Monthly Archives: November 2010

Focus Button

Current reading: On the Value of Hard Focus

I’ve felt my ability to focus has been eroding over the course of this year… or rather, especially since the end of summer. Multiple things contributed to this. One thing is that I do less programming at work these days. If I’m doing an OS installation, it’s easy to spend a bit of time browsing the internet while I wait a couple of minutes for Windows update to find some downloads. Another thing is the beginning of football season. That means I’ll multitask: Watch a football game, check my fantasy scores on the computer, and try to draw a comic during commercial breaks. It doesn’t work out very well. This also means that during downtime, I have urges to check for fantasy football advice. One more factor is the start of the fall TV season. I watch 4 TV series. While I was working two jobs, I almost stopped watching TV altogether. I thought this was amazing, and I’d just avoid TV in the future and get so much done. Hah! I’m watching TV just to let my brain decompress sometimes… sit on the couch for hours, even if I’m not particularly interested in the show. It’s okay to do it every once in a while, but I’d like to take some time to be productive sometimes.

In fact, as I’m blogging, I’m watching the Boise-Nevada game right now. I’ve also checked Twitter a few times.

I wish there was a friggin’ focus button. I could hit it and focus and just crank out whatever I wanted to. I wouldn’t get distracted by anything. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible. So, what can I do?

Well, based on my reading, it looks like one thing to do is to practice focusing. There’s another idea that’s been on my mind, but I haven’t explored much lately: I should create tools (or devise techniques) that prevent me from distracting myself. The idea is that my monkey brain isn’t strong enough to avoid distractions. Odysseus didn’t think he could withstand the Sirens; he had his men tie him to the mast.

I have to explore this more at another time. The game I’m watching is too exciting! I guess I’ll single-task on the game. (Lying… gonna be on facebook too.)

Chalkboard Manifesto Hiatus

I’m taking a vacation from my comic strip in December. I’m looking forward to this break. I need some time away to refresh my creative energies. I haven’t been too happy with a lot of my comics lately; I feel like I’ve put the minimum amount of effort into it a lot of times. I just haven’t been as excited about doing my comic as I used to be. I’m not sure how important it is to me right now. There are other things swirling around in my mind, so I want to be able to do those things. With the free time, I’ll be able to put more energy into other projects. There’s some programming stuff I need to do, and I want to work on Larry Whitman. I’m pretty excited about pouring more energy into other things.

I don’t know what will happen when I come back. I think that I should be energized to start, or I may change my mind and want to do another project. I’ve been doing the comic for over 5 years, so I may feel like it’s time to move on.

NFL Receivers

The latest TMQ article touts unknown receivers over high draft choices.

These plays, in a nutshell, summarize a core fact of NFL life: Receivers who were unknowns early in their NFL careers often outperform megabucks glory-boy high-drafted types.

Among NFL receivers having fine seasons are Danny Amendola, Anthony Armstrong, Miles Austin, Davone Bess, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Lance Moore and Wes Welker, all undrafted. Other top receivers include Marques Colston, Donald Driver, Garcon, Johnny Knox and Kevin Walter, all late-round draft choices from below-the-radar colleges. And the league’s No. 1 receiver is Brandon Lloyd, who has been waived twice in the NFL and barely played in 2008 and 2009.

Some kind of fluke of the moment? Three of the NFL’s top eight all-time receivers — Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Andre Reed — were small-college players.

By contrast, you’d quickly run out of fingers counting recent first-round football-factory receivers who either were busts or failed to live up to their billing. Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, Matt Jones, David Terrell, Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Clayton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ashley Lelie, Reggie Williams, Koren Robinson — not even TMQ has room for a full accounting.

Why do small-school and low-drafted NFL receivers excel where glory boys falter? In most cases, the answer is ego and work ethic.

