Slightly off-topic for this blog, but distantly related to mental patterns.  Something I have been struggling with recently.  Notes mostly to myself, but may be of interest to others.

What are Routines?

Some tasks need to be done periodically, at certain times of the day or the week. These tasks form routines. For instance, a morning routine may consist of brushing the teeth, making the bed, and having a breakfast. An evening routine may consist of having a dinner, cleaning up, preparing for the next day, and reading a book. If the garbage truck comes on Tuesday mornings in your neighborhood, every Monday night you must empty all garbage cans and recycling bins in your house and set the garbage containers at the curb, and so on.

Routines are Important

Routines are the backbone of the daily life. They are the framework around which the rest of the day is built. By following routines, we make sure that our daily needs are met. If we do not follow routines, the rest of our life becomes difficult or impossible. For instance, if we don’t do laundry, we won’t have clothes to go to work or to the gym. Without routines, the most mundane tasks, such as laundry or cleaning, become major projects, taking a lot more time and mental energy than they deserve. Without routines, instead of following a predetermined plan on predetermined schedule, we must schedule these boring tasks every time, and making decisions is the most stressful activity I know.

Routines are Powerful

Suppose you have a dreaded project. For instance, you want to declutter your garage full of “precious” items that piled up there over the course of the last ten years. You know it can’t be done in one day. Instead of dedicating several weekends to this dreaded task, spend 30 minutes each day for 30 days. You may wake up 30 minutes earlier or do it right after coming home from work every day or sacrifice your daily news reading. But consider this. In 30 days you would have spent a total of 15 hours on the task, likely more than you would have spent if you had dedicated two full weekends to the project. Regular experiences and activities change the structure of our brain or so the neurologists say [citation needed]. Habits become our second nature.

Having no Routines is Impossible

When intentional useful routines are absent, unintentional and often harmful ones take their place. We can habitually watch TV or browse social networks at night instead of cleaning up and preparing for the next day. Then we will habitually lack sleep and habitually struggle to leave on time and be late every morning. Ironically, having no habitual routines is a habit and a routine of its own. Clearly, having intentional useful routines is better than having unintentional harmful ones.

Routine Creativity

There is an opinion that routines are boring. Some say routines kill creativity. It is not so. If done right, routines optimize the mundane tasks, make them automatic, stressless, and, ultimately, take them off our minds, freeing time and mental energy for more fun and creative activity. One can also routinely schedule uninterrupted dedicated time for creative activity such as painting, writing, or business development. Often “being busy” is used as an excuse for not doing these things. And “being busy” often means planning and scheduling small boring things over and over again. We should not spend time scheduling or planning laundry. Laundry should be scheduled and planned once.

How to Make Routines Easy

Routines should be easy to follow and free of stress. To achieve this, do not even think whether you want to do them or not, now or later. Just asking these questions creates a chance not to follow the routine. And that should never be an option. Once you decide to do something as a routine at a certain time, just do it. That’s it. As I said, decision-making is the most stressful activity I know. So, taking the decision-making out of the daily routines makes life much easier. There are plenty of important things to decide. And whether to do laundry or not does not seem like one of them. Just as not following routines is a habit, following them is a habit too. We may call it a meta-habit.

Keep routines simple, stick to the essence. Routines should include the bare minimum. Routines that are too elaborate or complicated will not be followed. For instance, if you want to lose weight, don’t follow complicated diets or fitness programs. Instead, just eat less and run a certain distance each day or do 10 push-ups daily, if you like. What exactly you do is not important. The key word is daily.

Keep Routines Outside of Your Main Planning System

If you are an organized person, you would have a system to track your projects, tasks, commitments, and appointments. In my experience, routines must be kept off the main task list. Routines tend to clutter the planning system. Checking off dozens of completed trivial daily items, such as brushing teeth or having breakfast takes an unreasonable amount of time. It seems like busywork that does not accomplish much. Although I find having a list for each routine useful so that I don’t forget, for instance, to prepare my gym bag in the evening, it’s best to keep routines separate from the rest of the planning system.

Set up Routine Reminders

It’s best to set an alarm or a reminder to start a routine with a list of tasks for each routine attached to the reminder. Having a reminder for the whole routine is better than setting up reminders for each individual task in the routine. The tasks in the list must be easy to check off on the phone. Getting twenty notifications on my phone at 6 pm every evening does not excite me. But a single reminder signaling to start the whole routine is useful.

