Sunday, November 27, 2005

      Half Marathon Training Journal 6

Ran 8 km (20 x 400m) at 41:19min at the stadium tonight. I was hoping to run 12km, but the stadium was closing. Sigh... Next week is the marathon, and I wonder if there is time to squeeze in a 12km run before that.

However, the run tonight felt easy and I was confident of completing 12km if time had allowed. The pace and stamina was good.

      Finally USA Takes Notice on Global Warming

Finally, somebody in the USA government is doing something about emission controls. New York joins California to set regulations to cut automotive emission of green house gases. I am so glad that the world is not blind to the obvious signs of deteoriating conditions.

Yesterday's Straits Times reported scientists have dug out ice columns in the Antartica from 650,000 years ago. Study of gases trapped in the ice columns shows that our CO2 level in the atmosphere now is 25% more than that of 650,000 years ago. At the same time, the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic continues to hit all time record high.

What can I do about this? No much; I try to take public transport when I can, instead of riding my bike; but how much help is that? Only when everyone realises the consequences at stake and take a collective effort, can there be hope.

Have you heard of the story of boilling a frog in a pot of water? If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. However, if you put the frog in a pot of cool water, and slowly heat the water to boil, the frog will just remain in the comfort of the warm water. Until it realise the danger, it would be too late for the frog, and it will get cooked in the boiling water.

Our current situation is just like the frog in the heating water. The majority just do not see the urgency of the issue at hand, and continues buying cars, SUVs, burning fuels. Burn, burn, burn.... Slowly but surely heating the atmosphere and 'boiling' themselves in the process.

What will it take for people to understand and have them 'jump out of the boiling water'? Will it be too late by the time they realise?

Friday, November 25, 2005

      Half Marathon Training Journal 5

Targeted to run 3 rounds (3 x 4.3 km) around Bedok Reservior today. Only managed to complete 1.5 rounds. Felt that my thigh and calf muscles were not completely recovered yet. Will try again next week.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

      Quote of the Day

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
- Edmund Burke

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

      Book Review: Architecture-Centric Software Project Management - A Practical Guide

Architecture-Centric Software Project Management by Daniel J. Paulish.

Content In General:
The central theme of this book is project mangement revolving and based on the architecture of the software product i.e. Architecture-centered software project management (ACSPP). The software architecture has strong influences on the size and effort required for the project, and the architecture should be developed as the project plan is been developed, in order for the project management to be effective.

Contents In Detailed:
  1. Introduction to project management, and software architecture. Also briefly introduces some of the core project management processes like planning, organising, implementing, measuring.
  2. ACSPP - a project management methodology using the architecture of the software to be built as the basic for effort and schedule estimation, subsequently for project controlling. Briefly mentioned top-down estimating techniques (like COCOMO, Function-point analysis); also contrasted with bottom-up estimation techniques and the pros and cons of using each technique. Paulish recommends usage of both sets of techniques in projects to achieve stakeholder's buy-in at management and development team levels.
  3. Project organisation, again using the software architectures as basics.
  4. Issues that should be considered in global development or distributed development environment.
  5. Generics issues like role of project manager, trade-offs and project decisions, incremental development, reporting and metrics/measurement. Each is mentioned a chapter of its own, in general without going into much specifics or technicalities. Some 'best practises' or 'rule-of-thumb' were recommended.
  6. Two case studies were included at the end of the book.
What's Good:
  • Good readability - Ideas were conveyed in simple and straight-forward terms.
  • I especially like Chapter 2, which detailed how PM processes ties in with the developement of software architecture. Paulish advocates the need to have a distinction between the project manager and solution architect, and the need for these 2 roles to work closely together to derive a project plan that is both realistic and feasible.
  • Good for beginners to project management to get a broad overview and some of the best practices, without having to be tied into the specifics.
What's Bad:
  • Most of the content pertaining to project management are largely generic and are repeated from similiar literatures e.g. need for high visibility in schedules progress reporting,and features-time-cost trade-offs. For experienced PMs, these are most probably already known information.
  • Specifics for techniques were found to be lacking. Example, estimation methods and risk management techniques were only very briefly mentioned. External resources will definitely be required to understand applications of these techniques in real-life situations.
Key Learning Point:
  • Project planning and estimations cannot be done in isolation without consideration for the architecture of the software product. As the architecture has a strong influence on the size, and complexity of the final product, it also means that project factors like effort and time are very dependent on the architecture.
  • The architecture should be developed in parallel with the project plan during planning, and both project manager and the architect should work closely together at this phase.

