Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in 2012, I took the Moral Foundations Questionnaire test. So almost five years later, I finally got around to reading the book that explains it. Since it is now Facebook integrated, I kind of want ALL my friends to take it.

The framework presented here makes sense to me. I was fascinated by Drew Westen‘s
The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
talking about fear being the key to reaching conservative voters. I could see that in the 2012 and 2016 elections. But, in the 2016 one, it felt like there was something missing. This book explains that pretty well for me. First, there are several values: Care, Liberty, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. People who favor certain ones tend to skew into certain parties.

Also, the cycle tends to be we feel something, then judge it based on the feeling, and then create reasons to explain away the judgement. We mistake the reasoning as the basis for values and morality when it is much more subservient to the feelings. I would love to see where Behavioral Economics could go with Moral Foundations Theory.

Applied to politics, I finally understand why people so often vote for policies that will hurt them. They are keyed to emotional reactions to values triggered through how candidates express themselves. Being such a fan of behavioral economics, my impression of humans as purely rational was discarded long ago. MFT fits my observations of others and even myself better than anything else I have seen.

We also are highly social and dependent on the group dynamic. And yet, what policies are chosen to by governments can fray the social capital they have. Immigration and ethnic diversity can trigger a push back leading to more racism.

The book does not really have answers. The questions will drive some of my reading for the next decade in search of them.

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Review: Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works

Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works
Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works by Rick Santorum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Santorum believes the family is the core unit of society not the individual. That has interesting implications such as what does that mean where there are so many divorces, single parents, and “failures to launch”? Making policy decisions based on that are also interesting.

I can definitely see evidence that supports Santorum’s story that Trump based his campaign on ideas from this book. Certainly he sought the votes of those in the rust belt, jobs for everyone, gut the government, repeal Obamacare, eliminate regulations, vouchers, and lower taxes. Something about feels hollow though.

The examples have that right homey feel politicians are so good at relaying. I found myself frustrated with the prescriptions, but I agree with the problems.

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50th Anniversary of Loving v Virginia

Supreme Court decisions often have clear have day-to-day impact in one’s life. This one, though, has all the impact in the world to me. It allowed my very black father and very white mother to marry. Without, I could have still existed, but it would have been much more challenging for them to date and marry.

Legality does not mean everyone views it as acceptable. Things must have gotten somewhat better though as I have yet to get a death threat like my parents did. After writing that, though, I hope any of the women I dated would have said something if they received one. Today it seems to be limited to frowns and stares. And, the isolated judges who refuse to comply.

About 15% of marriages today in the US are interracial. It makes me happy that people are proving the value of this landmark court decision.

Why you need a pre-performance routine

As he moves toward the OR, McLaughlin is running through a precise series of thoughts and visualizations, which he calls the Five Ps. First is a Pause: He tries to forget what’s happened earlier in the day and focus only on the present. Next, he thinks deeply about the Patient. “This is a seventy-three-year-old man, and we need him to come out of this pain-free and able to walk more easily,” he says to himself. He reviews his Plan, mentally rehearsing the surgery step-by-step. Then he offers some Positive thoughts: “You were put on this Earth to do this operation,” he says. Finally, as he steps toward the table, he says a quick Prayer. “It’s very ritualistic, and I’m very focused,” he says.

Back when I had to do Friday night maintenance work as a GeorgiaVIEW database administrator, I had something like this. I would do the Pause to quiet my mind to become fully present. Then I would think about the systems involved. Then I would mentally step through the plan for the maintenance.

 

Confuzzled Exchange

I check accounts from two different Exchange domains with Outlook. Check might be a bit of an overstatement for one as it is maybe once a month and more like every couple. Both require me to periodically change the passwords. And both send daily email warnings leading up to the deadline.

Because I might miss the week of daily warnings for one, I set up a rule in Outlook to forward the message to myself. Thankfully I set it up to send to more than one email account. I got the warnings in just one place which bothered me.

The missing messages had bounced. The address listed in the error looks nothing like the address in the rule. (I would post it, but I have no idea if that would compromise the account.) My guess is Outlook does not firewall the contacts in rules. So if I enter an address for the cross domain and it recognizes the address, then it shows me in the UI the human friendly but the backend uses the Exchange friendly one.

My solution ironically was to leverage a third party. My web hosting provider allows me to create unlimited email addresses, which I use to set forwarding accounts. I created one for this purpose and replaced the problem one in the rule. It works now.

Also: CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS!!

