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Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
by Philip Tetlock
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.25
66 used & new from $19.17

5.0 out of 5 stars A social sciences masterpiece, January 17, 2016
I have read Tetlock’s works in reverse chronological order. I first read Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, and read this book afterwards. The two books are very different in style. Superforecasting is readily accessible to an intelligent lay crowd. I really liked the book, and my review rating reflects that. By contrast, “Expert Political Judgment” is really a massive social sciences paper that captures one of the most amazing studies spanning over a couple of decades. While, “Superforecasting” has turned into a best seller within its category, “Expert Political Judgment” has sent shock waves within its technical fields ever since it came out. Just about everyone (Nate Silver, Nassim Taleb, etc.) in related fields have extensively referred to Tetlock study as captured in this book.

Thus, brace yourself. This book is not an easy read. If you are not currently well versed in probabilities notation and Bayesian statistics, you may not get all the content. This is especially true of the long Technical Appendix at the end of the book. A good test of your proficiency in those areas is the Bayesian decision tree on page 306. If you can readily understand it, you are very good at that stuff. Along the same line, the graphs visual content are often complex. You sometimes have to really slowly digest what you are looking at. However, this book is so worth the effort.

So, what are the main findings of Tetlock’s study? Experts can’t predict much of anything. Their forecasts were typically no better than random guessing, and were worse than models using simple algorithms. That was already a violent shock to the established intellectual hierarchies in academia, business, and government.

Upon Tetlock drilling down, things got even more interesting. He found out that even though the performance of the average expert forecaster was really weak, their performance could readily be differentiated among two main groups: the Hedgehog and the Fox. The Hedgehog expert is heavily credentialed (i.e. Ivy League PhDs), often very well respected in the profession, and very successful with the Media. If you watch TV or read the paper, the vast majority of quoted experts are Hedgehogs. Tetlock uncovered that they also make for the very worst forecasters and in essence bring the average down. Why is that? It is because the way they think. They have very strong dogmatic bias towards their own theories. And, this dogma filters or intoxicate every forecast they undertake. They believe their own voice. They are chronically overconfident. Not only, they can’t predict the future; they most often can’t analyze or interpret the past. They suffer from a pronounced hindsight bias. On pg. 139, Tetlock shows a graph indicating how much more prone to hindsight bias Hedgehogs are relative to Foxes. The Hedgehogs dogmas are like foggy lenses that prevent them from seeing clearly the past, present, and future. In other words, they explain everything according to the theories in which they have vested their careers. And, they are stuck in a rut.

Fortunately, Tetlock uncovered that the Foxes made for much better forecasters than the Hedgehogs. And, again the difference was because the way they thought. The Foxes are not theory driven. They view the world as a very complex system that can’t be reduced to a single theory. As a result, Foxes are better at aggregating information from all different sources including conflicting one. Instead, Hedgehogs typically cherry-picked the data to support their theories. As a result, Foxes revised their forecasts a lot more frequently. They were much more flexible and able to eventually shift in the correct direction. On page 127, Tetlock has a very interesting graph that captures how Foxes changed their minds a lot faster and effectively than Hedgehogs and came much closer to a perfect change in probability assessment determined by Bayesian statistics. Thus, Tetlock stated Foxes are just better Bayesians than Hedgehogs.

Throughout the book, Tetlock demonstrates a superior ability of synthesizing his findings. One of the most spectacular of such occurrence is the flow chart-path analysis on page 163 that outlines why Foxes cognitive thinking style prevails in superior forecasting ability relative to Hedgehogs. Warning if you jump to that page in the absence of the preceding context leading to it, it may not make that much sense.

The Fox-Hedgehog dimension is not the only binomial indicator of forecasting success. Tetlock uncovered other ones. And, some of them are rather counterintuitive. For instance, expertise is strongly negatively correlated with forecasting accuracy. For both Foxes and Hedgehogs, the more expertise they had relative to a given question the less accurate their forecast. Tetlock found a negative correlation between the fame of an expert and his forecasting accuracy. The forecasters most often did better outside their field of expertise than within. You figure outside their field the theoretical dogmas that impaired Hedgehogs pretty much evaporated. For Hedgehogs: more expertise = more causal inference = more overconfidence = less forecasting accuracy. Similarly, more expertise also impaired Foxes forecasting ability but to a somewhat lesser degree as expected.

