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Archive for April, 2014

Last month, my body had a breakdown after getting back from Taiwan and I had to call in sick. It was the first time in two years I had to do that.

However, the past few days I have been sick again!

I woke up on Friday with a sore throat. It hasn’t been that painful but it’s been annoying. Normally when I have a sore throat I secretly hope that it will go away in 1 or 2 days. I’m disappointed 80% of the time when it doesn’t. It’s now at 6 days, although it is getting better.

I also have a cough. That’s made it worse. Cough syrup never helps me either. Who makes that stuff and why is it so useless?

The last time I had symptoms like this was two years ago, in April 2012. I think that it is seasonal allergies because prior to this I was doing very well.

Blargh. Being sick is annoying.

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The wife complains that the cat never sits on her. And for the most part, it’s true. The cat loves to sit on me. When we’re sitting next to each other (me and the wife), the cat will take the long way around to step over the wife to sit on me. The cat makes no attempt to hide it.

But there’s an exception.

The cat seems to like it when the wife reads or talks out loud. When either of us are on the phone, the cat walks into the room and starts meowing loudly, as if to say “Hello! Hello! Hello!” Yet, the cat does not do this when the wife and I are talking to each other.

A couple of weeks ago, the wife was on the bed reading a book out loud to me. The cat noticed. She got up off the floor, jumped onto the bed and onto the wife’s lap and started shoving her face into the book, and then into the wife’s face. She thought the wife was reading to her!

This was surprising. I never thought the cat would do this. I guess she likes it when people read out loud.

Except me. She doesn’t come to me when I read. Only every other time.

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The cat then tried to bite the pages of the book.

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Next, she tried to swat the wife in the face.

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Finally, she just decided to read along.

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Last June, in 2013, I started to drink beer on an irregular basis. So, I’ve only been consuming it for less than a year. But in that time I’ve already developed a judgmental attitude.

I can’t understand why people drink poor-quality beer. Do they not understand that there is better stuff out there? My rule-of-thumb is to not drink beer that I’ve seen advertised on TV. When people hear me say that, they initially laugh and then agree. This rules out Budweiser, Miller and Coors. I’ve never had Molson or Labatt’s but they fail my test.

When I do see people consuming them, such as sports fans at events, I think “Ugh” and I shake my head. I know I shouldn’t be judging them… but I do!

Why do I do this?

I think it’s because I am looking down at them because they are consuming beer for the purpose of consuming alcohol, rather than enjoying the taste. To me, if I am going to consume calories in liquid format, I want to enjoy those calories. Yet drinking poor quality beer is just a way to get inebriated and lose control of yourself.

I can’t get over that!

I’ve never been drunk, nor do I ever plan to. I drink beer for the taste. Whenever I try a new one and it doesn’t taste very good, I become disappointed and pour it out. It’s not about getting drunk.

You can see what I’m thinking – I look down on those with the lack of self-control, that is, those that use a substance to change their personality into a less restrained version of themselves without regard for the quality of the product.

I just can’t relate to that.

I am conflicted about this. Should I feel guilty about feeling judgmental? I feel like I should feel guilty, but I don’t. But then I feel guilty about not feeling guilty!

I’m trying, though. Truly, I am.

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I was reading in the New York Times the other day an article entitled Snowden Defends Query to Putin on Surveillance. The article references a question-and-answer session with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the interview, Snowden shows up unexpectedly and asks President Putin and asks him whether or not Russia engages in the same sort of unlawful surveillance that the NSA participates in.

Putin jockeys with him jokingly for a bit, saying that they’re both intelligence agents, and then denies it. They don’t have the money to do it, and their intelligence gathering is governed by society and by law. In other words, Russian intelligence agencies are more ethical than US intelligence agencies.

American journalists were quick to criticize Snowden. Just how, exactly, did he manage to conveniently show up on this telethon to ask President Putin these questions? The underlying message is that Snowden is being used as a propaganda piece for the Russian government, willingly or unknowingly. While pointing his arrows at the US for intelligence gathering practices he finds unethical (and the morality of which is still ambiguous, at least in the United States [you may disagree with my assessment but there is not universal condemnation]), how can he clearly miss the unethical actions that Russia is taking in Ukraine, first by annexing Crimea and then threatening to invade Ukraine, or at least causing unrest?

In other words, the criticism is that Snowden is picking-and-choosing at whom he feels outrage; it is hypocritical to give the Russian government a chance to showcase their moral superiority at the expense of the US, while ignoring the Russian government’s current transgressions.

