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Jack Dorsey Wants My Help

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey appeared (virtually) before Congress today and was grilled pretty severely. At one point he asked what Twitter could do to ‘earn our trust’ or some such. I can’t speak for anyone else, and there is no way Jack Dorsey would be interested enough in my opinion to read it, much less act on it, but I’m going to offer my thoughts on the matter. As a former Twitter user, I can tell you what it would take to get me back.

First, you can advertise anything to me you want. The platform has to make money. You can sell my likes, show me ads for penis and breast enlargement at the same time, even attempt to track me across the web and develop a deep understanding of me as a consumer.

Now, what do I want in return? It’s pretty simple.

  1. Declare that the First Amendment of the Constitution applies to your platform. That means that, barring certain very limited exceptions such as direct threats, if I post it, it stands. That’s it. If I post hateful comments about races, so what. I’m sure the world will take care of me. It doesn’t need you to protect it. If I post that Donald Trump is actually a lizard in a human skin, leave it up. Humans can sort through this stuff. We don’t need a nanny. This is going to cause you some consternation, because you’re used to allowing liberal insanity, but not conservative insanity (or even conservative fact) and it’s going to mean you don’t get to control thought. You’re still rich. Go with that. I mean, you’re rocking the whole Rasputin + nose ring look. Do you need to control our minds too?
  2. Show me what my friends and the people I follow want me to see. As a logical continuation of point one, if I’m free to say it, others should be free to listen. Don’t hide things you disagree with. Don’t silence voices you disagree with. Let the arena of ideas defeat the bad ideas. I understand some of those bad ideas might be your own. It sucks. I have things that I believe very strongly that have been rejected in the arena of ideas. I’m not sure if I’m right or wrong, but I am sure that if the ideas were more compelling I wouldn’t be as alone in having them. The market works babe. Let it work. And remember, roughly half of all people disagree with you. In business we have a word for those people. We call them customers. We take their money. We fold it in half, put it in our pocket, then pull it out when we go to McDonald’s or buy a Lear jet.
  3. While you’re showing me what I want to see, don’t influence it in any way. If I follow Michael Moore, and I don’t engage with his tweets, SHOW THEM TO ME ANYWAY. Don’t organize my feed in a way to promote engagement. Don’t organize my feed at all. Give it to me chronologically. Give it to me completely. Intersperse ads, so you can make money, but that’s it. Don’t decide that someone, say Glenn Beck, isn’t worth my time, and so you just don’t show me what he puts out. I followed him (for example) for a reason. I WANT TO SEE WHAT HE HAS TO SAY. If you can’t respect that, as you currently don’t, you won’ t have me as a customer.
  4. Don’t put your nose ring in between me and what I want to see. I don’t need to have information flagged, fact checked, or covered up. I don’t need to be told to think before I tweet. I’m not a child. I know that Donald Trump isn’t really a Lizard (maybe) and if I don’t who cares? I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said believe half of what you see and even less of what you read on the internet. Your transparent attempts to shape the conversation are insulting to my intelligence at best, and in my opinion, treasonous at worst. Stop. (And if you think Snopes is reliable, stop again.)
  5. This is kind of an obvious restatement of the above, but don’t ban or block people unless they break the law. I want terrorist cells planning their next ‘outing’ on Twitter. I can see them there. I want people who believe that we didn’t go to the moon exchanging conspiracy theories online. If I happen to see it and be entertained, hooray for me. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but terrorists and conspiracy theorists buy things. That means that they are, and I used this word earlier, so I’m assuming you get the point, customers. Don’t kick customers out of your store.

Now, I can imagine Jack stroking his beard, fidgeting with his nose ring, cleaning the mucus off of it with a pinkie fingernail, reinserting it and saying, ‘But we don’t want to support bad stuff. Terrorist are bad. Conspiracy theorists mislead people. And Trump is the worst!’ Yep. Ok. You want to be a publisher then, not a platform. Let’s say a play is performed in New York, and judged by the authorities to be obscene. Who do they arrest? Maybe a lot of people, but they don’t arrest the stage. If you want to be a platform, a stage if you will, then be a stage. If you want to be the producer, then you have to take responsibility for all the content, not just the content you don’t like. You have to, in the ever popular sports metaphor, be prepared to call balls and strikes. The umpire doesn’t rule on 20% of the pitches in a game. They rule on every one. Unless you’re willing to do that, stick to being the boards under your actors (customers again — as a business prof I felt like I had to make that point one last time) feet. It’s a job you and your platform can, with a few minor but painful changes, perform admirably. Do that, and I’ll be back.

If the Democrats Lose

If the democrats lose the upcoming Presidential election there will be lots of finger pointing. I am not going to speculate too much on who the democrats will blame. I’m sure it will be cheating and dirty tricks, and stupid bible thumpers, and all the usual suspects. Instead, I’m going to point fingers, with full realization that it is very likely that they will win, and everything I’m writing will not have mattered. But, I like to write, and I’m trying to write more often, and this is what is on my mind, so in no particular order, here’s what went wrong, if they lose.

