Listening and Learning

If you’re read Muttroxia for any length of time, you know I’m a fierce opponent of the modern GOP. I have found it hard to find representatives of “the other” side to have rational discussions with. I know there are plenty of smart Bush supporters out there, who have supported him for reasons that make perfect sense, but I haven’t found many.

I also belong to a Yale alumni book group. It’s fantastic, filled to the brim with smart people who seem to know everything about everything. It’s a surprisingly diverse group, except politically. One of my first meetings, I watched as the whole group ganged up on one guy who was a unabashed Bush supporter. He held his own just fine. Since then, I’ve been more and more impressed by him. His outlook on the political world is wildly different than mine. But whenever I have talked with him, he has truly listened to my point, and given it the respect of “trying it out” before replying. He is always quick to acknowledge when you have made a good point, and never distorts his own position to strengthen his debating position.

This makes it very rewarding to talk to him, because you feel like you have a chance to actually change someone’s mind, or at least influence their thinking. The amazing thing is that I find myself getting into the same mindset. When he has a criticism about “my team”, or simply a different way of seeing the world, I find myself much more agreeable, and willing to accept his view as valid.

I am positive that this man would just laugh if someone tried to say he was using Passive, Attentive, Active, or Effective Listening. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that his communication style plays a kind of verbal jujitsu. He changes an opponent into a partner, and by allowing the other person to influence him, is able to influence the other person. He’s a living demonstration of how a communication style can have surprsising results.

Nice Etiquette

At work yesterday, on my way up to the 6th floor, the elevator stopped at the 4th floor. A man got in, pressed the button for 5. He was not carrying anything, and appeared to be in good health. As we got in, he apologetically said to me, “Don’t let me take your time.”

I don’t think I had a choice.

In Which I Take Down Jonah Goldberg

Tapped commented on this LA Times Op-Ed by Jonah Goldberg:

The 11th Commandment for liberals seems to be, “Thou shalt not intervene out of self-interest.” Intervening in civil wars for humanitarian reasons is OK, but meddling for national security reasons is not. This would explain why liberals supported interventions in civil wars in Yugoslavia and Somalia but think being in one in Iraq is the height of folly. If only someone had thought of labeling the Korean conflict a humanitarian intervention back then, we might not face the horror and the danger from North Korea today.

Goldberg’s thesis is easily disproved by looking at Afghanistan. The invasion there was clearly in the national interest, and clearly not a humanitarian issue. Liberals supported the invasion then, as did everyone. Liberals have not reneged on their support. Afghanistan has never been a contentious issue, precisely because that war was so clearly in the national interest.


(This is slightly edited from the comment I left there.)

About the Pats Game

OK, a couple comments.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback said:

There was a colossal hidden play at the endgame — hidden plays being ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives. Game tied with 8 minutes remaining, New England had first down on the Indianapolis 18. Reclamation project Reche Caldwell, who’s had a fine year, lined up right and was uncovered by any Colt. He waved madly for Brady to snap the ball and toss it his way. When Brady finally did — nothing but turf between Caldwell and the end zone — Reche dropped the pass as if it was a live ferret. New England settled for a field goal, four lost points helping determine the outcome.

That’s as true as far as it goes. But this was not a hidden play, it was an in-your-face oh-my-god we-just-blew-it are-we-really-the-Patriots why-don’t-we-pay-for-a-real-reciever play. What’s more, it was Caldwell’s second play like that. Earlier he had dropped another perfect pass when he was wide open. Luckily for him, the Pats scored a touchdown anyhow, so it was quickly forgotten. But when your number one reciever can’t catch a ball that’s right to him, you are in trouble.

I am also annoyed at the Manning is better than Brady talk. Manning deserves every bit of credit for this game, but it doesn’t take away from Brady that the last-second miracle didn’t happen this time. Brady scored 34 points against Indianapolis. That’s a lot of points. Only one other team did better (Jacksonville, week 13, 44 points). Any other week, 34 would have been plenty. The fact that the defense gave up 38 points doesn’t take away from this achievement.

And finally, the Pats defense. Still giving Manning and the Colts their due, but that was not the Patriots defense out there in the second half. That was a bunch of tired old men. The team was still exausted from their upset over the number one team the week before, and they had the flu. Anyone who has watched the Patriots defense play throughout the season could tell this was not the same thing, not at all.

At any rate, no matter how it happens, you got to hand it to the Colts, they finally got to the big one. I have no doubt they will eviscerate the Bears. And if nothing else, I’m going to enjoy watching Prince at halftime.

About the Pats game

Readers have asked me to comment on the game. I can’t do it yet. I can’t read about it yet. I will merely say that Rechee Caldwell should be summarily shot. Possibly Bob Kraft also for not spending the money to get a real recieving corps.

God, I can’t believe it.

On Shaving

OK Gillette, you got me.

Your ads are annoying and absurd. Your product strategy is ridiculous (throw more and more baldes on a razor.) I am bothered that my beloved Patriots play in “your” stadium.

And yet. A month ago, they sent me one Gillette Fusion razor in the mail. When I went on a weekend trip, I decided to take it instead of my regular razors. And darned if it wasn’t about the best shave I’ve gotten in my life. It was everything they said. Smooth, responsive, and a great shave. OK, so a supermodel didn’t stroke my face hungrily when I was done, but at least my wife didn’t groan in pain when I kissed her.
My old razors costs about $25 for a 20-pack. These cost about $40 for a 16-pack. So the cost is twice as high, per blade. It was hard to bring myself to really commit. However, let’s leave out percentages and think in absolute dollars. For me, a razor lasts for 2 shaves, 2 days apart, or 4 days per blade. So I need about 90 blades a year. That’s a little over $100 difference. Is it worth $100 over the course of a year to get a better shave? Probably, but I was still unsure. (That’s an underestimate. I don’t shave on weekends or most vacations. I basically shave every other workday, so that’s 280 days / 4 = 70 blades.)

Two things tipped the scales for me. One was that when I mentioned this to Big Scotty, he admitted he had completely folded and was a devoted user. Second, I realized that because this has so many blades, it doesn’t wear out as quick. I’m getting 3 or 4 shaves per blade. If it costs twice as much, but lasts twice as long, it’s effectively the same price, right?

I folded. They got me.

Update (June, 2007): I just finished my first pack of 20 blades. Five months for one pack? That’s amazing! Some of this is due to the introduction of casual Friday at work, reducing my usage to twice a week. But still.

2007’s First Links o’ Interest

Animator vs Animation (very clever)

Best headline ever: World’s tallest man saves dolphin And it’s true!

Don’t keep asking ”Why?” if your Dad is a chemistry professor.

Dance, Monkeys, Dance! Probably the only time I will ever link to a poetry reading. A dern funny one.

The Man of 100 Voices
– 100 impersonations in five minutes. Very impressive.

The best job in the world. Every sentence gets funnier.