Learning Curves: My Fun Blog

On life. One learning curve at a time on the path to becoming a renaissance man.

From architecture to dance choreography: visual influences and our subconscious mind
gevron
Reading The Art of Making Dances by Doris Humphrey - mind blown.

Background to skim
I understand that it is a classic in the study of choreography, and treated with much respect, as well as with a smile, also considered "aged".

The book itself is a combination between the personal belief system of the author - making no claims of absolute truths, and the methods she believes need to be in place for the physical art of dance to grown brains.

She states dancers are very physical people who often frown at those trying to understand the mechanics and models of how things work, but she says it with a smile. ;)

What blew me away
For someone who has just started reading the book, what justified my opening statement of "mind blown" ?

A concept. In the third chapter she discusses how ideas for choreography are formed, and what inspires them. After some discussion which was not especially interesting to me, she says:
"From the point of view of visual influences, it seems to me that architecture, especially for those who live in the city, speaks to us and for us with the most insistent cry."
Consider the design of anything from buildings to your couch - most of the designs you'll find are made of straight lines and angles.

How does this affect you as a choreographer? As an audience?
What are you capable of thinking up? What can you accept when it is presented to you?

She goes on to discuss other examples, but that's the one that worked for her. I found this line of thinking absolutely fascinating, and wanted to share.

Gadi.

Almost there
gevron
I have solid and well researched ideas and opinions on the food industry, as well as the ecology and the morality associated with Veganism. But while I am always (except on one occasion) happy to discuss the subject, analyzing the cult factor, the food industry, and other similar matters... I was uncomfortable with debating some of the core moral arguments on Veganism - as the arguments to support my stance, in my mind, were weak. I was happy to just accept, listen, and discuss where I feel comfortable.

Thanks to a few hours spent with my friend Imri Goldberg, hashing the issues from morality, humanism, and pain, to ecology, dominion, and life, including a quick-stop through economics, psychology, and history... I am finally reaching My Educated Opinion on the subject matter.

Imri and I differ significantly on some of the key issues, but the discussion was very useful.

As Imri said, when we encounter a situation where what we believe and what we know are at odds, we need a way to settle this cognitive dissonance. We can either discover information which will help us hold our current belief, or change it to reflect what we know.

I would like to do some more specific research and put my arguments and thoughts in order, but it seems that while I support some of the concepts behind Veganism, my way to achieve the end result is very different, and it will not include stopping to eat meat, nor convincing others to do so.

It's been a long journey reaching this conclusion, in a few weeks to months I will put my thinking down in writing.

Vegans are cool people, Veganism really really scares me
gevron
Being a Vegan is not about believing in lies, and it is not about telling lies. It is about a simple to understand hard to follow faith of how one would live morally, and maybe change the world for the better, reducing the suffering of animals - living beings. I adore Vegans and support them in staying the course.

Three of my favorite people in the world are Vegan, two of them just keep on with their regular lives, another takes a more active role in Veganism. If I could be Vegan, it seems likely I would be.

I so want to continue to be a Vegan supporter, but due to what I see Veganism becoming, I find it increasingly difficult. These are my quick scribbles about what disturbs me so much.

1. A cult
Veganism (not general Vegans, the movement as it is now becoming, in my view) is not about telling lies, or believing them. It is about making the lie your truth.

You'd twist facts, choose truths, and speak them as loudly as possible. You'd do this in a convincing fashion, pasture-like, use words like "thank you for choosing compassion" and "thank you for accepting the truth".

Instead of speaking on moral issues with absolute certainty of a believer, you'd also speak of ecology and of health as if your version is the one truth, period. That is simply not true.

You'd use logical fallacies, you'd make blue seem red.
You'd choose heroic figures who usually wear white and are very charming.

When there is one truth, it is a cult. No religion invented this day and age gets to be called a religion, unless you're Scientology.

2. Masses oriented
It is not about reaching people, it is about reaching as many people as possible.
This is a good way to make a change, I don't necessarily see a problem with this part. The problem is, many activists today confuse this with "by any means necessary".

3. Violent
Most Vegan activist operations (as I call them) fellow Vegans refer to as pranks, and smile. Chopped head, blood. Gore.

They make me run for dear life.

Supporters of a cause and/or haters of another will like it a bit when a competing sports team loses, or when someone you don't like gets fired.
This does not make them bad people or supporters of the action - it does mean however that the heroes most Vegans get to have are idiots. Veganism needs new heroes.

But how is invading public space with a chopped head of a cow, or posting something on Facebook where a child could see it over my shoulder, okay?

If they are hard extremists, they might say: Deal with it! Children should know the truth! You are just blind and finding excuses! If flipped back at them with examples that affect their beliefs or their children, they are back on point attacking you - the marker of someone you shouldn't talk to.

They can't conceive why a dead head would disturb me more than meat that is already processed. I can spent a multitude on saying why I disagree, but that isn't for here.

Just like any religion and ideology, they live in a society, and unless the society is very much Vegan, they will not gain much by violence beyond convincing the convinced. They should read on how revolutions are achieved, or at least a bit about PR for crying out loud.

4. It's about the masses
In PR, as well as in its older name, propaganda, it's not about "as long as they talk about you," it's about "what is the idea that comes to mind when they think about you." Ask any Child Rapist and see that this PR truism is false.

More importantly, it is violent because it won't let go of my personal life. My personal space is my own, and if you keep violating it, I will not only grow to really dislike you, but also at best close the door in your face.

Ask Jahova's Witnesses in the States. No idea about their conversion rates, but this trick of theirs has made them a national joke, or trope, to be mentioned on TV shows. It's the only thing I know about them unless I search for them specifically.

In summary
They are acting like a cult and believe the law is okay to break.
Them people are Veganists rather than Vegans. Vegans I like.
If I could be a Vegan, I'd stay the hell away from any Veganists, or go in fighting, fighting for what I believe in to be true, as lies tend break down and heroes in white to somehow get arrested.

