Tidbits | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

Interesting articles, videos and other tidbits from around the web.

Phuc Bui

An American college professor asked Vietnamese-American student Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen to change her name:

Could you Anglicize your name. Phuc Bui sounds like an insult in English.

Understandably, she did not think this was a good idea and so in a subsequent e-mail he would go so far as to explain:

Your name in English sounds like Fuck Boy. If I lived in Vietnam and my name in your language sounded like Eat a Dick, I would change it to avoid embarrassment both on my part and on the part of the people who have to say it.

Phuc Bui’s sister Quynh shared the exchange on Instagram from where it was picked up across the globe.

Now Vietnamese names can be tricky. But suggesting a student to change her name…

As for the professor: Should he ever visit Vietnam, he might want to check out Phuc Long Coffee & Tea 😄.

Tones and Humidity  

The Max Planck Society:

Their study has revealed that languages with a wide range of tone pitches are more prevalent in regions with high humidity levels. In contrast, languages with simpler tone pitches are mainly found in drier regions. This is explained by the fact that the vocal folds require a humid environment to produce the right tone.

I’m from a very non-humid climate. Maybe that’s the reason why it’s so hard for me to learn Vietnamese…

The Value of Ignorance  

The American Management Association published an excerpt from William A. Cohen’s book A Class with Drucker:

“I never ask these questions or approach these assignments based on my knowledge and experience in these industries,” answered Drucker. “It is exactly the opposite. I do not use my knowledge and experience at all. I bring my ignorance to the situation. Ignorance is the most important component for helping others to solve any problem in any industry.”

Hands shot up around the room, but Drucker waved them off. “Ignorance is not such a bad thing if one knows how to use it,” he continued, “and all managers must learn how to do this. You must frequently approach problems with your ignorance; not what you think you know from past experience, because not infrequently, what you think you know is wrong.”

Cohen continues with a story about Americans building British cargo ships during World War II without having any knowledge about building ships.

This reminds me a lot of John Ramsay, the designer of the Limiting Factor, the “first commercially certified full ocean depth manned submersible” (Wikipedia), portrayed in The New Yorker:

Ramsay, who works out of a spare bedroom in the wilds of southwest England, has never read a book about submarines. “You would just end up totally tainted in the way you think,” he said. “I just work out what it’s got to do, and then come up with a solution to it.”

Elon Musk, quoted in one of Tim Urban’s amazing articles:

I think generally people’s thinking process is too bound by convention or analogy to prior experiences. It’s rare that people try to think of something on a first principles basis. They’ll say, “We’ll do that because it’s always been done that way.” Or they’ll not do it because “Well, nobody’s ever done that, so it must not be good.” But that’s just a ridiculous way to think. You have to build up the reasoning from the ground up—“from the first principles” is the phrase that’s used in physics. You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that, and then you see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work, and it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past.

68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice  

Kevin Kelly:

It’s my birthday. I’m 68. I feel like pulling up a rocking chair and dispensing advice to the young ‘uns. Here are 68 pithy bits of unsolicited advice which I offer as my birthday present to all of you.

Great list. Some of the bits I like particularly:

  • Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more.
  • If you are looking for something in your house, and you finally find it, when you’re done with it, don’t put it back where you found it. Put it back where you first looked for it.
  • Before you are old, attend as many funerals as you can bear, and listen. Nobody talks about the departed’s achievements. The only thing people will remember is what kind of person you were while you were achieving.

Colors  

Stephen Anderson and Karl Fast in Figure It Out: Getting from Information to Understanding:

All cultures start with the ability to distinguish dark things from light things. This is followed by the recognition of red. After that, it might be the addition of yellow or green. And blue always seems to come last. Not every language follows the exact same path, but they adhere to this same general pattern.

One of the many odd things of the Vietnamese language is that both “blue” and “green” are “màu xanh”. In case you need to differentiate between the two you would add something like “of the sky” (màu xanh da trời) or “of the tree” (màu xanh lá cây).

I had one Vietnamese teacher that would mark the traffic light with “blue light” and the Korean presidential offices with “green house”.

