Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Thought It Was Because of His Slight Lisp

NRO has a good article about why Rudy faded so fast from the election.

If McCain is the nominee I will seriously consider sitting this one out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

First Review: HBO's "In Treatment"

One early reviewer noted that the new series "In Treatment" from HBO was the replacement for "The Sopranos", but zeroing in on the psychiatry. I really like Gabriel Byrne, who plays the shrink, so I thought I would give it a spin.

I watched the first night and was a bit disappointed, but that was because I didn't understand the format. This is like a weekly mini-mini-series where you watch four days of the shrink listening to his patients, and then the last day of the week you hear him talking to HIS shrink.

That's what I didn't like about the first episode - that we got nothing from the shrink, but heard a 30 minute session about the patient. Byrne only had about ten lines (after all, he's a shrink and is supposed to listen). Apparently each patient comes back the same time each week (so each Monday will be the same patient, etc.) then each Friday Byrne goes to his own shrink to wrap things up, so I assume that will be 30 minutes of listening to just him.

So I will give it a full week before I give my final verdict.

Like legal shows versus real law, there is a lot here that you wouldn't find in "real" psychotherapy, but that is a discussion for another time.

Update: The second episode was much better. Blair Underwood did a good job as the "Tuesday" patient and there was a lot more feedback from Byrne this time. A good write-up is here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Just One Word: Haptics

Haptic technology refers to technology which interfaces the user via the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations and/or motions to the user. - Wikipedia

Moore's Law doesn't only apply to semiconductors, it also applies to sensors. In fact, using semiconductor process technology to create Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems ("MEMS") is creating sensors and output mechanisms that are getting smaller and smaller.

Combine these systems with a fast microprocessor, and you have a small and efficient system to input and output information based on touch, motion and vibration. So efficient, in fact, that it can now be found in a video game controller for kids (i.e. the Wii controller).

This is just a simple application, but many researchers and industry leaders think that haptics is just starting to take off, and that we will see more and more applications and products that use it as a part of its interface.

So if you are looking for a new technology to get into, this could be one of them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can You Say "Kludge"?

Apple fan-sites probably already posted this, but I heard about this only today. What a joke - you have to encase your entire phone, removing its functionality, to get a few more powers of optical zoom:

Thanks to the people at Conice, iPhone owners can now get in close on the action without actually being close, because here is an optical zoom lens designed specifically for the Jesus phone. Because there is nowhere on the iPhone where this barrel can screw in, the optical zoom lens attaches to a transparent protective case that wraps around the rest of the iPhone.Yes, it takes away from the sleekness of the iPhone and it weighs nearly as much (4.69 ounces vs. the 4.8-ounce iPhone), but now you get to enjoy 6x optical zoom.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Finally Had to Encrypt My WIFI

I've had a WIFI network for several years now and never bothered to put in a password. I didn't mind if a neighbor used some of my bandwidth AS LONG AS I still had decent upload speeds. I "borrow" bandwidth from time to time when I travel and I am conscious about using it just for quick email or light browsing - no video, software, etc.

Over the past few months I noticed my connection getting very sluggish. I finally logged on to my router and was shocked to find not just a couple of neighbors had been logging on, but over a dozen computers had logged onto my system. A couple of them had the names of teens around the block, and that is where I guess my bandwidth went.

So I finally encrypted my network. It's a little disappointing in a way since I don't mind opening my network as long as it isn't abused.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What if "Performance Enhancing Drugs" Weren't Just for Athletes?

We all know about various athletes who have been shamed for performance enhancing drugs. There are probably a lot more we don't know about.

So here's some questions:

  • If there were a performance enhancing drug for your field or profession, you would take it?

  • Would you take it if it were illegal?

  • Would you take it if it had deleterious long-term health effects?

  • Is there something close to a performance enhancing drug for your field or profession today?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nokia Pulls Manufacturing Out of Germany

I had several thoughts about this article, but the bottom line is that I am not surprised: Nokia to close Germany plant, lay off 2,300

Nokia further said that renewing the site was not an option, as doing so would require additional investments that would not result in manufacturing in Bochum being globally competitive.
Nokia follows BenQ and Motorola in exiting mobile phone manufacturing in Germany

The article says they are moving production "elsewhere in Europe", so it will go to Eastern Europe for a while before finally settling in Asia, like everything else.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Mood Gym

I stumbled upon the "Mood Gym", which promises to give you an emotional workout if you are feeling anxious or depressed. I thought I would play around with it for five minutes and write a pithy review here.

