Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pavlov's Suicidal Ideation

One of the most popularly known ideas in psychology is "pavlov's dogs" a breakthrough experiment by Ivan Pavlov that illustrated classical conditioning. The stimulus of a bell ringing was paired with the stimulus of feeding, and eventually the physiological response of salivating became conditioned to the bell stimulus. Pavlov could ring a bell and cause the dog to salivate, absent actual feeding.

There's a lot of conditioning that happens in the mind and mucking through it all can be quite complex. But greatly simplified...negativity is a very well conditioned response that my mind has to many situations in life. Many times that I'm in a position to think about my own success at something, whether existing or future...I trend toward a negative view. This is the negative nah. It's a defining feature of the way my mind works and it's extremely reflexive. One of my chief self-frustrations is my apparent inability to pursue something with consistency...however this is the one thing I seem to be able to do predictably, and do "well". By "well" I mean I can focus on it extremely well.

I can't seem to sit down and work on a hobby with enough focus or consistency to make progress, but when presented with the opportunity to consider my own ability for success...you can be sure that I will dive headfirst into negatively berating myself, and get consumed with doing that for days. Logically I can see the futility of this and the fact that it's quite self-fulfilling...but because this cognitive behavior is so very well conditioned...it's like salivating at the sound of a bell.

This year I tried embarking on a very well structured plan to pursue my interests routinely in an attempt to both get better at those interests, and get better at pursuing things in an organized way.

If I haven't clearly stated this out loud...it was a miserable, miserable failure. Not only that...my own fears of self worthlessness and anxiety about my ADHD having a negative impact on my job and life coupled with this unsuccessful side project to make a nasty cognitive cocktail. By about half way through my multi-month work project, I was routinely paranoid about my ability to do my work, and about others' opinions of me. I began to become easily fatigued and many days would crawl straight into bed after work. I withdrew into addictive distractions  such as TV shows and video games. While these diversions can be good for many people and they can find some rest and enjoyment in them, they are generally very damaging for me.

One way I sometimes think about my own bad cognitive habits is boiling water. It's also a good metaphor for Global Warming...but more on that later. Water can get hotter and hotter until its molecules start turning into a gas. Before that point it can be hot enough to be dangerous. Once it starts boiling it can't get any hotter...it can only convert to a gas faster. If that rate of change is fast enough, and the amount of water high enough, it can be moving so fast that water is pushed out of the container. We call it boiling over. So hot water is like this thing that is kind of happening, kind of happening until all the sudden it's HAPPENING and there is hot frothy dangerous water all over your stove top.

My nasty little cocktail of conditions boiled over this summer. I routinely felt like escaping into a dark, quiet hole away from the world. I was routinely furious and hateful with myself. I routinely thought about killing myself. This is called suicidal ideation, and coupled with fatigue and feelings of escapism, it's called clinical depression.

My work project is done now, I'm back at home with my wife and in my regular job. But I'm still "sick", I'm still dealing with the symptoms of clinical depression. Depression isn't really a condition I have dealt with constantly, but the ingredients of ADHD and the negativity I've developed as a response to its frustrations have always been there.

Fortunately, suicidal ideation is scary enough to push me into doing something, I have started seeing a therapist and will soon talk to a psychiatrist about medication options. I feel as if I just traveled to a foreign country where to only food served was something I was mildly allergic to. I feel like I had no choice but to eat it because it was all that was served and it continually made me more and more ill. And though I've returned from that country, I am still sick and will need time and treatment to get better.

I will try to document that process regularly. The negative nah tells me that writing on a blog regularly is impossible and pointless. But I don't let regularity or polish be hindrances to writing here...it's the place where I can just spew words if needed. I don't know if that actually accomplishes anything, but I'm currently content with it not needing to.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Darash and Jihad

I clicked the new post button without looking at anything else on the site. I think my last post was a promise to write more? The fact that I don't remember sheds the light of irony on that. Well Done.

This is another short post meant to set up an imagined future (the only kind of future?). Faith and religion have been growing, stretching, and changing in my life. It's mostly been internal and not really a disruptive thing, moreso just cognitive background noise.

I am neither a Hebrew nor Arabic scholar...actually, I know almost nothing about either language or tradition. I'd love to change that, but there is only so much brain and so much time available. Darash and Jihad both mean struggle and have a place in Judaism and Islam tradition talking about seeking, struggling, confronting faith and related issues.

I want to write about this more and this is kind of a call to my self to do so.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Is your neurology your worth?

Look at that, I said I should write on my blog a week ago and I'm writing on my blog. Boom. I can do anything.

I have been struggling intensely with self worth in light of the challenges ADD presents me with and the often unhealthy ways I cope with those challenges. I was extremely grateful recently to unload these struggles on a close friend of mine and in that conversation I systematized the issues into three categories.

1. Neurological/brain traits. Without any intervention or "psyching out" getting in the way, the reality of my neurology lends to frequent expression of the behaviors described in the diagnostic criteria of ADHD. (I'm not a fan of the fact that this page features a photo of a bunch of kids, and then has a tiny footnote that "ADHD often persists into adulthood"). At the end of the day, I am scattered, forgetful, distractible and bad with details. Yuck.

2. Avoidance. I considered calling this fear, but that's not really a good emotional description. I don't often (or ever) feel fear as an emotion. I do have a really reflexive habit of avoiding things that are hard for my neurological makeup. Focused reading, engaging with minute and complex details, keeping a consistent schedule and forming good habits. Without some magical instance of willpower, I often push away from doing tasks that involve those skills. It's annoying.

3. Horrid negativity. This is, in essence, The Negative Nah. That (also reflexive) tendency to reject doing something purely for the purpose of making myself feel worse and reinforcing the distorted negative view of myself. Lately, the Negative Nah has often taken the form of this line from that blog post:

"Nah, fuck you you worthless piece of shit who should die."

As I am on a long term work trip, I've tried to establish a schedule of good habits like exercise, reading, meditation etc. Not only has that fallen woefully apart, I increasingly find myself falling into scenario No 2. (avoidance) at work. This has made me increasingly paranoid about how others view my work and how that affects my career.

It has been shitty. Honestly shitty. It's been very up and down too. Once a week or every two weeks I will come up from underwater and feel like everything might be OK. I'll clean up my hotel room, get a haircut, cook a meal and feel like I'm in control of life again. Unfortunately what goes up must come down.

I'm away from home and in a temporary situation and finding a mental health professional to work with seems inefficient if my situation is transitional.

I also have been experiencing frequent mental fatigue. I have been taking ADD medication pretty consistently (the days when I don't take it are noticeably worse). But even with the medication, 4-5pm rolls around and I have an extremely hard time focusing, starting something new, or even knowing what to do next.

I want to explore taking a second pill mid-day, but honestly remembering to take one pill daily is a feat! I also would need to see my doctor to modify my prescription to have qantity for that.

