The Sabotage of Healthy Debate

WAYS PEOPLE SABOTAGE CONSTRUCTIVE DEBATE THAT DRIVE ME NUTS:

A: “I find that offensive!”.

That is not a valid position, it’s a whine. It doesn’t present any case to the debate. You find it offensive; great. I’m sure when integration was in debate, some old racist in Mississippi found it “offensive”. There are fundamentalists out there who find birth control “offensive. Aren’t you glad that a bunch of fundamentalists didn’t stop that debate dead in its tracks?
You go on ahead finding something offensive and the debate will go on without your input because you are bringing nothing worthwhile to the table.

B: “Well, that’s your opinion”

How I feel about something is an opinion, like whether I like eating mushrooms or not.
An event or occurrance, with a number empirical cases (things that undeniably happened) to support that the event actually happened is not an opinion. That can be anywhere from a supported hypothesis to an undeniable fact.
If I say the moon is not made of green cheese, that is not an opinion. There is a supporting data that the moon is not made of green cheese. I would go so far as to say it is an undeniable fact, but it is, at the very least, a supported hypothesis.
Moreover, not all opinions are created equally. The method by which Neil De Grasse Tyson forms his opinion is worth more than the method used by Sarah Palin (that is my opinion, but I can back it up with empirical data as to it’s veracity). Nobody likes to be told their opinion doesn’t matter, but if it’s based on poorly formed thought process with shoddy data, it doesn’t matter.
Of course, the corollary to this is do not bring unsupported evidence into a debate

C: “That’s my belief”

Again, not a valid position. I believe the moon is made of green cheese; that’s my belief. Does that give the belief any more weight?
Belief is completely worthless in a debate.
Give me some empirical evidence of cows on the moon, the presence of bacteria to create cheese, what the moon was made of before all this cheese was made to replace it, and what was the substance that made the cheese green and we can have a debate.

D: “There is no proof that it didn’t/isn’t” (in response to “there ‘s no proof that it did/is”)

Ah, the old burden of proof reversal; one of the cheapest fallacies in debate.
Not how it works. If I state something, it is on me to furnish empirical evidence to support that statement.

Expecting the other person to prove a negative is not worthwhile technique.

Example:

STUPID PERSON: Target is full of invisible demons who want to take your soul.

SMART PERSON: Evidence? There is no evidence of invisible, soul taking demons in Target.

STUPID PERSON: There’s no evidence they’re not there.

There is no way to prove the absence of soul snatching, Target dwelling Target demons. You can say anything you want, and the only thing we have to go on is a stupid person’s say-so. Now if that stupid person were to somehow collar a little demon, produce him, provide verifiable evidence he existed in Target in his invisible state, and was in the business of taking souls, we might have a debate.

But in these burden proof reversal cases, don’t hold your breath!

E: “Statistics lie”

No science in that. There is nothing about a statistic that is inherently dishonest.
Statistics with deliberately falsified data lie. Poorly designed statistics give faulty information. Biased statistics were flawed from the start. Statistics can be manipulated, misinterpreted, or placed into irrelevant context.
However, statistics, themselves do not lie. Statistics are essentially narratives following a certain format.
And, as with any narrative, it is important in a debate when presenting a statistic that it is soundly constructed, and convey the correct information with a thoughtful and through study.

You want to take these four shortcut to avoid thoughtful debate, your position has no validity.

Useful Lessons In Life

A: If you eat wasabi peas and wear contacts, wash your hands well and wash your hands often.

B: Never wear a red shirt to Target, or you will not shop in peace.

C: Never YouTube a medical procedure you are going to have.

D: If a place serves both Mexican food and Chinese food, one will be excellent, the other will be fatally awful. Pick.

E: The warning on the Q-tip box about not putting it in your ear hole was not put there for their health. it was put there for yours.

F: If there is a piece of furniture on the street and it looks perfectly fine, it isn’t.
(HINT: Bedbugs can survive sub-freezing temperatures, can live almost anywhere, and are very horny and prolific)

G: Cats hate truffle oil. If your cat is all up in your food, truffle it.

H: The municipal water in Utica, NY is terrible.

I: If a food or beverage sounds like a strange concoction, it is probably delicious.
If a food or beverage sounds like a horrible concoction, it is probably horrible.

J: An air conditioner falling out your window might not kill someone (as long as they are not in the line of fire) but it will create an electrical fire hazard in your home or short out a fuse.

K: If the name of an object or activity is a well-know city followed by a mundane object, it is usually something very disgusting (a Chicago sunroof, a Cincinnati Bowtie, etc….)

L: If the surgeon performing major surgery on you is named something like “Dr. Muffy Garter”, she’s an excellent surgeon.

M: No matter how deliciously Fiber 1 is packaged or presented, it is still best enjoyed in moderation.

N: Never buy $2 sushi from a street vendor in July. Better yet, never buy $2 sushi, period.

O: It is impossible to eat toad in the hole, then have spotted dick for dessert and keep a straight face throughout the meal.

P: If your mother is afraid of frogs, and you are afraid of your mother when she’s pissed off, you probably shouldn’t scare your mother with a frog.

Q: There are only two important categories of animals in the world: Capable of killing you and Not capable of killing you.

R: If somebody tells you to “close your eyes and open your mouth” it’s ok to peek.

S: If you don’t want someone piggybacking on your Wifi, call your network something like “NSA Surveillance Van.”

T: If you need to do plumbing work in your bathroom and have to take out your toilet, don’t put it in the living room. There is nothing more terrifying than seeing your toilet in the middle of your living room.

U: Refrain from hitting a pinata. You are essentially beating the shit out of an effigy of a donkey with a stick. At best it’s a terrible message to send to kids (if you hit an animal with a stick you’l get candy). At worst, on the off chance that voodoo exists, some poor donkey somewhere is getting beaten with a stick by a bunch of sugar-happy kids.

V: Dollar store toilet paper is measured not in ply, it is measured in grit.

W: He who books hotel room on Priceline.com gets crappy room in Vegas.

X: While at the Hover dam, prefacing any noun with the word “damn” is not cursing, it’s just being accurate.
(Ex: I’m going to the dam water fountain. There’s the dam parking lot. Let’s take the dam tour!”

Y: A strumpet is not a band instrument, and Eunuch is not a city in Germany.

Z: Which side of the ocean’s surface you are on will make a huge difference of where you are on the food chain.

BONUS: Before letting a cat lick you, remember what else a cat is capable of licking.

The Asshole Free Existence you are Not Entitled To

REALITY CHECK FOR TODAY:

You are not entitled to an asshole free existence. In your life you will encounter all kinds of assholes. You might find they are racist, sexist, anti semitic, inconsiderate, boorish, uncharitable, conniving, vindictive and downright mean. In other words: assholes doing what assholes do best, which is being assholes.

To that end, you are not persecuted. You are not oppressed.
You were born in a developed western hemisphere country. That means you have won half of life’s lottery right there. Bonus points if you are a prevailing race or religion. More bonus points if you are in a functional socio-economic bracket. Even more bonus points if you are male.

There are children in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water. There are people in Syrian refugee camps who have absolutely no economic or political security whatsoever. There are women in the world who can’t walk 100 yards in one direction without the risk of being openly gang-raped without significant consequence. There are countries who have essentially been bombed off the map.

And then there is college educated, employed, five/six figure earning you. In the Western hemisphere, who knows s/he will get enough to eat tonight. You who will sleep in a warm bed tonight. You, who may find yourself on the receiving end of an asshole making a cheap shot: a racist or sexist comment, or doing a socially unacceptable thing, encroaching on your space or being sexually unsavory or skeevy (catcalling, leering). That is an asshole being an asshole.

You deal with this problem in real time in a number of methods at your disposal. You can tell them where to go (hell) or what to do (fuck off, etc), and be as colorful as you want. In more severe cases, you can bring it to the attention of other people or even police or security. You fume about it for five or ten minutes. Then you move on with your life. You take the money you were going to spend on therapy for the tremendous trauma an asshole caused you by oppressing/persecuting you. And you donate it to a reputable non-profit agency that works to allay the problems mentioned in my third paragraph.

Here is what you DON’T do:

If you are a witness to asshollery, you don’t record it on your iPhone. You should have just come to the aid of the person on the receiving end of if. Or minded your own business if s/he was handling it well enough him/herself.

You don’t put a video of it on YouTube in the hopes of it going viral. So what? Who cares? An asshole being an asshole. *Yawn*

You don’t put that video on Upworthy, ThinkProgress, Addicting Info etc with a deliberately indignation-provoking title so that random people can play armchair quarterback from behind the screens of their MacBooks.

