Could you do this?

No Cell Phone, No Facebook, No Computer Access, No Wifi For 3 Months & You Get $3 Million, Could you do this?

Challenge Accepted!

Recently I saw a very interesting post on Facebook, a text image as that seems to be the norm these days.

At face value I don’t see anything difficult in this.

In the stream of comments someone included using the computer for work. Yup, I still could do this and it’s not because I don’t use a computer at my job, I do… A lot. As in every minute other than in a meeting in another room.

All the while I’m using my phone to listen to music or podcasts. Use of my phone starts and continues on my commutes to and from work while I ride the bus. Then, when at home I generally hop onto my desktop, laptop, tablet, or Nintendo to play games or code some personal stuff while the TV is on. I’d say I’m connected, but I could do this.

I believe the true idea includes no laptops, desktops, tablets, phones, game consoles, or even TVs – smart or not. Yeah, I could still do this.

If the intent of this meant all computers this proves difficult as to live without computers includes: most cars, paying with debit/credit cards, grabbing cash from the ATM (but you still could get cash from the banker I suppose as they are using the computer), etc.

So where would I have to draw the line? In my mind I was getting down to the nitty gritty, stuff people may not realize have computers like alarm clocks, microwaves, refrigerator… Oh crap, food! I gotta keep my food safe to eat. But after thinking about it I could still do it by eating lots of vegetables (I prefer most of them raw anyway), some breads, and meats I pick up (after riding my bike to the store) and cook immediately on my pretty basic grill.

The only catch I came up with, I would need up to a month to transition my duties at work to another person as I would not leave them high and dry.

Take away: As the great Barney Stinson would say ‘Challenge Accepted!’

You Went to MIT… Big Deal

Several years ago I learned MIT has some video learning courses you can watch without paying the tuition. And, as I’m kind of a nerd I decided to watch some of them. Which ones? A finance master-level class, solid state chemistry, principles of chemical science, and a few others.

I’ll admit I don’t comprehend everything said as I’m not paying full attention – so it’s just as if I were there – but I’m also not reading the book, studying, or going for a degree so it doesn’t really matter. In one of the classes a multiple choice question was asked, with equivalent answers:

Q: Which of these equations equal 1?
a. 2 – 1
b. 2 / 2
c. 0 + 1
d. 5 + 6 – 10
e. a, b, and c are correct
f. a, b, c, and d are correct

Of course the question was much harder, it is college. Results… 30% of the students said e and 58% of the students said f. The teacher felt that because e is a subset of f, that most of the students got it correct. But doesn’t selecting e imply that d is incorrect?

Following her logic, as a, b, c, and d are each correct and if you add up the responses to a, b, c, d, e, and f everyone technically got it correct; the only way to not get the question correct would be to either not answer it or writing in your own answer (um, not an option in multiple choice).

For multiple choice questions I was always told to choose the ‘most correct’ answer when compared to others. In my example a, b, c, and d are all as correct as each other, e is more correct because you recognize several are the correct answer (though, implying one is incorrect), and f is even more correct than e because you recognize all are correct.

Heck, when I took Calculus in college I had quizzes with five questions I had to take regularly. We never have ‘All of the Above’ as an option, just three to five options and sometimes a ‘None of the Above’. The catch? We had to select ALL answers which were correct. That means solving the problem, and then solving each answer to see if they were equivalent to the problem. If I got two of the three options correct I still missed the problem.

Take away: it’s OK to tell students they’re wrong if they don’t give a full answer.

Working on <Enter Holiday Here>

Police, firefighters, and nurses & doctors. Truckers, hotel staff, travel staff (pilots, car rentals, cruise ships, flight attendants). Other travel workers (e.g. airport staff such as TSA, food courts, etc.) and parade workers / organizers.

No, these aren’t jobs I dreamed of as a kids – well, a firefighter was one of them. No, these are just a few of the jobs that have people working on Thanksgiving and getting a footnote of attention (if even that much) amongst all the hype of consumer businesses choosing to be open on the fourth Thursday of November. A day dedicated to the celebration of making it through a winter (and subsequent summer) in the new world.

Not a day celebrating the birth of a savior (Christmas), the days God killed first born sons in Egypt except for the Jews (Passover), or any other religious believe. Nope, it’s a celebration of people surviving in the new world where thousands / millions of natives already were surviving.

So what’s the big deal about working on Thanksgiving vs. being at home? “Being with family…” is the common argument I’ve heard. From all the movies I’ve seen everyone dreads being with family this much because all the men will be watching football, aunt so-in-so will get drunk and hit on any of her niece’s husbands or boyfriends, and the kids are noisy.

“No, it’s because corporations are being greedy!” is the another point I’ve heard. Well, I’m not sure how many people are aware of this, but business exist to earn money. Are they being greedy by opening one more day of the year than years past? No.

However, the problem is greed. Consumer greed. That’s right, the shoppers. They want the best deals. They want the newest products. And they want it now! They’ll push, pull, bite, kick, trample, or maim whomever to get the latest doll, video game console, or sweater for their special someones.

Why don’t I blame the business? Because they are reacting to the consumer which is exactly what they should be doing if they want to survive. When shoppers started lining up to get into stores with blow-out sales on Black Friday the stores started opening up earlier and earlier, but still on Friday. Then someone at some company bet they’d have customers on Thanksgiving if they opened on Thursday. And guess what, they did. The next thing you know, more and more companies joined in.

Take away: if you don’t want to work on Thanksgiving, work for the government; heck, you’d have roughly 300 days off a year if you did.

Let’s go Metric

I’ve never understood why the US still uses the Imperial system for measurements. It’s not like metric is a fad or something only third world countries use,. Heck, it’s been around since 1795 (France being the official first adopters) and it took another 29 years until a second country made it official (Portugal), but it’s here to stay.

From my limited research (thanks wikipedia!) it looks like there are only three countries left not using metric (and I one of them is in the process of converting). In this case it does make sense to do it because everyone else is (it’s not like we’d be jumping off a bridge or anything).

All the cool physics and chemistry equations use metric (other sciences may as well, but I am unfamiliar with them). So for students to understand when they drop a 50 lb anvil on one side of the lever from 20 ft up they first have to convert Imperial to metric, do all the equations, then convert the result back to understand how high the ball on the other side will fly up into the are.

Similarly, understanding the factors is much easier (it’s base ten, like the number of fingers most of us have) especially as everything uses the base unit type in its name – e.g. meter vs. inch, foot, mile; or liter vs. teaspoon, ounce, cup, gallon; etc. I’ll admit, I always had a difficult time remembering the prefixes, but that was because outside of class I didn’t use them (and I didn’t study much in grade school). Until you took physics or chemistry in high school when did you ever use nano, micro, milli, centi, kilo, mega, giga, etc.? I’ll tell you… never (in the late ’80s and early ’90s).

Plus, this could actually spur the economy, too. Speed limit signs, cook books, blueprints, clothing tags, thermometers, ovens, the beloved wooden measuring sticks, among other things would all have to be redone (no one would be forced to buy everything new, that’s not the point or practical).

I’m not saying we need to start driving on the left side of the road, that’s just plain stupid. But going metric would make the world a slightly easier place to live. I know a bunch of [phone] apps might lose out on this conversion, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Take away: When I said ‘I didn’t study much in grade school’ what I meant was ‘I didn’t study much in school.’

Online Dating

A coworker recently said, with some reservation, that he is doing online dating. Five or so years ago when I asked my best friend how he met his girlfriend at the time, he was hesitant to admit it was via online dating.

Some odd years ago people thought it was odd if you met your significant other at a bar or a club, but why not? It’s no different than meeting them at church or the gym. That is, you’re both [likely] participating in an activity you enjoy. If anything, I find it odd if you met your sigificant other just walking down the street or standing in line at the coffee shop.

Internet dating opens up the dating pool to someone who could be perfect for you and lives two minutes away (and you never bump into each other or do but don’t talk) or on the other side of town or, for the really adventurous, another city or state. Online dating increases the chances you’ll meet someone with the same interests and views as you but your lives just wouldn’t ‘naturally’ intersect.

Granted, this means your match would have to be on the same dating site as you, which is no different than going to the same church, the same bars/clubs (on the same night), the same gym (at the same time), etc.

I understand the stigma around online dating, but I don’t see why my best friend was nervous to tell me that. Not only do I see nothing wrong with online dating, I think it’s the greatest thing to happen to dating since… ever. If I weren’t married I guarantee you I would try online dating.

I would even try speed dating at least once, but I don’t think it lends itself well to my high-functioning aspergers[1]. It’s the multiple 3-5 minute conversations with someone new.

Take away: it doesn’t matter how or where you meet your better half, just that you meet your better half.

[1] As diagnosed by my wife (she has a BSN).