Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Default Setting for Anything is Fail.


50% of all businesses fail in the first year, 95% fail within the first five.  Genetic mutations more than often end in debilitation or death.  Scientists spend years failing before they can make a drug to cure a disease.  How any models were built before the Model T?  How many rockets blew up before someone made it go where they wanted it to?

The default setting for anything is failure.  It takes a significant amount of energy to get that setting to success.

Take the simple light bulb.  Its default setting is off, not producing light.  It takes energy to produce that light.  But think about it deeper.  How many different iterations did someone go through before they got a working light?  How many different types of filaments, gases, and coverings did that person have to go through before succeeding?  How much energy was put into that simple creation?

The electricity is the same way.  How many different ways did people go threw to produce it?  How many different storage and transportation methods were tested and rejected?  Look at the debate over AC vs. DC power to the home.  DC technically succeeded; there were towns powered by DC, but despite the advantages that DC brought, it failed to take hold.  Alternating current succeeded where direct current failed.

Most TV shows fail before they even get a pilot.  Most movies are rejected in the script stage.  Most books don't even get to the publisher.  It takes serious effort to make something that will survive to even be shown let alone succeed.

A continuation of this thought says that even things with the correct amount of energy/effort will fail unless the energy is put in the exact right place.

The TV show Firefly had all the effort required put into it to make it an amazing show.  The problem came when it was aired.  The effort was put into getting Fox to make it.  If the effort was put in to another channel, the show may still be airing.

The war on piracy has had enough effort put into it to end world hunger.  Why has it continuously failed?  The effort is being put into the wrong place.  If the effort was put into working around piracy, or even working with piracy, it would have succeeded by now.

Effort also requires the right time.

Fox may have been a perfect place for Firefly a few years before or a few years from now, but it wasn't then.

If the original Star Trek was created today, it would have failed miserably.  It's time was exactly when it was released.  And I'd qualify Star Trek as a success even though it only survived three seasons.

As much as I like Start Trek Enterprise, I think it's a failure.  It was a show after it's time.  If it was aired after the original series but before The Next Generation, it might have succeeded.  It was a good combination between TOS's "monster of the week" and "alien of the week" style and DS9's and Voyager's storytelling and character development.  It was a transitional series that aired after the transition was already made.

So what's the point of all this outside of a defense for Star Trek Enterprise?  Not much.  This is something everyone knew already.  "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."  "Right place at the right time."  I just don't think anyone has connected them this way before.

If you take anything from this I hope it's "when doing anything, hope to succeed but prepare to fail."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Read the Manual (RTFM)

There is a stereotype around that men will not read the manual.  We see it on TV all the time.  A guy gets something from IKEA, he looks at the manual, and chucks it.  It's a TV stand, how hard could it be?  The next scene is inevitably the guy sitting his TV on the now built stand and everything collapsing.

I may get yelled at for this story, but here it goes.  My step dad got a new TV, a large LCD 1080p TV.  He has permanent gray bars on the sides making everything look like it's 4x9 instead of the 16x9 it should be.  I went down there a while ago and casually said "you've just got to check the manual and you can take care of that problem."  Several weeks latter I went back down and the bars were still there.  From what my mother tells me, not reading the manual is a common thing for him.

This kind of thinking can be seen elsewhere.  How many of you know someone who refuses to ask for directions?  This comes from an innate fear of showing weakness.  If you have to ask for help by asking directions or reading the manual then you show that you lack in some way.  This probably comes from way back in the day when man was fighting the tigers for dinner.  If you hesitated or showed weakness, you were probably dead.

In the modern times, this way of thinking needs to end.  Yes, asking for help will show that you are lacking somewhere, but if you ask for help it shows that you are also willing to improve yourself.  If you ask for and get directions, suddenly you're not lacking in that area any more.  If you read the manual, you now know more then you did before.  And that is where the human strength lies; not in our muscles, but our minds.  Anything we can do to improve our minds increases our strength.

There are advantages to reading manuals.  Even if you know exactly how to use the new item you just picked up, reading the manual can teach you the little things you may not have learned just by poking at it.  Look at something like Adobe Premature, an insanely complex program, but you could learn it just by poking at it.  However, if you read the manual you learn the little things that can't be found just by poking, and you're better for it.

