Saturday, December 03, 2016

Psychiatry

"Why don't you see a doctor about your depression, A Random Stranger?" Well, I have nice benefits through teaching at a state university, but even so, there are problems.

  1. There's a stigma attached to mental illness. I read an article once about Thomas Eagleton and the political baggage of his depression. As long as depression is something that some people associate with being weak-willed or self-indulgent, depressed people will continue to feel pressure to hide their condition.
  2. I want to learn to be not depressed, but if that's not possible, I at least want to learn to manage my depression. I don't want to take a pill to mask the symptoms, especially as many of the side-effects of such pills are, in my view, intolerable. I've read many books about diet and lifestyle corrections. Obviously the professional training of a psychiatrist could help, but I don't want a psychiatrist who says, "Oh, you're depressed? Here, take this pill."
  3. Even if I get a doctor who's willing to look at dietary or amino acid supplement corrections, it's a discouraging task. There are scores of potential problems and it could be years of trial and error to find what works.
  4. Meanwhile, I'm supposed to be focused on finishing my dissertation. It's a dilemma, because the biggest motivation I have to seek treatment for my depression is that it would enable me to do the work I have to do, but the biggest discouragement I have is the distraction it would be from the work I have to do.
  5. Finally, my insurance covers psychiatry, but our deductible is so high that I basically regard my insurance as catastrophic insurance. I don't have room in my annual budget for my deductible, so I can never seek medical care.

I know someone reading this will say these are all crap excuses. But, hey, my whole life is crap excuses. Only someone brand-new to this blog would expect anything BUT crap excuses from me.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Depression Update

I've never been to a doctor about my depression (more on that later), so nothing I'm about to write has ever been vetted by a medical professional. This is just the way I think I work based on my observations and some books I've read about depression.

I have depression. I believe I have more of a dysthymia type of depression, in that the type of debilitating episodes most people associate with depression (can't get out of bed of a morning, et cetera) rarely hit me, and when they do they last for about an hour or so, but I have spent probably 80% of my waking hours over the past 27 years feeling terrible.

During that 80% of my time, though, the intensity of the self-loathing comes and goes. And for the past six months or so, it's been pretty strong. I realized a few weeks ago that I was winding down my social connections, and when I realized that, I didn't necessarily think I should stop it. I began archiving my social media posts as a preliminary step to disconnecting from social media. I stopped returning e-mails and phone calls from friends. I foresaw a future where I no longer interacted with my parents or siblings and I didn't see that as a bad thing. I wasn't making friends at church or at work and I didn't mind. I had allowed my blog to putter to a stop.

Part of my brain knew that concluding social relationships is something people do before suicide, and that part of my brain was a little worried, but I decided a few years ago that my wife and children would be very upset if I killed myself. See, even though I believe they'd be better off without me, THEY don't believe that, so their response to my suicide would be anger and pain, and since they would stop interacting with me at that point they would never come to realize that I was right and they were wrong, so they would just continue in anger and pain, and since I like them I don't want to cause them a lifetime of anger and pain. But once they realize that I'm a jerk and that they should hate me, this restriction will be gone. I believe, though, that my children are sufficiently spaced that, by the time the youngest is an angsty teen who wouldn't mind seeing me die, my eldest will either be past that phase or else have some children with whom I can start the process over again. But I'm not sure about this, because my youngest is preternaturally angry and my eldest might delay marriage and childbirth, and that explains most of my reasoning for wanting at least one more kid.

I guess some of my friends and family might read that I wasn't too distraught over ending my relationships with them and take offense, like I'm saying, "You people suck and I don't really mind if you're not in my life." The reality is I am saying, "I suck and they won't really mind if I'm not in their lives."

Anyway, my family went to my sister's in Richmond, Virginia, for Thanksgiving last week. We left on Wednesday morning, and the day before I had floated to my wife the idea of her and the kids going without me to help ensure everyone had a nice visit. She shot that plan down, so I went.

When it came to planning the trip back home, we wanted to observe the Sabbath. Our choices were to stay for Sunday and drive home Monday (I don't teach on Mondays), leave Saturday morning so we'd be home for Sunday, stay for church with my sister's family and then leave and drive all night, or try to fit church into the drive home. My sister didn't want us there Sunday night while her kids were doing their week-prep routine, it didn't seem worth the trip if we'd only be there for Thursday and Friday, and I didn't want to drive all night and ruin my sleeping schedule for several days. So we decided to go to church on our way home.

