J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

What the Oakland Police Department is Doing Right

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OPD has had its share of problems. The painful, disturbing legacy of the Riders. $57 million paid out to alleged victims of police abuse between 2001 and 2011. Poor handling of Occupy Oakland in 2011. A very recent sex scandal where multiple officers paid for sex with a minor, followed by the resignation of police chief Sean Whent and, in quick succession, two interim police chiefs.

Pretty bad stuff.

But in the last couple years, Oakland crime has dropped significantly, especially homicides, but also robberies and assaults. Officer use of force is down 75%. Citizen complaints against police are down 50%. Something is clearly going better.

I recently attended a community meeting with Mayor Libby Schaaf, and learned a few things:

  • Though Oakland’s police-to-crime ratio is still one of the lowest in the nation (if not the lowest), our police department is much better staffed than it was a few years ago. Oakland police are responding to more crimes, doing so much faster, and most importantly, interacting with the community more and thereby preventing crime (through visibility, familiarity, and information sharing).
  • OPD has changed many of its policies to reduce the chance of violent escalation. For example, foot chases and car chases are abandoned more quickly in exchange for slower perimeter capture strategies. This slows everything down and reduces the chance of injuries and casualties for officers, suspects, and bystanders.
  • Oakland police officers are trained to interact appropriately with people suffering from mental illness, thereby making things safer for everyone involved.
  • OPD works directly with Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt (a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient) to understand, deconstruct, and counter inherent racial bias as it pertains to police work.
  • Another interesting policy: Oakland police officer are trained to inform suspects that personal searches are voluntary and may legally be refused. Does any other police department do this?
  • Last but not least, Oakland is effectively implementing the Ceasefire program, which I’ve written about before.

In many ways, OPD is on the forefront of being a progressive, forward-thinking department, committed to social justice. While there may be a long way to go, Oakland police culture is changing for the positive. And crime is dropping.

So when do we get a new police chief? Apparently (after a long community input process) the job listing went public on Friday. Schaaf is confident we’ll get a strong pool of applicants.

After a multi-decade rough patch, I’m cautiously optimistic that our police department is headed in the right direction, getting the resources they need to do their jobs, and doing their best to protect and serve all our residents (not just the wealthy white ones). Thank you to the hardworking police officers of Oakland.

New Horror/Philosophy/Culture Podcast, Ferrett Steinmetz Reading, Upcoming Posts

I had a fun day in San Francisco yesterday, visiting my friend Marc Kate and later attending a reading by author Ferrett Steinmetz.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-9-28-09-amMarc and I drank sage mint tea and talked about analog synthesizers (RIP Don Buchla), the trials and tribulations of creative careers, and his new podcast Scary Thoughts. I listened to Episode 1 (a discussion/cultural critique of Stranger Things) when I got home and greatly enjoyed it. Like most people in my demographic I devoured Stranger Things days after it was released on Netflix. Listening to the Scary Thoughts podcast helped me parse my thoughts on the way the series used nostalgia, hit all the right nerd notes, and veered just far enough away from tried-and-true horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes to keep things interesting.

Ratings and reviews are incredibly important for a podcast launch, so if you enjoy Scary Thoughts please take a few seconds to rate and/or review it. And subscribe!

flexThen I headed over to Borderlands to listen to Ferrett Steinmetz read from his new novel Fix. I’ve been reading Ferrett’s blog for years and I’d read and enjoyed his short fiction too, but I’d yet to dig into his ‘Mancer series. So far both the first book of the series (Flex) reminds me a little of Lexicon by Max Barry, one of my favorite reads this year (both the writing style and the unique, meticulously-developed magic system). Ferrett is something of a role model for me since I’ve been following (and rooting for) his writing journey from aspiring writer to published novelist with a significant following. It was a blast to meet him in person. Great guy, bought everyone donuts, and gave an excellent dramatic reading. Go Ferrett!

For regular blog readers wondering what’s in the pipeline, here are some of the posts I’m working on:

  • Q3 No-Car Update
  • Supplements I’m Experimenting With (l-tyrosine, acetyl-l-carnitine + rALA)
  • When You Start To Know the Trash by Name
  • Update on 5/25 Exercise
  • Investment Strategy Update

How to Think About Your Career

It’s possible to have a career without really thinking about it. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve had at least three-and-a-half accidental careers so far.

  • I started doing computer support and database design right out of college, just a few hours a week, at my dad’s friend’s company, learning as I went. Ten years later I was the Senior Database Administrator for the San Francisco Symphony, and I still do freelance db work to this day as my main source of income. But none of my friends ever remember this, because it’s so boring that I never talk about it.
  • My record label business partner wanted to start a weekly happy hour at an art gallery. I thought it was a terrible idea. The ayahuasca-snorting gentleman he initially partnered with to throw the event got a little squirrelly and they parted ways. I reluctantly stepped in, and under our management we had a decade-plus run as one of the biggest dance music events in San Francisco, lines around the block, written up in international guide books, DJs from around the world eager to play to our crowd.
  • I had no interest in DJing. But we needed to promote our album. So I learned to DJ at my own party, trainwrecking mix after mix. Spesh put me through DJ bootcamp and I got a little better. Soon we were headlining the biggest dance clubs in San Francisco, voted among SF’s Top DJs in the Nitevibe poll, on the cover of The SF Weekly, and touring in Europe. But eventually I quit because I don’t like travelling, or listening to hundreds of promo tracks to find the few good ones.
  • I started a blog in 2009. I can’t remember why. Probably to practice writing, to express myself, to share my ideas. Eventually some of my health posts (about sleep and artificial light, about the paleo diet) got popular. The blog hit a million views. CNN interviewed me. A TV show The Doctors flew me to Hollywood to be a guest. I experimented with advertising. Then I wrote a post about how I regrew some of my hair by intensively massaging my head, and things went crazy. Views through the roof, readers begging me to make instructional videos, asking for personalized advice. Should I take up hair regrowth coaching? I thought about it. Maybe I could help Tim Ferriss regrow his hair, or Prince William. But I’m not patient enough to be a coach, and I didn’t want to be the hair guy. Or another paleo guy. So I made it clear to my readers that though while I would still write the occasional health post, the content of this blog was much broader (systems for living well, self-experimentation, the creative life).