If even a fraction of the people who voiced their outrage and indignation at an asshole being an asshole ( in the comments section of Upworthy, Think Progress, Addicting Info or good ol’ Facebook) instead contributed even five bucks to one of the causes I mentioned, we’d eliminate a lot of suffering in the world.

This is not to defend or offer mitigation of the behavior of assholes. It is merely to state that:
You are not entitled to an asshole-free existence.
Actually, everybody is entitled to an asshole free existence. You are just not more entitled to it than anyone else. And if all the assholes were eliminated from your existence, where would they go? To someone else’s existence.

We’ll go crazy if we spend our existence stewing, getting outraged, offended and butthurt over every act of asshollery. Not everything needs to go viral and be subject to the outrage of the world at large. No asshole deserves to be made into a celebrity, which is what happens when a video of his behavior goes viral.

There are things we should deal with on a micro level and things we should deal with on a macro level. Asshollery should be dealt with on a micro level. The problems of my third paragraph: they should be dealt with on a macro level. This outrage: that’s where it needs to go, and repeated until we cough up enough tangibles to actually make a dent in the problem.

Nobody cares that someone did/said something offensive, racist, sexist, unsavory, skeevy or otherwise untoward to you. Actually, we do care, but not globally.
You are not entitled to an asshole free existance, and you will have to deal with assholes being assholes. Everybody else did.

Artificial Intelligence

Last week this apartment was immaculate. Today it is an unholy mess. All it takes is 7 days to create a daunting task.

I have established an algorithm where while I am picking up one room, the Roomba is vacuuming in another room, and the Scooba is mopping in the room the roomba previously vacuumed.

Strategically automating mundane, boring and labor intensive tasks. SOme of them, anyway.

Now if only iRobot would invent a robot to pick your stuff up, or if they could retrofit the Scooba to climb the bathroom walls to clean the tile and spelunk into the toilet to clean that, or have the roomba use it’s robot brain to decide which stuff is crap that belongs in the garbage vs being being sold on eBay (and train it to put stuff on eBay, and take it to the PO to ship it).

Better yet, maybe have it haul your laundry down to the laundry room and wash, dry, fold it and then take it back up and hang it in your closet or put it in your dresser.

Then I could just sit and goof around on Facebook while my Roomba/Scooba does all the work.

Only thing is, anything that could do that could probably also learn how to lock me out of the apartment, drink all the booze, clean out my bank account, fall in love with my MacBook and elope to the Silicone Valley or China.

So maybe I’ll be content to have them vacuuming, mopping and annoying the cats.

Don’t Be A Wimpy Coexister

We talk an awful lot about co-existing and respecting other’s beliefs. That’s fine; we’re all different, all have a different background and it can help create teachable moments about how we as humans view the world.

Here’s where we should draw the line and not be diverse and different:

Someone whose beliefs marginalize or harm other people directly or indirectly:
You don’t have to be tolerant or respectful of that.

Your racist neighbor who has a problem with minorities? You don’t have to respect his opinion. It’s not a respectable opinion.

The church lady who believes one’s sexual orientation determines whether they are worthy or unworthy (even if it’s a hate the sin, love the sinner approach)? Nope. You don’t have to respect her opinion. She may be perfectly nice to YOU if you are on the right side of her beliefs (but watch out if you’re not). She does not have a respectable opinion.

What about the guy whose religion dictates it’s perfectly ok for him to beat his wife and kids? Don’t have to respect/tolerate his beliefs either. It’s a wrong belief.

Or the person who believes in public stonings for unwed mothers, or the person who approves of the blocking of scholarly research for the good of mankind (that’s indirect harm), or the person who believe we should wipe out entire countries, the person who favors legislation that would throw a chunk of the population under the bus….etc etc etc.

You don’t have to coexist with, tolerate or respect them. By having viewpoints that are not respectable, they have not earned respect.

I’m not saying you should beat them up or burn down their house or start/participate in a bloody war. That would make you as bad as them.

You should try to change them, though. And if you can’t (you might not be able to right away), the least you can do us publicly take the side of the person/people they are marginalizing/harming with their beliefs.

There are good beliefs and bad beliefs. Right ones and wrong ones. Beliefs that hurt people who have done no harm are wrong beliefs.

You don’t have to respect or even coexist with those beliefs.

Your worthiness as a person boils down to one thing and one thing only: How you treat others, directly and indirectly.

