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The wife and I hand wash our dishes.

This means that instead of using the dishwasher, we pop them in the sink and do them by hand. I don’t mind doing this, it only adds perhaps 10-15 minutes to clean up. Plus, the dishwater often leaves ugly water stains which don’t come off.

The drawback of hand washing dishes is that we break a lot of them. I’ve broken several plates and glasses, and so has the wife. But it accelerated this past week.

I was washing a plate in the sink when it slipped out of my hand and fell against the bottom of the sink. It didn’t drop far, maybe 3 inches. But it left a chip and a crack in the side of it, rendering it unusable because it could cut you if you weren’t careful (most people won’t be careful).

Then a few days later, I was washing a wine glass. We had bought two inexpensive wine glasses from an estate sale a few weeks ago to replace the previous wine glasses that we had broken. Well, the wife broke one of those. So anyhow, I had the other wine glass in the sink and was washing a frying pan. It slipped out of my hand and landed on the wine glass, breaking it.

Argh!

The next day I decided to head down to the store to pick up two new wine glasses to replace the pair that we had broken. I went after work and had my backpack with me. I bought the two glasses and the clerk wrapped them in paper and put them in a shopping back (I didn’t put them in my backpack). I headed to my car and tossed in my backpack. I then got into the car, and brought the other bag into the car… and whacked the bag of wine glasses against the side of the car, breaking one.

I had broken yet another wine glass on the very same day I bought it!

Argh, again!

Washing dishes by hand is getting more and more inconvenient the more clumsy I get.

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I’ve loosely been tracking the trial of Bill Cosby – the TV star from the 1980’s and 1990’s. He’s had a whole stack of sexual harassment allegations spanning multiple decades, and his accusers have accused him of giving them drugs and engaging in unwanted sexual acts with them. There’s not just one or two women accusing him of this, but dozens.

Cosby’s on trial, but because so many of the cases are so old, he can’t be prosecuted for them due to the statute of limitations (or so I’ve heard). Instead, he’s being tried for one incident that occurred in 2004.

The prosecution brought multiple witnesses, whereas the defense wrapped up their case in a few minutes, only bringing in one witness (a police detective). They went to closing arguments, and the jury went into deliberations. That was last Monday or Tuesday (it’s the following Sunday as I write this).

There’s still no verdict, and the jury has asked to review lots of the evidence presented at trial.

I’ve read some commentary by so-called jury experts who say that it’s not indicative of it being either good or bad (for Cosby). But in my view, I think it’s bad news for the prosecution and good news for Cosby.

Now, personally, I think Bill Cosby is guilty. I know he has a wholesome image, but he’s had dozens of accusers come forward and say more or less the same thing. Why he would ever feel the need to give these women drugs – relaxants – to get them to agree to have sex with him is beyond me. He’s a rich and famous celebrity, I would think he wouldn’t have had that much difficulty in finding willing participants. And the circumstances of the story being told is suspicious.

I think he did it.

But I don’t think he’ll be convicted.

For you see, a couple of months ago I was on a jury, and it was a sexual assault case. In the case, it resulted in a guilty verdict. But I feel like the case was really obvious that the guy did it. There was evidence that was too strong to ignore.

In this case, there are a bunch of complicating factors:

First, it comes down to he said, she said

This is unfair, but this ultimately comes down to a he said, she said debate, and which one has more credibility. There isn’t any physical evidence, so the jury has to decide which one they want to believe. Both agree that there was a sexual encounter, and both agree that there was relaxant drugs involved. But one says it was consensual while the other says it wasn’t.

Secondthe prosecution has to prove that Cosby is guilty; the defense doesn’t have to prove he is innocent

This is a high bar to clear in a case like this where there is no physical evidence. As a jury, you can’t just say “Well, she said it so it must be true.” The jury has to find that Cosby is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This doesn’t mean that there can be zero doubt, but rather that a reasonable person would find the defendant guilty given the evidence and that alternative explanations are simply implausible.

Third, I suspect that the jury does not know that much about Cosby or the other allegations against him

When I was on the jury, there is a pre-trial process where the lawyers will weed out any juror who they think should not be on the jury. This includes people who have heard about the case on the news, and you are given strict instructions to not read about the case in any way, shape, or form; or to discuss it with anyone in any detail. When you go home for the evening, you can’t discuss what case it is or even what it’s about.

