On Killing Book Review

On Killing

I finished Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s book On Killing recently. It’s about soldiers’ resistance to kill, how the military overcomes that instinct, and the larger reprecussions of that type of training on society. It is not a “how-to” book as I feared many people might’ve thought whenever I read it in public.

At the start I should say that Grossman presents a good case. He backs it up with hundreds of interviews with soldiers and his personal impressions from being in the service. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of hard data to support his point. Why? Because for the most part there just haven’t been a lot of studies on how to get someone to kill another person. It ranges into the unethical territory of psychological studies. The data he does have is convincing. Continue reading

New Phone

I got a new phone last weekend and have been adjusting to it.

This was a thing for me because I’ve never had a smartphone before.

I’ve shied away from smartphones in the past for two reasons.

#1 Having a touch screen in my pocket kind of freaks me out. I’m always worried that it will touch my leg and turn itself on and text something to someone I know.

Of course that never happens but we all have our irrational fears.

#2 I don’t want to get too distracted from other things by my phone. A phone with more stuff to do on it is more distracting.

I got over both of those things by getting an iPad. The touch screen doesn’t freak me out as much and I don’t get more distracted by my iPad than I did by other things in the past.

So! The new phone! I was basically deciding between an iPhone and an Android.

I went with the Android for a few reasons (this is apparently the listing reasons blog post!).

The Android has better reviews. I generally trust consumer reviews and all of them were poiting me towards the Galaxy phones.

The Android has better ads and has always had a more adult feel to it to me. The iPhone has always felt like a child’s phone to me. Not saying that it is, but I feel childish when I hold one.

And finally, Android phones are cheaper.

The phone is working out great. As a smartphone it can do a lot of things my old dumb phone could not.

Old one on the left if you couldn't tell.
Old one on the left if you couldn’t tell.

My old phone could make calls, text, and take poor quality pictures.

The new one can make calls, text (with a predictive text messaging keyboard which is way faster), take high quality pictures (WTF do you even do with 16 MP pictures?), and has access to apps.

The apps are also a lot better than what I was using previously on my iPad.

It’s surprising to me that differences in app quality would exist for different machines, but there are.

The WordPress app that I use to write my blog posts comes to mind first. My iPad mini has advantages that my Galaxy S6 can’t compete with. A decently sized physical keyboard attachment and larger screen are just things a phone will never be able to do.

But the Android makes up for it by having an app that actually displays pictures while I’m writing. I can also access the picture library that I uploaded onto WordPress earlier. The iPad ap doesn’t let me do either of those things.

The Android app also doesn’t have any problems with carriage returns, something the iPad app has always had a problem with for some reason.

The next app that was noticeably better was the Starbucks app. The iPhone/iPad version makes it difficult to use or even find coupons that the app gives you. You have to struggle to use coupons on the iPhone version and sometimes the baristas don’t even know how to redeem them once you do find them.

The Android app ties those coupons into the pay function. You just tell it you want to pay for something and it applies your coupons to that stuff. Boom! Done!

Cons of the phone are few compared to my old one.

It uses data, so now I have to pay for that, but Wifi is nearly ubiquitous, so maybe I won’t.

The new phone has really bad battery life. I’ve needed to recharge it every night after using it. My old phone needed to be recharged about once a week. Partially that’s because the new phone has apps so I’m using it more, but its still a big difference that I’m adjusting to.

The new phone is also bigger. Taking up more space in pocket means its been a little harder to get my keys out. That falls into the category of #FirstWorldProblems so I’m not overly conerned.

It’s a good phone, I’m glad I upgraded, I wish it was perfect and had all the nice things my old phone had as well.

-GoCorral

Hearthstone Tracker

Hearthstone Tracker Stats
More statistics than you can swing a stick at! That is, if you’re into swinging sticks at statistics…

I got a program called HearthstoneTracker to generate some statistics on my Hearthstone matches.

