Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mother knows best?

Mother Earth News is still published. Or should that be Mother Earth News is still published? Yes, and "fascinating" as ever, for example readers report their most amusing superglue accidents, and an interview with radical farmer Joel Salatin. Here's an excerpt from "Everything he wants to do is illegal" about vegetarians:
This philosophical and nutritional foray into a supposed brave new world is really a duplicitous experiment into the anti-indigenous. This is why we enjoy having our patrons come out and see the animals slaughtered. Actually, the 7- to 12-year old children have no problem slitting throats while their parents cower inside their Prius listening to “All Things Considered.” Who is really facing life here? The chickens don’t talk or sign petitions. We honor them in life, which is the only way we earn the right to ask them to feed us — like the mutual respect that occurs between the cape buffalo and the lion. To these people, I don’t argue. This is a religion and I pretty much leave it alone.
What?? Sounds like Ted Nugent with a dose of anthropomorphism :) Anyway, at least there doesn't seem to be as many weird personal ads in Mother Earth Newslike there were in the 1970s. Shudder.

More interesting, because of the state budget and work furloughs, I'm reading Getting even: The truth about workplace revenge and how to stop it. It's not about workplace violence and "going postal", but about little things that people do for the sake of "workplace justice". Here's a little bit from the introduction:
... managers already spend an inordinate amount of time trying to sort out conflict. One study showed that middle managers spend an average of 25 percent of their time on this effort, while the numbers were even higher for first-line supervisors. The same study found that CEOs spend 26 percent of their time dealing with conflict... we argue that the motivation for revenge is primarily rooted in the sense of injustice. Further, revenge should be seen as actions intended to restore a sense of justice.
Bob Sutton liked the book.

Friday, July 17, 2009

40 year anniversary

Since the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is coming up, here's a few things:
  • The Kennedy presidential library has a real-time replay of the mission. All the audio, plus things you can click on.
  • Walter Cronkite didn't quite make it to the 40th anniversary, but his reaction was pretty memorable at the time.
  • Three new books to check out: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Spacesuits by Amanda Young, a spacesuit curator. Lots of good pictures. Speaking of pictures, Apollo through the eyes of the astronauts combines images, text by the astronauts, and a forward by Lucy and Stephen Hawking. Andrew Chaikin (I previously talked about him) returns with Voices from the moon: Apollo astronauts describe their lunar experiences.
Finally, I finally finished Dragonfly: NASA and the crisis aboard Mir. It is a 500 page book that I read a few pages at a time, like I did with Digital Apollo. The book discusses scary events, like a fire onboard the Mir space station, a collision with a Progress cargo ship, a decompression, leaking cooling systems and an airlock door held in place with C-clamps. That was on the Russian Mir, and the NASA astronaut selection and training side of things was just about as scary. It's amazing no one died. ISS still uses Progress cargo ships - and sometimes amateur astronomers gets pictures of ISS and Progress from their home telescopes.

Bonus: an amusing Q&A with "the third one", a grumpy/lucky Michael Collins.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Underdog strategies

Malcolm Gladwell's been writing about underdog strategies, and one example is using the full court press in basketball. He writes about the success a novice coach and inexperienced young players have using the press (and relates it to other struggles in history). He's also going back and forth with ESPN's Bill Simmon's about not only the press, but the NBA draft. So I asked one of our local basketball gurus, Jack Fertig to comment (Jack was head of basketball operations for Tark when coached Fresno State). Jack's interesting response is here.

Gladwell's original New Yorker column is pretty good, here a sentence describing the approach of a coach with no previous basketball experience:
The team was made up mostly of twelve-year-olds, and twelve-year-olds, he knew from experience, did not respond well to shouting. He would conduct business on the basketball court, he decided, the same way he conducted business at his software firm. He would speak calmly and softly, and convince the girls of the wisdom of his approach with appeals to reason and common sense.

Update: I forgot another summer reality show I should have included in a previous post: Discovery Channel's Treasure Quest. Interesting show about looking for shipwrecks using high tech gizmos. The technology turns on them sometimes, for example they complain that the public database of ship locations tips off their competitors to their finds. Here's the map of real-time shipping (click to zoom). It reminds me of the flight map.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maybe I'm just on parole

What's happened since I was locked up? Well, NPR interviewed the author of You are here:
Ellard also examined why men have a reputation for not asking for directions. He found that men may not ask because they have greater difficulty following turn-by-turn directions. Whereas women navigate using routes, men navigate using compass orientation.
Lehrer has a great review of Ellard's book here. Speaking of brains, Harvard Business discussed Robert Macnamara's brain:
... McNamara was a hedgehog rather than a fox, an engineer rather than an ecologist. The hedgehog knows one big thing, and for McNamara that was rational systems analysis. If he'd been a fox, he'd have brought additional perspectives to America's pressing problems. Like a dogged engineer, he believed that you could model and manipulate the inputs and outputs of any system. Unlike the ecologist, he didn't seem to appreciate the complexity of systems involving living things. If the variables explaining poverty or victory in guerilla warfare were unwieldy or unmeasurable, he simply ignored them.
National Geographic's Secret History of Gold makes a provocative statement about how all the gold ever mined would fit in the base of the Statue of LIberty, i.e. "All the gold in the world still isn't very much" (see video).

Since there's not enough gold to go around, IEEE Spectrum has ideas for getting and giving recognition at work which reminds me of UH's "making the elephant dance" award.

What else? The CMU prof who came up with the now ubiquitous captcha has an amusing blog, this post is about doing high production value videos of his lectures. Speaking of university professors, are there too many scientists?

Over the last few days there's been a couple of launches (a successful SpaceX satellite) and, finally, a space shuttle. One day the shuttle launch was scrubbed because of lightning. I like this explanation about why lightning is a concern:
"The concern really is mostly in those pyrotechnic systems," he said. "There are a lot of things that have to go right. You need the SRB igniters to fire, you need the separation bolts to fire to release the SRBs from the mobile launch platform, you need the separation motors to fire to separate you from the external tank. We don't like to talk about it, but you need the self-destruct system to work if you truly needed it to work.
Finally, more about feet and those funny looking shoes I mentioned before, and a possible relationship between the spacing of birds on a wire and parked cars.

Free at last

My blog was flagged as spam and locked for a week until a human could look at it and set me free. While I was locked out, I watched the finale of one of the more interesting reality shows, the History Channel's Expedition Africa. Great HDTV scenery. The NY Times had an amusing review, but I liked studio daily's article about how it was produced and filmed since it was all about the logistics and lugging the equipment around yet staying out of sight.

Yes, in addition to Expedition Africa, your summer could be filled with new episodes of Ice Road Truckers (why's that on the History Channel?), Deadliest Catch, Whale Wars, and starting this Sunday, Pawn Stars. And if you are going to watch Big Brother, at least don't admit it to anyone.

Monday, July 06, 2009


You might remember previous posts about sandwiches, grilled cheese in particular. Sunset magazine picked up the theme -- since I am overwhelmed with apricots this year, I need to try this.

Also, without mentioning his name, I've posted previously about guitarists like Trace Bundy. You should also consider James Blackshaw (profiled on NPR, and you can listen to a few songs, including Bled).

Finally, for basketball fans who remember the Tark the Shark era at Fresno State, an recent article about Chris Herren. And, Tark's former head of basketball operations, Jack Fertig, is an entertaining and prolific blogger particularly about sports and character.