Why I Prefer Twitter over Facebook

A few thoughts.

In recent months, I’ve found Twitter a lot more pleasant than Facebook for social networking. When I mention this to friends, they tell me that they don’t understand why. They say that they just don’t “get” Twitter.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, trying to understand why so I can explain it to others. This is what I’ve come up with.

Facebook

The people I’m friends with on Facebook are, for the most part, real friends — people I know in real (vs virtual) life. They’re people I like and want to respect. When I see them posting idiotic, shortsighted, uninformed, or just plain stupid things, it hurts and confuses me. I like these people and I want to think they’re relatively smart or can listen to reason or aren’t the hateful, brainwashed idiots they seem to be. But over and over again, they share thoughtless, tasteless crap and downright lies, much of it parroted from a dubious “news” sources. I hate to think that the people I really like subscribe to such bullshit.

Obviously, this isn’t all of my Facebook friends. But it is a lot of them. More than I care to admit.

Yes, it’s easy enough to get the stuff I don’t want to see off my timeline: 

  • If they’re real friends I can simply unfollow their updates. Then we can remain Facebook (and real) friends but I don’t have to be reminded periodically about their political or intellectual shortcomings. They probably don’t even realize that I’ve unfollowed them! (No harm, no foul.) And it’s easy enough to start following them again hen they’ve stopped posting the kind of crap that I don’t want to see.
  • If they’re not real life friends, I can unfriend them. They’ll continue to see and respond to my public updates, but nothing else. I won’t see anything they post unless it’s a response to me or someone I follow. In November and December, I unfriended about 100 people I really didn’t know or care about. I also turn down almost every single new friend request.
  • If they’re people who I don’t even know who insist on posting crap on the updates of my other friends or even my own public updates, I can block them. I have blocked dozens of people on Facebook, including more than a few people who were once “friends” and even at least one family member. 

But what I’m left with on Facebook is very little of interest to keep me there and the feeling that I have to walk on eggshells with every single thing I post. 

Now combine that with Facebook’s algorithms that determine what I see and the order in which I see it and and the endless regurgitated posts about what happened a year ago or two years ago or five years ago and the reminders of birthdays and holidays and the suggestions about what I should share based on what’s in my clipboard and the tracking of my activity all over the web so it can display ads that I might click on — well, does any of that would like something I might like?

Is visiting Facebook a pleasant experience? Not usually. It’s mostly a frustrating waste of time.

Twitter

Twitter isn’t like this at all. 

Most of the accounts I follow on Twitter are people and organizations I don’t know in real life. The real friends I have there are people I’ve met on Twitter and have formed connections with based on real social networking interactions there. They are, for the most part, thinkers and doers — people and organizations I like and can respect based on the things they say and share in their tweets. 

What do they tweet? Comments, news stories, images, jokes, and videos, all of which interest me in one way or another. They are tech people and artists, journalists and programmers, writers and photographers. They are publications and broadcasters and government agencies. There are only 206 of them (today) and it isn’t likely that there will be many more. I prune the list of accounts I follow on a regular basis, weeding out the ones that tweet things I don’t want to see and adding ones I think I might enjoy. 

 I read the tweets in my newsfeed regularly to keep up with them. I often read or at least glance at the articles they link to. These things help me learn more about what’s going on in the world. They help inform my opinions. They help me understand what’s important.

And I tweet what’s on my mind. I link to articles and videos. I share (or retweet) some of the tweets the people I follow have shared. 

And I respond to some of the tweets I read. I agree or disagree. I compliment or criticize. I interact with more effort than simply clicking a “Like” button. I expand my world, form new relationships, share viewpoints.

If another person I don’t know or care about rudely or crudely attacks me in response to something I’ve tweeted or shared, I block him or her. It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to waste my time dealing with small minded, petty people. Life’s too short to deal with trolls and cyber bullies. It’s no secret that Internet trolls engage in such behavior because they have little else in their lives to keep them busy.

And Twitter doesn’t play games with me. It displays every single tweet by every single person I follow in the order in which it was tweeted. There are no algorithms determining what I see on Twitter, no suggestions on what to tweet, and no reminders of what I or the people I followed tweeted in the past. 

Twitter treats me like an adult and gives me instant access to the things that interesting people and organizations are sharing right now. There’s always something new to see and learn on Twitter. There’s always someone interacting with me and my tweets. There’s always something interesting for me to read or watch or learn or share.

The Bubble

I hear it already: naysayers telling me that I’m in a bubble.

Okay. So what? Don’t I have a right to filter out bullshit and focus on the things that can entertain me or make me smarter? News stories or opinions based in truth that aren’t full of hateful rhetoric?

Just as my Facebook friends have the right to share what Alex Jones or Mother Jones says, I have the right to ignore them and focus on the work of investigative journalists reporting for reliable news sources. I have the right to ignore Fox News or MSNBC pundits in favor of fact-based opinion pieces that appeal to my mind instead of my emotions. Information sources that make me want to act because I want to do the right thing instead of because I’m spurred to hate someone or something for no good reason.