We woke up Sunday morning at 4 a.m. and dressed for church and left. We went to Raleigh, North Carolina, and stopped for church at 9 a.m. in the Beaver Creek Ward of the Apex North Carolina Stake. We could see that the two sacrament meeting speakers for the day were a companionship of missionary elders. The conducting bishopric member said the topic for the day was "it is not good for man to be alone." I thought it was ironically cruel to make two single young men talk about something that we normally associate with the commandment to marry.

The elders approached the topic from a non-marriage perspective. They talked about social connections and how a Zion people would not be an isolated people. And I realized at this meeting that I needed to actively stop this disconnection that I was watching happen in my life.

So here I am blogging again. And I'm going to return e-mails and phone calls, too. But it's hard, because I still don't want to do it.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blogging Was Invented for Posts Exactly Like This

What's the deal with guys who let their pants drop to their ankles when they're in a public restroom stall? When I sit on a toilet, at home or abroad, my pants never descend below my knees. I keep them pulled up as high as possible. Aside from the side of my hip, I have no more skin exposed than before I entered the restroom. In fact, once my wife came to talk to me because she thought I was just sitting on the toilet lid fully clothed.

But these guys. Jeez. I shouldn't see you underwear, guys. Why do you want the pants you're going to wear for the rest of the day to pile up on the floor immediately in front of a public toilet? And besides, isn't it drafty letting everything drop to the floor?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

There Was an Election Yesterday

If I was a good writer, I'd put these thoughts together in a polished piece. But instead I'm a blogger. You're lucky I'm using standard spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

  • It is shocking to reflect on how weak of a candidate Hillary Clinton turned out to be. For nearly 20 years, now, Republicans have been living in fear of Hillary. The conventional wisdom has been that any Republican who ran against Hillary would lose. Part of this was gender politics ("Half the electorate starts off supporting her because they have similar genitals!"), part of it was Clinton political machine ("They know how to run and win national campaigns!"), and part of it was personality (which some might describe as low-grade sexism--"She's ruthless!").

    I think this fear of Hillary was why many never-Trumpers stayed out of the race. They criticized Trump, but they didn't run against him, because if they won, they'd have to go up against Hillary.

    And now we find out that the worst Republican of them all could beat her.

  • The turnout story is frustrating. It is that the "evangelical Christians" (read: Jesus-themed bigots) who stayed home in 2012 so they didn't have to vote for a--GASP!--Mormon, these voters came back for Trump.

    So their morality tells them to oppose the charitable man of faith who makes and keeps sacred vows, while supporting the contentious areligious serial adulterer who denigrates and belittles (and assaults?) women. That's one hell of a moral code you got there, evangelicals. And you call that Christianity, huh?

    The returning bigots theory is deeply frustrating. As a Christian, I am very upset when someone turns the gospel of Jesus Christ into a cover for whatever un-Christlike behavior they wish to justify. I have written before of my anger at people who use Christianity as marketing or signals to bystanding bigots. To the millions of "Christian" voters who were uncomfortable voting for Romney but had no problem voting for Trump, I would suggest to them that their understanding of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ is seriously suspect. They are now not only responsible for Obama's second term, but also for Trump's first term.

  • Rush Limbaugh today is saying that Trump's victory shows that Obama could have been defeated in 2008 and 2012. I disagree for two reasons.

    Firstly, Obama is a different race from Hillary. Hillary dramatically underperformed among racial minorities.

    Secondly, and this is just my theory, but I suspect that racism is more hated among the majority (whites) than sexism is hated among men. So a white voter was more likely to vote for Obama because "it's a vote against racism" than a male voter was likely to vote for Hillary because "it's a vote against sexism."

    Thirdly, Hillary struggled even with voters who were "like her," while Obama didn't have the same problem with voters who were "like him." Blacks went for Obama 93-6 in 2012, but college educated white women only went for Clinton 51-45. Hillary's weaknesses are idiosyncratic and we can't read them back to 2012 and say, "If only Trump had gotten at Obama back then!" If Obama were on the ballot yesterday, I strongly suspect he would have won.

  • Two white people running against each other seems like an impossible time to make a racism argument, but if there's one thing you should know about modern America, it's that there's never an impossible time to make a racism argument. So Van Jones on CNN last night called this a "whitelash." Hillary did worse among minorities than Obama did--how is that the fault of white people? This is just another example of how some Americans see every disappointment as the result of nefariousness.

    "Oh, but what you don't see is that they are voting for Trump because they want him to stick it to racial minorities! That's how it's racist!" And what of that monolithic 93-percent black vote for Obama? You live by identity politics, you have to be prepared to die by identity politics. To tell me that only some people are allowed to vote their racial identity, and it depends on their race if it's okay or not, is racist.