There are also disadvantages to reading manuals.  Sometimes they're wrong.  I got a riding mower a little while ago.  The first thing I did, even before I got it home, was read the manual.  There wasn't anything in there I wouldn't have learned just by poking at it, but in the long run it was much faster.  The problem came when I tried to turn the engine over for the first time.  The manual said to make sure the throttle was set to turtle, the accessory transmission was disengaged, and turn the key.  I did that and nothing happened.  Turns out the throttle needed to be in the exact opposite position, up past the rabbit where the choke is.  It wasn't labeled, but I would have figured it out fairly quickly if I hadn't read the manual.  Luckily the nice lady from down the street, who knows more about that kind of thing then I do, happened to drive down the street at that moment and pointed out what I did wrong.

So don't be afraid to ask for help, don't be afraid to read the manual.  It'll make you a better person and possibly save your TV.

As with most everything I write, this should not be taken as proof of anything.  I just go with what I see and think up things from there.  I have no scientific evidence or background.  The reason why may not be 100% accurate, but the advice is still useful.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Get to the Source of the Problem.

I may have written some things in the past that should have been obvious to most people, and this one is going to be the biggest "No s**t Sherlock" post I hope to ever write.  But from what I see day in and day out, it needs to be written.  I ask that you go out of your way to let others know, not to get more views, but to get more people reading this (not so) common sense.

Let's say you have a car.  It's an older car, but you love it.  One day the battery dies.  You jump it and let the engine run for an hour like you should to recharge the battery, but the second you turn off the car, the battery can't turn the engine over again.  OK, so you go out to the store and buy a new one.  The car runs great again, for two days.  Suddenly the battery won't hold a charge again.  Well, maybe it was a dud battery, so you go out and buy another one.  The car runs great again, for two more days.  Now you have a choice, keep buying new batteries every two days, or get to the source of the problem.

Now, most normal people would look deeper into the problem after the second battery died, but there seems to be a small subset of people who would just keep buying batteries over and over again.

For example, New York just passed a law to ban larger sodas in restaurants.  The idea is that people will get smaller drinks, drink less and not get as fat.  Thus NY won't have the child obesity problem any more.

Now, I'm only going to say one thing on this obesity problem.  Next time you go out shopping, count the number of skinny people and then the number of obese people.  Not the people who could stand to lose 5lbs, or the people who you think might be fat, but the actual obese people.  While you're doing that, count the rest.  I did that once and came up with over 100 normal people and 5 obese.  Now, I know this is anecdotal evidence.  I don't have enough information to do things scientifically, so that is all I'm going to say on the matter.  Who knows, maybe I live in the one and only city of 2 million+ people who doesn't have an obesity problem.

Now, let's throw a few simple facts out there.  1) soda doesn't provide enough of anything to get someone fat on it's own.  2) caffeine is an appetite suppressant.  I know that if I drink a 20oz bottle of Mt Dew I won't be hungry for a while.  Even when I am hungry, I eat considerably less then I would without the drink.  I was confused about that so I asked a nurse, that's where I learned that caffeine will suppress your appetite.

So, assuming we do have an obesity problem, if soda isn't the problem, what is?  Well, if we look at something called the Twinkie diet we can see that it's not what you eat, but how much.  For those who don't want to click the link I'll sum it up.  A scientist was trying to lose weight and was failing with the traditional ways (weight watchers and the like).  He thought that it was due to the fact that he was eating more on the diets then before.  So he tried an experiment.  He focused not on what he was eating, but how much.  He lost 27lbs and went from overweight to normal.

So if it's not what we eat then the problem is how much.  How did that come to be?  One theory is the "Clean your plate" lesson you were taught as a child.  We learned from a young age that we must eat all the food that's put in front of us.  Another theory is that we simply allow ourselves and our children to eat that much.

So, I would like to introduce my new diet plan, it's called the Willpower Plan.  Just don't eat as much.  All it takes is willpower, something the human race has shown time and time again it has in abundance.  We have shown that threw shear force of will we can do some amazing and horrifying things.  You have the power within you, just do it.

Hay, there we go, we just solved two problems at once.  No more obesity problem and no more stupid laws that just waist tax payer money on non-solutions.

