Nothing worse than an aging I.T. nerd.

WDHDsaleI’m sitting in my cube at work this morning going through my daily routine of checking my work and personal email when I come across an ad from Newegg.com that includes the item over on the right. A 1TB Western Digital HD for a little under $50.

As it is my habit to try and get other people to spend money on stuff they don’t need, I engage in a ritual of reading off this deal to my cubemate who is roughly eleven years older than I am. We both stop to marvel at this price because we’re both old enough to remember life before hard drives.

At this point he pulls out a dry erase marker and starts to write things down on his whiteboard. Back in the day he used to sell computers for a living and he can remember that in 1984 a 10MB hard drive went for about $500. In today’s dollars that comes out to around $1,148.48.  A 10MB drive is equal to about 0.000009536743164063 terabytes. To put it another way, the cost per MB of that 10MB drive in today’s dollars works out to around $114.85. The price per MB of a 1TB drive in today’s dollars is roughly 0.00005.

I can remember a time when us computer nerds spoke of a one terabyte hard drive in hushed, reverent tones as though describing a unicorn. A fantastic, mythical thing that could exist, but probably never would and if it ever did surely it would be so fantastically expensive that we’d never afford one in our lifetime. Oh, but if we did get our hands on one we’d never need another hard drive again cause there’s no way we’d ever fill it up! Just imagine having a hard drive you’d hand down to your children and them to their children and even then it’d probably take another generation of kids to come close to filling it up!

You know you’re getting old when you waste time figuring shit like this out and then shaking your head at how spoiled kids are these days.

Addendum: The first computer I ever bought with my own money was my venerable Amiga 1000. I got a job at McDonalds and took out my first ever loan from a credit union to pay for it. The machine itself cost $1,295 at launch and the CRT monitor was another $300 bringing the total to $1,595 not including sales tax. In today’s dollars that works out to $3,537.43. That boggles my mind.

I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian.

In the previous entry I discussed a little about how, generally, most folks become more Conservative as they age. This brought to mind the Political Compass test which attempts to establish where you fall in the Liberal/Conservative/Authoritarian/Libertarian scale. I first took the test in 2004 and while I didn’t blog about it at the time I did post it as an image on SEB.

To give an idea of what it attempts to do, here’s their sample graph that plots out where a few famous historical people fall on the scale:

axeswithnames

When I first took the test my score was Economic Left/Right -4.62 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -4.92 which would place me down around Gandhi on the chart above.

I retook the test in January of 2012 to see if I’d grown more Conservative like you’re supposed to do when you get older. Here’s that graph:

I’m becoming even more of a Republican’s worst nightmare.

Clearly I was the exception to the rule. It’s been another 3 years since and I’m coming up on my 48th birthday so surely I’m starting to reverse the trend by now, right?

Uh…

If I keep going at this rate they're going to need a bigger graph. 

If I keep going at this rate they’re going to need a bigger graph. 

Thus proving that the idea people become more Conservative as they age is a generalization. I blame my open mindedness and curiosity, both factors psychologists have identified as contributing to a liberal political outlook. If it seems like I’ve been getting worse in my liberal viewpoint over the years, you now have evidence that it’s not just your imagination.

SEB Mailbag: “What went wrong with my dad” edition.

I received this email from J a couple of days ago and I’ve been mulling it over trying to come up with a decent answer. Here’s what he wrote:

I will try not to bore you to death. My father raised us well. We do not discriminate, race is a non issue with us. My brother married an Indian, and I married a Puerto Rican. I’m going to move forward to speed along…

Today my  father is an angry man. He is angry at all the wrong things. He blames Obama for just about everything and is scared and paranoid. He has many guns which he displays daily. He supports open carry. He says racist remarks and incessantly complains about immigrants, although his own parents moved here from Europe, which he hates! He goes to church but displays hateful rhetoric and attitudes daily. He curses gays and lesbians. He believes the government is after his guns. I would be interested to hear what you think has happened. My mother thinks it is the news he watches. I think it is fox news which my wife has banned from the house. Although I like to watch it to get the others perspective.

