Thursday, January 27, 2011

Investigate First.

Newspapers and their online equivalents often bug me. Collectively, they serve as the primary avenue for citizens to hear about things that are going on. They are important, but more than ever, the motivation behind the stories is money. Sensationalist headlines bombard us, misleading at best, blatant lies at worst.

That is a problem, to be sure, but there is another issue at hand as well: the readers. At what point will readers realize what is going on and decide to actually read articles before making up their minds about the issue at hand. If an average American cannot read an article, pick out the important facts, and come up with a reasonable conclusion, our society is failing in some pretty foundational ways.

As an example (used only because it popped up this morning), take a look at the headline of an article from TorrentFreak.com. It reads:
Google Starts Censoring BitTorrent, RapidShare, and More
"Oh no! Corporate censorship!" scream readers. Without any other information, I would have to agree with them. I would rather not see Google censoring their search results. But wait a minute... after finally taking the time to click the link and read the article summary, I see this:
It’s taken a while, but Google has finally caved in to pressure from the entertainment industries including the MPAA and RIAA. The search engine now actively censors terms including BitTorrent, torrent, utorrent, RapidShare and Megaupload from its instant and autocomplete services. The reactions from affected companies and services are not mild, with BitTorrent Inc., RapidShare and Vodo all speaking out against this act of commercial censorship.
Still outraged? Take a closer look. Google is actively censoring terms "from its instant and autocomplete servies." The change made here is that if you want to search for BitTorrent on to Google homepage, you will have to type in the whole word and tap the enter key. The results are exactly the same.

Of course, some readers are still just as angry as they were before reading the article, but hopefully less so. The problem is that the headline was not written to inform citizens of what they are about to read, it was to get them so pissed off that they click on a link, driving up site statistics. There is legitimate information in there, but it comes wrapped in deception.

This brings me to my challenge to you:
READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE
Refrain from making a decision based on headlines. Avoid outrage before taking the time to discover whether it has any rational basis. Sometimes it will, sometimes not, but either way at least you will know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Relax.

Relaxation is not a foreign concept to me. If you know me, you know that I relax way too much. I have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to work on improving the quality of my resting time.

The first thing that improvement requires is the phasing out of procrastination. Coincidentally, that happens to be the thing I find most difficult. With TV and the internet, there is always something to do instead of what I should be doing. Procrastination has been covered on my blog already I believe, so there is no need to rehash it except to say that it is wildly destructive and unnecessary.

So that brings me to my actual point. I spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks engaging in useful relaxation. Whether it was going on a brewery tour around West Michigan, going to a couple of Michigan Basketball games, or finally getting to a couple of Ann Arbor landmarks (The Jolly Pumpkin and Blimpy Burger), there was always one common denominator that made the difference: good company.

We are social creatures, and while I happen to be an introvert, rebuilding energy while I am by myself, I always come away from good conversation refreshed and ready to get back to the grind.

Now if only I could convince myself to turn off the The Dark Knight and focus on a couple of assignments, I would be all set.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Still here.

It has been a while since I took the time to write an update of where things are for me, but I have a hard time believing my rambling has been missed. A lot has happened since a few weeks ago, but nothing too earth shattering.

One thing I spent a lot of time thinking about was my relationships with both my family and friends. I was blessed to spend a lot of time with both groups, and while there were no massive parties there were a few get togethers that afforded me the opportunity to sit down and chat with a lot of people I rarely see anymore.

Those conversations are something I find myself enjoying more and more as I get older, mainly because there is more to talk about. My friends are all working, going to school, or looking for work, and each has a new and interesting perspective on life. At the same time, my family and extended family continues to evolve and I get to hear about what they are all up to as well.

If I talked to you over break, consider this a sincere thank you for your time and insights.

I also did some reading over break; a habit I hope to continue now that I am back in Ann Arbor. Maybe at some point I will do some short book reviews on them, but no promises. It had been a while since I sat down and actually read an entire book cover to cover, and I learned a lot.

Using my extra motivation and carrying it over to Ann Arbor a little bit, I have spent a few days making a personal website. It essentially serves as an online resume, but maybe it will expand to something more than that at some point. (I want to refrain from getting too attached to it since I have no idea how long Michigan will keep the free web hosting available after I graduate next year, but it has been fun regardless.)

You can find it at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~pnbloem/index.html

As I have told everyone so far, if you take a look and have any suggestions at all, please let me know. I like the general look and feel, but I want to keep updating it continually. Your input is appreciated.

Finally, I am ramping up my efforts to find some summer work. My cousin Michael was kind enough to pass around my resume to some of the folks he knows out in California, which illustrated to me in very short order the truth in the statement "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Within two days, I have received responses from folks working at Google, Microsoft, and Apple, along with some information about possible internship opportunities at NASA. Granted, there have been no interviews or offers yet, but it is great to have some leads to work off of, and it can be fun to entertain the thought of spending the summer in a place like California or New York.