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Archive for October, 2013

Nike’s latest online sales

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Nike’s latest online sales

WOW! Now you can get really expensive NIKE

shoes for only $80 to $160…Such a deal!

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What Sports Can Teach About the ‘Cautionary Side’ of Big Data

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment
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October 31, 2013, 5:00 am

By Marc Parry

Steve-Hirdt


Steve Hirdt

New York — When college officials talk about using “Big Data” to improve higher education—the focus of a SUNY conferencehere this week—they often draw an analogyto Moneyball. The movie recounts how Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, revived his ailing baseball team by analyzing data in new ways.

So what might sports teach higher education about data mining? In academe the stakes are higher than in baseball, but progress toward making good use of data has been uneven. Nonetheless, colleges are busy mining students’ data trails to build software that does things like suggest what mathematics problems they should work on or even what classes they should take.

During a panel on Wednesday about the “cautionary side” of Big Data, colleges got some insight from Steve Hirdt, a 45-year sports-data veteran who is executive vice president at the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician to the major North American professional sports leagues. Elias records game statistics—hits in baseball, yards gained in football, points scored in basketball, etc.—and supplies data to teams and news-media clients. When you watch Monday Night Football, Mr. Hirdt is the guy off camera feeding the announcer facts like “Seattle 135 yards: fewest for a winning team in the NFL in the last three years.”

Mr. Hirdt drew on his football and baseball data experience to give colleges two main warnings:

First off, what you initially find in a given data set may turn out to be flat-out wrong upon closer scrutiny. In professional football, for example, a lot of early analysis looked at the role of running, Mr. Hirdt explained in an interview with The Chronicle. The statistics sheets of winning teams would show that they had run the ball, say, 40 times, and passed it 25 times. Aha! Running is the key! “That simple principle—you have to run to win—was so ingrained in a generation of football coaches based on an early look at the data,” Mr. Hirdt said.

The reality was different. In football, Mr. Hirdt noted, if you run the ball, the game clock generally keeps going. If you pass the ball, the clock stops for every incomplete throw. Teams that get ahead, Mr. Hirdt said, run the ball toward the end of games in order to use up the remaining time. If you compare stats from the first half of games, before the time remaining becomes so important, the result is entirely different from the old running-equals-victory dogma, Mr. Hirdt said. “You can see then that the teams are achieving their lead through passing,” he said, “and they’re just accumulating more running plays at the end, when they’re just protecting their lead.”

“A wrong conclusion from a cursory look—to me that’s the real cautionary side of Big Data,” Mr. Hirdt said. “If Big Data is going to amplify the possibilities for misapplication, as well as the possibilities for application, we might be in for a little bit of a rocky road.”

Mr. Hirdt’s second warning: Beware of basing decisions on averages.

He illustrated that point with a story from baseball. In 2006 the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals were down to one playoff game that would determine which team would go to the World Series. The Cardinals had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, with the dregs of the Mets’ lineup on deck. The first two Mets batters got hits. Now there were runners on first and second with nobody out. When computers first came into baseball, this kind of scenario was one of the first questions tackled: Is the batter better off sacrifice-bunting? Or swinging away? Data showed that, in general, you’re better off hitting away.

But a slew of factors made this situation different from the average case. It was the ninth inning of the last game of the playoffs. If the Mets didn’t score two runs, they were toast. One reason to swing away, in a typical situation, is the chance to get a big inning with a lot of runs. But that wasn’t even a possibility in the bottom of the ninth inning because three runs would end the game with a walk-off win. In an average game, moreover, the guys who got the two hits would have been two of the team’s better players. Here, the hits came from the seventh- and eighth-place hitters. So whatever the ninth batter did, the good hitters at the top of the lineup would soon come up. What’s more, the Mets’ had an adept bunter available to pinch-hit in the ninth slot, Tom Glavine.

But the Mets followed the conventional strategy. The batter swung away. And they lost.

Mr. Hirdt’s point: Nobody faces an average situation. Yes, knowing the average is a useful guidepost. But people must deal with specific situations, with immediate circumstances that must be brought to bear on decisions.

“It always stuck with me, that the specific sometimes can overwhelm the overall average,” he said. “But are people predisposed to think in terms of, Well, I’ll cover myself by staying with the average?”

With the Red Sox and Cardinals set to play Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night, the question that struck one audience member was what outcome Mr. Hirdt predicted: “Sox in six or Sox in seven?”

“I think it’ll be seven,” he said.

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Hooray! I am back from a computer crash

October 31, 2013 Leave a comment

The past few days have been very frustrating, but rewarding is that I have learned how good the security is at Word Press! 

