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So this JUST happened. Nothing bad, just amusing.

I went to the laundromat across the street to get the load I was running, and I’m walking back down the alley to my place. It’s the city, there’s a lot of people around. I just took a shower and I’m not dressed up fancy or anything but I at least fixed my hair and I’m just wearing a cami and jeans ’cause laundry. Not exactly trying to look feminine or anything.

This dude was crossing the street right behind me, and he’s trying to read me, but he isn’t sure. This happens. It isn’t relevant what sort of man this was. I know the confused look, a lot of people have done it. Can’t figure me out, and people get like, super confused and they have to *know*. It’s like Pat on SNL if you remember it. A lot of people are very uncomfortable unless they can categorize you.

Don’t worry, mother. The alley and a stranger is rightly disconcerting as a combination. But I’m not exactly tiny. I also became quite good at identifying violent intent in high school. Plus, it’s daylight and there’s quite a few people around. So my safety is not a huge concern at this point.

I walk into our gated lot, and I’m closing the sliding gate on it when I notice him still there. He walks up to the fence and says, “Excuse me, this might be embarrassing, but, are you a girl?” And all I can do is grin.

There’s a fence between us, and he was polite about it, so I answer him honestly, that I’m transgender, and I identify as female and I say this jokingly, “I’m working on it.”

He nods slightly with understanding, and says something I can’t really hear over a car passing nearby about, I think attractiveness?

This is happening more often. I don’t think I pass most of the time. For now, I’ll take it as a compliment. I figure, I must be doing something right.

Was going to leave it there and I just thought of this. I’m sure in a lot of other cases, this dude would have just catcalled or ignored me or something perhaps worse. I tripped him up and interrupted that. Not sure how I feel about that aspect of it. I do appreciate that in this case, this stranger was at least conscious enough of the imposition to try and be polite. That’s unusual.

It’s continually strange, having seen life from many perspectives. Not many get the unique perspective of being treated at different times in different ways across the gender spectrum. I still have the ability to pick up and put down some of my privilege here. I’m considering a lot lately, what exactly I think about that.

I have no conclusions. All I can say is what this usually comes down to: treat everyone equally. Don’t be a dick. Try to love your neighbor. That’s all I got.

Apocalyptic Politics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, the climate is changing. There is no argument.

There isn’t even an argument that we have something to do with it. Plainly, it’s our fault.

There’s a lot of different opinions. Some choose to ignore or disbelieve it, and some others scream bloody murder to get the doubter’s attention. And they can never seem to agree. Mostly it’s not about facts, it’s about freedom or liberty or just priorities. The paycheck and the comfortable Ikea furniture, and the 2014 sedan are just more important.

So, yea, some people tend to get angry, and possibly to freak out a bit about this, because it looks as ignorant as a sheltered suburbanite teenager when so many people just say “screw it, the SUV is what I need and I’ll put 50 gallons of gas in it a week”.

But it’s not so much about, well, freaking out about it. I don’t entirely understand what the problem is with considering the impact we have on things. I’ve heard it called “arrogance” to believe we can have an effect on our planet or climate. This bothers me, because it misses a far more key point: survival. It’s not about making judgements of virtue or character, although that can help to incite some people to action… it’s about considering what’s actually good for us now, and later.

We all do these things like burning a little extra electricity to run our fancy TVs. And some of us are deciding individually to make small concessions (where our comfort level allows us to… liberals) and some larger concessions (crunchier leftists). It’s pretty rare for someone to actually cry about apocalypse scenarios… except for when the media needs a good story.

There are a few idealists though, such as radical primitivists, that are actively hoping we scuttle ourselves, I think. The general idea is to get rid of all or most of society and technology and government, to reduce our impact on the environment. I’ve run into one or two. Their views are abhorrent to me; I like my internet and my easy access to basic needs and a comfortable home. That and I think we can still come up with a solution to fix this. So that’s too far to take the whole “protecting nature” thing.

