A View Through Glass

Rants and ravings of a curmudgeon of Generation Y

Some thoughts on “Blade Runner 2049″…

Disclaimer: This post focuses on some of the underlying philosophy of “Blade Runner 2049.” Spoilers are abound. It is recommended you see the movie at least once before reading.


A review post on The Mary Sue lead me to another blog in the review’s comments. In the post, “Blade Runner leaves women in the dust of misogyny” the author highlights the overt, misogynistic overtones of the movie. The author raises some good points; and Blade Runner 2049 leaves you with an uncomfortable pit in your stomach after walking out of the movie.  At the forefront the movie drives home questions about what it means to be human.  Underneath the immediate philosophical question, a much darker point being made. The  cinematography of  “Blade Runner 2049” is impressive and the visual effects create an atmosphere of oppression. I would argue that this oppression is the point of  the movie.

It is worth remembering that the overarching plot of the movie is that the Wallace Corporation is attempting to find the child of Rick Deckard and Rachael from the original movie. The Wallace Corporation is hoping to find a means of allowing Nexus 8, possibly Nexus 9, replicates to reproduce on their own without needing to be manufactured in a factory. These same Nexus 8 replicates are designed to comply with all orders given and it is strongly implied that Nexus 9 will have the same “feature.”

Fundamentally, Blade Runner 2049 addresses a similar plot as “Armitage III” in the sense it is about subverting natural reproduction between humans with agency into androids that are implied to lack agency. How problematic this plot is in Armitage III has been called out directly and the same issues been noted in Blade Runner 2049. So  it does not seem like a stretch to say that Blade Runner 2049 is an allegory of men co-opting the agency of women by putting reproduction into a controllable shell.

This raise several interesting questions though. One of which being, how should this be depicted? In Blade Runner 2049 they make it pretty clear that what the Wallace Corporation was trying to do was negative, oppressive, and evil. This is shown not only through the plot itself (i.e., members of the LAPD being murdered), the atmosphere of the film (e.g., strong use of shadow, sets with lots of negative space, etc.), and the interactions  between the characters. Others have argued that Blade Runner 2049 was sexist and misogynistic, but I think that was the point.

Niander Wallace, the head of Wallace Corporation, appears to only value human women for their reproductive abilities. He seeks to build “angels” who obey his command that are capable of reproduction without the need for factories. Despite philosophizing this under the guise of creating a new species that can rule the stars, the products of Wallace Corporation betray much more authoritarian and patriarchal notes. The Joi series of holograms are designed to give their users “Everything you want to hear. Everything you want to see.” Female Nexus 8 replicates follow the theme of the original “Blade Runner” of being “pleasure models.” Viewers witness the “birth” of what may be a Nexus 9, followed by its evisceration when Wallace is dissatisfied with the replicate’s womb. The Rachael replicate that is introduced to Deckard is coldly executed for not being able to live up to her designed purpose. In short, everything we know about Wallace’s character points at him seeking to subjugate women.

If we look at the relationship that K has for Joi in his home as a surrogate wife and friend, it has a veneer of being a loving relationship. However, the film also makes a point of highlighting advertisements for Joi on a regular basis. The viewer is being reminded that she is a product and we must question everything about the relationship. Recalling the tag line that Joi tells you “Everything you want to hear.” we are reminded that she tells K that he must be special and heavily implies that he is the child of Rachael and Deckard.  Not only is this subverted when we find out Dr. Ana Stelline the actual child, but that Joi might be programmed to reinforce this self-aggrandizing on the part of K. This is then underscored at the end the movie when we find out the name she gives him – Joe – is drawn from marking, “You look like a good Joe.” In short, the artificial ideal of the perfect housewife that can be found in Joi is shallow and built upon misogynistic ideals.

So returning to the question of how this should be depicted, if we concede the point that plot was inherently misogynistic, then I would submit for your consideration that you are limited in the stories you can tell. Off hand you either have one where everyone is happy with the situation (i.e., reinforcing a patriarchal world view), one with active rebellion against the status quo, or one where you play up the misogyny as an allegorical story of how bad it would be. The allegorical approach strikes me as the one that Blade Runner 2049 took. Granted they could have taken the story in the direction of open rebellion against Wallace Corporation, and it may say something about the patriarchal nature of Hollywood that they did not. However there is much more payoff in the conclusion when you know what the characters are fighting against.

