Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

Remains of the Week: people don’t like working or thinking

02 September 2012 by Jim

Since I often have small bits of thoughts that I’d like to talk about, but which rarely justify writing an entire post about them, I though I could use the Lifehacker Remains of the Day Format which is a pretty good way of translating these thoughts into a condensed form. Here goes.

Pomodoro technique: limited use for tedious tasks

I initially though that it would be a very good idea to use the Pomodoro technique as an easy way of getting my stuff done, especially since I often face not only translation work, which is quite easy to handle and can, in theory, be accelerated at will through CAT tools or dictation, which is now built into Mac OS X, but also transcriptions, which, be they audio or video based, are very hard to accelerate. Accuracy is a must, and transcriptions are unfortunately limited in speed if you want to make out what is being said clearly. Moreover, document translation works on the basis of language that has been “somewhat” carefully chosen to communicate a certain point effectively, while interviews are natural spoken language and far more redundant, full of errors, uncertainties and unknown names, whose spelling you have to guess, since you don’t get the written word to work with.
Transcription work is thus a slower process than translation, and requires you to put in longer periods of time when you want to make actual progress. Even though transcriptions can be tedious, using 25 minutes Pomodoros increase the overhead of switching between tasks, and since it’s a tedious task, I rarely stick to the 5 minutes of allowed downtime, and these pauses can then stretch and become longer and longer. In order to stop that behaviour, I upped the duration of each Pomodoro to 90 minutes, which is still manageable somehow, but far more effective for progress.

Facebook Privacy: how to manage it easily with three lists

Like so many of the people on the Internetz I like sharing a lot. So I often share too much, giving people I don’t know well a view into my life or bombarding their newsfeed with stuff that they certainly do not want to read. That’s the whole point of Facebook, some might say, since 200 people that you have friended cannot possibly be curious how you feel when you’re sitting at the doctors, but you still post a status update. One easy way to manage Facebook, as with many other things in our lives is to break free from the traditional categories and make new function-based ones. This can easily be applied to Facebook friend lists. Instead of using the lists that Facebook creates for you for “Work”, “University” or “Area”, just create three simple lists, as outlined in a concise post on Engadget.

USA Presidential Elections 2012: calculating the outcome

According to an article from USA Today, the outcome of a presidential election has been reliably calculated through different formulae, one of which “accurately predicted the popular-vote winner in the past five elections”. Another one that is mentioned was even right in 9 out of the 10 past elections. This is astonishing, considering that we’d all like to think that we’re more complicated as human beings than we’d have to be to be so predictable. However, the only thing it really shows, in my opinion, is that most people do not give an election enough actual, logical thought. If the “change in real GDP in the second quarter” is that important for this equation, this means that people base their decision in large part on this simple rule:

If I (and the by extension, the country) am not feeling well, then the current president is an a**hole and I want a new one.

I think that this is horrible. Basing the 4 future years of a country’s evolution on the economic status during one quarter is simplistic and not smart at all. Decisions on who you would like to vote for should be made based on logical reasoning, comparing arguments and the track records of both candidates. As a citizen of a European country where voting is compulsory for everybody, I think that in an ideal vote, only those who are actually interested by the elections should have to vote, so that only those who actually give this a little thought should cast a vote. People who are not interested in politics should not be allowed to make bad choices in politics. Obviously, in the real world, this would represent a problem in case there are extremist parties which would send legions of voters to have an influence on the election, but in the absence of such dangerous people, politics should be a matter of those who care – and know something – about it. Ideally, this would include everybody, but unfortunately this is not the case. Not everybody is an informed and active citizen, but that’s just the way things are.

Piracy: mass-criminality makes up for commercial insufficiencies

A very sensible article appeared on Gizmodo, reiterating what so many of the technorati have already written on the Internet: piracy only exists because it is being fuelled by insufficient legal offers to consume the same content that people are willing to break the law for. As the author, Brian Barrett, says:

We live in a time when there’s no one outlet that’s figured out a convenient way for us to give them our money in exchange for things we would like to own. And that’s crazy. […] All of which is to say that buying content has become, in this age of antiquated pricing and fragmented-to-hell retail structures, nothing more than an act of charity. I pay for albums and movies and ebooks for the exact same reasons I toss a buck in a street performer’s open violin case. And I’m penalized for it.

This view is not uncommon and I share it completely. Living in a small European country, it happens about thrice a week that I want to signup for a new online service (Pandora, Spotify, …) and I always run into this message: “Our service is not available in your country yet.” This is usually followed by: “We’re working hard to make it available to as many people as possible.” That’s the problem. Luxembourg barely has half a million people, and that’s for almost all startups and interesting services not interesting / profitable enough to work out the license issues. That’s why I usually end up not getting access to the shiny new things, which sucks. Movie-wise or music-wise it’s the same thing. I can’t get access to new movies through the iTunes Store. If I lived in Germany, I could access the new movies there, but since these things are geographically limited, there’s no way in doing that. This is not a problem of these services not acknowledging small communities, but of the licensing system that is royally fucked up and inefficient. Another issue: the huge delays. Why should I wait six months or a year to buy a Futurama DVD if I could, theoretically, stream the episode the day it airs in the USA, for free, somewhere on the Internet? If a digital download was available that same day on Amazon, I would buy that, but there’s no way of doing this now.

Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium (2002)

Equilibrium is a brilliant movie. As IMDB puts it:

In a Fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.

The subject of the movie is brilliant, and so is the performance of Christian Bale and Taye Diggs. Definitely recommended.

Leave a comment | Categories: Thinking | Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply