Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blog now moved

This is my old AOL blog, moved here in October 2008 when AOL abandoned blogs. These posts are from 2006 and earlier.

My new miscellany blog: Truncated Thoughts

My new bicycling blog: ZBicyclist

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cablevision's Lustgarten Proves the Afterlife Exists

The Wall Street Journal reports on September 22, 2006 that "Cablevision awarded options to a vice chairman (Marc Lustgarten) after his 1999 death but backdated them to make it appear they were awarded when he was still alive."

This would seem to undercut the argument that stock options are incentives for future management performance.

But, on second glance, this is proof that there is life after death. Why would such a greedy group of men as the average telecommunications upper management team share the options bounty unless Lustgarten had, in return, something he could provide?

One can imagine Marley appearing to Scrooge, not to ask him to reform, but to ask him for 666,666 options at $6.66 a share, backdated to 6/6/1866. 

In return, Marley might hint at solar storms or meteors disrupting sattelite TV transmissions, lightning strikes or floods at telephone switching centers, and perhaps plagues of boils inflicted on municipal officials who don't yet see the same clear vision of the future that Cablevision Systems Corporation does.

The occasional plague of locusts might distract media attention when weak quarterly earnings were reported.

If Lustgarten (and I love that last name for a corporate executive) could arrange for congressmen to have visits from their "guardian angels", his options might be quite cost-effective relative to the standard methods of lobbying.

So, I find in this story hope for a better life in the hereafter. Maybe I should post this on Beliefnet.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Want to get hit by a car? Wear a helmet!

That headline is one of many comments in response to a study by Ian Walker. The study has been getting a lot of attention in the bicycling community, but is basically junk science. Let’s start with a condensed version of the press release: 

Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision, the research has found.

Dr Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist from the University of Bath in the UK, used a bicycle fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from over 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol.

Dr Walker, who was struck by a bus and a truck in the course of the experiment, spent half the time wearing a cycle helmet and half the time bare-headed. He was wearing the helmet both times he was struck.

He found that drivers were as much as twice as likely to get particularly close to the bicycle when he was wearing the helmet. Drivers passed an average of 3 inches closer with the helmet than without

The research has been accepted for publication in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

"This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave is affected by the cyclist's appearance," said Dr Walker, from the University's Department of Psychology.

"By leaving the cyclist less room, drivers reduce the safety margin that cyclists need to deal with obstacles in the road, such as drain covers and potholes, as well as the margin for error in their own judgements.

To test another theory, Dr Walker donned a long wig to see whether there was any difference in passing distance when drivers thought they were overtaking what appeared to be a female cyclist.

Whilst wearing the wig, drivers gave him an average of 5.5 inches more space when passing.

Junk science?

While this article has gotten wide publicity in the cycling community, it’s basically junk science. It’s good for stimulating conversation, but that’s about it.

1. Experimenter bias is likely. Walker’s hypothesis is that drivers are subconsciously making judgments about how close they can pass.  But then he goes and does all the experimentation using himself as a subject.  It is well known that an experimenter who knows what results he wants, or what results he should get, can unconsciously influence the outcome. That’s been known for decades, and if he is a research psychologist he would have learned this in the first introductory research methods course.

This might occur quite easily. One of the cues cyclist give off is how straight a line they maintain versus how wobbly they are. Did he wobble more when he was farther out in the lane, perhaps because he was unfamiliar with being out that far? Did he do the conditions in a certain order, so he was more relaxed with the equipment as he went along? Lots of things can happen, which is why you usually wouldn’t use yourself as the only subject.

2. How bad of a cyclist is he? In the course of the study, he was hit twice.  This is in about 200 miles of cycling. This is an incredibly high accident rate, which indicates that something other than normal cycling behavior is going on.

3. Incredible labeling.  Walker sometimes rode with a wig in order to gauge motorists reactions to female cyclists. But there’s more to being a female cyclist than just long hair, and looking at Walker’s picture it seems more likely he was measuring the response to cyclists with long hair. But he persists in the article in insisting this indicates something about being female. Why?


The managerial version of the published study is at

The press release from Walker can be found at

Dr. Ian Walker's picture is below. How feminine is he with a wig?


Friday, September 15, 2006

Who picked these holidays, anyway?

Here's next year's holidays at the company I work for:

New Year's                                         Monday, January 1

Memorial Day                                      Monday, May 28

Independence Day                             Wednesday, July 4 

Labor Day                                           Monday, September 3

Thanksgiving                                       Thursday, November 22

                                                            Friday, November 23

Christmas Day                                    Tuesday, December 25

New Years Eve                                   Monday, December 31

These are pretty standard, but there's one interesting thing about them. Of the 8 holidays, 5 of them are bad weather holidays. Only 3 have decent weather (Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day).

What were we thinking?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

“Our character is measured by our desires.”

“Our character is measured by our desires." 

Emanuel Swedenborg   from the ARCANA COELESTIA 5128

Interesting to contrast this with basic Buddhist philosophy:

  • Suffering is universal,
  • It is caused by desire and yearning
  • Suffering can be prevented and overcome and
  • Eradication of desires can lead to removal of suffering.

(from but available in many places)

Swedenborg is a bit more optimistic: in his view, we can't really eliminate desires so much as focus desires -- focusing on the desire to do good, the love of the use (desire to be of service), and the love of God.


Reading skills of tech support

Actual correspondence with regard to equipment for an "absolutely top priority" project:

August 09, Dan:    Attached is an exception request requesting two 500Gb external hard drives.

Sept 13: Dan:    Steve, an external hard drive was delivered to me today. My exception request was for two 500Gb drives. I received one 80Gb drive. Do you know what happened?

Sept 13: Steve, Tech VP:    Sorry, Dan, the people who transcribed the request form got 300 Gb from the exception request form and not 500Gb. Send back the incorrect part and we'll try to get the right one ordered and delivered.

So, we asked for TWO 500Gb drives. This was "transcribed" to ONE 300Gb drive, and they sent an 80Gb drive -- five weeks later. 

Best Buy has larger drives (600Gb) for $349 with one day delivery, or available for pickup at 4 of their stores within 10 miles. 

The worst part is, there's a decent chance that when Dan returns the 80Gb drive, there will be further disruption because he didn't return the 300Gb drive.  There's also a decent likelihood we will have to go through the whole approval process again.