The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Now, what to name her?

Two more views of my new car, with accurate color corrections:

(Yes, that's Parker in the background.)

I'll do proper photos when I get the right combination of light and location. Also, because we've had some rain and snow, she already needs a bath before we can do it right.

So, what to call her? She's 3 years old, born in München, very German. A friend suggested Brigitta, Brigid, and Mädchen, but that none of those seems right to me. Freya? Hanna? Lena? I think I'll have to live with her for a bit to figure it out.

Brainstorming and data

The term "brainstorming," conjured up by BBDO partner Alex Osborn in the 1940s, conjures up images of creative people in a creative meeting creatively coming up with great ideas. Only, it doesn't actually work that well:

The first empirical test of Osborn’s brainstorming technique was performed at Yale University, in 1958. Forty-eight male undergraduates were divided into twelve groups and given a series of creative puzzles. The groups were instructed to follow Osborn’s guidelines. As a control sample, the scientists gave the same puzzles to forty-eight students working by themselves. The results were a sobering refutation of Osborn. The solo students came up with roughly twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups, and a panel of judges deemed their solutions more “feasible” and “effective.

And yet Osborn was right about one thing: like it or not, human creativity has increasingly become a group process. “Many of us can work much better creatively when teamed up,” he wrote, noting that the trend was particularly apparent in science labs. “In the new B. F. Goodrich Research Center”—Goodrich was an important B.B.D.O. client—“250 workers . . . are hard on the hunt for ideas every hour, every day,” he noted. “They are divided into 12 specialized groups—one for each major phase of chemistry, one for each major phase of physics, and so on.” Osborn was quick to see that science had ceased to be solitary.

Lehrer continues to examine the success of Broadway musicals and the story of MIT's Building 20, "one of the most creative spaces in the world" from the 1940s until its demolition in 1998.

Time to breathe tonight, maybe

My schedule this week has been: SFO to ORD, sleep, client in Suburbistan, dinner with friend, sleep, work, and in a few minutes, ORD to MSP. If I have time at the hotel tonight—and I can remain conscious—I'll silence the critics.

Public transportation as amusement-park ride

There are a few examples of public transportation in the world that double as fun things for tourists over and above their practical uses for commuters. The Chicago El's Loop section, for example, or New York's Roosevelt Island Tramway.

In San Francisco, tourists mob the cable cars, pushing regular commuters aside, and removing them from this category. Same, to some extent, with the Muni F-line streetcars. but near the convergence of the F and California St. Cable Car is the Ferry Terminal Building, which, despite its transformation in the last 20 years into an urban market, actually has ferries. I took one of them yesterday.

I had to get from the city to Sausalito. The Sausalito Ferry is, it turns out, the best way to do that. The $4.85* fare not only gets you to Sausalito, but it also gives you this view:

The whole trip is like that. In fairness to the city, it wasn't as gloomy as it appears in the photo; I just caught it at a particularly dramatic moment.

Upon disembarking in Sausalito, however, this sign greeted me:

I have no idea what that means, especially since without cholesterol, animals die. But, hey, it's California, and no one from the Sausalito Police came to steal my cholesterol.


* It's $4.85 if you have a Clipper Card. Otherwise it's $9. If you regularly travel to a particular city, I recommend getting a transit card.

Your cat may be making you crazy

That's the gist of an article in this month's Atlantic, profiling the work of biologist Jaroslav Flegr:

[I]f Flegr is right, the “latent” [Toxoplasma gondii] parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

Flegr was especially surprised to learn, though, that the protozoan appeared to cause many sex-specific changes in personality. Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.

The idea that parasites affect our behavior is relatively new, but gaining ground. And T. gondii may not be the only one that affects human behavior. This is a bit of science to watch.

Good analysis of New York's 4th-quarter touchdown

Writer Matt Glassman wrestles with why Bradshaw didn't take a knee on the 1 in yesterday's game:

League wide, 99.4% of extra points were made this year. The Giants were 45 for 45. You think Brady has less than a 0.6% chance of leading a TD drive with a minute and two timeouts? Not a chance. According to the NFL win probability stat, the Pats had a 4% chance to win when they got the ball back. And they only had 1 timeout as it turned out. And win probability doesn’t take into account the individual team, or whether or not you have Tom Brady. Here’s the thing: football is a zero-sum game. If Belichek was correct to let the Giants score, then by definition the Giants were wrong to get into the end zone there. By the above math, the Giants gave the Pats a 24-1 chance to win, when they could have made it roughly a 199-1 chance. That’s right: by getting in the end zone, the Giants increased their chance of losing eightfold.

He goes on to outline how it was the wrong choice by the numbers, but probably the better choice for the individuals involved. Good stuff.

Happy birthday, car

I can scarcely believe I've had this guy for 10 years:

The car is named João, because he's from Brazil, and he seemed kind of like a Joe: He's a little rough around the edges, he's fun to hang out with, and he's super-reliable—except for the occasional hangover.

The photo is from the day after I got him. He's scarcely aged. (See, for example, this shot from last February. You can kind of see the dings, but he's still got a good profile.)

Larry and Andrew and Gertie

This came to me from one of the creators, Deena Rubinson, someone I've known since the mid-1990s. It's billed as "the saddest comedy ever," which may be true. It's also well-acted, well-written, and well-edited—which is a lot harder to do than people think. I'm looking forward to episode 4...