I said no particular order, but this first one is really big, and probably the only one that affects their own party members. The democrats blatantly stole the last nomination from Bernie Sanders. I’m still mad about that, and he wasn’t my guy. But I believe in the process, and they abused the process. The evidence, other than it was obvious even to a casual political observer, was plain to see in the stolen (not hacked — add this to the list of constant big lies, another item I’ll get to if I get to it…) emails. If they’ll rig their own primary, what else will they do?

Changing the rules in the middle of the game doesn’t sit well with anyone, especially conservatives. I know there is a pandemic, and some of the changes being made with mail in voting and such are well intentioned. But changing the way we vote, introducing the potential for fraud, so close to what is at least the most emotional election in my lifetime will make people distrust you. There doesn’t have to be any shenanigans for this to matter. Just the possibility being introduced is enough to sow discord, and the perceived threat to the integrity of the election has motivated the right.

I’ve read over 30 instances of ballot problems including pay for votes in Minnesota, ballots in ditches, Post Office employees cherry picking ballots to ‘lose’ and so on. Some deliberate rigging of previous elections have made the news as well. These events don’t have to be statistically significant to be effective. They are fuel for the fire.

In 2019 9 unarmed black men were killed by police. I’m not sure of the situations of all of them. The most published, George Floyd, was clearly a case of excessive force and was horrifying. Some of the others were less clear cut. That’s not important to the point I’m making. What is important is that we have protests going, and the phrase ‘mostly peaceful’ is applied to them, even when the cities are burning in the background. It’s not that their protests are not justified. It’s not even that the people the protesters are harming are in no way responsible for what they’re protesting, although that will motivate some voters. It’s that the public is being lied to, over and over.

Which brings us to the media. It is OBVIOUS that they are a propaganda machine for Biden and the far left. They have said nothing, NOTHING good about Donald Trump in 4 years. Prison reform. Nothing. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, crickets. Did you know there is a peace agreement between Israel and some of its Muslim neighbors? And the opposite for Biden. Everything is good. Trump-Russia collusion was a story for four years, until it was conclusively shown that it didn’t exist. Biden-Russia-China collusion? No story here. We have a laptop, we have emails corroborated from multiple sources, we have individuals corroborating the story as well, and what do we get? We get the story ignored, or squashed. Twitter banned the newspaper that published the original story and has yet to lift the ban, even with TONS of corroborating evidence. As Joe would say, comeon man!

Which brings us to social media. Twitter, Facebook, etc., are companies. Yes the First Amendment doesn’t apply and they can do what they please. But second only to Obama using the IRS to suppress conservative and Tea Party 501C3’s the suppression of conservative voices online feels the most unfair. Terrorist organizations can recruit on Facebook. Liberal Hollywood ‘comedians’ can post pictures of Trump’s severed head without reprisal. But posting a picture of a ballot sent to your house in someone else’s name, that you could fill out and send in, is disinformation (notice that it actually happened, so by definition it is not disinformation — remember pics or it didn’t happen? No, Twitter doesn’t either) and is subject to censure, up to and including deplatforming. And if you’re an actual conservative and trying to get your message out? These companies tested their muscles with Alex Jones. When they got away with it (first they came for the Jews….) they moved on to Prager and Breitbart and Beck. If you start at the right, and begin removing information, and keep chopping off, from the right, then moderate becomes right and thus we move the conversation further left. It’s insidious. It’s deliberate. And conservatives see it.

Conservatives are sick of having language used against them as a bludgeon. The euphemism treadmill is exhausting to keep up with, and at some point rational people just get off. Conservatives find phrases like ‘women with penises’ just ridiculous. When you say man gives birth, they shake their heads and wonder how you can still claim to be the ‘party of science’ and call them science deniers. Being told that negro was ok, then it was black, then that wasn’t ok anymore, and it’s people of color seems like something designed to ‘catch’ people and make them feel as if they’re unconsciously prejudiced in some way. Case in point, Amy Coney Barret used the phrase sexual preference and was castigated for it. Biden used it and it was OK, but not her. As a matter of fact, Merriam Webster changed the definition AFTER SHE SAID IT to make it a bad thing to say. Conservatives get it.Whatever they say is bad, even if liberals say the exact same thing. Ok, let’s move on.

The constant drumbeat that all whites are racist. If they admit it they’re racist, if they don’t admit it they’re racist and just don’t know it. Even if the ‘do the work’ whatever the hell that is, they can never not be racist because they’re white. Does that sound racist to you? Someone has a characteristic because of the color of their skin and there’s nothing they can do about it. Hmm. And what does that have to do with the election? All of this stuff is supported by the left, but not the right. If the democrats lose, it is a referendum on not just Trump, but all of this stuff that has been crammed down our throats, into our companies and classrooms, into our movies, and even into our sports.