For me, Google Keep application fits the bill. It’s good for making simple lists, allows setting recurring reminders, is endemic to Android, and is easily accessible both on my phone or in a browser.

… and the Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The Declaration of Independence

I love this sentence. I quote it every time someone tells me that I need evidence for all my beliefs. But something else has struck me in this quote today. It’s the notion of the pursuit of Happiness. Everyone is supposed to pursue Happiness, right? What else should we be doing with our lives? Who doesn’t want to be happy? It’s self-evident, isn’t it? If I’m not happy with this goal, maybe I should do something else that would make me happy. But that would also constitute the pursuit of Happiness, wouldn’t it? There is no escape.

There is a problem, however. The idea that I should always pursue happiness implies that every moment of my life I am unhappy. My life is always lacking. I always need something. Something always needs to be improved. Otherwise, why would I pursue happiness? And this is the very idea that prevents me from being happy. This is a problem and I am not happy about it.

So, something needs to be changed. (Damn it.) And I propose to ditch the stupid idea of the incessant happiness pursuit. I’m not alone. It just came to my mind after watching the video below which someone shared on Facebook, probably, suffering a hangover after the Black Friday. It’s funny how a popular life coach and blogger Leo Babauta came from teaching people how to set their goals in 2007 to teaching them to set no goals in 2010. He must have figured something out in those three years of early morning meditations.

Will it make me happy? Probably not. But I wouldn’t care. And that’s pretty close.

Can Science Answer Moral Questions?

This was the question of Sam Harris’s TED talk which was a sales pitch for his book “The Moral Landscape“.  I think science cannot answer moral questions.  Science can help creating a cure for cancer or design a better gas chamber with equal efficiency.  It is utterly incapable of telling if one is more ethical than the other.  There is no litmus test for morality.


Science is great at finding methods for making something.  Good decisions are not an exception.  Science can shed the light on how to make better decisions as this excellent video by Mariano Sigman and Dan Ariely shows.  It cannot tell what these decisions are.

Notice the difference between the two videos.  The second video is focused on the method.  It does not comment on the morality of a particular decision and does not mention religion or any social group at all.  Harris’s video, to the contrary, is full of anti-religious (Islamophobic, in particular) examples, and appeals to emotions rather than intellect while being completely unsound intellectually.  As a sales pitch, it worked great creating controversy and sparking heated discussions among scientists, philosophers, and religious people.  But it did nothing to make this world better.


How Could the Benevolent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient God NOT Create Evil?

Just came back from the church. Pastor Randy continued his series on “spiritual forces”. Today he was talking about angels. Quite a weird topic. Most of what people say about this is made up. I admit that there can be “spiritual experiences” when people see those angels. But one can talk about it in terms of individual experiences and not as of objective reality.  I disagree with a view presenting the world as a fight between “good” and “evil”.  First of all, these categories do not exist beyond human society which is limited to our tiny planet and not even the whole planet.  The vast universe is completely oblivious to such things.  So, thinking that the whole purpose of creating the universe is to set up this fight of “good” against “evil” is strange because this fight goes on, primarily, in people’s heads.

I was listening to Allan Watts speeches in the car recently. I completely agree with his views on religion and philosophy of relationship between the individual and the “universe”. Watts says that the individual and the environment are one and the same. One cannot exist without the other and one creates the other. So, it’s incorrect to think of them as separate entities.  In the same way, “good” and “evil” are two sides of the same coin. Good cannot exist without evil just like mountains cannot exist without valleys. If you create mountains, you create valleys as well. There is no way around.

Now, theologians say that Satan is one of the angels created by God who rebelled against God and became evil. It sounds like we have to blame Satan for the disobedience and the existence of evil. But let’s think about it. God can’t say what’s good without also saying what’s not good. One can’t define “good” without defining “evil”.  Meaning is exclusion.  If God sets a law that he wants his creatures to obey, that very act presumes that disobedience is possible. Would disobedience to God’s law be impossible, there would be no law.  So, the existence of the law presumes disobedience.  That’s the way things are.

For me, this answers The Problem of Evil or “how the benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God could create evil”. As I think of it, how could he not? The paradox exists only if we separate one from the other. But it’s impossible to separate good from evil, just as it’s impossible to separate mountains from the valleys. So, we must think of them as we think of two sides of the same wheel. One side goes up, the other side goes down.

Compassion and Faith

Leo Babauta wrote an amazing reflection on the past election.  The author’s advice is to feel compassion for other people who may have voted differently from me.  I would also emphasize the importance of faith.  Not the dismissive “it’s going to be OK” or the religious “God uses unlikely people to do His will” type of faith.  But the faith in the principles on which this country is founded.  These principles are at work right now.  Watch in awe.