This post was supposed to be about how your worth is NOT determined by your neurology or the psychological situation you find yourself in.

I am trying super hard to step back and realize that a lot of my negative ruminations are not in sync with reality. My paranoia and doubt isn't realistic, and is most definitely not helpful.

For the moment I'm simply grateful to have this anonymous blog to write about it. That's why I started it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Imaginary Motivation (It's real)

I'm going to suspend disbelief momentarily and pretend people read and care about this blog.

Now, I haven't written in a while...and for me that induces fear and judgement that makes it less and less likely to do the thing I've stopped doing (more on that later).

But I have some things to write about that are right up the alley of this blog's purpose...so I need to do it.

I'm telling you, my imaginary readership about it, so that you will expect me to do it...and then that feeling of expectation will make me for real do it.

Let's see how this experiment turns out.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Work Begins Now (Distraction is Compulsory)

Being in a new work environment I've set myself up with a schedule of personal projects and studies I want to work on. One thing I was clear about with myself when I set this up is that I would try to avoid negativity if I got off schedule.

Well here's my chance to test that approach, I'm about a week and a half off schedule. Part of this is due to a nagging lack of self discipline I seem to have. When it comes time to get down to something I know needs to be done, I veer off to the side. Sometimes it's just something else catching my attention and keeping it, sometimes I am scared of getting started, sometimes it's the negative nah.

- Getting distracted. It could be anything from an email, to a website to an idea that I had and started thinking about it......soon I'm WAY off track and occasionally I don't even notice it and hours are gone.

- Scared of starting. This one deserves a whole blog post. For some reason the prospect of starting work on something, or picking up where I left off can be extremely fear inducing. Sometimes for fear of failure, sometimes the amount or detail of the work seems daunting.

- And then there's the old nemesis. The negative nah. That self-defeating tendency to avoid doing something I want to do or need to do just to be mean to myself. When it comes to keeping to a schedule this can also take the form of nap. A negative nap. That's not to say that resting is inherently bad, but sometimes I do it as a way of dealing with the anxiety brought on by all of this avoidance/procrastination/negativity.

Often the thing I put in place of doing what I intended is media...and for me...it has a nasty side effect. It's extremely addicting. When it starts it's usually the media that's addicting, be it a TV show, a book series or a podcast...starting into it gets my imagination going. Again, not a bad thing in itself; being creative and imaginative is central to who I am.

I've described my attention as having two speeds, scattered and unfocused...and uber-laser focused. If I actually do manage to get focused on something, that is absolutely all my mind is doing. TV shows in particular I can't even watch without laser focus. If I divert my attention from the media for even a moment, I will have no idea what is happening and I usually have to go back to catch what I missed.    So If I decide to spend my free time consuming media, or avoid working on something by consuming media...it usually sucks me in pretty quickly, because my entire brain has become wrapped up in it. So when one episode or chapter ends...my mind is all about that media and wants more, so I keep going.

That's still not the worst thing, good art is engaging, exciting, makes you want more. It's evidence of people making good, enjoyable things. But soon it's not the enjoyment of the media itself that keeps me coming back, it's the fact that it's become easier to keep doing it than to think about or do anything else. By this time I might have started feeling negative about the work I'm avoiding. I'll start to feel like my entire life is out of control. Everything around me will start to take on this irritating nag that I'm not attending to it or doing anything about it. Watching now becomes a way to avoid that nagging feeling. And watching is also happening at the same time as growing self hatred.

I don't know where the bridge happens here...but sooner or later, what I'm really getting enjoyment out of is making this situation worse for myself. I start to feed (same as the negative nah) off the self-torture of avoiding work, increasing anxiety, and media escapism. I can remember countless times watching shows where I'm literally saying to myself that I'm not really interested in or enjoying the show anymore as I start another episode.

This kind of thing has somewhat happened to me this past week. The negativity has not been so bad, but I have gotten really off track and burned away all my work hours on media.

It's addictive, the media, the negativity, the procrastination. They all wrap themselves around my mind and hold on tight for as long as they can. It's so frustrating...If I was anxious to start work before finding something to replace it, the anxiety is multiplied.

I needed a reset.

Yesterday I just left. I just left where I live and all my work and spent the day driving and biking around the area. I drove three hours out of my way just to enjoy the scenery. Today I made a catch up list and am on track so far. I have thankfully avoided the negativity this time around.

Now I just have to remember that I can succeed, and carry that memory into the week ahead.

Hopefully this "reset" of sorts is a skill I can master, and cut down time on...and actually get some things accomplished in my life.  We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Negative "Nah"

So I think I've already got two or three draft posts in the works referencing this concept...and I have yet to actually define it. Since I didn't make notes and can't remember what I had even intended on writing this week (amazing that I hold a job or remember to get up in the morning), I'll take some time to write about this little, nagging thing that plagues my productivity and sometimes my self worth.

My wife and I have this little joke, when we don't want to do something we say "nah". Can you do those dishes and then I'll make dinner in the clean kitchen tomorrow? "Nah." Can you take those instruments downstairs that have been in the hallway since you played two weeks ago? "Nah." I'm leaving for work, can you give me a kiss? "Nah." It's just a silly little thing we say to each other. But I say it a lot in my head, too.

You would feel better if you cleaned up your desk a bit. "Nah."

You really wanted to read that book, you should start. "Nah."

Grab that thing for tomorrow or you'll forget it in the morning. "Nah, I'll grab it before bed." (spoiler alert: I don't)

Sometimes it's pretty mundane...but sometimes it can get really damaging. Sometimes the word "nah" starts to bring this whole other meaning with it, that's when it becomes the "negative nah".

Nah, you won't get very far anyway.

Nah, you're too stupid for that anyway.

Nah, doesn't it feel better to feel awful about yourself then doing that thing?

Nah, fuck you you worthless piece of shit who should die.

It usually escalates like that over a week or two. Each time I say no to doing something I know would make me feel productive and accomplished, I dig a little deeper into myself. And the worst part is it becomes addictive. Like addictive distraction (probably haven't written about that one yet); each time I do it, the very act of diverting myself from positive actions or thoughts has a little attractive surge and I start to feed off doing this.

You can see how someone with a music degree has done little in the way of serious music work in 5 years since (barely) graduating. You can see how someone with a multitude of interests knows only a bit about each of them. Maybe only I can see those things? I feel like I've barely done anything in my life in the last decade or so besides get by. I haven't created anything big, I haven't finished a lot of the small things I've started creating, I haven't moved further in pursuing things that interest me. My old blog was full of promises to do so.

And a lot of it is due to the "negative nah".

So often saying no to progress and positivity creeps up...takes on an evil mind of it's own, and eventually consumes me in self-hatred.

