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Supe's On

Posted by Stanley
on 02.18.11

Today I was chatting with a friend about our current bosses. I really like mine, but I was struggling to put into words exactly why. I guess if I had to try to sum up what I like: she's resolutely defensive about letting shit flow downhill towards the people she manages.

And, thank the gods, she doesn't keep any books about Managing People on her desk.

Also: she bought me lunch last week, and I'm a sucker for lunch.


 

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Practice that's practical

Posted by Ben
on 02.17.11

The Foer brood is truly an enviable, ah, brood, is it not? (Unless one thinks that Franklin has brought shame on the entire family.)

Here is an interesting article by one of them, I believe the youngest, who constructs memory palaces better anyone else in the States. But far more interesting (to me) than the stuff about memorization is the stuff about practice and plateaus, about two-thirds of the way down:

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner tried to answer this question by describing the three stages of acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the cognitive phase, we intellectualize the task and discover new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second, the associative phase, we concentrate less, making fewer major errors, and become more efficient. Finally we reach what Fitts and Posner called the autonomous phase, when we're as good as we need to be at the task and we basically run on autopilot. … You can actually see this phase shift take place in f.M.R.I.'s of subjects as they learn new tasks: the parts of the brain involved in conscious reasoning become less active, and other parts of the brain take over. You could call it the O.K. plateau.

…They've [not Fitts & Posner] found that top achievers typically follow the same general pattern. They develop strategies for keeping out of the autonomous stage by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented and getting immediate feedback on their performance. Amateur musicians, for example, tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces.

Partly because it's a reminder that the oft-quoted figure of 10,000 hours of practice that Gladwell has perpetrated upon us fails to distinguish between just doing shit a bunch of times (something that will just further ingrain whatever habits you've already got) and what we can tendentiously call actual practice, where you identify specific problems and work on them—a real technology of practice.


 

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Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday

Posted by Ben
on 02.16.11

Di will be in the city of San Francisco next week and has free to herself no night other than Wednesday night—and she wants to spend it with us (those of us nearby, anyway). We will, I'm sure, not let her down, even going so far as to abide by her preference, of which I have been told, to keep the venue reasonably close to the Moscone Center.

I believe that Rickhouse, which I have never been to, meets that criterion, but I have no idea if it would be suitable for a gathering. (It's not as if there aren't plenty of other, less duded up, places nearby.) Note that Rickhouse aims "to provide you, our guest, with a superior beverage experience". I wonder if this means the experience of a superior beverage or a superior experience of a beverage regarding whose quality nothing is guaranteed.

Update: Bar Basic, 6:30 pm. Overpriced chicken and waffles are just around the corner!


 

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Possibly Vegan Diets Aren't Optimally Efficient?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.16.11

I'd always assumed that, given that livestock turn a certain number of calories worth of animal feed into a much smaller number of calories worth of human food, necessarily a diet that includes meat implies that less food is produced from a fixed amount of land and other resources. On the other hand, George Monbiot, in the Guardian, argues (in a review of a new book, Meat, a Benign Extravagance, by Simon Fairlie) that this argument is flawed, because it's practical to raise livestock using inputs that aren't useful for food production in other ways, like food waste for pigs, and pastoral land not suitable for crop farming.

Now, this doesn't change a thing about how people should feel about eating meat produced by the actually existing industrial food system, and certainly has no effect on moral, animal rights or animal cruelty-based arguments for meat eating. But I'd never seen a sensible looking argument that meat production wasn't necessarily a loss in the total amount of food that the world could produce before: I may end up reading the linked book, to see if the argument holds up at full length. (Link from Reason in CT comments.


 

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The kingdom

Posted by Ben
on 02.15.11

Zotter is well known for doing strange things with chocolate, but the existence of a product called "CHOCOshot oral" is more than I would ever have thought possible. There's even one called disinfection, in case the method of ingestion was insufficiently medicalized for your tastes.

Chocolate-related update:

Fog City News can also meet the needs of customers with dietary or socioeconomic preferences by offering chocolate certified kosher, organic, no-sugar-added or Fair Trade.

You might have thought that Fog City News can meet the needs of customers with socioeconomic preferences by offering chocolate at a range of prices, but I guess they've got something else in mind.


 

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The Media

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.15.11

Over the years I've entirely come around to the Emersonian view of the media. Via Chris Y in the comments, here JE sums it up. Also, Witt on occasion links to PressThink, which has also done an excellent job giving me some structure for how to think about the problems of the media.

Finally, anyone else suspect that Republicans perennially include disposing of NPR and PBS altogether partly because it makes them chuckle to watch liberals frantically dance?


 

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When we were younger

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.14.11

Childhood photos recreated. I'm generally fascinated by how people's faces age over the years, and so I find this series mesmerizing and dreamy and lovely. The attention to detail is wonderful.

Props to Cecily for passing it along.


 

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Framing the Debate

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.14.11

It's so goddamn aggravating that spending cuts could only ever be applied to non-defense discretionary funding. Why, anything else would be unthinkable.


 

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Nippy

Posted by Ben
on 02.13.11

"Finally,", writes The Sartorialist, "a collection for fall that actually shows women dressed for fall.", meaning, he goes on to say, fall weather as it exists in the parts of the country that aren't the west coast.

Seems (nsfw) plausible to me.


 

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Happy Valentine's Day

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.13.11

When I was growing up Unitarian, the sex ed class was called AYS, or About Your Sexuality. (Now it's called OWL, or Our Whole Lives.) The class was probably generally great, although my experience was mixed.

Anyway, this made me laugh:

One of the more controversial slide shows showed a man masturbating. The slides concluded with images of the man ejaculating into his navel and then tasting his own semen.

I can't say I remember the tasting exactly, but it's so compatible with the Explore! Everything is Natural! approach of the whole course that it's easy to believe I remember it. I think what I love about it is imagining the hopelessly sincere debate about how to conclude the masturbation sequence in the most affirmative way possible. "What if he uses the semen as war paint?" "No, I think he should just wipe it off on the library book." "No, that's destructive. Let's just have him sensibly taste it."


 

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