Anyway, that’s my reasoning. 

You can find me on Twitter at @mlanger. Over 2,000 other people already have.

In Defiance of Logic and Reason

My thoughts on a photo that sickens me.

I’m trying very hard this election cycle not to blog about politics. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I don’t want to alienate readers who come to read posts covering the wide variety of topics I write about but may disagree with me on politics.

Second, I know damn well that the folks who have been paying attention to the presidential elections this year have already made up their minds and there’s nothing I can say that will change them.

But sometimes a push comes to a shove and I’ve been pushed a few too many times this past week.

Where We Are

If you have been paying attention, you know how crazy this election cycle is.

On one side, we have a qualified, politically experienced, and knowledgable candidate who has been in public service in many different roles for about 30 years. She’s been haunted by conspiracy theories that focus not only on her but on her husband. She’s been battling investigations and insinuations for years, with a patience and fortitude I find amazing. And although most of the dirty rumors about her have been proven false, many Americans continue to believe that she’s some sort of evil monster that will take away their guns, abort their fetuses, and send them to death panels.

On the other side, we have a “successful” billionaire — if you consider six bankruptcies a sign of success — who clearly has very little knowledge about the Constitution, world affairs, or the global economy. He got his start in life with a million dollars from his rich father, who, along with various banks, has bailed him out of more financial trouble than the average person can even imagine. He’s bashed minorities, immigrants, veterans, African Americans, Muslims, and women — what he says about each group depends on who he’s speaking in front of. He incites violence at his rallies, hinting at one that “second amendment people” — gun owners? — could stop his opponent from nominating Supreme Court justices they didn’t like. He sees conspiracy theories everywhere and has even promoted one of the biggest: the so-called racist “birther movement.” And he’s already planted seeds with his supporters that if he doesn’t win the election, it’s because it’s “rigged.”

You can find articles online in reputable publications that support everything I’ve just said. Just Google and be mindful of the difference between investigative journalism like you might find at the Washington Post or New York Times and opinion pieces you might find at Fox News.

Of course, if you’re a Trump supporter, you’re not likely to trust any of the media since your boy Donald told you not to. You’ve drunk his Kool-Aid and all I have for you is pity.

“Locker Room” Talk

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing about “conservative” women supporting predatory sexual harassment and assault.

Let’s get this straight: Bragging to an acquaintance that being a star lets you kiss women or touch (or grab) their genitals without their consent is not locker room talk. Not the locker room talk of men who have any amount of respect for women. Such talk is crude and lewd and clearly indicates an attitude of misogyny far beyond what should be tolerable in civilized society.

But what’s worse is that it indicates an attitude that says sexual assault is okay. This is a prime example of the rape culture that keeps making its way into the news

I cannot tell you how my blood boils when I hear women who call themselves “conservatives” claim that their men talk like that. Really? Your men really talk about forcing themselves on random women, about grabbing them “by the pussy”? Then what the fuck are you still doing with them? How can you possibly tolerate life with someone who thinks so poorly of women that they’d talk about women in such a way? And what are you teaching your daughters about women’s roles and rights? Why are you holding them back in your sorry backwards world?

I feel sorry for the women who honestly believe that “all men” talk like this. They don’t.

And with Trump, it’s not just talk, ladies. It’s actions. Since the release of the “bus video” last week, women have been stepping forward to tell their stories about how Trump kissed them or touched them or groped them against their will. Or walked into beauty pageant dressing rooms to gawk at young women while they changed their clothes. Every day, more women come forward with more stories or confirmation of those already told.

Donald Trump is the new Bill Cosby. Presidential material? I think not.

About the Photo

But I’m not really writing about that, either. What I’m really writing about is this photo, which has been circulating around Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the Internet for a few days.

This Makes Me Sick
This makes me sick.

This photo makes me sick.

Here’s a woman proving to the world that Hillary Clinton was right: half of Trumps supporters are deplorable. How else could you label a woman who wears a shirt like this in public?

How can a woman think so poorly of herself that she invites sexual advances from a 70-year-old pervert?

How does she explain this to her children? Or grandchildren? What is she teaching them?

Do women like this one realize how they are degrading all women? How they are holding back other women from being taken seriously in school or the workplace? How they’re dirtying the rest of us with their appalling behavior?

(This is even lower than women who use lingerie photos of themselves to attract men on dating sites, but we won’t go there.)

And does she not see the irony in this? Does she not realize that Trump’s disdain for women who are not “beautiful” and for women who are overweight would likely make her a target for his ridicule?

Is she really that dimwitted and brainwashed?

What is this fucking country coming to? It’s gotten to the point that I ask myself this every day.

Comments Are Open

Comment are open — at least for now. The discussion is about this photo and the bus video that started this chapter of Donald Trump’s campaign. It’s not about Hillary Clinton. It’s not about Bill Clinton. It’s not even about Bill Cosby. It’s about this photo of this woman and the message she sends to the world about herself, Trump supporters, and the rest of our country.

