Sunday, January 3, 2021

New Type of Resolution: What Have We/I Learned in 2020?

I understand that New Year's resolutions are rarely kept, so with so much turmoil and revelation in 2020, I have instead been focused on the question, "What Have I Learned?"

Yesterday, we visited with B, whom I've mentioned before is our honorary son, whom Mark once mentored as an intern at the schools in IT, and who will now be entering Brown University in the fall in cybersecurity, paid for by the GSA and DOD, being that he concurrently is working with them on a project, already having white papers published on creating an algorithm for recognizing the codes used in social media propaganda.  He is currently working on a project with their cyberintelligence team, on which he is the only non-PhD member (because he's that smart).  He speaks 5 languages.  He's the head of the Democratic Party at his university. When he graduates in May, he will have three simultaneous undergrad degrees.    Yep, this is a whiz kid, going places :)

In addition to all of this, he's very kind to others, a good person, which is most important, in my view :)

We decided to pick up our breakfast at a regional breakfast place called Wild Eggs and sit under a covering at Jacobsen Park, as it wasn't too cold - and I was super glad to get out of the house!

(I don't have any pictures of this, it was a very gray day and no one was in the mood for selfies lol.)

Well, the truth is, we spent some time trying to find and agree upon the right covered picnic table area.  

In my view, I wanted to ensure there weren't already 50 people there without masks, and that the picnic table was big enough to accommodate social distancing from B, who can't risk infection - but also remember, I'm in an SUV with a former Army ranger and current/future DOD/NSA cyberintelligence expert, who are both trained to look for criminal trouble lol. 

So I ask my husband if he could go towards the back covered picnic tables, not the front ones; but my husband wants to go to one by the lake, even though I think that will be the most populated with people who believe COVID is a hoax and won't wear masks and will get all up in your face lol.

So my husband drives towards the back, but then finds 20 reasons why none of the covered sections will work, mostly being that we're too far from the exit lol. 

 So then I make fun of this, pointing out, "Well, we can't pick that one, because there's an RV parked over there and it might have a bomb in it, and how would we get away quickly?!?" - ;) wink wink - LOL!

(Of course, I was joking - mocking how Lexington panicked, on New Year's Eve, evacuating the restaurants and bars and downtown residents, just because an RV was in a parking lot, that turned out to be a nothing burger lol).

So we ended up driving to the one by the lake, which is where Mark wanted to be from the get-go  ... 

Me:   "Didja like that, B?  Wasn't that a fun, completely pointless ride around the park?  LOL.  We drove around the park for 10 minutes, just so he could pretend to give my suggestions a chance, then found everything in the world wrong with them, with excuses that sounded plausible, but were actually absurd, from not being close enough to the exit, to not wanting to potentially deal with Trumper-looking people nearby lol. 
"All of this, mind you, just so he could do what he wanted  -  even though the lake is where everyone goes, at some point, - AND - it's right next to the Christmas tree dump, where Billy Bob and family has to stop and talk with Billy Joe and family, all congregating just feet away, without masks on! LOL." 
"Watch and learn, B -  that's how masterful husbands do it lol!   See, you act like you're taking into consideration what your wife is concerned about, but then do what you want anyway, with plausible-sounding but absurd excuses, thinking you're being clever;  when in reality, smart wives already know that's what you're doing, but nevertheless, thank you and tell you you're right anyway, even if what you're saying makes no sense, because this one's not worth an argument AND you at least pretended to acknowledge your wife's concerns ;)   It helps if your wife doesn't take this too seriously and has a sense of humor LOL. "


B:   (Laughing hysterically, pretending to take note, and said mockingly):     "Op, yeah, can't sit there, it leaves us open for snipers." LOL


Me:   "Yeah, erm - Mark was an Army ranger, remember, so the sniper may actually be the one driving this car and making these decisions!" LOL


Which Mark found hilarious, and gave a fake evil, maniacal laugh and started driving crazy in the park, for a second.  LOL!


(Totally joking and not true about the sniper thing, just playing on the stereotypes/reputation of Army rangers rather than truth about what rangers do.)


