reality is weirder than you think

Category: Pulling at Threads (page 1 of 3)

Toward a mission statement

(Iterative draft of a mission statement, of sorts.)

I believe in free will, creative achievement, the utter importance of truth, and making everything fun.

Free will–the ability to choose–is instrumental to our ability to see clearly in this world and guide our own steps. Determinism is for animals; human beings have the capacity to learn, to make judgements, and to choose.

Creative achievement is one of the applied effects of our free will. As fashioned in the image of our Creator, mankind also longs to create things that have never before existed in this universe. Be it merely scraping together an omelette, or something as magnificent as painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, human beings are are at their best when creating.

Truth, reality prime, honesty, the real world, it will always exist. No matter how much we dissemble and hide, the Truth endures, sure as gravity. Sometimes I like to say that the Truth will smack us in the face if we try to avoid it too long. The more that we know and understand the Truth, the easier it becomes to see in the darkness of this world and to navigate successfully.

And then there’s fun. What is that statement? “Only boring people are bored.” Just like it can be fun (for me) to connect to completely disparate ideas, making something drudgerous into something fun is a challenge–and one that is well worth doing. Nobody said we have to be serious about telling the truth.

Mary vs Martha

When I was younger, I remember listening to a tape (yes, back in the day) of an old Christian kid’s radio show called Adventures in Odyssey. All my suburban-raised evangelical youth group compatriots know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, there was an episode in which we listeners were ~ transported through time ~ to Biblical lands where we could be a fly on the wall in Bible stories. The only one I can remember was the ongoing saga of Lazarus, especially the bit with Mary and Martha.

You see, like most of the publications written for suburban-raised evangelical youth group kids, this was coming from a place of uber-industrious SJ-type writers. Of course everyone listening would identify with Martha.

We are all too busy Doing Things to be bothered with trivial stuff like thinking or learning. Martha was the harried-but-perfect hostess, ignoring the party because there were dishes to wash.

I have this theory that the movie Frozen was secretly written by a bunch of ladies at brunch. I’m beginning to suspect that Adventures in Odyssey was too.

The whole point of that radio spot was that we need to quit doing things and learn how to listen.

The MISSING point of that radio spot is that the writers were probably projecting their own inadequacies, and completely missed that there is another entire subset of people who are 100% going to be Mary.

No way would you catch me doing dishes if someone like Jesus was at a party with me.

I’m the exact opposite; I don’t need reminding to learn something new but I absolutely need an alarm clock to get me to bed on time and to make myself do the dishes.

There are do-ers who need to calm down and focus more on being, and then there are be-ers who need to rev up and do more.

The Christian media I grew up with assumed we were all do-ers. It tried to get “busy” people to become more contemplative, never mind that a portion of your readership is going to try contemplativeness to the 2nd power and reach levels of non-effectiveness that we didn’t think were possible.

It’s funny what you start to see when you try to grow up and live your own life.

Petty Authoritarianism

I used to be afraid of becoming a “petty bureaucrat.” You know them–those people who staff the customer services windows at the DMV or who horde secrets at work, forcing you to jump through their inane little hoops before giving you what you want. Not all people are like this, but enough are.

Now that I’ve had more experience with these types of people, I know that it’s unlikely I would go down that path. I hate telling people what to do and what everybody to make their own choices and forge their own path.

Yes, people need to follow the rules–but we also want to do things like “be ethical” and “follow the law.”

There’s a huge difference between the law and someone’s personal authoritarian tendencies.

Shepard Fairey is one of those people that I agree with on the WRONGNESS of things but not on the cause of that wrongness.

Lately it seems like the authoritarian left has become increasingly prominent and increasingly baldfaced about their strategy and tactics.  Everywhere you look, there are examples of the modern leftist ideal of central planning, the hubris of any human being thinking that they are far-seeing enough to dictate the outcomes of any sort of endeavor.

Maybe I’m just seeing it more clearly now.

  • PowerPoint presentations that project song lyrics in church instead of printing words in the bulletin or using hymnals. Doing it this way strips the congregation of the ability to orient themselves in the song and demands that they submit to the authority of the worship musicians (who inevitably is LARPing as an indie band) and the PowerPoint person.
  • The trend in higher education to dictate learning outcomes for each course and even each lesson. No matter if a certain class is ill prepared and won’t ever get there, or if certain people already know the “knowledge” that will be imparted to them and instead get a lesson in outsmarting the teacher or how to navigate the politicized classroom. It’s ludicrous to think that you could dictate the exact outcomes of a teaching/learning session–especially when you think about the fact that most worthy discoveries come when you’re not expecting them.
  • Obligatory bullet point on preferred pronouns.
  • Going to the doctor and having your entire visit, from questioning to treatment plans, dictated by the coding practices for the insurance companies.

