Saturday, August 31, 2013

8 Easy Bodily Actions That Transform Mental Performance

  • Relax for better decisions
  • Deep voice for abstract thinking
  • Confuse for creativity
  • Open up pain tolerance (People's pain tolerance could be increased if they changed their posture, and therefore their mindset.)
  • Stand tall for the job
  • Approach for mastery (People who are powerful tend to approach others rather than waiting to be approached.)
  • Sit small to eat less
  • Jump for joy
- More Here

Amy Cuddy in her TED talk on "your body language shapes who you are" made an excellent case on these psychological effects:

Wisdom Of The Week

10 Life Lessons from Sherlock Holmes:
  • Lesson 1: Details matter - If you pay as much attention to detail in your work as Holmes does, you will find that little will get past you. It takes time to acquire the patience and the eye for this kind of deductive reasoning, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Not only will it be worth the effort, but it will certainly benefit you by making your job easier in the long run.
  • Lesson 2: Get acquainted with all fields of knowledge - Holmes knew what facts were relevant and also knew where to go in order to get them. By consulting some reference works he was able to get all the facts necessary and was then able to apply his skills of deductive reasoning and form an opinion about the case. Get acquainted with all fields of knowledge that have a bearing on your profession. You do not need to have all the facts at your finger tips but you need to know where to go in order to find them.
  • Lesson 3: I never guess - These three words serve as a dynamic "mission statement" for the detective. Consider the next time you hear people preface their statements of "fact" with the words "I think ..." or "I suppose that ..." or "I believe ...". Each of these phrases is an admission of guilt: The speaker is guessing, assuming, leaping ahead of factual information and drawing inferences without providing evidence. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." 
  • Lesson 4: Look for a possible alternative and provide against it - It is more important to consider provisional solutions -- and to back up your evidence for your foremost hypothesis. The way out of the maze lies in knowing that, before attempting to formulate hypotheses, it's wise to make one's self aware of the potential existence of multiple hypotheses, so that one eventually may choose one that fits most or all of the facts as they become known.
  • Lesson 5: There is more than one way to approach a problem - Sherlock Holmes uses many problem solving approaches. Sometimes he goes out in disguise and asks the right questions. Other times, he sits up all night smoking a pipe and thinking about it. At yet other times, he uses clever deception to draw the players into the game. If one approach fails, Holmes wouldn’t stop there. He would try something else.
  • Lesson 6: Some mysteries are never solved - For Holmes, this is not a bad thing. It doesn’t bother him that he can’t find the answer to everything. Instead, he finds it fascinating and files the information away for future use. If every case were so neatly resolved, he would probably lose interest, being prone to boredom as he is without a puzzle at hand. The infinite nature of the puzzle keeps the fun alive in his work. That’s how it should be in your work, too. It should be a puzzle to solve, a question to answer. It should fire your brain to find new, creative solutions for your problem. If your work doesn’t interest you like that, you’re either in the wrong field or you’re not being challenged enough.
  • Lesson 7: Free yourself of your habits of over-thinking - Be aware of your feelings and emotions and get some measure of detachment from them. Learning to think straight is really quite simple. It is not easy but it is simple. It is the getting to know yourself, mastering yourself and stopping yourself from repeating old mistakes and old habits of thought and feeling that is difficult.
  • Lesson 8: Your reputation precedes you - Holmes gets many cases by actively pursuing them. It is his passion. However, people also come to Holmes with their problems for the sole reason that they heard he was the man for the job. It is the same way whatever field you are in. Letters of recommendation are requested for new hires in many jobs because they are certified reports of a persons character and ability. Whatever you do, your work reverberates into the future. 
  • Lesson 9: Partners are indispensable - Even the brilliant Holmes likes to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and Watson’s mere presence is sometimes more useful than any other tool at his disposal. Whatever you do, it’s good to have a partner in crime (or crime solving), or at least someone to talk to. Whether your partner is actively involved in your case or simply pointing you in the right direction, or even just nodding and listening while you voice your thoughts or vent your frustrations, in the end you will benefit from this collaboration.
  • Lesson 10: Expose yourself to some good influences - Find yourself a role model whom you like and whom you would like to be like. And you have the Sherlock Holmes books in front of you. Read them repeatedly and expose yourself to a mastermind at work and at play and in his day to day life. Once you are free somewhat of your conditioning and have also been exposed to Sherlock Holmes repeatedly you will find it extremely simple to imitate his example. Anyone can imitate. And if you have imbibed Holmes enough it will flow from inside you quite easily and naturally.
The next one I read this week was this beautiful piece on relationship - A Pact to make heart grow stronger; very apt for idealistic young men and women and it's hurt for older couple to read it as well.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Quote of the Day

Like the scientist trying to solve a mystery of nature, Holmes first gathered all the evidence he could that was relevant to his problem. At times, he performed experiments to obtain fresh data. He then surveyed the total evidence in the light of his vast knowledge of crime and/or sciences relevant to crime, to arrive at the most probable hypothesis. Deductions were made…then the theory further tested against new evidence, revised if need be, until finally the truth emerged with a probability close to certainty.

- Mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner as quoted in the book A Few Lessons from Sherlock Holmes by Peter Bevelin. Looks like Holmes was a Bayesian!!

David & Goliath Will Change The Way You See The World !!

Malcolm Gladwell's new book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is coming out in five weeks but Seth Godin was lucky enough to get a preview copy and already has a review:

More important, by far, is this question: What are we doing to prevent heroism from happening?

 It's easy to misunderstand the thesis of Outliers as well as the much-quoted 10,000 hours maxim. The point is that we are ALL capable of doing great work, ALL capable of doing work that matters, ALL capable of heroism. Why then, do some succeed and others never even try?

POVERTY: Again and again we see that poverty is the soul killer. People growing up in poverty are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to things like willpower, cultural awareness and most of all, the confidence to stand up and make a ruckus. Sure, some do. David was a poor goatsherd, after all. But sociologists have no debate about this--a culture that exposes its people to poverty is stealing its future.

STUPIDITY: Yes, stupidity. When you limit the pool, when the only people who get extra hockey coaching are the kids born in three months of the year, you've chosen to waste huge amounts of human potential.

And most of all, CULTURE. Silicon Valley works for the very reason that a broken inner-city fails. Because of cultural expectations. People become heroes when they're surrounded by a culture that allows them to dream it's possible.

Zero to One - Peter Thiel

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future - that's the title of Peter Thiel's first book to be released in 2014 !!

More information here

Jagdish Bhagwati On India

Brilliant interview on EconTalk with Jagdish Bhagwati; he talks about his latest book is Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries

On Old Indian Socialism:
I used to say, in my after dinner speeches, that the trouble in India was that Adam Smith's invisible hand was nowhere to be seen.
You can't believe it. In fact we were terribly inward looking. And we were autarkic. And we were also--senseless restrictions everywhere which would have made even Kafka blush.

