Category: Commentary

Have you had a break today?

About two weeks ago I went back into the hospital. This time it was not a life-threatening issue, the shunt in my liver had become occluded which caused a minor upper gastrointestinal bleed. Luckily I had been warned the symptoms and signs 2 years ago when I was really sick and they installed it so it was caught immediately. I wasn’t even admitted into the ICU, they performed a quick minor surgery to clear the occlusion, observed me for 48 hours to make sure it worked, then sent me on my way.

Hospital stays suck, even when you are in MCU not ICU. The last time I was there was for three weeks and for 90% of it I was under a strict “no Internet” policy.

So for this stay I decided to do the same thing even though it wasn’t mandatory.

Our bodies are capable of an infinite amount of energy along a timeline that ends when we die. However, we cannot just create infinite amounts of energy at once or on demand. During my last stay, it was explained to me that despite my protests that being on the Internet and being able to interact would help me mentally, physically that would divert energy my body needed to heal.

After I left the hospital (I’m fine by the way, everything got fixed up and I feel pretty good!) I felt so good mentally I decided to continue restricting my Internet both for my mental health as well as I ended up getting busy with work.

I am happy to report it was great.

I love the ability to interact with anyone at any time of day online. I love Twitter’s capabilities and Facebook and reading the web and basically just sucking up communication like a vacuum. But at the same time, it comes at an energy cost and a mental health one. There’s only so many new terrible Trump stories you can read each day and stay happy.

I turned off my phone this past weekend and took Basil to the beach. It was marvelous. I’m slowly learning you don’t have to respond to every text, read every headline, respond to every Facebook post, or feel bad about just unplugging for a bit.

I would not say I’m shutting down on Internet usage or that it is bad. But except for short bursts like live snarking something on Twitter or engaging in conversations on Facebook I do plan to spend less time reading the Internet and more time watching a TV show (American Gods is astoundingly good) and writing than feeling like I have to be up to speed on all things at all times.

I’m just closing the aperture a little bit more and trying to be more focused on being online.

I did not mean to worry anyone, rest assured that I have some protocols in place since I live alone that if anything happens certain people get “activated” for help if I need it.

In the meantime, I highly recommend the occasional Internet break. Try to go a couple of days of it. I found that I stressed less, was more relaxed and had a lot more creative thoughts than just sitting down and making hashtag jokes on Twitter. :>

Think pieces on Pivots and Whiskers on Kittens…

This is a think piece on pivots.

Except it’s not.

But now you can’t get it out of your head.

This is how the current presidential administration operates to the average person. They take a statement that in and of itself is at least reasonable to consider: “surely all these illegal people here are stealing jobs” or “The middle east is filled with Islamic terrorism and they already hit us once” and, from there policy is made without actually considering the data.

And the media has failed us by refusing to use plain language to call it out because it’s too busy inside a bubble of its own creation to speak plainly for fear of appearing adversarial. They would be better served by simply not reporting the administration at all, or at least stop giving it front page treatment. But they are addicted to clicks.

If you don’t believe me ask yourself, who, outside of the media and some West Wing fans, even understands the obsession and meaning of the word “Pivot” right now?

A pivot in the current environment isn’t truth, it’s lying with style. Not much thinking required on that.

Is VR the next 3D? (maybe) Kinect? (maybe) Wii? (maybe)

Virtual Reality is a pretty magical experience under the right set of circumstances. Having tried now all of the big players in the space between Vive, Oculus, HoloLens etc, I can say without question that VR and Augmented Reality have finally broken through to the consumer.Yet I have begun to figure out some of the obstacles that are going to seriously impede adoption, and they aren’t new ones.

Let us, for a moment, skip the cost of the actual hardware and supporting hardware. Eventually this entry point will come down and it’s low hanging fruit to start there because the technology is so new. Suffice to say for the moment that it’s incredibly expensive compared to other “good enough” technologies that are focused on entertainment as the gateway for broad adoption.

Let us further for this discussion skip the virtual store/User Interface. Much like phones and operating systems this will eventually solidify when someone hits the right metaphor or construct that makes obtaining apps/games and navigating between them easy and (more or less) simple.

So let’s assume you have brought home Bob’s Amazing VR platform, and Bob’s Amazing VR platform once properly setup and connected leads you to magical experiences.

