The state of California is like the "pretty girl" or "hot guy" sitting by themselves in the corner of a bar. They have the physical attributes that make them attractive. But when you approach them and speak with them...they are bat-shit crazy. California's physical attributes include amazing shorelines, national parks (e.g. Yosemite and Sequoias National Park...), beautiful deserts and perfect weather. California also has the worst traffic in the world, an educational system that is in shambles, tons of bureaucracy (try going to the DMV to obtain the new "Real" ID) and a dramatic increase in homelessness. California is willing to throw money at these problems. California has the highest state income tax in the nation at 13.3%. This doesn't include the recent increases in gas taxes, car registrations fees and local sales taxes. The increased tax revenue should mean that better roads, bridges, schools, electrical and water infrastructure and a decrease in poverty and homelessness. Unfortunately, tax payers are not seeing a return on their investment.
Let me focus on homelessness problem in California. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness data reveals that there were almost 130,000 homeless in January of 2018. And rates continue to rise despite programs targeted to help the homeless. The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, looks to help the homeless by building more homes. The solution to the homelessness problem is within the name...HOME-LESS. Here is the solution...if we give them homes, they will no longer be HOME-LESS. People are not on the streets because they recently lost their job. They are on the streets because they are 1) mentally ill, 2) have a chemical addiction or 3) think it would be "neat" to experience living on the streets.
There are two problems with simply providing a home. First of all, are we attacking the root of the problem? The house has a leak, the house is flooding and we just want to replace some of the drywall. Let's find and fix the actual leak in the pipe. Secondly, even if the state, county or city wanted to build more housing, the cost of building more homes would be astronomical due to the multitude of layers of bureaucracy required to build new homes.
Let's attack the real sources of homelessness and truly help those in need with effective solutions. Do not call it "homelessness" from this day forward. Let's call them what they really are...people that are mentally ill and/or addicted that require professional assistance.
Let's stop the house from flooding by fixing the leak in the pipe. But what the heck do I know...I'm just Joe.
It's spring time and for married couples this often means time for home projects, such as painting a room or the house. Buying paint, brushes, drop cloths, rollers and tape are easy. Do you know what the most difficulty part of painting is...? You might say taping off the windows, moving around on a ladder or making sure the paint doesn't get on the carpet are the arduous aspects of painting. These previous tasks are laborious but the most problematic task of painting is...selecting the paint color. I recommend that you should visit the paint department of your local Home Depot, Lowes or Walmart if you are an aspiring divorce attorney.
Let's get ready to rummmmmmble! There she is...holding up a multitude of swatches with different shades of green. "Honey, which one do you like? Paradise Green? Jade? Sage? Emerald? Sea Foam? Mint? Fern? Hunter? Kelly? Lime? Forrest?"
He responds with, "I can't tell. They all look great. Pick the one you like."
She asks again, "No really, which one do you like? Paradise Green? Jade? Sage? Emerald? Sea Foam? Mint? Fern? Hunter? Kelly? Lime? Forrest?"
He responds with, "Honey, I really cant tell. They all look the same to me. Pick the one you like."
She can not believe that he can't tell the difference between the different shades of green. It's sooooo obvious. Well, it is obvious...primarily to females and not males.
The answer to this sex difference in color differentiation is revealed in a study that considers the hunter-gatherer hypothesis. It is argued that the sexes evolved distinct abilities to fit prehistoric gender roles, The study shows that men "hunters" have a higher sensitivity to rapidly moving objects to detect and identify possible predators or prey from a long distances. Meanwhile, the vision of female "gatherers" may have become better adapted in recognizing the subtle differences of shades of color of stationary objects such as wild berries.
So there you go ladies. We can blame Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection for the arguments in the paint department. Men are not jerks when it comes to selecting a particular hue of green. Paradise Green, jade, sage, emerald, sea foam, mint, fern, hunter, kelly, lime and forrest green all look the same to us. You're husbands love you very much and are happy to paint your office any color you want. Heck, I recommend that wive's should ask the other wives in the paint department what color they recommend. They can tell the difference and the husbands will head off to the checkout counter to get in line.
But what the heck do I know...I'm just Joe.
The typical american definition of success is money and power. And success is often linked to talent. There are individuals that can be extremely rich that I don't consider talented. Here are examples of individuals that are great at marketing, are well compensated and are considered "successful";
A person may have a skill that makes a task look easy. You may say, "Wow, I bet I can do it too." An example would be entertainers that use Autotune or a drum machine to perform their songs. My definition of talented is a bit different. If I see someone perform and I say,"There is no way I can do that,"...they are talented. Here is examples of talented people that I could never even imagine reaching their level of artistry;
But what the heck do I know...I'm just Joe.
