Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Journey — if You Dare — Into the Minds of Silicon Valley Programmers

My responses in a NY Times comment section for the book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the WorldCoders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson:

#1 - Link

Although I've been a software developer for 15 years, and for longer alternating between a project manager, team lead, or analyst, mostly in finance, and now with a cancer center, I found it funny that you blame the people doing the coding for not seeing the harm it could cause. First, most scientific advancement has dark elements, and it is usually not the science but how it is used and sold by business people that is the problem. This leads to the second problem, in that it is not coding that is in itself problematic, but specifically how technology is harnessed to sell. It is normal and desirable to track users, to log actions, to collect telemetry, so as to monitor systems, respond to errors, and to develop new features, but that normal engineering practice has been used to surveil users for the purpose of selling. Blaming coders for this turn is like blaming them for the 90s internet bubble. As it is now, it is a rush for profits, not the technology, that is a problem. Many famous historical innovations were driven over the edge by corruption and wealth, not by the people involved in designing and building the systems, although we are so far along in commercialization that it is now part of many developers roles to further the business model.

#2 - Link

@Ben - I completely agree. Most scientific advancement has dark elements, and it is usually not the science but how it is used and sold by business people that is the problem. This leads to the second problem, in that it is not coding that is in itself problematic, but specifically how technology is harnessed to sell.

As for its depictions of coders, I imagine many people not in tech think of coders as young bros' that make apps at cool companies, while in reality, the average is a 38-year old married male with 2 children that makes intranet website and desktop applications for mainstream businesses.

The art aspect if funny, as it is more about soft decision making where one has to weigh the value of one architecture over another, the viability of technology in the future, the ability of coworkers to support and understand the work, the aesthetics and usability of a website. All of these decisions can be made analytically or quantitatively, but more often than not, it is one's sense based on reason and experience.

As for the bug, yes, a missing character might be a problem if I was writing COBOL in 1982 (real story). Nowadays code checking built into IDEs immediately flag such errors, before compilation.

#3 - Link

@Eugene - 10x itself has gained mythical status, but mostly as a misunderstanding, then maybe usurped by an absurd culture of competition.

1 - “In one of their studies, Sackman, Erikson, and Grant were measuring performances of a group of experienced programmers. Within just this group, the ratios between best and worst performances averaged about 10:1 on productivity measurements and an amazing 5:1 on program speed and space measurements!” – The Mythical Man-Month

2 - The original study that found huge variations in individual programming productivity was conducted in the late 1960s by Sackman, Erikson, and Grant (1968). They studied professional programmers with an average of 7 years’ experience and found that the ratio of initial coding time between the best and worst programmers was about 20 to 1; the ratio of debugging times over 25 to 1; of program size 5 to 1; and of program execution speed about 10 to 1. They found no relationship between a programmer’s amount of experience and code quality or productivity.

#4 - Link

I can see that many developers chimed in to complain about the characterization of coding as something that anyone could do, or that coding is primarily syntax. As for myself, I've been in tech for over 30 years and was a CS major in the 80s, learning COBOL, PL/I, and BASIC, but over the years working with numerous scripting languages, and then progressing to using other languages and tools, VBA, SQL, VB.NET, C#, JavaScript, F#, R, Python, as well as numerous related IDEs.

That is one aspect, but behind that is lots of reading, often more articles than books, but covering design (UI/UX), patterns/architecture (GOF), algorithms, database design, best practices, management, social sciences, and operations (Deming to agile). All of this informs the decisions I make when building something for an employer. Granted I am fairly bright, so would have acquired knowledge regardless, but to define coders as simply working with syntax is demeaning. Even people that are deficient in the broader sense of the world can be deeply knowledgeable in their respective domains.

He Has Driven for Uber Since 2012. He Makes About $40,000 a Year.

#1

This is an example of exactly why I've hated these services, except when the employees actually benefit, is that the corporation takes most of the profit and drives down cost, turning workers into wage slaves and often breaking existing laws, while serving to make the lives of affluent people easier.

At times, when I need a car for the airport I opt for car services over Lyft or taxis - I deleted Uber years ago - because the workers seem to get treated better, although I pay twice as much. Overall, I think we should be paying more for many things if we are to guarantee the welfare of the people doing the work. And it's not just that, we need to enforce labor laws, as well as tax the wealthy and corporations making profits off employees backs, those same investors that are giving little in terms of benefits.

