Friday, February 28, 2014

15 Great Cruelty-Free Companies

Complete List Here

Architecture May Influence Which Microbes Surround You

We will always be outnumbered, but we may have a say in which microbes we’re surrounded by, according to a new study that’s one of the first to investigate how building design influences the microbial diversity of indoor spaces. “Design choices at the level of a whole building make a really big impact on the types of invisible organisms that you see in a room,” said microbial ecologist Jessica Green, an author of the new study. The work is part of an emerging body research suggesting that design decisions — from the architect’s blueprint to the choice of ventilation system to the materials picked by the interior designer — help shape the microbes in our midst.Green thinks this type of research will eventually be used to design healthier buildings.

In addition to dust, Green and her team have also examined air samples and surfaces in Lillis Hall. In another recent study they found that rooms with a natural ventilation system that brings in outside air at night have microbial profiles more similar to outside air, compared to rooms with mechanical ventilation system that was turned off at night to save money. “What we found is if you have this really expensive mechanical ventilation system and you turn it off at night, you’re leaving this bag of microbes that people are immersed in when they come back in the morning,” Green said.

The interactions between building design, microbial diversity, and health might be stronger in other types of buildings — such as hospitals. Green is part of a consortium studying how microbial communities develop in two newly constructed hospitals, one in Chicago and one in Germany.

- More Here

To Look An Elephant in the Face is to Gaze Upon Genius

It turns out the elephant brain has three times more neurons than our own: 257 billion to our 86 billion. The vast majority of these neurons are found not in the cerebral cortex—the seat of abstract thinking in humans—but rather in the elephant’s cerebellum, which controls breathing, heart rate and movement, among other duties. The elephant cerebellum has 250 billion neurons; its cortex has 5.5 billion. Humans have about 70 billion neurons in the cerebellum and 16 billion in the cortex.

Manger and Herculano-Houzel suspect that the elephant depends on such a dense cerebellum to maneuver one of the most sensitive and versatile appendages in the animal kingdom. With more than 100,000 distinct bundles of muscle fibers, an elephant’s prehensile trunk is just as dexterous as a human or chimpanzee’s hands. In the first few months of life, as a baby elephant learns to handle its trunk, the wriggling appendage seems to have a mind of its own—reminiscent of a human infant’s flailing limbs. By adulthood, elephants can use their trunks to snorkel when submerged, heave objects weighing more than 700 pounds, or gingerly crack open a peanut shell.

Neural networks in the temporal lobe devoted to vocal communication and hearing are also particularly large and complex in the elephant brain. Elephants can chirp softly or trumpet about as loudly as a jet taking off. They can recognize the calls of up to 100 different elephants even from a distance of nearly 5,000 feet. And they often communicate with low-frequency rumbles that humans cannot hear unaided. Some scientists have speculated that thirsty elephants guide themselves towards distant rainfall by detecting vibrations produced by thunderstorms. Along with sound and touch, elephants primarily rely on odor to learn about one another and the world around them. A fusion of the upper lip and nostrils, the trunk gives elephants a sense of smell that is even more acute than that of nosy critters like rodents and dogs. One region of the elephant olfactory bulb—the part of the brain that processes smell—contains extra layers of cells in a honeycomb arrangement not found in other mammals.

To look an elephant in the face is to gaze upon genius. Here is a creature who experiences emotional intimacy with friends and family, who seems to understand death and treats its dead in a way that borders on ceremonial. Here is an animal who can recognize itself in the mirror, fashion twigs into tools, formulate and implement plans, and remember someone’s face for decades. An animal that has exquisite ways of sensing the world we can never experience firsthand and a complex language we will probably never decipher. An animal whose cleverness parallels our own, yet is in many ways unique. As a species, we have long valued our extraordinary mental powers, obsessively comparing our intelligence to the braininess of all other beasts. We insist on continually updating a grand hierarchy of cleverness. The more one learns about exceptionally smart and sensitive animals like the elephant, however, the less useful such rankings become. It suddenly seems silly to think of intelligence as a pyramid. Yes, some creatures have bigger brains and some are capable of impressive mental feats others will never achieve. But what is far more impressive—what is far more fascinating—is the glorious diversity of intelligence on our planet. There are so many different ways to be smart. Every species alive today is exactly as smart as its survival required. When we look into the eyes of the elephant, we should recognize nothing less than an intellectual equal.

- More Here

BOLD Signal & Functional Connectivity Associated With Loving Kindness Meditation

Full paper here; abstract:

Loving kindness is a form of meditation involving directed well-wishing, typically supported by the silent repetition of phrases such as “may all beings be happy,” to foster a feeling of selfless love. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the neural substrate of loving kindness meditation in experienced meditators and novices. We first assessed group differences in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal during loving kindness meditation. We next used a relatively novel approach, the intrinsic connectivity distribution of functional connectivity, to identify regions that differ in intrinsic connectivity between groups, and then used a data-driven approach to seed-based connectivity analysis to identify which connections differ between groups. Our findings suggest group differences in brain regions involved in self-related processing and mind wandering, emotional processing, inner speech, and memory. Meditators showed overall reduced BOLD signal and intrinsic connectivity during loving kindness as compared to novices, more specifically in the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus (PCC/PCu), a finding that is consistent with our prior work and other recent neuroimaging studies of meditation. Furthermore, meditators showed greater functional connectivity during loving kindness between the PCC/PCu and the left inferior frontal gyrus, whereas novices showed greater functional connectivity during loving kindness between the PCC/PCu and other cortical midline regions of the default mode network, the bilateral posterior insula lobe, and the bilateral parahippocampus/hippocampus. These novel findings suggest that loving kindness meditation involves a present-centered, selfless focus for meditators as compared to novices.

Quote of the Day

The awe it inspired in me made the awe that people talk about in respect of religious experience seem, frankly, silly beside it. I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

- Douglas Adams

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Human Rights versus Animal rights

Gail: You’ve been thinking a lot about ethics lately. Where do you come down on human rights versus animal rights?

David: My thinking about animal rights is evolving, I guess. On the one hand, I eat animals. On the other hand, it’s hard not to be impressed with the moral sophistication of some animals. The question to me is whether animals have souls. I guess I don’t think any have the sort of souls that could be saved or damned. But I do think elephants, dolphins and dogs exhibit soul-like behavior — that is to say, they seem to exhibit moral virtues, like empathy and loyalty.