30 minutes into the thing I barely made a dent. Like a real gym, to get anything out of it apparently requires about a half hour of dedication over multiple sessions. But from one session, here are a few observations:

  • The basic principle of the system is Cognitive Behavior Therapy. In this type of psychoanalysis, the effort is to "retrain" your mind to think differently, rather than delving into your past and all that Freudian stuff. What matters what you think moving forward, not what happened in your past.
  • The gym puts this concept as "WYTIWYF", or What You Think is What You Feel (a take-off of WYSIWYG). This is backwards from what most people believe, which is their thoughts are based on what their mood is, instead of the other way around.
  • The Gym comes out of the University of Australia, and seems mainly geared towards young adults, so some of the depressing situations it describes are breaking up with a boyfriend or failing a test versus getting laid off or losing a child.
From what I've seen it is fairly interesting and worth spending some time with you are prone to either anxiety or depression and want to look a little into CBT.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

So The Japanese Don't Think I Am a Boring Speaker

When I first starting traveling and doing "pitches" in Japan, I noticed many times that people in the room would seem to be nodding off in the middle of my presentation. I thought maybe I wasn't being dynamic enough, or maybe they didn't understand English and decided to sleep while I was up there. But then I noticed senior managers nodding off in the middle of round table discussions, allowing their subordinates talk through the issues.

I came to find out over the years that this is an acceptable practice in Japan called inemuri, and the BBC had a section about it on an article on sleep last year. It really is quite common to see this in Japan.

The other thing you see in Japan is people napping during lunch. They have a quick bite to eat then lie with their head on their hands right at their desk. I have walked through rooms at lunch time and have seen a dozen people hunched over in front of their computers. Some companies even have a little "chime" at the end of lunch to alert these nappers that lunch is over and it is time to get to work again.

It's one of those things you get used to after being in Japan for a while, and something you would never see in the U.S.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Talent vs. Effort

There are two mutually exclusive statements that we can choose to teach our children:
You can be anything you want to be!

You have your own unique talents no one else has!
From a broader perspective, these could be classified as Nature versus Nurture, but from a practical standpoint it comes down to effort versus talent. And based on my own experience and observations of the world, I am firmly on the talent side. Now, talent has to be developed and nurtured through additional hard work, but I do believe the talent has to be there to begin with, especially for someone to be truly successful in a specific sport, art, or even career.

I have seen too many people struggle, work, put in the hours in one area only to reach mediocrity. It's not that they didn't want it, it's that the the talent wasn't there to begin with, so the effort could only take them so far.

I remember watching a movie - I can't remember what it was - where a girl's dream is to join the Ice Capades. She practices and practices and really wants it, but when she tries out she isn't good enough. She simply didn't have the talent, and after she fails she finally realizes it. From what I remember of the movie she wasn't bitter about it, and she had the good sense to simply move on.

So the secret in live is to find your talent. Unfortunately there is no one to simply tell us what it is and we have to discover it ourselves.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Books on Planes

Since I do a lot of reading on planes I decided to use my local library more this year. The selection is much wider than I can find at my local book store or can possibly browse at Amazon, I don't have to worry about getting rid of the book when I am done, and of course the price is right.

But I did discover a helpful airplane book hint: read the first chapter or so of a book BEFORE bringing it on the plane. That way you won't get stuck with a clunker. One of these was so bad I spent a trans-Pacific flight staring out the window instead of reading the damn book:

Requiem of an Assassin - The latest installment of the "John Rain" series, this quick-paced action thriller was a lot better than the third installment, which I thought was contrived. Four out of five stars. (This one was actually from Amazon)

Blaze - I stopped reading Steven King years ago. His writing was good but became more and more bloated as he became more popular and his editors lost control of him. I gave up on the "Gunslinger" novels about halfway through they became so boring. I picked up this "Richard Bachman" book in the library and thought maybe they still edited his nom de plume since it was less than 800 pages. The book was a quick read. King's writing talents shine through, and the story starts off interesting, but I thought went sideways about halfway through. Three stars.

The Archivist's Story - The synopsis sounded promising: early Soviet era archivist tries to save a work of newly created literature of Babel from Communist destruction. The problem was that it read like a Russian novel - slow, ponderous, and lots of characters coming in and out of the story. Thank goodness it wasn't as long as Tolstoy. Two stars.

King of Methlehem - This was a good short story that the author added a lot of filler to so it was novel length. The book is basically cop vs. meth dealer in Tacoma, one of the meth capitals of North America. The insight of the meth wars was quite fascinating, the story itself so-so. 2.5 stars.

Twilight - All the women in my neighborhood were swooning over the "Twilight Saga" and have spent the last two months passing the three books back and forth. The praise was unanimous, so I packed the first one in the series on a trip to Korea. I gave up 120 pages into it. Sorry, but I don't relate to teenagers, vampires, or teenagers who happen to be vampires. Must be a chick thing. Zero stars.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

But I Feel Fatter

My post holiday weigh-in and...I am exactly the same.

The problem is that I feel fatter, maybe because I think there is no way that I ate so many extra calories while cutting back on exercise that I couldn't have gained.

Since muscle weighs more than fat, if you lose the former and gain the latter you can actually gain "fat" while not changing your total on the bathroom scale.

How did everyone else do?