In chapter 7, Tetlock discloses a real perplexing finding. There is one area where Fox-thinking fails relative to Hedgeogs. And, that is when the forecasters are asked to disaggregate a question into various subquestions. Tetlock calls this scenario planning or “unpacking.” When the forecasters did so it caused two flaws. First, the forecasters probabilities became incoherent, meaning by that that the sum of the probabilities of all the various scenarios exceeded 1 or 100% (and sometimes a lot more). And, that the related forecast accuracy weakened. And, that is even after prorating such scenario probabilities so they do coherently sum to 1. In this situation, the Foxes were much more vulnerable to scenario planning and unpacking. The Hedgehogs for once were relatively more protected from this phenomenon by their stubborn belief in their respective theory that caused them to be less distracted and confused by weird speculative scenarios. This effect for Foxes is really strong and not only affects their forecast (graphs pg. 196, 200). It also affects their hindsight analysis (graph pg. 208). And, this is especially true if Foxes rendered assessments within their field of expertise (the nefarious side of expertise again).

The Foxes forecasting ability falling apart because of scenario planning or “unpacking” seems contradictory to Tetlock’s later findings. Within “Superforecasting” Tetlock discloses his 2nd of “Ten Commandments for Aspiring Superforecasters” as follows: “break seemingly intractable problems into tractable sub-problems.” This is synonymous to “unpacking” within this book. I could see that Superforecasters protect themselves from probability incoherence (sum of probability > 1) by using Bayesian models in spreadsheets to avoid this trap. But, within this book, Tetlock indicated that even after prorating the scenarios probabilities so they sum to a coherent value of 1, such unpacking still reduced forecasting accuracy.

I would gladly get feedback from the author to clarify this conundrum. I may very well have misinterpreted the text. This conundrum in no way detracts from the outstanding quality of both books. If you find those books interesting I also strongly recommend Everything Is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us.

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
by Dan Gardner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.53
70 used & new from $14.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Another outstanding Tetlock book, January 6, 2016
Philip Tetlock wrote the outstanding book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?, a decade ago that encapsulated his 20-year research that shockingly concluded that the vast majority of experts and political pundits have no forecasting ability whatsoever.

Now, his “Superforecasting” book reflects his findings from his Good Judgment Project (GJP) he has conducted since 2011. After all, some human beings that think very differently than the rest of us can actually be very good forecasters.

Tetlock from his earlier 20-year research already knew that some experts were actually a lot better than others at forecasting. That is even though the average expert was really pretty bad at it. So, he distinguished back then between two types of experts.

First, are the well renowned, credentialed, media savvy experts that believe the sound of their own voice and their own theories. These are the Hedgehogs. They are very confident, they stay the course, and explain everything through their steady theoretical filter. And, they make for terrible forecasters.

Second, are a group of experts that are typically theory-agnostic. They don’t vest much in any one theory or concept. They are a lot less self-assured. They are pretty much ignored by the media. But, they amass new information from all different sources all the time. And, they revise their forecasts very often. And, they make for far better forecasters than the self-assured Hedgehogs. Tetlock calls them the Foxes.

Superforecasting is essentially the textbook on how to think Fox-like so as to become a better forecaster. Early in the book, Tetlock demonstrates the superiority of Fox-thinking. With the support of a Government agency (IARPA), he set up forecasting tournaments between a team of superforecasters (in the top 2% among GJP forecasters). And, it pitched them against formidable teams of bright people including teams from MIT, U of Michigan, and the CIA (that has access to classified information). The GJP team was at marked disadvantages. In terms of IQs (the GJP superforecasters were typically in the 80th percentile or above. This corresponds to an IQ of 113 or greater. Members of the other teams had most probably a lot higher IQs (~ > 130s).

What happened next is the making of social science legends. The amateurs from the GJP team trounced in their forecasting accuracy the computer geeks from MIT, and the spooks from the CIA. How did they do it? The answer is by applying far superior forecasting thinking methods. And, that’s where thinking like a Fox comes in. The other teams not aware of such objective-thinking methods failed. Actually, the GJP team supremacy was so prevalent that after just two years IARPA essentially fired the other teams. They had seen enough. Either you think like a Fox or you just can’t forecast as well as one.