Last December I gave a Sidney Award to an essay on the soulful behavior of elephants. In one story an elephant who had been abused at a circus greeted a new acquaintance by showing her all the places where she had been injured. The other elephant touched each injured spot with her trunk, as if to say: I feel for you. I am with you.I wouldn’t be comfortable eating an animal who could do that.

On the other hand, when it comes to geese and deer, I’m like: Go ahead, make my day. I guess I’m describing a slippery slope between animals that seem to have soul-like pieces and animals, like cows, that don’t. This may be extremely self-justifying and bogus, but I’m comfortable with slippery slope arguments. Much of life is about making decisions on a continuum.

Gail: And then there’s meat-eating. How far do you think we’re obliged to go in making sure the animals we eat weren’t tortured on their way to the dinner table? Nick Kristof wrote a column recently about factory farming, where animals are squashed so close together that they spend their lives unable to move.

I’m not sure we have an ethical obligation to give livestock full and rewarding lives, but we should at least face up to the way these animals are treated. Right now this is one of the many, many aspects of society where we tend to vote for avoidance.

David: If anybody really wants to think hard about this, I recommend Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals.” For myself, I prefer not to know. I’ve definitely practiced avoidance all my life. I don’t suppose there is any nonmessy way to kill large numbers of large animals, though obviously I’d be for humane treatment on the way to the culling floor.

- Rest of conversation between David Brooks and Gail Collins here .

The arguments seems so mudance and trait from these brilliant personalities , its sad. They talk like all of animal rights issues is zero sum game and the reality is most of it its not. The truth is most able minded people don't have the time and energy to focus on animal rights as the prime issue and humans will always will have something or other to worry about themselves and their self-induced BS of fellow primates.

You Believe What You Like - Daniel Kahneman

I never get tired to listening to Danny Kahneman. When my mind is overwhelmed I read stoics or listen to Danny to calm myself and it always works.  Again, brilliant lecture based on his book Thinking, Fast and Slow at SALT:

Kahneman began with the distinction between what he calls mental “System 1”---fast thinking, intuition---and “System 2”---slow thinking, careful consideration and calculation. System 1 operates on the illusory principle: What you see is all there is. System 2 studies the larger context. System 1 works fast (hence its value) but it is unaware of its own process. Conclusions come to you without any awareness of how they were arrived at. System 2 processes are self-aware, but they are lazy and would prefer to defer to the quick convenience of System 1.

“Fast thinking,” he said, “is something that happens to you. Slow thinking is something you do.“

System 2 is effortful The self-control it requires can be depleted by fatigue. Research has shown that when you are tired it is much harder to perform a task such as keeping seven digits in mind while solving a mental puzzle, and you are more impulsive (I’ll have some chocolate cake!). You are readier to default to System 1.

“The world in System 1 is a lot simpler than the real world,” Kahneman said, because it craves coherence and builds simplistic stories. “If you don’t like Obama’s politics, you think he has big ears.” System 1 is blind to statistics and focuses on the particular rather than the general: “People are more afraid of dying in a terrorist incident than they are of dying.”

When faced with a hard question such as, “Should I hire this person?” we convert it to an easier question: “Do I like this person?“ (System 1 is good at predicting likeability.) The suggested answer pops up, we endorse it, and believe it. And we wind up with someone affable and wrong for the job.

The needed trick is knowing when to distrust the easy first answer and bear down on serious research and thought. Organizations can manage that trick by requiring certain protocols and checklists that invoke System 2 analysis. Individual professionals (athletes, firefighters, pilots) often use training to make their System 1 intuition extremely expert in acting swiftly on a wider range of signals and options than amateurs can handle. It is a case of System 2 training System 1 to act in restricted circumstances with System 2 thoroughness at System 1 speed. It takes years to do well.

Quote of the Day

"This is an evil, evil place. And it requires enormous focus by the world in order to hold it accountable. And I think every aspect of any law that can be applied should be applied."

- John Kerry on North Korea

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Science of Life Span and Aging - Jonathan Silvertown

Excellent review of Jonathan Silvertown's new book The Long and the Short of It: The Science of Life Span and Aging:

Mr. Silvertown, a professor of ecology at Britain’s Open University, will not teach you how to live forever. Rather, he swoops like a barn swallow (life span 16 years) across a terrain encompassing the long-lived ponderosa pine (300 years) and the evanescent nematode worm C. elegans (days to weeks), with nods to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (93 years), Dylan Thomas (49 years) and Woody Allen (still ticking) to demonstrate why, even though you personally are probably limited to less than a century, you are still a particularly lucky conglomeration of organic matter in life’s long mortal parade.

“The puzzle of longevity,” Mr. Silvertown points out, “is not why we die so soon but rather why we live so long.” For most of history, living creatures were single cells that reproduced by dividing. But once evolution produced multicellularity, reproduction and survival were separated, and hemmed in by new risk-benefit calculations. Cell division had to persist for purposes of reproduction and repair, but it also had to be controlled, for uncontrolled division means cancer (“a brutal reminder that long life is a precarious achievement”).

The cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks (immortalized in laboratories everywhere, as well as in Rebecca Skloot’s best-selling book) demonstrate that under the right circumstances, mammalian cells can survive more or less forever. But the life span of whole beings is inextricably linked to nutrition, environment and genetics, all operating under an evolutionary mandate to optimize the species.

Quote of the Day

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) Maxims for Revolutionists

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What it Takes to be a Great Leader - Roselinde Torres

Leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced by three questions:
  1. Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life? The answer to this question is on your calendar. Who are you spending time with? On what topics? Where are you traveling? What are you reading? And then how are you distilling this into understanding potential discontinuities, and then making a decision to do something right now so that you're prepared and ready? There's a leadership team that does a practice where they bring together each member collecting, here are trends that impact me, here are trends that impact another team member, and they share these, and then make decisions, to course-correct a strategy or to anticipate a new move. Great leaders are not head-down. They see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.
  2. The second question is, what is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network? You know, we hear often about good ol' boy networks and they're certainly alive and well in many institutions. But to some extent, we all have a network of people that we're comfortable with. So this question is about your capacity to develop relationships with people that are very different than you. And those differences can be biological, physical, functional, political, cultural, socioeconomic. And yet, despite all these differences, they connect with you and they trust you enough to cooperate with you in achieving a shared goal. Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions, because you have people that are thinking differently than you are.
  3. Third question: are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? There's an expression: Go along to get along. But if you follow this advice, chances are as a leader, you're going to keep doing what's familiar and comfortable. Great leaders dare to be different. They don't just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it. And one of the leaders shared with me the fact that the most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve or reckless or just plain stupid. Now interestingly, the people who will join you are not your usual suspects in your network. They're often people that think differently and therefore are willing to join you in taking a courageous leap. And it's a leap, not a step. More than traditional leadership programs, answering these three questions will determine your effectiveness as a 21st-century leader.

