Vaccinations + Idiots = “Vaccidiocy”

NobodyGetsSmallpoxOrPolioAnyMore

Holy shit, let’s just stop for a moment and come to the realization that it’s been almost one year since the last Step Aside post (363 days to be exact). It was a pretty easy hiatus in all honestly, because either A) no one reads this crap or B) if people do, they’re not letting us know.

Anyway, lets talk about the vaccidiocy that is currently plaguing our media, and is actually starting to take its toll on a very small portion of the American public. To fill you in, in case you have not heard by now, there has been a growing trend of idiot parents not vaccinating their children because they don’t trust the “science” of vaccines. These parents believe that vaccines to prevent some deadly diseases will actually harm their children with autism, or “mental retardation” if you are in fact a retarded former congresswoman from the state of Minnesota. In case you don’t know, there is not a single link between vaccines and autism – there just isn’t. Here are some articles explaining so:

http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/policy-statements/information-about-vaccines-and-autism

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism/

Regardless, if you already do not trust the science, this certainly will not convince you otherwise, and I’m not here to try. Stupid people are stupid and cannot be fixed (kind of like Polio – if only it could be prevented though)

No, instead lets talk about the politics of this. Liberals defend the science and simply say parents should get their children vaccinated. Conservatives believe it is a parents right to not get their children vaccinated. Both sides are right here, though I think liberals have the populous edge here. This has the potential to be a big issue for politicians, not because it’s actually a big issue (relative to other issues like income inequality, war and taxes), but because it gets people so passionate that the media will run with it for as long as they can. Conservatives are making a big mistake in downright defending these morons, they really are. Instead, they should say something like “parents have the right to put their children in danger and other by not getting them vaccinated, and let the freedom of the rest of the country shun these idiots.” In other words, these kids should not be allowed in public school, let Disney ban these kids from their theme parks, let the airlines ban them from flying, even let your supermarkets ban them from entering. The point is, it really is not the governments job to prevent stupid people from doing stupid things, however we should be allowed to to eliminate stupid people from entering a society where they could cause harm.

 

Composing Emails for Efficiency

email

(I originally posted this article on Medium on Jan 14, 2014)

Email is a touchy subject for a lot of people. How to organize email for efficiency, for instance, is a much debated topic. The zero-inbox method is perhaps the most popular organizational method. Others will insist on labels and folders and forwarding and archiving and blah and blah blah; I don’t actually care. My email is organized into a single folder with two categories: read and unread. You can feel free to comment about how I am wrong about this, but I have been doing it this way for 20 years, and I’m pretty damn good about keeping up with it.

Furthermore, a lot of people complain about the amount of email they get, that they don’t have enough time to process it all. I’ve a suggestion for you people: UNSUBSCRIBE. If you are receiving more email than can be processed, then you are just wasting precious bandwidth. In fact, this is a classic networking problem: if the processing rate of a given stream is larger than the incoming rate — the solution is to slow down the publisher or the result will be message loss. For example, with TCP, it is the receiving side’s job to throttle the sender. In other words, stop subscribing to things you are not going to read! (I told you this was a touchy subject)

Anyway, I actually come to you today to discuss the content of emails for ultimate efficiency. I happen to work in a job where the major importance for me is emailing customers on how to use and diagnose a highly technical product. For the most part, the people I am emailing are intelligent tech people, however their soft skills leave a lot of room for improvement. Often times, I need to find out a lot of information from a customer to better serve them. After I carefully explain each item of information that I am requesting and why I am requesting it, I often find that the customer will only respond to the first or second question, and ignore the rest of my email that I worked so hard on composing. So here is my first suggestion:

1. Use numbered lists

Numbered lists are a great way to let people know that I want you to look at each number very carefully. When executed properly, the customer will answer the questions inline which just makes me jump for joy. Sometimes, for the very difficult customers, I will put instructions at the top of the email like “Please answer every one of the questions below”. Even with these explicit instructions, I get a few outliers who ignore items. These people cannot be helped, and you will be wondering forever how they retain employment.

