to hit my area today and it’s already started as I’m writing this.

I was supposed to have gone out to Long Island for a seminar but just got the cancellation notice late last night. Just as well since I dunno how I was gonna make it back in the snow, especially since my injuries aren’t healing like I wanted them to.

My buddy Bryson stopped by the other day and we grabbed a coffee around the way. We chatted about getting older, injuries, kids, mortgages and the sky blue repair company. Stuff old men talk about over coffee.

Speaking of kids, when I was a kid, I remembered a story about a greek doctor – maybe Asclepius – who cured people that had lethargy with this magic soup.

Centuries later, scientists recreated the ingredients of the soup and didn’t see anything particularly noteworthy about it.

But they then realized that he cooked the soup in an iron pot, creating an iron rich soup for people withe anemia. The cure had nothing to do with the ingredients of the soup itself, rather the vessel it was cooked in.

There’s a related story with how this one dude came up with an idea to cure Cambodians of anemia with a lucky fish made of iron cooked in soup. They wouldn’t do something as simple as put a piece of iron in their soup until it was shaped like something they recognized.

Environmentcircumstance, and pure dumb luck have so much more of an effect on things than I think most people realize, I think.

Getting back to my buddy, we talked about how most people think they have to be ready for having kids or a making that call to Northpoint Mortgage, or what ever, but I think it’s the opposite of that: Getting kids or a mortgage makes you ready for kids or a mortgage.

Suppose that’s another post for another day.

Right now, my circumstances say I gotta run out into this snowy environment. Maybe I’ll take some pics.

Location: The Manhattan snow
Mood: hungry
Music: Stones and sunlit streets, demons on dark roads
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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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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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