So what is thinking like a Fox? Tetlock discloses precisely such thinking processes in 10 simple rules located in the Appendix of the book. Some of my favorites include:

(2) Break complex questions into simpler sub-questions. Decompose the question into its knowable and unknowable parts.

(3) Strike the right balance between the inside and outside views. The outside view consists in establishing parallels between the current question and the frequency of similar events throughout history. This can give you a starting baseline rate of what you are looking at. The inside view is to then focus on the specifics of the unique question you are addressing.

(5) Look for the clashing causal forces at work in each problem.

(8) Look for the errors behind your mistakes but beware of rear view-mirror hindsight biases.

Additionally, superforecasters have several interesting characteristics. They are very intellectually curious and open-minded. They score highly on the Baron’s test of Active Open-mindedness. They update their forecasts frequently and by small increments (small changes in assigned probabilities). And, the more often they update their forecasts by smaller amounts the better forecaster they are. They are also not experts in anyone domain. This allows them to be freer of bias and absent of vested interest in a question outcome (marked advantages vs. domain experts). Superforecasters are also natural Bayesian statisticians. They probably could not teach you the underlying math. But, they intuitively think Bayesian by constantly reviewing their a priori probabilities and calculating the down-the-road implications of such revisions.

The book discloses two main findings from the GJP.

The first one is how to think like a Fox as depicted above.

The second one is what is the best way to aggregate information so as to generate the best forecast. The first finding is an individual goal. The second one is a collective or organizational objective.

So far most of us thought that the best way to aggregate information was by leveraging the predictive power of prediction markets (an offshoot of the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH)). Tetlock found out through actual testing within his GJP that prediction markets were indeed a very competitive option in developing overall very accurate forecast. However, surprisingly it was not the best option. The best alternative was placing superforecasters in small teams and encouraging them to exchange as much information as possible but question each other at every turn so to avoid Groupthink. Superforecasters in small teams apparently consistently beat similar forecasters within a structured prediction market. Another strategy that was very effective was to simply “extremize” a team’s forecast. This entailed using an algorithm so as to modify a team’s forecast probability to be much closer to either 1 or 0. For instance, if a team came up with a probability forecast of 70%, the extremizing would turn it into ~ 85%. If a team came up with a probability forecast of 30%, extremizing would turn it into ~ 15%. Apparently, this simple algorithm had a very powerful impact on improving the accuracy of team forecasts. Even teams of regular forecasters (not in the top 2% like the superforecasters) could generate very competitive forecasts when modified with the extremizing algorithm.

All around this is a fascinating book. If you find it interesting I also strongly recommend the excellent book

Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
by Jerry Kaplan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $8.86
79 used & new from $7.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really fun and thought provoking book, December 30, 2015
The author really fulfills the expectation of the book’s title “Humans Need Not Apply.” He abundantly illustrates how robots already have (or shortly will have) far superior physical capacity, work ethic (can work 24/7 with no complain), productivity and cost efficiency relative to human beings. So, if our bodies will be economically obsolete, apparently so will our brains. With the advent of Big Data, Data Science, Machine Learning, powerful algorithms, and the ability of processing and analyzing a humongous level of data, “synthetic intellects” as Kaplan calls it have unmatched capabilities for regular biological brains. He demonstrates that in numerous fields including high finance with high frequency trading; medicine with IBM Watson that can digest millions of pages in the medical literature in instants and will soon be able to advance a diagnostic and treatment that is far more precise and calibrated with probabilities of outcome than any doctor could. Lawyers will similarly shortly be outclassed with the same speed of information processing by synthetic intellects as doctors.

On the other hand, the author pretty much fails in his mission to provide “A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” as stated in the subtitle. I did not see one strategy or career recommendation that would allow one to fend off the oncoming onslaught of robots and synthetic intellects. In my mind, this does not detract from the book at all. I think they should have just scratched the subtitle because it is so misrepresenting of what the book is about.

Every chapter is very well written and has a certain autonomy to it. So, they read well on a stand-alone basis. If you are an investor, you may enjoy jumping directly into chapter 3 and learn how Dave Shaw, a former Stanford student of the author, developed high frequency trading algorithms, started his own investment fund, and made a fortune. Chapter 8 is probably the most important and impactful of the book. Within it the author analyzes in data-driven details the impact of the onslaught of robots and synthetic intellects on the US labor force. Above, I already mentioned the impact on the medical and legal profession. Obviously, the impact on numerous blue-collar work jobs will be even more critical. The advent of driverless vehicle may prove devastating to large swath of the transportation labor force. The prospect for truck drivers appears downright terrible. And, driverless trucks are already operating on a fairly broad basis in Australia right now. On numerous counts, Kaplan very convincingly questions the US Census labor force projections (namely for truckers among many others).