  • Obama's entire eight-year presidency will be a giant waste of time if Trump repeals and replaces Obamacare. That's his only achievement. And not because of race-based obstructionism, but because of the partisan, heavy-handed way he brought it about. In response to the largest recession of the past 60 years we got a massive advance of statism that few wanted and that didn't address the fundamental economic problems that were causing actual, immediate harm. And we got "you have to pass the bill to find out what's in it" from what promised to be "the most transparent administration in history." He didn't have to govern as he did. No one made him waste eight years trying to run out the clock. Within two years, it will be as if the Obama administration never happened. (But not in regards to political rancor, the emboldening of our enemies, and the effect of eight years of doing nothing to address our actual problems).

  • This was supposed to be Libertarianism's big moment. In most ways, it failed to live up to that billing, but in one way, maybe it didn't.

    As you probably know if you're a regular reader, I supported Gary Johnson. I felt he would be a superior president to both Trump and Clinton. With so much of the electorate deeply opposed to the two major-party candidates, it is a shocking condemnation of Johnson, Weld, and the Libertarian Party that they showed so poorly. How can you run for president in this environment and NOT do at least as well as Ross Perot who, remember, QUIT THE RACE FOR A MONTH IN 1992!?!?! I like Johnson as a man, but this just seems like shocking malpractice by a politician.

    Maybe you think, "Libertarians were never going to win, A Random Stranger. They should have aimed for five percent so they get federal election funds in 2020." Okay, well, again, a failure from the party and the ticket. Right now he's running at three percent. "He more than doubled what he got last time!" He still only received four million votes in a country where half of Trump and Clinton voters were voting against someone rather than for someone. If Libertarianism can't crack five percent now, it never can.

    What's the one ray of hope? The freak-out among the Left about the unchecked power of the modern presidency. People who hated Guantanamo between 2001 and 2009 now suddenly hate it again. People who loved Obama's use of the NSA to spy on cellphones now suddenly think presidents shouldn't have that power. The other day I heard Sean Hannity speak glowingly of WikiLeaks disclosures. Does this mean he recognizes that Edward Snowden is a great patriot?

    I know most people have a convenient way of ignoring these inconsistencies in their reasoning, but the more they have to confront them, the more likely it is that the inconsistencies crumble eventually.

  • People are talking about Republicans happy to win. Are they? Trump voters are happy to win, but there was no victory for monolithic Republicanism last night. Protectionism won, nationalism won, but not Republicanism per se. The whole point of the never-Trumpers was that winning with Trump wasn't actually winning. Scott Sumner writes, "This is the most Republican national government of my lifetime. Will they shrink government, or increase spending and deficits?" This government will be Republican in name only until we see how it governs. Trump is remaking what it means to be a Republican president. If he does as Tyler Cowen thinks he will, "pursue mass popularity with a lot of government benefits, debt and free-lunch thinking," small-government fiscal conservatives will have to go somewhere else in the future.

  • Defeated Hillary supporters maybe will be slow to learn this lesson, as well. This morning on NPR I heard a guy say Trump can't undo much of the Great Social Shift because "you can't roll back marriage equality." The host said, "He can with Supreme Court nominees." The guy said, "If he does that, it will open up repercussions that the Republican Party structure can't protect him from."

    That's where I had to turn him off, proving once again my rule that you can only listen to NPR for 15 seconds before you hear something asinine that requires turning the station. Because what this guy doesn't get is that THERE IS NO MORE REPUBLICAN PARTY STRUCTURE. Trump destroyed it. Did this guy not just live through the last nine months of America? Trump isn't going to need the Republican Party to protect him from the effects of any of his decisions. Effectively there is no party right now until Donald Trump lets us know what it'll be like when (and if) he remakes it in his image.

  • I tweeted last night, "The Great Social Reset is here. Keep your head down." As I drifted off to sleep this morning I had the passing thought that I should take down the Johnson sign outside our house to avoid reprisals overnight. My last conscious thoughts were formulating a plan for helping my children escape their bedrooms should someone through a Molotov cocktail through the garage-door windows on the floor below them. (I decided to throw my kids out their windows onto the roof of the car, which would only be a four-foot drop.) Should we expect more or fewer thought exercises like this one? NO ONE KNOWS RIGHT NOW. It's up to Donald Trump and his supporters.

