Should We Trust The American Media?

From Watching the Election from The Post-Truth Future:

In China, that foundation of reality is eroded alongside trust in institutions previously tasked with upholding the truth. Contrary to popular sentiment in the US, Chinese readers don’t blindly trust the state-run media. Rather, they distrust it so much that they don’t trust any form of media, instead putting their faith in what their friends and family tell them. No institution is trusted enough to act as a definitive fact-checker, and so it’s easy for misinformation to proliferate unchecked.
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> This has been China’s story for decades. In 2016, it is starting to be the US’ story as well.

For me, my mistrust of the media started with getting angry about what the news media chooses to cover. Things that, in the grand scheme of things, make no sense based on who is covering it. Why does the local newscast get something I know a thing or two about completely wrong? Why should a nationwide newscast spend any time on what new things are being added to the McDonalds menu? Why are celebrities discussed on anything other than TMZ or Entertainment Tonight? How come no one covers anything other than “fluff” pieces for GE, Disney, Comcast, or Viacom?

The media is bought and paid for pretty much everywhere in the world. In China, it’s obviously the government as media is state-run. In the US, it’s the owners of the major TV networks (NBC = Comcast + GE, ABC = Disney, CBS = Viacom) and the underwriters, sponsors, advertisers, call them whatever you’d like. Coverage of stories (or not) is dictated by those paying for airtime. Ever wonder why the national nightly news casts never cover drug-related issues, or even broach questions about whether drugs are involved in the latest gun-related incident? See all the pharmaceutical ads between the native ads for McDonalds that run as actual news stories.

At least I have some idea what’s going on thanks to No Agenda, which I discovered more than eight years ago. I’ve learned how the media works and the games they play. And I’ve learned: it’s a scam, but it’s an important signal about at least one of the potential narratives in play. The truth is out there to find if you’re willing to look for it. Just be careful of confirmation bias, which is also out there.

Why is Voting in America So Hard?

From At least 42 percent of Pierce voters had turned in ballots by Saturday:

Statewide, as of Friday, about 1.7 million of the more than 4.2 million ballots sent had been returned by mail or drop box.
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> Record turnout for the state came during the 2008 election, when 84.6 percent of voters participated. In 2012, turnout was 81.3 percent.
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> While election analysts across the country dissect early voting patterns in various states, the effect is muted in Washington, one of only three states that vote entirely by mail, along with Oregon and Colorado.
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> That means no long lines at polling places and no corresponding legal tussles over access to polling places.

Seriously, this is the way it should be everywhere in America. Everyone gets an voter information pamphlet and ballot mailed to them. You drop off your ballot at a central location free of charge or you mail it for the cost of first class postage. No finding your polling place or waiting in line for hours on end, as some people are reportedly doing in other states.

The result? People actually vote. During the last couple of Presidential elections, Pierce County had above 80% participation of registered voters. This means just about everyone who wants to vote is voting and there's little stopping the other 20% from turning in their ballot.

Can someone tell me why more states aren't looking to implement similar systems? I mean, beyond the obvious, rhetorical reasons.

It's Not Just About The Sportsball

Many people I know into tech are not into sports. At all. In fact, they tend to refer to all sports collectively as sportsball:

Sportsball...is an Internet slang term used to describe any competitive sport that revolves around a ball, particularly the ones that end with the suffix “-ball” in their names, such as baseball, basketball and football. As implied by its generic name, the word is typically used in a derogatory manner by those who either dislike or has little interest in sports fandom.

I am probably in the minority among my community in the sense that I actually like some sports, particularly the NFL and the NBA. I'm not nearly as deep into it as some fans, but I do have teams I follow: the San Francisco 49ers (NFL) and the Golden State Warriors (NBA). I will occasionally pay attention to baseball, and I've been to a couple of hockey games, and I will entertain other regional sports when I am abroad.

If I had to pick a favorite sport: it's football, hands down. I've liked it ever since I was a young kid. Probably didn't hurt that I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area while I was a kid and watched the 49ers during their glory years. I will watch NFL, College, high school, and even the younger kids play. It requires a huge commitment and 11 players to work together towards a common goal. There are different things to appreciate about this sport at all age levels if you know what to look for.

Living in the Seattle area does not make me popular during the NFL season because the local team (the Seahawks) are in the same division as the 49ers. Between that, the absolutely miserable play by the 49ers over the last few years, and the recent success of the Golden State Warriors (colloquially known as the Dubs), I've started following the NBA again. Thankfully, unlike the 49ers, the Dubs do not have a rival based in Seattle, unless of course various parties can bring back the Seattle Supersonics.