Don't sweat the small stuff?
gevron
"Don't sweat the small stuff" is one of the most annoying of the self help advice out there. When the small stuff is all you've got, it becomes big - for good and for bad. The right advice would be - get more in your life, and, take time for perspective. Plus, I'm a sensitive guy, I care about the small stuff. It's how I make sure it's the right small stuff which I should care about that matters.

That said, I'll contradict myself, and mean it. :)
Don't swear the small stuff is a strategy that makes for a happier life, even if it trivialises your life.

Woman's day: Trapped by language. :)
gevron
I posted an image on my Facebook page. I am an hard core feminist activist (in my own way, explaining would require a different post) but I do appreciate the odd joke here and there about anything. Much the same, if I see something in some thing, which speaks to me, even if the thing itself is not necessarily something I would support as a whole, I often share it and explain what I see in it.

Today was Woman's Day, and while some celebrated and some didn't, I did see something which caught my eye.



Leaving the matter of objectification and other discussions aside, a friend who I appreciate caught me with my pants down. He commented on my post:

Nothing says "I respect women" like reiterating exactly what kind of body we approve of.

My friend, Leor Sapir, is very bright. And I enjoyed how he trapped me. The problem with the statement was that if I try to disagree with the second part of it, it seems like I also disagree with part number 1, meaning I disrespect women. That's an interesting trap if I've ever seen one - which one oftren encounters in feminist discussions where a man is involved.

There are many streams to feminism, and many ways in which to interpret and look at even just language in society. But as a man, speaking on it your ethos is often immediately reduced to shreds if you disagree with a woman. This isn't one of those cases, but it was interesting.

Some of the woman's day memes I liked:






$%#^ off - The English language, American corporate culture, and honest politics
gevron
Something I learned from American corporate culture back in 2006: How to answer somebody in a real, considered, fully appreciative language - and mean it honestly, while due to their original hostile message they will either appreciate my response as their message was unintentionally abrasive, or if they meant to be rude, think I told them to %#^& off - which at this point I would have been, but avoided saying thus being the better person and keeping the higher ground.

This is both highly satisfying, as well as by their next response will show me what their true intentions are. I don't often play politics as it doesn't fit my character, but when I do I make it fun, and keep it honest.

Honestly? I'd prefer to avoid even this, and just not answer and avoid conflict when there is no way of achieving a positive result, but it does make me feel better when I have to do something (such as because it was public) to do it right.

Language is such a lovely tool of the modern world, and to think back in 2006 I was too Israeli (hopelessly direct) and inexperienced with corporate communication across cultural barriers to just translate what is told me in 10 sentences into the "$%@$ off" they meant, and answer with these two words rather than spending my time appreciating the English language's ability for me to show them up, or to give them a way out, assuming in an optimistic fashion that they mean well.

Am I all grown up now? :)

The Path of Mastery
gevron
Recently I've read a book on Mastery, which mostly concentrated on trying to ascertain what Mastery is, and how it is achieved - or missed, in martial arts and sports. It was an absolutely fascinating read.

Speaking from experience "this is what I've noticed" and others' experience "this is what I hear from others" the author lays down a foundation for how leading martial artists and professional athletes reached where they are, and believe that training for Mastery should look like. This is more of an opinion piece than a scientific study.

From where and why people give up along the way, to the common path most of these professionals followed.

Two examples:
- People often give up at the off-set. Usually this comes in one of three stages; When the original learning curve is over and things become hard, when they hit the a plateau in their progress, or when they have a drop in ability just before the next major jump.

- While putting time into it is critical, the path of Mastery takes more then time or effort - it takes effort over time. Thus, over-doing it may be just as negative as under-doing it.

Another aspect of the book is what the author calls "the war on Mastery", where he demonstrates that in today's society we are used to, and are indeed programmed to, seek the "quick fix", and the very concept of investing for the long-term being ridiculous.

It's a short book from the 1980s, freely available online. You don't have to read it all - but it will help you with perspective.

http://www.amazon.com/Mastery-Keys-Success-Long-Term-Fulfillment/dp/0452267560

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Gadi Comixed: A do-it-yourself meme
gevron
Asaf Sagi and Yoni Rozenshein decided to create a new meme: Comic strips of me. They took some embarrassing screenshots from an interview of mine on TV, added captions, and the results were absolutely hilarious!

You can check the comic strips made so far, here (careful not to spill coffee on your keyboard! This is funny):
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=325027&id=552210311&l=674dcbbeb9

Example:


But wait, there's more!

This was such a success, that Asaf created a package of pictures which could be used by anyone to create more of these, which is downloadable in a zip file, from here:
http://www.chupa660.com/files/gadi.zip

If that was not enough - another friend of mine, Nir, decided that creating these strips needs to be more accessible, so he created a (Python) software "package" for it. :)

Automatic Gadi Comix Maker (Python):
http://rapidshare.com/files/446600288/gadi_comix_no_prerequesites.rar
http://rapidshare.com/files/446600289/gadi_comix.rar

While this is not the first time people make comic strips about me, these are just fun! I am almost afraid to see what folks will do with these, next! ;)

P.S.
The original interview can be found here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6cKlKAFVI0

P.S. 2:
An example of an older, drawn, comic strip of me can be found at Encyclopedia Dramatica (careful R-rated), here:
http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Gadi_Evron

Gadi Evron.

The Wing Man Diaries: Running Disturbance By Hitting On A Guy
gevron
[Note: This article was written with a bit of a sinister tone, and what happened was good natured and in good fun. But I like it this way. ;) ]

What a great night!

My evening started rather low, as I went to a Salsa event organized by a friend, and to say I didn't enjoy myself would be an under-statement. Running off, I went to a friend's old apartment where the new tenants were having a BBQ. Unleashing myself only a slight bit, we hit it off and had a ton of laughs! We discussed everything from Facebook statuses to how many layers are needed to accomplish decent black nail polish.

