The Uncertainty of Hope

I’m not a person who hopes for things.   Perhaps this is because I’m an incredibly privileged person on the grand scale of things.

I mean–I’m a white cis het dude born to educated middle-class parents who worked hard to give me the chance to get where I am today–i.e. in a relatively stable middle-class life.

It’s likely this.

But still, the concept of “hope” or phrases like “hopes and dreams” were never something that had much magic in them for me.

Life wasn’t about “hopes” for me–it was about problems to be resolved.  It was about reducing uncertainties and building sustainable systems that didn’t rely upon hope, but rather would continue to exist even if they they took unexpected damage from random circumstances.

And this points to what I think has been my main issue with the concept of hope–namely that hope is not just about any expectation for the future–but rather only a subset of those expectations.  Looking at the definition of hope–desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment–it seems like a hope is just a desire for things we want.

But in my experience of its usage, there are asymmetries. People do not hope for things upon which they have strong certainties that they will happen.   Example–I do not tend to express regular hopes that the earth will keep spinning on its axis or that gravity will keep working –because I assume that these things will just happen.

Thus–rarely do we see people hoping for stuff that they are certain about.  Instead, hope is a feeling and desire for expected outcomes upon which we are uncertain–and that’s the real rub of hope.

In a world that is uncertain, people talk a lot about their hopes.

But uncertainties are not always fixed, unchangeable aspects of reality.  I mean–some uncertainties are–but many times, the uncertainties we face involve rather ordinary aspects of physical/social/material reality that we can work on changing.

In essence, if we do a bit of analysis, hard thinking, reflecting upon experiences, and chatting with other smart or wise hairless apes–we can often make the difficulties we face more manageable and to reduce the uncertainty we have about the outcomes.

And when we do this–when we try to create some (even relatively limited) forms of mastery over the world–we actually reduce the range of topics and subjects about which we will have hopes.

To make it more blunt–when we make things more certain–we kill our own hopes–as those ares stop being things we “hope for” so much and instead become things about which we “assume things” or “know things”….

This kind of process is something that I’ve done for my entire cognitive existence (say like age 5 or so).  Perhaps it was something in my childhood that made me distrust the process of hoping for things or relying upon random chance to lead to good things–I don’t know–but I do know that a driving part of my personality has always been to resolve uncertainties and minimize them.

In other words, I’ve been killing hope in my life for 40+ years.

And I’m not going to stop now.

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Distrusting the simplicity of obvious categories.

Yesterday–amidst the chaos in the world around me, I took Zola the Dog for a walk.  While walking in the darkness drinking a Rip-It, I reflected upon the various Dungeons & Dragons abilities that characters have.  Although they’ve been improved and reorganized over the past 40+ years since D&D went from Basic to 5E, there are still the same 6 abilities:
Strength–increases damage and attack chance for some classes/weapons
Dexterity–increases damage and attack chance for some classes/weapons
Constitution–increases hit points (health) of a character
Intelligence–used for spellcasting for certain classes
Wisdom–used for spellcasting for certain classes
Charisma–used for spellcasting for certain classes

Now–these basic abilities make some sense –not just for gameplay–but also as some of the basic characteristics of humans.  We all possess–to varying degrees–these abilities/categories.  And in the current 5E system, there are also skills that are based on these abilities–so persuasion is related to Charisma and sleight of hand is related to dexterity, etc..

All of this makes for a pretty decent system…. and yet… there was stuff that irked me.   Perhaps it’s because I have a tendency (started by an old friend an I chatting long ago) to think about what “class” various people around me are.  He and I were chatting about a friend–and he asked me.. “So what class do you think XYZ is?”  And I contemplated and said, “Well, XYZ thinks he’s a ranger, but he’s not.” And my friend smiled and agreed, and I continued, “He’s actually a druid.”

From that point–I’ve always thought of friends this way.  Not that I pigeonhole them with it or think such categorizations are deeply meaningful.  No–they are merely a kind of facet of a person–a facet that you see if you peer through the looking glass of this framework at the social world around you. ( You can also then apply gamer notions of “the tank”, “the healer”, “the DPS” as added layers..).

Anyway–if you are talking about people’s classes–then you have to think about abilities also–because different classes rely upon different abilities–and that made me think more about the 6 categories above–not just in the D&D sense–but in the more broad sense of how do we understand these things.

