J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Category: Culture Rants/Shares (Page 1 of 11)

Lyft (and Uber?) Drivers Don’t Know Where They’re Going

Logan Green of Lyft (photo by JD Lasica)

As part of an ongoing no-car month experiment (not owning or leasing a car for the last eleven months), I’ve relied heavily on the freelance taxi/ride-sharing service Lyft. Overall my experience with Lyft has been good. The drivers are generally courteous, friendly (but not too friendly), and drive safely. In turn I try to be a good rider, being ready when drivers arrive, not slamming doors, and tipping (which Lyft allows in-app; their competitor Uber doesn’t). I like most of the drivers I meet, and I almost always give 5-star ratings.

But here’s the thing–if there’s any complexity to a pickup or drop-off location, most Lyft drivers will get it wrong. Lyft drivers rely almost entirely on GPS, and even though GPS navigation is a miraculous invention, it fails consistently with large buildings, detours, poor cell-service areas, and even some straightforward locations (GPS often ignores the street I live on and directs drivers to one block away from my house).

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How To Be Less Racist


In the United States and Europe, racists are coming out of the woodwork, freely expressing views that were considered taboo only a year ago. Concerns about terrorism and economic security (some valid, some exaggerated) are amplified and directed broadly at people of color, most of whom have nothing to do with terrorism or the availability of jobs. This racism was always there, but it’s more dangerous now that it’s moving into the mainstream (including aspects of our federal government). Some of the dangers, specifically, are harassment and violence against non-whites (including police violence), voter disenfranchisement, and deportation of immigrants (some legal, some undocumented, many if not most vital to our national economy).

Other problems with open racism include social discord and a divisive sense of “us vs. them” pervading our national consciousness. More severe, dystopian outcomes of open racism might include internment camps for Muslims, reversals of civil rights protections, harassment or murder of civil rights activists (including journalists), use of lethal force against peaceful protestors, or even “ethnic cleansing” scenarios (genocide). Big problems, in other words.

I guess one potential benefit of racist attitudes being openly expressed is that it opens the door to conversation, debate, and the potential for attitudes to shift. That’s the purpose of this post: to influence those who might feel racist but are open to non-racist perspectives.

I’ve been reading some Alt-Right blogs and trying to better understand where this racism comes from (I won’t say which ones, because attention and web traffic fuels these hate blogs). From what I’ve read so far, the Alt-Right openly-racist/white-supremacist perspective looks something like this:

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Three Things Trump Can’t Do

I promise this blog won’t become a 100% Trump-rant, but there are big geopolitical events afoot. I’ll be chewing the Trump cud for a little longer.

This essay from science fiction author Charles Stross gave me some big-picture perspective. Reactionary populism is a global problem, and the Russia-as-puppeteer theory may have legs. The “U.S. won the cold war” narrative is looking laughable at this point. The Kremlin has a long memory, and plays a ruthless international chess game with decade-long turns.

Now we have an administration that is not only politically conservative (in an extreme way, with the intention to roll back women’s rights and civil rights) but also potentially incompetent, led by a president with a history of criminality and corruption. Trump’s corruption and impulsiveness worry me just as much as his ideology (which, like Bannon’s, is flexible and opportunistic). Reckless decision making, cynicism, cronyism, corruption, and a failure of leadership could lead to economic collapse and systemic breakdown. Could it be as bad as what we’re seeing now in Venezuela? I think our checks-and-balances will probably save us from that fate, but the same forces are at work.

Across the pond we have Brexit in the UK, and anti-immigration sentiments all across Europe. Global reactionary populism. Terrorism is also a massive problem. What’s happening to our planetary society? I think we’re seeing the convergence of at least six macrotrends:

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WTF Just Happened?

Usually I try to write posts that might help people solve problems, or otherwise be useful. But today I’m just going to try to sort out my own thoughts re: what just happened with the U.S. elections. And some ranting. So be warned, and check back next week if you want to read something useful (like how I turned my obsolete 2011 Macbook into a screaming fast machine running the latest everything).

Why did Trump win?

He won because 59.7 million people voted for him. Not as many as Clinton’s 59.9 [edit Nov. 21, up to 63.7M vs. Trump 62M] million, but enough to win an electoral victory. Who voted for Trump? It’s tempting to come up with pithy descriptions of these subgroups. Red Pill bros. Muslim-haters. Women who are scared of being raped by Mexicans. Angry white men who want their privileges preserved. KKK members.

But the descriptions don’t matter. Almost 60 million Americans voted for Trump. They each had their own reasons, each one a little different. Common sentiments in this group include economic fear, distrust of government, resentment towards political correctness, and a view of white Christian patriarchy as an American norm. If Trump’s racism, misogyny, shady business deals, and unstable temperament bothered them at all, it didn’t bother them enough to change their minds.

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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

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