Category Archives: Thoughts

How the Web Makes Us Ignorant

The Worldwide Web is very useful for finding out many things. Unfortunately, this can lead to one being rather ignorant in some ways.

The first way is that if you can look it up, why bother learning it? The answer to that is that having the information readily available to think with, one can think with it easily.

For the same reason, I find knowing basic arithmetic very useful. I can often estimate an answer (and sometimes figure the exact answer) before someone has fished out his calculator (or other device with a calculator) and started entering the problem.

Which of us do you think uses arithmetic more often?

The second way is that one can have a bunch of links to information and not keep track of them.

I recently had a problem with my browser and had to clear my browsing history and restart my browser. I lost several links and have been unable to find them with a Web search. If it had not been so easy to just keep them open, this would not have happened.

The third way is that even if you do learn the material, you are all too likely to just get the gist of it, because you can always look it up later.

This is similar to the first reason, but has the added point that you might really think you know the material. Should you have to apply the material, you may find that your understanding is not what you thought it was. Or you might not find that out. Either way could result in a disaster.

The Web is very useful, but do not let it stop you from thinking.

Stuck and Being Stuck In

Have you ever noticed how eager people and systems are to stick you in a role and keep you there forever? For example, I see many jobs advertised where one has to have experience even though a reasonably intelligent would already know the general parts and could learn the rest rather quickly.

It has been pointed out that some models of business structure are based on WW II militaries. There were few people who knew how and a lot of people had to be trained up fast. It is not the same situation in an office yet this same model gets used over and over.

If you had to do something that you did not know how to do and you really wanted to do it, how long would it really take before you could get a decent product out? I suggest to you and employers that the answer is much shorter than most think.

Bias

How to root out bias in your data (requires registration to read the whole article): if only it were that easy.

One paragraph: “Just ask city officials in Boston. As part of an effort to shore up the municipality’s aging infrastructure, city hall released a smartphone app that collects GPS data to help detect potholes. However, because people in lower income groups are less likely to own smartphones, the program didn’t include data from large segments of city neighborhoods.”

Oops! How would you have caught this?

In another area: I have been the victim of bias in employment interviews. When my face is relaxed, the corners of lips are lower than the center of my lips. So when I am relaxed, it looks to many people as if I am frowning. Add to that my red cheeks, and some people have concluded that I am a bomb waiting to go off. No, it is only hypertension. (I was wondering why I was getting such odd feedback in the co-op program from my job interviews.)

I am not perfect at this either. Shortly after I finally realised about my facial issue, one day, I was in a grocery store, saw someone apparently frowning, thought he might be having a bad time, and then, it hit me that I was doing the same thing. I looked again and could see no evidence of a bad mood. The person was doing his job quite professionally.

The bias that is most difficult to get rid of is one that you do not think is a bias.

Artistry in the Snow II

Last week, I mentioned someone flipping over a semi. I confessed to being somewhat awed.

Last Saturday, I managed some artistry of my own. Saturday is an excellent night for doing laundry, mainly because you, you, and you do not think that it is a good night for doing laundry. I had just finished it and was walking down the slippery, steep slope to my apartment when I got deposited hard on the ground.

My right knee and left elbow got a jolt, but somehow, my left thigh did, too, up near the hip joint. I felt the pain inside where the bone is; it was not a bruise. I was somewhat aching and lame for a couple of days.

In other news, I slipped and fell in traffic last week at a busy intersection.

This winter seems to be meaner than most. Take care, look at my example, and maybe try something else?

Artistry in the Snow

On Friday afternoon, I was driving home from a counting job in Merritt, British Columbia to Kamloops. It had been snowing, and a fellow driver and I had been wondering which route to take home. He had been considering Highway 5A, because Highway 5 (the Coquihalla) is awkward in the event of trouble as there are few turnaround points.

When it came time to leave, the Coq looked fine so he decided on the Coq. I followed his lead.

Unfortunately, we should have considered other drivers. There was an accident on the Coq, and we had to stop. I went to his van and commented that 5A was looking better. We were stuck waiting for about an hour.