In D&D, you get a “score” for these attributes–and the higher the score the better (you get bonuses for stuff, or penalties if they’re low).  But it made me think of each of these attributes more critically–and generated a lot of questions.

For example–What is Dexterity–really?  Is it hand-eye coordination?  Is it Balance?   Is it quickness in reflexes/reaction?  All of them?

All of these things are partially related–but only partially in my experience.  Concrete example–I have REALLY good balance, and my reflexes are very quick to react to things–but my hand-eye coordination is pretty bad in general.   I’m terrible at sports that require a lot of this coordination–but I can–even with many drinks in me–dance and spin and throw myself across the booze-soaked floor while twirling about and stay upright in a pretty elegant fashion.

So what is my dexterity in this sense?  Is it low or high or in the middle?

And if this doesn’t work for me–does it even make sense as a thing?

Anyway–this got me thinking about all six of these abilities and whether they made sense or whether there were actually numerous components that made them up.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that there were usually a couple of major components that I could come up with for each–components that were only partially related to each other–but could be of differential strengths in actual human beings.

Strength includes
a) Lifting/carrying power–How strong are you in the classic sense of arm wrestling lifting weights/throwing things far distances/etc.
b) Endurance–How far can you run?  How long can you swim? How many reps can you do?
c) Speed–How fast can you go?
All of these are part of strength/power–but a body-builder who can lift 400lbs cannot necessarily run a marathon, nor could they be a 100 m’ dash sprinter–and yet all of these people are considered strong.

Dexterity includes
a) Hand/Eye coordination–how good are you in controlling your hand movements –used in sports/shooting type stuff
b) Balance–how good are you at walking a tight rope or not being knocked over? Do you have a good sense of your center of gravity? Can you dance well? Does your body flow easily in movement?
c) Quickness/response–reaction times are part of this–when you drop something, can you catch it.

All of these are part of dexterity–but a good marksman isn’t necessarily a good dancer.

Constitution includes
a) Toughness–how hard is your body when it comes to damage.  Does it bruise easy or break bones easily? Does Pain overwhelm you, or is it just a thing you notice?
b) Health/disease resistance–do you get sick easily? Are you robust when exposed to harsh conditions?
c) Healing–when you do get damaged–do you heal quickly? Or does it take a while?

While these may be more related–I’ve known people who heal quickly, but get sick easily–or who are tough in their bodies–but also have permanent diseases–so the relationship is not 1:1.

Intelligence includes
Research/Analysis/Investigation–how good are you at searching out information/deducing knowledge from evidence in front of you.
Memory/Recall/Knowledge retention–Do you have the ability to easily store a lot of information and recall it in relevant situations?
Calculation/Game-playing/Symbol-manipulation–Are you good at math/coding/figuring out the rules of something and then applying those rules to generate new results?

I know lots of good game players who don’t necessarily have good research skills.  Similarly, some people have huge recall and yet are bad at games.

Wisdom includes
Observation/Perception/Spatial-Awareness–How aware are  you of your surroundings–not just in terms of sensory perception–but in terms of recognizing the data in a way that allows you to work with it.
Pattern-Recognition/Synthesis of data–After perceiving things, how good are you at integrating such perceptions into a broader framework that allows action?  And are you able to do this over time with greater complexity?
Mental Endurance/Emotional Resilience–Hou much mental “toughness”/willpower do you have?  Can you work through hard situations and remain present?

As with the others–I know folks who are strong in one but not the others.  Some are good at pattenr-recognition, but don’t have much emotional resilience.  Others are aware in a direct way for the moment–but don’t connect such observations to broader patterns.

Physical Attractiveness/Seduction/physicality–Can you entrance people?  Can you easily grab attention and spark interest?
Performance/Persuasion/Language-skills–Are you able to use your words and expressions to engage people and change their views?
Force of Personality/Intimidation–Do you generate acknowledgement by the intensity of your presence? Do you inspire respect by your forcefulness in social situations.

Each of these, I believe, is a bit more distinct–even if they can work in combination even more effectively.  Hitler had the latter two traits–but was not an attractive person.  Many actors have the first two traits and become cultural symbols.

In any case, I’m not at all sure where this exercise was going–but it originated in that place of distrusting the simplicity of the categories that we often work with–because too often what is useful as a shorthand way of representing reality is taken as being reality itself.  We are people who are strong or dextrous or intelligent or wise–but all of those categories are significantly more complicated than the simple words we use.   Intelligence, for example is regularly reduced–see AI researchers–into one of the separate categories above in our computer-infatuated society–but it is more than any one of those and more than all combined.