There’s a massive gap in the middle of these two things that could kill VR as dead as 3D Blu Ray, or Kinect games, or even the fact few play the Wii anymore (arguably the most successful of these technologies from a usage standpoint).

That gap is the friction involved to enter the experience.

3D Blu Ray exposed the same complaint I often heard about the Kinect: “I can’t just sit down and get into it.” First you must make sure that your Blu Ray player supports the latest firmware, your glasses are available and not in a dusty corner somewhere, they are charged and/or have fresh batteries, they are properly synced to your TV, that you have enough glasses for everyone, that the TV and the Blu Ray player are in sync on the 3D signal, that you upped the brightness on the TV to compensate for the dimming effect 3D has, and lastly that everyone has a proper viewing angle. You perform all these actions and pop in your Blu Ray only to find you accidentally popped in the non-3D copy and have to get up to go back to the case to get the 3D one. Never mind the fact the primary way you consume movies or TV now might be streaming for which there is little 3D content. Add to that, I hope you don’t get a headache from the 3D syncing.

Let’s look at Kinect. Similar problems arise. The idea of motion activated gaming seems like a winner on paper, and the Kinect sensor is a marvel of engineering. But its utility is really limited to gaming experiences for which you have to rearrange your living room, calibrate the sensor (sometimes even in between games) to properly sample the game space, and deal with situations that typically confuse the sensor like the family dog entering the space or someone in the background going to get a drink from the kitchen. A few magical moments don’t really compensate to overcome wondering if you really want to move the couch and coffee table out of the room again to play Dance Central.

The Wii managed to keep the entry to experience friction low, but content was limited to Tennis. Or Bowling.

Now let’s look at VR. Depending on how Bob designed the VR rig you at the very least have a headpiece to wear. It may or may not be tethered to a base unit that is not meant to be moved. The headsets are a long way from an uncomfortable motorcycle helmet but are also a longer ways away from feeling like no headset at all. It’s Yet Another Thing ™ you have to take the time to get right before you can experience what you want to experience. It may require calibration. The magical experience you had over at a friend’s house might be completely different because he has Joe’s Amazing VR Platform not Bob’s but you didn’t know there was a difference. Like the 3D glasses, you probably feel a little goofy wearing the setup, and your friends video’s of you flailing around on Youtube don’t really endear you to your investment. Once done with your experience you have to stow everything away, which means finding a place for the helmet and equipment.

The friction point here is time.

We’re all competing for time. Microsoft isn’t competing against Sony with the Xbox. Sony isn’t competing with Nintendo. Everyone is competing for time. Because between movies, streaming, phone games, casual games, console games, going out to dinner, reading a book, and the fact there is more quality content above the “garbage” bar than at any point in history, there is no time. So much so I’m convinced I have past the point in my life where even if the content stopped tomorrow I would not have enough hours left in my life to experience it all when combined with work, sleep, and food.

Each of the scenarios I described above involves time. And remember, we already gave a free pass to the cost of entry and the ease of accessing content. That adds even more time.

Those problems will get solved with volume and maturity. Smartphones were along long before Apple solved the entry point and ease of use problems. Technology for the moment limits VR until miniaturization can get us to a societal point that contact lenses or even simple glasses make the friction points easy. That is where VR needs to focus its user experiences.

Make your VR platform goal to make the technology as simple and easy to enter into as an iphone app or launching Netflix and VR/AR will reach it’s potential so fast “Screens” as we think of them today will be a thing of the past. It might also avoid going the way of 3D.

There is American Exceptionalism. We’re the Exception to Running a Modern Country Well.

There *is* American Exceptionalism. It’s that we intentionally confuse social welfare with totalitarianism. We confuse economic models with "more" or "less" individual freedom. This belief is actually not the case. Our freedom lies in our ability to speak our minds, limitations on the government to intrude on our homes or compel us to incriminate ourselves, providing a non-violent means of revolution, etc.

What has resulted from our economic model is the situation we have today, no matter who is in office Americans work more for less "life" than pretty much any modern country. Furthermore, we stubbornly resist any idea that has been implemented elsewhere (say, Europe) before we thought of it as being "European". Except for describing a vacation location, the word "European" is pejorative.

I’m an incredibly lucky person. I was born into a place on Earth where, as a white male, I could enjoy "The American Dream" at the lowest difficulty level needed to obtain it.

