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Ten things you don’t know about being a radio DJ

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The grammar error is free.

Not all secrets are because no one should know them except a few select people. No, some secrets are what are, because only people in the business know about them. But if you’re a listener, you may not know what’s up behind the scenes in the radio business.

I “cut my teeth” on community broadcasting and I am a professional podcaster. I have written a guide for audio engineers and recorded many live events. So, maybe, my resume isn’t as impressive as that of talent on big commercial station. But I know a lot about radio.

So, no more dawdling, here you go.

  • Silence can destroy a station.

After three seconds of silence, people switch to another station or just turn off the radio. Whoever is still on after a minute of silence is probably asleep in front of the radio or not in the room. Sorry, silence is the worst that can happen.

Listen how music stations build everything on songs being mixed seamlessly and DJs talking until the singer starts. It’s a rule that stands above everything.

  • We don’t care about “high fidelity”? Try High-steamrolling-over-the-music
This does not just go to eleven. It’s goes to 21. What?!? Can you go even higher. Here, let me try 1000%

Turn on your favourite dance-music station. Listen what happens when the song features a cymbal or very notable drumbeats. A high energy “peak” of a drum causes a “transient”. This is short burst of sound. On a typical radio station, the drums end up sounding like “kafloof kafloof kafloof” instead of “boom boom boom”. The drumbeat sounds mangled and takes the rest of the sound with it in the abyss when it hits. Next you hear the sound slowly increase until next beat causes it to drop again. This is called “pumping” and is the effect of an overactive AGC or compressor.

WHY we do this? Oh, easy… Because we can get a higher average sound level. You don’t want to be that one station that sounds low when your turn the dial. Also, listeners often have the station on in noisy environments, like the car or a missile testing facility.

Someone joked and said, “compress everything until it becomes a square wave” and you’ll be fine. Sure, but the listener wont.  Actually, never mind, listeners don’t care, because…

  • Listeners don’t

Listeners DO NOT listen. The radio is on in the background. So, a DJ is generally able to make minor mistakes without consequences. Just as long as there is no silence (see point 1).

  • We speak briefly
Great, you just made a 30 minute show and forgot to push the record button.

I once concluded that you have 30 seconds to get peoples’ attention and 3 minutes to complete your monologue. I was horribly wrong. I got that from listening to Swedish Radio program 1, NPR and BBC. But they are not representative for music entertainment in radio.

If you play music, you have 20 seconds. At 30, people start wondering if you’re going to stop soon. At 40 seconds, they turn off the radio. If you have a show, and talk about the song, you can keep people listening for up to 60 seconds. But this is because it’s show and not the regular station. But then, those 60 seconds must be worth it, and the listener must have their mind set on hearing a story.

Otherwise, 20 seconds is right.

  • We must have only one thought in our head
The look of the morning zoo-staff when the manager comes with the latest listener surveys. The feeling of doom is imminent

“That was Banana boat by the legendary artist Jogeir Liljedahl. I was out yesterday, and snow has come to Sweden. It’s welcome”.

Here I just back announced (as it’s called when you say it after the song ends) the song and made a short observation. This takes up 8 seconds and then it’s a followed by a new song.

What I didn’t say was maybe that people are falling and hurting themselves, because they haven’t put sand on the walkways. That can be ok, but at this time, you must cut to music.

It is easy to miss this and continue way past the “allotted” time.

  • “That was Banana boat by the legendary artist Jogeir Liljedahl. I was out yesterday, and snow has come to Sweden. It’s welcome, but I heard on the radio the other day that the major has promised sand, but it’s still not there. Maybe they should ask Tunisia for some sand. They have plenty of it. I wonder how much of Tunisia’s land that have farms. Which reminds me of….”

Stop! This took 22 seconds and should have ended after “They have plenty of it”.

Podcasts don’t adhere so much to this. But if you’re doing a podcast with yourself and someone else, here is a hot tip: try to keep every speech you do below 30 seconds or if you need the time, 45 seconds. This will speed up the tempo and make the discussion fluid.

I don’t rigidly adhere to the rules, but you must read the situation and think what the listeners expect from you.

  • Radio is no fun if you like getting a good pay and job safety
No stress. Just make no mistakes for the next eight hours and you get to keep your employment.

Radio jocks are easy to find and to drop. They live by their listener ratings and the get fired by failing to bring in the moolah. I wanted to be in the media business when I completed my studies, but it was tough market to get into. My mother, who is a TV-producer warned me. She pointed out that it a very nasty work place, where you would be passé when you grew older. I heeded her words. So, I become an IT-consultant and had radio as a hobby. In 1995 I started broadcasting for Radio Sydväst, a community station. I logged thousands of hours during those 11 years. We had holiday shows 24 hours a day occasionally. So, I have broadcast from midnight till 06:00 many more times than was probably healthy for me. So, I got the experience and the fun sans the high risk of being fired. Also, we didn’t have busloads listeners. But still.

