I saw this sign at a gas station soda fountain . . .
I saw this sign at a gas station soda fountain . . .
“How many pieces are you playing at the piano recital?”
“Two,” I reply, “but one is very short.”
“Who are the composers?”
“Bach and Liszt.”
“What is that? ‘Box’?”
“Why do you ask me who the composers are if you’ve never heard of Bach?”
“That’s salesmanship.” Did I mention he’s a salesman? “You’ve gotta push it.”
I overheard one of my colleagues saying to another, “My dad is really opposed to any kind of stupidity.”
I passed that along to my own son: “If you want to describe me in that way — ‘My dad is opposed to stupidity in all forms’ — it’s okay with me. I mean, you don’t have to if you’re not feeling it but I can think of worse ways to be remembered.”
I clicked an Unsubscribe link from an email and got a web page with this form:
YOU ALREADY HAVE MY EMAIL ADDRESS! YOU SENT ME AN EMAIL WITH THIS LINK IN IT!
The video below shows documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz asking Yale students to sign a petition aimed at repealing the First Amendment. Horowitz was able to collect more than 50 signatures in less than an hour in what he called an “unbelievable display of total stupidity.”
Americans are the fattest, dumbest people on earth . . . and because being fat and dumb are remediable given the proper motivation, it’s fair to say that Americans are also the most unmotivated people on earth.
This is not to say that all Americans are fat, dumb and unmotivated. There’s a subset of Americans who get up every morning, brush their teeth, go to work, excel at what they do, come home, set the alarm and get up and do it again tomorrow. And take care of their families. These people are carrying the rest of the country on their backs.
But for the average American, the best explanation for his or her life being the way it is is likely to be “I’m fat, dumb and unmotivated.” That’s a pretty tough admission to spit out though so most of us look around for something more palatable to sell to ourselves and others, like (if you’re a non-white person) “white privilege.”
There’s no way to have a polite conversation around phrases like “white privilege” because no one likes being categorized into a group and then insulted as an undifferentiated mass. If you’re tempted to use “white privilege” in a conversation as something other than a provocation or an alibi, help out your listeners by saying what it means to you and provide some recent examples from your own life.
I have to admit that the concept of white privilege doesn’t resonate with me given the benefits that have accrued to me personally as a white person (none that I know of) and the frequency with which I personally observe behavior that strikes me as racially motivated (never).
Barack Obama was elected in 2012 with 51 percent of the popular vote — 66 million people willing to hire a black man to the most powerful job in the country. And that’s an artificially low number because not everyone of voting age actually votes. In 2012, more than 100 million eligible voters did not vote.
Projecting 51 percent Obama support over the entire voting-age population gives us a number well over 100 million. (If you don’t like the 51 percent assumption, note that Obama would really only need the support of 34 percent of the 100 million non-voters to reach 100 million total supporters, and I don’t think a case can be made that his support among non-voters was below 34 percent.)
All the white privilege in the world doesn’t erase the fact that if you’re a black American, there are at least 100 million people willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. And you don’t need 100 million people, you probably only need one.
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.