pushmedia1
8.24.2003
 
HMC Calculus Tutorial

A nice review of Calculus... I took a year at Berkeley, but I'm a little rusty. I'm going to finish the series at the local community college and I'm trying not to make a fool out of myself.
 
8.21.2003
 
Wired 11.09: PowerPoint Is Evil

I'm of two minds regarding PowerPoint.

On the one hand:


On the other hand, PowerPoint isn't conducive to telling stories. Today at work, I was giving a training where I wanted to impart the purpose and value of one of our products. My purpose was to enable people at work to intelligently discuss the value proposition of our product and given the nature of our services, to add more value in the services they provide.

Being the good corporate minion I am, I created a PowerPoint presentation that nicely outlined all of the points I wanted to make. As I droned through the presentation, the audience began to nod off as I noticed a typo in the slide I was discussing. Basically, on the slide I had written something like "call center" performance when I meant to say "support center" performance. The difference is that support centers are multi-media (i.e. they support via the web, email or phones), but call centers are phone-based support only.

The typo, and the distinction I pointed out, reminded one of our consultants of an interaction she had with a customer. The customer was trapped in the frame of mind of call centers. Because the issues that are of concern in call centers (hold times, call queuing, etc) are only a subset of the issues of a full support center, the customer was missing the bigger picture. Our consultant told us that she was able to reorient the customer to see the larger picture and doing so, demonstrate the value of our ongoing relationship with the customer.

Anyway, the discussion in the room really took off after the consultant shared this story. PowerPoint, by itself, was unable to convey a sense of context that story telling gives. Also, the folks that I was training today are much more likely to remember the story than they are to remember an esoteric bullet point.
 
8.16.2003
 
I've updated my home page and I've added my resume to the site. Let me know what you think.
 
8.14.2003
 
DRAFT Book Review: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

What is postmoderism
- culture of self-reference and reference not to reality but to references (which may be to reality)
- an awareness of that self-reference
- struggle of a generations of rich kids
- struggle to define self with a wealth of opportunity vs dearth of opportunity as one would struggle against nature or poverty

Reference to the way this article was written
- transparancy
- outline, intuition first

review other reviews
- missing the point of reference to the self-reference, eggers deflated arguments that peg him as an egotist by admitting that his technique will show him to be an egotist
- others miss that the tragedy is not the story, the story is of him writing that he knows the tragedy is a story and his struggle to get over the postmodern delima
- some claim that he has a sick sense of humor. hi, missing the point. in the book, your witnessing how he reacted as a human. and if you've had someone close to you die, you know what i mean. you have a mix of fealings swimming in your head at once. it is impossible to write or to speak of these feelings but since writing began we've tried to. eggars is getting us closer to the truth by breaking the taboo that these critics don't want to pearce. they want eggars to be "sad", to say things that have been said before. "I love my mother, she was really great, I'll never say anything bad about her or make light of her death, she means that much to me." Well, that's not reality. In reality when someone close to you dies you think great thoughts, thoughts that you before thought only available to geniuses or maybe greek gods up on olympus. You also think horrible, unthinkable, thoughts. And the problem is that neither of these extermes desires the as many words I have given them because these thoughts aren't really thoughts but flashes of emotion and snippets of ideas.

The point is that the boohooing you normally hear is really a characture and his character is written to show what was reality. His character is him, but much less of a character than ever seen before in a book. In any case, irreverence is being miswrought to mean uncaring, but it is the authors ultimate symbol of caring because he has exposed this unexpected reaction when to do so would be taboo. Why break a taboo unless your making a point? Why make the point that you're uncaring about your parents' death? He must be making the point that he cared and he is showing us how he cared.

So it is obvious that none of the critics got it right. For that matter, none of Eggers most enthusiastic votaries were close either. The self-reference is meant to get you closer to the actual events, the cultural references were meant to anchor the reader in today's reality to built his story against the current environment and the humor is

Share doubt as to the self-reference
- can you ever speak of the truth when you're referencing references
- a law of inverse squares... with each layer of reference you get a more diffuse picture
- but is self-reference a technic rather than a fact... is this meta-self-reference?

Doubt postmoderism
- the intuition is real, the observations are real, the references are real
- pre-post-modern (modern) folk made reference to the thinking and ideas before them as they did before them and so on
- what is real? eggers reminds us that death is real and the struggle to understand it our come to grips with it is real
 
8.12.2003
 

I'm at work now and I can't comment on this post from Brad De Long...  I very much want to.

