Jeff Barr's Blog

Things I Like..

Thinking on Your Feet

There’s nothing worse than sitting at home, not well enough too work, too rested to get any more sleep, remote control in hand.

Missing IdiotLate in the afternoon I happened to flip to a presidential press event. I don’t happen to watch these very often, and it was an eye opener. In my job I get to do a lot of public speaking, and I get to answer all sorts of questions. I don’t pick and choose the questions that I answer. I do my best to give a full and complete answer to every question that’s asked. Clearly I’m not cut out to be a politician! After doing this (in my current job) I’d like to think that I am pretty good at it. Sure, the occasional left-field question comes in from time to time, but I have enough experience, knowledge, and processing power to be able to handle just about anything that comes along. In fact I actually find this part enjoyable simply because I don’t know exactly what’s I’m going to be asked.

Watching the press event was painful. Now, certainly, the stakes are higher when you are dealing with world politics then when the subject is web services, but still. The man in charge of the Nuclear Football simply cannot think and talk at the same time. Its like he has a broken task scheduler, a bad threading model, or there’s not enough RAM, or random interrrupts are constantly firing. Perhaps he’s computing Pi in the background; I just don’t know. Even at the pace of that faux-Texas drawl, his brain simply cannot keep up with his mouth.

He starts a sentence, meanders around, and (chug chug) finally figures out where’s he going. It doesn’t seem like he has complete thoughts formed which he can elegantly deserialize into actual words. Watch closely (if you can bear it) and you can almost see incidental and only nominally related neurons firing, each somehow attempting to steer him toward the conclusion of the current sentence. Listen to a really good speaker and you will see that they can produce entire paragraphs at a time. Not because they have them memorized, but because they have encapsulated their views on the subject matter in a concise way at the right level.