MathJax

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

HOO-Gah

When I picked up a few DVDs I had on hold at the Library, I browsed the new book section even though my list is getting very big and I don't really have room to add another one.  A book popped out at me, though, and I couldn't help myself. I had to check it out. It is called The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen.

Erin and I are enjoying Decorah, IA at the moment. If you are not familiar with the community, it has a very strong Nordic influence. Bringing such a book on this trip was appropriate.

Our Airbnb stay is on the outskirts of town and the house has a very Norwegian feel. This enhanced our already cozy experience.

When I woke up on my first morning here, I sat on the couch and looked out at the snow covered bluffs while catching up on my news for the day. My Tuesday morning briefing from the New York Times highlighted an article that was written on Christmas Eve. It is called Move Over, Marie Kondo: Make Room for the Hygge Hordes.

As minimalists, the name Marie Kondo jumped out (although I have not read her book about tidying up) and so I needed to check this article out.

The artcle introduced me to the term hygge, which is pronounced like the title of this post. It translates closely to cozy, and is becoming a national phenomenon in Denmark. The Danes are consistently some of the happiest people in the world, and their continuous quest for hygge may be why.

As Erin and I (and our friend Rob) discussed hygge, I was saying it as if I were Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, and we were getting quite a kick out of it. This will inevitably become part of our being. Thus, the reason behind my sharing it with you.

Agora Arts is a quaint little shop in Decorah, which has always been closed during our usual visits around Labor Day. We found a Story People print called Some Kind of Ride that will go up on a wall in our home soon. It is very fitting.
Feels like some kind of ride but it's turning out just to be life going absolutely perfectly. 
Hope you've found some hygge for yourself over the holidays, and you continue to find it throughout 2017.

HOO-Gah!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

When Depth is Important


In my last class of Theory of Interest, I began describing an idea that we had already learned in a very complex, convoluted way when a student interjected, "Why wouldn't we just do it the easy way? When would we ever want to use this method?"

I answered him honestly, and told him that in the real world, you would never use this complicated method.  Then, I used the opportunity for a teaching moment about depth.

We can all walk away from an amazing presentation in which we felt we learned a lot, but what we have actually received is a surface level understanding.  Sometimes, that is all we need or desire.

Until it comes time to apply it, talk about it, or write about it. At this point, you are slapped in the face with a huge disconnect from seeing someone else apply it, talk about it, and write about it, believing you can do the same, and then ending up like Homer here:

Depth becomes important.

In my own life, I have been reading all I can about how money corrupts our government. If you've spent any length of time with me, you've heard me talk about it. The depth I've had to go to in order to do that much is vast. There is so much more that has moved me that I want to share, but I haven't gone to the depth I need to in order to convey it in a sensible manner.

The best thing I've noticed about getting off of social media, is that I'm talking to people more. I'm engaging in conversation more. I find reading and writing a very important part of gaining depth, but I've been missing out on discourse. This is a key part of personal growth.

Have you seen a good documentary lately that was moving? Could you speak at length about it, and bring me to the same level of heart-rending emotion that the documentary brought you to? Probably not, unless you pick up a book or two or three about it, write about it (in a journal or blog), and practice communicating it to others.  This is when depth is important.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Safe Spaces

After the election of Donald Trump as our next POTUS, safe spaces were organized nationwide on university campuses.  I heard very little about these safe spaces, and upon hearing about them, I didn't read much more into them. There are reasons for this, I admint, and it is because I fall into three categories that already make me safe (pre- and especially post-election):  
  • White
  • Male
  • Heterosexual
Recently, I was exposed to someone that fell into all three of these categories who showed anger and disgust at the idea of these safe spaces forming, and that professors that had exams scheduled post-election day were giving some students a few days to recover before taking the exam. He went as far as to mock those who may desire such a space, and even brought his daughters into it, saying how they won't be getting safe spaces, and how they'll need to accept the world as it is. 

Anger. Disgust. Mocking. 

All over something that has absolutely no affect on his life as a white, male, heterosexual whatsoever. 

As a white person, I will never understand the psychological effect that racism has on a non-white person. No matter how much I educate myself about it, nor how much I try and empathize with the non-white community, I will never fully be able to empathize. It is impossible. 

This is my white privilege. 

As a male, I will never be able to truly understand the feeling of being preyed upon. I can only sympathize. I can only begin to imagine the fear that is felt when a non-male is all alone and there is an unknown, larger, stronger, male presence nearby. I can only begin to imagine what it is like to be disrespected constantly, gawked at, verbally assaulted, sexually assaulted, and put into a class where there are all of these expectations that I'm supposed to live up to. 

This is my male privilege. 

As a heterosexual, I will not fully comprehend the inherent attraction to the same sex, or the psychological effects that has being raised up in a community that looked upon such acts as taboo. When I go places, with my wife by my side, I will not be stared at or feel the discrimination and disgust from those who do not agree with my heterosexual lifestyle. 

This is my heterosexual privilege. 

With all of these privileges, I find it disgraceful that someone with the same privileges gets angry and disgusted when those without these privileges want to find someplace safe. It can only be the case that their manhood is being questioned, or perhaps their anger is compensating for something else that isn't so pronounced.  

If I ever witnessed some males saying something like, "let's grab her by the pussy" with regards to any number of females in the vicinity, I would interject and try my best to create a safe space. 

It doesn't matter who the president is,what he behaves like, or what he does or does not condemn. I wouldn't chalk behavior like that described above up to the "real world," the "world we live in," or simple "locker room talk," because this isn't the kind of America that I would want. The America that I want and would vote for is the kind where safe spaces would become a thing of the past.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rule of Thirds on Motivation

Topeka just finished its 2016, "Those Who Lead, Read" program last week. I'm excited that they will be continuing the program in 2017.

On November 10th, Erin and I attended a presentation on Leadership Through Self Discovery & Vulnerability. The presenter was Elizabeth Lenherr, the Director of Learning and Development at Advisors Excel in Topeka.  The books she centered her presentation on were Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" and Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly." 

During the discussion at the end, a gentleman offered a simple rule of divvying your time among mentees, friends, and mentors. He cited Tai Lopez as the source for this inspiration. The idea is that you should be spending about a third of your time each with 
  • Those who you can mentor, educate, or inspire in life
  • Your peers, friends, and co-workers, or those on your same level
  • Those who are far superior than you in areas that you want improvement
These fit perfectly into three of my five areas of philosophy: contribution, relationships, and growth. (Passions and health are the other two). 

In reflection on my own personal growth, I've come to realize that mentors are what is missing in my life.  

