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Experiment – drunken haiku

I am walking down the street, Chelsea market ahead of me
What was that place I was last in?
How many apple dollars are at risk right now?

— ca. 2012

The secret of drunken haiku is that you don’t have to count syllables.



Poem #3


This vase doesn’t belong here. These flowers should be near you, instead of still with me.

I wanted to plant the wine bottle in your apartment like a magic bean, sprouting lush growth, clearing the air all day in your absence.


I walked out of the bar, clumps of frothy crystal slipping and skidding to the ground, losing altitude. Each one headed for a crash.

I turned down the streets, left, two straights, another left. I became a refuge for the flakes, a traveling airstrip.

There’s no yellow tape around us, no CNN, no NTSB to issue the report: Near miss? Minor collision? Pilot error?

Five words to you, five weeks ago, would have changed this poem.


— ca. 2011


Do the math.

Some interesting math to note in this article comparing the cost of saving vs. borrowing for college. Gotta love math. Save for your kids, or they’ll be even more broke than you might fear you’ll be.

(Of course, there’s no annex here for adding on the costs of lifetime support for a child with autism.)

Need a reason why I write blog posts and books and scout startup clients and work on startup ideas? Do the math.


Shifting objectives shifts outcomes

I recently finished the first draft for my book on the nine principles of war, reformulated and recast as they should be applied to business. My friend Tom read the draft to provide some initial comments, and we ended up talking about whether to add a discussion on the seeming inapplication of strategy to the long-running wars against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then, as if on cue, an article by Mark Kukis appeared on whether wars can be “won” today at all.

The research is extremely helpful on this question, and there is no real arguing with the facts. But let’s take apart this paragraph:

In these internal, fragmented conflicts, victory is elusive for any party involved. From 1946 to 1989, for instance, there were 141 internal conflicts worldwide. Of those, 82 ended when one party achieved victory. From 1990 to 2005, there were 147 internal conflicts. Of those, only 20 ended with one faction legitimately claiming victory. Put another way, since 1990, less than 14 per cent of internal conflicts produced a clear winner. About 20 per cent produced a ceasefire. And about 50 per cent simply persisted. Statistically, the odds of the US coming up a winner in a modern war are perhaps as low as one in seven.

The last sentence, with US odds of “winning” as low as 1/7, is a great bit of writing, but entirely misleading. Yes, those are the numbers overall, but they aren’t the number of conflicts in which the US participated. So that’s issue number one.

But the real question is tied to the sotto voce thesis of the article: we can’t win wars the old way because we’ve chosen not to fight them the old way.

Here’s a later line that connects this “problem” with the principle of Objective:

No significant debate arose about what victory might mean.

Objective: direct all efforts towards a clearly defined, decisive, and obtainable goal.

As a former Army infantry officer, we prefer missions that meet this standard. What we knew then is something I practice daily as a lawyer: being forced to define success in a clear manner is valuable not just because of the outcome, but because the process requires someone to actually think about what success looks like. That Eisenhower-like approach leads to better outcomes.

The recent conflicts described in the article are different from the older wars for one basic reason: we decided not to conduct wars in the same way. We decided that killing vast numbers of otherwise innocent civilians was no longer acceptable to us. This theme is recognized briefly but then ignored for most of the article.

We made war harder because we imposed humanitarian or moral or practical limits on ourselves. No longer would we choose to engage in actions like the fire-bombing of Dresden, the aerial bombardment of London, or the bombing of Hanoi. We have chosen to try to conduct operations around civilians rather than against them.

Because we respect the fundamental human rights of the people who live in, under, and near the regimes or bad actors we are fighting (whether Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or ISIS), we have created a new set of rules. They make things much harder for us. Like a grandmaster who plays a novice and starts out by taking off two rooks and agreeing not to attack any pawns, the chances of “victory” go down.

Add to that the distinction between traditional military objectives: the destruction of people or materiel and the occupation of territory, and the nation’s goals in these new conflicts are certainly fuzzier than what might have guided us in the past.

To me, the notion of “no victory” is really about two things: (1) our decision not to kill seemingly innocent civilians and (2) goals for the end state of the conflict that do not match up with traditional military objectives. You want stuff blown up? The Air Force does that better than anyone on the planet. You want to go build a nation? You send the Special Forces, but it takes a really long time and there aren’t enough of those hard-charging heroes to remake a whole country. A village or tribe? Of course. A region? Probably. All of Afghanistan? Probably not.

And finally, a post-script: another thing that has changed about our approach from WWII is that we have greater respect for self-determination. We might be keen on an interim level of control to smooth over the transition, but we’d be loathe to instill the equivalent of a modern-day MacArthur to rule over post-Imperial Japan. Inherent in that value judgment is the recognition that some of those people will choose systems that are not only not controlled by us (cf. 1970s Philippines) but not necessarily even favorable toward us. That’s really okay though: “If you love something, set it free.”


Meatpacking Latin Bar

Meatpacking Latin Bar

What’s going on with this?
What is this consciousness?
What’s going on with this?


ca. 2013


Places to grow up

Okay, so I haven’t read through the methodology yet, but the data from this visualization and article in the NYT sure do look interesting. Basically, I should either stay in Bergen County or move to Westchester.