I don’t know if I buy that a small-school or a low-draft status has any effect on ego or worth ethic. It seems to me that Easterbrook is ignoring data that would invalidate his conclusion. For example, wouldn’t we have to look at all the late-round receivers who didn’t make it? Otherwise, the data set is subject to survivorship bias. Moreover, there are tons of small-school receivers who don’t even make it to the draft. What effect does going to a small-school have on them?

In addition, we’d have to look at the high draft choices who went on to have successful careers. TMQ praises the undrafted Miles Austin over Roy Williams, but says nothing about Dez Bryant, who was drafted in the first round, didn’t go to a small school, and is also a better receiver than Roy Williams. Granted, it’s very early in Bryant’s career to determine how good he’ll be, but I think this is a good example of what Easterbrook is ignoring. See also: Percy Harvin, very gifted first-round receiver from football factory Florida.

I’m not saying these counter-examples invalidate what Easterbrook is saying. What I am doing is pointing out that there is data out there that could invalidate Easterbrook’s conclusion, and he did not look at it.

To be honest, I am apt to doubt his conclusion, at least when it comes to small schools. It reminds me of generalizing about personality based on country, which doesn’t really work. I guess reading Taleb has had some effect on me. (I also saw Zimbardo put up a bell curve when he gave his talk, and I had a visceral feeling of disgust.)

I Hate Christmas*

I hate Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving. Stop stepping on Thanksgiving, asshole Christmas. As if you didn’t already have enough.

I do like Christmas, but I don’t think festivities should start at least until December. Unless I become a parent. Then, I will remind those misbehaving little brats about Santa early and often.

The asterisk in the title refers to: *before Thanksgiving.

Something else…

I could’ve written something longer, I suppose. But I’m waiting for someone to arrive, so a phone call could interrupt me at any second. I can’t deal with the idea that I can be interrupted at any moment. My mind won’t allow me to focus enough. I could also work on my comic, but I can’t get into the right state of solitude.

3-body problem

On the 3-body problem:

The program is a simulation of the 3-body problem: to find the trajectory of three planets through space. But why is this a problem? Well, let us look at some simpler versions of the problem to see why anyone cares about this.

The 1-body problem is simple. Newton’s First Law tells us all about it: An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force.

The 2-body problem is simple enough to be solved with some calculus and analytic geometry–for example, if the two bodies are the sun and the earth, the earth orbits around the sun in an elliptical orbit while the sun sits almost idle at the focus of the orbit.

Because each body in the 3-body problem is being pulled by two other bodies, the motion of the bodies becomes much more complicated. Because of this, it is much more difficult to predict the positions of the bodies at some given time.

When you have 1 or 2 bodies, it’s easy to calculate the motion of the bodies. Once you get to 3 bodies, everything is just chaos. It becomes very difficult to predict what will happen.

I think this is a good analogy for coordinating things with people. I encountered this with trying to set up internet with AT&T. All they needed to do was get into the main box for the apartment building and activate my phone line. This required setting things up between me and a giant corporate bureaucracy. This was frustrating enough, but it only involved two bodies. However, to actually get into this box, it had to be unlocked. That meant somebody who worked at the apartment complex had to be around to open it. Once a third body is introduced, it becomes infinitely more difficult to coordinate. Plus, it’s not like I could pick a time for everyone. The people in the office are just in the office, and AT&T schedules 4-hour blocks, and they can’t even get in during those blocks. I’m convinced that the only way to get three people to coordinate is to have a little luck.

This is why Richard and I made Larry Whitman a two-person project. Once a third person is introduced, it becomes damn near impossible to coordinate schedules. When one person has something come up (as inevitably happens in life), it stops the project for everyone. It’s also hard to find a free day for everyone in the first place. Two people might have Thursday nights free, but Thursday night is always the night the third person has been poker night for two years. Now, this doesn’t mean Richard and I finished the project in a timely manner, but at least the thing got done. With three people, I’m sure the first episode would never have been produced.

Obviously, there are organizations and events that exist yet require three or more people. How is this even possible? I’ll explore that later. (Luck is one factor because most of these endeavors fail miserably.)