Diaspora Effect:
A lot of young people coming back said: You really cannot have this. Because India is really losing rapidly its position in the world economy. Because if you are not performing well, nobody is going to pay attention to you. And the second thing I think was that increasing as people went out--and this is true of the French, as well; we both have a very high regard for ourselves, India because of its ancient culture and France because of its post-Revolution and so on, but anyway, for the last 200 years. They would go abroad and they would find that nobody took India seriously. So the Indian politicians and bureaucrats were increasingly running into situations where they were simply disregarded and looked down upon. And as I wrote in one of my books before the reform, I said: The worst kind of psychological position to be in is to have a superiority complex and an inferior status. 

On Benefits of Economic Reform:
Basically, the growth idea that I think is the correct one is that a growing economy provides opportunities for the poor as well as the rich. But particularly for the poor, because the poor are stuck in villages and so on, unlikely to be able to improve themselves unless opportunities present themselves. So they are able to break through the feudal structure, and so on. So that is what we see definitely documented in a lot of studies--that the poor are able to take advantage of the opportunity. And in fact even the untouchables, which is the lowest caste we have, there are lots of people going around from within the untouchables who say, very much like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) people here today, which is that we have been benefited by the growth of opportunity and not by affirmative action. I don't know if--I mean, that debate is broken out in India largely because there are lots of people at the bottom who are saying: We have benefited because the economy is growing and we've been able to take advantage of the opportunities that that growing economy gives. 

Quote of the Day

No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.

- Voltaire

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What I've Been Reading

On Benefits by Lucius Annaeus Seneca - my regular dose of stoicism.
  • The rule for the giver and receiver of a benefit is, that the one should straightway forget that he has given, the other should never forget that he has received it.
  • The greatest benefits cannot be proved by evidence; they often lurk in the silent consciousness of two men only.
  • If a man does not bestow benefits because he has not received any, he must have bestowed them in order to receive them in return, and he justifies ingratitude, whose disgrace lies in not returning benefits when able to do so. How many are there who are unworthy of the light of day? and nevertheless the sun rises. How many complain because they have been born? yet Nature is ever renewing our race, and even suffers men to live who wish that they had never lived. It is the property of a great and good mind to covet, not the fruit of good deeds, but good deeds themselves, and to seek for a good man even after having met with bad men. 
  • "Much must be lost." Nothing is lost because he who loses had counted the cost before. The book-keeping of benefits is simple: it is all expenditure; if any one returns it, that is clear gain; if he does not return it, it is not lost, I gave it for the sake of giving.
  • For all the injury which you suffer is this: you have lost the subject-matter of a benefit, not the benefit itself, for you possess unimpaired the best part of it, in that you have given it. Though we ought to be careful to bestow our benefits by preference upon those who are likely to show us gratitude for them, yet we must sometimes do what we have little hope will turn out well, and bestow benefits upon those who we not only think will prove ungrateful, but who we know have been so. For instance, if I should be able to save a man's children from a great danger with no risk to myself, I should not hesitate to do so. If a man be worthy I would defend him even with my blood, and would share his perils; if he be unworthy, and yet by merely crying for help I can rescue him from robbers, I would without reluctance raise the shout which would save a fellow-creature.
  • I am no advocate of slackness in giving benefits: the more and the greater they are, the more praise they will bring to the giver. Yet let them be given with discretion; for what is given carelessly and recklessly can please no one. Whoever, therefore, supposes that in giving this advice I wish to restrict benevolence and to confine it to narrower limits, entirely mistakes the object of my warning. What virtue do we admire more than benevolence? Which do we encourage more? Who ought to applaud it more than we Stoics, who preach the brotherhood of the human race? What then is it? Since no impulse of the human mind can be approved of, even though it springs from a right feeling, unless it be made into a virtue by discretion, I forbid generosity to degenerate into extravagance.
  • Many who bestow immense benefits spoil them by their silence or slowness of speech, which gives them an air of moroseness, as they say "yes" with a face which seems to say "no." How much better is it to join kind words to kind actions, and to enhance the value of our gifts by a civil and gracious commendation of them! 
  • How sweet, how precious is a gift, when he who gives does not permit himself to be thanked, and when while he gives he forgets that he has given! To reproach a man at the very moment that you are doing him a service is sheer madness; it is to mix insult with your favours. We ought not to make our benefits burdensome, or to add any bitterness to them.
  • We must also consider the character and position of the person to whom we give, for some men are too great to give small gifts, while others are too small to receive great ones. Compare, therefore, the character both of the giver and the receiver, and weigh that which you give between the two, taking care that what is given be neither too burdensome nor too trivial for the one to give, nor yet such as the receiver will either treat with disdain as too small, or think too great for him to deal with.
  •  I call him ungrateful who sits at the bedside of a sick man because he is about to make a will, when he is at leisure to think of inheritances and legacies. Though he may do everything which a good and dutiful friend ought to do, yet, if any hope of gain be floating in his mind, he is a mere legacy-hunter, and is angling for an inheritance. Like the birds which feed upon carcases, which come close to animals weakened by disease, and watch till they fall, so these men are attracted by death and hover around a corpse.
  • There are two classes of grateful men: a man is called grateful who has made some return for what he received; this man may very possibly display himself in this character, he has something to boast of, to refer to. We also call a man grateful who receives a benefit with goodwill, and owes it to his benefactor with goodwill; yet this man's gratitude lies concealed within his own mind. What profit can accrue to him from this latent feeling? yet this man, even though he is not able to do anything more than this, is grateful; he loves his benefactor, he feels his debt to him, he longs to repay his kindness; whatever else you may find wanting, there is nothing wanting in the man.
  • All vices exist in all of them, yet all are not prominent in each individual. One man is naturally prone to avarice, another is the slave of wine, a third of lust; or, if not yet enslaved by these passions, he is so fashioned by nature that this is the direction in which his character would probably lead him. Therefore, to return to my original proposition, every bad man is ungrateful, because he has the seeds of every villainy in him; but he alone is rightly so called who is naturally inclined to this vice. Upon such a person as this, therefore, I shall not bestow a benefit.
  • There is a great difference between not shutting a man out and choosing him. Even a thief receives justice; even murderers enjoy the blessings of peace; even those who have plundered others can recover their own property; assassins and private bravoes are defended against the common enemy by the city wall; the laws protect even those who have sinned most deeply against them. There are some things which no man could obtain unless they were given to all; you need not, therefore, cavil about those matters in which all mankind is invited to share. As for things which men receive or not at my discretion, I shall not bestow them upon one whom I know to be ungrateful.
  • "What," argues he, "if you do not know whether your man be ungrateful or grateful— will you wait until you know, or will you not lose the opportunity of bestowing a benefit? To wait is a long business— for, as Plato says, it is hard to form an opinion about the human mind,— not to wait, is rash." To this objector we shall answer, that we never should wait for absolute knowledge of the whole case, since the discovery of truth is an arduous task, but should proceed in the direction in which truth appeared to direct us.
  • The wise man never changes his plans while the conditions under which he formed them remain the same; therefore, he never feels regret, because at the time nothing better than what he did could have been done, nor could any better decision have been arrived at than that which was made; yet he begins everything with the saving clause, "If nothing shall occur to the contrary." This is the reason why we say that all goes well with him, and that nothing happens contrary to his expectation, because he bears in mind the possibility of something happening to prevent the realization of his projects. It is an imprudent confidence to trust that fortune will be on our side. The wise man considers both sides: he knows how great is the power of errors, how uncertain human affairs are, how many obstacles there are to the success of plans. Without committing himself, he awaits the doubtful and capricious issue of events, and weighs certainty of purpose against uncertainty of result. Here also, however, he is protected by that saving clause, without which he decides upon nothing, and begins nothing.
  • He was far more powerful, far richer even than Alexander, who then possessed everything; for there was more that Diogenes could refuse to receive than that Alexander was able to give.
  • "According to this reasoning," says my opponent, "you would say that you owe nothing to a physician beyond his paltry fee, nor to your teacher, because you have paid him some money; yet these persons are all held very dear, and are very much respected." In answer to this I should urge that some things are of greater value than the price which we pay for them. You buy of a physician life and good health, the value of which cannot be estimated in money; from a teacher of the liberal sciences you buy the education of a gentleman and mental culture; therefore you pay these persons the price, not of what they give us, but of their trouble in giving it; you pay them for devoting their attention to us, for disregarding their own affairs to attend to us: they receive the price, not of their services, but of the expenditure of their time.
  • Suppose that such men as these say, "I do not want it," "Let him keep it to himself," "Who asks him for it?" and so forth, with all the other speeches of insolent minds: still, he whose bounty reaches you, although you say that it does not, lays you under an obligation nevertheless; indeed, perhaps the greatest part of the benefit which he bestows is that he is ready to give even when you are complaining against him.
  • Let us give, even if much be given to no purpose, let us, in spite of this, give to others; nay, even to those upon whom our bounty has been wasted. No one is prevented by the fall of a house from building another; when one home has been destroyed by fire, we lay the foundations of another before the site has had time to cool; we rebuild ruined cities more than once upon the same spots, so untiring are our hopes of success. Men would undertake no works either on land or sea if they were not willing to try again what they have failed in once."

