The sha function, also known as the Dirac comb, is denoted with the Cyrillic letter sha (Ш, U+0428). This letter was chosen because it looks like how people visualize the function, a long series of vertical spikes. The function is called the Dirac comb for the same reason. This function is very important in Fourier analysis because it relates Fourier series and Fourier transforms. It relates sampling and periodization. It’s its own Fourier transform, and with a few qualifiers discussed later, the only such function.
The Ш function, really the Ш distribution, is defined as
Here δ(x – n) is the Dirac delta distribution centered at n. The action of δ(x – n) on a test function is to evaluate that function at n. You can envision Ш as an infinite sequence of spikes, one at each integer. The action of Ш on a test function is to add up its values at every integer.
The product of Ш with a function f is a new distribution whose action on a test function φ is the sum of f φ over all integers. Or you could think of the distribution as a sort of clothesline on which to hang the sampled values of f, much the way a generating function works.
Next let’s look at a function f that lives on [0, 1], i.e. is zero everywhere outside the unit interval. The convolution of f with δ(x – n) is f(x – n), i.e. a copy of f shifted over to live on the interval [n, n+1]. So by taking the convolution with Ш, we create copies of f all over the real line. We’ve made f into a periodic function. So instead of saying “the function f extended to create a periodic function” you can simply say f*Ш.
Now let’s think about the Fourier transform of Ш. The Fourier transform of δ(x) is 1, i.e. the function equal to 1 everywhere . (The more concentrated a function is, the more spread out its Fourier transform. So if you have an infinitely concentrated function δ, its Fourier transform is perfectly flat, 1. You can calculate the transform rigorously, this this is the intuition.) If you shift a function by n, you rotate its Fourier transform by exp(-2πinω). So we can compute the transform of Ш:
This equation only makes sense in terms of distributions. The right hand side does not converge in the classical sense; the individual terms don’t even go to zero, since each term has magnitude 1. So what kind of distribution is this thing on the right side? It is in fact the Ш function again, though this is not obvious.
To see that the exponential sum is actually the Ш function, i.e. that Ш is its own Fourier transform, we need to back up a little bit and define Fourier transform of a distribution. As usual with distributions, we take a classical theorem and turn it into a definition in a broader context.
For absolutely integrable functions, we have
where the hat on top of a function indicates its Fourier transform. Inspired by the theorem above, we define the Fourier transform of a distribution f to be the functional whose action on a test function φ is given below.
As we noted in a previous post, the integral above can be taken literally if f is a distribution associated with an ordinary function, but in general it means the application of the linear functional to the test function.
As a distribution, exp(-2πinω) acts on a test function φ by integrating against it. From the definition of a (classical) Fourier transform, this gives the Fourier transform of φ evaluated at n. So the Fourier transform of Ш acts on φ by summing the values of φ’s Fourier transform over all integers. By the Poisson summation formula, this is the same as summing the values of φ itself over all integers. Which is the same as applying Ш. So the Fourier transform of Ш has the same effect on test functions as Ш. In other words, Ш is its own Fourier transform.
We haven’t been explicit about where our test functions come from. We require that xn φ(x) goes to zero as x goes to ±∞ for any positive integer n. These are called functions of rapid decay. And the distributions we define as linear functionals on such test functions are called tempered distributions.
The Ш distribution is essentially unique. Any tempered distribution with period 1 that equals its own Fourier transform must be a multiple of Ш.
* * *
 All Fourier transform calculations here use the convention I call (-1, τ, 1) in these notes on various definitions. This may be the most common definition, though there are several minor variations in common use.
So you want to be a rock and roll star? Or a writer, or a filmmaker, or a comedian, or what-have-you…. And yet, you don’t know where to start. You’ve heard you need to find your own voice, but it’s difficult to know what that is when you’re just beginning. You have too little experience to know what works for you and what doesn’t. So? “Steal,” as the great John Cleese advises above, “or borrow or, as the artists would say, ‘be influenced by’ anything that you think is really good and really funny and appeals to you. If you study that and try to reproduce it in some way, then it’ll have your own stamp on it. But you have a chance of getting off the ground with something like that.”
Cleese goes on to sensibly explain why it’s nearly impossible to start with something completely new and original; it’s like “trying to fly a plane without any lessons.” We all learn the rudiments of everything we know by imitating others at first, so this advice to the budding writer and artist shouldn’t sound too radical. But if you need more validation for it, consider William Faulkner’s exhortation to take whatever you need from other writers. The beginning writer, Faulkner told a class at the University of Virginia, “takes whatever he needs, wherever he needs, and he does that openly and honestly.” There’s no shame in it, unless you fail to ever make it your own. Or, says Faulkner, to make something so good that others will steal from you.
One theory of how this works in literature comes from critic Harold Bloom, who argued in The Anxiety of Influence that every major poet more or less stole from previous major poets; yet they so misread or misinterpreted their influences that they couldn’t help but produce original work. T.S. Eliot advanced a more conservative version of the claim in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” We have a “tendency to insist,” wrote Eliot, on “those aspects or parts of [a poet’s] work in which he least resembles anyone else.” (Both Eliot and Faulkner used the masculine as a universal pronoun; whatever their biases, no gender exclusion is implied here.) On the contrary, “if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.”
It may have been a requirement for Eliot that his literary predecessors be long deceased, but John Cleese suggests no such thing. In fact, he worked closely with many of his favorite comedy writers. The point he makes is that one should “copy someone who’s really good” in order to “get off the ground.” In time—whether through becoming better than your influences, or misreading them, or combining their parts into a new whole—you will, Cleese and many other wise writers suggest, develop your own style.
Cleese has liberally discussed his influences, in his recent autobiography and elsewhere, and one can clearly see in his work the impression comedic forbears like Laurel and Hardy and the writer/actors of The Goon Show had on him. But whatever he stole or borrowed from those comedians he also made entirely his own through practice and perseverance. Just above, see a television special on Cleese’s comedy heroes, with interviews from Cleese, legends who followed him, like Rik Mayall and Steve Martin, and those who worked side-by-side with him on Monty Python and other classic shows.
John Cleese’s Advice to Young Artists: “Steal Anything You Think Is Really Good” is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooks, Free Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.
David Mumford wrote a blog post a few weeks ago in which he identified four tribes of mathematicians. Here’s a summary of his description of the four tribes.
I’m some combination of alchemist and wrestler. I suppose most applied mathematicians are. Applications usually require taking ideas developed in one context and using them in another. They take often complex things then estimate and bound them by things easier to understand.
One of my favorite proofs is Bernstein’s proof of the Weierstrass approximation theorem. It appeals to both alchemists and wrestlers. It takes an inequality from probability and uses it in an entirely different context, one with no randomness in sight, and uses it to explicitly construct an approximation satisfying the theorem.
I thought of David Mumford’s tribes when I got an email a couple days ago from someone who wrote to tell me he found in one of my tech reports a function that he’d studied in his own research. My tech report was motivated by a problem in biostatistics, while he was looking at material structural fatigue. The connection between remote fields was a bit of alchemy, while the content of the tech report, an upper bound on an integral, was a bit of wrestling.
While I’ve been visiting my parents, I’ve been making the occasional pie. The first night, I made a key lime pie and my youngest niece, who had never experienced one, fell in love with it. Not surprising. So, I made one the next week. It is one of the easiest pies to make, and people rave over it.
And then I spotted key limes at the grocery store.
I’d been using Key Lime juice and wondered how much of a difference using fresh limes would make. I knew it would be different, but would it be the sort of difference that only a foodie notices, or would it be apparent to everyone. So last night my dad and I juiced a pound of key limes. By hand.
At this point, I figured, if I were going to go to all that trouble, I should really make the pie from scratch and skip the sweetened condensed milk. I hit google to find out how people made key lime pie before sweetened condensed milk and… discovered that they didn’t. To my surprise, it’s been around since the 1850s. According to David L. Sloan, leading expert on key lime pies, “This pie was invented to use condensed milk. William Curry made his fortune in hardware. He provisioned ships. He brought the first condensed milk to the Keys not long after Gail Borden invented it in 1856.”
Huh. So! Without regret, I cracked open my sweetened condensed milk and got to work.
The first thing you notice about fresh key lime juice is that it has a floral character that the bottled stuff doesn’t have. Does that show up in the pie? Yes, it does. It is has fuller, more floral taste and even my dad noticed the difference. Next up? Lemon ice box pie, and I’ll be squeezing the lemons.
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup key lime or regular lime juice
2 whole large eggs
In a bowl, whisk the condensed milk, lime juice, and eggs. Pour into graham cracker pie shell. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Chill for two or more hours.
The post Fresh vs. bottled key lime juice in a pie. A tasty, tasty experiment. appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.
