一晚上,两个记不住的

晚上看了武林外传的话剧。然后紧接着,看了Harry Potter的第五集。

武林外传正如预期,就是一个简单的故事,让穿着古装的人说着些现代的话。剧本一般。导演却是很出色的,能把许多换种演绎方式就会味同嚼蜡的对话给排出了新鲜味道来。演员也很出色。两个小时多一些的剧。如果周末时候只是要去找找放松脸部肌肉的方法,倒是很好。不过未必能买到票。据说,比双面胶的票还火点。

上海还真是话剧的好地方。

Harry Potter的第五,却有些失望。印象里前四部,每一部都比前一部精彩。但是这一部,却是不如第四。具体也不想多说了,自己看吧。第四部的Harry Potter,似乎是y tu mama tanbien的那个墨西哥导演叫什么名字的导的。画面的精致和节奏的紧凑,都很漂亮。

今年我最想看的是Bourne Ultimatum。Matt Damon一直是我很喜欢的演员。Bourne系列也是动作片里,难得的看完了会让人坐在椅子上,心情有些恍惚。不过我一直不解,自从他20出头写了Good Will Hunting的剧本并且就此得了奥斯卡最佳原创剧本奖之后,为什么再也没动过笔呢?不至于那么一部剧本,就耗尽了他所有的精力吧?才华是耗不尽的。

睡了。

engadget story

Man has thumbs altered to improve iPhone dexterity
By Paul Miller on whittling
Filed under: Cellphones

digital

This story isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, we wouldn’t really recommend it for anybody, but we’ll soldier on regardless. Thomas Martel hails from Colorado, and after upgrading to an iPhone, he decided his big hands were just too much of a burden to bear. “From my old Treo, to my Blackberry, to this new iPhone, I had a hard time hitting the right buttons, and I always lost those little styluses,” says Martel. So what’s a man to do? Why, get those digits downsized, of course. Thomas went under the knife for a new technique called “whittling.” The doctors made a small cut in each thumb and shaved down the bones, then they adjusted the muscles and fingernails to fit the new thumb size. Martel’s new thumbs look a tad effeminate, and there’s always that problem of expense and general discomfort, but he thinks the procedure “will pay for itself in ten to fifteen years. And what it’s saving me in frustration – that’s priceless.” Whatever you say, Thomas.

Update: InformationWeek is reporting this story as false. North Denver News hasn’t pulled it yet, but given the far-fetched nature, we’re certainly having doubts of its authenticity. Either way, we don’t recommend you running out and getting your thumbs whittled any time soon.

关于19岁

给Elle杂志写的,关于19岁。难得的答应给人写一篇,也许只是因为这个题目。19岁。

-------------------

课堂前的教桌前,一头乱发的物理教授说,”Thank you.” 教室里本来东倒西歪坐着的我的同学们叮呤哐啷地从各自的座位上站了起来,收拾大小书籍笔记本等等物件,喧哗着,开始往教室外走。

我坐在教室的最后一排,愣了一会儿,终于明白,哦,这堂课已经结束了。一堂45分钟的课下来,我只听懂了教授的最后一句英文,Thank you.

我终于知道,在过去半年里从新概念英语第二册的开始攻读英文,只够让我考个还不错的托福成绩,却还不够让我听懂课堂上教授的一句话,除了Thank you。

这是15年前。我19岁,刚从福州,中国南方一个安静的小城市,到了Dayton,美国俄亥俄州的一个小城市。来读的这个大学,我在中国的时候从来没有听说过。当然这完全不奇怪。在那个时候,美国的学校我只听说过哈佛耶鲁和普林斯顿。它们的名字只在那个年代福州街头常见的路边书摊里售卖的某些传奇小说里出现。美国是什么?只是一个混迹在福州街头的小混混有天厌恶周围的所有一切迫切想要逃离的时候,一扇很遥远的逃生门。我的运气很好。那扇对很多人关闭的门,有一天为我打开了一会儿,让我进去了。

下雪了。一天天地过去,雪也下得越来越大。俄亥俄的冬天很冷。还好,这是美国。学校宿舍里的暖气总是很足,连我在福州冬天里每年必得的耳垂上的冻疮,在那样的冷冬里都没有出现过。同住宿舍的三人,两个黑人一个白人。