Thoughts on Trump Policies

The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States on November 8, 2016, was a great surprise for me.  I have to admit that I mostly followed Trump in the mainstream media – New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Wall Street Journal, NPR; some European sources –  BBC, Deutsche Welle, most of which are liberal.  I did not pay close attention to his words, but what I heard occasionally appeared to be so outrageous that it seemed unbelievable that anyone in his right mind could possibly vote for such a narcissistic psychopath.

He started his campaign in June 2015 by declaring Mexican immigrants to be criminals, drug dealers, and rapists.  In November 2015 Trump claimed that on 9/11/2001 he watched “thousands and thousands of people” cheering while watching the WTC towers collapse and said that he will request surveillance of certain mosques.   He drew criticism after mocking a disabled reporter who questioned him on the claim. Since 2011, Trump has questioned that President Obama was born in the United States, even after Obama has released his birth certificate.  On December 7, 2015, Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States, suggested killing the families of the terrorists, in March 2016 he appeared to advocate torture towards the terrorism suspects.  In July 2016, Trump used the star of David as a backdrop for the words “Most corrupt candidate ever” in an anti-Hillary tweet which was viewed by many as antisemitic. In July 2016, Trump criticizes the Muslim family of a fallen U.S. soldier drawing sharp criticism even from the Republican party.  And, if that was not enough, in October 2016, the infamous “grab her by the pussy” 2005 video emerged.  All of that created in my mind an image of Trump as a racist, sexist, xenophobic populist.  So, Trump’s victory on November 8th came to me as a shock.

After the elections, I struggled with some cognitive dissonance for a while.  I tried to understand what attracted roughly a half of American voters in Trump’s character.  As I expected, Trump has significantly changed his tone after the elections.  In his speeches, he shifted emphasis on his economic policies and cut back on xenophobic diatribes.  Appointing a special prosecutor to put Hillary in jail is no longer a priority. A wall along the border could turn into a fence in some areas and he is not deporting all illegal immigrants just yet – only the felons, while the rest he calls “terrific people“.

Apparently, much of what Trump said during the campaign was “for the show”.  But where did he mean business?  On October 22, 2016, 17 days before the election, Donald Trump has made a speech in historic Gettysburg, PA, sarcastically dubbed “Trump’s Gettysburg address” by the liberal media.  Trump’s own site advertises this speech as “DONALD J. TRUMP CONTRACT WITH THE AMERICAN VOTER“.  Now, let’s try to “unlearn” what we know about Trump and take his Gettysburg speech at the face value, assuming he sincerely means to “make America great again”.  Just for myself, I’d like to annotate Trump’s promises in this “contract” to see if he follows through and how it goes.  So, here we go.

“Therefore, on the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:

  • FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;

This might be a good idea. They say, “the government is like diapers. It needs to be changed and for the same reason.” There are people in the Congress who have been there forever. It’s often a lifetime tenure. It may be useful to get some blood circulation in the Congress.

  • SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);

This is a prudent thing to do if you want to cut taxes. One of the concerns with reducing taxes is the budget deficit. A freeze on federal government hiring is a part of addressing it. I remember, there were a few days when the Congress could not pass a budget, and all the federal government offices were closed for a few days. My life did not stop. Nor anyone else’s.

  • THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;

Also seems like a good idea. Not all regulations are bad, however. Some are necessary.

  • FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;

Clearly a “yes”. Much of the legislation is not passed “by and for the people”. Lobbying is a shady business.

  • FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
  • SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.

I’m surprised that this legislation is even needed. But if such lobbying takes place, it’s worse than espionage and, clearly, must be banned. I’d even change “foreign government” to “foreign entity” because it’s easy to fund such lobbying by proxy, even through a domestic entity. There must be a law to disclose the sources of funding for all legislation.

All in all, this section is a very specific and actionable plan to “drain the swamp”.

On the same day, I will begin taking the following seven actions to protect American workers:

  • FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205

Can’t say if it’s good or bad. Need to know the specifics.

  • SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

TPP is already dead, I’ve heard.

  • THIRD, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator

What’s the legal definition of “currency manipulator” and what are the practical or legal implications of such label? This does not appear meaningful.

  • FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately

Sounds arbitrary. This needs specific definitions.

  • FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.

