Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stand-Up School Desk

This article describes a new stand-up desk for younger children that's being tested in some school's around the country. Very interesting idea. The desk top is higher giving the students options of both standing at their desk or sitting in a raised stool while working at their desk. Proponents say it helps fidgety kids stay in the game, helps sleepy kids stay awake, and teachers like it because they don't have to hunch over tiny desks when giving help.

Anyhow, thought this was a creative idea.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Comparing effectiveness of health care treatments

...part of the new spending bill as reported by the NYTimes

The program responds to a growing concern that doctors have little or no solid evidence of the value of many treatments. Supporters of the research hope it will eventually save money by discouraging the use of costly, ineffective treatments.
For many years, the government has regulated drugs and devices and supported biomedical research, but the goal was usually to establish if a particular treatment was safe and effective, not if it was better than the alternatives.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Moneyball on the hardwood

I read the book Moneyball several years back about efforts to better understand a player's contribution to helping a team win in baseball. It showed that traditional statistics generally weren't good measures of how helpful a player was in helping a team win.

Moneyball author Michael Lewis writes an extended piece - note this is long - in the NYTimes but relates it to basketball. Excellent, excellent read if you're into analytics. In my mind, this type of thinking applies far beyond the sports realm.

Here's a link the article, and a brief excerpt:

Battier’s game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly ­reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — probably, Morey surmises, by helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways. “I call him Lego,” Morey says. “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Corporate Band Rockoff

One of the local universities in town is sponsoring a corporate band challenge for charity, and I signed up to participate on my company's band. We have to do 2 songs for the competition. We had our first practice over the weekend. I'd forgotten how much of a pain it is to lug gear around. I think the weight of electronic gear is the #1 reason for band failure, especially for older bands!!

Anyhow, one of the songs we're going to be doing "At Last" by Etta James. There's a really good singer at work who can pull that one off very well. It's not very demanding to play, but without a singer that can kill it, well don't even bother. Our singer can kill it, so that one is a go.

The other tune we're planning on doing is "Smooth" by Santana and Rob Thomas. That one is demanding for me as there's some pretty tough guitar runs I have to familiarize myself with. Listening to the song I'm pretty sure I can play them or come up with something workable, but it does require me putting in some heavy study.

Here's hoping we pull the tunes together in time for the contest.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

An information based energy efficiency approach

I saw this article in the NYTimes highlighting a "new" approach California is using to help spur efficient energy use. It's an approach that on your electric bill not only shows your energy usage, but also shows that of your neighbors, and also provides a comparison with some of the most efficient users.

When electric comapany approaches like rebate incentives haven't seemed to work so well, turning it into a contest seems to push our buttons - sortof a "keeping-up-with-the-Jones'" contest that we seem hard-wired to respond to.

Here's the story.

In my work with insurance we have taken a similar approach - comparing insurance agencies to other similar agencies in an attempt to show where opportunities lie, and perhaps get competitive juices flowing to make changes for the better.