Category: Personal Growth (Page 1 of 7)

Does New Equipment Improve Performance?

As a parent in suburban NJ one standard is getting your child into organized sports. I was no exception, as there are many positives from participating in team sports at a youthful age. I did, the sports in the 1970’s and 80’s are not as intense as they are now but there are some things that will always remain the same. 

One sport which consumed my time was tennis, and the key piece of equipment was the racket. I was playing at the time with the greats of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors etc. When I started, I was using the classic Tad Davis wooden racket. I won a lot of matches and tournaments with it. Being a fan of Borg, all I wanted was the Donnay Bjorn Borg Pro racket. With this racket I imagined myself winning the US Open, Wimbledon etc. I spent considerable time trying to convince my parents to get it for me. 

Fast forward thirty plus years, and my daughter is asking me for new goalie pads, sticks etc. With the same notion, how much better she is going to be with the new equipment. I am a sucker, really a sucker for both of my kids, and bought it for her each time. My other daughter needed newer skates, blades etc. for figure skating. And yes, she got them also.   

I am a rational adult, ok sometimes a rational adult, and I believe that new equipment does not make the athlete. It is ten plus years past buying equipment for my children, and I am going to put some thoughts that come to mind on this topic. Wondering if anyone goes through the same thoughts while shopping for new equipment for their child or themselves.  

What makes one a better athlete? Or better and any skill whatsoever? The answer in most cases is practice. What if that new equipment gets you to practice more? What if that new stick gets you to shoot an extra fifty pucks into the dryer?  That extra practice helps and helps more than the new piece of equipment. The new equipment did not help directly, but indirectly it changed your attitude, work habits etc. And that improved your game.  

Now there is an argument that this could be a race to waste. As every time a new piece of equipment comes out, if you do not buy it than the desire to practice will go. Using this method must be strategic when working with a child, and as an adult you need to also be careful. If anyone always needs a new piece of equipment to want to practice, they really are not interested.   

When moving from the wooden tennis racket to graphite larger head rackets my game jumped immediately. It was amazing, it made tennis accessible to many people who struggled with how hard it was to play with a wooden racket. The sweet spot to hit and tennis ball and the wooden racket was small, the larger head rackets made it easier. When you play better, you often play more so in this case the new equipment did make the difference.   

So, the negative of better equipment. Using the wooden racket, I learned how to move to the ball better, I mastered timing the ball and finding the spot on the racket. It was a skill I had to master to play, and for others learning with the newer equipment never mastered. Good coaches and better players did work as there still was a sweet spot, but it was just bigger.   

With my new hobby, astrophotography, I am using an older DLSR. I am learning the nuances of that specific camera. I could easily buy something like the Seestar S50, this is a telescope, camera that has software in it that generates pictures of the night sky easily. A simple smart phone app you can produce pictures of nebula and galaxies with almost no effort. There are others, but I chose this one as it was the one I found about first, I am not sponsored by it, nor endorsing it.  

This is both an upside and a downside. Gaining knowledge of the details is a skill, setting up the S50 and picking a nebula and saying go shoot, is well an instant dopamine hit. I look at this as an interesting balance of good and bad.  

First, getting an instant picture with some simple learning can drive me into taking more pictures and enjoying the hobby. I can then take pictures and share them to get likes on social media. Once I realized the limitations, I could dig in and learn the more difficult skills of stacking and photo editing. I could also get lazy and stick instant photos.  

If I start with the DLSR, I may struggle the first few months, or years, get bored and quit. I hope this is not what happens, and I use the failures and lessons, and I spend my time asking questions from experts and continue to improve. I cannot answer for my future self what will happen.  

The question I posed in the beginning, does the new equipment make you better does not have a straightforward answer. Digging deeper there is no simple answer. But I always say, I can learn more from a simple question than a wise answer. Waiting for the answer to which is right? Sorry, this is something that you might fail at, getting the new piece of equipment may not help you practice more, keeping the old equipment may demotivate you. Experiment and find what works for you as with many things there is no one answer. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain; I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback; but it is moderated.  

This Blog is a labor of love and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information. Images without notes are created using an AI tool that allows me to reuse them. 

Do you know what is real, and what is AI Generated?

What if everything you read on the internet was produced using Large Language Models? That all content you thought you are reading was generated by an AI? Would you be able to tell the difference? Can you read something and say, ‘no human would right this?’  

