Tech Support Simplified

Tech support is not my job.

But, of course, it is. My title and job description has the word “technology” right there. Just ignore all that “instructional” stuff.

On those days when I spend too much time mired in the processes related to helping people make their machines work, the customer service approach taken by Roy and Moss in the UK series The IT Crowd comes to mind. One that is nicely summarized in these two minutes.

Go find the whole series and laugh your arse off.

The Strange Holiday Mix 2014

The annual collection of the tracks in heavy rotation on my holiday playlist. A few traditional songs mixed with a heavy dose of the humor needed to cope with this season. Too much cynicism? Maybe, but enjoy.

  1. Christmas In LA – The Killers
  2. Always in the Season – Pomplamoose 
  3. Donde Esta Santa Claus – Straight No Chaser
  4. A Christmas Song – Original Broadway Cast Company of Elf
  5. You’d Better Open Up My Present – Chicago Voice Exchange
  6. Nutmeg – Stephen Colbert & John Legend
  7. Eight Candles (A Song For Hanukkah) – Dave Koz
  8. Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
  9. Text Me Merry Christmas – Straight No Chaser & Kristen Bell
  10. Chiron Beta Prime – Jonathan Coulton
  11. Ocho Kandelikas – Pink Martini
  12. Joy to the World – Celtic Woman
  13. Nutcracker – Straight No Chaser
  14. Blue Christmas – She & Him
  15. Underneath the Tree – Kelly Clarkson
  16. Do You Hear What I Hear, Man? – The Bobs
  17. Christmas Is Leading Me Home – Hayley Sales
  18. Little Jack Frost Get Lost – Seth MacFarlane & Norah Jones
  19. Wonderful Christmastime – Straight No Chaser & Paul McCartney
  20. (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? – Elvis Costello, Feist, John Legend, Stephen Colbert, Toby Keith & Willie Nelson
  21. Auld Lang Syne – Pink Martini

Word Play

In the world of politics, “liberal” is generally considered the opposite of “conservative”.

Liberals often refer to themselves as “progressives” and the dictionary says “open-minded” is a synonym for liberal.

So, does that mean the opposite of those terms, “regressive” and “close-minded” would be synonyms for conservative? 

Sorry. Just some thoughts that keep jumping into my head as I consume the news.

Of course, as someone who majored in math, not English, I could have my etymology all screwed up.

Maybe the conclusion of my syllogism only applies to severe conservatives.

The Dangerous Parts of School

Jessica Hagy, who writes/draws the wonderful Indexed blog, has created a great list of Nine Dangerous Things You Learned in School for the Forbes website.

All the items, including the graphs/drawings that accompany the words, are right on target but number 5 ties directly to my rant from yesterday about giving kids options in their post graduation plans.

There is a very clear, single path to success.

It’s called college. Everyone can join the top 1% if they do well enough in school and ignore the basic math problem inherent in that idea.

It’s very dangerous to believe in one right answer to any part of life, with the possible exception of stuff like “do I jump out of a plane without a parachute?”.

But the best of the bunch is number 7.

Standardized tests measure your value.

By value, I’m talking about future earning potential, not anything else that might have other kinds of value.

Of course, there are more than nine dangerous things we learned, and continue to teach kids, in school, and in writing the draft of this post, I was trying to think of a few of them.

However, this morning Doug jumped in and added many of those I was considering so instead of repeating them here, go read his thoughts.

I would only like to extend the idea in his number 6: not only don’t you need to be smart at everything, you can and should get smarter through out your life beyond school.

That’s coming from a math major who learned to write and appreciate language long after finishing “school”.

Smart Magic

In this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, Teller, the silent (and I suspect more intelligent) half of the comedy magic team Penn and Teller, talks about the magicians art and how their work relates to cognitive science.

Magic is an art, as capable of beauty as music, painting or poetry. But the core of every trick is a cold, cognitive experiment in perception: Does the trick fool the audience? A magician’s data sample spans centuries, and his experiments have been replicated often enough to constitute near-certainty. Neuroscientists–well intentioned as they are–are gathering soil samples from the foot of a mountain that magicians have mapped and mined for centuries. MRI machines are awesome, but if you want to learn the psychology of magic, you’re better off with Cub Scouts and hard candy.

You’ll need to read the article to understand the Cub Scouts and hard candy reference, but it’s worth the time just to learn the process behind a card trick you’ve probably seen done.

Anyway, I’ve been a fan of Penn and Teller and their type of magic act for decades. Unlike many magicians who are far too pretentious (about their “magic” and themselves), their performances not only make great use of humor but in them they work very hard to bring the audience in on the secrets.

And I can testify that Teller speaks, and does so very eloquently, after attending a packed presentation he and Penn did at the Smithsonian many years ago.* One that was very entertaining without any tricks.

In the same category of magicians – smart, funny, and respectful of the audience – if you never seen Ricky Jay perform, go find his excellent HBO special from the 80’s, “Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants“, on YouTube.

So how does all this magic stuff connect to education, our usual theme in this space?

Sorry. When it comes to linking the two, I got nothin’.


* I remember that the first time Teller said anything during the session the audience gave him a long ovation.