This will drop the oil prices and kill Russia. Those in Russia who cheer Trump’s election may be up for a rude awakening. Putin’s honeymoon with Trump will likely be canceled for the lack of honey. I may need to sell my Nissan Leaf and opt for a good old combustion engine. There are, of course, environmental concerns about this policy. This measure is the easiest to implement and this alone will have a huge domestic and international effect.

  • SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward

Again, this causes environmental concerns. But it’s unlikely to impact me personally.

  • SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure

It seems like a good idea to fix our own environment instead of funding global environmental projects. But the devil is in the details. Do we actually pay for these projects as much as Trump claims? Are the funds going to be used for domestic environmental projects (which ones?) or for the subsidies of the oil companies?

Additionally, on the first day, I will take the following five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law:

  • FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama

Which ones and who determines the constitutionality? More rhetoric than meaning.

  • SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States

Yes, please. Hopefully, not an anti-abortion homophobic religious activist. It’s a shame that the Republicans have blocked the appointment of the new judge for many months.

  • THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities

Actually, I did not know that many cities in the United States (so called “sanctuary cities”) have a policy of “protecting undocumented immigrants by not prosecuting them solely for violating federal immigration laws”. Apparently, the city authorities do that to encourage undocumented immigrants to cooperate with the police in crime investigations which makes sense.

What does not make sense is not deporting illegal alien felons who do commit rape, murder, and sell drugs. I support the policy of giving honest hardworking people who go through a great risk to get here a chance for a better life in this country than they would ever have back home. And I am far from thinking that all illegal immigrants here are “drug dealers and rapists”. But I also believe that felons must be kept behind bars. And if a felon is an illegal immigrant, the government should not spend the tax money on keeping him in prison. This person must be simply kicked out across the border. This is much in line with the policy of “not prosecuting them solely for violating immigration laws”. This is prosecuting people for crimes, not for the color of their skin or their immigration status. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

And, of course, kicking people out of the country is not effective unless the border is secured because they will keep coming back. Hence, “the wall”. The literal “wall” still seems to be unrealistic. It’s too expensive to build and too expensive to maintain. But the border must be secured somehow, otherwise, any policy against illegal immigration will be ineffective.

I think it’s inhumane to leave the children born in the U.S. who are U.S. citizens by birth and deport their parents. I think that while cracking down on illegal immigration, legal immigration must be made easier, not tougher because tough rules to get into the U.S. legally motivate people to get into the U.S. illegally. I think, there is a difference between someone who has just crossed the border and someone who has been in the U.S. illegally for 50 years without breaking the law otherwise and have raised families here. Deporting such people does not make sense.

  • FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back

I can agree with that as I stated above as long as this is not turned into a “witch hunt” with taking people from the streets and children from the schools and sending them away from their families.

  • FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

So, it’s not a “complete ban on Muslim immigration”, but something significantly more reasonable. Syria is among the “terror-prone regions”. The question is what to do with the refugees.

In 1939, the United States turned away almost 800 passengers of the trans-Atlantic liner St. Luis which sailed from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba who hoped to get into the United States. Almost all passengers were Jews fleeing from the Third Reich. Most were sent back to Europe. 254 of them died during the Holocaust.

“Public opinion in the United States, although ostensibly sympathetic to the plight of refugees and critical of Hitler’s policies, continued to favor immigration restrictions. The Great Depression had left millions of people in the United States unemployed and fearful of competition for the scarce few jobs available. It also fueled antisemitism, xenophobia, nativism, and isolationism. A Fortune Magazine poll at the time indicated that 83 percent of Americans opposed relaxing restrictions on immigration.” Sounds familiar?

Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration:

1. Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.

The idea here is to make the United States more attractive for investments and stop capital and manufacturing from fleeing the country for the regions with more favorable tax rules. The fear is that this will create a huge budget deficit. The hope is that the budget deficit will be offset by the economy growth and reduction of the government.

While the tax cut is supposed to decrease the tax burden for all Americans, it is clear that the wealthiest will be its greatest beneficiaries. And some categories of low-income families will see a tax increase due to the change in the tax bracket structure. Analysts show that

  • A single parent with $75,000 in earnings, two school-age children and no child care costs would face a tax increase of around $2,440.
  • A single parent with $50,000 in earnings, three school-age children and no child care costs would also face a tax increase of around $1,188.
  • A married couple with $50,000 in earnings, two school-age children and no child care costs would face a tax increase of about $150.
  • Other married couples would get almost no benefit.