Naturally I can only speculate based on a very limited bit of information. Admittedly my first impulse is to say that if he relies mainly on FOX News for information then that may have a lot to do with it, but it’s far from the only reason. They say that most folks tend to grow more conservative as they age and perhaps that’s what has happened here. You don’t mention how often you interact with him these days so it’s also possible you’re seeing only one aspect of him these days. Obama winning the election brought out a lot of otherwise hidden bigotry among the populace so perhaps that played a part in it.

Again, not having known the man myself I can only provide guesses. I have family and friends who took a turn to the far Right as they got older and I’ve never been able to fully figure out why. I mentioned just recently that I’ve gone as far as to unfriend one relative because they were getting upset at my attempts to discuss their conservative postings to Facebook. People I’d once admired are often hard to stay in contact with these days due to the views they espouse. You could argue that I’ve become more Liberal as I’ve gotten older and I’m sure it’s just as confusing to the Conservative folks who’ve known me a for a long time.

angryconservatives

There’s an interesting article over at Psychology Today from October of last year in which they discuss some of the reasons some folks become more Conservative as they get older. They include:

  1. Personality: “people differ in their typical levels of curiosity, and these differences have been attributed to the broader personality trait of Openness to Experience.”
  2. Judgement: “in particular information-processing capacity.”
  3. Familiarity: “as we grow older, our experiences become more constrained and predictable.”

The point of curiosity is one I can relate to. I’ve always been an intensely curious person and I’m sure that’s a big factor in why I became an atheist. From the article, here’s the full text from the segment on personality:

Indeed, a review (link is external) of 92 scientific studies shows that intellectual curiosity tends to decline in old age, and that this decline explains (link is external) age-related increases in conservatism. At any age, people differ in their typical levels of curiosity, and these differences have been attributed to the broader personality trait of Openness to Experience. Higher levels of Openness have been associated not only with aesthetic and cultural interests, but also with a general tendency to seek emotionally stimulating and adrenalizing activities (e.g., from scuba diving to bungee jumping; from drugs to unprotected sex). Furthermore, open people are also more likely to display counter-conformist attitudes, challenge the status quo and disrespect authority. Although these qualities make high Openness a potential threat to society, Openness is also the source of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as an intellectual antidote to totalitarianism, injustice and prejudice.

The article admits it’s a generalization and doesn’t apply to all people (obviously not in my case). There’s another article from last year over at Bloomberg.com that adds another reason why some folks become more Conservative as they age: Having kids.

Contrary to popular belief, paying taxes, accumulating wealth, and being in the 1 percent or the 99 percent are extremely poor predictors of left-right political orientation. According to American National Election Studies, an academically run survey project, the correlation between family income and party identification for U.S. voters in the 2012 presidential election was a mere 0.13. This weak statistical relationship is typical of past elections.

There is one life event, though, that greatly accelerates a person’s shift to the right, and it often occurs in the 30s: parenthood. Its political impact is easy to see among a cohort of Canadian college students studied by psychologist Robert Altemeyer. Their scores on an ideology test at age 22 grew more conservative by an average of 5.4 percent when they were retested at 30. But among those 30-year-olds who’d had children, conservatism increased by 9.4 percent.

In the case of your dad, J, it’s possible that his shift to the far right is just a natural consequence of him getting older. It’s also possible that it’s been exacerbated by the media he consumes and the people he surrounds himself with. There’s also the possibility that your perception of his Conservatism is heightened by the difference in your ages (and thus where you both are in terms of your political viewpoints).

Which of the above is the actual reason for it? I haven’t a clue. It could be that it’s a combination of all of those things. With any luck perhaps I’ve given you a pointer in the right direction to help figure it out.

Ramen photobomb.

My buddy Greg came over to hang out and watch silly cartoons with me yesterday and then we went out to dinner at Matsuchan, the local authentic ramen restaurant. He was so impressed with his food that he tried to take a pic of it which I tried to photobomb.

RamenPhotobomb

 

Looking pretty good! That ramen isn’t bad looking either!

Random thoughts that momentarily caught my attention.

Memes like this one float around on the Internet quite a lot, but this one in particular caused me to pause and think for a moment. Always a dangerous thing to do.randomspacethoughts

My dad passed away one year ago yesterday.

I was going to write something about this yesterday, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. I’m still not sure what I’ll say about it today. It took me a couple of days before I managed to write an entry about his death when it happened last year. I miss him and I think about him pretty often, but that’s probably not a surprise to anyone.