那个白人的学生有天揣着把左轮手枪回到了宿舍,他拿着枪,向我吹嘘他是如何拿着左轮手枪在学校边上的森林里和他的几个哥们,左手啤酒罐右手左轮枪地狩猎。大意如此。因为我只听懂了20%。而在我很诚实地告诉他我只听懂了20%后,他瞪大着眼睛,看着我说,“20%?” 从此他就再不和我这个明显有语言障碍不知怎么混进大学的弱智说任何多过3个词的句子。当然,他也没时间。他很快有了个女朋友,每天都把自己锁在自己的房间里,除了时不时地听到床垫的咯吱咯吱声,难得再出现在我们四人公用的起居室里。

两个黑人却成了我的哥们。他们似乎完全不介意我听懂他们黑人英文的比例甚至还到不了10%。经常我们三人坐在起居室里,他们一会儿互相之间用飞快的速度就像网球对决一样一串串地对抛着句子,一会儿忽悠一声就把那一串的句子抛给了我。绝大多数情况下,我只是一脸茫然地看着他们,啊?偶尔我碰巧抓住了几个词,回答了一句,他们几乎无一例外地会一起哈哈地大笑起来,偶尔还会一起笑得眼泪都出来了,仿佛我说了句天底下最可乐的笑话。我只有哈哈一声,更加地一脸茫然。

但是我们一天天地聊着。他们似乎难得关心功课,但他们似乎很受欢迎。每个周末,我的宿舍里总是挤满了各种各样的人,大伙儿似乎都显得很开心,啤酒罐到处都是,音乐喧闹。偶尔两个男孩女孩会消失到个卧室里一会儿,然后一脸满足地出来。没人关心他们。大伙儿都显得很快乐,我也认识了不少这些快乐的人。

冬天慢慢地过去,春天来了。有一天雪不下了。又过了几天,忽然间到处都是绿的颜色,从树上路边到处地浮出来。我的英文也似乎一天天地改善,虽然偶尔有个人会好奇地问我怎么说着一嘴的黑人口音。期中考过后,我忽然发现,除了英文,我的每一门课都是班里第一。对于一个从来没有考过第十都不用说第一的我来说,这是很奇怪的感觉。这奇怪的感觉也不错,不过。

四月的一天,我回到宿舍。忽然发现宿舍门前停了两辆警车。门大开着。我走进去。房间里挤满了人,大部分我都认识,很多人在哭。一个人拽着我的手说,他死了。那个对着我的烂英文笑得眼泪最多表情最多的黑人,我的室友,吸毒过量,外加本来就有的肾病,猝死了。

过了几天,是他的葬礼。葬礼前,他的家人和他的所有好朋友们都来到他的也是我的宿舍,在起居室里,准备出发去学校边的教堂。几天过去了。几天前在痛哭着的他的最好的朋友们,那一天大约已经恢复了正常。

他们哈哈地笑,打闹,偶尔有两人很甜蜜地打情骂俏。大伙儿都很开心,仿佛这是又一个他还在世时候的一个大麻聚会。

他已经从这世界消失了,无影无踪。

过了两天,我上了一天的课,回到宿舍。宿舍里很安静。现在只有我和那个总是锁在自己房间里的白人住着了。我放下包,走出门。春天是在最浓烈的时候,夏天转眼就到,空气清新,一切都很美好的下午。我走到学校旁边的超市,拿了一盒9美元的帝王蟹腿,半打啤酒,走到收银台。

收银员头也不抬,指着啤酒说,“你的身份证。”

“为什么?” 我问。

“21岁才能喝酒精饮料。”

我没说话。转身走回了饮料区,找了半打无酒精的Root Beer,拿到了收银台,付了款,拿着蟹腿和啤酒,走回了宿舍。

我在从福州带来的钢精锅里,用白水煮熟了蟹腿。很大的两根蟹腿。煮熟了,红彤彤的,冒着热气。看着很味美。

我把蟹腿放在三合板钉成的小木桌上,坐在我的兼当座椅的铺在地上的床垫上,拿起罐Root Beer,掰开蟹腿壳,咬了口雪白的蟹肉。

“Happy Birthday.” 我对自己轻声说了声。那是我19岁的最后一天。

Marc Andreessen is a hell of blogger – amazing

Age and the entrepreneur, part 1: Some data
by Marc Andreessen

A short time back, several smart bloggers engaged in an enthusiastic debate about age and entrepreneurs — some taking the position that kids have a leg up on older entrepreneurs at least for certain categories of startups, and others theorizing that age is largely irrelevant (or as Ali G would put it, “geezers is good entrepreneurs as well, man”).