Energy Scale

Okay, I think I have an energy scale. At Stevie’s suggestion, I eliminated a neutral option and made it skip from slightly tired to slightly energetic.

Here’s the scale:
0 – asleep
1 – very tired
2 – moderately tired
3 – slightly tired
4 – slightly energetic
5 – moderately energetic
6 – very energetic

I’m not sure if I’ll bother with using “asleep” data points. So, I’m still texting Evernote every now and then with the time and my energy level. Having a number scale makes the data quantifiable. I can plug it into a graph/chart at some point.

I love it when people collect a bunch of data about themselves or perform experiments. It makes for an interesting person. So, this is pretty exciting for me because I’ve wanted to do this kind of thing for a while. I’ll share my results with you in a few weeks and we’ll see if the data is useful or not.

One thing I’m worried about is the fact that I go to bed at different times, which may affect how energetic I feel. Different foods may affect the data too — I’m mostly thinking about glucose and caffeine. This is my first attempt at gathering data about myself, so I don’t want to complicate it too much right now. What I have now is simple to do, and I’m doing it; it’s better not to mess with something that’s working.

Energy levels

I have been trying to track my energy levels throughout the day. I want to be able to manage my energy so I can be productive when I am energetic and not beat myself up for not being awesome when I am really tired. Right now, I am sending text messages to evernote with the time of day and a bit of text describing how energetic/tired I feel. My goal is to be able to graph this data. So I have to figure out a numerical scale. Yet this poses a problem because no matter how I shift the numbers, I always get confused about what it means to be neutral between tired and energetic. Hm. A problem to be solved another day. Mon 11:32pm fairly sleepy.

Play it safe?

I have some tough decisions to make tonight. Because I don’t have the internets at my apartment, I can’t make last-second roster changes in the morning for my fantasy football team. I should’ve scheduled that AT&T appointment for later in the day. Oh well. Now for some long rambling that no one else will care about: I’ve plugged Percy Harvin into my lineup instead of Hines Ward (who hasn’t been producing much fantasy-wise). Harvin’s questionable. So do I roll with him, or do I roll with a safer option? Hmm. Oh, and I also have Santonio Holmes, but I think New England will probably key on Wallace more, which will be good for Ward. Harvin, if he plays, is clearly the best option, though. I also have a tough decision at QB. I just picked up Shaun Hill, who I’m very, very tempted to play over Tom Brady. Over at Yahoo!, Shaun Hill is indeed ranked higher than Tom Brady. I think Brady is the safer play since Hill is coming off an injury. In fact, if Hill wasn’t injured, I would start him with no qualms. Hill already carried me to victory in Week 5. Conflicting heuristics come into play. If I frame it in a be bold or be safe way, I’d rather be bold. (Start Hill.) If I frame it in a start your stud or play matchups way, I’d rather start my stud. (Start Brady.) But does Tom Brady count as a fantasy stud anymore? He has been unspectacular as a fantasy QB. However, he has often given me at least double-digits. So, I think he’s a safe play with a low ceiling. I think he has a low floor if he doesn’t get injured. What’s Hill’s injury risk? He’s already hurt. What if he aggravates the injury? How likely is that? I would think that his chances of getting hurt are much higher than Brady’s. I think Brady is the safer play, especially since the Steelers are so stout against the run. Then again, the Steelers have just been a good team overall, and I don’t like New England much in this matchup. So maybe Brady’s floor is lower than I think.

Fuck it. Flipped a coin. Starting Hill.

Sleep Debt

There’s so much stuff to do! Instead, I fall asleep on the couch after watching TV. That is the opposite of what I wanted to do.

Anyway, I’ll be blogging everyday for a month, and hopefully there will be a few entries more substantive than this.

About to sleep

I’m about to go to sleep, and a five-minute chunk of time isn’t good for writing anything that isn’t lazy.

Hey Prady: I know I said I’d write stuff, but I need a large chunk of time to do this. I’m the process of moving, so I haven’t had that chunk of time lately.