And yes, I do realize that there are third party candidates. This isn’t about them, either.

Stay civil. Comments are moderated; you might want to read the comment policy before wasting your time posting something that won’t be seen.

Comments about anything other than this photo or the bus video that prompted the subject of this photo will not appear here, even if they do get through my blacklists and junk filters.

The Democrats Dinner

Another new experience.

I should start off by saying that although technically I’m now a Democrat, I’m not really a Democrat. I vote for who I think would be the best candidate for the office. These days, it’s usually a Democrat, but there may be some time in the future that it’s a Republican or third party candidate. The only reason I’m technically a democrat is because I had to check a box on the primary form to vote for a Democrat candidate. At least that’s my understanding of what I did and what it means.

I honestly don’t care.

Anyway, a like-minded friend of mine invited me to join her for the annual Democrats dinner. The dinner, which was to be held at the Wenatchee Convention Center, was for Chelan County and Douglas County Democrats. It was $50/person and included a three-course dinner, no-host bar, speakers, and door prizes. I figured it might be a nice way to meet other like-minded people. After all, although Washington state is “blue,” I live on the red side. I can’t tell you how many Trump signs there are on lawns here, but I can tell you how many Hillary signs there are: 0.

At the Dinner

I met my friend at the Convention Center at 5:30 PM. She’d already gotten very good seats for us at a table near the front, facing front. Another friend of hers joined us. They were both retired teachers, both union members, both Democrats. The real kind — not like me.

Cocktail hour was a bit disappointing. There was a full bar with a bartender. Just one. By about 6 PM, he was overwhelmed and the wait for a drink had gone up to at least 20 minutes. I know this because my friend went back for a second drink and that’s how long it took her to get back. There were no snacks. I was famished.

The walls were decorated with election signs not only for the presidential election but for all the other races below it. People I’d never heard of but would likely get my vote anyway. (More on that in a moment.)

Trump's Small Hand Soap
Why couldn’t this be a door prize?

Trump Voodoo Doll
It comes with pins!

Trump Press Cartoon
It’s all about ratings.

A long table stretched down one side of room. On it were signs with photos of every single president, from Obama back to Washington, along with a brief summary of his presidency. The tabletop was decorated with some Democrat candidate memorabilia — for example, a still-sealed book from Obama’s inauguration and various campaign buttons — along with cartoons mostly lampooning Trump. My favorite was the Trump Small Hands bar of soap. I was hoping that would be a door prize. Someone at our table also had a Trump voodoo doll, still wrapped. Very cool.

I’m sad to report that our table companions were not necessarily the kind of people I was hoping to meet. My friend’s friend was very pleasant and I think the three of us had a lot in common. We had some nice conversations. But the two women on the other side of me were older women — late 60s? 70s? — from Grand Coulee in the farthest reaches of Douglas County. One of them showed me photos of her cat, and all I could think about was cleaning all that hair off my furniture. Another man at the table bragged, at one point, very loudly about a very large gun he’d bought. (Yeah, some Democrats do own guns.) My friend’s friend did a bunch of eye rolling and told us about the gun-toting Republican she’d dated for a short while. The one person who I thought might be interesting to talk to was a semi-retired merchant marine, but he was opposite me at the big table and conversation would have been difficult.

The presentation started with an introduction, pledge of allegiance, and prayer. The usual political thing. Even Democrats stick to the formula. Then dinner was served. Salad, steak and salmon (for those like me who didn’t want the vegetarian option), and a berry cobbler that was mostly apples (go figure). The food wasn’t bad but definitely not worth $50. I didn’t really expect it to be, though, so I wasn’t disappointed. At least it was edible.

The cat lady had brought along what seemed like used washed ziplock bags and bagged up half her meal. I like to think she was going to give it to her cat — do cats eat green beans? Later, when we realized that one of our table companions wasn’t going to show and his vegetarian meal was up for grabs, she produced a stack of used bags and offered them to us. (I wish I was kidding.) She then packed up most of the veggie meal, too.

Meanwhile, the parade of speakers began. I’m sorry to report that most of them were pretty dull. Even the ones that were young and exuberant — and there were more than a few — didn’t really interest me. You see, I had already made up my mind about who I was voting for and I had no intention of knocking on doors or making calls to convince others. The way I see it, if this country isn’t smart enough to vote for the best, most qualified candidates, we deserve whatever we get. And if someone hasn’t decided by now who they’re going to vote for, they’re likely brain dead and not worth wasting time over anyway. (More on that in a moment, too.)

I should point out here that most of the speakers were in support of state and local candidates. There was little said about Clinton, most likely because voting for her was such a no-brainer.

There were two videos, one of which was from the Governor, who, until that point, I would not have been able to recognize in a line up. The videos were obviously created especially for the Wenatchee gathering; both candidates referred to specific places and people and things in the area. The Governor apparently has some strong ties to Wenatchee. It was interesting to see these videos — sort of like personalized commercials. I wonder how much time these people spend recording videos like this for other community gatherings and events.