2. End The Offshoring Act Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.

This means that if, say, Ford, relocates its plant to Mexico to cut the production cost, it will have to pay an import tariff to bring these cars for sale into the U.S. Why not punishing other efforts to cut manufacturing cost? Automation, for example, also eliminates jobs. Following the same logic, automation must be taxed as well.

3. American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.

Sounds good. Although it’s hard to say what this practically means.

4. School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to gives parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.

I support giving freedom to parents on how to spend the education tax money. It will encourage competition between schools and competition always improves service quality.

I have doubts about ending common core. It is necessary to have nationwide education standards. Although, education is managed mostly at the state level anyway. Federal regulations add little value.

5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.

Trump himself now acknowledges that there are positive items in Obamacare. This may not be as radical as it seems. “Cutting the red tape at the FDA”, i.e. removing the bureaucratic obstacles from letting new drugs to the market, sounds like a good idea.

6. Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.

Sounds reasonable.

7. End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

Many items here seem unrealistic. Toughening penalties for illegal immigration must be accompanied by significantly simplifying the procedures of legal immigration. Without a plan of legalizing the illegal immigrants already in the country, Trump risks overburdening the prison system and will ultimately fail to jail all the offenders. Besides, there is no practical benefit of jailing law-abiding hard-working people.

8. Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.

Legalize marijuana, dude! Then tax it. Why would anyone buy drugs from criminals if it can be done legally?

9. Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values

Strengthening the country’s military is not such a radical idea. Emphasis on protection from cyber-attack is timely. That’s a much larger risk for the U.S. than an invasion of an enemy army.

10. Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.

Too general. Meanwhile, he is reluctant to separate his business interests and his presidency.

On November 8th, Americans will be voting for this 100-day plan to restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities, and honesty to our government.

This is my pledge to you.

And if we follow these steps, we will once more have a government of, by and for the people.”

All in all, there are some good ideas. Some ideas are doubtful and impractical. But I see no reason for panic, leaving the U.S. or taking any radical steps. I expect very interesting 4 years.

Another Attack on Western Civilization from Muslim Women

In Wake of Burkini Ban, Muslim Women Demand Criminalization of Fat White Men in Speedos

CANNES – A French-Muslim group has called for a ban on what it terms “woefully-endowed white walruses terrorizing our kids in public,” alongside the repeal of a string of municipal measures outlawing the burkini in southern France.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dr. Yasmina Al-Hazeemi of France’s Think of the Children! Foundation urged the nation’s parliament to criminalize the tight-fitting male swimsuit, framing the so-called ‘budgie smuggler scourge’ as a public safety crisis: “These obscene bathers are in fact evil terrorists imperiling the mental health of millions,” claimed the Algerian-born pediatrician. “For the sake of our traumatized children and the very soul of our Republic, we must crush this shameless cult of sagging manboobs, shrivelled racoon balls and itsy-bitsy Sarkozian wee wees!”

The Front for the Supremacy of Stocky Indigenous Speedo Lovers, meanwhile, slammed the proposed ban as “yet another Islamic attack on France’s noble secularism.” “From the beaches of Corsica to the shores of distant Thailand, it’s our natural-born right to let it all hang it, no matter how many millions of juvenile nightmares it may cause,” said FSSIS chair Jean-Paul Le Grosporc, who then blasted Al-Hazeemi’s “slanderous attack on the honor of the Frenchman’s glorious manhood – unlike the dark savages flooding our continent, we natives are growers, not showers!”

How dare they?

(“Obviously, I’m being sarcastic…  but not that sarcastic.”©)

And don’t forget to read the About page of the source.  Here is the 🙂 just in case.

New Feminism

Based on the newest French initiative, I propose a new way to eliminate oppression of the women in our civilized society.  Oppressed women shall be fined.  There must be zero tolerance for all forms of women’s oppression.  Oppressed women must absolutely stop being oppressed or they shall be banned from all public places including beaches, […]

A Fine Example of Civilized Behavior

Among the few things making humans different from animals is clothing.  No animals clothe themselves.  People who don’t use clothes are often looked down upon as savages.  I also thought that teenage boys would normally show more interest for unclothed women than for fully clothed ones.  Apparently, these stereotypes become outdated.  There is a fierce debate in France on the issue of whether bathing suits fully covering women’s bodies (a. k. a. “burkini”) are acceptable in a civilized society.  The debate is not new, but it was rekindled by this brawl on a Corsican beach:

Witnesses say the brawl began after the Muslim families objected to photos being taken by a tourist. When a local teenager, with a group of friends on the beach, also took a photo the brawl erupted. Stones and bottles were thrown… Soon about 40 men from Sisco arrived to defend the youths, witnesses said, and one of the men was slashed with a harpoon blade.  According to Le Figaro newspaper (in French), some of the older men in the bathing party had attacked the teenagers with hatchets. Villagers allegedly then set alight cars belonging to the bathers.

