Sunday, May 20, 2018

Run faster

The speed of a runner benefits from minimizing contact with the ground, at least in contact time. For a car it may be contact surface reduction.

Running technique coaching and inflating tires, if taken to the extreme, leads to "flying" as the ultimate zero contact movement.

Early mornings walks to the Tel Aviv beach in March. Lots of joggers and runners committed to start the day bright, early, and sweaty. After two weeks of curious observation I made a mental note that the prevalent running style had lots of ground contact, true across all age and fitness groups.

Curious observation gives way to causality analysis. The only explanation at hand is that Tel Aviv runners develop their technique during their mandatory military service...and further assume that soldiers train with boots instead of Nikes, while carrying heavy loads. That would explain not picking up their feet like gazelles.

If you buy such evidence as proof, there is a lemma we can derive. We know that if you carry a burden, once the burden is removed, you will feel stronger and lighter. But carry a burden for a long time, and you will continue as though the burden is still there even after it is removed. The burden is in you now.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Back in UCSF

I was pleased my UCSF posts paused in 2010, although one loyal reader liked my hospital stories better than the more esoteric topics that followed. We had to go back to UCSF so some musings are in order. The place moved to the spanking new Mission Bay campus, an impressive place with robots roaming the corridors, great room comfort, wide windows into China Basin and the Bay Bridge, impressive entertainment systems, and a la carte food. Companions get to sleep in a normal bed, almost. 

As much as I have been watching US medical costs increase way beyond inflation and GDP since I have memory, I can see the patient getting value back, so much so that one is tempted to learn how to credibly fake symptoms and get admitted into this place for a few days of R&R.

The setting is great, the attention is great.  A great first omen, we ran into Kelli, the nurse we liked the most back in 2010. A second great omen, we were there for March 8th. The day everybody will always remember where they were as Barcelona came back to beat PSG 6-1. Hard to forget such roller coaster games, hard to forget roller coaster hospital stays, but at least we had the big game on the big screen. And the good guys won this round.

March 8th, a day of contrasts.  Twenty two men battling on the soccer pitch, while International Women's Day rules the outside world and could morph into the "day without women" protest. The hospital, a place run by women and a few robots, fortunately neither women nor robots stopped to protest.

Has the medical front progressed since 2010 as much as amenities and comfort? Probably not on the pure therapeutical side, but it clearly did on the IT and automation side. 

The 6-1 comeback had never happened before. We hope we will never go back to UCSF. Blue moon events per the best laid plans of us mice and men. Hopefully our women are exempt from their plans going awry, and will save the day, again.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hawaii Six-O

As last year's the winners of the Majors Cup we had to go back to Honolulu and defend the title. 
Move over McGarrett! We outdid his Hawaii Five-O gig by winning the final by 6-0. 

A priori we faced two outcomes, failing per Leonard Cohen's You win a while, and then it’s done – your little winning streak, or repeating per Mr Van Rijt's success breeds success evidence. Should our fate be modeled as a Markov chain with younger players constantly renewing the teams?

In Hawaii I witnessed success breeds success.  Many good players heard last year's tales, exaggerated tales perhaps, and wanted in. This gave us an even better roster.  The confidence of repeating a pattern in the same place also helped us for sure. 

All in all great Honolulu weather, beautiful fields, all validating the "play soccer and see the world" mantra.

All that is left now is to enjoy things and wait until either Mr. Cohen or Mr. Markov put an end to it. We may go on the offensive instead and join another tournament in the summer. I may then co-author a success breeds arrogance paper if Mr. Van Rijt is game...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Wayfarer

A feline behavior specialist (Cat link) sounded on the radio like a lady out to sell a book. She made a distinction  between dogs being attached to people (owners) while cats are attached to places, presumably due to their different domestication histories. That was news to me.  I knew cats can be quite detached from people. I cared for a few ingrate specimens as a child, and I say "I cared for" instead of "I owned" because no one can own a cat.

Which attachment do I have? Am I closer to cat or dog?

Chance helped me sort that question out by visiting this year three places in three continents where myself or ancestors would have strong attachments. If we were just cats I would feel a pure and primal attachment to the places independent of who lives there now and whether I have any remaining ties with them. If we were dogs I would have an attachment to friends and relatives who inhabited these places but the attachments would have followed their travels and fates and not extend to the place.

The answer was clear, I felt an attachment to people through the places where we or they lived in the past. The answer is also worrisome, I am half dog and half cat. It beats being a werewolf I guess.

The fact that there are no new layers of memories in places we have left means the old layers are still exposed when we go there. Travel can by visiting a place take one back in time and to people, both through memory and through imagination. Tourism however is visiting places devoid of personal memories where one can deliberately avoid the burden of attachment. Tourists are anxious cats by definition.

The sweetest irony is that as a tourist I ran into a description of a Wayfarer. A third nomadic species that is better than dogs and cats,  travelers and tourists. I think I know one, thought it is not me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reverto Vidi Vici

It has been five years since we visited the Hawaiian pacific theater for a soccer tournament.

We came through and we shall return morphed into we returned and we came through, to win it all this time. 

The common wisdom of "the older we get the better we were" is challenged by our win. We will not spoil the championship with Sun Tzu quotes that may explain our success. We just had a strong team, good chemistry,  and the rest is history in the Pacific...

