Sunday, January 19, 2020

State of the Me: 2019-2020

Since this new year is a nice, round number -- and I'm hitting 20 years of marriage and 20 years of living in Europe at the end of this new year -- I'd like to give a two-decade review this time.

The three main axes are home/family, career, and creative projects.  All three have had some significant ups and downs.

Let's start with career since that's the simplest one.  It's been a mostly upward (if bumpy) trend since I started as a software engineer around twenty years ago.  Overall I think I've done a pretty good job o treating setbacks as "crisitunities" that ultimately led to gaining good experience. 

Some highlights include the time I had the opportunity to take a product from slides to production as the sole engineer in the company, and another where I served as CTO for more than two years.  Plus, I've written three books on Java programming and have given numerous lectures.

From this past year, I'm especially proud of the three lectures I gave for Climate-KIC the Journey -- including one where I was invited to speak at the Community Summit in Hamburg.  This was a great follow-up to the Climathon in 2018, where I had a great time assisting as an invited expert.  I also gave a talk on building a career through startups (at the Impact Hub).  This was a follow-up to some of my earlier writings for The Startup.

I have just started a new job, and so far it looks like it's going to be an exciting challenge.  I'm doing straight-up engineering (no management), and the project is one that's up my alley.  Of course leaving my previous job was something of a disappointment.  I really wanted to make it work, but I learned that -- while I can fix a lot of things -- there are some big factors outside of my control, even as CTO.  Ultimately, I had stop banging my head against the wall and move on.

Maybe at some point I'll be CTO of another tech startup (hopefully something related to addressing climate change!), but I will have to make sure that I'm really on the same page with the others running the company before accepting this level of role again.  I have learned that agreeing on the grand overarching goal just isn't enough to make all of the other components fit into place.

The path of my creative projects has been a bit bumpier.  Through the first decade of the current millennium I built a beautiful dream -- a work I poured my heart into and am still proud of.  But over the years I found that I couldn't make it take off.  I couldn't get it to soar.  It was devastating to watch that dream die.

I took up blogging around the same time.  It was amazingly fun at first because I could write essays on a variety of subjects that I'd been thinking about -- and people would read them.  But over time that became frustrating as well because the amount of time and effort it took to build any kind of audience and community (here and at Main Street Plaza) was so wildly out-of-proportion with the size of the community I could build.  I've found myself slowly giving up.

That said, I've had a great experience working with people and making friends within the Mormon Lit community.  I loved giving talks and panels at Sunstone.  (See this roundup post for links to some of my publications and presentations.)  The Brodie Awards (which I built) are still going, and there's an exciting new project in the pipeline at Mormon Alumni Association Books -- so hopefully in the upcoming year I can rekindle some of the projects I started.

But for my personal creative/artistic work, my biggest breakthrough came in 2015 when a new story came to me.  During a magical 3-week vacation in Paris I wrote wrote it out and figured out how I could actually draw it in my favorite story format :  la bande dessinée (as a comic book).  Now I've drawn more than 2/3 of the first book (of three), and I love the results!  I'd be done already if it weren't for work.  My new goal is to have book one done before the first half of 2020 is up.

Regarding family and home -- well, I'm happy with what I've built.

I started the millennium on a high note by marrying my true love and starting my new "happily ever after" life in France.  (I recounted act one of this romantic adventure in an essay for the book Baring Witness, 36 Mormon Women Talk Candidly about Love, Sex, and Marriage.) 

It was challenging to start a new life in a new country at the same time as starting a new family -- with two babies who arrived shortly after we installed ourselves in Bordeaux -- and no support network of family and friends there to help us out.  But it was a wonderful, magical time.  I finally felt truly at home living the life I chose for myself.

Moving to Switzerland in early 2008 was hard.  I think that challenge was the main impetus for starting this "state of the me" series, as I explored how I felt about starting over as a foreigner in a new place surrounded by a language I did not speak -- it was as though all of that life I'd built as a person integrated into French culture had been erased.

But, over time, I learned the new language.  I've learned a new city -- Zürich -- which I love now probably as much as I loved Bordeaux.  I became a citizen of France years ago, and we're all on track to become citizens of Switzerland.