MORAL…don’t lose your password!

Your grateful blogmaster (pro tem)

Bud Robinson

 

 

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Rock ‘n’ roll to save the Arctic (another slight digression by your blogmaster)

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

   

Greenpeace
Take action today!Stand with the activists being held in Russia by taking action to save the Arctic. By doing so you could win a trip to San Francisco to see Portugal. The Man play live at the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior!

Ships have always been a big part of Greenpeace’s history, and no ship has been involved with that history more than the Rainbow Warrior.

Our new, purpose built eco yacht, the Rainbow Warrior III, will be visiting the West Coast of the United States this fall, helping to spread the word about the organization’s mission, and opening its doors for the public to take a look around.

We’ve invited Portugal. The Man to perform in San Francisco while the ship is there to highlight our powerful Save The Arctic campaign. And we’re offering one lucky winner and a friend the chance to come and hang out with band and watch them perform.

Take action now to help us save the Arctic and you’ll also be entered to win a chance to see the band perform live in San Francisco!

The timing couldn’t be more important. 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists are currently in a Russian prison for standing their ground to protect the Arctic. They were there to raise awareness around dangerous Arctic drilling. Through this campaign you can help raise awareness too.

Join over 4 million others by signing the petition to protect the frozen North and you’ll be entered to win a trip to catch an intimate performance with Portugal. The Man at the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior in San Francisco, CA.

Stand with the brave Arctic 30, jailed in Russia for taking action to save the Arctic. By doing so you could win a trip to San Francisco to see the show!

The science is clear, due to man-made climate change the Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly. This melting has lead to the increase of extreme weather events around the world. Drilling for more oil in the Arctic will only make the problem worse.

Together, we can win this campaign. Finland’s government has already pledged support for our call to designate the high Arctic a global sanctuary, a place where no oil company is allowed to drill. 

Over the next couple years, the campaign plans to petition and lobby the other Arctic nations including the United States to convince them to follow suit. At the same time keeping companies like Shell from drilling for oil in the region. We will need your help to make this happen.

For the Arctic,

Ben Kroetz
Greenpeace Director of Online Strategy

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A Nice Example of a Young Designer’s Foray into Internet Sales

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

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Artists Take Up Digital Tools

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

NY Times

Robert Caplin for The New York Times“Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital,” at the Museum of Arts and Design, an exhibition of works by 85 international artists, architects and designers. Untitled #5 by Richard Dupont.

HILARIE M. SHEETS Published: October 25, 2013

Manipulating 3-D scans of his own body on the computer, Mr. Dupont then marries digital fabrication methods like rapid prototyping and computer numerically controlled milling with traditional plaster casting and other laborious hand work to make figures that can appear both archaic and futuristic. One of his standing nudes, similar in posture to the Kouros statues from ancient Greece, appears to melt into ripples when viewed on one axis, suggesting the psychic experience of man in the modern world.

 Robert Caplin for The New York Times

Shapeways, a 3-D printing marketplace, will scan visitors for 3-D-prints.

“The forms I end up with couldn’t have been done without using digital tools, but you have to disrespect them on some level,” he said. “It’s much more interesting if you can disrupt the expectations of what the technology can do.”

His work is on view now in “Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital” at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, an exhibition of works by 85 international artists, architects and designers including Frank Stella, Maya Lin, Daniel Libeskind, Ron Arad and Hiroshi Sugimoto, who are bending digital techniques to their own expressive ends.

“There’s been an explosion of creativity during the last decade as many artists are exploring the technologies and what boundaries they can push,” said the exhibition curator, Ronald Labaco. He notes that while some of the digital technology has been around since the 1990s, early practitioners approached it more as a novelty. “In recent years I’ve seen a shift in thinking from ‘What can the machine do?’ versus ‘How can I use this as part of the tool kit to achieve what I want to do?’ ”

For Chuck Close, known for his monumental portrait paintings transposed from photographs, the computer’s ability to convert images into data that can be read by an electronic loom got him deeply interested in the age-old medium of tapestry. In the exhibition, his 2009 digitally woven tapestry based on daguerreotypes of five angles of his own face looks almost like a holograph. The faces seem to emerge from the black matte background with a kind of aggressive clarity, an effect he loves.

While traditionally a tapestry might have taken a year or more to weave on the loom by hand, now it can be run off in a day. But the labor is shifted upfront. Mr. Close can spend a year creating a digital weave file on the computer that will direct the loom — establishing a palette with hundreds of steps from the lightest light to the darkest dark, changing thread colors and transitions, making test strips.

