Jan Kubr

Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Progress is made by individuals

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2008 at 12:12

Vojtěch Cepl: “Každá intelektuální činnost je individuální, jednotlivci jsou nezastupitelní. A vybrat špičkového jednotlivce je nejdůležitější. Takhle postupuje podle mého názoru pokrok všude. V technice, v medicíně a v právu taky.”

Which is: “Any intellectual activity is an individual activity, individuals are not susbstituable. To select an excellent individual is the most important thing. This is how progress is, in my opinion, made anywhere. In technology, medicine, and the law, too.”

A book read: Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2008 at 20:36

A decently useful book. If you don’t struggle for more than a week to finish it, it is a time well spent.

The authors present a basic framework for improving the stickiness of ideas you are trying to communicate. There are six basic aspects you need to keep an eye on: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and how much your idea is presented as a story (which abbreviates as SUCCESs). If your message has these attributes, it’ll then help you make people understand (simplicity), pay attention (unexpectedness), remember (concreteness), believe and agree (credibility), care (emotions), and act (stories).

The book is full of examples of successful ideas. I didn’t think they always fit well in the chapter they were in (that they ilustrated the attribute they were supposed to most), but what the heck.

Particulary interesting:

The was an experiment made at Stanford: Members of one group of people were asked to tap out a rhythm of a song on a table. Other group had to guess what song was being tapped. Only 3 out of 120 songs were guessed right. Now the interesting part. Each time the tappers were asked if they thought the listeners would guess right. They thought they would in 50% of the time! It shows how much we are affected by the Curse of Knowledge. We hear the songs in our heads and thus we think it’s obvious what we’re tapping. It’s very hard for us to imagine not knowing what the song is. And yet this is very important if we want to get any complicated thought across.

Colonel Tom Kolditz: “(…) Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.”

“To get to the core, we’ve got to weed out superfluous and tangential elements. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is weeding out ideas that may be really important but just aren’t the most important idea.”

“There are two steps in making your ideas sticky – Step 1 is to find the core, Step 2 is to translate the core using the SUCCESs checklist.”

“People are tempted to tell you everything, with perfect accuracy, right up front, when they should be giving you just enough info to be useful, then a little more, then a little more.”

“In fifteen seconds:
(1) Write down as many things that are white in color as you can think of.
(2) Write down as many white things in your refrigerator as you can think of.

(1) Think of five silly things that people have done in the world in the past ten years.
(2) Think about five silly things your child has done in the past ten years.”

Are the tasks under (2)s easier because your brain is able to focus more?

Target audience of an in-flight magazine of a low-cost

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2008 at 10:49

SkyEurope’s in-flight magazine Runway is full of tips on how to eat and sleep (quite) expensively around Europe. However, the target audience of such texts as I imagine it doesn’t really match the crowd I can see on boards of SkyEurope’s airplanes. And I fly quite often (at least more often than you think). These people seem to like to keep their expenses as low as possible.

What does this mean? Don’t members of the the Runway staff know their audience? Or are they trying to “educate” them; to show them they should be spending more? But wouldn’t that mean these people would then stop flying with SkyEurope? Or is it a  – we’ll grow with them; we’ll become more expensive as these people become richer – kind of thing?

Not the first time the airline industry left me clueless.

DHH on early retirement

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2008 at 23:40

“If you come to the realization that work in itself isn’t evil, you can stop living your life as a waterfall-planned software project too.”

I think DHH read The 4-Hour Workweek..

A book read: The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2008 at 22:01

Despite many negative thoughts you can find in the book (I’ve quoted quite a few), both main characters keep looking for love.

At first I was angry at Michel. I think it is easy to be depressed and keep finding negative sides of everything. It sucks you have a gorgeous girlfriend because it is harder to keep her and it’ll hurt more when you lose her. It sucks you have a lot of money because everyone will try to be a friend of yours just because of your wealth. It’s easy to depressed and be proud of it. “I’m the educated European who must be critical to appear smart“.

It is not difficult to be over-critical, it is ridiculously easy. Fortunately, Michel goes a bit further. He shows how avoiding having children, social interactions, and emotions would not make people happier. Because there is no happiness if you never experience sadness.

Michel took the current trend (but is it?) of increasing individualism and ‘loving-only-yourself’ attitude to the extreme. The result? People escaping and looking for company and love. So he shows that this is not what people actually want. But does he mean this is where we are heading anyway? Not really. He doesn’t get to the society of lonely individualists by simply extrapolating the current trends, but also by making a science-fiction like jump that is as likely and close in time as humans flying to other galaxies.