My children were so young when we moved that they don't really remember living anywhere except for Zürich -- specifically this one neighborhood of Zürich where we've been living since 2010.  It's a great environment for kids, teens, and young adults because it's so easy to get around on foot, on bike, and especially on public transportation.

I'm glad that my older son passed the Baccalauréat exam this past year and my younger son is on track to pass it as well in a couple of years.  Both boys are very bright, so I had expected them to both be at the top of their respective classes throughout school, but that didn't really happen.  Maybe I should have pushed them harder and run a more disciplined household. 

I think what really stopped them from becoming high-achievers in academics was lack of effort (and lack of motivation to make an effort).  And I think that problem stems in part from each one having a best friend at home and feeling secure and content.  They have all sorts of projects that they collaborate on, and they should be able to build careers in some sort of informatics engineering, so I think they're doing fine the way they are.

My relationship with my husband has grown deeper and more loving over the years.  He is my best friend in the sense that he is the one person I can completely count on to have my best interests at heart -- and vice-versa.  I think that's key to a successful relationship -- each partner cares deeply about the other's happiness and well-being.  Partners, not competitors.

The one home-front area that needs some work at the moment is our home itself.  It's a beautiful apartment that fits our lifestyle well, but the clutter is starting to take over.  One of my goals for the next couple of years will be to sift through all of our junk in the basement storage and in the apartment.  I want to get rid of everything we don't need and organize the rest.  I hate to devote so much of my time to piles of consumer goods, but they're starting to crowd my space, and I don't want to just throw them all in a landfill.

The first part of my organizing-stuff program was to get all of the Legos in order (see this video).  And I made a beautiful Lego city  which has been a super fun project to share with my kids:

Now I'd like to clean up the rest of my stuff.  In particular, I plan to sign up for some online portal to sell or give away anything that's not useful to me but might be useful to someone else.

As for the world at large, it's hard to be really optimistic or hopeful.  The devastation we humans are wreaking upon our environment (that we need to survive) isn't slowing down, yet it needs to turn around and reverse immediately if or species is to survive past the next few generations.

On the bright side, it's encouraging to see worldwide climate strikes -- led by young people who aren't OK with the future that's being passed along to them.  And it's good to see that US democracy has enough breath of life left in it to impeach that criminal.  But US democracy is still on life support and it's not clear it will pull through.  We need to wrench out this kleptocracy and rebuild the civil, democratic institutions and social infrastructure if we are to make the changes necessary to save our world.  Specifically we need to stop the use of fossil fuels pronto, in addition to addressing the related problems of worldwide exploitation of people and resources, and the corresponding wars.  Can we build sustainable, just, and democratic systems to replace our current mess?  I hope so.

I hope Elizabeth Warren will win the US presidency, as I think she really has the skill, passion, and knowledge to take down the current stranglehold that the ultra-rich have on American society.

And I guess my biggest source of hope is the rising generation (from millennials on).  It looks like they recognize the kind of mess we're in, and I hope they are becoming galvanized -- learning down to their cores how dangerous authoritarianism, corruption, and runaway inequality really are.

Here's looking forward to 2020 -- good luck to us all!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Goulash Soup

  • 1.2 liters broth (in a soup pot that holds two liters+)
  • 0.2 liters red wine
  • 600 grams beef or meat substitute (such as Dinki-Gulasch Goulash, 3 packets), in small cubes (1-2 cm diameter)
  • 1 packet (50 grams) "dodatak jelima sa povrcem za Goveđi Gulaš" Vegetable seasoning mixture for beef paprikash
  • 1 large onion sautéd in olive oil
  • 300 grams potatoes, peeled and cubed in 1 cm cubes
  • 1 small knollensellerie (celery root/knob, 200-300 grams) or similar root vegetables, peeled and cubed in 1 cm cubes
  • 2 carrots or similar root vegetables, peeled and chopped
  • 250 grams sweet peppers, red & other colors, chopped in small pieces
  • 1 jar (approximately 300 grams) "Ajvar" (spicy Serbian red pepper sauce)
  • salt, pepper, and paprika powder to taste

    Combine in the logical way:
    1. Boil the broth.
    2. Add the veggies in the order of which ones need to cook longest.
    3. Add everything else (including the olive oil the onions are sautéd in).
    4. Simmer for 1 hour
    5. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.