This is where this post ends...because it's just meant as a definition of this idea for when I refer to it elsewhere. It feels a little down to end it without any resolution to this troubling thing...but rest assured I'm always trying to look for ways to be better...more on that later.




Saturday, May 9, 2015

Make a Plan (that first step is a doozy)

So...I've done this one tons of times. Maybe this is neurological, maybe it's just bad habits or lack of good ones...maybe the "negative nah" is greatly involved in this process. You don't know what the "negative nah" is? Maybe that's because I'm so disorganized that all my posts about it are still drafts!! Well...we will have to link to more detailed posts about it later. What have I done tons of times?

I get wrapped up in the planning of something...so much that it doesn't get done. No real work gets done, just lists and schedules or just OVERTHINKING to an absurd degree about how I will do something. 

I have set out to make myself a schedule or a new approach to doing things so many times. It was a once to twice a year occurrence in college. It did not help, I took time off and barely graduated! I've tried it at jobs and had shoddy results. I've tried it at home and had shoddy results. I do probably spend too much time making plans, but the real issue is that I don't stick to them at all. It comes to that first day to do the thing I put on the calendar...and "NAH". I just skip over it and carry all of the self loathing that comes with doing that. Those bad feels are still hanging around the next time I think about making plans or getting organized. It's awesome /s

I do have a sort of blank slate here though. I have a completely new environment and lifestyle for the next five months. There are literally no distractions around me. I have brought nothing with me but my laptop, bookmarked articles and a reading list for my kindle app. Today I made a detailed schedule of how to break up my free time and give regular attention to all of the topics I want to be more knowledgeable on. These include:

Philosophy: Cause you gotta know how to know stuff to know stuff
Statistics: Cause when people show you data on how they know stuff you should be able to judge for yourself
Climatology: Cause you shouldn't believe in it because your friends do...you should know stuff
Economics: I make money, and also the impacts of climate change will cost money...I better start knowing stuff about money. 
Psychology/Sociology: How do we all together deal with knowing stuff?!?!
Theology/Scripture: I just want to be better read when I think about how we believe in stuff.

Additionally I want to get better at reading primary, peer-reviewed sources, and have consistent well-being practices. All of this is laid out in this schedule:




I am holding it loosely, as in I won't be stressed if I have to adjust it...but I am also hopeful that this quiet environment can allow me to hold to it and remain accountable to myself with these goals. 

The worst possible outcome would be to have misses, get negative about them...and the negativity bring me down so much that I lose all my time trying to get on the horse. 

Hoping for the best and I will keep up to date on this blog as I go through this time!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Change of Place, Change of Pace

Bit of a gap between posts...since this is a self-judgement-free zone (like Planet Fitness for your brain) that's totally ok. There's actually a really good reason for it.

I have a really cool work opportunity to work at corporate headquarters for five months on a few special projects! This means time away from my family and coworkers. It also means hours in an empty hotel room...for someone who struggles to establish consistency this is almost more of a great opportunity than getting selected to work on something at corporate headquarters!

I have big plans to use this time to structure my free time, make and meet goals, and study a lot of the topics I'm really interested in apart from the distractions of life and home.

The ultimate goal is to bring this stuff home with me later this year and have developed some more permanent habits.

I'm also getting consistent with health and religious practices like exercise, yoga, scripture reading and meditation.

I will most definitely be documenting these efforts regularly as I go, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hitler's Slow Rise to Power: Random Analogies

I often come up with my own analogies for understanding topics or concepts I'm reading about. I suppose it's in preparation for conversations I might have, or maybe just to have a nice concise version of it in my head. The reality is that these often don't go anywhere, they are just fodder for the hamster that runs on the wheel of my brain. So in the spirit of the blog...I'm going to start writing out some of my analogies, to get them out of my head, to refine my ideas, and maybe to use them later.


---

What if Adolf Hitler had taken 75 years to gain power and invade most of Europe instead of 30? What if he had been even more sneaky and secret and patient? Little by little he would have gotten power, and his hateful, violent predilections would have had even more potential for realization, but been even less on the world's radar. The way it is Hitler got pretty damn far and caused horrific damage before he was ultimately stopped. What if he had creeped along in the background more?

I imagine there are probably some political scientists and other leaders who still would have seen what was up. They probably would have brought pleas to the public and the governments saying, "we need to act!". Would they have been listened to? After all, life in almost every country would have been going on as usual. People would be waking up, going to work, hanging with friends and living their lives. The public at large wouldn't really see that things were changing, they wouldn't have statistical data to see any significant change in the political landscape of the world, especially a world a continent away.

Meanwhile as the experts grew louder in their warnings, maybe the public would begin to be annoyed, and even mistrust them. After all, some of the people who flaunted those opinions were tied to the defense infrastructure. They did have some power and money to gain if we went to war. After a while, wouldn't it seem like these supposed "experts" were just ringing alarm bells to feed their military cash cow? This Hitler guy had been around for nearly a century and things seemed pretty much the same, didn't they? Weren't the alarmists just trying to get Americans to pay billions of their hard earned dollars and give these generals and their defense hawks in congress clout and power never dreamed of? 

"These experts can't control us with lies"

Could that really happen? 

---


If the evidence of Hitler's potential for extremist destruction was kept a little quieter, would experts have struggled to convince the public of that reality and the needed action? Interestingly, Hitler didn't even get America in to the war, Japan did, only when they did something outrageous specifically to America. Nazi Germany is a more interesting example because of it's sneaky origins. It still did take America a pretty long time to put it's nose in that conflict. But once the dam broke it broke hard. We spent 40% of our GDP, made huge sacrifices at home and abroad. And we came out of it having achieved what was right. Germany is now a progressive country that openly acknowledges regret for it's past. Japan has come well around from it's Divine Wind philosophy and is an important partner in the global economy. Achieving that was an immense, but necessary and ultimately successful venture.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation are going to be hard...and expensive, but essential. A really cool podcast episode I heard recently talks about how mythic stories can get people on board with this idea, as opposed to ineffective messaging such as "Just use better light bulbs and bike one day a week, it will work if everybody does it" or "your poor grandchildren will have horrible lives if you don't do anything". This whole thread of values-narrative communication is huge right now, and really cool. It also begs the question (for me at least), does favoring this kind of communication promote or at least do nothing to resolve science illiteracy? 

That's definitely a "more on that later", but with all of these questions rolling around, I started to seek an analogy for other difficult, expensive and essential efforts. I turned to history for this one, I am by no means a historical scholar or political scientist, it's just a narrative I formed, but I think we're eventually going to need some outrageous personal affront to American well-being for the dam of mitigation to break. Ultimately we can do it, but I hope we don't mistrust the experts and wait too long!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Mystery of Christ (or Happy Easter!)

This is going to be my first go on this blog talking about Christianity. I think it's going to turn out a little weird, but a lot of media and thoughts are converging for me today and I felt compelled to write them down. Since this blog is mainly fueled by compulsion, here I am!

