Gotta love Gladwell

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Meanderings, Technology with tags , , , on August 16, 2008 by weirleader

It’s scarcely new (dates back to May), but I stumbled across this really interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell and thought I’d share it.  It’s funny, but for me saying Gladwell wrote an interesting article sounds redundant… he always seems to find fascinating stuff to write about.  In fact, I suppose that, were I to have gone into journalism, I would have very much enjoyed the profession – provided that I could have found a niche similar to his.  It wouldn’t have had to be as prominent, but as variegated would’ve been nice.

It’s fascinating to think of how often invention occurs nearly simultaneously in separate areas.  One example that Gladwell mentions that is dear to my heart is that of Newton and Leibniz and the controversy over who really ‘invented’ the calculus.  It seems the more amazing feat is to invent something that nobody else has dared to dream of.  Because once the time is ripe for a new idea it will pop out – and the longer the wait, the more likely that several people will ‘discover’ that idea independently.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy the article as much as I did!

Go West

Posted in Bizarre, Humor, Meanderings, Music, Movies & Entertainment with tags , , on August 15, 2008 by weirleader

Well, I’ve had a LONG dry spell…  but I have a good excuse: moving 2300 miles, starting a new job, and trying to keep up with a 5-week crammed-in summer course for my Master’s degree.

I’m now officially a software test engineer for a graphing calculator company…  very slick job and I’m loving it!  I may have finally found a job that I would do for free (if I were independently wealthy, that is).

Anyhow, not really in the mood to wax long-winded, but I must post the following video.  I’ve already shared it with a few people, but it’s one of those things that is traumatic and can only be ameliorated by infecting others!!!  🙂

A 4-year-old Pollock?

Posted in Meanderings on May 23, 2008 by weirleader

Wow, it’s been a while…

anyhow – I know this is an old topic (though one new to me), but it really raises some good points that have always bothered me about what people call “art”.  I sort of follow the last point made in the article – about how Pollock deserves respect for creating something which was not mere replication, but even so it smacks to me of a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  What I would love to see is a group of art aficionados participate in a blind study that analyzes their ability to discern the work of unfamiliar, yet professional artists from cheap knock-offs produced by someone intentionally mimicking the style but without a shred of artistic ability (myself, for instance).

As Stephen will attest, they would probably identify my Pollock knock-off by the exceedingly “long legs” hidden within the splatter.  🙂

Scary because it’s all-too-likely

Posted in Meanderings on May 13, 2008 by weirleader

Doonesbury (hat tip to this Freakonomics article)

Dr. George Fishbeck would roll over in his grave!

Posted in Meanderings with tags , , , on April 22, 2008 by weirleader

of course, he might still be alive – he’s an awfully hard-to-track-down guy.

Anyhow, the pertinent point is that I’ve come across another fascinating Freakonomics article; this one dealing with the inconsistency and inaccuracy of weather reports. To be it’s supremely ironic that I stumbled across this a mere day after ranting about a similar problem in the news’ treatment of the course of the stock market.

A lot of it (the article) sort of dovetails with common sense, though it’s so easy to just assume that the newscasters actually know what they’re doing… but then again, that’s exactly my problem with stock reporting; you trust them to know what they’re talking about, and often they don’t have the decency to admit they simply don’t know.

As for Dr. George, well that’s just a blast from my past. I haven’t thought of him in years, until I was trying to come up with a ‘different’ title for this post. I think he will always be my image of a stereotypical weatherman from the ‘good old days’ – back before Dallas Raines (is that really his legal name?) or Christopher Nance or the comic Fritz Coleman. And in trying to look up whatever became of him, I stumbled across this little post which surprised me by informing me that Dr. George is immortalized in a Tom Waits song (I’m guessing Writin Wrong has heard it at some point).

To summarize, I quote from the article:

The takeaway message? Do not plan your weekend activities based on the T.V. weather forecasts unless it is already Thursday — but waiting until Friday would be even better.

Don’t Waste Your Time On The Little Stuff

Posted in Meanderings on April 22, 2008 by weirleader

So Caleb and Quinn were sharing with us what they’ve been learning about the ear yesterday. We are enjoying hearing about what they remember and are prompting Quinn for the vocabulary he remembers. He does a pretty good job, recalling the hammer (I’m guessing his previous familiarity with the word helped) and we hint and cajole to get him to recall anvil and stirrups. These are the ones that immediately come to my mind.

Not to leave out Caleb, though he’s not quite 6, we ask what he learned and he claimed he couldn’t remember any of the words. Only, moments later, he blurts out “…and the semicircular canal!” Guess he couldn’t be bothered with anything as simple as a hammer or anvil. 🙂

On a side note, he also quite seriously explained (as he’s working on his phonics) that the end of the word ‘leap’ starts with ‘p’. 🙂

The Dow of Money Sense

Posted in Deep And Profound Brain Things, Mathematics, Money with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2008 by weirleader

As a former (small-time) investor and math teacher, I’ve long been frustrated with the news’ approach to reporting ups and downs, highs and lows in the market.  My favorite type of report states that “The Dow was up today on rumors that ____________________.”  Come on!  You’re telling me that the only thing that contributed to this massively complex market today was a single rumor?  No one in their right mind believes that, certainly not whoever wrote the article…  yet they feel compelled to put a reason to the day’s events.  And I really believe a lot of people out there take the report at face value.

What was merely a pet peeve, however, became much more serious after I read this paper by Arthur Lupia, et al. at the University of Michigan (hat tip, once again, to Freakonomics).  I don’t want to steal his thunder too much – you should read for yourself – but suffice it to say that the status quo is really just fostering ignorance and poor investing sense.  I consider myself good with numbers, but this interpretation of events eluded me.  Reading it, however, explains a lot about how an economy can appear so good and perform so badly at the same time; it’s all about where you focus your attention.

Whether or not the media is swayed by the solid suggestions, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to at least better interpret this kind of financial data in the future.  That’s a start…

More by Prof. Lupia here.