    Monday, April 22, 2019

    Warren vs. Sanders from a purely political strategy perspective.

    I keep reading the claim that we have to support Bernie because he's the only one who can beat Trump in 2020.  But is that really true?

    First of all, if Trump actually makes it to November 2020 (without being impeached and convicted), then the deadly precedent of allowing blatant presidential criminality would essentially turn what's left of rule of law in the US into a smoking crater.  But the USA is too big to fail, and if Trump is still in the race in November of 2020, then -- even though beating him isn't sufficient to fix things -- it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent things from getting an order of magnitude worse.

    So I'd like to discuss the best strategy for getting a real progressive to be the one who goes up against Trump (or, ideally, up against some other Republican contender that they have to throw in at the last moment because Trump is in jail.)

    Once the primary season is over, I will naturally support whomever they pick and encourage others to do the same -- because of the critical importance of this election.  But I would prefer to vote for someone who will fight for economic justice.  I don't want to hold my nose and vote for Biden, who is the candidate of "Trump is just an anomaly -- if we just go back to what it was like under Obama, everything will be fine..."

    But Warren and Sanders are on track to make that happen by splitting the progressive vote.

    We can talk about their differences in policies and trust-busting chops later, but they are close enough that -- for the purpose of this discussion -- I would like to focus on this idea that "only Bernie can beat Trump," which I think is wrong.  Here are my three reasons why Warren is a better candidate from a political strategy perspective:

    1.  The Olive Branch

    One of Hillary Clinton's biggest liabilities going into the 2016 election was how passionately hated she was by a large portion of the country.  Personally, I went into that primary season with Bernie as my top choice, but after Hillary demonstrated cool-headed competence in the debates and acted as the adult in the room during those endless, pointless Benghazi hearings, I was happy to cast a ballot for her in November of 2016.  But regardless of her skills and experience, the people who hated her hated her ten times more than the people who liked her liked her -- so she wasn't able to win by a large enough margin to overcome the unfair vote-weighting system.

    Then, as I recall, there was an avalanche of vitriol from the Bernie camp directed at Clinton and her supporters.  And the women who supported Clinton were not happy about that in the slightest.

    What happened in 2016 (and following up in 2017) is a gaping wound in the Democratic party that hasn't healed yet.  I recall around the midterms watching a comedy sketch where two Democrats call for unity to build the "blue wave" -- and it immediately degenerates into a fight between the Bernie-supporting dude and the woman who supported Hillary.  And it's funny because it's so true...

    So, ironically, Bernie heads into 2020 with the same liability Hillary had in 2016.  Only this time it's maybe worse because the bad feelings and resentment aren't coming from the opposing party, they're coming from inside the house.

    Now, if you're a Bernie-or-bust person, you're probably saying to yourself that if Bernie wins the nomination, then all those Democratic women should just suck it up and get over it and get in line behind Bernie.  And, yes, of course they should.

    But will they?

    In order to really get out the vote, you need more than just a hated opponent -- you need a candidate that people are excited about.  Unfortunately, the leftover vitriol from 2016 is still sticking to Bernie.  It doesn't matter that it's not his fault.  Most of the vitriol against Hillary wasn't her fault either.  Those are the breaks.

    And to pin the tail on it -- that whole "Bernie Bros" thing...  Is it real or just an unfair slur?  Picking Bernie over Hillary was really about ideas and not at all inspired by sexism or misogyny, right...?

    Well, here's a fantastic opportunity for you to demonstrate that!!  Extend an olive branch and start the healing process by switching your support from Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren.

    2.  The Age Thing

    Yes, I know, Elizabeth Warren is also old.  And Bernie is in good health today.  But they are at an age where a decade matters.  (It's not quite a decade, but statistically women live longer than men, so Sanders is a good ten years closer to an unacceptably-high probability of age-related mental deterioration.)  He would be in his 80's for maybe half of his first term.  And of course the Democrats would absolutely run him again for a second term even if.... yikes, so tempted to make a "Weekend at Bernie's" joke here....