His concluding chapter “Welcome to Your Children’s Future” does not offer any career strategy for our children. Instead, he indicates how inequality if left unchecked will inevitably soar. He advances a few policy proposals (that have nothing to do with individual career strategy) on how to redistribute income so everyone can get by. One interesting proposal (that probably has no viable chance of ever being adopted) would be to tax companies who are almost employee-less such as the Amazon and Google of today at a high tax rate of 35% or so. Meanwhile, the companies that are labor intensive (Wal-Mart) would be taxed at a much lower tax rate of 15% or so.

The labor economics conundrum presented in this book is well captured by quotes of a conversation between Henry Ford and Walter Reuther, head of the automobile workers union. Ford stated: “How will you get robots to pay union dues?” Reuther responded: “How will you get robots to buy cars?” Nowadays, you have a similar situation with network systems behemoths (Google, Amazon, Facebook) that reap a fortune for their founders on their ability to get you to click on an ad and buy something. Those companies with the assistance of Kaplan’s robots and synthetic intellects are taking us out of the labor force (Google’s driverless cars, Amazon automated warehouses, etc.). At some point, who will have the discretionary income to click and buy all that stuff? Besides Kaplan’s redistribution of income, and differential corporate tax rates policy proposals, he does not come up with a clear answer.

If you find this book interesting, as I think you will, I also very strongly recommend Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World and The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

The Truth About Managing People (2nd Edition)
The Truth About Managing People (2nd Edition)
by Stephen P. Robbins
Edition: Paperback
67 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Tons of information within a really quick and stimulating read., November 22, 2015
This is a great book on the subject. I love the format. I has 53 soundbites called "truth" that are aggregated into 10 sequential coherent chapters covering meaningful management subtopics. Those truth sections are most often just two pages long. But, they cover the meat of the subject. They get straight to the point and to actionable items you need to do to become a better, wiser, better informed manager. Invariably, wihtin those two pages the author supports just about every statement he advances with meaningful studies and references.

If you care to read more than his 2-page Cliff notes-equivalent on any of the subject he covers, he has a very long references section at the back of the book where he cites some of the main working papers and books on any of the covered subject.

Overall, I feel this is a brilliant format that accelerates information absorbption and learning. I feel it could provide a competitive alternative to the "For Dummies" series. I wish they would apply "The Truth About" format to very technical subjects like learning certain software like R or SAS.

Back to Robbins, the author of this management book, there are a lot of fun gems within his book. Just to extract a few, within Truth 4, he states "IQ scores closely match whatever it is that people mean when they use the word intelligent." This is a slightly cryptic statement that is very insightful once people truly understands what it means. Robbins does not shy from what would be deemed politically incorrect in the US. Such statements include: "IQ has a strong genetic component (70%)"; "don't expect goals to lead to higher employee performance in Portugal or Chile" I think he left this last statement somewhat unexplained which made me laugh. I just about visualized John Cleese, poker-faced, stating something like that. He also states that "personal references are worthless." He also made me accept that to "use a set of standardized questions in interviews" is the way to go. I have seen corporations move in that direction. This protocol frustrates many interviewers and candidates, as it can give the interview a rather mechanical or robotic style. Yet, that is probably the only and best way to collect the same information on each candidates and judge them by the same standards.

The book is full of counterintuitive findings about productivity and happiness; leisure vs work and a sense of flow. Overall, a short book and a quick read but with tons of insight and information. I mentioned earlier I only wish they would emulate this book format for its efficient imparting of information across many domains.

Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World
Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World
by Robert Tercek
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.74
33 used & new from $16.25

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of physical assets and the rise of digital networks, September 26, 2015
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Tercek does an ambitious descriptive analysis of our rising networked world. Two fundamental laws have morphed our commercial civilization from one focused on industrial behemoths to one on network behemoths. The first law is Moore’s law whereby computer chips have doubled in performance every 18 months or so while their price have remained either constant or declined. The second one is Metcalfe’s law that states that a network’s value is proportional to the square of the number of networked people. The first law has rendered technology exponentially more powerful, user friendly, omnipresent, yet increasingly affordable. Its price/performance productivity over time is unparalleled by any industry. This is why it is taking over the world and essentially affecting every industry. The second law has rendered technology exponentially more valuable over time.

