(This post first appeared on Medium.)
Is it okay to cry?
Really? I’m not being too emotional?
No, really. Go ahead and cry. This is a fucked-up thing, and it would be weirder if you weren’t upset. Continue reading
Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America.
This was a shock, but it was also not a surprise. It is always a mistake to underestimate the depth of bigotry.
I have spent most of the day staring off into nothing. I have not gone more than half an hour without tearing up or outright crying. I am already sick and tired of reading postmortems but I cannot stop clicking them like a hamster on speed, looking for something that could have saved you, could have saved us. I am angry at everybody. I am angry at everything. I want to tear shit up and burn things down. I want to disappear. Continue reading
(This post was first published on Medium.com)
About a week ago, I posted the following tweet:
I have such complicated thoughts about the Ashley Madison hack, much of which comes down to "schadenfreude is ugly and unworthy of us".
— Jay Dot Zhang (@phirephoenix) August 19, 2015
In the week since a lot of new information has come to light. There has been a second, larger dump with source code and the CEO’s email. We know about “family values” activist Josh Duggar’s account on the site (for which he seems to be more apologetic than, you know, molesting his sisters). We know about women and members of the LGBTQ population living in repressive regimes whose lives have been put at serious risk because of the leak. We know there are already mercenary “security experts” that are using the public’s fear to harvest email addresses for scams. We are starting to see real-world fall-out, including at least two possible suicides that have been linked to this.
In other words, things have gotten a lot more complicated.
This issue is about much more than infidelity. It’s about our vicious delight in negativity, the inevitable failure of computer security and computer literacy, the collateral damage of schadenfreude, the normalization of vigilante justice, and a collective desire for black-and-white judgments.
This is going to get long. Bear with me. Continue reading
I got into a conversation about raising the minimum wage on a friend’s FB thread, and I am reposting my comments here cleaned up a bit so that text is not wasted.
If you work 40 hours a week doing nothing but flipping burgers, or mopping floors, or making coffee, I see no conceivable reason why you should not make a living wage. Any argument that attempts to justify why someone working full time should be unable to support themselves is nothing but classist bullshit for “keeping the poor in their place”. Continue reading
Bell Let’s Talk always makes me super uncomfortable for reasons I can never quite articulate. Part of it is because I dislike a company advertising for itself on the backs of advocacy for mental health awareness. I get that this campaign is more effective at raising awareness across the country than Bell just silently throwing a whole gob of money at CAMH, but the ads don’t have to be so damn branded. (Note: I have similar issues with the Dove Campaign co-opting feminism. You didn’t start the conversation, you’re just benefiting from it. Yes, I am a cynical asshole.)
Part of it is also the nagging sense that we’re missing something, and moreover, that the thing we’re missing is being further obscured by a focus on talking.
Astute readers may notice that this means I basically cry at everything (fictional). You would be correct.
I wanted 2015 to be the year I start blogging again.
Scratch that, I wanted 2015 to be the year I start writing again.
It doesn’t matter that “writing” has been on my New Year’s Resolution list since time immemorial. It doesn’t matter that I never live up to that vow, for a variety of excuses that do a pretty decent job of masquerading as plausible reasons. If insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing with the expectation of a different outcome, then call me insanely hopeful about each successive year’s potential to not suck.
I don’t believe in superstitions and symbolisms. Except a tiny part of me does. And that tiny part of me wanted 2015 to be a fresh beginning.
The Texas State Senate just saw an absolutely amazing act of civic and democratic engagement. There is so much I want to say about it, but first I want to outline the events as they went down, for context.
On May 27, Texas governor Rick Perry abused executive power and called a special session of the senate that had more lax rules about how bills could be passed. These special sessions are meant to deal with specific issues and crises, but have been exploited to ram through bills that the regular senate sessions didn’t pass. Special sessions only need a simple majority to pass bills, unlike the 2/3 of quorum required at regular sessions.
On June 11, more than two weeks in, Republicans added an omnibus bill SB5 to the special session that directly targeted reproductive justice: One would ban abortion at 20 weeks, regardless of rape, incest, life of the mother, ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, or divine intervention. The other imposed such stringent requirements on abortion providers (down to the fucking corridor sizes) that only 5 of the 47 abortion providers in Texas would qualify, and the others would have to shut down.
