February 4th, 2006


Things my girlfriend and I have argued about

I have spent inumerable hours arguing with a variety of girlfriends because I cannot, and will not follow this simple principle (stolen gleefully from Scott Adams' blog:

The biggest relationship mistake you can make is to assume that because you have some special training or knowledge on a topic, that your opinion should be extra important. You could be the world’s most respected expert on insects, for example, but if your mate insists that caterpillars grow into chipmunks, there will be no talking him or her out of it. You could try saying, "I have a doctorate in bugs, I know what I’m talking about" but your mate will hear "I am an overbearing ass pimple who doesn’t know a fly from a suspicious mole."

So forget about how much you know, or how smart you think you are, or how much extra information you might have recently collected. That will not help you. Instead, I offer you the only solution: The WCM Method.

WCM stands for Who Cares Most. If you want your relationship to have a chance, defer all decisions and interpretations of fact to the person who cares the most.

In practice, this will mean that women will make 98% of all the decisions and be "right" 98% of the time. Compared to men, women care more passionately about just about everything. Men mostly scratch what itches and call it good. BOCTAOE.

Many women and some men who read this blog will sharply disagree with my gross generalization. To you I say with all sincerity, "You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking."

See how easy that is?

It's a shame really.  But what can I do - I just got to be me.

So sad, and yet so marketable

(A grief-stricken KING THEODEN surveys grassy mounds, peppered with white flowers, outside the walls of Edoras. GANDALF watches with great concern.)

THEODEN: Simbelmyne. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebears.

(GANDALF places a comforting hand on THEODEN's shoulder.)

GANDALF: And ever will it, thanks to the Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed system. (Hands him the product.)

THEODEN: (Heartened.) Really?

GANDALF: (Nodding.) With the new ready-to-use hose attachment, feeding is as easy as watering. When Theodred's spirit finds its way to the halls of your fathers, he shall look upon it with pride.

THEODEN: No parent should have to bury their child, but at least this hallowed ground will be beautiful, colorful, and lush, thanks to Miracle-Gro. (Cries bitterly.)


DENETHOR: Wellbutrin?

PIPPIN: Taken once daily, it can help you feel like yourself again. And there's a low risk of sexual side effects.

DENETHOR: I release you from my service. And myself, from the symptoms of clinical depression.

More here.
Teddy of Borg

The 10 minute argument please.

There are three kinds of arguments (he said, simplifying wildly, and implicitly inviting someone to disagree wildly with him)

At work, I'm largely (but not entirely) dealing with other geeks.  There, I can argue in the style I most prefer - both sides stating their opinions on the matter clearly, and then hammering out the differences in opinion.  One person will point out an area of disagreement, and tell them exactly where/why they have it wrong.  The other person will then respond with the reasons why they think they're right and the original person is wrong.  Eventually, the two of them will narrow down the origin of the differences, and then either find an answer that satisfies them both, agree that it needs further work before they have the right answer, or put it down to a simple difference of opinion about which style of bracket indenting is the most readable (for reference I prefer BSD/Allman style to K&R style).

Obviously, there are places this doesn't work.  When you're dealing with something that's purely aesthetic in the first place, like whether Mulholland Drive is a better film than Lost Highway, there's not much scope for persuading one person that one is better than the other.  There are three tactics you can take - you can agree a set of criteria that are important and then pick the films apart using those criteria to see which ones fulfil them better, you can go through the film pointing out the cool bits and remind the other person how cool it was (and also possibly explain away any niggles the other person had which were spoiling the movie for them), or you can not attempt to decide that film A is better than film B at all, and simply enjoy the films individually and in their own right.

And then when you're dealing with more emotional subjects you can simply remain aware that the subject of the argument itself is frequently not that important, and that what you're doing is being very loud at each other because you're upset, and the topic at hand is simply a handy excuse for lashing out.  But that the people involved almost certainly don't realise this at the time, and need to calm down themselves before they can come to terms with the fact that they had a shouting match over whether the number 34 or the number 44 is the best bus to get (correct answer - it depends).  Attempting to stop the argument halfway through _can_ work, but only if both people want to - otherwise you're simply left with one person still arguing and the other one simply nodding occasionally and thinking about something else while they wait for the argument to finish (note to various ex-girlfriends - I have never, ever done this.  Honest.)

The first major problem, I find, occurs when you think you're having an argument of type A, but are actually having one of type C - and while you think you're involved in an attempt to get to the root of whether AI is obviously inevitable or merely a silly idea that'll never work, you're actually talking about whether you care about your girlfriend as a person, or think that there's nothing special about her and would be just as happy playing on your computer rather than ever talking to her again. 

The other major problem occurs when both of you are having a type A conversation, but the fact that you're excitable and emphatic about whatever topic is being discussed (OMG - can you believe that in the latest edit they both shoot at the same time?!?!?!?) leads people to think that you're intractable and completely attached to your viewpoint.  This is the one that I've been discussing in the depths of this post, where I've been trying to make it clear that I'm not desperately attached to that many of my ideas.  Sure, I defend them when I'm arguing about them, because that's my job in the argument.  The other person's job is to argue me out of them, and show me how wrong I am, in the same way that trials have lawyers on both sides, making sure that they're both strongly represented, but the eventual hoped for outcome is the truth.  Thesis.  Antithesis.  Synthesis.  This is how the world moves on.  It's the synthesis I really care about, not the thesis or the antithesis.

You find the voice of reason in the most unlikely places

On balance, we have chosen not to publish the cartoons but to provide weblinks to those who wish to see them. The crucial theme here is choice. The truth is that drawing the line in instances such as these is not a black-and-white question. It cannot be valid for followers of a religion to state that because they consider images of the Prophet idolatry, the same applies to anyone else in all circumstances. Then again, linking the Prophet to suicide bombings supposedly undertaken in his honour was incendiary. The Times would, for example, have reservations about printing a cartoon of Christ in a Nazi uniform sketched because sympathisers of Hitler had conducted awful crimes in the name of Christianity. another, quite indefensible, assertion.

Muslims thus have a right to protest about the cartoons and, if they want, to boycott the publications concerned. To move from there to holding ministers responsible for the editorial decisions of a free press in their nations, to urge that all products from a country be ostracised or, worst still, to engage in violence against people or property is to leave the field of legitimate complaint and enter one of censorship enforced under threat of intimidation. That free speech is misunderstood in much of the Islamic realm shows how much progress has yet to be made.

Consistency would also be a virtue. The anger directed at these cartoons by certain Muslims would carry more weight if pictures that crudely insult Jews and Christians were not found regularly in the Middle East. To contend that faiths of many forms merit a degree of deference, but not absolute protection, is one notion. To insist that this principle be applied selectively is another, quite indefensible, assertion.

From The Times. Sums things up very well, I think. The rest of the piece is worth reading too.

Conversations I have had.

Occasionally, completely random people talk to me on Yahoo Messenger.  I wish there was a way to stop this, but I haven't managed to find one yet.

This one was today's:
ihn_pop: هأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأى كسمك
AndrewDucker: Strangely, I speak very little Arabic
ihn_pop: هأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأأى كسمك
AndrewDucker: Nope, not even that much
ihn_pop: كسمك اتكلم عربى
AndrewDucker: Still not really breaching the language barrier here.