Here are the meaty questions:
[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

My kids live in the future.

Thinking about my kids’ world. It’s already different from mine. Answering machines and voicemail came when I was in grade school and are almost dead. Long distance isn’t. It’s easier than ever to create. And everyone gets to be an individual. 

This thought was spurred in part by looking at summer camps and recoiling at the idea of my 7-yo son going to a camp that segregates boys and girls. I know there are studies showing possibly better outcomes for girls in some situations, but two things remain. First, I don’t think I’ve seen a study that says boys do better. And second, that’s not the way of the world. I expect my boys to live mostly in a world where women are professional and social equals. Why would I want to hamstring them by perpetuating habits that are the byproduct of stereotypes? 

Men and women may tease each other in relationships, but that’s a pattern for my life. It’ll be mostly gone by the time my son is a man, and my grandchildren will never know it except from old movies.


Reality is more complex than the map

The reality of being a single dad is even more complicated than this because all the lines are about half-an-inch wide (to scale), so it’s really an enormous mass of grey. OTOH, maybe that means I really should just stop trying to figure stuff out — but that’s hard to do when your primary skill is figuring stuff out!



Tumblr mxv5cdqhrv1skzu1eo1 500




















via:  (http://leiaworld.tumblr.com/post/70408990884/so-small-is-the-different-between-all-of-that)


How to import firefox passwords into 1Password v4

I recently purchased 1Password v4. I thought, reading the reviews and the FAQ, that it would import the 548 password combinations I evidently had stored in Firefox.


The product was shipped with only the ability to import its own format (thanks for nothing) and CSV files.

Checking, opening, and retyping 548 sets of URL, username, and password sounded like exactly Zero Fun.

Here’s the workaround that 1Password should have kindly shared with new users, modified slightly from my post on their forum.

  1. Here’s an extension for Firefox that (in Firefox 24) exported my 548 saved passwords to a .csv file: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/password-exporter/ The extension tells you how may exported items there are. This is a quick check to see if there’s a major problem in your process (but keep in mind it won’t confirm that they’re properly converted at each step).

  2. Export was very quick.

  3. USE 1Pv3 to import. Use the legacy download page. I used v3.8.2.1 for Lion with no ill effects on Mountain Lion.

  4. File/Import. Select the csv file. (In 1Pv4, this must have the .csv extension, so mine now did from an earlier failed attempt.) You will have to adjust the fields manually to ensure they match and select “Login” as type. 548 logins imported in my case, which matches 

  5. Export all to 1PIF (just in case) to desktop. Not encrypted – remember to delete later.

  6. Close 1Pv3.

  7. Reinstalled 1Pv4 (from App Store, in my case). It remembered my earlier master password.

  8. Import the 1PIF folder.

  9. 548 items imported. 

  10. I tested a few items to see if they worked, which is also about learning the application. It all looks good to my newbie eye.


Rant on understanding what you’re studying

This article on increasing mortality rates, i.e., decreased lifespan, among certain American women is a good one to for econ and math professors to give to their stats students as a quiz. “Identify errors….”

In an email to a friend, I described this article as  half-written” because it so obviously makes statements that are completely wrong and non-sensical if someone had bothered to read them out loud.
Here’s a taste:
“Life is different for women without a high-school degree than it was a few decades ago, and in most cases it’s a lot worse,” she said. “It’s really just a perfect storm.” 
That’s following a discussion that says that education is driving the seemingly crazy increase in death rates. Of course, that’s nonsense because there’s no plausible mechanism for education qua education to lead to early death. There probably are a lot of other things correlated with or even caused by being a female high school dropout, like being poor, fat, a smoker, frequently pregnant and drunk (you *know* those two are linked as tightly as my punctuation indicates), and a meth-head. Add that to all the other crappy side effects of being poor, and it’s no wonder. But dropping out doesn’t cause these problems — handing out degrees won’t fix them. Yes, education helps, but that facile answer sidesteps the most uncomfortable of assessments in America:  people are different at the same time as they are all equal. (This is my nod to the possibility that the causes of dropping out are probably also causes of those other drivers of poor health.)
Earlier, the article did the same thing with location. Absolutely lazy-ass crap to write that. Unless there’s poison in the ground or radiation in the air, location is almost certainly 100% not causally related to anything that’s going on. Sure, it’s correlated, but so what? 
Two closing thoughts, and then I’m going to post this rant:
1. This is another example of Prof. Kingsley’s admonition against doing the experiments you can do instead of the ones you should do. (I have always thought that there was a subtext there about folks not always knowing the difference, but that’s mine not his. As smart as he is, I’ve never heard him utter a disparaging word about the brainpower of other scientists.)
2. Clay Shirky, NYU Prof among other things, recently tweeted that he realized the problem with daily journalism is that the deadline doesn’t care whether you understand what the real story is. (Of course, CNN has that problem in spades.)
These comments about location and education “causing” the observed death rate are either sloppy reporting/research (someone doesn’t understand how things fit together) or there are folks who frankly aren’t done with their work — if these are the proffered “explanations.”