I have opinions on this topic, but rather than just mouthing off like I would normally do, I decided to go get some data. This post presents that data — the next post will have the mouthing off.

I’m not aware of any systematic data on age and high-tech entrepreneurs. As far as I’m aware, all we have are anecdotes. However, a professor of psychology at University of California Davis named Dean Simonton has conducted extensive research on age and creativity across many other fields, including science, literature, music, chess, film, politics, and military combat.

Dr. Simonton’s research is unparalleled — he’s spent his career studying this and related topics and his papers make for absolutely fascinating reading.

For this post, I’ll be concentrating on his paper Age and Outstanding Achievement: What Do We Know After a Century of Research? from 1988. I haven’t been able to find a PDF of the paper online but you can read a largely intact cached HTML version courtesy of Google Scholar.

Let’s go to the paper:

For centuries, thinkers have speculated about the association between a person’s age and exceptional accomplishment: Is there an optimal age for a person to make a lasting contribution to human culture or society? When during the life span can we expect an individual to be most prolific or influential?

You can see why I think this is relevant.

Here we adopt the product-centered approach, that is, our focus is on real-life achievements rather than performance on abstract… measures. …

[A]chievement [takes] the form of noteworthy creativity… the goal is to assess how productivity changes over the life span… [I] focus on individual accomplishment in such endeavors as science, philosophy, literature, music, and the visual arts. …

[Studies like these focus] on three core topics: (a) the age curve that specifies how creative output varies over the course of a career, (b) the connection between productive precocity, longevity, and rate of output, and (c) the relation between quantity and quality of output (i.e., between “productivity” and “creativity”).

Dr. Simonton also discusses leadership as distinct from creative production, but I’m ignoring the leadership part for now since it’s quite different.

One empirical generalization appears to be fairly secure: If one plots creative output as a function of age, productivity tends to rise fairly rapidly to a definite peak and thereafter decline gradually until output is about half the rate at the peak.

This is the centerpiece of Dr. Simonton’s overall theory across many domains. And is probably not unexpected. But here’s where it gets really interesting:

[T]he location of the peak, as well as the magnitude of the postpeak decline, tends to vary depending on the domain of creative achievement.

At one extreme, some fields are characterized by relatively early peaks, usually around the early 30s or even late 20s in chronological units, with somewhat steep descents thereafter, so that the output rate becomes less than one-quarter the maximum. This age-wise pattern apparently holds for such endeavors as lyric poetry, pure mathematics, and theoretical physics…

The typical trends in other endeavors may display a leisurely rise to a comparatively late peak, in the late 40s or even 50s chronologically, with a minimal if not largely absent drop-off afterward. This more elongated curve holds for such domains as novel writing, history, philosophy, medicine, and general scholarship.

Well, that’s interesting.

It must be stressed that these interdisciplinary contrasts do not appear to be arbitrary but instead have been shown to be invariant across different cultures and distinct historical periods.

As a case in point, the gap between the expected peaks for poets and prose authors has been found in every major literary tradition throughout the world and for both living and dead languages.

Indeed, because an earlier productive optimum means that a writer can die younger without loss to his or her ultimate reputation, poets exhibit a life expectancy, across the globe and through history, about a half dozen years less than prose writers do.

You know what that means — if you’re going to argue that younger entrepreneurs have a leg up, then you also have to argue that they will have shorter lifespans. Fun with math!

You may not be surprised to find that in creative fields, the power law rule — also known as the 80/20 rule — definitely applies:

A small percentage of the workers in any given domain is responsible for the bulk of the work. Generally, the top 10% of the most prolific elite can be credited with around 50% of all contributions, whereas the bottom 50% of the least productive workers can claim only 15% of the total work, and the most productive contributor is usually about 100 times more prolific than the least.

Here’s where it gets really interesting again:

Precocity, longevity, and output rate are each strongly associated with final lifetime output — that is, those who generate the most contributions at the end of a career also tend to have begun their careers at earlier ages, ended their careers at later ages, and produced at extraordinary rates throughout their careers. …

These three components are conspicuously linked with each other: Those who are precocious also tend to display longevity, and both precocity and longevity are positively associated with high output rates per age unit.

