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Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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Do you find yourself wondering how ISIS suddenly emerged as a military powerhouse in Iraq and Syria?

The official story is that ISIS has smart leaders, fierce fighters, and they resupply themselves through crime and conquest. And we hear stories that the Iraqi army is incompetent and retreat-happy.  And Syria is just a hot mess. That should be enough to explain the situation, right?

I don't hold a competing theory. I just don't buy into the official version.

And those beheadings look a bit suspicious to me. They seem more staged for the benefit of the U.S. military than the benefit of ISIS. Those beheading videos consolidated support for military action and serve to keep the U.S. even more deeply involved in the region. There are powerful elements in the U.S. who want that, especially the weapons industry.

I've described in this blog how my B.S. filter works. I look for two sources to be in agreement. For example, if the news reports match my common sense view, or my observations, or the first-hand accounts from witnesses, I tend to believe the news. But if the news conflicts with my common sense or my observations I raise an eyebrow and try to keep it that way.

The ISIS story doesn't pass my B.S. filter because it violates common sense that such a competent fighting force could suddenly emerge and bitch-slap professionally trained (or even poorly trained) military forces with such consistency. I have worked in large organizations and I know that the logistics involved - the planning, training, and resupplying are huge challenges even for organized armies. Did ISIS really figure out all of that while their communications are presumably monitored by the enemy?

Then you have the curious situation that every country in the Middle East is united against ISIS. How often have Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel been on the same side of an issue? That is mighty convenient in the sense that it turns enemies into frenemies, and that's a step in the right direction.

I said I don't hold an alternate theory to explain ISIS. But let's imagine one and compare it to the official story to see which one seems more credible. If the conspiracy theory we invent here sounds more believable than the official story, that doesn't mean anything, but it is fun to do.

Let's say one of the major military powers in the world has been secretly providing ISIS with training, weapons, and intelligence about targets. That would explain the success of ISIS, but why would any major world power help them?

One answer is that the only way to kill an idea is to transform it into something you can bomb. And you can certainly bomb a caliphate. A caliphate should act as a magnet for the worst of the bad actors. Presumably the bad guys would want to consolidate power in the caliphate before spreading it to neighboring countries. So the caliphate attracts all the bad people, like a heat sink, and puts them in one target area. Convenient! Are the troop barracks built yet?

Arguably, the best thing that could happen to Israel is the creation of a caliphate with no air force that the Sunni and Shiite countries can hate with equal passion. It is a great distraction and it makes the enemies of the enemy cooperate. And compared to the videos of innocent journalists being beheaded, Israel's West Bank settlements seem like nothing more than a real estate issue.

ISIS has also become the "brand" for Islamic extremists, replacing al Qaeda. Scrappy little al Qaeda had support because it poked the big American bear all the way over in the homeland. That's something American-haters can get behind. But can you love ISIS as it gobbles up your neighbor and threatens to do the same to you?

So ISIS has achieved several useful psychological goals for Israel and the United States:

1.      ISIS is a common enemy that puts traditional enemies in the region on the same side. Perhaps that could help get an Iranian nuclear deal, for example. Iran needs U.S. help controlling ISIS.

2.      ISIS has stolen the radical Islam "brand" from al Qaeda and ruined it by putting the focus on killing other Muslims. That should be good for America in the long run.

3.      Israel's military actions in the region seem tame compared to the beheadings and mass killings in the caliphate. So Israel comes out ahead thanks to ISIS sucking up the news cycle over there.

4.      American arms dealers come out ahead because America continues to drop bombs in a war that probably won't reach the homeland with much impact.

So if I had to put a conspiracy theory to the facts we know, I would say the CIA, weapons makers, and Israel are engineering the situation for a caliphate to form so it sucks the bad actors out of the moderate countries and puts them someplace easier to bomb while ruining their brand image at the same time. The alternative might have been to allow Iran to slowly gain control over the entire region while developing nukes. Compared to that future, creating a honey trap for the enemy and then bombing it (forever) makes perfect sense.

In the long run, I think ISIS will be the best thing that happened to the Middle East because of what it does to the common psychology of who the "real" enemy is. And it comes when the problems in the Middle East seemed otherwise unsolvable. Is that a coincidence?