Cold War 2.0  

Christopher Balding writing about China:

Second, better negotiation or communication will have little to no impact on Chinese government policy. A common argument whether it is on bilateral basis, whether the personnel at the negotiating table, or at international organizations, a common argument is that better communication or negotiation strategies will give the US influence. However, the CCP will never negotiate its authoritarian stranglehold on China willingly. The CCP will not change its intent to establish a loose alliance of global authoritarians as a bulwark against open democracy due to better PowerPoint slides from well meaning DC think tanks. The CCP will not change its policies on import substitution and policies after reading a report from about what is really in its best interest in a Washington Post oped. It has not happened in since the turn of the century and it is not going to happen going forward.

Exactly.

He goes on to suggest measures that could work.

Read the whole article. Great analysis.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

–– James Baldwin

The Deepest Point of Every Ocean  

Ben Taub of The New Yorker followed Victor Vescovo who managed to dive to the deepest point of every ocean:

“Patrick retrieves a piece of equipment from the deepest point on earth, and it’s just me, going, ‘Yay, congratulations, Patrick.’ No one seemed to notice how big a deal it is that they had already made this normal—even though it’s not. It’s the equivalent of having a daily flight to the moon.” McCallum, in his pre-dive briefings, started listing “complacency” as a hazard.

And:

“It’s quite mind-blowing, when you sit down and think about it, that, from the dawn of time until this Monday, there were three people who have been down there,” he said. “Then, in the last ten days, we’ve put five more people down there, and it’s not even a big deal.”

Read the article, look at the pictures.

How to Fix a Broken Knee

In case you’re ever hit by another motorbike and break your tibial plateau, that’s what they’re gonna do. Just saying…

Knowledge is the compound interest of curiosity.

–– James Clear

Open Air 2020

German singer-songwriter Reinhard Mey playing an open air concert in his garden, singing

The english translation of „A quarter to seven“ is especially good:

Dark heavy clouds gather on the horizon
Like a ragged grey quilt in the sky
Dusk sets in, darkness is rising
Lights going on by and by
“Where have you been so long, dinner is ready,
take your shoes off, they’re covered in loam"
Sometimes I wish it was once again a quarter to seven
And I wish I was back at home

Waves

d’strict specializes in “designing, making, and delivering breathtaking visual content on Digital Out of Home”:

Our first case of IP licensing, ‘WAVE’ with anamorphic illusion has been successfully revealed on a magnificent DOOH of COEX K-POP SQUARE, the largest & high-definition outdoor advertising screen in S.Korea at 80.1m (w) x 20.1M (h).

Another wave:

And waves made of balls:

Privacy at Apple  

Former Apple engineer David Shayer explains on TidBITS why he trusts Apple’s new exposure notification. He touches the internal processes that prevent excessive user tracking:

Once I had recorded how many times the Weather and Stocks apps were launched, I set up Apple’s internal framework for reporting data back to the company. My first revelation was that the framework strongly encouraged you to transmit back numbers, not strings (words). By not reporting strings, your code can’t inadvertently record the user’s name or email address. You’re specifically warned not to record file paths, which can include the user’s name (such as /Users/David/Documents/MySpreadsheet.numbers). You also aren’t allowed to play tricks like encoding letters as numbers to send back strings (like A=65, B=66, etc.)

Next, I learned I couldn’t check my code into Apple’s source control system until the privacy review committee had inspected and approved it. This wasn’t as daunting as it sounds. A few senior engineers wanted a written justification for the data I was recording and for the business purpose. They also reviewed my code to make sure I wasn’t accidentally recording more than intended.

Read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

In the Transporter Room

Captain Picard and his crew stand in the transporter room and actor Patrick Stewart mixes up the terms:

Engage! No. Don’t engage… Emm… Energize! That’s what we say in this room. Energize!

Love this.

Sean Ellis Test  

The Pisano blog explaining the Sean Ellis Test:

Sean Ellis test was formed thanks to the experiences gained during the consultation period, and in a very short time, it became a standard throughout the industry. The most indicative question addressed to the clients in this qualitative test is as following:

How would you feel if you could no longer use our product? - Very disappointed - Somewhat disappointed - Not disappointed (it really isn’t that useful)

If the ratio of the answer “very disappointed” is more than %40, then well-done to you; that means you have the product/market fit.