In the real world it is not always that easy to see systems of oppression; however, in a movie like Blade Runner 2049 that can be brought to the forefront for the viewers. They may not immediately see the parallels to their own world, but if they walk out of the theater with a pit in their stomach then it might cause them to starting seeing it in their own world. The ending of Blade Runner 2049 sets the pieces for the replicates to rebel against Wallace and severs the ties to the original film. Views of a hypothetical “Blade Runner 2050” now know exactly who the players are and why they want to tear down the patriarchal Wallace Corporation and the systems that support it. Said viewers should also  see the parallels to their own world.

Are we living in a simulation? Maybe, but good luck proving it.

The idea is not new, but currently there is a bit of a buzz on the internet due to the article “No, we probably don’t live in a computer simulation” by Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder on the Backreaction blog. In it the author states the following:

The simulation hypothesis, as it’s called, enjoys a certain popularity among people who like to think of themselves as intellectual, believing it speaks for their mental flexibility. Unfortunately it primarily speaks for their lacking knowledge of physics.

Among physicists, the simulation hypothesis is not popular and that’s for a good reason – we know that it is difficult to find consistent explanations for our observations. After all, finding consistent explanations is what we get paid to do.

Proclaiming that “the programmer did it” doesn’t only not explain anything – it teleports us back to the age of mythology. The simulation hypothesis annoys me because it intrudes on the terrain of physicists. It’s a bold claim about the laws of nature that however doesn’t pay any attention to what we know about the laws of nature.

I suspect that part of the reason for the buzz is the author’s choice of language, but also because it is an interesting idea to think about. The whole concept of a simulated reality arguably traces back to the dream argument in philosophy. That has been around  which has been around since  Zhuang Zhou in the 4th century B.C. with the butterfly dream. Of course, essays like this tend to see responses like the one Gizmodo and “Think We’re Living in a Computer Simulation? Prove It.” To which my response is: can’t be done.

The biggest problem with arguments about a simulated reality is that ultimately they are unfalsifiable. This comes from Karl Popper and the epistemological theory of falsifiability and is discussed at length in “The Logic of Scientific Discovery.” In short, in order to properly test a theory, you need to be able to show that it can be false. The major problem with simulated reality is that you cannot develop an experiment that will prove (or disprove) that you are in a simulated reality! One argument is that an experiment could be developed that forces a glitch in the simulation. This would prove the simulation’s existence.  The argument against is that if the behavior is repeatable, you may have only uncovered a new natural law. Unless you know what the rules of the simulation are a priori you have no way of knowing it’s a glitch. Unfortunately without Out of Place Artifacts like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time it is unlikely we will have a clear indicator of something odd either.

Another problem with the augments for or against is that they make assumptions about how the simulation would be conducted. One common argument is that you would need massive amount of computing power to run the simulation. This is incorrect. The problem is not how fast the simulation runs, but how much storage is needed for the simulation state. To a resident of a simulation, they have no way to perceive the passage of time outside the simulation. So even if it takes several thousand years of “real time” to compute one second of the simulation, residents of the simulation will perceive only one second as having gone by. This does present some problems since the the hypercomputer may fail due to entropy long before the simulation is “complete” but again, the residents of the simulation would only be aware of the entropy of their own universe.

If you take the time to read though the comments on the post by Dr. Hossenfelder a lot of the commenters make comments about the unfalsifiability of the problem although some commenters fall into the trap about computing speed. Incomplete information seems to also be a problem. I suspect that most of the commenters are not at Dr. Hossenfelder’s level with regards to physics and comments reflect this. Ultimately, as a scientific argument this is a Kobayashi Maru since it can’t be won. As a philosophical argument, it’s fun but still can’t be won.

80% of singles will not go on a date in 2017. Wait, what?