Quote of the Day

Radical Islam is a symptom of the disease of which it is pretending to be the cure.

- John Gray, Al Qaeda: And What it Means to be Modern

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cost Of Creating A New Drug Now $5 Billion

A new analysis conducted at Forbes puts grim numbers on these costs. A company hoping to get a single drug to market can expect to have spent $350 million before the medicine is available for sale. In part because so many drugs fail, large pharmaceutical companies that are working on dozens of drug projects at once spend $5 billion per new medicine.

A 2012 article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery says the number of drugs invented per billion dollars of R&D invested has been cut in half every nine years for half a century. Reversing this merciless trend has caught the attention of the U.S. government. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, in 2011 started a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to remove the roadblocks that keep new drugs from reaching patients.

“One point your numbers tell you is how horrendous the failure rate is and how that causes the cost of success to be so much higher,” says Collins. “We would love to contribute to making that failure rate lower, to identifying those bottlenecks and to trying to reengineer the pipeline so if failures happen, they happen very early and not in later stages where the costs are higher.”

The good news is that a close look at the data we collected provides some hints as to how to improve the industry’s hit rate – and how individual companies, without lowering the overall cost of developing a drug, can at least reduce their own expenses. Some companies – like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Aegerion – do far better than their peers.

- More Here

The Truth about Genetically Modified Food

The human race has been selectively breeding crops, thus altering plants' genomes, for millennia. Ordinary wheat has long been strictly a human-engineered plant; it could not exist outside of farms, because its seeds do not scatter. For some 60 years scientists have been using “mutagenic” techniques to scramble the DNA of plants with radiation and chemicals, creating strains of wheat, rice, peanuts and pears that have become agricultural mainstays. The practice has inspired little objection from scientists or the public and has caused no known health problems.

The difference is that selective breeding or mutagenic techniques tend to result in large swaths of genes being swapped or altered. GM technology, in contrast, enables scientists to insert into a plant's genome a single gene (or a few of them) from another species of plant or even from a bacterium, virus or animal. Supporters argue that this precision makes the technology much less likely to produce surprises. Most plant molecular biologists also say that in the highly unlikely case that an unexpected health threat emerged from a new GM plant, scientists would quickly identify and eliminate it. “We know where the gene goes and can measure the activity of every single gene around it,” Goldberg says. “We can show exactly which changes occur and which don't.” [For more on how GM plants are analyzed for health safety, see “The Risks on the Table,” by Karen Hopkin; Scientific American, April 2001.]

And although it might seem creepy to add virus DNA to a plant, doing so is, in fact, no big deal, proponents say. Viruses have been inserting their DNA into the genomes of crops, as well as humans and all other organisms, for millions of years. They often deliver the genes of other species while they are at it, which is why our own genome is loaded with genetic sequences that originated in viruses and nonhuman species. “When GM critics say that genes don't cross the species barrier in nature, that's just simple ignorance,” says Alan McHughen, a plant molecular geneticist at U.C. Riverside. Pea aphids contain fungi genes. Triticale is a century-plus-old hybrid of wheat and rye found in some flours and breakfast cereals. Wheat itself, for that matter, is a cross-species hybrid. “Mother Nature does it all the time, and so do conventional plant breeders,” McHughen says.

Could eating plants with altered genes allow new DNA to work its way into our own? It is theoretically possible but hugely improbable. Scientists have never found genetic material that could survive a trip through the human gut and make it into cells.
Besides, we are routinely exposed to—we even consume—the viruses and bacteria whose genes end up in GM foods. The bacterium B. thuringiensis, for example, which produces proteins fatal to insects, is sometimes enlisted as a natural pesticide in organic farming. “We've been eating this stuff for thousands of years,” Goldberg says.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The map, which we have reproduced to protect the source, purports to illustrate how much land has been taken over for ‘security reasons’ by the mostly Sinhalese military – it amounts to around 20 per cent of the region. Tamil activists say more than 100,000 Tamils have been displaced since the war ended, adding to the estimated 150,000 already displaced by fighting during the 26-year conflict and who still live in refugee shanties around Jaffna. It also shows the military bases that have sprung up in the area – at least 60 of them.

“There is one army soldier for every 11 people here,” says Guruparan. That’s one of the highest soldier-to-civilian ratios in the world, notes the CPA analyst Dr Saravanamuttu

- Holding Australia’s domestic “stop the boats” politics to ransom, the Sri Lankan military is accused of grabbing land in traditional Tamil areas, ordering soldiers to marry Tamil women, even – as arrests this week show – fostering the people smuggling trade

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Working Round The Clock Is A Poor Use of Time

I’ve been playing a game I loved as a child when I considered horrifying counterfactuals such as: under what conditions would I eat a bowl of sick?

This time I’ve been pondering something even less appealing: what would make me regularly work 14 hours a day? I’ve come up with three possibilities. First, if I were being paid by the hour and my family was barefoot and hungry. Second, if it were my own business and I had become unhealthily obsessed with it. And third, if the work was a matter of life or death. If I had been a nurse behind the lines in the first world war, I would not have been clocking off at 5.30pm.

