Tag Archives: bad neighbors

Good News Monday: Something In Common

In recent years, our little community has sadly become increasingly polarized, what with strongly-held opinions on such crises as “LollipopGate” (did the former head of the vegetation committee instruct landscapers to trim certain trees in unnatural shapes?),”GateGate” (did the front gate close on a neighbor’s car through malfunction, or was this an error on the part of the driver?),”PoopGate” (did a neighbor deliberately not pick up after their pet, or did the outraged complainant mistake a clump of mud for dog poop?), and “SnoopGate” (did a neighbor repairing storm-related damage to his home knowingly violate The Rules? And could the “concerned party” have asked the owner directly about his repairs? Or — gasp — maybe offered to help rather than contacting the Powers-That-Be as a first resort?) Deep breath.

There seems to be no shortage of time for people to complain, yet little interest in listening to the other side. And it’s all gotten notably worse since the last US election, with the endless repetition of bs about “stolen” votes. I swear we have grooves in our roads from everyone digging in their heels!

So it was with great interest that I read the following piece on studyfinds.org. Perhaps there’s reason to be hopeful after all.

U.S. Politics - Democrats and Republicans, donkey and elephant on flag
(© Victor Moussa – stock.adobe.com)

(© Victor Moussa – stock.adobe.com)

Political polarization study finds liberal and conservative brains have one thing in common

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There seems to be no end in sight to the political divide splitting America in two right now. While political polarization is not a new phenomenon, researchers say they still know very little about what causes people to see the world through an ideological bias. Now, a team from Brown University reveals liberals and conservatives actually do share some common ground — they all hate uncertainty.

Their study finds the brains of “political partisans” on both sides of the spectrum show an inability to tolerate uncertainty. These individuals also have a need to hold onto predictable beliefs about the world they live in.

Examining a group of liberals and conservatives, researchers discovered watching politically inflammatory debates or news coverage exacerbates each person’s intolerance of the unknown. Liberals began to display more liberal thinking and conservatives moved further to the conservative side. Despite their ideological differences, the team finds the same brain mechanics are driving this behavior.

“This is the first research we know of that has linked intolerance to uncertainty to political polarization on both sides of the aisle,” says study co-author Oriel FeldmanHall, an assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown, in a university release. “So whether a person in 2016 was a strongly committed Trump supporter or a strongly committed Clinton supporter, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that an aversion to uncertainty only exacerbates how similarly two conservative brains or two liberal brains respond when consuming political content.”

Political views not to blame for polarized society?

Study authors used fMRI scans to measure brain activity while participants watched three different programs. The 22 conservatives and 22 liberals viewed a neutrally-worded news report on the very polarizing topic of abortion, a fiery political debate segment, and a completely non-political nature show.

After seeing the videos, participants answered questions gauging their understanding and opinions of the different segments. They also completed political and cognitive surveys measuring their intolerance of uncertainty. According to study co-author Jeroen van Baar, the results show political polarization is less about what people think and more about how their brains cope with the world around them.

“We found that polarized perception — ideologically warped perceptions of the same reality — was strongest in people with the lowest tolerance for uncertainty in general,” says van Baar, a former Brown researcher now at Trimbos, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction. “This shows that some of the animosity and misunderstanding we see in society is not due to irreconcilable differences in political beliefs, but instead depends on surprising — and potentially solvable — factors such as the uncertainty people experience in daily life.”

“We used relatively new methods to look at whether a trait like intolerance of uncertainty exacerbates polarization, and to examine if individual differences in patterns of brain activity synchronize to other individuals that hold like-minded beliefs,” FeldmanHall adds.

Birds of a (political) feather flock together

The study also reveals brain activity and neural responses in partisans diverge between liberals and conservatives. Researchers say these differences reflect each side’s subjective interpretation of the content they’re viewing. People who strongly identify as liberals processed political videos in a very similar way to other liberals in the study; a trait called neural synchrony. Study authors discovered the same thing when examining the brains of conservatives.

“If you are a politically polarized person, your brain syncs up with like-minded individuals in your party to perceive political information in the same way,” FeldmanHall explains.

The results also show people displaying a higher level of intolerance for uncertainty are more sensitive to politically polarizing content. Surprisingly, the news report on abortion with a completely neutral tone did not exacerbate the group’s polarized perceptions.