I recently came across an article on LinkedIn: “80% of Singles Will NOT Go  on One Date in 2017.” Bold claims are a pet peeve of mine. Although articles about dating always seem to interest me for some reason. I do question why an article on dating would be on a professional networking site as opposed to a dating advice site, but I digress.

The author is the quintessential definition of a biased source since they state they have been “a professional matchmaker since 2009.” Even giving them the benefit of a doubt as an expert source, their claim that 80% of singles will not go on a date in 2017 begs a lot more explanation than what they give in the article. They don’t provide a source for where they came up with the number, so it could be anywhere from professional observation, to made up on the spot. Additionally,  the figure is not limited to a specific country, so the author failed to recall that there is a sharp divide between dating in the Western World and dating in countries like China. LinkedIn has a more or less global audience, so bold claims about the world really should be avoided.

That being said, I do tend to agree with some of their points. I believe that the Paradox of Choice is a real phenomenon. A tenuous example of it is students in college changing majors multiple times, but it might also be tied to the quarter-life crisis phenomenon as well. Dating sites tend to expose to you to a much wider set of options than what you might have in your local neighborhood. It’s not surprising that people might start to think that the grass may be greener on the other side, or that they can do better than their current partner.

The author talks about the “cheapening of sex,” but this is also quite complicated. Peer reviewed research has observed the following:

The effect of past partner number was very large. Average willingness ratings initially rose as past partner number rose, but then fell dramatically. For short-term relationships, men were more willing than women to get involved (although the difference was not large). For long-term relationships, in contrast, there was virtually no sex difference. Thus, contrary to the idea that male promiscuity is tolerated but female promiscuity is not, both sexes expressed equal reluctance to get involved with someone with an overly extensive sexual history

Thus, saying there is a cheapening of sex is not exactly on point. The research shows that your value as a potential partner declines with the more sexual partners you have had. Although the older you get, the less meaningful that number is as well. Someone that is 25 and has had 10 partners is a lot different than someone that is 50 and has had 10 partners. It should be noted that the aforementioned study was also WEIRD, so the sample might be quite biased.

Dating in and of itself is a complicated endeavor. It is intrinsically linked to sex since “romantic interest,” is usually coupled to some sort of sexual attraction to the person. If you meet someone through some sort of mutual activity then the ritual of dating may not be needed. You know the person to some extent, you know if you are attracted to them, and so forth. Historically a lot of the ritual of dating was associated with a demonstration of wealth by the man to indicate that he could provide for the women along with any children they might have. Now that there is a social expectation in the United States for adults to be working in general, that display of wealth no longer has meaning. What’s the point in having a ritualized activity (ex. dinner and a movie) when it’s not needed? Modern suggestions of what to do on a first date may read more like a list of fun ways to hang out as opposed to the cliché first date.

Something that the article missed is the Two-Body Problem. While classically associated with academics, it’s not limited to them any more. If you have two adults who are established in their career, eventually something will occurs that requires hard choices. This does lead to people needing to make a choice between there partner and their career and it’s becoming less and less unusual for someone to pick their career instead. Even more so if you have more time invested in your career than your partner as tends to be the case more and more. This is not an easy problem to overcome. I’d be hard pressed to believe that it doesn’t factor into the decisions that singles make.

So where does this leave things? Pragmatically I think that the original article on LinkedIn was just click-bait. The bold claim right out of the gate is a point against it. It wasn’t one of the authors most popular pieces though, so I might also just be judging harshly though. Also, I think that the author had some good points while also missing out on some as well. There has been a lot of disruption to the previous social mores of dating. More may be coming in the future. If we take time to understand them, I doubt we will find that 80% of singles are not dating in a given year.

A review of “Strapped” by Tamara Draut

One of the common problems with books about current events is that they may have a shelf-life. In the case of “Strapped: Why American’s 20- And 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead” by Tamara Draut, this appears to be the case. I should note that in this particular review I’m focusing on the 2005 edition that I read as opposed to the later 2007 edition which has some expanded content.