Note: While exercising and eating less will let you lose weight and become more healthy (Take a proper vitamin supplement so you don't have other problems), it cannot change your body type.  Odds are you will not be able to look like Schwarzenegger in his prime, but you will look and feel better.

On a (possibly paranoid) tangent: This law is a problem.  It doesn't do anything, it just costs money.  Is the law the source of the problem?  Is the goal to stop obesity the source of the problem?  Well, I would guess no.  Passing this law won't do anything and even the people who support this law know that.  The supporters of this law point out that you can just go to a grocery store and buy a two liter.  Well there's where the law fails.  It's not going to stop anything because there are too many other legal options.

So why does this law even exist if everyone knows it won't work?  It's a steppingstone law.  The next law will ban a little more, then a little more after that, and so on and so forth.  So is the source of the problem that is this law just incompetence, willful ignorance, or something much worse?

No matter what the source of the problem is, micro managing our lives will cause much bigger problems for everybody.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Opposite of Love is not Hate.

Many people believe that the opposite of love is hate, and it makes sense.  Love is basically wanting to be with someone forever, hoping they have a long and happy life (OK, it's a hell of a lot more complex then that, but I'm trying to keep it simple).  What could possibly be more opposite to that then wanting to see someone burn in a fire?  While it seems logical that hate is on the opposite side of the emotional scale then love, the logic wasn't taken far enough.

The exact opposite of love is indifference; not an emotion, but the lack of one.  Think about it, if you love someone and then they screw you over to the point you hate them, you're still thinking about them.  You're still taking up some of your time with them.  To be indifferent, you have to completely let them go, to just not have them in your life.  What could possibly be more opposite to love then that?

In situations where there is no chance for the love to come back, skipping hate and going to indifference has some noticeable advantages.  For example, you're moving on with your life, you have a chance for something better.  You're taking the moral high ground.  If they're incapable of going to indifference, you get the added bonus of pissing them off that much more.

This isn't just for your love life, it can be used for much more.  For example (and the point of this post) if you don't like a company's actions (say they tried to force the government to pass SOPA), don't download their stuff, just don't deal with them.  Yes, I am advocating the complete destruction of digital piracy.  Don't download, don't buy, don't even talk about their stuff.  If it comes up in conversation, let people know exactly why you don't deal with them and then move on to the next topic.  (You can, and should oppose bills like SOPA, ACTA, TPP, and the like.  You're not indifferent to your representatives.)

We can get all three of the benefits of indifference in this situation.  Our time is no longer taken up by that thing, you now have the opportunity to find better things.  You get the moral high ground, you're not a "filthy, rotten, dirty, pirate freeloader" (and in this situation they're the assholes trying to remove your rights).  You also get to piss them off to no end.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing worse for a company then obscurity.

There's a reason why boycotts work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Accepting Reality - All of it.

A little while ago I posted about accepting reality.  For the most part, I stand beside that post.  We need to accept reality when it hits us in the face.  But, there's another part to it.  We can't just accept one peace of reality  we have to accept it all.

One of my commenters, Rose M. Welch, pointed out that she didn't want to be judged by how well she can walk in high heels.  Realistically speaking, walking in high heels means nothing.  Judging someone by something like that is pointless and ignores much of reality behind those heels.  I know little about Rose, just what I read in her posts, but she seems fairly intelligent.  Paying attention to just the heels ignores that fact.

The opposite can also be true.  Say someone (no longer talking about Rose here) is walking down the road and they're doing a damn good job of it in heels.  What if that person is a gold digger?  Oh, she'll hit on you, she'll say she loves you, but all she's just waiting around for you to die to get your money (possibly expediting the process).  I'm sure that's a reality most people would want to know about.

This is why judging someone on looks is pointless and often counterproductive.  Yes, they may have a different skin color, different hair color, different cloths, but what does that all mean?  Realistically speaking, not much, at least not much useful.