So, what does the government do?  Do they punish the disturbed obnoxious teenagers taking photos of fully clothed women instead of watching photos of naked ones on their computers?  Do they send a message that men should not attack each other with hatchets and stones?  No.  They call the burkini “profoundly archaic” and “outdated ideas” and ban them from public beaches…

Wait a minute here.  So, if a woman shows up on a beach fully clothed rather than naked, she risks being called barbarian. She will be surrounded by tourists and troubled teenagers trying to photograph her like a wild animal.  This world is, definitely, changing.  This is quite weird. Not only direct sun rays are shown to cause skin cancer, but I also find burkini quite beautiful.

And the last, but not the least point in this story.  The brawl over burkini erupted between men.  Look at the pictures and videos in the news articles.  How many women do you see?  Men tell women what they must or must not wear believing that this somehow protects women’s rights.  But strangest of all, they persecute women for being oppressed.  Makese sense, doesn’t it?  Ahem…, gentlemen,… I understand the eagerness to free the women from oppression, but, maybe, we can ask the ladies what they want to wear?  Perhaps, women have other reasons to dress or undress than to impress or please the men?  Just a thought…


The Shackles of Freedom

I was recently reading Richard Stallman’s Personal Site.  Richard Stallman is a legendary software activist who promotes the idea of Free Software.  He is most famous for his GNU project, Emacs text editor, Free Software Foundation, and GNU General Public License (GPL).  His ideas are interesting and highly influential.  GPL, for example, grants people freedom to run, distribute, and modify software under the condition that the modified and distributed software is shared under the same license.  Ability to change implies Open Source Software (OSS).  The word “free” does not mean “free of charge”.  It means freedom to do anything with the code and fully examine and understand what the code does and how.

Richard Stallman tries to live according to his own principles.  He refuses to use any non-free software.  Thus, Windows, Apple, and Google with its Android, Gmail, Maps, Google Drive, and a host of other useful things are off-limits for him.  He believes these companies are unethical and exploit their users in a most outrageous way.  He also does not use Amazon, Facebook, Skype, and Spotify because these companies snoop on their customers.  Any website (such as this one) running complicated JavaScript code is an abomination and a stench in Richard Stallman’s nostrils. He abhors  ebooks as ebook distributors dictate the users what they may and may not do with their book copies.

Richard Stallman is very careful (I’d say, paranoid) about things requiring his identification:

I am careful in how I use the Internet.

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see git:// that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won’t fetch from other sites in such a situation).

I occasionally also browse unrelated sites using IceCat via Tor. Except for rare cases, I do not identify myself to them. I think that is enough to prevent my browsing from being connected with me.

I never pay for anything on the Web. Anything on the net that requires payment, I don’t do. (I made an exception for the fees for the domain, since that is connected with me anyway.) I also avoid paying with credit cards.

I would not mind paying for a copy of an e-book or music recording on the Internet if I could do so anonymously, and it were ethical in other ways (no DRM or EULA). But that option almost never exists. I keep looking for ways to make it exist.

How I do my computing

Stallman avoids any services requiring his personal identification: Uber (perhaps, for good reason – Uber does seem unethical), Amtrak, Netflix, Airbnb.  Apparently, he flies airplanes occasionally as he visited China, Greece, and Israel among other countries.  It’s hard to travel overseas anonymously. I wonder why he does not object being identified and searched in the airports.  I personally consider it humiliating to take off my shoes to go through stupid gates and being searched by TSA officers. He does not seem to be against filing income tax returns as he has scorned the “shared economy” companies (Uber, Airbnb) for using offshore tax havens.  This is another inconsistency as many people believe income tax is unconstitutional and a great infringement on multiple constitutional freedoms.  (Disclaimer: the author of those writings, Irwin Schiff, has died in prison in 2015 where he was put by the federal government, technically, for not paying taxes).  It would be interesting to find out how Richard Stallman reconciles flying airplanes and filing income tax returns with his principles.

I read all this and thought “Wow!  Is there a limitation that one would not be willing to impose on himself for the sake of freedom?”