I’m sorry, radio and media exploit their talents a lot of the time. Remember that a Radio DJ is the lowest rung of the artist ladder to brief stardom. I never did radio to become a celebrity (that would have been stupid). I did it for the passion of technology and as a challenge to become better at teaching and holding lectures.

  • We record religiously
How let in a toddler and a dog in the control room? What!?! They WORK here. And the ratings are skyrocketing.

If you’ve seen radio stations in movies and animated shows, there is always a big tape recorder moving slowly behind the DJ. This is reference tape recorder. Audio quality is bad, but it records everything that is broadcast. If you’re on the air, someone is liable for everything you say. All broadcasters here in Sweden have a responsible person that get shot is someone says something that is not protected by our “free speech” statures. Just kidding, we don’t have capital punishment. They get a “slap on the wrist” and have to write 100 times “I should not have let that happen” on a black board. You seen the Simpson, so you know it’s true.

Today it’s no problem. Any old beat-up laptop can be used to records for days, months and years. Just check that it hasn’t blue screened every now and then.

  • DJs today have it easy, back in my days…
Perfect, the CD-player broke … Again… Just let me get my soldering iron and some Jack Daniels.

Old man rambling-warning. When I setup my station in 2020, I was amazed how easy it was. Voice tracking could be done effortlessly, and live broadcasting equipment was dirt cheap. I remember how we lamented having no budget for a multiband-compressor and just how everything would be a dream if we ever – gasp – got an Aphex Aural exciter. We wanted to excite your ears, and all we had was a crummy JBL mike-compressor. We later got a good multiband compressor for $3500. That would today be around $6100. WOW!

I bought Thimeo Stereo Tool for $500 in 2021. It has all those features and much more. The free version of it would itself have upgraded our sound like you wouldn’t believe.

  • We’re still stuck in the era of vinyl
Ah! One of those fancy new radio “vinyl players”. They really come a long way since the day when they actually rotated.

Mentally, that is. As in, we don’t use vinyl records, but we still think a song should be 3-4 minutes and we still use the “record crate”-analogy.

I’ve written this in an earlier post, but the “top of the hour” resets the station. A program that runs for two hours is built on two 60-minute clocks. We slot the music into slots throughout the hour. When I tested SAM Broadcaster, my first question was “where is the clock function”?

I later choose PlayIT Live that had such functionality. The little slots/slivers used to be assigned to real record crates maybe marked “A”, “B”, “C”. This meant that the first song may come from crate A, that held all the most popular songs right now. And next slot was “B”, which may have been a month-old song still popular. And so on…

The DJ took out a record from the front of the crate, played it and put it in the back of the box. Therefore, music play sometimes is known as “rotation”. Some songs that were super-hot, got to the “Power play”. We simply played them more often. But it sounds cooler to call it that.

Weirdest thing I ever put in “Power play”? Easy, “Hier kommt die maus”.

  • We lament the old days
Now you know how old DJs hand their craft over to the next generation of talents.

Operating a station with cart machines, CD-players, Vinyl ditto and open reel. That was the challenge. Voice tracking is just talk, click, listen, talk, click… 45 minutes gives you days of broadcast if you’re just covering one day part.

Back in the days, you had to be ready for records that got stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck – Sce-ratch!. We had to handle cutting tape with a shaving blade and then taping it together.

I’m just going to end this by saying: “Radio was great and is great – now get off my lawn!”.

WTF, Stackoverflow???

A "random symbol" that looks like a swastika. Gee thanks, Stackoverflow, are you trying to say something?
It may have been a humble sun symbol. But some less than stellar Austrian douche kinda made it a very bad thing to use anywhere. Come on!

Stackoverflow Do you think this random avatar you assigned to me is appropriate? Seriously. Come on, do you have a sickle and hammer as well or maybe the Nod-insignia from Tiberium wars?

Whoever drew that abomination should be given their walking papers.

[In Swedish] Varför sjunker skepp?

Bra fråga, Kanske för att de slutar kunna flyta? För att det är ett hål under vattenlinjen? För att de kör in i saker, vilket leder till ett vattenhål under linjen? För att de bryts i bitar, varvid exakt hur många hål under vattenlinjen de har blir en akademisk fråga?

Vi är inne i en lågkonjunktur som också är en stagflation. Och kanske snart även en recession. För den som inte vet: var och en av dem är dåliga för allt i samhället. Och tre av dem samtidigt är trist på riktigt. Och då också för allt i samhället.

Så, är det dags att förbereda sig för dåliga tider? Nej, absolut inte. Det var typ för ett år sedan det var dags. Är du redo, så är du. Annars är det på med röda lampan och skrik ”skadekontroll” tre gånger högt, medan du tecknar ett dollartecken med handen. Som det är just nu, kan det hjälpa lika bra som faktiskt göra något. Men, ok, jag ska vara mer positiv. Det finns tid att agera, men planera din förberedelse mot just allting som kan gå fel i svallvågorna av situationen vi har här och nu.

