Sunday, July 29, 2007


This summer, average height data again confirmed a rather interesting trend. The United States is no longer the tallest country in the world, and is steadily losing ground. The average American's height is 5'9" for men and 5'4" for women. The tallest country in the world is Holland, where the men average 6'0" and the women 5'7". Since the 1950s, American height has plateaued while other countries' height has continued to rise and surpass our own. This trend is troubling because the most likely cause is some shortcoming in the way we nurture our children.

In reading about this further, I found this fascinating article on the phenomenon. Burkhard Bilger reports on the research of John Komlos, an economic historian at the University of Munich who was born in Hungary, grew up in Chicago, and has spent the last quarter century compiling data on the heights of nations.

His research shows that the height of a society is a strong indicator of its health. Throughout history, whenever a society improved its nutrition and general health, its height also grew. One of the things I found most interesting about this is that outside probably the African Pygmies, any population can grow as tall as any other. That means that any difference in average height between say Asians, Scandinavians, Americans, or Mexicans is attributable largely to their diet. While genetics still plays a factor in height differences within population groups, their composite averages are an indicator of their composite well-being.

This leaves us with the question, how could the wealthiest country in the world, during the most robust economic expansion in its history, simply stop growing?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Transit Dollars

As the Illinois state legislature continues to inch along towards a budget in a ridiculous display of government ineptitude, Illinois' transit leaders wait to see whether they will receive funding to allow them to continue operations without price increases.

John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, a Chicago-based organization promoting neighborhood-based development nationally, makes a case for spending our dollars for transit better than I had heard previously. As he points out, providing a world-class transit system for the Chicagoland area is the key to continuing to move Chicago towards being a world-class city worthy of hosting the Olympics.

Seriously, let's get this budget done, and let's hope it includes transit dollars.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Facebook is tipping

It's official, folks, Facebook is tipping.

In May, they released Facebook Platform, allowing developers to write applications that are integrated into people's Facebook profiles. This has accelerated the spread of Facebook amongst all segments of society. No longer is it a social network just for college kids, but it is growing into a powerful networking site. Robert Scoble notes,

They are continuing to move to a wider demographic than just college students, which should have been obvious to anyone who is following their moves over the past year.

Rapid adoption of Facebook as the social network of choice in Silicon Valley has cemented its likely continued future success. Scoble writes,

What other reasons are there for Facebook now?

Quality of people on the network. When I say my Facebook contact list is like a who’s who of the Tech Industry, I’m very serious.

Adulation has poured in. It's been called "the most important thing that's happened on the Internet in the past five years, possibly the past ten..."

Personally, I think it's a pretty cool site. I love the clean format and the ways it engenders keeping in touch with friends. I wish it had been around when I was in college because I think I'd be in touch with more friends from there now. If you haven't joined yet, I would say now is the time.

And I have to say, I'm excited about what the future holds for Facebook. I think there are a lot of possibilities for further growth. Cleaning up the associations amongst 'friends' you have is likely high on the list.
I hope Facebook buys LinkedIn and Geni. Then, after incorporating them into Facebook, you would have an option to link to someone as a business associate, family, or just as a friend. To me it feels like a natural extension.

Then, soon, Facebook will be accessible via your wireless phone. Your location will be tracked (if you so desire) and you will be able to see which of your friends are nearby.

What future additions and/or changes would excite you?

Monday, July 23, 2007

NBA will be A-OK

This NBA season when you look into the stands and see a fan holding a sign that reads something like, "I fixed this game," just remember that the fan paid the NBA good money both for his ticket and the jersey he's wearing of his favorite player.

My guess is that the interest in the NBA going into this season will be near an all-time high, which will be good for profits. And besides, this whole thing with NBA officials not being fair is nothing new. It's been pretty obvious for some time that they have been, to some degree, playing favorites.

This is gonna be great theater.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The laws of physics being rewritten?

On July 4, the long awaited demo from London of Steorn’s new Orbo device, which supposedly creates a steady stream of energy from magnetic fields, was to be unveiled.
Orbo produces free, clean and constant energy - that is our claim. By free we mean that the energy produced is done so without recourse to external source. By clean we mean that during operation the technology produces no emissions. By constant we mean that with the exception of mechanical failure the technology will continue to operate indefinitely.

The sum of these claims for our Orbo technology is a violation of the principle of conservation of energy, perhaps the most fundamental of scientific principles. The principle of the conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can only change form.

Because of the revolutionary nature of our claim, not only to the world of science but to the world in general, Steorn issued a challenge to the scientific community in August 2006 to test our technology and report their findings. The process of validation that has resulted from this challenge is currently underway, with results expected by the end of 2007.
Could Steorn have found a way to rewrite the laws of physics? Maybe not.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hate is a waste of time

Across the ocean, in a bigoted Irish town, little girls ask other little girls, "Coke or Pepsi?" It is a veiled, mean question -- because the wrong answer can get a little girl's home firebombed. This is a story about the right answer: a basketball game. A game arranged, in part, by one man who's a Coke and one man who's a Pepsi …

Last night at the ESPY's, Dave Cullen and Trevor Ringland won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for their work with Peace Players International in Northern Ireland. Their story is a powerful reminder that we are only a generation away from peace if we can reach the children caught up in the conflicts this world is so full of. Video outlining the project can be found at ESPN.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Link of the Day- Ideas from the EDGE

Despite being so overtly a branded experience, I thought this site does have a good rundown of "new destinations and experiences" with a nice map interface.
If you're headed to any of the featured cities, I'd definitely encourage you to check it out.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The NL "Comedy" Central?

If you follow Major League Baseball, you've probably heard the NL Central referred to as "the worst division in baseball." It's a commonly held view, and in fact, I've never heard anyone challenge the notion. To the contrary, I've even heard people say it's "the worst division in all of sports."

Granted, the NL Central hasn't always been considered the worst in baseball, but I'd say this view began shortly after McGwire retired in 2001. (Previously, the NL Central had been fondly known as "Home Run Central" with Sosa, McGwire, and Griffey.)

So why the fall from glory? How could one division in baseball go from being considered the crown jewel of MLB entertainment to the laughingstock that gets no respect? Is the NL Central really the worst division in baseball? Well, let's take a closer look...

Right off the bat, when judging the quality of any division in any sport, I would take a look at how its representative(s) perform in the league-wide playoffs at season's end. After all, this is when the best teams compete under the most pressure for the ultimate prize. When applying this standard to the MLB's NL Central, we quickly find that this division actually produced the MLB's grand champion last year--The St. Louis Cardinals.

Obviously, everyone knows the Cardinals won the World Series last year; and just because they did well doesn't mean the NL Central isn't the worst division in baseball. After all, a division should be judged in total by the performance of each of its teams, right?

Well, one curious fact about the NL Central is that it's the only division in baseball with 6 teams, which is more than any other division. Most divisions only have 5, and the AL West only has 4. In the MLB, any team that wins its division gets into the playoffs, so statistically speaking, it stands to reason that it's tougher to win a 6-team division than a 4-team division. Sure, it depends on the quality of teams too, but over the long haul you'd rather be competing against 3 teams than 5.

But what else can we deduce from a 6-team division? Well, with that many teams it's more likely that you'll have at least one that's really good or one that's really bad. It also increases the likelihood that you'll have two that are really good--or two that are really bad, which I think brings us to the problem.

Last year, while the Cardinals won the World Series, two other members of the NL Central, the Cubs and Pirates, had the 3rd and 4th worst records in baseball respectively. Go back to 2005, the Pirates tied for 2nd worst record in baseball. In 2004, the Brewers tied for 4th worst in baseball. In 2003, the Brewers tied for 5th worst and the Reds for 6th worst. In 2002, the Brewers had the 2nd worst record in baseball.

However, over the same 5-year span, 2002-2006, let's look at how the NL Central performed in the playoffs:

2006 - Cards win World Series.
2005 - Astros top Cards in NLCS, but lose in World Series.
2004 - Cards top Astros in NLCS, but lose in World Series.
2003 - Cubs lose to Marlins in NLCS.
2002 - Cards lose to Giants in NLCS.

Over the last 5 years, the NL Central has had 7 teams make the NLCS, 3 teams make the World Series, and 1 team win it all. For comparison, here are the numbers for all 6 divisions in baseball based on LCS appearances/WS appearances/WS championships:

AL East - 4/2/1
AL Central - 3/2/1
AL West - 3/1/1

NL East - 2/1/1
NL Central - 7/3/1
NL West - 1/1/0

You'll notice that over the past five years, the NL Central has sent more teams to the League Championship Series and World Series than any other division in baseball. Furthermore, the NL Central's one World Series championship is as many as any other division in baseball since 2001. (Interestingly, over the past 6 years, each division in baseball has won the World Series exactly once.)

So my only point is that, based on the numbers I've seen, the NL Central seems to hold its own with the other divisions (especially in the playoffs); and I wouldn't be surprised if yet another NL Central team advances to the NLCS this year. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Time will tell if the NL "Comedy" Central gets the last laugh (again).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tetrachromat Females?

That is just a fancy way of saying some women seem to have four color receptors in their eyes rather than the usual three. Who knew women can see better than men?

I would imagine this would explain why women are so much better men at properly matching clothes. And if you're redecorating your home's interior? I would imagine you should go with your wife's color recommendations.