All righty, then.
This is a post about magic.
As some of you may know, I have long, on-going (unrequited) love affair with the Maine resort town Old Orchard Beach. So great was my love that, against the advice of Practically Everybody, I wrote three books (Carousel Tides, Carousel Sun, Carousel Seas) set in a just-slightly-different Maine resort town -- Archers Beach. The major differences between the two towns, besides some liberties taken with the coastal geography, and a very little smudging along the edges of history -- one of the differences is that, in Archers Beach, magic works.
For some people.
And for others, who may not be, precisely, people.
The other difference is that, in Archers Beach, things are starting to turn around for the town, as the residents find renewed hope, and the energy to take up their destiny.
In Old Orchard Beach, over the years of our relationship, hope had been lost, and the residents had stopped believing in destiny. I say this with love, and also with the understanding that love does not blind us to the loved one's faults.
An example. . .One of the centerpieces of the Carousel books is -- surprise! -- a carousel. An old, hand-carved wooden carousel populated, granted, by some Very Odd animals, but, yes a carousel. A carousel, in fact, that had been modeled (in the author's head) on the P(hiladelphia) T(obaggon) C(ompany) (#19, I do believe) that had been in place the very first time Steve and I visited Old Orchard Beach, many years ago.
The machine was in need of some upkeep, but old wooden carousels are expensive to keep up, and the sea air is kind to no machinery built by man. But, it was running, the band organ was playing, and -- oh, it was grand.
The next time Steve and I got down to Old Orchard Beach, maybe a decade after that first visit (stone broke, no gas money, you know the drill), we found a changed scene. The PTC machine was gone, and in its place was a fiberglass carousel, not as old, obviously, and. . . not very well kept. You could see the poles shudder when the flying animals went up and down; you could hear the cranks grate. Worse, oh, far worse! The band organ, which had been ragged, but working, had been left too long unprotected in the seaside environment. It was mildewed, it was cracked, it was peeling. . .it was. . .heartbreaking.
Now, the carousel in Old Orchard Beach -- the Chance Menagerie Carousel, is its name -- is part of an amusement park. And, well. . .let's just say that, as went the carousel, so went the amusement park. It was a sad, sad place, the last time I had been there at length, in 2012. It needed -- oh, paint! and maintenance, and. . .hope.
Now. . .back in 2010, right around Halloween, Jeanne Bartolomeo, who at that time owned an art gallery in Old Orchard Beach called Beggars Ride, kindly put together a launch party in the gallery, for Carousel Tides. One of the surprising number of people who attended that party came up to me, excited by the town and the book, which she had already read as an ebook, and said, "I want to see it!"
"See what?" I asked her.
"The carousel! I've already been to Bob's and the Pier, Tony Lee's and I have to see the carousel!"
Oh. I cleared my throat.
"I'm so very sorry," I said. "You can't see it. It's. . .not there."
She stared at me, and I could see the betrayal creep into her eyes.
"You made it up?" she demanded, and I could see that she was hoping that I'd deny it, but. . .
"Yes," I admitted. "I did. I made it up."
In the same way, I made up the. . .revival of Archers Beach.
Or. . .not.
See, this year, Steve and I are doing a weird little split vacation at the ocean. He and I were down at Old Orchard Beach together Thursday afternoon and evening; I came home to be with the cats, and Steve is doing a bachelor weekend at the ocean. Monday, we'll swap places; he'll come down on Thursday, and Friday we'll shift all of us back home. The reason Thursday is important in this is that there are fireworks on the beach every Thursday night during Season, courtesy of the amusement park.
So, anyway, we went to see the fireworks Thursday night, and after that, we wandered 'round the corner to look at the carousel. . .
. . .which has been completely revamped. The panels were new; the rounding boards were new; the mirrors shone! The sweeps were lit, and not only that! The lifting poles no longer shuddered; the cranks moved with quiet authority, and!
The band organ.
The band organ had been. . .restored.
And it was playing music.
I burst into tears. Honest to ghod. It was. . .it was magic. See for yourself.
When we came to the arcade, I said to Steve, "I want to visit Grandma." I always visit Grandma when I'm in Old Orchard Beach. If I have a quarter, I'll pay her to read my fortune.
Now, since Forever, Grandma has been shoved in a dark corner next to a service door in the arcade. I walked right to the place, only to discover that!
She was gone.
I turned around, found Steve some distance behind, shaking his head and pointing.
They'd moved Grandma out into the main corridor. They'd cleaned off her case, and they'd fixed the light. Someone had. I saw this because there seems to be an. . .addition to Grandma's bracelet. A charm with names on them. Steve and I are in disagreement. I say the charm is new; a marker from the people who paid for her restoration. Steve says there was always a charm. I don't have a picture after, but here she is, last time I saw her:
And so that's it.
Who says there's no magic, any more?
Today's blog post title brought to you by Loreena McKennit, "Beneath A Phrygian Sky". Here's your link.
When I was a baby writer, I think I really did believe that my editor (and my agent) were my bosses. Now, I realize this is not true. While it’s also not true that I was a writer am the boss of my agent or editor (the relationship is more like a partnership), I’ve experienced several different editorial relationships.
1. The editor who knows everything (or rather, thinks that they do).
2. The editor who is trying to keep their head above water in the company.
3. The editor who somehow reads your mind and knows your book better than you do.
4. The editor who wants to shoehorn your book into a better selling form.
5. The editor who is a committee, and therefore never accountable for any advice or decision.
6. The tentative editor who suggests very, very gently and never insists.
7. The editor who never responds until ten minutes before the deadline.
8. The big-shot editor who is bigger and more important than you are.
9. The editor who inherited your book from a predecessor and hates it (and possibly you by extension).
10. The editor who is about to leave industry for something that pays better.
I’ve made accommodations to editors just to keep them happy. I’ve done revisions that I didn’t believe in because I hoped it would sell the book (and sometimes did). I’ve been terrified of a phone call with an editor because I was worried I wasn’t good enough. I’ve sent in revisions sure that they were perfect, and sure that they were terrible (neither was true).
But I think what I’ve finally come to is something like a real understanding of the way it should work between an editor and an author. I’m in charge. Sorry if that makes me sound like a diva. But it’s not a marriage. We are not equal parties. I don’t have to make my editor happy. I don’t have to listen to my editor’s advice. My editor is not always right.
Yes, sometimes a book will be cancelled if an editor doesn’t like the revisions you’ve done or if your vision and theirs are revealed to be completely different. This has happened to me and it is painful. It can be expensive. But there is really no other way around it and trying to make small changes to avoid it just delays the inevitable.
Of course, your editor can be a huge advocate for you at your house. Of course, you may end up being friends with your editor. But this does not mean that you should ever as a writer do what your editor says if it isn’t right for your book. If you don’t have that sense of–”Oh, yeah, that’s what I meant in the first place” or “What, you mean that wasn’t already in the text?” or “Wow, that’s the truth that I wasn’t willing to dig at quite yet,” then stop making changes.
Maybe you’re thinking that I can say this because I have more clout than a beginning author or that I can say this because I’ve gone through years in the industry and I’ve developed enough of a sense of where I’m headed that I trust myself more than I trust other people. And maybe that’s partly true. But I do wish sometimes I could go back and just tweak a few things in some of my early books because I changed things an editor thought I should change without really believing in it one hundred percent. And I was right.So, your editor can be your ally, your friend, your soul mate. Your editor can be brilliant. But your editor is not always right. And your editor is most definitely not your boss.
I’ve seen conversations about how the Hugos are “just a rocketship” and that people shouldn’t be so invested in getting an award. And while that might be true on an individual basis, the Hugo awards themselves are a reflection of our society. I’m not just talking about science-fiction and fantasy fandom, but our larger society. Now, since the Hugos are dominated by English speaking North Americans, I’m mostly going to be using US-centric examples, but these general trends are true in other places as well.
One of the things about fiction in general, and even more so with SFF, is that it tends to reflect the zeitgeist of the culture. For instance, during the “golden age” of SF, the United States, and much of the world, was focused on space. When you look at fiction of that era, it tends to be dominated by space exploration. During the Cold War, we saw a lot of post-apocalyptic worlds that were nuclear wastelands. Now? When we see post-apocalyptic worlds it’s because of a climate disaster.
In addition to reflecting environmental concerns, the awards also reflect what is important to the voters. Not just in the books that they vote for, but also in the books that they choose to read. In recent years, people have become aware of the imbalance in representation in SFF and are seeking to address it. This is happening in other fields as well — science, gaming, film, politics… but we are always most aware of an issue in our own community. So when people are seeking out books by underrepresented populations they are doing so because it’s important to their close community and also in the larger society.
Historically, every time there’s an advance in the rights of a disenfranchised group, whether that’s women’s lib or desegregation, there’s a corresponding pushback by the dominant group because it feels like it is losing power.
What we’re seeing with the Hugo awards is that readers & writers who have not been represented in SFF (women, PoC, LGBT) are becoming prominent because of a larger zeitgeist that is trying to redress historic imbalances. Again, we see this in other communities as well. The pushback by the various Puppy contingents matches other historical pushbacks. On their side, they think that fiction is being dominated by “checkboxes” rather than quality, which is the same reaction people had to hiring women during women’s lib or minorities during the civil rights movement.
The reason that the Hugos are more important than just a rocket ship, is that the Puppies also reflect the larger societal pushbacks that we’re seeing against women, PoC, and LGBT. So the Hugos represent a battle in a much bigger fight.
That’s why not just a rocket ship. The Hugos are a reflection of our culture. So the battle that we’re seeing isn’t about “what fiction is best” but rather “what future do we want to live in?”
The post The Hugos, the Puppies, and why this is more important than just a rocketship appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.
I write about sales often both because it’s the lifeblood of any organization and because in my experience it is the area in which more startups are least experienced or inclined. I also write and talk about it frequently because raising capital is a part of sales and this is important for entrepreneurs to understand.
To make it simple and easy to remember – there are three basic rules of sales:
1. Why Buy Anything?
2. Why Buy Me?
3. Why Buy Now?
This post will cover the first.
If you ask any experienced sales leader they’ll tell you there are three things to know about being effective at sales: Qualify, qualify, qualify. This is simply because sales people have limited time and can’t afford to waste time with anybody who isn’t likely to buy from them in the near term.
But how do you qualify?
Do you have a problem I could solve?
The starting point is to ask yourself whether the person you’re dealing with has a problem that is solved by the solution you offer. If they don’t – you simply won’t sell anything. That’s why many great sales starts with generating inbound marketing leads. If you create content marketing programs and drive traffic to websites where you can measure how long somebody spends reading your materials or downloading your white papers you’ve at least confirmed some level of interest.
If you have a product, knowing who the “typical buyer” by department or title is helps you greatly because you can quickly get to somebody likely to be familiar with the space in which you’re selling. If you know the title you can use tools like SalesLoft to build lists of potential leads.
If you generate outbound email campaigns to groups of potential buyers you can use SalesLoft or tools like Yesware and ToutApp to track whether people opened your emails, clicked on your links, downloaded your documents, etc. This is a part of determining the interest of potential buyers and allowing you to focus your scarce time on the most important leads you have. All of these products are great and if you’re not using anything to track the interest level of your prospects you’re competing with one hand tied behind your back [note: I’m not an investor in any of the companies mentioned in this post.]
The other obvious area in determining interested parties is to find referrals from trusted sources. That’s why companies partner with vendors with complementary service offerings. At Invoca (where I am an investor) we have partnered with people like Salesforce.com and HubSpot on go-to-market campaigns because our products work really well together. Invoca helps you to manage inbound sales calls (efficacy, attribution, duration, etc) and given how many people have historically only tracked click-based campaigns the shift to mobile ads has made Invoca one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies in our portfolio.
What is the single biggest mistake I see inexperienced startup people do in sales? Wasting time with prospects who aren’t likely to buy simply because they show interest and are nice to them. And, because most startup entrepreneurs aren’t used to sales, they hate to ask the tough qualifying question for fear of being told, “no.” Yet, no can be the 2nd most gratifying quick response you can get in sales. Nothing is worse than maybe or not knowing.
Let me make it simple:
If you can’t identify a problem that a prospect has that you can quantifiably solve you won’t sell anything.
This is the definition of “Why Buy Anything?” You have a problem that I can fix. That doesn’t mean you’re going to select me – but at least I know I’m not wasting your time or mine.
2. Do you have budget?
The other big mistake people make in qualifying is not determining whether the buyer has a budget to afford their product. There are two types of people with no budget.
The first is somebody who legitimately has interest in your product and has the level of influence needed to one-day buy your solution but doesn’t have the budget authority in the near-term to pay for your product. This is somebody you drop into your “marketing funnel” so that your marketing department can keep them appraised of your company’s progress, releases and announcements, so that you can follow up with them down the road when the may have more budget. You need to focus your limited time in the near term on people who can close in the near term.
The second type of person who has no budget is a time waster who could never buy your solution but like meeting with you. It’s super easy to get time-wasters to spend time with you because they like the time and attention you’re showing them. And they are usually pretty nice people so it makes you feel good. It feels better than meeting with tough-as-nails leaders of business units who won’t give you a free pass because you’re nice even if you can get shite done.
I call these second type of non-buyers NINAs, because they have “no influence” and “no authority” to buy. Avoid NINAs.
I generally like to tell people that if you have a product or service and can’t identify qualified buyers, “You either don’t have anything of value or more likely you just don’t know how to sell and you need to figure that out if you want to succeed.”
“Why Buy Anything” is single easiest part of the sales equation and if you can’t identify likely buyers you have no hope.
I wanted to take a final moment to talk about fund raising because it’s obviously vital to building a startup. Raising money is selling. Your product is you.You’re selling that you have unique skills to be successful and a product that end-customers are going to care about. You’re selling the fact that your company is going to be valuable and you’re building trust that through good times and bad you’re going to work your ass off to make money for the investor.
I find that many entrepreneurs talk randomly to VCs about fund raising. But if you’re raising a seed round and talking to a billion-dollar growth-stage fund you’re not being very focused. Equally, if you’re talking with a $100 million fund about your $20 million round your hit rate will be low. So understanding the stage of a VC matters.
Also, you need to consider the type of investments each VC does. Can you look at their portfolio and see deals that are at least similar to what you do? Finally, you even need to qualify down to the partner level. If you are talking with a partner who hasn’t funded any gaming startups and you are a gaming startup it’s worth asking them the question before meeting whether they would consider investing in your sector. Or if you notice another partner in the firm active in that area it’s worth getting to the right partner to increase your hit rate.
So make sure you qualify before even making calls or asking for intros.
Once you have the meeting and do your presentation it’s worth asking directly, but politely, “I’m not asking yet whether my startup is the right fit for you, but do your or your firm even do investments in our space?” It’s worth getting the dialog going because it will help you to handicap how much effort to put into persuading the individual going forward. This is all part of qualifying whether or not this investor will Buy Anything.
As with selling products the research you put into fund raising before you start the process will pay huge dividends in your efficiency and hit rate yet most entrepreneurs take VC meetings haphazardly based on where they can get easy introductions.
Finally, the same rules apply for VC firms raising money from LPs. I met with a person last week who wants to raise a first-time fund but this is a discussion I have with many VCs who are raising 2nd or 3rd-time funds, too. He told me that he had met a big state pension fund and that he was hoping he could get them on board because it was the state pension from where he lived and thus had a “hometown advantage.”
I told him he had nearly zero chance of closing a pension fund on a first-time $50 million VC fund. First, pension funds normally write very large checks – $50m and up often. Many have $25 minimums. Why? Because they manage many billions of dollars so they simply don’t have the resources to deal with small funds. Second, most state pensions are very conservative and wouldn’t likely invest in a VC fund that was in its first vintage. Nobody ever got fired for giving money to Sequoia, Accel, Greylock, Benchmark or now Andreessen so they’re going to start with the big names. Many state pensions can’t get into these “access funds” but there are many other late-stage VC funds that raise $1 billion plus and have been around for 30 years.
It may not make economic sense for a big pension fund to invest in certain funds but if they don’t have the in-house expertise to figure out who the next Fred Wilson, Josh Kopelman or Jon Callaghan is they certainly have no idea whether or not it could be you. So they won’t take the risk.
Understanding the “Why Buy Anything?” question from your prospects and qualifying is important for anybody who needs an economic decision made. And it’s the start of any great sales process.
In my next post I’ll cover “Why Buy Me?”
The post What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start … appeared first on Bothsides of the Table.
A shortened, better edited and with nicer pictures version of this post first appeared on TechCrunch. But if you want it in it’s full V1 glory read on …
You’ve never been a CEO but might like to be one some day. But how? Nobody sees you as a CEO since you’ve never been one? I wrote this conundrum and the need to take charge of how the market define your skills in my much-read blog post on “personal branding.” If you don’t create the message about yourself, the market will. And if you want to be a CEO one day you need the messaging to reflect that.
The strange thing is that once you’ve been a CEO even one time the market will see always see you as a CEO but nobody really wants to give a new-comer chance.