The idea that Trump is racist, and won’t deny white supremacy, is especially vexing. He dated a black woman. That was spun that after he found out she was black (as if– imagine that, in the throes of passion he looks down and says, ‘oh, wow, you’re black, gotta go…’) he stopped dating her. She said that wasn’t true, he said that wasn’t true, but no matter facts. He left a political party because white supremacist David Duke joined. If the party had room for David Duke it didn’t have room for him. His words, not mine. He has denied and denounced white supremacy in public many, many times, much of it before even running for office. And he’s still being called out for refusing to denounce it. People say he said of white supremacists ‘there are good people on both sides’. The sentence before that he specifically said he wasn’t talking about racists and white supremacists. SPECIFICALLY. But do you see that part of the speech. Hell no. Conservatives saw it, and it pisses them off that you (media, democrats, social media, etc.) practice the big lie and seem to get away with it.

It feels like bullying. These minority beliefs, being portrayed as majority beliefs feel like being browbeaten into submission. The repeated lies, piled on lies, feel like bullying. The media bullies Trump. Social Media bullies Trump. By extension, they’re bullying half their market. It doesn’t make business sense, but it makes perfect political sense. Beat them until their name is, even in their own minds, Toby.

The candidate should probably be higher on this list, but I didn’t plan this post, I just wrote it. Even if the democrat party decided to rig the primary and the power brokers were to select the nominee, wow. This is your guy? I can only assume that he was the easiest to control. No other explanation makes sense. You had the opportunity to give Sanders a second chance, and put socialism on the ballot. Elizabeth Warren was a stronger candidate than Biden, and for the social justice crowd she ticked one box and 1.6% of another. You could have run your own billionaire, or a very, very well spoken homosexual. Buttigieg might have made a great candidate. I think he would have had a lot more enthusiasm than Biden. There were more, but you get the idea.

Trumps handling of Covid was less than stellar. Of course there is blame to go around, but in hindsight I’m sure everyone could have done better, at least according to them. However, at the time, as things were happening, the things he did right were reported as wrong, and now that we know they were right (example, immigration control, limiting flights from China, etc.) he is still getting no credit. But of course he isn’t. If he did, conservatives would be less pissed off, but no one cares what they think. And all this time later, we still don’t know what’s what. The news on masks, lock downs, curfews, drugs, and all the rest change day by day. But no matter what the current belief is, we know one thing for certain. Trump is wrong.

The histrionics. Rational disagreement is fine. But this insanity of disagreement is exhausting as well. Women walking around in hats shaped like vaginas, or in ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ garb to protest. Really? That’s how you make your point? You look ridiculous and it’s hard to take you seriously. Putting guillotines in people’s yards? How is that any different than a burning cross? Why on earth should I care what you say when you choose that mode of expression?

In short, it’s not that conservatives or middle America love Trump. They don’t. It’s not that Americans are racist, sexist, homophobic, stupid, bible loving, gun loving, or anything else. It’s that they can not stand the environment that the left has created. Conservatives wish that he was more soft spoken. They wish he didn’t tweet. They support things he’s done like taking care of HBCU’s and pushing the Platinum Plan. They support ‘the wall’ which is code for a rational immigration policy. They’re mad about stuff he’s done too. No one I know approved of the bump stock ban. Many conservatives are not too keen on his trade policy. I’m sure there is much more they don’t agree with, but that is not the topic of this post. What conservatives don’t want is burning cities, sky-high taxes, information control that is positively Orwellian, and all of the rest that comes with a Biden victory.

Depoliticizing Voting

How did voting become a political issue? I don’t mean who you vote for. That’s obviously very political. But all of the surrounding stuff really troubles me. Both parties saying the other will cheat. Both parties saying the other will try to keep people from voting, or will encourage people to vote more than once. And that doesn’t even begin to address actual reported voter fraud. The news is full of voter fraud lately. I think it’s time to deal with this problem and put it to bed. I suspect nothing at all will be done, because I suspect both major parties cheat, and each party thinks they’re better at it than the other. That’s not very charitable, and on other days I feel different, but that is how I feel on this day. I’d like to address several things in the next few minutes. I have no political agenda in this matter, I just believe that the process can be improved.

  1. Only adult United States Citizens should be entitled to a vote. This does not seem to be political to me. I can’t vote in France, or Mexico, or North Korea, even if I move there. If I become a citizen, I can. Seems very simple to me.
  2. We should have a voting age. In my opinion, if you are not old enough to die for your country, and you are not old enough to make decisions about what you put in your body (nicotine, alcohol, etc.) you are not old enough to vote. You can’t have a beer but you can help decide the fate of the nation seems somehow wrong to me. I’m not advocating for raising or lowering any specific age of consent, but I am for using common sense to determine when humans are adult ‘enough’ for various activities. The founders, who placed age restrictions on various levels of service understood that youth and experience both had their place, and might disagree with me on the drinking-voting equivalency, but following their lead might not be a bad idea either. How about you can only vote for an office you are legally allowed to hold?
  3. Everyone should get one vote. This is already the law. What we need is a way to make it bullet proof, and fair to all. In this next part, I outline how to accomplish this.

