If you recognize the person on this next slide, please raise your hand. Don’t yell out the name, just raise your hand.
About two-thirds of you recognize Derek Jeter. I thought everyone would recognize him, but still a clear majority.
I’m not a Yankees fan or a Derek Jeter fan particularly but the Captain and I are on the same page on this topic. I have to admit I was pretty competitive as a student. I didn’t want anyone to do better than me and I especially didn’t want anyone to do better than me because they worked harder than me.
This Jeter quote reminded me of a quote from another notable sports figure . . .
This is Bob Knight, college basketball coach, most notably at the University of Indiana. He won 902 games, three NCAA championships, and he coached the 1984 Olympic basketball team to a gold medal.
Notice that he says “everyone” and “no one.” He doesn’t say some people don’t want to come to practice. There’s a universal aspiration to accomplish great results without a corresponding level of effort. I recognize that in myself, definitely. As far as I can tell, this approach rarely if ever works, even for people we think of as prodigies.
Mozart used to say that anyone who thought composing music came easily to him was very much mistaken. While all the other kids were playing kickball, Mozart was in the house practicing his music lessons. In case you’re thinking that kickball wasn’t even a game at that time, you may be right. The point is that if there was kickball, Mozart wouldn’t have been playing it because he was practicing his music lessons.
One more on this topic . . .
This is a quote from Michelangelo. Nothing great seems to happen without a lot of practice.
Once again, please raise your hand if you recognize the person on this next slide.
He looks Russian.
Yes, he is Russian.
Dostoevsky? Tolstoy? Mendeleev? Pushkin? Boris Pasternak?
No . . . he’s known as an author of plays and short stories.
[A student sitting next to a smart but quiet young man from Russia points to the Russian boy and says, “He knows.”]
Who is it? Chekhov.
Right . . . this is Anton Chekhov. He wasn’t a programmer but his advice is relevant to many different endeavors.
Don’t overcomplicate things. A good heuristic – which is a fancy way of saying “rule of thumb” – is to do the simplest thing that could possibly work. Method A could work, Method B could work — which one should we try first? Try the simplest one first.
Note that the heuristic doesn’t say to do the simplest thing. If the simplest thing couldn’t possibly work, don’t do it. Do the simplest thing that might actually work.
One final slide. I don’t think anyone will know these people so I’m not asking for a show of hands.
I saw an article last week about a man and a woman who were “trapped” in a janitor’s closet at the Daytona State College Marine and Environmental Science Center for two days. They got themselves in the closet last Sunday and finally on Tuesday, the gentleman on the right got the idea to call 911. Why that idea took two days to incubate is unclear. Police showed up to let them out and found out the closet was not locked. They could have opened the door themselves.
Maybe the lock was meth’d up, like the woman. “Meth’d” up, get it?
Are they students at Daytona State College? The article doesn’t say. Do any of you have Daytona State College on your college wish list? If so, you may want to take it off. Or just keep it as a safety school in case Harvard and the Sorbonne don’t come through for you.
What can we learn from this story? I don’t want to say “don’t make assumptions” but don’t make unwarranted assumptions. Don’t make assumptions about things that you can easily verify. If you’re in a closet, don’t assume the door is locked. Try it and see. A lot of uncertainty can be dispelled by trying things out.
Assumptions can hurt you as a programmer. You might be stuck because you’re assuming some condition is true that isn’t true. Or you’re assuming that some condition can never be true when it really can be true. Don’t make unwarranted assumptions.
I couldn’t help noticing that a lot more people recognized Derek Jeter than recognized Anton Chekhov. If you want to achieve great renown, if you want to be part of the public consciousness, entertain people in a simple-minded way, like hitting a ball with a stick and running around in a park. People can be entertained by Derek Jeter without expending any effort.
Where Chekhov went wrong is that he failed to anticipate a world where nobody reads anymore. Furthermore, he believed that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. His plays and stories don’t have a traditional structure where everything is tied up neatly at the end, so you not only have to put in the time to read them, you have to go into overtime to ponder the moral ambiguities. Who has time for that in their busy lives?
If you know very little, and have a coherent story that explains the little that you know, you can be a very confident person . . .
(HealthDay News) — Add another possible woe to the growing list of consequences of climate change: Kidney stones.
A new study of American cities suggests that rising temperatures may increase the number of people who develop the painful urinary obstructions.
You have to read all the way down to the second-to-last sentence of the article to find this:
The study uncovered a connection between higher temperatures and risk of kidney stones, but didn’t prove cause-and-effect.