Unlike physical assets, networks can scale up worldwide extremely quickly. This is why companies like Uber and Airbnb can command such lofty valuations. They are priced like they can and will take over the world. The first one is vaporizing the world of protected taxis monopoly. The second one is doing the same to hotel chains. They both serve far more customers than any respective largest taxi company or hotel chain in the world. Yet, they do that with no physical assets, no service employees, no cars, and no hotels whatsoever. Their sole value resides in the marketplace network they have created that directly puts in touch individual service providers with customers. These companies just take a cut of each related transactions typically around 15% for Uber and 6% to 12% for Airbnb.

The masters of the networks are Apple, Google, and Amazon. They each have created a very dense and sticky ecosystem around their network mixing core services with the sale of network appliances that further reinforce their network effect. Apple sells IWhatevers thanks to ITunes and their Appstore both at the core of their ecosystem. Google reaps data from every single activity they undertake ranging from YouTube, Google Maps, to even their driverless cars to ultimately feed into their dominant search engine that drives the most successful add business on earth. Check out what Google knows on pages 137 through 142. It is almost frightening. Google’s surveillance, monitoring, and tracking capabilities far exceed the NSA’s.

At each chapters end, the author ask questions regarding your company of how well it is tackling the tsunami of mobile network technology. Unless you do work for Apple, Google, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, or Facebook you will find those questions about your company’s position and capability within this mobile networked space extremely uncomfortable. That’s because you quickly will realize that most employers outside the mentioned ones are such laggards within the digital economic domain.

Tercek offers two strategies for companies to rise to this challenge. The first one is to create your own network with your own operating system, online marketplace, digital services, mobile apps, etc.… Good luck with that. He indicates this strategy fails every time. The second strategy is to give in and join the network of one of the existing winners today such as Apple or Amazon. This is a desperate move where you will loose all control on the pricing and marketing of your goods and services. Your profit margins will get squeezed, and you will have no negotiating power because essentially you have no alternative. Ask the music industry how they fared with ITunes or the book publishers how they have fared with Amazon online book sales. In both respective cases, it is Apple and Amazon who drive the bargain because they can.

Recall that the subtitle of the book is “Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World.” However, as reviewed above the two strategies he offers are very much failures (the first one create your own network… that’s not going to happen; the second one to enslave yourself to Apple, Google, or another App dictator as he calls them). One can argue this is a failing of the book. I advance that it does not matter. The book is far more interesting giving you a shocking vision of the present than a vapid vision of the future.

So, if most traditional companies are at risk to be replaced one day by a software, a network, or an app how about workers. Are they at the mercy of ever improving robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data analytics? Yes, they indeed are. Chapter 9 addresses this pressing issue. Tercek shares the positive position that those technologies will allow the labor force to do ever increasing more valuable, and creative work. The economy will somehow create such superior value-adding jobs fit only for human being. He also shares the negative view that those technologies will soon create working entities with capabilities that will rapidly outpace the ones of the vast majority of workers except for a tiny majority of very energetic, dedicated, and extremely bright human beings. He describes this hierarchy of workers as whether someone’s job is below the application programming interface (API). This would be the Uber drivers for instance. They are really not all that different than a modern day slaving workforce responding to the immediate command of an app. On the other hand, if you are among the few extremely energetic and bright, you may work as a computer system engineer for Uber, and your job luckily for you is not under the API, but instead above the API. The API does not rule you because you work on constantly designing and improving the API itself. However, such a labor force structure may eventually be associated with either massive unemployment or underemployment or overworked and underpaid labor force (the majority of the ones working under the API). At the end of this chapter, Tercek attempts to reconcile the positive and negative view. And, his reconciliation efforts appear to fall way closer to the negative one.