(Here I will remind you that this blog is just for fun and that cartoonists are not good sources for knowledge of world affairs.)
----------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     

Author of this book 

Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

 

 
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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A recent study that got picked up by the media says that 90% of women in restaurant jobs that depend on tipping report being sexually harassed at work.

That sounds like sexist behavior out of control. But allow me to put some context on that based on my restaurant-owning experience.

I believe it is true that 90% of women working for tips in restaurants are sexually harassed by coworkers and/or customers. That fits my personal observations after working in the industry. But let's put some context on that and see if your feelings about the story change.

For starters, let's remove from the stats the folks who take jobs at Hooters and other restaurants that position the staff's appearance as part of the "entertainment." I would argue that those employees are signing up to be sexually objectified in return for the promise of easy work and good tips. You can make a convincing case that Hooters should not exist, but I don't think you can lump the servers at Hooters with the servers at Applebee's and get a good statistic on restaurant sexual harassment in general.

So let's say the non-Hooters rate of sexual harassment for female restaurant workers is something like 80%. That still sounds terrible. But I'm not done with context yet.

In my experience, attractive female bartenders and servers are completely conscious of trading their sexuality for higher tips.  They talk about it freely. They pick blouses to accentuate their best assets. And some will admit they choose jobs that allow them to trade on their looks. If I were in my twenties and could make money in a job that depended on my looks instead of my muscles I would take it in a heartbeat, assuming I had good looks.

My best guess is that if you remove from the stats the women who are intentionally using their sexuality to improve their income, you get about 50% of women in tipping jobs who get sexually harassed and have done nothing intentionally to inspire unwanted attention. That is still a horrible number.

But 50% is also the rate of men who report being sexually harassed in server jobs. In my restaurant experience, when we had handsome male bartenders or servers the female staff and customers were shameless with their non-stop sexual banter, flirting, and direct sexual offers. And if you thought all of that attention was the good kind, you'd be wrong. It was an ongoing problem for the guys. The handsome gay servers had it the worst because they had no upside potential from the female attention.

So here's the proper context, in my opinion, based on years of direct restaurant experience: 100% of attractive men and women are sexually harassed at work in the restaurant business. And nearly every one of them took the job knowing that would be the case, but they decided it was worth it for the relatively easy money.

Everyone who has restaurant experience knows that the industry attracts folks who are simply not as sensitive as the general public on this and other topics. In a typical office setting, a sexual conversation could be a career-ender. In a typical restaurant, half of the conversations are x-rated humor, and most of it is coming from the women. Comparing restaurant folks with typical white collar workers is comparing apples and oranges. Restaurant workers are self-selected as not-too-bothered by sexual banter. Or maybe they just become that way after a month on the job. I'm just saying they are not the same personalities that are working at IBM.

The ratio of harassment drops off as you move from the attractive restaurant employees to the merely average of both genders. Probably only half of average-looking employees get harassed. That is still too high, of course.

And then you have the homely restaurant employees of both genders. They have their own problems, but sexual harassment isn't at the top of their lists.

The bottom line is that sexual harassment in restaurants is not so much a gender issue as an attractive person issue. But it doesn't become a story until you layer on the sexism angle and leave out the context. Would you read a story with a headline that says, "Attractive people get more unwanted sexual attention than ugly people" or would you think you already know that story? Sometimes good context makes a bad story.

In related and not-so-surprising news, a study says attractive women get more job interviews than unattractive women. Attractive men have no similar advantage.

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Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     
Author of this book 
Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

 

 

 

 
The Dilbert movie script is coming along nicely. You can see in this picture that I am putting notes on the timeline as I think of scene ideas.


One of the themes throughout the movie will be that simple things are hard to accomplish in our dysfunctional world. One of those simple things will involve Dilbert trying to get a much-needed meeting with the CEO. As a lowly engineer Dilbert won't be able to schedule time directly, so he will have to go at it indirectly. Expect Dilbert to join the CEO's church, join the CEO's golf foursome, and even get a job on the CEO's yacht. The trick with humor writing is to create as many "fish out of water" situations as you can. So putting an atheist in church, a non-athlete on the golf course, and an engineer on the yacht crew gets that done.

With humor writing, you know you have something good when the setup makes you smile before the scene is even written. Imagine Dilbert chatting with churchgoers and trying to keep his scientific mindset to himself. The scene practically writes itself.

