Archive for the 'stupidity' Category

The Stupidest Sentence I’ve Ever Read

The stupidest sentence I’ve ever read was not written by a child. Not by a religious demagogue. Not by a YouTube user. Not by a politician and not by a political opinion blogger. Not by somebody who discovered a fun folk etymology.

All such people are expected to write stupid sentences, but they are all understandable in their context. Even the religious demagogue. I just don’t expect anything smart there.

No, the single stupidest sentence that I’ve ever read was written by a Harvard Medical School professor.

“We all know that exercise makes us feel better, but most of us have no idea why.”

This is the opening sentence of a book called Spark!: How exercise will improve the performance of your brain by John Ratey and Eric Hagerman.

The rest of this book may well be good, but I just couldn’t get past this. Seriously? Seriously? Opening a book that purports to be scientific, even if popular, with a sentence that is so easily falsified is a complete non-starter for me.

Exercise doesn’t make me feel better. And I damn well know why. It makes me feel like I’m tired and bored. It makes my body hurt. If makes me think that I’m investing time and effort in something exceptionally pointless and negative while I could do something useful. It does not make me feel anything positive at all.

This book, which is supposed to convince me to do exercise, does precisely the opposite with its opening sentence: It makes me hate the thought of exercise even more.

I first read that sentence a couple of years ago. Today I saw the book on the shelf, and I am still convinced that it’s the stupidest one I’ve ever read. I don’t care about “setting the mood”. I don’t care that that’s how book marketing works. I like things that have meaning, and sadly this book throws meaning out the window right from the start.

Feel free to call me a lazy ass, but you’ll be missing the point.

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Fragments of Life

Adobe Reader 9 installation finishes and suggests me to defrag my hard drive

Adobe Reader 9 installation finishes and suggests me to defrag my hard drive

How nice it is of Adobe to suggest me to defrag my hard drive.

I wonder how many people bothered to read it instead of immediately clicking “Finish”.

Anti Stab

Less Lethal Ammo“, meet “Anti-Stab Knife“.

Eight Taking a Rest

I was reading Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people and then time.com asked me to fill out “a short online survey”.

I love filling out short online surveys. They usually have silly questions about the experience with the website – “Did you find the information you were looking for?”, “Was the information easy to find?”, “How often do you visit ourstupidsite.com?”, etc. The kind of questions that clueless marketing departments and web design studios live by. In the end i am usually presented with a field where i can add personal comments. I always add personal comments and get the warm fuzzy feeling that nobody will read them. I only received a reply to a personal comment once. Guess from which site (the answer is at the end of this post).

Well, i was wrong. This survey is not about time.com. It’s about the financial crisis:

  • Please write three brands of car brands, in particular luxury car brands. (I wrote Lexus, Lincoln and Mercedes. How do you know that this survey was written by an idiot? Any website style guide will tell you to use underlining only for links.)
  • Next time you are looking to lease or purchase a vehicle, how likely are you to consider each of the following luxury automotive brands? [ ] Infiniti [ ] BMW [ ] Mercedes Benz
  • Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about Infiniti:
    1. Makes vehicles with inspiring performance
    2. Makes vehicles people feel inspired by
    3. Makes vehicles with exhilarating performance
    4. Is inspired about the way they design and engineer their vehicles
    5. Is for people who enjoy doing their own thing
    6. Is a brand I aspire to own
    7. (Well, none of the above, but it inspired me to do my own thing and write this blog post, and i sure hope that it’s exhilarating!)
  • Which of the following websites have you visited in the last 4 weeks? Partial list: Amex.com, CNN.com, Food&Wine.com, MyRecipes.com, SI.com, SouthernAccents.com. (I totally had to visit SouthernAccents.com after i saw its URL, but was disappointed to find that it’s not a linguistics site. Plus, how do you know that this survey was written by an idiot, part II? Food&Wine.com cannot be a URL.)

And, damn it, they didn’t have a field in which i could put a personal comment in the end. This puts them at the bad end on the scale of websites that care about their visitors. On the good end there is scientology.com – the only website that ever sent me a reply to my personal comment at the end of a “short online survey”. What’s even stranger is that they didn’t offer me to take a personality test. They just said: “Thank you for your comments, they were very well-received!”. And i had a feeling that it was written by a human being. That was scary thought number 1.

Scary thought number 2: A degree in Sociology was probably required to get a job writing these surveys.


A friend of mine told me that he came from a small-town Yemenite family. “They didn’t teach us a lot in the school there,” he said, “the math teacher, for example, called the infinity symbol ‘Eight Taking a Rest'”.

Messiah

For many months the Hebrew word for “messiah” in the English Wikipedia was spelled terribly wrong. The correct vocalized spelling is מָשִׁיחַ, which looks very logical to anyone who has intermediate understanding of Hebrew morphology. But the Wikipedia article Messiah had this atrocious spelling since 2008-12-24: מֹשִׁיַּח and before that, since 2008-02-08, it was even more monstrous: מָׁשִיַח. Before 2008-02-08 it was correctly written מָשִׁיחַ, and when some user changed it, possibly in good faith, nobody noticed.