Today is Easter. I am not a traditiony person...holidays and traditions hold very little emotional sway over me. That being said, there is a strong case for some of the things that traditions can do:

- Remind one of worldviews or values
- Create unity and community
- Evoke positive memories

For me the first one comes closest to true and effective. As I've discovered practices like yoga and meditation, as I've sought a more objective view of religion, I've seen "practice" as an effective conditioning action to help the brain toward something good. This is supported in the research, I've been pointed to the work of Andrew Newberg by my favorite blogger, Mike McHargue. So regardless of where you came from religiously, taking part in religious practices (like any training) works to condition your brain to something, in the case of religion some sort of higher truth. Interestingly when I did introduce yoga into my life, I was not impressed by it's hippy dippy language, and convinced myself in advance that the only purpose for that was to get one to stretch better and that would be good for my tight joints. It turns out I found more indefinable truth there...but more on that later. The point is that doing things helps your brain think things. That being established, let's circle back to Christianity.

I have been a Christian all my life. I grew up with a pretty standard WASP lifestyle. White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. My family attended the United Methodist Church regularly. My parents sat on committees, I went to Sunday School. I participated in all manner of music, including, of course, handbells. What was the benefit of all of this at that time? I'm not really sure...I was far, far less self analytical at that time, I just kind of meandered through life (I do, after all, have ADHD). There is a lot to be said for tribal psychology. There is so much research on this recently that I don't even know what to point to, just google it and enjoy sifting through the mountain of results. We want to do what the group does, it's how we evolved, it feels good and right most of the time. If anything good came from my participation in the WASP lifestyle, it was doing what we do, thinking what we think. That's not to say that I gained nothing from Christian Ideology. Throughout college and the years following it my religious involvement changed around a lot, but mainly stayed in an evengelical/protestant tradition, that story deserves it's own post so I won't spend time on it here. In any case here is the elevator pitch of how I view Christianity right now, and why I have maintained throughout my life (especially recently) that it is, at it's core, a good thing:

The Nation of Israel formed it's tumultuous history around a Deity that was held as creating and sustaining the universe*, though vast and complex, his character and command centered around a love that can justify one's self and be extended to others. The practices of that religious tradition were imperfect at representing this love. Out of this tradition a Teacher came who was so influential and powerful that he was said to be an incarnation of the Creator*. In his pursuit of a massive paradigm shift of that central love theme, he sacrificed himself to the entrenched religious authority. His character and teaching became the new core of a new religious tradition that split off from the old one.

I will come back to my own religious life, and eventually Easter, but first a few pieces of media that are rolling around in my head this weekend.


One is the TV movie that was broadcast by Fox News and other networks called "Killing Jesus", a historical drama about Jesus' life and death. It's not a great movie, it's a drama, it's not really a work of history academically speaking. It does, however, take a "here's what happened" approach, not a "Jesus is best because Christianity" approach. This kind of interested me as seeing my particular religious tradition more objectively has been part of my recent thoughts on it. My parents moved from the protestantism of the UMC to more evangelical traditions over the past decade or so, and while their worship style is the more modern guitars and bible studies version...they have still dived headfirst into the biblical fundamentalism and fox news that is considered "in-group" for this tradition. My dad was annoyed that the film didn't really represent the darkness, earthquake and ripping of the veil that are part of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion...these events point to the supernatural nature of Jesus. Objectively, the day of darkness and earthquake have been poked around at by historians and geologists and have found some evidence in the records, the veil thing isn't really reported outside the scriptures. It prompted me to wonder if the proof of these things happening is the important thing to take away from the crucifixion, or if radical self-sacrifice being at the core of Christ's character is the most important (spoiler alert, it's the second one)

The second piece of media I checked out this weekend is an article by Guardian science contributor Alex Rutherford called "Why Scientific Truth May Hurt". It points to something that has been a major theme in EVERYTHING I have been exploring lately. Namely that our perception and common sense, while evolutionarily beneficial, can't point us to objective truth. The classic example is the structure of our solar system. The truth of this is incomprehensible based on our observations, and seems almost absurd. Nevertheless, measurements and rigorous unbiased testing lead us to the truth, which was eventually observed when we finally escaped our gravity and atmosphere. Climate change, vaccination, evolution, the benefits of meditation (as opposed to a hokey foreign inviter of evil spirits) are all things that can be defined objectively by research, and are frequently misunderstood by our individual experiences.

Politics are not really my game...actually I BARELY understand them. But as I've explored climate change, the political representations of it are unavoidable, and one thing I've noticed, and then seen in other topics, is that conservative thought and communication relies on "common sense" to validate its claims...which really appeals to someone with less education in critical thinking, someone who's life revolves around the community and the family. Please, please don't take that as any criticism of those values, of a non-intellectual lifestyle or career. Those are not bad things. But...the conservative political base is made up of people who form their values on what's right for them and theirs...and common sense works well for that kind of approach. Here is my favorite comment from the Rutherford article.


"It's common sense" is just another way to say "I haven't really thought this through".


Maybe that feels harsh? But I think there's a lot of truth there. Our technology/economy/industry driven world requires a comprehensive understanding of everything we interact with. That comes from critical thinking. None of our tough issues can truly be boiled down into the buzzwordy headline, from either side of the political aisle. Weren't we talking about Easter and religion? I'll come back around.



Following Jesus, to me, means embodying the character of Jesus of Nazareth. Rejection of self, love of others.


That seems to kind of ignore the notion that God is actually a real supernatural being, in fact it ignores any supernaturalness at all. I don't think those aren't real...but defining my religious belief and practice only by it's observable truths is a starting point of finding my way to the supernatural truths. Scientific inquiry and critical thinking can lead us to an accurate construct of reality, but that doesn't automatically disprove the existence of "something more". Some call this the "God of the Gaps" idea...Mike McHargue rightly pointed out in a recent podcast episode that the literal reading of this concept means that God will eventually disappear as more knowledge is gained. So I'm not really trying to espouse specifically that idea. I think (and it's been shown) that good can come from religion, good for me, good for the people I interact with. Jesus is the main lens through which I seek that good.

The idea that He is the only way, truth and life is central to most Christian traditions, and I guess I would say objectively there's no way to prove that. If a Christian takes it as common sense or experience with the good of Christianity...that really comes from their own (limited) perspective. I don't think that either confirms nor denies the overall good of Christianity. I do think that centering all of your energy on the idea that Christianity is the best/only way when you interact with others can only result in either ambivalence or negativity. Which means you've helped that person on the path to missing out on any good that Christianity might bring.

Ok...now I'm ready to talk about Easter (sorry).

Today we celebrate a part of the story of Christ that leaves the historically verifiable territory. Another tentpole of Evangelicalism that my dad loves is the Ken Ham quote that we should insist on calling the narratives from scripture "Bible Accounts", not bible stories. I can't even, and I'll more on that later in a big way.