Feeling good once more, a few of us went to a dance bar next door. Soon Hip Hop started playing and good time was to be had all around us... except for right behind us.

A girl (reference term for a woman of any age in Israel) was being hit on by a guy, and another guy, obviously a friend of hers, was hovering around, looking lost.

In Israel, it is common to see girls being hit on, while their girlfriend hangs around aimlessly, feeling low. If I was "that kind of guy", hitting on the girlfriend at this point would have been "like taking candy from a baby" -- I'm not that kind of guy. However, the situation was analogous. The lost guy just hovered, and I felt sorry for him.

Analyzing the situation with my friends is part of my fun going out, we were incredulous to see that as yet another guy hit on her, her lost guy friend was once again hovering, and lost, and quietly begging for attention.

I was curious as to the exact nature of their relationship. Once in a while the girl would suddenly give him some touchy-feely attention, but it felt fake to me. As in doing the least to keep him around rather than if he was her boyfriend returning to him after having fun with flirting, as a possible alternate explanation. But to be fair and optimistic, perhaps he was her brother or someone she was obligated to try and entertain... while going out and trying to have fun. Or maybe she was just friendly but not a good friend. *shrug*

I was in a very good mood, so I made a bet with my friends (over nothing) and went to hit on him. :P


("But I'm not Gay!", here is one without video but better sound quality).

I talked a bit to the guy, who was depressed and not too interested in talking to me. I was "sure" I knew him from somewhere, and to keep him talking I kept "making" as if to go and then ask another question, pretty much over my shoulder.

When I got back to my friends, another friend was fired up to going and hitting on that same guy again -- with the same words I used. From now on we will call the the girl's guy friend Loser (sorry if you find this offensive, it's true). After amusing ourselves with this, we went to the bar. My friend who we'll call Joe (who has a girlfriend, who was out with us) sat next to the girl, while I, next to him, was engaging the bar tender trying to get a couple of Diet Cokes (Light Cola to you Europeans).

Joe hit up a conversation with the girl, and was pretty successful. Just as Loser was about to interrupt, I started asking him where I know him from again -- no gay vibe what-so-ever. Rinse and repeat whenever he'd try to interrupt. Loser went for a walk, and immediately yet another guy sat down and with no shame tried to disturb my friend and the girl (who were in a huddle) and hit on her.

So... I asked Rude Guy where I know him from. :) Rinse and repeat whenever he was about to do it again.

Joe left and another friend of mine (with no girlfriend), who we'll call Mike, sat down and hit up a conversation with her (maybe Joe set it up?), while I still ran disturbance with the annoying guy sitting next to her and trying to hit on her while she is in deep conversation with Mike.

At this point I ran disturbance for the last time -- hey, at some point the girl's gotta make a choice. :)

Leaving to dance with my friends, Mike joined us shortly. We had some fun dancing and in a stroke of genius by my Joe (my friend with the girlfriend), we asked Loser to come dance with us. Worst case -- we can help him out a bit. But the best case happened.

First though, we had to convince him. So in between Mike and me urging him, I signaled to a different girlfriend of ours (we'll call her Jill) and she waved him to her on the other side of our dancing circle. He took one careful step, and just like leading in dancing, I helped him along from the back. :o)

Naturally, shortly after, the girl (who from now on shall be known as The Girl) came along and joined us. Mike talked to her, until I pulled him away after a couple of minutes so she doesn't start snubbing him (I saw the signs). At which point, I asked Joe's girlfriend, who is a very beautiful woman herself and we will call her Jane, to go to Mike (the one who tried to hit on The Girl) and give him a kiss on the cheek.

She did a bit more than that, and wonder of wonders, The Girl started looking at my friend all the time while we kept him busy.

Joe made another smart comment at this stage, which was advice to Mike to "take it slow", and not hit on The Girl in the Israeli fashion (brute force), as she's European. They had a nice chat, though. Getting to know each other.

There was another guy in the picture, we'll call him Bubba. He hovered around us and tried to hit up a conversation with Loser, probably to befriend him so he can get to The Girl. My guess is that this other guy went to one of the Pick Up Artist courses and failed miserably. How could he fail to read the anthropological situation so badly?

I took the time to help Loser with his dancing. He moved in place with his hands in his pockets... so I drew a Window between his shoulders and stomach and told him that if his hands go above it, he's a weirdo, if below it, he's sad. Hey, I played gay already to be a good wing man, what's a tad bit of coaching to help the guy?

At the end of the night, my friend took The Girl's number, and I was awfully pleased with myself.

I am usually much more considerate of guys like Loser, so I felt a bit bad about enjoying making fun of him at first with my friends (we're just discussing her behavior, but still), which does not represent me (before I decided to help him). I see myself in certain past situations when I look at guys like him. But I suppose there was no harm in helping to set my friend up (Mike did most of the work himself), and have a bit of fun while I'm at it.

I'm a very good wing man, and I like to read social situations. At some point, reading is just not enough though. :P

Be good wing men, or wing women, and help set up your friends! That, and try to help guys such as Loser when at all possible.

A girlfriend of mine calls my evil genius Machiavellian. I don't think I was evil (even if a genius) or that my directing of the social situation was manipulation -- I see it more as good communication and having fun. But hey, maybe she meant it as a compliment.

I later found out The Girl is a [computer] programmer. If I'd known I'd have told Mike "may the best man win". Maybe that's why he didn't tell me. :)
...Although I certainly didn't appreciate her behavior toward her friend.

Note: This article was written with a bit of a sinister tone, and what happened was good natured and in good fun. But I like it this way. ;)

Here are some articles I wrote on similar experiences I had:
I'm interested, but in you
Snap! Jazz music and mass hypnosis
WTF! Or, wow, this never happened to me before!
Personal Story, Tactical Communication and Conversation Manipulation

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Vizzini on The Daily Show
gevron
Wallace Shawn, famous (to me) for his role as Vizzini in the marvelous movie The Princess Bride made a guest appearance on The Daily Show as Jon Stewart's therapist, Alan Rubin.