Most of the conservatives I’ve met seem to sort of ignore the science or the warnings, because it’s more comfortable to do so. That seems… morally objectionable on it’s own level, perhaps because I think we ought to do right by our children and our planet, and that level of comfort feels like hedonism for the sake of itself, and comfort can be a distraction from happiness, sometimes. At least I’ve found it to be so. I know there’s different levels here too, some people may care more and research and keep up on things, but just not think there’s a good enough reason to do anything. But we may not have time to consider forever. That’s part of the call for action.

Back to the idea of just considering what’s going on, though. If you enjoy driving your car, you ought to consider what might happen if it gets too hot, cold, or we just run low or out of resources. The further question of nuance is, is it likely that it could occur? What’s the chance, the probability? We have pretty good tools for predicting things now, so long as you control for the right variables. Our models have demonstrable utility. I don’t see it as being particularly far-fetched to believe the models may have something to say about longer term phenomena like climate change, even if there’s a margin of error.

The problem is our model is working with extremely local data, but we’re trying to predict phenomena on the order of decades or centuries. It won’t affect us immediately. We’re potentially screwing our grandchildren if we’re wrong… and I’m not particularly happy with the way the previous generations have left things for us. I don’t the future generations, potentially my children, to be disappointed in me for having left them a wreck of a planet.

This is of course assuming they’re around. I don’t think we’re screwing things up enough to kill large swaths of the population, but it’s certainly possible and not something I really want to test. And even if it’s not that bad, perhaps a good question to ask, how bad does it need to get to do something?

I have also seen a particularly scary form of apocalyptic acceptance in a few people, where they’ve already assumed and accepted it’s all going to end. And they’re just going to ride it out, and enjoy it for what it’s worth. Forgive the over-used phrase, but it would be like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic to do anything now. But… if we got ourselves into this mess under our own power, why would you expect we can’t also get ourselves out of it?

Ya, it’s a bit of an emotional argument, but that’s how I see it. Well, the whole thing is a bunch of emotional arguments. Hopefully some of them may help to see the issues from different perspectives.

Why is an idea so scary?

You’re wrong. Right now. We all are. And you just don’t know it yet. I guarantee it.

This appears to be a hard thing to accept. You don’t want to think about what you might be wrong about. But we all know we’re wrong, on some conceptual level. Very few of you would disagree with me if I said this to your face right now. Logically, it’s self-evident, given that we know so little. But if we’re discussing something… it could be a simple subject. One you think about every day.

  • You don’t want to go to work today, it’s too much willpower.
  • Just another drink.
  • Voting’s a waste of time, things won’t change.
  • I should really exercise, but I’m not going to.
  • I want to do the right thing. But I can’t.

I’ve given plenty of advice to friends over the years, and it usually goes the same way. If any of your friends tell you, do you listen? Honestly, would you if they did? If you answer yes to this, then why aren’t you following your own advice in the first place?

Most of the time, these thoughts pass pretty quickly. If they start getting taxing enough, you do something about it and it goes away. Until next time. But how long does it take to resolve itself, given that you ignore it, day in and day out?

Do you ever stop to consider how many times a day you do this?

This has been bothering me. I have a lot of bad habits that I’m consciously aware of, but haven’t fixed. Why haven’t I? Seems pretty obvious now that I think about it. I’m forgetful, lazy, bad at focusing, and just as average a person as everybody else on the planet. I’m pretty good at failing to meet my own expectations.

I don’t think this is really any form of defect, though. It’s all a natural process of my thought patterns. And those I can only adjust so much. I suppose there must be a few gifted souls out there who are capable of achieving everything they want through sheer force of will, but for the rest of us, we have to cope with self-doubt, inadequacy, and everything else that’s an inherent part of the human condition.

