Last night I finished reading Don’t Think of an Elephant. I did not enjoy it.

Some of the book was interesting, and even useful, in helping me understand how some modern rhetoric is constructed and how I can safely engage in debate with people who have been indoctrinated /and/ with people who are trying to indoctrinate me. The annoying part was the author’s own politics.

Rather than explain why his values were not opposed to “traditional” values, he tried to explain why traditional values were outmoded and basically wrong. He finally lost me when he said that the only power a priest/rabbi/whatever had in performing marriage was power vested by the state. No!

I felt like he would work with me, but think I was a real jerk. That OK. I’d work with him, and feel like he was a real jerk. Being an adult is /hard/.

Tonight at the LVLUG, I said that I had thought about switching to Emacs, but didn’t. Someone told me to “learn to change” and when I said I was already proficient with Vim I was told to “grow up.” Someone else noted that using Vim or Emacs was stupid: I should use vi, and if I need complex work, run python or sed or whatever. “Emacs takes forever to load.” – “It takes a second or two on my laptop. Have you run emacs recently?” – “No!” – “Well, it runs pretty quickly.” – “It takes like twenty seconds on our big Compaq servers at work!”

Seeing this kind of arguing in the world of geekery helps me appreciate the kind of nonsense that needs to be avoided in all endeavors to make progress. A few rules for myself:

  1. identify the goal
  2. work toward the goal
  3. evaluate progress while working
  4. if unable to form informed opinion, have none
  5. change tactics when needed
  6. don't change tactics when not needed

Emacs guy wanted to break rule six. Vi guy wanted to break rule four.

I should make a flowchart of these rules and put it on the wall next to my display. When confused, I can meditate on it.

The other sign there says, “Don’t write code that can’t be tested.” These are the chicken soup for my obsessive-compulsive soul.

Written on January 12, 2005