Don’t Punch Nazis. (Day 122-123)

I appreciate that there is an overwhelming desire to punch Nazis.  It sounds fun, it will theoretically feel good, and you’re “fighting evil”!  But you’re not Captain America/Wonder Woman, and this is not a fantasy novel.  I assure you this conflict doesn’t end with you throwing some sweet punches for 112 minutes while feeling righteously vindicated, and Bam: suddenly the world is saved.

The battle against forces that want to hurt you and change the world you live in is not new; this is the entire history of human civilization.  There’s lots of history to be learned from, both violent and non-violent, but there’s no history of “That guy had terrible ideas, so I punched him, and he changed his mind and joined my now-perfect community”.

If you want to go to war, then GO TO WAR.  No half assed righteous indignation and emotional catharsis, cloaked in pretty words and shallow justifications.  Don’t buy this “I’m showing righteous restraint by *just* punching these people I believe are threatening my and other people’s lives” horseshit.  Obliterate your enemy, don’t bloody their nose then pat yourself on the back for being a good person.  Invade Grenada and leave, don’t dick around in Afghanistan for decades.

If you’re not willing to do what it takes to *win* a war, don’t dabble in violence.  There’s plenty of infinitely more effective ways to combat terrible ideologies than throwing a punch, and plenty of groups who need money and manpower who will gladly accept your support.

Defend yourself from truly imminent violence, if you’re capable; get the hell out of the situation otherwise.  But punches?  If you throw the punch first, you look like a bully.  If you return a punch for a punch, you’ve started a fistfight.  If you throw punches when they brought weapons, well, I sure as hell hope you *are* Wonder Woman or Captain America, ’cause normal people end up in the ER.

Figure out what world you want to live in, do your research on what does and doesn’t work to create, maintain, grow, and defend that world, and do whatever that is.  Growing good ideas and changing minds is hard, long, and frequently thankless work, but the very violent alternative is far worse.

No matter what world it is you want to live in, though, you’re not getting there by punching Nazis.  And you’re making it way harder for everyone else to build a better world while you’re at it.

“Incitement”, decisionmaking, and bad information (Day 121)

I have a few thoughts on all the Nazi stuff going on; I’m holding myself to a very high standard, for obvious reasons.

However, I’ve seen several posts and comments discussing “Incitement” and other commentary on free speech and justifying punching Nazi’s for holding a flag, nazi saluting, or chanting.

However you decide to engage, act, or make decisions on this issue, *DON’T GET YOUR LEGAL ADVICE FROM TWITTER AND RIGHTEOUS WEB COMICS*.  I assure you that the pithy explanations playing to people’s emotional desires are almost certainly *not* an accurate description of the legal standards that will be applied if you end up in a encounter with the law.

I’m not telling anyone what to do or not to do: those are your choices to make.  I just want everyone making the best decisions possible based on their desired outcomes.

And only ending up in jail if that was a risk they were willing to take.

Ideas Compensation (day 120)

I went into Best Buy a while back, and spent ~45 minutes with an associate discussing cheap cell phones for plugging sim cards into while going overseas.  He ended up recommending a phone they didn’t have, and I ended up extremely satisfied but also buying it off the internet.

I asked a manager if I could give them 5 dollars for their time and excellent assistance.  Got a fairly strange look, and a “no, just buy something or come back?”.  I didn’t want to buy something, I will come back; but I also wanted to give them *something* right then.

It seems like it would be super easy to set up a “service donation box” or whatever you want to call it.  Maybe the logistics is more effort than its worth, but that sounds really unlikely.  And a default position of “absolutely no need or pressure, its just there if you feel like compensating us for the service you received” or whatever would eliminate most bad publicity/greedy feelings.

This is particularly relevant for Best Buy and other places paying for knowledgeable staff and floor space for displays so you can physically try out products.  But really could apply anywhere.

Squatty Potty and Intellectual Property (day 119)

Saw a couple adds for the Squatty Potty a while back; they made some interesting “natural” and evolutionary claims that squatting while crapping was better.  At the time I wouldn’t’ve minded “easier and better bowel movements”, so I did a bit of research.  Between their claims, my research, my outdoors experience, and knowledge of the prevalence of squat toilets in Asia, I figured it was worth a try.

However, ~$30 for a plastic stool of unknown sturdiness felt absurd, plus, its kinda big and clunky.  So I picked up a $10 folding step stool from amazon instead.  Takes up minimal space folded against the wall, useful for other applications (I’m about 3″ too short to be able to comfortably reach everywhere I’d reasonably like to reach without assistance).

I can anecdotally add to the evidence that I do poop substantially better.  Easier, faster, on average less wiping.  The “easier” part is actually a pretty relevant health thing, as well, as straining is connected to a variety of health problems.

