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March 23, 2008

memorizable.com — 'The flashcard wiki anyone can edit!'


Yet another place to spend time when you should be working.

Our specialty, in case you hadn't noticed.

March 23, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gaultier Does Crochet


His new wool/cotton mix


crochet dress is £850.

March 23, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack




My Houston, Texas correspondent sent me the photo above from the just-ended (yesterday) Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where this item was one of the premier taste experiences offered.

From the photo it appears they featured a number of different toppings.

Note to self: Watch for this product in my Podunk town — real soon now.

March 23, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bug Button


No flies on you.

From the website:

Bug Button™

Just pin it on and bugs stay away!

Wear the Bug Button on a shirt or hat to keep bees, flies, gnats and yellow jackets from biting.


There’s no oily mess or toxic, greasy lotion/spray to deal with.

Great for gardening, hiking, picnics and all your outdoor events.

Each waterproof, natural and non-toxic button lasts up to 175 hours.

1.75" dia.


Ten for $8.95.

March 23, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just so stories: Origin of the peace symbol


In today's New York Times "Reading File" feature we find the following, by Kathryn Westcott writing on March 20, 2008 on the BBC News website:

    The Peace Symbol, Explained

    It started life as the emblem of the British anti-nuclear movement but it has become an international sign for peace, and arguably the most widely used protest symbol in the world. It has also been adapted, attacked and commercialized.

    It had its first public outing 50 years ago on a chilly Good Friday as thousands of British anti-nuclear campaigners set off from London’s Trafalgar Square on a 50-mile march to the weapons factory at Aldermaston.

    The demonstration had been organized by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament joined in.

    Gerald Holtom, a designer and former World War II conscientious objector from West London, persuaded DAC that their aims would have greater impact if they were conveyed in a visual image. The “Ban the Bomb” symbol was born.

    He considered using a Christian cross motif but, instead, settled on using letters from the semaphore — or flag-signaling — alphabet, super-imposing N(uclear) on D(isarmament) and placing them within a circle symbolizing Earth.

    The sign was quickly adopted by C.N.D.

    Holtom later explained that the design was “to mean a human being in despair” with arms outstretched downwards.

March 23, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Instant Folding Table


Who knew that old door could be transformed into a superb work surface so easily and inexpensively — with the option of stowing it when necessary?

From the website:

    Folding Table Legs

    Make tables from old doors, plywood, etc. with these easy to install Folding Table Legs.

    Ideal anytime you need an extra table for the workshop, dining room, rec room or garage.

    Legs are made of 1 in. tubular steel with a powder-coated finish.

    Protective plastic feet and mounting hardware included.

    Supports up to 80 lbs.

    29"H with a 24" base.



$29.95 a pair.

March 23, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'The best response is no response' — Maxwell Maltz, Ph.D.

Maltz's book, "Psychocybernetics," was once all the rage.

All I remember about it (besides the author's great, goofy name) is the line quoted up top.

But that's more than enough to have saved my bacon on far too many occasions to count, both in the OR and in civilian life.

It came to mind when I read Patricia Cohen's interesting and instructive March 2, 2008 New York Times article about recent research showing that, at least when it comes to soccer goalies and penalty kicks, the best strategy isn't diving to one side or the other but, rather, simply staying put.

Here's the piece.

    The Art of the Save, for Goalie and Investor

    When it comes to choosing what to do, sometimes the best thing is nothing.

    Consider Radek Cerny, the No. 1 goalkeeper for Tottenham Hotspur, who was facing off against Manchester United’s exuberant young midfielder, Cristiano Ronaldo, for a penalty kick during the recent fourth round of the Football Association Cup in Britain. As Ronaldo’s foot swung back for the kick, Cerny leapt to the left expecting a sharp shot to that corner. The ball barreled into the lower right.


    Cerny’s mistake, in Ofer H. Azar’s eyes, is that he moved to one side instead of remaining in the center, where he would have had a greater chance of stopping the ball.

    Mr. Azar is not a coach or a goalie. Actually, he does not even play soccer. He’s a lecturer in the School of Management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Mr. Azar, however, is interested in decision-making, and the split-second response of goalies to penalty kicks struck him and several of his colleagues as a perfect real-life test case of why people sometimes make irrational decisions.

    Classical economists often criticize experiments on how emotions influence financial decisions because they do not involve meaningful monetary rewards. Examining professional soccer players seems to solve that problem.

    “Incentives are huge,” Mr. Azar and his collaborators argue in a paper that appeared not long ago in The Journal of Economic Psychology. What’s more, “goalkeepers face penalty kicks regularly, so they are not only high-motivated decision-makers, but also very experienced ones.”

    The Israeli scholars are not looking to break into the Premier League. Their point is that a preference for action over inaction can play a significant role in all kinds of economic choices.

    When the economy has been doing poorly, officials are more likely to “be tempted to ‘do something,’ ” they argue, even if the risks outweigh the possible gains. “If things turn bad, at least they will be able to say that they tried to do something, whereas if they choose not to change anything and the situation continues to be poor (or becomes worse), it may be hard to avoid the criticism that despite the warning signs they ‘didn’t do anything.’ ”

    That sort of thinking can affect whether managers stick with their firm’s current strategy or change course. And, apparently, whether goalkeepers stand still or take a leap.

    The soccer field has turned out to be a popular laboratory among economists, with penalty kicks a particular favorite.

    Awarded after certain kinds of fouls, or sometimes to decide a championship match, a penalty kick pits one player against the goalkeeper. (Mano a pie instead of mano a mano, though, since the goalie is allowed to use his hands.)