One thing I did notice throughout the event is that there was remarkably little Trump bashing. I think I see more Trump bashing in 30 minutes on Twitter than I got at that dinner. A few jokes, a few one liners, a few warnings that he would take our country and the world in the wrong direction. That’s it. Not even a single chant.

The door prizes went last and they were mostly donated items. No Trump soap or voodoo dolls.

Flowers
Despite the wild ride home on curvy roads in my Honda, the flowers look pretty good the next day.

Finally, the woman who organized the event mentioned that the money we’d paid basically covered the cost of the event — which, if true, is unfortunate because I’m sure they could have had it catered for less — and suggested donations. She also mentioned that the flowers on the table had been provided at a cost of $15 each by a local floral design shop and were for sale. I liked the flowers on my table so I stuck a $20 bill in the donation envelope, wrote “For Flowers” with my name on it, and handed it off to one of the organizers before grabbing the flowers.

Hillary Poster
My souvenir from the evening.

There were lawn signs at the back of the room, including quite a few for those lower level candidates I’d never heard of. We were invited to take as many as we liked. There were even stakes to put them in the yard. I got there just as a vertically challenged, overweight man was counting off a short stack of cardboard Hillary signs. I reached for the last one, but he grabbed it first.

“Are there any more?” I asked.

“No,” he replied smugly with a grin that made me want to kick his teeth out. “I got the last ones.”

Not to be deprived of my souvenir, I pulled one off the wall. And no, it won’t go on my lawn. Do you think I want Trump supporters throwing garbage at my home?

By reading all this, you might think I’m sorry I went. I’m not. It was an interesting evening out — a new experience. But will I go next year? Hell, no.

My Vote

It should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows me or reads my blog or has just read this that I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s not because she’s a woman, either. It’s because she is, by far, the most experienced and qualified candidate for the job of President of the United States. Anyone who doesn’t see this needs to wake up and look at the facts.

And yes, I know we live in a “post fact society.” What a shame.

As for the down-ticket candidates, I’m voting for Democrats. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of Republican obstructionism in the House and Senate. I’m tired of them fighting Democrats just because they think it’ll score points with their supporters. I’m tired of them spitefully failing to do what’s right for this country because it’s the same thing our President or Democrats want. I’m outraged that they have failed to even discuss the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, leaving a very important seat unoccupied.

I’m also sick and tired of Republicans trying to regulate women’s bodies and health care. I’m tired of them fighting Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable health care services to both women and men. I’m tired of them inserting God and Christianity into government and education. I’m tired of them passing laws that help the rich at the detriment of the poor. I’m tired of them keeping their supporters in line through the use of fear and hate.

At this point, I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if he or she was the only candidate on the ballot.

As for Trump — well, I still can’t believe he’s the candidate that Republicans chose to run for president. Pardon me, but are they fucking kidding us? Has the GOP completely lost its collective mind? The man is a clown. Even the top Republican weasel, Ted Cruz, summed it up correctly:

Of course, Ted eventually caved in to support Trump. After all, you have to toe the Republican party line to get any support from the GOP and Ted doesn’t want to be unemployed. I won’t even go into the moral implications of his support for a man who insulted him and his wife and tried to implicate his father in the JFK assassination just a few months ago. What an unprincipled weasel.

How can anyone in his right mind support trump? Oh yeah. Trump supporters are not in their right mind.

And I’m not talking about “the deplorables.” I’m talking about are the poor, misguided souls who believe everything their other right wing friends and Fox News tell them — whether it’s true or not — and disregard all the negative facts about Trump. The deplorables are driven by hate, and Trump feeds them the doses they need. Like addicts always strung out on crack or meth, they are too far gone to save.

It would be nice to hear a Trump supporter intelligently discussing why he’s voting for Trump without resorting to bashing Clinton — because that’s all I’ve heard. No one seems able to support Trump without turning to the same old tired lies about Clinton — lies that have been disproven again and again. And no, I don’t give a flying fuck about Clinton’s email, especially when so many of her predecessors also had their own private email servers. And I don’t want to talk about Benghazi, either. In fact, I’m sick of Clinton conspiracy theories, all of which have been disproven multiple times by multiple investigations. And I’m sick and tired of seeing my tax money spent on witch hunts led by the GOP.

In his own words.

Any logical argument a Trump supporter could come up with would serve only to convince me that he actually believes the documented lies of a narcissistic conman who regularly stiffs contractors, sues people at the drop of a hat, and uses other people’s money to buy off politicians, settle his legal obligations, and contribute to charitable causes under his name. So even if a Trump supporter isn’t stupid, he’s definitely gullible.

So anyway, I’m voting Democrat right down the ticket this year and I urge people who care about the future of America and the world to do the same. The President is only one part of the picture. Her hands will be tied if we can’t clear out the obstructionists preventing the country from moving forward.