But the objective truth is that our information about Jesus' existence and interactions after he was executed come solely from eye-witness accounts. There is more historical research than I could quickly pursue on this. In terms of history, we have good account of this happening. In terms of empirical proof, we do not have that. But that is not at all the point...the resurrection is an essential part of talking about Jesus' sacrifice. It sets it apart from Him just being a martyr, but someone who not only made an incredible example of selflessness and love, but embodied it in some higher, metaphysical way.

I think that there are truths to our existence that an empirical understanding won't point to. I think it's possible that the real existence of a God could come from the collective positive effect of the individuals that believe in him and act accordingly. But I'm still that person who doesn't really get revved up about traditions. Today is another day for me. Another day where I continue to think about bettering myself, about seeking knowledge, about being a force for good.

The community I will engage with today will celebrate the possibility of supernatural wonder that comes from the idea of the resurrection of Jesus. The inspiration they take from that will push them to love and serve those around them**.

Wherever empiricism lands...this is ultimately a Good Thing for those who practice, and for those they encounter. Happy Easter!


These two statements come from Mike McHargues own axioms for faith. I'll probably blog about these in the future
** I know this is true for my church group specifically, but even the most judgmental and closed-minded of christians still takes messages of inspiration and love from the resurrection specifically. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cyber-Empathy (or Empathy armed with a keyboard)

I'm very intimidated by social media. Twitter, Reddit, Facebook are all varying degrees of confusing and overwhelming for me. Because of this I left them a while ago. It's a huge topic, and not the topic of this post, so more on that later. But I open with it because I recently did re-join twitter to follow people who write about the topics I'm interested in, and in a strange happenstance of interconnectedness, realclimate.com curator and climate scientist Gavin Schmidt re-tweeted this post by TED PR director Nadia Goodman. It's about comment moderation after the posting of a TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky.

This is absolutely not the kind of thing I would have found my way to on my own. However, I do love the content that comes out of TED, and Monica Lewinsky has such a magnitude of infamy that I checked it out. Lewinsky's talk and Goodman's resulting blog post are both fantastic, and you should watch and read them right away.

The reason I was even spurred to reference and write about these things are two quotes from the TED talk:


"The theory of minority influence...even in small numbers, when there's consistency over time, change can happen. In the online world, we can foster minority influence by becoming up-standers...instead of bystander apathy"


This resonates with me because in a lot of my topics of interest (faith, public discourse, energy, environmental ethic), I see a large scale paradigm shift as necessary to move forward, or just a necessary result. I was struck by the idea that communication ethic, especially with the anonymity the internet can provide, needs a large scale paradigm shift. Crowdsourcing single voices can be part of that shift.


"We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression, but we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression. We all want to be heard, but let's acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention."


Not only do I love the language usage here, it resonated with me because I am often presented with the need to actively direct my thoughts and words about things into something productive and helpful. This blog is a part of that effort.


Cyber-bullying is not an issue I have ever once come into close contact with, not in my own life, nor anyone close to me. But the damaging effects of such interactions are being clearly researched and pretty well talked about these days. Here is an interesting write-up in Forbes of a recent study that interviewed children, and then re-interviewed them years later. (It's just after the infuriating "thought of the day"). I browsed the comments after reading as I often do, and I expected to find vitriol, I found none! The comments all related personal experience confirming that there are real, and negative effects of bullying. There was one interesting comment postulating that if your parents don't teach you to be tough (i.e. "weak") you'll become a liberal, and if they do, you'll become a conservative. You can't make this stuff up.

In any case...it's absolutely true that an undue balance of online communication is vicious, hateful and damaging. A big portion of that is just trolling! People don't even feel what they write, they just have to type and stir the pot. It helps nothing, it hurts many. A lot of this nastiness is in sensitive areas such as gender and sexual orientation. Anita Sarkeesian both does great writing on these issues, and has been the bitter recipient of them.

A small note about comment moderation. As I've navigated the waters of a highly polarized and ideological issue like climate change, I've found that strict comment policies and good moderation make all the difference in the world in a website or blog being helpful. When the shouting is subdued, what's left over is thoughtful commentary, regardless of agreement, that helps understand an issue. While this brings up interesting questions of censorship...I feel that the productivity of communication once trolling and sloganeering are eliminated is highly important. Probably more on that later.


If we are going to continue to grow as an interconnected, digital species (and we are), we have to learn to communicate with each other as human beings. We need to reinforce equality and the value of everyone's thoughts and experiences. Monica Lewinsky's TED talk shows clearly that we need to get over the childish obsession with others' misfortune that the internet allows us to revel in.


We need to speak up with intention.

And we need to be up-standers for what the right paradigm shifts are.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dataphobia (Do we all have it or just me?)

One danger I run into is forming an opinion on something and writing out my thoughts on it in great detail without finding data to support it, or assuming that the data supports it. That's probably how most of us think. I think there's psychology to support that...but where is it?

I want to get better at quickly finding the research behind things I think are true. But it's an IMMENSE task, and kind of scary.

I want to write about my ideas that the amount of work and waste that goes into a fossil fuel based industry/economy really take away from it's perceived efficiency and effectiveness. I'm sure there are some numbers to support that, or at least facilitate a discussion about it.

As someone who struggles with focus, details, memory, etc the prospect of finding, digesting and remembering that kind of information is really scary!! So much so that it normally paralyzes me from doing anything, or deciding that I'll do it later when I have more time. That later never comes.

I don't think I'm totally alone in this. We understand things in small chunks that apply to our lives and frames of reference, and communicators play to that. But communicators probably also use that to their advantage. And our own little frames of reference probably lead us to half truths or untruths.

The consensus project is pretty hotly debated and gets used as a sloganeering point more than a scientific resource. But any methodological issues it may have are overridden by the fact that several similar studies replicate its results. I like this post on that issue. But I use it as an example because it points to the significant disparity between perceived truth and empirical truth, a disparity likely to be found in many issues, moreso in controversial ones.

I've read and heard from a few sources I like and trust (more on that later) that this is a combination of the way our mind makes decisions (evolutionary science) and the way data is communicated and received in our political atmosphere (social science). There is great research for both. I had a lot of the psycho-social reserach condensed very effectively when I read Don't Even Think About It by George Marshall. And am about to dive more into data-interpretation with The Signal And The Noise by Nate Silver.

One great way to deal with large, complex and out of reach data is to get it condensed this way by an author you trust who has taken the time to examine it all and made it more understandable for you. But there is still that lingering fear for me, that if someone were to ask me to validate an opinion or reference to something, all I could say is "I read it somewhere", and not "well I've looked at all the data and the conclusion is valid". Maybe that's not realistic, there's certainly little time for every single interested citizen to examine ALL the data, and doing so takes a high degree of numeracy and statistical understanding to begin with...I'm not even there yet. I'm also a slow reader (more on that later). And when it comes to seeking out justification for an opinion or claim...my fear of being bad at focusing on details (even just the fear of reading something long!) stops me.