    Standing just 36 feet away, the kicker sends the ball hurtling at the goal at 60 to 80 m.p.h., giving the goalie just 0.2 to 0.3 second to respond. Given the speed, the goalkeeper has to decide what to do even before observing the direction of the kick. Stopping a penalty kick is considered one of the most difficult challenges in sports. Not surprisingly, 80 percent of all penalty kicks score.

    For their study, Mr. Azar, along with Michael Bar-Eli, a sports psychologist; Ilana Ritov, a psychologist; and two graduate students, scanned the top leagues in the world, collecting data on 311 penalty kicks. Then they computed the probability of stopping different kicks (to the left, the right or center) with different actions (jumping left, right, or staying put) to see which one “maximizes his chance of stopping the ball.”

    According to their calculations, staying in the center gives the goalkeeper the best shot at halting a penalty kick — 33.3 percent, instead of 14.2 percent on the left and 12.6 percent on the right.

    Yet when the group analyzed how the goalkeepers had actually reacted to these penalty kicks, they discovered the goalies remained in the center just 6.3 percent of the time.

    The reason, Mr. Azar contends, is rooted in how the players feel after failing to block the ball.

    Their soccer speculations build on the work of Amos Tversky and the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who explored the idiosyncrasies of decision-making. In a landmark study, the two psychologists found that people had more regrets when they lost $1,200 because they chose to act, (in this case, change an investment), than people who lost $1,200 because they left their investments untouched.

    What Mr. Azar and his collaborators wanted to show was that in certain situations, those results could be reversed: when acting was the standard response — like a goalkeeper’s jumping to one side on a penalty kick — not acting would make someone feel a deeper emotional pang. The result is an unconscious bias toward action.

    To check, they asked 32 goalkeepers in Israel’s Premier League and National League to rate how bad they felt on a scale of 1 to 10 after missing penalty kicks. As it turned out, about half of the group said “10” no matter where they stood.

    Of the remaining 15, 11 felt worse when they remained in the center instead of jumping to the side. Nothing definitive, the authors acknowledge, but it does at least suggest “that goalkeepers feel worse about a goal being scored when it follows from inaction (staying in the center) than from action (jumping).”

    Outside the stadium, Mr. Azar and company argue that “action bias” can influence not just goalies but also investors as they decide to sell their stocks (action) or leave their portfolio untouched (inaction) during a downturn, and whether a worker chooses to look for a better job or stay put.

    Marcel Zeelenberg, a social psychologist at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has found that a bias toward action or inaction often depends on whether a previous result was good or bad. After a team has a big loss, for example, the expectation is that the coach should replace the starting players, whereas after winning, leaving the lineup unchanged is considered the normal response.

    In an e-mail message, Mr. Zeelenberg said he thought the Israelis’ “paper is convincing because it uses real, already existing data to test a theory that was recently developed and tested only in the lab.”

    Paul Romer, an economist at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, said the study illustrated an important point about economic decision-making.

    “How people feel about various kinds of activities means a lot about what they decide to do,” Mr. Romer said. “In many situations, we just look at the narrow monetary payoffs and we forget about the effects of preference or feelings.”

    For instance, going to school for an extra year will mean higher wages in the long run, Mr. Romer said, but “going to school can be very rewarding and satisfying for some, and very painful for others.” By looking solely at the financial rewards, “you might miss the single most important factor in determining that decision.”

    Shame, humiliation, feelings about one’s competence — all of these emotions play a huge role in decision-making.

    “There is a very large social component to feelings,” Mr. Romer said. “Economists typically assume that people understand what makes them feel good,” but “people actually don’t always understand what makes them happy.”

    So what do the men on the field think?

    Danny Cepero, a goaltender with the New York Red Bulls, said he could understand the emotional downside of doing nothing. If you stay put because you think a ball is coming straight up the middle and miss, he said, “you look like a fool.

    “Definitely it’s more acceptable to pick a side and just go.”

    Still, Mr. Cepero was skeptical that staying in the center makes the most sense. “You rarely see a goalkeeper stand in the middle and make a save,” he insisted.

    To Des McAleenan, the Bulls’ goaltending coach, no computer analysis can capture the complexity of players’ responses. “Now, everybody’s got extensive dossiers on the opposition,” he said.

    The journal article does point out that the center strategy is not an absolute rule; if goalkeepers spend more time in the middle, penalty kickers would undoubtedly shift their strategy and their aim.

    But for the moment, Mr. Azar’s team would advise those who play soccer or the market that nothing is sometimes better than something.


Here is a link to the abstract of the paper published in the Journal of Economic Psychology; the abstract itself follows.

    Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks

    In soccer penalty kicks, goalkeepers choose their action before they can clearly observe the kick direction. An analysis of 286 penalty kicks in top leagues and championships worldwide shows that given the probability distribution of kick direction, the optimal strategy for goalkeepers is to stay in the goal’s center. Goalkeepers, however, almost always jump right or left. We propose the following explanation for this behavior: because the norm is to jump, norm theory implies that a goal scored yields worse feelings for the goalkeeper following inaction (staying in the center) than following action (jumping), leading to a bias for action. The omission bias, a bias in favor of inaction, is reversed here because the norm here is reversed — to act rather than to choose inaction. The claim that jumping is the norm is supported by a second study, a survey conducted with 32 top professional goalkeepers. The seemingly biased decision making is particularly striking since the goalkeepers have huge incentives to make correct decisions, and it is a decision they encounter frequently. Finally, we discuss several implications of the action/omission bias for economics and management.

March 23, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

March 23, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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