Check it out:


This made my day. ;)

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Personal Story, Tactical Communication and Conversation Manipulation
gevron
Going back home from meeting friends for a beer, I was excited. It's not often that I encounter something cool to do which also appeals to my youth's old tactical nature. When I do, I jump it! This is a story of how someone tried to manipulate me, and how I countered.

The two friends with me discussed a fascinating topic I didn't even know existed, and simply because I saw that I could do so, I decided to bring this topic to a larger audience, creating a mini-conference on the subject.

First on my list was to find a location, so I sent an email to a local academic who could be a good partner for this, and called a couple of other friends to get them on board, arranged for speakers, PR and other necessities.

The next day I received an answer with a phone number, and within a few hours had the academic in question on my cell phone. He asked me to call his land line, and I did. Our conversation was very easy-going and friendly in tone. Smiles splattered on our faces.

I told him I am excited to speak with him, as he obviously has more experience on this particular subject. I was differential as academic ego demands, showing him the respect he deserves, but in tone -- I remained an equal.

I made my case, and he cut in, asking "Can you explain what you have in mind? We ran a conference on this four years ago. Do you have something new to warrant an event?"

"No," I answered honestly in an interrupt of my own. He apparently didn't expect that, so I asked to continue my pitch, and then did.

A lot changed in the last four years, and even if not, in a university environment four years ia an eternity -- with many new students who would appreciate this event. I had better arguments than these, and as my purpose was cooperation rather than confrontation, I preferred to move on.

I explained how this topic is exciting, how it has direct impact on both higher education as well as real implications for daily life, governance, and the economy. I used two anecdotal examples to illustrate this, and my excitement probably dripped all over him, even over the phone.

"Well," he responded, "let me tell you about an idea I had."

DING DING DING DING DING
Warning bells sounded in my head. "Happily, what's your idea?

He told me about an event he thought of, which sounded interesting. As he spoke I got about three ideas running in my head on the subject, but I listened quietly. "I would like to work with you, and if you can take some time to think of ideas for what we can do at this event, I'd appreciate us talking about them."

Stay on message

"Of course," I said, "I'd be more than happy to." And I was. "However", I continued with the same breath, "this conversation is about the first idea, so while I'd definitely like to discuss this with you further later, let's stick to the first one for now."

"Alright." he said, and we discussed a bit further, at which point he said "well, last year we ran a small event on this topic, and there was real innovation there which we could showcase. What will be new here?"

I explained a bit more on why I am excited, and why the topic is relevant, and how such an event can be beneficial. Then I decided to change tactics to show my resolve.

Stay on message, clarify position

"As you know, I am a security professional."

"Yes, that is where I know you from. Security, Internet, Cyber Warfare... Why does this subject interest you?"

"Truth be told," I happily jumped in, "I am excited. I learned to be a strategic person, but at heart, I am a tactical person, energized by excitement. I am excited about this topic, and I am willing to put the time into making this event happen. I will make it happen, but as I know of your vast expertise, I decided I must approach you first."

After more deliberation he asked me "What do you think of my event idea? I'd appreciate your opinion on ideas for it, and we can get back together on this after you think about it."

DING DING DING DING DING
Alarm bells rang again.

"I already thought about it, and have three ideas so far."

"Oh, great! What are your ideas?"

I shared two, as my short-term memory had already erased the third. I told him as much, and I think he believed me, but it could be seen as a lure or a trick. We were extremely friendly. He asked me to email him the third one if I remember it. I promised to do so.

Stay on message

"I'd like however, to finish our discussion of my idea for now, as there is a time constraint."

When he heard I want to get it done within a month rather than a year, he was shocked. I told him how excited I am about the specific speakers I want to bring, and how one of them is leaving the country to join his new wife, and he is a major source of my energy for this. I mentioned how I understand if his events schedule is already closed for the coming year, but wanted to make sure and contact him first.

It wasn't my intention to go cold on him or play "girl negotiation" by appearing not interested, but rather to give him way out. But whether it was my excitement or the "girl tactic", or even the ego massage, it seemed to work.

He got excited about this speaker as well, and asked about getting him on video before he leaves. Then....

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG

A trick I've never seen before, which unlike the ones used up to now, is purely manipulative from whatever perspective you may look at it.

"How about we both take a couple of days to think of our two ideas, then get back together and pick one?"

This is wrong on so many levels. To begin with, his idea is not on the agenda. Second, he assumes I am willing to give up on my idea. Third, he assumes it's one or the other, this is a false choice logical fallacy.

More importantly, with this trick he can potentially achieve four immediately obvious things. First, wipe the slate clean to run his arguments by me again. Second, put distance between the chats so that I have time to move from my strong position, and consider his, perhaps feeling uncomfortable turning him down again. Third, it puts the subject on the agenda. And fourth, potentially try to wear me down, as most people won't call again in two days, or in two months.

I didn't miss a beat.

"I would be happy to discuss your idea separately, it sounds very interesting and I'd be happy to work with you on it. However, my resources are limited and at this time I am only interested in working on this one."

I added my winning argument: "I believe that I can get very good PR coverage for this mini-event, and get cooperation with Famous-Non-Profit which will also be happy to cover a part of the costs."

He lighted up at the mention of PR. We spoke for a bit and he asked me for a few days to speak with his boss. A few days when I have only a month to get things going are critical, so I wasn't happy about it. But the request was reasonable. He threw the ball into my court though, so when I got off the phone, I sent him an email.

I detailed five good ideas for his event, mentioned I was happy to talk with him, and was looking forward to hear from him soon. I also attached my phone number.

