Monthly Archives: October 2013

When “Scientific Proof” is Bullshit

The issue under discussion is whether the E.U. is justified in banning neonicotoids in an attempt to alleviate colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that has over the past five years, doubled death rates of bee colonies in the U.S. to 33%.

In response of Bayer CropScience to the E.U. decision was that:

As a science-based company, Bayer CropScience is disappointed that clear scientific evidence has taken a backseat in the decision making process. This disproportionate decision is a missed opportunity to reach a solution that takes into consideration all of the existing product-stewardship measures and broad stakeholder concerns.

This is the wrong way to go about asking for scientific proof. Although proof of non-deleterious effect should be required when intervening in a system, there should be no proof required for removing an intervention in an attempt to restore a balance.
Besides. Pesticides kill insects. Bees are insects. What effect do you expect pesticides to have on bees?
This reminds me of other examples in food and medicine of scientific proof being asked for the wrong things. Think about hydrogenated oils, for example. Vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature can be made into solids by a process called hydrogenation, making into fake butter, or margarine. These were considered healthy because they were vegetable-derived, and there was no scientific proof that they weren’t as healthy as non-hydrogenated oils. Now, the evidence shows that they are worse than animal fat for causing heart disease. The burden of proof should always be on the artificial, rather than the natural. The burden of proof should have been on margarine to show that it was healthier than butter, not for it to be assumed safe until proven harmful.
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How College Physics Translates to an MBA

I’ve been making my way slowly through the The Feynman Lectures on Physics. I started doing so purely because of interest – his enthusiasm for his subject, and the amount of preparation time he put into teaching is apparent. It’s a thrill to learn from him. One of the things that he does well is to give students an intuitive sense for concepts and numbers.

This sort of thinking transferred well to a business discussion at work. The idea was that we would go after a new, large market, and try to take five percent of the total sales being made in that market now. The marketing director said that if we could just take five percent, what a large addition to our revenue that would be. One of the sales guys said “Yeah, five percent is such a small number. Surely we can take five percent.” I thought a bit and said – “Wait. Five percent is actually a big number. Our product is only 1/10th of the total price for one of these units, so five percent of revenues means we have to capture fifty percent of the market.”

The moral of the story? The study of physics can apply to business – as long as one is learning to think, rather than memorize. And, no number or concept is actionable until you learn what it means. Someone once told me she read that you can lose weight if you eat 30g of protein within an hour of waking up. So we got to thinking – what provides 30g of protein? How much protein is in common foods?

  • chicken breast 30g ea.
  • eggs 5g ea.
  • milk 6g / glass

Another inspiration for this post is this one from the xkcd blog.

菜單唔緊要啦

喺香港個一間麥當勞口喝。

「多謝一個熱檸檬茶。」「對唔住,先生。我哋冇熱檸檬茶。我哋有凍檸檬茶,要唔要啊?」
「有冇普通嘅紅茶呢?」
「有立頓嘅茶包。」
「好。立頓得啊。」
「噉要一個凍檸檬茶,一個熱紅茶,係唔係?」
「對唔住。我哋冇熱檸檬茶嘅。」
「噉就一個凍檸檬茶啦。」

一陣重難重,服務員小姐卑一杯凍紅茶,裏邊有一片新鮮檸檬。即係有嘢整熱檸檬茶但係因為菜單冇,所以整唔得。重要睇菜單咩?等我哋向可能性開咗對眼啦!

合気道技法・初級から上級へ

去年の夏に本部道場である女子大生を相手にして稽古した。軸がぶれていたことでまだ稽古歴が短いと分かったけど、上手いと感じた。このまま稽古をして軸が安定になったら、すごく上手くなるだろうと思った。なんでかと言うと、彼女の動きには上級者が必ずやるのに、あんまり初級者に教えない動きがあった。この動きを皆さんに提案して、どのことでもできるだけ早く、上級者がやるけど、初心者に教えないことをやってみるといいです。例えば、よく語学で読みたい内容の本を読むことが学習の過程で最後に来る。最初から読めば、読みながら文法を学べるし、読みたい内容だから動機付けられるでしょう。

それに、息継ぎができたら、水中ターンを学ぶけど、実は水中ターンより息継ぎの法が難しいし、水中ターンの壁を足で押して水の中で長く進めば、体がより流線型になり、より楽に泳げるでしょう。だからこそ、新しいことを学ぶときに要素に分解して、学ぶ順番を決めるときに順番を逆にすることが有益であることがおおい。

私は今合気道を八年以上やって、鳶職を一年半。どちらでも初級者にあんまり教われないけど上級者のが必ずする動き方がある。合気道の更なる上達のための参考になってほしいと同時に、ものの学び方の改革も提案したい。
取り

  1. 相手の動きに合わせる。触れ合った瞬間に自分がもう動いているようにすること。 よく、つかんだ状態から教える先生がいるのですが、実はつかんだ状態から動いた方が相手は力が出しやすいだろう。基本の動きを動いた状態からやるのがやりやすくて、それができたら、動いた状態を後に学べるだろう。何しろ、実践では相手が手などをつかみにくるのを待たない。相手の動きに合わせて自己を防御しながら攻撃する。
  2. 先生の師範演武の時に腰と膝の間を見る。足を見て、転換、転身、半転などをはっきりするといい。
  3. 手は常に肘が自分の肩幅で、肩より上に上げないこと。手を横に動かすときには腰の向きをかえること。主に縦に動かす。のばしたとしても、伸ばしきらないで常に余裕を持つ。

受け

  1. 相手に自分の背を見せないように。合気道の技は取りがすべて相手の背中に入ることから始まる。工夫がここにある。稽古をするときに柔らかく粘って、できるだけ合いてと背中が向き合うように動く。
  2. 腰が上半身に連動して動く。特に、いり身投げで崩されてへっぴり腰になりがちですが、背筋をあんまり傾かないで腰を落として吸収するといい。
  3. 技を受けているときに足をのばす。のばすと体の回転が遅くなる。

The Hasid

I found myself feeling very comfortable as an Asian-looking person in the midst of a the synagogue at 770 Crown Heights in New York. The second night there, we had a Farbrengen, during which it is customary to have food and drink (though the Rebbe recommends less than 4 shots of vodka) late into the night, talking about good deeds and good people.

Two days there, and I was feeling really good. The environment in 770 Crown Heights is permeated with goodness and kindness. If I struggled to find a prayer book in English, someone would hiss to get my attention (as Israelis do) and hand me a prayer book opened to the right page. People would come to ask me about life in Japan, about what it was like for Jewish people living there, about how long I had known Rabbi B. One man said he’d like to study with me, and pulled out a copy of the Tanya (a book of philosophy based on the Torah) and we started going through it slowly one day before prayers.

The method of reading is to go line by line, talking about what various words mean, and talking about different opinions and precedents. My friend was so familiar with the text that he would transition smoothly the written word, to discussing it, and flowing back to the written word. I thought that this is the way one might study a physics textbook, going through basic concepts and tying them together into larger concepts. Yet, this was the approach taken with a book on ethics, a book that talked about giving to charity, about humility, about holding one’s tongue when disagreeing except in certain situations. What sort of situations and why is it worth speaking out in these situations?…

Evening prayers were about to start, and people lined up on either side of the aisle, leaving a space for the Lubavitcher Rebbe to walk to the front of the synagogue. Rabbi Menachem Schneerson has not physically walked here ever since his physical body died, but many believe he is very much spiritually alive. One Israeli man who had handed me a prayer book for afternoon prayers said to me then. “Now, want with all of your heart and soul to see the Rebbe.” And people started chanting Yechi

I learned from Rabbi B’s five-year-old son that people asked him about me – “is he Japanese, is he Jewish?” to which he would reply – “no, he is from the states, and he is not Jewish, but helps us a lot.”

After prayer services, there would be singing and dancing, and I would dance in the prayer hall counterclockwise in a circle, singing along in Hebrew that we are longing for the Messiah. This was done with smiles all around, someone waving a big yellow flag with a blue crown and the word Messiah in Hebrew in red lettering. Hands on each other’s shoulders walking, or arms interlocked jumping and chanting “Yechi” may he live. To chant Yechi is to wish for the messiah to come, to usher in a new era when all the people and nations of the world can live in harmony – to so fervently wish for that era that one’s actions in the present are dedicated to working for harmony and inclusion, to make the world into a welcoming one for the messiah. I felt – yeah. I want that. What’s more, I have always liked dancing, though it’s always been clubbing or disco, dancing here was just as fun, and on top of dancing, to chant Yechi got me right into a good mood with everyone else. The physical and the spiritual must lift each other up.

At the Farbrengen, I spoke. “You guys have made me feel very welcome here. I want to say that you’ve reminded me that it’s healthy to take an interest in your fellow man. People in Japan – they want to be polite. This has its good points and bad points, but one of the bad points is that people keep each other at a distance. They are afraid to intrude. Because of this, it’s possible to know people for a long time without really knowing them. But here, in 770, I have been able to speak about matters of the heart and have a feeling of connection with you that would take a very long time to develop in Japan. This is the glue that binds society together: connection, not distance. I like this atmosphere, and I want to take back to Japan.”

The man sitting across the table said “You will succeed. The (Lubavitcher) Rebbe said that ‘a Hasid always has the power change the world around him!'”

I smiled and thanked him, because he was indirectly calling me a Hasid, an enacter of loving-kindness.

The Farbrengen continued, and Rabbi B and I told stories of works of charity and adventures in Japan, other people told stories of great teachers they knew, or good things they had seen or participated in. People were took turns talking. It was a style of spontaneous turn-taking conversation at a table that I had never seen except in Japan, but here the table was bigger, voices were louder, and people other than the highest status members of the table had a voice.  People were focused on learning from each other and fully interested in how to better themselves and bring happiness to others through a good work or deed.

Young college grads are intent on soaking up knowledge with the aim of becoming rich or successful. These kids – about the same age – were focused on soaking up knowledge with the aim of bringing loving kindness into the world. Amazing.

恩送り

火曜日の夜、スーパーへ買出ししに行く途中、道を聞かれた。女性。多分50歳くらい。

「すみません、ボンメーゾン分かりますか。2丁目3の5。」
「分かんないけど、調べましょうか。」と言って、携帯を取り出して住所を入力した。
「あ、すみません。」
「ここですね。大通りにもう少し進んで、最初の路地に右に入る。近いですね。せっかくだから、言ってみようか。」
「あ、本当に申し訳ありません。」
「大丈夫ですよ。途中ですから。私もこうやって、人に案内してもらったことがある。」

実はそうだった。大学時代に京都に初めて言ったときにある人にホテルまで連れて行ったことがある。その他、ドイツで道を聞くときはよく途中まで歩いてもらったこともあった。先々週、アメリかのニューヨークに行って、道を聞いた時も何度かあって、急がずに相手が丁寧に教えてくれたので、私も今回丁寧に教えようとした。

女性が「すみません。便利なものを持っているのですから。」とスマートフォンのことを言った。感じ取ったのは、感謝の気持ちではなく、「大変迷惑を掛けて申し訳ない」という気持ち。

あの後、考えた。東京では人に迷惑を掛けるのが重い罪みたいなもの。でも、一人では生きることができない。友に歩む縁のある人に道を教えてもらうときがある。そのときに胸を張って、「私は案内されるのに値する人間だ」と信じて、感謝の気持ちを感じる。

恐縮するより、感謝する理由を増やした方がいいだろう。それをするにはもっと回りに人と関わらなければ行けない。恩を返すか恩を送る。こうして一人でも社会をよくすることができるだろう。