Confirmation Bias

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

Posted the below on Jim Wright’s page. It ran a tad long. Some people seemed to like it. I thought I’d put it here as well.

If social media were the real world, Bernie Sanders would have won the primary election by so much that they would have simply called off the general and carried him into Washington by passing him from back to back, shoulder to shoulder. He would have literally crowd surfed into the capitol. And then his brown robed sparrows would have scourged Congress. After which they would make Hillary walk naked and barefoot through the country, while pelting her with dung.

If social media were the real world the two major parties would be the Greens and the Libertarians. But they would still only poll at about 4% each because 92% of the country are strong Independents with a capital I.

Then again if social media were the real world Donald Trump would simply co-opt the military, and with it at his back he would cross the Delaware to make his Triumphal March. The true believers would rise up from their chains in every crevice and holler and they would TAKE BACK their country! Take it back to when, I’m not sure. It looks like 1952, but 1852 might be more likely. The PureBlooded Americans would drive out the mud bloods to the furthest corners of the globe, and then build a wall! The best Wall! A wall forged of the elements, and as high as the truest believer’s heart flag will fly. The bad people would quail before our might and scuttle back where they belong. And if they still won’t behave? We’ll bomb them into the stone age. A stone age which is definitely no more than 6,000 years ago.

If social media were the real world, then Welcome to Nightvale would be a documentary.

If social media were the real world, the loudest people would not merely represent a tenth of a percent. They would each and every one of them represent an army. A multitude. Every campaign event would mirror the general population, and not be a self selecting skewed sample, making the participants believe that they are more popular than they actually are. Opinions traded back and forth in tiny closed bubbles would actually be fact. Reading it on the internet would actually make it true.

On social media, the loudest people comment on every post. And then comment on every comment. They say the same things over and over, and then comment on how popular their opinion is. They either only talk to people who agree with them, or those diametrically opposed. They think it is a debate when they state their opinions as fact until someone questions them. Then they either keep yelling the same things, or disengage and walk away, only to pop up elsewhere to repeat the performance. If social media were the real world, we would all live in walled communities of common opinion. Like a Neil Stephenson novel, only with more ideology and less pizza delivery.

But here is the thing. In the world of social media, those who are silent do not exist. And those that are loud exist in outsized measure. In the real world, most people don’t bother to argue. Most people have problems that concern them far more than social media political purity. They don’t go to rallies. They don’t answer the phone when the polls call. If they follow Jim, they mostly keep quiet as a mouse and watch it all go by. The loudest voices often do not represent them at all.

In the real world they all have exactly one vote.


Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

Thank you San Francisco, for giving me the gift of an experience today.

And thank you Mr. Junkie Man for unapologetically shooting up into his own leg, after casually pulling his pant leg up past his knee, all the while carrying on a conversation with someone who I can only assume was a friend or colleague. Thank you for doing it right on the sidewalk of Hyde, right between Turk and Eddy. Thank you for showing my kids a little unvarnished reality in the midst of their mostly privileged lives. I know that THEY didn’t find it a particularly pleasant experience, akin to watching a predator disembowel and eat prey. Only with more pathos. More like a one legged pigeon struggling with half of a buffalo wing. But I digress.

I myself am grateful to be able to check off another box on my life experience list.

Witness junkie shooting up: Check!

Spot trans hookers: Check!

Be mistaken for a hooker: Check! (Life Tip. Don’t stand on the corner of Capp and 18th for more than 10 minutes, even if you are waiting for a cab. Even at 2pm. Unless you want the bucket list item, in which case, different Life Tip.)

Buy drugs on the street in New York City. Just like the movies!: Check!

Having the police escort your 12 year old son home at 2:30 am: Check !  Which leads to…

Baby’s first police report: Check!  (His phone was stolen on the bus coming home from a movie. He did the right thing and went to the police.*)

Also it is nice to see that my city has not completely succumbed to gentrification, faux “dive bars”, and pre-distressed clothing. Definitely a Keeping it 100 moment. I wonder what gifts my city will bring me next?


* Not a viable option for black children.