Of course you could start your own company. For many people that’s the right answer. As I talked about in “Is it Time to Learn or Time to Earn” – overwhelmingly the best economics go to those that start successful companies. But not everybody has the right skills to build a highly successful and valuable startup from scratch. In fact, I would argue that most people don’t.
The decision tree for being a startup CEO begins with whether you can sustain 12-18 months of little or no salary while you define your market, do research, build v1 of your product, raise seed funding, attract your initial team, get your first customers and test whether you have initial product / market fit or enough momentum to be able to raise a large round of capital. Even when you do sign-up initial customers it’s still not clear that your company will be a success and you’re still likely paying yourself under market rates.
Of course I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t start a company. If you can and if you want to – you should. I’m just pointing out that it’s not for most people.
For some aspiring to be tech entrepreneurs, I often suggest a two-step process, as I argued in this post that “The First Startup Founder You Need to Invest in Is You.” The punch line from this post was “angel yourself.” It was meant both as a call to those writing angel checks into other people’s companies that they ought to think about putting that capital toward themselves either by becoming a startup founder or (and this was my real point) by taking an under-market salary in a company where they can learn the right skills to do it in the future.
Sadly most people I meet these days would rather pile $20k of savings to be seen as an angel in somebody else’s startup than they would to take a $40k pay haircut (the pre-tax equivalent to $20k) to work for the hottest startup they could and have both the stock options and the career experience and networking that comes from working with amazing peers at HotCo.
There is a second set of career discussions I have even more frequently than my “angel yourself” advice but this type is almost never discussed publicly in blogs, which tend to emphasize only billion-dollar opportunities, 20-something technical founders and Silicon Valley elitism. This career advice is for people who are slightly older, have slightly more personal responsibilities at home and who can’t just “throw caution to the wind” due to financial obligations.
The narrative of this discussion is something like this: I meet a 35-40-year-old founder with two kids and mortgage. He or she has worked at some very successful big technology or media companies and went to a great school. He worked at 2 startups but veered back into the corporate world because his savings got tied up in an expensive down-payment on a house in a tier-1 city where $1.5 million property buys you what you imagined $250,000 would have. They own a fixer-upper in an outskirt neighborhood in the wrong school district but they’ll make do.
He still has the dream. He has the hunger. He wants a chance at changing life’s circumstances with building equity value that might free him and his family from the rat-race of 529 accounts, property taxes, summer-school tuitions and even spending some cash on aging parents.
This is the narrative that isn’t talked about – but I promise you it is the more common narrative amongst even those that went to top-tier schools, got the right jobs, worked hard in their 20s but didn’t quite join Google, Facebook, Twitter at the right time. She joined Yahoo! after the glory days and earned $300,000 in stead of $3 million and after taxes that $150,000 just sustained life and some amount of future savings.
For these people I have a solution or two.
The most common one I recommend is a senior role in a company that is just past the Series A so they can earn some amount of reasonable family-necessary comp while still having the upside of startup. This is the 85% scenario for these people and my discussions with them is usually, “what is your minimum nut you could afford to take a risk at a startup vs. wanting the upside potential?” If the “nut” is too high I usually veer them towards later-stage opportunities (post B or C round) where the comp is higher, the exit is more likely / nearer, the upside is still nice but obviously not the same as if you joined early).
But I also have advice for the 15% that really do want to be a startup CEO. These people wished they had done it in their 20s but didn’t make that choice. Maybe they were in their 20s in 2002 when being a startup CEO wasn’t really available to most?
I often tell people in this scenario to focus on a VC “fixer upper.” My friend Ian Sigelow wrote about this last week and advised people not to take on this kind of job. I would urge you to read this post because for the most part he’s not wrong. For people who don’t fit my 15% narrative I would tell you that if you can avoid a fixer-upper you should. Ian’s right that it’s much harder to build that fixer upper and frankly what is also true is that working with investors who are “fatigued” on a deal is the worst.
And there’s always a but.
There is such a thing as a “diamond in the rough” and let’s face it – if the company was totally rocking would they be hiring you? You – who hasn’t been CEO before? You – who has some family obligations so can’t go super early and take almost no salary?
Here’s why I think it might be perfect for you:
1. Being the CEO of a fixer-upper gives you the skills and branding to take on a more substantial role later
If you think about your career move as a “two-step process” then nothing sets you up to be the CEO of a better tech company than having already been CEO once. You will learn about running board meetings, setting up the ultimate financial plan, leading a team from the top, dealing with the press, raising capital, etc. If you choose to be a fixer-upper CEO for 2-3 years you’ll be ready for the big leagues.
2. Being the CEO of a fixer-upper gives you board exposure and VC relationships that will benefit you later
At most startups the CEO has constant exposure to VCs and other board members through constant phone calls, updates and board meetings. The gives the CEO the chance to build these important relationships to get choice relationships in the future. Being a CEO begets the network to be a CEO.
3. Being the CEO vs. a senior executive gives you a lot more control over exit timing
Another important piece of career advice I give to aspiring CEOs is that this gives you the ultimate decision-making abilities about an exit. In many cases a company could or should be sold early and this can reap great rewards for the executive team and early investors. But if you’re the Director or Product or VP of Marketing – you don’t get to make that decision. So it could be that a sale would yield you seven figures and you could move on to your next role but the CEO wants to “go big or go home” and sometimes go home is the outcome.
Equally, it could be that as a mid-level employee you prefer to see the company try to get to a $1 billion exit where you could make substantial money but the CEO sells early because she is sitting on 10x the equity as you and can earn well on a $50 million exit.
I’m not saying that being CEO is the right job for everybody. I’m not saying it’s even desirable. All I’m saying is that when you consider your life’s journey – what you’re good at and what you’re bad it – if you think you have what it takes just know that one fringe benefit is deciding whether or not to exit if that choice becomes available.
4. Incoming into a VC fixer-upper you often have leverage over personal compensation
In Ian’s post he rightly points out that stepping into a role with $15 million in paid-in capital that has already been spent can be a problem. This is because this “liquidation preference” gets returned to investors before you see any money – restricting the executive outcomes in mid-sized exits. But when the VC is looking for somebody willing to take on a project with a bit of hair, you actually have more leverage than you think (precisely because many people won’t take on that assignment). So you may – for example – ask for a deal in your contract that guarantees you will get a minimum of $500,000 on any sale or you may agree that your stock is exited “pari passu” with the existing liquidation preferences or that management is guaranteed a minimum bonus of $2 million on any exit (that you share with your other execs). Or maybe you just negotiate that your ownership should be 15% of the company (vs. the standard 4-6% for a hired-gun CEO).
My main point isn’t that any of these are the right structures to negotiate for. My point is that when VCs need executive help you can often negotiate a bit on the way in for something that fixes the “fixer-upper” problems. And I’ll tell you for free – you have far more leverage to negotiate this on the way in than after you’ve joined or than at the time of exit. VCs may scoff at this advice because they don’t want a bunch of people asking for non-standard deals on the way in … but I assure you this happens more than you know.
5. There is often money to be made in being contrarian
I saved my main point for last. There are many companies with phenomenal IP that is truly differentiated but where the original executive team squandered their opportunity due to inability to sell, market or service customers. There is often money to be made in finding places with under-valued IP. “Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.” (Warren Buffett).
At Upfront we invested in such a company. We did the early round of financing and the founding team walked when the market turned and when the situation got tough. We looked at the IP and realized it was highly differentiated / hard to replicate. So we swallowed hard and brought in a new team and wrote another check to give the company the runway to get through hard times. That company is now doing more than $50 million a year in sales, has negative churn, is growing at > 50% year-over-year and we believe will be worth more than $1 billion at exit. It will likely IPO in the coming years. The CEO that stepped into that “VC Fixer Upper” will earn handsomely as you can imagine.
I know it’s rare, and it’s hard, but it happens.
For many who want to start companies joining early can be intellectually stimulating, financially lucrative and career defining. If you miss that window don’t let the market tell you that you don’t have a second act. You just have to look a little bit harder – to find a diamond in the rough.
So if your life’s circumstances don’t allow you to follow the typical Silicon Valley, VC-backable, up-and-to-the-right-or-bust scenario but you still want to be CEO and run a company – don’t write off the possibility of being the CEO of a VC fixer upper. It could be a stepping stone. It could also be a golden ticket. And one that you get to write.
Manners are such an amorphous term. They are often equated with etiquette and which fork you are using at the table. But in the Regency, manners had a different and distinct concept, which I find very useful.
Manners are an outward expression of your opinion of others.
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy is described as, “his manners, though well bred, were not inviting.” What this means is that though he was correct on all the points of etiquette, the way he executed those points made it clear that he disdained the people to whom he was speaking.
