January 31, 2012

I am a Cynical Optimist

I was called a cynic the other day.

That's a fair assessment. After all, I have a general distrust in human motivation, and therefore any and all institutions headed by said humans.

But, I am not a pessimist. In fact, I have incredible hope.

The world is not getting worse and worse. The evolution of technology, transparency and thought is overwhelming human ignorance, by definition. The world will get better and better. In fact, it's already started.

January 30, 2012

And Life Still Goes On…

Today, I will attend the wake of my friend's father. Tomorrow, my friend will be induced into labor, and has been told to prepare for incredibly low odds of survival for her precious baby boy.

I don't know what to do with these things. Before leaving for work this morning, I had fun with my daughter. I felt guilty about it.

If I internalize the pain that currently exists in this world, it will paralyze me. Yet, if I ignore it altogether, I may go my entire life without working to remedy it.

January 27, 2012

Politicians Use Attack Ads Because They Work

"I hate negative ads. Why don't politicians just explain why they're the best person for the job, rather than tearing down the other guy?"

Well, that's an easy answer. Politicians use attack ads because they work.

They work because of our gross ignorance. We like people because they're funny, attractive and can deliver zany one-liners. Attack ads remind us who these people really are.

"Oh, he killed a guy? Wow, I'll guess I'll vote for the other one."

These ads usually remind us about voting record hypocrisy that reveal a person's true self. Most importantly, they work.

January 26, 2012

The Class Warfare Inside My Mind

Ever hold the door open for a janitor and realize you're still the same helpful, polite person you always were?

How you don't consider yourself better than anyone else. How you're all in this together.

Just wait until they don't thank you for the gesture.

If you're anything like me, you'll immediately revert back to, "Who does this lowly janitor think he is?!"

January 25, 2012

Happy vs. Hope-y

Circumstances are temporary.

I can handle long periods of temporal suckiness, given I believe I'm on course for future escape.

But when those ladders collapse before my eyes, my happiness instantly deflates. Yet, my circumstances haven't changed?

So, what am I looking for? Happiness? Or hope-yness?

January 24, 2012

Diarrhea, Cha Cha Cha

Receptionist: "Mrs. Smith canceled her appointment."
My Wife: "Why?"
Receptionist: "Take a wild guess...."
My wife works as a physical therapist within the blue collar suburbs of Chicago.

It is common for patients to call up and cancel their appointments because of diarrhea.

Now I just heard this story yesterday, and still haven't fully internalized this. These patients could say anything. "Upset stomach." "Have the flu." "Just not feeling well."

But instead, they're willingly offering up this information. And this isn't just one person, but is SO common, it's become an inside joke among her staff.

I'm trying to understand the social norms behind this story. For instance, I don't believe I've ever used the word in public before. I was under the impression that this was an unmentionable.

Who's the weird one here? Them or me?

January 23, 2012

The Questionable Value of Learning a New Language

Today, technology exists that allows me to speak into a phone in English, have the phone translate my words, and have it speak to another individual in their own language.

In the purest sense of the idea, communication with other peoples no longer requires I learn a foreign language.

Now, if you are an English-speaking physician working in a largely Hispanic-populated city, this communication "solution" isn't good enough. Likewise, if you plan on moving to a foreign country one day, it's simply more practical to learn that country's specific language.

But, for the rest of us? It taking two years of French in high school a good thing? Sure. But, is it of more value to me than learning how a carburetor works? I'm not sure. I want to know "how much value" learning a foreign language has in a world where, in terms of sheer communication, it's no longer necessary.

January 19, 2012

Your Kids SHOULD be Smarter Than You

When I hear parents complain about their teenagers thinking they're smarter than they are, I wonder if they might be right.

After all, this transition almost inevitably occurs. And I meet a whole lot of stupid adults on a regular basis.

The foundational knowledge kids are learning is far more advanced than when we went to school. 2nd graders are learning the math I learned in 5th grade. They are perpetually connected to information. From their peers. From wikipedia.

When I didn't know something as a kid, and my mom didn't know, she'd either have to make up an answer, or I'd have to stop caring. Today, an instant answer can be found for nearly every passing curiosity. Blind faith no longer needs to exist, so doesn't.

Kids today also have an inherent belief in transparency, liberty and freedom made possible by the Internet and the digital revolution. Their frame of reference is cleaner than ours. Less junk we always assumed was right. Less prejudice. More humility.

Your kids might already be smarter than you. And this is a good thing.

January 18, 2012

SOPA Over-Simplified

Today, as we often do here, I will over-simplify an intricate issue in order to provide marginal understanding.

Internet piracy is a legitimate problem. Protecting the original authors of digital content is important.

But similar to how chaining a drunk to a wall would prevent him from purchasing alcohol - SOPA legislation requires you giving up a whole lot of freedom in order to curtail the problem.

January 17, 2012

No One Really Knows What They’re Talking About

Person #1: "The Bears need to run the ball more."
Person #2: "But, Jacksonville's D-line was putting 8 in the box."
Person #1: "Umm...."

Person #1: "We need to get our troops out of Afghanistan."
Person #2: "What do you see happening to the Pashtun South after our exit?"
Person #1" "Umm...."

Person #1: "Jesus died to set you free."
Person #2: "Do you believe the resurrection offers universal reconciliation through unlimited atonement?"
Person #3: "Umm...."

Ever catch yourself in a conversation with someone who actually knows what they're talking about? It's not until then you realize how little you actually know.

We are all smart. We are all well intentioned. And we don't have any idea what we're really talking about.

We have pieces. We may have more than the guy next to us. But, we can't see the whole puzzle. And yet, we're so utterly confident.

But, our certainty comes not from too much knowledge, but too little.