These are more systematic than one-off user implementations, but you can see that every day there are little situations that are designed (?) to make us submit to an arbitrary authority.

No wonder we are losing our will to fight.


Image of the week: do you even encrypt?

What happens when you send classified information over an unencrypted messaging service?

Looks like we’re about to find out.

Spotted: Aristotle vs Plato

I like the meme that the script for 2018 has already jumped the shark, even if I don’t believe in the idea that someone is scripting our days. I do, however, believe in #NOCOINCIDENCES even when they are less important and more amusing.

This one falls mostly under amusing–but that might depend on how you view Ben Shapiro.

Given that:

A. Vox Day and Ben Shapiro have a history. (Hint: they don’t like each other.)


B. Vox recently posted this observation:

At its core, the left-right divide all comes down to the most basic principles.

Left = Plato. Anti-Christian. Anti-family. Imperialist.
Right = Aristotle. Christian. Pro-family. Nationalist.


I find it incredibly amusing that Shapiro himself brings up the fact that he plays Plato to Jordan B Peterson’s Aristotle on the Rubin Report.

“What’s fascinating about this is Jordan may be closer to Aristotle than I am to Plato, but we almost have a Platonic versus Aristotelian argument going on here.”

Since we seem to be still in the process of choosing teams, now that the battle lines have been drawn, I figured that this would be worth pointing out.

PSA: Not every performance needs a standing ovation

I went to the symphony tonight, and enjoyed myself. The performance was good.

(It was not great.)

And yet, the audience gave a standing ovation.

You know that bit when the rest of the audience is standing and you’re kind of peer pressured to stand up too? I hate that.

Standing ovations should (ugh I’m using that word) occur when a performance went above and beyond what is normal.

The problem is, many people these days don’t either 1. play an instrument to a level where they are no longer impressed that someone else can play that instrument too, and/or 2. don’t see very many live performances. So any performance is impressive.

That’s true–it’s pretty cool that we humans can cultivate our talents and show them off to each other in a meaningful way–and that’s why we invented applause.

When every show gets a Standing O, nobody gets a Standing O.

The stupidest idea I’ve ever had: cross-stitch data visualizations

Ever had a stupid good idea? So obvious it’s dumb, but nobody’s done it? (Much.)

I had one of those ideas yesterday, out grocery shopping.

It was so dumb I laughed out loud.

Wanna know what it is?


Given that I’ve been into cross-stitching lately, and I work a lot with data and data visualizations, I realized…

Why not combine the two?

I mean, cross-stitching is almost entirely counting and graphing–so why not stitch a bar graph or a bell curve instead of a gamboling kitten?

Sure it’s not usable data, but it’s fun. It can be beautiful. And it sure as heck can be meaningful.

I know someone who has a framed “Napoleon’s March Into Russia” on the wall of her office.

So I decided to go for it.

And what better subject to start with than the sneaker data wave of 2017?

I’m talking about Bitcoin.

Data courtesy of CoinDesk. Technically the last month of 2016 is in there too–let’s pretend it was for dramatic effect.

I think it turned out pretty well, considering I did about 0 minutes of planning. Super fun.

Expect more like this in the future.



If you’re interested in hanging a framed version of this on your own wall, let me know in the comments or contact me directly.


No wifi no life

It’s funny how little you think about your dependence on WiFi until it’s not available.

Wifi has become like air and water.

Except it’s not.

Necessities of 3rd or 4th order reality are not necessities at all, really. Only for those orders.

Certainly not for primary reality (reality prime?).

And yet we still crave it.

Why you should literally never use the word “literally”

I’m not even going to try to write this post like a sales letter. I’m not trying to sell anything, just trying to start every sentence with “I’m” and hash out my thoughts on things.