Thus I don’t think love is going to get away soon. It’s here and it will be for a while, no matter how silly it might seem to writers being proud of their constant critisism. It’s the essence of life after all. And by the way, looking for love is selfish enough.

And I don’t think people are getting more lonely or individualistic. I think (also) thanks to the Internet there’s as much social interaction as never before. People get more independent, but not isolated.

Try again, Michel.

More quotes from Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2008 at 20:54

Yes, more quotes from this super-positive self-confidence boosting book. Hehe, not. As previously, I was too lazy to use Google Translate for you and I bet you’ll be, too. But for the Czech readers out there:

“‘Scény moderního světa’ – pojmenoval tu situaci novinář a neuvědomil si, že právě ony byly důkazem toho, že se Francie stala moderní zemí, že pouze skutečně moderní stát je schopný zacházet se starými lidmi jako s pouhým odpadem, že takové pohrdání předky by v Africe nebo v některé ze zemí tradiční Asie bylo nemyslitelné.”

“(…); a nelze říct, že by komunismus nějak extra rozvíjel v mezilidských vztazích citovost: v postkomunistických zemích panuje většinou spíš brutalita – společnost balzakovská, vniklá z rozpadu království, ze srovnání vychází jako zázrak laskavosti a něhy.”

“(…); snem všech mužů je potkávat malé nevinné coury, ovšemže připravené ke všem zvrhlostem – což jsou ostatně skoro všechny dospívající dívky. Ženy však později zmoudří, a tak odsuzují muže k věčné žárlivosti na jejich zhýralou minulost malých kurviček. ”
So far so good, great observation. But he continues:
“Odmítnout něco dělat, protože už jsme to dělali, protože už jsme to zažili, znamená pro nás i pro druhé rychle se zbavit veškerého důvodu k žití jakož i veškeré možné budoucnosti a ponořit se do těžké nudy, která nakonec promění ve strašlivou hořkost provázenou nenávistí a zatrpklostí vůči všem, kdo ještě patří k životu.”

“Moc hezké holce mužské pokolení neustále věnuje zvýšenou pozornost a hýčká ji (…). Fyzická krása zde hraje přesně tutéž roli jako za starého monarchistického režimu urozená krev (…) u vetšiny z nich velice rychle zvítězí pocit jakési vrozené, podvědomé a bezděčné nadřazenosti, což je cele řadí mimo, a ve velké většině případů značně i nad zbytek lidstva. A protože se každý z jejího okolí snaží seč může ušetřit ji jakékoliv újmy a uhádnout sebemenší z jejích přání, taková hezká holka jednoduše začne nahlížet zbytek světa, jako by se skládal ze samých sluhů (…)”

“Jako tolik jiných žen chtěla být penetrována, s ničím míň by se nespokojila, o tom nemohla být řeč.”

“Jako pro všechny dívky její generace znamenala sexualita pro Esther jen veselou zábavu, postavenou na svádění a erotice, z níž nevyplývaly žádné zvláštní citové závazky; podobně jako soucit podle Nietzscheho byla láska pohou fikcí, kterou si vymysleli slabí, aby u silných vyvoliali pocit viny, aby zavedli hranice jejich přirozené svobodě a divokosti. Ženy byly dříve slabé, obzvlášť kolem porodu, v té době potřebovaly být zaštítěny silným ochráncem, a proto vynalezly lásku, ale v současné době už byly silné, nezávislé a svobodné a odmítaly vyvolávat i prožívat cit, který už neměl žádné konkrétní opodstatnění.”

“(…) já se celý život staral jedině o své péro anebo o nic, teď byl můj pyj chcíplý a já ho v tom neblahém úpadku následoval (…)”

“Lež se mi teď ukazovala v celém rozsahu: týkala se všech aspektů lidské existence a její užití bylo univerzální; filozofové ji bez výjimky stvrdili, a podobně i takřka všichni literáti; pravděpodobně byla k přežití druhu nezbytná (…)”

“(…) ‘rodíme se v podstatě už sami, žijeme sami a umíráme sami’. Tato věta byla jednak přístupná i těm nejjednodušším náturám, jednak shrnovala, k čemu se dopracovali nejvybranější myslitelé; za každých okolností vyvolávala jednohlasný souhlas, a jakmile ji kdokoli slyšel vyslovit, propadl přesvědčení, že neslyšel nikdy nic tak krásného, tak hlubokého a tak trefného (…)”

So is it that Michel just needs to get laid, as a colleague of mine put it? But these are not in fact Michel’s quotes, there are Daniel’s (who is the main character of the book). I believe that it is just Daniel who needs to get laid (but can’t since the body can’t satisfy the desire anymore..) and Michel is onto something smarter. Read my review (coming up).