In “Strapped” Tamara Draut features seven chapters of which five are focused on the economy, one on political engagement, and the last one is a call for reform with suggestions. Since this book was written in the early 2000’s much of it is focused on Generation X, although Generation Y does get some mention from time to time. Unfortunately, the five chapters on the economy are also very much focused on the pre-Great Recession economy. As a result they have lost some of their relevancy or had some of the fundamentals change during the recession. The best example of this is the author’s treatment of credit card debt since many of the problems discussed were corrected with the passing of the Credit CARD Act of 2009. In some ways this means that the obsolescence of the book is a good thing since some of the problems have been resolved.

With regards to the other four chapters on the economy, unfortunately not much has changed. The examples also suffer the same problems that “Generation Debt” had in that readers may not be sympathetic. The author spends some time discussing student loan debt along with stagnant wages which were just exacerbated by the Great Recession. The high cost of housing also gets treatment and looking back on when the book was written we can see that some of that was due to the housing bubble that was developing, but even post-Great Recession the problem still largely remains. Finally, the author also focuses on the cost of raising children which continues to be a problem.

The remaining chapters are a bit of a mixed bag. The chapter on political engagement is a bit interesting since it is a look back on what the voting patterns were like before the Great Recession. The conclusions are likely irrelevant at this point in time since Generation X is now reaching middle age and associated changes in voting patterns. Generation Y voting patterns are briefly discussed, but at the time this book was written there really weren’t enough voting yet to really draw conclusions yet. Finally, the chapter featuring a call for reform has some interesting ideas, but they would need to be repacked for the current political climate to give them the time of day.

As a whole, the  book wasn’t bad, but it does show its age. The writing style for this book is very journalistic so it does read more like an extended article in a magazine and while sources are provided for many of the figures provided, they are sourced at the back of the book. If you approach this book as a snapshot of things before the Great Recession then you might find it interesting, but unfortunately outside of that the changes in the economy means that it is likely too dated provide compelling arguments.

Some thoughts on Codility…

So over the years of writing software I’ve been subjected to Codility tests a couple times and generally they tend to leave me feeling very conflicted. I think part of it might be due to the impersonal nature of the tests. I understand that a busy organization doesn’t really have time to reach out to everyone and automated testing can be an effective part of the screening process. But with that said, if I am spending an hour or two doing a test for the organization I should get something more back than just dead air.

This is something that has really bothered me because in general the tests I’ve gotten from Codility have not been “basic coding skills” like what Jeff Atwood complains most programmers can’t do. Rather I tend to get harder problems that are not Fizz Buzz, but are more like something from their lesson on dynamic programming. Part of this is due to the nature of the organizations I tend to apply for, but the general complaint of dead air after taking one of the tests seems common on Google. Now, I’m not expecting someone to call me and explain what I did wrong, but Codility does support automatic grading and report generation and seeing that report would be useful.

One of the common themes in the developer community is that you should always be working to improve your craft. If you can’t see how you did and the results of the tests, how can you work to improve your craft? Granted part of the reason why the results might not be shared is to prevent people from posting answers; however, it is naive to think that the answers will not eventually get out there in the public. There are a number ways to catch someone cheating the test and most people aren’t creative enough to write distinctly unique code given a reference example. Thus, not providing some sort of automated feedback might be one of the things that bothers me the most.

Something else that really bothers me is the timer. While someone might argue that you are always under the clock when you are at work, realistically, if you are trying to crank out code of any complexity and there is a clock counting down in the background, something went horribly wrong or you are doing it wrong. At this point I’m fairly confident that watching the clock tick down in the corner does nothing to help my thought processes. For a basic string manipulation problem it is likely not such a big deal, but a dynamic programming challenge? When I encounter a hard problem in the work place one of the steps I might take to solve it might be to write some notes down paper and sketch out expected solutions… which leads us to the next problem I have.

Codility claims the following:

Codility gives you objective insights into your candidates programming skills, showing you their thinking process before you interview them.

however, if part of my thinking process is to whiteboard a problem then that insight is going to be lost. Also, since Codility generates a numeric score, realistically, how many hiring managers are going to look at the code for insight if the score is 26 out of 100 points? Again, my thoughts towards Codility are largely skewed because I tend to see a lot of higher level dynamic programming problems as opposed to more basic ones but the point stands.

