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27 Mar 2011

Scott Adams AQUA'd

I read a blog post by Scott Adams today and was pleased to read some of the reader comments. I do not hate Scott Adams. In fact I love reading his blogs. Some of his arguments can be quite stimulating. There is the occasional streak humour or an insightful piece. Not to forget the follow-up discussions from readers that are an important aspect of his blog - a must read. Then there are ones like today's post. Other than the fact that it seemed to go places, I found this bit rather itchy. Read the original post - 'Principled or Stupid' - if you like because I only focus on one bit in this article.

The premise: Suppose you were driving along a long stretch of desert, low on gas and saw a gas station (that you've vowed never to buy gas from because they are unethical weasels) along the road with a sign that said it was the last gas station for the next 100 miles, would you buy gas from them (against your principle) or would you prefer to drive past the station, run out of gas and eventually die in the desert. 

The question: If you chose to die, are you stupid or principled?

An aside: For the sake of argument, we will assume that they are telling the truth, unethical weasels though they may be.

I know of people who will jump up and claim that they would rather die than go against principle. Would they really do it is not the question here. It is a hypothetical situation, so I will buy their argument for the moment. If you are like me, you will admit that you would buy the gas and get on with life. 

What I noticed on the comments in Adam's blog was that the first person who put in his 2 cents worth said the argument was specious (I just learnt the word, click here if you are like me). Of course, he meant it in the context of the entire post, not just the bit I refer to in my blog. The interesting thing is that he did not simply jump on Adam's bandwagon and try to answer the question. He questioned its validity. More often than not, people read the comments as they scroll down to post their own and in the process are influenced by what the first few readers have said. As a first reader comment, it improved the value of the write-up by adding one more dimension to the discussions that follow. 

This reminded me of a stand-up comedy show that I watched last week - Arj Barker's Let Me Do The Talking. He did the talking alright - was not one of those comedians who have people strategically placed  in the audience to yell out something that will lead to another joke. Quite a few of his jokes were long-ish and we had to listen to the story before we laughed. In other words, the audience laughed, listened, laughed again, listened again. Unlike Danny Bhoy (who I loved) where the audience kept laughing all the way through till you could laugh no more and probably even pee'd in your pants. 

I digress. Back to why I was reminded of Arj Barker. He narrated a few anecdotes explaining how people simply do things without questioning the validity. His take on that is to follow AQUA - Always Question Unvalidated Authority. For example,

Airhostess: Sir, please switch off your mobile while you are in the plane. 
Someone: Why? 
Airhostess: Because the door of the aircraft is now closed. 
Someone: Ok.  You need to switch off your mobile, the door of the aircraft is closed.

Barker could not see why the cell phone had to be switched off? What did the text message have anything to do with the door of the aircraft. Whoever heard of a plane crashing because of a text message? 

(Again, for the sake of the story, we will refrain from various reasonable arguments that could lead us elsewhere and pretend that everything Barker says makes sense)

A couple more similar anecdotes and he commented along the lines of 'I would really like to pull my pants down and take a dump right there, in response to such absurdity where I cannot get a reasonable answer to the why'. In other words, AQUA.

The audience laughed. He picked up a guitar that was on the stage since the start of the show and requested to be allowed to sing a few lines. He started off by asking the 1500-strong audience to raise their hands and start clapping. The audience obliged.

"STOP STOP STOP!", he screamed.

He could not believe that after all that he rambled about AQUA, the audience blindly conceded to his request to put up their hands and start clapping. 

What I would have really liked is to find 1500 piles of smoking, stinking crap in the room and no people. Then I would know you guys listened to what I just said

Clearly, Adam's first comment followed AQUA. The reader left a pile of dump in response to the specious post. I am sure Arj Barker will be proud of him.

7 Mar 2011

Is This For Real?

Some kids grow up believing Santa Claus exists. At some point in their lives they wake up to the horror that he doesn't. What about the other way around? Some of us grow up "knowing" Santa doesn't exist. What if we find out one day that he does? Ouch!

Those of us who don't believe in Santa also don't believe in some other things. Vampires. Unidentified Flying Objects. Pirates. Etcetera. At different variations, there's the athiests, the fanatics and so on. No matter what we may believe in or not, we all enjoy fairy tales and all sorts of fictitious stories. 

After spending about 30 years of not believing in the make-believe fantastical creatures that supposedly roam this world and firm in the knowledge that aliens are figments of imagination of science fiction writers, you begin to nod in agreement when you come across arguments that the people who claim such things exist are merely hallucinating. Or lying, of course! For such people, talk of UFO sightings and vampire attacks are rubbish.

When I first heard about pirates attacking ships in the waters at Somali, I was not sure whether I should believe it. Pirates? Really? I looked at my room-mate and said, "So, is it real? Pirates are for real?" Fortunately for me, she is a non-believer too and was equally surprised. Atleast, I didn't feel like I was asking a dumb question. Ever hear of the story of the sane king who had to drink water that drove people mad because all his subjects were and they thought he was off the rocker? I absolutely love Jack Sparrow and the Pirates Of The Caribbean, like many others. But... but... pirates? They're real? I thought they were a thing of the past - so long ago that it could almost be mythical. Like mythology. I wonder if a bunch of lazy buggers got inspired by JS and decided to start a new career. Anyway, there's a lot of noise in the news, the US army are killing them by the  dozen, people are dying (so says the media), so we might as well believe it. 