Reflecting back on it now it occurs to me that I’m entering that stage of life where losing people close to me is going to happen more frequently. My father-in-law passed two years ago — it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long — all of my uncles on my mother’s side have been gone for years, my grandparents have been gone for over a decade, good friends of mine have left the world sooner than they should have, and now it’s been a year since my dad died. Some of those deaths were unexpected, but the last couple haven’t been.

I’m not sure how to feel about that. My reactions are mixed between the emotional and selfish side that wants to hold onto loved ones for as long as possible and the logical, rational side that says this is a part of life that shouldn’t come as a surprise. I guess the best that I can do is to appreciate the good times we had and that I continue to have with those still here. If your dad is still around today give him a hug for me. I bet he’ll appreciate it.

 

Today Disneyland is 60 years old.

On July 17th, 1955 the gates to Disneyland first opened to throngs of waiting people. The event was covered by ABC with an hour long special that amounted to a massive commercial for Disney’s new venture. That special is available in its entirety on YouTube:

This was 12 years before I was born and it’s fascinating to look back and see how it was covered at the time. Seeing Ronald Reagan show up not as a politician, but as an actor, is really weird.

The park cost Disney $17 million to build (about $151 million in today’s dollars). An amazing amount of money at the time, but the park quickly turned a profit and continues to do so today. Average yearly attendance these days is 14 million people spending around $3 billion while they’re there. Not bad for a 60 year old amusement park. It helps that the park has been expanded and attractions refreshed several times over the years giving folks a reason to come back. I’ve never been to Disneyland myself, but I have been to Walt Disney World in Florida which is only 4 years younger than I am.

Anyway, I thought the ABC special made for interesting viewing so I thought I’d share it here.

Just call me Shelly.

I maintain an account on Facebook mainly because so many of my friends and family have one and, for a lot of them, it’s the only contact I have with them anymore. I tend to share the same things on FB that I share to Google+ and Twitter. In fact, a lot of my updates to FB are just tweets that got imported over. A fair number of my extended family that I don’t see much in person these days tend to fall onto the Conservative end of the political spectrum. With me being a Liberal there is bound to be the occasional disagreement and a recent one ended with me unfriending the relative in question for the sake of familial harmony.

The topic of what caused the agreement isn’t what I want to talk about. Rather it’s a comment directed at me in an attempt to lighten the mood by the person I was interacting with. They said that I was “The Sheldon of the family.”

For the handful of you who have somehow managed to never have seen CBS’ show The Big Bang Theory, I should explain that there is a character on it by the name of Sheldon Lee Cooper, Ph.D., Sc.D., portrayed by actor Jim Parsons. Sheldon is a genius who lacks social skills and almost any ability to recognize humor or sarcasm. He is often obnoxious, demanding, and selfish. He lacks humility and empathy and is often extremely narcissistic. He is also extremely knowledgeable, particularly in the areas of science, history, geography, linguistics, math and so on. In short, it’s a backhanded compliment at best to be called your family’s Sheldon. It implies that for all the brains you might have you are barely tolerated by those supposedly closest to you.

SheldonCooperWrong

Not that it’s a completely unfair comparison. I tend to be passionate about many of the same topics that Sheldon Cooper is and, while I don’t have near the credentials or I.Q. of the fictional character, I’m pretty well read on the things I’m interested in. When I take the time to argue a point I do it by presenting supporting evidence for the opinions I hold. I can get so wrapped up in stating my case that I don’t give adequate thought to the emotional impact of my words. I can be blunt and curt without realizing it. I’m not afraid to call people out, family or otherwise, for their faulty logic or hypocrisy. I’m easily annoyed by willful ignorance. That said, I don’t begin to even pretend to be incapable of being wrong. I don’t think I have all the answers and I’m not above apologizing for my mistakes. I may not be perfect at social skills, but I’m no Sheldon Cooper when it comes to getting along in a group.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being compared to Sheldon since it happened a couple of days ago and I’m OK with it. It may or may not have been meant as an intentional slight at the time and whether it was or not isn’t important. The one aspect of Sheldon that is commonly overlooked is the fact that he’s often right about what he’s arguing about; much to the annoyance of the people he’s arguing with*. So I’ll take being compared to Sheldon as a tacit admission that I made my points well.

*Which shouldn’t be a surprise as the show employs an actual physicist — David Saltzberg — to make sure Sheldon’s dialogue is factually accurate.

We all need a little motivational pep talk now and then.

catmotivationalspeech

Marriage equality is the best thing to happen for… atheism?

I’ve been kicking around a couple of ideas for blog posts the past week or so because it’s been awhile since I last wrote one. In the past I would’ve blogged about the momentous Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land and how historic it is and all that, but that all seemed like an obvious thing to say so I didn’t do that.

However, while watching the various media reports on the reactions to the ruling — both joyous and apoplectic — it occurred to me that this wasn’t just a wonderful thing for the LGBT community, but for us atheists as well.

We already know that the younger generation is abandoning traditional religious beliefs in record numbers and this is driven in part by the bigotry and intolerance for homosexuals exhibited by many religious sects. In the most recent U.S. Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center they reported:

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants.

36% of people between 18 and 24 are religiously unaffiliated. That’s huge and it spells big trouble for the religious powers that be. You can find all manner of articles on various religious websites arguing over why people in general, and young people in particular, are leaving the church and what to do to fix the problem, but studies show that it’s got a lot to do with perceived hostility to gays and lesbians. The Public Religion Research Institute released a report in early 2014 that said:

Majorities of Americans perceive three religious groups to be unfriendly to LGBT people: the Catholic Church (58%), the Mormon church (53%), and evangelical Christian churches (51%). Perceptions of non-evangelical Protestant churches, African-American churches and the Jewish religion are notably less negative.

Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Seven-in-ten (70%) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Only among members of the Silent Generation do less than a majority (43%) believe religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17%) or very important (14%) factor in their disaffiliation from religion.

Religious hostility towards the gay community is not the only driving factor in people leaving their religion behind, but it is a significant one. Given that fact the reaction many on the Religious Right have had to the Supreme Court ruling can only encourage that trend to continue. A small sampling:

Bryan Fischer of the far right American Family Association took to Twitter after the decision to compare it to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks. I shit you not:

Then there’s Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries who was recently interviewed on AFA’s radio show Focal Point who said the decision had basically turned the U.S. into North Korea:

“Righteous Christians are truly beyond grieved,” she continued. “They can’t believe that this has happened, not just in the lifetime, but within a relatively short period of time, within a five to seven year period of time, it just seems like not just the world has been turned over to evil, but it seems like the greatest nation that certainly in the last many hundreds of years has been turned over to a reprobate mind.”

“We may be totally silenced,” Markell warned. “Who knows? American Family Radio, Olive Tree Ministries, maybe we’ll be shut down. It would not surprise me at all … They talk like this in North Korea, in China but now we’re talking like this in America and I can only consider that it’s probably judgment on us because too much of America has gone astray spiritually.”

Presidential Candidate (!) Rick Santorum has been having an absolute fit since the decision making all manner of hysterical predictions and promising the folks at NOM that he would work to reverse the decision if elected President:

Sen. Rick Santorum gave the keynote address to NOM’s Second Annual Marriage Gala in Washington, DC on July 2nd. Sen. Santorum ripped the US Supreme Court for their illegitimate ruling and pledged as president to work to reverse it, saying “this will not stand,” bringing the crowd of nearly 400 people to their feet.

[…] It was announced at the Gala that Sen. Santorum has become the first 2016 presidential candidate to sign NOM’s Presidential Marriage Pledge, promising to take specific actions as president to restore traditional marriage and protect supporters of marriage against attempts to marginalize and punish them.

Wing nut Janet Porter put out a video comparing the SCOTUS ruling to slavery:

Then there’s your average common everyday nutcase like Becky Wegner Rommel who absolutely lost her shit over the decision. You gotta watch this one. It’s full of awesome:

I could go on and on and on, but all you really need to do is pay a modicum of attention to the news and you’ll see plenty of examples. Personally, I’m really enjoying it and hoping the Right keeps freaking out for months to come because it only exposes their bigotry and hatefullness and makes their religion that less attractive.

Given that a majority of Americans support marriage equality these days, these folks are doing nothing to help their image on this issue. If anything they’ll push more people away from Christianity and that can only be a good thing. So keep it up! Let your true colors show! We really appreciate you putting your hate on full display.