Sunday, April 3, 2016

Batman vs. Marvel

Batman vs Superman was a disappointment.  The best part of the movie was the trailer for Captain America: Civil War.  The movie was dull, retelling again the Batman origin story. It took forever to get anywhere.  The character motivations were unclear.  Why was Batman so angry, and Superman such a sad sack?  Even worse than that, was the fact that the entire movie took place in the dark and the action scenes were so close-up that you couldn’t even follow it.  I’m not even sure what the bat mobile looked like.

By contrast, I just rewatched Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  That movie was cool, fun, humorous, and took place in daylight.  The audience could actually see the action.  There’s definitely a huge difference in tone between the Marvel movies, that took seemingly dull characters like Cap and Thor and made good movies, and the joyless Dawn of Justice.  If they can’t make Batman and Superman interesting, I’m not sure there’s much hope for Aquaman.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What do Ragnar, King Alfred, and Sam Harris have in common

One point Sam Harris has made many times is to discredit the notion that religious adherents don’t really believe what they say they believe.  I’m definitely guilty of that misconception, I’ve always felt that nobody actually believes their religious doctrines, not really.  There may be elements and features of the belief system that are believed, and they might enjoy wishing some of it were real. But in their heart of hearts, everyone doubts.

Sam has repeatedly hammered home that that is simply wrong.  There are true believers and they can be dangerous.  A true belief in paradise is what allows for suicide bombers.

While watching Vikings and the Last Kingdom, I have noticed how much the clash of civilizations in those shows is about the clash of religions.  The characters are constantly tormented trying to discern the desire of their particular gods and how to conduct themselves so as not to upset them, or win their favor.  Each character interprets experiences in the context of their own religion, and their beliefs direct their actions.  I do realize that these are just TV shows, and the intent of the writers may or may not be to comment on the nature of religious belief.  Nevertheless, for me it did illustrate another example of peoples who actually believe, and how agonizing and all encompassing their belief systems can be.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Race to nowhere

I finally watched Race to nowhere now that its available on Netflix. I had been interested in it since it came out but for some reason it was hard to locate.  I’m always interested in criticisms of the American education system which I think puts the wrong emphasis on obedience and busy work. So I was sympathetic to the documentaries main thrust, homework is excessive and of limited educational value.  However, the movie was essentially anecdotal.  It tells the stories of few families, and blames school work on suicide and mental breakdowns of children. It also seems mostly localized to fairly uniform California communities. 

There was one reference to scientific evidence that suggests that after approximately an hour homework efficacy drops.  Other than that, there was virtually no scientific or statistical evidence to support their claims.  No evidence correlating homework and overscheduling and suicide or mental health issues.  No scientific studies comparing different educational approaches and their comparative results.

So yes, anecdotally, it seems like overscheduling children and burdening them with excessive homework is bad, especially for the kids in the movie.  And standardized testing and no child left behind seem to have played a role in a shift towards worse educational practices.  But if you’re looking for hard facts, or to be convinced, this ain’t gonna do it.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Texting is futuristic

Watching Aliens the other day reminded me of how futuristic video conferencing was at one point in science fiction.  It seemed reasonable that when the technology became available it would be the predominant means of communication.  Yet texting (and messaging, and tweeting) seem way more popular.

It says something about human nature that we prefer terse, disconnected, asynchronous communication over rich real-time interaction.  Maybe its one way that we’re holding on to our eroding privacy.  We’re only revealing the bare minimum information required in order to communicate.  When I send a text you don’t know where I am, how I’m dressed, who I’m with, my facial expression, my tone of voice, anything really.  Its also one way. I just get to say my part, without reaction or interruption.

But I guess the exchange of brief cryptic textual utterances lacked enough cinematographic impact to find their way into the imagination sci-fi movie makers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The fight against complexity

Short TED talk, which identifies the root cause of lost productivity and employee disengagement, corporate complicatedness.

yves morieux as work gets more complex 6 rules to simplify

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ragnar Lodbrok has to be Jax Teller’s brother

I recently watched the first three seasons of Vikings.  It was referred to me by a friend who also watched and loved Sons of Anarchy.  I have to give him credit in that he sold it to me based on the similiarity between Jax and Ragnar.  There is definitely something very similiar about the two shows and main characters.  Vikings is sort of like medieval SOA, though less silly than SOA. 

I’ve also watched part of The Last Kingdom, which is kind of the flipside of Vikings in roughly the same time period.  The Last Kingdom isn’t bad, but the characters are more compelling and story lines more interesting in Vikings.  I’m not a fan of shows where there are no likeable characters, and The Last Kingdom is shaping to be like Breaking Bad in that way. Nobody to root for.

I’ve also recently watched Marco Polo, another historically based show. 

The three of them are periods and cultures I knew little about going in, so they are at least as interesting because of the historical context as they are in entertainment value. Rome and Deadwood are similiar shows that I loved.  While Hell on Wheels, I struggle to get through.

Is it better for learn your history from TV shows or not at all? It has at least inspired me to poke around wikipedia a bit to find out more.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Strengths over weakness

When I saw Strengths based Parenting recently published, it reminded me of a post I had written but never published back in 2013.  So here it is:

There’s a lot of literature, career advice, self help and other sources that suggest in order to improve you need to identify weaknesses and work on them.  In fact, in most corporate environments there’s a whole review processes geared toward identifying weakness and developing plans for overcoming them.  I’ve always had mixed feelings about this emphasis on overcoming deficiencies.  If you are trying to achieve a certain goal and lack the skill to get there, then addressing those shortcomings makes sense.   But if your weakness is in an area you aren’t interested in and not in the path toward a goal you do care about, then it doesn’t make much sense to invest the time to improve.  And frankly you probably won’t be that motivated to improve anyway.

A while back I did some reading by Gallup, specifically the Strengths Finder, and took their assessment test as well.  The thing that resonated most with my about their approach to focusing on developing strengths rather than compensating for weaknesses can be summed up in this passage.

Over the past decade, Gallup has surveyed more than 10 million people worldwide on the topic of employee engagement (or how positive and productive people are at work), and only one-third “strongly agree” with the statement:

“At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day”

At a gut level, it definitely feels like doing what I do best everyday would be a lot more satisfying than doing what I’m not good at and trying to get better at it so that I can fill a need.  The strengths based approach jibes better with my own inclinations and world view, although I can see within it the seeds of complacency and limitations (but maybe I’ve been brainwashed to think that way).  The concept of only focusing on weakeness to the point where they are no longer interfering with the pursuit of strengths helps reconcile the two, but there is still something within it that leaves me uneasy.  There’s also definitely plenty of things that people are good at that they simply don’t want to pursue.  Just because you’re good at something doesn’t obligate you to have to do it everyday.

Nevertheless, I’m definitely curious about what a stengths based environment would be like, if such a place exists, and incorporating it more into my own approach.