The artistry? Someone had managed to flip over his vehicle. Given the surroundings, I did not see how he could have flipped a car or van. I am awed somewhat that the vehicle in question was a semi.

Please drive safely. Watch out for yahoo drivers, and do not be one yourself.

Perspective

It can be difficult to assume another person’s perspective. Assuming that one knows can be disastrous. Asking politely can help a lot.

Sometimes, it is the other’s point of view that is missed. (I am somewhat unusual in a number of ways, and I see this personally by people who just do not get me.)

Some people do not even try to understand others and just treat others as they like to be treated. This can cause fireworks when an extrovert tries to get an introvert to, ah, have fun.

(It is sadly hilarious when such a person says that he is a people person and why am I not one?)

Sometimes, the misunderstanding is due to a condition. Do you really understand what it is like to be blind?

Here is a case where sighted people did not understand problems blind pedestrians face navigating in the snow: Be kind to blind pedestrians by choosing where you step when walking through the snow in Japan. What would seem to be the logical thing to do causes trouble for blind pedestrians.

Thank you to those who try to understand others. I try myself, and I know how hard it can be.

Digital Pacifiers

From a newsgroup posting:

“He’s learned to use a cellphone to check email when he travels. So where’s the resistance to new tricks? He just doesn’t find that he needs to carry a laptop.

Just because marketing-fueled news tells you the latest fad that doesn’t mean you need to buy all of those latest gadgets. Does it really make
sense to catalogue how many steps you take in a day with a $300 watch? Why? Do you really need to check Facebook while crossing city streets? Why? Is it hip to walk into trees or get run over while tech-diddling?

There’s nothing clever or cutting edge about the general trend toward people never being where they are. It’s nothing more or less than a widespread addiction to high-tech pacifiers, for people too embar[r]assed to twiddle their thumbs and too restless to sit still. Ditto for college students writing papers on dorm room sofas or in Starbucks. They don’t do that because it’s a good way to work. They’re simply restless.” – anonymous (The poster declined to be identified/credited.)

When one of the Apple systems was released, a poster in one forum noted that he had had to write a best man’s speech and had written it on one of the new systems. He noted that it took about three to four times longer than it would have on a desktop system.

Just because you are busy using whatever device does not mean that you are getting useful work done or much of this done. You might just be frantic, or as the newsgroup poster noted, “simply restless”.

Free Books at Project Gutenberg

There are a lot of good books to read for free at Project Gutenberg. According to their home page, they have over 53,000 titles which can be read in a variety of formats.

I have read many science fiction books there that are now out of copyright. A recent read of mine is mentioned in my current Odd Language item: Odd Language #188: Proving for Whom?, namely, Andre Norton’s The Time Traders.

Have a look, and let me know if you find any gems.

Odd Language #188: Proving for Whom?

‘Kurt snorted. “That they do not tell you until just before you take your first run. I do not want to know why. But I do know that I am not going to be sent into any wilderness where a savage may run a spear through me just to prove something or other for Major John Kelgarries, or for Millaird either. I will try my plan first.”‘ — The Time Traders, chapter 3 by Andre Norton

The issue: Yet another misplaced modifier. The way it reads Kurt is complaining about a savage trying to prove something for the major. This story is available at Project Gutenberg. Here is the link for The Time Traders.

*ing in a Winter Blunderland

(For “*”, read “walking”, “driving”, or whatever other things you have to do in the bad waether.)

For me, Monday had interesting weather in the Chinese curse sense.

One of my co-workers was turning over a company vehicle to me. The apartment complex I live in is on a somewhat steep hill. The entrance is at the top. My apartment is at the bottom. He came down, and got stuck in freshly-fallen snow. (Yes, the maintenance people are very good about plowing, but first, the snow has to fall. It was doing a very good job of that, too.) It was a bit of an adventure getting him out.

While doing so, other vehicles got in the way. He said that he initially got stuck because of another vehicle cutting him off. At one point, while we were trying backing up, a man and child came walking by and did not even move aside out of the way.

I saw a few other cases that day of people just not paying attention to the winter conditions.

Hey, folks! Not allowing for winter conditions can cause accidents. Please take care.