Winning Hearts And Minds

This morning I was procrastinating. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me – I could win awards with my ability to procrastinate. Anyway, in my effort to avoid doing something actually useful I was catching up on Tay and Microsoft’s PR disaster. You have to marvel at the blind naivety of the folks who didn’t put any sort of filters in place. Anyone who’s been on the internet for more than about fifteen minutes could have predicted what was going to happen. The interwebs are full of trolls.

Moving on I found a post of pictures of office workers who had their food stolen out of the fridge. That’s some funny stuff right there. Then I started thinking about it. It’s happened to most of us. Your lunch goes missing from the break room fridge. Someone microwaves some nasty smelling three day old fish or fermenting eel, turning the entire third floor into a hazmat zone. What the hell is wrong with these people? What’s worse is that these are your coworkers, people you know, not some random stranger on the street.

The interesting part is that every single one of us would claim that our circle of friends and acquaintances would never do such a thing. It seems like every other posting on theFacebook is some inspirational quote about peace, love, rising above the negativity, and really good fried tofu recipes. Meanwhile it took less than 24 hours to shut down Tay with a barrage of some of the most vile stuff you can imagine – for no reason other than the amusement of trolls. Someone is out there committing this asshatery and it’s not just evil-doers.

I suspect there’s a whole lot of people out there leading a double life. They post the cute Easter meme on Pinterest, then leave their dog poop in the middle of the trail for someone else to deal with (or sidewalk if you’re a civilized New Yorker or Parisian). Someone is throwing all that garbage out the car window to collect on the side of the freeway. Enough of us are watching the Kardashians and Maury Povich that their ratings keep them going strong. Drive on any California freeway and the sheer number of asshole motorists will turn any Bernie Sanders voter into a seething road rage maniac… who will then go into the office and donate money because Sally’s niece is in the hospital and post a few adorable puppy pictures to their Instagram.

I’d like to believe that because of our opposable thumbs and ability to appreciate Ansel Adams, we can rise above negativity and mean people. I think the reality is that we’re one zombie apocalypse, water, food, or bourbon shortage away from survival of the fittest. When Amazon goes dark and you can’t get your selfie stick v.7 shipped the next day, I suspect our societal cohesion will disappear in a hurry.in-case-of-zombies-attack-break-glass-shotgun-apocalypse-now-meme

What does all this mean? I’m not sure. I don’t think it has to be depressing. Go appreciate some art. Get outside and see some nature. Try not to be a complete jerk to your fellow man. Pay it forward. Oh, and stock up on bourbon, toilet paper, and 12 gage double-ought buckshot.

This Porridge Is Too Hot

I’m probably wrong (I often am, but I don’t let that deter me) but I suspect I’m in the same political boat as many folks in this country. What do you do when there isn’t a party or politician who matches your views? Do you hold your nose and pick one that has the most positions you sort of agree with? Do you throw up your hands and just sit it out as I’ve done the last few elections?

After patiently listening to one of my long rambling tirades at the evening news the other night, Mrs. troutdog correctly pointed out that there will never be a perfect candidate that matches all of your views. She’s right. If you’re a single issue voter it’s easy for you. Find the meat puppet that supports your issue and vote early and often. Oh, and make sure you post at least three articles per week on the Facebook so we all know where you stand.

But what about those of us who don’t have that level of clarity or passion? I can find statements and positions from both parties and multiple politicians I agree with. I find an equal number (or more) that are abhorrent and frightening. What’s a jaded and cynical curmudgeon like myself supposed to do?

We really do need a new system. As I’ve proposed before, we need a randomized drawing to select our representatives. If it’s good enough for jury duty, it’s certainly good enough for politics. Require a varying amount of education and work experience for the different local, state, and federal positions. You serve one term and done. Lawyers, movie actors, and the Kardashians are not eligible. The outcome certainly wouldn’t be any worse than what we have now and would be whole lot cheaper. George Soros and the Koch brothers might actually have to focus their money on something other than politics.

Until my brilliant plan is enacted I guess I’ll have to continue to sit on the sidelines whining and complaining, yet not actually participating in the process. Which reminds of the quote by the great statesman Harry Callahan – “well, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.” Which also reminds me of Goldilocks. After behaving like a total diva to find just the right fit, she ended up screaming for help and running away into the forest… never to be seen again. I don’t know what that means, but it sounded profound.