So, what am I going to do about it? 
  1. Identify the areas in my life where I want some serious growth. 
  2. Find some individuals that are far superior in those areas identified in 1.
  3. Find a way to get past my extreme independence and the mentality that I can do anything or figure anything out on my own.
  4. Reach out to them with a email, phone call, or a face-to-face interaction.
The first time I typed that up, I skipped what is now number 3.  I sat there and pondered the list without the current number 3 and tried to figure out why something so simply put was not so simple. 

Shame. Vulnerability. 

I first have to admit and embrace where I am deficient before I can get better. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Meta Level Up

In David Allen's "Getting Things Done", he talks of next actions. 

Sometimes, what makes it on our To-Do list is too vague, or just too big a project to be jotted down so simply. To tackle such things, you need next actions. Sometimes, these are hard to come up with. 

Whenever I struggle with next actions, I remove myself from the situation and level up, metaphysically speaking. I think in terms of the writer of my life. Since I'm writing it at this moment, it doesn't have to be myself in the situation. For example, it can be Dirk Diggler. 

So, it is now my job to write about what Dirk Diggler is going to do next to get this job done. This frame of mind helps the brainstorming go a little easier. (Especially if it someone you aspire to be like, or simply a super version of yourself. The use of Dirk Diggler is not a good example at all here, and is used primarily for humor.)

This 'leveling up' method works great with other things in life besides next actions. 

In Adam Grant's "Give and Take", I read about someone who was able to become a good negotiator for himself and his family by leveling up. He was able to eventually make a break through and negotiate better raises, better rent, and better other things in life by playing a role of a mentor for himself. He asked himself how he would instruct someone else to negotiate for themselves in the same situation. Then he followed those instructions and played the part of the mentee.

Next time you have a chore on the to-do list and are having a hard time coming up with a next action, try leveling up. Ask yourself, "What would Dirk Diggler do?" 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Fire and Four Medals

Erin's Race Number, her silver medal, and our collaboration Best Beer Back Beer

Several months ago, when Small Town, Big Brew IV was announced, the KGB (Kirksville Guild of Brewers) solicited members and former members to brew for the event by offering compensation for the ingredients of any beer they supplied. Erin and I decided that we should use this as an excuse to fill our relationship tank, and visit our great friends in the Ville. 

I got busy and brewed a Mosaic IPA that turned out very tropical.  I named it "Annoying Church Music."  

After the Mosaic IPA was finished fermenting in the primary, I stole some of the yeast and used it (plus a little more) to brew a collaboration Coffee IPA with Erin. Erin researched the coffee beans that would go best with an IPA, and we roasted a blend of three different beans. Currently, we're into bloody Marys with beer backs in the morning, along with some coffee and water after a night of drinking. Since this beer blended coffee and beer, I thought a great name for it would be the "Best Beer Back Beer." 

Erin wanted one of her own, so she elected to make a dry Irish stout. She kept the name of her previous dry Irish stout: Grafton Street Stout. 

Romping is Best with Founder's Breakfast Stout


A few weeks after making the commitment to brewing for Small Town, Big Brew IV, an email hit my inbox informing me of the Reindeer Romp 5K to take place the same morning at 9am (Sat. Dec. 3).  

The Reindeer Romp is a unique 4 mile run in Kirksville, that raises money for the Salvation Army and the Radio Park Food Drive. 

Sign us up!!!

It was then I recalled running the Founder's Day 5K in October of the previous year in Kirksville, and beginning the day with some pours of Founders Breakfast Stout along with some pancakes and eggs. It was yummy as I recalled so I thought why not carry on the tradition. After all, that race went very well, and I finished with a decent time. 

Some eggs and bacon were made, and my friend Jonathan and I gained one more participant (thanks, Ted).  We enjoyed some Breakfast Stouts as we tied some bells on our shoelaces, and pinned our race numbers to our shirts. 

There were Bloody Marys at the race's conclusion as well as a surprised couple who received a silver (Erin) and bronze (Jason) medal in their age division. The medals paled in comparison to spending some quality time with friends over bloody's and beers. 

Wine Before Beer, You'll be in the Clear


Following up the registration for the Reindeer Romp, we received an invitation to a wine tasting party at a friend's place in Kirksville on the eve of the race and the Big Brew event (Fri. Dec. 2).  Oddly enough, they had no idea we would be in town for the race and the Big Brew. 

We had to ask ourselves, "Can we run a 4 mile race after tasting wine all night?" 

Yes. (Or, as I like to answer, "Does the Pope shit in the woods?")

What about this Fire? 


On our way to our hosts' house from the wine tasting, we noticed the smoke from downtown Kirksville. It was at the Bonnell's that they informed us of what we were observing on the drive to their house: the Kirksville Arts Association burning down. 

We had thought there was a new factory in Kirksville letting off a lot of steam. Unfortunately, we were wrong. This was devastating news. 

The KGB was in a unique position, in that it did not specify where the proceeds would go from the Big Brew Event. They quickly announced that all proceeds would benefit the KAA. 

It is hard to imagine losing a piece of work that demanded several hours of your life to create. My heart aches for the artists that lost their work, and the community that lost an Arts Center. I hope that they can quickly heal and bring back the arts to Kirksville.

And the other 2 Medals? 


Small Town, Big Brew IV was a huge success. The Dukum Upp was at maximum capacity.  Many friends and former coworkers came out to try my beer. I had an absolute blast, and the people voted Erin and my collaboration Coffee IPA a bronze medal, and my Mosaic IPA a silver.  

It was great seeing everyone and coming away knowing that we could help contribute in fundraising for the KAA. We definitely had a weekend we will never forget. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Way Forward




Like many Americans, I did not feel good about voting this year.

So, I decided to sign up on Represent.Us and volunteer to begin a chapter in Topeka. The entire goal of this organization is to bypass Congress (which is possible) to enact laws that will make corruption illegal.

If there is one thing that we know from being human, is that nobody should be responsible for regulating themselves. We should all be accountable to someone. Congress needs to be accountable to us.

It is possible, albeit a little tricky. It involves informing people, petitioning, and getting things on the ballot. And then it involves battling the big money campaigns that will inevitably attack such ballot measures. Getting a solid base of members that are educated enough to ignore these campaigns is one of the biggest challenges.

It is happening, though. All over the country. There was a big win during this election cycle that was overshadowed by the presidential election, and that was an Anti-Corruption Act was passed state-wide throughout South Dakota.

The simplest thing you can do is browse the sight, and sign up as a member. Read the emails they send you and stay informed of what is going on. Learn a little about it and talk about it with friends and family. Become a member of your local chapter if you have one.

Learn about the problem!  Watch some of the videos on the Represent.US site.  Read books like Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy by Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer-And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson, and Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress-And a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig.

