Thursday, May 29, 2014

nepotism in "Fellowship of the Ring"

Last month, I watched Fellowship of the Ring again.  It is an amazing movie, and I watched all 17 hours of bonus commentary.  However...!

Aragorn is obsessed with the "weakness that runs in his veins" because he is inherited from Isildur.  Three thousand years ago!  Even if his ancestors had children at age 50, that's 60 generations!  He is only 0.000000000000000086% blood from Isildur by this point! [1]  We should be far more concerned whether his more recent ancestors have weakness in their blood or not.

Also, the story makes a huge deal about how Aragorn is the ONLY ONE who can unite Gondor.  At one point, it looks like Aragorn will refuse, and Boromir goes on about how the race of men will fail now, and the White City will come to ruin.  There is no one else in all the tens of thousands in Gondor who can lead?  In 3000 years, not a single other leader emerged?  We have to wait for Aragorn with his 0.000000000000000086% royal blood (blood tainted by weakness, no less)?

Other than these problems, Lord of the Rings has great lessons.  Throughout many pre-launch moments on my software projects when it was "darkest before the dawn", I reminded myself and others that the journey always feels gritty and broken while you're in it.  One does not simply walk into Mordor.  It's only afterwards that the epic elf songs are written and sung throughout centuries.  While you're trekking to Mount Doom, it does not feel epic at all!

Also Lord of the Rings teaches us that even a hobbit (or two, since Frodo had a cofounder) can contend with the will of Sauron.

But the nepotism is lame!  Some random dude in Gondor should have risen up and said, "Hey, I'm a great leader too, how about we stop waiting decades for Aragorn and just unite under me instead?" and they should have gotten on with it.

[1] computed via (0.5)^60

Thursday, May 01, 2014

the 10% that voted for him won a bunch of money

"Moe" was one of the fellow students in my survival school course.  Moe lost 100 pounds in the six months prior to survival school, dropping from nearly 300 pounds into a normal weight range.

On the ride to the airport to attend survival school, Moe's roommate let slip that there was a betting pool on how long Moe would last.  Survival school is tough.  One former Air Force airman previously died on the course, from dehydration.  Moe pried out of his roommate the fact that out of 25 betters, only two bet that Moe would finish out the course.  All the other people bet that he would give up partway through.

Moe was demoralized by this.  He described how bummed he was to find out that 90% of his friends had bet against him.  

In the end, Moe did not quit.  No one in my group quit.  I think this was partly due to me.  I was by far the slowest.  I was always walking at the end, with the person doing the sweep.  And I didn't quit.  If the person struggling the most hasn't quit, why would anyone else quit?  

On the last day, as we prepared to re-enter the real world, Moe said, "My coworkers are going to be surprised.  But they won't care.  Almost all of them bet against me.  They wanted me to fail."

He turned on his phone, and posted an update that he finished.  An hour later, he checked his phone again and looked up in shock.  "Everyone wants to buy me a drink," he said.  "They all want to have lunch or dinner, and congratulate me.  I got so many congratulatory messages."


The next morning, I was talking to J, another student.  

J said, "Moe doesn't understand that guys don't encourage each other like women do.  They don't say, 'oh, you're definitely going to make it!'  Instead they say, 'You're going to fail.  You're going to fall on your face.  No way you're going to finish.'"

"Wow," I said.  "But they do congratulate each other sometimes?"

"After it's done," J said.  "Then they said, 'Good job'.  'Nice work'.'"


Recently I noticed that a good percentage of posts on PostSecret or forums I read are about people who want to take the leap and start a company or move to a new city or switch careers.  Almost all the comments are positive.  I wonder if it's true that real-world men are trash-talking?  If so, how do men manage to make life changes?  You would think women would be the ones starting all the companies, if they're the only ones with emotional support.

Also, this bodes well if you are making a big change and getting a lot of flak from guys.  When you succeed, they will all turn around to congratulate you, so there is no need to worry that the flak will go on forever.