San Fran is 7th Worst City in the World

According to this Forbes article, San Francisco is the 7th worst city in the world in which to live (and the worst in the Americas).  Not a big surprise, even the SF Examiner recognizes its poopiness, by exclaiming “Yes, our glorious city is recognized the world over as the premier defecation destination”.  Thanks to the homeless/drug problem and the cost of lodging, Oracle is moving its annual conference from SF.  It’s too bad because there are a lot of natural beauty and cultural aspects of the city to like.  But I’m in no hurry to go there anymore.2321902561_5c8cf65c92_kFWIW, according to the article, Montreal is the best city in the Americas.  Gotta love those Canucks.

 

Who Can Pardon Rapists and Murderers?

The answer to the question is:  a politician.  For some reason I can’t understand, we give state governors the right to pardon anyone they like, for any reason they like.  This is insane!

I think it’s pretty well accepted that politicians aren’t any wiser than the general public, or fairer, or more honest.  Heck, look at this case, where a governor pardons a killer in exchange for money, and a child rapist because he figures he was smarter than 12 jurors.  Or look at the partisanship in the Trump impeachment; there’s not a shred of honesty involved in half the politicians!  A politician’s only special skill is the skill to be elected.  Why then should we allow state governors or cheeto-head presidents to let criminals out of jail?  It’s crazy.  There should be some oversight, like a parole board.  I’m not suggesting that they aren’t capable people; most are.  So is my postal carrier, the local librarian, and the guy who put in my new septic tank.  But why should we trust any governor or president to do this very special thing?

trust

Media Bias

In a search for sources of unbiased news, I stumbled upon this really interesting site, which attempts to categorize news sources by two useful attributes:  degree of actual news reporting, and left/right bias.  It’s a great chart; check it out.

2019-11-23_9-34-34

This cartoon symbolizes one of the biases … liberal vs. whatever-passes-for-conservative these days.  I think we all understand the concept, though I doubt many would agree on the way their favorite media site is classified.  Last week, a conservative friend of mine declared that the National Review is fair and unbiased.  (It’s not).

The other dimension of bias is the degree which a media site provides actual news reporting vs. analysis/opinion.   Some of us simply want the news, and some of us want someone to interpret it for us so we know what to think.  The authors of this book would argue that most citizen/voters get their opinions from the tribe they identify with, so they need media sources that deliver opinions vs. news/facts.  I flatter myself by claiming that I can form my own opinions, so I’m seeking sources that report only facts/news.  Having said that, people much smarter than me do some amazing analysis, so AFTER I vet their left/right biases, I’ll occasionally seek them out.

Trying PBS for news for now.  Analysis sources are hit or miss.

 

 

 

Why we believe what we believe

Do you ever wonder how someone you met can believe what he/she believes?  A good friend of mine convinced me that people make up their own realities. They build a world that supports what they want to believe.  Our fears and desires can fool us. For instance, if you are a lover of french fries, and you read an opinion piece in the National Enquirer that claims french fries are good for you, you might create a reality for yourself that gives you permission to eat all the fries you like.  You ignore the hundreds of negative french fry articles because you WANT to eat fries.

In some people’s reality, cities might exist on the backs of flying turtles.  Here’s proof that they do.

turtle

Well, here’s an article I highly recommend that takes a slightly different and more scientific look at this phenomenon.  In it, the author describes several studies which seem to explain why people make regrettable decisions.  He writes that “under the right circumstances, a subconscious neurobiological sequence in our brains causes us to perceive the world around us in ways that contradict objective reality, distorting what we see and hear. This powerful shift in perception is unrelated to our intelligence, morals, or past behaviors. In fact, we don’t even know it’s happening, nor can we control it.”  He names this “brainshift”.

Though the article is fairly academic, there’s practical value in it if you believe what it says.  For me, understanding that people have their own realities allows me to spend a lot less time arguing.  If my reality is sufficiently different than yours, on what basis can we have a meaningful disagreement?

Has the News Overtaken Reality?

