15766601 The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond; a book no MA grad student could have gotten by a thesis committeeThe World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Diamond does a great job analyzing primitive societies from the perspective of an up-close observer, but one of the problems he suffers from is a massive case of anecdotal evidence that may or may not apply to larger populations. His examples are great, and some of his conclusions are interesting, but he has a really bad problem of writing as if he’s the expert on all things because of his experience with limited populations.

Where I saw this mostly lacking was whenever he was discussing an issue and then drawing a conclusion. The academic in me kept saying to myself while reading: “And your source for this conclusion?” But there was rarely sources brought up as any type of back-up to the arguments he was making. It made me suspect that he’s become so famous for his earlier work that I started to think he felt he didn’t have to back up his evidence with…well, evidence, because it wasn’t evidence; it was mainly a guess based on his years of experience out in the field.

The problem with this kind of conclusion he kept offering is that he’s relying on his own knowledge and guesses and then figures that it should be good enough because of his massive volume of work that preceeded him. Unfortunately, that’s not how science works, and he should know that as he is one of the people who has been in the trenches when this type of requirement was founded.

The problem with all of this is that he does have a lot of very interesting information, and when your information gathering process is criticized by others (and believe me, I’m not going to be the first or last one to make this criticism), it has a tendency to negate ALL of your evidence, which is probably the one tragedy in his shoddy attempt to provide good information.

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I applied for a job where I currently work. I was totally qualified for it, and I would have done a great job with it. Made it to the second interview. And the interview went great. The next week, I was informed that I was “second” in the running, so the job went to someone else.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this sort of thing in my life. I keep applying for things, and way too often end up being the “other” person behind the person who actually gets the job. It doesn’t matter how much education I have, how smart I really am, how innovative I am, what skills I hav e, or whatever. I keep coming up as the second in line for whatever thing I’m seeking. I have news for those who aren’t following: Second place doesn’t get a job or anything else. You get to start over and look forward to coming in second some other time.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times this keeps happening in my life. And it’s not even jobs. It happened with my writing career where I came so close to finally making it and then something gave me that second place treatment again. An example is that years ago I landed a very well known literary agent who ended up in a car accident soon after signing me on as a client. She had a brain injury where she basically didn’t even remember I was her client. I mean, come on. This shit isn’t supposed to happen outside of bad television shows. I had a second agent years later who felt he could sell my espionage fiction. Then he called me to inform me that he was going to be representing some other writer who would take too much time, so as suspected, I got dumped.

And I am getting older (had a birthday a few days ago) that reminds me that I’m probably less desirable as a future employee than all of the younger people coming out of school.

So, without sounding dramatic or whatever, I give up. It’s not worth trying any more.

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The other day I was teaching a public speaking class where the students were required to interview another student and then present a two minute speech about that person. All was going well until one of the introductions of a student indicaated that he was a member of a religion that’s been around the US for a long time but is mostly unknown to most people who don’t follow religious news, or are just not very cognizant concerning theology. One student asked what that religion was, and the student tried to respond by not getting into a conversation about religion. However, the questioning student continued, trying to get more information, essentially putting the original student on the spot to have to explain his religion to a group of people who knew nothing about it.

The one thing I could see was that he was very uncomfortable talking about his religion in front of class (the student who interviewed him had only mentioned it as an aside, saying she was exposed to it for the first time when talking to the student and was more intrigued than anything else, and then she moved onto another subject). So, as this student tried to explain quickly and without any elaboration, the asking student still continued to want to know more information.

What I found interesting from the exchange was that the questioning student appeared to be more interested in talking about the religion because it didn’t fit his understanding of Christian religions (although it actually was one of the more Baptist variety). It almost felt like this was about to turn into a “explain your religion so I can see if I approve of it” converation, although there’s no way to know that was the direction it would have taken. Fortunately, the discussion ended quicky, and then we went onto another group of students. At least before it became too uncomfortable.

This reminded me of the many political science courses I’ve taught over the years where one student is an outlier from a completely different political philosophy than everyone else. It is so easy to make just one student very uncomforable, which is something that most educators are supposed to learn is never acceptable. Over the years, I’ve taught courses where I try to take the middle ground of a group presenter/moderator rather than someone with a political opinion. What usually happens is a select few students start to suspect I’m politically opposed to their personal philosophy because they always seem to notice when I’m not siding with their side and giving conversation time to a side they might not agree with (when in reality, they haven’t a clue that my philosophy is so out of the mainstream that they’d be hard pressed to actually try to guess it if they were put on the spot to do so).