A Perfectly Fair Election In Five Easy Items

Item One: Every citizen gets one vote, and only one vote. Non-citizens get no votes. The idea of requiring identification for voting has been portrayed by the left as a subtle way of making sure that the poor or disadvantaged can not vote.This facile argument doesn’t hold up. We require identification for all sorts of things and no one cares. Video stores used to demand my Social Security card to rent a copy of ‘The Mask’. But the hurdles to having identification, such as they are, need to be addressed. I’m a personal fan of the United States requiring every citizen to have a passport and just using that for voting. It’s better than the Social Security card because it has anti forging features and a picture. Its downside is that it’s expensive. I am not a big fan of taxes and such, but in this case I’d gladly pay for a second passport for someone who couldn’t afford it, if it led to greater election integrity. I’m sure millions of others would join me, and if not, the Federal Government has shown no reluctance to spending far more than this would cost on far less. So, step one is that, as Oprah would say, “you get a passport, and you get a passport, EVERYONE GETS A PASSPORT”. Each passport has a unique number on it. We’re going to use that number in a minute.

Item Two: You use your passport number to vote. Not directly, your passport number creates a new number known only to you by means of a program connected to a blockchain. That new number can be used by you to vote in person, or on your phone, or on a friend’s phone in a gas station parking lot, or whatever. You can vote on election day. You can vote the week before. If there are legally allowed circumstances, you can vote the day after.

Item Three: You can vote as many times as you want. The blockchain enabled program will only keep your most recent vote. If you’re worried you won’t make it to election day, you vote a week early. If you change your mind the day of, you just vote again. Your old vote is erased and replaced with your new vote. If you are coerced into casting a vote for someone, you can just go back and change it later, up to when the voting closes for an election.

Item Four: You (and only you) can view your vote at any time. Using your passport and code you can see who your vote was cast for. You are absolutely certain there was no fraud with your ballot. This information is encrypted into the blockchain.

Item Five: Votes can be tabulated instantly and error free. Once we call time (Olly olly oxen free!) we can have a big red button in Times Square that we press to see who won.

Is this solution perfect? Nope. Here’s a list of problems.

  1. People could still sell their votes. But it would get more expensive, because they could sell their votes over and over, then still vote for whomever they preferred in the privacy of their homes.
  2. The Passport office is not nearly equipped to do this in the short term.
  3. For this to be most effective, a combination of passport, blockchain and biometrics would be preferable. However, some people don’t have easy access to biometric equipment, but it’s becoming more and more common in handheld devices.
  4. Someday someone may figure out a way to break blockchains, and that will present a new problem. However, it seems like it would be a lot harder than ringing up a bunch of votes on a voting machine before polls open, requesting a ballot on behalf of an unsuspecting citizen, pulling a ballot out of someone’s mail box, or paying someone money for their ballot, all of which have been reported as having happened recently. And as a bonus, the world would get to forget that a chad is a little piece of paper that can be left hanging or even pregnant.

I understand that this would be a new way of doing things. It would be uncomfortable, especially for people my age and older. When I was younger I worked the polls at my precinct. We, Democrats and Republicans alike, were beyond conscientious. We had a chalk line past which electioneering could not take place. It was measured at least three or four times by each side, who came ready with their own tape measures. We turned away voters in overtly political apparel, regardless of party. We counted signatures, ballots, and ballot stubs. If those numbers didn’t match, we recounted until they matched twice in a row. We then transported the locked ballot boxes to the building where they were to be counted and at least one representative from each side stayed until OUR ballots were added to the total. Sometimes it was late into the night when we left, hours after we stopped being paid (not that the pay mattered, no one there was working the polls for the money). We cared. A lot of people still do. I still do. That’s why I wrote this. I think implementing this idea will make elections more secure. I believe that it would make the counts more accurate. I believe that it would make it easier for people to vote, and harder for people to cheat. All are worthy outcomes.

My Problem With Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Sources of Motivation

I was preparing a slide deck for my Creativity & Innovation students today when I had an insight. I have a research problem. I used to really enjoy research, especially writing, but I even enjoyed statistical analysis and data collection. I’m not enjoying it right now and I find other things to do instead of doing the work that needs to be done. This blog post is one of those things.

But I figured out (I think) one key reason that research is a burden right now. I’m completely motivated to publish. Nothing else matters. I won’t do crappy work, but I will absolutely work on your paper whether or not I’m interested in it, because one more publication is one step closer to tenure. My motivation is one hundred percent extrinsic at this point. If you had some crazy post-modern paper and wanted me to try and push it across the finish line it wouldn’t matter that I think the entire post-modern movement (in academia) is a waste of time. I’d make it flow. I’d make it easy to read, I’d try to be convincing.

To me, that sounds a lot like intellectual prostitution. But I need the results of getting good (highly ranked) papers published. So far I’ve avoided writing things that I flat disagree with, but I can imagine myself doing it. I believe that I will be much happier, and counter intuitively, more productive once this tenure thing is out of the way. I spend more time writing when I enjoy what I’m writing about. I write better when I’m interested in what I’m writing about. It will be a good thing. I’m looking forward to it. It’s an old trick that our mind plays on us that some imagined state in the future will be better than the state you’re in now, but in this case I believe that it may be true. In the mean time, do you have any A or B journal material that needs polished?