Denna text handlar om varför företag går under i dåliga tider och relaterar mest till händelserna kring 2000 och 2008. Vad som händer nu har vi liksom inte facit till ännu. Så 2000? Vad? Samma som så många gånger förut. Något var övervärderat och marknaden krashade, vilket gjorde att den fick just den storlek den borde ha. Hände också 1983 med spelmarknaden för övrigt. För många speldatorer och för ruttna spel för att säga det enkelt. Gejmerserna tyckte att Ataris ”ET” stank och det gjorde att de slutade köpa spel och datorer. En enorm förenkling, men den stämmer någotsånär. Och på den vägen är det och så har det alltid varit. Tulpanerna i Holland i salig åminnelse.

2000 var det IT-marknaden med drömmare som lanserade idéer som var före sin tid eller allmänt utan eftertanke. Man pumpade pengar in i den typ av företag som vi idag kallar enhörningar. Och de flesta av dem har idag en sak gemensamt med riktiga enhörningar: de finns inte.

2004 gick jag och lyssnade på Handelskammarens framtidsseminarium. Alla där var högdjur som kände gud och hela världen. Jag var en enkel felus catus bland alla mustela erminea. Jag och en träslöjdslärare från Uppsala. Vi snackade en massa om pengar, jobb och trä. Högdjuren hälsade knappt. De såg att man inte var en av dem. En av dem talade om hur bra en stor entreprenör var som startat en inkubator för småföretag. – ”Han har skapat 100 nya företag på en kort tid”. Jag undrade hur många som hade livskraft. Men, han hade dragit i spaken 100 gånger och vem vet, han kanske fick pengar tillbaka eller vann något. Osäkert.

En person hade förläst sig på den stora filosofen från öst som sa att man inte skulle befatta sig med folk som inte var av nytta för andra. Och jag var det helt klart inte, eftersom han vägrade hälsa på mig. Jag fick det förklarat av en kompis som också var där och som kände honom. ”Äh, han gör så där”. Dumt. Du vet aldrig vem som kan bli en bra vän eller faktiskt nyttig för dig att känna. Han fattade det senare och släppte beteendet, vilket jag tror var bra för honom.

Företaget jag jobbade på vid den tiden krängde som en båt i sjönöd och det är en historia i sig, som någon gång ska berättas. Men inte här och nu. 2003 hade företaget gigantiska skulder och stod inför randen till konkurs. Två år innan var stämningen däremot positiv och man var glad att man inte var en av de där startup-företagen som kraschade 2000–2001. Lätt att vara efterklok, men så var det.

När blev allt bra igen? Ja, det var ju ingen som sa. Men runt 2004–5 pratade man inte längre om ”elände, elände, elände”. Så det måste varit då. Är ingen Sherlock Holmes, men det är min magkänsla. Sen var det högkonjunktur och solen sken. I alla fall fram tills 2008. Och då var det en bostadskris i USA som tog med sig världsekonomin. I det stora landet i väster kunde du lätt köpa ett hus för stora lån och sedan ställa in det när de inte gick att betala. Du förlorade huset, men banken fick ta skulden. Bankerna hanterade det på ett närapå obegripligt sätt: de sålde lånen mellan varandra. Så ett lånepaket innehöll lån som kunde ställas in när som helst tillsammans med lån som var säkra. Och det var i efterhand lika smart som navigera med GPS-en över ett stup som den inte visade att det fanns där. Också något att skriva en avhandling om, vilket ekonomerna redan gjort 1000 gånger. För en enkel IT-snubbe som jag, räcker det med att sammanfatta med orden ”Aj, fan”.

Även då skakade allt, men IT-marknaden i Sverige verkade stå pall och vi här ryckte på axlarna och installerade Fedora Linux 3 och Windows Server 2008 på servrarna. Men svallvågorna var enorma. Det vet de glasögonprydda förståsigpåarna, eller historiker som vi kallar dem, att berätta.

2017 kom krisen igen, fast det var ju bara i media. Det var dags för lågkonjunkturen som dock hade fräckheten att svika oss och inte dyka upp. Samma sak 2018 och 2019. 2020 vet jag inte vad som riktigt hände. Det var som vanligt, total katastrof och ”förvånansvärt bra givet omständigheterna”. Samtidigt. Och så var det den där otrevliga varelsen som fanns överallt i luften och som vi inte kunde bli av med. Men nog om den elaka ledaren för det där stora landet. Vilket land? Vet inte, men jag har en lista på kandidater.

Nu är det 2022 och nu har vevade just ekonomerna med flaggan, så nu är racet mot avgrunden (eller det temporära lilla trasslet, som snart är över) alltså i gång. Solen går upp som vanligt och folk kör som idioter med sina elektriska sparkcyklar. Så det känns inte så dåligt just nu. Fast vi får tydligen välja när vi har ström i vinter. Men bra nyheter: det fixar man åt oss, så vi behöver inte bry oss. Det blir bara lite svart i TV-rutan ibland.

