Sunday, December 16, 2012

10 'Talents' that are pretty overrated

Everyone has talents, or something that they do better than anyone else, or at least better than a lot of people.  For some, it's athletics, for others, academe.  In this world of over 6 billion people, there's quite a few people that have some odd abilities.  Among all of the talents that are available, there are some that are simply overrated.  To wit:

10.  Holding your liquor - A staple of movies for ages, the ability to hold ones liquor appears to be a sought after talent.  It would seem that you would want the exact opposite.  To feel the effects of alcohol with as little intake as possible would seem to be a more cost effective way to get buzzed instead of having to drink your weight in the fruit of the grape.

9.  Knowing History - This one would get the most argument from the most people I believe.  Historical knowledge is valuable only when it comes to law and that's because law relies on precedent in order to determine a direction of action.  That's because we are trying to be consistent.  The problem of course is our society and our technology is far from consistent.  Things that made sense 50 years ago make no sense now. That's why we have stupid laws like you can't fish from horseback and birds have right of way on the highway (real laws I'm afraid).  Knowing history by and large is knowing things that are interesting.  It doesn't provide much value beyond that.  The events of human kind have even left the History Channel dry of material which is why they have the current line up they have.  Hardly Historical.

8.  Gambling Knowledge - Knowledge of the the games of chance available in a casino has been touted as worthwhile information in movies and tv.  Here is the only knowledge of gambling you need to know.  Over time the Casino will take your money.  I have this particular knowledge in spades.  I go to the casino twice a month and I win just a little less than I lose.  I'm just short of being an expert.  Knowledge of the games will only help you lose slower, not win.  It's still fun though.

7.  Remembering Trivia - Memory is a terrific talent, it's useful and beneficial.  Using that ability for remembering minutiae is unfortunate unless you are a writer for Jeopardy.  The ability to spout little known knowledge has long been a false indicator of intelligence.  Lately it has become that much more overrated thanks to the Internet.  There goes another talent down the tubes.

6.  Ability to tan well - It's not so much an ability as it is an attribute.  Yet I hear people commenting on it all the time as though sitting in the sun is something that is desired at all besides the obvious enjoyable sloth that it signifies.

5.  Old Computer languages - In programming there are languages that are much like regular languages.  the vocabulary set is much more limited and designed only to facilitate logic.  When you learn a computer language it is very much like learning a real language.  There are nuances to the code and each programmer will implement it differently.  Over time, these languages become obsolete.  Hopefully, the programmers don't become obsolete with them.  It is with an unfortunate amount of pride that programmers reminisce about old languages.  It's really the most pathetic aspect of being a programmer is telling people how easy they have it because they didn't have to program in FORTRAN or COBOL.  Yawn.  It's like telling you kids how easy they have it because they didn't have to live in the good old Greek (assuming you know Greek).  But more about that coming up next.

4.  Dead Languages - People that can speak Latin or Greek are pretty rare, even among the legal/medical set.  Sure they know a few of the roots, but honestly, Praising Latin for being the base of languages is much like praising flour because you are eating a tasty cake.  Sure it's important, but honestly, something else would have shown up in it's stead if Latin wasn't available.  The ability to speak a dead language is really important on the Masters edition of Trivial Pursuit.

3.  Average singing - For many people, going to church means having to endure a choir made up of local parishioners.  When these people sing it's really a crap shoot.  You sit on your chair and hope and pray that if you happen to be in the church that God thinks is the good one that he'll spare you and them any embarrassment by helping them to hit the notes or at least helping you to hear them as they were intended to be sung and not how it came out.  These people are then praised after a performance to the point that they actually might start believing that they can sing better than they are able and try out for some reality based singing show.  It only gets worse from there.

2.  Being Stupid - That's not a talent.  No?  Take a look at shows such as Jersey shore and the like and tell me that being stupid and proud of it is not a talent that is valued today.  Valued AND overrated.  Before I let go of this particular bone, let me say this.  Being entertained by ignorant people and the resulting train wreck of their lives is most certainly not a sign of any higher evolution than the people you are watching.

1.  Being OCD -  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been misdiagnosed by many as a talent.  It is no more a talent than being able to pass gas to the tune of Call Me Maybe.  Actually, far less.  The problem is, if an individual is obsessed with something that happens to be socially acceptable then it has transited quickly to the world of talents.  To those with genuine OCD, it's likely less talent than it is torture.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

10 Pet Peeve's of people in Technology (programmers)

This blog has always been about what I think. But not really much about me. Small distinction I know, but still I don't provide a whole lot of details about my life here. Well by trade I am a Database Programmer. As such my name occupies a place in the roll of the TECHIE. A TECHIE is anyone that makes adept use of technology such that people around them recognize them as at least a semi-authority. Once you are deemed a TECHIE, there are several things that happen, most of which are at first flattering, but quickly annoying. I've found that there are likely several parallels in the fields of medicine, law, and auto repair.