The article implies cause and effect only to fess up right at the end and admit that there is no cause and effect. In the absence of cause and effect, what exactly is the point?
In the epilogue of War and Peace, a peasant notices a “connection” between smoke and locomotives and infers cause and effect: the smoke causes the locomotive to move. The point being that it’s easy to infer causality from “connections” in ways that have no grounding in reality.
In other climate news, the Wall Street Journal reports that researchers have, for the first time, counted all the world’s Adélie penguins — a sprightly seabird considered a bellwether of climate change — and discovered that millions of them are thriving in and around Antarctica.
Rather than declining as feared due to warming temperatures that altered their habitats in some areas, the Adélie population generally is on the rise.
Because I changed jobs recently, I want to roll over a 401k into an IRA. I filled out the form, mailed it in to Great West Retirement Services — they manage the 401k — and got this in return:
The enclosed benefit request is being returned for additional and or missing information. We require the following item(s) be completed before processing can take place:
- Please have this request completed on the attached current version of the distribution form. The form this request was submitted on is now discontinued.
OK, first of all, the form isn’t being returned for additional or missing information. I filled out the form I was given and you’re telling me it’s now discontinued. You can’t figure it out anyway? You really need me to fill out ANOTHER 6-PAGE FORM with EXACTLY THE SAME INFORMATION in a slightly different format?!
And I love this part: “Please have this request completed . . .” I DON’T HAVE SOMEONE WHO COMPLETES FORMS FOR ME! I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF, YOU FUCKING PRICKS!
Charlie Crist, former Republican and currently Democratic candidate for governor in Florida, on why he changed parties:
I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president. I’ll just go there. I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.
It was so intolerable that Crist left the GOP in 2010 — four years ago — and he’s just bringing this up now?
Has anyone asked this fool why Republicans have been unfriendly to all other Democratic presidents? Or why Democrats have been unfriendly to all GOP presidents? What is his theory on that?
Is he really this stupid or is he counting on his target audience being this stupid? I suspect the latter . . .
The people on the short side of the subprime mortgage market had gambled with the odds in their favor. The people on the other side — the entire financial system, essentially — had gambled with the odds against them. Up to this point, the story of the big short could not be simpler. What’s strange and complicated about it, however, is that pretty much all the important people on both sides of the gamble left the table rich. . . . The CEOs of every major Wall Street firm were also on the wrong end of the gamble. All of them, without exception, either ran their public corporations into bankruptcy or were saved from bankruptcy by the United States government. They all got rich, too.
What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions — if they can get rich making dumb decisions?
Teens from Asian nations dominated a global exam given to 15-year-olds, while U.S. students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading, according to test results released Tuesday.
Why am I not shocked by that?
Because Americans on the whole are dumb and lazy. We have lots of dumb, lazy parents raising dumb, lazy kids. The average American kid doesn’t compare well academically to the average kid in an Asian country where academics and hard work are valued, or to the average kid from a small, homogenous European country where it’s easier to get everyone pulling in the same educational direction.
The U.S. is a big, diverse country and the average academic results are pulled down by a lot of dummkopfs.
But still, the smartest people in the world are Americans. Our smartest people are smarter than the smartest people in other lands.
You don’t think so? I’m looking at the list of winners of the 2013 Nobel Prizes . . . out of 11 recipients (I’m omitting the winners of the literature and peace prizes because those aren’t academic awards), eight are from the U.S. The other three are from Belgium, the UK and France, and the Frenchman is affiliated with Harvard University.
No one in Asian countries is winning any Nobel Prizes. Q.E.D.
The go-to question for lazy sports media goofballs everywhere. How big was that game? How big was that performance? How big was that play?
In case you hadn’t noticed, the word “big” doesn’t make sense in this context. How big was it? It was bigger than a breadbox. It was bigger than my dick.
“Let me ask you about the most important play of the game. How important was it?” That’s just stupid. But it’s acceptable if you phrase it like this: “How big was the interception by Kozlowski?” Use of the word “big” is the agreed-upon protocol for asking stupid questions repeatedly.
“Tell us something we already know about something we just saw” is okay if phrased as “How big was that performance tonight by Smithers?” Or “How big was this win?”
If all you can do is ask stupid questions, at least phrase them in a way that makes sense. “Tell me about the interception by Kozlowski.” Or “What’s your opinion of Kingman’s performance?”
Better yet, do your job and ask questions with insight and context, e.g., “It looked like you changed up the coverage on the Kozlowski interception. Can you talk about that?”
“Jack in the Box tacos have to be eaten when they’re hot, so when I buy them at the drive-thru, I also buy a bag of french fries, set the fries on top of the tacos and use them as a taco warmer to keep the tacos hot until I get them home and eat them.”