During the trial I was on, we were only given the facts of the case in isolation. I had heard that Cosby had numerous sexual complaints against him, but this probably didn’t come into the trial because it’s not part of this particular case. I say that because the defendant in the case I was on had a long criminal history. That didn’t come up during the trial since it was outside of the context of the case, and I’m sure the defense lawyer argued that it shouldn’t be part of the evidence the prosecution could bring up (and he succeeded).

Cosby’s lawyer would have argued the same thing (if he didn’t, he’s a bad lawyer and there’s no way Cosby would have gotten a bad one). That means that the trial jury would most likely be made up of people who weren’t that familiar with Bill Cosby (celebrities are not universally known) and were unfamiliar with all the other complaints against him. Or, if they did know about Cosby, would have been instructed to put all of their biases aside. But anyone familiar with Cosby’s other sexual misconduct allegations would probably have been excluded from the trial jury.


So with that out of the way, why do I think Cosby will not get convicted?

Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is hard to define, but it can be attained with the word of a credible witness. That’s the one thing this entire case likely rests on. Is Cosby’s accuser credible?

There will be some on the jury who think she is, but some who don’t. The reason the jury is asking to review her testimony is because they are trying to see if there were any inconsistencies in it. Did all the facts line up? Do they contradict at any point? Because if they do, that will undermine her credibility. There are going to be some on the jury that don’t think her testimony is credible enough to secure guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I say that because it’s what happened in my jury room. I’d say between 1/2 to 2/3 of us believe the defendant was guilty, even though the accuser had some minor gaps in the testimony. But the jurors who were unsure were not that willing to find a guilty verdict because they knew the implications, and believed that there was room for reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt differs from person to person.

In the trial I was on, there was physical evidence on the victim, and there was security footage that caught the two on camera about a half hour after the incident took place. And, there was testimony from friends of the victim. But, the friends’ testimony was not enough to convince the jury, only the physical evidence on the victim and the video camera footage. Had it not been for that, I don’t think we could have gotten a unanimous verdict.

And that’s what I think is happening here. I think that 1/2 to 2/3 of the jurors think Cosby is guilty, and the rest do not – at least not beyond a reasonable doubt. Those jurors will want more than he said it was consensual, she says it was not, in order to say guilty unless they find the accuser credible.

There will be an internal debate going – why would she make it up? The defense argued that it is grandstanding, or trying to get revenge after a consensual sexual encounter, or something like that. And some jurors will hold out that possibility even though it’s not that plausible. It’s true that some men will be falsely accused of sexual assault, but it happens far less than they actually commit sexual assault, and far less than they are accused of it but are acquitted.

So I think that the jury will probably come back as a hung jury, or return a verdict of not guilty, and that’s why it has taken so long. The jury I was on took about 5 hours, and this one is now at least four days (maybe three). They will review the testimony, but you can take notes during the trial and everyone can discuss it. You can bring your own personal experience into the trial, too.

But I think Cosby is, unfortunately, going to get away with it.

Update – June 20, 2017: I found out on CNN today that the result was a mistrial, just like I predicted.

 

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In May (I’m writing this a little after the fact), the wife and I took a trip to Cologne, Germany where I had a conference to attend. But before the conference, we were going to take a few days in eastern France in the Alsace region, which borders Germany. Historically this was a disputed region between the two countries. We were planning to wander around several small towns, and then perhaps also Strasbourg before heading up to Germany.

The plan was to fly direct from Seattle to the Frankfurt airport, rent a car, and then drive ~3 hours to the small town where we were staying. Then, we’d drive back the day before my conference to Frankfurt, and take the train up to Cologne.

The plan started off well. We don’t check any bags when we travel (if we can), and with our TSA pre-check we got through security in around 5 minutes. Then, we headed to the Alaska Airlines lounge where we hung out because we have a Passport card which gets us access to various lounges around the world.

It was pretty sweet.

And that’s when things started to go awry.

First, the airline we were traveling on – Lufthansa – delayed the flight. Then they delayed it again. And again. Finally, they announced that because the PA system on the plane was broken and they couldn’t fix it, they were cancelling the flight. We were now 3 or 4 hours later than our originally scheduled departure time.

We had to rebook.

We called up British Airways and got scheduled onto their next flight to London. We figured we’d catch a flight there, and then take a connection to Frankfurt. We had to reschedule our rental car at the Frankfurt airport and that took forever. We also had to recheck through security, but this time couldn’t use our TSA pre-check. The second time around through security (just heading back, rechecking in, and then getting back to almost the exact same gate) took an hour.