Likewise imagine Dilbert trying to golf in a foursome with three billionaires. Or perhaps he will caddy.

There is a good chance that none of these scene ideas will make it to the final script. But I thought you might be interested in the creative process at this point.

Speaking of scenes, feel free to suggest your favorite past Dilbert comic strips as scenes for the movie. At some point I will dig through all 8,000 Dilbert comics and pull out the strips that deserve full scene treatment. But if you have any suggestions I am willing to be swayed at this point in the process. All I need is the topic idea, such as "Show Dilbert getting a performance review." Maybe someday you will be watching the movie with your family and you can point to the screen and say, "That was my scene."

 
A few weeks ago I challenged readers to design a better book cover for How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I promised that if one of the new designs tested better than my original art I would use the new design for the upcoming softcover book release. I embarked on this path because a lot of people told me the cover I designed for the book was hurting sales. I decided to test that hypothesis and perhaps improve things for the softcover release.

For a refresher, here are the rules and here are the top entries.

I predicted that a new cover design would not outperform the original. Today I have the results of the marketing tests. Before I tell you the results, do you think you can you predict a winning book cover design?

First, some background on how I selected the covers for testing.

I picked three designs to test. One is my original cover. The second is from a professional designer who competed against other professional designers on a site called 99designs.com. That cover design is labelled Lilam. The third cover I tested was the "best" of the ones submitted by blog readers - according to my publisher and me - created by Daniel Thornton. (Nice work, Daniel of qualifycomics.com)

My publisher created Twitter card ads and ran them randomly to see which ones generated the most click-throughs. I expected each cover to have similar results. But one of them blew away the other two designs. It wasn't even close.

Are you ready to test your powers of prediction? Here are the three designs as they appeared on the Twitter ads. Tell me in the comments which one you thought was the run-away winner in click-throughs.

Lilam's Design:
 



Daniel Thornton's Design:



Scott's original design:



 Okay, if you have your guess in mind, here are the click results:

Scott's Original Cover: 1,312

Daniel Thornton's Cover: 481

Lilam's Cover: 326

This is far from a scientific test, and one can see lots of holes in the method. But it seems an easy decision for me to keep the original art.

I have a few ideas about why my art outperformed the others. One suspicion is that people have seen the original cover art so seeing it again was just reinforcement. That would bias the test.

Another factor is color. My original art uses a color that has been well-tested on the Internet and we know it attracts the most clicks. On CalendarTree.com we changed one button from green to burnt orange and increased clicks 13% with no other change. So I know my cover color was smoking the two competitors.

My cover design also has some intentional complexity that makes you stop and wonder how it will all turn out. Will the giant shoe crush the stick figure or will he leap to safety on the bag of money? The science would say that forcing you to stop and think will make a bigger impression. Daniel's art depicts the aftermath of the fall and is straightforward. Lilam's art has some mystery about how the petal-picking will turn out, but that might seem a bit overused as a metaphor.

My original hypothesis was that different cover designs for this book would test about the same. I was very wrong about that. And it does indicate how important it might be for publishers to do rigorous cover design testing. Could a good cover design really triple the click-throughs as my unscientific test suggests?

I also inadvertently confirmed the talents of my editor and publisher. From the start of the book project I resisted their suggestion that I create the cover art myself. I argued that I don't have that specific flavor of talent and that we needed a professional designer. The evidence suggests I was wrong. But in my defense, I only did the line art. The title and color treatment came from the publisher's professional designer.

The good news for me is that my original cover art probably helped sales more than it hurt. The bad news for me is that I don't have a new cover design that will test better than the original.

I hope this was interesting to you.


------------------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com    
Author of this book
Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

Listen to me yacking with James Altucher on The James Altucher Show podcast.

 
Suppose futurists are right and someday humans move their minds and consciousness into software to live forever. What then?

A software-based human would have no problems. There would be no pain, no need for money, no need for ego, success, or anything else that organic humans want or need. A software-based person would have no incentive to do anything, assuming the rest of humanity is also software-based and problem-free.

By the time humans can move consciousness to software I would expect us to have immense power over the environment as well. By then it will be practical to terraform new worlds, change the climate at will, and create new life forms with 3D printers. In other words, we will have Godlike powers over our environment.

