Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wretchedness and Excess

Articles in the NY Times express wonder at gross economic inequality and how it could occur, but the causes are obvious.

1. Government largesse to corporations, and the destruction of unions, lead to a grossly lopsided power relationship.

2. Diminished taxes on wealth and corporate profit.

3. Corporate malfeasance, literally and figuratively, with C-level executive essentially deciding their own salaries. And what about back-dating? Steal a few million, but pay a small fine.

4. Use of public coffers for self-reward, the largest being the Iraq war itself, where the VP decided to have a war that rewards him and his cronies. Oilmen that disrupt the flow of oil to exaggerate their base's profits.

The list goes on and on....

There is nothing to wonder about.

Cause or Result?

The MBTI is a questionable measure, although I like it myself. Ten years ago I consistently tested as an ENFJ, but at some point I made a life choice to be more analytical, hence, the change from E to I, and from F to T. Nowadays, I consistently test as INTJ, although the I is just over the midline into I, and the T is just over the midline into T.

As a developer, I love the more abstract (N) concepts, such as design patterns, and eschew concrete how-to's (S), but my work-oriented websites would indicate I'm ISTJ, while my blogs and personal sites would indicate I'm INTJ. This made me wonder if the demands of work result in the IT personnel tests skewing to ISTJ. Rather than tech people being unable to change, I'd guess that the world of work, e.g., business people doing the hiring, allows limited change and requires a particular set of traits.

The website used for the Type Analysis of sites:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Motivation @ Work

I generally hate the belief, that people are unmotivated because the work "was too easy/not challenging enough," since the ease of something probably bears little relationship to its motivation. Yes, some people like challenge, myself included, but motivation often stems from seeing the goal as having worth, either to one's growth, or to some larger goal. Challenge can be good, provided one believes there is a real solution, or that one's efforts would be rewarded, but motivation always matters more.

Motivated people don't see challenges, they see opportunities, but you have to get to the point where the task is rewarding. Even then, real people have broader needs than simply goal orientation. Typical motivations:

- Money (not my favorite, although a favorite cliche)
- Recognition
- Social obligation (make other people happy)
- New technology (some thrive on novelty)
- Work with friends
- Advance one's skills

Although this might seem common, it is probably forgotten, particularly in the world of men that coders inhabit, that feelings matter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did the Berlin Wall Fall to the East?

The following quote, from the NY Times article, irritates me:

"they now favor economic equality over freedom"

The author associates economic equality with lack of freedom, when it would likely translate into more freedom, and certainly freedom from the control of others, in particular, corporations and government, controlling our lives. Economic freedom, as embodied in a lower GINI coefficient, as is enjoyed by France, Belgium, Scandinavia, and Japan, translates into a higher quality of life. High income inequality, as embodied in the US and UK, translates in worse living conditions, subtle fascism, and outright militarism, with most people working more hours for lower standards of living.

It is not an either-or kind of choice. The idea of one against the other smacks of the kind of brainwashing, or at a minimum, an unthinking acceptance of other's ideology.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Multitasking - It's About Focus

The internet and computer use can drive people to multitask which is a great time and productivity waster, as well as reducing the intellectual drill-down required of intellectual thought. As a software developer, the ability to focus for long periods on single aspects is important, as is the ability to think about systems and to choose the correct solution. The focus on internet media, as well as the supposed tendency for youth to multitask, seems more harmful than good, at least in terms of smarts, or at a minimum, productivity. It's not that something positive can't arise from a reduced multi-target focus, but...

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Opiate of Religion

The following translation of Marx, is much more deep than the usual paraphrase:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

What Does Religious Mean? 

You can break down religiosity into at least three dimensions, religious attendance, devoutness, and affiliation. I have seen several studies showing high correlations with mental health problems and religiosity or attendance, at times conflicting other studies. 

Additionally, dimensions are not distinct, in that religious attendance could really be a measure of a regular life, and not a religious component per se. Growing up as an atheist - clearly, since I was 12 - I can attest to the enormous familial resentment and anger I was subject to because of my beliefs; many people might be ostracized from their families.

Region and Happiness

Although I'm an atheist, I do believe it is true that attitudes like religion - a less rigid attitude about spirituality - might be the underlying reason for a correlation with happiness. Also, comprehensive overviews would likely show a correlation between high levels of religiosity and low levels of country development coupled with low suicide rates. Religion seems to be the "opiate of the masses," and it is effective, but the bigger picture would show that by-country religiosity correlates with social dysfunction and low degrees of social welfare. Although this piece attempts to be balanced, and is likely accurate, it is too narrowly focused. 