It is What it Is

This is what happens when you disagree

The President of the United States is being pilloried for using the phrase ‘it is what it is’ in reference to the number of dead from Covid-19 in the United States. It was a short comment, and taken out of context for the express purpose of painting a sitting President as someone who does not care for the country. Even if you paint your own beliefs about the President on his every statement, he is not wrong. And that is why the statement stings so much.

‘It is what it is’ is an idiom that means what has happened has happened, the situation exists, and that’s it. It is a neutral phrase, often used to say that we must accept it, because we have no other choice. When it comes to the present, this is always true. It is an acknowledgment of reality. Whining that things are not as they should be, but instead are as they are, is childish at best, and perhaps delusional. Does anyone think that if the President (or anyone) refused to accept that these people are dead that they would spring back to life? Of course not. The list of people that can do that is exceedingly short, even for people who have various religious faiths.

The big problem with ‘it is what it is’ is that it does acknowledge reality. The people who are upset do not like reality as it is. Well guess what, I don’t either. I wish that we didn’t have a formerly pandemic grade virus killing people in the US. I wish that nine unarmed black men weren’t killed by police in 2019. I wish over 600,000 people hadn’t died from heart disease last year either. But it is what it is.

Understanding that ‘it is what it is’ is the beginning of meaningful change, not a mean spirited ‘up yours’ to the people of the United States. We must acknowledge things as they are before we can begin to change them. The only reason to act as if it is a giant middle finger is to denigrate the President and influence the incoming election. This President has said enough, done enough, that the peole you are trying to incite are already incited. Stick to reality. There is still more than enough ammo to keep you busy.

Some Things are Better than Other Things

View of the World Trade Center after both towers were attacked, but before they fell

This is a very controversial thing to say, so let’s stir the pot right up front. William A. Henry III once said that “It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose”. I’m not sure if I can make a case that this is not racist. I’m not sure who it’s racist against, as several African tribes, the Mayans, and people from New Guinea have all engaged in the practice, but I’m sure if you said something like that out loud you’d be branded for life. However, there is an underlying truth there that is under attack.

For me, September 11th brings it back into focus when I forget. I’m not a religious guy, but if your religion says it’s ok to lie to, steal from, or even kill people who don’t believe what you believe then I have no use for you or your religion. This is not just Islam. We all know that Christianity has been the cause of many deaths as well. I wonder how many were killed by militant Buddhists. I wonder if there are militant Buddhists. The basic tenet of Wicca is ‘and it harm no one, do what you will’. That sounds preferable to both ‘he who raises the sword in the name of Allah shall be rewarded’ and ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’.

From a cultural standpoint, if your culture treats someone differently based on their gender or the color of their skin, or their sexual preference it is worse than one that does not. If your women can’t drive, or vote, or hold political office, I don’t want to know you. Your blacks, or your whites, or your Jews or your Uyghurs are second class citizens, are murdered, or locked up based on skin color or religion, I don’t want any part of your culture.

There are many ways to resolve a problem. Some ways are better than others. Negotiation > Protesting > Rioting > Revolution. It may be necessary to escalate at times, I get that. But all else being equal, a violent response to any nonviolent situation makes you the asshole.

To judge what is better requires a set of beliefs. Mine are this.

  1. Eventually, the entire universe will be a blanket of dust.
  2. Until then, for me, the continuation of human life is the desired outcome.
  3. After survival, individual liberty is most important.
  4. After liberty, human safety and security is most important.
  5. Everything else will probably sort itself out.

A more spiritual person would undoubtedly place spiritual well being above all of this, but that is not a luxury I have. This leads to me not being able to use God as an excuse to attack someone, or make a decision that is bad for the survival of the species. This leads to a couple of very unpopular things that I believe that I don’t feel like getting into right now. But what this set of beliefs does, is allows me to not have to think about every single thing and constantly fret about whether or not I’m on the ‘right’ side of any issue.

My Heroes

My heroes…not really

It’s always fun to begin with an apology, so I’m sorry to all the very important people in my life, whether I’ve met you or not, that I forget. I’m putting together a list of heroes as I write, and undoubtedly I’ll leave someone very very important to me off and I’ll feel bad about it. I’ll feel even worse if they’re someone who knows me and could feel left out. Well, on to the brain dump.

First, since the little picture I made features cartoon super heroes, who are my heroes that have only existed as ideas, books, and movies? My favorite writers are Frank Herbert, Ayn Rand, and J. R. R. Tolkien. There are lots of others, but I’ve spent more time in those three authors’ books than in any other, except for maybe the Bible. Perhaps Vorian Atreades or Miles Teg from the Dune Universe, but no one really speaks to me from there. Ayn Rand’s Characters are supposed to be heroic, but none of them speak to me individually. I’m not a fan of Hank Reardon, or anyone in Atlas really, maybe Howard Roark (not a fan of the rape/quasi-rape or whatever), but not really him either. I like many of Tolkien’s characters as well, but none I’d call heroes. If I had to come up with a fictional hero, I suppose Valentine Michael Smith (from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land) is as good a choice as many. I’ve thought several times about changing my name to Valentine in his honor, so I guess he got to me, or I just want a really cool name….