None of these situations applies to young investment bankers. They are under no financial pressure. Anyone who has been hired by Bank of America could surely have got a more civilised job elsewhere. The work of a banker in M&A (where Erhardt was posted) is hardly the sort of thing that spreads human happiness: all the studies show that more than half the deals bankers have talked clients into undertaking destroy rather than create value.

- More Here

The Man Who Invented Modern Probability - Andrei Kolmogorov

The Paradox of the Great Circle was a major mathematical conundrum that Kolmogorov’s conception of probability finally put to rest. Assume aliens landed randomly on a perfectly spherical Earth and the probability of their landing was equally distributed. Does this mean that they would be equally likely to land anywhere along any circle that divides the sphere into two equal hemispheres, known as a “great circle?” It turns out that the landing probability is equally distributed along the equator, but is unevenly distributed along the meridians, with the probability increasing toward the equator and decreasing at the poles. In other words, the aliens would tend to land in hotter climates. This strange finding might be explained by the circles of latitude getting bigger as they get closer to the equator—yet this result seems absurd, since we can rotate the sphere and turn its equator into a meridian. Kolmogorov showed that the great circle has a measure zero, since it is a line segment and its area is zero. This explains the apparent contradiction in conditional landing probabilities by showing that these probabilities could not be rigorously calculated.

By Kolmogorov’s own measure, his life was a complex one.  By the time he died, in 1987 at the age of 84, he had not only weathered a revolution, two World Wars, and the Cold War, but his innovations left few mathematical fields untouched, and extended well beyond the confines of academe. Whether his random walk through life was of the inebriated or mushroom-picking variety, its twists and turns were neither particularly predictable nor easily described. His success at capturing and applying the unlikely had rehabilitated probability theory, and had created a terra firma for countless scientific and engineering projects. But his theory also amplified the tension between human intuition about unpredictability and the apparent power of the mathematical apparatus to describe it.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.

- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America


Monday, August 26, 2013

Neuroscience Reveals The Deep Power of Human Empathy

The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar. The finding shows the brain’s remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real. Literally we are under threat when a friend is under threat. But not so when a stranger is under threat.

- More Here

Happy National Dog Day !!

National Dog Day is celebrated August 26th annually and serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day - for their law enforcement partner, for their blind companion, for a child who is disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage.

Founded in 2004 by pet lifestyle expert and author Colleen Paige, National Dog Day was created to honor dogs more than we currently do, to give them "a day", to show deep appreciation for our long connection to each other - for their endearing patience, unquestioning loyalty, for their work, their capacity for love and their ability to impact our lives everyday in the most miraculous ways. National Dog Day wishes to encourage dog ownership of all breeds, mixed and pure - and embraces the opportunity for all dogs to live a happy, safe and ”abuse-free life”.

National Dog Day is against any kind of "breed ban". Dogs should not have to lose their lives because of the atrocities they have been forced to endure at the hands of man. And while we feel that American's have the constitutional right to purchase a pure breed dog, we strongly discourage buying from pet stores, backyard breeders, the internet, newspaper ads and puppy mills, and rather encourage those seeking new canine companions, to verify that they are buying from a reputable breeder, educate themselves about their dog's breed and better yet - visit their local shelter or pure breed rescue group to adopt a new furry family member that will be forever grateful. Millions of dogs are euthanized each year because they are unwanted. They are wonderful and viable sentient beings that deserve compassion and respect. Please consider adopting on National Day!

More Here

What I Don't Know About Animals - Jenny Diski

Review of the Jenny Diski's book What I Don't Know About Animals:

What I Don't Know About Animals is a socio-philosophical investigation of immense skill, erudition and subtlety, charmingly disguised as a travel book. Diski walks into an idea like no one else and here is journeying into the dark continent of our relationship with animals.

She begins with childhood, teddies and Mickey Mouse. Richard Louv, the American journalist awarded the Audubon Medal for describing "nature deficit disorder" in children who have no physical contact with nature, might well identify this syndrome in Diski's city childhood. But Diski's point is that our relationship with animals goes way beyond physical contact: it is mental, emotional, cultural and moral. Hers is rooted in late 20th-century urban Britain. In nursery rhymes, cartoons, telly, and a sense of Us and Them that takes for granted our surveillance of them in laboratories or on safari. Also in fear, hate and love, which may have pathological expressions such as arachnophobia (Diski's is cured by London Zoo), animal hoarding, or the internet fad for "lolcats": cat photos whose ungrammatical text (we get Genesis chapter one in "lolcat") resembles the dog-speak that Kipling nauseatingly sustains throughout "Thy Servant a Dog".

But everyone's journey into animals is different. "There's no way out of anthropocentrism," says Diski, but conservationists might disagree, arguing that respecting the otherness of a wild animal means we should protect (against ourselves and our short-term interests) the habitat in which that otherness evolved and on which it depends. Greenpeace's case against drilling for Shetland oil is that it puts protected species at risk. In Bunty and her ilk, birdwatchers will see the domestic predator estimated to kill 55 million of the UK's declining songbirds every year.

Quote of the Day

Antifragility is the opposite of this, a condition where the potential downside is limited, but the upside is unlimited. A situation where things will probably go badly, but only a little badly, and in the best case they will go really well. An everyday example is that you ask someone out for a date. The worst, and most likely, outcome is that they decline, which is sad but no disaster. But the best outcome is that you will find someone to spend the rest of your life with.
Or let’s say you write a novel. The worst, and most likely, outcome is that you will have wasted your time, because nobody wants to read it. Again, this is sad, but no disaster. You’ve lost time and effort, but it is a limited loss. But the best possible outcome is practically unlimited: That you will have written the next Harry Potter or Fifty Shades of Grey.

Antifragility is frightening, but the fact that the downside is more probable is outweighed by the fact that the upside is so wonderful.

- The Importance of Being Antifragile

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On Bullshit Jobs

For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.  Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.

- On Bullshit Jobs

And Jenny Davis ponders on why our culture is petrified of leisure and we are obsessed with working to live rather than to just live:

My father often used to tell me how my immigrant grandfather declined in health and spirit once he gave up the café he ran from dawn to late into the night in Petticoat Lane to retire to a leafy suburb. It was only a matter of time, my father said of the man I never met and knew almost nothing else about, before he died of having stopped work. I think this story is the equivalent of an urban myth of that generation. The decent man who worked all the hours that God sent and more, provided what he could (which was never lavish) for his family, toiled unceasingly in order to make sure his son went to a good school and got a profession, collapsed and died once he stepped off the treadmill. I never doubted that retirement killed my grandfather. I did wonder sometimes why his devotion to work unto death was considered a virtue.

Leisure, not doing, is so terrifying in our culture that we cut it up into small, manageable chunks throughout our working year in case an excess of it will drive us mad, and leave the greatest amount of it to the very end, in the half-conscious hope that we might be saved from its horrors by an early death.

What I've Been Reading

Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Health System by William A. Haseltine. Please read the book to find out the details (Kindle version is $0.00 and you will not regret reading this one); here are few excerpts:

In my study of Singapore, I have found three compelling qualities woven into the fabric of the country that have enabled it to achieve outstanding successes in so many areas, healthcare included. They are long-term political unity, the ability to recognize and establish national priorities, and the consistent desire for collective well-being and social harmony of the country.