These may sound like depressing books, but they end on good notes. They end with hope. They motivate. Take some time to learn a little more by watching this TED Talk by Lawrence Lessig.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Living Primal

On our East Coast Extravaganza, I told Erin that I was ready to commit to any kind of diet that she wanted to go on. I was heavy, low energy, and wanting to change something.  

She first started us out on a three-week body transformation. The goal was to transform us from carb burning vessels into fat burning vessels.  It was similar to, but not exactly like Mark Sisson's 21-Day Transformation. Mark's Primal Blueprint philosophy was what we eventually adopted. 

At first, I didn't think it would be something sustainable. I was skeptical, just like I am of any diet program. How do you make something a lifestyle rather than just a diet?  Since 2009, I've simply been on a rollercoaster of going back and forth from overweight to normal, overweight to normal. I would like something that eliminates the roller coaster and keeps me at a normal weight. 

And I think I've found it. 

Time still has to dictate whether this will work in the long run, but I have high hopes. There are a lot of things that you have to give up living a Primal Blueprint lifestyle. Grains are the toughest. As skeptical as you may be about giving up grains, when you read the science behind what grains do to our bodies and learn about our diets from an evolutionary biological standpoint, and then feel the difference in energy and hunger levels, it is easier than you think to remove grains from your diet. 

And what is great, is that it doesn't have to be for good.  As long as you stick with the diet 80% of the time, you will lose and/or maintain a healthy weight.  Anything that doesn't assume and allow a little cheating now and then will simply not work. As James Crumley said, "never trust a man who doesn't drink." 

We arrived home from our trip at the end of June. It has now been 4 months since we got back. Here is a snapshot of my weight logging app, Libra. 


The Primal Blueprint may not be right for you. Here are some things I like about it that you should try and find in any kind of diet and/or workout plan.
  • It should not depend on purchasing THEIR product. Selling products is okay. After all, the people behind all of these diets are making this philosophy their life's work, so they have to make an income. 
  • It should be a lifestyle, not just a diet program or just an exercise program. 
  • There should be a lot of research done (look for a thick bibliography). 
  • After a month of practicing the lifestyle, you should KNOW whether it is something you can stick with. Ask yourself...
  • While in the losing stage, is it near effortless? While it the maintaining stage, it it completely effortless? Do you have more energy as a result? Are you sleeping better?  Are you less gassy and/or bloated? Was the health screening looking top notch (or better than it was)? (All of these should be answered with yes. Otherwise, find something else).  
What has really changed in my life is the way I work out. After reading the Primal Blueprint and browsing Primal Endurance, which delves in to more detail of the exercise portion of the Blueprint, I found out that my own workouts were not sustainable. It made sense, as I've noticed I have to change things up every so often as I get burned out.  

I quit running in 2014 because I hated it. Now, it is back on the list of things I do again, because I'm not destroying my body doing it anymore. 

I started CrossFit style workouts earlier this year, but had to back off of these intense style workouts.  I have still maintained some of the CrossFit philosophy of changing up workouts almost every time I go to the gym, but now the intense ones are much less frequent.  I found out that these types of "sprint" style workouts should only be done once every 7-10 days.  All your workouts in between shouldn't get your heart rate above 0.75*(210-age).   

That is really easy to do exertion wise, but really hard to do mentally. It feels like you're going to tip over on a bike. It feels like you're walking instead of jogging. But the benefits are amazing. There is an amazing science here that you are privy to. You just need to check it out from your local library. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving at Work

Givers, matchers, and takers make up this world. Which are you?

Adam Grant, in his 2014 book, "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success", describes these three types of people. It has been a fantastic read so far, and I have already begun looking for more ways that I can be a giver in my life. 

Washburn University has Employee Wellness Program Incentives separated into three Tiers.  At Truman, I was able to enjoy the rec center at no cost. It was free for faculty. Although it can still be free at Washburn, it isn't until you go through a 3 Tiered process.  

The first of these Tiers is simply to schedule a health screening and have blood drawn.  The next two are a little more activity based and require you to complete 6 different activities.  For example, in this Tier 2 Wellness Action Sheet, you can check off the third box by nominating someone for the Living Well at Washburn Award.

Who do I know that lives well at Washburn? My mentor and friend, John! That's who!

  • He has lost around 25 pounds this year by sticking with a Whole 30 diet. 
  • He and his wife Melanie, while visiting Taos, NM this summer, hiked along the Rio Grande Gorge. John, by himself, hiked Mt. Wheeler a couple times. 
  • For 2016, he is getting close to biking 2016 miles.  Whether he makes this goal or not, he has definitely biked over 1500 miles, and that is a pretty awesome year of biking. 
  • John and Melanie cook amazing meals in their spectacular kitchen. Erin and I were fortunate enough to have dinner at their place with them one Friday evening. 
What an easy way to give at work. There are awards galore at Universities and the workplace. I'll admit, that up until reading about givers and takers and how that relates to me, I have always looked through awards for the ones that I could win, and wondered what I would have to do to get one. This is a "taker" type of mindset, and I'm glad I never acted on this self-serving behavior. 

When those emails come to my inbox informing me of awards on campus and asking for nominations, I will now give them pause. What an easy way to be a giver in the workplace, by thinking of someone who you believe deserves it, and taking a few moments to write up a nomination!  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Quitting Facebook

Two days after the election, I decided to quit Facebook. I went through the motions of quitting Facebook about a week prior, but couldn't push the button to deactivate. Facebook actually makes it difficult, by informing you of all that you will be missing out on and not have access to if you decide to deactivate. During the process of deactivation, they do a wonderful job of asking "Are you REALLY sure you want to do this?"

What they aren't good about, is informing you of the freedom that will come.

It took the election for me to recognize that Facebook is worse than Fox News. It allows post-truth politics to propagate unchecked. This played a huge part in getting a racist and misogynist elected president. Soon after quitting, I began seeing the headlines about this concern.

Since quitting, I have realized that it was an addiction for me, and it was something I needed to quit. It has only been 10 days now, and I still catch myself thinking in terms of postable experiences throughout my day. I'm ashamed of myself.

Here are some pros and cons I've thought about:

Pros.

