The trouble with geek friends

Geeks have intense interests. They border on obsessions. They know EVERYTHING about those interests. And argue vehemently for them, about them, and against others. These habits bleed over into other non-geek areas such that it felt like an intrinsic part of the culture.

For decades I doubted you could have geeks without arguments, so I find it interesting when I run across people discovering a community and getting turned off when arguments break out. They just wanted to find others who love the thing. Love led to arguments in my teens through twenty-somethings. It took making enough non-geek friends in order to realize just how skewed my understanding of reality was.

The trouble is, you better not have feelings. For they will be stepped on. Eventually. Well, unless you fall solidly on the autism spectrum. For the segments of geekdom who do, they might not be aware how they make others feel without very direct response. I am calling them arguments because to outsiders these discussions seem full of anger. to strong geeks, this is how we discuss.

It seems theoretically possible for people to get along wonderfully well. I have seen it more with children who sometimes treat their beloved things as malleable. They love them, but they can alter these impressions when they need. By shifting their opinion, they remove the conflict. Older humans are a bit more rigid.

As an introvert, small talk is meh. I much prefer deep conversations. And geek friends bring depth. Find their interests to bring out a conversation. That is easy. And to my mind a rewarding part of socialization. Finding people who wanted to talk about deep things is how and why I cultivated so many of my friendships. Having broad but deep interests allowed me to engage on many things.

Displaying confidence in so many different things is why people considered me intelligent. Given my social circles, I figured this normal so just average.

No worries. People self-select into geekdom. Either they acclimate or they move on to another group. They will keep their interests either way.

 

 

Some Hawking quotes

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.

If there is an afterlife, then he has that complete understanding now.


One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.


We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.


Quiet people have the loudest minds.


Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.


For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.


My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.


 

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking

Teeshirt reads: Obey gravity. It's the law!
Obey gravity. It’s the law!

When I was twelve, my father recommended I read a book. It is the only book one I can think of that he has ever made to me. But, I have to say, it was probably the best recommendation anyone has ever made to me. See, when I was a kid, I loved space technology and astronomy. I could recite fact after fact about NASA missions, the planets, and the stars. Anything I could learn about them was appreciated.

A Brief History of Time by Hawking opened up to me cosmology, physics, and quantum mechanics. Reading about these topics stretched my brain and put me in my happy place. I save up the books about this stuff for when I feel at my lowest because diving into them will correct my mood. A difficult week at work? Definitely, time to remove thinking about that stuff by thinking about the multiverse, chaos, and quantum entanglement. Perspective is everything.

Dr. Hawking also represented something I think science desperately needed: celebrity. His popularity and brand recognition showed that academic papers are not the only way to talk about science to the masses. He paved the way for Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Brian Greene. Scientists are writing great books on their areas and the masses are gobbling them up because there is interest. It makes me happy that a society we think of as having gotten intellectually lazy has a hidden interest in science.

It makes me sad that he is gone because he provided me so much more than I could ever adequately explain.

Outraged? Don’t share

Our attention is the product for Facebook and Twitter. They make money by selling advertising. The more time we spend on the site, the more ads they put in front of us, the more money they make.

Outrage makes them the most money. We are more likely to share what outrages us. We have tribalized our social groups such that our friends are most likely going to be outraged too and more likely to share. So the outrages go viral.

The most effective things to make us share are also probably fake or misleading. We get so upset that we do not bother to check until maybe someone not so outraged fact-checks and points out the problem. So fake items go viral.

The synergy of fake outrageous news is powerful. It is manipulative. We train the social media algorithms that we WANT to be manipulated. We spend more time on these sites because we are addicted to being manipulated.

Firearm stocks under Trump

Talking about gun regulation causes increased gun sales. People buy out store stocks seeking to get them while they still can. So in that regard, President Obama was terrific for gun stores and manufacturers. For all the talk needing to do something, there was little done. The talk was enough to spike gun sales.

Sales and stock prices of firearms makers slumped after Trump’s unexpected election victory was seen as reducing prospects for curbs on gun ownership… But tweets and comments by Trump on Wednesday and Thursday that he supported raising the age limit for purchases of some kinds of guns, as well as other measures, turned up the heat on the gun control debate, and boosted gunmakers’ shares.” (Reuters) Trump also advocates arming some schoolteachers, which would also likely boost gun sales.