Henry Farrell expresses skepticism about "transhumanism"--which he defines as "the idea of the self as a sort of infinitely extensible meccano-set, where you can plug in new bits and pieces all the time, just because it’s cool":

Crooked Timber: Better, Fitter, Happier : ...there are serious, principled reasons why you might want to disagree with transhumanism. And this argument has been going on for a long, long time.... What [Max Weber is] saying, I think, is that Tolstoy, and people like him, ask some interesting and important questions, which "progress"-obsessed types don't. They may not have the right answers to those questions, but that's beside the point. They're interested in whether life is meaningful, not whether it can be infinitely extended. And meaning, for Tolstoy, requires some reference point other than the internal desires of the individual. Which maybe allows me to articulate a little better what I find creepy about transhumanism than I could last week. It isn't the prospect of brain-machine interfaces, Singularities, telomere hacks and the like, few of which are likely to be with us anytime soon, if at all. It's the underlying philosophy behind this geek aesthetic - the idea of the self as a sort of infinitely extensible meccano-set, where you can plug in new bits and pieces all the time, just because it's cool. And, in the best of all possible worlds, keep on doing this forever.

But, Henry, it's too late. Our selves have already been infinitely extended. What has happened to the Third Chimpanzee over the past million years has already created gulfs between us and our chimpanzee and bonobo evolutionary siblings that dwarf any future Singularity. Think of trying to explain your own life to one of your African Plains Ape ancestors of the past--even those that already had upright posture, opposable thumbs, serious stone toolmaking, and language.

And if serious toolmaking and language didn't do it, agriculture did. And if agriculture didn't do it, writing did. And if writing didn't do it, large-scale social organization did. And if large-scale social organization didn't do it, metallurgy did. And if metallurgy didn't do it, large-scale environmental manipulation (i.e., building cities) did. And if LSEM didn't do it, printing did. And if printing didn't do it, steam-power did. And if steam-power didn't do it, the second industrial revolution did. And if the SIR didn't do it, modern information technologies did.

One thing is clear along this journey: after each stage, very few people want to go back. Henry Farrell's life would be impoverished were he to find himself switched with some eighth-century monk in a scriptorium, spending his days preparing vellum and ink and copying out Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Augustine--and little else.

So isn't the way to bet that our descendants will marvel at how limited our capabilities were?

And "meaning"... IMHO, you can lead a very meaningful life at the stone-tool stage as you find a mate, take pride in discovering how to make a better flint hand axe, and protect your young from wandering off and getting eaten by leopards in the night. You can lead a very meaningful life at the peasant-agriculture stage as you find a mate, take pride in building a better plow so that you can keep standing water from killing your grain, and try to get enough food growing to keep your young from starving to death in periodic famines. You can lead a very meaningful life at the post-industrial stage as you find a mate, take pride in discovering, learning, and communicating how the economy works so that we can collectively make better social decisions, and try hard to equip your young with the math, literacy, and social skills they will need so that their options will be bright ones. You can lead a very meaningful life at the post-singularity stage as you find a mate, take pride in demonstrating using ordered sequences of linearised tree-level ideoplast arrays to express higher-order metaphor functors that show the existence of nontrivial toposophic hierarchies in pre-S1 societies, and strive to ensure that your 37% augmented descendants have sufficient semantic instantiation at their transcoding.

Whatever part of a fear that modern life is without "meaning" does not come from neurotransmitter uptake malfunction (and Weber's fear did come from neurotransmitter uptake malfunction) is orthogonal to all the big issues of physical and information technology. Post-industrial life is no less "authentic" than the agricultural life of Tolstoy's serfs or, indeed, the hunting-and-gathering life of the first Cro-Magnon generations to spill out of Africa. If you want to say that there is a style of human life--a level of physical and information technologies and patterns of activity--that we were meant to have--you have to go all the way back to the hand axe and the burning brand.

 
8.10.2003
 
John Robb's Weblog

"NEVER (under any circumstances) publish a weblog to a domain that you don't control"

I've read jrobb's blog for over a year and I was concerned about his sudden absence. I was happy to see him resurface and I learned from his experience. I bought 'ambrosini.us' last week and I began hosting my blog at he.net.
 