Moving on. Like I said, I work with a highly technical product with smart customers. This means that I have to be halfway intelligent myself, otherwise I would not be able to help them. That being said, save the pissing matches for another day. Email is not the time nor the place to prove you are smarter than the other guy, and this brings me to point 2:

2. Be short and direct with information

When you add content for the sole purpose of trying to sound smart, you look like an asshole. Don’t try and blow peoples minds with information they don’t need to know. Get to the point, and get to it fast with clarity.

Finally, how to deal with rude people. You’ve all gotten rude email before, and you always spend extra time thinking about how to respond to it. Rude email is typically not something you should get too concerned over, in my opinion. People act tougher and meaner via email because they’re not looking directly at you. Email is so impersonal that is easy for anyone to be rude. I have two methods for dealing with rude emails:

3a: Be apologetic and shower with kindness.

This passive-aggressive technique is beautifully simplistic, and is a seriously high form of trolling. My wife works in an email-based profession, and this is her technique for dealing with rude people. While I seriously admire the usage of this technique, I tend to avoid it. Instead, I go with:

3b: Be shorter and ruder than them.

This leaves the possibility for two outcomes, 1) They get the point and cool off or 2) the issue escalates to a more serious form of communication, like a conference call. Sometimes, two people are not compatible for email and the only options are to either never communicate or get on the phone. I like getting on the phone, because it’s usually much faster to get to a point and because people are typically much nicer over the phone (again, there are outliers to this rule — some people are just inherently assholes).

Good luck and happy emailing.

Ban SantaCon? Quit Being a Little Bitch

Slutty Santa's? Slutty Santa's
Slutty Santas?? Slutty Santas.

A lot of hate out there this year towards Jolly Saint Nick. First, Fox News’s never-ending “War on Christmas” continues as strong as ever, fighting those who express their subjective aesthetic views of the pudgy gift giver. Fox pundits are basically saying Santa Claus is white, there is no debate. Jon Stewart summed up the whole ordeal quite nicely, noting that the actual Saint Nicholas was practically black himself. Actually, the best part of the segment was when one of the guests said something along the line of “people are bending facts to make a political point”; because Fox News would never do such a thing. But I digress.

Today in a New York Times op-ed, Mr. Jason Gilbert of Yahoo News posted that there should be a ban on a drunken tradition consisting of poorly thrown together Santa costumes, alcohol, and young adults bar hopping from Midtown to the East Village in Manhattan for an event known as “SantaCon”. SantaCon is not something I have ever participated in, but I fail to see how this arbitrary tradition is any different than a number of other New York City traditions like the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Halloween in the village, or hell, even the Mermaid Parade where topless woman flood the streets to mark the beginning of summer. Alcohol is as involved in those events just like SantaCon – why don’t we just ban them as well? Traffic congestion is a bullshit reason to put an end to it, because congestion is every weekend in the city for some neighborhood or another. And stop with the bullshit excuse of “[…] neighborhood of kids having to watch simulacra of beloved childhood figures stumbling around”. You chose to live in New York City and raise a family there, that is just how your life is going to be. It is really hard to shield your kids from the ridiculousness of the world, and it is even harder when living in New York City. Either explain to your kids that growing up sometimes make you do strange things, or move out.

Put your life in perspective; if one day of drunken Santa Claus’s are the worst thing to happen to you in the month of December, consider yourself pretty fucking lucky.

The Imbalance of Cyber Justice and Real Life Crimes

I've mapped my "justice" key to auto-headshot terrorists in CS Source
I’ve mapped my “justice” key to auto-headshot terrorists in CS Source – now *that* is justice

People have a natural want of doing really well in their jobs to help themselves get promoted in their chosen career. This is usually a good thing, as it creates a meritocratic system of the best-of-the-best rising to the top in a given field. One of the big exceptions to this system is in the case of public prosecutors. For example, earlier this year a co-founder of the popular news aggregating website Reddit, Aaron Swartz, killed himself, after the state of Massachusetts charged him for enough crimes to put him away for decades. His crime, was gathering electronic articles from MIT without authorization and sharing it to the world. MIT was not willing to file charges against the young man, however the state wanted to lock him up as if he were a serial killer. I’m not condoning the action of Swartz, but clearly the potential punishment did not match the crime. The state prosecutors were not seeking comparative justice; they were looking to see their names in the paper for a record of sentencing for a cyber crime.

Today, another great example of this treatment on a man out of Arkansas. Andrew Auernheimer, was sentenced to 41 months in jail for “hacking” AT&T. Auernheimer was able to get access to 114,000 iPad user accounts from AT&T’s online verification system. The thing about this case is how the prosecution defined hacking though. You see, Auernheimer did not do anything crazy technical to get this information, as he simply used something called a “GET” request on AT&T’s servers for the data, and the AT&T’s servers were stupid enough to reply with the requested information. It’s the equivalent of walking into your local bank and asking the teller for all the bank customers account information – and the teller saying “OK, here you go!” Now, Auernheimer used this information to make a name for himself and gave it to Gawker media, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But again, he didn’t “steal” data from AT&T, he simply used software to ask for the information and AT&T handed it right over.

Again, I’m not condoning the actions of these people, but certainly their “crimes” do not warrant excessive punishment. This is the same justice system that just sentenced two rapists of a 16 year old girl in Ohio to 1 & 2 years (one got 2 years because he took naked photographs of the girl). It’s also the same justice system that failed to prosecute a single individual for all the mortgage dealings that lead to the Great Recession. In the 21st century, being part of a civilized society requires a system of comparative justice where the punishment matches the crime; not a system where people are trying to make a name for themselves.

Best Wall Street Journal Op-Ed (Seriously, it’s good)

I bet the still argue over who is buying lunch
I bet they still argue over who is buying lunch

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fresh post, and it’s not been due to a lack of news. However, rather than comment on any real news stories, I would like to continue my dive into the shitty readership over at the Wall Street Journal – a paper I just cannot get away from. Today’s issue featured a joint post by billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and even bigger billionaire Bill Gates, on the subject of eradicating the polio virus from planet earth. Apparently, eradicating a virus from the face of the planet is not a simple or inexpensive task, yet it is still a task that the Gates foundation decided to take on (it should be noted here that Gates did not initiate the eradication, he joined onto the existing effort of Rotary International). Bill Gates is spending the majority of his fortune to cure the world of things like polio, and Michael Bloomberg just signed up with a donation of $100 million. Not exactly a small chunk of change.

So, if you’re a sane human being with a human heart, you probably find this effort a noble cause, regardless of the political viewpoints of the ones making the donations. On the contrary, if you’re a regular reader at the Wall Street Journal, then this is “narcissism” and “egomania” and so on. Very little credit is given to these men for there efforts in the comments section. Yes, Bloomberg can afford to and still live a comfortable life without his $100 million – but he didn’t have to give it away. He could have easily passed down his wealth like so many others do so none of the world can get the benefit. Had this been Rupert Murdoch, these comments would have been filled with praise but because its the smoking/soda-banning-mayor-of-liberal-city, it’s just another gesture of pure evil. Grow the fuck up people.

The Biggest Problem with Meaningful Gun Legislation

Thanks to this man, idiots all over Facebook are using the phrase "cold dead hands"
Thanks to this man, idiots all over Facebook are using the phrase “you can take my guns from my cold dead hands” – the same idiots that loved Tim Burton’s ‘Planet of the Apes’

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, pundits, politicians, bloggers, and Facebook friends are talking about gun control. Some are saying that it is too soon to have a discussion on gun control – that is a highly hypocritical position to take though. The people that say it is “too soon” are the same people that demanded answers from Obama hours following the Benghazi crisis. Tragedies are tragedies, and there is no time limit before the factors of such events should be discussed, no matter how badly your personal beliefs may be impacted.