So there we will be, someday in the future, software-based creatures with absolutely no reason to do anything. Our software will provide the sensations of pleasure, happiness, success, and whatever else we built into the system. There will be no reason to build homes, or run businesses, or create armies. Nothing will matter to software humans because all of our needs will be met internally in our program.

But let's suppose the creators of our software anticipated our future lack of motivation and built into the program a need for learning. We might believe that learning is an endless process and can't really go wrong.

But software would soon reach the limits of knowledge. Once the software can program itself, which is also predicted to happen, it will become super-intelligent fairly soon. And we future software humans might exhaust all normal avenues for seeking new information. What then?

Software-based humans would have the programmed need to learn but nothing left to learn that isn't trivial. What might our future software selves do then?

One possibility is that we will build 3D printers and create organic humans based on our software personalities just to experience reality through five senses. An organic creature can keep learning its entire life. So our future software selves might find a need to bring some of our minds back into organic form just to keep up the challenge and the learning.

And you know where this is going. If the scenario I described might happen in the future, how can we know it didn't already happen and we are the second-generation organic humans?

Let me boil this down to one idea. Today, engineers design robots to serve the interests of organic humans. But what happens when there are no organic humans left, after we move our consciousness to software and have no problems in our lives whatsoever? What would the software be programmed to do other than deliver streams of artificial pleasure to itself? It would have no reason for existence.

Humans seek challenge and novelty because we evolved that way. If our software selves acquire that programming from our organic minds it stands to reason we will someday move our minds back to organic form specifically because it is more of a challenge. And maybe it already happened.

But I would expect the new organic humans to be dropped off on a new planet so they can develop naturally, free from the protection of their software creators. That means Earth is a seeded planet and not an original. And it would explain why the second-smartest species after humans can't even invent a flip phone.
-----------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book
Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily
 



 


 
My childhood wasn't the good kind. I had a medical problem that kept me in intestinal agony every hour I was awake from the time I was a toddler until I was eighteen. I learned to mask my pain from others, and extreme discomfort simply became my normal. Even my siblings will be reading about it here for the first time. Only my late parents and our family doctor knew.

My grandmother was my parents' babysitter of choice. She was an obese, superstitious, angry woman who hadn't finished grade school. She believed that any unwanted behavior in a child could be corrected with a sufficient application of mental or physical punishment. Pain was her only childrearing tool. This wasn't unusual in her day. The problem in my case is that she interpreted my medical problems as behavior problems and she made it her mission to fix me. She used pain to try to fix my pain.

I'll spare you the details from those years because I wouldn't wish them to be in your head. But just to size it, she would be in jail if she got caught doing any of it in 2014. And had she survived until my adulthood I would have been tempted to kill her just to keep her away from other children.

I didn't tell anyone about my experience because I couldn't make my mouth form the words. And I mean that literally; it is like a frozen mouth experience.  I still can't talk about the details.

I'm not looking for sympathy because everyone has their own ghosts. And I have no reason to believe my ghosts are worse than yours. We live in a fucked-up world. But what might differ is our interpretation of our experiences.

My interpretation of my childhood is that it conferred on me a sort of superpower. Unlike some of you, I know how far I can go without breaking. That means I only have to ask myself one question about any potential path: Do I want it enough to pay the price?

I never worry that I am embarking on a path that will be too hard. I know what hard looks like and I know it didn't break me even as a kid. That doesn't mean I'm tough; I am far from it. But I do have the advantage of knowing how far I can bend without breaking. If you don't have that knowledge, you can never feel safe choosing a path with a lot of bending ahead.

Everyone has ghosts. You can let them haunt you forever or you can make them your bitches. Consider the latter.

--------------------------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 


 

 
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[See earlier post on this topic]

My supply of self-sticking cork tiles arrived. Here they are staged in my movie writing room. I hope to have them up on the wall soon so I can start engineering the Dilbert movie script using note cards and pins.

(That is my giant cat Zoey in the corner)

Yes, I have heard of computers. And when they make a computer screen that is three-walls-wide I will be all over it. What I am doing is building a 3D augmentation for my own imagination. My imagination is commercial grade but I can't hold a two-hour plot with multiple subplots and characters in my head while I simultaneously write and edit the story in my mind.

