Jason’s Ranting & Raving

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Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Hard Work = Success

Posted by jaystile on April 29, 2009

There is one lesson that everyone needs to know: Hard work leads to success. This should be the mantra for school aged children (and for adults too). It is a theme that has repeatedly demonstrated itself in the real world.

My sister-in-law who is attending college recently revealed that she was surprised at how well she did in school when she studied hard. Not studying just enough to get by, but really studying and learning the material and being interested.

My daughter can read at 4.5 years old. This was the result of 6 months of reading lessons (see my book review Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) that was hard on both her and Dad. But she now has a huge head start against her peers which may lead to more success.

There have been numerous studies concerning experts which I tend to categorize as expert theory. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book on the subject. The summation is that it takes 10000 hours of practice and learning in a field to become an expert, whether that field is chess, chemistry, music, martial arts, etc.

Then I read an article on wired about a woman who has super memory! It turns out she is just a really hard worker. But this work is attributed to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) because she keeps rigorous notes of her life and reviews them often. Which also happens to be the driving force behind Super Memo (Want to remember forever?)!

I’ve been looking for a source for a quote (and google hasn’t helped) can you help me find it? Paraphrased as “There is no such thing as genius, only interest. Now, if I was only interested in something.


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Cool Stuff: Green Techonology Ideas

Posted by jaystile on February 9, 2009

I think the human race has a destiny (that is if we can manage to not let crazy power hungry people stay in power worldwide). That is the merging of a high-technology and agrarian lifestyle. The more we can union technology and nature the better off we will be. Instead of the raw metal and asphalt we will have green growth.

While this ‘grown’ single family home concept is cool, I don’t really find it practical. Around major cities we have serious suburban sprawl. The American Dream, a white picket fence with a two car garage. A little place to call your own. This is becoming the American Nightmare with people having hour long commutes in gridlocked traffic. Not to mention the newer housing developments for the middle class have lot sizes so small you could hardly put a swing set on it. I think we might have to shift away from the concept of individual property. Instead we should be building upwards. I’m not talking about the small cramped apartment/condo style of housing. I’m referring to a 2500sq ft layout with parking. So instead of 8 houses jammed together you have one large multistory building with communal green space around it. This one building would share a lot space intensive purposes. Perhaps a communal workshop, a greenhouse, compost pile, play area, dog run, rooftop garden, bbq pit, etc. If enough of these buildings were planned you could construct the tram between them featured above to join other communities.

Notable problems with this approach would be that people don’t like to share with other people. We were raised that way and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Second, once developers realize that people would be willing to live in a multi-family housing building if they had enough space, they would minimize the green space and we would lose the benefit of the multi-family dwelling. Third, are the sociopaths claiming all communal space as their own, blaring their music at all hours, leaving the communal areas a mess, and generally doing those things that would qualify them as a sociopath to begin with.

You might ask me, “Why don’t you just live on a commune?” I can answer that pretty easily. I don’t want to live with a bunch of dirty hippies. 😉

Rainforest City

Rainforest City

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Cool Stuff: I For One Welcome Our Octopi Overlords.

Posted by jaystile on December 30, 2008

I love cool stuff and in my opinion there is nothing in the animal kingdom cooler than the octopus. They are damn smart and adaptable. If anything is going to definitively take over the oceans it isn’t going to be stupid dolphins. There seems to be quite a few octopus stories in the news lately that I would like to share with you.

Octopus eats shark In this video an octopus is filmed eating a shark. The zookeepers ( aquarium keepers?) couldn’t figure out why there were shark carcasses on the aquarium floor.

Octopus Mimics Sea Snake
In this video a octopus is caught on tape mimicking other undersea creatures. The snake at the end is really creepy.

Awesome Octopus Camoflage
Besides the ink shooting reflex we’ve heard about and that has been idealized in cartoons the best defense is not to be seen to begin with. Even after watching this video a couple of times, I still can’t see the octopus until it decides to move.