And if you’re an ardent Trump supporter who is deeply offended by what I’ve written here today, I’m sorry for you. But I think this article pretty much sums up what I’d like to say to you beyond what I’ve said here.

And yes, I’ve closed comments on this post. I know it’ll be impossible for Trump supporters — who will likely show up here with something to say — to follow the comment policy and keep things civil. I have better things to do than play moderator for people idiotic enough to support Trump.

The Sticker on the Coffee Cup

Logic, U.S. government style.

Last week, I was in the North Cascades National Park. On a whim, I stopped by the Visitor Center at Newhalem. In addition to the usual interpretive displays, they have an excellent three-dimensional map of the area that identifies rivers and lakes and dams with lights; push a button and a red light appears on the map to show you where that thing is. They also had a ranger standing at a table with a bunch of reproduction animal skulls (wolverine, wolf, and bear) and corresponding paw castings and pelts. And a gift shop.

I went into the gift shop before leaving because … well, that’s what I do. I found some interesting kids’ stuff and picked out two gifts for my neighbor’s grandson, who has some learning disabilities. Then I saw a large coffee mug I liked — I like a big cup of coffee in the morning — and thought I’d buy it as a little gift for myself. But it had a paper sticker on it that had nothing to do with the mug. I reached for another, hoping to find one without a sticker and that’s when I realized that they all had stickers.

The sticker, which is shown below, says:

The North Cascades has an annual rainfall of over 200″ in some areas, which feeds the many cascading waterfalls of the region.

Sticker on Mug
This sticker was on every single coffee mug in the shop.

On a side note, I can definitely believe that rainfall figure because it rains every single time I go there. Although I like rain more than most people — probably because it rains so seldom where I live — I prefer getting rain at home instead of when I’m traveling. (Yeah, I know: whine, whine, whine.)

Of course, being the inquisitive person I am, I had to know why this sticker was on the mugs. So when I went to pay for my purchases, I asked the ranger at the check out counter.

He didn’t know. He said he’d never even noticed the stickers. He said he’d ask the guy who stocked the shop.

PFDs when flying across the Grand Canyon?

This brings to mind another side story that is related to this.

Years ago, the FAA changed its rules regarding personal flotation devices (PFDs or life jackets) on board flights conducted for tours. The new rule said that if any part of the flight crossed any body of water, a PDF was required for each passenger. This extended to Grand Canyon tours, which, of course, cross the Colorado River 5000 feet or more below the helicopter’s flight path. When I was a Grand Canyon tour pilot (which was before this rule came into play) the pilots often discussed that in the event of an engine failure, we should autorotate anywhere except to the water. The river was about 55°F, flowing at 10 mph or more, and full of rapids. When you’re doing an autorotation from 5000 feet, you have plenty of time to find and navigate to a more suitable landing zone; believe it or not, there are quite a few inside the canyon.

I spoke to the woman who created this rule — an aging FAA pencil pusher who had likely never flown across the Grand Canyon and reminded me of my sixth grade teacher, Miss Dumphy — and tried to tell her how silly (actually, idiotic, but I toned it down) her rule was. She didn’t care. Water was water; the way her rule was written, PFDs would be required when crossing a 3-foot-wide stream.

I didn’t have long to wait. That ranger walked by a moment later and the guy I’d asked called him over and asked him. He seemed almost embarrassed when he told me that they weren’t allowed to sell anything in the gift shop unless it provided some kind of interpretive or general information about the park.

Apparently, just having a logo on the mug wasn’t enough to satisfy some decision maker higher up on the food chain. The sticker was the solution.

I bought the mug as a practical memento of my visit to the park. I didn’t mind paying the price — which I honestly can’t remember — because I figured that it was another way to support the National Park Service. I didn’t need any additional information about the park to help me justify my purchase. And I definitely didn’t need a sticker that I had trouble scrubbing off once I got home.

But it makes me wonder … what other things are National Park Service employees being required to do to meet government guidelines established by someone in Washington who may have traveled to only a tiny fraction of the parks?

A Day of Silence at the Aerie

I just can’t listen to any more of it.

I’m home today, catching up on paperwork, yard work, and home construction chores that I’ve been putting off for too long. When I’m home — unless I’m writing — I almost always have the radio on with NPR (specifically NWPR) tuned in. I get the news from Morning Edition; listen to news analysis and opinions and learn about new books on The Diane Rehm Show; get more of the same from On Point, Here & Now, PRI’s The World, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, and Marketplace; and learn interesting scientific things on Science Friday. If I’m up early enough, I hear BBC World Service, which offers an interesting perspective on current events throughout the world and if I’m still tuned in late in the evening (at home or in my car), I listen to q from CBC. On weekends, if I’m tuned in, I really enjoy Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and a bunch of other entertaining and/or humorous shows, many of which I also listen to on podcasts so I don’t miss them. (I actually listen to quite a few NPR podcasts, but that’s a whole different blog post.)