This time the plane took off on time, and we arrived in London just fine. Then we got on our connecting flight. But we learned about arrival that our next flight to Frankfurt was going to be delayed due to weather. And it got delayed again. And then we were going to get bumped. For you see, there were thunderstorms in the Frankfurt area that shut down the airport. So even when the airport re-opened, we were going to be delayed because all of the other planes whose flights were delayed would have to have their queues cleared.

And then there was no guarantee we’d even catch a connecting flight.

So we said “Forget it. How about if we cancel our reservations in France and just stay in central London for a few days?”

The wife and I talked it over, and we agreed. I looked up a hotel online and booked one using credit card points in downtown London, close to London Bridge. The wife cancelled the rental car and AirBNB in France, but surrendered some of the charges due to late cancellation.

Oh, well.

But London was neat. We wandered around the city for the first couple of days, checking out the bridges, the museums, some of the art galleries, and the Shakespeare Globe outdoor theater. The third day we went to Windsor Castle, and the fourth day we went to Kew Gardens which I had never heard of but thoroughly enjoyed.

The trip to London completed, and then we made it to Frankfurt. I was holding my breath because I didn’t want yet another cancelled flight. But it didn’t cancel, the weather was great, and we made it to Cologne. I went to my conference, while the wife wandered around the city.

And then we were done.

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Well, I finally did it.

In 2011, I got a Windows Phone because my company paid for it. In Jan 2013, I upgraded to a Windows Phone 8 because the company paid for it again. I’m all for getting free phones. I was happy with my smart phone.

But over time, my Windows Phone started to have major problems:

  • For some reason, after a few days, the screen wouldn’t rotate when I rotated the device. I don’t know why it would do this, it just wouldn’t.
    .
  • For some other reason, after a while, the volume wouldn’t adjust up or down. I’d be listening to a podcast and try to make it louder or quieter, and it wouldn’t change. To fix both of these I had to turn the phone off and turn it back on.
    .
  • The phone wouldn’t upgrade to the newest operating system, Windows 8.1.
    .
  • I couldn’t install new apps. It would always say it couldn’t connect to the App Store to verify my account.
    .
  • The phone got really slow when loading apps, and the apps wouldn’t even load 1/4 of the time.
    .
  • I dropped the phone and cracked the screen, leaving a huge thumbprint-sized blob of dead (black) pixels in the corner.

So yeah, it was time to get a new one.

I had delayed getting a new iPhone for years. In fact, the first time I went to the AT&T store, they wouldn’t let me pay for it all at once. The only option they had was to finance it over two years. Huh? That’s ridiculous.

I went to the Apple store a few times to buy it outright, but it was never in stock. I had to order it online and wait a month for it to arrive.

But finally it did. And I’m like “What was I think waiting so long?”

I love my new iPhone. It works so much better. The apps load fast. The app store works. The screen rotates. The volume adjusts. There are plenty of apps. And it has fingerprint unlock for my thumb!

I didn’t think there was that much of a difference between the iPhone and the Windows Phone. But there is. I never thought I would be a believer but I have been swept away by the device.

It’s not perfect, there are things I don’t like about it and were better on Windows Phone (e.g., figuring out my contacts was better on the Windows Phone, the stopwatch apps in the App Store are worse than the simple one on the Windows Phone), but I am happy with my purchase.

So much so that I am writing a blog post about it. I can’t believe I’m shilling for Apple. Blargh to that.

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You know, technology is great… most of the time. It’s great at making things easier, and over the past ten years, it’s been great at connecting me to other people with social networks. This blog gets almost no traffic, but on the other hand sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been fantastic for letting me keep up-to-date with others. It wouldn’t be possible to not feel a little homesick if it weren’t for those.

But lately, I think that the geeks designing the technology have gotten things wrong. Almost totally wrong.

Why would I, a geek, say that?

One of the things I value is diversity of experience. We have a diverse group of people at work. I like going to new places and trying different restaurants. I listen to people who think differently than I do because they think differently than me, not in spite of it. If I were to do the same things over and over, I would get stuck in a rut and think the same things over and over again.

I bring this up because of my belief in technology’s complete and utter failure – despite the promises of the technoclass (of which I am a member) – to deliver on its promise of an enlightened utopia based on knowledge. People would shed their shortsighted opinions and beliefs, do a little research on the Internet, and come to a correct understanding of everything. Ignorance would slowly, slowly fade as people who don’t use it would eventually give way to the next generation.

Yet that hasn’t happened.

Why hasn’t technology delivered the enlightened utopia Silicon Valley keeps promising? I think it’s because even though we have all this fantastic technology, it’s still being used by people. And people have inherent biases and make all sorts of cognitive errors. I don’t have time or energy to describe them all.