As I said when I started this post, he really is a good guy, and very friendly. But he is also a politician. He is an expert communicator who interviewed people live for a decade as a journalist. So while I dislike manipulative behavior I recognize that for some, such behavior is more than acceptable. In fact, it is regular m.o. and needs to be expected as part of the game.

Thing is, even just a few years ago I would have gotten stuck after his first interrupt, and either ended up working on his event without realizing it -- or by being too friendly. Worse still, I could have mishandled the communication in a potentially offensive fashion. Some years ago more, and I wouldn't have been able to play the game, and would have taken offense.

Being able to switch gears into "I'm being manipulated", think fast on my feet with my responses, and keep the conversation on track for my purposes (also the stated agenda of the call) -- all while keeping the rapport going without losing one heart beat, got me very excited. The content of the call was suddenly secondary.

While I am extremely straight-forward and honest in my communication style to a point of bluntness, I am a work in progress and am always learning. And I must admit, when two professionals meet, the conversation is happening on a completely different level. I am just surprised he didn't read through me that I was on to every single trick, when I was able to deflect them all. Or maybe he did and kept throwing them at me anyway to try and outwit me?

The cynic in me may in retrospect reconsider the first thing he ever said to me, to call him back on land line, as a manipulative gesture to get me in a compliant mood. But that would be too paranoid -- wouldn't it?

There are a few issues to consider about this encounter:

1. What was his motive? Perhaps he confused me for a hungry young hot shot, and wanted to use my excitement for his own ends. Perhaps a clear-cut switch-a-roo to get me to work on his event, "stealing" me from mine. Thus, bringing the conversation to where he wants it.

Then again, maybe he was just trying to end the conversation non-confrontationally.

2. His main tricks, in order were: change subject, switch-a-roo, get back together in 2 days.

3. What can you do to counter such tricks? After all, you may not always have a quick wit about you, or know the specific tricks.

The answer is similar to holding your own in politics: Stay on message. Know what your message is and stick to it. Others may try to confuse you, throw you off, and introduce a red-herring such as sending it for discussion in committee. Stay on message.

4. More importantly, the conversation made it clear it is quite possible he has no political power on this front, and thus can't give me what I want anyway.

Which brings us to...

5. What is your goal?
I kept going as I wanted to convince him, and after a fashion, I did get the best possible alternative result. But why keep at it if it won't achieve my goal?

Two tricks such as he used can be excuses as part of natural discussion, at the third, why keep at it? By this time it is clear to both sides what's going on and no positive result can come out of it.

More importantly, my purpose is to achieve a goal, and if I am not going to, why stay on a call that is probably uncomfortable for at least one of the sides, and as sure as the sky is blue, wastes my time?

If my purpose is not adversarial, why treat the situation as a battle? Cooperative discussion is a much better approach. As no cooperation was likely to happen, keeping the discussion going was pointless.

In summary, it didn't work out. But you should not get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for the guy. But it was one of the more fascinating five minutes in my life these past few months.

Here are some articles I wrote on similar experiences I had:
I'm interested, but in you
Snap! Jazz music and mass hypnosis
WTF! Or, wow, this never happened to me before!

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Using Lasers to Zap Mosquitoes
gevron
I am unsure how many times my friends and i sat over beer to discuss the prospect of a laser counter-Mosquitoes system.

Radar, movement detection in video, or infrared? How about accuracy? Would a flame-thrower work better than a laser beam?

How do we make sure we don't get hit? Limit the voltage, or make the system ignore us?

What is the reliability of the system then going to be? What if someone knocks on the door and the alignment gets scwewey?

Going out of the garage and advancing from the beer frontier, the New York Times wrote a story on this today, reporting from the TED2010 conference.
Can consumer electronics be used to combat malaria?

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer, thinks so. His company, Intellectual Ventures, has assembled commonly available technology — parts used in printers, digital cameras and projectors — to make rapid lasers to shoot down mosquitoes in mid-flight. If bed nets are the low-tech solution to combat the deadly disease — caused by a parasite transmitted when certain mosquitoes bite people — the laser is a high-tech one.
But that's not the coolest part, they can target females alone:
The laser detection is so precise that it can specify the species, and even the gender, of the mosquito being targeted. “The women are bigger. They beat at a lower frequencies,” Mr. Myhrvold said. Since it is only the female mosquitoes who bite humans, for the sake of efficiency, his system would leave the males alone.
More here:
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/using-lasers-to-zap-mosquitoes/

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Catch of the week: Avatar and statistics
gevron
[syndicated from The Pathos Daily]

Catch of the week goes to The Numbers Guy over at The Wall Street Journal, where he shows how Avatar is not the most watched movie of all time, as the movie industry counts by total sales, not accounting for inflating, rather than by ticket sales.
Barely a month into its theatrical run, "Avatar" set a record for world-wide ticket sales, topping $1.85 billion. That is a reflection of its wide popularity, and also a reminder of the quirky way that Hollywood crowns champions.



In recent decades, the agreed-upon benchmark for movie dominance has been box-office revenue, unadjusted for inflation. That means "Avatar," like the previous all-time leader, 1997's "Titanic," and prior box-office kings benefited in part from favorable comparisons. Since tallies of ticket sales aren't adjusted for inflation, rising ticket prices have helped pave the way for a number of more-recent films, including "The Dark Knight" and "Transformers," to land near the top of box-office rankings.

Of the top 25 grossing films of all time on Hollywood.com's U.S. box-office ranking, 18 were released in the past decade. Adjust the totals for higher admission prices mainly due to inflation, and "Avatar" would be the only one of those 18 to make the list—at No. 24, as of Thursday. The film has grossed $564.5 million in the U.S. and Canada so far, putting it $36.3 million shy of "Titanic's" U.S. record. And "Avatar" is still drawing big crowds in theaters.

How media measure their audience varies widely, and each industry's standard plays a big role in determining how often headline-grabbing records are set. Videogame and book publishers tout units sold, which removes rising prices from the equation but still can create new chart toppers because of population growth.