Someone asked me in the blog comments how hard it is to write a movie script when I already have experience writing the Dilbert animated TV show. My answer is that comparing a 21-minute TV script to a two-hour feature film script is like asking a taxi driver to fly a 747. The skills aren't directly transferable.

For a good idea how hard it is to write a 21-minute animated TV show, see this great description of how The Family Guy writers create scripts. It takes a room full of people and a year of back and forth for each script. To put it another way, one of the most successful shows on television can't hire an individual who knows how to write an entire script for one show. And as the article explains, many other animation writers think The Family Guy produces some of the worst scripts on television. I enjoy the show but it does have the worst writing I have ever seen on a successful show. Like most people who enjoy the show, I respond to the irreverence. So in a sense, the entire show is one joke (irreverence) retold in infinite ways. And it still works.

My experience with the Dilbert animated TV show was sort of the low-budget version of The Family Guy's system. My co-executive producer, Larry Charles, and I would brainstorm story ideas and assign a story to a writer or a team of two writers. Most of the first drafts were nearly unusable. I tossed some first drafts in the garbage and had to write new ones from scratch. Then Larry would do his edits and after a few rounds of back and forth we had something. Sometimes we did the entire process in a week. Sometimes Larry did the first draft after throwing away another writer's draft. Thanks to union rules, the writer of the first first draft is the official writer of the script, and that person gets paid royalties while his work heads to the landfill. Larry and I would get secondary credits for "helping." When people ask how much I liked working in television, I tell that story.

You might wonder why we didn't hire writers that could create final scripts, or something close to final, on their own. Personally, I have never met a person who could do that for a humor scripts, and I've looked for years. I assume The Family Guy can't find that person either. So they have a room full of writers and a yearlong process that creates scripts by committee. And the scripts play like committee work.

The Simpsons has a similar writing system I believe, and often produce brilliant scripts. I assume the writers for The Simpsons are just smarter. That's what I hear. I can't confirm it.

In my day job, I write one or two jokes per day for the Dilbert comic. A film script would need about three laughs per page for 120 pages. That's 360 humor moments, overlaying a fairly specific movie script formula, overlaying a story that has to make sense from start to finish and deliver an emotional payoff. That's a tough ask for one writer.

Anyway, my point today is that writing isn't just about talent and hard work. You also need a system that makes sense for the project. My writing room is the first part of developing my system. As the project progresses I will look for helpers on specific elements of the script, such as checking the technology assumptions and updating the business jargon. And I'm sure I will need what they call a "script doctor" to fix the broken parts at some point. And if a director gets involved, he or she will want to do some rewrites too.

Writing is complicated. If you plan to write something, solve for the writing process first.

------------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 


 

 
Bossy
Sep 24, 2014 | General Nonsense | Permalink
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

 ---------------------

As readers of my How to Fail... book already know, I have a system for detecting B.S. It isn't foolproof by any means, but it serves me reasonably well in an imperfect world. Briefly, the system requires a two-point confirmation. For example, if my personal experience matches the findings of established science, I am more likely to be a believer. But if the science and my observations disagree, or science and common sense disagree, it triggers my B.S. detector.

I also accept eyewitness reports from other people as one form of evidence, although that clearly has huge reliability issues. But in practice, if you say you had a good experience doing X, and studies say people enjoy doing X, I conclude that X is probably an enjoyable thing for some people.

Now to my point...

Actor Emma Watson noted during her recent speech at the UN that assertive girls can too often be labelled "bossy," and this is a form of sexism. I have heard this claim many times. Does it pass the B.S. filter?

I pause to remind you that passing or failing the B.S. filter does not indicate truth or falsehood. It only indicates that a thing has credibility issues or it doesn't. And that can be important if you are an advocate for the cause.

Let's put the "bossy" claim through the B.S. filter and see how it comes out. My starting bias is that while sexism clearly exists, the "bossy" theme hurts the credibility of advocates for women because it doesn't register as true with men.

Most women have, I assume, had personal experience with the "bossy" insult. Perhaps women have heard the word being used on the playground or at work, and now they have heard from Emma Watson and others that it is a common experience. For women, the bossy claim probably has two-point confirmation and passes their B.S. filter. (Women, can you confirm that assumption?)