The focus on dynamic programming problems might be the thing that bothers me the most. In general, even when working of very complex projects, the vast majority of the code is not going to be complex algorithms but your basic CRUD operations. This might be where some sour grapes come into play: I know I’m not the best coder in the world (although I like to think I’m pretty decent) but I also know that at the end of the day I’m able to solve the problem and the amount of time isn’t necessarily that dramatic.

I’d be very curious to see what would happen if the timer on Codility counted up as opposed to down. I doubt that the actual results for hiring managers would be that different given the scoring, but it would add a very interesting dimension to things. Without the pressure of the clock would more people finish the challenge in the expected time frame? Would a number of people who didn’t finish before finish within the five to ten minutes of the currently allotted time frame? For that matter, would you have some people that finished quickly and got low scores? I know that if I was given an hour to solve a problem that normally takes five I might look to get creative with my code in the remaining time to show off. Pragmatically though, having to do maintenance work on code where someone was showing off is not fun and can make it take longer to find the bug or add the feature.

At the end of the day, I’m still very conflicted about Codility. The lack of any feedback about the results is likely one of the things that bothers me the most but the clock must be a close second. While I understand why they are doing what they are doing and to a certain extent I agree it is a good idea, it strikes me as something that could be done much better than it actually is.

Some thoughts on cursive and writing…

Recently a conversation came up at work about cursive writing which lead to me finding an article on CNN about cursive vs. typing which in turn leads finding blog articles such as one questioning if it is obsolete and of course it doesn’t take much effort on Google to find articles that declare it dead. Now, this might not be much of a surprise coming from someone that has reviewed a fountain pen, but I do think that any reports of the death of handwriting are greatly exaggerated even though I think that cursive is largely reminiscent of a bygone era.

As near as I can tell, I was taught D’Nealian script when I was in grade school and my ability write in it was largely limited my early years of high school before it atrophied into my pretty much just limiting my writing to some sort of odd block writing. Of course now I have been making a dedicated effort to learn Italic script and eventually I will be moving on to Spencerian script. Now I have a fairly long list of reasons for this, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that I still hand write letters to people and take notes by hand as well. Even with my fairly good typing skills I’ve always found that handwriting notes tended to cause them to be retained better (which is backed by science) but the past couple years I did find myself being annoyed at not being able to read my own handwriting.

But I digress, with regards to cursive I tend to be very opinionated since even when I was in grade school I thought that the script that we were being taught was fairly unattractive and even if you look at the exemplars that are out there it is kind of blah. In short, it was something that you learned because you had to, but it usually was something that I remember fellow students being excited to learn. On the other had, learning Italic script is something I’ve been learning on my own because it interests me.

Now part of this might simply be dismissed as the difference between learning something as an adult versus being forced to learn something as a child; however, I think there is more to it than just that. While I did have to learn cursive when I was in school, I don’t seem to remember it really being emphasized and something that was consistently practiced. Of course, the fact that the Common Core is looking to de-emphasize or remove entirely the requirement to teach cursive doesn’t come as much surprise to me given what I remember from when I was in school.

However, is this a side effect of technology or is something else going on? Personally I’m inclined to believe that it is a combination of the two. Just as you hear that Japanese are reporting that their skills at writing kanji is declining due to computers, you can see the same argument being made in the American media with regards to cursive and handwriting skills in general. As for what the “something else” could be, I’m not really sure to be honest. The fact that you really don’t need to be able to hand write something in the modern era certainly means that there is a lack of motivation (i.e. “Why should I learn this when I’m just typing things anyway?”) but on the same token, people I’ve met over the years still like getting a handwritten letter regardless of their age. In some ways, I think if students were taught a more attractive script and it was continuously emphasized over the duration a student’s compulsory education that you would see more writing being done.

Is there really any way of fixing this though? To be honest, I kind of doubt it. In order to get good at writing you need to be doing exemplars on a daily basis and even if it is only fifteen minutes a day, that is fifteen minutes that are being used to teach something that is not required by the No Child Left Behind Act. Plus, to be honest, most of the more attractive scripts require tools other than just your basic writing implement. The Italic script I’m learning works best with a fountain pen that has a good nib and Spencerian script tends to work best with a flex nib. Factor in pen ink (which can be a mess even when you are being careful) and I can see how teachers would want to side step the the issue all together.

