why facts don’t matter

This article came out over two years ago, and was very popular, but I didn’t actually read it until this week. It’s amazing and informative and I recommend it, especially if – like me – you are curious what evolutionary advantage humanity gained through confirmation bias (no other species has it, as far as we know). Or, if you’re someone who still thinks you can win political arguments using logic and reason.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds

A couple of my favorite parts of the article:

“As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views.

And…

The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.

 

not hot enough for pho

I asked the server at the new neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant which she recommends – the pho or the lemongrass rice noodle bowl. She thought for a moment and said that since it’s not hot outside today, I shouldn’t have the soup. It’s funny how many people think the opposite – that pho is for cool weather.

wait a minute, King?

I’m a little excited about the trailer for this film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”. But wait a minute, isn’t Godzilla a “she”? Shouldn’t it be “Godzilla: Queen of the Monsters”?

Well, Wikipedia to the rescue:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla

“Godzilla was referred to as a male and was depicted laying eggs through parthenogenesis.” I don’t know what parthenogenesis means, but I guess it means males can lay eggs.

So, never mind.

my plan for breaking up with Facebook and Instagram

(originally posted 5/14/2019, updated 6/20/2019)

I normally don’t make New Years resolutions. I figure if a change is worth making, why not start right now, instead of waiting until some arbitrary date on the calendar? Besides, most New Years resolutions are broken anyhow, and if I’m going to make a change in my life, why do it in a way that’s expected to fail? I guess I’m superstitious like that. But this year, I made one. I just didn’t tell many people. My resolution was to break up with Facebook and Instagram.

Anyone reading this probably already knows a dozen reasons to leave Facebook. For me personally, there are two main reasons. First, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram is dishonest, and I can’t justify being an enabler anymore. Second, I’m disappointed with how far they’ve let – and even encouraged – online communities to devolve. I’m not gonna go into the reasons in any more depth. The internet has a steady stream of news articles about why.

So, what next? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I get out of Facebook. When I first signed up in September 2007, the site didn’t do much. But now it serves a lot of purposes. The company’s key to success has been being the “one stop shop” for a lot of different features. It’s convenient to have these things all in one place, but it’s not really essential. Here are the different benefits I feel like I’ve gotten:

  • a way to stay in touch with friends and family
  • a way to share experiences and information with others online who have the same hobbies and interests – games, sports, travel, food, etc.
  • a way to read about important local, regional, national, and international news, and opinions from experts
  • a way to share my own opinions and experiences to whoever is interested
  • a way to schedule and plan events with friends and family

That’s a lot of benefits all under one roof. So how am I approaching getting rid of all that? Well, I’m learning about what other services exist that help with each of these things. In fact, I started reading about alternatives back in October 2018, and have been trying several of them since then. My hope is that by using other online services, I can fill each of those gaps to some degree. For example, there’s no need to rely on Facebook for the daily news, even though a lot of people use it for that. There are a dozen other ways to learn about important news from a variety of perspectives.

What do I expect to miss?

Facebook has spent billions of dollars refining their service to keep me and you engaged as long as possible. They have used every trick in the book and invented several news ones to get people to keep reading for longer and longer amounts of time. So I don’t expect that whatever set of replacement services I put together will “engage” me to the same degree. And actually, that’s a good thing. I spend too much time on social media as it is. So I’m hoping that this change increases the amount of free time I spend on more productive things.

I think I’ll make a new set of online acquaintances, most likely. And I’ll go back to getting news from better quality news sources. I hope to read books more and read Facebook less.

My check lists

As I said, I’ve already been working at this for several months. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

  • Read a whole bunch about how to do this – see the bibliography below, if you’re curious
  • Unfriended about 200 Facebook “friends” who really weren’t friends
  • Deleted all my weird fun Facebook pages (I made up a fake band, a fake Russian fake US patriot site, and a few others)
  • Imported all my Facebook photos into Apple Photos, mirrored to Amazon Photos
  • Revamped and upgraded my blog site, Todd Bradley’s Galaxy: http://toddbradley.com
  • Set up accounts on MeWe and Mastodon social media networks
  • Became a paying subscriber to Medium and Reddit, sources of news and smart (as well as some dumb) essays
  • Changed my Facebook privacy so my posts are only visible by Friends instead of Public
  • Exported all my posts and media from Facebook and downloaded the files to my home computer for safe keeping
  • Signed up for Signal and Feedly

Coming up next:

  • DONE Tell my friends and family about this grand scheme
  • DONE Encourage people to subscribe to my blog if they want to stay in touch
  • DONE Consider Tumblr as a microblogging platform, since nobody uses it for porn anymore
  • Link WordPress to Facebook so when I publish a new WordPress post, Facebook friends see an excerpt
  • Let all my friends and family know other ways to contact me – phone, text, email, etc.
  • DONE Delete Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger apps from my phone and iPad
  • Maybe write some software to import my 12 years of Facebook posts into my blog

Bibliography:

Tools:

looking for recipes?