I have no personal memory of a male ever calling a female "bossy." I leave open the possibility that I have heard "bossy" a hundred times and had no special reason to remember it. All I am saying is that I have no memory of hearing it. I can't say it has never happened around me. But I do have distinct memories of women calling me bossy.  So the bossy claim fails my personal experience filter. But that doesn't mean much.

Perhaps the "bossy" claim has been studied by reputable scientists, but I am not aware of that study. So science doesn't help with my B.S. filter.

What about common sense? Does my common sense - if such a thing exists - support the idea that people are calling assertive girls bossy while giving assertive boys a free pass? Let's dig in a little.

I always like to start with context. The "bossy" contention implies that there are special insults just for women. That part is obviously true. Words such as bossy, bitch, witch, whore, slut, and of course the c-word are usually reserved for women. The mere existence of special insults just for women seems to support the claim of pervasive sexism.

But men have special insults too. Asshole, dick, douchebag, motherfucker, and bastard spring to mind. You rarely hear those words applied to women.

My personal experience is that when people act in ways we don't like, we label them with awful words, and we often pick those words based on gender.

My observation over a lifetime is that take-charge individuals are always respected, regardless of gender, so long as they are both capable and well-meaning. If not, the gender-based insults will start flying. The take-charge guy will be labelled a clueless dick and the take-charge gal will be labelled a bossy c-word. But in both cases what is being questioned is competence and intention, not gender. That's just my personal observation and I don't equate it with truth.

I hold open the possibility that people all across the country are suppressing assertive girls by labelling them bossy. But my hypothesis is that women are seeing it and men are not. That's a problem if you are an advocate for women. If, like Emma Watson, your message is meant to change the minds of men, you must first satisfy their B.S. filters with your claims. Communication only works after you establish trust.

I watched the Emma Watson video of her speech and the bossy part shut me down. I don't remember a thing after that because it struck me as under-sourced and not sufficiently credible based on my personal experience and memories. That doesn't mean it isn't a valid point. That just means it doesn't work as a point of advocacy.

The first rule of sales is that you want to say things the customer agrees with. You start with the easy stuff, such as "You like efficiency and low prices, right?" Once the customer starts "pacing" you, to borrow a term from hypnosis, you can start leading them to the decision you want them to make. Ms. Watson started her speech, which was primarily aimed at men, with a claim that I suspect lacks credibility for men but not for women.

If you want to influence me, start with something I know to be true, not something that makes me scratch my head and wonder if everything else that follows is just as iffy as the first thing.

I don't think there is any way to get objective data on whether the word "bossy" is suppressing assertive girls everywhere. My only point is that in the context of advocacy, the bossy claim works against the cause because it registers as true to women but questionable to men.

Men, in your experience, and in the year 2014, are the capable and well-meaning girls and women who assert themselves routinely being called one of the b-words? Or is it simply the case that we insult bad people with gender-specific insults and half of those bad people are female?

Note to Jezebel, Gawker, and Huffington Post: A good way to take this post out of context is with a headline such as "Cartoonist doesn't believe anyone has ever insulted a woman because he doesn't remember seeing it." That'll work.

-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 
[Update: Let's assume Emma Watson is correct and some little girls are called bossy for no other reason than because they volunteer to direct the neighborhood play. That seems sexist. But what about the little girls who are pushy, selfish assholes and not "assertive" in a good way? Are they 1% of the girls being called bossy or are they 99%? How would we know? Since adults generally won't call a little girl an asshole, would they call that girl bossy, and would that girl grow up thinking the problem was sexism and not herself? These are questions, not an opinion. I can't have an opinion without knowing how often adults are using the word bossy as a label for take-charge attitudes versus pushy, selfish, obnoxious behavior. -- Scott]

[Update 2: Interestingly, I have no memory of any boyhood friends acting bossy, pushy, assertive, or anything in that general direction. Boys tend to follow what they perceive as the best idea, or they follow the herd, or they follow their penises. I have zero memory of any boy ever trying to tell me what to do as a kid. So I wonder if the unusual lack of adult-like assertiveness in young boys makes normal girl behavior seem more bossy in contrast. -- Scott]




 
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I know from past blog posts that many of you are interested in the creative process. So I thought I would take you on a journey as I prepare to write a Dilbert movie script. Today is the first installment of this story. I expect it to take 6-12 months. I'll update you periodically.