  • The next time many of my friends and family see me, they'll be a little more excited to see me and hear about what I've been up to. It will genuinely feel like a lot of time has passed since we've seen each other, and we will actually have something to talk about and catch up on. I'm saving all of my 'postable' moments for when we next get together.  We'll actually have to talk and stuff because we won't be able to say, "Oh yeah, I saw that on Facebook."
  • I have now escaped this world of enabling and promoting a "fitting in" type of attitude. Brene Brown, in her book "Daring Greatly" describes the difference between fitting in and belonging. Facebook seems to me as an ultimate competition of getting likes, laughs, and loves, all which equate to some superficial fitting in. I'm tired of this game, and I'm ready to belong somewhere. That somewhere is not on Facebook.  
  • My phone stays charged all day now.
  • I spend much less time on my smartphone now. This means more time for productivity. I've noticed this in a huge way. 
  • I have been forced to reach out and communicate in ways I feel are more fruitful and expressive. 
  • Not everyone is on Facebook (including me now), so I when I organize events, I will be sensitive to this idea and not just discount or not invite people that are not on Facebook since, dammit, they should have been if they wanted to be invited to this event.  And even if they are on Facebook, sometimes they don't check it all the time. 
  • I can now converse with people more easily. I have things to talk about. I can begin to decrease the frequency of the word "Facebook" in my conversation. No longer will I say, "Oh yeah, I saw that on Facebook" or "You may have seen this on Facebook, but..."  No longer will I be interrupted by individuals with "I saw your post about that on Facebook."  
  • Freedom. Sweet, pure, freedom. 
Cons. 
  • I'll miss out on many significant life events of my closest friends at the time they are happening. I will have to wait until they share it with me through some other avenue or simply wait until we see each other again. 
  • Facebook seems to be one of the primary ways to organize group events. I'll miss out on group discussions happening in brewing clubs, softball groups, poker groups, etc. 
  • Facebook was a great place to store and organize photos. 
  • Facebook made it easy to invite a crapload of people to events as long as they were on Facebook. 
  • There are more cons, but I'm biased in my decision to quit Facebook, so I'm going to quit trying to think of them. 
Quitting Facebook is extreme, I get it. It is not necessary for many people that aren't addicted like I was. Many Facebook users have much better control than I did, and don't need to go to this extreme. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Benefits of a Chore List

When the magnet is like this, it is time for me to unload (and flip the magnet). 

On a recent excursion to Iowa to do some biking with my father, I got an idea from the most unlikely of people: my step-aunt Twyla. Erin and I had gone up to bike on Sunday and Monday, July 3rd and 4th.  After our bike ride on the 4th, we were having a small get together at dad and stepmom's place.

Twyla and my stepmom Marilyn began talking about how having a holiday on a Monday throws them out of whack.  I remember internally rolling my eyes wondering how this could be possible (recall I am an academic with summers off), when she began to describe what she usually does on a Monday.  I seem to recall watering the plants and changing the sheets to be a few on the list.

The more I gave weight to it, the more I thought it made sense.  Creating a list like this would provide me with a schedule of the things I need to get done week-to-week. Also, instead of just getting things done as they come up, it would prevent having days where tasks accumulate and all intersect on the same day.

Creating a List


On the top of several pieces of scratch paper, I put titles such as "Weekly", "Fortnightly", "Monthly," "Quarterly", etc.  The top half of each paper I devoted to household chores, the bottom half I devoted to personal goals/check-ups.  For example, on the top part of Weekly, I would put things like "take out trash" and "roast coffee" and on the bottom part of the Fortnightly page, I would put something like "haircut."

I found it completely unnecessary to make a daily list, because these are the chores that are daily and do not need a reminder. Each day, I know I need to do them. Take our dishwasher magnet for example.  It is almost a daily routine of emptying and loading the dishwasher. Sometimes it can stretch to two days.  As you can see, we already have a way of communicating that the dishwasher is OK to empty or load.  

Once I got several things down, I added particulars.  How do I divvy all these things up to the different days of the week?  What things could be done every month, but would be nice if they were done fortnightly? Anything I found that would answer the previous question or something similar, I would put on the more frequent page, because I want to avoid being "thrown out of whack."  If I have to miss something on a particular day (say, because the 4th of July falls on a Monday), I want it to be completely fine for it to wait until the next cycle.  

Now, on Tuesday evenings, whether we are out of coffee or not, I will roast coffee.  On the occasions where there is no question that the amount of coffee we have will last another week, I will skip roasting.  Roasting coffee is now on my calendar on Tuesdays for another two months, at which point I hope it will be a habit, and I no longer will need the calendar.

Roasting coffee even though there is still some of last roast left.

Implementing the List


Alexa, our Amazon Echo, has been a great help.  On Monday evenings at 8pm, she lets out an alarm that reminds me it is trash day.  I only need to remember if it is also a recycling week or not, which I can ask Alexa if I can't remember.  

Every other Friday morning, my phone will remind me that it is a haircut morning.  I'm different than most individuals in that I cut my own hair, and have been doing so for as long as I remember.  Going a month without a haircut is not a big deal (neither is 6 to 8 weeks to be honest), so if it is a traveling weekend, or if I happen to be in a hurry on that particular Friday morning, I can skip it.  

On Thursday mornings, the bed now gets stripped and the sheets get put in the washer.  This may sound gross, but Erin and I were never on a bed sheet schedule, and would wait until one or both of us were grossed out by our own sheets before finally changing them.  This is both lazy and unhealthy.  Now, if we're gone somewhere on a Thursday, or happen to miss a week, we are still doing WAY better than we used to.  

By implementing the list, we are no longer overwhelmed with several things at once.  We also have things added that will now get done in a timely manner rather than waiting until we're both grossed out.  


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Clinton's email Server: The Worst Part

Disappointment



When I first found out about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, I felt disappointed and let down.  It was extremely frustrating to me that someone given the most scrutiny of anyone else on the planet would bring this upon themselves.  

I remember thinking that these actions were indefensible, and that I would never be on the side of defending them.  I remember thinking that there would never be a reason to defend these actions.  

So here I am, about to sound like I am defending them, when I am not.  Why? 

Something worse has happened since this knowledge has come out.  What is far worse than having set up a private email server is the millions of wasted taxpayers money funding committee after committee to beat this dead horse of an issue into the ground. 

"They pull me back in"


I wanted to remain in my little haven of disappointment of Hillary.  Just when I think I'm out (of hating on Republicans), they pull me back in.  Now, I have to sweep her nonsense under the carpet, because of the overwhelming inappropriate sexism from the GOP and conservative media.  

If you don't think it is sexism, just ask yourself if Colin Powell would still be under such investigation after investigation, or any conservative male for that matter.  

How about some policy on these matters?  Maybe we could better use taxpayers' money and create a very clear policy on the use of private email and setting up private email servers, etc.  Because currently, there is none, and everything Clinton has done is not illegal. It is, to quote Comey, extremely reckless, however.  

