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Topics - ergophobe

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Water Cooler / Master Plan of the Universe (maps)
« on: August 22, 2019, 09:36:28 PM »

Web Development / Shape Up - book about how Basecamp/37 Signals works
« on: August 20, 2019, 09:55:17 PM »
I don't know if any of you follow Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals), and evangelists of saner workplaces. They have a new free, online-only book (actually written by someone I've never heard of, but describing the way Basecamp works).

This is a followup of sorts to It Doesn't Have to be Crazy at Work

I've only gotten through the Intro, but looks interesting

Part One is all about Shaping — the pre-work we do on projects before we consider them ready to schedule. Each chapter explains a specific step of the process, from setting the appetite on a raw idea, to sketching out a solution, to writing a pitch that presents the potential project. Along the way you’ll learn specific techniques — like breadboarding and fat-marker sketching — to keep the design at the right level of abstraction.

Part Two is about Betting — how we choose among the pitched projects and decide what to do six weeks at a time.

Part Three is about Building — the expectations we place on the teams and the special practices they use to discover what to do. We’ll look at how the teams figure out what to do, how they integrate design and programming, how they track what’s known versus unknown, and finally how they make the hard calls to finish the project on time.


Thanks in part to activists like Flisrand and Edwards, Minneapolis just did away with the rules that gave single-family homes a stranglehold on nearly three-quarters of the city

Then there's this misguided quote:

In other cities, NIMBYs—conservative “Not In My Back Yard” defenders of suburban-style living—often make alliances with left-wing critics of gentrification to choke off new supply.

They clearly don't know the Bay Area, where it is only very recently that "low density development" ceased to be a liberal cause celebre. Of course, it is "conservative" in the etymological sense of the word, but not really a right/left issue as I see it. It's a haves/have nots issue.

Water Cooler / The most controversial tree in the world
« on: July 14, 2019, 03:57:53 AM »
Is the genetically engineered chestnut tree an act of ecological restoration or a threat to wild forests?

This is a great article. It's great science and nature writing. It takes a while to get going, but the argument takes an unexpected turn about halfway through and raises some questions I've been thinking about a lot in the last few years. Essentially, it asks "What is nature?"

Someone (Brad?) in a previous thread (on aerial photos of drought-ridden England?) made a comment like "I remember hearing in school that not a square inch of England had not been altered by man. That had a big impression on me."

The comment stood out, because the more I have learned about nature, the more I realize that is true for the US as well. I once came to Yosemite and thought I was seeing meadows as people had seen them back into the mists of time, only later realizing that most meadows here are dominated by species that didn't even exist in Yosemite in 1900.

This article speaks to that - the eastern forests were once dominated by massive, glorious chestnut trees. They are all gone, done in because someone brought a few fungus-infected chestnut seeds to the US from Japan. In my lifetime, I saw the mammoth elms disappear from the east, felled not by axe, but by a Eurasian pest. And now, in our times, the emerald ash borer, brought to the US in a packing crate, has now felled 99.7% of all ash trees.

Meanwhile, in California, studies show that the soil composition in the mountains is changing due to various pollutants, especially metals, in the smog that floats in from the cities. Preliminary findings suggest the changing soil chemistry is stressing some mountain plant species. Researchers are asking whether we need to use "assisted migration" to save the sequoia tree, which exists only in a narrow band and is sensitive to almost no pest because of the high levels of tannin, but is sensitive to small changes in temperature and soil chemistry, both of which we are conveniently providing.

So everywhere I go and look, I find it hard to find any square inch where some human imprint can't be found if you know how and where to look.

Anyway, this article is (for me at least) a wonderful piece of writing on this topic and basically asks: if we have so profoundly changed the forests, is a GMO tree a step too far or a saving grace?

Regardless of how you answer the question, it is, I think, one part of the most fundamental question of our times.

Economics & Investing / China's imports from the US plunge 31%
« on: July 13, 2019, 01:23:29 AM »

Chinese imports of U.S. goods fell 31.4% from a year earlier to $9.4 billion, while exports to the American market declined 7.8% to $39.3 billion, according to Chinese customs data. China’s trade surplus with the United States widened by 3% to $29.9 billion.

Water Cooler / Slaves in a data factory
« on: June 19, 2019, 09:24:28 PM »
Listening to a Cal Newport interview and he tossed out this label to describe us and particularly teenagers who are coming awake to the fact that that is the role carved out for them by the big media companies

He says the thing that makes him happy lately is that more and more saying “I’m not on social media” is cool and counterculture for teens. It’s this generation’s punk rock.