      How To Learn Effectively (Part 2)?

Earlier, I had blogged about effective learning. Life-long learning is a very critical skill in today's world, in order to stay relevant, competitive and for life-long employability. I am currently reading the book "Accelerated Learning for the 21ST Century" by Colin Rose, Malcom J. Nicholl. It advocates a 6 steps 'M-A-S-T-E-R' plan for accelerated learning as follows:

  1. Motivate Yourself for Learning - In order to learn effectively, we must first be motivated to acquired the knowledge. We must see that the knowledge in concern is relevant, useful, or beneficial to us. The question WII-FM (What's In It For Me?) can be used to judge the level of motivation for the learning task at hand.

  2. Acquire The Information - This is the process of gaining the 'raw' information. There are generally 3 methods of acquiring information (remember V-A-K), and each works for different people and under different cirumstances. Find the method which works best for you as follows:
    1. Visual - Using sight as the primary means of acquiring information. Examples includes reading, watching a demostration.
    2. Auditory - Using hearing as the primary means of acqiring information. Examples includes attending seminar, listening to tapes/CDs, listening to experiences of other people.
    3. Kinesthetics - Using physical and emotional experiences as the primary means of acquiring information. Examples includes coding tutorials, basketball drills practices etc.

  3. Search for the Meaning - Personally, I feel this is a VERY important part of the learning process. It means that we must make sense out of the information acquired, rather than to 'dead memorise' the facts. By memorising facts only, chances are that we will very soon forget them. As it is very hard to remember isolated facts, such as dates in history. The recommended way is to associate new information to current knowledge pool (this is the context of learning), and to build onto knowledge from there. The key is to "understand" how the new information fits into the context and what new knowledge can be derived.

    For example, in project management, it is taught that stakeholders' involvement are very important (facts). Think if there was any experiences in which a project failed due to poor stakeholders involvement. Recall the misunderstandings that resulted from the lack of communications between stakeholders, and requirements that did not match expectations (associating facts with current knowledge). Think of how involving stakeholders could have avoided many misunderstanding and how you would do better the next time (deriving new knowledge).

    This is the reason why people who fare well in rote learning and MCQ tests, may not necessarily do well in practical applications. A lot of these tests ability to memorises facts, not applications. Scenario-based questions instead test the applications of knowledge.

  4. Trigger the Memory - This involves many memory techniques used to remember knowledge gained so that they can be recalled when required at later time. The M-A-S-T-E-R mnemomics to remember these 6 steps is one such example. Mind mapping is another example.

  5. Exhibit your Knowledge - A key to retaining knowledge is to use it often. We should find opportunities to exercise the knowledge gained, such as real-life applications at work. However, it can also include discussing with people what was learned, teaching someone else etc. In terms of knowledge, it is said 'use it, or lose it'.

    One method which I find very useful is to rephrase what was learn in our own words. This exercise tests our understanding of what was learnt, and also the ability to output the knowledge for application. Very often, learning via input of information alone is less effective than input coupled with output (that is why I am writing this blog entry, ha...). Don't be surprise to think you have learnt, only to find that you can't explain what was learnt in your own words.

  6. Review on the Learning Process - Reflect on the how learning was done. It is important WHAT was learnt. Yet it is equally important to think about HOW the learning was achieved. Is it effective? Can it be more effective next time?

      Half Marathon Training Journal 4

HIIT Training (8 x 500m)

Round 1 - 2:16min
Round 2 - 2:09min
Round 3 - 2:12min
Round 4 - 2: 22 min
Round 5 - 2: 19 min
Round 6 - 2:16 min
Round 7 - 2: 26min
Round 8 - 2:19 min

Increased the number of rounds to 8, with the target of improving my endurance at this speed. The rest interval was increased from 1:15 min to 1:30min.

Feels like my stamina has improved. The 8 rounds did not prove too difficult to complete.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

      Half Marathon Training Journal 3

2 rounds around Bedok Reservoir again (2 x 4.3km). Timing was 47:16 mins. Slightly better than last attempt. I tried with increased speed in the first round this time, but had to slow down before finishing the first round. Looks like my endurance in distance is still lacking.

