Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Three Thoughts Bouncing Through My Head Tonight

It occurred to me today - finally - that the old question we used to ask has to be changed around. No longer can we menfolk ask each other "an hour in bed with Jennifer Aniston or a day hanging out with Brad Pitt?" No, now there are two questions. "An hour in bed with Jennifer Aniston or a day hanging out with Vince Vaughn?" and "A day hanging out with Brad Pitt or an hour in bed with Angelina Jolie?"

And let me tell you, those two different names change the calculus significantly.

(People can free to answer these questions if they want, but I'm gonna continue with this post).


Does anybody else think it odd that we count effort as relevant in the "meritocracy" that is the US? I mean, if people who are of lesser abilities can work their butts off and do as well as someone of greater ability who's lazy, should we reward that effort? Sure, there's some sense of fairness and justice in that equation, but aren't we really off-setting the value of actual ability? And if we're not essentially defining merit as ability, then what's the point of a meritocracy?

Another way of thinking about this problem is looking at two people who put in exactly the same effort, but one does way better than another. In a meritocracy, the one who does way better should win out. Of course, this sort of offends our sensibilities about fairness, but ultimately we're ok with this sort of system and see this as a tragic consequence. So if effort isn't the defining mark of merit, and abilities are really determinative, why do we off-set abilities by taking into account effort in some cases?

And, more essentially, what about disadvantaged/advantaged people who have different resources? Take two identical people who are taking a standardized test. Normally they'd score exactly the same. But one has the time and money to take a prep course, which usually raise scores by some meaningful amount. The other has to use a borrowed test prep book and has significantly less time to study. The score of the prep course person is going to turn out higher. They get into a better school because of it. Is this really a meritocracy? I think not. I think we should either commit to making things "fair" on the basis of effort, regardless of result, or go to a true ability system, in which we eliminate effort from the equation of determining who is more skilled/intelligent/deserving.


And finally, why is it that every Mac user is on a personal quest to rid the world of Windows machines? I've been getting plenty of comments on this topic lately, thankyouverymuchJoelandPatric.

It seems to me that Mac users are like Metric users. Look, you can give me all the reasons you want for why Metric is superior, but I don't care. Yes, I know it's simpler. Yes, I know conversions are easier. Yes, I know the rest of the world uses it. Yes, I know if I switched I'd get used to it. I don't care.

Why don't I care?

Really, it's just a case of elevating form over substance. The distance is the same length whether you call it a mile or 2-point-who-gives-a-dunk. It doesn't matter if you call it 2.8 meters or a gallon, you're flushing the same amount of water down that urinal.

And for most people, it doesn't matter if you're using a Mac or Windows to check your e-mail and run your word processor. Pirated music sounds the same on both machines. The substance is the same even if the form is different.

Thus, with the background established, I give you the following syllogism:

People who care to much about form are annoying.
Mac users who try to convert others care too much about form.

So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me


Alan said...

i guess thats true, i mean, i have both a pc and a mac and i don't notice jumping back and forth anymore. but i would like to add you probably wouldn't be complaining about a laptop failure if you were running a powerbook. i have 20 or 30 of them in my hands everyday and the only problems i ever see are from physical abuse to the computer. the hps on the other hand, well we just sent in another 200 of them in for repairs. oh and why would you buy a toshiba? they can't even make a cd player that works all the time.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I bought a Toshiba because 2 and a half years ago, when I bought my first one, they had a terrific reputation. The Satellite series was one of the best available lines of laptops around. Unfortunately, once their reputation was built up, they started out-sourcing some production, and lots of problems started popping up. So basically, they got bad right about the time that my first laptop was made. The second laptop was a replacement computer under Best Buy's service plan, because my first one broke too much. The closest replacement was, surprise, a Toshiba. So I've been stuck with another one. Fortunately, I think once this one gets replaced I'll be able to argue to a non-Toshiba computer.

Alan said...

forgot to mention that all those hard drives on campus that keep failing are toshibas.

joel. said...

What's so wrong with spreading the good news about something that I enjoy and am passionate about? Just a few weeks ago, you were trying to convince me why certain sitcoms are better than others. For as long as I've known you, we've argued spiritual beliefs. Every once in a while, you and I exchange songs via IM to sample new stuff. Me hearing about your computer problems makes me feel bad for you and want to help. Ergo, I recommend over and over again that you get a Mac. They make me happy—even more so now that I'm using Windows all day every day at work. I just want you to be happy, Matt. That's all.

Matthew B. Novak said...

But it's the difference between form and substance. Different sitcoms have different substance. Differnt spiritual beliefs have different substance. Different computers which perform the same substantial functions do not have different substance.

Also, there's a huge difference between making a recommendation and "making a recommendation over and over again." If you're doing it over and over again, it's passed from recommending to personal crusade.

I understand your desire to see me happy. There are few things more important than my happiness. But I would be happier in a world without pushy Mac users.