So, that was a bust. Let’s look at family. My mom and I have had our differences, but I truly admire her. She always worked, and worked a lot. She has amazing artistic talent. She is beautiful and kind. Other than her I don’t have a lot going in my family. In my foster families (I’ve had several) there were lots of people I took little bits from to try and make myself better. Truly though, my last foster father, Bill, is one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. Calm and ordered, brilliant, funny, and not once in my life have I seen him out of control. He handles the world with kindness, attention, and thoughtfulness. I hope someday to be like him.

How about famous people? I’m a fan of the accomplishment of tech giants like Elon Musk and Richard Branson, people with giant media empires like Oprah Winfrey and Rush Limbaugh, and brilliant entertainers like Dustin Hoffman, Audrey Hepburn, Helen Mirren, and Keanu Reeves. (You can question the last one if you like, but how many people saw John Wick, and why?) When I wanted to be an actor (some days I still do) I never cared to have a career, or really thought about the money. I love to affect people. Stunned silence was just as flattering to me as applause. I can’t think of a single actor who has been a hero to me. But I can, off the top of my head name several comedians. First for me was George Carlin. He loved comedy, but he loved freedom of speech even more. His work was brilliant. The good he did for the art is immeasurable. Of course, he stands on the back of Lenny Bruce, who was a hero of his, and also of mine. He did some really heavy lifting on freedom of speech, and while fighting all of that redefined what comedy was and what comedians did. Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy move me as well as entertain me. I’d be proud to have 10% the talent they have. And I can’t mention comics without talking about Greg Giraldo. Most people who are not comedian junkies haven’t heard of him. But he was a one man roast machine. I would love to have that kind of presence.

No musicians are my heroes. I have wide tastes and deep interests, but no musician has risen to hero status with me. I loved Prince, I loved Bowie, I love a lot of bands and admire their work greatly, but none are heroes to me, at least not in the mood I’m in today. On another day maybe David Byrne, or Dave Stewart or Frank Zappa or Sun Ra, but not this day.

Scientists. Richard Feynman. Issac Asimov. Maybe others. I know Asimov was a writer as well. I’ve read many of his fiction and nonfiction works, but he transcended being an author, at least for me. I saw him as a learned man first, and an author second. And Richard Feynman could teach theoretical physics to a rock. He had a once in a generation gift, or that’s how it seemed to me.

Social Scientists. As a social scientist myself, I should be influenced by a lot of professors. There’s a long list. Mike Goldsby and Jim Fiet, without which I’m not sure I’d exist as a professor. Peter Klein, Per Davidsson, Howard Aldrich, Donald Siegal, Jay Barney. Many others. I’m grateful for all of them. But the only one I’ve met that I say to myself ‘I’d like to be like that one when I grow up’ is Don Mosley. And it’s really not about academics. It just seems like he really has his priorities in order. He’s a lot like my foster father Bill.

Regular folk. First has to be Anne Reed. I’ve watched her pursue a dream for years, and finally get it. It’s amazing to see that. Michael Crum. He decided to be a professor, and went full tilt. I think he ended up getting his PhD at 24 or something. He was focused, but still had a life. I have yet to master doing both those things together. Another that had that mastered was Gary Butterman. He passed away just before getting his PhD, but he really seemed to have his life together and was a joy everywhere he went. I think about him a lot, and would like people to think about me the way I think about him. (This list could go on a long time too.)

So, what have I leaned from this brain dump? Well, I value kindness most of all. After that I think competence, tenacity, and intelligence, in more or less that order. So to make myself happy I probably should focus in being as nice a person as I can. Then, decide on some things to go after, things that are difficult, and will stretch my mental abilities, and start going after them. Easy advice to give myself. Wonder if I’ll take it.

I’m Sorry

Zoe Saldana (left) has previously defended the decision to play Nina Simone.

The woman on the left is Zoe Saldana. She is an actress. The woman on the right is Nina Simone, a singer. The woman on the left apologized for playing the woman on the right in a movie in 2016. She wasn’t ‘black enough’ and should have realized that. Plus, she had to wear a prosthetic nose. She deeply regrets it.

Wasn’t. Black. Enough. I think what she means is then she wasn’t woke enough, but she is now. When will this end?

People are having to very carefully frame Shia LaBeouf’s role in ‘The Tax Collector’ so that we all understand that he’s not playing a Hispanic character, he’s playing a Hispanic adjacent character.

How about we just enjoy the damn movie? How about we admit why he’s in the movie in the first place. He’ll put buts in the seats (assuming audiences are ever allowed to go to the movies again). From a studio standpoint they would love to sub in Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, or Sandra Bullock. They make money, so they work. And they’re all bigger bankable stars than poor Shia.