I have some favorite blog authors as well as podcasters. I read and listen to them regularly and wondered how they can be so productive. How they can churn out content as often as they do. I also looked back at my own writing and wondered how original I am? And if you do not know me well enough those thoughts drove me into a black hole of trying to see if how to determine if content is real, or LLM generated. 

First, I found a paper that describes multiple ways to determine if content was LLM generated. Discovered another article that shares words that tip you off that something was written by and LLM. And finally started kicking around with ZeroGPT as a site that allows you to put content in, and it will give you what percentage was written by an LLM! Of course I took my recent posts, and then incredibly old posts and wondered what it would say about what I wrote.  

My most popular post ever was done recently, telling a story about a tree falling in my yard.

It thinks the first two sentences were written by AI GPT, but the rest were not. So, it believes my post was written by a human, which is good. I am not sure a LLM would think of a story like this, nor compare it to a relationship. I went through my team building posts, and then decided to go back to the really old posts.  

First, one of my favorites Disney being the new ’Historians’ as Biopics distort history. This one turned out to be 100% human written. Next my quick thought about sometimes you paint the car, sometimes you paint the fish, also 100% human written. Other ones I won’t link also turned out to be estimated at 100% human written. And one, which is a story I have told often and a quote I use often Even a Blind Squirrel eventually finds a Nut (according to Google this is the most clicked on link from their search), was estimated to be 90% human written, and 10% AGI. Strange as that was written in 2017!  

Of course, next I started putting some of the people I read, and their content to the ZeroGPT test. Most came out with excellence (5% or lower AGI) but there were a few outliers whose content was marked as GPT. I would not say it shocked me that at least a few people were leveraging LLMs to write their content. What I think was shocking is some posts were marked as almost 100% written by AI. 


I am not calling them out by putting any of their content here. And I should note, for the past year or so I have been using a text editor that has some AI built into it. It attempts to correct my grammar, my spelling etc. The AI suggests wording that might be more appropriate. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I do not agree. It is my choice while writing and editing.  

A primary concern when using LLM-generated content is the potential lack of authenticity. Bloggers may unintentionally present ideas or viewpoints that are not their own, compromising their credibility and the trust of their audience. Reader’s value genuine voices and personal experiences, which LLMs may struggle to replicate. 

Looking back at my posts, what amazed me was the influence of others on my writing. Whether it be Bruce Lee (who I quote a lot) authors like Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, other podcasts like TWIT, Hidden Brain, Huberman labs, or even just friends, my views, thoughts, and ideas are an accumulation of what I pick up. And to quote Bruce again ‘Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing with no beginning and no end.’ I have regurgitated information like an LLM, but I knowingly make choices on what I keep and what I throw out. The algorithm is not guided by any rules, other than the decisions I make. I will continue to ingest from talented authors and podcasters, and I will use them as a guide to discover more about myself. I just hope my output is not decidedly systematic and that my posts are marked as written by an LLM. 

If you made it through the whole post, one paragraph was written by an LLM, wonder if you spotted it. To answer the question, I asked in the beginning. If everything were written by an LLM, it would still be up to us readers to decide if we want to read it, if we stop, then maybe the production of it will be reduced. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information, and the one paragraph if you can find it. Images are from ZeroGPT, I do not have a financial investment with them, I used the free version FYI.

I am never really annoyed by an imperfect photo, but am by an imperfect life.

For those who know me personally they have seen my pictures from my commute. I take the Ferry in and during certain times of the year the sun is at a perfect angle for some great shots. Things like weather, cloud coverage, my work from home day and other things help determine the opportunity for a great shot. There are days I bring a Digital SLR (DSLR) as I think they day will be so spectacular that a camera phone will not be good enough. 

The average person can take great shots, they may need some help in framing the picture to get better. But the software on the camera has gotten so much better over the years the small digital cameras are almost gone, and DSLRs are not selling as well.  

One thing I noticed over the years of taking photos is the imperfections in the shots.  

Now in this picture it is easy to spot cause well its circled, that is how I found it. Otherwise, a wonderful picture, no need for filters etc. The bridge on the right, the sun with two birds’ overhead, the waves glistening all give you a calm feeling that I had seeing it in person. Why does this happen? One answer is there is dust on the lens, which to me would look bigger as the lens on a camera phone is small. It could be the light reflecting off another source. And finally, there is lens flare, which happens when you are taking a photo of a light source, in this case the sun. 