But today that same demographic doesn’t have the same option. And it’s not being taken away by increasing minority populations or affirmative action or illegal immigration. It’s being taken away by student loan debt, a housing market viewed as a profit center, a health industry that is so institutionalized against change it is actually incented to treat disease for money rather than cure it, corporate taxes that have so many loopholes the effective rate is zero which deprives the government of revenue, politicians that have to worry about re-election more than governing, and finally, a system that feeds direct control of our well being, infrastructure, defense, drug approval, rights, and all the machinations of government into a tiny fraction of the population who gamed the system then used it to buy and sell the politicians they need to achieve their goals.

Their goals. Not our goals. Not society’s goals. Not the country’s goals. It’s hard for the lowest difficulty people, so imagine everyone else.

I’ve left out a bunch. The challenges of sex and race, our privatized prison system and militarized police. Our need to build weapons we don’t need to fight wars we should have thought twice about before getting into.

This article really resonated with me and I urge everyone, conservative and liberal to read it. It’s not anti-conservative or anti-patriotic or anti-liberal to suggest someone is doing something better. It doesn’t much affect our power as a nation state to implement some of these ideas.

http://www.thenation.com/article/after-i-lived-in-norway-america-felt-backward-heres-why/

We used to be a country that took on big social changes or projects. The Civil War. An income tax. The railroads. The highway system. Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid. Federal oversight of safety of everything from cars to food to drugs. Landing on the moon. Rovers on Mars. The space shuttle.

I don’t expect anyone to wholesale change their minds over one article, and there are loads of challenges and caveats to some of what I said above. But when solving these problems the American Way is to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, then work to undo as much of the good as we can because either it wasn’t perfect or it’s a "non-american" idea.

It’s time we looked around, and realized we’re not some lone beacon on a hill that no one else must ever live without. Because we’re feeding our own people, our values, and the very future of the country into the fire that lights that beacon. And it’s not necessary.

Top 5 Tips for Nice Guys: #4 Will SHOCK You!

(Please note this article is written in a CIS/Heteronormative voice. Probably everything in this article can be considered applicable to a variety of different types of interaction on the sexual fluidity/Relationship diversity scale, however at our core we are still coming to grips with the very concept of gender and whether it’s an outdated way to look at things. From that perspective I felt the topics addressed here would be best spoken in that voice and isn’t meant to be dismissive of the entire spectrum. Secondly, this is a touchy subject. I accept I might be COMPLETELY WRONG in the positions I take here. Keep the discussion lively but civil. Remember, I used to ban people for a living.)

So you’re a nice guy. I know, it sucks. You’ve had an encounter with someone that you felt was far more meaningful than they did. You didn’t even think of it sexually even; you just want someone to love. You abhor the very concept of sexual violence, disrespect, or sexism. You go out of your way when interacting with potential partners to really listen and internalize what is important to them. You’re not a prowler or a creeper, and don’t believe anyone owes you anything. Sex would be nice, but you’re ok with that not being an immediate outcome.

You really are a nice guy. You feel like crap however because that doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere.

First off, congratulations! I’m proud of you. A lot of people would argue that you shouldn’t be congratulated or get a pat on the back for being a decent person, that the very concept of you being a truly nice guy doesn’t deserve to be pointed out because it should be the default state.

Except…

We’re all human. We all fall short of who we want to be sometimes. We should pat people on the back (metaphorically!) if only to remind ourselves to be better than our lowest nature. So… deep breath. Take some solace in the fact that more often than not you are great partner material.

But you still feel like crap. With that in mind, here are some tips that might help you navigate the current thinking and behavior going on in the psychosexual realm that drives a lot of our reconciliation of emotional needs and physical ones (or lack thereof if applicable). And by tips I mean “useful bits of context” not “strategies for getting her into bed.”

#1. Assess the situation.

I’ll say it again, the current environment for discourse on this type of subject sucks for you. However, you have to appreciate how we got here. Generations of abuse, assault, and murder have left a huge swath of our species either afraid to talk or silenced by societal role enforcement. Women in particular are speaking out on these topics precisely because their voice is needed to affect change. Believe me, I have tons of opinions about human sexual and relationship dynamics and I choose not to talk about them accept in certain small audience of friends because now is the time to shut up and listen. No one wants to hear right now about how tough it is to be a truly nice guy in this environment. I know, again that sucks. But sometimes shutting up and absorbing all the viewpoints, even if not applicable to you, is the right thing to do. Everyone deserves an opinion, but not every opinion deserves to have an audience 100% of the time.

