I Don’t Like Following the Herd

I don’t mean to be difficult.  I don’t set out to be contrary.  I just can’t stand following the herd, mindlessly.  It feels lazy and unintelligent.

There are a number of subjects where people seem to give up critical thinking in favor of knee-jerk, reactionary parroting.  Let’s talk about a few of these things.


Windows 8

There is an amazing amount of mindless hate directed at Windows 8.  It’s true that it started off with some problems, but the level of animosity the operating system received was not in proportion to what it deserved.

“Where’s my Start button?!?  I can’t live without my Start Menu!”

Yes you can.  Seriously, how much time do you spend in your Start menu on Windows 7?  If you’re being completely honest, the answer is: very little, especially after you’ve had the system for a while.  What happens is that you install some applications and some games, and the classic Start menu becomes a zoo of folders, most of which you don’t care about.  And if you’re like me, you forego the Start menu in favor of pinning apps to the Quick Launch.

Even if you can’t live without the classic Start menu, guess what?  You can download an application which gives you a freaking Start menu.  With Update 1, you could boot directly to the Desktop, so Windows 8 can look exactly like Windows 7, if you really want it to.

Most of the hatred directed towards Windows 8 was because a lot of people react to change with fear and hatred.  Unfortunately, a bunch of people started spewing this fear and hatred all at the same time, and like a yawn, it was contagious.  Now, people troll posts with pithy, uneducated statements about the operating system reflexively, even though there have been substantial improvements made to it through simple updates.


Global Warming

This one is going to be a little bit weird, but here goes: I’m skeptical.

I’m not a stupid man.  I’m not saying that it isn’t happening, or that it isn’t caused by humans.

I’m just saying that public opinion suggests that everyone should be freaking out about it, all the time, and I think that is bullshit.

Here’s what we, the average people, should do about Global Warming:

  1. Walk more and drive less
  2. Turn stuff off if it doesn’t need to be on
  3. Clean up after yourself
  4. Vote your conscience
  5. Don’t freak out

Realistically, what else can you do?  Buy an electric car?  That’s probably a good idea, as long as the manufacture of the batteries isn’t as bad for the environment as the emissions from your fossil burner.  Invest in solar and wind?  Sure, if that’s your thing.  Most people I know don’t have the means to invest in anything, but if you’ve got the funds and your conscience dictates it, then do it.

It doesn’t hurt to intelligently move away from fossil fuels.  Just don’t do it blindly.  Do some research.

And be skeptical.  I am not completely convinced that climate change is going on, or that humans have caused it.  Again, I’m not saying it isn’t going on, or that we’re not responsible.  I’m just saying that we’ve discovered that there is methane leaking from the bottom of the ocean.  I’m just saying that California is suffering from a drought, while Burning Man is getting rained out.  I’m just saying that we’re experiencing some of the strangest weather we’ve ever recorded, while at the same time being told that climate change has paused, and that the pause may last for another decade.

I’m saying that there is a LOT of noise, and while I will do what I can to do my part to make the world a better place, I’m not going to freak out.  It won’t do anyone any good, no matter how much the news wants to take a process that takes decades to fit into the 24 hour click cycle.



A lot of people seem to really want to hate on the president these days, and I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s because my memories of George W. Bush are still too vibrant in my mind.  I have legitimate reasons for disliking George W. Bush.  It’s one of those times in my life where it may have looked like I was going with the herd, but really, the herd’s opinion, educated or uneducated as it may have been, coincided with mine.

But here’s something you might not know… I didn’t like Bill Clinton, either!  I detested him, for the mockery that he made of the office he held.  I could not stand that he let his selfishness tarnish the presidency.  At the time, I couldn’t stand how he’d reduced the size of the military as well, being as I was in the Air Force at the time.  I had some reasons to hate Slick Willy.  Admittedly, I was much younger than, and my opinions were not founded entirely on rational thought or research.

I digress.  This section is supposed to be about President Obama.

I think he’s an intelligent and capable man that has been dealt a bad hand.  In addition to all of the pressures of being the first black president, he also had a horrendous economy to deal with, an adversarial congress to continuously fight, a Middle East in constant turmoil, and expectations squared on his shoulders set so high that they were impossible to achieve.  If he’d been born on Krypton, and was capable of walking on water as well as being able to turn water into wine, he might have been able to live up to the expectations.

The expectations were so high, he was given a Nobel Prize before he had a chance to do anything.

Maybe it’s true that Obamacare is a mess.  I don’t actually know.  I haven’t tried to study it, so I don’t have an informed opinion on the merits or flaws of Obamacare.  I do know that millions of Americans are insured now that could not be insured before.  That seems like a good thing.

I also know that Obamacare is based on a plan that Romney put into place.  That makes me think that the people that raised the biggest stink about Obamacare did so because it was from Obama, rather than the merits or faults of the plan.


Final thoughts

Following popular opinion is the antithesis to scientific thought.  Following popular opinion is about giving up critical thinking for doing what everyone else is doing.  It’s laziness.  It’s immaturity.  It’s bowing to peer pressure.

The next time you find yourself falling in step with the public opinion, stop and give a thought to what you’re doing.  It’s only through thoughtfulness that we can stop being sheep and start doing amazing things.  Invention comes from thinking about a problem in a different way, and trying something that no one else has tried before.  Conversely, propagating inequality comes from following the majority, and doing what the everyone else is doing, no matter who it might hurt.

So please.  Be thoughtful and deliberate in your actions, and don’t just go with the herd.


Ferguson, Race, and Prison Experiments

I’ve been following the story surrounding Ferguson.  To sum it up, a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.  The young man was shot 6 times, many of the wounds defensive, and two of those shots were to the head.  The one that killed him was through the top of the head.

Since the shooting, there have been outcries.  The police released a video of the young man robbing a convenience store just before the shooting took place.  There have been protests, both peaceful and violent.  The Missouri governor executed an emergency curfew.  Then the national guard was summoned and the curfew was lifted.  But there is still turmoil in the area, and President Obama seems reluctant to talk about the situation.

That’s a brief summary.  I know that I’ve left out a lot of the nuance, but my purpose with this post isn’t to rehash the news.  I want to talk about the actual cause, how this could have been avoided, and what can be done to unravel this situation.

First of all, I don’t think race is the primary cause.  I’m not saying that race isn’t an issue, or that Ferguson enjoys racial equality.  I’m saying that the primary cause was not racism.

The primary cause was power.

John Oliver sums it up very well.  He lays out all of the details of local police getting armed as the military are, but without the training.  What was it Einstein said?  “You cannot simultaneously prepare for and prevent war.”

But maybe the military arms weren’t the problem in the shooting.  The camo fatigues and assault rifles didn’t really seem to show up in Ferguson until after the shooting.  The escalation of force was a response to the people’s reaction to the shooting.

And that’s the problem.  Instead of offering sympathy to the family that lost a child, or looking for a way to keep this kind of thing from happening again, an effort was made to suppress the reaction.  Instead of taking responsibility for killing an unarmed kid, a video was released in attempt to villainize him.

The reaction of the police, and then the governor, was not one of reaching out to support and comfort the people that they are sworn to protect and serve.  It was more like the reaction of a parent scolding an unruly child.  That’s power, and the root of the problem.

Maybe race was a secondary issue in the shooting.  I don’t know.  It has certainly blown up to be a bigger issue after the fact.  I just finished reading a story that paints this whole situation as a race issue that President Obama, endowed with his darker skin, should be able to defuse.

I think this is just another reflection of the Stanford Prison Experiment.  When a group of people think they are in power over another group of people, the first group begins to dehumanize the second, both in speech and in action.  It doesn’t matter what their background is or what they look like.  It becomes about objectification and exercising power.

If the unrest in Ferguson is going to be unraveled, the power disparity is going to have to be dissolved.  To do this, the following will need to happen:

  1. Call off the National Guard
  2. Put away the military gear
  3. Lift all curfews
  4. Quit punishing the innocent
  5. Publicly offer sympathy for the deceased

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe that if you treat a person as an adult, they will reciprocate by acting like one.

