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Sunday on the Bed with the Newspaper

Fifteen years ago, Sundays were best spent on the bed with too much coffee and the Sunday New York Times, a massive amount of information. Indeed, it has been said that the Sunday New York Times holds more information than the average serf in the Middle Ages encountered in their lifetime.

Occasionally we would get up from the bed to walk across the room to where a computer was plugged into the Internet, to look up things on Google (yes, even back then). But the heart of the content was first and foremost printed, folded and delivered to the door (even in Berkeley, California this was possible, as the Bay Area edition of the NYTimes was printed locally). A somewhat expensive but definitely worthwhile pursuit.

This morning as we lounged on the bed, I realized that the same sense of serendipity and engagement with content was happening on my iPhone and with various apps and social media as intermediaries: Facebook, Twitter, Goolge Plus, Isoreader (RSS Feed Reader), all pointed to various pieces of content consumable across the web, and delivered to the 4 inch screen. Granted, it has taken a while to get this curated list of friends, fans, and followees, and RSS subscriptions.

But at this point, it is not the New York Times who does my curration, but dozens, hundreds of diverse sources. Today, as I was readong a New York Times article, I was informed that I was reading the 5th out of 10 articles alloted to me for the month (and this being 13th of July, I will likely exceed this amount). Of course I consume New York Times articles on many devices and browsers, so this was simply one of many cookied environments that the New York Times tries to limit my consumption (since I do not pay the exhorbant subscription price).

This leads me to assume that the New York Times, since it no longer does anything critical to the value chain of my content consumption on a Sunday Morning (besides providing a small slice of that content itself), is very much in danger. In any case, it has indeed taken this long (15 years) to get to a point where the curation of content and the bundling and delivery of that content has been completely disrupted, such that the original sense of wonder as well as satiation which the Sunday New York Times provides (and still does, no doubt) is available and distributed digitally from a diversity of curators and content creators.

Now, my bed is located in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Definitely out of reach of the New York Times print delivery service, and it would reach me Monday morning, at the earliest. And so the significant disadvantages of print (bulky, physical, costly) are erradicated in one fell swoop. Of course, this content pipeline does require even costlier apparatus, the iPhone, which is why one should definitely short the NYTimes and go long on Apple, just as we have done in my household.

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New Year 2019 CE / 2562 BE

For those not in Cambodia, Laos or Thailand, 2562 is the Buddhist Era (BE) date, which is 543 years ahead of the Common Era calendar.

New Year, The Last Before 2020

Ah yes, the end of a year and beginning of another. A time to reflect, etc., etc. Well, this year much was accomplished and much was not. The small children are developing, which is a joy and fascination itself to witness. For anyone interested in AI/ML, watching children learn is intriguing.

Recession is Coming

Though economists mostly discuss 2020 and 2021, around half of businessmen place the next recession firmly in 2019. Looking at labor markets in China, it seems obvious we are just around the corner.

The Internet is Fake

More and more and more fake at the years go by, and this should not be forgotten even for a day.

Markets Transfer Wealth Upward

Companies' pursuit of high profits is making the top 20% richer at the expense of the bottom 80%, to the tune of 3% in 1996..

Resistance is Needed

Invest in those things that provide value, ongoing, only.

Canis Major - Robert Frost

The great Overdog
That heavenly beast
With a star in one eye
Gives a leap in the east.

He dances upright
All the way to the west
And never once drops
On his forefeet to rest.

I'm a poor underdog,
But to-night I will bark
With the great Overdog
That romps through the dark.

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Time Horizons in Terrible Times

For various reasons, now is a terrible time (in the world). At the same time, my own time horizons have shifted due to having young children. My eldest may graduate from high school in 15 years, give or take a year or two. Fifteen years from now is 2033, which is a bit mind boggling. Though to be honest, 2018 is a bit crazy as well, having snuck up on us, in some respects. How can our actions remain relevant in the face of the likely dramatic and mostly unknown changes we will face by 2033? This is an actual question that deserves at least a method, an approach. To begin, it seems that we need an understanding the kind of world we hope it might be and the skills and abilities needed to get it there. - Human and humane - The robots have not taken over (everything, yet) - Resiliant, and moreso, able to rebound from severe shock (antifragility) What is most plausible as important and relevant to that time in the future includes: - War for talent and winner-take-all trends continue - Population demographics will shift, but current living populations and at least some continuation of demographic trends will have important effects - China and Thailand will be in population decline; India will have likely added 200m to its population and surpased China as most populous; USA will have increased by 10% to 360m. Indonesia will have increased by nearly 15% with likely 300m. Regarding some of the bad actors, I sure hope that by 2033 we see a vast diminishment of Facebook, at the very least. We need to see it as a very bad actor (profiting from and thereby enabling bad actors), and as something to shun. Gamification in general seems to be a bad idea, since it develops short-term reward-seeking behavior and has implications for personality development and psychological health. The ability to think deeply and reason effectively, and to fundamentally love truth and love wisdom. And with this kind of impetus to also include a strong safety net and services dealing with public health both physical and mental. A bias towards action and foremost action that is directed to realizing a better outcome in the world. Mere consumerism and mere activism are neither not enough. Embodying the mustering of forced directed toward the long term in a bohemian lifestyle rather than a political movement. That is a better lived reality, and one that is harder to attack and overturn. Yet it is fundamentally committed and progressive.