Religion is one of those scary topics because no matter how hard you try to avoid it as a conversation, someone always manages to try to pull it back in and then tries to put you on the spot to engage the topic. Students generally feel more comfortable when they can back a professor into a boxed corner. Why? I haven’t a clue. But I find that happens way too much.

For that class, we managed to avoid a political/religious issue that seemed to want to take the stage, which tells me it will likely happen again. All I remember is when I was in class instead of standing up in front of the class, and so many professors took the bait and allowed their classes to become very uncomfortable for a lot of students. What’s amazing is that administrators NEVER discuss this with professors as to how the college/university stands on such issues, so you’re generally on your own until some administrative body decides you took the wrong approach (and then they fire you).

The funny thing is: Even though my class was a success that day, there’s really no way to tell if you’re maintaining the peace as well as providing the correct education. It’s almost a continuous series of trial by error moments that you hope is helping to provide the best education to all involved.

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wall2 300x172 Happy New Year and Things the Media still needs to learnThe New Year is here, and all that jazz, so I just think I’ll say happy new year and move on from there. Hope everyone is doing well. If not, hope the new year gets better for you.

One of my usual places to find up to date news is Google News. I’ve found it to be quite informative, and I tend to read first the technology section, then the entertainment section, then business and then US News. Maybe I might read some of the other categories, but those are the main ones that interest me. However, it wasn’t until today that I started to notice something that’s been secretly bothering me for a long time. And that’s what gets included in Entertainment News.

When I read Entertainment, I’m interested in movie announcements, revelations of new music and the ocassional ridiculous scandal that tends to make me laugh. However, I”ve started to notice other pieces of news that are being included in this feed, and it’s just wrong. I’ll give you an example: James Holmes, the nutcase that shot up  the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, is having his hearing and the news wants to know what his defense will be. Why does this bother me? This is not entertainment news at all. I don’t care that he did his crime during a Batman screening. I don’t care that the media is excited and hyped about the case. THIS IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT NEWS. It is national news, or serious news. To put it under the entertainment umbrella is sending a signal out to every nutcase out there that if he wants his 15 minutes of entertainment fame, do something ridiculous, like kill a whole bunch of people during a movie screening.

Entertainment news needs to be held to actual entertainment stuff, not this kind of thing. The message the news is sending by this sort of thing is that we’re going to be entertained by whack jobs killing people in real life. This is why “news” people like Nancy Grace exist, and I so wish that they didn’t get a single moment of air time. We don’t need media celebrities trying to make a name for themselves by going crazy on the news and trying to gain attention, which is one reason why I refuse to watch anything Nancy Grace related. She’s exactly the kind of reason why we have this sort of thing turning in on an entertainment feed instead of simple news.

And that’s the problem today. News has become entertainment, which just fuels that old problem of watching the evening news and seeing that the lead story is a fire that affects less than 0.001 of the population. Fires are exciting, and you can watch things burn, which is why you rarely see a fire story in the newspaper (unless it burns half the city). It’s only exciting on television with pictures and footage.

This is why we’re now seeing Holmes as an entertainment story. Instead of CNN, Fox and the major networks covering this story and its impact on America, we’re now going to have E!, People, and the Celebrity Gossip talking about what clothes the killer was wearing, and why the prosecutor so shouldn’t have been wearing those shoes.

On another note, chances are pretty good this web site is going to be closed soon. I’ve discovered very few people are actually interacting with me and that most of my views appear to be from spammers trying to sell shit to people who do read my blog.

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In my never-ending search for an online computer game to play, I ended up trying out Star Trek Online, a game I panned because I was much more interested in Star Wars Online: The Old Republic (SWOTOR). Having grown bored of that game, and recently grew bored of Guild Wars 2, I decided to take a spin on this game, just for the nostalgic factor of playing something involving a franchise I know way too much about.

And that’s probably why I like it as much as I do (right now). The gameplay is very basic. In space, it’s great, and you have great space battles. On land, it’s like playing a dorked down version of World of Warcraft, or Lord of the Rings Onlline, or any other variation of Everquest that has ever existed. Mostly, it seems like they added the ground stuff as an afterthought, even though it appears to be very much a part of the whole package.

So, here are some of the immediate thoughts I had after an entire weekend spent going where no man…I mean ONE…has gone before.

The GOOD:

1. It’s Star Trek. It is a universe that trekkies know well and love.

2. The lore seems to be very well catered to, meaning that important events in the Star Trek universe show up in the game. An example is the epic battle of Wolf 359, where the Federation’s fleet was decimated by the Borg in the movie, Star Trek: First Contact. There’s a memorial placed over the Wolf 359 system, constructed by Star Fleet engineers. As you fly through the system, you fly by the MANY starships that were destroyed in the battle. It’s kind of an impact-like experience to fly through there in a system that seems to have no other purpose in the game than to remind the players of the sacrifices that were made that day (in this make-believe universe).