I’ve been thinking about this distinction a fair bit recently, in regard to a number of conversations going around on the internet. I’ve been getting emails from people, or comments on my blog, thanking me for being “reasonable” and “classy” in my responses to various upsets, most recently around the Hugo awards. What disturbs me about these is that the people writing to me don’t seem to understand that I am angry.
Because I am not raising my voice, people are mistaking my manner.
When I appear calm, and collected, it is easy to discount my reaction because my manner tells you that I am calm. It reduces the urgency of the situation. My manner seems to suggest that I am not angry, when I very much am. I may begin quietly, trusting that the other person will respect my concerns. But when I am not listened to, when my words are discounted, then my manner must change. I must express my outward opinion by yelling.
Telling someone that they need to moderate their tone to be taken seriously, ignores the fact that they have likely been expressing their opinions in a moderate tone for quite some time and haven’t been taken seriously. For instance, women and people of colour have been feeling excluded from SFF for decades, and have felt unsafe for decades. This is not a new situation. What has changed is that people are at the point where they are yelling. Their manner is expressing their feelings and those feelings are full of rage.
The thing is… the reason that I can be “polite” and “reasonable” is because other people are expressing the anger for me. I have the privilege of being quiet only because other people are bearing the burden of our shared fury. Without the people willing to shout, the concerns would be dismissed. Look at the suffragette movement. Women had been talking about equality for hundreds of years before that, and it wasn’t until the early 1900s when women began breaking windows and chaining themselves to buildings in protest that the cause was taken seriously. Then the “reasonable” women were able to negotiate, because their sisters had borne the burden of shouting to create a space in which their words could be heard.
This is, I think, something that is really important to understand: Being quiet does not mean that one is any less angry. And if you want to deal with people who are “reasonable” it is important to listen to them the first time they express their concerns.
And when you do? Listen with respect, because that is the correct manner.
The post Thoughts on manners: Being “reasonable” and being angry appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.
[WARNING: I am not a pharmacologist. I am not a researcher. I am not a statistician. This is not medical advice. This is really weird and you should not take it too seriously until it has been confirmed]
I’ve been playing around with data from Internet databases that aggregate patient reviews of medications.
Are these any good? I looked at four of the largest such databases – Drugs.com, WebMD, AskAPatient, and DrugLib – as well as psychiatry-specific site CrazyMeds – and took their data on twenty-three major antidepressants. Then I correlated them with one another to see if the five sites mostly agreed.
Correlations between Drugs.com, AskAPatient, and WebMD were generally large and positive (around 0.7). Correlations between CrazyMeds and DrugLib were generally small or negative. In retrospect this makes sense, because these two sites didn’t allow separation of ratings by condition, so for example Seroquel-for-depression was being mixed with Seroquel-for-schizophrenia.
So I threw out the two offending sites and kept Drugs.com, AskAPatient, and WebMD. I normalized all the data, then took the weighted average of all three sites. From this huge sample (the least-reviewed drug had 35 ratings, the most-reviewed drug 4,797) I obtained a unified opinion of patients’ favorite and least favorite antidepressants.
This doesn’t surprise me at all. Everyone secretly knows Nardil and Parnate (the two commonly-used drugs in the MAOI class) are excellent antidepressants1. Oh, nobody will prescribe them, because of the dynamic discussed here, but in their hearts they know it’s true.
Likewise, I feel pretty good to see that Serzone, which I recently defended, is number five. I’ve had terrible luck with Viibryd, and it just seems to make people taking it more annoying, which is not a listed side effect but which I swear has happened.
The table also matches the evidence from chemistry – drugs with similar molecular structure get similar ratings, as do drugs with similar function. This is, I think, a good list.
Which is too bad, because it makes the next part that much more terrifying.
There is a sixth major Internet database of drug ratings. It is called RateRx, and it differs from the other five in an important way: it solicits ratings from doctors, not patients. It’s a great idea – if you trust your doctor to tell you which drug is best, why not take advantage of wisdom-of-crowds and trust all the doctors?
The RateRX logo. Spoiler: this is going to seem really ironic in about thirty seconds.
RateRx has a modest but respectable sample size – the drugs on my list got between 32 and 70 doctor reviews. There’s only one problem.
You remember patient reviews on the big three sites correlated about +0.7 with each other, right? So patients pretty much agree on which drugs are good and which are bad?
Doctor reviews on RateRx correlated at -0.21 with patient reviews. The negative relationship is nonsignificant, but that just means that at best, doctor reviews are totally uncorrelated with patient consensus.
This has an obvious but very disturbing corollary. I couldn’t get good numbers on how times each of the antidepressants on my list were prescribed, because the information I’ve seen only gives prescription numbers for a few top-selling drugs, plus we’ve got the same problem of not being able to distinguish depression prescriptions from anxiety prescriptions from psychosis prescriptions. But total number of online reviews makes a pretty good proxy. After all, the more patients are using a drug, the more are likely to review it.
Quick sanity check: the most reviewed drug on my list was Cymbalta. Cymbalta was also the best selling antidepressant of 2014. Although my list doesn’t exactly track the best-sellers, that seems to be a function of how long a drug has been out – a best-seller that came out last year might have only 1/10th the number of reviews as a best-seller that came out ten years ago. So number of reviews seems to be a decent correlate for amount a drug is used.
In that case, amount a drug is used correlates highly (+0.67, p = 0.005) with doctors’ opinion of the drug, which makes perfect sense since doctors are the ones prescribing it. But amount the drug gets used correlates negatively with patient rating of the drug (-0.34, p = ns), which of course is to be expected given the negative correlation between doctor opinion and patient opinion.
So the more patients like a drug, the less likely it is to be prescribed2.
There’s one more act in this horror show.
Anyone familiar with these medications reading the table above has probably already noticed this one, but I figured I might as well make it official.
I correlated the average rating of each drug with the year it came on the market. The correlation was -0.71 (p 3.
This pattern absolutely jumps out of the data. First- and second- place winners Nardil and Parnate came out in 1960 and 1961, respectively; I can’t find the exact year third-place winner Anafranil came out, but the first reference to its trade name I can find in the literature is from 1967, so I used that. In contrast, last-place winner Viibryd came out in 2011, second-to-last place winner Abilify got its depression indication in 2007, and third-to-last place winner Brintellix is as recent as 2013.
This result is robust to various different methods of analysis, including declaring MAOIs to be an unfair advantage for Team Old and removing all of them, changing which minor tricylics I do and don’t include in the data, and altering whether Deprenyl, a drug that technically came out in 1970 but received a gritty reboot under the name Emsam in 2006, is counted as older or newer.
So if you want to know what medication will make you happiest, at least according to this analysis your best bet isn’t to ask your doctor, check what’s most popular, or even check any individual online rating database. It’s to look at the approval date on the label and choose the one that came out first.
What the hell is going on with these data?
I would like to dismiss this as confounded, but I have to admit that any reasonable person would expect the confounders to go the opposite way.
That is: older, less popular drugs are usually brought out only when newer, more popular drugs have failed. MAOIs, the clear winner of this analysis, are very clearly reserved in the guidelines for “treatment-resistant depression”, ie depression you’ve already thrown everything you’ve got at. But these are precisely the depressions that are hardest to treat.
Imagine you are testing the fighting ability of three people via ten boxing matches. You ask Alice to fight a Chihuahua, Bob to fight a Doberman, and Carol to fight Cthulhu. You would expect this test to be biased in favor of Alice and against Carol. But MAOIs and all these other older rarer drugs are practically never brought out except against Cthulhu. Yet they still have the best win-loss record.
Here are the only things I can think of that might be confounding these results.
Perhaps because these drugs are so rare and unpopular, psychiatrists only use them when they have really really good reason. That is, the most popular drug of the year they pretty much cluster-bomb everybody with. But every so often, they see some patient who seems absolutely 100% perfect for clomipramine, a patient who practically screams “clomipramine!” at them, and then they give this patient clomipramine, and she does really well on it.
(but psychiatrists aren’t actually that good at personalizing antidepressant treatments. The only thing even sort of like that is that MAOIs are extra-good for a subtype called atypical depression. But that’s like a third of the depressed population, which doesn’t leave much room for this super-precise-targeting hypothesis.)
Or perhaps once drugs have been on the market longer, patients figure out what they like. Brintellix is so new that the Brintellix patients are the ones whose doctors said “Hey, let’s try you on Brintellix” and they said “Whatever”. MAOIs have been on the market so long that presumably MAOI patients are ones who tried a dozen antidepressants before and stayed on MAOIs because they were the only ones that worked.
(but Prozac has been on the market 25 years now. This should only apply to a couple of very new drugs, not the whole list.)
Or perhaps the older drugs have so many side effects that no one would stay on them unless they’re absolutely perfect, whereas people are happy to stay on the newer drugs even if they’re not doing much because whatever, it’s not like they’re causing any trouble.
(but Seroquel and Abilify, two very new drugs, have awful side effects, yet are down at the bottom along with all the other new drugs)
Or perhaps patients on very rare weird drugs get a special placebo effect, because they feel that their psychiatrist cares enough about them to personalize treatment. Perhaps they identify with the drug – “I am special, I’m one of the only people in the world who’s on nefazodone!” and they become attached to it and want to preach its greatness to the world.
(but drugs that are rare because they are especially new don’t get that benefit. I would expect people to also get excited about being given the latest, flashiest thing. But only drugs that are rare because they are old get the benefit, not drugs that are rare because they are new.)
Or perhaps psychiatrists tend to prescribe the drugs they “imprinted on” in medical school and residency, so older psychiatrists prescribe older drugs and the newest psychiatrists prescribe the newest drugs. But older psychiatrists are probably much more experienced and better at what they do, which could affect patients in other ways – the placebo effect of being with a doctor who radiates competence, or maybe the more experienced psychiatrists are really good at psychotherapy, and that makes the patient better, and they attribute it to the drug.
(but read on…)
Or perhaps we should take this data at face value and assume our antidepressants have been getting worse and worse over the past fifty years.
This is not entirely as outlandish as it sounds. The history of the past fifty years has been a history of moving from drugs with more side effects to drugs with fewer side effects, with what I consider somewhat less than due diligence in making sure the drugs were quite as effective in the applicable population. This is a very complicated and controversial statement which I will be happy to defend in the comments if someone asks.
The big problem is: drugs go off-patent after twenty years. Drug companies want to push new, on-patent medications, and most research is funded by drug companies. So lots and lots of research is aimed at proving that newer medications invented in the past twenty years (which make drug companies money) are better than older medications (which don’t).
I’ll give one example. There is only a single study in the entire literature directly comparing the MAOIs – the very old antidepressants that did best on the patient ratings – to SSRIs, the antidepressants of the modern day4. This study found that phenelzine, a typical MAOI, was no better than Prozac, a typical SSRI. Since Prozac had fewer side effects, that made the choice in favor of Prozac easy.
Did you know you can look up the authors of scientific studies on LinkedIn and sometimes get very relevant information? For example, the lead author of this study has a resume that clearly lists him as working for Eli Lilly at the time the study was conducted (spoiler: Eli Lilly is the company that makes Prozac). The second author’s LinkedIn profile shows he is also an operations manager for Eli Lilly. Googling the fifth author’s name links to a news article about Eli Lilly making a $750,000 donation to his clinic. Also there’s a little blurb at the bottom of the paper saying “Supported by a research grant by Eli Lilly and company”, then thanking several Eli Lilly executives by name for their assistance.
This is the sort of study which I kind of wish had gotten replicated before we decided to throw away an entire generation of antidepressants based on the result.
But who will come to phenelzine’s defense? Not Parke-Davis , the company that made it: their patent expired sometime in the seventies, and then they were bought out by Pfizer5. And not Pfizer – without a patent they can’t make any money off Nardil, and besides, Nardil is competing with their own on-patent SSRI drug Zoloft, so Pfizer has as much incentive as everyone else to push the “SSRIs are best, better than all the rest” line.
Every twenty years, pharmaceutical companies have an incentive to suddenly declare that all their old antidepressants were awful and you should never use them, but whatever new antidepressant they managed to dredge up is super awesome and you should use it all the time. This sort of does seem like the sort of situation that might lead to older medications being better than newer ones. A couple of people have been pushing this line for years – I was introduced to it by Dr. Ken Gillman from Psychotropical Research, whose recommendation of MAOIs and Anafranil as most effective match the patient data very well, and whose essay Why Most New Antidepressants Are Ineffective is worth a read.
I’m not sure I go as far as he does – even if new antidepressants aren’t worse outright, they might still trade less efficacy for better safety. Even if they handled the tradeoff well, it would look like a net loss on patient rating data. After all, assume Drug A is 10% more effective than Drug B, but also kills 1% of its users per year, while Drug B kills nobody. Here there’s a good case that Drug B is much better and a true advance. But Drug A’s ratings would look better, since dead men tell no tales and don’t get to put their objections into online drug rating sites. Even if victims’ families did give the drug the lowest possible rating, 1% of people giving a very low rating might still not counteract 99% of people giving it a higher rating.
And once again, I’m not sure the tradeoff is handled very well at all.6.
In order to distinguish between all these hypotheses, I decided to get a lot more data.
I grabbed all the popular antipsychotics, antihypertensives, antidiabetics, and anticonvulsants from the three databases, for a total of 55,498 ratings of 74 different drugs. I ran the same analysis on the whole set.
The three databases still correlate with each other at respectable levels of +0.46, +0.54, and +0.53. All of these correlations are highly significant, p
The negative correlation between patient rating and doctor rating remains and is now a highly significant -0.344, p
The correlation between patient rating and year of release is a no-longer-significant -0.191. This is heterogenous; antidepressants and antipsychotics show a strong bias in favor of older medications, and antidiabetics, antihypertensives, and anticonvulsants show a slight nonsignificant bias in favor of newer medications. So it would seem like the older-is-better effect is purely psychiatric.
I conclude that for some reason, there really is a highly significant effect across all classes of drugs that makes doctors love the drugs patients hate, and vice versa.
I also conclude that older psychiatric drugs seem to be liked much better by patients, and that this is not some kind of simple artifact or bias, since if such an artifact or bias existed we would expect it to repeat in other kinds of drugs, which it doesn’t.
Please feel free to check my results. Here is a spreadsheet (.xls) containing all of the data I used for this analysis. Drugs are marked by class: 1 is antidepressants, 2 is antidiabetics, 3 is antipsychotics, 4 is antihypertensives, and 5 is anticonvulsants. You should be able to navigate the rest of it pretty easily.
One analysis that needs doing is to separate out drug effectiveness versus side effects. The numbers I used were combined satisfaction ratings, but a few databases – most notably WebMD – give you both separately. Looking more closely at those numbers might help confirm or disconfirm some of the theories above.
If anyone with the necessary credentials is interested in doing the hard work to publish this as a scientific paper, drop me an email and we can talk.
1. Technically, MAOI superiority has only been proven for atypical depression, the type of depression where you can still have changing moods but you are unhappy on net. But I’d speculate that right now most patients diagnosed with depression have atypical depression, far more than the studies would indicate, simply because we’re diagnosing less and less severe cases these days, and less severe cases seem more atypical.
2. First-place winner Nardil has only 16% as many reviews as last-place winner Viibryd, even though Nardil has been on the market fifty years and Viibryd for four. Despite its observed superiority, Nardil may very possibly be prescribed less than 1% as often as Viibryd.
3. Pretty much the same thing is true if, instead of looking at the year they came out, you just rank them in order from earliest to latest.
4. On the other hand, what we do have is a lot of studies comparing MAOIs to imipramine, and a lot of other studies comparing modern antidepressants to imipramine. For atypical depression and dysthymia, MAOIs beat imipramine handily, but the modern antidepressants are about equal to imipramine. This strongly implies the MAOIs beat the modern antidepressants in these categories.
5. Interesting Parke-Davis facts: Parke-Davis got rich by being the people to market cocaine back in the old days when people treated it as a pharmaceutical, which must have been kind of like a license to print money. They also worked on hallucinogens with no less a figure than Aleister Crowley, who got a nice tour of their facilities in Detroit.
6. Consider: Seminars In General Psychiatry estimates that MAOIs kill one person per 100,000 patient years. A third of all depressions are atypical. MAOIs are 25 percentage points more likely to treat atypical depression than other antidepressants. So for every 100,000 patients you give a MAOI instead of a normal antidepressant, you kill one and cure 8,250 who wouldn’t otherwise be cured. The QALY database says that a year of moderate depression is worth about 0.6 QALYs. So for every 100,000 patients you give MAOIs, you’re losing about 30 QALYs and gaining about 3,300.
A few not entirely serious observations on my trip to Brussels this week – but I’m not entirely joking either.
1. Familiarity with the apparently M.C. Escher-inspired architecture of SFF convention hotels will make the European Parliament building much less daunting.
(Radisson, Heathrow – Sheraton, Boston – (the old) Ashling, Dublin, I’m looking at you…)
Yes, we did get spectacularly lost but only the once, so I gather that actually makes us more legitimate as campaigners, not less.
Mind you, when you are wandering round the EU Parliament and wondering how exactly to find a way out, it’s probably best not to think too much about the similarity between that institution’s logo and the one from er, The Prisoner…
2. The SFF convention rule of 6/2/1 is a good one to adopt. That’s six hours sleep, two meals and one shower in any twenty-four hours.