Anyway, actors are tripping all over themselves to apologize for ‘taking work’ from protected groups. If you’re not black, you can’t play a black person. Does not apply to blacks playing whites in Hamilton, but that (fantastic) play is having its own special moment separate from this tragedy. Heterosexuals should no longer play homosexual people. I’m waiting for the backlash on Emmas Stone, for playing Billie Jean King. Only people actually switching genders should play roles of that nature. I’m not sure about Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club. (He played a transsexual. So, in this case the transsexual was a man who dressed as a woman and he is a man and he did dress as a woman, so, is that ok or not?) Even voice actors can’t ‘act’ outside their race without garnering intense criticism. I wonder where they’re going to find a snowman….

Here are a few updates from ‘tinsel town’. Brian Cranston has legs. Al Pacino can see. Ben Stiller is not ridiculously, ridiculously, good looking. George Peppard was not, in fact, a sea monster, or various sea monsters. Daryl Hannah is not a mermaid. And believe it or not Christopher Reeves was not from the planet Krypton.

In order to get out on top of all of this I have a confession to make. Several confessions, as a matter of fact.

  • I played a ghost in a play in high school. I am not in fact a ghost.
  • I played an old minister in another play. I am not in fact, a minister, and am not now as old as the character I played 35 years ago.
  • I have played characters of various races, with different sexual orientations than my own.
  • I have played people younger, and older than myself.
  • I have played people who were in vocations I knew nothing about and involved in activities which I find reprehensible.
  • I have played people with various handicaps, including stutters, physical deformities, and mental impairments.
  • I have not appeared in what is considered ‘traditional blackface’ but only because I was never cast in a role that required it.
  • I have worn makeup to alter my physical appearance, including skin color, facial features, body features, height, and weight.
  • I have even appeared in white face, as a mime, as a minstrel, and as a vampire, at least. I am not now, nor have I ever been any of those things.
  • I have worn Halloween costumes of all kinds. I was never actually any of those things. I didn’t have access to the irony of going as myself to a Halloween party. But now that I mention it…

And here’s the big confession: I’m not sorry. I love acting. If, in the future, I’m given the opportunity to act I won’t think twice about dressing up as a woman, a man pretending to be a woman, a person of a different race, a non-person of any kind (say a dog, or an alien, or a floating blob of gas or something), a homosexual, or even a combination of several of the above. Yes, I’ll play a black, homosexual vampire, and I’ll do my best to knock it out of the park. What I won’t do is wring my hands about all the poor black homosexual vampires who’s work I’m stealing. If they want it, they can spend more time working on their monologue and less time being offended.

RIP Redskins

Been nice knowin’ ya

The Washington Redskins have announced that they are changing their name. Honestly I really don’t care. I’m not a sports guy. I’m glad that people find enjoyment in it, but it’s pretty boring to me. I liked to play sports, and might like to do so again, but to sit and watch others play isn’t my idea of fun.

I am not attached to the name Redskins. Thousands of fans are, but their opinions don’t matter. The owner vowed to never change the name, but he has seen the error of his ways when Amazon and Nike and other retailers decided to no longer sell team merch.

Who the name offends, and why it’s offensive is interesting. Most native Americans are not offended, at least according to several polls I’ve seen. White liberals, on the other hand decided that it was derogatory and get super offended about it when there’s not something else more interesting to be upset about. Hooray for white liberals deciding to be offended on behalf of another minority. There seems to be a pattern here, but hey I’m sure the world needs more white saviors.

The rage industry will march ever on. Its tools are the euphemism treadmill and the slippery slope, among others. Keeping this in mind, the team formerly known as the Redskins must be very careful when choosing a new name. I’d like to suggest Savages, but that term has a clearer pejorative history when applied to native Americans. It would be funny though, to watch the NFL jump from the frying pan to the fire. (Probably shouldn’t say that, the phrase ‘frying pan to the fire’ is probably triggering to someone.)

Seriously though, what to name the team? In a time when Americans are tearing down and defacing memorials to the men who wrote the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and freed the slaves, any choice will be suspect. What should the team colors be? They’ve indicated that they’ll keep the same colors, but those colors are so closely associated with the name they’d be better advised to let them go so that they don’t have another battle down the road. Obviously they can’t use gray, because it’s associated with slavery, or white, because everything white is suspect. (Companies that make products to lighten skin are tiptoeing around this problem now looking for ways to accurately communicate what their product does without using the words lightening or whitening.) Orange is now associated with the most hated man in the world, so it’s out. But most colors are still safe, again for now.

Animal names are common, but they are already being attacked by fringe groups, who will in time become non fringe groups. So best to stay away from animals altogether. It seems that every number has been construed to be associated with some hate group or other, along with many shapes.