    It is completely disingenuous to dismiss this as some sort of "ageist" bigotry.  The country needs and deserves to have a leader who is physically capable of carrying out the job.

    3.  Passing the Baton

    Bernie helped build an amazing left-populist movement in 2015 and 2016.  He forced the issue and made Socialism go mainstream and become hip again.  But is it about ideas or is it about a cult of personality?

    I hope it's about ideas and not just a cult of personality.  But if Bernie himself and his supporters are convinced that only Bernie can do it -- and he can't bring himself to pass the baton and take his place as "elder statesman" given the above two strikes against him -- then it sure doesn't look like a vital ideas-based movement that can outlive him....

    In conclusion, I'd like to apologise for making this more about Bernie's negatives than about Elizabeth's positives.  So let me wrap up with a new video showing Warren leading the way on one of the most critical issues facing US democracy today:

    Guys, when Obama was running against Clinton, I whole-heartedly supported Obama because I felt he was more qualified and had a better stand on a number of important issues.  I was pissed-off at Gloria Steinem for writing an opinion turning the primary into an oppression olympics between blacks and women, which I didn't think that was appropriate or warranted.  And, as I said, in 2105 and early 2016 I supported Bernie over Clinton because of the difference in their ideas and policies.

    But, now that our candidate is the best candidate, we're done waiting.

    Sunday, April 14, 2019

    Top five wrongest parts of the creation story in Genesis

    I should not have to enumerate this. It should be obvious to the most casual reader of the beginning of the Bible that the creation story is a bunch of guesses by some ancient people -- and they got it wrong pretty much from top to bottom.

    Which is fine. It can be read as a charming poem or metaphor or something if you're from a tradition that cherishes this story. The problem arises when modern people doggedly insist -- in the face of all evidence and reason -- that this story gives an accurate description of how life, the universe, and everything began.

    So I will enumerate here the top five wrongest points in the story. They're not the only wrong bits, but these wrong parts are so egregiously wrong that I don't want to cloud the issues by nit-picking the lesser details like whether the two stories contradict each other, etc.

    #1. Day four: God creates the Sun.

    Yes, after having created daylight back on day one, and all of the worlds plants on day three, God finally gets around to creating the Sun.

    This is game over. It is sincerely not possible to get the sequence of events of Earth's formation more wrong than this.

    The only apologetic excuse I've heard for this one is that the Earth's atmosphere was originally so opaque that it wasn't until the Earth was covered with plants that the Sun and Moon and stars became visible, so -- to the observer writing this story -- it looked like the Sun and Moon and stars were created at that point.

    There are several problems with this excuse. The first is that's not what it says.

    There is nothing in the text to indicate that the other uses of "God created" something refer to Him actually creating the thing, but this one refers to the unnamed observer first noticing it. This interpretation comes from the popular Bible-literalist syllogism: 1. The Bible is not wrong, 2. The thing written in this Bible passage is wrong, therefore 3. What's written in the passage is not what's written in the passage.

    This interpretation of this passage is a classic example of the "Who are you going to believe -- me or your lying eyes reading what's written on the page?" school of Bible study.

    But, even if we were to grant that that interpretation is reasonable (which I don't), it's still wrong.

    The Earth's atmosphere was not opaque (or cloud-covered) enough to block the view of the Sun. Probably not at any point in the Earth's formation, but certainly not continuously from the beginning of the Earth's formation to the point where the land was covered with plants.

    And finally, if your own most charitable interpretation of this passage is that the author of the creation story can't tell the difference between God creating something and himself simply noticing the thing, why would you treat this story as accurate?

    #2. Day four: God creates the stars

    Yep, day four, as an afterthought to creating the Sun and Moon, God creates the stars -- which are described as lights that He placed in the expanse/firmament that He created to hold up the water when it's not raining (see below).

    This one is (in an absolute sense) even more wrong than #1 because the stars already existed for several billion years before the formation of the Earth. Also, they are other suns -- they are not little lights embedded in the firmament.

    I put this one after the one about creating the Sun, though, because it's not quite as bad. Ancient people couldn't really be expected to know that the stars are distant suns. Whereas, I would hope that even the most ignorant ancient person could be expected to figure out that daylight comes from the Sun -- it does not exist independently of the Sun. And hopefully they could also figure out that plants rely on the Sun, and hence wouldn't be green and growing before the Sun existed.