On Adventure. Or Lack Thereof.

I am a fraud. To use the vernacular of my 80’s upbringing – I’m a total poser, dude. I’m an armchair adventurer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fully in the Walter Mitty category. I do occasionally go outside and do stuff. But it’s happening less and less often. What’s more telling is that I’m starting to feel more apprehension about activities than I ever did before. My fear of getting hurt, or failing, and the unknown are starting to creep into my head far too frequently lately.

What I’m discovering about myself is that I really, really, like the idea of being adventurous. It’s the doing part that I don’t follow up with. The other day over dinner with some friends we talked about all the things we’d like to do this summer. I was happy to jabber on about road trips, backcountry motorcycle expeditions, climbing and mountaineering, and spur of the moment mountain bike rides. After the drinks wear off, I know that the possibility of my actually doing any of those things isn’t super high.

I’m not sure why that is. Some of it is just laziness. A rolling stone and moss and whatnot. I’ve been gathering a fair amount of moss these days. A lot of it is just caution. I’ve noticed that at the climbing gym, once I’m five or six feet in the air I’m very reluctant to try a move because of a fear of falling. It’s not like I’m going to get hurt. I’d be falling on a soft crash pad. Worse case I get the wind knocked out of me. So why am I so afraid? It must be a facet of getting old.

What gets into my head is that I really want to do these adventures. I can easily spend all day reading about adventure trips and free spirited folks who just do things. Americans have always been enamored with the antihero. The folks who just get stuff done and go out and make adventures happen. Shane McConkey, Jimmy Chin, Cheryl Strayed, Alastair Humphreys, Hank Patterson. These folks decide to do something and just go make it happen. Granted it didn’t always turn out so well for all of them, but they did what they wanted to do. I fear I’m turning into that kid in the commercial who calls his grandma on the phone in the next room for another grape soda.

I’ll spend two hours on the ADV forum following some guy’s two week motorcycle trip across the backcountry dirt roads of Idaho and tell myself, dammit I’m doing that. But that would mean getting the motorcycle running again and buying some more gear. And it’s kinda cold out right now. And I’m directionally challenged so what if I got really lost, or what if the bike stopped running and I got stuck? Besides there’s a couple of episodes of Walking Dead I haven’t caught up on and there’s some yardwork that needs doing. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll think about it again.

I think I’m one of those people who always needs a guide. Someone who takes me by the hand and says we’re going to go do this, and here’s what you need, and here’s how it’s going to work. Once I do it I’m golden. I’ve skied for years at my local mountain without exploring some areas that I knew were there, but didn’t know if they were above my ability or if I’d get lost. This season I finally put on my big boy pants and followed a friend to these places. Now that I’ve seen them and they’re not the unknown I’m happily exploring every off-piste area I can find. Why was I so worried about exploring them before?

Is there a moral to this rambling? Doubtful. I think it’s mostly an internal pep-talk to convince myself to go do stuff and that I don’t always need a “guide”. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll end up with a good story to tell. Then again there’s a bag of chips in the cupboard and 24 hours of political coverage to watch. And I hear there’s a threat of rain today. Time to catch up on my Instagram feed of adventurers and amazing photos.

Faux Outrage

Don’t do it. But, but, but… Noooo don’t do it, just walk away. Sigh, I can’t help myself. I know it’s going to stir up a few of my tens of readers but as I’ve always said, I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box. Demonstrations, punches thrown, signs ripped out of people’s hands and torn up, blocking free speech, middle fingers thrust in the air and chanting. Damn right wing nutjobs are just vile and dangerous. Oh, what? Those were Bernie and Hillary supporters? Never mind.

As the saying goes I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I’m just enjoying this train wreck from the sidelines. The breathless, phony outrage from politicians and pundits has been nauseating to say the least, but finally a reporter managed to timidly raise a point the other night. Jake Tapper at a democratic town hall pointed out that Bernie Sanders supporters acted violently in Chicago and one of them rushed the stage. He started to ask the senator if he needs to tell his supports to… Senator Sanders interrupted him to say “Jake, millions of people voted for me,” the Vermont senator explained. “If I have to take responsibility for everybody who voted for me, it would be a very difficult life.” Move on, next question.