The Cake is a lie.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 by Misanthropic Mom's Group
I started to write a simple comment on someones Facebook post, but it grew outsized enough that it would have been a little embarrassing to post it there and hijack the comments section for my own theoretical musings. The topic of discussion was progressives who say they will vote for Trump so that we can just tear it all down and start over, and how practical those plans for starting over might be. My own husband was (is) a bitterly angry Bernie supporter. So I have had the last year to think about this. Rather than, you know, TALK about it. Because that leads to arguments. *sigh*

There is something about this revolution that seems to tap a deep seated vein of furious anger in white, middle class, progressive males. I know the revolution is legion and composed of a kaleidoscope of parts. It is just that the part that is of interest to me is the part that I have to live with: a forty-six year old male whose DNA harkens from northern European, melanin deprived regions. Born and raised in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, Bachelor’s degree at 22 from UC back when you could actually come out of there without a mountain of student loan debt. Has worked fairly steady over the years, but with a work history punctuated by layoffs and shuttered start-ups. (There is this particularly irritating ethos around Silicon Valley that anyone with an idea, a computer, and a copy of Coding for Dummies can have their own startup. And yes most of them fail, but those failures are really successes because of all you have learned! None of this takes into account the lives of the employees of these companies. The ones who now have no job. And no savings as they had been being paid a low salary with a promise of stock options. But the idea of Failure as a virtue is so prevalent that every year in San Francisco they hold FailCon, where presumably one can network with other energetic failures who feel light as a feather now that they don’t have payroll to worry about.)

So funny story: my particular middle aged white male actually worked for several years laying out books for IDG Books, the people who used to publish the “For Dummies” books. I say “used to” because the publishing arm of IDG Corp was sold off to east coast based John Wiley and Sons. And that is when the layoffs started. I’m guessing a few employees were willing to move to Hoboken, where the new offices would be, but not many. Just saying “New Jersey” to a native Californian has been known to lead to fainting and/or catatonia. So that was one layoff. There were many. People who voluntarily change jobs tend to trade up. People who are laid off are likely to land in the midst of a weak economy. The weak economy that was the reason for the layoffs in the first place. People who were laid off tend to trade down. Managing to break even is often the best you can hope for.  And the long periods between jobs, trying to eke out a living on Unemployment, tend to preclude the ability to save for retirement. Once you’ve been through three or four or five layoffs, the very idea of a savings account that hasn’t been raided for living expenses is laughable. We are both working now, and making almost as much as we made when we moved into our apartment in 2010. We are both in our 40’s. We both have college degrees. And we still need to ask our parents for money periodically. This does not boost self esteem.

So what is it about the current talk of revolution that feeds a particular spark of anger in men like my husband? I think it might have something to do with feeling like they were promised a better future at the same time as being told that they could do anything if they worked hard enough. Now they feel helpless and that their world is out of their control. And they were raised to believe that they are responsible for their own destiny. This happens to the conservative males too, but it pushes them toward Libertarianism and seizing rare bird sanctuaries. I think the progressive male is more apt to turn bitterly on the idea of the American Dream itself. It seems like the idea that you have to have control, faced with the idea that the American Dream was never really attainable for most people, and getting less likely by the day; this idea warps into an “Everything is a Lie!” mindset. Because if it is all a setup, and everything is rigged, and we are being deliberately fed into the maw of giant, hungry corporations which will drain every last drop of productivity out of us before flinging us to live or die by our own devices… If all that is true then the only logical thing to do, really our only hope at all is to rise up and fight back. And it is THAT sense of taking action which allays the need for control.

Raising the red flag and idealizing Scandinavia makes them feel like they might be at the forefront of colossal global change, and not being sucked down in its undertow. But when the peaceful revolution is thwarted, those hopes are dashed, and unfortunately when hope is given and then snatched away, it is tempting to feel that nothing could be worse than the status quo. Suddenly the thought of life just going on as it has been is nearly unbearable. It is next to impossible to see that bearing the yoke of a boring job that barely pays the bills and a boss who obviously has no clue what they are doing… that yoke is hardly comparable to living shoeless in the streets of Calcutta. Suddenly it feels as if the revolution HAS to come soon because everything is so unbearable that global collapse and rebuilding just HAS to be better than this. I swear, sometimes I think that my husband would prefer to live in the world of Mad Max than have to deal with yet ANOTHER improperly formatted GIF. At one point I found myself yelling at him, “This revolution you want so much? What on earth makes you think that our side would win? THEY have all the guns. What are we supposed to do? Look smart at them? Explain rationally why a Scandinavian form of Socialism would make life so much better for everyone? Douse them in Kambucha so they’ll be temporarily disabled by the smell, and then pull your carefully ordered bookcases down on them?”