I am not a Luddite, it is simply that that services that allow employees to be used as 'task rabbits' are harmful to workers' lives. Although older, I work as a software developer and my online profile looks like a 32-year old's according to various systems, but I've often worked as a 'contractor', and although it paid well, it provided no benefits and little security. That was fine for me. I made a decent six-figure income and was lucky enough to use my spouse's generous health benefits, but even then, one realized that it was partially a way for corporations to avoid liability.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31504152

#2

@Frieda Vizel - It brings up an interesting point, that all of these systems are forms of control, from the review system, through the algorithms that 'incentivize' workers to be out on the street, essentially fooling them into driving down the value of their own time. The logic is such that it gives the drivers enough of a reason, or at least the illusion of one, to work, while not providing them enough to live on. Much of this can be modeled via behaviorism, with the reward system, along with the potential for punishment, forming a system of manipulation, the same type of modeling that occurs with social media, addiction, and gambling.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31504598

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31504051:31505653

#3

@Jonathan - Uber lies and misrepresents its viability to workers, and the idea of starting a business is, in fact, a road to failure unless you are already well-placed...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31504005:31505370:31505611

#4

@EB - A friend in LA, unable to drive my spouse and me to the airport, ordered us a ride via Uber. I like to chat, at least sometimes, and he was bright, but found out that he had a Master in Computer Science that was not being used in his regular work, checked on houses along the coast for foreign owners, and was thinking of selling insurance, all the while working doing logistics for a shipping company. He even brought over his parents from China to reduce his costs. Yes, he drove Uber as a side-gig, and some might laud his ambition, but I couldn't help but see someone that was struggling to make a decent living.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31504725:31505768

#5

@MHB - It's also an issue of security, and increased women bear to avoid mass transit. Ride services allow women to bypass subways and buses, and for many, the cost is an issue.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31504152:31505745:31505833

#6

@Vanessa Moses - It's also an issue of security, as well as an increased cost women bear to avoid mass transit and to stay safe. Ride services allow women to bypass subways and buses, as well as avid standing alone on a street.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ipo.html?comments#permid=31508270:31517968







Universal Health Care Might Cost You Less Than You Think

#1

The facts behind this idea are persuasive, but the biggest resistance will come from business interests determined to destroy the possibility, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, insurers, hospitals, and the AMA. Then there is the distrust of government held by many, sown by the same business interests. Although overall costs would be lowered, conservative media would gladly push 'testimonials', created and supported by industry groups, attesting to the increased costs on middle Americans. It is possible that most Americans would be for universal health care (UHC?) in some form, but there will be a barrage of propaganda, along with historically business-tilted laws and courts, that would make this a tough proposition.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/opinion/medicare-for-all-cost.html#commentsContainer&permid=100227199

#2

Although costs to business would be reduced from health care, and from the HR costs of managing benefits, businesses would lose the leash that ties many to their jobs. Americans would be free to leave employers to find better companies irrespective of insurance, not stuck with bad employers. Sounds like a win for employees, but it would change the degree of control that business has over employees. This would be good for us, but there might be some disgruntled employers as turnover increased.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/opinion/medicare-for-all-cost.html#commentsContainer&permid=100227251

#3

@Karekin - Debatable win-win, since although costs might decrease, many industries would see increased turnover, and that is expensive. No longer tied to an employer, many will leave for better environments, and companies might then need to do more to retain employees, maybe even including enhanced medical services beyond UHC. Additionally, the higher income people would pay more in taxes, and that tied with their freedom to move might push up wages. Just some thoughts...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/opinion/medicare-for-all-cost.html#commentsContainer&permid=100227137%3A100227290

#4

@EWood - I assume you are not responding to what I wrote unless you misread it, but you can see that the response from others is that it will cost business. My posts in this forum have been about the political realities, so although I strongly profess advancing human welfare, and argue against the culture of work, it would be foolish to not consider the hurdles and roadblocks hindering a better society.

#5

@Bethannm - Capitalism isn't about competition, and never has been. I best remember that capitalism is about rewarding the owners of capital, nothing more. It is the essence of our plutocracy. Market systems, at least in theory, are about competition and/or the lack of it. Just my view...

Honest, I'd like a better world, free from corporate and plutocratic control, focused on human welfare, but I was looking at the complexities down the road. There are many self-interested groups, and some backlash will come from corporations themselves. I am not advocating an employment 'tether'.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/opinion/medicare-for-all-cost.html#commentsContainer&permid=100227415%3A100227707

#6

@EWood - Obviously, I am not advocating for serfdom, since I stated that this "would be good for us, but there might be some disgruntled employers as turnover increased." On the other hand, one just has to look at our system of employment to realize that the US promotes a modern-day indenture, and is titled toward employers over employees. Again, not justifying it, but it is naive to not consider the potential blockers. Also, it is naive to not realize that many serfs are indoctrinated in their serfdom.



Work in America Is Greedy. But It Doesn’t Have to Be.