Me:   "Allllllrighty then, now hear this, former special ops military and/or future DOD/NSA cybersecurity people currently in this SUV! We are going to the park to eat breakfast, like normal people do, still social distancing for public health reasons  - NOT performing a recon mission and securing the perimeter. Stand down, please, at ease lol."

This then led to a discussion about one of my Christmas gifts from Mark, which was this super bad-ass military-style coat, with a million different features and zipper pockets even on the biceps.  Of course this is not me, but a model in the coat ...


Mark and B:    "Yeah, you know,  you could stash a pocketknife in there for self-defense if you need to, and a grenade there ... lol.  You joke about us, but you can't fool us, Russian spy - you are wearing a James Bond Coat! LOL " 





Me:   "Da, you vill call me Natasha!  LOL  Actually, I think it was made in China, uh oh ;)    "I just thought the coat looked both bad-ass and feminine, but you guys are all about the possible military-tactic utility! Here, do you want to wear the coat? I think you guys love it even more than I do! LOL." 
"You all love cloak-and-dagger shit, but I think it would be exhausting, I could never be a spy and would never want to be; I'm too open, probably to a fault, yes. I like being open, and what other people do with or twist about that information out of their own reasons, that's on them, not me.  And I'm too nervous around people in general - mostly because of aforementioned people lol." 
 So what are these things I just found on the inside, hitting me in the legs?  They're  drawstrings to draw it tighter, I guess ... yeah, I just I pulled them, and nothing inflated or exploded, so we're good lol.  But they're ended with some extremely heavy/weighted metal pieces, so yeah, I guess if I needed protection, I could whup somebody upside the head  with them. LOL" 

This discussion then someone led to recognizing and combatting fake news, since this is B's research and his thing.  He can't tell us much about it, of course, but he showed us a public video yesterday, without prepping us, asking for our thoughts. 

Me:   "Who IS that guy? Where did this supposedly happen? What authority does he have/organization is he with, and why should anyone listen to him lol?"
Mark:   "That guys looks like Trump, so I stopped listening LOL."

Turns out, I was asking the right questions - the Trump-style propaganda video was made by a left-wing political group, actually,, using actors, in a sort of Sacha Baron Cohen-type social experiment (though not a funny one),  to see how many right wing people picked it up and ran with it, sharing it on social media as truth - never questioning the source or if these were even real people or a real event. 

If you're the sort of person who asks these questions, you pass - but then again, keep on asking these questions in a world where real life can seem like an SNL parody lol. 

Me:    "The truth is, it was instinct more than asking those questions, on this one - but I think both kicked in. Not knowing who this guy was, where it happened, or what organization or by what authority he was saying the things he was saying, played a part, of course - all I knew is that something wasn't right, I couldn't put my finger on, at first, not knowing those things. Okay, so was finding this video helpful in your research on why certain people are more susceptible to this type of information then others?"


B:  "Well, my focus is just how on how they do it and how to recognize it, so it was helpful in the sense that we understand how it catches fire and travels and how Trump-style propaganda takes off."  


Me:  "That's awesome, you're able to figure that out. But then me being me, I'm coming at this from a clinical/psychological perspective - so I'd also want to know then WHY certain people don't ask those questions or don't care, as long as it supports what they already want to believe, and other people seem almost immune to it - so I'd love to see the social psychology follow-up studies to your findings, at some point.  "   


B:   "The truth is, everyone is susceptible to cognitive dissonance, it's human." 


Me: "So true.  I come from an extremely dysfunctional family, who were also charismatic evangelicals lol.  No one knows better than me about people only listening to that which already supports what they want to believe rather than fact and truth lol." 
"But it can be changed with diligence. I used to be super naive, more than most people.  Now, I'm not paranoid, but I listen to my instincts more and ask more questions.  I'm not really suspicious, I still like people, but I am less trusting/accepting of things at face value, too." 
 "Of course, being formally educated in cognitive dissonance and inherent/implicit bias helped, and trained to always be on the lookout within ourselves for bias and cognitive dissonance;  sometimes failing, sometimes checking ourselves before our wreck ourselves, but agreed, it's human." 
"So what are your thoughts on the 230 bill Trump didn't like? What was his angle on pretending to crack down on internet liability, though he was the biggest offender lol - him wanting to sue Twitter for censorship? lol"    