Another example is the finding of important characters in the show’s history. The game is narrated by Leonard Nimoy, who I understand had a bit of history with Star Trek, although I don’t know what exactly that history is. Okay, obviously I’m being facetious here, but it’s kind of nice to hear Ambassador Spock telling us about all sorts of things in the Star Trek universe. At one point, however, while hearing a voice over from Nimoy, I remembered that his voice is also the voice over for Sid Meier’s Civilization series (think it was IV, although I could be wrong on that, and maybe it’s V). One of the first characters I came across (besides the voice of Spock) was Naomi Wildman, who in Star Trek history is the little girl who was born on the USS Voyager during Star Trek Voyager. She is now the commander of Starbase K-7. The grandson (think that’s what it was) of Lieutenant Sulu is a Starfleet leader in the new game and talks about how he spends most of his life having to live up to a lineage of Starfleet heroes. The nice thing is that I’ve just started the game, so I’m sure a lot of others will show up as well, considering the game takes place only about 30 years after our current knowledge of the Next Generation’s timeline. One thing they are hinting at is that the events that occurred in the reboot of the Star Trek movies is kind of on the edge of about to happen. The Romulans lost their homeworld, and the universe is in flux right at about that period of time.

3. It’s a space game. Too many MMOs are fantasy genre games, and they get really old after you’ve played yet another WOW clone, realizing that WOW was an Everquest/Dark Age of Camelot clone.

4. The Starships. My first starship was a light cruiser that didn’t really seem all that impressive. When I became a lieutenant commander (about level 10), I received an escort class fighter (my choice) that just seems so much cooler and more powerful. Although I was sucked into a battle once, and I died after one hit. So, it only seems powerful, I guess. There are so many different types of ships, and I’m looking forward to exploring that further.

5. There are a lot of players and ships flying around. That’s always cool. Of course, there’s only one server (that I know of), but that’s not a problem.

6. You can be a Klingon. After level 25. So that might take awhile as it takes forever to get levels in this game (my opinion). But when it happens, you can bet I’ll be starting up a Klingon and fighting for the empire! And honor! And all sorts of other geeky sorts of things!

7. It’s free to play (or you can do a membership at $14.99 a month). I went the membership route, although I can see how it mimics other free to play models in that it’s costly to add any extra features you’re going to want, so it ends up costing you a lot more, even if you subscribe. Oh well.

BAD

Nothing really. It didn’t sell well, so it’s lifetime might be limited, and that’s too bad.

So, I say give it a try, if you’re into Star Trek. If you’re not, chances are pretty good that you’re not going to understand the many geeky references that occur throughout the game. But for someone like me, it’s graet. And honestly, what’s more important than my personal needs being fulfilled? Ka’plah!

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Bought the new Ipad Mini

On November 9, 2012, in Technology, by Duane

I thought about it for a few weeks when it was first announced, and then I finally bought an Ipad Mini. Before buying this item, I owned an Ipad 2. The interesting thing is that the Ipad Mini is not that much different than the Ipad 2 (same resolution and such), but I had needed a larger storage space than my 16GB Ipad 2, so I went with a 32GB Ipad Mini.

After finding a case for the device, I’m pretty happy with it. My only concern is that some of the apps that I had on the Ipad 2 don’t seem to be available. It’s not because the Ipad Mini can’t run them, but for some reason some of the apps I originally installed on the Ipad 2 just don’t seem to be available any more. An example is Okcupid’s app, which I always liked. The app store can’t seem to find it. The same thing happens with my retirement fund app, which was on my previous Ipad and on my Iphone. The app store doesn’t think it exists.

Other than that, there’s really not that much different, other than it is a bit smaller than my Ipad 2 and a lot lighter. To be honest, I like the idea that it’s a lot lighter; the Ipad 2 was always a little bit too heavy for the kind of device that it was.

The resolution, the biggest complaint most reviews have, doesn’t really matter to me. It seems to be one of those complaints people have if they’ve already had a device that uses the retina diplay. My Ipad 2 didn’t have one, so I’ve not been swayed by how great such a display might be. I suspect if the Ipad Mini sells well enough, we’ll see a retina display in Ipad Mini 2. Until then, I’m quite fine with what it does.

My biggest desire for this device is to read my Kindle books. I have a Kindle Fire, but it constantly has problems downloading books that I buy. You’d think Amazon’s Class A product would be able to do everything it needs to do. I finally gave up on it when it wouldn’t download a copy of the book, The Hot Country by Robert Olan Butler, after I bought it directly from Amazon’s site. My Ipads did it just fine. The Kindle Fire just can’t see it in the cloud or on its device. Such a crappy product (the Kindle Fire).

