Sunday, April 26, 2015

What Is It Like Living In Kansas City?

We don't have mountains, or oceans, or palm trees.

We do have extreme temperatures, over 100 degrees in the winter and below 0 degrees in the winter.

We have beautiful lights in the winter, even though it can get cold.

We are not overly crowded, but over city is vibrant and beautiful.

We love our families and we love our neighbors.

We are kind, courteous, and hospitable to strangers, with really good beer.

We love our animals.

We love the wildlife around us.

And most of the people around here are decent and kind.

And, perhaps most of important of all in a weird sort of way, we are having Renaissance of sorts, since our baseball team is no longer desolate and sad and hopeless.

So, here's a look outside my office window.  Kansas City is a pretty great place to live.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Good Life

Most of us live in a time and place where living well is an option. We are not among the unfortunate souls who exist in war-torn places, or among those who are the victims of abuse and neglect or famine and war. For those of us fortunate to live in peace, with plenty of food and shelter, surrounded by those we love and who love us in return, we have good lives. Sometimes it's not readily apparent to us that our lives are good until our lives are not.  We inhabit this earth for only a short time.  If we live a full life, we fall ill and die in just a relatively short length of time - 60, 70, 80 years or so. Most of us want to make a difference, want to be special, want to make our mark.

Before each of us succumb to our inevitable demise, how can we live a "good life."  Most of us are not rich, or beautiful or brilliant. We have neither the intellect of Stephen Hawkings nor the beauty of Charlize Theron. We are not rich like Warren Buffett, nor powerful like President Obama. We do not command large armies, nor oversee mammoth corporations. When we die, only our loved ones will weep, and once they end, so will the memory of our existence also end. 

Yet, we have the capacity for living as joyous, satisfying and fulfilling lives as anyone. These are some of the ways I have found to appreciate the lives we live:

1.  Be grateful for what you have.  Remember that horrifyingly painful abscess in your tooth when the pain radiated so intensely your aching jaw felt on fire?  Remember the relief of the Novocaine?  Remember after your baby emerged and you held him or her and the all-encompassing contractions stopped?  Remember after you graduated from school and your friends and family celebrated?  Your wedding, your first kiss, the embrace of a parent?  These are things for which we should be grateful. 

2.  Understand what it means to make a difference in the world.  When we give to another, we make a difference. We all want to make a difference, or leave our mark. When you love someone else, a sibling, a friend, a child or a lover, I believe you make your mark. We are not all Abraham Lincolns. But, if you  have made at least one person happy, even for a little while, you have made the world a better place. 

3.  Experience life.  Experiences are more satisfying than acquiring possessions.  do you remember your honeymoon, the family trip to the lake, the time you climbed that tree?  Do you remember how your grandmother sounded, the way your spouse's clothes smell with his or her sent, the way that wonderful birthday steak tasted?  Did the pleasure of acquiring a new television or car last as long? After the raise, did you relish in the additional money, or take it in stride and hope for more?

4.  Forgive others. Hatred and revenge tear up your soul.  We all suffer injustices, slights and ill treatment. We all need to remove ourselves from these situations. Once removed, it be hooves us to let the anger, hatred and desire for revenge go. It is only when we free ourselves of our anger, can we live fulfilling lives. Spite is poison. Seeking revenge erodes your soul. Someone, I don't know who, explained it this way, "Seeking revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."  

5.  Love yourself. accept yourself for who you are. You need not be beautiful or rich or the most popular person. You are who you are, with warts and faults and all. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Admit your mistakes. Apologize for the wrongs against others you commit.  But, do not change who you are simply to be liked. You are enough. 

6.  Love others.  To truly love another person or people, you must be willing to give without expecting anything in return. It is the act of giving, unconditionally, that sets you free. Give to others anonymously. Feel the joy of giving without expecting anything. 
7.  Empathize with others.  The world would be a better place if we just tried to understand other people's points of view. We all are products of our experiences. If we understand the pressures or fears of others, we can be patient, kind or at least understanding. The world is not black and white. If we want to feel understood and valued, we must try to understand and value others. 

I hope that all of you reading this figure out, in your own ways, to have a good life. 


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Too Violent Too Soon or Is This How We Cull The Herd?

Years ago, long before I went to law school, I witnessed the aftermath of a car chase. The man the officers were chasing was dragged out of his car, dropped on the ground and hit and kicked by two or three officers. What did I do?  Nothing. I regret I just drove off.  I hope I would raise hell if I witnessed something like this today. This was long before cellphones, long before Rodney King and long, long before Ferguson. I believe the man who was pummeled was white. I have no idea why he was being chased. The incident disturbed me, but not enough to tell anyone or do anything. Sigh... I am not proud of my inaction.

