Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Research Relating to Miconceptions About Girls and Bullying

Misconceptions can be bad, because they can lead people to overlook real problems. The Daily Mail reports on some recent research that corrects some common-seeming miconceptions about girls and bullying.

Avoiding Conflation of Signifier With Signified By Understanding Why It Signifies

Seeing signifiers as the signified is, sadly, a widespread "cognitive pathology".

Understanding why the item may act as a signifier for the other item is a good way to avoid this problem. It makes you decouple the items from each other.

And since signification is invariably context-sensitive, understanding why the signification occurs allows you to appreciate that it isn't always the case and appreciate when it does and does not apply.

(I have a strong suspicion that always considering 'why' is the key to developing effective thinking skills, but that's an idea that I need to develop more).

Video of Tennis Game Using New Nintendo Motion-Sensing Controller

Aside from Freecell (a card game) on my laptop, I haven't played computer games for years. Mainly this is because I haven't had time for it, but I also haven't been that interested in the games out there (though World of Warcraft looks cool).

Now, for the first time in years, I'm excited about an upcoming computer games thing: the Nintendo Wii (formerly called the 'Nintendo Revolution'), with it's cool motion-sensing controller.

There's a general article about it here, and a video clip of a tennis game for it here. I think that looks really cool.

As Gizmodo says:

Those of you out there who doubt that the Nintendo Wii’s Remote is going to be the best thing ever: If you’re still drinking the total haterade after watching this video of ... playing Wii tennis at Nintendo’s pre-E3 press conference this afternoon, there is no love in your shrivelled heart and not even unicorns and rainbows can save you now.

Dharmesh Shah on Good and Bad Sorts of Simplicity

Dharmesh Shah has written two good articles considering the view that software should be as simple as possible. The articles try to clarify what sorts of simplicity are good and what kinds aren't. (The articles are a response to the 37signals book Getting Real, which is big on the simple-as-possible thing).

The first article argues that software, being focused for users, has to meet their needs, and simply providing the minimal set of features can bring them up short.

The second article is a bit of an elaboration on that. It argues that while software should be made simpler by being 'opinionated' and deciding 'the little details so your customers don't have to' it shouldn't go too far and become 'stubborn' -- stubborn software is not only opinionated but it is inflexible and doesn't provide users the ability to configure the software to their preferences.

This stuff is related to what I've written on the nature of 'simplicity' and 'complexity':

(1) Sketching on Simplicity As Qualitative Perceptual Concept
(2) Notes on What Qualitative Perceptual Concepts Are
(3) Complexity as Qualitative Perceptual Concept
(5) Quick Drafting on Tradeoffs Between Local and Global Simplicity/Complexity
(6) Factors in Tool Complexity/Simplicity: Viewing Value as Additive
(7) Factors in Tool Complexity/Simplicity: Vertical- and Horizontal- Features
(8) Initial- and Standing- Simplicity/Complexity
I also noted down this this comment by Linus Torvalds on this matter of oversimplification.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Forbes's List of 15 Ways to Live Longer

Forbes has a list of 15 ways to live longer. Mostly usual ones you'd expect like get a pet, be optimistic etc, though a few things I found of interest:

#5 Get a VAP

It's estimated that about half of the people with heart disease--the No. 1 killer in the U.S.--have normal cholesterol levels, which raises serious doubt about the ability of traditional cholesterol tests to detect risk. But more advanced cholesterol tests, like the VAP test, made by the Birmingham, Ala.-based lab Atherotech, may remedy that. VAP measures important metrics that traditional tests miss. Regular tests only detect half of the people with heart disease, while the VAP has been shown to detect 90% of heart disease patients. That's important because lipid abnormalities can most often be rectified with medication and dietary changes. And the sooner you start making changes, the better.
Also, intresting to see this much importance put on stress:
"I think stress kills more people than just about anything else," says Dr. David Fein, medical Director at Princeton Longevity Center in New Jersey.


Sounds good, if it works out in practice. As the name suggests, like a mix between a bus and a taxi. You just call up and it will come around and pick you up. Leverages tracking and scheduling technology to best allocate the requests to taxibuses:

GT promises that their system would guarantee 3-minute rapid response based upon computerized itineraries in each taxibus that instantaneously updates upon each new ride request. The computers also have GPS technology that directs drivers to their destination and adjusts continuously to accomodate new circumstances.

'Deliberate Practice' is Where Skill/Talent Comes From Says Recent Research

The New York Times reports on some recent research, by Anders Ericsson at Florida State University, into where skill/talent comes from:

Their work, compiled in the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
They see improvement as the result of what they call deliberate practice:
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task — playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Article on Distinction Between Freedom and Democracy

An interesting article on the distinction between freedom and democracy -- how will of the majority can work against important freedoms -- and putting this in the context of the Iraq situation.