Monday, January 11, 2010

The Power of Charts


Sunday, September 28, 2008

She has the funny

I now await the TV appearances of Sarah Palin with the same anticipation and laugh-readiness as I do for Rick Gervais or (late) Mitch Hedberg: "This is going to be funny". I recommend reading George Saunders' essay in the New York, My Gal, one time and a half: it's funnier when you read her real words in the introduction again and realize that she speaks the way he wrote his text. I guess Saturday Night Live did it best when they simpled quoted her - it IS comedy material.

On the day she was announced, I wondered whether she'd be dropped from the ticket quickly. Now, I'm not so sure I want it. I think she's a burden and a clear signal about McCain's approach to decision-making. On the other hand, her election and proximity to the presidency is really scary. Is it worth taking the chance? According to the latest poll numbers, yes. So let's brace for the vice-presidential debate on October 2nd!

In the mentime, let's take the names of conservatives who defend Palin. They pretty much dropped their credibility in the process and can hardly be seen as intellectually honest defenders of an opinion.


Opinions are born, they are not made

This has been evident to me for a long time. Biology plays a big part in one's political opinion. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's always decided from the start, as events can make a person change his mind (and biology). But opinions certainly run into people's veins as much as in their brain.

This is probably in part why politics in the US are so polarized. How else to explain the steady 55-45% range in which every ellection is decided? Right now, the conditions could hardly be better for Democrats and nevertheless, they can't pass that 55% threshold. I think it would be very similar if it were the other way.

Let's face it: what is your gut feeling to people's responsibility? To paying taxes? To the military? Can you quote much data to support those opinions? And did you find the data or the opinion first? This is a good reason to talk our own opinion with a grain of salt.


Agree to agree

I was just thinking lately: Darn, I wish I had a blog to talk about the election!

So here it is: I don't get why McCain is proud that Obama said "I agree with Senator McCain" a few times at the first debate. It's not like Obama changed his mind, so it probably means that they were in agreement before. Both could have said this. In a race that's supposedly about post-partisan politics, why mock the guy that reaches across the aisle?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Keep your life and work separated - especially email

Never ever ever write personal stuff in an email sent from your work account.

500,000 emails from 150 Enron employees are available freely online with -get that - a search engine. Sweet. My favorite, an example for authors seeking to be concise and punchy, is ""So you were looking for a one-night stand, after all?"

When I found this database a few years ago, it was the first time that the rumor spread in all respectable office came to life before my eye: They monitor our email. While I don't think that They have any interest in literally monitor our writings - I can barely keep up with my own inbox - I sure know that They archive each and every of our messages. It may come in handy sometime. I wouldn't even be surprised if they have a certain legal obligation to do so (although it doesn't apply to some).

Writing an email at work is like writing a memo. Imagine it printed on letterhead paper, hand-delivered, then filed. That's how I see each and every email I send. It's useful in the short term because you never know who's going to be copied on a reply or a forward or when the blame game starts. It's also useful for later when your email become public. They may not look for penis jokes (hopefully this expression won't attract too much traffic here), but They may find them anyway.

So here's the story of the day: Microsoft executive are caught complaining about... Windows Vista.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Parisians are reinventing the wheel

"The lesson for the next U.S. president: raise the taxes on fuel. A lot."

I've blogged a few times about this before and even went to the legislative branch of the government to insist. I'm glad that this NYT article shows the good side of a higher price for gas: better urban transportation. Using a car in the city is counterproductive and popular mainly because it became so when it was convenient (when there were less cars) and now the habit is impossible to lose.

I bike to work and can't say that I enjoy it very much, mostly because of this car culture. I wish more people were biking, including the mayor, so that the city adapts better to cyclists. I love the Circulator as a convenient and simple way to take the bus. It's actually the only bus I ever take because i can never figure out when and where the other ones are going. What about that: a simplification of bus lines that goes like this: a grid of blue buses that only go north-south (painted in blue) and red buses that only go East-West. You could jump in any bus at any time with at least an idea of where it's going.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The 33 victims of Virginia Tech

On the Mall today, it was impossible not to think about the victims of Virginia Tech. As in the rest of the country, the flags were at half-mast. The sun, the chaotic and comforting noise of a dispersed crowd, and the warm wind came across as pleasures 33 people would not enjoy today.

When I read about the shootings, I am overtaken by rage. Such a waste. Such an empty, meaningless event. A stupid and uncalled for death for the victims. I read about them and it only gets worst. For some reason, I often think of Jamie Bishop and Mary Karen Read — I think because I could imagine being friend with him and because she seemed so pure and well-meaning.

When I read about Cho, it also fills me with rage and powerlessness. In class, I want to be the student who goes to him, slap him behind the head and screams, an inch from his nose: "WILL YOU ENGAGE? ARE YOU DEAF OR JUST STUPID?" I want to grab him by the arm that morning, as he leaves his room, and shout: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" I want to reason him, explain that he has no right of life and death over his colleagues and professors. I want to take the guns from his hands, throw them away and teach him a good lesson with my fists. I imagine him, sitting on the floor, looking at me bashed up but enlightened, as if awakening from a dream.

But this is not what would have happened. The man was sick. I have been confronted to mental illness in the past and had the chance not to know it for a few weeks. I say the chance because it allowed me to take seriously a sick person before understanding what was going on. He was not himself, he was even hurting himself. He was about to lose my friendship when I was told that he refused to take his medication as of late and turned this way. From that moment on, I ignored his attacks and resolved not to add to his burden by withdrawing my support and friendship. The illness was making enough damage.

That's why Cho is the 33rd victim of this rampage. He was sick. It's obvious from the videos and his actions. I'm sad for him who also lost his life. He lived a miserable life. No one in his right mind wants to be isolated and despised the way he was. The sickness drove him crazy. He should have been treated, protected from himself. Instead, he was the deadly victim and instrument of an untreated disease.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chemistry strikes again

Teenagers are a pain in the neck, aren't they? They should learn to behave, they should control their tantrums, they should get a grip.

Once again, it may just be the hormone balance in their brain. Researchers from the State University of New York have found an hormone in teenage mice that make them more anxious rather than less, as it does with kids and adults.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

God, are you there?

The second installment on this new series called: "We're all vegetal", here's on my evidence that hormones in our brains control us. First, it makes us socially awkward. Now, it makes us believe in God:
(...) religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history.
What if we're programmed to believe in God, does that mean that God exists or not? Certainly not a point for Him.