Pitbull Ate My Blog Posts

I know, it’s been over 3 months.

Wow. What the hell have I been doing?!? Nothing actually keeping me from posting a word or two here. But I think it’s normal for any conscientious human to feel the need to make excuses in this situation. Here are a few.

Excuse 1: I became a co-founder in a start-up business at the beginning of the year. It’s been ramping up recently due to interest from what could be our first customer, who could be bringing in another interested party. This organization is so big they are known to the average human in just about every country of the world. It’s a lot of work and it’s exciting, but it’s not making money. I’m used to doing relatively little work, and collecting a decent revenue from it. Now, I’m stretching myself in all sorts of new and uncomfortable ways, and there’s no guarantee of a financial return at the end of the day.

Excuse 2: I’ve halfheartedly been trying to work on some tunes for a musical theater project. It’s a collaboration with a friend of a friend. His focus is the words; mine, the music. My piano skills are severely wanting, but I feel like they’ve steadily improved since I started this. I would really like to see this through, but excuse #1 has been crowding it out of my head space.

Excuse 3: pitbulls

Excuse 4: I’ve been trying to cope with the stress of being on a highly dysfunctional strata council (what people elsewhere might call a condo owner’s association or a cluster-frack a go-go). I find it disturbing how much people can become emotionally invested in these things. Differences of opinion become personal slights to the parties involved. I hope I get out of it before it happens to me too.

Excuse 5: I’m sort of pursuing a love interest with clear impediments to long-term success: she’s married, she’s young, she practices a religion. The worst thing is, I know I could push just a bit harder, but having been on the other side of this before when I was married, I feel those stupid pangs of conscience. Still, I can’t help but look at a recent photo of the two of us together (wonder what her hubby would think if he saw that?) and feel like it would be so nice if we had that all the time. For now, we’re IMing a lot and finding opportunities to spend time together while in the company of others, which is for the best.

Excuses out of the way, let’s move on to more interesting things.

A recent study promoted on the APS website proves what I knew all along; extremists are stupid. You can read the complete study write-up here, but the gist of it is, people were asked their opinions on a variety of hot-button political issues (taxes, healthcare, climate change, the Iranian nuclear program). When asked to explain those issues, those with the most extreme opinions tended to be the ones with the poorest understanding of them. After they were shown just how ignorant they were, they were given the opportunity to revise their viewpoints. Generally, they tended to become much more moderate in their stance.

So, should I temper my opinion of pitbulls (and their owners)? Hell no, **** ’em all (and I don’t mean “fuck”). Same goes for system administrators who expect vendors to give them technical support, but refuse to follow vendor recommendations. Those ones who are so much smarter than everyone else, yet somehow aren’t able to solve their problems on their own. Here’s a clue for you guys: your technical skills are irrelevant. The legacy systems that only you know how to maintain, well, if you’re hit by a bus, you’ll be cursed posthumously for not grooming a successor, but eventually, things will sort themselves out, life will go on, and you will be forgotten. Start cultivating your soft skills now. You’ll be so much more valuable in the end, and people might actually tolerate being around you.

For some more positive vibes, here’s Bonobo in an exclusive session at KCRW from earlier this year, with Szjerdene on vocals and session musicians pulled straight out of the bleachers of Sheffield.

I’ll try to have something interesting to say soon.

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Cognitive Dissonance: Dealing With Yours

Sour Grapes!

If you’ve read any of my posts, you will quickly realize that I’m not highly edumacated. That doesn’t mean I don’t like intellectual challenges. I’m curious about a great many things, but I tend to lack depth of understanding because I’m simply not disciplined enough to work hard at anything, especially learning. Nevertheless, I like to talk about stuff and I don’t need a doctorate to do so.

Psychology (and more recently the more “technical” cognitive sciences) has always intrigued me. I fondly remember my ‘tween years, perusing the Intro to Psychology section of my single-volume Random House Color Encyclopaedia and being convinced I was afflicted by fully 3/4 of the mental illnesses it described. Good times. Anyway, over the last year, this concept of cognitive dissonance has been itching my brain.

For the uninitiated, an example[1] to illustrate. Assume the following are two statements made by the same person:

“I’m a law-abiding person.”

“I download Hollywood movies from torrentz sites like ahoymovies.net[2]”

Do you see the conflict between these two statements? If you don’t, you are a fucking idiot and/or you’ve arrived at cognitive consonance through some deft mental manoeuvring, aka rationalization.

Perhaps your rationalization involved some lame excuses such as, “The Hollywood-industrial complex is bilking consumers out of millions”, “I can’t afford it”, “movies, like information, software, games, art, and beer, should be free”, etc…

Whatever the case, you are able to justify to yourself a behavior (statutory theft, which is what it is whether you agree with that law or not) that conflicts with your purported beliefs (that you don’t break the laws of your jurisdiction).

We do a lot of this excuse-making on a daily basis. So much so that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. If we were to stop and analyze the motives behind most of our actions, we might uncover a rather unpleasant truth. But we don’t do that. Because we need to do X, Y, Z, because <excuses> (“I need to survive”, “I have a family to support”, “it’s for the common good”, “to protect democracy”, blah blah blah).

And this excuse-making, we do it both individually and collectively, and there are always those who will seek to leverage this. (And no, this isn’t a conspiracy blog, sorry to disappoint!)

The unpleasant truth is most of our actions and choices are based on what’s most convenient. If we can be honest with ourselves about that, then hopefully we’re in a better position to honestly question ourselves, at least as far as such a thing is possible.

“I recognize that I am making the expeditious choice, but at what cost? To me? To others?”

When someone challenges you on your beliefs or your motivations and an answer is on your lips in 0.2s instead of 0.5, check yourself. Is that rationalization cached somewhere? Where does it come from? You? Your peers? Society? Does it need to be reviewed? Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

The theory of cognitive dissonance was first expounded in Leon Festinger’s aptly titled A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. I have not read it, because tl;dr, reasons, etc. 😉 But I highly recommend it to others!

Footnote 1: For a more neutral example, see Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Grapes.

Footnote 2: At the time of this writing, ahoymovies.net is not a real site, but feel free to report back if it becomes one.