  • And that might be my final thought: there is no institution that can stand in Trump's way right now. The Democratic Party lost the election, the Republican Party was destroyed by Trump, and the Libertarian Party was unequal to the moment. The only nationwide institutions we have anymore are products of the culture and media and so are illegitimate in the eyes of half the nation. Maybe that will change as we move forward, but right now it's true. As I wrote in my journal this morning:

    For the past week or so, I've been more open to the idea that it could happen, although I still thought it unlikely, but I'm not as shocked by the results as most Americans are. During the day yesterday, and especially in the evening as I watched the returns, I was rooting for him. Why? Well, they're both terrible candidates, but I feel that the public perception of just HOW terrible Donald Trump is will mean that he'll be on a shorter leash, so to speak. I think a President Hillary would have continued doing the things that are ruining the country, while a President Trump will try to do some new ruinous things that Congress and courts will restrain. But who knows? It's not like Trump voters are going to turn against him easily, right? So popular opinion will be against any of these government agents that try to restrain him. When I watched this morning parts of his victory speech from last night, I was struck with how unknown the future is to us. We're relying on the restraint of a man who has shown himself incapable of exercising restraint. Oh, boy.
    Realizing we're at the mercy of Donald Trump's restraint is not a comforting thought.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Why a Border Wall Won't Matter

I was teaching about outsourcing yesterday. A student made the connection between job protectionism and economic rents, which pleased me. I mentioned that the American worker's claim to relatively high wages was disappearing due to underwhelming education and productivity, and the broadening of language skills among overseas workers.

A student said, "Some jobs can't be outsourced, like local service jobs."

I said, "The increase in robotic technology and telecommunications will allow the Mexican plumber to stay in Mexico and come 'steal' your job, anyway." We will eventually live in a world where you submit an online service request, it gets translated into the plumber's native language, a drone delivers a plumbing robot to your home, and a plumber guides the robot while watching the procedure on a video feed.

We celebrate the emergence of a global middle class and bemoan stagnating domestic wages. These are different names for the same thing.

I'm not someone with a cushy job pooping on your parade, I'm just like you: I, too, will soon be rendered unemployable through a combination of technology and foreigners. I just don't think Donald Trump will save me.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New E-Mail Investigation

I don't think it's conspiracy-theorist stuff to say that Barack Obama and his entire administration want Hillary Clinton to win this election. So why would the FBI re-open their investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails 11 days before the election?

  1. They love truth and there's an objective reason to do this.
  2. Barack Obama doesn't love truth but James Comey does and he's off the reservation here.
  3. Barack Obama is lying when he says he wants Hillary Clinton to win.
  4. Barack Obama wants Hillary Clinton to win, but he wants to make her sweat.
  5. They think Hillary has large enough of a lead that they can afford this so she's not starting with impeachment hearings.
  6. Hillary's already rigged the vote. (That's my shout-out to any Trump supporters I might have in my readership.)
  7. Obama loves a constitutional crisis.
  8. Tim Kaine is running the show.
  9. It's a prelude to the Nov. 6th announcement that Hillary is completely innocent so Trump's support collapses immediately before Election Day.
  10. Some other reason.

It's probably #9, but personally I think it's a mix of #3, #7, and #8. But that's the conspiracy theorist in me talking.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Something That Makes Sense But I Hadn't Thought of Before

When I think of my bowels (which is sort of frequently, actually), I imagine their empty state as being hollow tubes that are about the diameter of a piece of poop. It was only today that I realized their empty state is probably collapsed, with the opposite sides touching each other. Otherwise, there's no explanation for farts. Why would your bowels push out some air if they are constantly filled with air?

I'm not sure why it took me this long to figure this out.

NB: Remember, the "math" label is the "science" label.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Southern Hospitality

We live in the South now, which means we can shop at Winn-Dixie, something our kids think is great since they've all read Because of Winn-Dixie. My wife and I don't think it's all that great because Winn-Dixie is expensive. But one thing they have going for them there: they pride themselves on customer service. On our first visit we walked through the doors and a cashier who was 20 feet away and in the middle of checking out a different customer yelled a greeting to us. Later I took an on-line survey where I was specifically asked if an employee greeted me when I walked through the door. It's a welcomed change from DC-area Target stores, where evidently part of the staff's training is to never be tricked into speaking to a customer.

Saturday after cleaning the chapel we wanted to go to a used-book store on that same side of town, but we arrived 20 minutes before it opened, so we went to a nearby Winn-Dixie to buy doughnuts while we waited. When I got to the register the very friendly cashier asked me, "How much are a dozen doughnuts?"

