Eric's Fred

"sprints" vs. "marathons"

Is it true that every large task can (usefully) be divided into quasi-modular subtasks which can be completed in a relatively short time? This notion is certainly useful for tracking progress (and spotting a lack thereof so corrective action may be taken)—it's the "sprint" model (of project organization) currently in favor in industry. Might we, however, be making an unexamined choice of trade-offs by exclusively using this model? Might the (previous? older?) model of "mileposts"—regarding a task as a marathon rather than as concatenated sprints—be more productive and useful in some circumstances?



I've been noticeably absent from these pages for a while now, eh? It's not entirely the fault of the insidious fb; it's partly that I've been very busy with interesting and engaging stuff at work. Don't know when that will change, but wanted to send up a flare in any case.

"Six degrees" debunked

I ran across this in one of the books I’m currently reading and thought it rather interesting. Interesting enough, in fact, that I decided to pass it along to you:
  How is it that such unexpected connections [between people] seem to happen as often as they do? In the 1950s, a Harvard University psychologyist named Stanley Milgram wanted to answer this question by determining, on average, how many links it would take to get from any person to any other person in the United States.
( … )
In his most famous study, Milgram found that, for the letters that made it to their target, the median number of intermediate acquaintances from starter to target was five. This result was widely quoted and is the source of the popular notion that people are linked by only “six degrees of separation.”
Later work by psychologist Judith Kleinfeld has shown that the popular interpretation of Milgram’s work was rather skewed—in fact, most of the letters from starters never made it to their targets, and in other studies by Milgram, the median number of intermediates for letters that did reach the targets was higher than five. However, the idea of a small world linked by six degrees of separation has remained as what may be an urban myth of our culture. As Kleinfeld points out,
  When people experience an unexpected social connection, the event is likely to be vivid and salient in a person’s memory…. We have a poor mathematical, as well as a poor intuitive understanding of the nature of coincidence.   
Complexity: A Guided Tour, Melanie Mitchell, Oxford University Press, New York, 2009, pages 227–228.

Fredcritter with camera

How cool is that?

I believe this is the first of my photos to be displayed on iTunes. Oh … okay … okay … I know. It is not being displayed because of its intrinsic wonderfulness—it is there on account of being the cover of friend Steven's album, which in turn is there probably on account of the marketing savvy of friend Drew, but still I reckon it's pretty cool…

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Fredcritter gets political

Deep thoughts

It says here* that in book twelve of his Metaphysics, “…Aristotle sets out to prove the existence of an eternal unchanging First Cause of the eternal circular movement of the heavenly sphere and the world of change. … [He argues that] the First Cause does not directly bring about the change but acts as the end of the activities of the spheres of the fixed stars, as an object of love and desire. The spheres, according to Aristotle, are intelligent beings, and the unchanging motion of the first sphere is motivated by its desire to emulate the fixed existence of the First Cause. Its eternal circular motion is the closest approximation of the heavenly spheres to the perfection of the First Cause.”

So if I understand this correctly, Aristotle is saying that in its relentless pursuit of perfection, the first sphere goes in circles—chasing its own tail as it were—and never really gets anywhere. Hm. Maybe he’s on to something!

*Ari Ackerman, “Miricles,” in Nadler, Steven and T.M. Rudavsky (eds.), The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2009, pages 366–367.


Fred works too much

Funny. I just realized that at least one of the reasons I haven't been writing much in the past couple of months is a great deal of my thought and attention has been focused on writing code and documentation for a project at work—I haven't really "walked away from it" even when I've been at home. Although I haven't been spending all of my time at home writing, I certainly have been spending most of it thinking, mulling, or whatever it is I do when I'm focused. Today I did, in fact, spend most of the day writing up some documentation when perhaps I should have been relaxing. Ah well. At least now I know.

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Fredcritter gets political

Convention Dreaming

So I'm thinking that I'm not really up for the drive to Confusion next month for some reason but I haven't been getting to as many conventions as I'd like these days and oh look! Capricon is right there in the middle of February and Chicago isn't that far and I know some people there and hey! I even know some of the guests I wonder if I know anybody on the committee but regardless I'll bet there's the possibility that music might break out at some point and some of the Usual Suspects might even be there and it's four days long (why is that? he wonders) so there'd be even more chance for music and socializing and stuff so I figured I'd you know write up this post and see if anybody'd notice or even think this was an idea if I were to you know run it up the metaphorical flagpole as it were and see if … uh … where was I, Jon?

Fredcritter with camera

Fifth in the series

As Gavi says about this one, “It seems like I should find it kind of boring—that I shouldn’t really like it … but for some reason I can’t quite identify I do rather like it.” I feel the same way about it. What do you all think?

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