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Work Hard, Have Fun, Make History

Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs have similar insights when it comes to hiring the best. This is equally relevant when one is building a school. Hire the best teachers possible, if you want a high-performing school.

Three Questions When Making a Hiring Decision

From the 1998 Amazon Shareholder Letter: It would be impossible to produce results in an environment as dynamic as the Internet without extraordinary people. Working to create a little bit of history isn't supposed to be easy, and, well, we're finding that things are as they're supposed to be! We now have a team of 2,100 smart, hard-working, passionate folks who put customers first. Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com's success. During our hiring meetings, we ask people to consider three questions before making a decision: - Will you admire this person? If you think about the people you've admired in your life, they are probably people you've been able to learn from or take an example from. For myself, I've always tried hard to work only with people I admire, and I encourage folks here to be just as demanding. Life is definitely too short to do otherwise. - Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they're entering? We want to fight entropy. The bar has to continuously go up. I ask people to visualize the company 5 years from now. At that point, each of us should look around and say, The standards are so high now -- boy, I'm glad I got in when I did! - Along what dimension might this person be a superstar? Many people have unique skills, interests, and perspectives that enrich the work environment for all of us. It's often something that’s not even related to their jobs.

Steve Jobs on Hiring Truly Gifted People

> In Software, and it used to be the case in Hardware, the difference between the average and the best is 50 to 1, maybe 100 to one.... > > I've built a lot of my success off finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for B and C players, but really going for the A players. And I found that when you get these A players together, when you go through this incredible work to find these A players, they really like working with each other becuase they've never had a chance to do that before. And they don't want to work with B and C players, and so it becomes self-policing, and they only want to hire more A players. And so you build up these pockets of A players and it propagates.

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High-Achieving, Gifted, Highly Gifted

There are significant differences between high-achieving, gifted, and highly gifted children. When one recognizes unusual, advanced early development, understanding what one is seeing is important. There are different vulnerabilities and burdens for each of these groups: - The Burdens of Gifted Children - The Truth About Gifted Versus High-Achieving Students - Vulnerabilities of highly gifted children

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IPA Keyboard Layout

Well, it turns out, there is no such thing, per se, as an IPA Keyboard Layout, at least not in the sense that there are keyboard layouts for various languages and layout styles (e.g., English, Dvorak, etc.). This seems to me to be a tremendous oversight, though it obviously came about because someone thought supporting the entire Unicode space for the IPA was a great idea, and the only idea.

Continue reading IPA Keyboard Layout

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Spatial Visual Ability

I'll come back and write more about this later (especially how to help with this with one's children), but for now here are some resources: - Submenu Navigation - Nielsen Norman Group - Seeking information online: the influence of menu type, navigation path complexity and spatial ability on information gathering tasks - Online Spatial Reasoning Task - Recognizing Spatial Intelligence - Scientific American - Measuring Human Capabilities: An Agenda for Basic Research on the Assessment of Individual and Group Performance Potential for Military Accession (2015) - Chapter: 4 Spatial Abilities

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Mnemonic Devices and Learning

On January 1, 2009 CNN published an article on memory. Now would be a good time to review and expand on that article, in the hopes of improving our own memory. It may be useful to conceive of the Art of Memory as having four broad application areas, a set of techniques (often called mnemonic devices), and the underlying cognitive architecture which indicate how and why such techniques work in the first place. Ultimately mnemonic devices promise a significant return on cognitive and temporal investment -- spend time learning these techniques and save a lot more time and effort over the application area.

Background on Mnemonics

According to Aristotle, the art of memory was considered a part of rhetoric as much as dialectic in classical antiquity. Apparently, many mnemonic devices such as the Method of Loci and the Major System were taught in schools until at least the 19th century. It appears we have forgotten these memory systems. Now may be a good time to recall them to mind.

