J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

How I’m Voting

An AC Transit bus that helped deliver seniors to the polls in the 1990's,

An AC Transit bus that helped deliver seniors to the polls in the 1990’s,

This year I’ve decided to share how I’m voting, as an experiment. Sometimes I just ask my wife how she’s voting, and copy her (since we agree on most political issues, and she always does the research), but this year I actually did the research myself. I’ve tried to make notes that get to the crux of the issue, at least from my own perspective. My bias is generally liberal, leaning libertarian on personal freedoms, leaning social democrat on economic policy. I’m more of a pragmatist than an idealist, and for political decision making I favor an empirical approach (what has worked before in similar situations/environments).

I don’t expect anyone to agree with all of my choices, but maybe some readers will find the information to be helpful in making their own choices (somewhere out there is my perfect “mirror-image” voter: one who makes the opposite choice in every category). I hope you find my notes to be useful, even if you end up voting a different way. Let me know in the comments.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.… – Winston Churchill

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Vitamin D and Other Immune Regulating Therapies for Schizophrenia

Brain tonic!

Brain tonic!

Within the last year the understanding of schizophrenia has advanced considerably. Most notably, the origins of the disease have been traced to an overactive expression of the C4 (complement component 4) immune system protein, which is responsible for tagging neurons for “pruning” (destruction) in the adolescent and young adult brain. This “overdrive brain pruning” leads to the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia (delusions, hallucinations, difficulties in planning and life management, paranoia and social isolation). Earlier research, in 2014, linked ultra-high-risk individuals (in terms of developing schizophrenia) to overactive microglial activity. (Microglia are the macrophage immune system cells of the central nervous system, destroying “plaques, damaged or unnecessary neurons and synapses, and infectious agents.“)

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Eight Months Without a Car, Cost and Convenience


The eight-year-old’s bike.

Back in February when Kia and I turned in our leased Fiat 500 and decided to do a “one-month experiment” of living without a car, I suspected that the experiment might last longer than one month. But eight months? No way. I was sure we’d have another car by now. But it turns out there are a few advantages to not having an expensive hunk of metal to care for, including:

  • On average, it’s cheaper (about $150/month less).
  • It’s great to not worry about your car (will it break down or get stolen/scratched/dented/broken into/ticketed).
  • We save time on car maintenance and paperwork.
  • All three of us are fitter, stronger, and leaner (details below).
  • I feel more physically and socially connected to my neighborhood.
  • Our carbon footprint is reduced (though still high — we sometimes fly on airplanes).
  • I get to use my phone like a magic wand to summon friendly drivers to my house who arrive within minutes and take me wherever I want for a reasonable price and I don’t need cash not even to tip (thank you Lyft).
  • Local grandparents have been great sports about having to drive a bit more (thank you!)
  • Given our situation (we both work from home, our kid goes to school three blocks away, our neighborhood has a Walk Score of 91/100, local car-sharing options), we’re pretty much the ideal family to NOT own a car.
Our neighborhood Walk Score

Our neighborhood Walk Score


Back in February I calculated our average cost of car ownership at $440/month, as follows:

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Happy at the Bottom

Recently I wrote about various careers I’ve had and am still having, both accidental and on-purpose. My current sci-fi author career is so fledgling (exactly one published story) that any sensible person wouldn’t call it a career.

My dad says it’s my calling. Maybe it is. But I’m approaching it like a career, methodically and strategically. I write almost everyday, not just when I’m feeling inspired. Even though I have little to show for my efforts (so far), I can’t remember having this much fun trying to build something. At least not since the days I was sending out cassette-tape demos in padded mailers to NYC house music labels (and getting ignored). Or joining Trip ‘n Spin, a disorganized, fun-loving music label/collective in San Francisco.

It’s kinda fun being at the bottom. My friends and family (and maybe even some of you gentle readers) are genuinely rooting for me. A few might think I’m tilting at windmills, but not in a mean way (I may even inspire some to tilt at windmills of their own). I don’t have a professional reputation to protect, because I have no reputation in this field.

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What the Oakland Police Department is Doing Right


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

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