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The worst work I did was from 2001 to 2004. And the company paid a price for bad work. I put the A-team resources on Longhorn, not on phones or browsers. All our resources were tied up on the wrong thing.

Steve Ballmer, speaking to Vanity Fair about his tenure atop Microsoft.

parislemon:

It’s a telling quote. A big part of Microsoft’s current predicament isn’t that they lacked the talent to do what their rivals did — it’s that the talent was directed to focus on the wrong things (or just as bad: the right things at the wrong time). 


Lizzie Wade, Clues to an early age of exploration found in sweet potato gene
Europeans raced across oceans and continents during the Age of Exploration in search of territory and riches. But when they reached the South Pacific, they found they had been beaten there by a more humble traveler: the sweet potato. Now, a new study suggests that the plant’s genetics may be the key to unraveling another great age of exploration, one that predated European expansion by several hundred years and remains an anthropological enigma.
Humans domesticated the sweet potato in the Peruvian highlands about 8000 years ago, and previous generations of scholars believed that Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the crop to Southeast Asia and the Pacific beginning in the 16th century. But in recent years, archaeologists and linguists have accumulated evidence supporting another hypothesis: Premodern Polynesian sailors navigated their sophisticated ships all the way to the west coast of South America and brought the sweet potato back home with them. The oldest carbonized sample of the crop found by archaeologists in the Pacific dates to about 1000 C.E.—nearly 500 years before Columbus’s first voyage. What’s more, the word for “sweet potato” in many Polynesian languages closely resembles the Quechua word for the plant.
Studying the genetic lineage of the sweet potato directly has proved difficult, however. European traders exported varieties of sweet potato from Mexico and the Caribbean to the Pacific, and those breeds mixed with the older Polynesian varieties, obscuring their genetic history. Therefore, it’s difficult to apply information culled from modern samples to older varieties without a prehistoric control.

Lizzie Wade, Clues to an early age of exploration found in sweet potato gene

Europeans raced across oceans and continents during the Age of Exploration in search of territory and riches. But when they reached the South Pacific, they found they had been beaten there by a more humble traveler: the sweet potato. Now, a new study suggests that the plant’s genetics may be the key to unraveling another great age of exploration, one that predated European expansion by several hundred years and remains an anthropological enigma.

Humans domesticated the sweet potato in the Peruvian highlands about 8000 years ago, and previous generations of scholars believed that Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the crop to Southeast Asia and the Pacific beginning in the 16th century. But in recent years, archaeologists and linguists have accumulated evidence supporting another hypothesis: Premodern Polynesian sailors navigated their sophisticated ships all the way to the west coast of South America and brought the sweet potato back home with them. The oldest carbonized sample of the crop found by archaeologists in the Pacific dates to about 1000 C.E.—nearly 500 years before Columbus’s first voyage. What’s more, the word for “sweet potato” in many Polynesian languages closely resembles the Quechua word for the plant.

Studying the genetic lineage of the sweet potato directly has proved difficult, however. European traders exported varieties of sweet potato from Mexico and the Caribbean to the Pacific, and those breeds mixed with the older Polynesian varieties, obscuring their genetic history. Therefore, it’s difficult to apply information culled from modern samples to older varieties without a prehistoric control.

Mayor Randy Casale Open Office Hours 10am 14 Ocotober

Tuesday, October 14th at 10:00am in the Beacon sukkah: Mayor Randy Casale holds Open to the Sky: Open Office Hours.

Tell, share or ask anything - Mayor Casale will be open to discussing Beacon issues, history and ideas for the future. A lifelong Beaconite, Mayor Casale takes a long view, past and future. Come discuss at the sukkah, sponsored by Beacon Hebrew Alliance and Beacon Arts. Meet us in Polhill Park, next to Visitor Center, across Wolcott /9D from City Hall and across South Avenue. 

Come join us!
 
Peggy Ross
The Nelson Mandela rule: You can get what you want by showing people ordinary respect. When Mr. Mandela heard that an Afrikaner general was arming rebels to prevent multiracial elections, he invited the general over for tea. The journalist John Carlin writes that Gen. Constand Viljoen “was dumbstruck by Mandela’s big, warm smile, by his courteous attentiveness to detail” and by his sensitivity to the fears of white South Africans. The general abandoned violence.

Pamela Druckerman, A Cure for Hyper-Parenting

Reinstituting Quarantine

Read this today in the NY Times:

Since at least the 14th century, when the bubonic plague devastated Europe, posting medical officers at a port of entry has been one of the main tools used to try to halt the spread of disease.

An outbreak of yellow fever in 1878 led the United States Congress to grant the federal government the authority to order a quarantine to prevent its spread.

Those powers were enhanced in 1892 to try to prevent another scourge,cholera.

For several decades, starting in the 1970s, the quarantine program in the United States was neglected until another threat, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, prompted Congress and the C.D.C. to bolster the program.

Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air, but rather only through bodily fluids; people are contagious only when they are symptomatic. There is no vaccine.

Thomas E. Duncan, who traveled to Dallas from Liberia, had no symptoms when screened before boarding his flight. He only developed symptoms a few days later, and then subsequently died.

Perhaps we should reinstitute quarantine for travelers coming from countries where there is an outbreak? The incubation time is 2 to 21 days. If we took all the travelers from the countries suffering from the outbreak, and housed them in a quarantined camp for 21 days — segregating them by the day of arrival, and monitoring for any symptoms — then it would be much harder for the disease to gain a foothold in the US.

While this would involve much more of an investment in money, time and materiel, we would be much safer for it. The only safer alternative would be not allowing people to fly to the US from those countries, at all.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.
It sounds like it will start with things like highway lane changes and parallel parking (if there ever was a thing that machines can do better than humans that would be it)

some thoughts on self driving cars
http://avc.com/2014/10/incremental-innovation/ (via fred-wilson)

(via fred-wilson)

Counterculture giants of the time, like Stewart Brand, Buckminster Fuller and Ivan Illich, championed vernacular tools as a way to give people the personal autonomy and choices they craved. But the consumerist version of this ultimately vision prevailed, such that the decentralized empowerment that networked computers provided has been a mixed bag.
The idea that every portrait of a woman should be an ideal woman, meant to stand for all of womanhood, is an enemy of art — not to mention wickedly delicious Joan Crawford and Bette Davis movies. Art is meant to explore all the unattractive inner realities as well as to recommend glittering ideals. It is not meant to provide uplift or confirm people’s prior ideological assumptions. Art says “Think,” not “You’re right.”

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