Friday, September 23, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness is Bullshit.

It's been a while since I posted a rant and I just remembered that October is coming up.... Which means prepare yourself for countless advertisements and inane slacktivism via Facebook Status updates. Let's be honest here, who doesn't know about Breast Cancer already? Is shit like this really necessary?

Disclaimer: My grandmother died of Breast Cancer, my other grandmother is a survivor of Breast Cancer, and my aunt has been slowly dying of Breast Cancer over the past few years. Our family knows breast cancer well.

Now that that’s been said - Today’s Breast Cancer Awareness programs are all bullshit. Sure, they started in the 2000’s with good intent but they have turned into marketing campaigns for companies who want women to buy more of their shit. Most companies won’t even donate a penny unless you go online and “register your product” for a donation.

Worse than the barrage of pink products are these stupid fucking awareness meme’s. At least the products provide an opportunity to donate. What does posting your bra color, or where you put your purse, actually do for breast cancer? What does that shit do for anyone? Why would you attempt to alienate 50% of the population to "raise awareness"... Does anyone see the faulty logic in that? What a fucking joke.

How about some real Breast Cancer Awareness: Breast Cancer is one of the most well survived cancers. The 10 year survival rate is close to 90%. Sure, early detection and prompt medical detection are the keys to survival, but the fact is that if you get breast cancer today… chances are you are going to survive it. On the other hand, there is liver cancer, which has a 10 year survival rate that hovers just below 10%. Why aren’t companies spending millions of dollars painting their boxes brown to raise awareness about liver cancer? Because no one gives a shit about bringing awareness to cancer, they care about making money. No one wants to think about nasty liver when they can be thinking about boobs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Becoming a Better Conversationalist

This entry will go over (in nerdy detail) how be more comfortable speaking in groups, how to “small talk” one on one, and how to just be a better conversationalist in general. The goal of this entry is not “how to talk to women” or “how to persuade and influence people” it’s just a simple (or not so simple) list of tips on how to chat it up with someone. This entry is for everyone from the slightly introverted to the Socially Awkward Penguins of the world .

1) Be comfortable talking about yourself. In preparation for being a better conversationalist, you should be prepared to talk about yourself and anticipate the questions that follow. If you tell people you’re into martial arts, be prepared when they ask “What kind?” or “How long have you been doing it?” It sounds simple, but if you’re unprepared talk about yourself, you might come across as awkward or someone who is difficult to talk with. Additionally, if what you've prepared takes too long, that can make you difficult to talk with as well.

2) Engage others to talk about themselves. Just like you’ve prepared, others have also. Be ready with “conversation starters” that get people talking about themselves. I find the trick to doing this is to be genuinely curious. If I don’t care about what they have to say, or vice versa, it’s easy for one party to tell if the other is disinterested in the conversation. I make the conversation interesting for myself by asking questions where I actually care about the answers.

3) Approach conversation like a DFS. What is a DFS? In programming there are two types of searches that you first learn, Breadth First Search (BFS) and Depth First Search (DFS). Without nerding out too much (or is it too late for that?), the basic problem is that you’re looking for something in a tree structure. You can look for it in two ways, either look at all the closest things first (BFS), or dive deeply down one path (DFS).

What does this have to do with conversation? Well, a common mistake of a novice conversationalist is to do things BFS style:
Person A: “What do you do for fun?”
Person B: “I like to snowboard. I went to Big Bear last week and got a cabin with some friends!”
Person A: “Oh that sounds neat. So where do you go to school?”

Hopefully this fake exchange made you cringe a little. Person B created a lot of opportunity to spark a conversation but person A changed the subject too quickly. Person A, although has some great conversation topics, is doing things BFS style (almost like an interview). Although it might seem like a lot of information was exchanged... a BFS conversation is usually pretty awkward.

The above conversation in DFS style might involve person A engaging in a conversation about snowboarding and how much they love/hate/want to go. Or maybe asking about the cabin, or asking about the friends they went with. The DFS approach takes words, phrases, and topics mentioned by the other person to expand the conversation.

4) Cater to the person you are talking to. Do they like to talk more or listen more? Are they uncomfortable sharing information? Are you making them uncomfortable by sharing too much information? How much time do they have?

With experience, you’ll find a list of conversation topics that are generally acceptable “What did you do this weekend?” “What do you do for fun?” “Where are you from?” “What’s your favorite dinosaur?” Be cognizant of the type of person you are talking to, and the situation they're in. This might sound like "common sense" but if you're not used to having a lot of conversations, you might not think about this stuff... which brings me to my next point.

5) Practice and have fun! This list probably seems like a lot to think about, but I’ve overanalyzed the stuff that will come naturally with practice. All of these skills develop by having more conversations with more people. The best way to learn isn’t by reading this entry or observing people having conversations, it’s to put yourself out there and have more conversations with people you don’t already know.