In the long run I’m inclined to be somewhat cynical and I can see handwriting being something that people can still do, but not do well. I don’t think that we will ever see it disappear completely since there are many skills out there (i.e. hand spinning) that still exist as hobbies even though technologically “superior” alternatives exist. With any luck handwriting will make a comeback, but I’m seriously doubtful unless that comeback occurs in art class.

A review of “The Millionaire Mind” by Thomas Stanley, PhD

“The Millionaire Mind” by Thomas Stanley, PhD is sadly similar to what I said in my earlier review of some of his previous books: while interesting on its own, if you have read any of his previous books then there isn’t that much new information here. Much of “The Millionaire Mind” breaks down the research that the author has done over the years into the prototypical millionaire next door and what their habits and lifestyle choices are that enable them to accumulate their high net worth. A lot of territory is covered here that is just brushed past in “The Millionaire Next Door” in much more depth with entire chapters being devoted to such topics as their vocation and choice of spouse.

It should be noted that in contrast to the previously reviewed book this one doesn’t offer much in the way of financial advice. “The Millionaire Next Door” offers some pretty sage advice with regards to how to get to be a millionaire while “Stop Acting Rich” could be useful to moderate any spending habits by reminding you that what you are doing is not necessarily what millionaires are doing. This book, on the other hand, kind of reads a bit more like a biography to an extent than a financial book in any way. There are some interesting anecdotes in this book that provide for some entertaining reading and could also be useful in fortifying your courage before doing something risky (i.e. starting your own business) but anyone coming here for financial advice is going to be disappointed.

To be honest, this is a tough review to write largely because even though this book is fairly thick all it really does it cover previously tread territory in more depth. This means that it is interesting to people that what to know about any given topic, but most likely, the average reader will find the book to be quite redundant.

Some thoughts on video games…

Recently, I took advantage of the days off between Christmas and New Years that I get from my job to go back and play a game that I have been meaning to for a number of years: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. While the game was fun and had aged surprisingly well for a game released in 2004, finishing it left me feeling off. The problem wasn’t so much the game, but the realization of burning through the time off playing it, finishing it, and concluding I hadn’t really accomplished anything by the end of the game. Sure I had had a bit of fun and was told a story, but most of the writing for video games really isn’t that good, and as good as BioShock Infinite is, I doubt people are going studying it the same way as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

I suppose part of this was triggered by watching A Dose of Buckley – 30 Is The New 20 on YouTube and other such commentaries and realizing that, yes, in a lot of ways most of us in our twenties are just spinning our wheels and video games are just another way of doing that. As part of this realization I sat down and took a hard look at my video game collection and realized that the odds of me actually playing most of the games I have, let alone replaying or finishing some of the games I have started is very slim.

At the time of this writing I have about 75 console games plus another 30 or so in my Steam library. Since I tend to play RPGs more than any other type, each of those games represents between 30 to 40 hours of game play assuming I actually finish the game. If I were to go of the more realistic route of playing until I got bored, annoyed, or stuck, it would still take me around 20 hours per game based upon past records. So that means that it might take 2,000 hours or more (likely much more) to play the each of the games in the collection enough to decide to move on to the next game. The problem is that, I’ve also come to realize that there are other things that I value more than sitting on the couch playing a video game.

As such, I started to sell off my console game collection. Now I’m not the first person to do so, and others have talked about this more eloquently than I have, but it just seems like the right time to do so. As I eluded to in my article about buying collectables as an investment, console games hold some value that you can get back out of them. However, I’ve been watching what has been going on with video game prices for awhile now and barring rare games it really looks like the market has pretty much peaked on the older consoles. The newer consoles such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are designed to remove most of the value from used games and for current generation Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, the fact that you can purchase most of the really popular games on Steam seems to put a damper on their values.