Apparently if you’re liberal a different standard applies. Moveon.org is helping fund and organize these protests and warns there’s more to come. There’s a certain level of irony in a crowd of folks claiming Hitler, fascist, and dangerous to America while they’re sneaking into an event of a candidate they don’t like and attempting to incite violence and shut it down. Do I condone the actions on either side? No. But if you walk into a cowboy bar and start making fun of their hats, someone’s gunna get an ass whooping. Don’t pretend for a second that this isn’t one of the primary motives for what they’re doing. They and the press are almost gleeful at the prospect of something happening and catching it on video.

I’ve watched days of nonstop coverage with every single pundit making comparisons to the rise of German nationalism, the end of a civilized America, and that Trump is creating an environment of violence that we may not be able to recover from. I guess it’s not the fault of Bernie and Hillary’s minions. What other choice did they have but to sneak into a rally and thrust La Raza signs into a Trump supporter’s face and shout obscenities?

OccupyOakland_riot_StephenLam
Occupy Oakland Riot

The occupy movement, thousands of arrests, and vandalism. Black Lives Matter,
Ferguson, riots. Aggressive protesting and disrupting of a presidential candidate you don’t agree with. I guess in the liberal world the end justifies the means and you don’t have to accept responsibility.

I don’t condone Trump’s ridiculous reactions to protesters. It shows he doesn’t know how or when to shut off the verbal diarrhea that is, frankly, entertaining much of the time. But if you’re going to point the finger at him, you need to point it all sides. If candidates and the press aren’t calling for George Soros, Moveon.org, and the protestors to stop inflaming and antagonizing Trump supporters then they’re just as guilty of “creating a disturbing and dangerous environment of violence”.

Peter Gibbons: Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday and you’re not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?”
Lawrence: No. No, man. Shit, no, man. I believe you’d get your ass kicked sayin’ something like that, man.

 

Problems. And Moore’s Law.

Way back in the age of flower power, Dylan, The Who, and The Beatles, some dude made a prediction about computer processing power. He said that it would double every year and he was kinda, sorta, almost right. When I was a wee lad walking uphill both ways in the snow to elementary school, we had this horrible thing called the library. If you wanted to know something you had to look it up in the card catalog, navigate this weird Dewey decimal system to find the book and either make Xerox copies of specific pages or check it out and hope you’d remember to return it.

Today the internet is seeing global IP traffic in the range of 1.3 Zettabytes per year, growing to about 112 Exabytes per month. (1 Exabyte would hold 3,000 times all the information in the library of congress) You have instant access to the entirety of human knowledge in a tiny little device you carry around in your pocket.

Why do I mention this? Because I’ve been watching the political debates. Watching these meat puppets bloviate has been a mistake for many reasons, but they did get me thinking. Why are we busy trying to solve the  problems of today using the same old school thinking of the past? Information and the world is changing too fast. Shouldn’t we be focusing on what we think tomorrows problems will be and try and solve those?

Take the disaster that is the VA and its ability to process and manage the healthcare claims of our veterans. The standard government approach is to study the data available today. Analyze the data. Hire flotillas of consultants to create fancy presentations about the data. Form a commission to inquire about the progress. And then, if we’re really lucky, some small incremental change might be made. Meanwhile the problem is now exponentially worse and advances in healthcare and informatics have made whatever we have obsolete. We’re busy solving a problem that will be vastly different tomorrow.

It’s time to start trying to solve what we think will be the problems of the future. The same tired old problems rehashed in every debate could have come from any election in the last two decades. How refreshing would it be to hear some thinking about what our actual future might hold? How are we going to feed a couple billion more people? Where’s our water going to come from? How are we going to generate enough cost effective power to run the new data centers coming online daily? I don’t care about ISIS, I care about what’s going to happen when Europe and China’s economy implodes. I don’t care about trying to revert the deindustrialization of the United States, I care about findingdarknet a new economic engine that will create middle wage jobs.

A wise man once asked, “do you take the red pill or the blue pill?” I’m starting to think I’ve been spending a little too much time on the darknet. It may be time to just take the blue pill, go back to being oblivious and go for a bike ride.