GDP and Life

Galbraith wrote about economics years ago, that we were past the point of material need, that we could direct our economic energies to services and other quality of life activities, but the GDP measure has won out, to the ruin of American lives. Objectively, GDP has little or no relationship to quality of life, nor does productivity, in its simple form, although there are material, economic benefits related to the rate of GDP growth. Going further, one might likely find negatives related to GDP, such as more hours worked, but again, this has no benefit to quality of life in the developed world. Not much to say, other than just the facts, although many inobjective cases can be made for the necessity of GDP growth to people's lives. 

Academics and Liberalism

If conservatives bothered to look at the traits of academics, they would find rational explanations for liberals in academia. Academics are more open-minded, and essentially more intelligent, and in both cases much more so than average America. Generally, and very much so among those of liberal parentage, IQ correlates positively with liberalness, overall about 0.3 to 0.4, and >0.5 for those from liberal homes. Additionally, the traits of conservatives, unlike those of liberals, are anti-intellectual, fearful, conformist, and conventional, certainly not the kind of personal traits appreciated in academia, although it might be appreciated among the religious and business-oriented. 

Women and Longer Life

Although women live longer than men do, their lives are typically of lesser quality, hampered by the health issues associated with old age, as well as by having less money.

Similarly, exercise does correlate with extended life, and generally equates with greater life extension, but doing so would typically entail decreases in sex life, as well as time taken away from other pleasurable activities. 

Calorie Restriction and Quality of Life

I've read detailed studies of calories restriction - some studies have been conducted on humans - as well as one of Walford's book, and although life extension could certainly be an outcome, so can depression and lack of sex drive. Most likely, some calories restriction is good, but the typical lab study on animals uses a diet designed to keep study subjects' weight 30% below litter mates, which is untenable in humans.

While very low weight is associated with loss of sex drive and depression in humans, numerous qualities are associated with increased mass, such as intelligence, popularity, happiness (some studies), and longer life; a few recent studies have shown all-cause mortality to be lower in the moderately overweight. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A DREAM by Jorge Luis Borges

In a deserted place in Iran there is a not very tall stone tower that has neither door nor window. In the only room (with a dirt floor and shaped like a circle) there is a wooden table and a bench. In that circular cell, a man who looks like me is writing in letters I cannot understand a long poem about a man who in another circular cell is writing a poem about a man who in another circular cell . . . The process never ends and no one will be able to read what the prisoners write.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Devil's Advocate, Well Actually, The Devil

While I don't support wasting time and energy on worthless activities, I can't vouch for ever having found the recommendation to research to be of any value. I am definitely 'promiscuous' with recruiters, and not a believer in networking, although I have a fairly high profile in LinkedIn.

Unlike most people that have a job that many people are qualified for, I am a niche contractor, not looking for permanent work. I work in a common language, or a set of tools, that few people specialize in, with a background at major corporations. When someone needs one of my specialties, I'll get calls and emails from 5 different recruiters. My specialization is also why I can never commit to one recruiter; when I need work, they don't have openings, but someone else does. And I have had repeat engagements from different clients, and with different recruiters. They find me jobs, take a percentage of the rate, and if the engagement is long-lasting, they barely have to milk the cow, just take the cream.

For extroverts, and those looking to sell, networking might be wonderful, but I'm nauseous of the promotion of networking. People find me engaging, well spoken, helpful, and I can certainly self-promote, but I'm not that interested in other people: I'm kind of half introvert/extrovert. I enjoy people, but I also enjoy my alone time, with my wife, my music, my books, and my fitness activities. Most people are extroverts, and likely, most people are not finding much help networking.

My primary focus, has been getting recruiters to see my resume on line. Right or wrong, I think recruiters look at people as a very narrow skillet and they have to fill/exceed the requirements, particularly in bad times. I keep my headline clear and simple. When searching I update my resume daily, or a few times a week. I focus on detailing my technical skills, not exaggerating my experience, or pumping it up with filler.

In truth, it's been a little bit of luck - I have a desired, niche skill set in technology, with a strong background at major financials - as well as being able to capitalize on my niche market.

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