Graphics and Web Design Based on Edward Tufte's Principles

From George Washington University:

Graphics and Web Design Based on Edward Tufte’s Principles

This is an outline of Edward Tufte’s pioneering work on the use of graphics to display quantitative information. It mainly consists of text and ideas taken from his three books on the subject along with some additional material of my own. This page is in text only format: in order to understand the concepts you need to read the books because the concepts cannot really be grasped without the illustrations, and current video monitor technology is too low in resolution to do them justice. His work has been described as “a visual Strunk and White”

Task Saturation

Via Eric Mack On-Line:

Fellow productivity blogger, Bert, from Open Loops, posted an excellent comment about how the military helps its pilots extract themselves from overwhelm before they have to extract themselves from their wreckage:

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation. When one is faced with a large volume of tasks, which is what you might see when you look at your backlogged email in-box, humans can shut down. Some, in an effort to deal with the tasks, begin to compartmentalize and channelize, meaning that they begin to concentrate on their email to the exclusion of all other communication and input that is still coming their way. This is why perfectly good pilots sometimes fly good airplanes right into the ground. In our lives, it means that we will not perform well on other tasks and responsibilities while we are struggling with that in-box.

Excellent illustration. How does the Air Force help their pilots cope?

The solution? The Air Force provides tools and systems that pilots are supposed to fall back on in times of emergencies when task saturation can immobilize a pilot. They pull out their emergency checklists and start taking actions.

Checklists. That’s the ticket.

Got one? MORE

Also see Erik’s review of “Towards a Better Understanding of History” by B Norling.

Brainpower drugs coming for sports

From The Washington Times:

…Two years ago, the International Chess Federation adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency’s universal drug code, subjecting chess players to the same standards as Olympic sprinters.

…While muscle-building drugs spawn home runs and congressional hearings, a coming era of cognitive enhancement promises boosted brains to rival baseball’s bulging biceps.

Picture a golfer who never gets nervous, a basketball player learning to shoot perfect free throws with the help of a pill. Can’t quite conceive it? Don’t worry – there may be a pill for that, too.

The Pentagons Psychic Friends Network

The following is a review by Michael Shermer of Jon Ronson’s superb book “The Men Who Stare at Goats” (Picador/Pan Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 0330375474), which appeared in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2005. This is from Skeptic.com:

Allison was an attractive Oregonian brunette in a new ageish way, before the new age bloomed in the 1980s. She wore all natural fibers, flowers in her hair, and nothing on her feet. But what most intrigued me in our year of distance dating were Allisons spiritual gifts. I knew she could see through me metaphorically, but Allison also saw things that she said were not allegorical: body auras, energy chakras, spiritual entities, and light beings. One night she closed the door and turned off the lights in my bathroom and told me to stare into the mirror until my aura appeared. During a drive one evening she pointed out spiritual beings dotting the landscape. I tried to see the world as Allison did, but I couldnt. I was a skeptic and she was a psychic. The difference doomed our relationship.

Continue reading

When Caucasians ruled the Earth

From Khaleej Times Online

Genetic testing reveals awkward truth about Xinjiang’s famous mummies

URUMQI, China – After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proven that Caucasians roamed China’s Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived.

The research, which the Chinese government has appeared to have delayed making public out of concerns of fueling Uighur Muslim separatism in its western-most Xinjiang region, is based on a cache of ancient dried-out corpses that have been found around the Tarim Basin in recent decades.

“It is unfortunate that the issue has been so politicized because it has created a lot of difficulties”, Victor Mair, a specialist in the ancient corpses and co-author of ‘Mummies of the Tarim Basin’, told AFP.

“It would be better for everyone to approach this from a purely scientific and historical perspective.”

So we have Kennewick man showing us that there were Caucasians in the Americas before the arrival of the American Indians, now we find that there were Caucasians in China too before the East Asians arrived.

The Gorilla in the corner that everyone is ignoring is the BIG QUESTION: What happened to the American and Chinese Caucasians? Exterminated by the invaders? Genocide? Perhaps they died out because of diseases the “colonists” brought?

Documentary exposes utter chaos in UK schools

From the Observer article ‘I wasn’t teaching – my role was just one of crowd control. I felt useless’

Sylvia Thomas taught in many rough schools throughout the Seventies without ever needing to raise her voice to keep control.

In the Eighties, she left teaching and began producing educational programmes for the BBC. She spent much of her time in schools and thought she was seeing a realistic picture of classroom discipline: it was, she believed, not the acute problem some claimed.

But then, last autumn, she returned to education as a supply teacher. She was so shocked by what she saw that she joined forces with the award-winning veteran documentary maker, Roger Graef, to expose it. ‘Most people are talking about low-level disruption in schools but very few get to see it,’ she said. ‘In only two schools out of the 18 at which I taught was there anything even resembling the acceptable level of disruption a supply teacher would expect. Every other school I taught at reduced me to tears,’ she added. ‘I would be hoarse with shouting and desperate not to go back the next day.’

Thomas spent six months recording the chaos of classrooms in state schools across the country using hidden cameras without the knowledge of the schools, parents or students involved. The result, Classroom Chaos, will be shown on Channel Five on Wednesday. The channel will tell the schools they have appeared in the controversial programme the day after it is screened.

…the schools were chosen randomly by Thomas’s supply teacher agencies, and most had been identified by Ofsted as being average or better than average.

‘The situation was so constant that we can confidently say anti-social behaviour is an everyday reality in classrooms across Britain,’ he added. ‘It is an appaling situation and one which must not be allowed to continue: education is being strangled.

Thomas’s experiences included:

  her classroom being vandalised during a break time, with windows smashed and glass thrown around the room, books destroyed and desks overturned;

  boys openly using mobile phones to download pornography, accessing obscene websites on school computers and making serious sexual suggestions to her;

  a pupil accusing her of hitting him, and threatening to report her to the police and sue her;

  having to stand guard by the classroom door to prevent students walking out.

‘These were the most dramatic incidents but it was the constant, low-level disruptions that ground me down,’ said Thomas. ‘Just getting the children to take off their coats and open their bags was a struggle I often lost.

‘Most of the time, it was as though I did not even exist: they would behave exactly like it was break time, sitting with their backs to me, talking over me, throwing things at each other and getting into fights. There was nothing I could do to get their attention. My role was simply one of crowd control. I felt useless and inadequate,’

Thomas estimates that, on average, she failed to teach anything at all in four out of six lessons a day. Experienced teachers to whom she spoke confirmed that they lose around two to three months a year of effective teaching through struggling to control antisocial classroom behaviour.

[Update: I should have known it, the ever excellent Abelard reported on this days ago.]

6 ways to jump start your day

Via Open Loops:

Use a light producing alarm clock
Put the alarm clock on the other side of the room
Start the day with protein
Turn up the lights
Get at least five minutes of physical activity
Eat a healthy low-fat, high-fiber breakfast

I would add:

Take a vitamin.
Read something inspirational BEFORE you read the news (via Brian Tracey).
Eat breakfast outside (in Summer).
Use one of those sleep pattern monitoring alarms.