“This suggests that aversion to uncertainty governs how the brain processes political information to form black-and-white interpretations of inflammatory political content,” the researchers explain.

“This is key because it implies that ‘liberal and conservative brains’ are not just different in some stable way, like brain structure or basic functioning, as other researchers have claimed, but instead that ideological differences in brain processes arise from exposure to very particular polarizing material,” van Baar concludes. “This suggests that political partisans may be able to see eye to eye — provided we find the right way to communicate.”

The study appears in the journal PNAS

Billionaires Behaving Badly

Think your neighbor’s a pain in the butt? Check out this story!

Billionaire Bill Gross accused of blaring ‘Gilligan’s Island’ theme song on loop at his neighbor

By Jazmin Goodwin, CNN Business

Updated 2:35 PM ET, Tue October 27, 2020

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New York (CNN Business) Bond billionaire Bill Gross is involved in a legal battle with his tech entrepreneur neighbor over a $1 million sculpture and allegations that Gross blasted the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song on a loop from his house.

Gross, the co-founder of investment firm PIMCO, and his partner Amy Schwartz installed a large lighted glass art installation on their Laguna Beach property along the property line shared with their neighbors, Mark Towfiq, CEO of data center development company Nextfort Ventures, and his wife Carol Nakahara, according to a lawsuit filed by Towfiq and Nakahra. Gross and Schwartz then installed larger poles and a protective net above the installation, and Towfiq and his wife allege the art installation partially blocked their ocean views.

After several months of unsuccessful attempts to discuss the matter with Gross, according to Towfiq and Nakahara, they filed a complaint with the city of Laguna Beach in June. The complaint prompted an investigation by the city that determined the installation, netting and lights were a violation of city code and did not have the proper permits, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after, Towfiq and Nakahara allege Gross began retaliating against them by harassing and disturbing them with “loud music and bizarre audio recordings at excessive levels” during various hours of the day and night — including pop or rap music, and often a series of television theme songs, according to the lawsuit, including the “Gilligan’s Island” theme on a loop.

Gross and Schwartz sued Towfiq first — on October 13. Towfiq and Nakahara filed their own suit the next day, on October 14. Gross accused Towfiq of “peeping” on him and Schwartz, and Gross’s lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order, according to court documents. Towfiq and Nakahara’s lawsuit alleges Gross and Schwartz executed a “targeted campaign of harassment and abuse” that ensued after a dispute over an art sculpture installation in Gross’ property.”Mr. Towfiq has harassed and invaded the privacy of Mr. Gross and his life partner Amy Schwartz,” said Jill Basinger, the attorney who represents Gross, in a statement to CNN Business. “We reluctantly brought a complaint against the defendant because of his unneighborly behavior, which goes back many years within this community and with other neighbors.”Basinger called Towfiq “bullying” and “vindictive,” and said he has “been the aggressor toward Mr. Gross and Ms. Schwartz.”

But Towfiq and Nakahara’s lawyer said the opposite.”Mr. Gross is an entitled billionaire who is used to getting his way by bullying coworkers, family and neighbors,” said Jennifer Keller, the attorney who represents Towfiq, in a statement to CNN Business. “Gross filed his own complaint merely as a preemptive strike after learning my clients intended to seek relief from the court.”The couple alleged Gross and Schwartz’s actions were attempts to get them to drop their complaint with the city. During one incident, when Towfiq “respectfully requested” the music be turned down, Gross responded, “Peace on all fronts or well [sic] just have nightly concerts big boy,” Towfiq’s complaint alleges.Towfiq’s complaint says the alleged abuse was so distressing that it forced Towfiq and Nakahara to leave their home and stay elsewhere. The two were granted a temporary restraining order on October 16.

Gross and Schwartz have lived at their Laguna Beach property since 2018 and typically stay at their home during the weekends, Towfiq’s lawsuit states. Towfiq and his wife have lived at their home since 2009. A hearing is scheduled for November 2, representatives for both Gross and Towfiq said. The hearing is to determine if civil harassment restraining orders will be issued.Gross has been given an extension until November 16 to obtain the proper permits. He is “in the process of getting it permitted,” according to Gross’ lawyers.