My college experience provided me the opportunity to mature (personally and academically) and make life-long friends. We have been able to share similar life experiences such as marriage and children (in our 20's-30's), kids going to high school (in our 40's) and soon our children will be off to college. We have also started the next chapter of our lives...illness and death of our parents. Although death will be a part of all of our lives, very few of us know exactly how to feel, know what to write on a card, or say to the person that has lost their loved one. I'm not the person that will say, "Thoughts and prayers..." Most recently, I have been thanking the grieving for sharing their mom or dad's time with me and my family. Sharing time with your family is intimate. This allows me and my wife to model, to our sons, what is true love of friends and family.
Keanu Reeves, the 54-year-old “Speed” actor, was a guest on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” talking about upcoming projects when the subject of death came up. Colbert asked Reeves what he thought happens when we die. His response..."“I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” Simple, real and beautiful.
But heck, what do I know...I'm just Joe.
Television and radio were sources most baby-boomers would obtain their news. The news media were trusted individuals that simply presented the news. We didn't know how Tom Brokaw, David Brinkley, Jane Pauley or Tim Russert (my favorite) political leanings. Every once in a while, the broadcaster may have a 30-second opinion piece to finish the newscast, but they would clearly state this is was their opinion. In the early 80's, Ted Turner launched the first 24-hour news channel and radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh where now hired to not only "present the news" but to provide opinion in the early 80's.
People are increasingly obtaining their news from non-traditional platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. "fake news" is described as published information that is not as true as it appears. Some of this "fake news" may be published by individuals to deliberately confuse or misinform. Some "fake news" is unintended. If you have ever had a story written about you or on a topic you are extremely familiar with, you realize that the article often contains mistakes. So why is it that when we hear or read a story that there could not have been any mistakes whatsoever? Think back to all of the stories we've listened to or read over the past week an we can only guess as to how many mistakes we must have been presented.
The concern with the amount of "fake news" has prompted many colleges and universities to have classes or hold workshops to help students identify "fake news". But maybe this is the wrong strategy. Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson has the solution; "We cry foul when fooled by fake news and other forces of brainwashing, when perhaps we should instead build intellectual defenses against it, inoculating us from such influences in the first place." The prevention of being infected by "fake news" includes reviewing data, reviewing evidence, critical thinking, understanding percentages, basic probability, risk assessment, understanding the scientific method and the willing to change our mind when new information is presented. I wonder when and where students can learn these concepts? Hmmm. Too bad these topics aren't reinforced in our curriculum.
But what the heck do I know...I'm just Joe.
An awareness video by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris reveals humans are not as observant as we belive. I decided to be a bit more observant yesterday and this is what I can conclude...the simplest and most common things in life are beautiful. Here is a rough timeline of some observations:
7:00 My wife is sitting in her chair and enjoying her morning coffee. I lean over and I give her multiple tiny kisses as I leave for the day. Her eyes sparkle, she smiles and says to me that she loves me as I walk out the door. And this is after almost 25 years of marriage!
8:00 AM; As I walk to towards the college print shop to pick up my final exams I see a young man dancing to the disco song, "The Hustle". His arms, legs and torso were flailing all over the place...and he didn't care that he was the only one dancing. I decided to dance with him for a few seconds as I danced like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever". Smiles galore. He continues to dance to Katy Perry's, "Shake it off".
8:10 AM; As I walk back to my office, a young lady sees a large oleander bush loaded with beautiful white flowers. She picked one and placed it behind one of her ears. It was so beautiful to see her notice the beauty of the flower, deciding to adorn herself and smile as she proceeded to her classroom to take her final exam.
10:30 AM; A struggling student turns in her exam, smiled and whispered to me, "May I please give you a hug?" She came around the desk and she gave me a large embrace. She was having some personal difficulties that impacted her academics. There were several times that she simply needed someone to listen to her this semester.
4:00 PM; I drive home and open the door into the hallway from the garage and my 11 lb dog, Lucy is always there to greet me. Her tail wags, her dog tags cling as she awaits her daily scratch behind the ears.
4:01 PM; My younger son walks down the hallway to greet me with a high-five, a hug, a smile and proceeds with our usual and satisfying greeting of "How are ya' fella?"
9:00 PM; My older son decides it's time to go to sleep so he grabs walks over to me an contemplates doing our ritual good-morning/good evening handshake. He broke his thumb two months ago and recently got his cast removed. He decided this is the night to give our hand shake a try: Shake, grip, fist-bump, salt-pinch followed by the sky-hook. He felt no pain and gave a "Woo" scream of joy.
There were simply the highlights of a regular Wednesday in May. I will continue to be observant of the beauty, love and simple things that make life amazing. But heck, what do I know...I'm just Joe.
Welcome to Spring. Spring brings wildflowers, shorts, a picnic and planting herbs in the back yard. For media and first-responders this also means a high workload on the weekend. My wife worked in local media for many years. She knew exactly when she would have a busy weekend. She's not psychic...all she did was take a look at the weekend weather forecast. Warmer temps leads to gatherings, alcohol consumption and violence.
Last weekend, 16 were injured and 2 killed by guns in a 24-hour period in St. Louis. Here is the part that angers me...one of the murder victims was 14 year-old, Jaylon McKenzie. Jaylon was a promising athlete recently featured in Sports Illustrated. I'm a parent of two sons (15 and 17 years old respectively) and a huge sports fan. The loss of a child and never seeing the potential of an elite athlete is tragic. This is not why I'm angry. I'm angry because all of us (outside the state of Illinois or Missouri) would have never heard about the 16 shootings in St. Louis had it not been for high profile individual involved. Just another quiet weekend in a US city.
How many shootings happened in Chicago, Los Angeles, Louisville, Phoenix, Fresno or Tacoma last weekend? I don't know either. Do we really care about the violence that happens every weekend? Of course we don'd. There are several individuals, such as Larry Elder, willing to speak up about the impact of a father in the home because they are put in the cross-hairs of social media and called "Sell-outs", "Uncle Tom", "Oreos" or "Coconuts". Young men act out because of pride, respect and the belief of having nothing to lose. This is not a race issue...it is a human issue. Please let's review data and evidence to avoid and prevent additional violent weekends.
It's going to be in the mid-80's this Spring weekend in central California. But what the heck do I know...I'm only Joe.
Most of us just want to be right; "Of course my NFL team is better than yours, my political views are correct and the multivitamin I'm taking makes me healthier." It is very simple to surround myself with others that think exactly like you do...confirmation bias. I can't be wrong if everyone I interact with believes in my concepts and beliefs. The three most difficult words to say are not, "I love you." Try saying the following today..."I don't know." Can I honestly get through the day and know everything?
Confirmation bias makes life simple. There is nothing to push back upon me. Think of it as zero gravity. There are usually 3-6 crew members on the International Space Station. The astronauts maintain the space station and conduct a variety of science experiments. But the human body is not adapted to zero gravity. The body begins to deteriorate when there is very little to no resistance. The crew members spend up to 3 hours imposing resistance upon their bodies to reduce the muscle atrophy and bone loss. My body and thoughts requires stress for maintenance of health. And imposing stress and resistance on my body is never fun.
Confirmation bias is zero gravity for my thoughts and beliefs. Whose to say that my thoughts and solutions to societal problems are correct. Maybe, I'm wrong. I should say, "I don't know," more often. I'm working on imposing stress and resistance on my beliefs by attempting to listen to those with differing views and opinions. I should listen to other's views and have an open and honest conversation that will impose stress upon my beliefs because resistance makes me stronger and resilient.
And by the way...if an other individual has made an excellent argument for their position I would then be able to say the other difficult three word sentence..."Maybe I'm wrong." Now that is the definition of maturity, empathy and love. But heck, what do I know...I'm just Joe.
I'm a scientist by training which makes me pragmatic. This means review data and evidence to come up with a answer or conclusion to a question or claim. Neil deGrasse Tyson said it beautifully; "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." How should individuals, communities solve problems? Unfortunately we often use feelings as solutions. We allow "feelings" to get in our way.
The state of California has a growing number of homeless individuals living on our sidewalks and bike paths. How will California fix this problem...? "Let's build them homes." Of course we should build homes in the state with highest land value and greatest amount of bureaucracy in the US. Building homes in California for the homeless will not go over budget and construction will meet all deadlines. Providing homes for the homeless is the prefect solution to the problem because the word, "home" is in homeless. Do we truly want to help the homeless or are we simply doing something because it feels like the right thing to do.
Feelings are all crap. Feelings blur the how we should truly attack problems. The only feeling that should be taken into consideration is LOVE.
How about we truly get to the root of the problem using science and love. Why are individuals homeless? Is it addiction, mental health or maybe some of them just like the idea of living on the streets. Let's find the root of the problem and solve the problem using science, data and evidence. Not only have found a solution to a problem, but we have also provided the ultimate feeling to our fellow man...LOVE.
But heck what do I know...I'm just Joe.
There are approximately 7.5 billion people on Earth. We all either were pushed out or cut out of a uterus. What makes anyone of us special? Of course, if I give my child a unique spelling of a name, that makes Mykuhl or Ashliegh very special. Of course we are all special. This is why we care about taking the selfie at the concert, vacation spot or at breakfast because we are all special. Take a look at all of our "friends" and "likes". I heard an interview with Duff McKagan (@DuffMcKagan), guitar player for Guns and Roses, and he mentioned that he really started to enjoy life when he wrote. He had specific deadlines to submit his articles. This forced him to be observant and reflect upon his life. I have may thoughts and I enjoy seeing the beauty of everyday life.
You know what...I'm not special. I'm just a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and a friend. I'm only special if I choose to be special. I could be special by finding a cure for cancer, randomly detailing my wife's car, playing catch with my older son, taking my younger son to his favorite comic book store, helping a student decide what college they should attend in the fall or smiling as I say "good morning" to an unsuspecting person at the grocery store. I've decided to take 15-20 minutes to write my thoughts and observations. By the way...you and I are still insignificant...unless we make a decide to make a difference in someone's life.