In this excellent article in The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman writes that “for a certain segment of the population, the news has come to fill up more and more time – and, more subtly, to occupy centre stage in our subjective sense of reality, so that the world of national politics and international crises can feel more important, even more truly real, than the concrete immediacy of our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama.”

bnews

I highly recommend the entire article, but here are some snippets:  He writes “To live with a part of your mind perpetually in the world of the news, exposed to an entire planet’s worth of mendacity and suffering, railing against events too vast for any individual to alter, is to feel what Greenfield, author of the book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, calls “a low-grade sense of panic and loss of control”, so normal it has come to feel routine … Perhaps you have felt that ridiculous yet discernible pressure, on social media, to emit an official opinion about every natural disaster, celebrity death or Trump administration policy announcement, as if each of us were the ambassador of a small nation, from whom silence might be interpreted as callous lack of concern.”

He correctly observes that news isn’t reality; it distorts our views of reality.  He writes that “A functioning public sphere also depends on collective access to a shared body of facts about reality, to serve as the stable ground on which to hash out our differences of opinion. But with such an enormous surplus of information, filtered on the basis of what compels each user’s attention, that shared basis of facts is soon eroded. Meanwhile, the algorithms of social media invisibly sort us into ever more separate communities of ever more similar people, so that even if you are discussing, say, movies or sport, you’re increasingly likely to be doing so with those who share your political affiliations; the more you engage with politics, the more everything becomes political – and, research suggests, the harder it becomes to understand your political opponents as fully human. This is a situation ripe for exploitation by demagogues, who understand that their power consists in turning the whole of life into a battleground divided along political lines, thereby maximising their domination of public attention.”  Demagogues?  Trump?

Finally, “This raises a possibility alien to news addicts, committed political activists and journalists alike: that we might owe it not only to our sanity, but also to the world at large, to find a way to put the news back in its place.”

 

 

 

 

Why We Can’t Solve Homelessness

According to this article, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs. The article goes on to claim that “The biggest hindrance to solving homelessness is that city residents keep demanding the least effective policies.”  Such as criminalizing panhandling and bulldozing tent encampments.

Alarmingly, the article finally states that “the only way to address the crisis is through a concerted — and costly — expansion of government assistance. And yet, even as homelessness becomes a defining feature of urban growth, no city in America can afford to meaningfully address it. Before the 1980s, most of the responsibility for low-income housing, rental assistance and mental health treatment fell on the federal government.  Since then, though, these costs have been systematically handed over to cities. And there are no signs that it’s going to get better. The economy is creating new homeless people faster than cities can house them.”

The entire article, and links to supporting articles, are worth reading, but IMO the key point being made is that homelessness can’t be solved at the local level.  In our local community, it’s clear that this is true.  So I have to ask, where is the federal or even state leadership?

Homeless Camp in Santa Cruz

Homeless camp in Santa Cruz, Winter/Spring 2019

 

Hallelujah – what’s that you say?

It’s great to see someone writing about excessive noise in restaurants.  My days of screaming to be heard are over; I simply won’t do business with loud establishments.  Someone has developed an app (of course), but it doesn’t appear to be on Android yet and it only covers a small fraction of restaurants, but it’s a start!

ouch

https://www.eater.com/2019/4/10/18297392/restaurant-noise-decibel-level-too-loud

 

 

 

getpocket.com instead of the usual dreck

I’m trying to substitute “fast food” quality reading with mind-provoking, consciousness-expanding material.  I’m replacing news about the Kardashians and Cheeto-head tweets with stuff that’s really interesting, to me.  A few months ago I stumbled onto getpocket.com, and I’d like to recommend it.

            no-kardashians                   no-trump.

 

 

Every day, I get an email from getpocket, with links to a few interesting articles.  The articles might be from The Atlantic, NPR, Vox, Lifehacker, NY Times, or any source, really.  They are articles that other getpocket users have selected as interesting.  If you’re a Firefox user, it’s also integrated with that browser, and how I joined.

As an example, one article today was on “What Deep Breathing Does to Your Body” and it reminded me to take a few deep breaths now and then, and another on the “7 books to read in 2019“.  You can select subjects like health, travel, and finance.

Here’s how to sign up.  It’s free of course.  Good reading and Happy New Year.