I find these words of Lee key to understanding Singapore's approach: 
A competitive, winner-takes-all society, like colonial Hong Kong in the 1960s, would not be acceptable in Singapore… To even out the extreme results of free-market competition, we had to redistribute the national income through subsidies on things that improved the earning power of citizens, such as education. Housing and public health were also obviously desirable. But finding the correct solutions for personal medical care, pensions, or retirement benefits was not easy.

In the late 1940s, as a student at Cambridge, Lee witnessed the beginnings of the English welfare state: 
Looking back at those early years, I am amazed at my youthful innocence. I watched Britain at the beginning of its experiment with the welfare state; the Atlee government started to build a society that attempted to look after its citizens from cradle to grave. I was so impressed after the introduction of the National Health Service when I went to collect my pair of new glasses from my opticians in Cambridge to be told that no payment was due. All I had to do was to sign a form. What a civilised society, I thought to myself. The same thing happened at the dentist and the doctor. 
Over time, though, Lee realized that a system that took care of all of its citizens’ needs would diminish the population's “desire to achieve and succeed.” If anything may be identified as the guiding philosophy behind Singapore's success, it is Lee's conviction that the people's desire to achieve and succeed must never be compromised by an overgenerous state. The government made certain that Singaporeans developed and retained a sense of responsibility for all aspects of their lives— including the care and maintenance of their own physical and emotional well-being.

By the early 1990s, it became clear that healthcare costs were growing at an alarming rate that would soon put an unacceptable strain on the nation's as well as family finances. It was also recognized that increasing life expectancy was creating another challenge: how to care for the growing elderly population in Singapore. A Ministerial Committee was set up to review the role the government could play in containing costs, controlling subsidies, and ensuring the continued quality of care. In 1993, the committee issued its report in a White Paper entitled “Affordable Health Care.”The White Paper became, in effect, the blueprint for developing and refining a healthcare system that would serve the population well into the 21st century. In outlining the government's philosophy and approach to healthcare, it set forth five fundamental objectives:
  • Become a healthy nation by promoting good health;
  • Promote individual responsibility for one's own health and avoid overreliance on state welfare or third-party medical insurance;
  • Ensure good and affordable basic medical services for all Singaporeans;
  • Engage competition and market forces to improve service and raise efficiency;
  • and Intervene directly in the healthcare sector when necessary, where the market fails to keep healthcare costs down.

Quote of the Day

Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.

- Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What’s More Energy Efficient, Shopping Online Or In Stores?

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, their results were unequivocal: Shop online. If you drove to the store, you’d have to buy 24 items to make the trip equal to the carbon footprint of just one item ordered online. If you took the bus, you’d have to buy eight.

Why are brick-and-mortar stores so inefficient? It turns out that transporting people to the store to select something and then getting them back home again requires a lot of energy. You also have to consider that items sold in stores were distributed from a central warehouse. When you place an order online, that trip transforms from one to the store to one directly to your home. Plus, delivery services optimize their routes to waste the least amount of fuel.

- More Here

Wisdom Of The Week

Rip Rowan's brilliant blog post explaining the huge cultural difference between  Amazon (his ex-employer) and Google (his current employer), difference between a product and a platform and also, what Google is doing wrong - Read the whole thing and its enlightening.

Jeff Bezos is an infamous micro-manager. He micro-manages every single pixel of Amazon's retail site. He hired Larry Tesler, Apple's Chief Scientist and probably the very most famous and respected human-computer interaction expert in the entire world, and then ignored every goddamn thing Larry said for three years until Larry finally -- wisely -- left the company. Larry would do these big usability studies and demonstrate beyond any shred of doubt that nobody can understand that frigging website, but Bezos just couldn't let go of those pixels, all those millions of semantics-packed pixels on the landing page. They were like millions of his own precious children. So they're all still there, and Larry is not.

And what is wrong with Google+:

Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said: "Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let's go contract someone to, um, write some games for us." Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them. You can't do that. Not really. Not reliably. There have been precious few people in the world, over the entire history of computing, who have been able to do it reliably. Steve Jobs was one of them. We don't have a Steve Jobs here. I'm sorry, but we don't.

Larry Tesler may have convinced Bezos that he was no Steve Jobs, but Bezos realized that he didn't need to be a Steve Jobs in order to provide everyone with the right products: interfaces and workflows that they liked and felt at ease with. He just needed to enable third-party developers to do it, and it would happen automatically.

Quote of the Day

Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are.

The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.