Kommer kickad.nu komma tillbaka? Den siten köptes till sist av IDG tror jag. Men i början av 2000-talet kollade man om företaget man jobbade på sagt upp folk eller inte. Eller om någon konkurrent gjort det, vilket var mer lättande. Just nu svarar den inte på tilltal när man skriker ”HTTP GET” med sin webbläsare. Men vem blir glad av att bli kallad en GET, så det förstår jag.

”We’ll meet again” sjöng Vera Lynn till en vacker bakgrund av atombomber som briserade. Låten är vacker, men rockvideon kunde vi klarat oss utan. Någon som vet vad bandet ”Dr Strangelove” gör nuförtiden?

Alltså, det finns saker man ser på det lilla planet när tiden för elände kommer. Det är ilska, förtvivlan och vrede. Men du kan knappast spöa upp dörren hemmet eller anklaga gud och hela världen för allsköns dumheter när osäkerhetskänslan kommer. Slå handen genom skärmen är olämpligt, då en ny är dyr och handen kommer behöva gips.

Men om vi inte kan springa från recessions-lejonet som äter våra skuldtyngda bostäder, våra jobb och vår trygghet. Ska vi slåss? Hur gör man det mot ett dystert besked om ränteläget? En rak höger mot radioapparaten löser det problemet.

– ”Där har du Sveriges Radio P1 för att du lät riksbankchefen säga det där! Jag är #kränkt”.

 Transistorer, kretsar och knappar åker alla världens väg och ljudet försvinner ur högtalaren, som flyger i en båge över rummet och sedan gömmer sig bakom blomkrukan och hoppas på att du snart lugnar ner dig.

Nej, så är det inte. Men ilskan ökar som om värmen i rummet just skruvats upp av en elak kontorsdemon. Konflikter, ilska och rykten flödar. I början av 2000-talet kom stormen till mig i form av en arg medarbetare som tyckte jag och min kollega till it-tekniker skulle fått sparken. Varför? Eftersom vi båda varit anställda kortare tid än några som fått gå. Samma snubbe var annars trevlig och nästan en personlig vän till vår lilla IT-avdelning.

Vice-VDn som rekryterats nyligen ansågs var en skarprättare och allt från hans privatliv till hans roll gjorde folk högröda i ansikten. ”Folk blir allt argare för var dag som går”. Vänner började se snett på varandra och alla ifrågasatte allt och alla. Man ville personifiera allt elände och skälla ut den jäveln.

Alla försök att rädda situationen ökade ilskan hos oss alla. Lönesänkningarna minns jag värst. Alla undrade vilka som inte gått med på den och man var smart i att hålla tyst. Det var visserligen anonymt, men jag hoppades att ingen trodde jag hade sagt nej. För jag hade faktiskt gått med på det, men det fick man inte heller säga. Då blev man idiotförklarad i stället. Ingen av oss var en dålig människa, men känslan av att allt var så här kunde få ut det värsta ur oss alla. Det var ingen rolig tid och man gick till jobbet med en stor klump i magen varje dag.

Så jag tänker på det som vi fruktar just nu omkring oss. Inget nytt under solen och precis som många gånger förut. Jag hoppas att en del klokskap ändå finns denna gång. Jag minns ilskan och osämjan som värre än osäkerheten med allting. Det är mitt hopp att om saker blir jobbigt för dig och för mig att vi minns hur det var förra gången. Jag tror vi måste stilla våra upprörda sinnen och försöka bete oss så bra vi kan.

Vi flyr eller vi slåss som människor på denna krigsplanet, men det finns ingen flykt och ingen strid i en lågkonjunktur. Och då kan vi välja att falla isär eller hålla ihop. Det finns nog ingen annan väg att gå.

  • En som funderat förr.

No idols and no heroes

Once we loved him. He was hailed as a voice of our generation. He spoke eloquently to everyone who wanted to hear him. Or sang or painted or built a foundation of software code. Or whatever.

Then he changed. Or maybe it was she. I don’t really keep track anymore, sorry. He became pompous and started demanding his place in this world. Maybe it was all the scandals with the ladies, the booze or the drugs. Or that he threw the TV out of the hotel window. Again… Or all the loud parties. Maybe I just misremember everything. No, that was not it! It was the well-thought-out speeches becoming ramblings. He knew his stuff but moved into opining about adjacent subjects. And soon he commented about everything. All from his typical right wing … or was it left wing rhetoric. The facts became more opinions and eventually, the foundation of his logic stood on a swamp of unresearched statements.

Was he a charlatan? No, I don’t think he was. But as time progressed he became one. Why? Because he always was that way, you see. You know how those big-ego people are. Just let them loose, and this is what happens. Ok? So, the people that enabled him, hailed him to the skies and gave him whatever he pointed at did nothing wrong? They now wash their hands?

I will not comment about what has been. Let’s talk about what can be. That is, how can we hinder those situations? I promise no solution, just a mere idea in my head.