“Do you eat the fries as well?”
“No, I don’t eat the fries. I just use them to keep the tacos warm.”
“The french fries keep the tacos warm?’
“What keeps the french fries warm?”
The latest update of the Pew Research Center’s News IQ quiz finds that while 79 percent of respondents correctly identified the Twitter logo, only 55 percent could identify Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General.
The Holder question was not an open-ended question, which would have been more difficult, e.g., “Name the current U.S. Attorney General” or “Who is Eric Holder?” It was a multiple-choice question. The question (you can take the quiz yourself here) shows a photo of Holder and asks respondents to select his job from a list of four options.
Results were even worse for other questions. Fifty percent correctly identified Syria as the highlighted country on a map, again from a list of four choices, and 43 percent were able to identify Elizabeth Warren from a set of four photos.
And still there are some misfits who continue to insist that voter suppression is a bad thing.
Frankly, one of our political parties is insane, and we all know which one it is. They have descended from the realm of reasonableness that was the mark of conservatism. They dream of anarchy, of ending government.
My fellow Americans —
I’ll tell you who’s insane: anyone who’s not dreaming of anarchy at this moment in history is insane. People forget that this great nation was founded by anarchists, born out of an armed revolution against a corrupt government.
As I said at the time, “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
I assure you, though, that regrettably neither current political party dreams of anarchy. They both dream of exactly the same things: self-aggrandizement and rewarding their most powerful supporters with political spoils.
The well-known liberal cartoonist Ted Rall wrote a book a couple of years ago advocating a new American revolution. Unfortunately, while popular uprisings do continue to occur around the world, I am not optimistic that it will ever happen again in America.
The great majority of our citizens now are far more informed about fantasy football and reality TV than they are about current events. They understand politics at only the most simple-minded level: Team Red vs. Team Blue.
I’m Team Blue! Let’s go, Blue! BOOOOO, Team Red! Or vice versa.
Notice, for example, that all of the things that Team Blue hated so much about the George W. Bush administration are okay now that they’re being carried out by President Obama.
Obama didn’t stop the wars or the torture or the spying. He’s just as cozy with Wall Street. Gitmo is still open for “prolonged detention.” Moreover, he’s killing foreign civilians, and sometimes American citizens, with drone strikes, and he’s eliminating whatever civil liberties you think you have left.
Torture and war and economic collapse don’t matter as long as they’re being supervised by my team! Go Blue! We’ll all be in a gulag in 10 years. Go Blue!
Some despotic regimes around the world rely on starvation and threats of violence to keep the people in a state of submissive compliance. Here in America, the same collective stupor is effected via mindless entertainments and gadgetry.
I should raise myself out of depression, paralysis and failure and resist this massive government/corporate dystopia — but I might miss my TV programs.
In 1776, we decided that being Americans meant being free men and women, not serfs and lackeys. We mutually pledged to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor to throw off the abuses and usurpations of the Government, and to secure the blessings of Liberty.
How soon they forget.
I bid you God speed,
Thomas Jefferson, anarchist
From Salon, before the bombers were identified, captured and/or killed:
Shame on everyone who assumed that the bombers were Muslims from a foreign land! Wait — what? They were Muslims from a foreign land? OK, never mind.
Calling out “far-right extremists” for “demonizing bogeymen” is either hilariously ironic or depressingly symptomatic of American decline. Since Salon is not known for its satire, I have to go with the latter.
I’ve noticed a new trend in spam is to put the word “Manager” in front of the sender’s name, e.g., Manager Joe Schmuck instead of just plain Joe Schmuck.
Are people really this stupid? Does anyone think to themselves, “I don’t know any Joe Schmuck, but if he’s come up through the ranks to the level of Manager, then I think I owe it to myself to see what he has to say”?
From an actual job ad:
Killer, Profitable, Stable and cutting edge technology company looking for genious!!!
It’s funny when someone misspells the word “genius”!
Why are random words like “Profitable” and “Stable” capitalized? Because the recruiter wanted to highlight the adjectives? Then why isn’t “cutting edge” capitalized?
Why isn’t “cutting edge” hyphenated?
Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford University, suggests that humans are evolving to become less intelligent. Crabtree asserts that the safer life gets for humans, the less important it is for us to have good judgment for survival and mating.
Thousands of years ago, human idiots were much more likely to be removed from the gene pool (i.e., die) as a result of their lack of intelligence and judgment. Nowadays, it’s rare for someone to die because they were unable to outwit a predator.