Wednesday, August 29, 2012

grooveshark reinstated wsj

grooveshark decision – nyt

the grand distortion – keller nyt affiliate net

bittman on organic farming

Thank you. Now read this

… (Jeremy) Grantham concludes that we are “about five years into a chronic global food crisis that is unlikely to fade for many decades.”

From Mark Bittman today at NYT

And who is Jeremy Grantham? He is a finance guy. An investment strategist. Is he right? I have no idea. But … he might be. And if he is, a lot of things will change in a relatively short time frame.

Returning to Gentle Leadership

August 29th, 2012

The other day I had a chance to watch a TED videby Bunker Roy about the “barefoot university” in India. It is worth a look see for several reasons.

It is a fun story, but more important, I think that we have something to learn here about ourselves. Hmmmm … what could that be? Put simply, learning is about what we do, not what we are told to do. Bunker Roy takes this to an extreme when he says that no one with a higher degree was allowed to contaminate the teaching at the barefoot university. Meaning, the barefoot university is 100% geared to serve the learning needs of the poor — in turn meaning that the poor teach and learn themselves about what they need.

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that learning is about gaining expertise. The danger from chasing after expertise is that we can get locked us into roles rather than learn what connects us to groups.

My earlier post on motivating people got me thinking about this.

Success in a Globalised World

August 28th, 2012

From the Kernel

In a globalised economy, the winners will be those that have the best networks, relationships and channels, the ability to lure smart people from all points of the compass, and the ability to communicate in a way that’s familiar to as many constituents as possible.

Notice how much relies on connecting with people. But the Kernel left out the most important thing — accelerated learning capacity.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


a book about Christine Granville – econ

ambri 2 years away – giga

getting to mars as signature event – nyt

digestion issues and calories – sa

simple and measurable improvements – blog

aws – nyt

burning man site

Good to hear from you!
I’m on my way to Burning Man in Nevada,
you should look up some
videos, that’s where the really interesting stuff is happening.

Thinking about vision and reach

One of the things I have learned over the years is that my capacity to learn has not been a fixed thing. Sometimes I was capable of learning more and faster. Sometimes this capacity shrank. This was disorienting when I wanted to master something, but found that my capacity wasn’t up to the job. Like when I struggled through my final semester of calculus in university. It had been so easy before!

At the same time, the sense that our capacity is fluid presents us with a rather intriguing possibility. If we can identify the factors that increase our capacity to learn, we can make better use of learning in our lives. We can get a lot smarter. Hmm … that would be nice.

So what factors help us to learn?  Here is my initial thought, and it has to do with the left side/right side dynamic in the brain. The left side of the brain is bounded. In other words, it operates within a fixed set of parameters and strives to tidy up the mess of data that it is given. But the right side expands our vision and experience. You might say that we see with the right side and think with the left. We use both in learning but in different ways.

Here is the learning problem. Our capacity to see (right side) does not change quickly. We can’t speed it up. It goes at its own pace. But our capacity to use what we believe(left side) can be pushed to go faster (like when we race to solve a sudoku puzzle). So, to expand our vision of what is possible we need to slow down. To expand our capacity to use what we see, we need to speed up.  There is at least a superficial contradiction.

Can we resolve that contradiction? Sure. We just need to find the optimal balance between slowing down and speeding up. Something like this. We strive to slow our movements down, valuing the slowing down so that we can see more and allow our vision to evolve.  Within this slow mode, we free the mind to move as fast as it wants to (assembling possibilities from what our vision gives us). Move slow, learn fast? I don’t offer this as an ultimate solution. But just a starting point to test capacity building. BTW,  this is what meditation offers. Stopping movement and freeing the brain.

On a more basic level, I see a distinction between to critical vales.

One is vision. In order to learn, we have to value seeing beyond what is at the end of out nose. Lydia Netzer’s article on why getting humans to mars gives a good example of an expression of this value.

The second is reach. Within our vision, we should value expanding what is possible to do. Thus we squeeze out the full value from the experiences. We also see what is beyond our reach at present.

It is tempting to use these words primarily as descriptions of capacity. So we might say that we admire the vision of a great person. But we can think of them in terms of values as well. We all have vision and reach. But we differ in how well we use them to good ends.

FOLLOW –  And my problem with calculus? Something had changed between my earlier and last experiences. During my final semester, I was seeing other stuff that was exhausting my mental capacity in this area. You might say that I had far less reach than I had had before.

2d FOLLOW –  The above vocabulary opens up an area of thinking about institutional learning capacity. In groups, it is important for all participants to work with vision and reach issues – and to distinguish them within the storyline that holds the group together.

Monday August 27, 2012

the privatization process via nasa at

iridium bet on spacex – an amazing story – giga

less exercise, more weight loss? atl

barefoot university – Gandhi lives – TED

dinner – onion stew – slowly saute onions in oil then add finely chopped zuchini salt and some balsamic. Simmer slowly – then add halved cherry tomatoes and a bit of chopped chorizo. I added one piece of shaslok as well. slow simmer for a while. Then add one can of that great black bean soup. Simmer to meld. To serve – in a bowl, top with yoghurt, spring onion and some marinated olives




Losing the European cosmopolitan ideal – nyt

The economic crisis that has plagued us may be the precursor to something worse. A loss of cosmopolitan ideals and a return to more parochial politics

wyden and bipartisanship – keller NYT

winner take all politics in Washington is weakening the ability of legislators to think outside the box

coming soon netflix tv – giga

It is only a matter of time before web video becomes web based TV. Netflix is a leader in building a new business model around that idea

Furious Finns? – Economist

Some Finns see themselves as big losers in making a grand bargain to save the euro. And they may not have that much to lose by exiting. Hmmm …

Sunday, August 26, 2012

stoppard, Ford and the neo-edwardians – nyt

apping up free games – blog

unrest in tatarstan – nyt

auto-immune system and autism – nyt

easy tomato pie – 101 cookbooks

import aperol? spritxer, site, wiki

frozen yoghurt – from lebowitz

america’s cup on steroids . wired

the tail end of the sun belt wave – nyt

romney damage control – nyt

Maureen Dowd has a great line about Mitt Romney today in her NYT oped. She writes

Romney seems to be forever on a journey out of vagueness, an endless search for identity.

