The Determination of Idiots

It is hard to impossible to stop a determined idiot.
This axiom came to mind as I read the story of the man who leapt from a zoo’s train. His athletic jump cleared a sixteen foot tall protective fence and landed right in the pen of a Siberian tiger. The tiger attacked the man severely.
I’ve been trying to think of valid reasons why the man would do that. From the reports I read the man seemed intent upon clearing the safety fence, so this was no accident. He wasn’t trying to escape a giant space scorpion or an icky bug or a girlfriend he was trying to break up with. Even if he was trying to commit suicide I imagine there are ample other avenues available, avenues less elaborate and ultimately more effective. This seems to me more in the field of a frat prank or a dare or drunken misplaced determination or a desperate ploy to get famous.
I think the guy is an idiot. If one applies Hanlon’s Razor, i.e. “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”, he’s an idiot. Even if he’s not, even if there’s a valid reason for this bizarre chain of events, let’s assume for the sake of this post that he is an idiot.
We’re left with an idiot that did, deliberately and with malice of forethought, jump into a Siberian tiger’s pen. The tiger did what tigers do: the man was mauled. The man was rescued by zoo staff.
I’m sure that some people read the stories and were appalled that a tiger would do such a thing. They might demand the animal’s destruction for daring to harm homo sapien in such a blatant way.
Others might read that story and say, “How can we let people jump from a moving train over a 16-foot fence into a wild animal’s pen? We must implement laws and elaborate security systems to prevent this.”
The zoo did neither. The zoo’s director, Jim Breheny, handled the situation, in my humble opinion, appropriately based on the actual risk.
The Associated Press quoted Breheny as saying, “When someone is determined to do something harmful to themselves, it’s very hard to stop that. … The tiger did nothing wrong in this episode”.
The most telling part from both a risk management and incident handling perspective is the other statement from the Associated Press article I read: “Zoo officials said they would review safety procedures but stressed that the situation was unusual.” By the way, they’re not going to euthanize the tiger.
“We review everything, but we honestly think we provide a safe experience,” Breheny said in the Associated Press article. “And this is just an extraordinary occurrence. … Somebody was deliberately trying to endanger themselves.”
The lesson: don’t make more out of an isolated incident than is there. If the particular ingredients to a problem are all unlikely to rare, then the response should be proportional. This isn’t to say that there aren’t lessons to be learned from every event. Rather, a rational and judicial
The corollary: given enough resources a determined person can defeat security measures. As my Dad said to me after my childhood home was broken into, “If someone wants to get in bad enough they’ll find a way”.
The same is true for determined idiots.

Belvedere on Windows – Keeping a tidy Desktop

Belvedere is a Windows app that automates actions for your PC.
The one biggest advantage of Belvedere is keeping my desktop clean. I hate it when an app decides to install an icon on my desktop. Belvedere helps with that.
First, follow this Lifehacker article. Then add a folder for c:\Users\Public\Desktop and make a transaction to delete the lnk files in that folder.
This will make sure that no app icons will end up on your desktop.

Presentation Preparation with EverNote

Evernote (EN) fills a gap in my presentation preparation. This is more nuts and bolts and less philosophy, though there’s a bit of that here.
I’m often asked to present and explain complex technologies and concepts to a broad audience. Sometimes the request comes with little time for preparation.
Occasionally the lack of notice is okay. I keep general slide decks (e.g. Microsoft Office PowerPoint Presentations) ready to go. I know the material well and engage the audience, to the point that a deck on display behind me is informational. The problem manifests when I forget portions of my presentations, just like when you know a song but forget the middle verse. The same happens when the discussion heads down an interesting tangent.
In such cases I use EN to record the presentation for continual improvement, but that doesn’t help ensure I get the content across I intend to.
When I hit an interesting tangent I can forget why I’m there in the first place.
The problem expands when I need to convey something new and soon. I stumbled on a solution accidentally using EN. EN has a record audio button in the note dialog. I use it to capture tasks and notes when I can’t get to a PC. I use it to record my talks as mentioned before to help me improve my presentations.
While I’m used to recording my talks, recording the pre-presentations is the “ah-ha” moment. In the EN note I put the key concepts and points in the talk. Then I use the record option to capture my initial brain dump ramblings on the topic. I play it back, capturing the concepts and details I like and discard the less salient points.
Eventually I draft the deck in the same note. I’m a huge fan of Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen and the presentations of Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki, Ze Frank, Alton Brown’s Good Eats (one of the best show-&-explain examples out there), and those who let the display set the story but the presenter to tell the story. This is the antithesis of the “death by PowerPoint” or “bullet pointed to death” exaggerations of boring to bad presentations.
For each slide I use EN to grab the pictures that might help convey the message I want to communicate. I write the slide text and any supporting materials.
As I iterate the mirror & timer test of my deck, I record them. I can go back and listen to older versions to make sure I move forward without losing content. I adjust the note to reflect the changes.
The last step I do is actually put the slide deck (ppt) together.
The folks who run such sessions want the presentation deck way ahead of the actual presentation. When they do, I give a dummy deck then send the final version as adjacent to the session as practical. Worst case I’ll ask to use the version on my USB stick. Those who want to vet content don’t care for that technique, but a live audience can surface other concerns.