Myself, I am used to feeling that life is like floating down a river without a paddle. You can try really hard to paddle with your hands. You can get out and swim, and try towing the boat, but you are still going to have to go with the current. And most of the time you float through the bad parts, smack your head on some rocks, get scared half to death in the rapids, but then its done. It works out and you end up floating through the good parts. If you are lucky some of the REALLY good parts have rapids too. I’m gonna just float along on my raft of antidepressants and streaming video and the we will just see what happens next.

Ma Joad:

“Well, Pa, woman can change bettern a man. Man lives – well, in jerks. Baby born or somebody dies, that’s a jerk. With a woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream – little eddies, little waterfalls – but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it that way.”

From: The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 20th Century Fox Films, Directed by John Ford, Based on the novel by John Steinbeck

Stand by me

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

On somebody’s page the topic of reading Stephen King at a young age came up, and it reminded me of how I got started on Stephen King. If this had happened today, I imagine multiple firings and scandal would have been the result.

You see, back before the invention of fire, when all we had for illumination was the reflected light off of disco balls and Osmond teeth, our public school classrooms actually had a main teacher and an aide. The aide was somewhere between a real teacher and a parent volunteer. They were paid, but weren’t credentialed. Anyhow, the aide in our 6th grade class was a very odd lady. I can’t recall her name just now. Perhaps Mrs. Cooper? It any event she was generally considered a battle axe, but occasionally she would be excited about something, and the year I was in her room that something was Stephen King’s The Stand.

I can’t imagine she actually read us the whole thing, but I distinctly remember her reading large passages, with some catching up explanations in between. Presumably this was so she could edit out the really graphic parts, but I can’t actually remember much editing. Also I think it must have been during the last couple of months of the school year when no one actually gave more than half a fuck, because she never got to the end of the book. Most of us who were actual readers had our own copies long before then, so it didn’t really matter much to us, but I can imagine some of the poorer or less literate kids never knowing what happened to Stu or Nick or Tom. Or at least until the mini-series came out, and then it wasn’t quite the same.

But I honestly can’t imagine any 6th grade teacher or teacher-like entity reading The Stand out loud to a class for weeks on end without being sacked. And those responsible for them being sacked. And a llama once bit my seester. There are times when I’m really grateful to belong to a generation of kids that nobody really cared much about. Because that aide was never LESS scary than when she was reading us stuff that scared the crap out of us. Some of the stuff we got to do because no one was really paying attention was awesome!

At least I know when the milk goes bad. Probably.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 4, 2015 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

My cat is a total dick.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore his fuzzy butt, and he is an wonderful, good natured, fluffy ball of purrs. It is just that he is also kind of an asshole.

Case in point. For some obscure feline reason he feels the need to inspect dairy products. If he sees dairy, he needs to sniff at it. He doesn’t actually lick it, and once it is sniffed he is basically done, but that sniffing must occur. (Except that he has developed a taste for ice cream. Specifically my ice cream. Whenever I get it out of the freezer he immediately teleports to directly underfoot, and I am obliged to share. He doesn’t do this with anyone else in the house, so it is uncertain whether he just knows that I am the only one who will share with him, or if he just really likes coffee toffee ice cream in particular. But I digress.)

His most regular dairy inspector job is my morning coffee. (I don’t care what time it is, if it is the first thing consumed after waking up, it is morning coffee.) I drink my coffee heavily latte, so I generally pour milk into the cup about a third of the way up before adding coffee. He has gotten so that when the cup is set down and I am still opening the refrigerator he has himself in position. When I do this in the kitchen he almost never misses a cup. But if I am upstairs at the mini-fridge he sometimes isn’t there.