Underlying Cognitive Architecture

The underlying cognitive mechanism which are the basis for much of the mnemonic devices include the following elements, among others. - The Von Restorff Effect seems to be the basis for many other phenomena. The main point is that things that stand out are more likely to be remembered. This has many implications - The serial order effect includes two features: primacy (things first in a list are more likely to be remembered) and recency (things last in a series are more likely to be remembered). - The Picture Superiority Effect indicates that according to dual-coding theory, memories can exist as verbal and/or visual, and therefore pictorially represented ideas have the advantage of being coded twice, enhancing memorability. Use pictures and words when possible. - The Levels of Processing Effect is a complex phenomena. It proposes that depth of processing increases memorability. Semantic learning (meaning) is deeper than phonemic (sound) and orthographic (writing) learning alone. - In addition, specificity (the same medium of recall and production, such as auditory learning and recollection) increases depth. Self-reference indicates a connection between the object of learning and the subject doing the learning. Self-reference increases depth as well. Make learning specific in terms of medium, meaning (semantics), and learner self-reference (meaningfulness to the subject). This could be termed the three Ms of Memory: medium, meaning, and meaningfulness. - Implicit recollection is easier than explicit recollection. Implicit recollection effectively has context and other scaffolding features rather than requiring recollection without any related stimulus. However this effect does not have clear-cut support. - There is a hierarchy of sensory inputs for recall. Vision and touch are strongest with sound and smell less powerful sensory inputs. Incorporate vision and touch into sound-based memory inputs and outputs when possible.

Mnemonic Devices and Techniques

  • The Mnemonic Link System can be considered the basis of the Loci, Major, and Dominic systems. The main idea is to create connections between two unrelated things, thereby forging a memorable connection.
  • Peg systems are a memorization of visual associations with numbers, such that the numbers can be recalled by recalling the visual associations in a given order.
  • The Major System is a handy and flexible way of encoding numbers in sounds that can be memorized in words, and then decoded later to reproduce the original number. Created around 300 years ago, this is the most flexible system, though as it relies on sound it has a greater cognitive load rather than a straightforward peg system. However, it can be supplemented with software to help generate the most appropriate words to link to the target numbers. See also this article and this free software that can help with numbers-to-words association to help with major system.
  • The Dominic system is a shorter version of the Major system and associates numbers with letters, and pairs of letters with people. Then the idea is to memorize a set of people performing interactions, which can then be reversed back into the original number. (See also this phonetic mnemonic system.)
  • The Method of Loci is ascribed to the classical orator Simonides, who was speaking at a banquet, was called outside, when the roof collapsed. The bodies were so damaged they could not be identified, but he was able to identify the victims of the disaster based on where the people had been sitting. Loci (locations) are a well-known visual space which can be recalled readily to mind. The idea is then to picture objects in these places. The strengths of visual imagery and self-reference are combined to construct a powerful mnemonic.

Additional Practical Aspects

  • In the book Aspects of Memory: The Practical Aspects, there is an interesting article "Memory Aids, known how, knowing when, and knowing when not" introduces and discusses various memory aids (mnemonic devices) and their effectiveness compared with rote learning.
  • Another article in the same book, "The Facilitation of Memory Performance", discusses various memory and non-memory issues. Memory issues include using warm up, presentation rate, effective instructions, repetition, distributed study trials, use of external memory aids, and physical presence of objects.
  • Non-memory issues include physical, emotional, motivational, environmental, and social conditions. All of these non-memory issues are meant to increase both arousal and selective attention. Physically we are faced with the obvious importance of enough, but not too much, sleep, food, and water. Environmental issues include bathroom facilities, heat and cold, seating or standing, lighting, auditory and visual elements, and other comfort issues. Emotional state regards stress and relaxation training including yoga, meditation, and exercise. Motivation is a complex component best dealt elsewhere. Social environment has to do with interaction with others to reduce shyness and provide positive feedback and support.

Mnemonic Application Areas

  • Remembering Faces and Names are particularly important for rather obvious reasons. There are a few related systems, which usually rely on unique visual combinations, related to names, as well as previous memories and experiences, using the notion of self-reference.
  • A reviewer of "Remember Every Name Every Time" appears to provide most of the content of a given book, namely the two methods for remembering, the observational and associational systems.
  • There are several resources available as technique variations. The useful Nutt's How to Remember Names and Faces is now in the public domain. There is a video on how to remember names. A blog entry on ThinkSimpleNow has seven hacks to remember any name. And an additional site has more hints for name memory.
  • The Major and Dominic systems are designed for numbers, as well as reversing any peg system.
  • The linkword system is perfect for learning foreign language vocabulary. There has been useful research (constrained to case study) which indicates significant difference in using the linkword system. It is important that the linkwords, usually a visual combination based in L1 (first language) be focused on for a specific amount of time. Some studies indicate a 10 second time interval is useful and there is anecdotal evidence for great gains. Unfortunately, if native-speaker-level pronunciation is desired (which it usually is) then the linkwords must be created by bilingual teams who can work out the correct pronunciation. As we know languages have different sound sets, so even there a trained native speaker must conduct the listening and production aspects. For more thoughts on this topic, see this and this.
  • Textbook and Course Content is an obvious application area, though there is a sense that cramming is good enough for the majority of students, who don't want to commit to memory much of their higher educational experience. There is a useful resource on mnemonics for textbook memorization.
  • Another site provides some techniques for Listening in the article "How to listen for memory".

Final Note

To paraphrase Mark Twain, I didn't have much time, so I wrote a long article. A shorter one will be forthcoming once I boil this down into a few simple techniques and guidelines.