First off, just to be clear, I have not spoken about a specific person in this text. But I can make a list, and it’s pointless. You know a lot of people that would fit in it. They created themselves, and we helped them. I propose that we drop the love and the hate and more than anything else: the bloody idolization!

Both you and I live in fear of missing out, being rejected, saying something that makes people angry or just plain screwing up. It’s painful to feel the effects of those things, but it sets constraints. What if there were no constraints? Neither you, nor I would become bad. Because we don’t want to be doing bad stuff in the first place. But what if people start pushing you to take risks, to become more outspoken about those things they love to hear? Or to compose that beautiful music. Because of your talent, you are always set apart. You get a manager and a private chauffeur. You suddenly have a whole new set of friends that would never say “Dude, you’re going a little to hard on the drink, man”. They will clean up the place, pick up your vomit and pay the bills.

This is not lack of restraint, this is pushing you to express your personality to the max. Humans are not made from metal. When the world changes its expectations of a person, the person changes. Very few people would consider throwing the TV out of the hotel window (see introduction) or to say controversial stuff to get attention. But slowly and gradually, people demand more and more. And the persons bad sides are augmented along with the good. Going back to that restraint and self-control we all have means falling out of the world’s favor.

Then we have the pedestal. That platform raised to the stars. The person now stands on it and is held up as all the best a rock artist/philosopher/influencer/author/tv-host/super developer/spirit healer there ever were. And he can do whatever he wants, with hordes of people admiring his “in your face arrogance”. The public opinions are par for the course, and he asserts everything for everyone. “Just telling you like it is”.

The fall is hard as it’s sudden. Some news outlet starts calling him out. He has always had detractors, but this is new. The big dogs of media and the people in power starts biting him. It was seldom totally out of the blue. One thing he said or did, was “too much”. You might argue, “that how he always been”. But I advise you to stay silent. Because being on his side or liking his music is now dangerous. Virtue signaling ensues “Yeah, I used to like him, but I now understand how horrible he was. I hate him now”. The “yes men” are gone, the friends went out when the fair weather was no more, and the manager does no longer respond to his calls.

Am I saying he was a good man and innocent of his misbehavior? No. I’m not doing that. I think it should be clear that my only point is that the community became religious around him and simply pushed. It takes strength to back down and to focus on the important stuff, like what it was that was good. The music, the knowledge, the skills, the leadership, the scientific research, the result and how it made the world better for the people around. Drop the ego? Well, maybe not developing it to humongous proportions had been a better solution.

But the world must also stop creating idols out of humans as well. We’re not helped by worshipping people. Bob Dylan wrote in his autobiography about people trying to get him to speak their opinions, join their groups and to become a voice for them. That was not what he wanted.

He wanted to write lyrics with his patented “diorama storytelling” and compose music. Unfortunately, he wanted to sing them as well, but we have come to take the good with the bad.

Phil Spector reigned supreme (haha!) and when he frequently threatened to shoot people, the other artists just asked him to put the gun away. Maybe they shouldn’t have just ignored what was going on, I’m just saying.

Many actors and celebrities just fall off the radar. They couldn’t take what the world was demanding and what they had become. The retraced their steps and got back into a more normal life situation. I’m happy for them.

To wrap this one up: please don’t create idols out of real people. Stone, glass and iron is ok. Those will never change and will not break easily. Real people on the other hand, when supported but not idolized will create, change and improve themselves and the world. No idols and no heroes!

The dilemma of the prism

A prism breaks light that crosses through it into colors. It shows you the truth behind the light. It does this the same way that a recipe tells you how the finished dish will taste and look like. But wait, a recipe does not say anything about the finished dish, that’s probably why you have a picture of it in the cookbook. Pretty trite and obvious, right.

Sure, and therefore we must try to define the terms “truth”, “correctness”, and “usefulness”. The prism is true unless it’s broken. It’s also correct to a certain degree. But to see the light in both a real and metaphorical sense, the prism must go! I’m not even talking about lies and deceit, mind you. Just the truth in colors and the usefulness of knowing it’s a reflection of a cathedral in France, which the prism cannot tell you it is.

Another example, called the “illegal pixel”. As it stands today, Mickey Mouse is still under copyright. Disney owns the right to the character and any sort of picture or painting of him. That’s right, Disney, has tried to forbid unauthorized paintings of Mickey Mouse and other of their characters on the walls of a day care center in the US!

So, if I take picture of my living room and a picture of Mickey Mouse and shrink both to a resolution of 1×1. Each picture will be EXACTLY one pixel. Is one under copyright and the other is not? If no, then at what resolution will one of them be? This is a fun exercise for a copyright lawyer, and yes, this discussion is real. As in it has been in the debate many years ago.

This is the problem with many “one-pixel” truths, building a composite lie. Read up of survivor bias, selection bias and cherry picking if you do not believe me.

A very simple example of this:

The full resolution: “I was not in the bank when the robbery occurred. I did not intend to rob the bank.”

Some minor “compression” to save space in the sentence above. “I was in the bank when the robbery occurred. I did intend to rob the bank.”

