Blog: Corrections in the Air

Corrections in the Air
Corrections in the Air
Date: 2019-Jan-27 00:20:17 EST

Today one of my sisters, her husband, and my nephew came down from Boston - we did museuming, had a meal, and then I walked with them to their hotel to grab their stuff and then to GCT. Good visit.

Later on today I was handling chores and I passed a parent talking with his small child (probably roughly the same age as that nephew, around age 4) about homelessness - the kid wanted to know why someone was sleeping on the street. Sometimes you get more clarity in how you think about an idea when you hear someone else talking to a child about it, or if you were to imagine talking with a child yourself about it. This parent offered a dramatically oversimplified "billionaires don't care" explanation that I think wasn't helpful at all. Admittedly, the answer I'd give, par for the course, is pretty complicated, noting that each case is different, there are systemic failures from society and also individual failures from many of the homeless, there's mental illness in many cases, and so on. It'd be a pretty long talk, and I'm not sure how to best abbreviate it for a 4 year old. Although maybe that's a lesson in itself - complex social issues often can't be simplified for people without a long attention span and capacity for nuance.

Recently was bothered more than I should be that a coworker who I'm reasonably friendly with at work who suggested that he prefers not to interact with others at the gym (we go to the same gym) turned out to invite a different coworker to go to the gym specifically with him. This really shouldn't bug me because, based on my understanding of friendships, he's just a coworker rather than a friend - we don't make any effort whatsoever to hang out outside of work even though we work fairly closely together, and differences in our politics and worldviews are fairly stark. He's not someone I'd mind being friends with (in the past many of my friends were people who've seen the world fairly differently), but it hasn't happened and there's a chance he's compartmentalised his work friendliness from his personal life. And it's not my place to push on that. The casual deception hurts a bit, but it's the material of which work-personal-life boundaries are built. Pretty normal.

The recent government shutdown is stopped for now with a bandaid. One of the things I find most frustrating about the shutdown, apart from it being an attempt to use blackmail to bypass Congress, is that flight delays were seen as a forcing function rather than so very many other far more important things. My feelings would've been the same if it had been about something other than funding a wall, and largely the same had this been a Democrat doing it for a cause I favour. The abuse of power is the deepest problem here. I think a full wall across the entire border is a dumb idea, not an evil one. I don't want to spend money on it and in areas where it's not needed I don't want it there (ecological effects). To me this really wasn't about the what though, it was about the how.

On the topic of the wall as a legislative proposal passed a non-democracy-breaking way:If someone offered to wave a magic wand that would make an invisible magic wall across the border that's too deep to dig under, too high for humans to throw things over, that other animals would pass right through (provided they're not carrying things humans gave them), that would have no maintenace, gaps at points of intended entry, and do all this at no cost, I'd take it. Even though I wouldn't see it covering the entire expanse as having great benefit. A real-world wall is simply not a good use of funds, it'd be too easy to get under or break, and too expensive to maintain for the full length. Selective walls? Sure. They already exist in some places and I don't want to get rid of them when/where they make sense. Human and technological enforcement in problem areas? Sure. Surveillance? Sounds good. And even though there's a point to be made that many illegal immigrants are simply people who have overstayed their welcome and who legally entered, there's a point as well that they both passed a bar to enter and were doing it the right way, as well as a note that porous borders are not always so much about immigration as it is smuggling of goods. Targeted walls help there. I could support efforts to boost funding for improved control of entry were it done in intelligent ways. But this physical wall across the entire US-Mexico border is something a 5th-grader would come up with, and it's a shame that so many people somehow got on board with it.

Recently I've been fascinated by how much our parsing of human faces and bodies impacts everything about how we understand individuals. For most of the people I know, I'm pretty sure if I flipped their faces around and preserved everything else (and removed and replayed all my interactions with them in my memory), I'd likely reach fairly different impressions of them - I may be more forgiving to some faces, more drawn to others. And, like most people, I prefer to be around attractive people (of both genders, regardles of whether there's a romantic spark or not) and not to be around ugly people. I don't believe there's much of a racial element to my parsing (diverse family and circle of friends throughout my life), but there are definitely other effects. I am not ashamed of any of this - I see it as being so central to being human that I can't imagine it not being there, although I take care to override (or at least check) it in certain domains of life, largely at work, and most importantly in actions that directly impact someone's progress in their career path where I'm asked to evaluate them. Outside of work, where finances are not involved, I don't and don't want to override that; the concepts of fairness are mostly not applicable (although in certain cases, other reasons may enter - if I were more likely to accept philosophical arguments from people I find attractive, that would represent a blight on my judgement even though the idea of fairness to the arguer is not something I apply). I've been trying (a little bit) to look for more regularities in these things (for example, I tend to parse quirkiness and emotiveness in small people much more positively than in taller people - a small person jumping around might be cute or amusing, but a tall person doing that is more often irritating to me).