She Doesn’t Get It

Mom: I feel like you are very sensitive towards what I’m saying, what I’m doing
Brian: Yeah, I really am
M: Yeah, and I, I don’t know.
B: I try to be more open but-
M: but you’re not.
B: Well can I finish my sentence or?
M: (joking) No….yes, you can. (Laugh)
B: I try to be more open but those things make me have a strong reaction, that makes me not want to share. Like I felt disgusted, like I’m being treated like…a baby? And that doesn’t make me want to…tell you what things I like or things like that, you know?
M: Ok.
[long pause, M crying]
M: Well, good to know. I shall try to be very careful, towards you.
B: I don’t think that’s gonna work
M: Why not? I’m gonna- I’m gonna try. Not to treat you…you know, one thing mothers do, regardless- you can go and read about it, because this is a fact in life.
B: Ok.
M: for mothers their children will always be their children. For the mother, your child is always a baby, in a way. So you want me to treat you like you’re not my son, basically. Basically. Right?
B: Right. I didn’t grow up with a mother, I’m not used to it. For me, my association is-
M: So when you came here you came just for convenience, basically. Let’s, let’s get convenient house and education.
B: Yeah, I guess so. I was also not happy in Israel.
M: wow, that is…wow. Ok…
B: I think I thought back then that we would feel closer to each other. It seemed like a reasonable hope.
M: ok. wow.
B: I remember in the beginning I was really trying to open up, but it was not working. And I learned very quickly to not do that anymore.
M: Because you were not opening up, not because of me.
B: Ummmmmm…no, I wouldn’t say that.
M: I was…I was opening up.
B: Yeah…but, you didn’t know how to let me open up.
M: oh. Ok. Well your convenient mother is giving you a car. Right? Gave you education, here. Gave you a free home, free food. And now is paying for your food as well, this convenient person. This is interesting.
B: Do you feel like-
M: No, I feel I’ve been used, a lot. But that’s ok, because, you don’t have a mother.
B: I definitely did not grow up with a mother. You abandoned me when I was a little kid. And by the time I was 5, or 6, they dragged me to go to the United States. When have you seen a 6 year old, who doesn’t want to see his mother? What kind of thing do you think that child went though, to feel that way? Do you think it’s natural for a child-
M: I wanted, I wanted you to be with me.
B: But why do you think I didn’t want to be there? I had to call Father to come pick me up from the US. That doesn’t seem-
M: I didn’t abandon you. I wanted you to be with me. You feel abandoned, but I did not feel like I was abandoning you.
B: You’re missing the point.
M: No, I understand what you’re saying.
[long pause]
B: And I think I felt too scared to ever talk about this, with you, because like you pointed out, I was financially dependent on you. It was very unsafe for me to-
M: yeah, now you’re free from everything so,
B: Now I’m able to talk about this.
M: yeah. I understand.
B: I was very scared that you would throw me out.
M: wow. Like [garbled],
B: Like when I was a baby. I was abandoned, and I was afraid it would happen again. And it happens with relationships also, I’m scared the person is gonna stop loving me, and is gonna leave me.
[mom crying]
B: You know when I was a kid, up until maybe when I was 10, I couldn’t be alone a single moment. When I was going to the pool, or basketball, Sarita or dad or Zura would have to be there, if they went even to the bathroom, I would freak out. I could not be alone for a single moment. If they came late to pick me up from school, same thing. And I would pee my bed, until I was 9.
M: I’m sorry. I didn’t want to abandon you. I wanted to be with you.
B: yeah.
M: I love you. Te quiero mucho.
B: why did you leave then?
M: I wasn’t in a good relationship with your dad. I was extremely unhappy with him.
B: And you wanted to do UN and travel the world. I get that, those things are really nice. But…it affected me as well.
[long pause]
M: Well, I guess I deserve to be treated like shit, like you’re treating me now.
B: I think what I learned is to-
M: I think you need to learn to move on. You know, if you have a mother as a monster, like you think. It’s not your fault, you need to learn to love. You know? Because otherwise you have a dark spot in your heart, and it’s not going to help you in life. I totally understand, I…we all grew up in very unhappy times. I grew up also with a lot of things in my life. But you have to try to move on. Because it’s not gonna help you. In your enrichment as a human being. Moving on…of course it’s convenient for me to say, because, of course, it implies forgiveness, understanding. But, doesn’t have to happen with me. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. But, in general, you know?
B: Yeah, I don’t actually think you know how I feel.
M: no no, I understand. I understand something. Of course I’m not in your body and your mind. Yeah, the feeling of abandonment, the feeling that nobody was there for you.
B: No I don’t feel that actually. What I feel is nothing.
M: Nothing? Yeah, I feel like you feel nothing. I totally get it. Yeah, I get it. I totally get it. I get it. Yeah.
B: So, you say, forgive and move on, but I don’t feel any anger, I don’t feel anything I can forgive.
M: Yeah, ok. Let me know how you want to- I mean, you don’t have to communicate with me if you don’t want, you don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to follow any ritual. Whatever you want to do, it’s fine. I want you to be happy, you know?
B: Yeah, I think that feeling free, is a good start. I think that’s a good idea. Instead of obligation. It’s always better for every relationship.
M: yeah…whatever.
[long pause]
M: it’s part of your temperament as well. You character. Being detached.
B: Why do you think that is?
M: No, it’s not me. This is exactly like your dad is. Detached. Indifferent.
B: Yeah, why do you think I’m like dad?
M: Yeah.
B: I wanted to be exactly like him. I wanted to copy him in everything I could. I thought he was perfect.
M: you did it.
B: For a while.
M: Well I hope you can start feeling things, you know? It’s just human to feel things.