As I recently permanently etched into my arm, it’s fine to seek simplicity, but you should distrust such findings when you first encounter them lest you are misled.

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Life as Garden

This NOM was directly inspired by a friend’s FB post.  (I’ve asked her if I could use it here..  and she said yes.. 🙂 ) There is so much good stuff here, that I’m going to take it one paragraph at a time..
“Like my life this bouquet is full of mismatched flowers. They all look as if I just stuffed them into a vase and called it a day. Though I took the time to cut and place each one. Sure it’s messy. But it’s also wild and beautiful. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to make things look nice and neat and always failing because that’s not me. No matter how hard I try I can’t color in the lines, or keep a neat and tidy garden.”

vase of mismatched flowers

Flowers picked by Ms. Vanessa

I find this kind of wildness to be exactly as beautiful as my friend does.   Almost all of my appreciation of beauty in this world contains the facets of choice, imperfection, and implicit growth that one sees in this vase of mismatched flowers. For me–as I’ve noted before–beauty can also have connections to work and pain for me–i.e. that it’s connected to effort and sharpness in important ways.  I see that here too… in the cutting and collecting of flowers. But an element that is added here is the idea of messiness being part of this beauty.  Of the tangle of vines and blooms at random heights.

I love that and find it to be deeply true.

Perhaps it’s also that I see this beauty in my garden boxes in the midst of full summer growth.  Tomato and cucumber vines snaking wherever they can.

Hidden cucumbers..

The Tangle

Bushy pepper plants with hidden treasures in places you never thought they could be. Squash plants rampaging out of the box, over the edges of boxes and into the grass trying to take in all the sunlight they can. Collard greens and Kale exploding with giant leaves that will be devoured by our hungry iguana Reptar.

Beyond the beauty itself in this paragraph is the implication that so much of our society frames beauty as something akin to order.  That beauty is perfection, cleanliness, and organization.  Intellectually, I can understand how people might embrace that, but it’s not something that I grok on any deep level.

To me–beauty is found more in the dynamic and chaotic action of our lives.. more in the messiness of creation than in a tidy final product.
Today I learned a lesson from the weeds. They said, “hey, you can keep pulling us up, but we’ll be back” May I have the tenacity of a weed and the growth and beauty of a bountiful bouquet.


public domain photo

I don’t necessarily love weeding, and I will certainly be heard swearing while I work to remove them from places I don’t want them to be.

But I am constantly impressed by how effective and persistent they are.

Weeds fucking ENDURE. The purslane that I rip up out of the cracks in the pavement is back a month later–larger than before.

Also–it’s edible–as many weeds are.  As people have phrased it–weeds are just plants in the wrong place.

And sometimes they are in the wrong place.  When the dandelions try to crowd out my tomato plants, I rip them up.  They are in the wrong place.

But in my yard, they are fine.  They are better than fine because they feed the bees that will then pollinate my tomato plants throughout the summer.  And they are beautiful to me–with their striking yellows and then their magical drifting seeds that are perfect for kicking.

So I too love the weeds and hope to be as tenacious as they are.
I was tired and hot and wondering why I bother to weed or care for a garden at all, then I looked up and saw all the pollinators and butterflies, grasshoppers and dragon flies. I do it for them. To have them in my garden pleases me. So yes, ultimately I do it for myself, but seeing all these beneficial insects frolicking in my garden is for everyone really. Nurturing nature is part of why we’re here, right? It doesn’t have to be neat or orderly, though it can be. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Self care doesn’t have to be all about yourself.”

ALL OF THIS.  And this is my Garden.

Garden 2020

Garden boxes August 2020

When I see my own garden and work in it, and see it grow and progress, but also then later die  and end for a year, I am happy.

Working this garden is fundamental metaphor for how I see life.  For me, Life is a Garden.  We plant things, we nurture them, we hope that they grow.

Some things do.  Others do not.  If we observe, we might learn why not and then try something else to make it work better. This is true of the things that are within us and without.

So we must be perceptive, and smart, and patient. We must do the things.
And then we must do it all over again. And again.
That is life for me.

