Friday, March 31, 2006

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before

Worldmapper: dozens of world maps, with country sizes adjusted for various factors to give you an instant idea of how countries compare on things like population, car ownership, fruit exports, etc.

Here's one for net immigration:

How much do venture-backed CEO's get paid?

from VentureWire

"Northern California continues to lead with the nation's highest paid start-ups CEOs, with median compensation hitting $275,000. Not far behind is the Northwest, where compensation jumped to $250,000 from $200,000. In the Northeast compensation dropped to $253,000 from $275,000 last year and the South saw a decline to $240,000 from $246,000. "

Pretty good pay for running a company that doesn't earn a thing. Senior execs at a company like Microsoft wouldn't be eager to jump ship over money like that, but it does raise the bar.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Book summaries on line

Business Book Review: is another one of those book summary services, similar to the GetAbstract one I get a work.

Today's WSJ [subscription required] has a summary of the summarizers. Curiously, they don't mention GetAbstract. They also don't mention my favorite new site of all: Safaribooksonline, which gives you the full text online to zillions of (mostly technical) books.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Where are the world's ships right now?

Ship locations is a site that tracks, in real time, the location of all the world's commercial ships. It lets you immediately see a map of, say, all the ships about to dock at the Port of Seattle.

For example, the Queen Mary 2 is currently near the tip of South America.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

SketchUp Home

Google just bought SketchUp, a company that makes a simple CAD-like drawing program. It normally sells for $495 so I'll wait to see if Google decides to make a free version, like they did with Google Earth.

My 6-year-old boy would love this software. We just watched the demo video and he was really salivating over the possibilities of drawing simple buildings and then watching them come to life inside the computer.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Pictures of the Prophet

Oh no! After all the fuss over the cartoons, somebody noticed that there are several paintings of the Prophet in several major US and European museums.

FREAKONOMICS on baby test scores by race

Cheers to FREAKONOMICS BLOG » New evidence on racial test score gaps for stepping into a controversial, but vital question at the heart of genetics. We know that test scores vary by race among adults, and that a statistically significant variance shows up early. Is environment responsible; is it innate? Even if you insist that "IQ" is not a relevant measure, please explain why there would be a difference. If it's upbringing, then the younger you are, the lower the difference, right?

So they studied a large data set of cognitive tests given to 8-12 month old babies and published a paper last month with the results. Answer: they couldn't find a difference between black and white babies, but they did see very slightly lower scores for Asians.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What's New Orleans like now?

My sister-in-law, who has lived there all her life sent me this like to answer the question of what's it really like there now? What you see on the news is often preselected for shock value -- after all, why broadcast images of a mundane street scene when you can show miles of flood-damaged houses, or people who look ready to riot? is a smaller site, made by "normal" people in New Orleans: middle class family people with jobs, church-going and very, very boring. I'm not sure, but there may even be some Republicans in there. These are the people who don't think George Bush, Michael Brown, Bill Clinton, Michael Moore, had anything to do with Katrina one way or another -- and they aren't expecting help from any of those people either because they believe they have to do it all themselves.

The answer is it's very tragic: all these normal people, who lost everything and have nothing to do but work one day at a time at rebuilding.

What are blogs good for

Scoble is completely right about why people should blog- Let your friends know what you're up to. When you have a busy life, it's too hard to stay in touch with people you don't see regularly, like Sean or M3 -- or friends in Japan I haven't seen in years like Hasegawa-san. What cares what we talk about. It's just way more interesting to see what matters to my friends than to read the same old news every day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mel Levine at Mercer Island

Pediatrician and educator Mel Levine spoke tonight at the Mercer Island High School to a sell-out crowd of something like 1000 people.

He’s full of anecdotes, like the one about Zander, the boy who was otherwise very expressive but was failing his writing class until they discovered he had grapho-motor issues. Solution: give him a keyboard and now he’s just fine. Or the girl who had trouble reading until they discovered she had a shortage of “active working memory”. Solution: train her to underline key points and review them later as she reads.

Levine, who is the founder and director of a non-profit All Kinds of Minds, thinks schools could be more effective if they focus kids on their assets (learning strengths), diagnose areas of weakness, and then discuss with the kid. Ask if these are important in life, and then either find workarounds for areas that don’t matter as much, or exercise the areas that matter.

He notes the differences between success in “real life” and school. Kids in school are expected to be well-rounded but life rewards specialization. Schools are designed for linguists, not spatial thinkers. Of course there are many general skills that everyone should learn regardless of how much they use them later, but what can we do to make it easier for kids who have neuro-developmental issues that make classrooms difficult?

Levine’s institute publishes a table of neuron-developmental profiles, that builds on the latest neuroscience to break learning down into its components. These are skills like saliency determination (lets you figure out what’s relevant) and significance determination (what’s important). Some kids just can’t get their minds off the significance of the thumbtacks on the bulletin board, making it hard for them to pay attention to the letters that the teacher has posted there. The ability to see things others can’t is an important sign of creativity that should be nourished, but too often those kids would be labeled disruptive.

Other examples: previewing (the ability to see the end result before embarking on a task), sequential and spatial ordering (knowing how things are connected in time and space). Kids who are particularly good or bad at these skills can turn up in the principal’s office for bad behavior, when what they really need is some tasks that can help them apply their strengths productively or compensate for their weaknesses.
Some other ideas: keep in mind the difference between an affinity or special interest that all kids should have, and recreation or entertainment that is good but shouldn’t be the focus of their lives. He wasn’t as clear on the difference as I would like, but it brought nods from Mercer Island parents like me who think the emphasis on sports often comes at the expense of more productive learning. When sports teaches teamwork, it’s good; when it’s just a way to feel good about trouncing others, it’s entertainment.

Here are some quotes I wrote down:
  • Lable the phenomenon, not the kid. Instead of saying he’s got ADD, say he has difficulties with sequential ordering. Once the kid knows what’s wrong, he can do something about it.

  • Sleep hygiene is important. Kids need 9 hours a night, period, and you should focus the entire day around how to enable that.

  • No kid should leave school without knowing how to write a business plan.

  • Kids need to learn about learning while they’re learning.

  • Don’t make childhood so wonderful that it’s a hard act to follow. It’s bad if kids are so good-looking or athletic that they have to wait until adulthood to learn about their inadequacies.

  • Kids need to spend lots of time with adults.

  • Imaginative play is more important than a week stuffed with parent-arranged activities.

  • One problem with TV is that it presents the world as more fast-paced and well-organized than it really is.

And my favorite quote, which Levine attributes to Harvard professor Jerome Kagan: To see what a kid will be like when he's 19, watch him at 18.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Early childhood language lessons

94.9 KUOW broadcast a segment about the Sponge School, run by my friend Jackie Friedman. It's a local language school that gives exposure to the sounds and fun of other languages to very young kids. They already have 120 families signed up for their 19-session programs.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The real reason Iraq is such a mess

In "Best Science & Nature Writing 2004, Steve Sailor notes:

"In Iraq, as in much of the region, nearly half of all married couples are first or second cousins to each other. A 1986 study of 4,500 married hospital patients and staff in Baghdad found that 46% were wed to a first or second cousin, while a smaller 1989 survey found 53% were 'consanguineously' married. The most prominent example of an Iraqi first cousin marriage is that of Saddam Hussein and his first wife Sajida."

Apparently this is the norm in much of the Muslim world, and is even blamed for the disproportionate number of genetic defects among British Pakistanis. I guess many Iraqis would not be able to find wedded bliss in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Marble Mocha Macchiato

Hey, they stopped selling the Chantico! My barista says not enough people were ordering them. Argh. But she recommended instead an equally-chocolate heavy drink, the new Marble Mocha Macchiato. Mmmm.

Why email is over-rated

Sprague WebLog posts my inchoate thoughts about how to do blogging one better.