Review: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have not read Moby Dick. My guess is if I had read it first or been a fan of stories about ship life, then I would care more about the sailors, the details, and the narrative. Then again, I found the claim interesting that MD was not successful or acclaimed when it was published. I guess it found fame later? How and why that happened would be easily worth another star.

Philbrick’s writing is concise and direct. Flowery narratives in biographies from some of the acclaimed authors who bully their editors annoy me with feeling bogged down in unnecessary language. Then again, I should have felt the harrowing-ness of this event.

These are people who…
* Have had the unthinkable happen of a whale sinking their ship.
* They are a couple thousand miles away from South America.
* All they have to cross this are short distance vessels.
* They lack the food and water to make the trip.

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Hard Work

The CEO of Basecamp wrote about his definition of “hard work” being the work others do not want to do like construction, farming, cleaning, etc. Manual labor is hard.

Six years ago, Georgia made a law making it easier for law enforcement to catch undocumented residents. People left the state. They experimented with…

… Out of work probationers/parolees, from the state’s prisons and court system, volunteered to pick cucumbers under a program that the Georgia governor dreamed up. But the first day didn’t go too well as 19 probationers started the day and eight quit by noon.

“This is the hardest work I’ve ever done,” Maurice Evans is quoted as telling the TV reporter.

The next year, the state helped out the farmers by using prisoners to provide farm labor.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that people who work hard evangelize this as the ideal. Hard work teaches better ethics, morals, and values. At times it feels like the message is: “All the world’s ills would be cured if everyone had to do hard work.”

We may get to see if that is true soon enough. Artificial Intelligence is coming for my knowledge worker job. It may not exist in 20 years because it is much, much cheaper and accurate to have the computers do it instead. Manufacturing and farming are becoming more and more automated. The question is in 50-100 years what jobs will remain.

Stores Tracking Me Could Be More Helpful

I know the stores track my purchases. They have tons of data on each of us. Their apps and rewards cards are precisely for knowing who I am and tracking me.

The other day, my girlfriend asked me to buy something using her rewards card to push it over the $1 she was short to get the reward for that month . (It is one of those you have to cross the threshold within the month or you lose the points.) There was a small temptation to mess with that data by buying something she’d never normally get. Instead, I bought something she would normally buy. I also paid in cash to keep my card number from being associated with her.

I just feel these companies with apps could be doing things to enable me to spend more in their stores.

  1. Their profile knows my purchasing frequency. They should be able to predict fairly well when my next purchase ought to happen. For items that happen monthly or less frequent, they could send me an email or app notification reminder. This value-add to the service would earn my loyalty in buying from them for helping me remember.
    • Of course, if they get it routinely wrong and alert me after I’ve already bought it from them, then I will be so offended that I would look for alternatives.
  2. Their profile knows how much I am willing to pay for specific items. They should be able to predict for which items I am willing pay full versus only sale prices. Then notify me when the items I buy for sale prices are available at close to the cost I am willing to pay.
    • Naturally, if they want to keep quiet when the item is significantly lower than what I am willing to pay, then I abstractly understand. That means in the moment of figuring it out, I would be hurt but as long as it is just a concept the decision makes sense.
    • They could also offer to let me set a price threshold for alerts when the item is offered for less than that amount. That would be useful pricing data for them.

 

Troll Facebook Button

Sometimes I want to leave a comment but not actually enter the Facebook conversation. For that, I want a “Facebook Troll” comment browser extension.

The idea is that it could allow me to post the comment and automatically turn off notifications for that post.

Pretty sure replies would still notify me.

Ironically enough, the same feature would be useful for engagements, death announcements, marriages, and other posts where I just want to leave a comment but not have to deal with notifications about anyone else leaving a comment. So 90% of use cases could be a “Congrats!” button or a “Sorry for your loss.” button.

Pocket Feature Request: Pin

I tend to collect things to read later. Pocket is where they aggregate. (I do use Facebook’s Save Post feature, but only when on my phone to send to Pocket once I am at a browser.)

A feature that would help me is to pin important ones to the top. Ideally, anything I have partially read would stay at the top of the list where I can more easily find it when I return from another device. I estimate probably 10-15% of my saved items are partially read. And that number will stay the same because I add things at such a rate that getting back to them is unlikely.

There is one item, I really do want to finish, and I have spent easily 5 minutes looking for it.

Another option is to like Twitter allows, select an option on the item to pin it. The same as for favoriting or tagging, a button that pins it would help.