Years later, I represented a police officer who had been injured in a car chase. He joined the chase in progress.  My client assumed the the man being chased had committed a felony. In fact, the guy had merely been speeding and the chase ensued when a deputy sheriff of a rural county got ticked because the speeder wouldn't pull over. When the deputy commenced chasing the speeder, he had his eight year old daughter unrestrained in the front seat of his cruiser and he then smashed into my client's police car. At that time, the speeder got away, but was ultimately at his residence after his license plate was run through the system.  What a Keystone Cops-like experience. Fortunately, the 8 year old daughter escaped injury.

Unfortunately, I have also represented, in more than one case, the families of men who were gunned down by police officers. One man killed was the unarmed father of a suspect. All the decedents were unarmed at the time they were killed. None of the suspects had committed violent crimes.

These are examples of reckless acts I either witnessed or with which I had some participation.  Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily and many are real heroes.  But, sometimes, there is a disconnect.  Why are unarmed people being shot to death?  Why are innocent bystanders killed in silly car chases?  And, most disturbingly, why are a disproportionate number of African Americans men being stopped and even shot and killed?  There is something wrong with how we allow law enforcement officers to enforce laws. And, the fault lies with all of us who do not demand more.

We need to reevaluate how law enforcement personnel are trained and accepted into academies. Too many people, suspects and police,  are carrying guns out their and killing and maiming others.  Other countries don't experience the number of police/suspect vain violence as does the United States. When you add fear and bigotry and increasing distrust of officers,we are faced with perilous consequences.  There is a disproportionate number of minorities who are routinely stopped for DWB (driving while Black). Guns are too easily accessible for irresponsible and unhinged citizens. For crying out loud, this isn't 1880's Dodge City. Oh, I fogot.  Perhaps it is with the new Kansas gun laws allowing unrestricted carry for untrained and potentially unhinged citizens.  Perrhaps we will have future showdowns at the OK Corrals. 

You know, humans have no natural predators, except other humans. Are we wired to be violent and paranoid so we don't overpopulated the earth?  How messed up is the human race?  Really messed up. We need to stop!!!  We need to change!!!  The alternative is not just terrifying, it's sub-human.

Post-script - 9:09 pm. Blue Springs teen dies in wreck following police chase

Sunday, April 5, 2015

FOR ALL OF THE MISOGYNISTIC TROLLS : The Sadistic Psychology Of Internet Trolls by Jennifer Gollbeck and published by

This post was written by Jennifer Golbeck.  I couldn't have said it better,  "Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun . . . and the Internet is their playground!". So, for all you sadistic sociopaths, enjoy.  Signed, Lynne Bratcher:

"Internet trolls have infested every corner of the social internet. Anyone who makes the mistake of reading the comment section of an article by, about, or even mentioning women knows a lot of those trolls turn to deeply misogynistic, threatening, and even violent comments. What drives them to act out like this? Science offers some insight…

Last year, researchers at the University of Manitoba investigated trolls and their personality traits, publishing their findings—"Trolls just want to have fun"in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences.

The study gathered information about people's psychological traits called the Dark Tetrad. This is a group of four personality traits: narcissism (selfishness, obsessive self-interest, feelings of grandiosity and superiority), Machiavellianism (a belief that the ends justify the means), psychopathy (lack of empathy, low inhibitions, antisocial), and sadism (enjoyment of inflicting pain on others).  

The researchers wanted to see if trolls had those traits more often than non-trolls. They had over 1,200 people in their study. Everyone took personality tests to gauge their Dark Tetrad scores, a test that measured how much they enjoyed trolling online, and a survey about how they liked to spend their time online. 

Everyone in the study had close to normal scores on their personality tests—except for people who like to troll. The trolls had extremely high scores on all four Dark Tetrad traits. In fact, the scientists said " . . . the associations between sadism and [trolling] scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists."

The researchers continue, "Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun . . . and the Internet is their playground!"

So if your goal is cause distress and suffering for other people, how do you do it? If you're addressing women, you demean them, objectify them, and threaten sexual violence. It may also feed into troll's narcissistic feelings of grandiosity, especially if male trolls believe their gender is part of what makes them superior. 

Unfortunately, this sadistic component of trolling makes it hard to combat. The angrier people get in response to the trolling posts, the happier the trolls are. They intentionally choose their misogynistic, violent messages because they are socially unacceptable and produce a response. Ignoring them can be hard, however, because letting such messages go unchallenged can feel like offering passive approval. 

As a computer scientist, I see the true solution to trolls in technology that automatically blocks their messages before they are seen. This would prevent said trolls from getting the attention they crave and causing the harm they're after; it would also prevent their hateful comments from being seen as acceptable online behavior.

"There is added challenge to blocking worthless trolling comments while still allowing free speech and open dialogue, but many scientists are working toward a solution. When we have a high-quality troll-blocking tool, it will bring us one step closer to making the internet a safer, more comfortable place for women to interact.

Author Jennifer Golbeck

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