Everyone approaches this sort of thing differently, so this is just my process.

Allow me to first give you some background.

I have tried several times in the past to get a Dilbert movie made. On three occasions I have had deals with studios. But in the movie business there is a big difference between having a movie deal and making an actual movie. Probably only 5% of movie ideas make it all the way from deal to screen. And your odds are worse if you don't have a script. In the past I always started without a script. One typical process for movie-making is that first you get a studio deal and that gives you a budget and money to approach writers. The better writers won't even talk to you unless you have a deal first. So you have a chicken-or-egg problem because studios prefer a script in hand before funding, but good writers need guaranteed funding before they will write a script. I hope to solve that problem by writing the script myself.

You might ask why I didn't reach into my Dilbert pockets and just pay a top writer to make a Dilbert movie script before taking it to a studio. To put some numbers on that, I would be paying something like a million dollars for a script against a 5% chance of making a movie and getting something back. That business model only works if you are a studio with dozens of projects in the hopper and you only need a few to pan out. It doesn't make much sense for an individual to fund a 5% chance.

There's also the problem of finding a good writer. That turns out to be nearly impossible. If you KNOW a writer is talented, that person is already committed to writing guaranteed hits for studios. For everyone else, you have incomplete information. Can the writer who did a great job with a kid-themed comedy for Disney write an adult-oriented script for Dilbert? How about the romantic comedy writing genius whose best jokes are sex jokes? Does that translate to a Dilbert script? Can someone who has never worked in an office even write for Dilbert?

Then you have the problem of group writing. Most scripts have multiple authors by the time they hit the screen. And every one of those multiple writers claims the movie as their credit. Which one of them was the "Wally" in the room? There's no way to know.

So I'll write the script myself.

Writing a movie is totally unlike writing a book, comic strip, newspaper article or blog. And that means I have no idea whether I have the right sort of skills to pull it off. This is a big project, and I'll be tackling it without the benefit of experience or demonstrated talent in this specific field.

The special challenge of writing a movie script is the complexity. You have dozens of characters, two hours of action, and all of the subplots have to come together at just the right time. I didn't know how to hold all of that in my head while staring at a blank screen on my computer. What I needed was to live inside the movie, figuratively speaking, the way a pinball sees all of the bumpers and flippers in the pinball machine. I wanted to inhabit the script from the inside.

I needed a movie-writing room.

So step-one in my movie-writing process is setting up my writing room. I ordered lots of self-sticking cork tiles that I will adhere to the walls of this room. As I come up with scene or character ideas I will write them on note cards and stick them to the wall where they belong in the timeline.









Movies are, as you know, overly formulaic. In film lingo there is something called a "beat sheet" that is essentially a guide to when certain events should happen in a movie. For example, in the first few minutes of a movie you always want to have some sort of life-changing event, such as a death or divorce. And by the end of what is called the "third act" your hero has to be in an impossible situation. There are dozens of other little rules of scriptwriting. I won't be following the formula slavishly, but it will help to have the "beats" written on my walls so I am aware of any instance in which I might be violating the formula.

I have most of the story arc written in my mind. But I have to translate that into roughly 120 pages of script and 40-60 scenes. Over time I will put all of my notes on the walls and see where the holes are. I'll also use some color codes to know which characters are popping up the most.

I should tell you that I am not writing an animated movie. What I have in mind is a substantial "reimagining" of Dilbert. It won't be a bunch of actors sitting in cubicles and complaining about work. I'm not writing the sequel to Office Space. If the movie ever gets made it will be a re-launch of Dilbert for a younger generation. And I'm aiming for it to be a big-budget "tent pole" feature, as they say in Hollywood. Tent poles are a studio's big feature films that make all of the money.

I plan to do most of the writing while exercising at my local gym. The elliptical machines are perfect for writing because I can do cardio on them with my eyes closed. My hands are securely on the handle things and my feet are on the foot pedals. For thirty minutes I descend so far into my imagination that I forget I am working out. I see the actors performing the lines as I write them. (Meryl Streep plays Dilbert's mother in my imagination.) After my workout, I'll write down any new scene or dialog ideas on note cards and later stick them on my wall.