More interestingly in my opinion, is that I’m torn on what to do RE: the squatty potty organization.  The simple answer is that I’d like to live in a society where we share great ideas that improve people’s lives without worrying about just compensation.  But thats also a cop-out.

I strongly suspect their product is similar to or worse than my step stool, along with being more expensive.  So now I’m just contemplating whether I think the world is a better place if I figure out a way to compensate them for bringing the idea to me [in a way I acted upon it].

I think it probably is.

A big bank’s $300 promotion makes me feel like banking is broken (day 118)

They pay you $300 to open an account and setup direct deposit. (there’s ways to game that without a standard W2 direct deposit).

Thats a lot of money for business development…just doesn’t feel like things are working right to spend a non-insignificant amount of money poaching customers from other banks.

Its obviously their money to spend as they wish, but it doesn’t seem like a functional system.

Not going to name them cause they don’t need free publicity, and they’ve done dickish things to me in the past (nothing out of the norm for standard bank BS, but still made my life substantially worse).

Uncertainty in benefits; paying people not to work (day 117)

We *need* to fix our healthcare and disability benefit system, where we pay people not to work, pay people to administrate and enforce them not working, and then when they work a certain amount over whatever threshold is set, they lose everything they’ve relied on. Even worse, uncertainty surrounding what that threshold is, so risk aversion encourages avoiding even more productivity.

I know this. It was *taught* in the policy design 101 class. Every policy nerd I know knows this. Most people I talk to or explain it to understand it.

Yet our system still has between hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars administrated this way from a government perspective, and many benefits provided via private employers have similar issues.

Transitioning to a better system without throwing away the old will likely cost trillions of dollars, which was a stumbling block for me at first.

But considering the fed invented and spent over 12 trillion dollars in QE without tanking the economy (ignoring the massive economic recovery and migration concentrated in urban centers, of course), that no longer bothers me. We’re up to our ass in debt, no side is politically willing to do what it takes to pay it off, so we might as well fix fundamental problems that will temporarily cost a metric assload of money to fix while we’re here.

Amputated fingers, market failures, and government intervention (day 116)

Table saws are terrifying, and about 10 people a day seriously (and permanently) injure themselves on them, with about 100 more people a day suffering lesser injuries but still ending up using healthcare resources. Injuries are estimated at $4 billion dollars a year; comparatively, injuries from firearms are estimated at between 700 million and $6.6 billion a year, diabetes 175-250 billion.

There’s a safety device that can basically make it so its nearly impossible to injure yourself with one of these saws. costs are rough, but it looks like $200 for the device (saws run ~200 new, while saws with the device ~$400). Basically, it detects a person touching the blade and stops it immediately. I didn’t believe it at first, but then, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Power Tool companies are fighting against the Consumer Product Safety Commission requiring new saws to have a safety device like this on them. While difficult to assess, the companies are probably correct that many consumers would buy the cheaper saw over the safer one if given a choice.

Especially with how healthcare costs are mandatorily socialized in the US now, society has a pretty big investment in reducing easily preventable healthcare costs. And this is a pretty slam-dunk piece of technology.

This is already long, so I’m going to save the heavy libertarian analysis for another day. I err libertarian on a lot of things, but this feels very similar to the indoor smoking ban in WI and other places: both the legal system and the markets were failing to incentivize everyone to move in a direction that made the world a better place.

All I can say is I think requiring new consumer sales to have this (or a similar) safety device sounds like a very reasonable regulatory compromise.

Organization: freezer (day 115)

Cleaned out and organized freezers (regular+chest) recently, took 10 minutes. I knew it would make it more useable, i was suprised at how much space was recovered and how much more usable it is, and we threw very little out.

Was impressed at how much happier it made me than I expected.

Finding motivation to do simple things to improve one’s life can be hard. Focusing on that “holy crap this is way better” feeling makes it easier.

Sleep temperature (day 114)

A lot of people like sleeping under blankets, and especially if you’re sleeping with someone else, maintaining a comfortable temperature both while going to sleep and staying asleep can be hard.

Small space heaters, window air conditioners, fans pointed at one side of the bed, lots of layered sheets and blankets, including some only on one half of the bed can all help with this. Most modern thermostats let you set multiple temperatures automatically, so its not hard to program it to adjust to awake and going-to-sleep comfortable temperatures.

Theres more expensive tech out there as well, so if you have the money and inclination look into it (cooling/heating beds and matress pads/pillows, beds with separate side settings, and lots of others).

The cost can be a consideration for some people, and that certainly shouldn’t be ignored; however, a lot of people tend to not properly compare the value of improved sleep to the low to moderate cost of buying and running a window A/C unit or space heater, especially some of the more efficient ones.

Don’t write off something as “too expensive” or too hard, at least do a very quick “how much does this actually cost, is better sleep worth whatever else you’d spend that money on” analysis, you’ll be surprised.