OK, so on to the main question, which is, when’s the peak?

Those creators who make the most contributions tend to start early, end late, and produce at above-average rates, but are the anticipated career peaks unchanged, earlier, or later in comparison to what is seen for their less prolific colleagues? Addressing this question properly requires that we first investigate the relation between quantity and quality, both within and across careers. …

This is a very complex topic and Dr. Simonton goes into great detail about it throughout his work. I’m going to gloss over it a bit, but if you are interested in this topic, by all means dig into it more via Google Scholar.

First, if one calculates the age curves separately for major and minor works within careers, the resulting functions are basically identical…

Second… minor and major contributions… fluctuate together. Those periods in a creator’s life that see the most masterpieces also witness the greatest number of easily forgotten productions, on the average.

Another way of saying the same thing is to note that the “quality ratio,” or the proportion of major products to total output per age unit, tends to fluctuate randomly over the course of any career. The quality ratio neither increases nor decreases with age…

These outcomes are valid for both artistic and scientific modes of creative contribution. What these two results signify is that… age becomes irrelevant to determining the success of a particular contribution.

OK, that’s interesting. Quality of output does not vary by age… which means, of course, that attempting to improve your batting average of hits versus misses is a waste of time as you progress through a creative career. Instead you should just focus on more at-bats — more output. Think about that one.

If this sounds insane to you, Dr. Simonton points out that the periods of Beethoven’s career that had the most hits also had the most misses — works that you never hear. As I am always fond of asking in such circumstances, if Beethoven couldn’t increase his batting average over time, what makes you think you can?

[C]reativity is a probabilistic consequence of productivity, a relationship that holds both within and across careers.

Within single careers, the count of major works per age period will be a positive function of total works generated each period, yielding a quality ratio that exhibits no systematic developmental trends.

And across careers, those individual creators who are the most productive will also tend, on the average, to be the most creative: Individual variation in quantity is positively associated with variation in quality.

Wow.

OK, next step:

[This] constant-probability-of-success model has an important implication for helping us understand the relation between total lifetime output and the location of the peak age for creative achievement within a single career.

Because total lifetime output is positively related to total creative contributions and hence to ultimate eminence, and given that a creator’s most distinguished work will appear in those career periods when productivity is highest, the peak age for creative impact should not vary as a function of either the success of the particular contribution or the final fame of the creator. …

Thus, even though an impressive lifetime output of works, and subsequent distinction, is tied to precocity, longevity, and production rate, the expected age optimum for quantity and quality of contribution is dependent solely on the particular form of creative expression.

Wow, again.

Anyone who demonstrates… an age decrement in achievement is likely to provoke controversy. After all, aging is a phenomenon easy enough to become defensive about, and such defensiveness is especially probable among those of us who are already past the putative age peak for our particular field of endeavor…

I think Dr. Simonton is ready to start blogging.

His paper then goes on to discuss many possible extrinsic factors such as health that could impair later-life output, but in the end he concludes that the data is pretty conclusive that such extrinsinc factors serve as “random shocks” to any individual’s career that do not affect the overall trends.

He then goes on to discuss possible intrinsic factors that could explain a relationship between age and creative accomplishment:

G. M. Beard was not merely the earliest contributor [in 1874] to the empirical literature on age and achievement but its first theorist as well. According to him, creativity is a function of two underlying factors, enthusiasm and experience. Enthusiasm provides the motivational force behind persistent effort, yet enthusiasm in the absence of the second factor yields just original work. Experience gives the achiever the ability to separate wheat from chaff and to express original ideas in a more intelligible and persistent fashion. Yet experience in the absence of enthusiasm produces merely routine contributions. Genuine creativity requires the balanced cooperation of both enthusiasm and experience.

Beard postulates, however, that these two essential components display quite distinctive distributions across the life span. Whereas enthusiasm usually peaks early in life and steadily declines thereafter, experience gradually increases as a positive monotonic function of age. The correct equilibrium between the two factors is attained between the ages of 38 and 40, the most common age optima for creative endeavors. Prior to that expected peak, an individual’s output would be excessively original, and in the postpeak phase the output would be overly routine. The career floruit in the late 30s thus represents the uniquely balanced juxtaposition of the rhapsodies of youth and the wisdom of maturity.

mmmmmm…

Beard’s theory is not without attractive features… Beard’s account, for all its simplicity, can boast a respectable amount of explanatory power. Besides handling the broad form of the age curve, this theory leads to an interpretation of why different endeavors may peak at distinct ages.