#1

Over the years - yes I am a somewhat jaded older worker - the idea of being a good highly productive employee has really turned. I am still highly productive, creating quality software products for people, or leading people to positive outcomes, but I am much more aware that companies don't matter. Few corporations have a mission that is worth devoting one's energies to. They are just business entities that don't deserve our commitment.

I am much more likely to ask, how good is that employer, and how good is that employer for me. After 25 years in the financial sector, I took a role with a major cancer center, and part of the reason behind that was its high rating as an employer. Compared to finance, which is harmful to our collective welfare, my new employer devotes resources to human development and provides a better quality of life, besides having a mission one does not feel ashamed about.

Sadly, the US will never be a country concerned about human welfare - at least in the near future - where life matters more than work.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/upshot/employers-flexible-work-america.html#commentsContainer&permid=100489299

#2

Generally, businesses don't deserve our commitment. Yes, there are entities that combine business with nobler aims, e.g., environmental concerns, healthcare, human welfare, etc., but my sense is that people are fooled into the notion of work as being redemptive and uplifting. It isn't. Across the developed world, more work is associated with less human welfare outcomes and a tendency toward higher inequality. Although Americans might get a little smarter and realize that the US has a huge deficit in social welfare for our cultural tendency toward work, enforced and enshrined in laws and policies that benefit corporations, it is not likely to change significantly.

They are just business entities that don't deserve our commitment.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/upshot/employers-flexible-work-america.html#commentsContainer&permid=100489203

#3

Flexibility sounds good in principle, but for many, it will only mean time devoted to work and irregular scheduling. For myself, I enjoy being able to work remotely a couple of days a week and limited management flexibility on my hours, but for many Slack-like apps on their phones, remote dial-ins and links, and remote work itself will mean more work and more work off-hours. It can reduce stress in one form, e.g., the conflict between one's personal life demands while increasing it overall or off hours. Yes, if managed correctly, it does not have to encroach on one's life and can enhance it, but in many ways, it will only be a way to extract more work from people.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/upshot/employers-flexible-work-america.html#commentsContainer&permid=100490504:100490504

Sunday, April 07, 2019

James Igoe's Reviews > Infinite Resignation: On Pessimism

Infinite Resignation: On PessimismInfinite Resignation: On Pessimism by Eugene Thacker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although the first half of the book, devoted to ideas of philosophical pessimism was overly long - so many seemingly repeated ideas - it redeemed itself repeatedly with shots of brilliant laugh-out-loud dark humor. The second half, comprised of mini-biographies of great 'pessimist' philosophers, was straightforward providing background and insight, but again, accompanied with a sharp wit.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Vietnam’s Empty Forests

Actually, humans are the nuisance species, although worse than a mere nuisance. Humans have so encroached, in fact, destroyed, much of the world's habitat, that you oddly think of animals as nuisances when they encroach on your little patch of environmental destruction, e.g., your lawn.

Americans aren't doing much of anything to stop the harm to the planet, considering it elected the destructor in chief, continue to guzzle gas, and build even bigger houses...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/travel/vietnam-wildlife-species-ecotravel-tourism.html?comments#permid=31337971:31339191:31343387

Monday, February 25, 2019

Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain

#1

Some of us have a different form of affliction, the opposite of what you describe, I code. Unlike your problem, it is based on an intense focus. The upside is that it pays well, and I tend to think of it as rewarding. There was a time that my work role was more of a team lead or project manager but wrote code as part of my work. At some point, the pull of solving problems and developing solutions was so at odds with my need to reach out to others, I had to choose, code or lead. I chose to code.

I won't claim to only focus since there are times that once I finish a block of some work, or get involved with something like a forum post, that I make a quick run through my social pages and news feed. To your point though, I still read books but tend to do it in a Pomodoro-style rotation, spending 20 to 25 minutes on each item. No longer can I find the intensity to read into the late hours, engrossed.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/business/cell-phone-addiction.html?comments#permid=30770990

#2

Some of us were lucky, as it relates to this problem, to have acquired our tech skills before the arrival of the mobile phone. Boomer focus tends to be more on internet-as-information, not entertainment, nor socialization. I do not mean this an absolute, but it is enough to explain why some of us have no issues with mobile phones and distraction since many of us are simply older and not mobile tech-savvy. Besides, designers and marketers have likely gotten smarter in their techniques, and many, maybe most, younger people get hooked on the behaviorist manipulation, reward and punishment, notification and withdrawal, that come with the always-on aspects of modern apps.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/business/cell-phone-addiction.html?comments#permid=30771753

#3

@Zenster - I haven't gotten out of their way for several years, and sometimes the oblivious walk into me, and at a fairly fit 6'4" and 225 lbs, I'm either an unstoppable force or an immovable object, depending on your perspective. I stick to my side of the walk, and usually, nothing comes of this, a minor brush here or there, but a few weeks ago, someone walked into me, then after walking 10 feet, he turned and yelled to say that I should have gotten out of his way - he actually had veered across the walk into me. When I responded, he then told me I should watch where I was going - my eyes are usually halfway down the block ahead of myself. He then insulted me, and when I outraged insulted him, he said something alluding that I was being rude and that I probably beat my wife. He then walked away, and I then somewhat goofily yelled that my wife thinks I'm an angel. Feeling foolish, I told her about the incident, and rather than agreeing that the last line was a bit much, squeezed me so hard and insisted that I was an angel!