NPR, which they say leans left politically, gives me a solid basis of information for me to form my own opinions. Because yes: I am one of the few Americans who can tell the difference between fact and opinion. And I’m among the group of even fewer Americans who actually cares.

But today things are different.

The Orlando shooting happened early yesterday morning, and it’s all over the news today. It’s the same old collection of politician and religious leader “thoughts and prayers,” ultra liberals demanding all guns be banned, ultra conservatives trying to place blame on Muslims, crazy Christians praising the killer for murdering gays, et cetera, ad nauseam. There’s a constant rehashing of what’s known and what’s suspected as the media and public try to figure out whether it should be labeled as terrorism or a hate crime.

As if it really matters.

50 innocent people were killed on Sunday morning and many others seriously injured by a man who apparently had only two guns on him. How does that even happen? How is it that we’re legally allowed to buy guns capable of killing that many people in that short a time?

And who cares whether this was jihad or he was Muslim or white or a citizen or hated to see men kissing. Who fucking cares?

The fact is, he was on an FBI watch list but because our laws don’t prohibit possible terrorists from buying guns, he was able to do so. That’s a fact. There’s no opinion there. He was on a watch list. Period. He was able to legally buy guns that he then used to kill 50 people. Period.

Am I the only person who sees a problem with this?

And the American people are powerless to make the killings stop. Why? Because the NRA buys more politicians than we can ever hope to. And those politicians kill any bill that would limit firearms sales.

Because back in 1791, after fighting a war to get our independence — a war that depended, in great part, on a citizen militia — the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted and it said:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Apparently, many people seem to think these 27 words mean that any American has the right to own any kind of weapon for any reason.

I don’t think automatic assault rifles used to kill 50 people in a bar is what our founding fathers had in mind.

But it doesn’t really matter what I think. I don’t have enough money to buy members of the Congress and Senate. The NRA does. And it gets that money from people who apparently think it’s okay to arm anyone with any weapon they like.

Because Second Amendment.

So the radio is off at the Flying M Aerie today. I simply can’t bear to listen to the news I’m powerless to do anything about.

It didn’t start that way. I listened to about 10 minutes of Morning Edition before I’d had enough and turned it off. I’ve got my aviation radio on instead. I can hear the few planes and helicopters call in as they land or take off from the airport 3 miles from my home.

Otherwise, silence.

Silence for the 50 people who will never speak again.

And the thousands of people killed in senseless gun violence in this country before them.

On the Misinformed

When lies make us stupid.

Mark Twain Quote

This morning, a typical quote + image meme appeared in my Twitter stream, shared by @Phillipdpl1974. The illustrious person in the photograph who was being quoted was none other than my favorite author of all time, Mark Twain.

The quote hit hard, primarily because of the events of the night before, which I’ll get to in a moment. It said:

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.

Later in the day, while surfing Facebook, my friend Stewart shared a link to an article on Five Thirty Eight titled “Trump Supporters Appear To Be Misinformed, Not Uninformed.” It also hit hard because of the previous night’s events.

What Happened Last Night

It started innocently enough. I’d mentioned to my two companions — we’ll call them Sally and Joe — that I’d talked to guy at the concealed weapons permit booth at Quartzite. They were both familiar with him and both seemed to agree that the guy was a jerk. I told them that in the course of our discussion, he’d insinuated that California was not part of the United States. He apparently thought that was funny. But with all the NRA signage around his booth and his obvious close-minded, anti-liberal attitude, I didn’t think it was funny at all and let him know before turning my back on him and walking away. (In all honesty, the NRA signage was enough to prevent me from spending any money at all at his booth.)

My discussion last night with my friends naturally segued to the topic of the President’s recent executive orders related to gun controls, specifically those new rules for background checks. Joe immediately got testy. He said he didn’t understand why the president was making laws that already existed. When Sally and I asked him what he meant, he told us that background checks were already required for all gun purchases.

Sally reminded him that he’d bought a gun in Arizona at a gunshow and no background check had been required. I told them my wasband had done the same thing.

“When was that?” Joe demanded? “Twenty years ago?”

We admitted that it had been quite a while ago but that we didn’t think the laws had changed. Joe insisted that background checks were required in all states for all gun purchases. The discussion elevated to shouting, which really surprised me. Already yelled at by Joe for interrupting him “all the time,” I shut up.

While Sally and Joe continued arguing, I pulled out my phone and Googled, “In which states can I buy a gun without a background check?” Then, when there was a gap in the shouting match, I began to read:

Eight states require background checks at the point of sale for all —

Joe cut me off. “Where does it say that?”

“Wikipedia,” I replied.

“Oh, Wikipedia,” Joe responded in a tone of voice that made it clear he thought I was an idiot for relying on anything I read there.

I clicked another link. This one displayed the Gun Show background Checks State Laws page on Governing.com. I mistakenly identified it as “a government website,” but I still believe the information there is accurate. I read:

Known as the “gun show loophole,” most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at guns shows from private individuals — federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks.