Hardware & Technology / Deep fakes used by spies on LinkedIn
« on: June 15, 2019, 07:23:13 PM »
Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets

Web Development / UX design fail
« on: May 29, 2019, 09:57:53 PM »
Quick quiz: the status of the user in this record is
A. Active
B. Inactive

Water Cooler / Epic Snow Day!
« on: May 27, 2019, 01:40:35 AM »
This isn't the latest I've seen it snow (that was June 12, two years ago), but this was the Perfect Storm
- Memorial Day Weekend Crowds
- Ill-prepared people without chains
- Lots of seasonal staff who don't know what to do in a snow storm

In short, total sh## storm. I was doing my civic duty driving the neighborhood snow plow... people were simply parked all over the road. Numerous multi-vehicle accidents, some with injuries. Radio traffic was very interesting.

The best one... I was listening to the radio and one of the traffic people called for law enforcement. "Any Victor unit, we have a grey Ford Flex trying to run the road closure by the old dam... They're trying to run down my colleague now! They're trying to run down my colleague! Grey Ford Flex, California license Bravo 2 4 Tango 8 7 just ran the road closure." A few minutes later, one of the law enforcement rangers comes on reporting that the driver is in custody and asking if the traffic ranger can come make a witness statement.

I heard "mandatory citation" a handful of times. A summer holiday weekend is always crazy. A summer holiday weekend with five inches of snow in about three hours was pretty much off the charts.

Water Cooler / Greta, 3.5% and news that isn't all bad
« on: May 23, 2019, 05:03:03 AM »
Littleman, you said you were avoiding bad news. These were the two stories from the week that gave me the most hope and they go together quite well....

It turns out that non-violent movements are more often successful than violent movements and that 3.5% active participation is the level at which a movement always succeeds.

This according to a researcher who looked at a few dozen protest movements after finding out that nobody had asked those two questions, i.e.
 - how does effectiveness compare between violent and non-violent?
 - what is the threshold participation for success?
The theory is that nonviolent movements succeed for several reasons
 - violent movements typically draw a small pool of fit, young males, whereas non-violent movements draw on much larger pools
 - easier to talk about both socially and because of less repression in repressive regimes

The 3.5% seems to be a point at which soldiers start to worry that friends and family might be in the crowd (that's just conjecture as far as I can tell).
Then there's Greta. Nine months ago, Greta Thunberg was holding silent vigil alone outside the Swedish Parliament. On March 15, 1.6 million people, mostly students inspired by Thunberg, walked out of school in protest. The next strike is planned for May 24.

Clearly, that's well short of the 3.5% needed... but the growth rate would make most startups salivate.

Sorry... in French

Basic idea: Swiss sperm viability has fallen 32% between 1989 and 2005 from 99 million per ml to 47 million per ml. The big thing with this study is that Switzerland still has universal conscription, allowing the first ever country-wide study. The result correlates well with smaller studies around the developed world which could often be dismissed because of selection bias.

The Danes are at 41 million/ml and the Norwegians at 42, but lots of other studies are in the same range.

Below 40 million/ml and the WHO says that it becomes significantly harder to make babies. 60% of young Swiss men are now below the threshold set by the WHO.

Water Cooler / The Myth of "Learning Styles"
« on: May 20, 2019, 05:18:38 PM »
Add the "learning styles" (visual, auditory, etc) to Myers-Briggs as "stuff we know to be true that was actually invented out of thin air by people sitting around a kitchen table with no research whatsoever to back it up." (well, you could have added it to that list in 2018 if I had read this earlier).

Despite knowing their own, self-reported learning preferences, nearly 70% of students failed to employ study techniques that supported those preferences. Most visual learners did not rely heavily on visual strategies (e.g., diagrams, graphics), nor did most reading/writing learners rely predominantly on reading strategies (e.g., review of notes or textbook), and so on. Given the prevailing belief that learning styles matter, and the fact many students blame poor academic performance on the lack of a match between their learning style and teachers’ instructional methods, one might expect students to rely on techniques that support their personal learning preferences when working on their own.

Perhaps the best students do. Nearly a third of the students in the study did choose strategies that were consistent with their reported learning style. Did that pay off? In a word, no. Students whose study strategies aligned with their VARK scores performed no better in either the lecture or lab component of the course.

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