Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Purposeful Misdirection is Not Patriotic

A while ago, after reading The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss, I went on an information free diet and it made me very happy. I would tune out the political nonsense in the world, get news as it is supposed to be given (reported, not assessed on a 24 hour cycle), and live in absolute bliss.

But I've broken my diet recently, and it has done nothing but make me angry.

I come from a pretty conservative family (you can count the number of liberals on one hand, and most likely, you can almost do the same with the number of both moderates and liberals), and they often post things on Facebook in which the authors are purposefully misleading them. It is exhausting trying to continuously inform and correct such tripe. Before getting back on that info free diet again, I'll walk you through an example.

Five Military Members Killed In Chattanooga 

On Thursday, July 16, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. "Skip" Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith were gunned down by Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez at two military centers in Chattanooga, TN. You can view President Obama's condolences to families of those killed below.

This is very bad news. Like the massacre in Charleston, SC, nobody likes to read about these kind of events because they are so disheartening. We all wonder what could be done to prevent future events like this from happening, and we begin an endless and seemingly futile debate of less/same/more gun restrictions. This debate will not get resolved anytime soon.

Turning a Tragedy Into a Travesty

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first part prohibits the establishment of an official church or sect in the United States. That means, much to many of your chagrin, that America is not a Christian Nation, nor was it ever intended to be by our forefathers. To strive for such would be unconstitutional, and, quite frankly, unpatriotic. As Americans, we must welcome all forms of religion, even if they go against our own beliefs.

Religions have extremists. As much as Christians want to disassociate themselves with Westboro Baptist or the KKK, they both stem from the Christian faith, and should be labeled as extreme. Likewise, there are Islamic extremists, which many ignorant Americans associate with the entirety of Islam. It is as ignorant as it would be to assume all Christianity is just like the KKK.

The conclusion of Ramadan happened on Friday, July 17th, and the president released a statement of the occasion on the day prior. Here was part of that statement:
As Muslim Americans celebrate Eid across America, the holiday is a reminder to every American of the importance of respecting those of all faiths and beliefs. 
 That is a powerful message. Imagine if there were no extremists within the different religions and we could all have this mutual respect. This is not a message that breeds hate or fuels fear among the American people. It is very constitutional and patriotic.

The Inappropriate Message

What kind of message will you read about at Newsmax, from Allen B. West, or from the Conservative Tribune among many others? Their message, if you don't care to read (which I had trouble doing), was to link the message Obama had to Muslim Americans directly to the shootings, leave out his actual message about the shootings entirely, and in some cases claim that he had no message for the families of the victims. This is a travesty. 

These people prey on those that don't read or research any further. They prey on people who want reasons to hate Obama. These messages fuel that hate. And they do it through purposeful misdirection. These people are the furthest thing from patriotic. Indeed, they are a stain on this country. Many of you fuel the hate even further by posting this stuff on Facebook.

Please stop. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Political Pipe Dream

According to my Facebook feed, it looks like there is going to be a big election in 16 months. Here is what I would like to happen.

First, I would love for you to inform yourself of Represent.Us and the Anti-Corruption Act. This short video may help.

If you're mildly interested (albeit still doubtful) and want to be a part of this, let me recruit you.

Next, suppose for a moment that everyone visited and took some time out of their day to take the quiz that is available there. Further, suppose that for the questions that many people couldn't answer because they were not knowledgeable enough or didn't have an opinion, they took a little time to research those issues so that they could provide answers to the quiz.  Let's explore some possibilities.

Upon finishing the quiz, the website would compare your answers with those of the candidate's and inform you on how much you agree and how much you line up with each candidate. Who you will vote for and support becomes a no-brainer. Upon knowing how much and where you line-up with each candidate, what else do you need to know? Will seeing an advertisement on TV in support of a candidate with whom you agree on only 11% of the issues persuade you to change your mind even if it is a great ad? Will a negative attack ad on the candidate with whom you agree on 95% of the issues persuade you to change your mind and not vote for them?

What are we doing, America? If you watched the video above, around the 0:43 mark you would have been informed that US elections are costing us 6.5 billion dollars. Think of the infrastructure that could be built. Think of the increased salaries that public educators could have. Think of the tiny chunk we could take away from our national debt. As much as so many of you hate paying taxes, at least they're going to something. Where is that 6.5 billion dollars going? And why aren't you getting a little more upset about that?

Alas, money is too powerful, and I'm very skeptical any of this will work. Yet, I will try.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Thirst for Coffee and Knowledge

One of my many passions is Coffee. I've thought about it a lot since 1996. Only recently did I pick up a book by Kenneth Davids called Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying. It was shocking to find out this book is in its 5th edition (2001), with its first edition coming out in 1976. This knowledge of coffee has been at any person's disposal for the last 39 years.

Even if I wind up in a career outside academics, I will always remain a lifelong learner because of my thirst for knowledge. Reading, writing, and thinking isn't just a passion in my life, it is a necessity. Without books and journals, I would be lost in a desert without water.

To me, seeking knowledge is like water. I need it. This need sometimes narrows my view of the world, because I delude myself into thinking that everyone else has that same need, or that if they do, that they satisfy it in a way that is even remotely similar to my way.
"Grinding coffee fresh is the single best thing you can do to improve the quality of your coffee... grinding it immediately before brewing is a first and essential step to experiencing it at its peak."  - Kenneth Davids
Once coffee is ground, it only takes a few hours for it to go stale. Grinding coffee exposes the pleasant oils that are in the coffee bean which begin evaporating immediately.

I didn't want to give you chance to look away or stop reading, and hence, you may have the feeling that some information about coffee just came at you from right field. Well, there you have it. That infomation won't affect you at all if you aren't a coffee drinker. More interesting thoughts and questions come to mind for those of you that are coffee drinkers, and have just obtained that information.

What will coffee drinkers who purchase and drink pre-ground coffee do with this information?  Some will reject it as false, because this information does not fit into their world of coffee drinking. The Folgers or Maxwell House ads they watch and the smell that comes out of their freshly opened container they just purchased leads them to believe something differently. They seek for truth no further. Regardless of how false they believe the swiftness that staleness embraces ground coffee to be, that speed remains true.

Then there are those that don't care. They continue to purchase and consume pre-ground coffee, admitting that they have been privy to this information and concede its point. But why? Why don't these coffee drinkers do anything about it?
"Freshly roasted coffee is at its best about a day out of the roaster. If it is kept in an airtight container as whole, unground beans, it can remain splendid if ground & brewed in a week to ten days. But by three weeks out of the roaster, it is well on its way to listless mediocrity." - Kenneth Davids
Now that just makes some of you downright angry, doesn't it?!?  Why did I have to go and give you information like that? Your ignorance was so blissful. You never used to care when the coffee you purchased was roasted, but now you're going to have to check, aren't you?

It was like the first time somebody pointed out the fact the countless people exit the bathroom without washing their hands, and that they actually have to touch the door handle on their way out. I remember first having that brought to my attention, and having a similar reaction. Dammit! That's all I'll ever think about when coming out of a public restroom. Truth. It is all I ever think about, now.

It is truly fascinating what people do with new information.

It was a weird journey for me connecting my love of learning about and enjoying coffee with learning in general. There is a certain bliss in both ignorance and information, as well as both apathy and enthusiasm, and we all must coexist somewhere on this multi-dimensional spectrum. The challenges of this coexistence is just life. I'm getting pretty good at it.