B (paraphrasing):  "The problem is, people view the entire package as pork-barrel legislation, and it is, but pork-barrel isn't what it used to be, which was one party packed a bunch of complex-languaged crap in there, in which there was hiding something; but in fact, in the last couple of decades, it's a concession by both sides - there's something in there for everyone, an  'I'll include this if you include that' aspect,  from both sides." 
"In the case of 230, though third-party social media companies do need to be held more responsible for their content, we have to be more specific in how we do that. Because if we're not, though Trump is the biggest offender, if the law is not done properly, then people like Trump can sue Twitter for censuring his free speech, and he knows that. That is why we didn't overturn it. The specifics have to be ironed out first."   


Me:  "Okay, but what about libel?  Why aren't we focused more on that legality, libel is not protected freedom of speech?" 


B: "Well, current law states that only if the libel causes physical or financial harm." 


Me:  "Yeah, um - Hillary Clinton? I'm not a super-fan, by any means, but I'm pretty sure the level of unprecedented libel caused her not only an election loss, but disastrous financial and reputational harm she will never recover from?" 
"But I guess the problem is you can't prove you're innocent on stuff that you didn't do or never happened to begin with. And I guess internet regulation is much like the electoral college - everyone's for changing it unless their side benefits."

"And what about financial theft due to online fraud, like what happened with my bank account and some thief using Venmo this week?  They're left completely free of responsibility, at present, for the theft?  


B:      "That's true, but again, we have to be very specific with our laws about online theft and fraud, or else they could turn out to actually work in favor of the criminals, fake newsers, and stalkers; and you're right, as long as these laws benefit someone politically, they're not all going to agree on them."


Regardless, all of this discussion caused me to do more thinking about than I already had, about what I'd learned in 2020, and here's what I've gotten so far - keep in mind, I've learned these lessons this year, doesn't mean I'll always follow remember them or do them, just like a resolution lol:

1)    Focus on and appreciate what you have, more than what you don't, but dream you'll have someday - you never know when what you have will be gone or limited in the future.  


In fact, though planning for the future is always a good idea, if you financially can - it should never be at the expense of enjoying and appreciating what you currently have now.  


2)   Propaganda -  spun by power abusers trying to hold on to power - rather than fact and truth, has not only become effective, but rules the day, here in America, and it's likely here to stay for a while - politically, professionally, and personally. 


3)   Don't waste too much time trying to find common ground and/or listening to perspectives from people that insist on seeing you as the enemy.


If they're hell-bent on seeing you as the enemy, there is nothing you can say or do to change their minds, and in fact, anything you say and do after you've made it clear you don't agree will only enhance their perception. They want you to agree with them - period. And if they won't listen, shake the dust off your feet and walk away. 


4)   Stop trying to mediate between warring parties, especially without being asked - it's not your job and usually ends up with you holding the bag and blame, not to mention, your dysfunctional-family roots are showing. 


Mediation, without being asked to do so, is actually just another form of trying to control others' behavior and the outcome, regardless of your intentions. 
You're just not that powerful - people are going to do what they're going to do anyway, nobody cares what you think unless they ask you, and the mediator between two sides often gets the blame as IF they have that kind of power  ;)


5)   Listening to people and respecting their beliefs doesn't mean you have to tolerate lies and insults, if they're on your turf - especially if they're directed at  you or someone or something you care about


6)   Don't try to counter-control what people believe - even if they're lying and you're telling the truth, you're still just as controlling and wrong to push and pressure them to believe you.


Even if what they believe are lies that are turning dangerous, they have the right to believe it - shake the dust off your feet, walk away, and fight with your vote and voice in other ways, rather than directly fighting them :) 


7) I am getting old lol. Take better care of my health, there's less time left than I like to believe, and most of these things I put in front of my health aren't as important (with the exception of my husband's health).


It's not selfish to put my health as a priority, it's like the oxygen mask instructions on a plane - I can't help those I love if I don't have enough oxygen myself to do so - regardless of who thinks it's selfish, just so they get the first hit of oxygen ;)

I'm sure there are more, that's just what I've got so far ;)


PS - B, if you're reading in a homesick moment, never forget, despite whatever you encounter, in this crazy world, that back here at home, we all love you and are proud of you :)

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