And this is where being wrong comes in. Well, you are wrong about all kinds of things besides this, but I’m not here to judge. I want to focus on habits first. But there’s a trap here, that leads to Being Wrong. The first thing I think to do to correct this is to start structuring behaviors to correct my habits. Hack my habits, record things on paper, read more self-help books. But they’re all methods that work for some people, but usually only a self-selected few. It’s pretty scatter shot, in fact. You have to wonder why that is.

Again, a hypothesis speaks without me beckoning it. Perhaps there are various classes of mindset, that some form of self-help program would address. But it only works for someone in that given mindset, that’s similar enough to that neural pattern. Perhaps the problem is better addressed by identifying that pattern, and matching it to the appropriate self-help process. But how do we identify that?

For myself, I’m doubleplus self-analytical, so I’m very conscious of my own brain states. Being aware of them doesn’t help much in altering them, though. I must agree that the longer I’m here, the more it does feel like a passenger sort of relationship. So they must be altered through outside force of some form. I can certainly get myself to start taking more notes and attempting to establish some rituals. Writing more is one of them. This is largely in service to this idea of structured self-analysis. I’m not structured enough at the moment to maintain something like a diary, but it’s certainly possible to start constructing more posts. And this does certainly seem like a good place to begin.

I did promise myself to try to stay working on NaNoWriMo, but I’ve had a hell of a time maintaining consistency, because I was focused on trying to write coherently within a world that exists in my mind, and there’s just not enough structure there. So time for something completely different.

Finding Truth

This is about truth, and finding it, and perhaps, if we’re really lucky, helping others find it too.

I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy lately, and how we understand the world. There’s modal logic, which is sorta the logic of language, and how we use it to say what we want, and need. And epistemology, which is all about what we know and believe, and why. And semiotics, the science of signalling and signs, basically how language represents concepts. These are fascinating subjects in their own right, but let’s be honest here, I know you’re going to say “why should I care”? I’ll get to that.

Anyway, the interesting thing you see once you understand all of this (and a lot of related concepts) is how we perform language games and inconsistently use words and concepts. I know English is a poor language for logic, it’s much better suited for flowery poetry. But it’s like one of those things that once you see, can never be unseen.

I see a lot of false premises all the time now too. I think most of us sort of intuitively know this; we believe an idea, but don’t know why we believe it when we actually examine it. Basically, someone maybe told you this idea, and since they’re an authority, you believe them without questioning it.

I know I’ve been posting a lot about this lately, but it utterly floored me the first time I noticed that many of my beliefs aren’t actually justified. It was a moment of awakening, of clarity, probably even a breakdown. And every time I see someone do it, make an obvious logical jump, it reminds me of my own experience, having to break them down, and figure it all out from scratch again. Maybe I’ll write about that experience soon, but the fun part’s yet to come.

You know when you point out a mistake to someone, at least half of the time they sort of brush it off and don’t really respond to it. Or they’re like, “sure, ok. whatever” and move on. Even if they do accept it, there’s a problem. See, some mistakes are like cracks. They don’t require you to fix just one idea, but all of them. I’m pretty good at spotting these mistakes now. But people don’t reassess the entire foundation of their beliefs, they only patch over that one little crack.

So if you want to point out the error in an idea, you basically have to poke holes in a hundred related ideas to get them to reassess the core idea that it’s based on. And some of those hundred ideas may even be a good idea, or a right one, but for the wrong reason. So these systems are really hard to deal with. And of course, we come back to the same old problem: Nobody likes being told that they’re wrong.

But I’ve got some good news: I’ve seen people change their minds. I’ve personally changed the minds (on big, serious subjects) of at least a handful of people. But there’s some definite restrictions on this. It takes hours, days of discussion in some cases. It’s not a fast process; it’s sorta like therapy, to be honest. And the only people who are willing to go on this journey with you are the ones you’re already closest to. Your tribe.

It’s a funny problem, to be honest. I could very well be wrong about all this. But I’ll tell you what… I’m less wrong now than I used to be. And that makes me think there’s hope for finding the truth.