There are times when you can't get all of reality.  In those situations, you have to accept the reality that you don't know.  Say you're out driving and someone in front of you is driving really slowly.  We have two peaces of reality here; 1) they're in front of you and 2) they're slow.  But, we don't have the important peace of reality, we don't have the answer to the question Why.  Are they driving slowly because they're new to driving (probably a good thing to ease one's self into driving)?  Are they driving slowly due to an inability to drive properly (probably shouldn't be on the road)?  Are they driving slowly because they're trying to get a passenger to the hospital without shaking them to peaces?  You don't know, so you probably shouldn't judge.

Granted, in that last example, if they're a hazard on the road (you don't go 25 in a 65mph zone, that can cause more problems), then since you don't know you should probably not squeal tire around them, flip them off, and shout a string of obscenities that would make a sailor blush.

This concept is also why the system of law is suppose to be so slow.  It allows time for people to cool off and allow all of reality to come forth. "Do you solemnly state to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?"  There's a reason that middle part is there.  There is also a reason why one of our founding fathers said "I'd rather see 10 guilty men go free then one innocent man in jail."  They understood that we can't always see all of reality and that we should understand that and not punish someone for us not knowing.

So, next time you hear someone being arrested for some horrible crime, remember that you don't know all of the reality, nor does the court.  That is why there is a trial, an attempt to get all of the reality, all of the truth.  So don't judge them until they are convicted (even then, question it at least some).  You never know, they may have been framed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Mulit-World Theory

There is a theory in quantum physics that states for every possible outcome of a situation an alternate timeline is created with that outcome.  For example, say you're walking up to a banana peal.  In the fraction of a second you both step on the peal and step over the peal.  So, going into one situation, two realities exited.  Actually many more realities then two were created, but I'm just trying to keep it simple.

A common misconception of the Multi-World Theory is that an infinite number of realities comes out of any situation.  A common description is; you walk up to the banana peal and instead of stepping over the peal or slipping on it, you sprout a third arm.  This does not happen.  It is not physically possible for you to sprout a third arm so that reality is never split off.

So, following that logic, we can determine that there is a finite number of realities that can split from one situation.  Continuing that logic, if the Multi-World Theory is correct, there are a finite number of alternate realities.  While the number of realities would be astronomical, it would still be finite.

So that reality where you're a small, blue alien with antennae is probably not out there.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hype Can Kill

Everyone knows that when you release a new product, you want good first day sales.  You want to come out of the gate running and just keep going.  How do you do that?  Hype.  You see it all the time with movies and video games.  "Coming Soon" is common common place.

Too little hype and nothing happens, but what happens when you're on the other end of the scale?

Think of the game Duke Nukem Forever.   12 years this game was in development, 12 years people were talking about it.  We had pictures, game footage, trailers, Q&A from developers.  By the time the game was released, the Hype was outrageous.  The number one vaporware game was about to actually be released, holy crap.   But when it came out it met poor reviews and sales tanked.  No one liked the game.  How did this happen?

Well to tell that, we have to compare the game to it's predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D.  It was a vulgar with swearing, nudity, drug use, and violence.  People loved it, it's a classic.  DNF was just as good, if not better then DN3D.  It fit perfectly with the style.  DNF was exactly what you would expect if someone make a Duke game 12 years latter.  So how did it fail?

The hype.  There was so much hype that it was physically impossible to live up to it.  No human could make a game that lived up to that kind of hype.

Same thing happened to Halo 3.  The commercials were amazing.  They told a story of humanity struggling to survive.  There was so much emotion, so much loss that you could almost think the world was actually on the brink.  But then the game came out and it was just a shoot-em-up.  Compared to Halo 1 or Halo 2, it was a great game.  Compared to the hype, it sucked.

Now, on to the point: Doctor Who?

Ever since the new Doctor Who started to air, the true name of the doctor was displayed as some kind of dark and scary thing.  Something that could change entire worlds at just the mere utterance.  "The question will be asked at the fall of the eleventh."  "Silence must fall when the question is asked."  "Do you want to know what the question is?  Doctor Who?"

I could keep going.  The Doctor himself explained to Martha Jones that names have power.  The director said that they intentionally made the name this mysterious and dangerous thing from the beginning of the ninth doctor.

There is so much mystery, so much emotion, so much hype around the name and what will happen when the question is asked; is it even physically possible for Matt Smith's reign as the Doctor to end on a high note?

Long story short: beware how much hype is in the market.  Too much and it will crush you.