Oh, we are the ones in green in the picture.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Animal Placebo

If it were not hard enough to define what consciousness is, then comes the issue of whether animals have extended consciousness, or self-perception. And then which animals. A very rudimentary test seems to be the mirror test where an animal is marked with a mark only visible in a mirror and humans monitor for mark grooming behaviors in front of the mirror.

Why dwell on this vexing question when much smarter and specialized minds already tried? I was not trying I swear, but I just heard about some medical research in mice where the results were broken into three groups: Mice that got the medicine, mice that did not get anything, and mice that got a placebo.

I said voila! If researchers had the need to create a mice placebo control group, or circularly if the results between the placebo and the untreated mice were different I thought that would settle the issue. A small step for mice a huge step for mankind.

Intuitively the placebo effect has to be based on consciousness even if there is no consciousness definition.

But when I checked the facts I am not that sure. The documented rodent placebo effect is more conditioning type of effect a la Pavlov, not so much a mouse being told "take this pill and see me next week".  And the dog placebo effect reported by veterinarians is biased by human placebo, namely the owners fall for the placebo their dogs are taking and believe the dog's condition has improved. That in itself is revealing of a Placebo that is purely mental and unrelated to any anatomical response, as it occurs outside the subject being treated.

Disappointing, but fear not, we will not leave empty handed. At the very least I can offer a testable consciousness definition as: "A mental process subject to the Placebo effect".

Paradoxically can we claim we humans are smarter than animals when we fall for Placebos while animals do not?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Salt Pillars

There was a four lane bowling alley in my childhood, the Carrasco Bowling.  It was a few blocks from the house we rented for the summer. The long idle summer of us children. We roamed the Bowling Alley many times, we rented their special shoes and rolled the bowling balls with our two small hands a couple of times. As a child I did not understand why the place was bombed and reduced to rubble before the following summer.

Analyzing the recent past is not easy judging by the discord and vitriol associated with competing narratives. This was the Cold War coming to a theater near me. A few blocks away to be precise. It was a message to the oligarchy said the perpetrators, one of which became the country's president a few years ago. Being the past so nonsensical and so immutable makes me want to find refuge in the future instead. 

May be that was the reason Mrs. Lot was warned not to look back. Six words state what happened when she looked back, yet I found nineteen different English variants, and many pages of commentary on that simple event.

One of them of note:
"But Lot's wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt."

where longingly implies the problem was looking at the past, not just back at a physical place.

A pillar of salt, what a great metaphor for the paralyzing danger of dwelling in the past.

There are two ways of avoiding looking at the past. One way is being young and having no past to look at. The other way preached by my father is staying busy,  the opposite of the long idle summer of a child.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Standing on the Shoulders

When it comes to making discoveries standing on the shoulders of giants helps us see farther.  Standing at the grave of giants I miss the view and I miss the giant.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Nobody is a Villain

In the joke the officer tells the child visiting the precinct that all these pictures on the wall are of people wanted by the police, and the child asks why didn't the police catch them when they took their pictures... Same here, I had no chance to take her picture. This lady made me break the strict rule of using only pictures taken by myself. For this story I had no choice.

If I ever learned anything about self perception it is that nobody is a villain in his own mind. Not even the smiling lady you see here, 

She is a well educated lady from Barueri (Sao Paulo) in Brazil. She is an outspoken critic of Brazil's corruption and is even vocally asking for the impeachment of the president Dilma Rousseff. But in her own mind she cannot be the villain that cheats in one of the many ways the era of e-commerce and airbnb allows one to cheat. 

Alessandra rented a country house through her well verified airbnb identity for the best weeks of the southern season, only to send some friends instead of Alessandra Daloia herself. These friends used the property for two nights while searching for alternate accommodations, accommodations closer to gambling and night life. Alessandra Daloia Souza cancelled the reservation while creating bogus excuses about moldy swimming pools. The brazilian males abandoned the property, never contacted the owner, and sheepishly screened phone calls from then on. 

I already knew that nobody sees him or herself as a villain, but Alessandra upped the ante.  She painted herself as the victim while filling her mouth with anti-corruption diatribes. Maybe airbnb should have a Hamlet test to screen out the lady that doth protest too much, methinks.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rule the World

Twenty two brave athletes sweating the Brazilian weather on beautiful World Cup pitches may impress many, but being there only reinforced my notion that the world is ruled by women. At least the world around me, in near proximity or with which I have broader affinity.

The subtleties of soft power cannot go unnoticed over time. Who sets priorities, who makes the tough calls, who really has sway in eight-out-of-ten households, who decides on a house purchase. One can go from fact to stereotype to caricature, but the idea has been brewing in my mind that we men are just useful idiots, and often not that useful.

The metaphor of men is that of World Cup players, physical, determined, with a sense of purpose that may or may not transcend gender. Pawns in a bigger game. Look "La FIFA" has a female gender.

The sweetest paradox is that cultures where women do not rule (yet), have no soccer presence in the world stage really.  And the conclusive proof may have gone unnoticed to the armies of commentators in Brazil 2014. Three of the four semi-finalist countries are run by a woman head of state, and the fourth, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was run by queens since 1890 until Beatrix abdicated last year, probably to have more time to follow the World Cup.

This blog proves I retain my freedom of opinion, even if our male opinions may matter less than we thought. I do not complain, relevant or not my blog has alway done one thing to perfection. When I read my own posts I feel exactly the way I did when I wrote them. That is as close as I can get to a time travel machine. Plus that picture takes me back to Fortaleza, Brazil just before the madness started.