To people who don't follow sports, professional sports seems absolutely ridiculous. It's an activity undertaken by highly paid athletes who work for teams and/or sports leagues mostly interested in making as much money as humanly possible. The impact of a team win or loss on a fan is mostly psychological. One's beliefs about a team's ability to win can appear similar to a belief in God, something a lot of tech people don't believe in, either.

Then again, that nerdy thing you like and will spend hours on end talking about seems absolutely ridiculous to most everyone else who isn't a similar sort of nerd. Sports (in general) is one of those things that the vast majority of people are interested in. As such, it serves as a useful way to relate to people who aren't your kind of nerd.

For example, even though I am not a Seahawks fan, because the majority of people around where I live are, I follow them enough to be able to talk intelligently with anyone about how they're doing. Same with basketball, I follow the Dubs and have a cursory knowledge of other teams and players. Baseball, I'm less into, but I get mildly interested in during the postseason and know who's playing who in the World Series.

When I travel, I find sports is a great way to relate to people, even if they like a sport I don't know much about. I've learned a bit about hockey from Canadians and about various forms of Rugby from Australians and South Africans. Even though it's unlikely I will get into these sports, I find having at least a perfunctory knowledge of the locally prevalent sports helps in all manners of conversation.

Bottom line: People appreciate when you show interest in something they are interested in. Sports is about as close to a touchdown, slam dunk, or home run as you're gonna get in this area.

Creative Block

I seem to have hit a bit of a wall in terms of my creative endeavors. Maybe all those reports I'm writing for work lately have a lot to do with this. Maybe it's all the time in shiny metal tubes. Not entirely sure. But when your creative pursuits involve more than just writing, you can't really call it writers block, can you?

The good news is that I've recorded a new podcast for the first time in over three months, starting with a big new toy which I'm sure I spent far too many minutes talking about. I'm also writing something small here, but where I really need to kick it up a notch is over on PhoneBoy's Security Theater as that advances my professional image.

The question is: can I maintain the creative momentum? I go in spurts, sometimes a few days, sometimes a few years. Consistency is key to honing your craft and while I can do it for a time, I eventually run out of steam.

It's self-sabotaging, quite frankly, and I need to figure out why I do that. Not just in my creative pursuits.

About That A1C

As part of a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, and just generally getting older, I have to give regular samples of my blood so I can be evaluated for many things. This time around, I got it in just under the expiration of the orders, about three months past when I should have. It resulted in me learning I needed a doctors visit to get my medications refilled while being close to running out.

Sadly, the last several months of heavy travel have not been good to me. I've ate and drank a lot of stuff that, quite frankly, I probably shouldn't have. I stopped walking (for exercise) regularly. As a result, I gained back most of the weight I had lost and my A1C number went from a 6.1 to a 6.7. Also, my fasting blood sugar spiked to around 130 mg/dL (at least on my meter).

After I saw the results of my blood tests, I redoubled my efforts to eliminate the evil carbs and to quit putting food in my mouth when I'm not hungry. The funny thing is it seems to have resulted in an immediate drop in my fasting blood sugar: below 100 mg/dL, which is where it's supposed to be.

The doctor wasn't too concerned with the increase. His prescription, of course, is to make better dietary choices and get exercising again.

Sadly, over the next couple of weeks, I will be away from home again. Plenty of restaurant food, but minimal time in shiny metal tubes. After that, I should be home for a few weeks. We'll see if I can keep things under control.

There is No Escape, Only Movement Between Trash Fires

From All Human Systems Are Enormous Trash Fires

So if you’re wondering why the particular system you’re in is always such an enormous trash fire, the answer is because there’s no other way for it to be. No other place is going to be any less of an enormous trash fire. Everything is ablaze, always and forever.

As I often say, it’s not because the grass is greener, it’s because you want to go play in a different field. It’s still just grass at the end of the day.

While sometimes leaving a given system is the right answer, don’t think you’re going to escape a trash fire in the process, all you’re really doing is moving from one to the next.

How I Vote, 2016 Edition

In 2004, I wrote a post about picking the lesser of two evils, wherein I articulated some support for Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. I still like this quote from an interview he did (though I can't find the original reference):

“If you vote for the lesser of two evils, and your candidate wins, you still get evil. If you don’t vote for liberty, you will never get it.”

Another analogy Badnarik used in a television interview was something like the following. Suppose you were in prison and you could vote for your fate. Given the following odds:

  • Death by Electric Chair — 50%
  • Death by Lethal Injection — 45%
  • Freedom — 5%

Which would you vote for? Would you vote for Electric Chair because it was the most likely? Hell no, you’d vote for Freedom, even if it has a less likely chance of winning.