I decided to add a new category to my blog, and that is “Recipe”. So I went back and labeled all the recipes I’ve posted here over the past decades. That means I can now list them all in once place, right here:

My 50th birthday party

My birthday is March 20, which most years is the first day of spring. This year the vernal equinox is at 3:58 PM Mountain Daylight Time. I plan to take the day off work and do some of my favorite things, and then we’ll have a casual gathering at a local bar near my home. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by.

Green River, Part 3

(continued from Green River, Part 2)

Sunday

Sunday morning we got up, enjoyed an even bigger free breakfast at the Tamarisk Restaurant, checked out, and headed east to a place called Sego Canyon. This is another place in the area that I’d never been. There’s a ghost town up in a canyon somewhere, but my real interest was the rock art.

The drive to the rock art was easy, even through snow and mud in my Honda Civic. There’s rock art of three different types here, not counting the modern American vandalism. One panel has Ute rock art, one panel has Fremont culture rock art, and one panel has Barrier Canyon style rock art. Those are the three main traditions or styles of rock art found in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

pictograph: an ancient or prehistoric drawing or painting on a rock wall

petroglyph: a carving or inscription on a rock

Fremont petroglyphs on top of Barrier Canyon pictographs
Ute rock art – notice the horses and bison
Me at the Barrier Canyon panel
Close up of some of the Barrier Canyon rock art

My personal favorite is Barrier Canyon rock art, because it has all these weird figures that look vaguely like scary, dark, faceless humans with aspects of what looks a lot like alien creatures – bug eyes, antennas, etc.

Years ago, I hiked into Horseshoe Canyon, the least-known district of Canyonlands National Park. It used to be called Barrier Canyon, and the rock art at Great Gallery there is the “type site” of Barrier Canyon style rock art found in a hundred mile radius of there.

Great Gallery photo from Wikipedia

Tangent

A “type specimen” is a common term for a specific sample or drawing scientists consider to have the definitive characteristics of a species. For example, according to Wikipedia, “the type specimen for the species Homo neanderthalensis was the specimen ‘Neanderthal-1’ discovered by Johann Karl Fuhlrott in 1856 at Feldhofer in the Neander Valley in Germany.”  

In geology, a lot of geological formations are named after a specific place where that formation was first seen or is most definitively seen. For example, in the desert southwest, there’s a type of rock called “Wingate sandstone” because it’s very prominent at Wingate, Arizona. Similarly, the “Chinle Formation” is prominent at Chinle, Arizona and the “Kayenta Formation” is prominent at Kayenta, Arizona. In geology these are called the “type locality”.

In archaeology, the same idea is called a “type site”. For example, there was a prehistoric culture in what’s now the western US called the “Clovis culture”. Maybe you’ve heard of “Clovis point” arrow heads. Well, this is named after Clovis, New Mexico just as the “Folsom Tradition” was first identified near modern day Folsom, New Mexico. Apparently, “type site” is also used to indicate the place where a particular style of rock art is most definitive.

According to the BCS Project website, “The Great Gallery is the type-site for the Barrier Canyon style and the largest of the Barrier Canyon style rock art gallery sites.” But the people who made it aren’t called Barrier Canyon people, they’re called Western Archaic people, which I think essentially means “they were here so long ago (6000 years ago) that nobody really knows which modern day Native Americans descended from them, if any”.

End of tangent

There is also some rock art across the road on private land. This one’s a mix of styles, with English signatures and other modern graffiti.

After walking around in the muddy snow to see all the art, we headed for Colorado. We stopped for gas in Fruita, and then drove over the Colorado National Monument, something I hadn’t done in decades.

Then we made a stop at the Grand Junction Memorial Gardens so I could say hi to my grandparents, all four of whom are there. And then we drove on to Glenwood Springs. After a small meal of Mexican food at Jilbertitos, we spent a couple hours soaking at Iron Mountain Hot Springs, and then called it a night.

