Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where does Facebook go from here? Part II

A few months ago, I rambled on about whether Facebook had a bright future ahead of it. I thought it did back then, but going public in such a ramshackle, overly optimistic way killed my cheery perspective. In fact, I can't imagine anything more damaging to FB than this IPO fiasco.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The twisted wisdom of football.

Not a good time to say you're an American football fan, is it? I understand the beefs against the sport, and I'm far from rabid about it. But it still speaks to me.

Maybe that's the result of pre-teen years filled with Fighting Irish, Monday Night Football, and Mean Joe Greene. Or perhaps it's because the game is driven by strategy, but really defined by interconnected and tangled complexity. An interview with Texas  Longhorn's defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (HT: smartfootball.com) gives a glimpse into exactly how tangled and complex:
"Last year, everybody was wondering six games into the season why our defensive ends couldn't get sacks, and then the next couple games they started getting sacks," Diaz said. "But we were also covering better those games. Quarterbacks maybe held onto the ball a half-second longer. All of a sudden the defensive ends get the plaudits, but a lot of it was maybe because of the coverage. 
"Nothing happens to a defensive player in a bubble," Diaz said. "That's what makes college football the opposite of baseball. Because in baseball, everything happens in a bubble: this guy pitches, this guy hits and the ball is hit to that guy." 
Because of that, Diaz said it would be difficult to come up with accurate statistical measurements for individual defenders. But he said the fact that people are finding different ways to look at the game was a great thing. 
"The way an iceberg looks from a ship going by is very different from what's happening beneath the surface," Diaz said. "That's what's so fun about this game. There's so much going on beneath the surface, and I think that's the point."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Corporations, also known as people [working together].

Even the simplest items in our modern-day, first-world lives come to us via complex paths. When Michael Pollan tracked the origins of a store-bought steak, he discovered an extended assembly line that depended far more on the economics of oil and biological manipulation than the simple act of eating a sirloin would imply. It's not the pleasant picture we'd like to have for our food, and it certainly has many drawbacks, but it's how our food supply has evolved to meet the demand for cheap beef.

This may seem wrong somehow, and in many ways it probably is, but it meets a very basic human need, food, at scale. And I don't see how we can meet the caloric requirements of a world population of seven billion without involved, "unnatural" processes. In fact, the only way I see overcoming the evils of food production isn't by dumbing down to some fictional old-school utopia. It's by pushing forward with technology and finding inventive ways to make the production of food more humane, biological even, and sustainable.