Ahmadinejad: DON’T TAZE ME, BRO!

Ahmadinejad: DON'T TAZE ME, BRO!

Dave Winer links to a transcript and video of Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University.

Bollinger’s totally disrespectful introduction of President Ahmadinejad was unbelievable. Ahmadinejad even goes on to say “I know there’s time limits, but I need time. I mean, a lot of time was taken from me.” He should have just taken the time he needed and said “Don’t taze me, bro” if they continued to pressure him.

If you haven’t yet, go and read the transcript. I would love to see the sources people keep quoting where he calls for the violent destruction of Israel, where he denies the Holocaust, or any of those things. From what he said most recently at Columbia University, I’m starting to suspect that those faulty interpretations were more the fault of our crack journalists and media wankers.

My take-aways from his speech:

  • Iran has complied with IAEA. Iran refuses to be bullied into giving other countries money for nuclear power technologies that are never delivered. Legally, Iran has every right to pursue peaceful nuclear power and has been doing so.
  • Ahmadinejad believes there is still opportunity to research Holocaust-related events. This does not equate to denial of the Holocaust. Anyone who interprets his position as such is simply wrong.
  • Iran, just like the US, employs capital punishment. Iran, just like the US, has laws. Women are highly respected in Iran. Criminals aren’t, even if they’re women.
  • Ahmadinejad does not see science in conflict with religion, quite unlike our own President. He sees the human desire and ability to grow our knowledge as a gift by God. Regardless of your position on God’s existence, not holding science at odds with religion is a healthy mindset.

I hope Americans can listen to his message–I don’t think it was offensive or inciteful or provocative–and learn from it. We are all on this ball of dirt called Earth together. Perhaps we should learn to make the best of our time on it together?

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Just when you thought Americans couldn’t get any dumber

I read this article and cringed. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to come to New York and speak. Americans are pissed off that he’s coming. Right now, I’m actually embarassed to be an American–I don’t want to be lumped in with those fools.

Fortunately, Scott Adams cleverly expresses why I feel this way–anything I could have come up with would have probably been labeled anti-Semitic ranting. Whatever I would have written about the irony of the situation wouldn’t have been as effective as how Scott expressed it.

My kids, who are 7 and 4, stick their fingers in their ears and go “la la la” when they don’t want to listen to someone. America, can we grow up, please? President Amadinejad wants to come and tell us his side of the story, first-hand, instead of all that rubbish that the pop media spoonfeeds you through the idiot box. I have no proof, but my hunch is that Iranians aren’t the puppy-murdering evil people that they’ve been made out to be.

Our own President has waged a war against a small group of people who he can’t clearly identify and locate. He controls a known arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Americans are terrified to travel–not because of “the terrorists”–but because we stand a good chance of losing our rights and being detained at the airport because of what we look like, how we dress, what we have in our suitcases, or where we’re going. Our children bring guns to school and shoot each other. We don’t feel safe leaving our kids playing in our own backyard any more.

As ego-centric Americans, we act as self-appointed stewards of freedom (doesn’t that just make you laugh out loud?). Therefore, we have an obligation to recognize that President Ahmadinejad represents his people and by sharing his story–that of the people he is responsible for–we might have a chance to learn that they are not so very different from us. Perhaps we can even help each other, somehow. But, as long as we keep believing the rhetoric of our own government and media and act like immature children and refuse to listen to what we don’t like to hear, how will we learn? And if we don’t learn, how will we ever improve?

I beg you all to show the world why America truly is the greatest nation in the world–stop being fools and start being part of the larger world as one nation out of many. Let us listen to what President Ahmadinejad is trying to tell us about the conditions of his people–their fears, their angers, their hatred–and try to understand how what we are doing here, affects them, half-way around the world. It is time to see past the end of your cable television from your little trailer park and know that the reason why Americans can’t locate America on a world map isn’t just because “we don’t have maps.”

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Evolution vs. Creationism, again

elfs (yes, that Elf) wrote in his LJ today about Ashley Evans’s rant and it helped me clarify some thoughts I’ve had for a while but couldn’t express in words.

As much as I tend to believe that some theory of evolution is more likely to be correct than some formulation of a creationist myth, I think it is fair to say that there’s a non-empty “gap” in The Theory of Evolution. I can explain why with one question: Which theory of evolution is The Theory of Evolution? The fact that I can ask that question demonstrates the flaw.