The ones “in power” have to make the first step.  It cannot and should not be to bring more weapons to bear.


A Greater Perception of Depression

Before I work on some fiction, I want to contribute a few of my own thoughts to the milieu following Robin Williams’ death.

Like so many others, I am saddened by his passing.  I never met him, but I have many memories involving him.  I wish that he hadn’t suffered such depression.  The world is darker without his light.

Beyond the grief, I’ve been watching the news with both optimism and dread.  My news feed has delivered a number of articles to me regarding Robin Williams’ suicide, and I’ve been hoping that his death will be handled with simple sadness and respect.  The one thing that I’ve been afraid of is stumbling on a story where someone besmirches Mr. Williams’ for the method of his death.

There’s been a little bit of it.  Thanks, Fox News.  Stay classy.

For the most part, though, his death has been handled as a tragedy.  So far, there hasn’t been the blustering, holier-than-thou, accusatory vindictiveness that I half expected around a suicide.

In other words, the through-line hasn’t been, “He took his own life, hurting those that loved him.  What a selfish asshole.” Instead, it has been, “Robin Williams succumbed to his depression, an illness as difficult and dangerous as cancer.”

I’m pleased with the reaction to Robin Williams’ suicide.  I wish that it hadn’t happened, but if anything can be salvaged from this difficult event, it can be a greater perception surrounding depression.

Depression isn’t weakness.  It isn’t laziness, or something a person can just “shake off.” It’s an illness, every bit as serious as a broken leg or a viral infection.  Perhaps it’s worse, because it can be invisible and insidious.  Left untreated, it can be just as deadly as leukemia.

If we cannot erase his suicide and bring him back to life, then maybe we can learn from it.  Maybe we can be a little less hesitant to seek help for those in our life that are suffering from depression.  Maybe we can be a little bit more respectful of those that are facing such an illness, and treat the depression with the seriousness it deserves.



A dear friend approached me this week and asked me for a story.  It’s for GISHWHES, and if you haven’t heard of that, it’s okay.  I won’t judge you harshly, because I didn’t know about it until recently myself.  If you don’t want to click on the link, I’ll just say it’s a great big scavenger hunt for charity.

It seems pretty cool.  I guess Misha Collins started it, or runs it?  I have a lot of respect for Mr. Collins, just based on the stuff I’ve read about him.  I enjoy him on Supernatural, and I think the charity work he’s done is pretty fantastic.

Here is the item my friend was looking to me to complete:

Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus: 59 POINTS.

Aside from not knowing what an Elopus was, I had another difficulty with this request: I don’t think I’m “previously published.”

I told my friend, but she said it probably wasn’t a problem.  She said that my blog was probably enough.

I don’t think my friend realizes how much it meant to me that she asked me for this.  Apparently, some other people became upset after they were asked.  I don’t begrudge them for this.  It isn’t always cool to ask someone to do their job for free.  And people do have busy lives.  I was busy myself, and couldn’t get to the story until tonight, even though it was only 140 words long.

Anyway, I’ve droned on enough.  Without further ado, here is what I sent her:

              The monstrosity raised its long nose and trumpeted an angry blast as it charged.  It rolled forward on six, suction cupped tentacles.  Its oily black eyes reflected the rough cave, as well as the man that stood defiantly before it: Misha Collins.

Misha met the creature’s charge with a crack from his staff.  Both man and beast were weary from their long battle, but the fight was nearly won.  Misha feinted, side-stepped, then swung.  The wood shattered.  The elopus dropped.  Pungent black ink puddled around the fallen creature.

“You did it!” cried Avy. “Let’s get the princess and go!”

“We’re not here to save a princess,” Misha said, his voice rough.  He walked to the cage the elopus had been protecting and ripped away the tarp covering it.  Inside was a woman of advanced age.

“We’re here for the Queen.”