Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Putinism v Populism



This contrast came to me while listening to Open Source on NPR last weekend.

Populism – Promote policies that people clamor for.  It gets you elected.  We know that the general public in many countries don’t really understand the complexities of modern economies, policy implications, and so on.  So what they clamor for might not really result in what is best for the country.  Venezuela is a good example of this. 

Putinism – Promote policies that people really want, regardless of what they say in public.  In Russia, there are many people who say they want empowerment, freedom, even democracy.  But Putin knows better.  Deep down, a large majority want a strongman to show the world that the Russian Bear is a force to be contended with.  Many people protest now and again, but most of the time they just roll over because they feel better having a President who wrestles bears, rides horses shirtless, and talks tough to the West.  An interesting form of self-delusion I think.  Make the social statement that you are for liberal democracy, but unconsciously feel satisfied by a strongman ruler.

Or am I just a cynic?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Willpower and Self-Efficacy



There is a virtuous self-reinforcing cycle between willpower and self-efficacy.  If you exert some willpower to accomplish something with personal value, you feel really good about it.  Not just about the success itself, but also your ability to get it done using your own power.  Your willpower.  Your grit and sticktuitiveness. (That was one of my dad’s favorite words growing up).  This second part leads to an increase in self-efficacy.  The increase in self-efficacy makes you more confident that you can achieve other activities that require willpower.  You have more confidence in yourself.  Unlike feeling more skilled at the activity itself, the increase in self-efficacy is more generalizable to other activities that depend on willpower. 

Having this self-efficacy makes you more likely to attempt activities that require willpower and more likely to succeed at them.  Which then leads to more self-efficacy and more willpower and on it goes.  Gretchen Rubin over at the Happiness Project has some good thoughts on this.

So the message of the story is to try some small things that demand willpower today.  And then watch it grow.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Social Science lenses on religion



Some random thoughts before getting to work.  It is amazing how religion looks when evaluated through anthropological, sociological, and historical lenses.  That is why I minored in Religious Philosophy as an undergrad.

  • ·         There is a Hebrew phrase that is often mistranslated.  The real meaning is “a smart pupil of a great scholar.”  It is often mistranslated as “a smart person.”  As a professor who has taught hundreds of students over the past 25 years, I find this intriguing.  Many of my students think of themselves as smart for various reasons.  Sometimes because they get good grades (which BTW doesn’t always mean you are smart).  Sometimes because they are surrounding by smart people and deep thoughts, regardless of how they are engaged themselves.  Sometimes because they sit at the feet of brilliant scholars (the Talmudic analogy that the phrase in question comes from).  Sometimes just pure self-delusion.  So I wonder if the mistranslation occurred over time because of the preponderance of students who assume that studying from a smart teacher makes you a smart person by osmosis.

  • ·         In the Talmud, the discourse (and sometimes vigorous argument) reveals as much about the personalities of the scholars as it does about the laws.  Kind of like oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court, I think.  Different scholars have been described as “a store stocked with everything,” “a peddler’s box,” a pile of walnuts,” “a secret treasure,” and “one who knows more when he doesn’t answer your question.” I think these metaphors are great examples of the different kinds of scholars. I have many colleagues that could easily be described in these same terms.

  • ·         The terms for “teacher” and “scholar” in everyday usage became synonymous over the thousand years between the Romans and the modern era.  It happened faster in the Middle East, where civilization was a lot more advanced during those centuries.  In Middle Ages Europe, teachers were the village level rabbis who were more engaged with the common folk.  Scholars were the few who had the opportunity to dedicate their lives to study.  In the Middle East, both lived in the big cities where their roles blended together. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This Week in EID - Episode 29



This week, we really went for maximum diversity of topics in our choice of articles on EID.  Before reading the list, think of the most disparate areas of human factors and design and user experience and what would you come up with.  How about this list?

Are we hitting the areas that you care about? We are always looking for feedback so we can deliver the timely and relevant topics that you are interested in.  Let me know.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Studio Journal Episode 16 - Lean Living



I have discovered another constraint of my small living space that brings me back to my former life as an Industrial Engineer.  I have limited space in a variety of places such as my fridge, freezer, closet, etc. So I have developed a lean process to handle my inventory and use pull scheduling rather than push.

Let me explain for those of you not ingrained in the IE/lean mentality.

Like many people, I buy beer by the 12-pack.  When I had a full sized fridge, the whole thing would go in.  This is a push schedule.  When I bought the beer, it entered the system.  Now, I have room for one bottle, or maybe two in an emergency.  So I have one in inventory.  When I need a beer, I take it out and another comes out of the cabinet and goes into the fridge.  It is only on demand (needing a beer), not supply (buying the beer), that it enters my inventory (fridge).  If I know in advance that I will need two (Patriots/Broncos football game) I can update the schedule and double my inventory.  I need enough advanced notice for the processing time (getting it cold).

A similar thing happens with vegetables.  I like having something different every day.  Since I live alone, that meant having half full bags and plastic containers of different kinds in the fridge with leftovers.  Over the course of a week or so, I could rotate my choices depending on what I was in the mood for.  But now I have room for just one or two.  So I have to buy in smaller batch sizes, rotate between a smaller variety of SKUs, and only after the inventory is depleted can I switch to a new variety.

A slightly different process happens with jackets.  I have room for one jacket hanging on the front door ready for the next day and another draped over the stack of storage bins along the wall in case my plans change.  During the spring I had my jean jacket on the door and rain jacket on the bins or vice versa when it rained.   Now in the winter, my every day winter jacket is on the door and my dress overcoat is ready for events like my conference tomorrow.  When the weather changed, I opened the bin, put the light jackets inside and took the warm ones out.  The problem was when the weather was fluctuating daily.  I had to keep going into the bin.  Jean jacket in, leather jacket out.  Leather jacket in, winter coat out.  Winter coat in, rain jacket out. 

With my dress shirts, it is based on mood.  I have room for three weeks’ worth of shirts in my closet.  I have a storage bin with another three weeks’ worth and an under-the-bed bin with another three weeks’.  So I rotate among my closet shirts and then at some point when I get bored I pack the whole lot up and take out a new group.  I have to guess what I might be in the mood for that month.  But on the positive side, I am sometimes pleasant surprised.  “Oh, I forgot about that shirt!  It will be fun to have that back in the rotation for a while.” 

OK, so I am geeking out a bit with this explanation.  But it is true.