If you count the words, you can notice I did not do much change to it. It should be pretty close to intact.

You get this?

1) Representation cannot alter the meaning of the original statement.

2) All facts in the case must be correctly represented. You may not break them down and “choose” what is presented.

Hey! If this is how it is, wouldn’t that make short news blurbs, tweets, and Facebook groups with an agenda just a bunch of worthless garbage?

Well, yes, it would. And thanks for making my point for me.

Hanlon+ – the next generation of Hanlon’s razor

(Static) You’re tuned to 100% MHz FM and the Rationality network. I’m your host, DJ Daemon and now time for some messages from our sponsors.

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Hanlon’s razor, the premier leader in logical deduction just got better! Hanlon industries presents the Hanlon+. The Hanlon+ cuts with better precision and the same quality you have come to expect from a true powerhouse of problem solver. With its double-action judgement free power shear, it will give you more than 30% better results. And that’s a promise! Hanlon+ is the thinking man- or laaaaady’s choice in thought management. It will keep your thoughts sharp and in peak condition when you need it the most.

Hanlon+, from Hanlon industries – the leader of good judgement since 1980.

And we’re back. This is Rationality, your reality leader. DJ Daemon here to talk about Hanlon’s razor and Hanlon+.

The famous Hanlon’s razor says that bad effects for you come from either a) the incompetence of others or b) the malice of others.

In short, if something bad happens. Someone did because they’re evil/uncaring or because they’re stupid/incompetent.

I have a bit of a problem with this. It’s way too judgmental. I don’t intend to remove judgement, not at all. It should just not be “built into” the first assessment. Instead, I propose, we change “Incompetence” to “Non-intentional” and “Malice” to “Intentional”.

To elaborate, let’s assume you accept a temporary position at a farm. You get a note that tells you that your first assignment is to operate the tractor. It has the usual number of warnings and reminders. You know you’ve seen them before and skip ahead. As you arrive to the farm, you check in, get the key and the walk to the tractor. As you try to start it, it will not work. The engine growels but will not start churning as you turn the key in the ignition. After an hour of troubleshooting, you find out that the tank is empty. That stupid sunnova…. The farmer totally forgot the fuel.

When you tell the farmer about the problem, he just sternly tells you to look at the assignment again. You do. And the notes tell you that you’re supposed to always check the logs in the house to know when refuel is necessary. Ow!

What’s the verdict, Hanlon’s razor? Malice! Clear as the day. The farmer knew you would skip over the instructions and this way, you learned that he expects you to know the check list by heart.

But malice? Really? It’s clearly intentional, not necessarily malicious. He gives you another chance, and you complete the work. The harvest looks promising, and you get paid. Hence, it’s “Intentional”, not malicious.

The “Nigerian prince” that offers money, if you just send him your bank account information is also intentional. And malicious. He wants to gouge you of as much money he can before you figure out that you’ve been had.

So “Malice” is now “Intentional”.

And then we have the other result of Hanlon’s razor: incompetence. Something bad happens, and that’s because of their (whoever they may be) incompetence. They certainly tried, but you know how they are, nothing ever comes out right. Aaaaargh!

No, I would say it’s “non-intentional”. That INCLUDES incompetence but does not restrict itself to that. Instead, it could be something like:

– Incompetence

Yes, actually. That’s that case when it IS exactly that. It’s a common reason for “non-intentional” consequences.

– Competent, non-participation

They know they could not solve the problem, so they didn’t. That caused problems on your side. Maybe it could have been solved, but not after so many mistakes or so much time had passed. Irregardless, it wasn’t possible. They should have told you, but maybe you didn’t get the memo. And there you are.

– “Act of <insert deity>”

Sometimes bad stuff happens ™. It’s not your fault, it’s not ours either. Sorry. Maybe if x haden’t been in power/in charge/tasked with fixing it. Or maybe it just happens. Reason unknown. An electric storm has no mind of its own, but due to it, you have no Internet connection. Non-intentional, not “incompetent”.

Summary

Hanlon+ replaces Hanlon’s razor. “Intentional” replaces “Malice” and “Non-intentional” replaces incompetent.

We’re going on with a two-hour marathon with the best thoughts from the 60s, 70s, 80s until today on Rationality FM – your reality leader. Stay tuned!

100 years of history (mildly abridged)

Decade – Prediction – Outcome (an abbreviated list)

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1900 – Teddy Roosevelt defeats a bear with his bare hands – Outcome: As far as Internet history is concerned, he did.

1910 – We will fly to the moon – Outcome: Kaiser Wilhelm was angry. Also, there was a Covid-like thing and nothing good came out of either.

1920 – We will party like there is no tomorrow. – Outcome: Prediction correct. For reference, see 1929.

1930 – A better human will emerge. A superhuman even – Outcome: Nooooooooooooooooooooooo. Hell no….. Never again!!!! (also applies to the 1940s)

1940 – We will get out of this horrible war, everything stops for tea and Jazz will be better with Bebop – Outcome: Yes, Yes and NO!