Alan said...

saying the only difference between a mac and a pc is form is bullshit. macs are 100% more stable. the os is unix based so you aren't as prone to spyware and viruses. oh and the reason they're more expensive is because the hard ware is better. i've yet to have a mac hard drive fail on me with out a rediculous amount of abuse. and by rediculous amount i mean dropped on the cement and the side of the computer is popping out and the user is wondering why it isn't working anymore. saying they're the same because you can check you email on both is crap, you could check your email on a 6 year old dell, but you could probably send a real letter before the page loads.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I see your point, but respectfully disagree. For the casual user two computers working at comperable speeds and performing the same functions are essentially the same. I'm not making the argument that Windows machines are better than Macs, (or that the English system is better than the metric system). I'm not even arguing that there's no difference between the two. All I'm saying is that difference is essentially in form, not in substance (most casual users would agree), and that the Windows machines, like the English system, are perfectly functional and acceptable. People don't care if Macs are better because what they have is good enough. Just like most Mac users don't care if having a two button mouse with scroll is better, because what they have is good enough. It's just a matter of form, and even if one form is superior, so long as the substance is essentially the same, it doesn't matter.

Alan said...

i agree that there is a marginal difference in the os, like i said i don't notice jumping back and forth between them much at all, just saying if you're ok with complaining your computer is broken every 6 months go ahead and get a windows machine.

Thinking Fool said...

Angelina. Angelina. Has any guy ever answered these questions differently/

Matthew B. Novak said...

Angelina is the easy and obvious answer. Not many people will disagree. That's the point I was making - we've got an easy question now. Aniston v. Pitt is a lot harder, and that was the question we had to ask before.

emnovak said...

I hate Angelina Jolie. At least Jennifer Aniston has some class.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

Angelina... eww... she is the type of girl I would expect to find in a bangkok whore house. as lease Jennifer is respectable...

Matthew B. Novak said...

First off, Jennifer Aniston has no more class than Jolie. To me, Aniston seems completely self-centered, egotistical, ungracious, and just shy of whoreish, considering she'll do whatever it takes to make her career advance (despite her lack of acting talent).

Jolie is gorgeous. She's a bit odd, but since she's gotten away from Billy Bob she seems more and more normal every day. She's seriously one of the most amazing looking women in the world. She cares about others and has seriously committed herself to concerns of justice. She's not pouty or self-important like Aniston, but instead tries to use her stature for the benefit of others.

Tell me again who has class?
And Eric, I your expectations of what a Bangkok whorehouse would look like are way too high.

I'm fine with people disagreeing that Angelina is one of the most gorgeous people in the world. That's a matter of taste, and I realize some people are tasteless. I'm fine with people pointing out that historically she has seen a bit unstable at times. But to call her classless and whorish is simply stupid pettiness. If you respect the self-centered, ungracious, bad actress Aniston more than the giving, gracious, good actress Jolie, I think you've got some real problems.

Nate said...

Jolie, Mac, Metric. Seriously, Angelina is the most gorgeous woman to ever grace the planet with her presence, and the fact that she is socially conscience even though she is so famous is just extraordinary. Macs are superior to PCs in about everyway possible. As an elitist, I like the best, but I also realize it is not for everyone. Consider this, only those who recognize the best should have the best, as for the rest, they can get by with microsoft. Metric is a superior system of measurement, and as such is used when it matters, such as in science labs. Let everyday people continue to use the English system for everyday type measurements. Metric, the band, is pretty freaking sweet, I recommend them to all, Mac and PC users alike.

dyk said...

I'm going to go ahead and point out that, being limited to one hour, just how pretty Angelina's or Aniston's eyes are is not a make or break factor. Aniston is probably a little bit more what I would consider conventionally good looking, but I'm reasonably sure Angelina would be WAY more fun.

Also, 'Pushy Mac Users' = 'Tech Jehova's Witnesses.' Except for the part about actually being right about their product. (Joel's 'spreading the good news' brought that one on.)

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate, you need to start blogging again. And the whole point is, no one cares if Macs are better, so people, stop telling us that they are. No one is denying it.

Chris, I think your parallel is dead on. But even if Aniston is more "traditionally" attractive (which I don't know that I'd give you), Jolie is certainly more "exotic", which is simply a different type of attractive. Plus the whole being more fun thing. And you can't even compare the bodies. Jolie = smo-keen! Aniston might have one, I'm not sure.

emnovak said...

ok, it's true angelina jolie is socially aware, bravo, you do have to give her credit for that. but seriously, it's lame to be the person a guy cheat's on his wife with. there is just no class in that at all.

emnovak said...

p.s. i really do think it's cool how socially conscious angelina jolie is. but i still don't think she's that gorgeous (not saying she's ugly, just not better than anyone else in hollywood).

Matthew B. Novak said...

First off, I disagree: there are lots of pretty women in hollywood, but Angelina is one of the best.

Second, I really don't think Pitt cheated on Aniston with Jolie. There's not much evidence that they were ever together or that that was the reason for the break up.

In fact, if I had to speculate on why Pitt and Aniston broke up, I'd be more likely to believe the "all she cared about was her career" talk than anything else. Remember, they were on the rocks because she wanted to put career over family before Pitt and Jolie became friends. Don't blame Angelina, blame that power-hungry valueless ice queen Aniston.