 
I'll come back to this article about product development.
 
 
Documented life

I suppose I'd just be finishing chapter four of my documented life and beginning chapter 5. His chapter 5 may be similar to mine. We'll see.
 
 
Californians against opportunistic celebrity fuckwads and
Where do people get the idea Howard Dean's a liberal? OR
Who I am and not going to vote for

I will start a recall petition to moment Arnold is elected governor. Apparently, its easy to do if you have a rich friend to bankroll the signature drive.

We're all to blame for this. All of us Californians. We've allowed this to happen. We have the screwy Constitution that weakens our elected officials. We elect weak state politicians. We have a disdain for leadership and as a symptom have lousy schools. It's easy to say that the recall is becoming a carnival, but we're the geeks(2) and freaks in the show.

Oh, also, I'm going to register as a democrat so I can vote for Dean in the primary.

 
 
Digital makeover

Frankly, I think her belly button is cuter before the touch-up...

Anyway, I was at the make-up counter(s) at Macy's yesterday ...Don't ask me why... and I was noticing all the hideous women buying makeup. Fat women, ugly women, old women. Their faces had looks of desperation. "I need something, anything, to cover this up!" It occurred to me that that's all they were doing. Covering up. I'm sure that if you spent one second talking to any of those women you would see that their personalities are as ugly as their bodies.

Don't get insulted. I'm not being misogynist. There are ugly men, too. But for the most part, we don't feel the need to hide it. We're ugly and we know it and we know that you know it.

In the end, I just asked myself why. Why do they do that? Why can't they just live their ugly, little lives without torturing themselves, and us, with a charade?

Also, yesterday, I saw a very fat woman riding a bike out on Foothill. At first, I was staring at the unusual sight and then as I passed her I noticed a huge grin on her ugly, fat face. I knew then that she knew and that she was ok with me knowing... I almost stopped and asked her to marry me.

UPDATE: Dave wrote on this theme in DaveNet
 
  Forever gone
Ocean breeze cools the blowing sand
Across the beach, onto the road.
The skys, clear, show promise,
A vision of tomorrow.
I saw her tonight strutting
In the Castro, alone, strong.
The wind whispers that it is forever gone,
That Love slips away in the chill summer breeze.
 
8.08.2003
 
The American government's accounts look about as reliable as Enron's

I had a post a couple days again that had this 'completely different note':
"why are there no aggregate wealth statistics that are widely reported? I mean you hear about GDP everyday it seems in one article or another. It seems that the health of the economy, as businesses, can be judged by looking at income AND the balance sheet (which I take to mean wealth)."

The Economist also points out this deficiency. They introduce two concepts FI (fiscal imbalance) and GI (generational imbalance). The first measures a sort of national balance sheet and the second measures discounted cash flows of the current generation (a negative value means that future generations will need to pick up the tab, in addition to paying for their own benefits).

The government can no more measure its fiscal health by measuring only its current income than a business can. The business who does this, ignores the revenues to be gained in the future by its current assets and it misses the burden of debts that may not come due but in years hence. The first thing you learn in financial accounting courses is that a good financial analysts take income, cash flow and the balance sheet in to account when analyzing the health of a company. The same is true of the government.

The government makes promises to its citizens that amount to debts that will come due only in the future. These promises are ignored by measures of GDP, deficit and debt. Those debts only make sense in the context of its future assets. Making promises is fine as long as policies also allow for those promises to be paid for. So measuring the difference between the present value of all future debt and assets gives a better sense of the fiscal health of the government.

Similarly, if a government is cash flow negative in the short term, it is borrowing against future generations. At some point cash flows will need to equalize. This is why its important to measure the balance of cash for the current generation to see how much they're borrowing against us kids.

...

I've started to read the Gokhale and Smetters paper and I'm pretty sure I'm misplacing the analogies between FI and GI and balance sheets and cash flow statements... But its a start. I think this is an important enough issue to look into more seriously.
 
8.02.2003
 
Just Because I'm A Woman

How can you not love Dolly Parton?
 
8.01.2003
 
Bloggers Select The 15 Greatest Movies Of All-Time

I haven't seen North by Northwest or Citizen Kane. I guess I better...

I would put Casablanca and Gone with the Wind higher on the list and I would choose episode V over IV.
 
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