“NOT JUST A TOASTER WITH PICTURES“

“Since 1950 there has been a total of more than 3,500 research studies conducted in America on the effects of media violence on the population. One random analysis of almost 1,000 studies found to demonstrate there is a tangible correlation between violent entertainment and violent behavior.”

“In the realm of media violence research scientists over five decades have been able to repeatedly demonstrate both short term and long term increases of violent behavior as the result of short term and long term exposure of manufactured horror.”

Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill – Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano

Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass

library of congress reading room
“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” – William Cowper

Drink at the Bar Nothing bar anything

X – The Have Not

seattle undergroundDrink at the Bar Nothing bar anything

But the bottom step of the ladder
It keeps getting higher and higher

Dawn comes soon enough for the working class
It keeps getting sooner or later
This is the game that moves as you play

How does it feel to have your own bottle of booze
Behind the bar, how does it feel
To play cards with the barmaids while they work

At Jocko’s Rocketship
Or The One Eye Jack
My Sin and The Lucky Star
A steady place to study and drink

Day old days
Ancient bloody mary bastards
In a hardcore blue collar bar
Here we sit, a shot and a beer
After another hard earned day

Dawn comes soon enough for the working class
It keeps getting sooner or later
This is the game that moves as you play

At the Hi-D-Hi
And The Hula Gal
Bee-Hive Bar and The Zircon Lounge
G.G.’s Cozy Corner
The Gift Of Love
Stop’N’Drink, Sit’N’Sip, Rest’N’Pieces
Dexter’s New Approach and The Get Down Lounge
The Aorta Bar, Detroit’s Main Vein

Sadako and the Paper Cranes

I recently had the privilege of visiting the  Oklahoma City National Memorial in OKC. As part of the museum exhibit you come upon hundreds of  golden cranes. The description says they started arriving in OKC after the bombing and at first people were not sure why. Then they learned of the story  SADAKO.

Sadako by Kamoda cc on flickr

I bought the  SADAKO book in the museum shop to learn more.  From  Wikipedia on Sadako:

On August 3, 1955, Sadako’s best friend Chizuko Hamamoto came to the hospital to visit and cut a golden piece of paper into a square and folded it into a paper crane. At first Sadako didn’t understand why Chizuko was doing this but then Chizuko retold the story about the paper cranes. Inspired by the crane, she started folding them herself, spurred on by the Japanese saying that one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish.

It just struck me on several chords. First the story of the paper cranes. Second the unexpected gesture from Japan and the global community to OKC in a time of sadness. Third the origin of the story from the Hiroshima bombing. I can’t quite wrap my brain around it, but it definitely hit me in the gut.

The photo above is from the  Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. Thanks to Flickr userKamodo for the CC licensed photo.

faulty redundant asynchronous communication is efficient

I found myself with 60 relevant business emails in my inbox last Wednesday, the morning before I flew out on a business trip, and I jumped over to twitter to find out if anything important was going on. Baroo? Why did my brain tell me to do that?

Four things about twitter communication of note:

  1. Human editors. You follow people who by nature editorialize. You know a human is posting something that they find interesting.
  2. Redundant. Lots of people retweet the same content. So if you miss the message from one person odds are you will see someone else post it if the message is important enough.
  3. Asynchronous. You have a minute to think about it before you hit send. This time delay is key to avoiding mistakes common in real-time communication.
  4. Faulty. There is no guarantee that someone saw your last tweet. And we LIKE this fact. The imperfect delivery is a good thing. We get annoyed when someone asks “did you see my tweet?” as if it were email!

I had an old boss in the early 1990s who used to not watch TV or read the newspaper. When asked how he would know if something big happened he always replied “if it’s that important, the news will come to me.” And I think he was right.

When looking at the four elements above, if you change “human editor” to “biological” you have a very accurate description of evolution. Biological, redundant, asynchronous and faulty are all attributes of all living things and result in an intelligent and evolved communication method.

When these attributes (biological, redundant, asynchronous, faulty) are applied to Neural Networks, these researchers show

Biological systems have a large degree of redundancy, a fact that is usually thought to have little effect beyond providing reliable function despite the death of individual neurons. We have discovered, however, that redundancy can qualitatively change the computations carried out by a network. We prove that for both feedforward and feedback networks the simple duplication of nodes and connections results in more accurate, faster, and more stable computation.

It turns out that “No, I did not see your tweet” creates a more accurate network. A neural network of humans processing whatever it is they are processing on a given day. And somehow that means the news comes to us.

And oh ya, you should follow me on twitter here.

don’t seek happiness, seek meaning

ARCHIVE POST. PLEASE COMMENT ON THE ORIGINAL ON CHRON.

Several friends of mine over the last few years have talked a lot about “seeking happiness” and the goal of “being happy”. Some even have “happiness projects.”  I am reminded that America’s liberties include the right to “the pursuit of happiness.”

Yet there is something about the pursuit of happiness as an end goal that bothers me. I find the pursuit of happiness alone to be shallow — I don’t think it makes you happy long term.

Money doesn’t bring happiness.  Tiger Woods is worth close to a billion dollars, is married to a Scandinavian swimsuit model, and yet he still felt the need to sleep with an assortment of cocktail waitresses so that he could feel better about himself.

Yes we all need money. We are capitalists as a country. We earn money. Is money the motivator? Not for me beyond a certain point. It’s this internal drive. I don’t think I will ever show up  at work without a fire in my belly and a drive to accomplish MORE. You take risks so you sometimes fail. When you fail you are unhappy. You get back up. That’s how it works.

