Monday, January 04, 2010

Random Thoughts

I'm at work (yes, check the timestamp) waiting for things to build so I can run tests and go home (well, go to the folks house and then to Mexico on vacation!!!!). But, going to Mexico isn't why I'm writing.

I've just got some time to kill and have random thoughts.

Cellphone While Driving Ban in Oregon
This makes no sense. I'm not a fan of folks driving while talking, but I do it myself. Now that they've banned it, I won't do it until I get a headset (thanks bro!).

But all the studies around cell phone usage that look at headset usage find no real difference between using the cellphone by itself and using a headset. The problem isn't the lack of a hand, the problem is the diverted attention.

So this is yet another piece of legislation that is some knee-jerk reaction that isn't going to make us any safer and will just add to the cruft that cops have to deal with.

I've been doing a little reading around Nonviolent Communication - essentially a process you can follow to improve communication. (I could use the skills.) I'm not very far into the book, but one thing struck me early on.

The book gives several examples of communication that hinders the process when you're expressing your observations. Things like moral judgment and labeling can really get in the way. I don't have the book in front of me, but one of the examples is language used in the cold war, setting "us" versus "them", good vs. bad, communist, etc.

As much as I appreciate having Obama as president, the language he (and everyone in his administration) is using is just continuing the same dialog with new (and equally polarizing) language: terrorists, criminals, terrorist states, etc.

Our language and our actions have not changed, and it's no wonder there are large numbers of people who see the U.S. as an imperialistic country with designs on ridding the world of all traces of Islam. Whether or not that is true, that is certainly a perception.

It doesn't matter whether or not our intentions are "good." People in Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan who see their families and friends killed and harmed by our military, who see only ruin brought on by our invasion and occupation of their countries, they do not view our actions as "good". They couldn't give a rat's @ss that we're doing this to make the world "safer" - our actions have had a direct, severely negative, effect on their lives. It's no wonder Al-Qaeda has no shortage of recruits.

Our leaders could use some NVC training.

The security screenings they've put in place since the underwear bomber are not going to make us any safer. Many folks (Bruce Schneier is my favorite) have pointed out all sorts of problems with the various TSA policies, but it's a large bueracracy and will probably never really improve.

It's just annoying to have to jump through all these dumb hoops when they don't make us any safer.

Photographic Memory
Turns out, Simone has an excellent memory - perhaps photographic. She remembers all sorts of passages from books we haven't read in months, and when you change a word in the story she's heard before, she'll correct you. Which is fine, but sometimes I try to soften the language (Angelina the Ballerina is kind of harsh at times) and Simone will catch me - because she's heard the written variation one time...

Phone Monopolies
A while back I wanted to switch from Qwest to some other phone carrier, and the only option was to go to Comcast for a "land line". There is another provider, Pioneer, who provides service in Philomath - but is prevented by law from competing in Corvallis (a mere 3 miles away). It's a bunch of crap. There's no marketplace for services. The basic Qwest phone service runs nearly $30/month for just a land line. Comcast charges the same (when you get their "special deal").

So, that's why we switched our phone number to be an extra line on our cell phone account (only costs us $10/month more).

But then that gets me all riled up about cell phone service in the U.S. We're a good generation or two behind other countries in terms of services. Everything is set up for the cell phone providers. It's painful to switch, the carriers are on different frequencies and different wireless standards, phones are locked in - and because of that, your monthly payments basically subsidize people who trade in their phones every two years. Plus, because of all the companies competing using different technologies, we have 2-3 times as many cell phone towers as we need because everyone had to put up their own towers... It just seems like a waste. Imagine if customers had the power to easily switch carriers and weren't locked in to 2 year plans (to subsidize the phone purchases) - it'd be more like Europe where the carriers actually have to compete to get their customers.

Anyway, the build is done, time to get back to work...

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