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/business/cell-phone-addiction.html?comments#permid=30773377:30775831





Sunday, February 24, 2019

Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain

Some of us have a different form of affliction, the opposite of what you describe, I code. Unlike your problem, it is based on an intense focus. The upside is that it pays well, and I tend to think of it as rewarding. There was a time that my work role was more of a team lead or project manager but wrote code as part of my work. At some point, the pull of solving problems and developing solutions was so at odds with my need to reach out to others, I had to choose, code or lead. I chose to code.

I won't claim to only focus since there are times that once I finish a block of some work, or get involved with something like a forum post, that I make a quick run through my social pages and news feed. To your point though, I still read books but tend to do it in a Pomodoro-style rotation, spending 20 to 25 minutes on each item. No longer can I find the intensity to read into the late hours, engrossed.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/business/cell-phone-addiction.html?comments#permid=30770990

Some of us were lucky, as it relates to this problem, to have acquired our tech skills before the arrival of the mobile phone. Boomer focus tends to be more on internet-as-information, not entertainment, nor socialization. I do not mean this an absolute, but it is enough to explain why some of us have no issues with mobile phones and distraction since many of us are simply older and not mobile tech-savvy. Besides, designers and marketers have likely gotten smarter in their techniques, and many, maybe most, younger people get hooked on the behaviorist manipulation, reward and punishment, notification and withdrawal, that come with the always-on aspects of modern apps.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/business/cell-phone-addiction.html?comments#permid=30771753

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I Quit Watching Football Because It Harms Players. Can I Still Keep Up With My Team?

I've never been a sports fan, and for the past 30-plus years, fitness-oriented, even getting certified as a personal trainer at one point. On the other hand, I grew up playing, informally as a boy, many sports, and I can still enjoy watching almost anything, even the barbaric. That said, being a fan is not particularly healthy, but if you insist on being a follower and watcher, one could choose something not harmful to its participants, or even better, something that is life-enhancing for the payers, and maybe for yourself, if you decided to be a participant.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/magazine/i-quit-watching-football-because-it-harms-players-can-i-still-keep-up-with-my-team.html#commentsContainer&permid=30377551

A Hillbilly and a Survivalist Show the Way Out of Trump Country

#1

I've read Educated by Westover, so one immediately realizes that, of course, institutions saved her, although the people she left behind would strongly disagree. Westover's isolated Mormon parents hated all manner of organization, even the Mormon church itself, not just the government and medicine, and Tara had to leave that backward culture, to embrace education and academia, to finally grow. Nothing has changed. We still see the people of that world as backward, and the only way forward as leaving it behind.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/opinion/vance-westover-trump.html?comments#permid=30426296

#2

@Terry McKenna - I can empathize, since I have a similar story, my father died when I was 12, my sister 10, back in 1972, left with a stay-at-home mother with little real-world skill. We received Social Security and VA benefits until we were 21 or so, eventually curtailed by Reagan, but they kept the family middle class - my mother still worked 50+ hours per week, first as a clerk and then later as a manager of a local store - both my sister and I graduating from college and attending grad school. Both of us have six-figure incomes, are property owners, and presumably pay fairly high taxes.

Without that support, who knows where we would be now? When I hear about someone giving back, I can only think of the government, along with a few supportive elders. Rather than the state being a creator of dependency, it freed us to develop into educated, employed individuals. But maybe that's the problem. Republicans, with their love of authority and fear of change, need the poor to be poor, to justify their moralism...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/opinion/vance-westover-trump.html?comments#permid=30425978:30427158

#3

@Mary Brooke Baria - Have you heard of the success that cities have been having with giving the homeless homes? Part of the problem of being down is that the requirement that they climb out before they can move on likely makes the holes they are in bigger, as they struggle with the hole. Once they can get a hand out of the hole, with some assistance moving forward they very likely will be good to go, on their own.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/opinion/vance-westover-trump.html?comments#permid=30425978:30427158:30431542:30438411

The Joy of the Junk Drawer

Acquiring doesn't feel nearly as good as the thinking and planning that goes into deferred purchases. If all your purchasing is short-term, then you will need a continual refresh on your consumption, and even then, it will often be met with a feeling of loss, as people often overestimate how much pleasure they will derive from something. With items like vacations and purchases, the planning and thinking will give you most of the pleasure, without the downside of the quick rush. As for pleasure, enjoying the peace and serenity of space and clean can certainly be greater than the enjoyment of purchases. Also, with purchases, there are the downsides of clutter and regret, for bad purchases. I've never watch Ms. Kond's video, but it is not rocket science; keeping things clean does not take much: - Don't buy what you don't need, and in this case, love. - Generally, upgrade your items with better, rather than accumulating more items - Make regular purges, giving away or selling old items - Enjoy the space, the openness, the serenity, that comes from avoiding clutter and consumption

https://nyti.ms/2EhvIEq#permid=30444004

@L Wolf - I still buy books, but usually after I finish them, and for anything I do buy before, I am certain I will finish. I still love books. They have meaning for me, certainly extensions of my self, so after reading something, and I would not have chosen to read it if it was not important in some way, I purchase it and put in on the shelves. Also, there is a beauty to books, in that they give space nuance, at least for me.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/realestate/the-joy-of-the-junk-drawer.html?comments#permid=30444004:30540711:30552196

Marie Kondo Helped, but What About the Extra Stuff?


#1

Honestly, the most important aspect is not purchasing bad items in the first place, but eventually, even well thought out purchases need replacement. For decades, I've followed the rule that one person's junk is another's treasure, particularly considering our very unequal world in NYC, at one time using Freecycle to give away items, eventually finding it easier to use Craigslist. For the most part, it has worked out well but depends on the item, but almost always, there are takers.

If it is electronics, there are often way too many people, so I follow a triage system. First, the ad, always with a good description and picture, requires specifying they supply a reason they need this item. It is not to be lurid or cruel, but if I am giving away an old computer, I need to know that it is going to a good cause. Yes, I could be fooled, but I try to be discerning, children, poor, disabled, etc. If there is no reason, it gets ignored. If it is simply for selfish reasons - you'd be surprised - it gets ignored. Eventually, I whittle it down to a few, the final filter is how fast they can pick it up. For lesser items, there are almost always takers, but it might take a day or two before it gets a response but even then, as long as it finds a home other than the trash, I am happy.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/realestate/marie-kondo-decluttering.html?comments#permid=30667472

#2

I have long avoided bad purchases, selling or giving anything that has outlived its purchase. For giving away items, the ones I've used:

- Porch: Literally leaving decorative items and books - if you live in a borough of Manhattan - that slowly disappear...
- Craigslist: Since there are so many people that can use hand-me-downs, within reason
- Housing Works, for larger items like furniture, books, CD's, etc., if they fail to sell on eBay or Craigslist
- Homeless shelters: I had a number of high-quality suits, but never wore them anymore except for interviews and special occasions, so cleaned half and delivered to The New York City Rescue Mission
- Friends: After purchasing a vintage desk, needed to find a home for my old Bombay Company writing desk, and friends were happy to grab that. In another, friends selling their B'lynn townhome and moving upstate took our bed, a 30-year old sleigh, when we replaced it something a bit more luxurious.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/realestate/marie-kondo-decluttering.html?comments#permid=30667873

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

In Search of Non-Toxic Manhood


Research in gender at least as far back as the 80's, where I remember reading about it, would have shown that men who were more mixed in their gender role outlook, having an even mix of feminine and masculine qualities were happier, more likely to be satisfied socially and sexually, and more attractive to women as compared to traditional men. Although the concept has gotten bad press, as when the press described Michael Jackson's non-sexual persona as androgynous, thereby smearing men with balanced sex roles, it is still a better option for men and for women. Little has changed since then, except that traditional male orientation has been found to be in many ways harmful.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/opinion/sunday/toxic-masculinity.html?comments#permid=30249130

Granted, we have a moderately traditional culture so many of the expectation will not go away any time soon, if ever, but the bad impulses can be tamed. We need to create a better variant, something that rejects traditional masculinity but is smart and educated, athletic and fit but not obsessed with strength, attractive to women, having a broad range of interests, etc. One can satisfy the demands of masculinity without engaging in what people typically think of as traditional masculine endeavors, nor does one have to suffer under the typical understanding of stoicism.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/opinion/sunday/toxic-masculinity.html?comments#permid=30249382

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Is Aerobic Exercise the Key to Successful Aging?

#1

Like many of the commenters here, I have been working out, primarily aerobically, for over 30 years, so feel get a certain amount of 'feel good' emotions from reading this, but almost immediately wanted to say, yes, but strength training helps with the quality of life and maintaining function.