Quote of the Day

If you are immune to boredom, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.

- The Pale King, David Foster Wallace

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Illusion of Understanding & How to Develop Authentic Understanding

For the past three decades I’ve been working to dispel myself of an illusion that’s hard to recognize and even harder to overcome. I call it the “Illusion of Understanding.”  It’s the false belief that we understand something but then we discover we actually don’t.

The glass of water in this picture is filled to the brim.  One more drop, and water would spill over the edge.  When examining the ice you note that the cubes rise just above the surface of the water (like glaciers in the ocean), but do not extend to the bottom of the glass.  Now here’s the challenge: Imagine patiently waiting on a hot summer day until all the ice melts.  What will happen to the water level?  Does it rise and over-flow the glass, remain constant throughout the melting process, or go down?

Think about what’s going on for you as you wrestle with this challenge.  Do you feel like you know the right answer? How confident are you in your response? Are you, like most people who face this challenge, surprised to find that you aren’t sure of the answer, while also feeling conflicted because you think you should know it?  If you answered “Yes” to this last question, then you just experienced the Illusion of Understanding first-hand.

Below, I list five major discoveries that define requirements for achieving authentic understanding (see the companion article published in this month’s Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks for additional detail):
  1. Authentic understanding depends on hierarchically organized knowledge.
  2. Authentic understanding is grounded in direct experience.
  3. Authentic understanding is stabilized by practice (generally at every level within the hierarchy).
  4. Authentic understanding requires formative feedback.
  5. Authentic understanding is context-sensitive.
- Read the whole thing here; its highly recommended

Nature-inspired Algorithm Book Teaches Programmers Basics of Artificial Intelligence

"Artificial Intelligence for Humans is a series of books that presents the topic in a mathematically gentle manner," said Heaton. "Computer programmers are not necessarily wizards of all the Calculus, Linear Algebra and Statistical concepts that are required to work with AI. This series will help programmers apply the ideas of AI to data analysis by fully explaining all the relevant math techniques and providing real-life examples."

As an important component to the fields of Data Science and Big Data, Artificial Intelligence allows businesses to capitalize on vast amounts of collected data so they can tailor their products to customer needs.   Personalizing products for customers through data mining offers businesses the ability to enhance their services and profitability.

Heaton's latest volume on AI explores how genomes, cells, ants, birds, and evolution as well as other natural processes influence programming and provides useful applications for the IT professional interested in delving into this dynamic field of computer science.

Programming examples are provided in Java, C# and Python. Additional languages may be added as stretch goals during the Kickstarter campaign.

Heaton will seek Kickstarter pledges to support this book, prior to its August 2014 publication date, at levels between $5 and $250.

- More Here

Jeff Heaton has some phenomenal books on AI:

Quote of the Day

Brilliant Blunders, by Mario Livio, is a lively account of five wrong theories proposed by five great scientists during the last two centuries. These examples give for nonexpert readers a good picture of the way science works. The inventor of a brilliant idea cannot tell whether it is right or wrong. Livio quotes the psychologist Daniel Kahneman describing how theories are born: “We can’t live in a state of perpetual doubt, so we make up the best story possible and we live as if the story were true.” A theory that began as a wild guess ends as a firm belief. Humans need beliefs in order to live, and great scientists are no exception. Great scientists produce right theories and wrong theories, and believe in them with equal conviction.

- Review of Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Using a Decision Journal Can Help you Make Better Decisions

“The idea,” says Michael Mauboussin, “is whenever you are making a consequential decision, write down what you decided, why you decided as you did, what you expect to happen, and if you’re so inclined, how you feel mentally and physically.”

Whenever you’re making a consequential decision either individually or as part of a group you take a moment and write down:

  • The situation or context;
  • The problem statement or frame;
  • The variables that govern the situation;
  • The complications or complexity as you see it;
  • Alternatives that were seriously considered and why they were not chosen; (think: the work required to have an opinion).
  • A paragraph explaining the range of outcomes
  • A paragraph explaining what you expect to happen and, importantly, the reasoning and actual probabilities you assign to each. (The degree of confidence matters, a lot.)
  • Time of day the decision was made and how you feel physically and mentally (if you’re tired, for example, write it down.)

Of course, this can be tailored to the situation and context. Specific decisions might include tradeoffs, weighting criteria, or other relevant factors.

One point, worth noting, is not to spend too much time on the brief and obvious insight. Often these first thoughts are system one, not system two. Any decision you’re journaling is inherently complex (and may involve non-linear systems). In such a world small effects can cause disproportionate responses whereas bigger ones can have no impact. Remember that causality is complex, especially in complex domains.

I know we live in an age of computers but you simply must do this by hand because that will help reduce the odds of hindsight bias. It’s easy to look at a print-out and say, I didn’t see it that way. It’s a lot harder to look at your own writing and say the same thing.

Another thing to avoid is vague and ambiguous wording. If you’re talking in abstractions and fog, you’re not ready to make a decision, and you’ll find it easy to change the definitions to suit new information. This is where writing down the probabilities as you see them comes into play.

These journals should be reviewed on a regular basis—every six months or so. The review is an important part of the process. This is where you can get better. Realizing where you make mistakes, how you make them, what types of decisions you’re bad at, etc. will help you make better decisions if you’re rational enough. This is also where a coach can help. If you share your journal with someone, they can review it with you and help identify areas for improvement.

And keep in mind it’s not all about outcome. You might have made the right decision (which, in our sense means a good process) and had a bad outcome. We call that a bad break.

Odds are you’re going to discover two things right away. First, you’re right a lot of the time. Second, it’s often for the wrong reasons.

- More Here

I had been "wanting" to keep a decision journal for many years now but after reading this I bought one and soon will start jotting down why, how and when I make major decisions.