Do I win more against a certain type of class? Do I win more when I’m playing a certain class? Which matchups are favorable for which class? Which class have I been playing against the most lately? Do I win more often going first or second? Am I making enough money in Arena for it to be worthwhile?

Hearthstone Tracker collects the data that I can then use to answer those questions. It even has graphs!

Hearthstone Tracker Over Time
I lost a lot of games on September 14th.
And here you can see my win/loss rate is good, but not amazing.
And here you can see my win/loss rate is good, but not amazing.

The program is available for free at http://hearthstonetracker.com/

It’s a small download and it runs in a separate window while you play Hearthstone. You can minimize the window or even have the program stored in the tray if taskbar space is precious to you.

The program may collect a lot of statistics but it has a few issues.

Originally the program collected stats through a screen capture system. This is fine if you always keep the game open, but I like to do other things while I play (like writing blog posts).

I created a workaround for that through a little bit of window feng shui.

The program developer has since come up with a way to grab data from the stream going on to the internet or something.

And somehow that method is even worse. I don’t know how it manages to get the length of a game wrong every single time, but it does. There’s an option to manually enter the times along with changing which class you played, which class you played against, how many turns the game took, etc. But who wants to do that manually? That’s why I got the program in the first place!

Other than that it performs fine. It detects who won and who you were playing against. Ultimately that’s all that matters.

The Tracker also has a neat feature after you finish an Arena run. You can manually enter your rewards and it keeps a running total at the bottom of the application.

I’ve tested HearthstoneTracker against other tracking applications out there, Track-o-bot and HearthStats, and I found HearthstoneTracker to be the best one. If you’re interested in something that will keep track for you, I’d definitely recommend the little program!

-Mister Ed

Recent Survey on Attitudes Towards Jews

One of my Jewish friends posted a New York Times article on Facebook recently.

The article is about a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League over the past year and released last week on world-wide attitudes towards Jews.

I encourage you to look at the survey results yourself at this the link.

The results can be looked at in an interactive Javascript or in PDF labeled as “Executive Summary” at the top right of the page.

The results were a lot of fun to look at, but nothing was particularly surprising.

The main point of the survey was to discover demographic information about anti-Semites.

Anti-Semitism was gauged by seeing if people surveyed thought 11 statements about Jews were “probably true” or “probably false.”

The statements are all vaguely anti-Semitic. If a surveyed person answered “probably true” to 6 or more of the questions then the survey considered them anti-Semitic.

The results of the survey show that the greatest predictor for anti-Semitism is location.

Anti-Semitism is common in the Middle East and North Africa, probably because Israel is an an enemy of practically every country in the region.

No other region of the world had high rates of anti-Semitism, but the highest besides the Middle East and North Africa were Europe and The Americas.

Europe and the American continents were likely higher because of legally supported anti-Semitism in the past.

The data supports that conclusion as well, with older people “from the past” having higher rates of anti-Semitism than younger people.

One of the facts discovered by the survey that interested me most pertained to education.

In most of the world, a higher education level correlated with a reduction in the rate of anti-Semitism.

In the Middle East and North Africa, a higher education level correlated with an increase in anti-Semitism.

I’d figured more education would universally reduce anti-Semitism, but I guess that isn’t true.

My first thought was that there might be something wrong with the education system in the Middle East and North Africa.

When I thought about it more a different idea seemed more plausible to me.

In an area with lots of anti-Semitism, people are rewarded for being anti-Semitic (social rewards, career advancement, etc).

If someone becomes educated, they’ll realize that being anti-Semitic is advantageous and exhibit the behavior more often or to greater degrees.

This also leads to avenues for reducing anti-Semitism. Make it so the behavior isn’t rewarded and it will stop.

Course, the means of doing that in regions where anti-Semitism is deeply entrenched are a mystery to me.

Regardless, the survey has a lot of cool data in an easily accessible format. I’d suggest looking at it yourself and talking about what you found!

-Mister Ed