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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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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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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Does Mark Wahlberg deserve to be pardoned?

Mark Wahlberg owes a debt

Mark Wahlberg pardon opinion
When Mark Wahlberg was 16, he randomly walked up two men on two separate occasions and assaulted them with a weapon – according to reports, in the second incident, he left Hoa Trinh permanently blind in one eye.

Wahlberg now wants a pardon from Massachusetts; a copy of his petition can be found here.

Essentially, he’s saying that he’s still being punished for his actions as a child and feels it’s time for the punishment to stop. In his petition, he feels he’s paid his debt to society.

And an article today tracked down Hoa Trinh who said that Mark Wahlberg did not, in fact, blind him.

In light of all this, let’s discuss the whole rationale for punishment. What’s the point of punishment in the first place?

There are essentially four reasons:

Prevention

We want stop criminals from hurting other people. The idea is that a would-be criminal balances the opportunity-cost of what he’s about to do.

Would you assault another man purely because he’s a different race than you and – AFAYK – blind him knowing that you might spend your life in jail?

Arguably not.

Would you do it, knowing that you will go to jail for 45 days, get out, become a famous rapper selling your own brand of teeth grills, movie star, multi-millionaire?

Arguably so.

To pardon Mark Wahlberg would achieve precisely the opposite of what this theory aims to accomplish.

Under the theory of prevention, Mark Wahlberg should not be pardoned.

Protection

We want to stop criminals from hurting other people. The idea here is that if a criminal is in jail, or otherwise incapacitated, he has no means of hurting others.

Mark Wahlberg is now a multi-millionaire. At this point, it is doubtful he would assault anyone else, lest he risk losing everything in a lawsuit.

This theory of punishment is essentially inapplicable to Mark Wahlberg. He serves as no current danger to anyone.

Under the theory of protection, he should be pardoned.

Retribution

We want criminals to “pay” for their crimes to society as a whole. Essentially, the theory is that if you hurt one of us, you hurt us all.

  • I am not Vietnamese. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is not my people. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is probably not one of your people.
  • I am Asian. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is my people. However, in that sense, Hoa Trinh is probably not one of your people.
  • I am an American. Hoa Trinh is an American. In that sense, Hoa Trinh is my people. Moreover, in that sense, Hoa Trinh is probably one of your people.

Mark Wahlberg spent 45 days in jail for assaulting two men for no reason. 45 days for blinding someone is too little punishment, but if Hoa Trinh was not actually blinded, then that is probably sufficient deterrent.

Under the theory of retribution, Mark Wahlberg should be pardoned.

Restoration

We want criminals to “pay for their crimes to their victims. Essentially, we want the criminals to put the world back as it was before their actions.

If a criminal steals a dozen eggs, he should replace those dozen eggs.

Despite having access to monies and resources you and I could only dream of, Mark Wahlberg stated publicly that, while he knows the right thing to do would be to find Hoa Trinh and somehow try to make things right for the man again, he has not done so.

You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn’t until I really started doing good and doing right by other people, as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don’t have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning.

While it is great for him that he feels good when he wakes up in the morning, as far as he was aware, Hoa Trinh was still blind due to his actions.

With that in mind, Mark Wahlberg made no attempt to make Hoa Trish whole again, and is uninterested in doing so. And why should he be? He sleeps soundly at night.

Under the theory of restoration, Mark Wahlberg should not be pardoned.

It seems pretty split down the middle. Except his request for a pardon is one essentially one based on one thing alone: because he deserves it.

This is not a basis for freedom from punishment. But he can tip the balance in his favor.

If Mark Wahlberg wants to be pardoned, he should meet up with Hoa Trinh – who has requested to meet him – and do something to make amends.

This would fulfill the Restoration theory.

Pay for Trinh’s kid’s college fund, pay off his mortgage, etc. Even if it’s just saying: “Holy crap, I was a stupid kid. I’m so sorry” it would go a long way here.

Otherwise, there’s a still an outstanding debt that Wahlberg owes Trinh.

Mark Wahlberg has to pay that debt.

Either by holding on to the stigma of what he did as a stupid kid or meeting up with Trinh as a man and asking for the debt to be forgiven.

But debts have to be paid, one way or the other. That’s the nature of a debt.

Location: staring at the Friday clock
Mood: offended
Music: searching for good times but just wait and see
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The worst day I’ve had in a while

Google will replace a cracked Nexus 5 screen for free

Cracked Nexus 5 Screen

Was out in Brooklyn meeting a client in the summer heat two days ago. Got mixed up and ended up being 20 minutes late – and I’m rarely late. Not a good start to a rough meeting.

Grabbed a bus to avoid walking in the heat and, when it lurched, heard a crack in my back pocket. My less-than-six-months-old Google Nexus 5 just bit the dust.

Then I got home and got confirmation that I lost my biggest and oldest client; they hired an in-house counsel. All-in-all, a rough day.

But then I saw more headlines for ISIS and the poor fella that they killed.

And my friend – who works for a non-profit – told me that he just received an email.

It seems that, because of the ebola epidemic, prices for food and other staple items are skyrocketing. The people he works with in Sierra Leone  – who are a very, very proud people – were asking for a slight and temporary stipend to be able to afford food to feed their family.

How much were they asking for?

$20 extra. For the month.

Suddenly, I felt really ridiculous about my worst day.

It got even more ridiculous as I found out that, 17 hours prior to my cracking my Nexus phone, Reddit just released that Google Play would replace any cracked Nexus phone purchased through them for free.

20 minutes after I called Google, got an email that a new phone would be shipped to me free of charge in a week.

I’ve said a few times now that all emotional pain comes when your expectation of reality doesn’t match reality.

I’ve also said that I’ve got no complaints. I’ve got my people, my pad, my poison, and my person.

Couldn’t really wish for much more.

Google Red Nexus 5 replacement

While writing this, UPS came by with my replacement phone. In less than 24 hours. Amazing.

———–

The following are charities that work in Ebola-afflicted countries and all have three or four stars from Charity Navigator. Skip your morning coffee, send them a fivver, and feel good about the rest of your day.

Location: NYC, where there’s no ebola
Mood: so grateful
Music: Hold on, hold on, we’ve got the lights dear
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It’s not just a piece of paper

Marriage is not just a piece of paper

Couple on boat on lake with balloons

Wife: Do you know what I want?
Me: World peace?
Her: No, nachos!

Some time ago, a buddy told me that he was (finally) getting married after living with his girlfriend for almost a decade.

When I asked him why, he reminded me that he had just come back from a vacation in Europe. Turns out he was involved in an argument with a local peddler.

Somehow, things spiraled from there and he ended up getting arrested.

But while locked up, his girlfriend wasn’t allowed to even visit him as she wasn’t a relative. She also wasn’t able to go back to the hotel to get his passport that day because she couldn’t prove she had a right to be in the room as he booked it with his hotel miles.

Only after the a day of waiting was she finally able to get in, get their passports, and clear up the matter.

Whenever someone says that “Marriage is just a piece of paper” I shake my head with disbelief. They’re only focusing on the emotional part of it – which I also don’t believe is true – and not on any of the legal and societal aspects.

Recently, just heard about another friend going through something similar here.

Marriage is a lot more than just a piece of paper. Even if you don’t think so, the rest of the world does.

Me: Look at it this way, now you two need a court order to break up.
Him: Is that a good thing?
Me: (laughing) It is in my case.

Location: start of a new work week
Mood: relaxed
Music: All on my own I don’t think that I’d have fared so well
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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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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.
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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
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