It leaves me with a lot of opinions that need exploration just free-floating around my head with fear, disorganization and being overwhelmed by the size of the information stopping me from ever doing anything about it. That's a big purpose for this blog, though I have yet to construct a post that comes from reading research on any particular topic. I'm not counting that as a negative because I'm letting the blog flow freely without any judgement.

Suffice it to say that doing research is a task that stimulates most of my most negative, fear based views of myself my mental process, but it's something that I REALLY want to be good at. It's something I think is the right way to engage with the world and important topics. But the fear is usually pretty crippling.

Is it procrastination to end with "more on that later"?

The Singularity Will Fix It (or Don't Worry, Be Techie)

I had kind of a silly thought today, which may bear some truth, or may just be a laugh for nerds. If you're not familiar with the work of Ray Kurzweil, he is an inventor, technology enthusiast and futurist. What's a futurist? It's exactly what it sounds like. Kurzweil is well known for discussing the technological/sociological idea of singularity, the point when technological development accelerates at a near vertical curve and it's therefore advances faster than its impacts can be understood. The idea of artificial inteligence surpassing our own is central to this concept, but singularity can be applied on a smaller scale can be applied to one area of technology too. For example, the fact that information will soon be unlimited and instant in its storage and exchange could be thought of as a mini-singularity.

This morning I was thinking about environment and technological advance and my own prediction that all-electric vehicles will be completely the norm by 2050 (more on that later). Thinking about that year reminded me of the year 2030. That year is a memory error, but I kept it in because documenting my own thought process is something I do here. The real year is 2045, I was thinking of this article about Kurzweil's prediction of the singularity, and particular, human/digital technology integration at this year. It is a really cool article, but talking any more about it will digress too far from my point.

Here is the silly thought I actually had. If information processing and humanity's bonding with it really increase on a kurzweilian scale...one of two things is possible in our approach/response to climate change.

1. We suddenly gain the (nearly artificial intelligence) ability to compile and understand ALL of the data so quickly that we are able to discern truth. My computer is already able to do something like this on a small scale. It can take ALL the data of voltages running in and out of my battery, and represent it as a REAL LIFE amount of time that my computer can stay running. With immense information technology acceleration and possible integration with human brains, it's possible that we could process enough data to make a real life representation of truth in climate science. If our interconnectedness allows this kind of result to be shared (and not just given from an authority), it's possible that a social consensus will exist. Is that too wordy and unfunny of a way to say all that? Probably. If Kurzweil thinks that the singularity will happen mid century, then before then we will know, and possibly know together if climate change is dangerous.

2. Technology will exist to modify the climate before we even know if we need to. Most of Kurzweil's predictions come from an understanding of Moore's Law, the speed at which processor architecture can be miniaturized and therefore the advancement of digital processing power. It's the kind of mathematical analysis that produces the idea that eventually that kind of thing will accelerate faster than our understanding. This kind of thing can clearly be observed in consumer technology. Today's iPhone is orders of magnitude more powerful, orders of magnitude smaller, and orders of magnitude cheaper than mid to late 20th century supercomputers. Infrastructure and large scale industrial technology, however, doesn't really increase this fast...even if it could theoretically. Sometimes it doesn't have to. India is leapfrogging fossil fuels in favor of solar. The same thing happened in Africa as it became clear that giving someone in the middle of the Serengeti Plain a cell phone  (I have seen this) was far cheaper and far more effective than running a landline there.  Regardless of the conservative bashing that renewables tend to take...it's possible their beloved market might make them tenable anyway. So on the technology side, we might engineer something like carbon sequestration, or just develop clean energy way faster than we think we can.


As I write these thoughts out...they don't strike me as funny as they did when they first came to me. This was on a bus very early in the morning, and the thought wasn't this wordy for sure. It was more like "Electric cars at 2050? Well if we're going to be androids in 2030 we will probably either know with certainty or have solved climate change." And then I decided to write it up, which turned into more of a wordy speculation than anything, but that's ok.

It will be interesting to see where Big Data and Moore's Law take us as we contend with the ways our development and our planet intersect. Maybe more on that later.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Just use more willpower! (I know it's in there somewhere!)

Something I was reading today got me off on a tangent of mental health stigmata, specifically ADHD stigmata. Sometimes with issues that can be talked about in polarized way, it's fun to google a statement about it that is very plainly on one side of the polarity...I usually do this with the side I don't agree with.

Today I googled "ADHD is bullshit" which got me all sorts of interesting stuff. Some of it was totally ignorant and offensive. Some of it was well-intentioned but still contained some ignorance. Some of it was insensed people who have been diagnosed saying "I have this and it's frustrating and debilitating daily!" This is a sentiment I agree with. That being said...it is not (because nothing is) a binary issue. It is not that either ADHD is an immense disability affecting anyone who struggles to be attentive and organized...it is not a made up condition to explain problem children or get a hold of
stimulants.

What I really wanted to talk about in this post is my own experience with learning how this condition differs from a very general/normal difficulty to accomplish tasks associated with my education, career and interests.

One complaint about this and many other psychological diagnoses is that the diagnostic criteria from the DSM can often sound like personality traits that anyone/everyone could have.





Easy to see how most of the population would quickly identify anecdotal situations where they felt some of these behaviors at play. 

However, the diagnostic criteria are tighter than just observing these things. They require a persistent pattern, they require negative effects to be consistently interfering with functioning or development, and they require that other developmental or environmental factors can be ruled out. The commonly quoted anecdote of a girl being diagnosed when it actually turned out she needed glasses and couldn't discern her lessons from the blackboard is an example of a diagnosis that failed to rule out environmental factors. A child going through a growth spurt or hormonal change is another temporary developmental situation that might bring out these behaviors. I try too hard to be eloquent and organized when I explain things...so here is a great response from one of the forum topics I browsed from my "adhd is bullshit" google search. 


So that puts it concisely. Getting finally around to my post title...I find that many things that are a struggle or nuisance to me are things that I cannot apply willpower to changing. Depression and anxiety are very similar. It's easy to look at someone struggling with depression and suggest they just lighten up, have a more positive outlook...but when you are in the grips of your brain chemistry taking you down an unhelpful road, whether that unhelpfulness is negativity, distraction, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, etc...you cannot apply willpower very effectively. If you were physically hurt, the best you could hope to do with willpower is ignore the pain, you would not change the physiological truths of the injury. 