Quote of the Day

Charles Calomirise: In fact the key, and this is one insight that I think is important in the book--it is a little different from the way some political scientists think about some political struggles, where they tend to think it's struggles between political parties. One of the points that we make in the book is that the coalitions that have evolved, let's say in the U.S. history, to design the rules of the game of banking have often been bi-partisan. In fact, they purposely have structured themselves to be fairly immune to electoral partisan outcomes. And so it's just as you would expect. If you wanted to have a long-lived and valuable coalition, you would want it to be fairly robust to electoral outcomes. And so sometimes you get a very unlikely partnership, people who ideologically or culturally, sociologically, don't really see eye-to-eye at all, but find a convenience in being allies in a particular arrangement. 

Russ Roberts: Yeah. The way I think of it is: The Democrats and the Republicans are the same; they both like to give money to their friends. They just have different friends. But they have one friend in common, which is the financial sector. And they both tend to scratch that sector's back and get scratched back in return.

- Calomiris and Haber talk about their new book Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit on EconTalk

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Email Exchange Btw Simon Edhouse & David Throne

- Read the whole thing here

Wisdom Of The Week

How To Actually Change Your Mind - NO KIDDING!! Yes, brilliant summary of ideas on well.. how to think and change your mind. It's long (you can download the audio version here for $11.99) but please make sure you read or listen to it and give your grey matter some "novelty & variety" before it stops working or worse before it becomes stagnant (if it's already stagnant it's lot of work but it can be undone as well).

 "...then our people on that time-line went to work with corrective action.  Here."
        He wiped the screen and then began punching combinations.  Page after page appeared, bearing accounts of people who had claimed to have seen the mysterious disks, and each report was more fantastic than the last.
"The standard smother-out technique," Verkan Vall grinned.  "I only heard a little talk about the 'flying saucers,' and all of that was in joke.  In that order of culture, you can always discredit one true story by setting up ten others, palpably false, parallel to it."

                —H. Beam Piper, Police Operation

Piper had a point.  Pers'nally, I don't believe there are any poorly hidden aliens infesting these parts.  But my disbelief has nothing to do with the awful embarrassing irrationality of flying saucer cults—at least, I hope not.

You and I believe that flying saucer cults arose in the total absence of any flying saucers.  Cults can arise around almost any idea, thanks to human silliness.  This silliness operates orthogonally to alien intervention:  We would expect to see flying saucer cults whether or not there were flying saucers.  Even if there were poorly hidden aliens, it would not be any less likely for flying saucer cults to arise.  p(cults|aliens) isn't less than p(cults|~aliens), unless you suppose that poorly hidden aliens would deliberately suppress flying saucer cults.  By the Bayesian definition of evidence, the observation "flying saucer cults exist" is not evidence against the existence of flying saucers.  It's not much evidence one way or the other.

This is an application of the general principle that, as Robert Pirsig puts it, "The world's greatest fool may say the Sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out."

If you knew someone who was wrong 99.99% of the time on yes-or-no questions, you could obtain 99.99% accuracy just by reversing their answers.  They would need to do all the work of obtaining good evidence entangled with reality, and processing that evidence coherently, just to anticorrelate that reliably.  They would have to be superintelligent to be that stupid.

A car with a broken engine cannot drive backward at 200 mph, even if the engine is really really broken.

If stupidity does not reliably anticorrelate with truth, how much less should human evil anticorrelate with truth?  The converse of the halo effect is the horns effect:  All perceived negative qualities correlate.  If Stalin is evil, then everything he says should be false.  You wouldn't want to agree with Stalin, would you?

Stalin also believed that 2 + 2 = 4.  Yet if you defend any statement made by Stalin, even "2 + 2 = 4", people will see only that you are "agreeing with Stalin"; you must be on his side.

Quote of the Day

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

- Thomas Sowell

Friday, February 21, 2014

Survive the Apocalypse for $137,000

Don’t let the rainbow fool you. This picture was taken after the apocalypse. But these people apparently had all the necessary provisions and survived. You can too for the bargain price of $137,000. That’s how much it will cost you to properly prepare for the end of days including where you will live and how you will feed your family. So you may want to add an apocalypse fund to your list of financial goals.

At the end of the day, there are literally endless ways you can go about building yourself an off-the-grid doomsday farm. From ridiculously simple to luxurious, the amount you’re willing to spend as well as your desired lifestyle are the key factors.

We added up the numbers for one scenario. Here are rough estimates of what it would cost you for a functioning doomsday farm (minus food, guns, tools, and all that fun stuff):

2 acres of beautiful farmland: ~$10,000

A rustic 1,000 sq/ft cabin: ~$100,000

Solar Panels for Electricity: ~$18,000

Private well for water: ~$8,000

Heating: ~$650 (plus a lot of hours of wood chopping)
Fancy composting toilet: ~$500
Total: ~$137,150

- More Here

Not Tested On Animals - 9

It's impossible to find a razor not tested on animals. Thanks to Harry's, I not only found one but also had the best shave ever. This is the best razor on the world market, period ( did I mention it only cost's fraction of other major blades?). Most men have a subconscious "personal" relationship with their razors and it's next to impossible to change brands. But most men don't know that the blade manufactures are worst offenders of animal cruelty either.

Harry's website states:

What's in your shaving cream?

We make our shaving cream from a blend of natural ingredients. We cool your skin with licorice, milk thistle, and cucumber, protect it with Vitamins E & B5, and then moisturize your face with marula & coconut oils. There are no parabens or sulfates in our cream, and it's both gluten-free and vegan. And of course, we never test on animals (if you exclude us personally). If you need a full ingredient list, reach out to us and we'll send it your way.

But I think it would help a lot to attract more customers if they can print "non tested on animals" on their package and also make it easier to find on their website (currently it's hidden inside the help section of their website). I had to email their customer service to confirm before ordering.

Quote of the Day

I design a cell to not fail and then assume it will and then ask the next 'what-if' questions," Sinnett said. "And then I design the batteries that if there is a failure of one cell it won't propagate to another. And then I assume that I am wrong and that it will propagate to another and then I design the enclosure and the redundancy of the equipment to assume that all the cells are involved and the airplane needs to be able to play through that.

- Mike Sinnett, Boeing's 787 chief project engineer

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Defense of Malthus

Malthus' study of preventive checks, which covered regions around the globe and in various stages in mankind's history, was a study of human agents making conscious, rational decisions calculated to maximize their own self-interest and the interest of their potential offspring. It was the examination of how individuals check their own behavior for their own benefit that elevated Malthus' Essay beyond a simple mathematical description of population growth, and into a work of economic theory and practice that was remarkably innovative for its day and well-respected by contemporary economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. However, this aspect of the Essay was ignored, misunderstood, or derided in much of the rest of society.

