Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Anomalist Roundup

Every weekend I love catching up on The Anomalist. Here are some picks from last weekend (that I never had time to post):

Here's a link to a strangely sincere article about recording things backwards and finding coherent messages (not just in trippy albums).

Shortly afterwards, my little hobby took a dramatic turn when I accidentally stumbled across the phenomenon in normal human speech. One of the first examples I found in speech was in Neil Armstrong’s famous first words as stepped onto the lunar surface. Forwards he says, “That’s one small step for man,” and when this same track is played backwards, the words “Man will space walk” can be clearly heard.

Suddenly my little hobby had turned into an obsession. I began taping as many people as often as I could and I found backward messages to be prolific, many of them as clear as the forward dialogue, occurring in grammatically correct sentences that often related to what was being said forward. I searched libraries and bookshops trying to find any other work on the subject and could find none. It then became obvious to me that this was a field that was totally new.

Uh huh. And here's a tangentially relevant piece on language oddity, a story of a feral girl who grew up with dogs in Ukraine. Like most stories of abandonned children, it's sad and disturbing. She's mentally handicapped. The worst part is how she treats her dog.

Here are three good pieces that collect strange stories. A piece from Pravda (unusually coherent for Pravda) on messages written in the sky throughout history; an article on sightings of flying people (without airplanes); and scary stories of Spring-Heeled Jack, a wacky killer ghost.

Finally from the land of dunes, King Tut's oldest gem may be from a meteor, because it's way too old; and sand dunes sing (sound snippets and article).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Puffin Pics Album

Finally, after about 15 years of missing the puffin season everywhere I travel (Scotland, Maine, UK...), I went on a special puffin trip to Nova Scotia. I got a few good pictures, although not many of them in flight, the classic silly puffin shot. Surprisingly, I like the water ones best!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Social Isolation Growing in U.S.

A much blogged social networking article: Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says. Putnam's famous Bowling Alone was on this topic, and things have only gotten worse, apparently.
A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two. The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone. "That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."

Barry Wellman, known for his studies of internet community networks, suggests that people have more diverse network connections and spread out their needs among different links. Hmm. I'm reminded of Oldenburg's Great Good Place, about the increasing lack of "third" places like bars or community centers, not work or home sites, in which people hang out and have social lives. Suburbia is particularly prone to this problem (except in NJ, where all the kids hang out and smoke at the all-night diners).

Some of the concerns this raises are that isolated people are more depressed, more prone to illness, potentially to crime...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Reforming Project Management

This is an excellent blog on project management and development: Reforming Project Management. It also, coincidentally, happens to be written by someone who works in the AEC industry (architecture, engineering, construction), which might interest some people I work with.

I like it because it has good stuff on quality (lots on Toyota right now), some good book pointers, and some nice commentary on methods in projects and leadership. I just read the entire current page of articles from the top down, without realizing I was still on the same site.

Hal's definition of project: "A project is a single-purpose network of commitments undertaken by a temporary social system."

Face it. Projects are temporary organizations. People come together on projects as strangers. We're not likely to change that. What we can do is make sure people share a context, have intentions that are aligned, and have a relationship that allows them to successfully coordinate action together.

And while I'm at it, this isn't at all a bad article on Dr. Dobbs about short-term-high-profile-crisis projects: Quick-Kill Project Management. The authors suggest 3 things are indispensable, for project success under really crappy crisis conditions:

  • Vision and scope document
  • Work breakdown structure
  • Code review
Since Dobbs is a software journal, the insight into doing good work breakdowns and code reviews was useful even independent of the topic of crisis management.

Simple Names and the Stock Market

Not a result that will please some businessmen, but it seems that there is statistical evidence that companies with simpler names and/or companies with simple stock ticker symbols perform better on the market. Human processing may be the reason. Note, however, that it's not a sole predictor -- TiVO would have done better long term if it were, sigh.
In fact, across the entire NYSE and AMEX markets, Alter and Oppenheimer calculated $1000 invested in shares with pronounceable ticker codes would have netted $85.35 more profit after one day compared with an equal amount invested in companies with an unpronounceable ticker code.
Citation: BPS Research Digest: Why you should invest in shares with simple names.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nova Scotia Animals Pics

A bunch of animal photos are up on this gallery.
It was a hot day -- so there are lots of sleepy, cuddly looking animals and only a few scary ones. Check out the bunnies, otters sleeping on their backs, porcupine draped over a tree branch, and fierce eagle in a kiddy pool.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

This owl could be a muppet, but he's not -- he's real and he's just hot. I'm trying to get my pics from my recent vacation online in a web gallery, but it's taking the usual too-much-work...