Forever on a journey out of vagueness? Brilliant. And the phrase might apply more broadly than to poor old Mitt. Perhaps it even is a universal description of how it feels to be trapped in youth. When you feel childhood fading away and you need a new focus. You need an anchor that tells the world who you are. But just who are you? Well, at that moment, it is too early to tell. And it is painful to realize that as a young person, you don’t yet have a worthy story to tell.

So what does one normally do? One goes looking for anchors. Role models. That is what I did. I was fascinated by the life stories of great men. Lincoln’s story appealed, though it was rather bloody. Churchill too, with his amazing ups and downs. Both had tremendous strength of character. And there was Joyce and an endless array of writers. Less resoluteness but more entertaining. Finally, there were my own forebears. I thought deeply about their stories, wondering what I could and would carry further.

Taking these stories in helped me quite a lot in those days. But it was not enough. Why not? Because you can never take over the life stories of others. At some point you need to make a pivot. At some moment in time, you need to move from looking for an anchor to being an anchor.

To see this more clearly, we might consider the “reward” we get from great adventure stories. After the monsters are slain and the hero returns home, his or her experience radiates through time, inspiring us. But being inspired by heroism is not quite the same as being heroic ourselves. To become the hero, you need to earn the title by creating the story and making it your badge. Which, BTW, is why Mitt is a bit odd. He wants the hero role, but can’t seem to tell the hero story. Here is the kicker. In this type of story, “earning” is more valuable than “having”. Using Pressfield’s vocabulary, we cannot kill the monster once and for all. We do it in each moment as we build our evolving story. The more we do, the more we earn the title.Consider this rant from Pressfield

Everything wasn’t always a “business.” We didn’t always look at the world in terms of return on investment, quarterly profits, or net worth. We didn’t follow Presidential elections based on how much money a candidate raises per month or define the American dream based purely on the pursuit of Ayn Randian self-interest.

We admired people for what they did. Not how much money they made.

Hold onto that idea of “self-interest” for a moment. We have more to say about what the “earning” story is about.

When one hears the beautiful final verses from the ten bulls

We might build further on this idea of the value of earning rather than having. When one hears the beautiful final verses from the ten bulls

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.

One should recall that these words are possible only after the hero goes through an incredible series of adventures. The story is less about the fact that he has a certain presence than how he earned it. The comment to the above verse says this more clearly

Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my garden is invisible.

Of course it is because it comes from within – not just for show. Going further,

Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs?

One need not chase any longer when one already has become what is needed.

I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I visit the wineshop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.

We might think of enlightenment in this context as an activity, not just a good feeling. These days, we use a different vocabulary. We speak of “building engagement”. You can do this when you are an anchor. Less so when you are searching for an anchor. And the critical first step to get there is to make the decision that it must be done. With that decision in hand, everything else becomes possible. Indeed, making that decision earns a certain reward in itself, being part of a story. Not making the decision guarantees a certain youthful vagueness.

In light of the above, consider Mark Ruxin’s definition of “taste” and how taste differs from “interests”

Taste … cuts to the core of a person’s evolving identity – his past, present and future. Interests can be more casual and transactional – stuff you might have, not the person that you are.  But taste implies a commitment of time and thought and, beyond defining who you are, it can inspire others.

I am most amused by the distinction.I agree with Ruxin that media, including web platforms, is about cultivating interests rather than taste. In the end, it is a bit like eating cardboard instead of food. But there is a deeper issue here.

As you may recall, the great Roger Fisher advised negotiators to find common “interests” rather than to negotiate from fixed positions. Fisher made a worthy contribution by opening a discussion about how effective communication builds joint opportunities. But I was never overly fond of the word “interests”. As Ruxin argues, the word has a certain tenuous quality. We look elsewhere for strength and clarity.

And “self-interest”? Remember Pressfield? Well, by now I hope that you will agree that this also has a rather tenuous value. While we all are self-interested to a degree, how much we “feed the monkey” is not the stuff of great life stories. And if you want to get deeper into that thought, go back to Pressfield. He has something to say to you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ryan and Rand– krugman – nyt

the RIAA bailout act – tech dirt

Dave Pogue on hollywood and piracy – tech dirt

asimov on wheat beer – nyt

indiegogo going international for share investing – giga

twitter as a media shill – giga

so long to the sob vidal – nyt

cohen on afghan hyposcrasy – nyt

introducing the cadilac ATS – nyt

The Gurgling Cod – written by a friend’s brother. It’s mostly about food, but also veers into culture and politics from time to time.

Techman’s World – written by AVC community member Michael Hazell. It’s mostly tech reviews, news, and commentary.

Tracey Talks – written by screenwriter and author Tracey Jackson. Tracey Talks is a wide ranging blog about life, culture, and other interesting stuff.

Arnold’s Wine Blog – everyone here knows Arnold. And Arnold knows wine. Enough said.

Becker Posner Blog – written by University of Chicago Professors Richard Posner and Gary Becker. This is the home of serious thought on the web. Amazing stuff. – nobody does the “picture plus a few choice words” thing better than Andy.