You see, if we hold a strong political belief, even if it’s wrong, we don’t browse the Internet to find out the truth of whether or not something is correct. Instead, we seek out the websites and articles that confirm our opinions and discard the evidence that contradicts it. This is how we resolve our cognitive dissonance – with confirmation bias (the tendency to believe the evidence that confirms our beliefs and disregard the evidence that contradicts it).

Technology has made it easy for small fringe groups to spread their message. Lesser fringe groups can do the same, and people who believe all these things can easily find it. Thus, the enlightened utopia will never occur unless the motivation to stop believing wrong things is stronger than the reinforcement people get by believing them. That is a tall order.

And that brings me to technology.

When I click ‘Like’ on someone’s comment, or their status update; or, when I click on an article to read like Business Insider, what does Facebook do? They show me more status updates from those people and more links from Business Insider. In other words, Facebook thinks “Well, since you like it, we’re going to deliver more of it to you.”

When I browse for something on Amazon, they send me an email the next day with “We think you’ll like these products because you previously searched for a similar one.”

Twitter and Gmail give me ads based upon what I like, although Facebook is the worst offender.

I bring all this up because all of these services, while claiming to give me more of what I demand, are just reinforcing what I already believe. They are making my exposure to the outside world less diverse, not more diverse. They are feeding into my confirmation bias and resolving any cognitive dissonance by showing me the same thing every day. I don’t get to see the status updates of other friends because Facebook thinks I want to see the same people. I don’t, I want to see them all. I can change Facebook’s settings but they still reset it every once in a while.

I think technology is failing us that way.

Just now, I went to Bing images to do a search and it said “Sign in to build a customized experience just for you.” I said no. I don’t want a customized experience because while they are trying to tailor it for me, that’s what I want to avoid. I need a different point of view in order to expand my mind. Otherwise, I just do the same thing over and over.

I think that’s where tech companies have gone wrong. In the race to deliver the customized experience and make people feel warm and fuzzy because of familiarity, they (we) are doing a disservice to people by not showing them new things.

And new things is how we broaden the mind.

The last thing I want is for mine to get too shallow.

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I recently read an article somewhere (I forget where) that if you want to look at someone’s future 10 years from now, look at what they are doing today.

If I look at myself and where I am now, would 10 years ago have predicted where I am currently at?

First, let’s look at where I came from. I grew up in a middle class household, but that’s not enough of a description. The province in Canada where we lived – Manitoba – is not one of the wealthier provinces but at the same time, we did not live in a poor community. If you map out people’s classes the following way (using this article as a basis, you should read the whole thing), starting from the bottom up:

  1. The lowest, poor class – chronically unemployed, generationally poor
  2. Labor class level 1 – unskilled labor, work at fast food restaurants
  3. Labor class level 2 – assembly line work
  4. Labor class level 3 – pilots, plumbers, and small business owners
  5. Gentry class level 1 – schoolteachers and starving artists
  6. Gentry class level 2 – professions like engineering and law
  7. Gentry class level 3 – scientists and entrepreneurs
  8. Elite class – Although you can get a job in finance and make a few million and kind of get into this class, you’re mostly born into it. These are families with “old” money. They don’t work unless they want to.

Don’t confuse social class with economic class; you can be a wealthy plumber yet still be labor class because social class is more than money. Instead, it’s about economic opportunity, the people around you, your political beliefs and attitudes, your social beliefs and attitudes, and so forth.

My family was either Labor class 2 or Labor class 3. We weren’t poor, but we did live on an acreage out in the countryside about five miles outside of the nearest town of about 2000 people, and 20 min outside the nearest big city (of about 600,000 people). I can tell we were Labor class 2 or 3 because the families that we were friends with, and made up most of the other families, were the same as us. My friends’ parents had similar jobs with some variation. Our cousins’ families were similar to us, too, again with some variation.What cements the fact that we were Labor class were the things we enjoyed – my brother and I liked watching professional wrestling. Those are Labor class leisures.

I, along with my two siblings, went to university. I got a degree in computer engineering. For all the talk about how university isn’t worth the cost, the one thing it does teach you that you can’t learn in online courses is how the gentry class thinks. That was a big part of what I learned, especially when I took a class in sociology (half of which was wrong, but at least I know how they think).

