David Simon, pitch-perfect as usual, on his friend Tony:
Go, move, see, feel, eat – grow. The Church of Bourdain was founded not
merely on the ever-more-vulnerable national credo that all Americans are
created equal, but on the much more ambitious insistence that this declaration
might be applied wherever you wandered and with whomsoever you cooked or
shared a meal. He remains, for many of us, the American that we wish
ourselves to be in the world’s sight. To have him widely displayed as our
countryman, open to and caring about the rest of the world, and being so amid
our current political degradation — this was ever more important and heroic.
To lose him now, amid so many fear-mongering, xenophobic tantrums by those
engaged in our misrule, is hideous and grievous.
But make no mistake: It wasn’t love of food that led Bourdain to the embrace
of a shared human experience, of a world merely hiding its great commonalities
behind vast and obvious culinary variations. It was the other way around. Tony
was intensely political, a man always aware of those at the margins, or those
who seem never to be reached by wealth or status or recognition.
Trust and psychological safety are core elements of high performing teams.
Trust is the willingness of a party to be vulnerable someone else. Trust
implies that you respect your teammates abilities and you respect their
intentions. Psychological safety builds on trust and is more about how you
feel about the team dynamics. What are the risks of blame if you try something
Trust is about individuals and psychological safety is about the team. And
when we build teams that have that trust, where people feel like they can be
their whole selves, and they feel safe enough to raise their hand, to offer
contradicting opinions, to think differently and work differently and
contribute in their own way. That’s when we get a high-performing team.
I can’t speak for all biracial people. And I’m not saying that Meghan Markle
and Barack Obama and other celebrities should be removed from the black
community and added to the biracial community; racial identity is not and
should not be a zero-sum game. It is clear that everyone needs positive
representation, especially racial and ethnic minorities and women. But the
either/or system that so much of our society uses simply doesn’t work when a
biracially identified person is involved.
I struggle to cancel out my stupid meat brain’s automatic categorization of
people based on superficialities. People are a lot happier when they’re free to
assert their identities for themselves — or choose not to at all — than when
others impose at-best misguided perceptions on others.
A simple post. “Something to make you think,” Dustin Curtis wrote. I followed
the link and have hardly stopped thinking about it since.
Sam Harris wants to help non-religious people understand how it feels to be a
believer confronted with scientific rationality. Toward that end, he offers the
fireplace delusion. The idea is simple:
On a cold night, most people consider a well-tended fire to be one of the more
wholesome pleasures that humanity has produced. A fire, burning safely within
the confines of a fireplace or a woodstove, is a visible and tangible source
of comfort to us.
That love is misguided, however. The scientific evidence is compelling:
The unhappy truth about burning wood has been scientifically established to a
moral certainty: That nice, cozy fire in your fireplace is bad for you. It is
bad for your children. It is bad for your neighbors and their children.
So far so good. People like to romanticize fires, yet research shows it to be
anything but wholesome. It’s incontrovertible, and Harris presents the argument
well. I’ve never felt that fires were particularly healthy, so it was no
challenge to convince me.
Yet it seems that my reaction may be unique, to judge by the reactions of the
people with whom Harris has discussed the issue:
I have discovered that when I make this case, even to highly intelligent and
health-conscious men and women, a psychological truth quickly becomes as
visible as a pair of clenched fists: They do not want to believe any of it.
Most people I meet want to live in a world in which wood smoke is harmless.
Indeed, they seem committed to living in such a world, regardless of the
My reaction to such a commitment: Those people are being completely
irrational. Why would anyone argue with such compelling evidence, unless they
are so wed to their belief that it deafens them to the truth. They plug their
ears and over and over shout “I can’t hear you!” These are Harris’s friends:
Of course, if you are anything like my friends, you will refuse to believe
this. And that should give you some sense of what we are up against whenever
we confront religion.
Now, I am not a religious person, and like Harris strongly advocate for the use
of scientific reasoning and rational thought in social, political, and economic
discourse. I have no bona-fides to offer, but personally find the entire idea of
religion to be nonsensical.
But even I think that this analogy — admittedly imperfect, Harris says — to
be entirely disingenuous.
The problem is not that religious people are irrational in their beliefs, but my
reading of The Fireplace Delusion makes exactly that point: Religious people
continue to believe in the face of rational refutation simply because they want
to believe. But that’s a dishonest reading of faith.
Faith has nothing whatsoever to do with rationality.
Nothing. Nada. Faith is not an irrational resistance to rational reasoning and
facts, because it is not subject to rational reasoning and facts. It’s something
different, an entirely other animal. Not irrational, but a-rational.
A better analogy than the fireplace delusion might be something derived from
it. I offer, instead, love.
Love is not rational. It cannot be refuted by rationality and facts. Scientific
reasoning may suggest that my entire biological purpose is to
pass my genes on to my children. Yet my deep and abiding love for my wife
does not enter into it. It might be argued that love evolved to increase the
chances of human genetic success, but such argument neither supports nor refutes
my love the way scientific research refutes the value of fire. It simply is.
It’s not just love and religion that work like this, that are a-rational. Art.