Next time will try a slower but more consistent speed, and try for 3 rounds instead. For the next HIIT training, will try to build endurance by having more rounds (8 instead of 6), but increasing rest interval (from 1:15min to 1:30min)

Friday, November 18, 2005

      Quote of the Day

"When you give a window on the world of affluence but no door, you invite trouble."
- Robert Heilbroner, 'Visions of the Future'

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

      Half-Marathon Training Journal 2

HIIT Training 2 (6 x 500m)

Round 1 - 2:20 min
Round 2 - 2:08 min
Round 3 - 2:09 min
Round 4 - 2:07 min
Round 5 - 2:19min
Round 6 - 2:22min

Rest interval between rounds is 1:15min

Today's result is better than the last HIIT training. At least managed to finish the 6 rounds. Maybe next HIIT session, I will decrease the rest interval to 1 minute.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

      Half-Marathon Training Journal 1

Ran round the Bedok Reservior twice today (8.6km) at 48 minutes 20 seconds. Not too bad for a first time going this distance. If I can maintain this, I will be able to hit my target of 1/2 marathon at below 2 hours.
Looks like the high intensity interval training (HIIT) did pay off.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

      Winner's Curse

Winner's Curse: A tendency for the winning bid in an auction to exceed the intrinsic value of the item won.

The problem of the winner's curse occurs during any auction process in which bidders must estimate the true or final value of a desired good. Generally, bidders are considered to be risk averse, and the average bid is expected to be lower than the final value. However, due to estimation errors, the winning bid is usually much higher because the highest overestimation made by any of the bidders will win the auction.

The significance of this theory is most evident in IPO pricing schemes. Because this observation contradicts the common assumption of rational investors, it allows underwriters to price new issues differently.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

      Labour Over-supply In China

Today's Straits Times reported in China, 8,600 civil services jobs were in demand by 1 million graduates. That works out to about 1 vacancy for every 177 applicants (0.56% of chance). Another 4 million more graduates are expected to join the work force next July, excerbating the situation.

Will the India brain-drain be repeated in China, now that the local job market is so competitive?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

      Book Review: Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics

Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics by Tom Gorman.

I know. It's a Idiot's Guide. I don't normally read Idiot's Guide series; don't wanna be labeled an idiot.

However, this book is a great help in understanding the basic of economics without going into the technicalities and formulae.

Coverage includes:
  • Law of demand and supply - how prices of goods and services are affected by these.
  • GDP - What are the factors affecting the GDP of a nation? How is it the USA can have a large trade deficit, yet still is the largest world economy.
  • Unemployment and inflation - What causes inflation, and why inflation is likely to happen when there is low unemployment.
  • Trade and fiscal policies - The role of trade and budgeting at the national level. What are the implications of raising or lowering taxes. How is it that increase in government spending can be used to boost a sluggish economy.
  • FED, monetary policies and interest rates - how these can have influences on the economy. Why the increase in interest rates can be used to fight inflation.
The facts are presented in very simplistics form with a lot of practical examples and case studies that helps elucidate the abstract theories of economics. After reading this book, I find that I can better understand the business news in the papers, and that helps to further understand more advanced economics. This is a highly recommended book for beginners who wishes to understand the basics of economics.

      Patents - Legalised Monopolies?

With the spread of Bird Flu to Europe, many countries are alerted to its potential damages. To Roche, her patent on Tamiflu is like a new found goldmine; as countries rushed to stockpile the vaccine in millions. However, Roche is unable to meet demands of such scale, and is unwilling to relinquish its patent to other producers.

This event makes me ponder on the effectiveness of copyright measures like patents. The aim of copyrighting is to protect rights of originators to profit from their intellectual works, and hence encourage more people to invest resources into R&D, which is needed to fuel economical growth.

However, patents can also potentially allow entities to command a monopoly where the patented product possesses no readily available substitute products. It also forces competitors to circumvent patent issues by taking second best alternatives in their product design. These ironically results in detrimental to economical growth.

The Tamiflu incident should serve as a good case study. As it succinctly highlights the need to balance the rights of patented originators, and the need to distribute the patented work. In the case of Tamiflu, the need of bending patent laws is elucidated by its implication of millions of people’s lives.