Now this isn’t to say that I’m suddenly about to start campaigning against video games and refusing to ever play them again. I’m still keeping my Steam library and I’ve recently played Civilization V and I am very much looking forwards to episode two of The Wolf Among Us being released. However, my attitude towards video games has changed quite a bit over the past month and at this point I’m looking for more meaningful use of my time.

A Review of “Generation Debt” by Anya Kamenetz

A couple days back I finished Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Jobs, NoBenefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers–And How to Fight Back by Anya Kamenetz and quite frankly I had to let the book sit a couple days before writing this review simply because my thoughts on it are somewhat hard to pin down. On one hand the book is well written and the authors Yale education in journalism comes through as she is very upfront in the fact that she is biased towards a liberal ideology, she does present examples to justify her thoughts, and if you actually read the bibliography you can tell she actually did research for the book; but on the other hand, some of the cases she presents don’t exactly make for the strongest examples and that might help to explain the reviews this book gets on Amazon.com.

Now, as a whole I am quite sympathetic towards the author and I agree that most of the problems that she presents are problems that do affect members of Generation Y; however, on the same token, there are some cases in her book where she should have avoided using the case as it hurts her argument (e.g. maxed out their credit cards being “tourists in their own town”) which is used as ammunition against the book in the various one star reviews out there. It also doesn’t help that she does seem to fall for trap that the plural of anecdote is not data and there are a number of places where she hurts her case by not providing a larger data set.

Now, that said, I do think that each of the issues that she presents are valid issues that need to be addressed and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to being a firm proponent of bringing back mandatory home economics classes for high school students to help avoid some of the very problems that she addresses. One of the big issues with Generation Y is that most people are largely financially illiterate (quick: if you have $1,000 on a credit card with 25% APR, how long and how much will you end up paying making only minimum payments?) and going back to my previous entry on why Generation Y Yuppies are unhappy, anyone that graduated from college during the recession had high chance of not getting a job fresh out of school which can impact them in the long run since most companies would rather hire the fresh graduates as opposed to the ones that graduated from school over one year ago.

All told, I would recommend reading the book if you get a chance since at a minimum is does enumerate the list of issues that affects Generation Y even if it does a very poor job in some cases of explaining why these are problems and defending the position. However, I do firmly agree with the advice she gives in the revised edition chapter “Looking Ahead”: pay off your debt, save money, and don’t spend more money than you make.

Following up on the Visionnaire fountain pen

Recently I posed a review of the Visionnaire fountain pen and given that a couple weeks have passed it seems a good time to followup. Since the Visionnaire was shipped to the general public, The Pen Addict reviewed it in Episode #83, a review appeared on Reddit, a comparison to the Leyica LY120 was made, as well as other Chinese fountain pens in general, a YouTube review was conducted, and some additional videos were made by another reviewer. Plus a number of backers have posed mini-reviews and comments on the Kickstarter page and while there have been some favorable comments, the vast majority of people posting on Kickstarter seems to be displeased the project and especially with the quality control or lack thereof. The creator of the project has also been very quiet and hasn’t addressed any of the comments on the quality control which I think is very telling. BHG Design has started a new Kickstarter campaign for a Visionnaire branded notebook that can include the pen and quite frankly I would advise anyone reading this to avoid the campaign.

I’ve tired to use the pen a couple more times since my initial review but the feed issues continue to be an issue and even when the feed is decent, the comment that I made about the pen feeling “top heavy” in the review applies and I find it hard to write with the pen for an extended period of time. Also, something that I failed to mention but other reviewers have which made me do an “Oh, yeah!” is that the pen doesn’t really have any good grip and over an extended priors of time I have found myself struggling to avoid it slipping while writing. Plus, the chrome plating continues to chip off and odds are given enough time I might have a copper pen instead of a chrome one.

In the event that you come across this post and are interested in starting to write with a fountain pen, my best advise would be to start the same way that I did: pick up a Lamy Safari (plus converter), some ink, and some decent paper and just start writing! If you also want to improve you handwriting then I suggest the following two books which I have been using myself:

Both of which do a good job of laying out the foundations after which it is just a matter of practicing enough to retrain yourself to write.

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