Jazz. Hacking. That which motivates, that drives passion, dedication, and
creation, that embodies culture in the Anthropological sense-including, yes,
the pursuit of scientific research and reasoning-is a-rational. No, better: it’s
extra-rational. That’s part of what makes it beautiful.
You cannot refute love. You cannot refute art. You cannot refute faith. Because
they are not in the domain of refutation, are not subject to the facts. They are
something else entirely. Often-not always, but often — they create beauty.
I got an invitation to write on Medium a couple weeks ago. I have been
pondering some more philosophical posts lately, so I thought I’d try posting
there. My first post, “Misguided Delusion,” [update: moved here] tries to
pull apart the the false dichotomy between faith and rationality. Yeah, really.
That kind of thinking is a throwback to a previous career path, but one that
has, of course, always stuck with me. And I am very happy with how the post
It remains to be seen whether or not I write more stuff like that. It’s
rewarding, but time-consuming.
I’ve been using Comcast for Internet for several years, but we haven’t had any
TV service at all since we cancelled DirecTV about 18 months ago. And thanks to
iTunes, Netflix, thedailyshow.com, and colbertnation.com, and BitTorrent, we
haven’t missed it one bit.
It has been our preference to download officially sanctioned TV shows and
movies. But there are a number of really great shows shows for which the current
season’s episodes aren’t readily available through sanctioned online channels.
There are only three ways to get them, that I know of:
From a cable or satellite provider
Wait for DVD/Netflix/iTunes releases
Yeah, that’s it. And it’s even worse if you don’t happen to live in the US. I’m
grateful for thedailyshow.com and colbertnation.com, and shows that appear
pretty quickly in iTunes, like Breaking Bad. But many quality shows do not. Of
course there are services like HBO Go, but they’re only available to cable and
I don’t want to download such shows from BitTorrent; I want to make sure that
the people who created them are well rewarded for quality programming. So if I
want to see them now, that leaves me only one choice: subscribe to a cable
Into the Lair
A few weeks ago we did that. We added phone and TV (including HBO) to our
Comcast service. The Internet service was the same as ever (pretty good), while
the phone service is pretty transparent (and cheaper than Qwest). And that makes
sense: These are just services for pushing bits around, not at all complicated.
The TV service was something else entirely.
Holy mother of hell is it terrible. We opted not to get a DVR; the pre-DVR
technology is worse than you remember. But it’s not the technology that’s so
awful, since we could always opt for a DVR or subscribe to TiVO. The real issues
The remote is impenetrably complicated; I don’t have any faith a DVR remote
would be much better
The on-screen menus are miserable to navigate and read
I couldn’t find shit about what “package” we had on the web site
Comcast.com thought we didn’t have HBO and so wouldn’t let us access HBO Go
There are 1000s of channels of shit
I called support, and before I gave up, at some point an ad for pay-per-view
programming streamed into my auditory canal
Did I mention that there are 1000s of channels of shit programming?
Truly, the user experience is just terrible. Now, I know it can be better,
because we had the old DirecTV TiVO, which worked pretty well. But even DirecTV
doesn’t use TiVO anymore, and from what I understand, all other DVRs have a
And don’t get me started on the programming. Remind me again why I should pay
for the privilege of getting horrible programming and atrocious ads pushed into
my TV? Shouldn’t they pay me for that privilege?
I can only conclude that cable and satellite providers hate their customers.
They get them to sign up for a plan to auto-pay $80 or $90 or $125 a month, and
then they don’t have to care about what kind of service they provide. Interfaces
don’t matter. Design doesn’t matter. Simplicity doesn’t matter. Complication
I don’t want this. Why do I have to pay such a heavy price in terms of usability
and quality just so I can pay for the shows I actually want to watch? I don’t
want to give Comcast my money. I don’t want to give “Real Housewives of Miami”
my money. I want to give Blown Deadline and HBO my money.
Dear Distributors and Production Companies:
Please don’t make me pay the cable or satellite provider tax! Don’t make me pay
for a bunch of crap I don’t like, and for a terrible user experience, just so
you can get a small slice of it. Please, please, please let me pay you for
your shows. Release them on iTunes. I’ll pay. Release them on Netflix. I’ll pay.
Make them available outside the US, people will pay to be caught up on the great
stuff everyone else is talking about on Facebook! Just let us find your shows
easily and pay to download or stream high-quality videos to play on our
computers and Apple TVs. (Bonus if I don’t have to deal with flash!).
After 2 weeks, we called Comcast and cancelled the TV service. We’re back to our
original plan, minus BitTorrent. Here’s what we’ll do:
If a show is available from Netflix, we’ll get it there.
If a show is available for free on the web, like thedailyshow.com, we’ll
get it there
If a show is available from iTunes, we’ll get it there
If a show is available on DVD, we’ll order it from Netflix
And for shows that are not immediately available for the current season by any
of these means, well, I guess we’ll wait. I think most shows come out on iTunes
or DVD after a year or so. We’ll just deal with the lag. I wish it wasn’t there,
but it is, and I’m no longer willing to dirty myself using a TV service.