Monday, September 7, 2009

Humanitarian Work

Recently watched The Fog of War, the memoir-documentary-interview of Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense through most of the Vietnam War, and longtime leader of the Ford Motor Company, among other things.

Amazing how little I knew about the USA's WWII firebombings of Japanese cities, which dwarfed the civilian casualties of the atomic bombs.

So this leads to the question: Are we trying to fix the problem? What is the USA's current conflict prevention, conflict mitigation strategy?

Not an easy question to answer. But Wuryati Morris has a good suggestion for how to start figuring it out. Wury says that her employer, "Development Alternatives Initiatives," takes on just about every kind of 2-5 year development-sector contract that is available, except for heavy industry tasks.

By syllogism, DAI's list of projects should be representative of USA bureaus' overall portfolio and agenda.

There certainly are a lot of them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Reservoir-induced earthquake"

My mother sent out an email about this, and I was skeptical at first, but I guess it might be a real concept.


Earthquakes that are ready to go can be triggered by many different things such as mine activity, or injection of fluid into an oil well to push the oil. Recently there has been a lot of discussion among geologists about the possibility of tidal triggering of quakes.

Most earth scientists agree that reservoir-triggered earthquakes do happen...
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/02/chinaquake/

Also,
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE55I0U720090619

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ready set...

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Ready set...

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2nd ceremony for hbsers

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Donning the robes one more time!

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Yayy!

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Yum

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Patrimony

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Met up with two sets of parents and walking to business school. Mr Vinod stooing directions. :-)

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Music has shifted to a series of drum solos. very fun.

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Packed in like sardines! Uplifting, in the emotional sense as well as the physical, buoyant one! They are walking in a big line now. I spoke with shweta`s father Vinod but am unable to get to where they are.

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Hi

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Performance Goals and Evaluation

Here's an updated list of the performance areas, weightings, and descriptions:
  • MDT - Meditation - 2.0 - I want to do 2 x 15min sessions of stretching + medititation every day - one in the morning and one at night. I get 1.0 point for the first 15min session, and anonther point for the second.
  • AER - Aerobic Exercise - 0.5 to 2.0 - I get these points for doing the equivalent of 30min of aerobic exercise. An hour of off-and-on basketball, or an hour of straight jogging or swimming would count. (See ANA)
  • ANA - Anaerobic Exercise -1.5 - I want to do 1/2 hour of strength-building exercises about every three days. (Maximum of 2.0 points total on any one day from AER and ANA combined.) (link to list of exercises) (link to descriptions and images)
  • ONT - On time - 2.0 - This is a catchall category for respect and punctuality. I start with full points on any given day, and if I am unable to fulfill any committments, or am poorly prepared for a meeting etc., then I start losing points.
  • BED - Bedtime and sleep - 1.0 - If I woke up at a reasonable time and got 7+ hours of sleep last night, then I get 0.5 points for today. The other 0.5 comes from lights out at a reasonable time tonight and getting enough sleep again.
  • FUT - Future - 1.0 - Future planning, personal goals review, planning curriculum changes, getting taxes done ahead of time, etc. Did I do something forward-looking today? +1.0!
  • AHE - Ahead of Schedule - Since I am no longer a fulltime student, I will now use the following three criteria:
  1. At work, did I do a good job at work today getting ahead of schedule? At home on weekdays, did I work for ~1+ hours on studying that is due more than 24 hours into the future?
  2. For the weekend, did I do 4 hrs of homework planned to be do more than 24 hours into the future?
  3. An ideal way to evaluate these benchmarks is to set 1-hr or 4-hr equivalent goals each morning, so that if I get the tasks done more efficiently than previously expected, then I get to keep the points with reduced time spent. :)
So those are the categories, which is most of the relevant information at this point anyways. I'll post more info about my weekly and monthly reviews... when I have started doing them!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

WorkSafe British Columbia

British Columbia has an extensive selection of safety videos on youtube.com. The forklift one was especially informative.

This one was especially intense... whew!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Robotoilet!!

This is a fantastic video on what it's actually like to use robotoilets. The narrator's a little whimsical, but there isn't anything inappropriate. Very funny and interesting.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Aikido







Needed to post a link to an image of the characters “合气” so I could put it on a google map. It's actually Japanese, so it should be in traditional characters, but I'm trying to be efficient on time here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Silly Geese Eat Dark Chocolate

Recent studies by Herzenbach and Herzenbach have shown a positive correlation between consumption rate of dark chocolate in women aged 18-23 and the women's progressive identification as "Silly Geese." However, Herzenbach and Herzenbach were reluctant to attribute the anserileviculomorphism to any particular neurological mechanism, describing only the empirical results of their data.
-Leviculus Anseriformes

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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Makings of a meal. My inaugural mobile phone text message blog post!

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View the lecture: Academic Earth - Game Theory

I found this video on Academic Earth that I thought you would enjoy.

Click this link to view the lecture:

http://academicearth.org/courses/game-theory

Thinking about chasing down rational choice group decision methods - these courses would be an important initial step.

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Ankle Strengthening

Basketball yesterday, Monday 4/27 -> jammed finger, bruised knuckle, and broken toenail. But my ankles are fine!


Source: www.bodybuilding.com

Green Chair Dance Group

Green Chair Dance Group Rocks!!!!



It may not be coincidence that all my chairs are green...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Calisthenics Exercises

List of Anaerobic Exercises on the cards:

situps, side-situps, supermans, pushups, pull ups, backbends, dips, handstands, stiff leg deadlifts, jumpies, dumbbell curl and press, dumbell row, dumbell front raises, standing side raises.

Performance Goals and Evaluation

I am so excited about this self-evaluation program, I'm like to bust a spigot.

To start, here's a list of the performance areas, weightings, and descriptions:
  • MDT - Meditation - 1.5 - I want to do 2 x 15min sessions of stretching + medititation every day - one in the morning and one at night. I get 1.0 point for the first 15min session, and anonther 0.5 points for the second.
  • AER - Aerobic Exercise - 1.5 - I get these points for doing the equivalent of 30min of aerobic exercise. An hour of off-and-on basketball, or an hour of straight jogging or swimming would count.
  • ANA - Anaerobic Exercise -1.5 - I want a routine of 2 x 15 min sessions of home calisthenics. (link to list of exercises) (link to descriptions and images)
  • ONT - On time - 1.5 - This is a catchall category for respect and punctuality. I start with full points on any given day, and if I am unable to fulfill any committments, or am poorly prepared for a meeting etc., then I start losing points.
  • BED - Bedtime and sleep - 1.0 - If I woke up at a reasonable time and got 7+ hours of sleep last night, then I get 0.5 points for today. The other 0.5 comes from lights out at a reasonable time tonight and getting enough sleep again.
  • FUT - Future - 1.0 - Future planning, personal goals review, planning curriculum changes, getting taxes done ahead of time, etc. Did I do something forward-looking today? +1.0!
  • AHE - Ahead of Schedule - While I am a fulltime student, did I spend an equivalent of 4 hours today studying or working on homework that is due more than 24 hours into the future? An ideal way to do this is to set 4-hr equivalent goals each morning, so that if I get it done more efficiently than previously, then I get to keep the points with reduced effort. :)
So that's the categories, which is most of the relevant information at this point anyways. I'll post more info about my weekly and monthly reviews... when I have started doing them!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Identity and the Peabody Hotel

The Peabody Hotel is pronounced "Pea-body," as opposed to "Pea-buddy." Not like the town of Peabody, Mass. This is a fancy hotel with a big conference center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Check out this quote printed on a Coke machine on the 4th floor of the hotel, observed 3/28/2009

"The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby... [ultimately] you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta..." (David Cohn, 1935)
The interesting part is the phrase "everybody who is anybody." In the vernacular, "being somebody" may imply that you are famous, rich, or otherwise important.

If you are "somebody," there might be a biographical wikipedia article about you. This requires a strange, uncertain, and changing qualification process described by Danah Boyd on her blog here. Danah mentions an interesting dependence on mainstream media reports in defining "notableness."

Wyatt Cooper wrote an article in 1971 which points to "uniqueness" as another percieved way to "being somebody":
"We will, generally, embrace any sort of recognition at all that promises to give us some sense, however frail, of our own unique personalities...

" 'I had the worst appendix the doctor has seen in forty years of appendixes,' 'My head was the largest of any baby ever delivered normally at St. Rita’s,' 'My third cousin, once removed, was the first blue-eyed white man west of the Mississippi to die in the electric chair...' "
On a more somber note, some writers (such as David P. Levine) describe "poverty" as a "deprivation of identity," a lack which makes creativity impossible. Societies frame our roles, and individuals frame related and competing identities. When we are unable to fill these minimal roles, we are forced into a reactive non-creative existense, decreasing our humanity.

So, I suppose one could attack historian David Cohn's quote by claiming, "I know that many unique and creative people that lived in Mississippi in 1935 never stepped within eyesight of the Peabody Hotel." But David Cohn and his readers may not have agreed with this criteria for being "somebody."

If I'm not "somebody," then what is a "nobody?" Is it even human?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SuperCrunch, and the Linguists (Netflix)

My airplane row-mate recommended me a video about the Airbus airplane launch to watch for homework/research... Netflix had it, and I then continued browsing Netflix. Netflix may actually be useful.

The Sundance award-winning documentary film The Linguists is listed on Netflix, which is pretty cool. The Linguists was published by "educational release," meaning that it costs $300 per copy. A Netflix release would be awesome, but it's listed as "availability unknown," which I suppose means that they may pass around a copy if enough people put it on their wish list. My wallet would definitely prefer $3 to $300.

I also found a documentary film of Andy Goldsworthy's work. I watched a youtube preview. Tacit, powerful, accessible, Supercrunchy. Wonderful stuff. Kinda goes along with Swarthmore Professor Mark Wallace's faculty lecture on finding the Christian God in nature.

Here's a preview of Andy Goldsworthy:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Everyone makes mistakes...

Everyone makes mistakes, even Bill O'Reilly. His first mistake was verbally blaming "the Afghan people" for 9-11. (When even the initial ascendance of the Taliban was hardly an act of self-determination.)

His second mistake was inviting Jeremy Glick onto his show.

Intense. All I can say is, this was intense. Especially at ~3:40.



Thanks to Jeremy Glick for working so hard, and preparing so well for this short debate. Based on the compassion, insight, coolness-under-pressure, and personal courage he showed in this performance, I hope he ends up in an amazing career, so that this will not be his last 15 minutes of fame.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Anthropology

Anthropology is on the mind after talking about it at Quaker meeting. So, here are brief reviews and links to two of my favorite anthropology-related TedTalks.

Anthropologist Wade Davis speaks sweepingly of amazing societies whose lifestyles contrast sharply with our modern mass cultures. Incredibly, he pulls it off at a blistering pace without denigrating the non-industrialized societies or poo-pooing modern technology and globalization.




Jonathan Harris collects stories
from people around the world, and compiles them into artworks whose visual beauty transcends geographic, linguistic, and cultural barriers. His work is so captivating, one almost overlooks the virtuosic focus, discipline, and respectful communication abilities demonstrated by the works' execution.



Enjoy!!! :D

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SKANSKA USA Civil's EMR rating

I just interviewed for a field engineer position yesterday at SKANSKA USA Civil. Amazing company doing great work. Known for high-quality building, and financially strong even in the down market.

Even more impressive are their safety ratings. I'm not sure how public they are with their numbers, but suffice to say that their Experience Modification Rating is almost off the theoretical charts. I had never heard of such a low rating, so I started googling, and found this 1995 publication:
Experience Modification Rating As Measure of Safety Performance. Jimmie Hinze, Dave C. Bren, Nancy Piepho. J. Constr. Engrg. and Mgmt. Volume 121, Issue 4, pp. 455-458 (November/December 1995).
EMR tells you how much a company pays on worker's compensation premiums. The lower the number, the lower the premiums that the insurance company demands, the better the construction company's safety.

The article showed that the insurance industry's equations will allow for EMRs as low as 0.30, for large firms with $0 in injury claims. But that doesn't make Skanska USA Civil's numbers any less impressive.

I requested ASCE permission to post the charts from the article, but they asked for $35 per chart or graphic that I post. So maybe I'll generate my own charts sometime. Qué lástima.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Perspectives on a Booming China

The following quote reminds me of an overzealous player in the Settlers of Catan board game. Just because a perspective is logically defensible doesn't mean it's the right advice, especially in political science.
"The best situation for the United States from the perspective of maximizing its security is to be the most powerful state in the international system."
-John J. Mearsheimer, NPR Intelligence Squared Debate, May 2007
Mearsheimer's analyses are great, except that the US's military predominance in the world is unsustainable regardless of China. Definitely unsustainable in 50 years, probably within thirty, per my gut check estimate. Check this chart made straight from data downloaded off the USDA website.

This isn't a crunchy GDP (PPP) chart either, this is real GDP. Shows how absurd it is to portray China as a threat to the US's supremacy. An average eighth-grader (5'5") may be able to boss around twenty little fifth-graders (4'8"). But four years later, the HS senior (5'9") won't be able to handle twenty HS freshmen (5'4"). (Source: CDC)

I respect Mearshimer's Offensive Realism ideas for its well-reasoned descriptive models. But, We the People of the United States of America need to take a hard look at political strategies built around the current unipolar power balance. Most of the world is industrializing its way through puberty, and we're their role model.

Americans are up for it. Mearsheimer's quote is drawn from an NPR debate over the following statement: "Beware the Dragon: a booming China spells trouble for America."

For Neutral Against
Before the debate 41% 21% 37%
After the debate 35% 6% 59%
Despite the debaters' extensive knowledge and an earnest good effort, Mearsheimer's "for" side lost ground over the debate. I was most impressed by J. Stapleton Roy's well-reasoned and impressive arguments from the "against" side.

Americans have a good sense of cooperative problem-solving and reasonable negotiating. It doesn't make us insecure to have strong friends.

Jumpbooks Not Preferred... (only in retrospect, unfortunately)

A brief story about preferences. Hope you enjoy reading it more than I enjoyed participating in it...
For my Development Economics class, I was faced with a choice of two textbook formats:
  • $70 Online format
  • $160 Standard print format
I was excited about the online format, thinking it would be a continued online resource like Ebrary, so that I could read the book on the computer or online whenever I want. And, I could even print parts of the book out. No more carrying around textbooks, just a password. So I chose the online format.
Logging into the ebook for the first time, I found that it allowed 180-day access only. If I had known this, I wouldn't have bought it in the first place. But, since I already had it, I decided not to go to the trouble to return it. I even thought that it might be interesting to learn about how e-books work.
  • Trend 1: Path dependency. I was unwilling to reverse a bad decision once it was made, and rationalized my acceptance of the second-best situation as "a good idea too."
I found the interface very cumbersome, but at least it worked. It only allowed me to print a total number of pages equal the the total number in the book, so I planned to print the book out at the library duplex printer. Thus, as I completed the first homework problem, I painstakingly copy/pasted the first case study, page by page, into a Word document and reformatted it.

A month into the semester, I decided to go print out the rest of the book. I explained the situation to the student employee working at the library print desk, who suggested I try a lightly used printer that I hadn't used before. Although the printer only printed duplex manually, he said that very few people use it, so it should run smoothly. Being a friendly sort, he printed a few test pages and walked me through the process. He asked me how many pages my document had, and I said "between 200 and 300," judging from my memory of the hardcover copy in the bookstore. That seemed fine.

After logging in and accessing the book, I started to print. Another surprise! I could only print 10 pages at a time! This ruined the manual duplex idea, because I would have to:
  • Press Print and wait for 5 pages to print
  • Walk 5 steps to the printer and take 5 pages from the output tray and place them in an manual input tray
  • Walk 5 steps to the computer and press "OK"
  • Select the next 10 pages of the document and hit Print again.
  • Quickly remove the completed 5 two-sided sheets to keep from re-inserting the wrong pages in the next step
No way to do that. Now, I'm starting to lose my patience. So, instead of walking to the regular duplex printer and printing there, I decided to just "get it done" single-sided. I tried to rationalize that single sided is annoying mainly because of the thicker space it takes up in binders, backpacks, and moving boxes, but maybe I'll only carry around the packets that I actually need to read from the printed file... This didn't sound very plausible, but I still went with it.
  • Trend 1: Path dependency. I should have changed course and gone back to the public auto-duplex printer. I would have to print in 10-page chunks anyways, which would allow other people to use the more public printer in between my many small print jobs.
  • Trend 2: Hurrying. When I began to feel that I was losing too much time, my demand for a good quality product dropped across the board in an attempt to trade-off with time. Instead of cutting my losses and getting the duplex I wanted, I pushed ahead.
  • Trends 1 & 2: Even though I actually realized after two minutes that I should switch to the auto-duplex printer, I somehow ignored my own reasoning through frustration and decided to keep printing single-sided.
After printing 200 pages over 15 minutes, I realized the book was actually more than 700 pages long. Yuck. No way I was going to spend a whole hour printing and punching the book. It was already an inch and a half thick with 200 pages, compared to the svelte inch-thick textbook in the bookstore. Yuck.
This time I was so frustrated that I quit the whole deal and walked out. I didn't even use the library 3-hole punch, which is twice as fast as the one at home. Even though I was thinking, "I should use the hole-punch," the reasoning was overcome with an overriding "That sucked, I'm not spending any more time on this."
  • Trend 1 vs. 2: As my haste overcame my path dependence, it continued to run roughshod over my well-reasoned preferences
In summation, now I have an unpunched and unbound 1.5" stack of paper sitting on my desk that I spent two hours printing and paid $70 to buy. Even just looking at it is painful. Will I even want to read it now?

At least it inspired this magnificent journal entry.

(Note: I'm not sure whether I should be especially concerned about the "killing trees" aspect because I have found that printer toner costs a lot more than the paper. If high cost usually correlates with worse environmental impact, I might reason that the environmental loss from switching from duplex to single-sided is small. But I'm not sure.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

UN Mine Action Advertisement

This ad from the UN Mine Action agency reminds me of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments.



Adam Smith argues that empathy is a basic human quality. Every person feels within himself the joy and pain exhibited by his neighbor, through a two-step process. First, a person observes her neighbor's actions, and then she makes a comparison to her own personal experience. This directly results in an experience of pain or pleasure, as it is imagined to be felt by the neighbor.

But, there's a catch. The imagination-driven pain or pleasure is felt less strongly.

An observer's experience is never as sharp as the original feeling. Additionally, it's hard to empathize if we have no personal experience to use as a basis. This is definitely a good thing, or else we would all have PTSD.

But hooray for ads like this, framing a minefield injury in a more familiar suburban high school soccer game context. We need to empathize here in order to make responsible foreign policy decisions as a society. Our imaginations need the help.