So, is all lost? Is there no hope? Will Google and Apple take over the world employing just a few thousands geeks. And, the rest of us will be doomed to work under their API or be unemployed? No, says Tercek. He advanced there are plenty of jobs that will survive this quasi-Orwellian world. He lists them on pg. 233 – 236. Granted plenty of them are computer-related jobs above the API. But, there are plenty of other jobs completely unrelated to the API stuff. Those include numerous jobs in the health care sector, regulations, graphic and creative design, education, and many other services where the interaction with a human being may never be surpassed by the one with a robot. There is a unique quality to the human touch. Similarly, on pg. 247 – 249, Tercek outlines the crucial cognitive skills one will need to develop to remain relevant within this vaporized economy. As can be expected many of those skills relate to above-the-API jobs and entail proficiency in computer coding, programming, computer science, Big Data analytics, statistics, and math. But, there are many other important and complimentary skills including leadership, entrepreneurship, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and one of the most intriguing one he calls “cognitive load management.” The latter means “the ability to respond to rapidly expanding bodies of information while maintaining a constant awareness of trends, significant patterns, and objectives.” One could see where this skill [cognitive load management] is a real meta-skill for our time.

Chapter 10 on the vaporization of education is very interesting. Our college system has turned into a way overpriced bloated inefficient administrative enterprise with luxurious country club facilities and very mediocre learning environment and performance. There is plenty of room for disruption. And, a lot is going on. There are some very interesting enterprises from Udacity, Minerva, One Month, and other providers of knowledge at a far greater speed and much lower cost than our existing system. However, for my part I feel like Tercek has failed to mention one of the greatest educational systems already freely available 24/7 anywhere. And, that is Wikipedia and YouTube. What can’t you learn really quickly when and where you need it with those two tools?

The last chapter is where emerging science is challenging science fiction. And, that is where a bunch of audacious scientists are working on the most audacious project of essentially uploading the human brain just like if it was any other piece of software. So, one day our digitized brains could render us a form of eternal life whereby we could still think, communicate, and achieve everything we can do with our minds. Just like companies do not need physical assets to be extremely successful in this network digitized world, one day human beings may not need their physical bodies. Their brain always did all the value-added stuff. Why not preserve the network (the brain) and shed the physical body? If this vision seems grotesque and repugnant to you, your opinion may be somewhat more nuanced after reading this chapter. It is a very interesting read describing a bunch of extremely reputable, credible, and capable scientists. This effort may seem ludicrous now but how about a 100 years from now. That’s just a few generations from now. In the history of mankind that is just the blink of an eye.

Tourna String Meter
Tourna String Meter
Price: $29.99
12 used & new from $26.70

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pretty interesting gadget. However, somewhat unclear of how accurate it is., June 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Tourna Stringmeter (Sports)
My racquet was supposedly strung at 40 pounds. The String Meter came out at 40 pounds for the long strings, but only 30 pounds for the cross strings. I took a few measurements from various tennis friends racquets. More often than not, the measurements were rather unsettling and seemed to have little correlation with the supposed racquet string tension they had ordered from the stringers.

I think this gadget works really well in terms of measuring the string tension of your racquet over time. You can tell how much tension your strings are loosing over time. But, in terms of checking the accuracy of your friends racquets I am not too sure how well it works.

What I get from this is that racquet stringing is a very imprecise art. Let's say you order string tension of 50 pounds with the exact same racquet and same strings from several different stringers. I have no doubt there will be marked differences between all of them. I suspect this difference could be associated with a very wide range. Between the lowest and highest you well could have a difference of 20 pounds (you order 50 and you get a low and high of 40 vs 60). The second issue is how do you measure this accurately. That's a tough one. I am not sure how precise the Stringmeter is.

Another weird finding is that I observed that the cross strings often come out at far lower tension than the long string. This is counterintuitive. From a physics standpoint you would think the opposite be true. A shorter string is much less flexible, and returns greater resistance to any torquing than a longer string. However, in essence the cross strings and the long strings make for two completely separate string jobs. Is there something in the standard stringer technique that make it so (that cross strings are associated with lower tension)?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2015 2:39 AM PDT

Fixed Gear Fixie Pedals Foot Strap - Pedals and Straps
Fixed Gear Fixie Pedals Foot Strap - Pedals and Straps
Offered by CyclingForLess
Price: $19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for road biking, bike touring, June 24, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have an old but very good touring bike. And, I had old pedals with hard plastic cage. Those pedals were too long as they overlapped with the front tire way too much. If my front wheel just wiggled only 5 degrees, my pedals would touch the front tire and disaster would happen. As a result, I suffered about one bad crash a year. The last one really banged me up. My elbow, knee, and one of my ankles were thoroughly scratched and bleeding after hitting the pavement at 14 mph. I needed a solution to keep on biking with that specific bike.