    #3. Day two: God creates the "Firmament" or "Expanse"

    At this point God created something that does not exist and never did.

    This one is easy for modern Christians to ignore because there's no modern word for this thing because no modern people believe in its existence. So it's easy to (intentionally or unintentionally) misread this passage as just referring to the atmosphere or something.

    In reality, this is a reference to an ancient belief that there was a solid physical barrier that "separated the water under the expanse from the water above it." In other words, this is supposedly the thing that holds up the rain except for on the occasions when God opens the heavens and makes it rain. It's also where He embedded the stars, as I mentioned earlier.

    If you don't believe me, the footnote in the  "NIV Study Bible" that I am quoting from gives the following cross-references for the term for this thing God created: "Hard as a mirror" (Job 37:18) and "Like a canopy" (Isa 40:22)

    #4. Days three, five, and six: God creates all living things in the wrong order

    The short version is as follows: day three: all plants, (day four: the Sun??!!!??!), day five: all water-dwelling and air-dwelling animals, day six: all land animals.

    The water-then-land part is kind of correct, but birds existing before any land animals is dead wrong. And the text says that each category was created completely in the above sequence -- which isn't true. New species of plants, water-dwelling animals, land-dwelling animals, and air-dwelling animals (along with other types of life forms) have continuously arisen concurrently from essentially the earliest days of complex cells.

    The evidence for this sequence, by the way, does not depend on the theory of Evolution. The evidence comes from the fossil record -- the millions of fossils that are found in consistent strata around the globe. Let me emphasise this point: the evidence shows that the Biblical creation story's account of the formation of life is wrong all by itself -- no reference to evolution is required.

    #5. God creates the first human by making a clay sculpture and then breathing life into it.

    In the earlier segment of the story, the author is really vague about the mechanisms by which God "creates" things. So you can believe it says that He brought these things into existence with a poof of magic or through some mechanisms that roughly correspond to the evidence. This is the first time that we get some specifics about how God makes things.

    And, unsurprisingly, the method described in the story does not bear any resemblance to any natural process that we have any evidence for.

    Again, I would like to emphasise that the creation story here is wrong all by itself -- without any reference to evolution. A lot of Bible-literalists weirdly single out the theory of Evolution as something they don't want to "believe in" -- because it somehow threatens the Bible. But that line of reasoning misses the point entirely:

    Even if we didn't have the weight of scientific evidence showing us that evolution of species by natural selection did occur and continues to occur, it still wouldn't mean that we have any reason or evidence to conclude that "blowing life into an inanimate statue" is even close to the way that human life arose. The Bible author's guess here is just wrong.

    I'm not going to throw in the creation of Eve at this point because I guess that some Bible literalist could claim that God cloned Eve from DNA in Adam's rib -- which (unlike the animating-a-clay-figure idea) is at least in the same universe with something that is possible. Still, with all the incest coming up later in the book, it's a little horrifying to imagine that the parents in the story were actually clones of one another (not to mention the fact that if Adam is biologically male with a functioning male reproductive system, his clone would not be a female with a functioning female reproductive system).

    Anyway, I hope this list is instructive. But I know it won't be because convincing yourself that the creation story in Genesis is literally true requires such a profound level of delusion that there's no hope that the light of reason will ever penetrate it.

    Sunday, December 30, 2018

    State of the Me: 2018-2019

    As I started thinking about this year's "State of the Me," I immediately thought that this would be a disappointing one where I'd have to list off the goals that I didn't meet. But then I realized that I did meet some important ones, especially some stepping stones towards some longer-term goals. So let's dig in, starting with the disappointments:

    I did not finish illustrating part 3 of book 1 of my comic book. I didn't even finish the dining hall scenes (though all of the materials are ready to finish at least that part as soon as I get some time). The main reason I didn't finish is because I have been working full time and concentrating completely on my responsibilities as CTO of a tech firm. I didn't want to leave for any large block of time, so I got some drawing done while I was taking off Fridays in the Summer as my "vacation" -- but it wasn't really enough to make the progress I wanted to make.