I really see no other alternative than to name the team ‘ ‘. That’s right, four spaces. No mascot, no colors. The inescapable roll of the euphemism treadmill will at some point crush every word, shape, and color. Someone, somewhere, will find a way to be offended, and because one is offended, all will have to change. It will be difficult to be offended by four blank spaces, but eventually that will happen too, if for no other reason than the blank spaces are sometimes called white space, or four of them strung together will develop some deeply disturbing ‘dog whistle’ of meaning that no one actually hears, but people can get upset about nonetheless.

Moving Towards Happiness

My last couple posts could have been interpreted as being political. That is not my intent, but in today’s world (It’s 5/22/2020) the choice between yellow and brown mustard will be construed by someone as a redpill decision. This particular blog is supposed to deal less with all that and more with my life as an academic. My intent is to share things that I think other academics, other entrepreneurs, and other people who are in my orbit might be interested in and might learn from. Like most blogs, this one is self-serving, at least to some degree. I write about what interests me, and pretend as I’m writing that others will be interested in my words. Sometimes they are, often not, but the act of putting words on (virtual) paper is both therapeutic and helps me clarify my thoughts. (This is called writing to think.) So apology, if it was an apology, over. On to what I want to work through and share today.

I have been very fortunate for the past few years. Almost everything has gone right for me, despite my eager attempts to mess it up. I have a lovely wife, a nice home, a great (and I mean really great) job in a wonderful community that’s a short drive to the ocean. I was (and still am I guess) having a little trouble getting the requisite number and type of academic articles published that will help me secure this job long term. Just as I was getting really desperate my dean sent me to a conference that I hated at the time but has changed my publishing portfolio considerably. Everyone around me is losing their job, but mine seems secure for at least the next year, so I don’t even have to worry about that. Life is good.

I did not engineer my good fortune. I’m helping it along the best I can, but I do not feel like the architect. My decisions led me here, but those decisions have magnified my fortune in ways I’m very grateful for. I want to talk about those decision briefly, and maybe think of some other decisions I should make at the end.

  1. One decision that has driven me forward has been to engage with the Academy of Process Educators. This is the group from the conference I mentioned that I hated above. The experience was like drinking from a fire hose and I got fed up. It is the only time post-graduation that I’ve ever felt like I wasn’t in control. But it was an excellent opportunity to stretch, and the people involved are all focused on self improvement in the classroom and in life.
  2. I decided for a time to step away from politics. I was happier, but I drifted back. I’m stuck now between ‘this is too important to not pay attention’ and ‘I’m so much happier when I don’t engage. If the world goes to hell in a hand basket and I don’t do anything to stop it, if I’m unaware it’s even happening, doesn’t that make me the bad guy? But really, what can I do to stop it? Voting red or blue once every couple years is no way to affect change, so I think I’m back on a no politics track.
  3. I decided when I started this teaching thing that it was the right thing to do because it was where I’d have the most leverage. I get a fresh batch of people who have not yet lost hope every semester. Considering them as the most precious resource was a good decision.
  4. I decided to de-emphasize the role of venture capital in my classes, and focus on what people could do for themselves, with the resources they already had. This may mean that none of my students start the next Facebook or Uber, but I can live with that.
  5. I have recently decided to join another community. This one is called ‘The Third Way’. It is focused on side hustles. The people I’ve met in the community so far are interested in bettering their lives in meaningful ways, which quite often requires generating an income that is not dependent on an employer. They seem to be very positive people overall.

There are probably lots of other things I’ve done that have added up to my good fortune. But what started this line of thought is that I’m happier now than I have been in the past because I’m surrounded by happier people than I have been in the past. Some of them are more successful by a lot, others, not so much, but the people I see and talk to are enjoying their lives, and maybe because of that, maybe not, I’m enjoying mine.

Since I’m being introspective in public, let’s see what new decisions I maybe should make. I’m totally spitballing here, I haven’t thought this through at all, but here I go, writing to think again.

  1. I mentioned above banning politics and replacing it with something better. Something better could be anything, or even nothing (hello Headspace). So I think that’s been on my subconscious a while. Let’s do that.
  2. I really need to address this weight problem. It’s thorny. It has the potential to disrupt my life in ways I’m kind of scared to contemplate. I don’t mean that being obese is a burden. It probably is, but the things I’d need to do to address that will probably create problems in my home and social life.
  3. I was on a good run at the gym, but they closed the gym. It’s open now and I haven’t started. I think know I should do that right away.
  4. I have been sleeping a lot. One of the things I’ve prided myself on is designing a life where I didn’t need an alarm clock. I only wake up to an alarm clock a few times a year at present. But my sleeping time has migrated up from the 7-10 that I used to get. I averaged 9 hours over the last couple years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time I look at the data I’m averaging 12 hours a day. That’s too much, even in a quarantine.

I think those make a good starting list. I can’t promise I’ll report back, because I’ve been insanely inconsistent on this blog, but I’ll try to check in soon. I have a list of things I want to write about that probably has about a hundred items on it currently, so there isn’t any reason I can’t bang a few of these out. I may have to delete the entire blog if I go looking for a job someday, but worrying about that is like any worry, interest on a loan I may not owe. Good day.