Fuzzy memories

My memory for some things is awful. It’s a running joke at work, and my graduate students have teased me by admitting their strategy of coming back to me with a research idea that I dismissed weeks ago, with the hopes that I will have forgotten dismissing it, and will get excited about it the second or third time. I can’t say that this strategy hasn’t worked…largely because my memory can be pretty rotten at times. I don’t think it’s pathological, or a sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think some things are salient, and stick, and others are easily dismissed, and forgotten. I also know that memories are quite flexible, and often we remember things very differently from how they actually happened. An article in Vox reminded me of this, and there are other excellent examples out there.

Fair warning, there’s a spoiler below, so if you haven’t listened to the episode of Radiolab called “Reasonable Doubt” and want to/plan to, you might not want to read below the fold just yet.

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The politics of demonization

Politics has always had an ugly side. Although we often feel like we are living through the worst of it, it has clearly been really awful at other times also. CNN had a great piece during the Trump-Clinton election showing some of the awful things candidates said about each other. The current climate includes some of this, and plenty of name calling (our President excels in this artform), but what bothers me the most isn’t the attacks between those individuals, but the blanket demonization of people who vote a certain way or another. Both sides get blame for this, but circumstances seem to be having an impact on republicans (at this moment) more than democrats. I’m not saying that things couldn’t be reversed, and democrats would be the ones to talk about here, but right now, in current politics, the republicans are worthy of some attention. Specifically, I’m talking about what’s happening in Alabama and the continued support of the GOP candidate for Senate. For the party leaders, and many of their voters, democrats are so awful, and so evil, and so wrong for the country, that they would prefer to side with Moore, in spite of all the dirt that’s been unearthed about him, than let a democrat win the seat.

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When our heroes fall

People aren’t perfect. We’re relatively safe when we idolize fictional characters, because they’re less likely to let us down, but when we idolize real people, we run the risk of being let down by their inevitable imperfection. From Bill O’Reilly to Christopher Columbus to Thomas Jefferson, people do unforgivable things, and we’re stuck trying to balance the good with the bad. What interests me is how people react when it happens.

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Disrupter in Chief

I think this is going to be another long, winding road. My thoughts are coming together in waves, and not all that organized. I may delete this opening before posting…or may just leave it here so I can watch the winding road and maybe enjoy the ride. I have a Facebook friend who I do not know in real life, and I don’t think I’ve ever met in real life. He became a Facebook friend because he maintains a pretty sizable following of Trump loyalists, and after going back and forth a few times, he asked me to join the fun. I don’t participate in the banter all that much since the start, mostly because it’s not my style (the typical response from the Trump loyalists is a meme about Hillary being ugly or something like that), and I get bored with the lack of real discussion. The folks over there seem more about winning, when I’m not there to compete. But this group has given me a window into Trump loyalists that I might not otherwise have, and I’ve made some generalizations. I know generalizations are often unwise, and I’m sure there are individuals who support Trump and do not fit this mold. Indeed, I’m not sure at all that these loyalists are representative of Trump supporters at all, so in truth I see this more as a focus group than a survey, but I’ve still seen some interesting things. Let’s start the ride.

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Sex and straw men

The outing of Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator has raised the profile of sexual harassment in a way that I hope does some good. Women are sharing their stories, and letting anybody who doesn’t already know, that harassment is a pervasive problem. I think this is all good, but I think we all need to tread carefully, and see some of the pitfalls that other similar social movements have faced. Also, as a caveat, I recognize that a white cis guy probably isn’t the best voice for this, but given that my maximum readership for any post sits at around six views, I still feel moderately comfortable using this as my diary, as a place to put some flesh on my semi-private thought skeleton. I also think I have a pretty good track record of being against sex discrimination and considering myself a feminist/equalist (see here, and here). So here goes.

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No explanation

Anybody who knows me will know that I crave explanations. It’s likely one of the things that’s so appealing to me about being a scientist. I’ve written about the confusion between explaining and justifying before. In fact, a post about this was one of the first things I wrote for Hitting Bregma. As much as I hate it, so many things go unanswered. Last night, many witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history. What we think we know is that a man named Stephen Paddock opened fire from a hotel room into a country music concert below. As of now, 58 are dead and more than 500 injured (unclear how many were injured by gunshot, and how many were injured in the frenzy during the shooting). This horrific event seems, at least for now, without explanation. For me, that makes it even worse than it already is.

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What I don’t understand about the insurance and state lines thing

Obamacare set up health insurance marketplaces. It didn’t take over health insurance like some would make you believe, but one thing it did was establish a website, not much different from expedia, where people can compare available insurance plans. Of course, it made some rules about the plans that can be sold on this platform, and each state has its own set of plans, so somebody from NY, for example, only gets to shop for plans in NY. Republicans latched onto this, and said that it hurt competition, because insurance companies should be able to sell across state lines. I’m not an expert in health insurance, so I’m sure I’m missing something (maybe something big), but the whole thing always seemed silly to me. I’m the first to warn against anecdote, and I should probably use my own advice here, but every now and then we all ignore the rules (even our own), so here goes.

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