Archive for June 2012

I Will Be In Austin In August

I submitted a proposal to speak at a conference in Austin, Texas in August. My proposal was accepted. So it looks like I will be in Austin in August.

I will probably take the Amtrak down again to save wear and tear on my car.

Image from Wikipedia

2012-06-22 Blog Title

New blog title: Robot Dolphin

Someone used this term to describe something that happens on Skype calls where there is a moment of silence, and what the person on the other ends says gets compressed and played back at high speed, and they sound like a dolphin.

June 2012 Latino Atheists Meeting

The June meeting of the Chicago Latino Atheists group happened yesterday. We met at the Buzz Cafe, but there were so many of us that we got moved upstairs. We had been coming there for a couple of years, and we did not know there was an upstairs room.

Turnout was pretty high. It was myself, Jose, Martha, Jaime, Jaime’s wife, Eduardo, Espy, Vicky, Francisco and Raquel. I had seen Vicky and Francisco at different atheist/skeptic events around Chicago, but I did not interact with them very much. Eduardo and Espy are siblings, and Martha was happy to see another pair of siblings.

Jaime’s wife is taking a summer break from her day job of saving the world. She lived up to her reputation and gave us all an assignment: We should all prepare something about women and atheism. Martha gave her the nickname La Acha, which Martha said means “The Axe”. (The Spanish word for “hammer” ends with the letter “O”, and was determined to be inappropriate.)  At the last meeting Jaime’s sister got into a “discussion” with Jose, and she did not show up to this meeting. Thanks a lot, Jose.

Martha reserved the room for next month. She was reluctant to use the word “Atheist” in the reservation. But she kept the logic. (Religious people “keep the faith”, we stay rational.)

Eduardo expressed an interest in attending other atheist/skeptical groups in Chicago. I gave him my take on the scene in Chicago. He wanted to have a Latino Atheist meeting in the Loop to get us to two meetings a month. We shall see what happens. Espy recently moved to Chicago, and has worked as a personal trainer. She had lived in California. She and Eduardo had also lived in Wisconsin, and are glad to be out.

Jaime said that Eduardo knows a lot about Drupal. Perhaps there will be some changes to the website.

Raquel is a college student from Texas who is interning at a local gallery. She is the first Texan I have met who does not have a driver’s license. She is from an area of Texas outside the Golden Triangle (Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth). Jose and Martha have relatives in El Paso, so there was some talk about the difference between the cartel spillover in different parts of Texas. The school Raquel attends is in Edinburg, about 330 miles from Houston. Both cities are very very far from El Paso. Texas is big. I mean, it’s really big. No, seriously, you won’t believe how big it is. Raquel also said that if she stays in Texas she would live in Austin.

Martha and Espy are going to recruit and train an cadre of fit, atheist Hispanic women. Hopefully they will unleash an army of bikini-clad, equation-spewing Salma Hayek look-alikes on the world. I am pretty certain that is their plan. And I for one would welcome our new fit, rational Latina overlords. (I suppose I should say “overladies”, but I am not sure if it is a real word.) Religious people have their fantasies, and I have mine.

Cowboy hats and thigh-high stilletto-heeled boots. I’m just saying……

Image of seal of Mexican state of Aguascalientes from Wikipedia

2012-06-17 Blog Title

New blog title: Native Rage



Thoughts on “The Checklist Manifesto”

A book I checked out from the library is The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I first heard about the magic of relying on checklists when I read an article in the Chicago Tribune titled “United leans on go-to guys“, about ramp workers that United Airlines sends on special assignments, including charter flights to transport troops and equipment for the military. Here is the money quote: The group’s methods for developing checklists and centralizing information have had so much success that Elk Grove Township-based United has begun introducing their approaches to solving problems into other areas of the airline’s operation, standardizing operations whenever possible.

I heard about the power of checklists again on a technology podcast, and one of the hosts mentioned that he was taking flying lessons. He said that pilots use checklists for everything. Even how to deal with engine failure. He said that he started using checklists for his software projects and other areas of his life and that it helped him get things done more efficiently and with fewer errors.

Gawande goes over how using checklists have reduced medical errors at hospitals. He also covers the use of checklists in architecture//engineering/construction. In construction, when there is an unanticipated issue, the group he looked at would go off the checklist. People from different groups would come together and make a decision.

His thoughts on when to stay on-list (usually during routine activity) and when to go off-list (during emergencies) led to a discussion of Hurricane Katrina. Many people like to contrast the federal government with WalMart to show that the private sector can handle things better. He said the real issue is a large organization should know there are times to stay on script and times to decentralize decision-making. WalMart let its branches do what they felt was best, while the federal government would not delegate authority. He gave examples of private companies that did not delegate and thus did poorly, while some local government agencies let their people improvise. When life goes off-script, you should go off-script.

Gawande profiles an investment manager who uses a checklist when looking at investments to decide whether or not to invest in a company. He said it helped improve his returns. This manager said he has studied Warren Buffett (but then again who has not?). This manager said that Buffett has made some bad investments (which Buffett himself has admitted), and this manager has said that there are mistakes that Buffett has made more than once. He has inferred from this that Buffett is not using a checklist when he looks at companies. Saying you are better than Buffett is a pretty bold claim.

Gawande wrote about how checklists have helped him in surgery. One of the things that he does is he has the whole team (surgeons, nurses, anaesthesiologists, etc) introduce themselves to each other. I think someone else suggested this step, and Gawande thought this was silly. Until he cut into a patient’s artery and the patient nearly died. Gawande thought that the one minute that people spend introducing themselves can engender more trust on the team that can increase the chance of success, especially in an emergency.

He spent a lot of time writing about the checklists that airline pilots use. He said that the steps should be short and clear.

He wrote that many people resist the idea of checklists because they are afraid it will squach their creativity and individuality. But he said that it frees you from having to worry about details and allows you to focus on the bigger picture. Plus, you can always change and improve the checklist.

He is part of the Safe Surgery 2015 movement, which runs Project Check. It includes a checklist for developing checklists.

Fitness Journey 006

So after I started having knee problems, I started going to physical therapy. My therapist was a very attractive woman.  Sometimes when I put weight on my knee, I would go an inch higher; sometimes my left leg was longer. Things got pretty bad. But my knee eventually got better.

I did weights at the gym. It was a small gym in the dorm. I did not know much, I did not even know that I should work big muscles before the small muscles. I do not remember what I did to stay in shape in the summer between sophomore and junior years. I probably still worked at the grocery store pushing the carts. But I do not think I went to any gym.

In my junior year I transferred to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There I got even more serious about fitness and got more knowledge.



Interesting Links

I am making a note to myself about some interesting links. Code Name Insight has some interesting links:

Let’s not forget James Altucher and Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Updated: 2012-09-01_04.11.33: Added The Change Blog


2012-06-09 Blog Title

New blog title: The Implicit Rejection


Fitness Journey 005

So I was running a few times a week in the fall of my sophomore year in college. I did not run very far, but a lot of people who were not active were impressed with my mileage.

One day I was running north on Western Avenue after running to downtown Macomb, and I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. I stopped for a few minutes. Then I restarted, and again I felt a sharp pain. I stopped again and did not restart.

I saw a doctor, and found out that I had chondromalacia patellae. When you put weight on your knee, the kneecap should move vertically. With CP, when you put weight on your knee, it moves horizontally, cutting into cartilage. The doctor said that it was because my left leg was not as strong as my right leg. He told me that I should stop running, and I should look into weight training. I was upset since I liked running, but I did look into weight training. Back then I did not know about the different muscle types.

Image from Wikipedia




Are Attitudes Toward Startups Changing?

I have written a few posts in which I stated that a lot of what is going on in technology today is useless because instead of looking at peak oil and climate change people are working on ridiculous, me-too start-ups. (Nobody will care about your iPad app if we cannot keep the lights on.)

I saw a couple of articles that are somewhat related to this idea. One is there are startups using “crowdfunding” for start-ups revolved around hardware that the supposedly smart VCs would not fund. Granted, the gadgets are small. I doubt anyone will ever fund a thorium reactor via Kickstart. The article does not mention energy but I did like it. I still say the VCs are not as smart as they think they are.

Another article dealt with the Facebook fallout. Paul Graham of YCombinator wrote a letter to his portfolio companies telling them that funding will dry up since Facebook’s falling price is putting a chill on the markets, so the companies need to hunker down. And it looks like Facebook’s revenue is not looking too good these days (see articles here, here and here). I cannot claim that I predicted these events, but I think it’s funny that our supposed betters in California and Wall Street all seem surprised by this. I have a hard time taking them seriously.

Image from Wikipedia