Is it Darwinian natural selection? Punctuated equilibrium? Something else entirely?

Ironically, while I said I tend to believe some form of evolutionary theory is correct as opposed to some creationist myth, I have a hard time accepting that any of the currently expressed theories of evolution to be the actually correct one, either.

But, I trust, through good science and rigorous discipline, we’ll continue to iterate towards the correct one.

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Voice communication is too low bandwidth for me

(… or, “Why I dislike using the phone so much“)

Those who know me know that I avoid the telephone whenever possible: I much prefer IM, email and other text-based communication methods. I bet people think I’m foolish; why would someone prefer to not use a phone, it’s so much faster than typing back and forth, plus you lose all that richness that comes with intonation and emotion that can be conveyed through voice? Someone so obsessed with efficiency like Dossy would obviously prefer the phone over text, right?

Wrong.

While you might have two ears, those ears aren’t independent: have you ever tried listening to multiple speakers simultaneously and follow what each of them are saying? It’s hard to do, for me at least. Audio communication is a synchronous, half-duplex, high-fidelity medium. In plain language, it means that while one person is speaking, the listeners should be listening. This is fine if you only have one conversation at a time. But, efficiency means parallelizing synchronous tasks.

Suppose for a moment that you could listen to multiple sources of audio simultaneously without any information loss. You still only have one mouth! If you’re going to speak, you can only say one thing at a time. If you’ve been in a situation where you’re speaking to several different people at a party simultaneously, you know how much this can slow down a conversation. You usually either break off from the group and have a series of quick one-on-one conversations, or you talk and listen to individual people in a round-robin fashion, or some other half-duplex synchronous strategy. It’s grossly inefficient.

But, you say, “typing is so slow!”

Sure, most people can’t touch type, but I’m not one of them. I type a solid 90-120 WPM. Of course, even half to a third that speed is sufficient for conversational typing which isn’t out of reach for the average typist. People refusing to learn how to type in this day and age are just dinosaurs: the current generation of youth will all likely be able to manage typing at 30-60 WPM.

If you think slow typing speed makes text chat a real chore, have you ever had to listen to a slow speaker? Or someone who mumbles or doesn’t enunciate well? That is just pure torture; I’d take a slow typist who makes lots of typos than have to sit through listening to a slow speaker who mumbles, any day.

You might argue, “fine, but what about the loss of information?”

I might have to concede here. You do lose a lot of information in text compared to audio: the intonation, the timing between words, the urgency in someone’s voice, the back-channel of emotions that subconsciously affect speech. A lot of that is lost when communication is limited to text. But, is this so bad? A lot of people use that extra information to manipulate the listener: a con is better perpetrated with a sad story told in tears; shouting can be used to intimidate others and bully them into complying. Frankly, in the exchange of ideas and knowledge, these bits are just distracting noise, masking the actual signal. I think losing them in text chat can sometimes be a benefit of the medium, not a limitation.

Frankly, the vocabulary of the average American is pathetic. It is so limited that in order to communicate, he will draw from his small pool of 300-400 words to try and get his idea across, rather than using a few choice words to succinctly and completely construct his message. This makes listening a slow and tedious process, and I’m notoriously impatient. Once I see where the speaker is going, I feel compelled to interrupt him to try and ease the pain. At least with store-and-forward text communication, the speaker can type at their own pace and I can read at mine, and respond without interrupting. It’s a full-duplex, asynchronous medium, unlike voice.

But what if I interrupt too soon? What if I actually misunderstood?

Sure, miscommunication happens. But, this isn’t limited to text chat–it happens in spoken conversation, too. However, with text, if I get the feeling I’ve misunderstood the other person, I can go back and re-read what they wrote verbatim as many times as I need to without interrupting them. With voice, I either have to use my imperfect short term memory to try and recall what was said and try to reinterpret it, or I have to interrupt the flow of dialog to ask for a clarification. It’s inefficient and error-prone. How could this be preferable?