In researching Clinton's emails and the similarities and differences these breaches of security had with Colin Powell's misuse of emails and David Patreus's mishandling of his "black book," I've stumbled upon something that is so shocking to me that many of you will just waive it off as complete nonsense.
With regard to high profile politicians, Hillary Clinton is one of the most honest and truth telling
To be clear, this does not mean that she doesn't lie. She lies just like any other politician lies.  But she does so with less frequency than any other (mainstream) politician, and is honest and tells the truth with a much higher frequency than any other.  

If you think that is bullshit, which most of you will, then I challenge you to do your own research and clearly show me how wrong I am.  

"If she were that honest, why do you feel you need to defend her?"


I didn't want to, but the behavior the GOP establishment embraces as they do everything within their power (including wasting taxpayers' money) to tarnish, defame, and belittle Clinton is so childish and abhorrent, that it has completely masked all the reckless and unethical actions of Hillary.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Consistent and Complete

Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem proved that the title of this post is impossible for any set of axioms that you adopt.

On one of my many walks between home and office, I thought about the significance of this and the human psyche.  I place myself, and the axioms and tenets that I adopt, into an incomplete category.  This is where I have found the most comfort. I am more comfortable in a framework that is consistent in my day-to-day learning and understanding of the world. Incompleteness isn't comfortable by any means, but I've accepted the fact that there are things that are true within my system that cannot be proven within that system.  This means, confusingly, that I cannot accept some "truths" as true, since I do not have the capability of knowing them to be "true."

Then I began to think of those who take more comfort and embrace a complete system of axioms and tenets. Within their system, these people have the ability to accept "truths" that I cannot accept, because they can be proven and are acceptable within their system.  However, this complete system of theirs is inconsistent, and hence has contradictions by Gödel's theorem.

Nobody likes inconsistencies, either.  So, those that take more comfort in a complete system either go the Walt Whitman route: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes," or they take the following stance.

Life is full of complete and consistent people. Whichever one you are, we need to remind ourselves that the other person could be inconsistent or incomplete, and that there's no changing that.

There is at least one important thing I've learned as a consistent person who accepts his incompleteness, and that is there are a lot of complete people out there that do not want to hear about nor accept how inconsistent they are.

Which are you?

I'm reading Gödel, Escher, Back: An Eternal Golden Braid again this summer because I love this book, and it fosters thought experiments like these.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

East Coast Extravaganza

Erin and I discussed a trip at the beginning of 2016 that involved a cross country road trip east that involved another visit to the lovely breweries in Burlington, VT and Portland, ME.  In order to pull such an adventure off, we needed support from friends and family.  They all pitched in appropriately and made it work.

Here was how it went. 

We left Topeka, KS on Friday, June 10th and arrived in Bloomington, IN in the early evening.

Bloomington


Our mouths were salivating the entire trip for Big Red Wings at Yogi's. We had been coveting these prize wings since the last time we had been there.  To our dismay, they were no where near the quality that they used to be.  However, the tap list did appease us, as I was able to have a Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout from the tap (for non-beer people, this is an extremely rare, albeit expensive, opportunity).  

The 2016 NBA Finals were always in the background of our trip.  On this evening, we were watching the fourth game of the finals, with the Warriors up 2 games to 1 on the Cavs.  There was a break in action, so we went over to a new place in Bloomington that we have not been: The Tap.  Alas, the Warriors won the fourth game taking a 3-1 lead on the series.  We had lost all hope for poor LeBron at this point.

Day 2 in B-Town


We walked from our AirBnB on W. 4th St. to Runcible Spoon for breakfast.  I enjoyed a Zombie Dust beer back with my bloody mary, since I saw no other opportunity in sight to enjoy such a beer. The fact that it was before 10 am did not bother me.


After getting some stamps at the Post Office, we walked to Hopscotch Coffee where we enjoyed some down time reading, writing, and relaxing.  Hopscotch sits right along the B-Line trail in Bloomington, which is a walking, biking trail that goes through the entire town.  

I went to graduate school with Chris Michelstetter, and had not seen him for a long time.  He lives in Indianapolis and made the drive down to Bloomington to catch up.  Erin and I walked over to Function Brewing to meet him, which is where we had lunch.  It had a mathematical/engineering theme. My favorite beer name: Acute Blonde Ale.  Erin and I picked up a Bloomington Ale Trail passport, and got our first stamp and a perfect to-do-list for the day.  

All of us then walked down to Quaff On! This was the Bloomington branch of Big Woods Brewery out of Nashville, IN. They had Big Lebowski references everywhere, which met my approval.  That was where we said goodbye to Chris, and made our journey through the IU campus, north to Bloomington Brewing Company.  


The third stamp was made on our Ale Trail passport after ordering a pint, and then we walked west to Upland Brewing Company for our fourth and final stamp.  By working our way through the passport, we were awarded an Ale Trail pint glass.  Upland now has a place next door called The Wood Shop (click the link for a cool picture).  We also went there to try some of their sour and wood aged beers.  Yummy!

It is hard to come to Bloomington and not visit Mother Bear's Pizza.  We hopped on the B-Line again, walked through downtown, and through Dunn's Woods on the IU Campus.  Mother Bears also had Zombie Dust, so we ordered that with our amazing pizza.  

After all that walking, we were almost ready to call it a night.  But not yet.  We walked back through IU's campus, killed some time downtown, and decided we probably should see if the Mo' Fo' wings at Scotty's were still any good.  So, we had a pint and some wings at Scotty's.  They, too, were not what they used to be.  Having completely conquered Bloomington in our own little way, we walked back to our AirBnB and called it a night.  Mapping our route using mapmyfitness.com, our total distance came to around 10 miles.  

Niagara Falls


On Sunday, June 12th, we left Bloomington for New York, with a stop for a picnic in Goodale Park in Columbus, OH.  As a way to save on the trip, we packed breakfast and lunch material. 

We arrived close to Niagara Falls at a Springs-giving party where everyone got together and ate Thanksgiving food.  Erin and I got some turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, and some cranberry sauce to fill ourselves up. 

We stayed the evening at Milleville Farms where Brian (my graduate school roommate), Kelly, and kids are staying with H & Mo (Brian's folks) until they get their house built.  They were nice enough to let us crash on an air mattress in the middle of their living room.

Burlington


Traveling to Burlington, we stopped off at Seneca Falls to picnic and have wine (for a change) at Montezuma Winery.  Before advancing, we detoured to the historical landmark of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's house. She was a suffragette and a major player in that movement.  

It was a long day of driving through upstate New York, but we finally crossed into Vermont via the Lake Champlain Bridge.  You can see the Samuel de Champlain monument to the left of the bridge. 

Samuel de Champlain monument & the Lake Champlain Bridge

We dined at American Flatbread Burlington Hearth that evening after settling into our AirBnB.  The Hearth is a favorite of ours in Burlington, with amazing pizza and delicious beer brewed by Zero Gravity.  

