In computer programming, there is a concept known as "Garbage In, Garbage Out": if you put in bad information, then even a flawless computer program will give you bad results. Think of it as trying to solve "2+2" on a calculator, but accidentally typing "3+2". The calculator did its job. It didn't know that you made mistake. You entered the wrong number and the calculator correctly gave you the wrong answer. This concept is easily applied to discussions, arguments and debates.

On a web forum I used to frequent, one of the other people on the forum posted about an old church in the UK that was turned into a pub (http://www.falkirkherald.co.uk/news/local-headlines/former_church_turned_into_pub_1_292212). I and some of the other non-religious forum members saw nothing wrong with this. The church was no longer being used by the congregation and the new owner went through all the work to start a pub which created some jobs. To a few of the more religious forum members, this was an outrage. To them, the church was still a church and should be treated with respect. As with all arguments on the Internet, the debate consisted of both sides repeating the same arguments until some new controversy arose.

The reason why the debate went nowhere is because both sides were starting from different fundamental assumptions. The people on my side of the debate assumed that it was just an old building that once was a church. Those disagreeing with us assumed that it was a church and therefore a holy place. Because both sides started from different points, it was not possible for us to find common ground. At one point in the argument, I realized this and suggested that we would just have to agree to disagree. One forum member who disagreed with me then accused me of sticking my fingers in my ears and humming loudly. I pretty much never took him seriously again after that.

The point of this anecdote is to underscore the importance of basic assumptions as foundations for developing thoughts and arguments. Other posts I plan on writing are going to heavily rely on this idea.


It's my fault for not being Daredevil or Spiderman...

On the way back from classes today, I was hit by a bike rider. Just so no one starts panicking (Judy), all I ended up with were a scratch or two on my leg and the rider, in spite of falling over into some gravel next to the sidewalk, only got dirt on her jeans.

I was walking downhill on Virginia Ave back to my apartment about a yard behind a couple of other pedestrians. I hear someone behind me yell "Watch out!" Instinctively, I start to turn around to see what was happening. That's when her front tire grazes me and she pulls left into a bed of loose gravel and falls, bike and rider, on her side into it. I ask if she is alright or if she needs help up, because that's the right thing to do.

As she is getting up (not having any real injuries), another person comes up to see if she is okay. Her response:

"Yeah, I yelled 'watch out' but he [meaning me] didn't hear me and I couldn't go around 'cause there were other people in front of him..."

Let's review.

1) I did, in fact, hear her. The instinctual reaction to a yelled warning is to see where the warning came from and access the threat. In situations where this reaction is not desired, people have to be trained to react the correct way. Had she yelled much earlier, perhaps I would have had time to get out of her way.

2) I was a pedestrian using a pedestrian walkway. She was operating a vehicle on a pedestrian walkway. I realize a lot of bikers do this, but the point is they are supposed to be in the road with other vehicles.

3) She was traveling the same direction as the pedestrians, which means we couldn't see her coming.

4) She had to yell a warning because she either lost control of her bike or because she did not think she had to control it. If her brakes weren't working, why was she riding downhill on it? There are other possibilities, but they all lead back to her putting convenience over safety.

5) She also was not wearing a helmet. While that thankfully didn't affect the outcome of this incident, it potentially could have. It also further demonstrates her "convenience over safety" mindset.

First of all, I (and most people in the world I believe) have placed convenience over safety at one time or another. Each of us places the line somewhere different. One may feel that a certain safety measure is too onerous or draconian, while someone else may view it as too lenient or irresponsible. A responsible person, though, will take ownership of the mistake. "I forgot to lock the door", "I didn't set the alarm", "I stayed up too late", etc.

Had the biker said "I screwed up," I probably would not bother writing this. But, at best, her explanation absolves herself of any blame. At worst, it places fault with me for not being more observant or having a better instinctual reaction. Considering this could have ended worse for either or both of us, she should have acknowledged the choices she made which caused this.


Today I learned a valuable lesson of no value. Tomorrow's lesson will hopefully explain how that can be.


Today I learned a valuable lesson about how maximum weight capacities are in fact maximums.


Today I learned a valuable lesson from Mr. T. Afterwards, he tore off my mouth so I could never repeat it.


Today I learned a valuable lesson written on the back of naked mole rat about writing on naked mole rats.


Today I learned a valuable lesson that didn't even realize that it was already dead.