Remember Better Place?
Remember Better Place? They were an Israeli/American electric car startup that got massive sycophantic business and tech press. They were going to build worldwide networks of recharging stations that swapped batteries out of their cars. It raised about $900,000,000 during the “clean tech” investing boomlet.
Yeah. It failed. Spectacularly. I am amazed at how little of the story had seen the light of day until this Fast Company article. But my favorite part was about New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. He’s famous for being a thinker, but no one remembers that his thoughts are just about all as good as this:
The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman devoted a column to lauding Agassi, saying, “What I find exciting about Better Place is that it is building a car company off the new industrial platform of the 21st century, not the one from the 20th—the exact same way that Steve Jobs did to overturn the music business.” He implied that the government would be better off giving any money earmarked for saving Detroit’s auto industry to Better Place.
Russia’s completely isolated Baltic city
Notice anything funny about this map?
What is that unlabeled wedge in between Poland and Lithuania?
If you don’t already know, then you probably wouldn’t guess the answer: Russia.
At the end of World War II, Russia captured Königsberg, which at the time was a mostly German speaking area of East Prussia. The Germans who didn’t flee were expelled by the Soviets, who renamed the city Kaliningrad.
And that’s why Russia still controls a Baltic port area of a million people almost 750 miles from Moscow that used to be home to German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Hat tip to James Bernsen.
Geoffrey Hinton on how neural networks were “proved” to be false
Transcribed from Geoffrey Hinton’s lectures in his Coursera class on Neural Networks for Machine Learning:
In 1969 Minsky and Papert published a book called Perceptrons that analyzed what perceptrons could do and showed their limitations. And the general feeling within artificial intelligence was that people thought Minsky and Papert had shown that neural network models were nonsense…or that they couldn’t learn difficult things. Minsky and Papert knew that they hadn’t shown that. They’d just shown that perceptrons of the kind for which the powerful learning algorithm applied could not do a lot of things, or rather that they could not do them by learning. That result got wildly overgeneralized.
When i started working on neural network models in the 1970s, people in artificial intelligence kept telling me that Minsky and Papert had proved that these models were no good.
It always amuses me how people turn current conventional wisdom in science into dogma.
Assorted soccer thoughts
1. If America wants to get serious about developing youth soccer talent, we must begin playing futsal. I’ve been saying this for a few years, so when I saw this article, I had to link.
When Americans play soccer indoors, we usually play it using walls all around us as if we were playing ice hockey. In fact, indoor soccer courts often resemble hockey rinks. Like hockey, it is an extremely fast paced hustle and power game that you play in shifts.
It’s fun. But it’s also terrible for skill development.
Where is Futsal really popular? Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Italy. In other words, the countries that turn out players with very good technical skills. Leo Messi plays soccer as if he were in a futsal game, and in fact Messi played lots of futsal as a kid.
I actually quite like the way the #USMNT plays in the international game. But if we want to win the World Cup, we need players who are more advanced technically. There is no other good way.
2. Alexi Lalas: <blockquote>I always say that form is fallacy. We put so much stock in the form of players, yet time and again we see guys that are tearing it up at the club level and it doesn’t translate at the international level.</blockquote> I’m with Lalas. Form is fallacy. If anything Jozy Altidore will just have that much more to prove. I could not care less that he is not scoring goals at Sunderland.
3. On the discrimination Americans face in Europe, Lalas again:
As an American player, it’s not enough to be good. You have to be so good that your opponents and teammates forget that you are American.
This is true. No manager in Europe ever got ridiculed for buying and playing an overrated Brazilian. What is strange to me is that even Eastern Europeans whose national teams aren’t as strong as the US have an advantage at getting playing time in Europe.
McIntyre: Best player who won’t make the U.S. team this summer?
Lalas: Sacha Kljestan, probably.
I doubt Kljestan goes. I wouldn’t pick him. He might be the best technical player for the US, but he’s never fit in with how the US plays right now. Due to that, his performances have always been lacking with the national team, even as good as he is.
Mark Cuban is anti-NCAA
"The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League."
"Then you wouldn’t be under the stupidity of the NCAA," Cuban said. "There’s no reason for the NCAA to exist. None."
It makes zero sense that America has intertwined the academy and minor league sports. I’d argue that it hasn’t been good for either one.