Monday

Monday morning was just driving, for the most part. Fortunately, traffic was way better than it had been on the way west on Friday, and we got to Denver in time for a lunch of pho. And that marked the end of our long weekend away. 

It was a nice getaway. I got to see the Ken Sleight exhibit and the rest of the museum, some rock art, some beautiful geology, and a missile test site. All with good food and good company.


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Green River, Part 2

(trust me, you really need to read Green River, Part 1 first)

Friday

We left Denver on Friday morning. Unfortunately, a million other people also wanted out of town for the long (Presidents’ Day) weekend, and traffic was the worst I can remember. It took about three hours just to get to Frisco, a distance of 80 miles. We picked up sandwiches for lunch there, and decided to just eat in the car since we still had another 275 miles to drive before supper.

I had found what looked to be a fun place to stay called the Skyfall Guestrooms. About three years ago, someone decided to build three hotel rooms downstairs from the Tamarisk Restaurant in Green River, Utah. Green River isn’t a big town, especially in the winter months. In the summer, there’s lots of tourism from river rafters and the nearby canyon country, and a famous watermelon farming business. But in the winter, it’s mainly just a town where people stop on their way through from California to Colorado. But Skyfall was cool way beyond what you’d expect for a truck stop town. Each of the three rooms has an artistic mural representing some nearby site. We got the Goblin Valley room, #2. The other two were for Crystal Geyser and for the Book Cliffs.

The Goblin Valley Room

I’d read how this was the nicest place to stay in town (an easy feat) but I still was impressed. If I ever remodel my condo, I want the interior designer responsible for the Skyfall Guestrooms to plan it. It was artistic, modern, efficient, just industrial enough, and comfortable. Anyhow, once we arrived, we checked in and then settled into our room.

Then we went up to the Tamarisk Restaurant for dinner, and I was impressed with the menu and the food, too, also something I didn’t expect for Green River.

Saturday

The next morning, we got up and had breakfast, again at the Tamarisk Restaurant. Oh, I just realized I forgot to tell you about one of the best things about the Skyfall Guestrooms. When you stay there, you get free breakfast at the restaurant. But it’s not like “Free Breakfast” at most hotels, where you help yourself to cold cereal and a bagel and some reconstituted scrambled eggs. Here, you can order anything off the regular breakfast menu, including drinks and extras. So I got a yummy omelet and Brooke had French Toast. They didn’t have a way to make a mocha latte, so she got a cup of hot chocolate and a cup of coffee and then just mixed them.

Anyhow after our overly-filling breakfast, the museum had opened and it was time to visit. It’s just across the main street, so we walked in the cold wind. Really cold.

Me outside the John Wesley Powell museum

The visit to the museum started with a 20-ish minute video on John Wesley Powell’s first expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers. For those who haven’t read his book, the video was a good introduction to the topic. Of course I read his book a couple decades ago, and used to own it until The Great Downsizing of 2011.

Then we spent about an hour in the main part of the museum, learning about the Colorado River plateau, Powell’s two expeditions, other (non-Native) people who explored various other parts of the river system, the history and pre-history of the region, modern issues related to the river, and so on. There’s a lot to see there, including a few full size models of different types of boats early explorers used on the river before they eventually developed boats specifically for several-month journeys on whitewater rivers.

Once we got through the main part of the exhibit, we wandered through the temporary exhibit that was the main point of the trip: Glen Canyon: A River Guide Remembers. We spent another hour there, looking through some of Ken Sleight’s 60-years-old rafting gear and photos, and listening to interviews with people about their early experiences rafting Glen Canyon. Here is the museum’s excerpt describing the exhibit:

About the exhibit:

Iconic Utah outfitter Ken Sleight began his river-guiding career in Glen Canyon during the mid-1950s, just as the Glen Canyon Dam blueprints jumped from the drawing board to remote desert terrain. The pulse of the Colorado River through the canyon would soon be halted by a cement wall and Glen Canyon backfilled with water. Ken knew the condition of the canyon was terminal. He used every ray of daylight to memorize every detail of the canyon before inundation: to learn its 125 side canyons, to observe Native American ruins and mining relics, and to immerse himself in the lives of seminal guides who preceded him like Dave Rust, Bert Loper, and Moki Mac.