Donations for 2014

During 2014, I got into a movement called Effective Altruism, thanks to my roommate John. This movement, among other things, advocates for doing good via donating money, improving charities’ impact through evidence-based research and comparing charities’ efficiency through the data they publish.

It is a nascent movement, so detailed research and conclusions on many fields are still lacking. There is good data for things like global health and extreme poverty, but not much on improving human rights, education, internet freedom, prison reform and other areas that are of interest to me.

I decided to donate 5% of my income this year, up from $200 last year.
The charities I will be donating to are:

I wanted to distribute my charity between different areas, while keeping in mind there are many other causes I support, that I will get to in future years. This is a bit more info on why I chose these ones:

Mercy for Animals

They are responsible for most undercover videos taken at factory farms. It is incredibly cool that I can legally donate money for people to do that. That is no accident – MFA has successfully fought every single state law prohibiting the filming in factory farms. Check out this badass video of their 2013 year in review.

BRAC Uganda

BRAC focuses on education efforts for girls in third world countries, including sexual and reproductive health education, vocational training and general life skills. They also took the trouble to figure out if their programs have any positive effects, and published fairly impressive results

Future of Humanity Institute

While the previous two charities are working on improving the world right now, FHI is focusing on figuring out problems that will affect humanity in the future, hopefully making progress on them before they become an immediate emergency. Their recent publication of a book about the dangers of superintelligent AI actually managed to get all kinds of people and companies to stop and consider the effects of technologies they’re working on. More generally, they’re working on killing Moloch dead.

Nominal sums

Both Planned Parenthood and ACLU receive vast amounts of donations compared to the above charities. I don’t think that my donation would have a large marginal effect on the amount of good these two organizations do. Instead, I donated to them so that they can have one more name in their list of donors. My friend Elizabeth told me that since these two organizations do lobbying, it is useful to them to be able to say “x many people in your constituency donated to this cause this year”.

Thanksgiving 2014

Ya esta en el aire girando mi moneda…y que sea lo que sea

I am thankful to be here, in Maryland, with my mom and Sharon and Marinos and Kevin.
I am also thankful that I live in Seattle. Distance has given me confidence to start figuring out who I really am, and who I want to be. And how I want to be. And I am thankful for that.
I am grateful to be sitting with my best friend Jeffrey, and I am also thankful for my friends in Seattle: John, Ben, Quinn, Morgan.
I am grateful that I have a good job, a stable job. That my work is recognized by my peers. And I am glad that I usually can leave work at a reasonable hour, and do other things outside work.
I am grateful, that when I can’t leave work at a reasonable hour, even if I come home really late, there will usually be someone to talk to, someone to listen and to listen to.
I am grateful I am finding how to express myself better, less ashamed of being myself. I am grateful for LessWrong and the rationalist community, I am grateful for Non-violent communication, I am grateful for  improv, I am grateful for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


I used to be so embarrassed, of everything. When I started practicing Non-Violent Communication, I was so scared my family would find out. Karen accidentally mentioned it, and I quickly motioned to her to not say anything more. Mom and Sharon each approached me separately later and asked me what was the course Karen said I was taking. I am ashamed that I made up some non-sense about eastern philosophy or something. But.
I am grateful I am now saying the truth.
It is hard for me to feel emotionally safe enough to be open, a lot of the time.