1950 – Tradition rules, everything is possible and lets keep this neat and tidy. Nukes are scary. No dissent or people that are not like us – Outcome: For reference of the outcome, see latter part of 1960.

1960 – Will be like the 50s. – Outcome: Nope. 1967 begs to differ. Make love not war. Also, pop and rock is awesome. Love everyone. Stick it to the man.

1970 – More hippie stuff – Outcome: Well, no. But we got an energy crisis, disco and cool movies.

1980 – I dunno, less crisis – Sorta kinda. Outcome: Economy booming, no worries, yuppies, morning in America, scare of nukes again, the future is unknown.

1990 – More good economy? – Outcome: No, kinda troublesome at that. But freedom! We got freedom! No Soviet! Brithop, Grunge and Eurotechno.

2000 – Everything is possible! Internet, baby! – Outcome: Yeah, until everything got a really bad (see “IT crash”, “WTC” and “Economy 2008” for further reference). Also surveillance.

2010 – Everything is mobile and possible – Outcome: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes (I’ll have what she’s having). Then see “2020s” for further reference and don’t forget surveillance (seems most have).

2020 – It’s like 1920s again!!!!! – Outcome (TBD): Well, yes, so far. Spanish flu, meet Covid. Party without thought for future? yeah! Looming crisis? Sure! Also, everything is a weapon. Did I meantion you have no privacy? This is new!

[In Swedish] Lite vardagsfilosofi…

Det finns en del vishet i Snövit och de sju dvärgarna. “Vad gör det om 100 år, när allting kommer kring”?

Alla psykopater, deras husdjur till sociopater och deras herrar till narcissister tror de betyder något. Svaret är, ingen betyder någonting. Det är vad du gör med den tid du har som är det enda värdet du har. Svepningen har inga fickor, det du har kvar är det du gav bort.

Om 100 år har forskningen om vapen troligen ingen betydelse. Har vi ens någon form av elektricitet? Finns mänskligheten kvar? Psykosarna fattar inte att de passerat randen till avgrunden. “Brinkmanship” fungerar bara om en av parterna INTE ramlar ner i avgrunden. Annars är det ingen mening överhuvudtaget.

Men brinkmanship är ett spel som faktiskt kräver total utplåning. Det måste finnas, annars är det per definition inte det spelet. Så kärnvapen, biologiska medel och kemiska dito räcker alltså inte. Riiiiiight! Nu kan vi döda med drönare, RF-strålning, Internetrykten och media.

Så, om priset på alla vapen (allt är vapen nuförtiden!) minskar på ett klassiskt marknadsekonomiskt sätt: är då väl snart allting tillgänglig för alla. Ja, om inte staterna förbjuder folk att skaffa det. Men jag säger det igen: allting är vapen. Om staterna visste vad man kan göra hemma och med tillgång till Internet, hade de då tillåtet det? Knappast! Men för sent att bråka om det nu.

Så här är vi. Alla skriker, bråkar, hatar och det blåser upp till storm och krig. Ingen fara! Vi har gjort det förut, vi kan göra det igen! Hmmmmm…. Senaste världskriget avslutades med ett gigantiskt utropstecken i form av ett svampmoln. Vad om nästa BÖRJAR med det. Och sedan allt det där andra. Eller så kanske det börjar med att folks åsikter styrs via Internet. Det är nog så det börjar, atombomben tar ju bort Internet. Indoktrinera först, sedan bomba skiten ur allt och alla. Inget ska vara kvar! Utom vi. Alltså, de som fortfarande tror mer på “first kiss” snarare än MAD (Mutually Assured destruction).

Tips från coachen: vill du att något du skapat ska finnas kvar för tid och evinnerlighet: skapa det då i sten. Titta på Angkor Wat. Stenbyggnaderna är kvar, träbygganderna hittar man bara rester av i marken.

Så om man kan välja att jaga “hittepåfiender”, snarare än riktiga förövare. Ja, vems ärenden går man då? Svaret är: man går de moderna Ozymandias ärenden. De som hoppas bli statyer med “mänsklighetens frälsare, kung och gud” som inskription. Inskription? Försök eftermäle i stället. Det är ju exakt det dikten säger.

Kanske finns det någon klokhet i den där hippiegrejen: “Make love, not war”. Svårt att säga.

The problem with stoicism – and maybe some kind of solution

My mother loves citing Epictetus. I’ve heard quotes all my life, and they always intrigued me. She told me once that she saw Epictetus’s “Discourses and Selected Writings” on the sleeping room table of her father and mother and started reading it. Obviously, it resonated with her, and so she learned of stoicism.

In modern time, I sought stoicism mostly by stumbling across the Facebook group and I reconnected with old memories of what I’ve been taught. I loved it and felt that it had to be a solution how to better myself.

In retrospect I was (mostly) able to, and sometimes not. The process had its ups and down, and as I struggled to understand the parts that seemed hard for me to live by, the problems with stoicism became clear to me. In my opinion, the fundamentals are good, great even. But its chief problem is how uncompromising it is.