- Bob Marley

Friday, August 23, 2013

What I've Been Reading

Martine's Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness by Arthur Martine. First half of the book is a must read - funny plus witty !!
  • The power of preserving silence is the very first requisite to all who wish to shine, or even please in discourse; and those who cannot preserve it, have really no business to speak. Of course, I do not mean the dull, ignorant, sulky, or supercilious silence, of which we see enough in all conscience; but the graceful, winning and eloquent silence. The silence that, without any deferential air, listens with polite attention, is more flattering than compliments, and more frequently broken for the purpose of encouraging others to speak, than to display the listener's own powers. This is the really eloquent silence. It requires great genius—more perhaps than speaking—and few are gifted with the talent; but it is of such essential advantage, that I must recommend its study to all who are desirous to take a share in conversation, and beg they will learn to be silent, before they attempt to speak.
  • La Bruyère says, "The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one's own wit and intelligence, than in the power to draw forth the resources of others; he who leaves you after a long conversation, pleased with himself and the part he has taken in the discourse, will be your warmest admirer. Men do not care to admire you, they wish you to be pleased with them; they do not seek for instruction or even amusement from your discourse, but they do wish you to be made acquainted with their talents and powers of conversation; and the true man of genius will delicately make all who come in contact with him feel the exquisite satisfaction of knowing that they have appeared to advantage."
  • Cheerfulness, unaffected cheerfulness, a sincere desire to please and be pleased, unchecked by any efforts to shine, are the qualities you must bring with you into society, if you wish to succeed in conversation.
  • If the discourse is of a grave or serious nature, and interesting to the party, or to any number of the party, never break in upon it with any display of idle wit or levity; for nothing shows so great a want of good manners; nor must you ever ridicule or doubt the existence of any noble enthusiasm that may have called forth expressions of admiration; for there is no want of high worth, patriotism, honor and disinterestedness on earth. Your incredulity might therefore be unjust, and it is at all times a proof of bad taste to ridicule what others admire.
  • The natural flow of discourse must be calm and serene; if wit, whim, fun and fire are present, they will not fail to flash brightly along its surface; but they can never constitute the main body of the stream itself.
  • Never give short or sharp answers in ordinary conversation, unless you aspire to gain distinction by mere rudeness; for they have in fact no merit, and are only uncivil. “I do not know,” “I cannot tell,” are the most harmless words possible, and may yet be rendered very offensive by the tone and manner in which they are pronounced
  • Do not endeavor to shine in all companies. Leave room for your hearers to imagine something within you beyond all you have said. And remember, the more you are praised, the more you will be envied.
  • You need not tell all the truth, unless to those who have a right to know it all. But let all you tell be truth.
  • Never offer advice, but where there is some probability of its being followed.
  • To offer advice to an angry man, is like blowing against a tempest.
  • Make your company a rarity, and people will value it. Men despise what they can easily have.
  • Keep silence sometimes, upon subjects which you are known to be a judge of. So your silence, where you are ignorant, will not discover you.
  • Think like the wise; but talk like ordinary people. Never go out of the common road, but for somewhat.
  • If you have been once in company with an idle person, it is enough. You need never go again. You have heard all he knows. And he has had no opportunity of learning anything new. For idle people make no improvements.
  • Deep learning will make you acceptable to the learned; but it is only an easy and obliging behavior, and entertaining conversation, that will make you agreeable in all companies.
  • Listen attentively and patiently to what is said. It is a great and difficult talent to be a good listener, but it is one which the well-bred man has to acquire, at whatever pains. 
  • If you must speak upon a difficult point, be the last speaker if you can. You will not be agreeable to company, if you strive to bring in or keep up a subject unsuitable to their capacities, or humor.
  • If you send people away from your company well-pleased with themselves, you need not fear but they will be well enough pleased with you, whether they have received any instruction from you or not. Most people had rather be pleased than instructed.
  • Don't give your time to every superficial acquaintance: it is bestowing what is to you of inestimable worth, upon one who is not likely to be the better for it.
  • You will please so much the less, if you go into company determined to shine. Let your conversation appear to rise out of thoughts suggested by the occasion, not strained or premeditated: nature always pleases: affectation is always odious.
  • The secret of perfect dressing is simplicity, costliness being no essential element of real elegance. We have to add that everything depends upon the judgment and good taste of the wearer.
  • Never dress against any one. Choose those garments which suit you, and look well upon you, perfectly irrespective of the fact that a lady or gentleman in the same village or street may excel you. When
  • To speak to a waiter in a driving manner will create, among well-bred people, the suspicion that you were sometime a servant yourself, and are putting on airs at the thought of your promotion.
  • In company with an inferior, never let him feel his inferiority. An employer, who invites his confidential clerk to his house, should treat him in every way the same as his most distinguished guest.
  • Avoid intermeddling with the affairs of others. This is a most common fault. A number of people seldom meet but they begin discussing the affairs of some one who is absent. This is not only uncharitable but positively unjust. Society, however, is less just, and passes judgment without hearing the defence. Depend upon it, as a certain rule, that the people who unite with you in discussing the affairs of others will proceed to scandalize you the moment that you depart.
  • The true aim of politeness, is to make those with whom you associate as well satisfied with themselves as possible. It does not, by any means, encourage an impudent self-importance in them, but it does whatever it can to accommodate their feelings and wishes in social intercourse. Politeness is a sort of social benevolence, which avoids wounding the pride, or shocking the prejudices of those around you. 
  • Always conform your conduct, as near as possible, to the company with whom you are associated. If you should be thrown among people who are vulgar, it is better to humor them than to set yourself up, then and there, for a model of politeness. It is related of a certain king that on a particular occasion he turned his tea into his saucer, contrary to the etiquette of society, because two country ladies, whose hospitalities he was enjoying, did so. That king was a gentleman; and this anecdote serves to illustrate an important principle: namely, that true politeness and genuine good manners often not only permit, but absolutely demand, a violation of some of the arbitrary rules of etiquette. Bear this fact in mind.

Quote of the Day

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

- Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How To Change Mind

When I lived in a small town on New Zealand’s North Island, a German roommate lent me a book called Lateral Thinking by a Maltese doctor named Edward De Bono. In it he alternated between explaining creative ways to approach problems, and name-dropping the corporate clients he had helped with these techniques. The main premise of the book was that human thought is highly conditioned and tends to follow certain predictable linear patterns that bring us to a limited set of conclusions. There may be superior thoughts just outside of the reach of our normal thinking reflexes, and they may be accessed by using techniques that challenge these common logical pitfalls.

The book’s arrogant tone aside, De Bono’s ideas were fascinating to me and I couldn’t wait to put them to use. The most interesting one was called the Six Thinking Hats, which he later expanded into a book of its own.

You take any problem, and look at it through six distinct modes of thinking, but only one at a time. Each mode is represented by a colored hat. You might spend ten minutes wearing each one, writing down your thoughts as you go.

  • The White Hat is concerned with facts, and doesn’t explore possibilities or conjecture — what do you actually know, and what information are you missing that you could use?
  • The Red Hat is concerned with intuition and immediate emotional feelings — what are your initial gut reactions?
  • The Black Hat is concerned with hazards and potential downsides. Every aspect is to be looked at cautiously and defensively, with the spirit of the Devil’s Advocate.
  • The Yellow Hat is concerned with benefit. While wearing this hat, you consider potential gains and positive outcomes.
  • The Green Hat is concerned with creativity and possibility. This is where new ideas are brought up and alternative approaches are brainstormed, without discriminating between good and bad ones.
  • The Blue Hat is concerned with making sure the other hats have been duly worn. It is put on at the beginning and end of each six hats session.
The exercise is effective because you wear the hats one at a time, so every direction of thought gets a fair chance to develop. Normally, a pessimistic person might, for example, tend to undermine any positive thought with an immediate fear response. Under the six hats approach, downsides are discussed separately from the upsides and alternatives, and so the different directions of thinking are much less likely to interfere with each other.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Ideas... [are] like babies - everything about their environment [says] they shouldn't exist. But they do. You can't dwell on problems too early, or they will swamp the virtues and you will decide not to do the project.

- Steven Levy, In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

222 Golden Retrievers Gather Outside The Highland House Where They Originate

The record-breaking number of golden retrievers were pictured at Guisachan House in Tomich, Invernessshire, the birthplace of the breed, for the Highland gathering of the gentle canines.

The event was hosted by the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland at the Highland gathering last month.

- More Here

Self Defense & The Law

Sam Harris: I completely agree that avoidance is almost the whole story when it comes to self-defense. I also agree that it is very easy to lose sight of this truth, because people don’t really train for avoidance or de-escalation. Rory talks about this a lot in his work. And there is a very unhappy valley between knowing nothing about self-defense and knowing a lot, where the average martial artist is probably more likely to get into a violent altercation than he otherwise would have been. His ego has become bound up in being someone who can handle violence and who doesn’t have to take shit from anyone, and his training has probably given him some unrealistic ideas about his own competence. However, granting that a person can be anywhere from really foolish to impeccable on this front, there is still a subset of cases where violence is simply unavoidable. Hence the importance of this conversation.
Steve, how do things change if a person is attempting to rob me? I haven’t been assaulted—but the other person is implicitly threatening me with the prospect of violence by saying that if I comply with his instructions, I won’t get hurt.

Steven Levine: If you’re being robbed, you can just kill the other person.

Sam Harris: Are you kidding?

Steven Levine: If you’re being robbed, you can take out your gun and shoot the person dead, and no one will prosecute you.

Sam Harris:  There’s no requirement to drop your wallet and run, in the hopes of avoiding violence?

Steven Levine: None at all. 