It's not a perfect corollary, processes like Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help you learn to manage your mental processes in a way that avoids some of the traps and pitfalls that lead to acute negative psychological symptoms. But like healing from a physical wound...it takes time and consistent treatment. Medication can often regulate the brain chemicals that create conditions for the negative symptoms. The best approach is both...with a more regulated brain chemistry, it's easier to apply the mental training consistently, and thus have more control over a mentally healthy lifestyle. 

Back to ADHD specifically, and me specifically...willpower is extremely hard to apply in the first place. There are a lot of negative feedbacks of being distracted and confused much of the time, self-esteem and optimism are the top of that list. With self-loathing and self-pessimism on full blast...it's really hard to push myself to do that thing I know will help me be organized...or work on that project with whose completion I've associated self-worth. On top of that crap pile, (or maybe at its foundation?) a meandering mind and inconsistent memory skills make it really hard to put strategies I come up with into practice. Making a to-do list or keeping a detailed calendar might help me get more done and be less overwhelmed by all of the things that life requires me to keep track of (in fact it does!)...but that is all for naught if I can't remember to do it or can't do it consistently enough to make a difference. 

I'm getting pretty rambly and feel like I'll soon wander into topics that deserve their own posts, so I'll wrap up. 

When your brain chemistry, for whatever reason (environment, genetics, evolution...all) takes away from your ability to DO or FEEL the way most people do, or the way that's required to accomplish things, mere willpower is not by itself effective, and is not the whole solution. It is here that mental health is a very real thing. 

Personally I believe that in that situation willpower IS necessary to force yourself to admit you have a problem, seek out the solutions (medication, therapy, or whatever is right for you), and to keep self-judgement at bay. Willpower needs to be the one thing that will always lead you back to whatever tools you've found consistently manage your condition and lead to personal success. 


I have NOT YET found a completely effective solution to my own symptoms, or found a way to consistently apply solutions that I know work...but more on that later. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Expectation (it's all in your head)

Ok...I will write this post in the space of my lunch break and publish it, because I have now three draft posts that I've started when they were on my mind, intended on finishing, and have not yet come back to.

One failing in my earlier attempt at blogging was my posts page just filling up with drafts, and I'm determined not to repeat that pattern.

 My head is always filled with expectations on what's going to happen or what's going to be said. Like almost every mental habit I struggle with, this is not automatically a bad thing. Predictive thinking is one of humanity's greatest evolutionary milestones: it's allowed us to evade predators, build infrastructure, and ideally prepare for coming environmental threats (wow that's a charged statement, huh?)

Knowing I'm going to be hungry by 11am helps me decide to eat something at 8:30. Knowing that a coworker might make the same mistake for the same reason in the future helps me train them. But this predictive instinct can have a NASTY overdrive mode (again, like most of my bad mental habits).

I divide the ill effects into two categories: goals/plans and interpersonal relationships.


Goals/Plans

This is certainly the one I've been aware of longer. When we were a kid we all wanted to be something: we probably sat for hours daydreaming about doing that thing, all the shimmery cool things associated with it. In that kind of daydreaming, one often doesn't have the perspective of all the details associated with that situation actually being true. Being a Veterinarian (not one of my fantasy careers, but many people's) is not all cuddling dogs and giving their owners great advice. It's sitting learning about anatomy for years and retaining that knowledge, it's paying student loans, it's going over pages of lab data and interpreting it, and all sorts of other long term mundane processes. The daydreamy, detail-free version? THIS IS HOW I THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING! Whether it's cleaning the house when I get home, writing a piece of music (I haven't succeeded in that in 5 years, more on that later) or getting a graduate degree in any of several subjects I've considered...I get into a viscous cycle of imagining how it will be...and never think about what's involved in doing it, and never start doing any of those things (and if I started them...I likely wouldn't keep it up!) That's not to say I never accomplish anything...I do from time time, but I'm always contending with the obvious frustrations that arise when things don't actually match my imagined version. This gets even worse in collaborative projects...because when you've imagined a group-produced result as something different than it turns out to be...you tend to turn this frustration on the people you're working with...and that leads wonderfully into category two...the far more damaging one.

Interpersonal Relationships

Have you ever imagined those perfect words you'd say to someone you're upset with? Of course, we all have. There's again some good here. For introverts, constructing words in one's head before speaking them is a common personality trait, and it can lead to great communication, verbal or written. What if you imagined what that other person said in response? Maybe you've done that too. What if you did it for the better part of the day? What if you did it more than you actually talked to that person? THIS IS MY LIFE! It's far more common to do this about disagreements or situations with others that I feel negatively about. My imagined version of their side of the conversation is often way false, not at all something they think or would say. But the more they say it in my head the more angry it makes me...and I get looped into an ongoing imaginary fight with them. Because distraction and errant thought processes frequently take on an almost addictive pattern for  me...I totally run away with it. And all that happens is negativity gets overlaid on myself and the other person. And the more I have this negative imagined version of them in mind, the harder it is to feel at ease around them and have real conversations.


Much of my mental time is spent forming expectations about the world...more than should be for sure. When the real world doesn't meet my expectations (it never does) I can go pretty nuts about it...none of these things help me achieve things I'm objectively capable of. The self-loathing that results from this constant missing of the mark tends to only make these problems worse.

There's hope.

A few thousand years ago Siddhartha Gautama constructed a way of living in the world that included this problem as one of its central tenants. Buddha's word for it is attachment. It doesn't really describe liking things too much and it doesn't really prescribe having less, it's more about realizing that anything we construct in our minds other than what we're doing, thinking and saying right now are inherently inaccurate and out of our control. Though my utter failure to stick to consistent practices and habits in my life prevents me from being a legit Buddhist (or a very effective Christian for that matter...more on that later), these views on human thought and action have been extremely helpful to me in stepping back, taking an objective look at situations and interactions and coming to peace with them, stopping the hamster wheel and letting go. Talking at length about the current influence and position of Buddhist teachings in my life is a whole other blog post...so let me briefly describe them here as a helpful tool for some of these troublesome habits.

Additionally, drugs. ADHD medication is also a massive topic of it's own. In the context of keeping massive over-expectations at bay, they can help stop me from creating them. With the meds I'm currently on, things happen in a calmer, slower, more controlled way. I can start working on a task and build efficiency and efficacy as I go...rather than the obsessive thought about that task taking over before I even start it. Unfortunately this is a much more in the moment solution...so it doesn't apply well to achieving longer term goals...and it doesn't help me from imagining falsehoods about those I interact with.

Those I'm still struggling with...more on that later.


(and 5 minutes left on lunch!)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Become Your Own Expert! ('cause you have to)

Global WAAAARMING!!

That scary thing that if you "believe" in it, you must be a greeny, socialist Democrat who wants to tax and regulate us into the next Great Depression --- and if you don't "believe" in it, you must be an ultra-conservative, market-loving, trickle-down Republican oil company shill.

