Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Posts Tagged ‘cool’

Book Review: SuperFreakonomics by Levitt & Dubner

Posted by jaystile on August 15, 2010


My friend from work loaned me SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Thanks buddy! I was really looking forward to reading it. Before I get to the review, I just wanted to point out that I was so astounded by Freakonomics that I pre-ordered SuperFreakonomics for another friend that loaned me the original Freakonomics.

I only have this to say, “I LOVE FREAKONOMICS!” The process of bringing economic research techniques to areas other than finance produce interesting results. If you’ve never read this type of book, you will be pleasantly surprised. Freakonomics investigates human behavior and try and unravel the reasons why people behave the way they do. They break down the behavior and find the incentives. I’m not going to go on too much, but I love it when people break down the conventional wisdom. While most people I’ve chatted with ranked SuperFreakonomics higher than Freakonomics, I would disagree. You can read my review on Freakonomics here.

There is only about 200 pages of content in the book and I read through it over the weekend. Lots of fun and worth your time. Enjoy!


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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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Book Review: Outliers – The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Posted by jaystile on January 6, 2009

Outliers - The Story of Success

Outliers - The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell has done it to me again. The beginning of this book comes out giving you both barrels. A double shot blast to the psyche. It is so profound and simple it has driven me to the point of agitation and a rapid pulse. Are you ready for it? Talent is overrated. You might have heard me rant about this before on my other post on Expert Theory (what does it take to succeed). Malcolm presents you with evidence about junior hockey players. The cutoff date for Hockey Players is January 1st. That means if you were born January 2nd 1990 you would play against other competitors born up until December 31st 1990. An almost 12 month age advantage. This might not seem like a big deal to adults, but in the realm of childhood it has huge ramifications. Those who are the biggest and more coordinated are also the ones born closest to the cutoff date. Those are the same children that get chosen for the elite teams. Then they play more games. Then they get more experience. Then they show up as the ‘best’ next year. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy! Those born in December might as well not even try out. This disparity carries over into college and then into the professional levels. What is the chance that a professional hockey player (or college or elite junior) was born in January, February, or December? 60%! Hockey is not the only field where this applies. It also works for soccer and little things like your education!

Malcolm Gladwell’s evidence backed assertion is that your talents do not matter as much as you think they do. It matters what family you were born to, where you were born, and when you were born. This has become very personal for me. Allow me to explain. My daughter is scheduled to start Kindergarten next fall. She will be 4 when she starts and turn 5 in September. She is two weeks from the cutoff date of October 1. That means most of her classmates will probably have 6 – 12 months of maturity and growth on her. That didn’t bother me so much but Gladwell presented evidence that a student with an eight month age advantage will score about 81% on the standardized tests compared to the 68% by their younger peers. Holy Cow! I have an August birthday and my mom waited to enroll me in Kindergarten until I was 6. I was always just a little bit older than everyone else. This put me in the advanced reading program from an early age. That means, I got more experience reading than my underage peers. This set me up for the gifted and talented programs which gave me even more experience. This has definitely given me something to think about for my daughter. Do I want her to struggle to keep up with her older peers? Or do I want her to smack down her peers education-wise like a 14 year old Cuban pitching in the 12 year old World Series?

The book slows down after the start and continues to show that circumstances lead more to success than any one factor. He demonstrates that a high IQ does not immediately equals success. He discusses the differences between convergent IQ (can you get the right answer) and divergent IQ (how many uses can you come up for with a brick?) He continues to demonstrate that 1830 was the best year to be born to be an entrepreneur (Cargnegie, Vanderbilt, Rockfeller), The best year to become a lawyer specializing in corporate takeovers 1930, and 1955 was the best year to become a software tycoon (Bill Gate, Steve Jobs). The point that is driven home is that you need a good IQ, not the best IQ, you need a good education not necessarily the best education, and the experience (10000hrs) in your field. What you need more than anything is the proper set of circumstances and the opportunity.

I have been exposed to these ideas before, but this book goes more in depth. I enjoyed reading it. The prose is easy to understand and he presents many interesting anecdotes to demonstrate the concepts. I should probably read The Tipping Point next since I enjoyed his other book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Published by Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group. 285 pages.

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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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