The value of being boneless
An octopus of 600 lbs can squeeze through a hole of 1 inch diameter. This allows them to gain protection from other predators that cannot get into spaces they can hide in.

  1. National Geographic: Octopus traveling through a maze.
  2. National Geographic: More Octopus squeezing
  3. Demonstration of an Octopus escaping from a maze.

Octopus Wrecks Havoc!
This is probably the best octopus story I’ve seen. Meet Otto the Octopus! Otto likes visitors. In fact when there are no visitors to the aquarium he gets bored. He passes the time by juggling the other inhabitants in his tank. Additionally, he is a good shot. He knocks out the lights with a blast of water. Otto is Awesome!
Read more about Otto here!

Octopi are really really cool. It almost makes me want to get a large saltwater tank and get one as a pet. But what fun would that be if they hide in a small cramped space with camouflage and then shoot your lights out with water and smash the glass with rocks? I’m going to have to pass. Given a few more millennia of evolution and we might seem some serious intellectual growth.

Octopus Emerging from Egg and Octopus opens a jar

Octopi & Coconuts

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Want to remember forever?

Posted by jaystile on December 2, 2008

Have you heard of this guy, Piotr Wozniak? I first read about him in an article at wired.com. He has been researching memory since 1985 and has developed an algorithm to help you learn things until your mental faculties completely leave you.

Excerpts from the Wired article
Say you have learned something…
Practice too soon and you waste your time. Practice too late and you’ve forgotten the material and have to relearn it. The right time to practice is just at the moment you’re about to forget. Unfortunately, this moment is different for every person and each bit of information.

When do we forget something we have learned?
….human forgetting follows a pattern. We forget exponentially. A graph of our likelihood of getting the correct answer on a quiz sweeps quickly downward over time and then levels off.


SuperMemo is a tool that has been created to implement Wozniak’s algorithm to test people at a specified periods to ‘refresh’ their memory of a subject. From looking at screenshots and website the software leaves much to be desired, but the idea is awesome! It has been geared toward learning languages, but there a lot more possibilities! Imagine a tracking system for school aged children that repeatedly tests their math skills or grammar skills. You would have customized tests based on what the child can recall and have a very precise idea of what skills the child has mastered. A SuperMemo package could be used for medical students with the huge amounts of data that need to be recalled. This would also apply for physics, chemistry, and math. I’m thinking about trying it myself to learn all the odds for my Poker Hands.

Has anyone used this product? I found one account of usage that seemed promising where they were studying for an Oracle DBA exam.

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Cool Stuff: What does it take to be a genius?

Posted by jaystile on November 19, 2008

It takes a lot of hard work to be an expert at anything. There are two articles on Scientific American which corroborate this statement (see below). The first is Expert Theory which is pretty simple: given enough time (10 years) and dedication to continually challenging yourself you can become an expert in any subject. The second article describes how to raise your kids to become experts (or geniuses or good students). There exists a genetic predisposition for children to learn (typically rated as their IQ score), but that isn’t as important as the hard work and effort they put in to learning. Kids that are told they are ‘gifted’ tend to look for easy work to reinforce that perception of gifted. When they fail they think it is because they aren’t smart enough. However the child that is taught that excellence is the result of hard work accept failure and setbacks more readily and learn that they need to work harder. This plugs back into expert theory. Keep working hard and you will achieve. I’m hoping to instill this hard work concept into my daughters. Which will in turn pass to their children and people they encounter.

My story: As a child (5th & 6th grade) I was placed into the Gifted and Talented program. I never had to study or work hard until I got to college. This caused me a lot of harm when I first started failing because I never developed good study habits. I thought everyone was smarter than me. It turns out they were just doing their work and I was busy playing Nintendo. I’m interested in hearing other peoples experiences with hard work or being gifted and them becoming a slacker.

Related Links:

The Expert Mind

How to Raise Smart Kids

Talent is Overrated

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