Now this photo is more what I think about when I hear lens flare. 

But this blob is not about what they are, how to prevent them or even how to fix them in post processing. I do not like doing post processing, it is partly due to my ADHD, and I see the imperfections the camera records as part of the photo. First there was photoshop, and photographers would spend time cleaning up photos and making them look spectacular. Now there are software tools that you can instantly clean up that spot. Some tools will even remove background items, a stray person that walked in your photo etc.  

These imperfections in my photos I chose not to remove, even knowing it would take a microsecond with the new ‘AI’ enabled software. These imperfections are a reflection on life. First, we cannot clean up every mess before someone notices. It is not possilbe, we make mistakes, forget to do something we are truly imperfect. And the more we strive to be so, the more time we struggle to find the perfection that is not always going to be there. We also try to make our kids’ lives perfect, sheltering them from failure. In doing so we do not let them learn how to be resilient. 

Second, these imperfections allow us to learn to accept others. In a world where we are spending more time pointing out what is wrong, and finding the one thing to disagree with, we miss the beauty that is the rest of the picture. This puts us in a position where the focus is always negative, finding the positive will never come up. By recognizing the inherent beauty in imperfections, we cultivate a sense of empathy and compassion towards ourselves and others. We learn to embrace the imperfect nature of our existence and find solace in the knowledge that life’s challenges and flaws are what make it truly meaningful and worthwhile. 

Last, and the lesson I am struggling to learn is even the best are not perfect. No tennis player has won a grand slam without losing a single point, no driver who won a race says every lap was perfect, no actor in a play has done his lines perfectly every live performance, even the greatest guitarist and keyboardists make a mistake live, but here I am again not posting a blog post, not playing guitar live, not going out enough worried about one small pixel of imperfection. I do show my pictures to friends and family, occasionally post one on social media and I never cared about if it was the best one, if every pixel was perfect. Strange how I need to remind myself, enjoy the imperfections of life, they make it interesting. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.  

A Tree fell down and though I did not hear it, I did listen to it.

I live in a suburban area, with a house, a yard, trees etc. I grew up in the same type of environment, so this is all I know. My backyard contains ten or so trees that were planted by the builder at the request of the town. Over the years I have watched the trees grow and grow and grow. The old story of a man planting a tree with his son, and the son thanking him years later as he uses the tree is very relatable.  

As big as the trees have grown something happened to one of them. We had an intense storm with lots of wind. Well one of the trees was pulled down in the wind. After about 25 years of growth now gone in one storm. As with all homeowners the first thing I was happy about was the tree fell away from the house, and everyone was safe. Second, I was thinking what it was going to cost me to get the tree cut up and removed. Now, as I sit and look at the stump which is all that is left, I find the meaning I need to be reminded about.  

Often, we learn lessons, and we forget those lessons. The simple fact that something that takes so long to grow, nurture, and provide can be gone in one swift moment. This goes for many things in life, trust, relationships, business etc. It can be like a storm; one mistake can wipe out all that you worked hard for. Some famous people found one tweet transformed them from being famous to being infamous.  

Why did I need to be reminded? I am writing this on February 25th, my late wife’s birthday, and what is the lesson I should have learned? Should it be not to invest the time on something that could be taken away? That I act as my kids say in a ‘Yolo’ fashion? That I should tread lightly and look for any signs of weakness and do immediate repairs? That I need to attach myself to my loved ones in case they are not around? That I hold the people close to me tightly? 

All those lessons are ok, but what I chose to learn was that I should enjoy the gifts the tree had given me over the years and plant one to replace it. During the summer the tree gifted us shade from the hot sun, and in the winter, it reduced the wind. That with all relationships we should enjoy every moment that comes with it knowing that all end in someday. The time to clean up the tree and the cost relates to the healing that is needed after it ends. And planting a tree to replace it is the gift that will grow into something special. Lastly, learning a lesson happens often, but sometimes we do need to be reminded just in case.  

Disclaimer 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.   

Another Lesson From Bon Jovi… and why being too lazy to take down a Christmas is a good thing…

How long after the holidays are you supposed to take down your ourside lights? What about your Christmas tree? What if first I told you we were Jewish, and second that our tree is still up? And due to my daughter’s ADHD, we have not taken it down any time soon. I decided why should we? 

Last year my kids decided they wanted Christmas trees. They went out and bought three artificial trees. It was a fun thing to do. This year they put it up, and even though we do not celebrate Christmas for Hanukah when Ariel’s present came in, I put it in a gift bag and put ‘FROM: SANTA’ on a sticky note. It became a running joke as we put other presents under the tree.  

It is now mid-February, and the tree is still up. My kids are not taking it down, so I decided to do something with it. Why should we only celebrate getting presents one day (or week) a year? Bon Jovi has a song ‘I Wish Everyday Could be Like Christmas,’ so why not put all the packages that arrive under the tree. And yes, I wrote about a lesson I learned from Bon Jovi last week also, so I can hear the Jim Gaffigan voice saying, ‘How many posts is he going to do about Bon Jovi.’ I cannot promise this is the last one. Ariel and I get regular deliveries for our workout routines, we get regular deliveries for the dog and other miscellaneous packages. I put each package under the tree. Just like it is a holiday gift. The packages sit under the tree until we are ready to open them, and it is like getting a gift. 

I took a few minutes staring at the tree and debating whether I should take it down or not. One of the things I remember is the old saying ‘pay yourself first.’ Now in the investing world it is to put something away in savings. But one of the questions is what are you working for? If you pay all your core bills, and then put the rest for savings, seriously what are you working for? Having a dog is a luxury, so her treats that come in the mail are extra. I spend money on both my daughter’s and my health, this is also extra. Of course, there are books and other things I buy that are really gifts to myself. Why don’t I treat them as gifts? Why don’t i make a big deal about getting myself (or my kids) something? 

I have written previously about the importance of looking down when climbing a mountain, and to celebrate small wins on to a larger victory, and being able to get yourself gifts no matter how small should be celebrated. Keeping a tree reminds me that as packages arrive why not put them under the tree and open them like it is a holiday. Thus, you are paying yourself, and no matter how small the gift is celebrated you are taking care of yourself.  

What is the last small gift you bought yourself? Put it in a gift bag you have lying around the house and open it with the joy and excitement of Christmas.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.  

 

Another Lesson I learned from Bon Jovi other than being philanthropic…

Jon Bon Jovi accepted awards for MusiCares person of the year, and for those wondering if I am going to write about his philanthropic nature, sorry not this time. I found myself on Sunday afternoon in which I wrote two blog posts and just scrapped them. They both had some notes from during the week, I did some research but neither seemed to be up to my standards. What does this have to do with Bon Jovi? 

Bon Jovi released two albums, the eponymous Bon Jovi and later 7800 Fahrenheit. Both did not do too well commercially and on the third album they brought in songwriter Desmond Child. After having some commercial success with Kiss, Desmond came in with one line in his pocket. That one line is not important, it is what the band did. They wrote thirty songs together which in the infamous Pizza listening session cut it down to 10 select songs. 

I knew the story for years, and no I was not at the pizza parlor, nor was I one of the teens. It is not Bon Jovi that does this for albums, Aerosmith for Pump wrote 19 songs and from that 10 were chosen. Searching the web, artists start with twenty to thirty songs making rough demos. From that take around fifteen songs into the studio, and from that nine or ten make an album. Doing some simple math only one-third of the songs written make it to an album.  

This was not news to me; in fact, it was something that I knew about. I have jokingly mentioned when listening to an album and hearing an awful track I wondered what was cut for this one to make the album. Not songs that are not hits, but songs you wonder how it made the album at all. What I never thought about was how often I scrapped ideas and does the math add up? That everything I write meets my standards for being worthwhile to be published.  

There is musing about an artist I knew years ago who everything he painted was fantastic. One day at his house I was talking to his wife, and just said everything he does is amazing. She led me to the back where she showed me a shed of canvases that had been cut up with a chainsaw, axe, or both. And until now I have never related it to my writing. In a post just last year I talked about not being bothered about the posts I have in draft. There are many I start and just delete after I read them. 

I am now laughing as on my third attempt at writing this weekend I found one that fits my blog well. I did not want to resort to asking AI/ML to write one for me. And as I wrote previously that I do not worry too much, something will come to me. While in the shower after my workout I produced the idea of this. I produced a few ideas and started to sketch them out. This one stuck.  

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.   

Nonverbal Confessions while trying to focus… How ADHD Strategies go wrong

I fidget, it is a way that I help stay focused due to my ADHD. I could be doodling during a meeting, swinging my feet or when at a standing desk moving side to side. These actions are some ways that allow me to focus on a meeting, a task or a thought. What I never thought about is someone who does not know me, and what they might think are the nonverbal cues I might be giving them. 

I often heard the saying that ninety percent of all communication is nonverbal. I have repeated that statement. There are some classic books about Body Language and how to read people for use in interviews, lectures and even dating. I am not sure the authors ever considered that sometimes body language can be confused with strategies for those trying to concentrate. 

The ninety percent, or the ninety three percent number was based on a study in the 1960s by professors at UCLA including Albert Mehrabian. I will leave it to you to read his study, but he broke it down to 7% Actual Verbal Communication, 38% Vocal Liking, and 55% Facial Liking. Since only 7% were verbal, the other 93% must be nonverbal. Yes, I do know that Charles Darwin wrote about it in 1872 but did not put a number to it. And over time the details of the study were mostly not discussed, and people drifted towards just using 90% as a number. Of course, in the 1960s ADHD was not even a diagnosis yet, nor did people trying to find strategies to help focus. 

I have stated before I have not yet started taking medication for my ADHD, it is not that I do not believe in it, but I do not take it and I use the words ‘yet.’ I have worked on multiple ways to manage and help me focus. If I know I do not need to take notes at a video-based meeting (not in person) I like to stand. I can sway side to side, and it allows me to focus in on meetings. If I am home, or when I have an office, I can pace back and forth, and this has the same effect. Some in person meeting I choose to have my iPad with me or a notebook and write a lot. Many of the notes are about the meeting but there are sidebar notes of other thoughts that come up. The simple fact of writing them down means I do not need to dwell on them and can refocus on the meeting. There are plenty of articles written about fidgeting and focus

While I was focused on myself and being able to get the work done, what I did not think about is how other people are affected by my fidgeting. Does the person across from me in a meeting think that my swinging my foot shows that I am nervous? What about going on a date, does changing my arms from folded to open and then to figuring out what to do with my hands show that I am not paying attention. The goal of all that was to help me focus on the conversation at hand, but I could be giving the other person nonverbal cues that I do not like them. What is even funnier, in any face-to-face conversation if the other person beings to  mirrors my movements without thinking, thus my fidgeting makes them fidget. This could be my kids, my boss, my friends, anyone.  

I do think of myself as good at reading a person’s nonverbal cues. The inflection in a friend’s voice this week let me know how much pain they were in yet trying to hide it, the glow someone had as they were super happy, the enjoyment someone had playing music live and at a concert seeing the body language as he struggled to sing with a cold. By no means am I an expert as sometimes I have no clue. Now looking at a few of them I am wondering if the nonverbal cues I was giving made them adjust, altering what would have been their norm. Sometimes the best way is to either ask or bring it up in the conversation in a playful way. Eric Martin of Mr. Big joked Friday night as he struggled to sing at one point asking the audience to sing their biggest hit as he could not hit the notes. I wrote last week about the power of words and the effect they have on the mind. Today I am talking about the power of nonverbal communication, but the caveat is one should confirm the latter. And personally, I need to verbally show that my fidgeting did not mean I was not listening.  

I am sorry if you misread me, I will try to do better.  

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.  

What Deacon Blues Taught me about my Brain

I was sitting down at the guitar the other night and every so often I want to play something different. One app I use suggested a Steely Dan song. I threw the capo on the 5th fret, followed along, and started playing. I heard this song at least one hundred times more, but never thought about the lyrics as anything but song lyrics. Playing and singing along and if you do not know the song the chorus has a line ‘They got a name for the winners in the world, I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues” 

If you do not know me by now, I will start over thinking about the song, followed by some research about the song and what was going on in my head. What else do we not have words for? And what could be the consequences of not having words? And how does the brain distinguish minute differences in emotions, thought etc. In reading I found that when we have negative emotions and thoughts without the correct wording it leads to feeling worse. By using the correct words and identifying an emotion we start to feel better. And having specific words and talking to someone is proven to be very effective. One example is the Japanese have a word that describes looking worse after a haircut(age-otori) makes them feel better. There is no word in English for this. 

I write as a hobby and thought I understood the power of language, but never thought about the power of words. For example, after losing my wife, I was in a fog, had no emotions for an extended period, and did not have the words to express what was going on. During Covid, I found the lack of human interaction had me feeling sad, but sad was not the right word. Eventually I found the words for my mourning and the languishing feeling during Covid and really felt different. I was not sure why, but I was the power of words that hold the answer. 

The question that Steely Dan was asking for a better name for losing, but the question is why we do not have better names for many emotions and situations that could describe the feeling other than sad and unhappy. Like when there is a school shooting, a terrible accident, a serious illness in the family are all occasions where sad is the emotion but they could be better described by other words to help us heal. 

There are words that do show up, road rage for when someone gets angry in traffic, burnout for over stressed at work, stage fright for when you are afraid to go in front of people and buyer’s remorse when you spend $1,200 on the latest smart phone only to realize it is just marginally better than the one you traded in. Those words allow us to express a specific emotion and help us heal and reduce our anger. We do not have one in English for a bad haircut, frustrated with computer slowness, or hundreds of other situations where it could calm the situation down.  

To understand why the right words help, and the effect of how you speak to yourself I did some more reading and thought. I took Spanish in high school, and when you are hungry the literal translation is ‘I have a hunger’ (“tengo hambre”.). And it is true, you are not hungry, just like you are not fat (you have fat) and you are not tired, you feel tired. The language we use to describe ourselves does click in our brains. We connect the dots, and believe we are what we tell ourselves. We think we are angry, sad, depressed etc. But that is not who we are, and words fail us. Speaking those words may start our healing process, and if we only had the right words and language our brains would react differently (according to the studies.) 

In getting myself in shape I tracked my weight, body fat and other metrics. I realized the words I were using ‘I weigh…’ or ‘my current body fat is…’ which led me to the results I am getting. I had not connected the dots until writing this. I set goals for the metrics, and it was defined by the metric and a number. The mind body connection is not only during the workouts but about me.  

The power of knowing the correct words, saying them to yourself and creating a new vocabulary (when the words do not exist) changes the mind. Something I should have known. Bruce Lee said ‘Don’t speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke. Your body doesn’t know the difference. Words are energy and they cast spells, that’s why it’s called spelling. Change the way you speak about yourself, and you can change your life.’ The only thing he missed in the quote was that it is connected to your mind, not just your body. Many people have not heard the full quote, and only heard through the sentence ‘Your body…’ but the rest is as powerful, and now with studies to back it up, we can see his wisdom.  

Next time I hope the app recommends something less thought provoking. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information. Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.  

Is the GOAT the best Coach?

The greatest hockey player to ever play was Wayne Gretzky. Some may argue about Gordie Howe, but we will leave that for a bar discussion. The records he holds according to Wikipedia include most goals, most career playoff goals, assists, points, hat-tricks, most goals in one season, game-winning goals, and a bunch more. He was fun to watch and changed the game of hockey.  

Meanwhile there was a kid who realized he did not have the skills to play professional hockey. His dreams of winning the Stanley Cup were not in the cards. Chose to become a police officer for a living. He stayed involved in the game, becoming a scout first (part time) while he was keeping the streets safe. He was not in the conversation of the best to ever play the game like Gretzky.  

If you had to choose between the two, who would you want to be your head coach? The greatest player of all time, or a Cop who was a part time scout. If you guessed the part time scout named Pat Burns you would be correct. Wayne coached the Arizona Coyotes to a record of 143-161-24 (Wins-Losses-OT Losses). He never won a Cup as a coach, nor even took the team to the playoffs. Pat Burns meanwhile had a record of 501-350-161-14 (Win-Losses-OT Losses-Ties) and leading the NJ Devils to a Stanley Cup in 2003. 

This was something that always amazed me, why can’t the greatest of all time coach players? Why is someone who had an unreal understanding of the game, and incredible insight not be able to translate that to team success? And recently I came across a study comparing Tenured to Adjunct Teachers. I found this while talking to my kids about their teachers and decided to search to see if there was a difference. What amazed me about the study is that first-year students with Adjunct teachers did better than ones with Tenured teachers.  

Now the conclusions the authors produced, as well as the plethora of news articles were interesting. Many suggest that colleges can cut expenses by not using tenured teachers, others stating that tenured teachers do not put the effort into teaching etc. I somehow looked differently at the situation. And I find myself trying to avoid the Gretsky problem. 

I find on occasion when working with younger employees that some concepts that I believe are common knowledge, well they do not grasp. I find myself getting frustrated with why they do not understand something that I know. This happens to me when helping my parents, friends, or other relatives, when helping them do something on their computer or smart phone also. I spend a lot of time learning new things and skills and assume those skills are common.  

So let us put this all together. What connects these was something my daughter said while we were skating. She was asked by her old coach if she would be interested in coaching skating. She replied that she might, but then later told me she was not sure she could deal with teaching kids how to start. She would like to teach some of the advanced things, but just getting them on their feet would not be fun. Gretzky, being a talented player could struggle to get through to players what he knew. He was so much better than anyone else it was hard for him to be able to get players to get to his level.  

What about Tenured (or tenured tracking) teachers? Teaching in most colleges is not the driver, it is publishing and research.  At Carnegie Mellon one teacher had us proofreading his book as students. In fact, most college professors are not taught to teach, not even have a teaching degree. Teachers in 4-year schools have several responsibilities and teaching is one of them. With the focus on research, they also do not have the skill or training to teach. Einstein, who could be considered one of the best physicists, struggled to teach, at one point having to cancel a class when no one registered. The GOAT researcher, obviously not that great at teaching. 

Let us think about when your are the student. When I am a student, I need to make sure the person who is trying to teach me understands the limit of my current knowledge. Thus, he can first get me to the based understanding or get my skills where they need to be to be able to tackle the more complex problems. Learning is a two-way street, it is not just the teacher who must adjust, but the student must also make changes to get the best out of the engagement. Pat Burns was not the greatest player, but he was able to teach the game and coach better than the best player in the world. When you are in the position of mentoring, teaching, or coaching remember that, and you can be the best teacher in the world. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them. 

Bruce Lee’s hidden lesson in Game of Death and what it taught me about building software.

As a child one of my favorite things to do on weekend was watch Kung Fu Theatre on channel 5. There were classics like the Flying Guillotine, The Five Deadly Venoms, and many others. What stood out were the original Bruce Lee movies. And to me the one that was a bit bizarre was Game of Death. Watching the original was out of place, there were people with Bruce Lee cut out masks etc. Of course, as a young teen I did not understand what was going on, nor know the story behind it. 

In 2019 on the 46th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death the film was revived using the original footage, but also answered many questions. For those of us who were fans of Bruce Lee, we saw past the movies and investigated him as a philosopher. His public letters were published in a book by John Little who also authored several books including one of my favorites the Warrior Within.  

Learning about some of the ideas behind Bruce Lee’s movies made them even better. Knowing he wanted to be Chuck Norris in The Way of the Dragon was intentional. The Game of Death also had this hidden agenda. Now people make documentaries, put their agenda front, and center, or make a movie the intentionally scares people about a topic, but Bruce was different. The meaning was deep in the story and not surfaced unless someone looked deeply. 

For those who read my blog often you know that I am in technology and manage a team. I studied User Experience (UX) even post school as it was intriguing. In producing my philosophy for building systems, I talk about there are levels of systems for the user. The first is called Data, you need to understand the data you are working with and build a system that manages the data. Once you really get good at that you can think about the tasks people do with the data. Thus, your user experience is now not about the data, but what the users are doing with it. Users like this better than data systems as it feels more natural. Lastly there is something that is called Goal oriented systems. These look beyond the data and tasks and create a system the seamlessly allows the user to accomplish the goal with the least amount of friction. I call these steps the tower of UX, and that you need to learn one to move on to the other. 

Where did I get this? The connection is simple, it was really the Game of UX vs the Game of Death. Well the Game of Death has a meaning behind the movie. The climatic scene is where Bruce Lee needs to get to the top of a tower and at each floor there is a different martial art expert that he needs to defeat.  

This is Bruce Lee’s original drawing. Now in the movie the foes have different weapons and distinctive styles of fighting, and Bruce struggles at first. He eventually learns the weakness of his opponent, changes his style, and can defeat his foe. The key here is he is learning at each level of the tower. The meaning he was teaching was that life is a series of levels. At each level we need to learn something to advance. We might struggle, and we may need to think differently than we do now, but we need to persevere and change to reach the next level.  

This notion of levels is what I talk about with building systems. It comes with all props to Bruce, and it is a philosophy I must remind myself of when I am struggling. When building a system, I ask my team what level we are at. If we do not understand the data yet, we need to start there. If we understand the data, do we understand the tasks? These are lessons we need to learn to make better and better systems for our users.  

I use this notion of the Tower and give credit to Bruce as it was his philosophy. When you are struggling, just remember you are supposed to. Learning is something you constantly need to do to get better. The lesson that comes with the current situation allows you to progress to the next level. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them. 

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