I read a lot. I read and write code for a living. I read over 300 blogs in my aggregator. I probably spend 10-14 hours a day reading and writing text of various kinds. I can have 6-8 simultaneous IM conversations going on at any given time. I find that the more I read, the better I get at it: I read faster and I retain more information. Sometimes, when I’ve “misunderstood” a person, it’s because they were sloppy–they chose their words poorly–and I understood exactly what they said, but they didn’t say what they truly meant. Voice is ephemeral which likely encourages folks to be sloppy, but with text it’s possible to quickly scan what you just typed before you send it off to make sure it represents what you intended. When you’re used to being lazy with spoken language, the same laziness will likely carry over into your written language if you don’t write often enough. It is this laziness that has more often caused misunderstandings than my jumping to conclusions prematurely.

Okay, so this was a long-winded way of saying “the phone sucks.”

How did we go from “so clear, you could a pin drop” in the early 1990’s to “can you hear me now” and “the fewest dropped calls of any carrier” in the early 2000’s? Even if you want to still argue that the phone is superior to text chat and email, the telephone companies have already spoken with their business choices as to what direction things are going. I’m tired of suffering through the flaky, high-latency rubbish that’s being passed off as VoIP, today. It is absolute crap and we shouldn’t tolerate it any longer.

Fine, so what should we do about it?  Evolve, of course!

  • Learn to type. It’s the best investment of your time you can make right now, if you plan on living for the next 20 years or so. Typing is becoming more and more important as technology continues to improve.
  • Read more. Pick reading material that’s out side of your comfort zone. Deepen and enrich your vocabulary. Learn a new word or two every day.
  • Take pride in your ideas. Give them the care and attention they deserve. If you don’t think they’re worth the time, why would you expect me to spend mine on them?

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope I’ve gotten you thinking about how you communicate and ways you can improve and do it better. Or, perhaps you think I’m a crackpot and you just need to give me a piece of your mind. Go ahead and leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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How do I “search my feeds” in Google Reader?

Optimistically, I decided to give Google Reader a try for a week, seeing if I could actually give up Bloglines for it. I knew there would probably be some small feature missing that would make me cringe when I realized Bloglines had it but Google Reader didn’t, but … I wasn’t expecting this to be it …

Google? How do I “search my feeds” in Google Reader?! I mean, I’m not kidding: when you think Google, the first thing that pops into my head is “search engine.” I completely took for granted that, you know, I’d be able to search within my subscribed feeds. I’m not talking a general Google Blog Search, but a search across all my feed subscriptions and only from my feed subscriptions.

Before you shake your head and say, “Oh, yet another stupid feature that will never get used,” let me tell you that I find myself using this feature plenty. I’m subscribed to lots of feeds in Bloglines (300+) and I read a lot of entries all throughout the day. I often skim the high volume feeds just to get through all of the new entries. People often ask me all sorts of questions which will trigger a memory of “I vaguely recall a blog entry about that” which then prompts me to search my Bloglines subscriptions so I can either read more about the subject and/or pass along a link to the asker.

Yes, the folks at Bloglines had the sense to provide a “search my feeds” functionality in their Bloglines search. Even better, they use a sane URL format (no stupid dicking around with an embedded AJAX widget) to access it, which lends itself very nicely for creating a “quick search” Firefox bookmark, which I immediately set up:

Bloglines 'search my feeds' Firefox quick search bookmark

So, all I have to do is hit Ctrl-T to open a new tab in Firefox, then type “bs <term>” in the Address bar, and I get a search results page for that term, limited to my subscribed feeds.

I could probably get used to not having the convenience of the quick search bookmark, if Google Reader only let me search within my subscribed feeds, somehow.

Am I missing something?  Is there a way to do this and I’m just missing it, or is it buried somewhere?  I can’t believe that the Google folks totally missed this feature, but I haven’t found it yet.

Update: Google Reader (finally) gets search-within-subscriptions (Sep 6, 2007)

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Please give me back my global warming!

A week or so ago, it got down to 20F here in Butler, NJ, and I was complaining it was cold. This morning, it’s 8F (-13.3C). I’m sorry, this is downright ridiculous. Last I checked, New Jersey was still south of the Arctic Circle!

8F (-13.3C) in Butler, NJ on Feb 5, 2007

Where the hell is my global warming, damnit?!

Someone please turn the “nice weather machine” back on. Thanks!

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How cold is a witch’s tit?

Dear Canadians,

Please take your awful weather back. I don’t want it. Thanks.

Butler, NJ (January 26, 2007): -20F (-6.6C)

Good god. It’s 20F (-6.6C) and windy out. It’s even too cold to enjoy smoking a cigarette outside. Argh!


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Pay full price, get less service? Do you buy high and sell low, too?

caias posted on his LJ about people getting angry over not being able to pump their own gas in NJ. As he’s locked his LJ so only those on his friends list can comment (and I’m not on it), I’m blogging my response here:

I wonder if it’s just jealousy, that not only does New Jersey have some of the cheapest gas in the country (!) but we get full-service, too! (Apparently, outside of New Jersey, gas stations charge extra for full-service.)

People who insist on pumping their own gas are fools. The same kind of fools that smoke light cigarettes. Pay the same price as regular cigarettes, but get less nicotine and tar? Idiots. I get my money’s worth, thankyouverymuch.

At what point does the counterintuitiveness of the decision become evident? Such extreme examples as “pay the same price, get only half a cheeseburger?” I’m guessing people would see why that’s a ludicrous decision to make, right? So, why do people feel so strongly about “pay the same price for gas, but pump it yourself” when it’s already cheaper in New Jersey to let someone else pump it than it is to self-serve yourself in other states?

If gas in New Jersey were more expensive than other states, and someone could reasonably argue that the increase is directly due to the state mandated full-service, then I’d agree: it should be optional. But, I’ve seen no such argument …

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Job searching is like matchmaking? e-HR-mony?

I’ve been a member of the New Jersey Young Professionals (NJYP) Yahoo! Group for a while, and now and then some interesting conversations get started. However, the mailing list is heavily moderated and sometimes my posts get rejected or overlooked by the moderators, I assume, since when they’re rejected I usually get a courtesy email telling me so. I’m not a huge fan of moderated discussion lists, but it’s not my group and I don’t set its policies. But, that’s not the point … this is the point:

There was a post recently by Vee suggesting that since employers request salary requirements or salary histories as part of the candidate selection process, that companies should tell candidates what salary they are offering for the position. I wrote this as my response, which as far as I can tell, never made it out to the NJYP list:

I don’t think it’s necessary for employers to disclose a salary figure when
posting a position. What good would that do?

In my experience, I’ve always worried about negotiating salary last, regardless of what the posted salary for a position is, if it is at all. Business is all about negotiation, and if you’re not prepared to negotiate for your salary, then you probably don’t deserve it anyway.

If I do well in the interview, I feel totally comfortable “naming my price” for what I’d like to get paid to work there. If it’s outside the range for the position I was originally interviewing for, if they really like me as a candidate, I know they’ll work it out with HR to open a new position with the appropriate job title and grade level to pay me the salary I’m asking for, if I’ve made the necessary impression on them that makes them want to hire me. If the employer isn’t impressed with me, then it’s a bad fit and I shouldn’t work there regardless of how much or little salary I’m willing to accept.

I also realized: what’s stopping a candidate from asking the employer what salary range the position offers? At worst, they’ll refuse to tell you which is no different than when you started. At best, they’ll share the information with you and you can decide whether you want to continue pursuing the opportunity or not. I’d be afraid of hiring someone who doesn’t have the necessary spine to ask a simple question like, “So, what’s the salary range for this position?” It’s not like asking for someone’s hand in marriage, you know.

Employment is a lot like matchmaking. Exchanging salary requirements and ranges up front might serve to optimize the search a bit, but it’s how companies miss out on some good talent and also some good talent missing out on some opportunities. But, with so many companies to choose from and so many candidates to choose from, perhaps it’s not statistically significant. Maybe someone needs to launch an eHarmony-like matchmaking site for job seekers and employers. Someone want to form a start-up with me? 🙂

MS Solitaire considered Harmful by North Carolina state government?

While reading this thread at Slashdot about the state of North Carolina wanting to eliminate Solitaire and other games from state employees’ computers, I came across this comment:

It’s Welfare (Score:2)
by Art Tatum (6890) on Sunday March 20, @11:16PM (#11995417)

It has for some time been obvious to me that government bureaucracy is the *real* welfare program in America. It’s a jobs program for people who can’t get work in the private sector.

Wow. How true that is …