It is also about creating something that not only provides for me, but provides for others. Perhaps it is because I was raised catholic and was infused early on with notions of “good works,” but I fundamentally cannot imagine a life of happiness that is not engaged in processes that help others in some way.

Not that I have to save the world or do AMAZING THINGS!!!..  Not that at all.  Rather, life is just like this garden of mine that provides for me, for my family, and for my friends… and that is enough.

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The Feeling of a Worldview

In most fundamental respects, I’ve been an agnostic atheist since I was about age 7-8… (when I figured out that Santa didn’t really exist, that it clicked that the other invisible dude in the sky (with a big white beard) who watched over us to see if we were good/bad and rewarded/punished us based on that might not also exist…)

Of course, I didn’t use the language of “agnostic atheist” at that age. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I coined it that way and the meaning–for me–of that label is as follows:

A) I’m agnostic in the sense that I make no claims about having certainty about the objective truth of whether there are or are not supernatural beings of any kind. “Agnostic” literally means “without knowledge” of first causes and I use it in the mostly Aristotelian sense here of knowledge being a belief that you have certainty about. I don’t claim certainty here–as I am a limited being in the natural material world and am thinking about things outside of the natural world. Thus, I’m agnostic.. (and I would argue that most thoughtful people are this way, even if they are theists..)

B) I’m an atheist because I don’t personally subjectively believe in the existence of supernatural beings. I don’t believe in Jehovah. I don’t believe in Vishnu. I don’t believe in Fairies or Cthulhu. I don’t require that anyone else believe like I do or to confirm these things–they can believe what they want–but I just don’t believe in such things.

All of this may convey some of the conceptual structures of this worldview of mine, but it likely does not convey the feeling of this worldview.

And despite the fact that I don’t live, in any primary cognitive sense, in a world of feelings, they do exist for me in important ways and the most common way that I experience feelings is through music.

Unlike words alone or visuals, it is music that bypasses thought for me to engage with the underlying current of feelings within me. I’m sure this is true for many, many others and is obvious to many more. What’s important for me here is to give an example that links the structures above to the feelings that accompany this world view–and the example that I have is the song “Know (ft. Mars)” by the artist Overwerk.
The song itself is here and the lyrics are below.  All parts of the song–from the lyrics to the tone to the transitions to the meaning–all of it embody my agnostic atheist approach to the world I live in.

And now you Know this.
And I noticed I now know this

In the end there is no one
There is no one to call your bluff
In the end there is no one high above

Who really can say?

There’s only one way to play the game
I noticed I now know this

And I noticed I now know this

I now know this, I now know this
And I noticed I now know this
I now know this, I now know this

In the end there is nothing

There is nothing beyond the truth
In the end there is only what we do

Try, try as they may

Running in circles with nothing to say
I noticed I now know this

And I noticed I now know this

I now know this, I now know this
And I noticed I now know this
I now know this, I now know this

See, only one thing’s for sure

I’m not knocking on Heaven’s door
What’s up above or underneath
Is not for men alone to breach
Sometimes fail and sometimes win
With all our powers here within

I noticed I now know this

And I noticed I now know this


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Framing in the Media

Okay.. if people want an example of how framing shapes your opinions, look at the headlines on the front page of today’s Washington post.

Two articles about presidential contenders.

Taken from 9/7/2020 Washington Post

For Biden, we have the headline,

“Biden’s flexibility on policy could mean bitter fights if he wins”

How does it make you feel?

Now change the word “flexibility” to “inflexibility” and see how you feel.

And note that the negativity created in both is pretty much determined by the headline.

The structure is “Biden’s quality ‘A’ COULD BE a BAD THING.”

What’s the goal of the headline? You could note that it technically makes a statement about a possibility, but as a headline with large font, it tends to create a dynamic where it’s posed not just as a possibility–but as a likely or true thing. This is an example of trying to make an argument that appears to be non-partisan and straddle that line of “I’m objective because I’m not picking a side,” when, in reality–it has picked a side.
The writing in article itself highlights this notion that flexibility as problematic and tries hard to appear to never come down on a side. That’s fine, but it’s interesting that an equally (or more) negative article about a nominee’s inflexibility could be written.
In other words–there’s a choice here to attack a basic characteristic–flexibility–and say it’s problematic–when it may or may not be. Also note–we have a historical context over the past 30 years where Republican ideological inflexibility has been clearly CATASTROPHIC in terms of governance outcomes. Such a context is nowhere to be found in the article.

