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Doing exercise makes you smarter. Finally!

From the New York Times, How Exercise Benefits the Brain:

"For some time, scientists have believed that BDNF helps explain why mental functioning appears to improve with exercise. However, they haven’t fully understood which parts of the brain are affected or how those effects influence thinking. The Irish study suggests that the increases in BDNF prompted by exercise may play a particular role in improving memory and recall." (from NYT)

Advice about listening to yoruself

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me he was struggling, really struggling with a big career decision. Here's what I told him, and what I believe and have applied to my own decisions:

"Try to pay very close attention to what you yourself want to do. It is easy to get confused by expectations put on you by others or by yourself based on what you think others - parents, friends, colleagues and so on, would expect you to do or what the conventional wisdom says is the right thing to do. All that is confusing.

You need to try hard to filter that out and find out what you - YOU - really want to do, what your heart tells you. It's hard to do but I have found it to be a very good exercise. Once you force yourself to be aware of those other influences it becomes possible to try to look beyond them.

Second - if you are in a dilemma where two major choices are both incredibly appealing, just in different ways, and one moment you think one is the right thing and the next moment the other is the right thing - then it's possible and likely that either choice would be the right thing and you can't make a wrong decision based on all the information you have now.

Thats not to say that a year from now you discover information that answers the question, but right now, maybe both choices are equally good."

Groupon success catastrophe

I bought a Groupon for a local restaurant. About 1 week before it expired I went to make a dinner reservation and it turned out that they were booked up for the next 3 months - and so effectively I could not use the groupon for dinner. I have to use it for lunch, and given the price and the value of the coupon, I need to go with a group of 4 people!

I spoke to the owner about the situation, and based on his sad tone I asked him if the groupon promotion had been a good thing. He was adamant that it was the worse thing they had ever done and he would never do it again! They had sold tons of groupons and everyone waited till the last week or two to try to book and suddenly they are overrun.

Here's a similar story of a groupon success catastrophe that just came across the wire:

"The bakery, based in Woodley, received 8,500 requests for a dozen cupcakes, far above the normally 100 it produces a month. Brown suddenly had to make 102,000 cupcakes. Brown's company only employs eight people, and she had to bring in an outside agency to handle the orders. The temporary agency cost her $19,500, effectively wiping out her year's profits, MSNBC reported. "Without doubt, it was my worst ever business decision," she told BBC. "We had thousands of orders pouring in that really we hadn't expected to have. A much larger company would have difficulty coping." (from Global Post)

Tens of Thousands of Servers. Wait.

Just one phrase that jumped out of the new missive from Zuck about privacy:

"As a matter of fact, privacy is so deeply embedded in all of the development we do that every day tens of thousands of servers worth of computational resources are consumed checking to make sure that on any webpage we serve, that you have access to see each of the sometimes hundreds or even thousands of individual pieces of information that come together to form a Facebook page." (from Our Commitment to the Facebook Community)

When I tell (non computer) people that it takes hundreds or thousands of servers in hundreds of data centers to run something like Google or Facebook they are surprised.

EvenI am surprised at "tens of thousands of servers worth of computational resources."

Wait , why the nuanced phrasing? What is a server's worth of computational resource? Is that a server or something else? Wait , what's a server anyway? Oh well. Parsing.

Aw, come on: Apple iPhone spontaneously combusts aboard flight in Australia

This is just a weird story:

"An Apple iPhone spontaneously began smoking and emitting a red glow while aboard an airplane in Australia. Passengers aboard Regional Express flight ZL319 were welcomed to their destination in Sydney, Australia on Friday by a frightening ordeal. According to the airline, a passenger’s iPhone began “emitting a significant amount of dense smoke” shortly after the flight landed, and the smoke was accompanied by a red glow." (from Bioy Genius Report)

Iphone flames

Getting the best deals… Check out

A useful article in the New York Times today, just in time for the holidays. A new site that tries to forecast the best time to buy that item you really want. It seems to draw a graph showing how the price of, for example, a Nikon 50-300mm Zoom Lens has varied over the last 3 months and whether I should buy it today or wait till next month. It's a very nicely done site and if it works, it could be very useful. The site is

"Oren Etzioni writes articles about artificial intelligence for scholarly journals, is a renowned expert on data mining and gained fame when Microsoft paid $115 million for Farecast, an airline-ticket price predictor he founded.

Now, Professor Etzioni, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington, has directed his considerable intellect at the American ritual of shopping for bargains on Black Friday. After examining billions of prices of consumer electronics, he has decided to spend the busiest shopping day of the year scuba-diving in Bali." (from The New York Times)

Oh, the site is

What they teach in lawschool

This article gives a fascinating perspective on the disconnect between what they teach in law school and what knowledge is required to actually be an effective lawyer. Some great facts from the article:

"Last year, a survey by American Lawyer found that 47 percent of law firms had a client say, in effect, “We don’t want to see the names of first- or second-year associates on our bills.” Other clients are demanding that law firms charge flat fees."

…and …

"“Law school has a kind of intellectual inferiority complex, and it’s built into the idea of law school itself,” says W. Bradley Wendel of the Cornell University Law School, a professor who has written about landing a law school teaching job. “People who teach at law school are part of a profession and part of a university. So we’re always worried that other parts of the academy are going to look down on us and say: ‘You’re just a trade school, like those schools that advertise on late-night TV. You don’t write dissertations. You don’t write articles that nobody reads.’ And the response of law school professors is to say: ‘That’s not true. We do all of that. We’re scholars, just like you.’ "


"In fact, many of these [law review] articles are not of much apparent help to anyone. A 2005 law review article found that around 40 percent of law review articles in the LexisNexis database had never been cited in cases or in other law review articles.

All these quotes are from the New York Times article: "After Law School, Associates Learn to be Lawyers"

Provocative article about a sensitive topic

Eric Ries is locally famous as being one of the strong promoters of the Lean Startup.

He writes an excellent and courageous article that explores why it is that there seem to be many more white males starting new technology companies than other genders, races, and nationalities.

I say courageous because no matter what one says about the topic, he (or she) is sure to be attacked by some corner.

"Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the recent dust-up over race and Silicon Valley. Like almost every discussion of diversity and meritocracy in this town, it turned ugly fast. One side says: “All I see is white men. Therefore, people like Michael Arrington must be racist.” The other responds, “Silicon Valley is a colorblind meritocracy. If there were qualified women or minority candidates, we’d welcome them.” (from Racism and Meritocracy)

It's a thought provoking article.

How do you feel about Software Patents?

I am not dead set against software patents, although I've been on both sides of the issue.

I am the proud inventor listed on 3 or 4 patents. Some are more worthy in my opinion that others. I was also leading a development team that had to stand on its head to avoid conflicting with a patent that everyone agreed should never have issued, but we didn't have the nerve or resources to contest.

So I was interested to see some behind the veil of "Intellectual Ventures", Nathan Myhrvold's IP/Patent company:

"…But IV is not buying inventions. It's buying patents. And most software engineers will tell you, at least when it comes to software, a patent and an invention are not the same. Lots of patents cover things that people who write software for a living wouldn't consider inventions at all… (fromWhen Patents Attack)