Critical Section

Archive: May 3, 2003

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Fehlervorhersagefreude II

Saturday,  05/03/03  05:29 PM

Are you using Fehlervorhersagefreude in everyday conversation?  You're not?  Well, perhaps the proper pronunciation is holding you back.  Lakmal Gunasekara kindly provided this example, however he assures me that this is an "unwort" (a word that isn't a word).  He did mention that there is an official group which elects an Unwort of the Year, so we can always hope...


Saturday,  05/03/03  06:11 PM

Time Magazine: The Truth about SARS.  "It's deadly, infectious and not going away."

We know it is deadly, and we know it is infectious.  What seems controversial is the idea that it is not going away.  History is definitely on the side of the pessimists; no such disease has ever been defeated by quarantine alone.  Until there is a successful treatment regime and some sort of vaccine to keep it from spreading, it is going to spread.

Consider the parallels to AIDS, a viral infection like SARS.  AIDS is not airborne, it requires fluid contact between people for transmission.  SARS is airborne.  AIDS has a slow incubation period.  SARS appears to have a fast incubation period.  If untreated AIDS generally results in death, although there are exceptions.  SARS appears at least as fatal as AIDS, although it is too early to be certain.  Despite medicine's best efforts over the last thirty years, including development of a successful treatment regime, AIDS is still growing and remains a leading cause of death, especially in Africa.  It would appears that AIDS will not really be slowed until a vaccine is developed.  AIDS has resisted development of a vaccine by mutating rapidly; SARS has already demonstrated a similar capability.  Unless there is a breakthrough and a SARS vaccine is developed more quickly than one for AIDS, doesn't it seem like SARS is going to follow the same trajectory as AIDS, only faster?

Steven Den Beste posted a fascinating article about blogrolling.  He notes the dilution that occurs when people have really long blogrolls...  (and interestingly calls it an "inverse network effect".)  Similar to this discussion on Pierre Omidyar's site about BlogShares, which models the "value" of a blog by its inbound links, and then divides this value among its outbound links.

Steven also draws a distinction between 'linkers' (bloggers who's posts are centered around links to other blogs, like Glenn Reynolds) and 'thinkers' (bloggers who write articles with original content themselves, like Steven himself).  I must admit I spent much more time linking than thinking...

Jamie Zaworsky says CSS is BS.  The post is interesting and so is the comment thread which follows it.  I'm not as anti-CSS as he is, but I must ask - what's wrong with tables?  They do seem to work...

Here's an interesting post by Rob Howard; he reports on a product review meeting attended by Bill Gates.  "I thought it was going to be more overview and less detail, but instead what it reminded me of was a feature team meeting."

After 19 seasons, John Stockton is retiring.  I guess he was a lot of people's favorite player; he was one of mine.  He always seemed like an underdog, even though he was probably the most talented point guard ever to play.  A small white guy in a league of big black guys, he used quickness, court sense, and anticipation instead of sheer athleticism to dominate games.  Like Magic Johnson, another of my favorites, he made his teammates better and was always looking for someone to setup with a pass, but if you left him open he'd burn you with a jumper, especially with the game on the line.  I rooted against the Jazz more often than for them - most of the time when I watched a Jazz game they were playing the Lakers - but I respected John and the league will miss him.  And to prove his feel for the game, he's retiring at the right time...

Finally - check out bardcode - Shakespeare in bar code.  Some people obviously have too much time...


Try, or Try Not

Saturday,  05/03/03  08:40 PM

For everything there is to do, the easy way to fail is simply not to try.  In this I humbly disagree with Master Yoda, who famously noted:

Master YodaTry not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.

There is definitely a try, even if it doesn't lead to a do.  And this separates winners from losers more surely than anything else.  Trying does not, in and of itself, lead to success, of course.  Depending on the goal, there are many ways to fail.  But not trying surely leads to failure.

I was thinking about John Stockton, the recently retired Utah Jazz basketball player who typified "trying".  He had a lot of talent, of course, so his trying led to success, but he will always be noted for his effort rather than his talent.  In thinking about John and giving full effort, I wondered "why doesn't everyone always try"?

There is effort involved in trying; an investment of resources, if you will, and so one could argue that not trying when you know you will fail is prudent.  But I don't think that's it.  Not trying is not a calculated decision, it is emotional.  People just don't like to fail.  If you don't try, you can always reassure yourself with the false comfort that you would have succeeded, if only you had tried.  Once you try and fail, that's it.  Actually there is a gradient all the way from not trying to giving 100% effort.  Sometimes people do something in a half-hearted way, and possibly this is their form of "not trying"; they can feel they would have succeeded if they had given full effort, and thereby feel less bad about themselves for having failed.

As I've noted before, I believe happiness comes from liking yourself.  Things which make you feel better about yourself are "fun", and things which make you feel worse about yourself are not.  Trying to do something you are not good at may not be fun, in the sense that you will feel worse about yourself for your lack of skill or success.  This accounts for the wide range of things people do to have "fun"; different people are skilled at different things.  Certainly you don't have to feel worse about yourself for not trying or doing all of these things.  That is the "out"; if you don't try, you won't fail.

But...  That's fine for discretionary recreational activities.  But what about life itself?  What about your family?  Your profession?  Your contribution to the world?  In these things not trying is the surest way to fail.  You may be able to convince yourself that your lack of success is due to lack of effort, not lack of skill, but that is secondary; your lack of success will be a fact either way.

The key seems to be to regard trying itself as a success.  Yoda himself understood this, for he said:

Learn to lose as well as win, a Jedi must.

If you can feel good about yourself for your effort - regardless of the results - then you can always succeed.


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Greatest Hits
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
Emergent Properties
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji The Nest Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
Adding Value
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
Toy Story
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
visiting Titan
unintelligent design
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
second gear
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
universal healthcare
triple double
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Holiday Inn
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
vote smart
exact nonsense
introducing eyesFinder
to space
where are the desktop apps?