I have no interest in buying biking shoes with toe clips. But, I still wanted an artifact that would give me good torque when riding my touring bike so I kind of can keep up with the toe clip crowd and also climb hills using my muscle power as efficiently as possible. I also wanted a set up that would minimize if not entirely eliminate my "overlap" problem.

Those pedals are an ideal solution. They make riding very comfortable. They are far more comfortable than my former ones. They also do provide good leverage and torque power. I was also able to entirely eliminate the overlap with my front tire. In terms of adjustment, they provide much more flexibility and precision than any other type of pedals including toe clips. I don't think with the latter I could have eliminated the overlap as well as I have with those pedals.

In any case, those pedals are greak for bike touring and to resolve the issues I have dealt with. I am now far more comfortable and safe on my bike than I was before.

Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web
Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web
by Joseph Michael Reagle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.49
59 used & new from $11.34

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but ultimately rather dry, June 24, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is well researched and written, and informative. It refers to a broad litterature of social studies on the topic. Yet, it is rather dry and somewhat boring. I am not convinced the subject makes for a parsimonious 185 page book. A 10 page essay in The Atlantic, New Yorker, or Harper's may have been more appropriate. The effort of the author to broaden the subject by often going way back in history is not always successful. Such efforts sometimes come across as fillers to reach a certain targetted length to make this a marketable book.

Ensure Active High Protein Nutrition Shake, Milk Chocolate, 8 oz,  24 Count
Ensure Active High Protein Nutrition Shake, Milk Chocolate, 8 oz, 24 Count
Price: $42.39
8 used & new from $42.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Tastes good, reasonably good nutrition. But, not to be confused as an energy drink., June 8, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been a big fan of Ensure products for a long time. I bought many of their products with either 250 calories or 350 calories with lots of carbohydrates. This is actually a really good thing when you need to refuel and need a boost of energy in the midst of doing vibrant exercises. This new high protein drink has a different focus. It is not so much an energy boosting drink, that by definition should be dominated by carbohydrates. It is instead a protein dominant drink. As such it is a good drink after you have done exercises and you need some proteins to restore the health of your muscle tissues. It is a bit lighter in calories with 160 calories, but is pretty sating. Proteins tend to do that (make you feel sated). The drink tastes good. It does not seem to have too many uncalled for ingredients. And, as usual it has a boatload of vitamins and minerals. I think of it as a yogurt shake with more vitamins and supplements. Occasionally, when you are running late for work it could substitute as a reasonably good breakfast. Of course, that's probably not something you should do more than once a week as is true for any types of those drinks. They are great time savers. When doing sports or after sports they can come in real handy. But, you should not confuse them for sustainable nutrition on a consistent basis and forever going forward. This is not a criticism of such products. It is a realistic assessment of their place in terms of your overall allocation of caloric intake. They fit a special small niche of time and place as defined. And, as is they are pretty cool drinks.

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
by Steven Kotler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.75
98 used & new from $5.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of positive trends with many pipe dreams, April 12, 2015
This is an interesting book that has two main parts. The first part consists of the narrative of the book that supports Diamandis position that things in general are a lot better than they were, and they will continue to get better for various reasons he explicitly defines. The second part of the book consists of a very expansive section of visual data where he shows many graphs capturing some of the trends described in the first part of the book as well as many others.

In the first part of the book, Diamandis sees three major forces that are shaping the world.

The first force is the rise of the bottom billion, the poorest out of the seven billion on Earth. They represent a force because due to the penetration of cell phones, they are leapfrogging into first world technology. In Africa, thanks to cell phones, banking is nearly as evolved and mobile than it is in the first world. This has implications in terms of economic growth, rising living standard for Africa.

The second force is the emergence of what the authors call the techphilanthropists. The pioneer and iconic model of such special individuals is Bill Gates who has dedicated the second half of his life to making a difference and revolutionizing the field of philanthropy. He has used his genius in business and technology to render philanthropy far more accountable, and performance and targeted oriented. As a result, he has rendered philanthropy far more impactful. He also has lead many other similarly oriented billionaires to follow in his footstep. Many have stated that Bill Gates and company have had more impact on several major global issues than even huge supranational entities like the UN and the World Bank. The latter have been good at throwing large amount of money at problems. They have been good also at literally throwing that money away. Indeed, they have often been very ineffective at actually solving any problems they have targeted. And, that’s where the supranationals can learn a lot from the performance driven billionaire-philanthropists.