This kind of useless false dichotomy rules the way our society talks about issues...and I'm really irritated by it. Though I may have struggled to get most of my college homework turned in on time...the experience of a liberal arts education definitely had an impact on me; training me to be open minded, to listen to all sides of an issue...to think critically. I think critical thinking is frighteningly absent from today's political, social and media landscape. And here's a great example!


This argument is as flawed as it is stupid...and this guys makes WAY more than me to take part in our legislative process...scary...but not what I'm writing about today.



My interest (read: obsession) with climate science began with a paragon of Science Communication: Carl Sagan. Episode 4 of his seminal 1980 PBS Broadcast Cosmos: A Personal Journey is titled "Heaven and Hell" and examines the climates of Venus and Mars in the context of solar system and other planetary science...and ends with a critique of human industrial activity which is uncharacteristically piercing and forceful for Sagan. It got me thinking: climate change is this contentious thing that everyone argues about...but is it real? 

Now...if I were to ask myself the same question about the death of Jared Fogle, the internet would very quickly answer my question definitively. If I were to ask the same question about water molecules and cohesion, I would get a similarly quick and clear answer. Not so with climate science, which is what I found when I brought my climate questions to the internet. It's a mess...a huge mess. 

I have found a few websites who (mostly for their strict comments policies) keep things pretty plain and scientific. Their articles are very straightforward and honest about uncertainty, and the comment threads are open discussions (mostly) back and forth about the findings, their impacts, etc. These have been helpful. But there are two problems I've found with my "research" so far. 

1. The insane political nature of this issue causes extreme suspicion on both sides. I could feel the utmost confidence in something I had read extensively on...but there is still that nagging fear, "what if the scientists are making it all up?!" I really don't think that's true, I have pretty darn good faith in scientists (maybe more on that later). I'm wired by my social surroundings to think it's probably more true that the $$$ oil industry is working a disinformation campaign. That is not unprecedented for big industry. But really I don't want to spend much time on that rat's nest of politic either! I just want to know what's up with the climate, for real, at least as well as the scientists know. Maybe that's a lofty goal, which brings me to the second issue with my research thus far. 

2. While the more sciency sites are far less full of vitriol, they are far more full of science...equations, physics and statistics that are truly beyond me. How can I hope to validate a claim or feel secure in my repeating of it without a really solid understanding. I can certainly follow along with the broad concepts, and I'll definitely expound on them in posts specifically on climate topics, but a misuse of a scientific law, or a fudged statistic could easily slip by me.

I think I'm at a minor impasse where my next steps in exploring this field are to obtain raw data (pretty well available) and make some of my own analyses, as well as brush up on statistics and maybe physics...I think I need to start engaging closer to the science. I had the idea to write about this after seeing this blog post, where an amateur has plotted data on his own to draw some of his own conclusions, which is where I think I'm headed next.

That's a lot of introduction to really say this: 

I don't know if it's right that the political landscape has gotten so out of hand that someone who cares about the environment and the state of the climate has to become a self-made expert. The misinformation, the anger, the partisan squabbling, and the conspiracy paranoia has convoluted this issue so much that I don't know who to trust. (I lean toward the science, but that irrational other side is loud in my ear). Not that self-educating is bad, it's great, it's what I hope to chronicle in this blog. But I feel a little backed into a corner by the noise surrounding climate science.

If even the medium predicted effects of anthropogenic climate warming come to pass, it will push us beyond the bounds of our reasonable habitability on this planet (and our adaptability is way better than many animal species). Aside from that, our ways of producing energy and transporting ourselves are not nearly the best they can be...they involve a complicated, wasteful use of resources and are full of negative externalities aside from enhancing the greenhouse effect. The point is...these are truly pivotal issues for the future of our species, and I would like to be able to hear expertise on the issue and push for change accordingly.

I'm wary of my ability to do that. There will always be the response of the other side of the partisan aisle. Can I really say "you're just plain wrong" if I can't actually show the data myself? While I love an academic challenge, I don't like the reasons for this one's necessity. 

I don't have any good answers, for now I'm going to keep learning and growing in my understanding of this topic.

 I'm also going to seek out more ways I can actually make a difference.

As usual...more on that later. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

About this Blog

I want to write down my thoughts with purpose and constraints.

My mind can be a recursive loop of dealing with issues I face and topics I'm interested in. It's often not helpful or healthy. By writing some of this down, I'd like to get it out of my mind and organize it.

To be clear, I do not intend for this blog to be a rant zone or a stream of consciousness.

It is intended to mainly be topical. But instead of those topics of interest rolling around in my head, I'd like to have a framework to research them, learn about them, and then voice my thoughts on them.

I tried to blog once before and failed miserably! Aside from being disorganized and inconsistent due to ADHD, I tended to either box the blog in and then not be able to find content to fill the box, or over-plan my ideas and never get to actually making them.

I'm really hoping to be freer this round and just write what's on my mind, with hopes of feeling obligated to present topics well, find research to back up my opinions and ideally have a better grasp on things than if I just thought about them non-stop.


Who is my audience? This is a question I'm not too concerned with, at least until I actually make some content.

What are the topics? I expect the grouping of topics to change over time, and I welcome that. Here are some things I'm into right now.

- Climate and environment
- Future of technology and humanity
- Psychology and mental health
- Religion
- Science/Knowledge Seeking/Psychology ("scientia" to be cool and fancy)


There is so much more I care about and want to think and learn about, and those will work their way in here. But those listed are the ones that have really been ringing in my brain lately. The brain-ringing hasn't brought me very far...and that is what this blog is about.

About This Blogger

Hi There,

This is a total experiment. I have no idea if it will work or be effective and helpful. But it's the kind of thing that's impossible to know without trying.

Who am I? I'm a young adult male. I'm caucasian and live in the United States. I am married. I have a Bachelor's degree from a liberal arts college. I have a full time job at a great company which relates in no way to my degree. I have a whole host of interests, but little traction on any of them.

Oh yeah...and I have an attention disorder.

ADHD in the DSM 5 is broken down into two types: inattentive type and hyperactive type. I have the inattentive type. I don't want to spend much time on that here, as I imagine I'll spend a whole post(s) on it at some point. Suffice it to say...the entire world around me is like static on a fuzzy radio station. It's mostly noise and little signal. I have trouble organizing my thoughts, and my things. I have trouble remembering little things. And those symptoms never take a consistent shape in my life...so it's challenging to work around them.

Another thing about me that's related to that disorder and my personality in general is I tend to spend a ton of time in my head talking things out. How I would describe something, how I feel about it, what I think is true. Sometimes it's diatribes on opinions, sometimes it's future conversations I'm preparing for with others, but I fill in the other person's entire side of the conversation, often with falsehoods. Ultimately, most of this inner speak is really unhelpful, I rarely get or take the chance for those words to impact anyone or anything.

So I'm going to try to write them down. With purpose and constraints. More to come.