I am grateful for Karen. The way Karen really appreciates me for who I am, the way we talk and make each other think. The way we love each other and support each other. The way we kick ass together. But especially especially grateful for the way she hears me.


Ya estoy en la mitad de esta carretera…y que sea lo que sea


I am sometimes not grateful. I am sometimes full of other emotions, some “nice” and some “not nice”. All of them actual feelings I feel. and I am grateful I feel them. I am grateful for every moment I am alive, for every breath I take, even the times when life sucks.
And I am grateful that many of my friends also feel this way, and so are helping me create a holiday, a ritual for precisely this reason.


The thing I miss the most about religion is the rituals. The songs, the dances, the greater purpose. Ritual is powerful.
We, who live in the secular world, we have some good holidays. A holiday for expressing thanks, with a beautiful ritual where the whole family gets together and expresses gratefulness. and Isn’t that wonderful?
But there’s also darker parts to life, that need to be acknowledged. And that is the secular ritual I have been working so hard on with my friends, a Secular Solstice event, where we, as secular people can have a solemn, moving ritual where we consider how far humanity has come, and how far we still have to go.
How the universe simply doesn’t care about us, but that’s ok. You know why? Because WE care. There is light in the universe, and it is us. It is this. It is family and friends. It is caring and warmth, and food, and medicine and every other great thing people created that didn’t exist before.
And for all this, and a lot more, I am grateful.
Thank you.

Bug Night

I recently ran an Animal Suffering Documentary Night, that led me and many of my friends want to reduce how much meat we consume, in order to reduce animal suffering. If you’re not familiar with the tremendous amount of suffering that animals undergo in order for us to eat them, please watch this 12m short film, called Farm to Fridge

This post is not about that, however. After the documentary, I got together with my roommate Quinn and we decided to actually plan out a bug eating night, which is an idea we’d been talking about for a while, but had never actually acted on.

Let me give you some bug-related facts first.

1. Bugs are nutritious. Cricket meat has a higher percentage of protein than regular meat. Additionally, bugs have higher amounts of zinc, iron and other nutrients.

2. Bugs are efficient and environmentally friendly. Raising one pound of cow meat requires 200 sq. meters of land, whereas one pound of cricket meat requires only 15 sq. meters of land. That’s 170 times more efficient. Raising one pound of cow meat requires 2000 liters of water, whereas one pound of cricket meat requires only 1 liter of water. Finally, one pound of cow meat requires 22 bags of feed, whereas a pound of cricket meat takes only 2 bags of feed.

So as I was looking at these facts online, it became clear to me that the main reason we don’t eat bugs is because we think they’re gross. The ‘ewww’ factor. But actually, plenty of cultures around the world do eat bugs. There are 3000 ethnic groups documented that eat bugs, and over 1000 species known to be eaten by humans. The average household in Congo, for example, eats 300g of caterpillar a week. That’s a significant part of their meals.

In fact, my own culture, Judaism, considers 4 species of locust to be kosher. My first experience eating bugs was as a very religious teenager in Israel, during a [kosher] locust plague. Even then the main resistance I saw from other people was that it was gross (and some people tried to argue that it wasn’t actually kosher, despite what the talmud says)

So we decided to have a bug-night where we would get together as friends, and try out some bugs together and see if they really are as gross as we thought. At the very least we’d have a good time with friends. What it turned out was that we all managed to get over the initial fear of eating bugs and we found they actually tasted pretty good! Other than the amount of work it took to prepare (cooking for 14 people is pretty stressful), I think I could eat bugs pretty regularly. And many of the people present said the same.

Some quotes from my friends:
This is a million times better than I thought eating bugs would be.
My control group is not eating bugs right now.

Finally, although many of my friends came (we had 10 people come and 4 more that were unable to make it) I wasn’t sure whether I should post about this event on Facebook and talk about it openly with other people. Something I’ve been working on lately is deciding how much of myself and my weird interests (such as bug eating) to show to the world at large. I was mostly concerned that people would be more interested in telling me their opinion of what I’m doing than in actually listening to me about why this interests me as a topic. So I’m trying out writing it all out in a blog post, and then pointing people to this page as an experiment. I have never blogged before, so I’ll see how this goes and may post more things in the future, based on interest.
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