The contrast between poetic and prose literature, for instance, can be interpreted as the immediate consequence of the assumption that the two domains demand a different mix of the two factors: poetry, more enthusiasm, and prose, more experience. Indeed, in fields in which expertise may be far more crucial than emotional vigor, most notably in scholarship, we would anticipate little if any decline with age, and such is the case.

Dr. Simonton, however, then goes on to explain that this theory does not really match the data — for example, the data shows that quality of output in practically all fields does not decline systematically with age, which is what you’d expect from Beard’s theory.

The paper then digs into possible correlations between intelligence as measured by such metrics as IQ, and creative output:

[E]ven if a minimal level of intelligence is requisite for achievement, beyond a threshold of around IQ 120 (the actual amount varying across fields), intellectual prowess becomes largely irrelevant in predicting individual differences in… creativity.

So what have we learned in a nutshell?

Generally, productivity — output — rises rapidly from the start of a career to a peak and then declines gradually until retirement.
This peak in productivity varies by field, from the late 20s to the early 50s, for reasons that are field-specific.
Precocity, longevity, and output rate are linked. “Those who are precocious also tend to display longevity, and both precocity and longevity are positively associated with high output rates per age unit.” High producers produce highly, systematically, over time.
The odds of a hit versus a miss do not increase over time. The periods of one’s career with the most hits will also have the most misses. So maximizing quantity — taking more swings at the bat — is much higher payoff than trying to improve one’s batting average.
Intelligence, at least as measured by metrics such as IQ, is largely irrelevant.

So here’s my first challenge: to anyone who has an opinion on the role of age and entrepreneurship — see if you can fit your opinion into this model!

And here’s my second challenge: is entrepreneurship more like poetry, pure mathematics, and theoretical physics — which exhibit a peak age in one’s late 20s or early 30s — or novel writing, history, philosophy, medicine, and general scholarship — which exhibit a peak age in one’s late 40s or early 50s? And how, and why?

[Update: Naval Ravikant has written a particularly interesting response to this post here.]

————————–

Basically, work your ass off if you have got any above average IQ, and pay off from simply working harder will likely be greater than trying to hone your skills.

天气太热了。热到什么程度,热到土豆仓库边上的民房,电线着火。警察消防队居委会当然还有大小居民们,都半紧张半兴奋地折腾了一下午。也算是给我们一堆在屋里虽然空调已然打到最大但是还是被热得发蔫的人,增添了点乐趣。

热得早晨的第一杯咖啡怎么也喝不下,看着咖啡的热气像是看着小蒸炉。

热得连看到the new york times上面这个犯错误得泰国警察被命令带着hello kitty的袖标都笑不出哈哈来。

今天8月8,秋至了据说。

一点片段

有些时候,写Blog只是为了记忆。从将近三年前开始,到今天,不断记忆着记录着,也许有的时候,你看,一个人所有的存在的意义,就是土豆上的一台服务器的一小段的字节的存储空间。

你看,如果你每天和机器在一起,很难会相信人的灵魂和人的唯一独特天地之间的神物。不是,我们只是一段逻辑和一些随机的参数。

有自恋情节或者文艺情节的,不免就要想,我是如何如何独特,也许这些独特,都只是一些参数汇集在一起?

我热爱我存在的每一分钟,也知道这每一分钟,这么神奇的每一分钟,都只是昙花一现。

人和机器,这是我一直好奇的一件事,如果我足够幸运,也许我能够看到机器和人混为一体的时候。这些科幻小说中的许多恐怖情节,也挡不过我的好奇心。

又想起两年读过的How the Mind Works. 我应该把这书再好好读读。如果我要写本让我自己满意的逻辑正确的关于机器和人的故事。

Igmar Berman

个把月前,买了个碟,Igmar Berman的the seventh seal。放在DVD架上一直,没提起精神去看着个著名的闷片。大学时候上个文学还是电影欣赏的课上看过。印象深刻,不过,出了记住了和死神下棋的骑士,片子说了什么,基本不太记得了。只有影像。

这两天的新闻,Igmar Berman过世了。

刚才拿出了这张碟,好好地重新再看一次。又困又累,靠在沙发上,几乎是呼呼地都要睡着了。

真不容易。