Archive for August 2006

 
 

A bit about a bucket

A bit about the many, many arrangements we can find in every bucket.

Before California Assemblyman Bill Filante made a bid for Congress in 1992, we enjoyed several conversations about our culture and how poorly we understand probability. Filante was staunchly against government lottery – not merely because State lotteries pilfer pockets. He worried about a wasting of purpose. Government, he asserted, must never operate a program that will require ignorance of its citizens.

We must teach each other the vast reach between what’s reasonable and what’s random. After pulling the handle for a few coins, we must learn how ingeniously we convince ourselves that the next will deliver a few more and, as if lubricating Providence, one more bet will gift our riches and our deserved relief.

We make errors whenever we believe what we fail to measure. We too often make errors of assumption in our gambit to read trends and decipher patterns. Major policy changes and significant spending are often based on quick conjecture that we trammel into winning consensus. We easily let ourselves tweak models by removing complexity, ignoring ambiguity and failing to capture fringe events.

We trick ourselves if we do not understand probability, because we find reasons where none exist.

Discovery is most often by accident. Many breakthrough inventions were unintended. It may be that randomness has better luck than most research.

Is it better when we try to evaluate stock markets? Known by ‘The Black Swan’ and reminding us about the unsteadiness of circumstances, Nassim Nicholas Taleb may be Wall Street’s principal dissident. [wiki]

“My major hobby is teasing people who take themselves and the quality of their knowledge too seriously and those who don’t have the guts to sometimes say: I don’t know….”

But some say Taleb’s caution is less heroic…

“The truth is that we associate the willingness to risk great failure – and the ability to climb back from catastrophe – with courage. But in this we are wrong. That is the lesson of Nassim Taleb and the lesson of our volatile times.

“There is more courage and heroism in defying the human impulse, in taking the purposeful and painful steps to prepare for the unimaginable.” – Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, April 2002

Fooled by Randomness was selected by Fortune as one of “The Smartest Books of All Time”.

Update:
Arlene Goldarb sees Taleb’s sense of our problem is that we do not know how much we don’t know. “What Taleb has already given me are much better reasons than my own instincts to do two things I’ve been advocating loud and long: distrust predictions and question theories.”

Thinking about how we look at our historical achievements, she notices Taleb’s assertion that ‘… almost all of the discoveries that have had tremendous impact on our culture were accidents in the sense that they were discovered while searching for something else. He’s said, “most of what people were looking for, they did not find. Most of what they found they were not looking for.”

Replying to eager investors, Taleb accounts for upsetting conventional views when he says, “Let us understand the true odds of financial ruin, so we can enter the markets prepared.”

Update:
Forbes has published an essay where Taleb reminds us again that, “Things, it turns out, are all too often discovered by accident–but we don’t see that when we look at history in our rear-view mirrors. The technologies that run the world today (like the Internet, the computer and the laser) are not used in the way intended by those who invented them. Even academics are starting to realize that a considerable component of medical discovery comes from the fringes, where people find what they are not exactly looking for.

Turning down hatred

Miss England, a Muslim, says,

“We need to be honest in recognising that we all have a responsibility to do more to tackle the threat of extremism and face down dangerous messages that circulate in local communities.”

Allegedly deceitful

EMI and Capitol Records classified copies of Beatles recordings as destroyed or damaged “scrap”, but then secretly sold them.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, the estate of the late George Harrison and the Beatles’ Apple Corps company want their master recordings back, citing clandestine schemes in an attempt to “pocket millions of dollars” of royalties.

I want America thinking

Cold and warm, I have called countless owners, executives, professionals, engineers, technologists, technicians, representatives, agents, staff, and unfed students (where professors took our mother’s money!).

Like all of us, I’ve leaned and I’ve waited on too many countertops.

Why counter retail?
Who invented counter retail?
When is counter retail good for customers?

Conspicuous abstention

“Overconsumption is no longer a signal of success…”;
“conspicuous abstention” is emerging.

…hungry for a connection between the things they buy and the lives they want to be leading — and recognizing that sometimes the best thing to buy is, simply, nothing.

FutureLabs says,
“Indeed, I think this hunger for more life rather than more stuff is at the very heart of a transition to a bright green future.

Many of us are already valuing experiences and relationships much more than toys and tools.

Recognizing that the stuff we buy can clutter our lives as easily as compliment them, many of us are looking for ways to engage with products and services that offer us the straightest line between ourselves and the people and experiences we value, and that same search is exposing many of the bedrock assumptions of marketing and advertising as pathetic ploys, making us more savvy about brands and the ways they manipulate us.”

Will laws plug WiFi piggybacking?

The California legislature has passed a law requiring the manufacturers of WiFi products to put warning labels reminding users to password-protect their networks, and the state’s governor is expected to sign it.

While the bill doesn’t outlaw piggybacking — the practice of simply using an available, open access point — some are wondering if this is the first step towards making it illegal, since it notes “there is disagreement as to whether it is legal for someone to use another person’s WiFi connection to browse the Internet if the owner of the WiFi connection has not put a password on it”.

Securing on open access point isn’t too difficult, and the Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing a new program to make the use of Wireless Protected Access even easier to implement — so if someone doesn’t want people to access their network, it’s not too hard to keep them from doing so. There’s little ethical concern about using an open access point, and a lack of security is typically understood to represent tacit approval that it’s okay.

There have been a few cases of people being arrested or prosecuted for using open WiFi, but the legality of it seems somewhat clear, particularly if the network is being accessed from public property or if the radio waves from one person’s AP have traveled over to someone else’s property.