The other day was a day when he missed it. I had just filled the cup with coffee when Mark said, “You didn’t let Momo inspect the milk!” I mumbled something about how Momo would adjust and went off to heat up the coffee-milk. A minute later Mark was standing in the doorway looking stern.

“Go LOOK at what you have done!”

I go look, and lo and behold Momo is sitting on top of the mini-fridge just staring at me. Unblinking. With that cat look that is somewhere between disappointment and condemnation.

Well, there was really nothing else I could do at that point but get another cup and go pour a token amount of milk in it so he could sniff it.

He sniffed it.
He dipped his paw in the cup. (Okay, so much for that milk.)
He put his head down, as if to rub the side of his face appreciatively against the cup. For a microsecond I thought to myself, “Look! I’ve made him happy and he is grateful.”

That was the moment when he started to push the cup off the mini-fridge. Luckily I KNOW HOW HE IS, so I caught it in time. But yeah, my cat is a total, unrepentant dick.

I still can’t figure out why that fact is so damn cute.


The Man Ain’t Got No Culture *

Posted in Uncategorized on May 29, 2015 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

*Updated for 2016. Please see Addendum below Main Story.

So WHO stood up for the validity of Geek culture and won? Me. You’re welcome.

Tasha’s school was yet again having their annual slightly tone-deaf “International Day”, in which students are supposed to write about their ethnic (read non-American) culture, and prepare a beloved cultural dish to share with the school. Sounds reasonable? Maybe it did for the first 3-4 years, but by year 7 is was getting a tad ridiculous. Particularly for our family who are just basically mutts. Even on the Chinese side you have to go back generations to find immigrants, and the Jong family cultural dish is take-out in pink boxes. On my side it is just picking random northern european countries that ancestors may or may not have come from in the distant past. Our cultural cuisine was “whatever is quick”. The only lovingly handed down recipe comes from my step-father, and latkes do not lend themselves to potlucks. Also the essay portion would have to be something like, “My mom’s stepdad was a jew from Queens, NY. We think part of the family might have come from Russia, but pretty much every family member is dead or has Alzheimer’s, so we aren’t sure. Anyway we make latkes on Christmas Day most years. We also put a star of David on the top of the tree. None of us are Jewish, but fried potatoes are delicious. Then we all watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special.”

Which brings us to Geek Culture. The school had handed out the flier announcing yet another “Let’s Pretend We Have a Heritage” day and I expressed frustration to the teacher, at which point all of the older kids started chiming in on how they loathe this practice. I said, “The only meaningful culture we have is Geek Culture. I could make Tardis shaped cookies, and Tasha could wear her Inspector Spacetime t-shirt.” And her teacher, who is cool and sympathetic, thought it was a great idea, and said she would ask the Powers That Be if the formula could be tweaked somewhat for the older kids to do things like that.
Needless to say, this went very, very wrong. Next thing I know I am getting a text on my phone from the school saying that allowing Natasha to do something like this would violate the family values of the event and send the wrong message to the other children.

I was pissed.

I was pissed, but I did NOT hit reply. Okay, maybe I did, but I did not hit send. I was good.

I did, however, have an extensive email conversation with the teacher, part of which included this paragraph:

“My own grandmother hated to cook, and did so dutifully and without anything verging on enthusiasm. We have no handed down family recipes. Our Christmas Day tradition is to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Episode. No one on either side of Natasha’s family has a living memory of any family member who was not born in the United States. She is however, a third generation Real Geek Girl. My mom read The Lord of the Rings in 1963 when the only copies available were pirated. She read them all out loud to me when I was five years old. My first crush was on Mr. Spock. When I was 7 she took me to an SF convention. I’ve had an email account since 1989. I have friends in several countries and across the US that I met in the 1990’s on a MUD platform, long before the WWW existed. In Santa Cruz in the late 80’s and 90’s we had “Geek Houses”, which were groups of housemates living together in fully wired communities. The houses had names, such as The Armory, The Institute, Animal Farm etc. Everyone knew one another through email, bulletin boards, and forums. Periodically people would call Food Runs and as many as 50 people would show up at 11pm at the local Denny’s. We would get together for group viewings of shows like Star Trek: TNG or Twin Peaks. Groups like this existed in other places than Santa Cruz. I have a friend who did her dissertation on this very subject. Natasha is a born and bred denizen of the internet. From YouTube personalities to podcasts to memes, she is a product of people who lived for things like technology, fandom, role playing games, SF/Fantasy, and just generally being smart people. When I suggested it I was not being flippant, or making a joke. I was very serious. It is our culture. We made it ourselves.”