“It’s wonderfully complicated because you’re building an image,” said Mr. Close, who compared the process to both photography, in milking the contrast out of a negative in the darkroom, and painting, in mixing up lighter and darker colors. “I find these old-time systems — the daguerreotype and the loom — have real appeal and are something to breathe new life into.”

Many of the artists in the exhibition are playing with 3-D printing, a newer form of rapid prototyping that is beginning to be recognized by the general public with the advent of desktop 3-D printers and newsworthy developments in the medical field like the 3-D printing of a mouse heart capable of beating with electrodes attached.

“The technology allows you to design an object in virtual space and transmit the data to another machine to ‘grow’ or ‘print’ that object in 3-D,” the industrial designer Marc Newson said of these printers, which can dispense a variety of materials — plastics, metal powder and binders, plaster, animal cells — in very thin slices directed by a laser and build an object in layers.

The process allows for the seamless construction of incredibly intricate designs, including Mr. Newson’s 2006 “Random Pak Chair,” on view in the show, made from a perforated metal skin that mimics cellular structures. The physical fabrication of the chair was simplified through the technology, yet the design of its skin using generative software was more complex than anything Mr. Newson had previously done.

“With the assistance of the inventors of the technology, we used a series of algorithms that made billions of decisions about how to grow this object,” Mr. Newson said.

He started with a geometry known as “random close packing” based on Voronoi cells, which are good mathematical representations of many natural structures. “The digital part of this process alone took weeks, grinding away on a series of dedicated computers,” Mr. Newson said. “The metaphor of growth extended to the creation of the design itself.”

For other artists in the show, the machine not only facilitated the production of the work but became part of its meaning.

Roxy Paine created a playful sculpture-making machine, or “Scumak,” that extruded molten flows of maroon-tinted polyethylene onto a conveyor belt. Software varying the parameters of each pour, and the shifting air currents and temperature of the room, which affected how the amorphous shapes hardened, conspired to produce 40 unique sculptures, three of which are in the show. These humorous, almost cartoonish objects invite meditation on the machine as a stand-in for the artist and the collision of control and chance.

While Mr. Labaco is hoping that people will be drawn first to the diversity and inventiveness of the objects in the exhibition, he wants to give visitors a hands-on familiarity with various digital techniques. One section of the exhibition is devoted to demonstrations of 3-D printing, 3-D scanning and computer software that can manipulate radical vantage points, 3-D montage and scale shifts.

People can get full body scans and purchase miniatures of themselves in three sizes. The design collaborative Unfold, which has examples of its 3-D-printed ceramic vases on view, has brought its interactive virtual pottery wheel. Visitors can shape forms with their hands in thin air and see the results projected on a screen.

François Brument, another designer in the exhibition, who shapes his vases using a sound-to-volume algorithm, has contributed his microphone into which people can speak, whistle or blow to customize their own vase designs.

Throughout the exhibition, Mr. Labaco has installed video clips of artists explaining how they integrate digital fabrication into their creative processes.

“I don’t want people to be frustrated by the technology,” he said. “I want them coming away from this empowered with a working knowledge of what they’re actually seeing.

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Daniel Goleman on finding focus in a world of distractions

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

 

 

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By Molly Petrilla | October 26, 2013, 8:00 PM 

 Nearly 20 years ago,  wrote a book that reshaped offices, classrooms and interpersonal relationships around the world.
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ became an international sensation. It topped bestseller and “most influential books” lists and sold five million copies worldwide. Goleman had a hit on his hands.

But he didn’t stop there. A Harvard-educated psychologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Goleman has continued to write books on social intelligence and other human-centered subjects. His most recent work — Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence — hit shelves earlier this month. We spoke with Goleman about finding focus in a world packed with distractions, the type of attention required to create and innovate, and how the topic of emotional intelligence has changed since he first began studying it 20 years ago.

In Focus you suggest that attention is ‘the hidden ingredient in excellence.’ I think it’s also fair to say that it’s under constant attack these days.
More than has ever been true in human history. We work at a screen that is also designed to interrupt us at regular intervals. At a single click, you can go wandering off into the web or on Facebook for minutes or even hours. We’ve never operated in a universe where we’ve had more distractions, which means we need to become more intentional about focus and make more of an effort than ever to maintain our focus.

What are some ways we can do that?
There’s a whole generation of apps now designed to help us modulate the electronic interruptions, but more to the point is strengthening the brain’s ability to stay focused. There’s circuitry for attention that is very plastic — it changes with repeated experience, which simply means that we can strengthen it by doing the right kind of practice.