Now 88 years old, Ken and a team of Glen Canyon curators open the archives to create a museum exhibit: Glen Canyon: A River Guide Remembers. With historic landscape photographs, First American artifacts, boats and other gear, passenger portraits and journals, guides’ handwritten-packing lists, and more, this is an exhibit as simple, gritty, and rich as a trip through Glen Canyon with Ken. Within the walls of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah in 2018, Glen Canyon lives again.

It was pretty somber, as it always is, hearing people talk about how beautiful Glen Canyon was before it was flooded to make Lake Powell. I’ve wished for years that I could somehow go back in time to see it. Or go forward to a time after the reservoir is gone and the canyon is restored to its natural state.

A little depressed, we went to get some lunch at a weird Mexican restaurant. It was a gas station that had gone out of business, and the new owners parked two food trucks in front where the gas pumps used to be. So you order outside and they make your food in the trucks, then you go inside to eat on one of the tables scattered around the old gas station. I ordered a plate of tacos and a Mexican Coca-Cola, both of which I shared with Brooke.

After that, we wandered around the city park, and saw the world’s largest watermelon slice and a big model of a Cold War rocket.

Brooke modeling next to the world’s largest watermelon slice
The missile and me

Why is there a rocket in the town park of Green River? Well, it turns out that back in the 60s, the government built an extension of the White Sands Missile Range way up near Green River. And they used to test launch these rockets from the facility they built south of town.

Wait, what? Yes, there was a missile test range in the 60s where they’d launch these rockets up and over Canyonlands, across southwestern Colorado (one went off-course and crash landed near Creede, I learned), to land in the desert of southern New Mexico at the White Sands Missile Range. Given my recurring dreams about a secret aircraft test facility near Moab, this was pretty weird news for me to learn. Was it just a coincidence? Did I hear something about the missile test range back in the 80s that I later consciously forgot but that my subconscious kept generating dreams from? I have no idea. Anyhow, the Green River launch facility was decommissioned in the 80s, and all that exists there now are remains of abandoned buildings, and a big pile of radioactive debris covered in black sand and surrounded by a fence.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks there’s something sci-fi about this missile test center. Google Maps labels the road leading to it the “New Area 51 Rd”. I don’t know if that’s what it’s officially called, but that’s what it’s called according to Google! Also, we saw some graffiti on the back of a billboard at the edge of the old base that said mysteriously “WE WERE ONCE HUMAN”.

There’s another weird thing in Green River. It’s a huge piece of art that is a representation of the Fibonacci sequence.

Then, it was time to leave town. I plotted a course for the Crystal Geyser, a geologic feature that’s also a bit strange. Growing up Wyoming, I loved visiting Yellowstone. Geysers and steam vents and mud pots were so cool to me as a boy. Well, unlike the geysers in Yellowstone, the geyser near Green River isn’t powered by magma in the earth heating up water that rises to the surface and then explodes out. Apparently, there’s a pocket of carbonated water near the Green River south of town, and when someone was drilling for oil in the 1930’s, they hit it.

So, excited to see a rare cold water geyser, I drove us out to the site, which is only a few miles down a gravel road from town. We waited a while, and went for a walk along an old road. And just when we came back, there was water spurting up about three feet from the ground. I assumed this was the beginning phase of the full geyser plume, but that’s all it did, and then over the next few minutes it spewed even less water up. We walked around the travertine formations, which reminded me of the ones in Yellowstone, but the geyser never did shoot up like you’d expect a geyser to do.

This is the pipe that created Crystal Geyser
Travertine next to the Green River
I love the patterns in the travertine

That night, back at the hotel, I dug deeper into the story of Crystal Geyser and learned that it stopped really erupting sometime between 2012 and 2014. Over the years, people started throwing stones into the pipe from this well until they finally plugged up the plumbing. Now, instead of erupting up thirty to a hundred feet in the air, the water just bubbles to the surface once in a while. Sadly, if you just read about Crystal Geyser in travel brochures and articles, almost none of them mention this. They talk about it as if it’s still a geyser in the present day. But it’s not. Here’s a local news report about the death of the geyser.

Once we gave up on the geyser actually erupting up in the air, we left the area of the Green River Launch Complex (via New Area 51 Road, of course) and headed for the San Rafael Reef.

We stopped at a few view points on both sides of the reef, but it was getting colder and windy, so we didn’t do any hiking. Plus, we were running out of daylight.

San Rafael Reef looking east, with the Book Cliffs and moon in the background

We got back to Green River right about supper time and ate once again at the Tamarisk Restaurant. And once again, it was good food.

(continued in Green River, Part 3)