(This special session was called for redistricting issues, and had just had transportation funding added to its docket. Oh, special sessions are meant to deal with crises? And should focus on specific issues? Well fuck you, I’m Republican.)
Last Thursday on June 20, 700+ Texans showed up at the hearings in Austin to testify with their story and to stage a citizen’s filibuster against the vote. They were shut down at around 3 AM, despite there being hundreds of people left who had been there for 12 hours who did not get a chance to testify, because their testimonies were getting “repetitive”.
Last Sunday on June 23, hundreds of Texans showed up again at the debates hoping to prevent a vote on SB5, as Democrats proposed amendment after correction after amendment that delayed the vote for 15 hours. It’s notable that the woman who actually sponsored the bill stopped taking questions 2 hours in, because she was jeered for saying that rape and incest exceptions to the abortion ban were not necessary because rape kits can “clean a woman out”.
On Monday morning at 4 AM, the Republicans used their majority to force an end to the debate and the legislature gave preliminary approval to the bill. I should mention that about 63% of Texans think there are enough abortion laws on the books in the state, and 75% of Texans think abortion is a decision for the woman and her doctor, not for politicians. This meant, however, that there was a 24-hour-delay until the Senate could consider it.
I was emailed this excerpt from an HBR article recently:
Before trying to pursue a significant goal, especially a professional one, it’s important to assess whether you have the ability to achieve it. Consider two things:
- Do you have the required core capacities: knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics?
- Are your capacities as good as or better than those of other people with the same goal?
If you answer no to either question, you should consider revising your goal. If you answer yes to both, make sure you’re not succumbing to one of these five common fallacies:
- The hard-work fallacy: Believing that determined effort will compensate for your shortcomings
- The smarts fallacy: Thinking that general intelligence translates into specific skills
- The magnification fallacy: Assuming that your particular talent is somehow more special than your peers’
- The passion fallacy: Believing you’re good at things just because you really enjoy them or because they are immensely important to you
- The “wishing will make it so” fallacy: Convincing yourself that success (for you, anyway) will be easy
So this is an interesting concept, but it feels a little bit like the cold-reading of self-help business writing, because it could apply to everything, but it could also apply to nothing. The inverse of those conditions are also truisms, right? Don’t measure yourself against other people in order to gauge your success; everyone is different. If you wait until you are absolutely sure of all conditions for success before starting, you will never start anything, so start before you’re ready. (That second one is a big thing in programming – start a project before you know what you’re doing, and learn as you go.)
I mean, think about what the inverse of one of those “common fallacies” would actually say: “Determined effort is no guarantee for success”. “Being intelligent does not necessarily mean you have skills”. “Your unique skill set is actually not unique”. “You’re might suck at things even if you really love them and try really hard.” They might be more “realistic”–whatever that means–but those types of thoughts are all also oftentimes symptoms that someone is, well, clinically depressed.
And while it’s true that clinical depression has been linked with a more harsh worldview that does indeed take into account these fallacies, it’s certainly no way to live. These rules also neglects the “risk assessment” portion of decision making – sure, nothing is a guarantee, but what are the chances I’ll succeed, even though I’m not unique or skillful and only have hard work and passion? Well, that depends on your definition of success, but I would say they’re not too terrible, especially if you are privileged enough that you have free time to read HBR articles (or know what HBR is). Hard work (which assumes that you are able-bodied in a way that’s suited for the work you need to do) and passion (which often translates into perseverance) are harder to come by than you’d think.
Plus, maybe someone else has the same goal and has more absolute “capacity”, but that doesn’t mean it’s a zero sum game. Maybe both of you can succeed in similar measures, or that someone else might get a better version of that goal (Ubisoft instead of Zynga if you’re both game devs) without knocking you off your rail. Since both of you have a mix of different types of capacity, even if theirs is “objectively” better than yours, there will be specific circumstances where one trait will be more important than another, and vice versa (e.g. sometimes personal characteristics like eagerness to learn will outweigh absolute technical skills). It’s not like capacity is a raw score from 0-100 – it’s a mix of a variety of interacting factors that are difficult to predict.
Those “fallacies” also ignore the halo effect – confident people seem like they know what they’re doing, so people believe in them more. There’s a reason “fake it ’till you make it” is a popular mantra. In many instances, being deluded about your chances for success actually is not a bad trait to have, as long as it doesn’t preclude you from learning things you don’t know.
TL;DR: Success is large; it contains multitudes.