Sincerely, I have a strong bias against the world of strength training, being so gender-lopsided, too much inhabited by traditional men, but my aerobic work, when I am not including strength training into my routine, includes activities that require power and strength, the cross country ski machine and the rowing machine, respectively.

In the end, we likely get some benefits more from aerobic activity, and some aspects better from strength training, but in the end, both matter if one wants to maintain long-term well-being.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/well/move/is-aerobic-exercise-the-key-to-successful-aging.html?comments#permid=29715193

#2

Why do so many people have problems with reports on new studies? Why do they take each one in isolation, and not form a complete picture? This article is not claiming to be an exhaustive review of all the available literature but is simply reporting on one study with some ancillary interviews. As a NY Times reader, you are likely well-informed and have read many, many articles touting the fitness benefits of one thing or another. What anyone needs to do is just fit it within all the prior reading, and understand that studies might seem to contradict each other, but that is only normal, given publication biases and statistical distributions. No single study is conclusive or exhaustive, so one needs to understand the totality of information, not just the latest article.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/well/move/is-aerobic-exercise-the-key-to-successful-aging.html?comments#permid=29717231

#3

@samusic - They did this as a controlled study, checking levels beforehand, then randomly assigning the subjects into one of three groups. That said, the effects of aerobic and strength activity might be different in older or younger populations, or those that are already fit.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/well/move/is-aerobic-exercise-the-key-to-successful-aging.html?comments#permid=29719529:29719644

Tech is killing liberal arts

Article: https://www.treehugger.com/economics/tech-replacing-liberal-arts.html

#1

The death of the humanities and the social sciences in our current social environment is partially overblown but also disheartening. The idea that education is for making money in a career is a decrepit, poor attitude. Greater to have the ability to learn what one loves, what one enjoys, and what will help the world.

I have had different majors and interests, covering computers, social sciences, finance, and medicine, and have worked in technology for over 25 years. That said, although I enjoy my work and sometimes code on my own time, it is much more rewarding to visit museums and the arts, take long walks and workout, and spend time with friends.

My feeling is, and I think this is supported by the US's level of conservatism and inequality, that the focus on earnings is a result of Republican politics driving people down to the lowest common denominator. Yes, technology can help the world but generally it doesn't, and even more so, the fields derided and ignored are the ones bringing real value in human welfare, and if nothing else, personally enriching.

#2

Exactly. Smart people are often liberal. Conservative thinking tends to be practical and concrete - what they experience - and not the kind of abstract thinking lending itself to academia, although some fields tend to more abstract and liberal, while some domains are more concrete. The physical sciences would be one example, but many of the other disciplines tend toward the conceptual.


Am I ‘Old’?

#1

On the flip side, I was recently hired by a major medical center, and as part of orientation, I sat with a group of 10 or so 20-somethings. I am 58. Without leadership, when others can't decide, I usually step in, comfortable with the risk of failure, and in this case, it worked out well. By the end of the two days, I was thanked for being their leader through the various activities, but I commented, and I think they understood, I am more of a democratic leader, accepting input while directing our efforts. I was also thanked for my kindness, which seemed odd, but they explained that many older people deride them. I was quite surprised but realized later I had decided in my youth not to be one of 'those', cranky older sticks-in-the-mud, those that see the difference in youth as a flaw. I hope never to mistake those changes as bad, only recognizing that it is simply a different time, the same as when I was their age.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/well/mind/age-aging-old-young-psychology.html?comments#permid=29729779

#2

One hates the cliche of "You're as old as you feel!", but I certainly don't feel old, the benefit of lifelong fitness and a penchant for learning. Then again, one can't help be aware of the slow arc of age, both good and bad. On the downside, my top-of-the-curve fitness is merely average for a 25-year old. My intellect is still bright, although I rarely have a chance to test my wits, since the youngest person in our social circle is 40, and I only occasionally work with recent college graduates. Recently, many post-college locals have taken to using the pronoun sir when talking to me. On the upside, I am happy, comfortable in life, secure with a partner that loves me. I work as a software developer, fairly current in modern technologies and programming languages, but that sometimes matters little, as when a manager interviewing me says "I didn't expect someone so senior!". By some analyses, my online social profiles resemble someone in their early 30's.

