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Monthly Archives: November 2013

During last nights game one of the Monday night crew observed that Belichick is willing to do whatever it takes to shut down what your team likes to do even if it means allowing you whatever that costs him.  If true, that strikes me as an interesting bet on the behavior of his opponents.  What it suggests is that he thinks that his opponents have such a high need to go with what they are most comfortable with that it will not only turn up in their play calling but that by committing everything to thwart it, he can create an advantage.  By concentrating on stopping that aspect he makes the other team succeed in a way that feels awkward or counter to what they want to be doing and failing at what they are most comfortable with. Wrong footing them as I’ve heard it from cricket players.  It also presumes the other team won’t just take what he is giving and hammer away at it.  This is speculative but at least one data point in favor of it is the game last night. It would seem that Belichick was okay with giving the Broncos the run game if it meant he could (mostly) shut down their favored pass style offense.  Maybe this is just too simple to be the case.

I’m curious about how much we really know about that statement.  I must have read it in a hundred different places and also read that people who eat breakfast have healthy outcomes in terms of weight.  What I want to know is what do we know about what is necessary to achieve those outcomes? What constitutes breakfast? I can reframe the item as calories need to be consumed at some point with reference either to sleep or a period of time each day.  Let’s break that down further. How many calories do I need to consume? If I have sugar and milk in my coffee, does that satisfy the requirement? It is easy enough to figure that there is some higher amount that is sufficient. Some toast or cereal or something. There are some examples, say egg whites and bit of fruit, that seems to me wouldn’t necessarily get you over a hundred calories. If that turns out to be enough, where does it break down below that number or does it? Is it sufficient to have any calories (more than zero)? When do these calories have to be consumed? Is it based on my wake time? Is there a window at which I need to consume whatever the required calories are and if I miss that do I miss the benefit? Or is it based on some sort of body cycle/day where it is important to eat the calories at roughly the same time each day?  If either of these things are the case then wake time or time of day are critical to gaining the benefit. It certainly seems like there must be some limit because the phrase is all about a particular meal of the day so it isn’t good enough to say have eaten lunch. Are there definitive studies that address this?

Update 11/23 – and the internet gods respond:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1208051#t=articleResults

I expect that I will probably post more on this topic but wanted to get the ball rolling.  Based on my experience, an area that seems to be a near universal weak spot is defining a problem space. Defining a problem space as I use it has to do with identifying the most basic or overarching item it is that you are trying to solve.  It could probably be as easily referred to as good problem definition. I prefer the problem space  terminology because it makes me think of a collection of items or interlocking pieces that I am dropping in to a bag or a box.  I can keep adding to or removing pieces as I like to improve how well they represent the problem.

A simple illustration of what I am going on about:  I might say my problem is that I need a calculator. This isn’t really correct. A calculator is more likely a solution.  So what is the problem? Well, maybe I need to solve a math problem (as opposed to needing a paperweight) , so that goes in to the problem space. How often do I need to solve this particular math problem? Let’s say reasonably frequently. That goes in to the problem space. Is this math problem kind of the same each time or does it vary a lot? Let’s say kind of the same. Into the problem space. How fast do I need to solve the problem? Let’s say really quickly. Into the problem space.  This can go on and on. Only after taking a good pass at defining the problem space do I want to take a cut at the solution. I may need to revisit the problem space (I may need to iterate), as I try to solve the problem.   Given the above example, a calculator is one solution. A second solution might be a spreadsheet. A third solution might be a pre-solved  table. A fourth solution might be to do it by hand or in my head.

You might question whether this is important; I know I do. The reasons it has moved up for me are twofold. One, I see folks doing the equivalent of banging away on the calculator all day when 30 minutes of effort might produce a solution that drastically reduces the effort or cost in solving the problem. (I think there is another interesting thought in why folks might not want to reduce the effort) Second, scaling up beyond the simple example given, not defining the problem space or not keeping the problem space in mind run rampant across so many different people, organizations, processes, products, and functions at least in my experience.  There seems to be an inverse correlation between ambiguity/problem difficulty, and whether a good job has been done in defining the problem space.

I am of the opinion that this is really just a skill that improves with practice and applying it whenever possible. This leads me to wonder why I notice so many examples where it isn’t applied.  Have I just been exposed to a really bad sample? Are my perceptions inaccurate?

One of those useful things that we don’t pay much attention to are streets that have timed lights. Timed lights work such that if you are going the speed limit or a few miles an hour below, lights just keep turning green for you.
What I want to know is why we can’t turn that idea on its head and create timed drivers. I’m thinking of traffic lights that can broadcast their status as to what currently has the green. Then there is an app that takes that information along with my preset route plan -> plugged in before I leave, and tells me what speed I need to go at any given time to make my lights. The app should also broadcast back to the light my information as to the plan. Implicit in this is the assumption that there are some kind of savings (time, gas, psychic) to be constantly moving as opposed to start/stop. If enough folks are using the system, then you’d expect to make the lights smarter to plan for traffic that is expected to be at the light shortly. One problem I can see immediately is if what I need to do at the upcoming light is in conflict with what someone else needs to do. For example, the guy next to me needs to make a left coming up but I want to go straight. We both can’t necessarily go through the intersection at the same time depending on the needs of the other drivers. As a quick thought, it seems like it might alter the tromp on the gas then brake at the next light pattern that is common. After all, why rush to get to a light you are going to have to sit at when you know in advance you will have to sit? It seems like there is quite a bit more complicated problem here to resolve everyone but on the other hand it doesn’t seem impossible and if the app is telling you what to do then presumably there is flexibility in how to solve the problem. Is this like the traveling salesman problem? Does this get you partway toward the ideal where self driving cars can eliminate congestion by all behaving so that everyone comes out for the better? What percentage of drivers do you need as participants to get herd effects?

I’ve long been curious about what people are thinking when they do the wave while driving.  It had always made sense to me in the context of acknowledging that someone has done you a little favor.  Letting you out of a parking lot onto a street when traffic is otherwise stopped is a good example.  Makes perfect sense. There is another context where I see folks do the wave and it doesn’t make any sense all.  These folks do the wave typically when they have done something stupid, dangerous, or both, and usually when they have forced another driver to avoid them. A recent example was a guy at a stop sign on a busy and moving street who just pulled straight in to traffic. The car approaching him had to slam on the brakes as did the cars behind the first car. And then he gave the wave.

I wonder in this context what the wave is meant to signify. Does it mean:

  • I’ve seen other people do the wave but I am confused about the correct context so I’m just throwing it out there?
  • I’m a jackass, I know that I’m a jackass, and I’m making you aware that I know that I’m a jackass?
  • I’m sorry that I did what I did, but not so sorry that I didn’t actually not do it?
  • Not only do I not care what I did, but now I’m signalling that there isn’t anything you can do about it?

I suppose I always sort of discount the first two. The first one not for any particularly good reason; there are people this clueless out there.  The second one because in my experience we all edit the internal recording of our lives to not have to acknowledge things like this.  It is the last two that I usually settle on.  I suppose my other question is why bother doing the wave at all in this context? Why not just have the good grace to be embarrassed by what you just did?