Then we knuckled under, said Tasha is maybe 1/32 French Canadian, and made Poutine, which I do recommend. Very tasty.

I was going, with some trepidation, to pick her up this afternoon when I get ANOTHER text from the school apologizing profusely. I am then met at the door by the headmaster’s wife who proceeds to apologize so much it was a tad embarrassing. Bottom line is that if Tasha wants to be a Geek next year, and explain her unique (and previously unheard of) culture, she is free to do so.

Then when I got home I saw an email from the teacher saying this (Eric is the headmaster, Gayle is his wife):

“So Eric asked me during international day if I wanted him to explain to Natasha why they didn’t want other kids dressing up in Spider-Man costumes and I said NO!!! choking on my samosa. At that point I thought I had to mention to them briefly some of the points you said, but not the venting parts. This was to spare Natasha from a Spider-Man joke.
Also, Gayle said she hoped she didn’t offend you. I didn’t say anything, just that geek culture is actually really important to you guys, not a joke, and more complex than they think it is.”

The very thought of Tasha in a Spiderman suit made me laugh. She would have laser eye beam powers of derision.

Addendum: June 1, 2016

International Day Report or How to Make Your Stepfather’s Heart Melt


Geek Culture

Laundry Day and Daleks

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20, 2015 by Misanthropic Mom's Group

While mining for laundry in Lamp’s room I came across a particularly rich vein of socks. At least a half dozen “pairs”. Meaning that they are all black because I only buy him black socks, so I use the term pairs loosely. It is funny how much pleasure this gives me. My life is sad.

There are also some stains of questionable provenance. But we mustn’t go there.

When mining for teenaged laundry one needs to take the same sort of precautions one would take for any other sort of mining. First it is imperative that someone else knows you are in there. You don’t need to be in constant two way communication with someone on the outside, but at the very least there needs to be someone who will alert authorities if you fail to return in a timely manner. Cave ins are always a possibility, and your screams could be muffled if you are beneath a pile of laundry, old kleenex, and a metric ton of Legos. Because of this, you should always work from the top down. Pulling a likely looking sock from the side of a pile could easily result in a landslide.

Always watch your footing. Place each foot down gently yet firmly to ensure that the substrate is stable. As always, watch out for Legos. They are everywhere, and unlike guitar picks can deliver a nasty wound. If you see one, be assured that there are 10,000 more in hiding.

Breathing gear is optional, but recommended for any but the most strong of stomach. Food containers can and will have things growing in them that may emit hazardous agents. Try to remember that your goal is only the laundry or you could be trapped for days. Get in and out quickly, yet safely. You can always check pants pockets for money after leaving the hazard zone.

Bright lighting is a bit of a quandary. One needs light enough for safety, and to be able to avoid at all costs stepping IN something, but there are certain things that one would rather view in a softer lighting. If one must view them at all. I find that a single overhead is more than enough and can even be dispensed with entirely on bright days if the window happens to be visible.

Finally, try not to think too hard on where the stains may have come from. Just wash the blanket/sock/shirt/curtains and move on. Too much thought can lead to dark places, and that way leads to madness. However, as I learned after the quail incident, sometimes the reason it smells like something is dead in there… is that something is dead in there.

Anyhow laundry day was a nice break from the partially completed knitted Dalek shaped coffee press cozy which is taunting me from where I discarded it in exhaustion yesterday. It is slightly lopsided so far, and is only about 1/3 complete, but I can still hear it in my head. Obligate! Obligate! Obligate!

I think I may actually be getting better at un-knitting mistakes than I am at knitting them in the first place.