In summation, if you’re going to make an argument about flexibility being possibly bad, you need to actually provide the concrete historical context for how flexibility is better/worse than inflexibility–that’s where the evidence is to be found–not in just statements from different groups giving opinions about whether flexibility may or may not be a good thing.

For Trump, we have the headline:

Trump has a long history of disparaging military service

This headline is not posing a possibility, but rather is a declarative statement referencing a history of behavior. Now–this article needs to back up its argument that Trump has said bad things about the military over time. This is a much more direct argument and the writing in the article does it very well. It provides numerous cited examples. It also does work to try and provide some historical context (and even, perhaps sympathy) for Trump in noting that he was sent off to military academy by his parents and that he may have suffered harsh treatment.

This argument is much more persuasive because it’s a clear and direct statement that is backed up. To make the counter argument–you’d need to prove that Trump does not have a long history of disparaging the military–and that is not possible given the evidence out there in public record.

In the end, we see a paper presenting 2 negative articles–but in one, you have a well-supported argument against a contender and in the other, you have an argument that is actually rather deceptive in structure.

Obviously, negativity sells, but we should be aware of such approaches when we read.. and to take people to task when they do this at what could be the expense of so many people.

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Moving between Disappointment and Enttäuschung…and the Ambiguity of Hope

For those who don’t know what Enttäuschung is, there’s my explanation of it here…  At root, it’s the German word for “disappointment,” but its root word meanings are very different. Whereas the roots of disappointment literally means “something that rips asunder the ordered arrangement that was formerly there,” the roots of Enttäuschung mean “the removal of deception.”

Of course–these are etymological considerations related to particular emotional experiences that everyone has in their life–and those experiences are more than just words.

They are bodily experiences that go beyond just dry cognition and can often reach quite deep into us and to shape our thinking.

Such an experience happened to me recently.  Specifically, a bit more than two months ago I broke up with an intimate partner of mine of five years.  The particulars of this break up are not anything that I would discuss here–they’re not anyone’s business but our own–but the fundamental causes of the break up are agreed upon by both I and the former partner.   We are still friends and are working to keep it that way–but that level of reasonableness does not mean that I haven’t had a range of emotions run through me over these months.

It has been hard.

And it has been deeply sad.

And it was still the right thing to do.

As part of this, I’ve tried to work through many of my emotions and to reflect upon how all of this came to be.   Not surprisingly, one of the core emotional experiences here has been that of disappointment/Enttäuschung.

How could it not be.

When you are working through the loss of something that you had built over 5 years, when you must acknowledge that you’ve set a relationship tree ablaze because it had become too unhealthy to survive, feelings are going to be there.

And they are.


And something that became clear is that considering the different meanings of disappointment and Enttäuschung and moving from the former to the latter in this context was often helpful in letting me step back and observe these feelings.

Specifically, while disappointment hit me primarily as a general and broad sensation of negative emotions, such emotions didn’t give me anywhere else to go, really.   They were there, and I was in them, and they didn’t offer me more than paths to other (often negative) emotions (such as sadness, or anger, or inadequacy).

In contrast, when I thought about the situation as one of Enttäuschung–as a “removal of deception” –as the revelation of the truth of the situation–I was led not to other emotions, but rather to questions.  Namely, questions like, “How had I been deceived here?”  “What role did I play in this deception?”  ” Why did I choose to believe and expect certain things rather than others?”

While such questions did not necessarily have “joyful” answers, they did give me much more of a chance to keep moving, to grow, and to think about how to make things better in the long run–and that’s a lot closer my Aristotelian sense of Happiness than not.   As such, things have become both easier over time, as well as less sad–and I am thankful for that.

One final thought that came to me a few days ago as I contemplated my Enttäuschung, was what I might consider a reckoning of the concept of “Hope.”  As in most breakups, I’ve experienced the emotion of “hope” a number of different times and in a number of different ways.  Obvious “hopes” of having things all just get fixed somehow were not absent from my thoughts.

But my reflections a few days ago about “hope” came from a different place.  It came from the observation that “hope” so often is about expectations of outcomes… about trying to believe in a positive outcome and finding a way to believe in the possibility of such.   Looking up the word “hope” itself, there isn’t a definitive origin or root word for it.  One suggestion–a suggestion that I like–is that it is tied to the verb “to hop” and is a kind of “leap in expectations” that a person engages in.