In the end, one has to deal with not just with the changes of age, but often the stereotyping by others. Then again, it can certainly be an interesting point of observation, the relationship between one's abilities and the treatment by others.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/well/mind/age-aging-old-young-psychology.html?comments#permid=29730167

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/well/mind/age-aging-old-young-psychology.html?comments#permid=29729840


#3

I was reminded of a recent incident where I directed someone not to push the elevator buttons - our condo elevator has both the curse and benefit of closing immediately when a button is pressed - because old people need time to get in. Later, I realized that I am old to those people I admonished. I am 58, and as the article mentions, old is relative.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/well/mind/age-aging-old-young-psychology.html?comments#permid=29729975



How to Foster Empathy in Children - Responses

#1

I've always scored highly on tests of empathy, and think of myself as a compassionate person, but I am also very rational. I have a tendency to distrust most appeals for money, knowing that many charities are not of the highest quality and that play on people's emotions with maudlin appeals. For my spouse and I, our interests in giving are tempered as suggested. We've chosen a handful of charities to which we give regularly, and then a smaller number to which we give annually, or as needed. The last being those that deal with catastrophes and crises. My criteria for charities is, one, that they deal with issues we deem important, and two, that they are highly-rated by Charity Navigator. The latter helps filter out charities that over-advertise, spend too much on administration, or are not transparent and auditable.

That said, we are not significant donors. My spouse works as a researcher of high net worth individuals, those likely to give in the millions, not in the thousands. In the past few years, our charitable giving is both driven and constrained by recent politics. We are comfortable enough, and the election of a grifter, an artless, heartless miscreant, has allowed us to increase our giving but it also makes us concerned for our own welfare, tempering our charity.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/well/live/how-to-foster-empathy-in-children.html?comments#permid=29688056

#2

Considering what builds empathy, I have to wonder from where mine came. My mother was upbeat and cheerful - she later turned abusive, overwhelmed with my father's death and the demands of work - and my father was smart and moral, but neither were charitable. On the other hand, my sister has always been drawn to helping professions, and although I work in technology, I have high levels ideational empathy, where one imagines and thinks about the positions of others and what might drive them. I do remember informal messages from school and from media, the adages of 'do unto others' or to 'put yourself in their shoes' seem particularly relevant. Also, the sense that quick judgment was ignorant and stupid, the habit of the mob, is very strong for me, but again, other than media or educational messages, there are no influences on me to avoid assumptions.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/well/live/how-to-foster-empathy-in-children.html?comments#permid=29688264

#3

@fact or friction - It is not so simple. Conservatives actually give more to charity, but liberals want the government to take care of people. To us, it might seem like Republicans are cruel and heartless, but they are just unconcerned with what we see as concern for people. They are likely empathetic to people in their world, other whites, Christians, the military, etc., those that are not so important in our spheres of concern.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/well/live/how-to-foster-empathy-in-children.html?comments#commentsContainer&permid=29688129%3A29688351

#4

Goleman, of Emotional Intelligence fame, described three (3) types of empathy, cognitive, emotional, and empathic, and we differ on the degree and types we exhibit and experience. Oddly, a few of these comments have elements that show a relative lack of empathy of one form or another. Ironic, in comments on an article on teaching empathy, is the rush to judgment and a lack of awareness of others motives.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/well/live/how-to-foster-empathy-in-children.html?comments#permid=29689878

#5

@Duane Coyle -

First, what is the lack of empathy? Just off the top of my head, I think of psychopaths, mass murderers, and cruelty. True, the exceptions are not the rule and granted there is likely great variation in actual behavior within the 'normal' aspect of the curve.

Second, empathy can be broad, covering a range of patterns, cognitive, emotional, and empathic so one could quibble about which ones are good, as well as how much is beneficial, and if at any point it becomes problematic. That said, a person unable to understand other's emotions, unable to feel other's pain, and unconcerned about the welfare of others, is essentially someone with a profound emotional disability.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/well/live/how-to-foster-empathy-in-children.html?comments#permid=29691084:29691273

The Genius of Insomnia

This article deals with a very narrow kind of insomnia, but insomnia has different causes, only one of which is likely related to creativity:

  • A mixture of habit and need for sleep
  • Excessive work and demands
  • Life stresses
  • Mental health issues
  • Inclination, i.e., night owls

Like many of us, I've had a variety of sleep styles over the years. In high school, I went to bed late, was chronically late to school, and would sleep into the afternoon on weekends. In my late twenties, driven to complete college while working a job that required hours from 4 AM, I often only slept 3 hours a night, but having to wake up that early eventually stuck my body clock to an early riser. B-school made the same kinds of demand, although now I was an early riser who often stayed up until 3 AM to finish projects. By then, I learned to just go with my needs, to go to bed when I felt like it, and to not force myself to do something I was incapable of, and rather than struggle to simply work until the desire for sleep overtook me. Eventually, married, with a spouse, I had years of solid, uninterrupted sleep, asleep almost as fast as hitting the pillow, sleeping my 'black death' of memoryless deep sleep. At some point, under great pressure at an employer, I develop sleep problems, shortened and shallow sleep. It was only when I left and found a better employer have my sleep patterns gone back to a moderately healthy form, still almost immediately asleep, but usually a decent 6.5 hours, although not my ideal 7.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/opinion/sunday/insomnia-sleep.html?comments#permid=30020237