It’s unclear, though, why California politicians see the need for a law here — if people want don’t want others accessing their WiFi, they have plenty of options with which to lock down their network. They don’t need special legal protection.

Furthermore, if piggybacking is outlawed, where would it leave people who actually want to share their WiFi, whether it’s just an individual, or a business? Things get awfully messy there. If I want to share a network connection over WiFi, how do I communicate to others that I approve of them using my network? Physical signs aren’t a perfect solution by any means.

Overblown security fears shouldn’t prevent people who want to share their WiFi from doing so; for those who don’t, plenty of means exist to limit access without inventing another crime, let alone one that would be ridiculously hard to enforce.

via techDirt

Underserving America

Although the capitalizations seem to be inflated, there is no doubt in my mind that gas station convenience stores can be converted toward larger markets. Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser should be ashamed of their approach to this sector. 1000s and 1000s of customers are captured at every location — and they are underserved.

Any competent investment firm would easily expand independent regional prototypes into a new model. Conversion would follow.

Why drag these horrid cash cows into the future?

Seasoned entrepreneurs

A business is not about shareholder value, or about making gobs of money. A business is about believing in something big and important and worthwhile, an idea that compels you to share a piece of yourself with the world.

It’s finding opportunities to work with great people pursuing similar dreams; people desiring to make their world just a little bit better.

It’s about realizing that your life has been blessed with amazing gifts and talents, and understanding that the highest purpose of those talents is to help others.

mantra at BuildV1

The people we work with are forward-thinking idealists – people probably a lot like you. They approach their companies with the same passion we approach ours with.

They believe that anything worth doing is worth doing in a remarkable way.

They understand that their business is a reflection of themselves, and they project the best of themselves into the company that they love.

Their businesses are a means to a livelihood for themselves and their employees, but they are also much more.

to that of relativism

The west, it is sadly said, has lost confidence in the Enlightenment. It is quite common to see intellectuals state as a fact that the Enlightenment project has been tried and failed. This is a lie.

There never was one single Enlightenment project, and of the Enlightenment projects that there were, many have succeeded beyond the wildest hopes of their proponents. The Enlightenment provided the matrix I have talked of, in which scientific enterprises could flourish.

Now, our understanding of the world is better because of physical science. Our understanding of ourselves is better because of biological science. We live longer, and we feed ourselves better, and ‘we’ here includes not only people in first world countries, but countless people in the third world. We look after the environment better, and in time we will manage our own numbers better. Outside the theocracies of the east more people have more freedoms and enjoy more education, more opportunities and may even have more rights than ever before.

We owe this progress entirely to the culture forged, in the west, by Bacon and Locke, Hume and Voltaire, Newton and Darwin. Humanism is the belief that humanity need not be ashamed of itself, and these are its great examples.

They show us that we need not regard knowledge as impious, or ignorance as desirable, and we need not see blind faith as anything other than blind.

there are many things in which the world wishes to be deceived

Optionitis

Dust.
Animal.
Mankind.

Then we got lucky.

Space.
Design.
Thought.

Late night free form

if marxscared then hitlerspew
if mabutotake then osamattack
if devildare then doyoucare?

no one is lookin’ out
no one lookin’ out for me

blues in see

Grouch Development Inc.

From Architectural Week Magazine:

Creating an edifice draws on an almost mystical process of imagining and materializing something from nothing, of developing original thought forms and manifesting them in the physical environment. Swiss-born Mario Botta provides a unique perspective on this creative process. He is best known in the United States for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and is considered one of the world’s foremost architects for churches and museums.

Crap.

So many designs are mere pencils slipping on napkins.

Were architecture smart, landlords would be equitable. Land would share bounty. Effort would be our prize not our function.

Architects are whores.

I erected an expensive exhibit for the American Institute of Architects 1973 national convention at the famous Oakland Museum called “Americaville”, about 100′ by 60′ diarama of township and transportation in our 200 years.

After having the opportunity to build this exhibit with 10s of 1000s of historical artifact, records, photos and articles in research, it seemed to me that opportunism and patronage builds our cities.

Little was original. Less was designed. It was clear that neither architects nor designers were thoughtful, creative, or mystical. We fractured community and isolated commonwealth. Our cities suck.

Mystical.
Creative process.
Ha!

Cocktails build our cities.
Six inch shrimp maybe.
Hold that thought.

Work for each other, folks

Despite the success of opensource, despite everything we have learnt about the way human networks operate, despite everything we have learnt about man’s make-up, drivers and emotional intelligence, I keep meeting people who just cannot accept the concept of altruism.

As far as they are concerned, man was born to be selfish. Period.

What a great rant.

Is Chad growing up?

The BBC reports that Chad has softened its demands for a stake in the country’s oil consortium, but is still insisting that two firms involved owe $500m in taxes.

Taxes may be one source of local revenue for Chad.

The President said Chad should have a 60% stake in Petronas and Chevron holdings – the same share that the two firms now hold.

He has now launched a commission to renegotiate a stake with the firms.

Government officials, MP’s, trade unionists and others will sit on the commission, local media reported.

There have been other sources of income to Chad over the years.

Choosing the right business to buy

: a dilemma without redemption

This is an excellent title that outlines criteria required to capitalize acquisitions. It’s not extensive. It’s merely a journal article. Garry Barnes conveys insight in his writing and provides advice for leadership and personnel.

A bank customer wishes to purchase a going concern. By agreeing to grant the loan, the lender says, in effect, “This is a good business, and you are making a wise decision.”

Is it?