Fast-forward to today, and I am in Gentry class 2. I somehow got and kept a job at a large tech company for 12 years. I am paid well and many days (most?) I wonder how I manage to have landed a position where I am overpaid as much as I am; I do feel guilty sometimes when I look back at the friends with whom I grew up and I out-earn all of them, and even some of my smarter classmates in high school, too.

I sometimes map myself along the household income scales you can find by doing web searches, and the wife and I – combined – are in the top 10% in the country which isn’t unusual for people living in Seattle, especially when one of them works in the tech industry. I am not complaining about how fortunate we are, nor bragging. It just is, and it contrasts with where I came from.

By the way, the top 10% sounds impressive but it isn’t. The top of the economic scale doesn’t get exorbitant until you get to the top 1% and even then, not until the top 10% of that 1%, that is, the top 0.1% of the country. But we are still doing fine.

So returning to my question from the start of this post – could 10 years ago have predicted where I am now?

10 years ago was 2006 and I was working back in Winnipeg for the same company I work for now, and I wasn’t getting paid that much money. However, there were a few things I was doing right:

  1. I had started a few side businesses and failed at all of them. I failed in at least 3 network marketing businesses the five years prior to 2006.
  2. I practiced researching and trading stocks. I spent a ton of time doing this. I got good at outperforming the market in up-trends but losing most of it in down-trends, and that’s why I quit. I did better doing passive trading.
  3. I did some part-time gigs performing magic. These never paid a lot but I worked at it.
  4. I did a lot of programming in my spare time while I was unemployed, I developed my own stock market trading simulator.
  5. I read a lot of books on personal finance and got into Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of books, among others. So I was well aware of what it took.
  6. In 2001, I was working for a tech company in the UK when I was laid off but got a pretty good redundancy payout. I invested £3000 into an investment account for long term retirement. It lost about 25% in a year, though, so I withdrew half.
  7. I was cheap. I rarely spent money on frivolous things. In fact, after I moved back to Canada from the UK, I lived at home with my parents because it was cheaper.

So looking back on my habits from 10 years ago, it’s not that surprising that I am doing reasonably well now. I was good in school (but not university) and liked to read, was good at math and programming, and I was interested in finance. Today, I am in a stable position.

I look at some of my friends who are not in as good a position as I am. Some of them would spend money far too easily for my judgmental eyes and today, they struggle to financially get ahead or even to keep their heads above water.

I am fortunate to be in the position that I am in. It is a lot of luck that I was born in the family I was, that I was born in the country I was, in the time I was. But that is also augmented with some early habits I developed that have so far paid off such that I can do many of the things I want to do.

It is true that money does not buy happiness. However, what it does is allow you to do the things you like to do and pay to not have to do the things you don’t like to do.

The wife and I read a lot of books on personal finance. We are aggressively paying down the mortgage on the condo I bought in 2008, we put a lot into retirement savings, and I have a large chunk in regular savings. We have met with a financial adviser, we take financial planning classes, we have a will (!), and the strangest thing is that now we get invitations in the mail to attend free dinners put on by people trying to sell us things. So far, we’ve done one for solar panel installations, and then I went to another one for learning how to invested in Fixed Index Annuities. I think we’re going to one or two more in the next couple of weeks.

So, what will things look like 10 years from today? Will the things we’re doing now pay off then?

We’ll see.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another description of the social classes and labor classes can be found here:

https://web.archive.org/web/20151006183427/https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/the-3-ladder-system-of-social-class-in-the-u-s/

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The two cats of ours – Ruby and Esmerelda – are a couple of sleepy heads, like all cats are. But the two of them have different habits.

Both cats will sleep in the bedroom at night. However, Ruby (the fuzzy orange one) will usually sleep on a chair off to the side and will jump onto the bed in the middle of the night and sleep by my feet. She loves to sleep by my feet. She doesn’t put up with movement, though. If I nudge her or roll around, she jumps off. She says “NO MOVING!” That one has no patience for anything else.

Esmerelda (Zelda), by contrast, likes to sleep between either me or the wife. Or, sometimes she’ll sleep on me, or sometimes on the wife. Most days when I wake up, Esmerelda is on the bed between us, frequently all stretched out. Ruby, on the other hand, is only sometimes on the bed.

The one thing that they both have in common is that they like to sleep on me from time to time. Ruby will only sleep by my feet, but Zelda will sleep on my lap. When we first got Zelda, Ruby would steer clear. But now, so long as Zelda stays out of her face, Ruby will tolerate her just fine.

Sometimes in the middle of the night Zelda will get a whacking and I’ll wake up, but for the most part it’s okay.

They both like being our cats.

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