Monthly Archives: August 2018

On rules and hypocrisy

Hypocrites_1915_Naked_Truth.jpg – in the public domain

If there’s anything that has been echoing around in my world for the past week, it has been stories and complaints about hypocrisy.  Some of the stories are recent, and some slightly dated, but they all have been popping up this week, either a news feed, or by comments from friends and family.  They’ve included:

  • The usual comments from friends on the right about the pursuit of Trump, while the Clinton camp was let off the hook with regard to private email servers and mishandling of very classified information.
  • So-called “environmentalists” who chose to fly, and have big houses, families, or extravagant lifestyles.
  • Complaints by big companies, which won’t pay for technical talent when their back is to the wall, yet would be the first to drop or underpay an engineer if the employment situation wasn’t as tight as it is now.
  • Folks in the #MeToo movement who have done questionable things in a personal sphere.
  • People who rail against guns, but surround themselves with private armed guards.
  • “Capitalists” who get corporate welfare (and of course, preach “free markets,”) while having governments (or government-sanctioned organizations) set the price of money by fiat (interest rates), the key to any financial and investment calculations.
  • Republicans who rail against abortions, except, of course, for their pregnant mistresses.
  • And of course, the long list of Republicans who voted against same-sex rights, while actually, you know… being gay.
  • Revelations that a bunch of Catholic priests were doing very un-Christian things with children.

This isn’t new, of course; it’s just that it seems to happen with astounding regularity, and that the hypocritical acts and behaviors seem to amplify with time.  If there is a silver lining to all this, it seems like some in the world are quite literally walking away from groups that are hypocritical, or that have hypocritical behaviors.

The real killer bit for me is that these behaviors aren’t tied to the any political ideology; folks on the left, middle, and right are all guilty here.   Nobody is perfect, for sure, but very few are even admitting up front that they could be wrong in the first place.  If you can admit you could be wrong while making your case, and living a life in close alignment with what you preach (nobody is perfect), then you are far more likely to make converts, and have people take you seriously.


  • Who are some of the most hypocritical institutions, politicians (left or right), you’ve dealt with?
  • Who are some of the most unhypocritical, even if their worldview doesn’t match ours?
  • Nobody is perfect; we all can be hypocritical to some degree, in some parts of our lives.  When does this become problematic?  One possibility is that it becomes problematic when you don’t recognize it, or don’t try to remedy your hypocritical behavior.



A gram of prevention…


The lever arm might need to be longer, but a bit of prevention is always worth a lot of the cure.  Own work.  CC-BY.

Yes, the traditional saying is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” but my engineering mind dutifully reminds me that we should be working in the metric system.

A recent story, about a whole face transplant, made the news recently.   A girl who shot herself with a hunting rifle and survived, got a face transplant (paid for by the Department of Defense).  So many questions and ideas came to mind regarding this miracle of science, and the entire event itself.  Some of these:

  1. This woman tried to commit suicide; was there help available to her before she did this?  Did someone recognize that she might have attempted to kill herself?
  2. The Department of Defense is willing to pay a great deal of money to reconstruct the faces of soldiers who are severely injured in combat.  What of the money given to folks say, in the State Department, or in international aid, that might prevent us from going to war in the first place?  We go to war to secure resources (fossil fuels), while telling ourselves we are ‘fighting for freedom’, when the real story is far different.

The essence here is that ‘a gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.’  We’ve got all this technology, we pursue cures that have amazing costs, but when it comes to the boring prevention stuff, as a society, we generally don’t take notice, or want to pay for the ‘few grams of prevention’.

Face transplant technology could help a good many people, through no fault of their own, who find themselves with severe trauma.  It’s great that people are being given their lives back, and that modern medicine can perform these wonders.  There are so many other medical miracles that happen (premature babies being born way too early and surviving; people who get into severe motorcycle accidents and who get fantastic help in rehabilitation) that we almost expect them to happen.  Our society has emergency rooms for urgent care, and you can’t be turned away, yet the actual costs to a hospital have become so massive that some hospitals are paying for their ‘frequent fliers’ to get apartments, because it is cheaper for them.

Some of the commentariat would like to end these programs, since they seem to subsidize the poor.   Some sort of minimum ‘healthcare for all’, or providing birth control for free (to reduce the number of abortions) seem to bother a few conservative folks, but why?  If the net result of these actions (saving money, preventing abortions) is your final goal, then why the pushback?  Why the outrage?   There’s a classic counter phrase some may bring up; “Millions for defense, but not a penny for tribute.”  But resources spent on prevention are not tribute.