No. Sometimes you have to just drop it. Because you have to…

#2: Cope with being privileged.

Being told you’re privileged is ultimately a dismissal. It devalues you as a person and stereotypes you into a societal bucket because no matter what you do that bucket is deeper than any method you could use to climb out of it. Everything you say or do can be dismissed with “You’re privileged and can’t see past it.”

It’s also, unfortunately for your emotions, probably true.

If you’re a white straight male especially: congratulations you are privileged in a large segment of Western society! No, you didn’t ask for it. No, you don’t feel comfortable with it. Yes, you can fight to end it. But you have to cope with the fact you have both hands in the Palmolive and are soaking in it. I’ve even seen guys say out loud, “If I’d known it was going to be this tortuous I would not have taken the choice to be privileged if offered!” or “It’s been tough for me too!”

Stop that. The very fact you are saying things like that reflects your privilege because…

#3: You have to accept the alternative is far worse.

Aw, you’re feeling some sadness over a girl you love who likes men you think are horrible for her? That’s adorable. Try growing up with brown skin in most sections of the United States. Or being female just about anywhere in the world. Sorry but it’s time for some tough love. Your sadness is a valid feeling. What you do with it is what should be your focus. The temporary sadness over a relationship situation will fade, constant fear of sexual assault or harassment or getting shot just walking around whether you’re 8 or 80 doesn’t fade. You have to learn to walk away at some level emotionally and put things into a greater context.

Of course you should tell this person how you feel. And, should it not work out (despite psychosexual programming from Hollywood movies and top 10 pop hits where the persistent suitor usually prevails) you have to take a deep breath and go invest your time and effort with someone else. Yes, friendship is less a life than you hoped with this person. But to hinge everything that makes them valuable as an individual on romantic emotions devalues them as much as being bucketed as “privileged” makes you feel when you read about it. If you can’t get over that simple fact then…

#4: Go attach live jumper cables to your nipples.

Because…

#5: You have to learn the hardest fact: The universe and people in particular don’t by default owe you anything, up to and including having the precise relationship you want with precisely the individual you have chosen.

So you have a deep emotional connection with someone that isn’t reciprocated at the same level, and you just want this person to understand how deeply you feel despite their choice and want to tell them. Your mind continually bombards you with the phrase you most want to say “You don’t understand! I’m a nice guy!” When what you are really saying is “I don’t understand! Why aren’t you connecting at the same level?”

You have to drop it. Seeking relationships is like random atoms colliding. I do not believe in any way in the “soul mate” theory, and judging from society’s propensity to have second, or third marriages (five if you are a Republican politician legislating morality SHOTSFIRED) most people actually don’t either. But our songs and books and movies and our culture celebrate the idea such that it makes it hard to let go when the other person just isn’t that into you. If you have to say to someone “But I’m a nice guy…” you have to ask yourself why you are communicating that. To reiterate, what you are saying is “You’re wrong! Rethink your choice!” You’re devaluing one of the most important decisions someone can make: Who they choose to be with. Worse, you are doing it in a way that countless men have coopted as a tactic to emotionally punish a woman for not having sex with him, even if you individually didn’t expect that as the immediate outcome.

So.

I’m 43 and divorced. By no means do I look at this list as a “I figured it out! Just do what I do!” list. But each of these tips (#4 is bracing!) at some level actually can make things better because they allow you to see your immediate gut emotions in a far larger context, which allows you use them to further your own happiness.

I would not want to be with someone I had to badger for months or years to be with me. I’ve certainly had that experience. You always end up sabotaging yourself by forcing a situation because you believe that all relationships (if the person could just see the real you) would yield your soul mate. I’ve failed at that and most likely will do so again. You will too!

It’s how you deal with it that matters.

You’re a nice guy. Again, I congratulate you. But as the old storytelling adage goes, “Show. Don’t Tell.” (why is it called Storytelling then and not Storyshowing…I digress)

Women have a hard enough time dealing with the guys who aren’t nice. I would imagine that as a general group they don’t need another vector by which to have to worry about the choices they should feel free to make.