For the full story, go to the WSJ article.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

The West Wing: Mr. Willis of Ohio
gevron
[Syndicated from my influence and reasoning blog, The Pathos Daily]

I've been watching the first season of The West Wing in my free time this past month, and I like it. Back when I first watched it, I enjoyed the drama, the plot and learning about government. But more than that, it taught me while letting me have fun.

Most importantly, being engaged with the show which was smart, I felt smart. Or at the very least a part of the elitists. :)

Watching the show again (which so far works hard not to be too liberal or conservative) I can't help but be impressed with Aaron Sorkin's writing, and his incredible combination of ethos, pathos and logos.



This clip from the 6th episode of the first season, Mr. Willis of Ohio, is especially interesting as an idealistic and not realistic moment, where partisan politics is demonstrated in the reverse by a lovable every-day American and argumentation. Naturally, especially relevant in the last year since Obama was elected. But that's just on the surface.

Each episode has just the right plot combination of character development, building the "world" in a continuous story, and a stand-alone episode. It is also a good combination of idealism and realism, how to stick to your principles regardless of pragmatism, when your principles are counter-productive to your principles, and when practicality needs to come first.

Then, it displays arguments for and against varying issues, with a different ideological bias each time -- but always debating each other.

It frames it all with fun (friendship), respect (president's authority), and politics (everything else).

Personally, I find it interesting to see how the Internet changed our lives these past couple of decades, and how this change is reflected in the show.

I intend to keep watching this second time, and I certainly enjoy myself -- which is what matters when it comes down to it. Aaron Sorkin in a master manipulator, but unlike most of the rest of Hollywood, I allow him to manipulate me.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Adversarial and Inquisitorial systems for inter-personal communication
gevron
I met a friend yesterday to discuss a theory of terrorism and cyber crime when an unrelated subject emerged. He brought up the Adversarial system, and the Inquisitorial system.

In inter-personal communication reading the stance of the person before you can be critical. Often, I try to meet a person in the middle, giving ground as a gesture of good will. The other side however, is not necessarily on the same page, and simply takes the ground given, and refuses to give an inch. Thus, I place myself at a disadvantage.

The following can also happen, being in a conversation and trying to examine a subject dispassionately and logically, while the other side comes from a very different -- often personal -- place.

Negotiating the language and definitions happens in every encounter whether we do so formally, or not. And indeed, not many every-day debates are formal. Identifying when we got it wrong and adjusting, or reading the type of conversation we are in, if not the other person, can both be very beneficial.

You can read better descriptions on Wikipedia, but in a nutshell, the Adversarial legal system states that each side will be self-interested in the extreme, trying to represent their case to the best of their ability, and that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

The Inquisitorial legal system (mainly seen in Europe) states that it is beneficial for a neutral observer to be a part of the proceedings, and take active part in the process -- such as in the case of professional judges (no juries).

What is your over-reaching goal from a discussion? Do you wish to just win over the other person, of is your goal to achieve something for which being adversarial won't help? Keep in mind though, that being friendly when adversarial is called for is even less productive. Reaching agreement at any cost, or regardless of the situation, is not a good idea.

In this regard, the Adversarial and Inquisitorial legal systems are decent analogies to inter-personal communication.

What do you think?

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Content in election speeches
gevron
On the "Finding Bad Guys in Data" computer forensics blog, the author wrote of how he looked at election speeches from last year and mapped their content by key words.



A short and interesting post, which you can read here.

I am very excited that someone else in the computer security field takes a look at the importance of words and rhetoric.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Pink care packages to soldiers
gevron
"If female soldiers want pink care packages, we'll give it to `em!"

This response by the USO (while the wording is mine) is alright with me. Feminism does NOT mean women can not be feminine if they so choose. If female soldiers ASK for pink, they should have pink and the PC complainers can keep on complaining, it makes them feel good about themselves.

They are already kick-ass soldiers, what else can anyone want? Oh right, burning men. I should plan to visit burning man this year!

And in other news, did you vote for Barbie the Computer Engineer yet?

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Social Contagions in Human Behavior
gevron
David Disalvo at Brain Spin was an article on how blame can be contagious. He lists many studies on how any number of types of human behavior can be a contagion, ranging from fear and loathing, to obesity and even happiness.

Highly recommended.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

New subject specific blog from me: Pathos Daily
gevron
I have been interested in human communication for a while now, be it debate and rhetoric on the one hand, or social/non-verbal psychology and persuasion on the other. I often come across links of interest, and share them with friends. Or have thoughts on the subject and share them here.

I decided that with the effort of emailing out links, I can also easily blog them. And so, I started a new blog on this subject matter, to specifically post links to interesting news stories and comic strips.

It is called Pathos Daily, and you can read it at:
http://pathosdaily.blogspot.com/

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Rhetorical game: Change the subject for fun and profit!
gevron
[Syndicated from my new blog Pathos Daily: Debate & Rhetoric, Social Psychology & Persuasion]

I invite you all to play the game of Straw-man Loop -- squirreling for fun and profit!

Someone starts it without warning by responding in a ridiculous, yet well constructed fashion, to another's statement.

The idea is to squirrel and go off-clash, responding to a different argument all-together. Then, in turn, the opponent(s) will respond to a different argument once again. Taking things to extreme by escalating the argument (and not the voice tone) is appreciated.

[Livejournal doesn't let you post complex HTML, removed]

The game is beautifully demonstrated on this The Daily Show sketch: Healther Skelter - Obama Death Panel Debate, as seen in the video above.

Example:
Speaker 1: "This steak is bad."
Speaker 2: "Deterioration of the senses such as taste due to global warming, is indeed a problem."
Speaker 1: "I agree! In fact, I believe that studying cloud formations on Mars is the only way to go in understanding Oceanography. After all, if we are to get a grip on how Wave Theory works in inter-brain Neural communication, we need a good case study."
Speaker 2: "Case studies are the essence of all evil."

You may also choose to elaborate on your point. In fact, the more logical your argument is, the more fun the game will be, with two considerations:

1. Do not take too long, this is a game of back-and-forth.
2. Depending on the spirit of the game, you may either want to stay away from reality with wild claims, or stick to factual content as much as you can. Building your arguments to suit this gives you extra respect -- as long as you don't stray from the two extreme ends.

You may want to build your arguments to hold multiple logical fallacies, but that is a matter of personal taste. Some may find it adds some spice to the discussion, others may find it makes things too easy.

The spice must flow, but we are out of swimming water! Enjoy your coffee!

Update:
Perhaps Exaggerate! is a better name for the game?

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

You might not be her first... [Updated]
gevron


There's objectifying women, and then there's being brilliant.



Due to a witch hunt by friendly feminists, I need to write more than just the above. My friends think I suddenly changed sides. Not so.

I have several ideas about objectification. I am okay with it being used, as I recognize that it works, and then that this is a pluralistic society with free speech. And I believe that the female body can be used in an un-offensive fashion if people only tried. I dislike it being abused, such as can be seen daily. I see it both as realistic and as hurting society on some levels. But that is a discussion for another time, and not why I love this ad.

Make no mistake, this ad is brilliant, and I often strongly object to sex in advertising. Not just on principle, but also as it is manipulative and even stupid.

This ad is brilliant because it combines subtlety with in-your-face by using common popular culture, and at the same time both creating a buzz about it due to the either cool or annoying factor, depending on your view. Then, it also identifies BMW as both HOT and something you'd like to have, such as a hot women. It implicitly says: get a BMW, and you get the hot woman.

It is brilliant because it presents a lure and an answer many would find funny. Because it uses sex overtly rather than as a quiet manipulator. Because it hints that BMW is as sexy as the women.

It is brilliant because it is cool and sexy, without trying to be sanctimonious about it. Most other ads would put the hot women next to the BMW and objectify her so that people associate the BMW with her, as a way to get what they want or need. This ad makes you smile because it is different, and because it requires a bit of thinking; you seek out the words, rather than just look at the women.

Meaning: This is what a woman is, and this is what our BMW is -- everything the women represents for you.

But most of all, it is brilliant because it is simple.

The ad does its job, it gets the attention of its audience and annoys everyone else to get even more attention and success. I may be offended or I may think it is a rare good example of using women in advertising properly -- it doesn't matter, as it is so brilliant because it works!

And when my friendly feminist friends get a second to think, the picture shows much less skin than most other, more "acceptable" ads.

You may ask, why? Why would my friendly feminist friends want to burn me alive? This is due to various reasons:

1. The model is Photoshopped and presents an "impossible image of beauty"
2. The objectification of women is demeaning
3. Using sex to sell is barbaric
4. Being unsubtle at all, so why is this subtle?
5. Implying that women, just like cars, is something you buy
6. Or that if you get the car, the woman comes with it.

But most of all:
7. They would be mad at me for admitting it, as regardless of it being true, they see this ad as perpetrating the problem with our society.

My feminist friends would usually be right, and I'd usually be leading right along with them. But not this time. No, not this time.

Update:
As an helpful comment stated, the USED CAR angle went completely past me. This pun may be even more offensive to some, but in my opinion makes the ad all the more brilliant.

Update 2:
Morgan Collins writes on the funsec mailing list:
This is actually a modified version of the original BMW ad which ran in
Greece and attracted Internet attention back in July 2008. Someone added
the second line "But do you really care?" and posted it on Digg recently.

You can see the original ad here:
http://www.bushautoblog.com/2008/07/bmw-you-know-youre-not-first.html

There is even an online petition to stop the ad with 65 whole signatures!
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/33/petition-against-bmw-ad-that-degrades-women


Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Best Writer Trick && Good Short Story
gevron
Looking over Reddit's /r/bestof I came across this short text, which just kept growing organically.

You absolutely must read and see how the author got people to vote him up so he writes more.

http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/anexq/hey_reddit_what_awesome_graffiti_have_you_found/c0igyyg

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics - Public Sector Pay
gevron
In this article the author examines how statistics are botched. The point here is that taking the median of pay in the public sector as compared with the private sector, does not equate one for one the pay for different types of job. Thus, the claim that the public sector gets paid more is false.



Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Spin of the Week: Uganda Child Sacrifice and Witch Doctors
gevron
The spin of the week catch goes to Brandon K. Thorp, on the James Randi Educational Foundation blog in an article titled Child Sacrifice in Uganda, where he discusses the recent outrage in regard to claims of witch doctors sacrificing children in Uganda.

The post is built of three sections, claiming:
1. That by merely writing on it and repeating it in a few publications, it has now become truth (what I call self-generating ethos).
2. That evidence is seriously lacking, and what facts are known are questioned.
3. That there are consequences to scaring people about witches, namely, witch hunts.

He ties it all together by discussing the bad journalistic work performed here, from the assumptions made by the reporters who later insinuate them as evidence, to why the evidence actually provided is unlikely to hold any water when scrutinized.

He asks to see what children had actually been murdered, as the claims made about numbers, even if witch doctors do ritually sacrifice children, are ridiculous.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" combined with Occam's Razor seem to do a good job as a team.

A great work of argumentation, writing and skepticism! I definitely recommend reading it.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics - URL Shorteners
gevron
This is an interesting post on how statistics can be mishandled and misrepresented.



In this particular case, the author discusses bit.ly's market share, and how it "dropped" significantly. In fact, it has not. It is still the leading URL shortener by a large majority, but it was never as big as statistics told us.

In older statistics, only the five leading services were taken into consideration, while in the new statistics, all URL shorteners were considered.