No, this is exactly the time gun control should be discussed. If it is not discussed now, it will continue to fall to the wayside as it has for the past decade. It’s incredibly obvious to most Americans that *something* should be done to try and avoid future mass killings – however the limits of what that something is needs some serious focus. This should not be a discussion what we think might work, or how we can continue to preserve the “liberties” of our country’s citizens by protecting the 2nd Amendment. Instead, our leaders should be looking at countries around the world, and improving on systems of gun control that work far better than ours. The United States ranks 12th in terms of gun-related deaths per population, the only Western society in the top 15. Our allies in England still have the freedom to own firearms, and are far less likely to die in a gun related homicide (The US has about a factor 7500% more gun related homicides than England – that is not a typo).

The biggest problem facing meaningful legislation in the United States is the National Rifle Association. The NRA is by far the most powerful and influential lobby in Washington DC, as determined by a survey of lawmakers in Washington. If you’re wondering where the organization gets its money, well that’s a question nobody can answer. You see, the NRA is setup as a 501(c)(4) organization, the same as the Super PACs that spent billions of dollars in our last election. This means that the organization can collect unlimited amounts of money from anonymous sources and spend it freely. It’s widely speculated that even though the NRA collects small amounts of money from it’s 4.4 million members, the majority of its income is raised from gun industry corporate partners.

If you think the NRA is capable of rational debate and conversations, think again. Since the shooting last Friday, the NRA has declined comment of any kind. They have even shut down the social media arm by blacking out its Facebook page and stopped tweeting. In 2008 when President Obama reached out to NRA president Wayne LaPierre, LaPierre responded with “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?” The NRA is not in the business of rational discussion – it’s in the business of keeping its constituents happy. LaPierre earns close to $1 million dollars a year from the organization, and since it’s his job to force the legislation that keeps the gun industry moving, you can bet that’s what he’ll do – regardless of how many innocent first graders die.

And if you happen to think the Newtown tragedy was enough to overpower the grasp of the NRA on politicians, you guessed it, think again. Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have reported that Senator Joe Manchin, a gun advocate Democrat from West Virginia has come out and said that reform must be looked into, but must be done with the NRA at the table. Manchin says “I’ll go over and sit down with them and say, ‘How can we take the dialogue to a different level?” It is the epitome of “democracy for sale” when our leaders cannot make a decision for themselves without first consulting a lobby. There is a certain irony when our leaders are “fighting for our freedoms” while they are not free themselves when it comes to making a decision to better our society.

Mutualize European Debt: Round 10 – Time to Grow Up Dick

tom hanks in Big
Just like Tom Hanks, you’re a 10-year boy trapped in a man’s body

It’s cute that you think Europe will mutualize its debt next month, it really is. You probably also think Palestine will have its own territory by December, Iran will ally with the United States to bring peace in Syria, and that J.K. Rowling is secretly writing another Harry Potter book. Face it Dick, none of that is going to happen.

I standby my statement on scale, but I also agree that economics is a social science. not a natural science. The biggest difference between the two, in my mind, is the lack of predictability in social sciences. (Scientific formulas are wonderful because, regardless of scale, the outcome is always predictable. I will put money on your search to find otherwise). Take, for instance, my latest series on Austerity or Stimulus and which works better in a financial crisis. There is very strong evidence for both theories being the “right” method in fixing a broken economy, and there are both success and failure instances in execution in just the last 5 years. The fact that there are both real-life failure and success examples with each method proves that there are a lot of hole’s in current economic models. So I will not only go as far as to say that economics is an unpredictable bitch, but that even after a model has been chosen for execution, it is nearly impossible to prove its success/failure over the opposing model.