    Disappointment #2 is that -- despite working like a maniac -- I did not meet the IT infrastructure improvement goals that I'd set back in January. The main problem was something I described in my article Growing from Startup to Scalable: In "startup mode" you end up not being able to afford to make investments (of time and human resources) in IT infrastructure that ultimately would save time and resources in the long run...

    But that leads into one of the positive points: I wrote a series of articles for "The Startup" based on some ideas and analysis that I'd been building up over the course of my IT career. I'm also scheduled to give a talk on building your tech career through startups in January -- and I plan to write a companion article for the talk next week. Not to mention that I led a challenge at the Open Food Data hackathon and served as an invited expert at Climate-KIC's 2018 Climathon -- a huge overnight workshop to build startups that combat climate change and its effects. Basically, I've long had the idea of writing a book on how to build and grow the IT department of a tech startup, and it looks like I'm making progress towards that goal.

    On the flip side, devoting all of my time and energy to tech startups has meant that other projects have suffered. I haven't been able to promote MAA Books (and particularly Mormon Erotica) as much as I'd like to have -- though I did organize a book club event within a Mormon Stories Workshop, and I made an appearance on the Mormon Happy Hour podcast. Really, if I could spend all of my time drawing comic books, making videos and podcasts, and writing essays and stories, I would! It has especially been fun -- now that my kids are teenagers -- to collaborate with them on some creative projects, and I intend to do that some more.

    Trouble is, that stuff doesn't make any money -- at least not compared to the IT engineering skills I've built up and honed over the past 20 years. So the best I can hope for is to work four or five days a week to support one or two days of artistic expression (weekends are, of course, devoted to homemaking). That's the situation I've arranged for myself going into 2019, so I guess I have no business complaining.

    And in terms of random fun, I've had the opportunity to construct some pretty impressive infrastructure for our Lego collection:

    The funny part is that we never intentionally set out to amass a ginormous Lego collection. I didn't bring any Legos with me when I moved to Europe, and I even gave away our whole Lego collection once (when my kids grew out of Duplos, I mailed all of our Duplos to a cousin whose kids were younger). But with two kids who each get a few sets a year every year, it adds up. (See how much it's grown since 2012.) And of course I would always encourage Legos over other plastic toys because when you get bored of your set, it doesn't go into storage and then to the landfill -- you can take it apart and use the pieces to build something else.

    And when the Legos are there, in my apartment, all jumbled together in large bins of chaos, I must organize them! It's kind of a "Why did you climb the mountain?" sort of thing, except that none of the mountains have tempted my quite the way a vat of unorganized Legos does...

    And the ultimate objective is to build some new cool things like I've done in the past (see these posts). Also a YouTube reality show "Who Wants to Be a Master Builder?" is in the works! Happy 2019 to all!!

    Tuesday, September 04, 2018

    A Woman in Every Pot

    In response to recent mass murders by self-described “Incels,” there were a couple of high-profile articles sincerely recommending forced redistribution of women. In case you missed them, please follow these links.

    This suggestion was dismissed as absurd for the obvious reasons: that the Incels’ misogyny is 99% of what makes them undatable, and that women — being autonomous humans — cannot be forcibly “redistributed.” But I think the obvious responses are incomplete because a lot of people, when confronted with the idea that women aren’t slaves, respond by thinking “But maybe they should be; maybe things would be better if they were…”

    So today I would like to explain why trying to control women more is not merely unethical — it is also a totally counterproductive approach to the exact problem that the above-linked dudes are trying to solve.

    Let’s lay out the problem: Some portion of the young, straight men in society are unable to find women who want to be with them. This can make a guy frustrated, angry, often violent, maybe suicidal — while the same guy might be happy and feel motivated to be a productive member of society if only he had a wife or girlfriend and possibly also children.

    What happens if we try to solve this problem by decreasing women’s freedom and economic power?

    Look at it from the woman’s perspective. If you don’t have the opportunity to earn a living wage yourself — and your mate’s economic contribution makes a big difference when it comes to getting food, health care, etc., for yourself and your kids — then Geezer McMoneybags starts looking really attractive compared to the charming young guy who is barely able to make a living wage himself. That’s not being shallow or superficial, that’s rational self-interest.