It is the interplay of both positive and preventive checks that, according to Malthus, keep human population from actually growing at a geometric rate. Although at some times and places when the means of subsistence suddenly expands greatly, as was the case when North American settlers were spreading across a continent of largely uncultivated land, populations could grow unimpeded by significant checks, eventually that growth would be met by a limitation on the amount of food that the land could produce. The impending food scarcity would, without a preventive check, generate positive checks in the form of food shortages, hunger, and poverty. However, thanks to mankind's cognitive abilities, people would see these dire consequences and, before they arose, impose on themselves a preventive check in the form of having fewer children. In this way, population would usually hover close to, but not go beyond, the means of subsistence.

- Read the whole fascinating piece of history here ; a different version of cable television a.k.a character assignation did exists in 1800's as well.

Quote of the Day

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Meaning of It All - In 1963, The Future Nobel Laureate Called for a Philosophy of Ignorance

''The Meaning of It All'' consists of three lectures Feynman gave at the University of Washington in April 1963, on the relationship between science and society. The subject is dangerous. Many a Nobel laureate has floundered when presented so broad a target, pumping out enough hot air to validate Will Rogers's remark that we're all ignorant, just on different subjects. But Feynman was a stranger to pomposity, and there's some splendid stuff here. Perhaps the most striking thing is his rare appreciation of the deep connections linking science and democracy, connections that he saw as arising from a common rootedness in doubt. ''Scientists . . . are used to dealing with doubt and uncertainty,'' he says, an experience the value of which ''extends beyond the sciences. I believe that to solve any problem that has never been solved before, you have to leave the door to the unknown ajar. You have to permit the possibility that you do not have it exactly right.''

He argues that this scientific appreciation of uncertainty is reflected in the thinking behind the Constitution: ''The Government of the United States was developed under the idea that nobody knew how to make a government, or how to govern. The result is to invent a system to govern when you don't know how. And the way to arrange it is to permit a system, like we have, wherein new ideas can be developed and tried out and thrown away. The writers of the Constitution knew of the value of doubt. In the age that they lived, for instance, science had already developed far enough to show the possibilities and potentialities that are the result of having uncertainty, the value of having the openness of possibility.''

This was particularly perspicacious in 1963, when many American academics still imagined that science could flourish under the totalitarian regimes of China and the Soviet Union. Feynman shared no such delusions. He saw that science demands genuine freedom. This the Communist regimes could not provide; therefore, science in the Communist world was doomed. ''I don't think of the problem as between socialism and capitalism but rather between suppression of ideas and free ideas,'' Feynman says. ''The fact that Russia is not free is clear to everyone, and the consequences in the sciences are quite obvious. . . . Russia . . . is doing nothing.''

Generalizing this point, Feynman calls for ''a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, and the progress made possible by such a philosophy, progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought. I feel a responsibility to proclaim the value of this freedom and to teach that doubt is not to be feared, but that it is to be welcomed as the possibility of a new potential for human beings. If you know that you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation. I want to demand this freedom for future generations.''

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I think you have to move toward much more fundamental science, and dive into the nature of what thinking is. What is understanding? How do we make links between things that are, on the surface, fantastically different from one another? In that mystery is the miracle of human thought.

The people in large companies like IBM or Google, they're not asking themselves, what is thinking? They're thinking about how we can get these computers to sidestep or bypass the whole question of meaning and yet still get impressive behavior

Douglas Hofstadter on Why Watson and Siri Are Not Real AI

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Mindful Revolution

The raisins sitting in my sweaty palm are getting stickier by the minute. They don't look particularly appealing, but when instructed by my teacher, I take one in my fingers and examine it. I notice that the raisin's skin glistens. Looking closer, I see a small indentation where it once hung from the vine. Eventually, I place the raisin in my mouth and roll the wrinkly little shape over and over with my tongue, feeling its texture. After a while, I push it up against my teeth and slice it open. Then, finally, I chew — very slowly.

I'm eating a raisin. But for the first time in my life, I'm doing it differently. I'm doing it mindfully. This whole experience might seem silly, but we're in the midst of a popular obsession with mindfulness as the secret to health and happiness — and a growing body of evidence suggests it has clear benefits. The class I'm taking is part of a curriculum called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) developed in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-educated scientist.

The raisin exercise reminds us how hard it has become to think about just one thing at a time. If distraction is the pre-eminent condition of our age, then mindfulness, in the eyes of its enthusiasts, is the most logical response.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Extreme Medicine is a book about life: its fragility, its fractal beauty, and its resilience. It is about a century during which our expectations of life transformed beyond all recognition, when we took what was routinely fatal and made it survivable. With heart transplants, intensive care, trauma surgery, and state-of-the-art life support, this exploration of the human body was no less extreme than our forays in the physical world.

The theme of rapid advance, using technology and science to surround our physiology like a cocoon, runs through all of the stories in this book. Each chapter of the book focuses on one of the modern limits of survivability—the extremes of cold, heat, critical illness, traumatic injury, disease, war, vacuum, and finally old age. Juxtaposed with the explorations of physical extremes is a litany of extraordinary medical advances. Avant-garde medicine is fundamentally changing our ideas about how our bodies work and of the nature of the boundary between life and death.

Extreme Medicine is a book about medicine but also about exploration in its broadest sense—and about how, by probing the very limits of our biology, we may ultimately return with a better appreciation of precisely how our bodies work, of what life is, and what it means to be human.

- Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century by Kevin Fong, M.D.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Denmark to Ban Halal & Kosher Slaughter Methods

Denmark's Agriculture and Food Ministry has announced that as of Monday the Jewish and Muslim traditional method of animal slaughter will be banned in the country, following similar measures already in place in Poland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

A new law requires that all animals are stunned before being slaughtered, which is contrary to Islamic and Jewish teachings. This means that observant Muslims and Jews living in Denmark will no longer be able to purchase their meat from local butchers, and will have to buy imported halal and kosher meat instead.

The ministry argues that halal and kosher slaughter methods are unethical and that religious rights do not come before animal rights. However, Muslims and Jews insist that their slaughter methods cause minimal suffering to the animals.

- More Here

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? (or Do Animals Have Fun?)

Brilliant piece questioning our dissonance about the most important question - Do Animals Have Fun?:

If old-school Social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer viewed nature as a marketplace, albeit an unusually cutthroat one, the new version was outright capitalist. The neo-Darwinists assumed not just a struggle for survival, but a universe of rational calculation driven by an apparently irrational imperative to unlimited growth.

This, anyway, is how the Russian challenge was understood. Kropotkin’s actual argument is far more interesting. Much of it, for instance, is concerned with how animal cooperation often has nothing to do with survival or reproduction, but is a form of pleasure in itself. “To take flight in flocks merely for pleasure is quite common among all sorts of birds,” he writes. Kropotkin multiplies examples of social play: pairs of vultures wheeling about for their own entertainment, hares so keen to box with other species that they occasionally (and unwisely) approach foxes, flocks of birds performing military-style maneuvers, bands of squirrels coming together for wrestling and similar games:

We know at the present time that all animals, beginning with the ants, going on to the birds, and ending with the highest mammals, are fond of plays, wrestling, running after each other, trying to capture each other, teasing each other, and so on. And while many plays are, so to speak, a school for the proper behavior of the young in mature life, there are others which, apart from their utilitarian purposes, are, together with dancing and singing, mere manifestations of an excess of forces—“the joy of life,” and a desire to communicate in some way or another with other individuals of the same or of other species—in short, a manifestation of sociability proper, which is a distinctive feature of all the animal world.

To exercise one’s capacities to their fullest extent is to take pleasure in one’s own existence, and with sociable creatures, such pleasures are proportionally magnified when performed in company. From the Russian perspective, this does not need to be explained. It is simply what life is. We don’t have to explain why creatures desire to be alive. Life is an end in itself. And if what being alive actually consists of is having powers—to run, jump, fight, fly through the air—then surely the exercise of such powers as an end in itself does not have to be explained either. It’s just an extension of the same principle.

Friedrich Schiller had already argued in 1795 that it was precisely in play that we find the origins of self-consciousness, and hence freedom, and hence morality. “Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man,” Schiller wrote in his On the Aesthetic Education of Man, “and he is only wholly a Man when he is playing.” If so, and if Kropotkin was right, then glimmers of freedom, or even of moral life, begin to appear everywhere around us.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that this aspect of Kropotkin’s argument was ignored by the neo-Darwinists. Unlike “the problem of altruism,” cooperation for pleasure, as an end in itself, simply could not be recuperated for ideological purposes. In fact, the version of the struggle for existence that emerged over the twentieth century had even less room for play than the older Victorian one. Herbert Spencer himself had no problem with the idea of animal play as purposeless, a mere enjoyment of surplus energy. Just as a successful industrialist or salesman could go home and play a nice game of cribbage or polo, why should those animals that succeeded in the struggle for existence not also have a bit of fun? But in the new full-blown capitalist version of evolution, where the drive for accumulation had no limits, life was no longer an end in itself, but a mere instrument for the propagation of DNA sequences—and so the very existence of play was something of a scandal.

Quote of the Day

The man who is truly great is one who does not lose his child’s heart.

- Mengzi

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pictures of a Massive Solar Plant in the Mojave Desert

- More Here

Can Beauty Help Us to Become Better People?

In 1795, the German dramatist and poet Friedrich Schiller published a book with a fearsome title – On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters. It has never become well-known, which is a pity, because it contains some of our most useful insights into the nature and value of beauty. Schiller’s starting point is an analysis of the human condition. He wants to understand our delight in what we find beautiful. Instead of asking which things are beautiful, Schiller is curious about what is going on in us when we respond with this distinctive, intimate thrill and enthusiasm that leads us to say ‘that’s beautiful’. Different things might provoke this response in different people. But why do we have it at all?

Schiller thinks of human nature as an arena in which two powerful psychological drives are at work. On the one hand, there is the ‘sense’ drive which lives in the moment and seeks immediate gratification. It craves contact and possession. It can be coarse, as when one yearns to swig great draughts of beer; but it can also be elevated. Schiller associated the sense drive with his friend Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who longed to see things with his own eyes. Goethe was a direct observer, a natural empiricist who immersed himself in practical detail.

The second drive identified by Schiller was the ‘form’ drive: the inner demand for coherence over time, for abstract understanding and rational order. This drive, thought Schiller, seeks to leave behind the peculiarities of one’s own experience and discover universal principles. It is at the heart of justice – which is not about getting what you want for yourself – and is animated by principle. When we think that a person is entitled to a fair trial, we are motivated, Schiller says, by the rational ‘form’ drive. We are loyal to the abstract, general ideal of due process.

What he’s calling the sense drive and the form drive are powerful impulses in us. But they are often in conflict. The demands of the short term are at odds with the hopes of the longer view. Comfort and ease struggle against a sense of duty and responsibility. The allure of freedom clashes with the longing to be steadfast and rooted in existing commitments.

Schiller’s point is that human nature is fired by two divergent kinds of longing: we can’t hope to see why beauty matters to us unless we pay attention to them both. If we want to understand beauty, we can’t just talk about the things we find beautiful. We have to talk about our lives.

- More Here 

Schiller’s diagnosis of the ills of society ran parallel to his account of the strife within an individual life. What was missing, he argued in both cases, was a full, harmonious humanity, and he thought it would stay missing – both in the leaders and the people. And he came to the unnerving – but perhaps correct – conviction that ambitious social reform would always be frustrated until a much larger number of people had reached a higher level of inner development of the sort enabled by beauty.

Quote of the Day

One of our statesmen ' said, " The curse of this country is eloquent men." And one cannot wonder at the uneasiness sometimes manifested by trained statesmen, with large experience of public affairs, when they observe the disproportionate advantage suddenly given to oratory over the most solid and accumulated public service. In a Senate or other business committee, the solid result depends on a few men with working talent. They know how to deal with the facts before them, to put things into a practical shape, and they value men only as they can forward the work. But a new man comes there who has no capacity for helping them at all, is insignificant, and nobody in the committee, but has a talent for speaking. I n the debate with open doors, this precious person makes a speech which is printed and read all over the Union, and he at once becomes famous, and takes the lead in the public mind over all these executive men, who, of course, are full of indignation to find one who has no tact or skill and knows he has none, put over them by means of this talking-power which they despise.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson on Eloquence

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stop Cosmetics Testing on Animals

We can win a victory for animals in the U.S., too. - sign the petition here and help.

It’s no secret that the U.S. is lagging behind other countries that have banned cruel and archaic tests on animals for cosmetics and replaced them with more reliable, humane methods. The European Union, Israel, and India have all embraced modern testing methods and ended all tests on animals for cosmetics and personal-care products. Here at home, PETA has been meeting with legislators, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and numerous corporations for many months to ensure that tests on animals for cosmetics will never be required in the U.S. But a bill currently before a congressional committee threatens to make tests on animals for some cosmetics ingredients mandatory.

Proponents of the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 claim to be acting to protect public health. But the tests on animals that the bill calls for have proved time and time again to be unreliable indicators of how a product will affect humans, because animals’ physiologies are not mirror images of our own. Modern methods include testing chemicals on donated human tissue or skin cultures grown from human cells, and there are dozens of other scientifically advanced techniques. The tests are not only more reliable but also usually less expensive, and they don’t require that animals be poisoned, burned, or blinded. But if the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 passes as it is currently written, a just-published paper reports that as many as 11.5 million animals would be killed in cruel product tests in the first 10 years alone.
And the bill isn’t the only danger that animals used for cosmetics testing are facing. The cosmetics industry trade group, the Personal Care Products Council, has been negotiating for months with the FDA on possible changes to regulatory testing requirements. The most recent draft of the proposed regulations, if accepted, may also open the door to more tests on animals.

Wisdom Of The Week

This era more or less will be defined in the annals of history as the era of Dawn of Artificial Intelligence:

This improvement is not a lucky coincidence; it is cause and effect. Things have gotten better because there are more people, who in total have more good ideas that improve our overall lot. The economist Julian Simon was one of the first to make this optimistic argument, and he advanced it repeatedly and forcefully throughout his career. He wrote, “It is your mind that matters economically, as much or more than your mouth or hands. In the long run, the most important economic effect of population size and growth is the contribution of additional people to our stock of useful knowledge. And this contribution is large enough in the long run to overcome all the costs of population growth.”

We do have one quibble with Simon, however. He wrote that, “The main fuel to speed the world’s progress is our stock of knowledge, and the brake is our lack of imagination.” We agree about the fuel but disagree about the brake. The main impediment to progress has been that, until quite recently, a sizable portion of the world’s people had no effective way to access the world’s stock of knowledge or to add to it.

Now, its only common sense to heed to intelligent critics like John Gray who warns us against mindless progress and utopianism (note: we are not taking about alarmists but a very valid and rational caution):

If there is anything unique about the human animal it is that it has the ability to grow knowledge at an accelerating rate while being chronically incapable of learning from experience. Science and technology are cumulative, whereas ethics and politics deal with recurring dilemmas. Whatever they are called, torture and slavery are universal evils; but these evils cannot be consigned to the past like redundant theories in science. They return under different names: torture as enhanced interrogation techniques, slavery as human trafficking. Any reduction in universal evils is an advance in civilization. But, unlike scientific knowledge, the restraints of civilized life cannot be stored on a computer disc. They are habits of behaviour, which once broken are hard to mend. Civilization is natural for humans, but so is barbarism.

The distance between human and animal silence is a consequence of the use of language. It is not that other creatures lack language. The discourse of the birds is more than a human metaphor. Cats and dogs stir in their sleep, and talk to themselves as they go about their business. Only humans use words to construct a self-image and a story of their lives. But if other animals lack this interior monologue, it is not clear why this should put humans on a higher plane. Why should breaking silence and then loudly struggling to renew it be such an achievement?

Today the good life means making full use of science and technology - without succumbing to the illusion that they can make us free, reasonable, or even sane. It means seeking peace - without hoping for a world without war. It means cherishing freedom - in the knowledge that it is an interval between anarchy and tyranny.

F.A. Hayek warned us decades ago quoting Friedrich Höderlin his famous book The Road to Serfdom:

What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.

I think, the most disparity is caused during progress because the optimist's mostly use more of numeracy and less of literacy filter and the other side uses more of literacy and less of numeracy filter. But both sides almost never use Garrett Hardin's Ecolacy filter:

WE CAN NEVER DO MERELY ONE THING which is now known as Hardin's Law. The language that we have used to describe the effects of our actions demonstrates the reality that Hardin's Law draws our attention to. We talk about effects and side effects, products and wastes.

Hardin contends that since we cannot do just one thing we must always ask and answer the question and  THEN WHAT? when we try to ascertain the benefits and costs of proposed courses of action on both the individual as well as social levels. The ecological systems way of thinking employs modern scientific theories and knowledge to study a world of interlocking processes characterized by many reciprocal cause effect pathways. The ecological systems way of thinking has to become an integral part of the thinking of the well educated person if we are to adequately control technology rather than fall victim to the forces we generate and are unable or unwilling to control. Ecological systems thinking provides well educated persons with the opportunity to act more rationally, because they have learned a more comprehensive and more accurate way of estimating the probable costs and benefits of their actions.

During this era of AI, I think its prudent to remind ourselves of those wise words from Hardin and start using those three filters together so we all can benefit from progress in the long run.

And finally, a wise man named Reinhold Niebuhr cautioned us few decades ago about the political delusional innocence of this young country but it also applies to social, cultural and technical progress:

Niebuhr was a critic of national innocence, which he regarded as a delusion. After all, whites coming to these shores were reared in the Calvinist doctrine of sinful humanity, and they killed red men, enslaved black men and later on imported yellow men for peon labor - not much of a background for national innocence. "Nations, as individuals, who are completely innocent in their own esteem," Niebuhr wrote, "are insufferable in their human contacts." The self-righteous delusion of innocence encouraged a kind of Manichaeism dividing the world between good (us) and evil (our critics).

Niebuhr brilliantly applied the tragic insights of Augustine and Calvin to moral and political issues. He poured out his thoughts in a stream of powerful books, articles and sermons. His major theological work was his two-volume "Nature and Destiny of Man" (1941, 1943). The evolution of his political thought can be traced in three influential books: "Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (Library of Theological Ethics)" (1932); "The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense" (1944); "The Irony of American History" (1952).

In these and other works, Niebuhr emphasized the mixed and ambivalent character of human nature - creative impulses matched by destructive impulses, regard for others overruled by excessive self-regard, the will to power, the individual under constant temptation to play God to history. This is what was known in the ancient vocabulary of Christianity as the doctrine of original sin. Niebuhr summed up his political argument in a single powerful sentence: "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." (Niebuhr, in the fashion of the day, used "man" not to exculpate women but as shorthand for "human being.")

The last lines of "The Irony of American History," written in 1952, resound more than a half-century later. "If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster. The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory."

