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Archive for September, 2014

The problem with smart people

Posted by Chance on September 15, 2014

In my experience with higher education, I’ve found that really smart people are sometimes terrible teachers.  There were some brilliant mathematicians that couldn’t effectively teach someone how to multiply two matrices.  At the same time, I worked as a math tutor with other undergraduates who were really good at math, but were not so far removed from math classes to forget how a struggling math student thinks.

There’s a similar issue in technology.  There are those who see computers and technology as means to an end, and those who see computers and technology as an end unto themselves.  The latter group include those who like to play around with computers and experiment with them and probably use Linux, and the former simply want to look up something on Pinterest or print a document, probably on Windows or on a Mac.  This divide has taken on a new dimension with smartphones.  Some people just want a phone that works (i.e. Apple).  Other people want to play around with their phone, experimenting with third party keyboards and various home screen replacements (the part of the phone from which you launch the different apps), so they use Android.

Neither group is wrong.  But I find that the “tech as an end to itself” has a hard time understanding the other group.  Those who use Linux don’t understand why the average computer user can’t figure out, or would not even want to, compile their own programs or why they need things to simply just work out of the box.  The Android user may not understand why a smartphone user may not care about changing fonts for their messaging program or be able to monitor their RAM usage.  I think that a problem that tech savvy people have, including myself, is understanding that other people think differently.

I’m sure there are things that the “tech as a means to an end” do as well that are bothersome, but I feel like I’m more familiar with the other group and can evaluate that group from the inside.  I feel that in the workplace and in life, there is an advantage to the tech-savvy understanding the other group.    When I was a tutor, I had to think about math from the perspective of another person.  Now, as a software engineer, I have to think about the software working in a way that makes sense for other people.

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Domestic violence is more than a political issue

Posted by Chance on September 15, 2014

There was a piece in Grantland discussing the media in response to the Ray Rice incident.

1. During the Donald Sterling fiasco, I argued that the sportswriting class had gone from holding a range of political opinions to fusing into a single, united liberal bloc. You can see that in the coverage of Goodell, too. Reading sports this week is like being on a Nation magazine cruise.

I take issue with the author categorizing this as a “liberal” issue.  Now, I don’t think the author generally thinks that conservatives are “okay” with domestic violence, and it’s not like I’m offended as someone who is typically culturally conservative, it’s just that I think the author thinks this issue falls in line with more black coaches in the NFL or more women with front office jobs (it’s not that those latter issues aren’t important, it’s just people disagree on the importance of diversity or even the ways to achieve those).

In a similar vein

and

Whether Jane McManus sees this as a “woman’s issue” or is making the point that most people see this as a “woman’s issue” I’m not sure.  But either way I disagree.  Calling something a “woman’s issue” has political/social connotations, of which there is often disagreement.  I think the domestic violence issue transcends that.  Yes, it affects women more than men (at least on the victim end), but people see men beating the crap out of women as more than a “woman’s issue”.  

Likewise, many people don’t see,in my mind, the domestic violence issue as some “social cause”.  This isn’t like the Michael Sam storyline (where most people don’t have an issue with a gay NFL player, just the constant coverage of it).  In one sense, he is right, people want to hear about football and not about Rice, but I think it’s in the sense of getting tired of all the bad news in the world.  

In short, I think the domestic violence issue is less politicized than people think it is.  People are painting it in the same vein as the Michael Sam issue or any other intersection of politics and sports, and I think this is inaccurate.  It’s also not an issue where people are just coming around to in the sense of domestic violence being immoral, although people often aren’t aware how commonplace it is.  But obviously there is a problem with how domestic violence is handled. I don’t think the NFL’s lack of response is one of political values, I think it is one of money and image.  

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