You say “now more than ever our Economic system is interconnected with our financial system” and the fact that you are correct in saying so should scare the shit out of you. Bankers are not civil servants, yet their actions have just as big an impact on our society as any other paid government official. That’s a huge problem in my mind. And I’m not saying the competency of a banker versus the competency of a government official is worse, in fact it’s probably not in a lot of cases. But the underlying goal of each profession is vastly different.

You also mention the Fed’s function of lowering the unemployment rate, and I know that this is a typical function of a central bank, however I fail to see how it can realistically accomplish this in a capitalistic economy. Perhaps you can enlighten me on how the Fed will create jobs for its citizens that are unemployed? It’s funny because the Fed blames Congress for not doing enough to lower unemployment and A LOT of pundits are blaming the Fed for not doing enough. I can’t see how the government could possibly be responsible for creating jobs, that’s the free markets role. I would simply say it’s the government’s responsibility to take care of people who are unemployed.

Hipsters in Montauk – Can’t Wait to see the Muppet Variation

hipster trap
Hipster Trap. Careful though, if you take your eyes off of them they will disappear!

Hipsters. What exactly is a hipster you ask? Well, they’re the modern day beat or grunge counter-culture (I’ve always hated the term “counter-culture” by the way. Wouldn’t every culture outside of one’s own family be counter-culture?) They are the skinny-jean-wearing, fedora-topped, cheap-neon-plastic-sunglasses-equipped young adults you see on the subway and at the movie theaters. You may look at them and think passive-aggressive, but once you really get to know them they’re more snarky than anything. Most of them hate American consumerism, but most of them tote around an iPhone and wear “vintage clothing” that I would guess is made in sweatshops. Ironic really. They drink Pabst-Blue-Ribbon beer because society doesn’t want them too, at least that’s my guess. Really they are just offending those who think PBR is a trash beer and offending those who actually like PBR because “who are these assholes drinking my beer?”

Anyway, the point of this post is really to comment on a recent New York Times “Fashion and Style” piece titled Montauk’s Hipster Fatigue. Montauk, for the uninformed, is the eastern most town on Long Island, east of the ritzy Hamptons, but with a little less money in the local’s pockets. I’m not saying they’re poor, they are not. I’m just saying they wish they lived in East Hampton. The article comments on how hipsters venture all the way out east to party on the public beaches in their fedora’s and trash the beaches. They’re so-so attitude drives the locals crazy, who have started a “Save Montauk” movement to clean up the trash (I guess literally and figuratively). I can empathize with the locals, it must suck to have your environment overturned by hypocritical douchebaggery. The funniest part of the article though, as quoted by a Montauk local – “Now I know how the Indians felt”. Classic Long Island.

The Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich Protest

chic-fil-a gay flag
Someone should make this flag

The gay marriage/equality debate of modern times takes fun turns everyday. Personally, its the saddest debate in the US today. Gays should be able to marry; its really that simple. History, I feel, will look back at our generation the same way we look at the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In 200 years they will say things about us to the effect of “uncivilized times”. Go ahead, bet me on it.

This week, was nevertheless filled with more fun when CEO of fast food joint Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, said we should not get in the way of God’s will, therefore who are “we” to say gays should marry? OK, people are entitled to their opinion, no matter how ignorant it may be. But the country just couldn’t let it be, particularly politicians. Below you will see a few reactions and my critique of those reactions.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee declared this past Wednesday “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day“. I usually like Huckabee, but hes being an asshole here. I’m kind of hoping he’s just good friends with the CEO and he’s just trying to help out the brand during this minor setback for the company. Otherwise he’s he’s just being an asshole.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chick-Fil-A is not welcome in Chicago. Ironic really how all the organized crime in politics is typically welcome, but not a chicken sandwich. Again, I usually like Emanuel and his naked pressuring of congressmen, but he’s being an asshole.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino – I don’t really know anything about you, but you’re being an asshole. And according to the Boston Globe, you’ve hurt the charge for gay marriage. Way to go.