10. Because you enjoy something, that should be payment enough - One of the problems with being a species based in mortality, we create a subclass of people that are thrifty (read CHEAP). These people believe that the value of anything done on their behalf is based on the need or discomfort of the individual providing the service and not the value of the service itself. They will often start a request for free labor with 'I've got a challenge for ya' The challenge of course is how long can you work on this persons problem before you realize that you will be doing it for free.

 9. Once you've agreed to help, the person being helped turns off their brain - This is not unique to technical support, but is also present in driving and happens in nearly the same way. When I don't have a GPS with me, I have a very good sense of direction. Once I have a GPS, I have no idea where I am, or what direction i'm going or how long it will take to get there. The same thing happens to most people when they get technical support.

8. People's field of vision is largely limited to a one inch circle around their mouse - It's really amazing. When you watch someone else driving around their computer, you quickly see that they are not only looking where their mouse is, but they only look where their mouse is. If they want to look at a title or something else on the page, they feel the need to move the pointer to the place they are looking. The reason this is annoying is because a LOT of information lies just outside of the radius around the mouse.

7. If you are technical AND you have touched my computer, you OWE me free support from that time forward - This happens from time to time where people will say something like "Right after YOU fixed my computer, it stopped working (in another way that is unrelated)....(silence with expectation)" Yes, you are expected to fix whatever other thing is wrong based on what you fixed before. It's yours now. you touched it, you OWN it.

6. You're technical, come look at this - 'Technical' is actually not a bullet point on a resume unless you are looking for management. Like medicine or law or nearly any other profession, the classification of that profession is usually MUCH larger than the specific area that you work in. A doctor that has specialized in Orthopedics doesn't really know much about Oncology. A lawyer that is in personal injury will be a fish out of water in a copyright infringement case. If you ask a PC pro to take a look at your printer, they may or may not have information that will help.

 5. Here, let me google that for you - Once you are found to be somewhat helpful . You are obligated to provide service because you have the know how.  Then people start getting lazy.  Instead of asking you for help when they need it after they have exhausted all options, they start asking you for things like you are their personal google.

4. You think you're SOOO smart - After dealing with computers you begin to see the same mistakes and gaffes by the general populous crop up.  You start making assumptions about human behavior and begin to generalize that behavior.  You know.  Like everyone else does to Techies.  We are mostly socially inept and have little contact with the outside world.  So many times, without hearing the entire problem, we make a general diagnosis and prescribe a treatment.  Often involving rebooting.  For some people, when our initial prognosis doesn't work there is some glee that crosses the face of some as though to say 'Well Mr. I-know-more-than-you, looks like you don't know EVERYTHING....HA!'  A word to the wise.  Like auto mechanics, GOOD tech people you can relate to are hard to come by and should not be mocked.

3.  This just isn't working - A followup to the above, when you are in technology, you have a problem in that if something doesn't work, and you are unable to fix it, you take it personally.  You mutter under your breath something about 'Nothing breaks unless I SAY IT BREAKS'.  Of course the problem is, technology decays over time and will fail eventually (yes, even Macs).  This means, that over time those that are technically inclined will be stuck in this infernal catch 22.

2.  Is this a good one? - The technologically inclined will usually spend quite a bit of time evaluating and finally purchasing technology.  Getting the best bang for the technological buck is somewhat of an internal competition among the TECHIE lot.  That's why it is particularly infuriating when a commoner just happens to buy some bit of hardware be it a Monitor or a Tablet computer, and it just happens to be the best or close to it and we the techie watch as you use maybe 20% of it's overall capacity.  Why don't you just hit us in the collective head with a tire iron.

1. TV could at least TRY to be accurate - The truth is, a lot of TV tries for technological accuracy by avoiding the subject.  Every so often the show will try to explain to those that are not in the know about some kind of technology that often ends up being patently wrong.  We love it, but we hate it.  We hate it at the time we watch the show, because it takes our mind out of the story.  We love it later because we can carp along like Comic Book Guy about the brazen inaccuracies and show off our tech cred.

Well, this will be the penultimate original entry for by blog this year.  The only reason I say so, is because there are so few occasions to actually use the word.  Get your Holiday shopping done and enjoy the season!