We searched around at a few places to enjoy some Heady Topper, but all the restaurants were out (it was, in fact, a Monday).  The Farmhouse was our last destination of the evening, where we were able to enjoy Lawson's Finest Liquids Sips of Sunshine, Hill Farmstead's Double Citra and Legitimacy from the tap.  

That evening, we did some research and made a few calls to places to find out what we needed to do to get some Heady Topper to take home.  It involved waiting in line for over an hour at one place, and just under an hour at another place.  We took in quite a score with 3.5 cases (a little overkill in hindsight), and have much to enjoy and share with friends in the ensuing months. 

Pleepleus caught us stealing from his stash! (At the AirBnB)
After securing the stash of Heady Topper, we ate lunch at The Pine Street Deli.  To burn off the calories, we drove to Airport Park and hiked the Island Line Trail out to the marble causeway that leads to South Hero.  The causeway part of the Island Line Trail is 5 km, so we didn't walk the entire thing.  Our walk ended up being 4.5 miles.  

Our tour of Burlington after the walk included Queen City Brewery, Foam Brewers, Manhattan Pizza & Pub, and then dinner at The Farmhouse.  Erin and I were very impressed with Foam Brewers, and think they will take off pretty easily.  

Foam Brewers. Can you find Pleepleus?

On our final day in Vermont, we made our own breakfast at the AirBnB, packed our lunches, and took a drive to Hill Farmstead Brewery near Greensboro.  It is on a gravel road, and we took one wrong turn on our journey there.  Hill Farmstead has been on our radar for a while now, as it is an elusive brewery that has 18 of their beers (as of 6/26/2016) in the Top 250 beer list on Beer Advocate, but has very limited distribution.  For the last several years, it has become a Beer Mecca for us.  Erin finally organized this trip so we could make it happen.  

Enjoying the day at Hill Farmstead

In going back to Burlington, we had to make a quick stop in Waterbury at the Prohibition Pig for a few samples of their beer.  That evening, we dined at a BYOB Vietnamese Restaurant called Pho Hong. Oddly, we didn't bring our own beer.  I ordered some Panang Curry hot enough to make me sweat.  We called it an early night, and hung out at the AirBnB for our last night in Burlington.  After all, we were exhausted. 

The next morning, we had breakfast at Handy's Lunch and scored a few cans of Lawson's Liquids Sips of Sunshine up the road in Williston before driving to Rangeley, ME. 

Rangeley


We arrived early to Aunt Nancy's place (Camp Chinle) on Sandy River Ponds outside Rangeley.  It was a beautiful day, so I snapped a few pictures.  Apparently, we brought some good weather with us as it had been pretty awful up until that point.  

Camp Chinle

Sandy River Ponds
The first night, we stayed in and caught up with Aunt Nancy.  She cooked us delicious pasta with caramelized veggies for dinner, and we stayed up late drinking wine while listening to loons.

Once we loaded up on breakfast the next day, we hit the Appalachian Trail for some mid-morning hiking.  The entire hike out seemed like it was going uphill.  But the reward was this beautiful view, and a return hike that was completely downhill (and faster). 


We went into town for lunch at Parkside & Main with Aunt Nancy, and sat out on the deck to enjoy the day.  Erin found a winter coat on sale next door that she couldn't pass up, and I got my usual postcards to send to people.  

Back at Camp Chinle, we put on our life jackets and got the kayaks ready for Erin's first experience kayaking. She was very hesitant at first, but once on the lake, had a great time.  We kayaked the entire perimeter of Sandy River Ponds and then some.

Erin dominating the kayaking game

That evening, we started cracking ourselves up.  We noticed that the only beer that we had to drink (because we were saving others for specific experiences later) was Heady Topper.  So, we embraced the ridiculousness. "Damn... all we have to drink is Heady Topper..." This lead to the creation of the following meme.


We lit a fire in the chiminea, drank wine (yes, we eventually veered away from Heady Topper), and stayed up talking until midnight.  The next morning, we took off for Portland.  Many thanks to Nancy for being such a great host! 

Portland


Several months ago, I contacted friends Kelly (graduate school roommate before Brian) & Eric, who reside in Portland.  They had already booked a vacation during the time we would be there, but very kindly let us crash at their place.  We don't say no to these kind of offers, as we travel on a budget.  Eric, who is also a beer connoisseur, gave us several suggestions on breweries to check out.  He and Kelly also composed suggestions for dinner and breakfast.  

We took all of their suggestions and made them into an itinerary.  

First stop was in Freeport, which is just north of Portland, at Maine Beer Company.  If we could have fast forwarded time by one week, we would have been there during their Dinner release (Dinner, as well as Lunch, are names of their best beers). We just had to settle for Lunch.  In tasting all they had on tap, Erin and I agreed that we both enjoyed Another One a little better than Lunch.  

We settled into Eric & Kelly's place before having lunch at Pai Men Miyake, a Japanese ramen-noodle specialist, which was on top of the list of suggestions.  By getting there for a late lunch, we could scratch off two of their dinner suggestions.  We had yet to make up our mind for dinner. 

We then went to Bunker Brewing, Foundation Brewing, and Austin Street Brewing Company for some samples.  Epiphany from Foundation was pretty tasty.  At this point it was time to begin Ubering or walking, so we dropped off the car at the house and began walking.  

About 1 mile into our walk, we found ourselves at Bissell Brothers, which has some fantastic, award winning beers.  Nothing Gold was our favorite here.  Pleepleus, our traveling monkey, was our poster child for our brewery adventures in Portland.


I wasn't that hungry yet, so we decided to walk to dinner instead of Uber.  We walked 2.6 miles to Eventide Oyster Company, and enjoyed a variety of oysters, a lobster roll, and some curried lobster stew among a few other things. It was fantastic. We also enjoyed their Dirty, Dirty Martini.  

After debating getting a cab or uber, we got impatient and started walking back.  Taking the safer, more lit route, we walked 2.8 miles home for a total of 6.4 miles of walking around Portland that evening.  We had a small fire in their firepit before heading to bed.  

The Long Road Home


I remember waking in Portland that Sunday morning and thinking how it was nice to be heading home. Then it dawned on me that it would be Tuesday evening before we arrived back in Topeka.  This is how Erin and I roll.  Our destination for that Sunday was Milleville Farms again, with part of the Milleville clan in Sanborn, NY.  

We stopped outside of Syracuse in Liverpool, NY at Sharkey's Bar & Grill, where we met up with Jason Luscier, a friend and colleague we used to work with at Truman.  It was great to catch up with him and hear how much he loves Syracuse.  We hooked him up with one of our Heady Toppers. 