I can’t be described as walking around in “a state of happiness.” I am much more wound up than that. But my life has meaning because I take care of my family, which in turn makes me feel happy. I have surrounded myself with intriguing people who I deeply care about. My relationship with God is conflicted, but that is hardly surprising for a  Catholic Army Brat. My relationship with my kids could be better, but in my defense they are  called teenagers for a reason. I am approaching my 20th wedding anniversary which we will  celebrate in style. I could work out more, but I do work out. I am working on all of those things. They are meaningful and they require hard work. I have a damn good life, but what I am not is running around completely happy all of the time.

My real issue is that I believe “the pursuit of happiness” is  misguided and superficial as an goal.

Yes I said it. It’s shallow, people. We should seek meaning. If you  seek meaning then happiness may, or may not, follow. There are no guarantees. But to flip it around and seek  happiness first simply doesn’t work. Without first forming a clear idea of  what you find meaningful and worthwhile, chasing “happiness” is like chasing a figment of your imagination.   You will find the  proverbial cart, and then abandon it after a day or two when you realize there is  no horse attached and it’s useless.

Seeking happiness as the end goal leads you to wander the desert until you find the NEXT  bright shiny object. This again makes you happy. Briefly. But unless you load it up with  pirated Plato and talk about it, it won’t bring happiness either, as the  it is just a thing.

How many marriages  fail because someone says “I am just not happy” as if marriage is supposed to be 100% happy? And are these folks reading interesting books, talking about them, and seeking the meaning in life?

Yes clean out your closet if that makes you happy. But please let us not discuss your closet cleaning as meaningful conversation or life changing. Particularly lets not talk about the closet when our education system  has eliminated shop class and our  partisan politicians on both sides are putting their political parties over the people they represent. There are  meaningful big questions to consider.

It turns out I am not alone that meaning is more important than happiness alone. Sunday’s Chronicle has a post titled  Seeking happiness? Think big thoughts by Robert Zaretsky. It begins:

A recent study finds what we all once knew before our hectic lives made us forget: that like good barbecue or prime crude, the making of  happiness takes time. Time enough, and world enough with others.

According to Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona,  individuals who spend more of their time wondering about big questions, and doing so in the company of others, are happierthan those who wonder about the weather or John Edwards’ love child.

Don’t worry, be happy. I have nothing against happy  LOLcats and  sports talk. They are great conversation starters.  Deep meaningful questions can be derived from them. I enjoy these diversions. But they don’t bring happiness in and of themselves. Fewer hours at work to give me more time to read LOLCats will not in fact make me happier. Yet contemplating with friends what  deep psychological need is met by  Internet memes may in fact make us happier. Meaning may help you avoid the quarter-life-crisis.

Others are free to seek happiness as a goal even if I don’t think that is a worthy goal in and of itself. As for me I will continue to seek meaning with my family and friends. I may not get there, I may not find the meaning of life, but it takes time, and  seeking meaning is proven a better path than seeking happiness alone. And I intend to enjoy the thoughts and the journey of life.

I’ll leave you with a video from my friend  Aaron who had it posted on his blog after Hurricane Ike. It’s his girls at the beach at his parents old beach house on bolivar. The video has meaning. And it makes you happy too.

Continuous, accurate information processing

“Continuous, accurate information processing is essential for many adjustment processes of any living system. Constant, vigilant visual observation, for example, enables a fish to know at every moment the locations of dangerous bigger fishes about it. When a school of large fish rushes toward it and surrounds it, presenting more and more threatening images, if it cannot process all the information it receives and as a result becomes confused, its survival as a living system is threatened.“

– Living Systems, James Grier Miller, pg 121

“Pathology at the level of the group. Certain arrangements of the channel and net subsystems of groups centralize communications in one or a few members, and they consequently tend to suffer from information input overloads. Frequently one member of a group ““ like the chairman of a committee, the quarterback of a football team, or the ranking officer in a command post ““ takes on an undue proportion of the total information processing being carried out by his group. Under such circumstances pathological group processes can easily arise. There appear to be no experimental studies of such pathology, however.”

Living Systems, James Grier Miller, pg 169

Getting to Zero in Management

“And if you ask her for a new assignment, a promotion into a new role, you’re likely to hear the speech she first heard long ago from Mr. Hicks about “getting to zero“ with a job. 11:59

To explain, she picks up a piece of paper and draws a line across it. She shades an area below the left end of the line.

“When you start the job, whatever it is, you have to find out who the secretary is, where the bathrooms are, who your teammates are,“ she says. “Trust me, for a lot of time you are operating below zero.“

She then points to the middle stretch of the line.

“This is when most people want to leave a job,“ she adds. “They say: “˜I’m done. I know everything. I’m done.’ But think about that. If you left there, basically all this area under the curve, which is negative, which is take-away, you owe the company all of that. Then you do this for six more months, and you can operate the place smoothly, but you haven’t really transformed it in the ways that you can help to transform it.“

She starts shading an area above the line to the right. That represents what a manager is expected to contribute “” what to give back “” after absorbing all of the training and experience that exists below the left side of the line. The balance amounts to “getting to zero.“

“You can only leave after you put in as much above the curve as under the curve. Unfortunately, that usually takes more than a day, and it takes a couple years,“ Ms. Burns says. “People would come in to me and say: “˜You put me in this developmental assignment. I know how to run the place now. Thank you. Can I go to the next one?’ I say: “˜Well, how about all the stuff that you owe us? How about getting settled in for a little while longer and then start to transform it?’ “

Xerox’s New Chief Tries to Redefine Its Culture