Move over terrorists, the pirates are here!

I couldn't help wonder if it will be vampires next. Somebody in the US saying they now have vampires. I mean, you do hear about tribes eating human beings - yummy too, supposedly. How long before somebody runs out screaming they've seen a vampire or been bitten by one or some such? 

I was still digesting the pirates stories and being sarcastic about vampires when the next one hits me. UFO sightings and alien kidnappings! No kidding! Seriously? Supposedly they're being sighted pretty often in US, Australia and some parts of Europe these days. The last I heard, they were being sighted for a while now (yeah yeah, I read a rather cynical/comical write-up about something along those lines, when in school) but it's happening often enough to alarm people now. What the beep? It's incredulous to hear news reports of pilots and air traffic control executives talk passionately about UFOs they saw and so-called kidnappings. A couple of nights ago, one of the news channels showed pictures where you could clearly (it wasn't clear to me, duh) see the kidnappings. Whoa! Stop right there! Who was kidnapped, do we know? They aren't even sure it's a human that was "kidnapped by an alien" or whether it was even a kidnapping. 

Now, that's going a bit far, don't you think? I'm not ready to believe this one yet. Alien attacks? Are you nuts? What do you think they're after? Seriously, those things really exist? 

Moving on. I was watching Bones on the telly last night. If you didn't know, it's one of those cop shows where Bones (specialist in bones, bravo) & her partner Booth solve murder cases. Shit like that. In this one, they were investigating the murder of a wedding planner and are talking to the bride who had visited the planner on the day of the murder. When they tell her that they found her DNA at the site, she squeals, "Really? These things exist? DNA and stuff?"

It sounded stupid, believe me. I bet the script was written for it to look like that. Stupid, pretty girl getting married. Bones & Booth are shocked she can be that dumb. It made me wonder about all the is-this-for-real-does-this-really-exist questions I've been asking of late. I am a non-believer and am not embarrassed that I do not believe in some of the ethereal stuff. I wonder if I would sound as stupid as the chick on the show, if I kept saying that everyday. The stuff in the media isn't helping, you know.

This made me think. We think it's dumb because we believe in the DNA. When I say 'believe', I mean we know it exists. Why is that? Have we seen it or felt it? We simply believe it because some scientist(s) claim to have seen it, gave us the diagrams we see in our text books, our teachers told us first and then we read about it, and reasons like that. The truth is that most of us know DNA as well as we know vampires. Not less not more. Yet we believe in the former and laugh off the latter. What decides what we want to believe? Clearly not experiencing it ourselves. We are willing to believe some stuff, yet we laugh at others who believe what we think are unreal.  

Do we disbelieve in things when somebody or the other raises the first question? As if, we are scared to doubt it until we know that someone else will back us up too. 

Say what you will... the world may be divided by country borders, races, religion, etc but one thing won't change. Irrespective of whether we like it or not, we are all homo sapiens. We are all alike on some level. We come from the same prototype. So much for wars and attacks, eh?

1 Mar 2011


I announced yesterday that I was going to take a Facebook hiatus. FB friends cheered me on. They must be really sick of me in that part of the world! The one person that challenged my ability to do that does not even get on FB or ever read my updates. Doh!

So, I went to a comedy show today. No, not because I am off FB. Doh! I went because I love comedy, I love shows, I love the stage and reasons such as that. Oh, and because this show was recommended by a friend who thought it might be good. It was alright. I was just too distracted by the comedian - Josh Earl. Guy looked and dressed like a teenager but claimed to be a 20-something, on the far side of it. Sure, I had a few laughs but it's a friggin' stage, right? I'm looking at the guy, right? Not listening to the radio or something. Yeah, he did the radio thing and stuff but it was... I was looking at the radio... er.. him doing the radio or whatever. Anyway, point is... Actually, I'm not really sure what the point is. He was a size zero guy in stretch jeans with legs that could put a girl to shame and side-swept hair (he said he hadn't heard of Justin Beiber until a few weeks ago... looked like he was ODing on Bieber at the moment). Doh!

While we are talking funny, here is something funny. I wrote to a friend today telling him how much it sucked not to have a friend who was willing to jump off a plane with me. He said he would get a new friend if he were me. Doh!

Speaking of friends, I have a new flatmate. Never felt so much pressure to buy groceries. Oh, she's fine and she isn't bothering me. I just feel the pressure anyway. Doh!

Did I mention tonight's comedy show was called Josh Earl's Love Songs & Dedication? I couldn't decide if he was taking a dig at love songs and dedications or promoting it. He made me laugh, go watch it if you must, I'm not discouraging you. It was worth my 20 bucks. Doh!

What's with the digression all over the place you ask? The title of the post is 'Doh', what did you expect? Doh!

When you're posting a status on FB, there's a limitation on the number of characters. There's the question of who is reading your status and what they might make of it. There's things to consider before you hit that 'Share' button. With Blogger? You see where I'm headed with this? An FB vacation means (possibly) a Blogger overload. When one door closes... Doh!