At Sharkey's Bar & Grill in Liverpool with Jason Luscier

Game 7 of the NBA Finals had just started when we arrived at H & Mo's.  It was wonderful to experience the game and the beer with all these great people.  Although someone in the room was down $100 at the end of the evening, everyone was happy with the outcome.  LeBron and the Cavs came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors, a team that had just achieved the best record in the NBA, to become the 2016 NBA champs.  

On Monday, we headed to Jake (high school classmate of '95) & Kathy's place in Indianapolis. Erin had yet to meet Kathy, and both of us had yet to meet their sons Justin, and twins Robert and Nicholas.  They were kind enough to take us in, feed us turkey burgers, and let us catch up with them and crash on a school night.  We had a great visit with them while we watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs (they are Cubs fans, those poor souls).  

The Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar in St. Louis broke up our drive on Tuesday.  When we left St. Louis, it felt like Topeka was just a hop, skip, and a jump away compared with the driving we had been doing for 12 days.  We arrived before 6 pm to a few cats that were very happy to see us.  After 3691 miles of driving we were finally home. 

Malcolm, our 2006 Suburu Outback, took us on this entire journey across the country.  He was like Little Willy's dog in the TV movie Stone Fox.  Right before he got us all the way home, he burned out all his oil, overheated, and essentially died.  We carried him across the finish line with tears in our eyes, for he gave us one helluva wonderful experience.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Your Comfort Zone

When I teach hypothesis testing in statistics, I often introduce it using a courtroom scenario. Ideally, the courtroom, jurors, lawyers, and judges would all work in such a way that the probability of convicting an innocent person (\alpha) and the probability of letting a guilty person go free (\beta) would both be equally small.
The important thing to understand is that they are indirectly related. You cannot make both of them be as small as you would like. If you decrease one, the other increases, and vice versa. So, you need to find a compromise, or a “comfort zone”.
I’m all about improving myself and following my own personal philosophy, whether that be fueling my passions, focusing on my health or personal growth, developing relationships, or contributing to society. What I have noticed, however, is that the more time you give to one, that can mean the less time for another. Where is that comfort zone?
Let’s use health as an example. To rank your happiness and/or comfort in each category, we’ll use a 0-1 scale. Suppose you set out to lose 20 pounds a while ago because that’s what you thought needed done. You were at a 0.5 on the happiness scale and knew that losing 20 pounds would put you at a 1.
In this setting, let’s make the \alpha level the compliment of your health happiness level. So, it is currently at 0.5 and you want to decrease that down to 0 by losing 20 pounds.
Suppose you have lost 10 pounds, are halfway there, but are at somewhat of a plateau. Even though you are only halfway to your goal, you notice your happiness scale has increased more than halfway to 0.90 (you’ve decreased your \alpha level down to 0.10). But you also notice something odd. Your relationships’ happiness/comfort scale has decreased. It used to be at 0.99 and has now come down to 0.90 (that is, your \beta has increased to 0.10 from 0.01).
Perhaps you used to socialize with certain people that went out for Mexican food every week. Because of this new health kick you’re on, you had to cut that back to once a month.
Balance. We forget about this sometimes, and find ourselves running back and forth on a five-way teeter-totter (if you can imagine such a thing). When we’re feeling great about one thing in our lives, and down about another. we run over to that side.
Maybe we should realize we shouldn’t try and get to 1, and that in order to achieve a nice balance in our lives, we should embrace the comfort of 0.9. In other words, we don’t need amps that go to 11.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Raise a Nation's GDP

It was Sunday evening, May 15th, and I was finishing up my first weekend of being completely done with the Spring 2016 semester, and my first year at Washburn. Sitting there in my newly arranged living room (that can now seat four comfortably), I finished reading the last page of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

It was one of the most eye-opening, and important pieces of work that I have ever read.  I'm so far behind, too, as this book came out in 2009.  Why hasn't anyone recommended this to me before now?

Educate Women


That's the simple answer to the title of this post, but the next question is a lot more difficult to answer on a global level than you realize: How do we educate women?

The authors do a great job of telling amazing stories of individuals, sometimes absolutely heartbreaking. They realize the importance of story telling over giving you the statistics of how horrible conditions are for women worldwide. Whether you agree with our psychology or not, we react more to stories of the hardships of an individual person than we do about a statistic that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering.

You will get sick to your stomach. You will get angry. At times, you will cry for joy.

The book will throw you head first into the world of forced prostitution and sex trafficking, and how although more prominent elsewhere, it is happening in your own backyard.

You will learn about the importance of maternal health on a global scale, and how horrible the U.S. is in this category as a developed nation. We have no excuse.

You will learn how iodizing salt is one of the cheapest ways of educating kids, and keeping them in school. Seriously. I'm not going to tell you how iodizing salt can accomplish this here because you should read it. Seriously.

You will read about some truly remarkable people and organizations already doing things that can help.

How can you help? The first and maybe the last step for you is simply to educate yourself, and read the book. Watch the documentary. Whatever. If you are informed, you can talk about it, and by talking about it, someone else may move to a further step.



A Chinese proverb says that "Women hold up half the sky."  What is sad is that this has never actually been true, because men have never let them.  Men have kept them under foot and have "clipped their wings" at an early age so to speak, which reminds me, you should also read I am Malala, a book that I borrowed that phrase from. The world will be a better place if we take the necessary steps so this is true in every possible sense.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Great Person is a Sentence

"Those Who Lead, Read" is a program set up by David W. Carter, Washburn's Farley Visiting Professor of Ethics and Leadership. Each month in Topeka, a leader in the community gives a one-hour presentation centered around a book. 

David himself gave the first presentation, which centered around the book "I am Malala."  During that presentation he recommended "Half the Sky" to the audience which I just finished tonight.  I will blog about that soon as it was one of the most important and emotionally moving books I've ever read.  

The latest presentation was given by Topeka Public Schools Chief of Police, Ron Brown, which was centered around "Drive" by Daniel H. Pink.  His talk and the book explored what is behind human motivation.  As a society, we have been pushing past what they describe as Motivation 2.0, which is the idea that we should motivate people to do things through rewards and punishments.  This only works with the most menial of tasks.  

Motivation 3.0 provides people autonomy to get things done, and removes rewards. It is based on the idea that we are all intrinsically motivated to build, invent, and get things done.  By providing rewards, we remove this intrinsic motivation and replace it with something artificial, that we then begin to expect. When it is lacking, the motivation disappears.  

It is a great read, and if you want to know more, I definitely recommend it. 

Awakening Your Motivation 3.0
 
In part 3 of "Drive", Pink provides methods to awaken this type of motivation for individuals, organizations, and offers parents/teachers how to do it with their kids/students.  

Pink introduces us to Clare Luce, who in 1962 offered John F. Kennedy the words, "A great man is a sentence." Here are some examples offered by Pink: 
  • Abraham Lincoln preserved the union and freed the slaves. 
  • Franklin Roosevelt lifted us out of a Great Depression and helped us win a world war. 
Then he asks the big question, "What is your sentence?" This had me stumped for a while. I got to a point where I got a little peeved at the notion of asking me such a question.  I don't need a sentence, I thought, and then I thought that maybe my sentence could be "Jason Shaw didn't need a sentence."  

That begs for a lot of context, so I came up with one that I believe has stuck with me for quite a while now, and continues to be true.  "Jason Shaw liked to have fun, but more than that, he wanted all of us to have fun as well."  

You may be thinking where the motivation is in that sentence.  It is motivation enough for me.  

I'll revisit it again, and will change it if I feel like it needs changing, but it works for me right now.  To repeat Pink's question again, "What's your sentence?"  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Solution to Riddle 14

This is my solution to the riddle "Should You Shoot Free Throws Underhand?"  I apologize for the ugly mathematical mark-up.  
We see C=\{x, y \in \mathbb{R}: x^2+y^2\leq 1\}, and V=(X,Y) where X and Y are normal with \mu=0 and \sigma unknown.
The question asks for P(-1<Y<1), but without knowledge of \sigma, we cannot compute the probability. So, we need to find \sigma.
We are given that P(V\in C)=0.75, which translates to P(X^2+Y^2\leq 1)=0.75. If we divide both sides of the inequality inside the probability by \sigma^2, then we have the sum of two standard normal random variables squared, which is a chi-square random variable with 2 degrees of freedom (you can find a reference for that here).
Thus, with \chi^2_0=\frac{X^2}{\sigma^2}+\frac{Y^2}{\sigma^2}, we have P(\chi^2_0\leq 1/\sigma^2)=0.75. Using some tables or technology, we can find the 75th percentile of a chi-square distribution with 2 df to be 2.772589, which when set equal to 1/\sigma^2, will reveal that \sigma = .6005612.
Now, P(|Y|<1) = P(-1<Y<1) = P(-1.6651< Z <1.6651) = \Phi(1.6651)-\Phi(-1.6651)=.904109.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Airplane Seating Etiquette

Unlucky you, to be the last person to board a 100 seat plane. This is the setting of this week's riddle from Ollie on FiveThirtyEight. 

Here's the problem. The first person to board is a complete asshole. This guy is to airplane boarding as Martin Shkreli is to pharmaceuticals.  When this guy boards, he could care less about what seat he is actually assigned to, so he just chooses one at random.  

Each person after will sit in their assigned seat if it is available. If it isn't available, instead of causing a scene, they choose any of the remaining seats at random. 

Finally, it is your turn. What is the probability that you get to sit in your assigned seat? 

This problem isn't too difficult, so I encourage a little thought on it before reading on.

Ready for a solution?

First, let us simplify the problem by thinking of each passenger as numbers from 1 to 100, where 1 represents the asshole, and 100 represents you. Or should we just call it the collective us? The "royal we" so to speak? 

OK, now go through the plane and label all the passengers seats to which they are assigned with the same number.  

Now, let's go through one simulation to see how this works. Number 1 chooses a random number between 1 and 100.  Let's say it is 37. 

Passengers 2-36 board and sit in their seats. Passenger 37 boards and finds a complete assface in her seat. (Let's mark seat 1 with 37* for simplicity). Passenger 37 chooses a random number between 37 and 100 inclusive. Suppose it is 84.  

Passengers 38-83 board and sit in their seats. Passenger 84 boards and finds an unfortunate lady whose seat was taken by a toolbag in his seat. Seat number 37* is now changed to 84* (remember, this is the original asshead's seat).  Passenger 84 chooses a random number between 84 and 100.  Say it is 97.  

Passengers 85-96 board and take their seats, seat 84* is changed to 97*, and passenger 97 chooses a random number between 97 and 100.  To get this show on the road, suppose it is 100.  Damn. We lost our seat.  Passengers 98 and 99 take their seat and we get to sit in which seat?  That's right. Douchy McDoucherson's seat.  

This is an important observation.  

If we play these scenarios to conclusion time and time again, we will notice there are only two possible results for us. We sit in our seat, or the dickhead's. It turns out that either scenario is equally likely, so the answer ends up being 50%.  But let's offer a little more explanation.  

Each time a passenger is faced with a random choice (including the first time), choosing seat 1 or seat 100 has the same probability every time this happens. If either is chosen, all randomness is removed, and the rest of the boarding is determined. If seat 1 was chosen, all remaining passengers including us, get to sit in their own seat.  If seat 100 is chosen, all remaining passengers excluding us, get to sit in their own seat. We have to sit in meaniehead's seat.  

If another seat is chosen besides seat 1 or 100, then we repeat the situation above. Again, each time this happens, seat 1 and 100 are equally likely to get chosen. Hence, the 50%.  

If you are still not convinced, analyze the situation with a 2 seat airplane and then a 3 seat airplane. If you're brave enough try a 4.  If you're really brave, go 5.  They all produce a 1/2 probability of getting to sit in our own seat when we're last to board.  This should convince you that it will remain that way.

The Extension 
Let's try and find the average number of passengers that will get to sit in their seats.  The reason I suggested it is because I noticed 1 person on average would get their seat on a 2 seat plane, while 1+1/2 people on average get their seat on a 3 seat plane, 1+1/2+2/3 on a 4 seat plane, and 1+1/2+2/3+3/4 on a 5 seat plane. This led me to guess that an average of 1+1/2+2/3+3/4+...+98/99 (which approximately equals 94.82262) people would get seated on a 100 seat plane. 

So, I simulated it 1000 times and plotted a moving average using the following code in R: 
This helped me feel very comfortable with my guess. Still not satisfied, I had to think about why this was working out the way it was. 

I'm not sure even if this is the correct intuition, but I'll give it a shot.  With probability 1/100, the asshole will select his own seat, which will produce 100 passengers sitting in their own seats.  Given he doesn't select his seat, there is a 1/99 chance that the next person will select the first seat and then leave 98 passengers sitting in their own seats.  Given that the first two didn't sit in their own seats, there is a 1/98 chance that the next person will select seat 1, leaving 97 passengers sitting in their own seats.  And so on. This, when written out, looks like 

1/100(100)+1/99(98)+1/98(97)+ ... + 1/2(1) = 1+98/99+97/98+...+2/3+1/2,
which is the same as the sum I described above.

This is far from rigorous, but hopefully it satisfies most of you.