Seriously people, everyone is entitled to think whatever they want. Afterall, our thoughts are the only freedom we have left these days. Protest by chicken sandwich is just stupid though. If you avoided a Chick-Fil-A or intentionally went this week in protest or support of the CEO, you’re kind of an idiot.  Again, this is just my opinion so don’t not read blogs/read more blogs if you disagree/agree with me.

Technology Today: What the hell are these guys doing?

technology talk
lol – looks like a Palm device

Technology Today: Apple Buys into Twitter, Microsoft on Edge, and Google’s Tangent’s

Since technology and politics are so tightly intertwined (unless you are Dick Sharpe), let’s take a change of pace for today and talk about the latest technological trends and news. So, what happening with technology today.

First on the list, rumors surfaced late last week about Apple investing a bunch of cash into the profit-less fail-whale that is Twitter. After a quick and failed attempt at social networking by Apple, they have probably decided to invest in a successful tool rather than re-invent the wheel. Interestingly, for the first time in a long time, Microsoft beat Apple to the punch by investing a bunch of its cash in Facebook 5 years ago.

Question: Should these gigantic company’s really be investing in social this way? Perhaps I’ll say. The whole thing is slightly reminiscent of the browser wars from a decade ago, and in my opinion, every player than spent a lot of time and money investing in a browser came out as a loser (see Netscape). There is a slight difference with social networking, and that is that some of these firms actually make money, like Facebook and LinkedIn, so it’s not a total lost investment. And much like the browser, social networking is not going away any time soon, so it’s better to be invested in it, and not developing it youself is the safest investment you can make. If you think creating the social network is something big company’s like Apple and Microsoft should be doing, tell me – how is Google+ doing these days?

Second on the agenda, Microsoft. Poor, poor Microsoft. This cash juggernaut is playing with napalm on the edge of a 1000 foot cliff juggling hand-grenades. Just today, Microsoft announced the dismantling of Hotmail for a new email service called Outlook (get your desired email handle today, just in case it takes off). I played a bit with it, and it’s actually quite nice. It is a no ads, easy to use, and nicely configurable web email client. It’s a bit clunky with its other services, such as the calender which links to the old Hotmail site, but I assume that will change over in time. It also connects nicely with Facebook, as just about every new service needs to do these days.

Question: Will this really work for Microsoft? I say, who the hell knows. Much like Gotham believes in Harvey Dent, I still believe in Microsoft, but my confidence is starting to wear thin. The only reason I remain confident is because of the enterprise: Microsoft still dominates the enterprise with Windows, Office, Exchange, Active Directory, and even MSDN. The biggest problem Microsoft faces is its mixture of enterprise and consumers, and that’s something no tech giant has really been able to accomplish. I’d say if Microsoft can continue its stranglehold on the enterprise, introduce the Surface to enterprise clients, it may actually stand a chance in the future.

Third and finally, Google. The Warren Buffet of search if you will. Google last week expanded its unrelated-to-its-core-business to Internet and television service in the Kansas City area. For a one time fee of $300, you can get no-contract, free monthly Internet with a download rate of 5mbps and an upload rate of 1mbps. By modern metrics, that’s equivalent to a good cell phone signal, but you can’t beat the price. For $70 a month, you can get a 1gbps upload and download, which by any modern metrics of price to performance for an ISP, kicks more ass than the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus combined. The third tier of programming adds television into the mix, for $120 a month you get TV and Internet. Similar to a FiOS package, but without one of those outdated home-phones.

Question: What the hell is Google doing? Other than burning through its stock piles of cash, I have no idea, but I like it a lot. Any time a large player enters a market is has no business being in, they either turn out looking incredibly smart or incredibly stupid. I hope it’s not the latter, because I would really enjoy some gigabit Internet, which is not something Time Warner, Comcast, Cablevision, and even Verizon come close to. If this does nothing but get the other players to move to a faster Internet method, then I’m happy with that.