Those two meals may well end up being a working dinner and a working breakfast. And I do mean working – not just some excuse for a feed at the public’s expense.
Our first event on Tuesday was Clare Josa presenting our findings to the European Internet Forum, thanks to the support for our cause from Vicky Ford and Syed Kamall, both UK Conservative MEPs. Clare was one of five speakers invited to talk about barriers to European hopes for a digital single market to 90-plus people from the European Parliament, the Commission and businesses which will be directly affected. They all had interesting and relevant things to say and everyone was listening, not just eating.
There’s a whole corridor of dining rooms in the European Parliament where all sorts of these dinners were going on, getting people together. The following morning they were full of different groups of people having breakfast, swapping information and making plans about mutual concerns before heading off for a full day’s work in their respective offices.
On Wednesday we were guests at just such a breakfast, hosted by Eurochambres, where Clare presented our case again to a different group of MEPs and Commission officials. Talk across the croissant and coffee cups immediately turned to the nuts and bolts practicalities of getting this issue onto the official agenda, who to enlist in which Commission offices and across the different political groupings. Catherine Bearder, Lib Dem MEP had already done a lot of work on making sure this was being raised as a cross-party and international issue, to counter any idea that this is a purely Tory concern being raised for domestic political consumption. Nothing could be further from the truth.
3. Think Vulcan not Klingon.
European politics isn’t two-party-confrontational. Think infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Table thumping and shouting, or expecting any kind of ego-stroking, will get you nowhere, not least because it just wastes time and no one has that to spare. The MEPs and their staff who’ve been helping us will be tackling upwards of twenty issues simultaneously at any one time.
One reason we’ve got so far and so fast with this is we have all our facts and figures prepared to show the damage being caused by this unworkable system and we let that information speak for itself. We weren’t there to play the blame game but were focused on working towards solutions. So were all the people we met.
And Clare’s presentation wasn’t far short of a mind-meld. There wasn’t a digital projector available so none of the speakers at our various meetings could be tempted to try Death by PowerPoint but the way Clare made our case was as far from that as it’s possible to get. She invited our audiences to imagine themselves as digital entrepreneurs setting up a successful business in 2014 and then took them step by step through the shock of discovering the successive costs, complexities and outright impossibilities now demanded by these new regulations. The sound of metaphorical pennies dropping around the rooms was deafening!
4. It can help to be a hobbit who just wants to get back to The Shire.
As well as being asked about the EU VAT issues, we were both asked at various times about ourselves, our wider involvement in politics, our plans…
Well, we just want to get this sorted out so we can go back to running our own businesses. It’s as simple as that.
Which isn’t to say it would have been a particular problem if we had said we had plans to set up some digital microbusiness organisation or had political party ambitions ourselves – but it does make life much more straightforward when the people you’re dealing with realise you don’t have any other agenda they should (perfectly reasonably and legitimately) be taking into consideration.
5. Just go with the plot-convenient co-incidences.
Another reason we’ve got so far so fast is I happen to live in the UK Prime Minister’s parliamentary constituency. So I was able to make a constituency surgery appointment to brief my MP, David Cameron, personally about the problems this new regulation has created. He got it. We’ve found this time and again over the past few months – whenever we’ve been able to make the case in person, that penny drops within minutes.
Establishing this connection has opened doors for the campaign and got us invaluable practical support, not least for this trip to Brussels. No, I can claim no credit for this. There is no time travel involved which might explain why I moved to Witney in 1985 just to set this up!
And no, this absolutely isn’t a party-political issue. We’re dealing with the Conservative party at the moment because they lead the current ruling coalition in the UK. We’ve also had great support from the Greens and from the Lib Dems in Europe, notably Catherine Bearder who just happens to be based in Oxford, so I met her as well and once again, that penny-drop moment as we talked has made all the difference.
Another useful coincidence is the presence of Nicholas Whyte in Brussels. Those who know him in SFF circles are probably vaguely aware that he’s worked in and around (though not actually for) the European Parliament and Commission in various roles for a good few years. This means he’s been an invaluable source of practical information and support as we’ve begun to engage with European legislation policies and procedures.
Personally, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to head off to Brussels without his encouragement. When he first said, ‘you’ll need to come over to the Parliament—’, the squeak in my voice as I said, ‘really?’ probably startled passing dogs…
6. Settle in and prepare for further developments and surprises in the next film/series/book in the franchise.
We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress. This problem is being discussed at the highest levels now. There’s still a great deal of work to be done. Space stations and battlestars aren’t quickly or easily manoeuvred.
But even the smallest person can change the course of the future. And the more people who join in, the more change we’ll see.
(Some background for anyone coming late to this story – I am part of a grassroots campaign group EU VAT Action which is pressing for review and revision of the new EU VAT regulations on cross border digital sales which threaten tens of thousands of small businesses and are already doing untold damage to any hope of a digital single market to benefit customers and sellers alike.)
I was writing yesterday about how the confectionery company Fujiya, with a bold advertising campaign, managed to establish the Christmas cake tradition. About a decade later, the Japanese Christmas menu was enriched by… another advertising campaign. It all started in 1974, when KFC run the campaign “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!). It is said that the idea came from a foreigner who, unable to find turkeys in Japan, declared that it will replace them with fried chicken from KFC…
And since the KFC chicken is now a modern tradition, it is only natural to have the KFC Colonel Sanders statues dressed up as Santa…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo:
Originally known as Edobashi ("Edo bridge"), the Nihonbashi bridge of the old Edo was, during its heyday, the most famous landmark of the city. It was the point zero from where all road distances were measured, and it was the eastern endpoint of the two most important roads in the old Japan, Nakasendō and Tōkaidō, both connecting Edo to Kyoto.
During the Meiji period, the original wooden bridge was replaced by the today’s stone construction, but a replica is exhibited in the Edo-Tokyo Museum and another replica can be “experienced” in Kyoto, inside the Toei Kyoto Studio Park.
Yesterday’s Japan Photo:
I’m in the studio this week to record Of Noble Family. I’ve been wanting to show you what the recording process is like, but that requires getting permission from the author. Since I wrote this book…
So, Dustin Anderson, my engineer/director, and I set up a Google On Air and recorded us doing the first chapter of the book, starting from getting the mic set with some commentary about what we’re doing and why. This recording is a little odd because it’s a multiple narrator book.
Usually my books are a single narrator, just me. Because a lot of this one is set in an Antigua, there’s a high number of African-Carribean characters. No matter how hard I worked on the dialect, it would sound like a caricature. Also, frankly, if I hadn’t written the books I would be entirely the wrong narrator.
The post Video of me recording part of the audiobook for Of Noble Family appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.
I’ve seen exhortations to think like Leonardo da Vinci or Albert Einstein, but these leave me cold. I can’t imagine thinking like either of these men. But here are a few famous people I could imagine emulating when trying to solve a problem
What would Donald Knuth do? Do a depth-first search on all technologies that might be relevant, and write a series of large, beautiful, well-written books about it all.
What would Alexander Grothendieck do? Develop a new field of mathematics that solves the problem as a trivial special case.
What would Richard Stallman do? Create a text editor so powerful that, although it doesn’t solve your problem, it does allow you to solve your problem by writing a macro and a few lines of Lisp.
What would Larry Wall do? Bang randomly on the keyboard and save the results to a file. Then write a language in which the file is a program that solves your problem.
What would you add to the list?
How would you create a table of trig functions without calculators or calculus?
It’s not too hard to create a table of sines at multiples of 3°. You can use the sum-angle formula for sines
sin(α+β) = sin α cos β + sin β cos α.
to bootstrap your way from known values to other values. Elementary geometry gives you the sines of 45° and 30°, and the sum-angle formula will then give you the sine of 75°. From Euclid’s construction of a 5-pointed star you can find the sine of 72°. Then you can use the sum-angle formula to find the sine of 3° from the sines of 75° and 72°. Ptolemy figured this out in the 2nd century AD.
But if you want a table of trig values at every degree, you need to find the sine of 1°. If you had that, you could bootstrap your way to every other integer number of degrees. Ptolemy had an approximate solution to this problem, but it wasn’t very accurate or elegant.
The Persian astronomer Jamshīd al-Kāshī had a remarkably clever solution to the problem of finding the sine of 1°. Using the sum-angle formula you can find that
sin 3θ = 3 sin θ – 4 sin3 θ.
Setting θ = 1° gives you a cubic equation for the unknown value of sin 1° involving the known value of sin 3°. However, the cubic formula wasn’t discovered until over a century after al-Kāshī. Instead, he used a numerical algorithm more widely useful than the cubic formula: finding a fixed point of an iteration!
