Software Nerd

Friday, November 17, 2006

A new genre of Fiction: Business novels

David blogged about business decisions, asking: Do you have a sense yet for the excitement of markets? ... Why doesn't Hollywood make movies about THIS, rather than yet another gang of thieves bickering with each other as they complete yet another caper?

Made me wonder why there is no "business story" genre of fiction. If we have "sci fi" novels and "war novels" and "crime novels", why not a genre like "business novels"? Non-fiction biographies of businessmen sell pretty well, as do the various "pop" books on getting rich, investing, being successful and so on.

There is some fiction in this category, but not enough -- I wonder if the topic does not interest most authors. As someone who prefers reality-based fiction (I don't care for fantasy and sci-fi, qua fantasy and qua sci-fi), I'd love to see more fiction of that type.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Syndrome Inflation

Psychology seems to be beset by "syndrome inflation". Here's a new one: "Toilet Phobia".
"The National Phobics Society estimates at least four million Britons are affected - but the true number could be many more. "

Is that believable? The U.K. has a population of 60 million, of which we can assume that about 20 million are too young to count (unless they're counting all the kids in potty training). So, the article wants us to believe that 1 in 10 people have this phobia, and have been hiding it as a guilty secret. It is unlikely that this is a blatant lie, so I assume the problem lies in the definition of "phobia" that these people are using. Even without knowing more, I'm happy to dismiss this as completely invalid -- an excellent example of "syndrome inflation".

I do have a question though: why?

Do they do this to get funding? I could understand a "cleanly" mercenary reason like that. However, I wonder if it's something worse: a genuine corruption of science and reason, or the desire to promote and "original sin" sense of "we're all phobics".

Monday, November 06, 2006

A metaphor for U.S. politics

Recently, someone tried decribing the two major U.S. parties with a poor visual metaphor. It got me wondering what a good metaphor may be. This is what I came up with... (Caveat emptor: Metaphors and analogies can be hazardous to one's health.)

I see a rational person at the center of the metaphor, someone who does not want the political parties interfering in his personal life nor in his economic life, someone who dislikes both parties. I visualize this as a person who is being set upon by two dangerous animals: say, a rabid elephant and a dangerous donkey (play along). Each of these animals is being restrained by a keeper.

The keepers are trying their "best" to hold the animals back, but the keepers are getting weaker and the animals are getting stronger. These keepers did a deal with the devil, trying to use their animals to get power, and now they're scared of the animals turning on them. Still, for now, the keepers are really trying (in their own pathetic way, and while still feeding the beasts) to keep them at bay.

Right now you do not have the strength for a frontal attack that will vanquish either beast. So, you try to set them on each other. You slash out at one, allowing the other to attack it as well. Then, that one gets too close, and you slash out at that one, and so on. You were about to slash out at one when a friend shouted: "Watch out! the other one is closer than you think."

A party-line vote is like a weak shot-gun fired in the direction of one or the other. Sometimes, that's all you've got, so you make a choice and shoot in one or the other general direction. The trainer might be weakened to, but that's the chance you take.

What's the way out of this mess? I suggest you do the following:

  • Grow stronger yourself
  • Help the trainers get stronger
  • Whenever possible, shoot at the beast without injuring the trainers