I remembered seeing the half-dozen price, but not the dozen price. ("Why do six people need a dozen doughnuts anyway?" BECAUSE WE ARE GREAT AMERICANS. NOW SHUT YOUR FOOL MOUTH.) I hadn't realized the pricing burden would be on me. I know we're no longer in the 1970s when the cashiers had to memorize 30,000 prices, but the reason they don't have to do that anymore is because of technological advancements like bar code scanners. If the box doesn't have a bar code, next she should refer to her vegetable cheat-sheet that often includes bakery items. If she doesn't have one of those, next she should pick up her phone and call the bakery. It seems like the last place to go is the customer's memory for trivia.

But she just stood there waiting for me to supply the price. I knew the half-dozen was $2.99, so I said, "It might have been $5.99?" But then I realized I was wrong, that the second half-dozen was discounted, so it was much more likely that the dozen price was $4.99. But I couldn't tell her because it would look like I was lying to get a good deal. "Oh, if you're just going to use whatever price I give you then I clearly remember that the doughnuts were two bits for 16 dozen."

So I ended up overpaying at the expensive grocery store. But I don't remember if I was greeted when I walked in the store, and I didn't even get an adorable dog that can heal The Preacher's damaged heart. What a rip-off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Long Way Around

When I'm driving eastbound on Emerson Street, I pass under I-95 and then continue to the next traffic light. Immediately after this intersection, there's a sign advising me that, if I want to reach I-95, I should...keep going straight.

This is because I'm driving on US-1 Alternate, and that road will eventually intersect with I-95.

This is probably the most misleading road sign I've ever seen. It's even more misleading than the sign on I-15 north of Las Vegas that tells you "exit here to go to Great Basin National Park."

While that sign in Nevada makes it seem Great Basin National Park is NOT actually over four hours away, at least it is honestly the most-direct route to get there. But this sign in Jacksonville is telling you to drive about 10 miles to get to something you can LITERALLY SEE IN YOUR REAR-VIEW MIRROR AS YOU DRIVE PAST THE SIGN.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Three Book of Mormon Thoughts This Weekend

  1. As I was falling asleep Friday night, I was thinking that perhaps our prayers should be focused on outcomes instead of instruments. The outcome might be "providing for my family," and there might be a thousand instruments that would accomplish that (one particular job, a different particular job, rising asset prices, game shows, inheritance, et cetera). Unless we've been inspired to know which instrument to back, we're better off allowing the choice of instrument to be God's. Anyway, to test this theory, I looked to examples from the life of Nephi. There was a time Nephi backed a particular instrument ("give me strength to burst these cords") and instead received the outcome (becoming untied) through a different instrument (the cords fell off). And when it came to obtaining the plates of brass, he didn't back any particular instrument until he was inspired to kill Laban, and even then he refused the instrument at first.

    At this point, I thought, "What was Laman and Lemuel's reaction to Nephi returning from Jerusalem and telling them, 'I just killed a guy'?" He must have appear a psychopath to them. For the rest of their lives, they had to think, "What if he decides to kill us, too?" Once Lehi died, they probably told themselves, "We have to kill Nephi before he kills us first." My point is, I could see the killing of Laban being a major stumbling block to Lehites following Nephi, like how things in (or supposed to be in) Joseph Smith's history are major stumbling blocks to people following him today. And I realized that maybe the Lord intentionally uses people who have complicated histories so there's tension between what your brain tells you and what the inspiration of the Holy Ghost tells you. I mean, Moses had a lot of baggage, from an Israelite perspective, right?

  2. It's convenient sometimes to present the gathering at the Bountiful temple (in 3 Nephi 11) as related to "safety" so then we can go from discussing the physical safety the Nephites received at the temple to the metaphorical safety we receive through regular temple attendance. But I don't think the analogy holds up chronologically. The destruction happens in the first month of the 34th year (3 Nephi 8:5) and the gathering at the temple happens "in the ending of the thirty and fourth year" (3 Nephi 10:18). It is said to be "soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven," which is thought to have happened 40 days after the Resurrection. So at the least we're talking about six weeks after the destruction. It seems clear to me that this wasn't a gathering for physical safety. Sorry, but find a more apt metaphor.
  3. 3 Nephi 10:16 gives more evidence of the identity of Zenos and Zenock that I've never noticed before. Mormon says the Lehites are "a remnant of their seed." It's possible the reason the plates of brass contained the writings of Zenos and Zenock is because they are ancestors of Lehi. While they contained a lot of what we would consider the Old Testament, they also had "a genealogy of [Lehi's] fathers" (1 Nephi 5:14). It seems Mormon is telling us Zenos and Zenock aren't just Israelite prophets, they are ancestors of Lehi.