    But let’s change the scenario a bit. Suppose the woman is able to earn a living wage, and her spouse’s financial contribution isn’t a deciding factor in her kids getting to grow up in a safe and healthy environment. Now she’s freer to prioritize other qualities in a mate. The man himself — his time, his efforts, and his character — becomes more valuable than what’s in his wallet.

    Just look at it from an anthropological perspective. Societies with a more patriarchal culture (and with more economic inequality in general) tend to be more polygynous. In other words, the top tier of powerful men monopolize multiple women, either through officially recognized polygamy or through a series of marriages. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are a whole lot of frustrated and hostile men that the ones at the top can use as cannon fodder.

    If you want a male-dominated society full of manly men vying with one another for dominance, then you’re talking about a society that — by design — has quite a lot of losers. It’s not a bug, it’s the whole point. Some Incels and others in the Manosphere have suggested that teenage girls should be assigned to men and forced into marriage. But where do these teenage girls come from? If you are one of society’s losers, do you really think that a patriarch in a country where he legally owns his daughter is just going to give her to you, as a participation trophy for being born male?

    Maybe a solution that is more equitable for the women is actually also more equitable for the men. Obviously women don’t want to be the third string wife to some gross, old, rich, powerful asshole (like Donald Trump, to name one high-profile example). Sure, some will choose that path regardless. But given more attractive options, women are more likely to “redistribute” themselves — rather than sharing each others’ (old rich dude) sloppy seconds. A society where the women have more opportunity to choose men based on their personal merits is a society with fewer male losers.

    The catch is that in this scenario the man has to be better than nothing. Literally. Because when women can get by economically without a man, then having no man at all is on the list of possible options. So if you’re a guy and you want to be with a woman, your presence has to be more attractive than your absence.

    This should not be a high bar to cross. The overwhelming majority of women are either straight or bi, which means that by definition they are attracted to at least some men. Sadly, too many young guys who go looking for dating advice online end up getting sucked into misogynist communities. If your problem is that you are having difficulty attracting a woman, I can hardly think of a more counterproductive solution than finding a bunch of fellow losers and working yourselves into a collective lather over how horrible women are.

    A more effective solution is to work for a more egalitarian society. And keep in mind that women are people — with their own interests and motivations — not prizes.

    Sunday, July 15, 2018

    Mid-year goals!!

    This is a tale of "be careful what you wish for" -- one that I hope can be turned into a plan for making those wishes come true.

    I've told everyone the setup to this tale about a million times, but in case you missed it, let me get you up to speed:

    A few years ago I got the impression that my career was stagnating. I took a look at my experience and skill set and determined that the job I'm most qualified for is CTO of a tech startup. (Check out this article I wrote for The Startup with some of my insights on the subject.) And so I took a risk, worked my butt off at a new company, and now I find I have succeeded in becoming the highly-valued CTO of a tech startup! One that is actively fighting climate change -- another of my big goals!!

    But... The problem is that while growing my career was an important goal -- it's not my only goal or dream. Working full-time-plus kind of crowds out everything else, and I'm left with this constant background of stress of wondering when I'll have time to pick up this or that project again.

    Being undervalued, on the one hand, was enraging and depressing -- but on the other, there's something to be said for being in a dead-end job where you're overqualified enough to just phone it in (and where you only have to work three days per week). I sure had the time and energy to get a heckuvalot else done, and I miss that... :(

    It looks like I am on track to get my IT department into a state where I can reduce my hours to 80% -- or ideally even 60% -- in the beginning of 2019. That's great, but it means another almost six months of postponing all of the other junk I want to do. So, I was thinking that -- maybe if I outline it all here -- I might get some of it done on evenings and weekends...? Also note, I'm currently taking off Fridays for the Summer in order to make some progress on drawing my comic book, and I am really, really hoping to finish at least the dining hall scenes before this vacation time is up.

    So, aside from my comic book (which is dream/goal #1, always), here are the other things I would like to have time to do, organized into categories:

    2. Organize my apartment

    This perhaps shouldn't be #2, but it is. I hate the feeling of being slowly buried in clutter, and I don't want to just throw stuff out. I want to go down to my basement, donate or give away online everything that is usable (but not by me), and hence free up a bunch of space down there.