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Snowden disagrees with this. He flat out denies it:

Calling Mr. Putin’s answer evasive, Mr. Snowden wrote that he was “surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the intelligence practices of my own country could not believe that I might criticize the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have shown no allegiance, without ulterior motive.”

He also noted that a Russian investigative journalist, Andrei Soldatov, “perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia’s surveillance apparatus” described his question as “extremely important for Russia.”

As soon as I read this, many red flags went up in my mind.

For you see, a few years ago I started studying up on deception – how humans do it and how to detect it. There’s no sure-fire way to tell when someone is lying, but with training you can get it right 80-90% of the time (without training you can get it right 53% of the time, roughly equal to a coin flip).

People don’t like to be labeled as deceivers. We have a great need to feel consistent and will often explain things to ourselves in order to convince ourselves of our actions to make that cognitive dissonance go away.

I am not an expert in detecting deception, nor am I a trained analyst. But I have read many books and Snowden’s answers jumped out at me with their obviousness.

What follows is what I think:

  1. The first red flag – Look at the past good things I have done!

    When someone is accused of something and they change the subject by bringing up past examples of good behavior, that is suspicious. This is known as a “convincing statement.”

    For example, suppose the police were interrogating a suspect about breaking-and-entering and he says “You know, this past weekend I was helping out at the homeless shelter.” The idea is to deflect suspicion by creating a halo effect – the tendency for us to believe that good characteristics about a person spills over into all traits about that person. Surely someone who helps out selflessly to assist the homeless would not commit a crime! But that this person helps the homeless does not mean they could not break-and-enter.

    Look at Snowden’s response: he risked his life to expose the intelligence practices of his own country. That was a very ethical thing to do, so why would he do such an unethical thing and appear as a propaganda piece for the Russian government now?

  2. The second red flag – you haven’t seen me do anything

    Snowden issued a non-specific denial: Russia is a country to which he has shown no allegiance. If the “no” statement is delivered in a way that’s open ended but overly specific, that can be a sign of deception. Snowden said he has not shown any allegiance, without ulterior motive. That is subtle; it doesn’t mean he has none, nor has no ulterior motive, only that others can’t see it.

  3. The third red flag – Turning around the accusations

    When someone is caught in a lie, they will often flip around the question and attack the accuser. In this case, Snowden expresses surprise that people who saw him do such a heroic action now can’t believe that he would break from his past ethical actions. In other words, they should be ashamed of themselves for not trusting his character.

  4. The fourth red flag – Redirection with an appeal to authority

    This one is not as strong, but Snowden dismisses the attack against him by appealing to another journalist who has similarly criticized Russia’s surveillance state, and this journalist says that Snowden’s question is very important.

    Snowden’s question is important, yes, but that is not what we are discussing; we are discussing whether or not this question-and-answer session was staged and whether or not Snowden is being used by the Russian government to further its own public relations.

Regardless of what you think of Snowden – that he’s a hero for exposing a corrupt government or that he is a traitor for giving away trade secrets – my view is that his most recent critics for this Putin Q&A session struck a nerve that he had to defend himself. But the way he phrased it indicates to me that he is hiding something. Maybe he realizes now that he initially thought he was asking Putin a hard question but upon further reflection, that he was used to further the Russian agenda and now has to rationalize what he did… but can’t admit it.

Or perhaps I am wrong and he actually means what he says and the red flags I detected are false positives.

I guess that depends on what I want to believe.

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Since 2010, my dentist has been trying to convince me to get braces on my teeth. They are not too bad except for four of them, two on top and two on the bottom, that are out of alignment. The one on the bottom is very out of alignment.

I’ve been procrastinating for four years. Why? Well, I might have done it earlier but the idea of having to hold my mouth open for two hours while they put them on has dissuaded me. For you see, in 2010, I went in and had two get a whole bunch of fillings put in. It sucked; my jaw hurt every 15 minutes, I kept gagging and it fills my memories with that. Since then, I have kept putting it off.

I remember in 2011 I decided not to do it because I was getting an operation on my hip for the 3rd time and I decided to do one medical procedure at a time. Well, here I am, three years later, still with crooked teeth.

Your teeth change over time, and I know that I have to get it done eventually. And I’m not looking forward to it. I’m sure my jaw will ache, and I’m sure the procedure will suck.

This had better be worth it.

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