From the article Messiah it was copied to an even more important article: Jesus. From both of them it was copied to many websites by people who don’t know Hebrew, but probably like foreign alphabets. Try this Google search: “מֹשִׁיַּח” -site:wikipedia.org. You can find there, for example the San Antonio Hard Rock Church. Say hello to Pastor Roland Gloria! WTF.

Obnoxious Firefox Licensing

Mozilla Firefox comes in many localized versions for many different languages, which is a good thing.

Mozilla Firefox has built-in spell-checking, which is also a good thing.

So, for example, if you download the installer for English (US) or for Lithuanian and install it and go write an email in GMail or edit a Wikipedia article in one of these languages, you’ll immediately see your spelling errors. This makes perfect sense.

But if you download an installer localized for English (UK), Catalan or Hebrew, you won’t see your spelling errors. The Firefox binary has spell-checking capabilities, but the installer doesn’t include the actual dictionary. Firefox-compatible dictionaries for these languages exist, and they are licensed as Free Software (GPL or LGPL), and you can add them manually after installing (right-click -> Languages -> Add Dictionaries), but here comes the ridiculous part: The guys behind getfirefox.com refuse to include those dictionaries in the installer. The reason, apparently, is that to be included in the installer, the dictionary must be 300% compatible with Firefox’s license, because Firefox is tri-licensed as GPL/LGPL/MPL, and a dictionary that is GPL-only is not good enough.

It is hard enough to convince people to install Firefox in the first place; convincing them to install additional dictionaries, plug-ins, add-ons etc. tends to frustrate them even more. Contrary to the belief which is popular among Firefox power users, most people are not add-on junkies and don’t right-click everywhere. So, even though Firefox users in London, Barcelona and Jerusalem can see Firefox menus in their respective languages, they have dead-weight spell-checking code on their hard drives, because they didn’t get a spelling dictionary in the installation, and many of them don’t even know that a Firefox-compatible spelling dictionary for their language exists.

Is this obnoxious licensing requirement really required? Isn’t Free Software licensing supposed to make distributing software easier?

When i told my wife Hadar about it, she said that it is as ridiculous as the stuff i tell her about DRM.

See also:

EMEA

Toshiba website. To fulfill your identification, please enter your gene sequence (with control digit).

Toshiba website. To fulfill your identification, please enter your gene sequence (with control digit).

Hadar bought a Toshiba laptop a year ago. Approximately. I don’t know exactly when. Why would i want to know such a useless thing? For warranty? Thank God, no. The laptop works, although Windows Vista makes it work about 20 times slower than it is supposed to, which doesn’t stop Toshiba from recommending it.

No, i am supposed to want to know the date that i purchased this laptop in order to log in to the Toshiba website. Why would i want to log in to the Toshiba website? That i don’t know, actually, but they sent me an email asking me to renew my membership, and i’m nice, so i usually do things that people ask from me if i don’t have to bother too much.

So anyway, this website asks me for the user name. OK, i enter my usual amire80 and my usual password and it doesn’t work. So i enter my second option, amir_e_a, and it doesn’t work. So i enter my email amir.aharoni@gmail.com as the user name, which is actually a reasonable thing to use as a user name. But it doesn’t work.

So i looked at the email, where i saw the string amir.aharoni@gmail.com_IL somewhere. So i tried that as the user name and it didn’t work. I didn’t give up and entered it as the user name in the password reminder form. And it worked.

And then it asked me for the date when i purchased the laptop with that serial number (see the image).

How could it be stupider? I mean, this question is a bit less ridiculous than my mother’s last name, but how the fuck am i supposed to remember the exact date when i purchased? Do you actually expect me to dig up the receipt to find that date? Asking me for the serial number would be reasonable—i can look it up on the laptop itself. But the date?

And oh—does it mean that anyone can enter any email address, schlep an “_IL” (or “_US” or “_RU” or “_IQ”) at the end and find out whether that email’s owner has a Toshiba laptop, and its serial number, too? That’s a direct violation of their privacy policy.

Now, check out this part of their email. Read this slowly: “If you don’t activate your profile for our personalised website experience we will delete it after one month. That also means you will not receive any alerts anymore. We would like to make you aware that with this process you do not withdraw from your permission to allow Toshiba to contact you.”

What idiot wrote that? That same idiot that put “EMEA” on that website. “EMEA” means “Europe, Middle East and Africa”. It’s a term commonly used in marketing departments. It is supposed to be internal. I am a customer, Toshiba; i am not supposed to give a damn about how you run your marketing department.

And Ubuntu doesn’t work so well on that laptop, too. (Although when it does work, it works 20 times faster than Windows Vista.)

No more Toshiba laptops, then.


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