This chart is interesting. There were about 3 million a year manufactured under President George W Bush. There were about 8 million a year under President Obama.

Statistic: Number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. from 1986 to 2015 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Goodreads Page Stats

The better metric for tracking how much I have read, in my opinion, is the number of pages. The number of books is okay, but the reality is reading a 50-page novella is not nearly the same commitment as a 1,500-page tome. (I might prefer a statistic for words when looking at my daughter’s reading counts.)

Unfortunately, Goodreads used to include the stats page in the challenges, but they removed the link to it. It is still there. (For now.) You can build the link to it by:

  1. Go to your profile. In the top right corner is your user photo in a circle. Click it.
  2. Click the Profile link.
  3. Replace the URL up through show/ with “https://www.goodreads.com/review/stats/”.
  4. Add “#pages” to the end.
  5. You should have a URL that looks like: https://www.goodreads.com/review/stats/999-name#pages

The page has buttons for books, pages, and publication year.

  1. Books: The number of books read broken down by year.
  2. Pages: The number of pages read broken down by year.
  3. Publication Year: A graph with year published in the vertical axis and year read in the horizontal axis.

The Golden Rule

Listened to a video about a potential candidate for National Science Advisor where Dr. David Lewis mentioned his belief in the Golden Rule will help him in the job. Thankfully, he stated it immediately after just as I was thinking, “Wait, which one?”

  • Whoever has the gold, makes the rules. Wizard of Id
  • Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31 (New Testament)
  • Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5:18
  • Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself. Baha’u’llah

I know, I live in a majority Christian country, so I should just assume the Christian one. But, the Wizard of Id one best matches Trump’s personal belief system, so it deserves weight too.

Collected Quotes 2018-JAN-15

A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.
—  Michael Kinsley

I often wonder what I’d do if there weren’t any books in the world.
—   James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
—  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.
—  Grace Hopper

Common sense is cultural 

Common sense is not so common. At least not in the sense that what we think are common sense behaviors are universal agreed upon across all of humanity.

An example: In a western culture, we tend to value the individual, so we think it common sense that we do things that benefit us. In an eastern culture, they tend to value the group, so they think it common sense that they do things that benefit the group.

We also are mired in groupthink that our tribes have the only correct values in humanity. So, the values of others occasionally cause conflict when members come into contact. A friend was upset about something neighbors did. One of the comments from someone sharing the friend’s values was that it is just common sense not to behave the way the people from another culture did. I wanted to reply that from the perspective of the other people, it is common sense to behave in this offensive way.

I did not because it was only going to make them defensive and cause unnecessary anger. People strongly defend their values. My questioning their values would be counterproductive. And having brown skin would lead to saying if I am not willing to share these values, then I should go home.

The funny thing? Best I can tell, all my ancestors going back 100 years were born in America. I just am introspective enough to try and understand how people work. And that leads me to consider other perspectives and give people some leeway. Given my Baha’I Faith upbringing, this consideration is just common sense.

Whoever smelt it deals with it

In my opinion, the person who discovers a problem deals with the problem. A law enforcement officer sees someone aim a gun at another. The LEO is off duty or out of jurisdiction. Societal expectation is the LEO will intervene.

The same applies to me being an employee. If I discover a problem, then it is my responsibility to intervene as best I can. If I have no access to the systems or skill to do anything, then I should inform those who can and provide the information I know to best aid them in assessing the problem. If I do have the access, then I should work the issue as best I can. It might technically belong to someone else or another group, but if I have been given access to the systems and have the skill, then I should deal with it.

Even if I lack the access or skill, then I still feel like the issue is still MINE until it is resolved however that is. My responsibility becomes to find the person who can deal with the situation. I am not absolved just because it is not something I can do.

I thought maybe this came from my work at a university, but I am not so sure. I feel like I held this attitude even early in my work there. I would help other students anywhere I was. I did the same in high school, such as stores where as a customer I fixed misshelved books or items put in the wrong place. Anyhow it came about, I feel responsible for ensuring things are working around me.