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How To Reconcile Gratitude and Ambition (and a pitch for charity:water)

I focus a lot on gratitude. If I don’t, I’m a miserable ass. I’ve written before about how gratitude is my emotional force multiplier.

I have so much to be grateful for. Good health, family, friends, interesting things to do, various artistic and career successes. But if my life sucked (and it has sucked at times), I would try to be grateful, for anything I had. Each working limb and organ. Being a conscious-aware being. Our sun, Earth’s atmosphere.

There’s something exhilarating about extreme gratitude. It’s freeing. No matter how much life beats you down, there you are, feeling pretty good because you’re not six feet under. We all have the right to enjoy life regardless of our circumstances. Practicing gratitude is the means to that end.

It’s not that we can always choose to be happy (at least I can’t). Sometimes the cocktail of hormones, neurotransmitters, and brain architecture that influences consciousness leaves us feeling bleak. But the choice is always there to detach our feelings from our external circumstances, or to reframe our circumstances in such a way that we feel fortunate. That’s what detachment means, in the spiritual sense. Not that you don’t care, but that your internal state becomes independent of your external circumstances. Unhooked. Free-floating. Detached.

Ambition

I have a strong, well-developed ego. I want things. I have well-defined goals and I work towards them systematically. Why? Partly nature, partly nurture. Mostly, I think, I’ve chosen ambition as a life path. I like the dopamine rush. I like working towards things, the sensation of progress.

At times being ambitious has made me less happy, given me feelings of being less than. It’s an easy trap to fall into, basing your self-worth on what you’ve achieved. Regarding people who have achieved more than you as better, those who have achieved less as worse.

Is it possible to want more while still appreciating what you have, feeling that it’s enough? For me it is, as long as I remember that it’s the pursuit of my goals that makes me feel good, not achieving them (though of course that’s nice too).

I try to center my identity around my values and actions, things that are well within my control. No matter how many goals I achieve, those things won’t change. I am what I commit to, not what I accomplish.

Does being humble and grateful and satisfied with what you already have make you less effective at achieving your goals. Less hungry? I don’t think so. Gratitude and ambition can easily coexist. Listen to the words of Demian Maia before his fight with Carlos Condit. “I am already an accomplished fighter.” “I have plenty of wins.” Determined and confident, but also filled with humility and gratitude and a sense of enough, Maia proceeded to choke out one of the most dangerous men in the world in less than two minutes.

Of course real world achievement is important. It’s how we make positive changes in our lives, families, communities, and societies. But we shouldn’t hold our own happiness hostage to what we manage to get done. Be happy regardless, by appreciating what’s already there.

An Example

Scott Harrison does a good job of being grateful and ambitious at the same time. He’s grateful to all the donors who have supported his personal and organizational goal of bringing clean water to the world’s poorest communities. But he’s ambitious too — he wants to get more monthly donors, expand operations, help more people. I’ve supported charity:water on a monthly basis for years, and I’ll continue to do so. Not only do they dig new wells, but they monitor existing wells, involve the local community, and implement sustainable models. Access to clean water improves health, frees up time for education and earning money (especially for women and girls), and increases basic human dignity.

Please take a few minutes to watch the video below (warning: some of it is hard to watch). If the white savior narrative bothers you (or the clubbing is bad subtext), please ignore both. In real life, charity:water brings clean water to millions of people, in verifiable and sustainable ways. Charity Navigator gives them 4 stars, a 92.5/100 rating. It’s the real deal. Please join me in supporting their work on a monthly basis, at whatever rate you can afford.

And be limitlessly grateful for all the wonderful things in your life and the world, and terrifyingly ambitious about improving those aspects that are less than wonderful.

 

New Theme, and a Quick Story About How I Searched for Nonexistent Phrase for More Than a Decade

As regular readers will have noticed I switched WordPress themes. The new theme is called Lovecraft. It’s big! I like it. Lately, I’ve felt like going big. I threw a big birthday party. I’m writing lots of words. Big big big.

The reason I switched: the font size of Coraline (my previous theme) was too small. I found a way to make it bigger in the theme customization options, but the latest WordPress update got rid of that option, and my font size shrunk again. I know I could have fussed around with css, but screw it — it was time for a change anyway. I got rid of that picture of myself wearing that hat and holding the empty wine glass, and now the banner has some great pictures of our planet, courtesy of NASA. Thanks NASA! (And once again, big!)

Lovecraft. That reminds me of a story. A story about a story.

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Quality Control: Getting the Work Done Despite Your High Standards

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Over the last few years I’ve been compiling notes on good writing technique. My favorite authors have been generous with their advice, and I’ve been collecting it, analyzing it, and trying to apply it to my own work. How to build suspense, how to create relatable characters, how to construct a good sentence, a good scene, a good story.

Two problems …

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