Useless Knowledge Begets New Horizons

Aspects of education tie to political outlook and sentiment as well. I read of a recent study that showed students choosing a vocational program, as opposed to an academic, became relatively more conscientiousness. It has long been known that education correlates with openness, and considering that openness is one of the better personality predictors for liberalness. As well, the converse predicts conservatism, as does conscientiousness predict a conservative lean. One can see that the concrete agenda pushed by conservatives can tilt the playing field of the populace. Yes, there is a little bit of o correlation-causation circularity, but one can examine the value of curiosity, of openness, and see that much can be gained from exploring the unknown, and even the frivolous. Learning the practical is not likely to yield greater human growth, but more likely to lead us down the road to a kind of intellectual and economic serfdom, where knowledge only matters if it makes money. There are values to social science, literature, history, and art to improve both our lives and work, to provide us perceptions outside of our norm, and as the world gets more technical, it seems ever more to need an expansive view, rather than a purely technical or concrete one.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/03/opinion/new-horizons-ultima-thule-mission.html?comments#permid=29978704

Virginia Woolf? Snob! Richard Wright? Sexist! Dostoyevsky? Anti-Semite!

I was describing the gist of this article to my spouse, reading out to her a specific passage, then tried to summarize by saying "Would you still read writers that are no longer politically correct?". In truth, some of these authors' ideas a far from what we mean by, or is used as in insult as, politically correct. But then I realized the aptness of the term politically correct, regarding the appropriateness of modern belief.

That said, in many ways, we hardly realize the people behind the words. I certainly did not realize the vapidness of Ayn Rand when I was reading her novels as a teen. I thoroughly enjoyed V.S. Naipuls Literary Occasions. unaware of him as a person. A more recent irritating author is David Foster Wallace, his Infinite Jest wonderfully written, line after unending line. I will finish it, but I have put it down once before when I found out more about him.

Then again, how many of us would turn our noses up at people if we knew of their pasts or their beliefs, particularly of men, so many such flawed human beings toward others?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/books/review/edith-wharton-house-of-mirth-anti-semitism.html?comments#permid=30082933

The Death of the Sick Day - Responses


#1

The ability to work remotely has both enhanced and deprived us of our personal time. In many ways, the pleasure of working from home can be wonderful, as does the ability to leave early to attend to children and then finishing up afterward remotely. Even working from home while sick can be nice if one's concern is to avoid making others sick or to hasten recovery for other types of illnesses. That said, there does come a time when one really needs to turn off work completely if one needs to recover. I've had a few of those instances, where I grew progressively worse unless I just went to sleep and took a few days.

Even then, there are many people that feel obligated to keep working, tied to their cell phones and some sense of duty. In the worst case, I am reminded of a person at a financial institution, and that person's father, a board member, had passed away. They were still taking calls during his wake, and this as not someone callous and uncaring. It was obvious the father's death greatly troubled them. I thought some people might see that as devotion, but it seemed horrible that they felt obligated to work as their father lay dead.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/style/the-death-of-the-sick-day.html?comments#permid=30086152

#2

@Randall - It's amazing that you have little concern for all the people you could affect, from your coworkers to their families. There are people that have significant illnesses that could be harmed by you. You should read through the comments to see all the concern people have about harming others. That said, it is sad that you are in a situation, or at least it sounds like a situation, where you cannot take a sick day for fear of losing pay.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/style/the-death-of-the-sick-day.html?comments#permid=30085609:30087077

#3

@tiddl - Typically, the flu and colds are passed hand-to-mouth, so someone who is sick only has to touch things that other people touch and those people touching their mouths to their food, to get sick. Honestly, it only takes one sick food employee to infect many, many people.

When sick, I tend to be obsessive about washing my hands, and not touching shared items like food and handles, to avoid infecting others.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/style/the-death-of-the-sick-day.html?comments#permid=30085609:30085942:30087679:30088023

#4

@Chris - Yes, follow my same, slightly obsessive procedures, but do shake hands, and yes, absolutely right about it being kids. Once someone in the family gets sick, then everybody gets sick, including parents. In fact, it was always the parents with young children getting sick. At my previous employer, on some team meetings, it was always a bit of a laugh...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/style/the-death-of-the-sick-day.html?comments#permid=30085609:30085942:30087679:30088023:30090427:30091096



A Journey — if You Dare — Into the Minds of Silicon Valley Programmers

My responses in a NY Times comment section for the book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson ...