Wednesday, March 25, 2015

lifelong learning and the miltiary

One of the things that made me want to be an officer was the philisophical approach toward applied learning that the Army (and all of the armed forces embrace):
Army leaders expand their understanding of potential operational environments through broad education, training, personal study, and collaboration with interagency partners. Rapid learning while in combat depends on life-long education, consistent training, and study habits that leaders had prior to combat. 
from Army Doctrine Publication 3-0.

There are few organizations left in the modern world that embrace such a rounded education. The irony is that the military is one of the last bastions of the liberal education.

cool Frank Knight quote

Looking for some sources for a paper I am working on that deals with decision making under uncertainty, and I went to one of the foundational sources, at least in economics, Frank Knight's classic, Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit. This passage is more about epistimeology than risk (and follows in the tradition of Hume), but you can see how he leads to the problem of uncertainty at the end.
It must be recognized further that no sharp distinction can be drawn between perception and reason. Our perceptive faculties are highly educated and sophisticated, and what is present to consciousness in the simplest situation is more the product of inference, more an imaginative construct than a direct communication from the nerve terminal organs. A rational animal differs from a merely conscious one in degree only; it is more conscious. It is immaterial whether we say that it infers more or perceives more. Scientifically we can analyze the mental content into sense data and imagination data, but the difference hardly exists for consciousness itself, at least in its practical aspects. Even in "thought" in the narrow sense, when the object of reflection is not present to sense at all, the experience itself is substantially the same. The function of consciousness is to infer, and all consciousness is largely inferential, rational. By which, again, we mean that things not present to sense are operative in directing behavior, that reason, and all consciousness, is forward-looking; and an essential element in the phenomena is its lack of automatic mechanical accuracy, its liability to error. 
(find this quote in context here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/306#Knight_0192_314 )

It's reading stuff like this that made me go into economics. It was Oliver Williamson's book, The Economic Institutions of Capitalism that showed me that economics was more than supply and demand curves. I get bogged down in teaching the basic stuff, but it is such a pleasure to dig deeper into the classics, like Knight's book, because you realize that the division between economics, philosphy, pyschology, history, and political science all start to disolve. When you dig deep enough, economics helps you look at the big questions - what is the good life? what is justice? how should I live my life? what is it to be human?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

seeing through, rather than seeing


One of the things that has struck me repeatedly during my first winter back in a place with a real winter is how I tend to stop seeing the snow.

What I mean by this is that I do, in fact, see the snow piled up everywhere, getting in the way, and so forth. But I catch myself seeing through the snow, creating a mental model of what is under the snow, and then seeing the mental model instead of what is actually in front of me.

In a way this makes sense - the snow formations are constantly changing. On a warm day they may shrink back 20-50%. After a storm, they may double or more. Plows come by and re-shape the piles. In a way, you need a mental model of what is underneath so that you can predict the future.



I think this has struck me because in the time I was gone from states with a real winter I have taken up the serious study of photography, and it is that study which has helped me to overcome the way the mind works - hiding from your conscious the actual details your eyes are seeing. A photographer sees the world differently than a normal person. It is why good photographers get good pictures. They are actually seeing the details that the normal person's mind very efficiently ignores.

But even though I work regularly to train my eye to really see light and shadow, shape and form, pattern and line, I still find my mind shutting it all out, and focusing on the practical work of getting through the day.

This I feel is very sad. Winter is incredibly beautiful. Yes, the snow can be a nuissance, and the cold can really be no fun at all, but New England in winter is a scene of constant change. There is so much to see and appreciate, it is hard to comprehend. This is why it is a shame that I think most of us who are living through the winter see through it, rather than really see it and allow ourselves to be awed by it.

And in no time at all, it will all be gone, and the green world will replace the white.


Which is also beautiful, of course, but in a different, tamer way. The winter is wild and dangerous and unforgiving. 

I will miss it when it is gone.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

another Explore


I did some senior pictures for my daughter this past weekend, and this one got picked up by Flickr's Explore - the most "interesting" pictures of the day posted to the site.

See a few more at: http://www.bonicaphoto.com/p156664489

I am looking to do portrait work in the New Hampshire Seacoast area. If you know anyone that needs portraits done, have them give me a call. Rates are very reasonable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10/52: Jump

For the Insight and Innovation theme "Jump"

I was just talking with Sally tonight about how I am a jumper. I get excited about something and I jump, not with both feet, but head first usually.

Most of the time I have landed safely, though not without some scratches and bruises. It's a strange proclivity, because I don't think most people are quite like that.

I'd like to think that I survive these non-decisions because most of the things that excite me have low impact. I'm not a speed freak, I'm not a danger freak. Physical jumping doesn't have much appeal to me. It's usually creative and intellectual jumping that grabs me. And usually the worst that happens with that sort of jump is you make a fool of yourself. Which usually doesn't have life altering consequences.

The subject came up tonight because I am trying to find a house to live in, and hopefully stay in for the next 20+ years.

That's a big jump.

I'm in love with a couple of fixer-uppers, but a wise friend at work keeps reminding me that there is a long road between me and tenure, and fixer-uppers take a lot of time. But wouldn't it be great to really put your mark on the house you choose?

But wouldn't it be great to just move in and not worry?

Ah. I need to fight the urge.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Health Leader Forge

I'm very excited to announce I will be starting a healthcare leadership podcast in a few weeks. The name of the podcast will be "The Health Leader Forge: Today's Health Leaders Forging the Leaders of Tomorrow". It will be hosted at healthleaderforge.org (it's not available yet, but it will be shortly).

I will be interviewing Michael Ferrara, the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services here at UNH as my first guest. It seems fitting since he is sponsoring the podcast. He's also a remarkable accomplished athletic trainer and researcher, having dedicated years to working with and researching how to help disabled athletes, and more recently how to identify and treat concussion injuries.

The podcast will be twice monthly, and it will be available for download from the website, iTunes, Soundcloud, and other podcast aggregators.

I expect the first episode to be ready 1 Apr. Not a joke. :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

reducing antibiotics

I was very pleased to see this change to the food supply:
Fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. this week announced it would no longer source poultry that had been given antibiotics also used in human healthcare... A day after McDonald's announcement, warehouse club king Costco also said it would stop sourcing poultry and other meats from sources that use antibiotics. 
(from http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150306/BLOG/150309932 )

Antibiotics are a commons for our society, in the sense of a "tragedy of the commons". If they are overused by one party, their usefulness will decline for all. But there is little economic incentive not to overuse, unless one will lose business as a result of using them. It takes coordination in the marketplace to get suppliers to change behavior. Costco has an incentive to not use the antibiotics if everyone else does not use antibiotics, and they will be called out on it. It's critical for a large firm like McDonald's to take the lead on a movement like this. I expect we will now see a cascade of producers demanding that farmers not use antibiotics that can also be used in humans.
Roughly 70% of medically important antibiotics are sold for food animals, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. Approximately 30 million pounds of antibiotics were sold in the U.S. in 2011 for the purpose of meat and poultry production, the FDA has said. That number should only go down now, helping to address the issue of antibiotic overuse and its impact on the effectiveness antibiotics in healthcare.
The misuse of antibiotics is deeply concerning to me. This is an environmental issue I think needs to be addressed. I'm glad to see it is being addressed voluntarily. Now we need consumer groups to watch this behavior and make sure firms that do not follow McDonald's and Costco suffer losses in sales.