I held up the phone to show him a map with states colored depending on whether they required background checks for all gun purchases, including gun shows and private sales.

“It’s on the Internet,” Joe said sarcastically. “It must be true.” He then started a rant about how you couldn’t believe anything you read in the media.

I told him that some sources were definitely better than others.

He asked me where I got my information from.

“NPR, PBS, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post. These are all pretty reliable as far as facts go.” (If asked again today, I’d add the Economist, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, BBC World News, and the Guardian.) I know better than to trust far right or far left media sources like FoxNews or Mother Jones.

He then went off on another tangent related to whether it was legal for felons to buy guns. Sally and I said no.

“So in these states where there’s no background check required, it’s legal for felons to buy guns?”

“No,” we both repeated.

“But can they buy guns?”

“Yes,” I said. “Because they can lie because there’s no background check. That’s the point. The background check would help prevent people who shouldn’t buy guns from buying guns. That’s why Obama made the executive order.”

Joe responded by telling us that he didn’t trust the president. That shocked the hell out of Sally and me. While Sally continued arguing with Joe, I took a huge step back, out of the conversation. I knew then that Joe was a lost cause.

Life’s just too short to argue wait people who can’t form their own opinions based on facts.

Oh, and I should mention that what I reported above is only part of a much longer, very angry conversation about laws, guns, truth, the media, and the president. Honestly, it went on a lot longer than it should have.

The Misinformed

This morning, after reading the Five Thirty Eight piece Stew shared, I realized that my friend Joe had become one of the misinformed.

We all get crap shared by our Facebook friends — crap pushing one opinion or another, often through the use of misleading or inaccurate data, charts, quotes, or statements. A lot of it is hateful or even racist. I’ve seen some pretty bad stuff and, in most cases, I simply stop following or even “unfriend” the person who shared it. I’ve blocked more than a handful of friends of friends who share inappropriate comments on my public posts. I have zero tolerance for hate.

Some of us get angry when we get crap we don’t agree with but cling to the crap we do agree with. Others disregard the obviously misleading crap — “Obama is a Muslim” or “Syrian refugees are part of a terrorist sleeper cell” — and spend time researching the crap that might just be true. Nine times out of ten, that “might be true” crap turns out to be just as wrong as the rest of it. But that one time it isn’t — well, then we can learn from it.

My friend Joe was from the first camp. He got a lot of crap from people who thought like he did — Sally confirmed this suspicion later that night — and he believed it. Yet ironically, he claimed that you couldn’t believe anything on the Internet.

How could you argue with someone like that?

The Five Thirty Eight piece discusses the differences between uniformed and misinformed people:

Uninformed citizens don’t have any information at all, while those who are misinformed have information that conflicts with the best evidence and expert opinion…. In the U.S., the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans. These folks fill the gaps in their knowledge base by using their existing belief systems. Once these inferences are stored into memory, they become “indistinguishable from hard data”…

… When misinformed citizens are told that their facts are wrong, they often cling to their opinions even more strongly with what is known as defensive processing, or the “backfire effect.”

The article goes on to discuss various studies and actual examples of the use of misinformation as a way to more firmly connect with supporters. It’s not a very long piece, but it’s a fascinating look at psychology. I highly recommend it.

How Lies Make Us Do Stupid Things

If we believe things that aren’t true, we form opinions based on that misinformation. Those opinions can guide actions. If we follow a course of action based on bad information, we run the risk of following a bad course of action.

There’s a pretty good example of this from my own life. My wasband somehow got the idea that he had a legal claim to everything I owned, despite the fact that I’d acquired most of it before marriage and through my own efforts. He firmly believed that he was entitled to half of everything and, for the life of me, I can’t understand why his lawyers didn’t set him straight. Or maybe they tried and he refused to believe them. His misinformed belief caused him to launch a lengthy and expensive divorce battle that he eventually lost. Still believing he was right, he couldn’t accept that loss and appealed the judge’s decision, thus launching another lengthy and expensive court battle that he also lost. Clearly, his belief in incorrect information cost him a lot of money that would have been better spent rebuilding his life with the woman who likely misinformed him and goaded him to going after my money in the first place. (Talk about irony.)

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, who was then a medical doctor in the U.K., published a fraudulent research paper that linked the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. It was later discovered that the patients in his study were recruited by lawyers suing MMR vaccine makers and that those lawyers had paid both Wakefield and the hospital he worked for large sums of money. Further, Wakefield had applied for a patent on a measles vaccine to be used instead of the MMR vaccine; discrediting that vaccine would certainly benefit him financially. All of these situations were a huge conflict of interest for his research paper and probably explain his motivations for committing the fraud. The report was formally withdrawn in 2010 but the damage of his misinformation was already done: a huge group of people believed — and continue to believe — the now debunked results of his research. Although there is no link between the MMR vaccine — or any other vaccine — and autism, an alarming percentage of parents around the world refuse to vaccinate their children. The result: thousands of deaths and illnesses that could have been prevented by vaccines.