Whether that origin for hope is true or not historically, it does describe a key element of my thoughts about hope–namely that the process of “hoping” is very much tied to trying to set expectations–and doing so in a very particular way.  That way is not about observation of the current state of affairs and making cold hard calculations about the expected outcomes–but rather about aiming and selectively focussing oneself in a particular way to make a particular (and positive) set of outcomes seem more likely than they may be.

Positively, hope can help us to create a kind of truth and reality that does not necessarily exist, but that we can work to achieve.

Negatively, hope can be a form of deep self-deception that keeps us from addressing the world as it actually is.

The latter view is where my reflections a few days ago had led me.   Namely that hope might actually be the opposite of Enttäuschung in many instances.

In the end, while I do believe in the importance of hope as a human emotion and practice that keeps us going when things may seem lost, we must also not just turn to hope when things get hard as a way of denying the Enttäuschung that is right in front of us.
Instead, we must always deal with reality as it is if we are going to make things better for ourselves and for others.

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2020 Political Post–Dem Primary Turnout Numbers

So tomorrow is the next set of primaries after this year’s Super Tuesday, where Biden came storming back to take a small lead in delegates after being seen by many as already toast.

biden sanders3-9-2020 dem primary map

For me, as always, there are the numbers to analyze.  And so I have. Important points to note:

  1. If we look at the 13 states that have voted so far that have had primaries (not caucuses) since 2008, we see that Bernie has won 4 and Biden has won 9 (Minn and CO had caucuses before, but primaries this year.  Nevada and
  2. Compared to 2016, 11 of these states have had increased turnout, with only Oklahoma and California having a decline in turnout in the Dem. primaries.
  3. Compared to 2008–which set turnout records in Dem. primaries, 6 of the states have increased turnout.
  4. 2016 turnout was actually poor compared to 2008, with 12 states having lower turnout than 2008.  Thus, 2020 turnout is much closer to record 2008 levels than to the low 2016 levels.
  5. Absolute turnout numbers in 2020 were significantly higher in many states, with the one HUGE exception being California–where they were lower by nearly 20%–or a million votes.  This likely doesn’t make a difference for California in the general, because it’s so blue.
  6. Many have argued that Sanders is crucial for getting increased turnout, but the numbers don’t clearly argue for this.  Altogether, in the 5 states that Bernie won primaries in, total turnout is down by ~764,000 votes, with the big drag being California’s missing 900,000 voters .  In contrast, voter turnout in states that Biden won is up by ~1,844,000 votes–with increases in Texas 640k and in VA by 540k.   Now it could be that Sanders has also gotten more young people (18-29) to vote than last time–but they still only made up 12.5% of the primary voters so far, even though they make up 25% of the voting age population–so it’s not a major factor yet..  In comparison, people over age 65 are 20% of the voting age population, and they have made up 30% of primary voters.   Retired folks are just kicking the youngins’ asses in terms of actually voting.  Bernie CANNOT WIN unless young people vote at least their proportion of the population.
  7. Of the new people voting–Biden appears (in a model here ) to be attracting 60% of the people who didn’t vote in 2016, but are voting now–and these people appear to be older, suburban voters and African Americans–i.e. the people who showed up in 2018 to give the Dems the house.

Overall inferences from these numbers are the following:
a) Turnout is up–this is good for Dems–as it is the single biggest factor that determines whether Dems win or lose.
b) Biden is doing well because people want Trump out and the people coming out to vote in the primaries think Biden can do it best.  Opinions about whether they’re correct mean less than the actual votes being cast–and Biden is doing great with the actual voters who vote.
c) Sanders is going to need to something big tomorrow–like winning Michigan–if he is going to stay around much longer, much less to regain the momentum.

He’s not out yet–but he really needs to bring it NOW.

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A moment.

Be good.
Be kind.
Be smart.
Be patient.


Nurture your love.
Learn from your mistakes.


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Liking your life and Other Happy Mindfuckery

(link to above cartoon here: )
I love this cartoon.

I have managed to train my mind to appreciate the things while I have them. I picked this skill up back in college from a friend who said–after I asked him how he was doing–something along the lines of, “I’m fucking awesome.” and so I asked him what he was doing, and he said.. “I’m doing some obnoxious coding..” and so I then followed up with, “but doesn’t that suck?” and he replied, “No. I decided that when I’m going to do something, that because I’ve decided to do it, that it’s the thing I want to do.. and that makes it great.. and I do this with everything..”