This analogy seems all the more appropriate today as my fellow Americans and I are poised to make a choice between two candidates widely viewed as bad for our country: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, I also found a post from November 2006 I had written called "How I Vote." While some of the references I made in that post aren't relevant anymore (and I thus remove it), I'm including the general logic I've been following since. It basically goes like this:

  1. If there's a Libertarian running, unless there's something in their voter statement that turns me off, I vote for them. This is because the Libertarian platform generally appeals to me and a third, strong political party can only benefit this country.

  2. If there's an incumbent running, vote against the incumbent. I tend to think politicians should be changed often, just like diapers, and for exactly the same reason.

  3. If there's still a choice left, then I'll do the research. Because I always vote absentee, it's really easy to do that research. Note that in Washington State, absentee is the only way you can vote except during Presidential elections.

If I follow my own logic:

  1. The Libertarian ticket for President is Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Looks good so far, but I'm reserving judgement for now.

  2. The one thing the last several years has taught me is that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats except for the special interests they pander to. As a result, I consider candidates from both parties to be incumbents and not worth voting for.

  3. If it turns out that my conscience doesn't align with Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, then I'll vote for someone else that does.

You might say I am "throwing my vote away" by choosing to vote for someone who isn't a Republican or Democrat. Personally, I want my vote to have more of an impact. And I prefer voting for Liberty versus the lesser of two evils.

Verifying Myself on Twitter

I have to admit I've been jealous of the handful of people who have verified accounts on Twitter. I actually created an account that ultimately became verified, the one for Check Point Software. That was a while back and I don't post from it very often, being a corporate account and all that.

Recently, Twitter opened up verified accounts to all, and I just took the plunge and put in my application. I think I meet the criteria, and the worst they can say is no, so why not?

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Emotionally Hungry

I learned a long time ago not to make decisions when I am emotional. Heeding this advice has probably saved me numerous times from making life-changing decisions needlessly. Sadly, there is one area in my life where I have not applied this same advice--when I eat.

I've known about emotional eating for quite some time. I've even caught myself many times eating when I know it's because I'm emotional, not because I'm physically hungry.

Bottom line: I need to stop. I know it's not helping me lose any weight or keep my blood sugar in check.

While I don't know exactly how to solve the problem, I think the solution starts with pushing the plate away when my emotions are in control. I know in practice this is far easier said than done. I also know there will be times when I will be physically hungry as well and I need to learn to manage that.

I also need to learn to push the plate away when my physical hunger is satiated. Perhaps that will become easier over time.

When Do The Filters Come Off?

As I've written in the past:

You’re better off assuming anything you input into social media, SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, or whatever can and will be made public. Act and share accordingly.

Likewise, I assume everything I post will eventually be read by someone I wish didn't. I had some experiences where I didn't experience appropriate discretion and had some unpleasant side effects as a result. This means I usually exercise a fair amount of editorial restraint on most everything I post.

The reality is, I don't have a whole lot of real-life friends that I can talk to about things anymore, at least not any that I can reliably see on a regular basis. Even if I did, I'm not always great with verbal communication, even though I can speak a lot at times.

This leaves writing as my way of working through things. It's also how I learn things as well, it seems.

Sadly, there is an increasing number of topics online that are third rails and cannot be debated or discussed in any rational sense without the proverbial firestorm being unleashed on you. One only has to look at the upcoming Presidential election in the US to find the latest edition of this: two repugnant, polarizing figures, one of which will likely be elected "leader of the free world" and not "seize power" as some media outlets might portray it. That is, unless the American electorate wakes up and realizes there are other choices out there, one of which is Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld.

My rather innocuous posting on Facebook got largely ignored, thankfully, and didn't degrade into a flame war like I see so many other political posts do. Maybe I have better friends than most, though based on their Facebook posts, I know most of the ones that have declared are backing major party candidates.

The reality is, because of the threat of something degrading into an argument, I don't even participate in the conversation. At all. It means not posting about controversial issues and rarely participating in conversations around these topics. Besides, who on the Internet really cares what I think, anyway?

This inability to have real conversations about things that matter to me extends into the real world, too. Forget the controversial topics, if you were to put potential discussion topics in a Venn diagram, the intersection between me and a significant portion of the population is quite small. Add Aspergers into the mix, and you have a recipe for a lot of listening and not a lot of talking. Or dominating conversations if it happens to be one of those few topics I actually care about.

But mostly, I just get exhausted from having to filter everything I say or write.

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