Any thoughts on why the objection to spending money up front, when time and time again, it appears that the gram of prevention is far more economical in both money and human suffering?




On not leaving America –Nicolai Schäfer – (original image has been color inverted)

As things go weirder and weirder, and even the Onion has trouble keeping up, one sometimes has to ask – “Should I/we/you leave America?” It’s not a trivial matter; many rich folks are getting (read: buying) second or third passports, “just in case” things go badly in the US.

My take is that there are some big objections to this; some practical, and some more ethereal.  For example, if you become a citizen of another country, and things go badly quickly, are you going to be able to get there in time? If things go badly even slowly, are you willing to uproot your life and adapt to a new culture and way of life?   These are not trivial matters.

As screwed up as America is, it is one of the few countries founded on a good idea.  Yes, we are probably a plutocracy; but are other countries so pure that they aren’t owned by the rich either?   And for any of you who point to the Scandinavian countries, are they as ethnically, linguistically, and sociologically diverse as the United States?  This isn’t to say all that diversity is a good thing; a bit too much, and you don’t have a common culture to rally around.  But as diverse places go, America is probably doing a decent job about having the space where people can get along and live their lives.   In spite of everything screwed up about the US, people are still, quite literally, dying to come to America; the list of people giving up their citizenship is minuscule.

My own joke/thumbnail sketch for coming to America is along the lines of:

  1. Show up ready to work.
  2. Stop any fighting with random groups you had back in the old country.
  3. Bring the best parts of your culture; a holiday or two; some great food, and integrate it into the fabric of the country.
  4. Send your kids to school, and don’t flip out if they intermarry with someone from another culture, or gasp, someone from your ancient homeland’s enemy.
  5. Call yourself an American; hyphenated or not.
  6. Yell at your grandkids for becoming “too American.”

You may say America is built on business, and continues to do lousy things around the world.  And you may be right.  But given the alternatives (based on your parents, caste, or some odd quirk of birth), life in America isn’t horrific.  America has changed over the years; the legalization of gay marriage in 50 states (and admission into the military) is one of things that shows that yes, even America can move forward.

Still, to the point at hand – some folks think (or plan) that leaving the US is a good idea.  My ancestors left Europe, as many others did.  They left generally not for trivial things- war, persecution,  plague,  and pestilence are all reasons many came to America, and still do.   Leaving America, if those things came to pass, might be a viable option.  But to leave, without trying to change things, or leaving because the “wrong” person or persons got elected?   It all seems a bit… shortsighted.  Leaving the US also makes me think that you are a bit of an armchair patriot, unable or unwilling to stand up and fight for your rights, which was done by countless other groups (women, blacks, gays).  In theory, they could have left, and gone to countries with “better” space for them, but by fighting, they probably made the country a better place.


  • When would you leave the US, and why?
  • What is the ‘tipping’ point?
  • What do you do to make America a better place, a place worth staying for?






On Change


Delta (change), the only constant.

Lots of things are coming down the pike that are ‘double plus unfun’.   In spite of the data, there’s a great deal of obliviousness, willful ignorance, and cognitive dissonance that surrounds us.  My old take was telling everybody that we were headed for a crash, that things were in bad shape (although probably true), didn’t win a great deal of converts.   At some point (and perhaps this comes with a bit of age), my attitude has become a bit more relaxed.   I’ll mention it, sure, if people ask.  Yes, from time to time, my rant-o-matic might kick on (OK, maybe a bit more than a bit).  But proselytizing to people who aren’t ready to accept any of these realities is a bit is probably counterproductive.

As trite and as clichéd as it sounds, my attitude has evolved more more towards “Be the change you want to see.”  So, no flying for trivial purposes; no buying of trinkets; no kids.   No smart phone.  No Facebook.   No eating meat (yes, I’m working on not eating fish…).  Trying to bike or take the bus.   Helping friends with real hands-on projects.  All sorts of self improvement (take a few pointers from here; they seem like reasonable ideas, although my choice for pictures might be a bit darker!) is possible.

It ain’t easy, swimming against the tide of the modern world.  But I can see no other way.   At some point, like everyone else, I’m going die.  Hopefully, not tomorrow, or anytime soon.  There seems to be a lot of overwhelming evidence that we’ll be judged, or judge ourselves when this is all over.  And even if you don’t think any of that is true, think again about Nicholas Taleb’s remark about success, and how you might view your life in retrospect, no matter if we get a techno-utopia or the greatest apocalypse we’ve ever seen.  It’s been mentioned here before, but is worth repeating:

For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions.

Onward and upward.