    Then, I have this dream of constructing my own "Ikea-hack" Lego table (which I have designed in my mind) so that I can free up a huge amount of floor and shelf space in Nico's office (a.k.a. the guest room), and have a beautiful place to sort the whole Lego collection -- and build an awesome city! (I would love to do some of this stuff again!)

    I'm thinking I might be able to get the table constructed during Christmas break if everything works out. Then, naturally, I'll be in a position to organize/donate the rest of the clutter, and for a brief moment, I will live in a blissfully clutter-free home.

    3. Articles, conferences, and MAA Books!

    Here's what I would like to do:

    • Promote MAA Books in general, and Donna's awesome book in particular -- It would be really great to be able to get enough reviews and listings for this book so that we could realistically start working on finding, editing, and promoting our next book.
    • Stoke up the fires of Main Street Plaza -- unfortunately I don't seem to even be able to keep Sunday in Outer Blogness alive. :( Fortunately, Donna has helped recruit another author, but in my fantasy universe we would have a collection of people writing regularly (and be able to pay them...).
    • Write a couple of more articles for The Startup. I have the drafts ready, it's just a question of focusing and doing it.
    • Give a lecture on startups in a tech lecture series (this is in the works).
    • Help organize a Mormon Stories Workshop in Switzerland. This one actually has a deadline (plus I'm not the primary responsible), so it looks like it's really going to happen.
    • Write more articles for this blog. It's not that I think I'll ever have a non-trivial readership here -- it's that I really enjoyed having this sounding-board for my ideas here in the past. After a while I got to the point where I'd written about all the subjects I was really burning to write about, so I stopped. But now it's been long enough that I have a backlog of topics again, and I'm just having trouble getting started.

    There are a couple of additional things standing in my way from getting this sort of stuff done. For some reason I can't seem to start writing a simple blog post without many hours of psyching myself up to do it. Not sure why. Even on a topic that I've been churning over in my head and constructing arguments and phasing for weeks or years -- sitting down and composing it is daunting.

    Additionally, I haven't been reading books regularly for the past couple of years because I used to read in the tram -- and that time has of late been almost entirely eaten up by Pokémon Go. On one level, I feel like this is a shameful waste, but I can't dismiss it as entirely wasted time.

    Pokémon Go has two big advantages for me: (1) it is very Zen -- it allows me to relax and shake off all of the stress while I'm commuting to and from my stressful job, and (2) I am -- really for the first time -- regularly socializing with actual Swiss people. Not just people like me -- international, third-culture folks, mathies and techies -- but really random people of all walks of life who live in Zürich.

    Actually, not everybody who plays is Swiss -- Pokémon Go seems to cut across all categories, immigrants from all countries, locals, tattooed youths, bankers and finance guys in their suits, moms & dads with kids, moms who don't bother to bring their kids (like me), old, young, guys, gals, you name it! And to do it right, you really have to make an effort to meet people and make friends. This has meant stepping outside of my comfort zone in a major way and growing my perspective, so I can't really beat myself up for obsessing over whether I managed to catch this or that shiny pokémon, etc.

    4. Other stuff that should be on the list

    Here's the grab bag of stuff I would love to do if I had an infinite amount of free time:

    • More projects with my kids. I would like to do some of the Kangaroo math challenges with Léo, and help them both to create more image and music assets for the video games they're developing,
    • Political activism. I'm ashamed to admit that I'm one of those people that is watching the news, aghast at what is currently going on, and saying, "Wow, I hope somebody (else) does something about this!!!!" I did register to vote (I can legally vote in the US and France), so I guess that's better than nothing.
    • My own podcast -- yeah, that's a fantasy, but maybe someday if our species lasts a few more decades.
    • Figure out more recipes for the herbs in my balcony garden. That said, I think my garden has been a bit of a success story. I tend it a bit and it produces more foods that I would expect from a balcony.

    I was going to include a list of the blog entries I'm hoping to write -- to see if there's interest -- but let's leave it at this. And we'll see how much I can get done!!