Interesting.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Reframing Bonuses at the Factory
gevron
A fascinating new paper studies the effect of framing bonuses on productivity:
During our experiment, which lasted almost six months in total, subjects engaged in their regular tasks, and had standard work schedules. As per company policy, the bonus incentives were paid in addition to the base income, and employees were notified of the bonuses via personal letters. The main insights gained in the experiment come from a comparison of productivity measures across a baseline and two treatments: in the positively framed bonus ("reward") treatment employees are notified that if the week’s average per-hour production reaches a certain threshold, a bonus is paid at the end of the pay period. In the negatively framed bonus ("punishment") treatment, employees are provisionally given the bonus before the work week begins, but are notified that if the average per-hour production does not reach a certain threshold, it is retracted at the end of the pay period. In this way, the bonus schemes are isomorphic, except for the frame. Nevertheless, prospect theory conjectures that since losses loom larger than gains, the punishment treatment should outperform the reward variant. Alternatively, if workers are more invigorated by positive incentive schemes, the reward treatment should lead to a higher level of productivity.
You can read more about "The Behavioralist Visits the Factory", here:
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2010/01/the-behavioralist-visits-the-factory.html

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Reframing in the fight against airport full body scanners
gevron
Full body scanners are becoming a reality following the latest near-miss terrorist attack (the undies bomber).

The old arguments on loss of privacy are fast losing traction in the face of practical need, public fear, and politicians looking for bandwagon theater.

Bandwagon theater, defined:
A combination of "jumping on the bandwagon" and "security theater", similar in purpose but directly opposite to the concept of a scape-goat, trying to show they do something so they can please the public.

New arguments are now being presented, to try and fight this unstoppable bandwagon theater force of full body scanners, trying to reframe the idea as bad now that the privacy concerns are marginalized.

Radiation risk (fear mongering, red herring):
Claims have been made that there is RADIATION risk.
The radiation appears to be so minor it doesn't even register, but it's a good argument, if a red-herring meant for fear mongering

But, it's RADIATION (run for your lives!), need I say more?

Child pornography (straw man):
Claims have been made that child pornography laws may be violated by using the machines. This is obviously a straw-man argument, which if has any basis in reality can easily be avoided.

This campaign against full body scanners at airports, if it is indeed more than just background noise, is certainly fascinating to watch, even if I am against these machines.

To learn about reframing issues in politics, I strongly recommend the lectures from the 2007 Orwell conference, which I review here:
http://gevron.livejournal.com/25314.html

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Why some smart people don't share?
gevron
I recently came across a blog post by Rajesh Setty, asking the question: why don't some smart people share their ideas?

The post raises a number of options, ranging from selfishness to no time or incentive, and then presents an hypothesis, which is: Smart people don't realize they have smart things to share.

Generally, the author believes that when we learn something new, it is exciting, then it becomes "obvious to everyone", and then it is so trivial we don't even think about if. All the while we learn new things, which make the previous obvious and then trvial, pyramid-like.

This is interesting, and I can emphasize, but I want to discuss two issues: One, a word in the title of the post: some. And two, so what if it's not new?

Some people realize they in fact do have smart things to share, which would help others. But their reasons for not sharing, aside to those raised by the author, vary from laziness to capitalism. In one case, a friend of mine create software which could revolutionize reverse engineering. It wasn't a major leap forward, but a small piece of code that makes life all the better for reverse engineers everywhere.

Reversers are a lone-wolf culture, which is why advances in the field are not as fast as they could be. My friend believed that if he releases it, others will be as good as he is.
That is not true, as he is much more than the sum of tools he uses, and as more and more individuals became better, he would move to the new bleeding edge, while at the same time building a name for himself, and helping his fellow reversers.

Another friend is too lazy and too busy (both) to write a paper on a pretty cool algorithm he discovered. Yet another friend wants to keep it to himself, for his future startup.

All these reasons are valid, in my opinion, but need to be weighed against reality. New ideas are explored by dozens of people as soon as someone, somewhere, dreams of them. Sooner of later, someone else will release them. Or more likely, already has but failed, or nobody noticed.

Unless you can see how you make use of it or consider it an added-value secret, you are better off releasing it and capitalizing on it another way. It's a trade-off, and only you can do the cost/benefit analysis for yourself.

A second issue is that even if something is not new, it could still be very interesting to people. People can read text books, and take classes, but when it comes down to it they learn and experience things on their own. To learn and experiences things through someone else' eyes is invaluable.

People are fascinated by such accounts, and are happy to discuss and share their experiences with you in return. Not to mention, they may not have experiences it yet, and discovered a whole new world thanks to you.

Some things I never intend to release, even if others earn billions from them. Other things I won't think twice of releasing. You should at least think about it, and then consult a friend in marketing or PR on how to best approach it.

The question now should be: How do I release it so I get the most out of it?

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

Association vs. Causation: Post Hoc Fallacies in Medicine
gevron
One of the themes in my daily life is that I closely examine whether what I see happen is actually happening, by examining how I draw conclusions. One of the biggies is; did something cause something else just because one followed the other, or happened at the same time?

In this post, the author discusses how medical doctors can try and reason this out when diagnosing patients. Fascinating read, if a bit long.. so skim through if you like.

The author draws much from the 1965 paper by Austin Bradford Hill, “The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation?”

Association is a much better word to use than what rhetoricians are used to with Correlation, and I think I may adopt it.

You can also check out my post on Debugging for Medical Doctors.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

We did it!
gevron
The Economist reports:
The rich world’s quiet revolution: women are gradually taking over the workplace

AT A time when the world is short of causes for celebration, here is a candidate: within the next few months women will cross the 50% threshold and become the majority of the American workforce. Women already make up the majority of university graduates in the OECD countries and the majority of professional workers in several rich countries, including the United States. Women run many of the world’s great companies, from PepsiCo in America to Areva in France.
That line is not likely to stay publicly available for long, so go read when you get the chance.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

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