The third force is the Do It Yourself innovation movement (DIY) whereby individuals can now make contributions even in the most advanced technological domains. This is the essence of the Open Source movement. Open Source projects have had dominant impact within their respective domains from Linux (operating system), R and Python (quantitative software), to Wikipedia, the most successful repository of knowledge in history. Also, individuals may participate in various contests where corporations offer huge monetary rewards for the development of the best app, solution, or program for resolving very challenging problems.

Diamandis has a precise target in terms of global betterment: “a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care and non-polluting, ubiquitous energy.” And, all of that within 25 years. I gather there are some paradoxes in this forecast. First, we will most probably not reach 9 billion within those 25 years (and that’s a very good thing). Also, the non-polluting, ubiquitous energy seems to be completely Utopian. We now live in the era of an oil & gas revival with the fracking, shale oil and tar sand booms, whereby the United State is soon becoming the largest producer of such compounds ahead of Saudi Arabia. Canada is also a huge producer of those new alternative sources of fossil fuels. This surging supply from North America has caused oil prices to plummet over the past year. All the renewables that Diamandis is so excited about will probably play a very secondary role to the energy mix powering our civilization. Up to 2035, the International Energy Agency forecasts that oil, gas, and coal will remain just as dominant in terms of our overall energy mix as they are today.

Moving on to the second part of the book, the visual data captures a bunch of very interesting trends. For one thing, the advent of the Internet/Worldwide Web becoming accessible to the masses in the early 1990s is associated with several positive trends. One of them is the very rapid drop in the rate of rape in the US (pg. 249). Another positive trend is the very rapid decline in the magnitude and frequency of armed conflicts (pg. 251). Is the association of the reduction in rape in the US and armed conflicts worldwide with the advent of the Internet solely due to randomness? It probably is. But, it is a quirky coincidental observation.

The spread and capability of technology is exploding (pg. 263) associated with plummeting costs in bandwidth ($ per 1,000 Mbps), computing cost-performance ($ per 1 million transistors), and cost of storage ($ per gigabyte (GB).

In my view, one of the most important trends (maybe nearly as important as any of Diamandis three major forces) is the rapid plummeting cost to launch an Internet start-up from $5 million in 2000 to only $5,000 in 2011. That’s a trend that Diamandis observed within the second part of his book associated with visual data. But, he did not register it in the narrative portion of his book (one could include it in the DIY movement; but, it is different). Over a decade ago, to start such an enterprise one had to raise some venture capital to invest in a lot of hardware, software, and expensive computer coders. Now, the costs are so much lower because much of the hardware, software, and even computer coding capabilities can be rented for very little from the clouds. Thus, the cost of starting such a start-up is only 1/1000th of what it was just a decade earlier. That is an amazing increase in productivity. This new business innovation model allows for 10s of different iterations to refine an Internet-based model instead of spending $5 million on one single business idea with a very high risk of failure. It makes entrepreneurial risk so much easier to bear, as it ultimately reduces this risk by dividing it by a high multiple (the large number of iterations). This has to translate into an amazing boost in innovation.

Diamandis shares a few trends that have been popularized by the works of Richard Florida (the author who popularized the concept of the “creative class”). Those include the dramatic drop in the % of the labor force engaged in agriculture that dropped from over 90% in 1800 to less than 2% today (pg. 265). Another Richard Florida-trend is the ever-rising % of the population that lives in cities that is expecting to reach 70% by 2050.

A most challenging trend is that Africa is expected to account for the majority of the population growth (about 2.5 billion out of the next 3.2 billion). It is also the continent associated with many environmental constraints including water, food, and presence of many diseases reaching near pandemic proportions ranging from AIDs to Malaria. Also, chronic civil wars with religious, sectarian, and ethnic dimensions plague this continent. Will cell phones, vertical farming, smart grids, water plant desalination have much of an impact and render Africa more livable with an extra 2.5 billion people than it is today?

As shown, Diamandis take on the future is most always upbeat, and as demonstrated not always realistic or convincing. Often the projections he makes are contradicted by the most credible bodies in the field, like the IEA on energy production mix.

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