In 2014, Gross said he was fired from PIMCO, the firm he co-founded in 1971. He filed a lawsuit against the company in 2015 for wrongfully removing him, in which both parties reached an $81 million settlement in 2017.Gross has an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the restraining order against Gross took effect. It took effect on October 16.

My Big, Dysfunctional Family

Our little neighborhood in Oregon is a magnet for drama.  To paraphrase the wonderful Alexander McCall Smith, “When people don’t have enough to do, they turn on their neighbors.”*

This community depends on its owners to run things, which might be ok if we weren’t a bunch of amateurs — some well-meaning; some self-serving. Many are retired executives who haven’t quite grasped that nobody here actually works for them. This leads to micromanagement, incompetence, and finger-pointing. Our motto should be “Once burned, twice shy” because we put a big bullseye on our backs the moment we volunteer.  After doing your bit, who needs more aggravation unless you’re a certified martyr or control freak?

The problem is that we’re all part of an extended “family” living in close proximity but connected only by the circumstance of choosing to live in the same neighborhood and, otherwise, having little in common.

Were this a Regency play, the cast of characters might read as follows:

Sir Bluffalot: “Whenever I’m wrong, bullying has always worked for me.”

Mr. Bragalot: (Bluffalot’s illegitimate brother) The self-styled expert on everything, no matter how trivial.

Our Lady of Perpetual Discord: Creates conflict so she can swoop in to solve it, ignoring pesky facts that might contradict her cast-iron assumptions.

Saint Gossipus: Want everyone to know your dire financial situation? Tell Saint G.

Aunt Sweety: A beautiful soul who sees the good in everyone.

Cousin It’sTheirFault: She takes no responsibility for her part in events since it’s much easier to blame others.

Uncle High Dudgeon: No issue is too small to overreact.

Miss Representation: Loyal subject of Saint Gossipus, the truth is a pliable commodity.

The Twins, Pitiful Pearl and Timid Timmy: “Please, someone else, solve my problems for me.”

Lord Blinker: Storms into battle for the woman he loves, armed only with outrage.

Sister Sycophant: “I can’t be bothered to find out anything, so I’ll just mix up a big batch of Kool-Aid and pass out the straws.”

The Moral of the Story: Hire professional management. If that’s impossible, avoid all meetings, curl up with a good book, sleuth out some trustworthy friends, and enjoy a nice glass of wine.

Cheers!

action alcohol art beverage

Photo by Posawee Suwannaphati on Pexels.com

*”If you don’t have things to keep you busy, you end up starting fights with your neighbours.” — The Second-Worst Restaurant in France

 

Mini Rant

I recently posted about some drama in our tiny neighborhood, and am sorry to report that it’s only gotten worse.

Today, a surveyor came to check a height pole that had previously been approved by the county.  Whether or not the height is correct is beside the point — in all probability, it is lower than the allowed limit. That will be decided by mathematics.

What disturbs me is hearing that a group of neighbors decided to hang out in the street and on lawn chairs to eavesdrop and comment throughout this process to… do what? Intimidate the people who are building the home? Make the surveyor nervous? Register their disapproval of something without having all the facts?

Several were people who believe themselves to be devout Christians.  I have to wonder: Is indulging in malicious gossip, spreading misinformation, and jealousy masquerading as “concern”, what Jesus would do?

 

 

 

 

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Have you ever regretted volunteering for something? That’s the position in which I find myself this week.

As a member of the homeowners’ association board, way too much of my time is currently spent trying to navigate the petty disputes that constantly crop up between neighbors.

While I’m sympathetic to the concerns being raised on both sides of the latest kerfuffle (and deeply grateful to my fellow board members who share this thankless job), I am bone-tired of trying to be mom/cop/shrink/legal interpreter to a bunch of adults acting like whiny children – especially since I’m only actually qualified in the first category. Arrgh.

In between e-mail barrages, phone calls and meetings, I’m putting the stress to more productive use by pounding some dough.

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My weapon of choice!

Current baking challenge: the definitive buttermilk biscuit. Two recipes down so far, each pretty good but in need of adjustment.

Plus, more decisions to make: Cookie sheet or cast iron skillet? Butter, shortening or a combo? Baking soda as well as baking powder? Rolling pin or flatten by hand?

At least they don’t talk back.

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If anyone has a recipe they love, please share! xxxx