Just understand that I talk about stoicism, not Stoicism. As in, the “way for a better you” and not the religion. I’m not a great fan of Zeus, you see. Sorry if that offends anyone. He was not a great character in my book.

Before we start, let me say that I still read stoicisms teachings and apply them to my life. But I’ve given up on the idea of reaching it and becoming a true stoic, which many of my older text already reflects. So, what’s the reasons of that, in my opinion?

Problem 1: It will not let you compromise


“Drop the ego”

“You can only control yourself”

“You cannot complain about feeling that you have no control over”

“You must silently bear your emotions”

WHY?

Seriously, why??? Epictetus was limping through most of his life. The reason is unknown. Some people say that it was congenital. But legend has it that his slave owner, Epaphroditus, tortured him by breaking his leg. Epictetus answered, “Soon my leg will break” and then pretty much said “Told ya’ so” when it did.

Ok, could you do that? I certainly couldn’t. I would cry and scream, like most people. Torture always works. it’s just about finding a person’s breaking point. Awful subject let’s drop it.

But really, why is stoicism not allowing errors and non-adherence? Probably too hard to define how many retries you have before you must return your “stoicism club card”. Seriously, it does make people fail!

It’s not an easy problem to solve. If you think about the yo-yo behavior of failed diets, you understand that it’s deeply human to fight to better yourself yet failing. And still, “x is not a true stoic because x whines too much”. Right! That’s forbidden now. No, whining. (As I am right now, by the way).

The recovery

Push as much discipline as you can into applying your self-reflections into betterment. If you fail, understand why, and work with it. Make the uncontrolled situations rarer and less obvious. Often, I blame myself for when I get angry at some bleeding, insignificant problem like why VSCode applies </div>-tags when I don’t want it to, or some idiotic mail makes me say snarky stuff when I’m all alone. It’s small but becomes a problem if you don’t try to silence your emotions. Evetually, people will be around when you scream that Sataya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) should “#%#¤%&%”¤”¤%&/&&”%#.

  • “Good that has never happened to you, Erik!”
  • “Hmm… Yeah, let’s just say that and go on….”

Problem 2: the horizon of change – you may not even try

The tenement of wisdom is about knowing to differentiate between what you can change and what you cannot.

How would you even know?

I mean, without trying. We gain wisdom by trying what we cannot predict the outcome of. It’s a false positive – false negative problem, really. As in if I cannot know, should I prefer believing I can’t change it, when it turns out that I can (false negative)? Or that I must avoid changing stuff if I even I might be able to pull it through (false positive)?

The recovery

I believe in the wisdom tenement is about giving up when it’s clear to be a failure. This calibrates towards the false negative stance. But still gives it a shot. Paul McCartney tried to save the Beatles in the late 60s with the “Get back”-tour. It ended up becoming the “Let it be” album, released after the Beatles had split up. I’m just putting that out there. Please, please me by pondering about that.

what is the hardest thing to deal with while trying to become a stoic?

The big question: what is the hardest thing to deal with while trying to become a stoic?

I don’t consider myself a stoic. Why? Because for me, those goals are unattainable. Sounds more than a bit defeatist, no? It’s a stoic trait to acknowledge what you cannot change. This seems like some loopy reasoning, but it really is not.

The goals of stoicism for me are to strive for. But every time my angry, uncool, and brittle side takes over I feel “but I’m angry/sad/moody, so how can I help it?”. As I cool down, I berate myself over this stupid mistake; that I let myself be overcome by emotion. It does not really do anything good. I say snarky things to Windows 11, bang my fists into the keyboard and swear loudly. Some stoic, eh? But, to a certain degree I know why this is hard. It’s not because I can do no better. Everyone can get angry, right?

Yes, that is true. But some people are just better at it, and for the rest of us, there is but one answer: others! I believe that that what keep us sane, is the support and restraint from others. Friends, coworkers, lovers, and parents. My point being that the framework of coexistence is what builds a better person. Stoicism may be the far end of such a road.

All negative emotions catch on, when no one is there to talk you down or support you. Think about all the loners in the world that go totally mental. Absolutely not all of them, but some do. And would having people to set limits for them, but more than anything giving them support have changed them to the better? I sure think so.

I’m a bit of lone wolf at least, so there is some self-recognition of a bit of projection on my part, I totally get that. But at some point, the people that NEVER talk to other real people or only ever communicate over forums, are at a greater risk than the rest of us. The restraint comes from temperance. It comes from a balance between filled needs and avoidance of overindulgence.

All I’m saying is that being a stoic is probably totally impossible in a vacuum, without others. Alone, we are all left to our own devices. My mother, herself close to a true stoic, says “you’re your own bad advisor”.

The idea of honest words from people saying hard truths but also showing kindness, saves any person from being knocked out of the “green areas” of the four tenements of stoicism.

Oh, and the answer? Alone! I think it’s being alone.