Once the wall is mostly filled, and I have "engineered" the movie to hit all of the emotional and logical notes I want, I will take out my laptop and start writing. I won't put a single word to page until I have the entire movie story solved. And it has to make me cry when I think about certain scenes. (Remember, this is a reimagined Dilbert with emotions and action scenes and whatnot.) The crying has been a problem lately because I have been weeping on the elliptical as I imagine scenes playing out. I hope that means I am on the right track.

-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 
I have two new strategies for fighting ISIS. As you know, all strategies for fighting ISIS are impractical, expensive, and terrible. I'm just adding two more bad ideas to the mix.

The only strategies on the table at the moment are these:

1.       Seal the borders of the Caliphate and kill every living creature within.

2.       Surrender and convert to Islam.

3.       Kill some but not all ISIS fighters and guarantee permanent war plus an eventual strike on the homeland. (Current plan.)

4.       Wait until ISIS consolidates power and builds better targets to hit, such as permanent army bases and government buildings. This too guarantees permanent war and a strike on the homeland, but maybe with better weapons by then.

5.       Build a "filter fence" and try to relocate all of the innocents before killing everyone who remains.

Not great choices.

Here's another strategy: Declare the Caliphate a weapons testing zone and make it legal for any weapons manufacturer to kill people - innocent or otherwise - within the Caliphate for the purpose of testing and demonstrating their weapons. Let's say the U.S. military in this scenario is mostly involved in defending a few staging areas and handling logistics and enemy spotting. But it would be up to the defense contractors themselves to decide which weapon systems to test on the targets.

This idea is immoral madness, right?

Remember that you are comparing it to ideas we know won't work. This idea has huge warts, but it has some advantages too. For example, the defense contractors control Congress, so we know the plan could be approved in this country.

ISIS' biggest advantage is that they are willing to wage permanent war and wear down any outside invaders. But that probably only applies to invaders that have citizens back home to worry about. The defense industry can test its weapons in the Caliphate indefinitely. They would have a profit motive and no moral or legal obstacles.

Let's assume that the U.S. military has to approve all actions by the defense contractors, and collectively they try to limit collateral damage to innocents. It wouldn't be that much different from the current strategy in terms of who dies within the Caliphate. We might find that he defense contractors are more cautious than the regular military because they are trying to demonstrate the pinpoint precisions of their weapons. Dead civilians are bad for business.

Budget-wise, this could be the most economical plan for permanent war. The defense contractors might even pay for the privilege of using the testing grounds. The goal would be to run the war at breakeven from the taxpayers' perspective.

The media should like this idea because it makes the news far more interesting. War always makes headlines, but if you layer on the futuristic weapons testing angle it becomes irresistible. Keep in mind that most of the so-called news would be in the form of press releases from the defense contractors. You would see stories such as "New laser weapon decapitates ISIS leader at his daughter's wedding. No innocents were hurt."

The biggest advantage of this strategy is the psychology. For starters, it says we plan to keep killing ISIS members until the end of time. That removes their biggest psychological advantage by letting them know they can't wait us out. Second, it recasts the situation from some sort of religious war to a simple business opportunity. That's what we capitalists do. And I have to think it takes some of the fun out of being a jihadist.

In the current model, ISIS fighters probably feel they are Allah's noble warriors fighting for the greater Caliphate. Our goal, over time, is to convince them they are nothing but the practice range for our defense contractors. That wouldn't happen right away. But eventually we want to create the idea that nations can either be part of the world community or, well, target practice for defense contractors. I think human nature will cause people to seek the higher status.

My second idea for dealing with ISIS is even worse: The U.N. could declare any territory captured by ISIS to be the legal territory of Israel. Then just sit back and wait while Israel builds settlements and methodically kills all the bad guys. It might take a few generations.

My thinking is that it would be impossible for the Islamic countries to hate Israel more than they already do, so you lose nothing in terms of public relations. And if any country thought they could get away with attacking Israel, they would have done it by now. But they don't, because every time Israel gets attacked it seems to get larger.

The Muslim countries hate Israel, but Israel is not a direct threat to their rule. ISIS is. Under this strategy, everyone but ISIS comes out ahead. Iraq and Syria were going to lose their territory either way.

Neither of my new ideas is practical, as usual. I only think they are interesting because they highlight how bad the current options are.

----------------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 
 
 
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