Sam Harris: Huh…

Steven Levine: The difference is, it’s clear: You are the victim of a crime. And people know that robberies often result in death.

Sam Harris: But are you assuming that the other person is armed?

Steven Levine: I don’t care if he’s just got his finger under his shirt.

Sam Harris: That is just… bizarre…. Let’s assume I can safely retreat, but I happen to be worried about other people in the area. Can I defend these people as I would myself?

Steven Levine: The defense of others is basically just an extension of your own right to self-defense, meaning that these people had better be in imminent danger of harm.

Sam Harris: So, I’m in a liquor store, and a man walks in and pulls out a gun and tells everyone to get down on the floor. As it happens, I’m standing near the door and can just run away. But I also have a gun—let’s leave aside the fact that we’re in California, and I shouldn’t have a gun on me in the first place. Can I legally shoot this person in the back of the head?

Steven Levine: Yes. Once somebody is engaged in felonious conduct, you can do whatever you do to stop him.

Sam Harris:  I just find this astonishing—given the legal ambiguities that loom everywhere else. Threats of violence, or even an actual assault, seem open to endless caviling, but someone saying “Give me your wallet” magically clarifies everything and opens the door to lethal force.

Steven Levine:  No one likes a robber, period. A tougher question is, let’s say you’re walking down the street and you come upon a fight: One guy is pummeling another guy to the point where people are shouting, “Stop, stop, you’re going to kill him.” You might decide to take out your gun and shoot him just to save the other person’s life. But I’m not sure it’s going to go well for you in court.

Sam Harris: What is the difference in that case? Is it that I don’t know how the fight started? Perhaps the person being beaten was the initial aggressor, or had already used a weapon.

Steven Levine: Right—you don’t know anything. That’s the problem. It’s better to try and break it up, as opposed to killing somebody. Again, most scenarios of this kind don’t have easy answers. But robbery is clear-cut.

Sam Harris: What if I am confronted by multiple attackers? Is the case for lethal force equally clear-cut?

Steven Levine: Well, it’s a good fact in your favor. But I’d still need to know more about what they were doing. If they’re robbing you, again, it’s clear.

Sam Harris: What if they’re physically attacking me?

Steven Levine: If you’re actually in a fight, and you’re scared, and you think you’re about to suffer great bodily injury, then you have the right to defend yourself with deadly force. But the major criteria are: Did they start the fight? Is the fight actually happening? I mean, we have all seen the movies where the bad guys pick on the person who they think is the easy mark, and to the audience’s delight, he kicks all their asses. Well, in real life, if you are being attacked, you can kick ass, but if you pull out a gun and start shooting, you will have problems explaining the reasonableness of your conduct. If you pull out a knife and stab three guys to death, that also presents problems.

- Read the whole interview here with Steven Graff Levine, Rory Miller and Matt Thornton on Sam Harris' blog.

Highly recommend reading Rory Miller's fascinating book Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence

Quote of the Day

What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don't need to make smart decisions--if they can get rich making dumb decisions? The incentives on Wall Street were all wrong; they're still all wrong.

- Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Expecting the Unexpected From Jeff Bezos

Mr. Bezos is the sole founder, the public face, the largest shareholder and the visionary of Amazon. “For many of us, creating Earth’s biggest bookstore would have been enough,” said Kerry Fried, employee No. 251. “Jeff’s goal was a touch grander: to conquer the world.”

He has more than his share of detractors — just ask your neighborhood bookseller, if you can find one. But it is increasingly hard to dispute that he is the natural heir of Steve Jobs as the entrepreneur with the most effect on the way people live now.

And this sums it all up:

Neither his managerial style nor his entrepreneurial success nor his passion for secrecy seem to necessarily transfer over to his newest possession.

“Every story you ever see about Amazon, it has that sentence: ‘An Amazon spokesman declined to comment,’ “ Mr. Marcus said.

Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.

- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Power of Vulnerability

New York Had A Hyperloop First

In 1812, a British inventor named George Medhurst proposed “a plan for the rapid conveyance of goods and passengers … by the power and velocity of air.” The heart of Medhurst’s system was a pneumatic tube, and while the far-out plan went nowhere, subsequent generations of inventors and visionaries eagerly embraced it, experimenting with so-called pneumatic railways -- or “atmospheric railways” -- that promised to carry passengers in carriages shot through airtight tubes.

British entrepreneurs built a few protoypes in the first half of the 19th century, but the challenges of maintaining an airtight seal proved difficult to surmount. In the U.S., the cause was taken up by Alfred Ely Beach, a polymath inventor and entrepreneur best known for publishing Scientific American magazine for many years.

In the 1860s, Beach turned his attention to the idea of building a pneumatic railway to shuttle passengers in New York City. He eventually proposed a number of variations on the idea, including both an elevated railway, the design of which looks eerily similar to Musk’s proposal, and a subterranean railway, or subway. In 1868, Beach said the technology promised to send passengers at a staggering 100 miles per hour, or as he put it, “four times the average speed of many of our best railroads.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

On Titan the molecules that have been raining down like manna from heaven for the last 4 billion years might still be there largely unaltered deep-frozen awaiting the chemists from Earth.

- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Not Tested On Animals - 8

Method products has been the find of the year - highly recommended !! Available at your local Target store and Amazon.

- More Here

Computers Are Still Missing The “Intelligence” Part Of Artificial Intelligence

In a terrific paper just presented at the premier international conference on artificial intelligence, Levesque, a University of Toronto computer scientist who studies these questions, has taken just about everyone in the field of A.I. to task. He argues that his colleagues have forgotten about the “intelligence” part of artificial intelligence.

To try and get the field back on track, Levesque is encouraging artificial-intelligence researchers to consider a different test that is much harder to game, building on work he did with Leora Morgenstern and Ernest Davis (a collaborator of mine). Together, they have created a set of challenges called the Winograd Schemas, named for Terry Winograd, a pioneering artificial-intelligence researcher at Stanford. In the early nineteen-seventies, Winograd asked what it would take to build a machine that could answer a question like this:

The town councillors refused to give the angry demonstrators a permit because they feared violence. Who feared violence?

a) The town councillors

b) The angry demonstrators

Levesque, Davis, and Morgenstern have developed a set of similar problems, designed to be easy for an intelligent person but hard for a machine merely running Google searches.

- More Here

The Illusion Of Validity - Daniel Kahneman

What is Illusion of validity? Daniel Kahneman talk's about it in detail in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow and here is a brief summary:

The exaggerated expectation of consistency is a common error. We are prone to think that the world is more regular and predictable than it really is, because our memory automatically and continuously maintains a story about what is going on, and because the rules of memory tend to make that story as coherent as possible and to suppress alternatives. Fast thinking is not prone to doubt.

The confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. The bias toward coherence favors overconfidence. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true.