I’ve had more “random” thoughts lately, which means that I’m finally settling into my new environment (even though I don’t get keys to my new apartment until tomorrow). It helps that I’ve set up a new configuration for my bullet journal-style planner which is much more conducive to my way of operating. In practical terms, it means that I have a “notes” section where I can jot down random thoughts instead of putting them on random pieces of paper or forgetting them or letting them fester until they’re just weird vapors spun from the rationalization hamster.

Anyhow. One of the things that I’ve recently been able to see and identify is this ability for people (who are not strategic thinkers) to skip directly from a high-level/strategy/overview way of thinking down into this middle domain that is characterized by rumor, innuendo, words meaning things, what other people think, and lots of other stuff that is ultimately irrelevant to strategically accomplishing a goal.

In other words, something like this:

Level Characterized by
High Strategy, long-term, vision, ideas in their bare form
Middle Social, “what will other people think,” sophistry, rhetoric
Low On-the-ground details, data, facts, reality

I suspect this is heavily influenced by (and maybe inadvertently copied from) Nassim Taleb’s ideas about asymmetry and “barbell theory.” I’d check, but my copy of Antifragile is packed right now.

I believe that the best way of thinking is with the vision of the high-level strategy, and the practicality of the low-level data. Anything else just gets in the way of clear thinking (unless you have to take account of it to successfully navigate your projects–politics are a real thing).

Lots of people who can’t or won’t stay with the high-level thinking (not totally sure why, if it’s just laziness or if they legitimately aren’t intellectually capable of it) will skip down to the middle and wallow around in it.

Ideally, good writing would combine “directional truth” (as Scott Adams would say) of the detail-free salesy version (which I sometimes think of as the “metaphorical understanding”), or you get the super duper uber detailed version, with the charts and graphs and raw data and alllllll the analyses.

The stuff in the middle fails to communicate either the endgame, or the reality. It writes phrases like “substantially all” and favors the insufferable passive voice. This is where the fifty-cent words come into play.

Hence why you should never use the word “literally.” It’s a dead tell for middle-level (OMG DID I JUST PRETEND THAT I INVENTED THE TERM “MIDDLEBROW”?!?) writing.

Dirty adverbs:

  • Virtually
  • Substantially
  • Literally

I used to wonder why some websites that check your writing’s grade level issue a warning for adverbs.

Now I know.

Go big or go home, folks.

Cattiness in the fashion industry (quelle surprise)

I’m not sure what’s funnier, the fact that the fashion girls at Vogue are picking apart the fashion choices of the new editor of Vanity Fair, or the fact that Women’s Wear Daily and the New York Post are trying to meme it into existence.

“She seemed nervous. The outfit was interesting,” the staffer noted. According to the fashion editor — who omitted Jones’ admirable literary accomplishments from conversation — the incoming editor wore a navy shiftdress strewn with zippers, a garment deemed as “iffy” at best.

Jones’ choice of hosiery proved most offensive, according to the editor. For the occasion, Jones had chosen a pair of tights — not in a neutral black or gray as is common in the halls of Vogue — but rather a pair covered with illustrated, cartoon foxes.

The animal caricatures may have also been too much for Vogue editor in chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, who is said to have fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ hosiery throughout the duration of the staff meeting.

Do we expect fashion people to be catty, so thus they appear to be so? Regardless of what they actually do. As in, does the reporter at WWD report on reactions in this way because that’s what she expects to find, and she knows she’s writing to an audience that also expects it?

Or are fashion people really this way naturally? Without such behavior, we wouldn’t have the expectation.

It’s an interesting thought, something so completely trivial as what one staffer said about someone else’s clothes, but the interference of the article makes me wonder about how much the media has to do with memeing other scandals into being.

Using their power to draw attention to something that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

I think, for example, the author of the WWD piece wanted to flaunt her feminist cred but contrasting the reactions to the new, female editor to the reactions (or lack thereof) of the departing, male editor:

The fashion editor did not remark on Carter’s outfit for the occasion. After 25 years at Vanity Fair’s helm, he walks away from the job with a vibrant legacy that is noted, not for his signature wonk hairstyle, but rather his wrangling of A-list celebrities and publishing of writers including Christopher Hitchens and Dominick Dunne.

However, even a tacked-on feminist ending doesn’t overshadow the meat of the article, which is catty fashion bitches doing what catty fashion bitches do best — ending up in the gossip pages.

And isn’t that the exact opposite of what feminists want to portray themselves as?

Funny, in this case, drawing attention to the situation creates the exact opposite effect as I bet the author wanted.

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