There are some very simple attention exercises. One of them is called ‘mindfulness of the breath,’ where you just decide that for 10 or 15 minutes, you’re going to watch the easy flow of your breath in and out, and when your mind wanders away, you’ll bring it back. It sounds simple, but try it for a few minutes and your mind will wander off. The trick is to notice that it’s wandered, let go of where it’s gone to and come back to the focus. That is the mental equivalent of a rep in the gym where you’re strengthening a muscle. And the more you do it, the stronger the circuitry for paying attention gets.

Then there are very practical things you can do, like manage stress. It turns out that when we’re stressed, we give in to impulse more readily, which is why it’s really dangerous to keep Pringles by your computer. Managing stress helps you keep focused. So does getting enough sleep. It’s also good to have high-protein, low-carb meals for breakfast and lunch, and I urge people to sip caffeine over an hour rather than gulp it in a five-minute span. If you have it all at once, you’ll get a crash.

You also write about different types of focus. What’s the best kind for creating or innovating?
When we say ‘focus,’ we think of concentration, but it turns out concentrated focus is not the best kind of attention for every need. When it comes to creativity, you want your mind to wander. It’s in that mind-wandering space that you’re going to come up with novel associations with elements that have never been put together and you’re going to find that some of those novel combinations are actually useful. That’s the definition of a creative insight. But that won’t happen if you’re keeping a keen focus. It only happens in your downtime when the mind is free to wander.

What role does focus play in the business world?
It depends on the context. To meet your deadlines, you need the concentrated focus. To brainstorm, you need the mind-wandering focus. There is also a third system in the brain known as ‘full sensory awareness.’ That’s what you want to bring on vacation or to your weekend in the country.

You also found that there are environmental implications regarding focus.
The brain, it turns out, tends to be systems-blind. We’re hard-wired to notice the grimace or the wink of the person we’re with. We’re hard-wired to notice the rustle in the leaves that might mean a predator. We’re not wired at all to notice the shifts in carbon-dioxide levels that are creating global warming. There’s no part of the brain that has an alarm system for that. What that means is that we’re wired to be indifferent to the environmental crisis. It’s not immediately a threat, there are no signals coming in, and it’s going to happen far in the future, so the brain shrugs. I think that’s one of the reasons that getting people concerned about environmental change is such a heavy lift.

What brought you to the topic of focus initially?
I think it was seeing that my own attention was being distracted, and also I’ve been very interested in meditation for many years. Meditation is re-training your attention, essentially, from a cognitive-science point of view. I put together a longstanding interest with what I perceived as a new need for insights to manage our attention better. Plus it turned out that in the last two or three years there’s been an explosion of new scientific understanding of attention because they’ve started to do brain imaging while people are in different attentional spaces. That’s revealed a whole new level of understanding. I put that all together.

How do you stay focused when you’re working on a new book?
I meditate every morning after breakfast, then I go off to a place where there’s no phone and I can ignore email and spend a couple hours just writing. I have a little studio up the hill behind our house. It’s removed from the house and it’s a place where I can get calm and clear by meditating and then apply that clarity to writing without being interrupted. I love it.

I was also hoping we could talk briefly about emotional intelligence — another quality you’ve said is important for success. Do you find it’s something that’s taught and encouraged in the workplace?
A lot of companies now have this as part of their human resources. Many companies are hiring for these abilities, are promoting people for them, are helping people develop them. The best companies are the ones where the leaders really embrace this and model it so it becomes a norm in the company. It’s also become a mini-industry now. There are hundreds and thousands of consultants and coaches who are helping companies do this.

Was that the case when you first started looking at emotional intelligence?
No, no. When I started in ‘95 people said, ‘You can’t mention the word emotion in a company.’ Seriously. The landscape has changed enormously since I started. It was a very controversial idea when I first wrote the book Emotional Intelligence, but for many cultural reasons, it’s become far more acceptable.

What sort of reasons?
One is that it’s very data-based. There’s a lot of hard science that supports the importance and usefulness of emotional intelligence in the workplace, in schools, in life. That being the case, more and more people are embracing the concept and applying it in the workplace and in other sectors of society. I was talking to the CEO of a major investment company recently. He said, ‘I hire the best and brightest from the top schools and I still get a bell a curve on performance among people who are the smartest you can find.’ He said, ‘Now I understand why. What differentiates them is the human skill set, not the academic one.’

We’ve talked a lot about success and I’m curious: to what do you attribute yours?
Probably a combination of skill and luck. I try to find topics like emotions or attention where there’s new important science that has implications for our lives. I’m certainly no paragon of either full attention or emotional intelligence, but I do think that they’re very important abilities

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