Define f(x) = (sin 3° + 4x3)/3. Then sin 1° is a fixed point of f. Start with an approximate value for sin 1° — a natural choice would be (sin 3°)/3 — and iterate. Al-Kāshī used this procedure to compute sin 1° to 16 decimal places.
Here’s a little Python code to play with this algorithm.
from numpy import sin, deg2rad sin3deg = sin(deg2rad(3)) def f(x): return (sin3deg + 4*x**3)/3 x = sin3deg/3 for i in range(4): x = f(x) print(x)
This shows that after only three iterations the method has converged to floating point precision, which coincidentally is about 16 decimal places, the same as al-Kāshī’s calculation.
Back in 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a short novel, which they named Crisis in Zefra, about future peacekeeping and the evolution of the military in the 21st century. Zefra did very well; you can learn more about it elsewhere on my site. In 2010, they commissioned a second project.
Crisis in Urlia is now published. You can read it online for free or download the PDF. Where Zefra concentrated on military evolution on the squad level, Urlia is about command-and-control, and includes a vision of a crowdsourced military that some might find downright shocking, as well as side forays into online nations and religions, post-agricultural food supplies, and 3d printed buildings.
These works view the future through a particular lens (that of the military) but include as broad (practically epic, in fact) synopsis as I could craft of all the changes facing humanity and our environment over the next thirty years or so. In terms of the rigour that went into them, they're probably my best science fiction.
|A-DU • *307+*307 (women?) •
VIR (people) • DA-RI-DA
|KI (=KI-RO?) • KI-RA-JA •
NASA is looking for creative yet practical ideas to find a dual purpose for Balance mass (“dead weight”) that is jettisoned from Mars landers like the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) to balance the spacecraft during entry and landing. Payloads replacing Balance mass should perform some type of scientific or technological function adding to our knowledge base while closely matching the volume and weight characteristics of the original Balance mass. Ideas are welcomed from all disciplines.
This Challenge requires only a written proposal.
Challenge Reward: $20,000 USD Deadline: Nov 21, 2014
The ballast on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory entry-descent-landing (MEDLI) system is very important for science in that, without it, the spacecraft wouldn’t be able to put robots and other heavy objects safely on the surface of another planet. However, it’s not actually very useful to science in that it’s a bunch of extra weight on a spacecraft that could be better used for scientific equipment. That’s where you and your brilliant idea come in.
The MEDLI ejects about 330 pounds of mass before entering Mars’ atmosphere and another 330 pounds during its in-atmosphere descent to shift the craft’s center of balance and make a safe landing as it did with the Curiosity rover. In the future, NASA wants to make sure that mass is pulling its own weight in the science department, so they’re offering $20,000 to the person who comes up with the best idea for science experiments that could be carried out with the ejected mass.
The best part is you don’t even have to be able to carry out your plan. All they’re asking for is a written proposal of your idea with diagrams where applicable, and tons of people have already answered the call. Here’s what they’re looking for as written on the contest page on InnoCentive:
NASA is looking for creative yet practical ideas to find a dual purpose for Balance mass (“dead weight”) that is jettisoned from Mars landers like the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) to balance the spacecraft during entry and landing. Payloads replacing Balance mass should perform some type of scientific or technological function adding to our knowledge base while closely matching the volume and weight characteristics of the original Balance mass. Ideas are welcomed from all disciplines.
You’ve got until November 21 to submit your plan, so go ahead and check out the details on NASA’s new “Solve” website for crowdsourcing solutions to problems in space travel, and then get cracking.
Previously in life on Mars
A while back, I was talking to an Earnest Young Writer, who informed me with great intensity that the story she was writing had a Theme, and that she couldn’t do anything about certain objections she was getting from her beta readers because that would destroy what she was trying to say. More specifically, she had several plot twists planned out that didn’t take things in the direction her beta readers thought the story was going…and when she told the beta readers this, they universally informed her that what she had planned would not work and that she had to send things in the direction they were expecting. One went so far as to tell her to “toss out your theme and let the characters do what they want,” which was, of course, what the beta-reader was sure they wanted. The writer was quite rightly indignant at being told she had to write her story their way, and wanted my opinion.
What I really wanted to do was tell her that both sides were right. Or wrong, depending on which angle you were looking from.
The writer was, as I said, perfectly right in her basic objection to being told what to write (the plot twists the beta readers expected) and how to write it (“set your characters free!”). She wasn’t starting with characters or an action plot and letting the theme develop out of whatever actions they took, which is how a lot of writers do it. That’s not how she works (at least, it’s not how she worked on this particular story). She started with a specific goal for the story – a theme, something she wanted the story to say. She was also correct to say that the plot twist the beta readers expected/wanted would have ruined the story she wanted to tell
Where she was wrong was in her assertion that she could not do anything about the objections of her beta readers, and should therefore ignore those objections completely.
The beta readers were wrong to say that the writer’s proposed plot twists could not work and would have to be changed. They were monumentally wrong in trying to force the writer to write the story they were expecting, instead of the one that she wanted to write.
But the beta readers were absolutely correct to say that there was a problem, and that as things stood, the writer’s proposed plot twists would not work. They were probably even right about the characters as presented not wanting to do the things the writer insisted they were going to do.
The real problem was that the writer was so focused on her Theme that she wasn’t paying enough attention to the believability of the story she was telling. It was as if she had decided to tell a story about the terrible effects bullying has on its victims, and cast The Terminator as the hapless victim. Of course her beta-readers were expecting a story about the bullies choosing the wrong guy (so very wrong) to pick on! And of course they were disappointed and disbelieving when she said that no, she was telling a story about how bullying can destroy even the strongest personality! She’d set her victim up as so strong that none of them believed she could pull off the changes in his personality that her theme demanded.
This doesn’t mean she couldn’t pull it off, though; it merely means that her readers didn’t believe it based on what they’d seen so far, which meant she needed to put a lot of work into making the story convincing – work she was determined not to even think about, partly because her betas had been so adamant in telling her she couldn’t do what she intended.
But starting with a theme, a specific agenda, or a moral point to make, means that the writer has to spend more time, energy, and attention on the characters and plot, because in order for the theme to work, the characters and plot have to be believable and convincing. Everything has to work together at least as smoothly as it does in stories where the theme grows naturally out of the actions and reactions of the characters and plot. If the writer does it effectively, there is no way the readers will be able to tell that the theme didn’t grow organically.
The other thing this particular write forgot to pay attention to is the power of tropes. There are a whole lot of story conventions and tropes that we are used to seeing over and over in stories. They work a bit like a subliminal sound track – when the music gets ominous, we know someone is sneaking up on the hero; when the bullies decide to pick on The Terminator, we anticipate their complete humiliation. A story-teller who wants to subvert these reader expectations has to work harder than a writer who is playing along with them, because the subversive writer needs to do more than convince the readers that these characters would do X. They have to convince readers that the characters really would do X instead of the Y that everyone is expecting them to do.
If the characters are selected and developed carefully, the readers’ expectations can work in the writer’s favor. If the reader is expecting the characters to do Y because Y is a familiar trope under these circumstances, but the characters just don’t seem like the sort of folks who would do Y, it sets up a certain tension, and then when they actually get to the point and do X instead, the reader gets a double tension release. There will always be a few who don’t like anything that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of what must happen, and all one can do about them is ignore them. When all one’s beta-readers are complaining about the same thing, however, it behooves the writer to pay attention – not necessarily to their specific suggestions (“Do Y! We expect you to do Y!”), but to setting up the plot and characters so that when X happens, those same readers will believe and accept it even though they were expecting Y.
Jennifer Lawrence isn’t the only game in town when it comes to genetic mutants who can change their shape to copy whomever they want (I mean X-Men JLaw, not IRL JLaw, probably). A new South American plant has been discovered with all of Mystique’s shape-changey powers, and it’s pretty rad.
A woody vine called Boquila trifoliolata, native to Chile and Argentina, has demonstrated a skill called “mimetic polymorphism,” which definitely makes it sound like an X-Man. An ability previously only observed in butterflies, it essentially means that B. trifoliolata can imitate several different host plants after getting all vine-y up in their business.
B. trifoliolata actually transforms its leaves to match those of its host plant – their leaves change shape, color, size, orientation, and vein patters to match the foliage around it. As soon as the vine hits another plant, boom, those leaves get different – up to ten times the size as other leaves on the vine. Like if Mystique were to suddenly become the Hulk.
The polymorphism is meant to serve as a defence against bugs that think plants are delicious, like weevils and leaf beetles – with anywhere from a 33% to 100% success rate. Researchers have pretty much no idea how the plant does what it does, but I hope they harness it soon. I personally would like to look just a little bit more like JLaw.
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