He applied this to doing dishes, to laundry, to whatever..

And that seemed really weird to my 19 year old brain.. but I thought it was also pretty cool.. so I learned to adopt it.. and it’s a kind of philosophy that I’ve recognized as being a kind of progressive/western Zen way of life. Like the things you are doing.. whatever they are.. and it makes doing the things so much better. Changing a diaper–like it. Sitting still for 5 minute on the bus–like it.

Maybe it seems like you’re lying to yourself–but I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that this isn’t actually different than what we do to ourselves normally anyway–it’s just that we pretend that we’re not doing it.  (Remember, in reality, all of our “perceived life/memories/perceptions” are actually just 3lbs of soggy bacon hallucinating a video game that it plays in an incredibly stressful/unpredictable world for 16 hours a day–until it takes a break for 7-8 hours and maybe watches, perhaps, even more fucked up movies..)

Anyway. I don’t necessarily assume everyone can do this–so I’m not trying to be prescriptive–but am merely describing how I do life.  I’m an amazingly privileged cis-het over-educated middle-class white dude born in the richest and most powerful country on earth… so your mileage may vary..

After enlightenment comes the laundry. Like doing the fucking laundry.

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Language relations

I like languages.  I didn’t always.

Language itself is not something that my brain took to originally.  As a kid, mom said that I didn’t have a first word.. it was more like a first sentence–and it was later than expected.

Instead, my brain took to math, numbers, shapes a lot more readily…  I loved maps as a kid and I learned how to do math early and then was always ahead in math..

It wasn’t until high school and then later when I began to see that languages were just systems–arbitrary, weird, sometimes irrational systems–but still systems that served various purposes.

When I discovered the existence of Indo-European Languages as a “thing”–I got WAY MORE INTERESTED.  Seeing that languages evolved out of previous versions of speaking and split off from each other–that gave me an path into understanding languages that I’ve been following ever since.

When I learned German–or more specifically–once I was in Germany and learning to speak and write German more fluently, it was really helpful to me to understand how German and English were related–and how various words had common ancestors–even if they then went in different directions.   The Duden Herkunfswoerterbuch was especially a favorite of mine.  I would read through it for hours, actually–seeing how German words changed over time and to what English words they were related… (I didn’t actually know the English word “Etymology” until after this period–I had to get a translation of “Herkunftswoerterbuch” (here-coming-word-book) into English to learn the word..).

Fun examples that blew my mind at the time
Zaun–German for fence–is a cognate of English “Town”–a walled inhabitation
werfen=to throw in German–is a cognate of English “to warp”–and comes from the idea of bending/moving in a curve.
wuergen=to choke/strangle in German–is a cognate of English “to worry”–which is when you get choked up about something.

In any case, this all came back to me recently as I’ve been learning Dutch on  For me–someone who’s fluent in English and German–Dutch is pretty easy ( it’s like English and German had a baby (although obviously it’s a separate language that isn’t a child of either… ) Dutch is clearly related to both languages (they’re all closely related as Western Germanic languages) and they all had a lot of interaction over the past 1000 years.  You can see this in the sentences I’m having to translate.
German: Ich gebe ihm einen Apfel.
Dutch: Ik geef een appel aan hem.
English: I give an apple to him./I give him an apple.

German: Die Spinne wohnt in einem Schuh
Dutch: De spin woont in een schoen.
English: The spider lives in a shoe.

German: Orange is das neue Schwarz
Dutch: Oranje is het nieuwe Zwart
English: Orange is the new black.

German: Die Katze schlaeft zwischen zwei Hunden.
Dutch: De kat slaapt tussen twee honden.
English: The cat sleeps between two dogs (hounds).

As one can see from these comparisons, there is a great similarity between the languages–but also slight differences.  Sometimes words differ.. for example, wohnen/wonen in German/Dutch means “to dwell” –but it came from a root word meaning “to love/to wish” –which is semantically still found in the german word “gewohnt”–meaning “to be accustomed to/familiar with.”  Old and Middle English had this verb also, but it died out–and so we use “live” now instead.

In any case–I’m just continuously struck at how these three languages appear and are structured just like how actual biological cousins might be.  They are often roughly similar in many foundational things–but then can be radically different in others.

And now–back to duo lingo to earn more points.

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