Because remember: if, in the face of a person who is being marginalized or harmed, you say/do nothing, tolerate it and play the “coexist” card, what you are doing, by default is siding with the person doing the marginalizing/harming.

So grow a set.

Neither Good Nor Evil, Just Sleep!

When I was a kid, I used to occasionally wish for the ability to stop time. Think of all the things I could do undetected if time stood still for everybody else except me.

Every now and then I still wish for the ability to stop time, but it is so I can get a couple of extra hours of sleep!

Old fart that I have become…..

A Purple Shaggin’Wagon

If somebody had asked 17-18 year old Rob what kind of car he wanted, financial matters aside, he would have said something like this:
A purple Porsche convertible with florescent green racing stripes. The darkest legal tint on the windows.
Chrome rims with black lighting accents.
A black leather “front bra”.
Black leather interior.  
A stereo capable of blasting metal across the state with a cassette deck AND a CD deck.
Stick shift (of course)
and a pair of light-up dice hanging from the rearview mirror.

If somebody asked 40 year old Rob what kind of car he would want, financial matters aside, he would say this:
A navy blue Maserati Quattroporte GTS
Cream leather interior
Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
Stick shift (again, of course!)
In other words, the car in the photo

Isn’t it funny, how our tastes in what we want change as we age. This is a good thing to keep in mind, but you’ll never convince an 18 year old of that.

18 year old Rob would have been convinced that 40 year old Rob would still want to be driving around in a purple & green shaggin-wagon!

Keep this in mind!
Keep it in mind as you make any large investment in your life and as you do anything permanent.

Does that mean everything you do should be tailored to your old fogie self? No, but remember your tastes will evolve, so don’t paint yourself in the corner of being stuck with the decisions you made when you were a young dumbass!

Robert Louis Pagnani's photo.

Unfairness of Life

RULE: You are allowed to acknowledge that life is not fair. That’s true, at least some of the time.

RULE: Acknowledging and saying that immediately removes your right to knowingly and deliberately contribute to life’s unfairness. If you have already deliberately and knowingly contributed to life’s unfairness, you have lost the right to acknowledge/say life is unfair.

The Highest Usable Floor

Shower thought:

When describing the height of buildings, e.g. “This building is the tallest building in wherever”, the criterion should not be the height of the highest point on a building.

The height should be measured from the point of the highest usable floor.

Otherwise, in theory, if you had a stiff enough wire, you extended it into the air far enough and stuck it on top of a six foot tool shed, you could claim that tool shed is the highest building in the world.

You see, designing a tall building can’t just be an exercise in ego, it has to be an exercise in utility as well, because the taller the building is, the better it is at converting previously unoccupiable space (the air) into occupiable space. The height to footprint ratio.

Increasing a building’s height by simply sticking a longer spike on the roof does nothing to increase it’s utility, even if the spike has a purpose (a lightning rod, an antenna etc)

For instance, I would not measure the height of the Empire State Building from the top of the spike, I would measure it from where the soles of my feet were on the highest floor I could stand.

The point of the highest usable floor.

Using that metric, I wonder how it would change the order of buildings in height?

Being Entitled To Your Opinion is not the Same as Being Right

Being entitled to your opinion is not the same as being right. Nor is it entitled any recognition as a valid point of view, if in fact it is not right.

EXAMPLE:
The Moon is made of green cheese.

You are entitled to that opinion. I don’t get to dictate what goes on in your head.

However, we are under no obligation to pander to, acknowledge as a valid theory or give any airtime to that opinion.

For example, as a parent, I would be very upset if you, as a teacher, were conveying that notion to my kid as would most people. I would be very upset if a school was authorizing that to be taught as a valid theory.

I would be equally upset if the moon being made of green cheese were even remotely entertained and taught in school as a valid theory of what the moon was made of.

Though I have never been to the moon, I believe the mainstream, peer-reviewed scientific community when they state the moon is not, in fact, made of green cheese, regardless of what the Green Cheese Lunar Composition Club has to say about it.

Moreover, even if the Green Cheese Lunar Composition Club were a powerful lobby, that should not be a valid reason for the scientific community to pander to anything they have to say with regard to the composition of the moon.

The Green Cheese Lunar Composition Club should not have the right to influence policy in the government.

And of course, it should go without saying that a Green Cheeser should not be appointed an oversight (or really, any) position with NASA!

You are entitled to believe that the moon is made of green cheese. What goes on in your head is your business.
This is where that entitlement ends.