So, I finally have the device I’ve been waiting for, and it wasn’t really that expensive. Not often you can say that.

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Over the weekend, I finished watching the first season of Homeland, the series about an obsessive, medically (kind of insane) CIA analyst/operative who suspects a returning POW of being with Al Qaeda. The show itself is kind of ho hum, although it does have great performances from the main actress and the former Indigo Montoya of Princess Bride fame (much older and still a great actor). The show really goes off the rails with its attempts to be “accurate” in intelligence work, which to put it simply is MASSIVELY inaccurate. But having said that, one of the things it does REALLY well is to showcase a person who is medically compulsive to the point of insanity. And THAT it does really, really well.

They are into the Second Season now, which makes me sort of wonder as the end of Season One kind of put the main actress in a position that shouldn’t EVER give her an opportunity to be doing what she was doing in the first season. But knowing Hollywood, they’ll write themselves around that one in a really corny way, kind of like 24 used to do over and over again.

So, I’d advise watching it for the drama, the surprise turns and for one of the best performances of someone acting crazier than me.

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I received an advertisement from Sam’s Club today that listed a television on sale, but in order to see the price, you had to click it (as it listed “see price in cart”). One click later, I was now on a screen that told me to “add item to cart” AND NO PRICE. That took me to another screen with the wording along the lines of “complete transaction” and a button, AGAIN WITH NO PRICE. The next screen was a couple of listings of what the price used to be, and yet another button to make the sale (without the price yet). Look, I get the idea that you’re trying to get people to want to buy the product and are doing all sorts of psychological games along the lines of “well, if they click this many times to get to the price of the tv, they’ll eventually just decide they have to have it.” This is fine if we’re all multi-millionaires shopping in some boutique where “price is not a concern” but this is freaking Sam’s Club, not some posh place in Beverly Hills.

If you want me to buy your crap, tell me how much it is. If it’s cheap enough that I find it to be a bargain, I’ll buy it. If it’s not, then no amount of “keep clicking until you’re so worn down that you’ll buy it JUST TO GET OUT OF THIS NIGHTMARE” is going to make me pay more money for an item that I’m just curious about.

Companies really need to stop this crap because it so annoying. Customers aren’t lemmings, nor are they people who want to be herded towards your sales. Customers are people you should be trying to attract with good prices, good service and excellent products. Otherwise, your company and its business practices suck. Simple as that.

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I made a change last week to my comment system, where someone now has to put in an answer to a simple mathematical question (like “What is eight – 5?). The last few days, I’ve had zero spam in my comments section, whereas I was receiving about 30-50 a day.

On other subjects, yesterday was the start of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers (or wannabe writers) spend the month attempting to write at least 50,000 words of a novel (or a novel in 50,000 words). I’m 4182 words into my novel right now, and it’s a part of the Tales of Reagul series I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. This one is called A Season of Kings, and it begins during the year 180 or so BCE near Rome and then continues on the planet of Reagul (which is what most of the novels have been about). For those interested, this is the series that actually involves the name that’s part of my website: littlesarbonn.com. One of the central characters in this series is Sarbonn, the Sorceror, and his two apprentices Walner and Chandlin. Anyhoo. Have a great Friday.

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share save 171 16 Wow, Ive completely eliminated spam from my comments...also the start of NANOWRIMO
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One of the things that has bothered me with blogging is the overwhelming amount of spam I receive from bots and what I suspect just might be aliens from the Planet Xenon. Every now and then, for the sake of living an existence that equates to paddling upstream at the bottom of a waterfall, someone actually sends me a real blog comment. And most of the time, it would not surprise me if I delete it because it gets caught up in the tons of spam I receive as well.

I was reading an article today that was published a year or so ago by Mark of Bloggersjournal.com, and he made a bunch of interesting suggestions. I’ve always used Akismet, which is a pretty good spam collection service, but now I’ve installed a challenge (CATCHA) service that asks a random mathematical question (an easy one) before someone can leave a post. Let’s see how that works now. Of course, if you’re completely mathematically challenged, I apologize, but as I love math (those who know me definitely know that), it’s kind of my thing. I did decline the advanced calculus version, however, and the Sports trivia one would have kept me out of posting on my own site, so again, let’s see how this works out.

What amazes me is that this type of junk (the spam) actually exists. It serves no purpose, and I can’t imagine a SINGLE person in the world who actually buys anything that’s thrown at them with spam. Other than scamming someone who accidentally clicks on their junk links, I’ve not seen a single purpose behind it whatsoever.

But that’s just me, and people have often said I’m a bit strange. And not just the spammers either.

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