Archive for the ‘opinion’ category

Biased

August 12, 2017

I posted this on my other blog, Both Sides Now, but I’m posting it here because it’s relevant to the purpose of both blogs.   It’s also think it’s a good post and gives me an opportunity to promote my new blog to readers of Older Eyes.  If you are one of the few who already subscribe to both, I apologize.

biasI like to begin my day with a cup of coffee at my side and my tablet in front of me, seeing what is going on in the world from the various news outlets. I have searched for years for a source of unbiased news (a phrase that should be a truism but turns out to be an oxymoron) but have finally settled on reading biased news from a variety of sources, then drawing my own conclusion. Over in the blogosphere or on social media, it is worse. Opinions masquerading as facts may not win the day but they dominate it. It is as if we are pre-programmed to be biased, which we are. The culprit is not some brain-hacker out of The Matrix but a fundamental characteristic of our species known as Confirmation Bias. Our Creator (or Evolution, you choose) has endowed us with a very strong tendency to sort through the array of information available to us at any instant and choose that which supports our currenttiger2 opinions, thus strengthening our belief. Some scientists explain that for our ancestors, dealing with simpler (but more critical) situations (like Is that a Sabre-Toothed Tiger and is it likely to eat me?), reaching a quick decision in the face of sensory overload was a matter of life or death. If this is the case, then Confirmation Bias is strongly linked to our Flight or Fight Response, becoming strongest when the situation seems threatening.

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Both Sides Now

August 8, 2017

both sidesI am 73 years old. I have watched two generations of parents live their lives then slip away to whatever comes next. It seems to happen in one of several ways. The easiest way out seems to me to be what most people consider the most tragic … a sudden accident that snuffs out a life in its tracks.  Then there are the injuries and illnesses that gradually drain the life from those we know.  According to Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying, that can be a time to finally appreciate life and be the man (or woman) you were meant to be. Somehow, I suspect that doesn’t come easy. Then there are those that just getstranger old and slip away. Certainly that is sometimes just due to the aging of the body, but I have a theory why others just decide to let go and die. I think as we age, we look at the world that’s changed around us and don’t like what we see. We feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land (to shoplift the title of Robert A. Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel). And at some point we just say, I’m ready for whatever’s next. It can’t be worse than this.
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ABCD … LGBT

June 26, 2017

prejudiiceWhen I was a teenager, my Mom and I had a discussion about prejudice and racism, in particular.  I don’t remember what precipitated such a discussion but it was likely news of some atrocity that had taken place in the South toward Negros.  That was the proper name back then.   My Mom told me that by the time I was her age, there would be no more racism because all the races would have intermarried, creating a single race.  Little did I know then how far her prediction would fall from the truth but it remains a fond memory of the kind of woman my mother was.  A few years later, I would join the first interracial fraternity at the University of Connecticut where I’d have the life-changing experience of talking civil rights as the only white guy in a room of African Amercan (by then, the proper term) brothers. At college, I would meet a pretty Jewish girl who would become my wife and I’d study the world’s religions (against the advice of my pastor, by the way).  I’d like to say I graduated without any prejudices but in a world full of ethnic and religious slurs, it is all too easy to reach for one in my head, even if I don’t say it. And of course, there were new prejudices to deal with as life went on, ones that were at least tacitly acceptable in my young adulthood. (more…)

Earth? Flat.

February 21, 2017

flatI was a bit astounded, even in this age of alternate facts and pseudo-science, to hear Kyrie Irving express his belief that the earth is flat.  My first reaction was what my Dad used to say when someone said or did something that was ridiculous …. What and idiot!   But of course, I know Irving isn’t an idiot or is he dumb.  He attended Duke University, for Pete’s sake, even if it was to play basketball.  I wondered if he was joking or trying to make a subtle point about fake news, but given a chance to retreat, he stood by his assertion.  Several other players, including LeBron James, defended his right to believe that the earth is flat.   It is certainly his right but why would he … or his friends … want him to look incredibly uninformed in front of the world, especially when there are so many simple ways to see that the earth is indeed round?

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Enough

November 7, 2016

(I do not usually post about politics here, which is why I haven’t posted for so long.  It’s been hard to take my eyes and mind off this train-wreck of an election.  Hopefully, this post will be cathartic and I can get back to being the realistic optimist that I used to be.)

enough2In the 2002 film, Enough, Jennifer Lopez plays Slim, a working class waitress married to wealthy contractor, Mitch, played menacingly by Bill Campbell .   Though the marriage starts out well, by the time their daughter, Gracie, is five years old, Mitch has become physically and emotionally abusive.  Slim and Gracie go on the run, changing their names and starting a new life in Seattle.  But Mitch is not only wealthy, he is well-connected with underworld types and unscrupulous lawyers.  He continues to stalk his wife and daughter, until, when Slim realizes he will never stop until he get sole custody of Gracie, she learns Krav Maga, a self-defense system developed by Israeli Defense Forces.   She develops an elaborate plan to confront Mitch in his own house and kill him in self-defense.  In the finale, she … if you’ll pardon the expression … kicks the living shit out of him but is unable to bring herself to kill him.  This gives him the opportunity to strike her and as she is lying on the floor, he tries to kick her, an eventuality her martial art trainer predicted.  Using a technique he taught her, Slim counters and Mitch falls from the second floor to his death.  Critics mostly hated the movie, saying it was unrealistic and trivialized the real problem of abuse but I have to admit, I have a weakness for movies in which a woman gets real revenge on an abusive husband, so I always enjoy the closing scene.

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The Committee in My Head

September 18, 2016

entertainHave you ever heard someone speak of The Committee in My Head as a way of describing the assortment of thoughts that can seem to appear out of nowhere in your mind, especially in difficult situations?  As you’ve tried to reason your way though such a situation, have you been surprised by the unproductive and sometimes downright nasty  thoughts that turn up?  According to Barry Gordon in an article in Scientific American, We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds, and we can control only a tiny part of our conscious thoughts. The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time. And if that isn’t bad enough news for those of us who would like to be clear and rational thinkers, Harvard University psychologist Daniel Wegner says that vigilantly struggling not to think about something or someone forces part of your brain to be on guard for that thought. Holding it there, even subconsciously, keeps the thought alive, and sometimes it escapes out of the prison it’s being kept in and erupts into your active thoughts. This is mostly likely to happen when you’re under stress, mentally overwhelmed or just plain exhausted.   So, if we can’t control our thoughts … and trying can actually make doing so harder … what is an over-thinker to do? (more…)

Candidates and Trolls

March 15, 2016

troll1I love the internet.   I make use of it extensively in my vocation, engineering, and my avocation, writing.   I have several blogs, a Facebook account with a page for my blog, Oldereyes, and a Twitter account (OK, I do absolutely nothing with that but it sounds good).  I play games on the internet, communicate with faraway friends via email, and use it as my primary source of news.  But I don’t love everything about the internet.   I don’t like the way young people seem to substitute online experience for real life.  I don’t like the way the click-driven culture causes material to be posted just to create controversy.   The amount of inaccurate information on the internet … and the number of people who believe anything they read there … make me crazy.   But what bothers me most is the emergence of Trolls, people who stalk the message boards and comment pages posting vitriolic, bigoted and crude commentary on just about anything.   Much of it is political, over the top liberal-conservative name calling but some of it goes beyond the bounds of a civilized society.  It didn’t worry me, though, because I tended to think of it as harmless … I regarded Trolls as pathetic recluses hiding in the anonymity of the internet.  Now I’m worried.  Why?  Things like this:

I love the old days, you know? You know what I hate? There’s a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed punch back anymore. … I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.
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