Nowadays, we’re seeing opinions based on misinformation dividing Americans and filling them with hate. These people are voters and many support candidates such as Donald Trump who, in the words of the Five Thirty Eight piece’s author, Anne Pluta, “has a consistently loose relationship with the truth.” This is a man who has made many public derogatory remarks about women, wants to discriminate against people based on their religion, and claims he’ll get a foreign government to pay for the cost of a border wall that is impossible to build. He’s a narcissist with a crass personality who makes the American people look like idiots in the eyes of the world every time he opens his mouth. Very little this man says is true, but the misinformed believe him and eat up every word he utters. I think it’s safe to say that the action they might take — actually voting for this man to be our president — is a foolish one.

My friend Joe’s concerns about trusting the media aren’t outrageous. There are many, many media sources that I can’t trust to present facts that are not tainted by opinion. I already mentioned two of them — FoxNews on the far right and Mother Jones on the far left. These two media outlets present opinions supported by cherry-picked “facts” and quotes often taken out of context. But they’re only two of the thousands of sources people — including voters trying to stay informed — trust every day.

What’s the solution? If you can’t find a truly objective source of factual information, there isn’t one.

I’ve got to think that it’s better to be uninformed than misinformed.

One Wrong Way to Look for a Pilot Job

Be prepared — and then don’t act outraged when you get an unexpected response.

TelephoneYesterday afternoon, I got a call from a number I didn’t know and answered as I usually do: “Flying M, Maria speaking.”

The caller seemed almost surprised that someone had answered the phone. Maybe I’d answered more quickly than he expected. He stumbled over his words a bit and I recall thinking that he might be someone looking for information about a charter flight. Lots of people who call who have no idea how to ask for what they want get off to a rough start.

But no, eventually he asked for “the boss.” Yes. In those words.

“That’s me.” I replied. Now my brain was wondering what he was selling. Anyone who asks for the owner or the person in charge of parts/maintenance/accounts payable/fill-in-the-blank is trying to sell me some product or service I don’t want. My phone is a cell phone and the number is on the FCC’s Do Not Call list, but that apparently doesn’t stop telemarketers from bothering me multiple times a week.

But no, after some more stumbling over words, I learned that he was a pilot looking for a job.

And that’s when I got annoyed. Here’s a guy who can barely communicate what he wants and obviously did no preparation for his call asking me for a pilot job?

I replied that there were no job openings at my company and that even if I had a job to offer, I wouldn’t offer it to him since he obviously couldn’t be bothered to find out who he was calling before he made a call to ask for a job. I told him he needed to work on his technique.

And then I hung up.

After the initial “I can’t believe how inept job seekers are these days” thought, I got back to what I was doing. I had pilot friends coming for dinner and was prepping for their arrival.

This morning, I got an angry email from the person who’d called. Apparently, he was in the U.S. from his home country (which I don’t think I need to share here), had trained in the U.S., and was outraged that I’d been so rude to him. He said:

I was going to let you know that my approach to you asking for a job was not good at all, I just wasn’t prepared before I called and of all the places I call the owner is never taking the phone.

Interesting that he admitted he wasn’t prepared. And odd that I hadn’t noticed his accent, which really comes through in the wording of his written communication.

He went on to say:

My point with this message is that the way you talked to me was just really disrespectfull [sic], rude and unmotivating for a new pilot.

Apparently, he believed that I should drop everything and give him the polite attention he thought he deserved as he interrupted my day to stumble through his job request. A request made without any advance preparation.

Yes, if he’d bothered to do any research at all on my company before calling to ask for a job, he would have learned that the company is a single pilot Part 135 operator with only one helicopter and one pilot. That should have told him how unlikely it was that I’d be hiring. But at the very least, he would have learned my name and could have used that instead of asking for “the boss.”

Or if he’d read the Help Wanted page on my company’s website, which is linked to the Contact page where he may have gotten my phone number and definitely accessed the contact form he used to email me, he would have seen that I was not hiring.

Yes, I was rude. I’ll admit it. (It’s already been established here and elsewhere that I can be a real bitch sometimes.) But when someone acts like an idiot, how should I respond? By gently coddling him so he makes the same mistake again with the next person he bothers?

Don’t you think this guy will think twice before he makes his next call? That maybe — just maybe — he’ll do a little homework first and learn more about the company he’s calling and whether they’re hiring? Or possibly find out who he should be speaking to to ask for a job?

And am I wrong, but do cold calls ever work when looking for a job? Any job?

The other day, I blogged about the importance of networking for career advancement. Networking can help job seekers make valuable contacts they can use when looking for work. It makes time-wasting cold calls unnecessary.

Am I sorry I was so rude to this guy? Maybe a little. He was probably slightly handicapped by a language issue.

But to me, he wasn’t different from any telemarketer who disrupts my day by trying to sell me something I don’t need or want.

And if he thinks I was rude to him, he should hear me when I’m annoyed at one of them.