I coined the term “illusion of validity” because the confidence we had in judgments about individual soldiers was not affected by a statistical fact we knew to be true — that our predictions were unrelated to the truth. This is not an isolated observation. When a compelling impression of a particular event clashes with general knowledge, the impression commonly prevails. And this goes for you, too. The confidence you will experience in your future judgments will not be diminished by what you just read, even if you believe every word…

The illusion of skill is not only an individual aberration; it is deeply ingrained in the culture of the industry. Facts that challenge such basic assumptions — and thereby threaten people’s livelihood and self-esteem — are simply not absorbed. The mind does not digest them. This is particularly true of statistical studies of performance, which provide general facts that people will ignore if they conflict with their personal experience…

Overconfidence arises because people are often blind to their own blindness. 
True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence? The answer is yes for diagnosticians, no for stock pickers. Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities? The answer here depends on the professionals’ experience and on the quality and speed with which they discover their mistakes...Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously.

Quote of the Day

Light is the only connection we have with the Universe beyond our solar system, and the only connection our ancestors had with anything beyond Earth. Follow the light and we can journey from the confines of our planet to other worlds that orbit the Sun without ever dreaming of spacecraft. To look up is to look back in time, because the ancient beams of light are messengers from the Universe's distant past.

- Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wisdom Of The Week

Adam Gopnik writing of his former teacher Albert Bregman:

... he also gave me some of the best advice I've ever received. Trying to decide whether to major in psychology or art history, I had gone to his office to see what he thought. He squinted and lowered his head. "Is this a hard choice for you?" he demanded. Yes! I cried. "Oh," he said, springing back cheerfully. "In that case, it doesn't matter. If it's a hard decision, then there's always lots to be said on both sides, so either choice is likely to be good on its way. Hard choices are always unimportant."

What he said is not something new but who said it blew my preconceived notions away - Ashton Kutcher's teen choice awards speech:

  • The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap. I promise you. It's just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don't buy it. Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.
  • I believe that opportunity looks a lot like work. I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job before I had my next job.
  • Steve Jobs said when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get into too much trouble. But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. You can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life. Don’t live one; build one. 

Quote of the Day

As far as I can see Turse’s book has inspired very little public debate. In general, the right seems committed to some mixture of denying the atrocities in Vietnam, claiming that everyone did it or the misdeeds were somehow justified by what the North Vietnamese did, and blaming the hippies. Latterday liberals acknowledge that bad things happened, but mostly don’t want to open up the can of worms, for fear that they’d be accused of being unpatriotic and hating the troops or something. The result is a strange form of historical forgetting, where there’s a general sense that bad things happened, but no understanding of how general these bad things were, nor desire to hold people accountable for them.

- Henry Farrell on Nick Turse’s newbook on the US-Vietnam war, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

Friday, August 16, 2013

So Much For Serendipity In Personalized News

A lot can be said on behalf of serendipity. In your daily newspaper, you might learn about a new book -- on neuroscience, say, or folk music -- and, to your great surprise, it might pique your interest and broaden your horizons. You might run into a story on how to improve your health or save for retirement, and it might lead you to alter your habits, even if you don’t much like thinking about your health or your retirement.

You might see a story on Syria, and it might move you, maybe even alter your life, even though you couldn’t have imagined yourself being interested in Syria. Well-run newspapers offer stories that intrigue, entertain and affect readers who come across those stories only by happenstance, not because they ordered them in advance.

In the newspaper business, complete personalization hasn’t yet arrived, but it may be on its way. For example, Facebook Inc. (FB) has created a news feed, with a secret algorithm, that uses your previous clicks to make selections for you. Mark Zuckerberg has said that the feed will operate as a “personalized newspaper.” Then there’s News360, an application that monitors what you choose to read and, “by learning what you enjoy, brings you content that you’ll find interesting and important.”

If he wishes, Bezos could easily take the Washington Post in this direction. A redesigned website, or an app, might create headlines and sort stories, ideas and opinions on the basis of people’s previous choices. If you are bored by politics, or if new science-fiction movies are what most interest you, then Your Post could be set up accordingly. Why shouldn’t people see what they want?

The best answer is that in communications, as in daily life, serendipity is highly desirable -- an important part of freedom and self-government, not an obstacle to them. Those who read only what they identify in advance end up narrowing their horizons; they may create echo chambers of their own design.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Within a few hours of meeting him, I realized that "love at first sight" just means feeling immediately and extremely calm with someone.

- Pamela Druckerman, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Thursday, August 15, 2013

57 Startup Lessons I’ve Learned The Hard Way

  • Morale is very real and self-perpetuating. If you work too long without victories, your investors, employees, family, and you yourself will lose faith. Work like hell not to get yourself into this position.
  • Some friction is good. Too much friction is deadly. Fire people that cause too much friction. Good job + bad behavior == you’re fired.
  • If you have to give away more than 15% of the company at any given fundraising round, your company didn’t germinate correctly. It’s salvageable but not ideal.
  • If you haven’t earned people’s respect yet, fundraising on traction is an order of magnitude easier than fundraising on a story. If you have to raise on a story but don’t have the reputation, something’s wrong.
  • Work on a problem that has an immediately useful solution, but has enormous potential for growth. If it doesn’t augment the human condition for a huge number of people in a meaningful way, it’s not worth doing.
  • Pick new ideas because they’ve been made possible by other social or technological change. Get on the train as early as possible, but make sure the technology is there to make the product be enough better that it matters.
  • Educating a market that doesn’t want your product is a losing battle. Stick to your ideals and vision, but respect trends. If you believe the world needs iambic pentameter poetry, sell hip hop, not sonnets.
  • Ask two questions for every product feature. Will people buy because of this feature? Will people not buy because of lack of this feature? No amount of the latter will make up for lack of the former. Don’t build features if the answer to both questions is “no”.
  • Beware of chicken and egg products. Make sure your product provides immediate utility.
  • Don’t say things if your competitors can’t say the opposite. For example, your competitors can’t say their product is slow, so saying yours is fast is sloppy marketing. On the other hand, your competitors can say their software is for Python programmers, so saying yours is for Ruby programmers is good marketing. Apple can get away with breaking this rule, you can’t.
  • Don’t be dismissive of criticism. Instead, use it to improve your product. Your most vocal critics will often turn into your biggest champions if you take their criticism seriously.
  • Sales fix everything. You can screw up everything else and get through it if your product sells well.
  • Product comes first. Selling a product everyone wants is easy and rewarding. Selling a product no one wants is an unpleasant game of numbers.
  • Be relentless about working the game of numbers while the product is between the two extremes above. Even if you don’t sell anything, you’ll learn invaluable lessons.
  • Development speed is everything.
  • Minimize complexity. The simpler the product, the more likely you are to actually ship it, and the more likely you are to fix problems quickly.
Company administration:
  • Don’t waste time picking office buildings, accountants, bookkeepers, janitors, furniture, hosted tools, payroll companies, etc. Make sure it’s good enough and move on.
  • Take the time to find a good, inexpensive lawyer. It will make a difference.
Personal well-being:
  • Do everything you can not to attach your self esteem to your startup (you’ll fail, but try anyway). Do the best you can every day, then step back. Work in such a way that when the dust settles you can be proud of the choices you’ve made, regardless of the outcome.
  • Every once in a while, get away. Go hiking, visit family in another city, go dancing, play chess, tennis, anything. It will make you more effective and make the people around you happier.
- More Here