Quote of the Day

He tried to import some of death’s delicacy and buoyancy into life. “Bad spots” were everywhere, he wrote in a late essay. We do better to “slide over this world a bit lightly and on the surface.” Through this discovery of gliding and drifting, he lost much of his fear, and at the same time acquired a new sense that life, as it passed through his body — his particular life, Michel de Montaigne’s — was a very interesting subject for investigation. He would go on to attend to sensations and experiences, not for what they were supposed to be, or for what philosophical lessons they might impart, but for the way they actually felt. He would go with the flow.

- Sarah Bakewell, How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Friday, February 14, 2014

What I've Been Reading

Optimal Cupid: Mastering the Hidden Logic of OkCupid by Christopher Mckinlay. After reading about how Mckinlay used math and python to hack okcupid, I was obviously interested in knowing how he did that.

I love OkCupid. Their stated purpose is: “ We use math to get you dates. ” It should be: “ You use math to get your own dates .” I used math to improve my OkC experience and went on 88 dates from the site in three months. I went from an OkCupid “match percentage” at or above 90% with a few hundred women in L.A. to matching over 30,000 women at that level. It was like stepping into a giant spotlight of female attention.

I was disappointed a little since the book mostly covers on dating tips more than specify math and programming. But if you are looking to date with or without coding and math skills, this book would still help since Mckinlay has some great insights.
  • Simulated annealing is a robust method for finding approximately optimal solutions in large search spaces, such as the space of all possible responses to match questions on OkC.
  • I mined the data I’d scraped from OkC, using a method called Latent Dirichlet Allocation to extract common topics of interest from the profiles in my cluster of interest.
  • An abysmally low match percentage never stopped anyone. But this is what scripting languages are for. Write some python code to periodically delete messages from anyone matching you below some threshold. I think I actually have a script that does this somewhere. Let me know if you’re in need of one and I’ll send it to you.
And yeah Happy Valentines day to all of you !!

Quote of the Day

To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death... We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere.

- Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Good-Bye Balu Mahendra

We lost a great story teller;  thank you Balu for giving us this timeless movie.

Quote of the Day

Moral dilemmas interested Montaigne, but he was less interested in what people ought to do than in what they actually did. He wanted to know how to live a good life — meaning a correct or honorable life, but also a fully human, satisfying, flourishing one. This question drove him both to write and to read, for he was curious about all human lives, past and present. He wondered constantly about the emotions and motives behind what people did. And since he was the example closest to hand of a human going about its business, he wondered just as much about himself.

- Sarah Bakewell, How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tell the President of Wayne State University to Halt Cruel Heart Experiments on Dogs

I cannot believe such evil still exists. Please sign the petition HERE to stop this evil

Rogue, a brown, black, and white hound, endured months of experimental surgeries, having nine devices implanted in her body and being forced to run on a treadmill. At just 15 months old she died in October 2012 in a laboratory at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she was being used in cruel and misguided experiments. Unfortunately, Rogue was neither the first nor the last dog to suffer and die like this, but with your help we can stop these experiments once and for all.

The experiments Rogue was used in have been conducted for more than 20 years at Wayne State. Over that time, hundreds of dogs have been used and killed with no human health benefits to show for it. Since 2000, more than $8 million in taxpayer funding—doled out by the National Institutes of Health—have gone to these experiments.

Epidemiological studies, such as the Framingham Study and Methodist Study, continue to give researchers insight into the causes of heart failure, while human clinical trials provide treatment and prevention options.

Please tell M. Roy Wilson, M.D., M.S., president of Wayne State to end these experiments immediately and focus on human-relevant research.

Self-Driving Education - Sebastian Thrun

I venture that digital education will be a game changer. In the US, adults stay in the same jobs for an average of 4.1 years. They assume seven different careers during their lifetime. Digital education will provide education to people throughout their lives, to stay current in an ever-changing business and technology landscape.

Digital education might be our best and only hope to reduce the growing job skills gap. McKinsey estimates that by 2020, there will be 85 million open jobs worldwide for skilled and partially skilled labor. The present system offers no scalable answer to this challenge, and CEOs of major corporations are desperate.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.

- John Woods comp.lang.c + + quoted in the book Writing Idiomatic Python by Jeff Knupp

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Building a Feedback-Rich Culture @ Work

  • Get to know each other - Make an effort to understand colleagues as individuals. This doesn’t require a great deal of time or deep, personal disclosures — just taking a moment to ask about someone’s weekend and occasionally sharing stories of your own.
  • Talk about emotions - The ability to discuss emotions is a critical feature in any group that aspires to share effective feedback, not only because feelings are at the heart of most difficult feedback, but also because feedback inevitably generates difficult feelings. When we can talk about our embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, and even anger, the culture is sufficiently safe — and robust — to handle real feedback.
  • Make it OK to say no - A risk in feedback-rich cultures is that people feel obligated to say “Of course,” when asked, “Can I give you some feedback?” The freedom to postpone such conversations when we’re not ready to have them ensures that when they do take place all participants are willing parties.
  • Offer some positive feedback…and stop there - Too often we use positive feedback to cushion the blow before delivering criticism, but that practice inevitably degrades the value of our praise and renders it hollow.
  • Start small - We miss opportunities to provide positive feedback every day because we have this idea that only big wins merit discussion. When we see any behavior we want to encourage, we should acknowledge it and express some appreciation.
  • Praise effort, not ability -  Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that praising persistent efforts, even in failed attempts, helps build resilience and determination, while praising talent and ability results in risk-aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.
  • Don’t wait for a special occasion - A mentor of mine, Vince Stehle, once told me, “Don’t build a castle; put up a thousand tents,” and that certainly applies to feedback. Don’t turn it into a complex, cumbersome process; just take a few minutes (or even a moment) and make it happen.
  • Work in public - Certain conversations are best held one-on-one, but too often we treat all feedback as a potentially embarrassing or even shameful process to be conducted under cover of darkness. When sufficient safety and balance exist, even critical feedback can be provided in larger groups. This not only allows everyone present to learn from the issues under discussion but also allows people to see how to give and receive feedback more effectively.
  • Be transparent - Everyone around us – colleagues, superiors, direct reports – should know that improving at giving and receiving feedback is an ongoing goal of ours.
  • Ask - We can’t just sit back and wait for feedback to be offered, particularly when we’re in a leadership role. If we want feedback to take root in the culture, we need to explicitly ask for it.

    - More Here

Quote of the Day

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations