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End Hiatus January 9, 2010

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Well, hello everyone, I’m finally back from the cold snowy north. It was a long drive both ways, but I’m here, and I’m alive. Classes have started, and most of them look at the very least interesting. The MilSci 102 class may prove to be my best course, for all of the 0 credits that I will be getting out of it.

I have a lot of work to do, and may not be able to update the blog as much as I would like, but I am at the least going to try to put up a book collection link.

Hiatus December 19, 2009

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I may be on a somewhat reduced post frequency over the next two weeks.  I am headed home to the cold snowy north…

And there’s no internet at my house, so I have to drive about 20 miles to the nearest coffee shop (there’s not even a Starbucks).

Concrete Theory Has a Mini Library December 17, 2009

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So I have been looking at expanding my library lately.  I already have quite the excellent selection of books that I would consider ‘permanent library’ material – books that I will utilize for years down the road.  I would call it a library, because I have a large number of friends who borrow my books and take obscene amounts of time returning them.  The book list that I have been adding to to the right is predominantly books I own.  I am also receiving a Kindle over the holidays, I believe, so it will become less of a loaning library for some books.  I do intend to continue purchasing paper books – perhaps not the first time I read them – for the majority of the books of this style, but my lighter reading will likely become entirely electronic.  It would be nice if Amazon included the Kindle book with each physical book purchase for free.  I think that’d be a great way to boost physical book sales, and Kindle sales.  Here’s a list of a few of the books that I own off the top of my head that fit into the ‘permanent library’ category.

Key: Electronic Books in Green, On Loan in Red

  • The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman
  • Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
  • Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling

I will be adding another tab to the top of the page, titled My Library, since the sidebar book list may get a bit long.  I’ll keep the sidebar book list pared down to the last few, or the most influential.  I may re-title it ‘The Essentials’ or something.

I feel like using ‘Concrete Theory’ as a title for the book-related and non-book related thought posts works quite well – thoughts on paper are concrete theory – and just dividing them between ‘book analysis’ and whatever else seems to be working well enough for me.

Thin-Slicing Recruiting: Mini-Pitch to Coach John Beilein December 15, 2009

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I went to the set of Coach John Beilein’s weekly radio show today to see if I could get a chance to talk to him.  For those who don’t know, he is Michigan’s Men’s Basketball Coach.  Coach Beilein and I have spoken a few times at volleyball games throughout the year, and when I first came up with this idea he was one of the first people that I wanted to pitch it to.

I made a short pitch to him before the start of the show, essentially a short version of what I wrote about in the project introduction.  After the show, I showed him this:

After about 20 seconds of explaining, he seemed fairly impressed, and said that I was on to something.  It’s clear that he’s looking forward to what I have to say, and hopefully I will be able to incorporate him into the planning for the project after the season.  It will have to wait until then, of course.  He has more important things to do right now.

The idea is that Coaches and Recruits want exactly the opposite out of each other – Coaches want to see full games and grades, because they will show the flaws in the potential recruit.  Recruits would prefer if the Coach stuck to the highlight reels and stat sheets until their foot is in the door and they have a scholarship – otherwise, their flaws might be too apparent.

What I would like to do is see if it’s possible for a coach to section a small part of a highlight reel that they receive from a player that will teach them far more about the player than the entire highlight reel ever would.  Then, the coach wouldn’t need to see the entire reel, he could section off a small portion of it, make a decision without any cajoling for information the player doesn’t feel as comfortable giving, and then he could send an assistant to see the game.

If a coach can make a reliable decision based on a highlight reel clip, he could analyze more players in a much shorter time period, leaving him time to focus his attentions on the ones most worth targeting.  It’s also more likely that the coach could find ‘sleeper’ players, ones that nobody else is recruiting, but that are significantly beyond the skill level attributed to them.

Concrete Theory Outlines My Education December 9, 2009

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Next semester will be my final at the University of Michigan for undergraduate, as I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Materials Science Engineering.  Over these four years, I have taken a multitude of courses in and out of my major.  Here’s an overview of every course I’ve taken at Michigan.  The few most influential have notes attached to them..

Fall 2006

  • Engineering 100: Design and the Real World
    • Professor Jason Daida
      • Still in contact, a strong influence on me – I will mention him at times.
      • Has prompted several of my book purchases over the past few years.
    • Case-study course that introduced me to the merits of teamwork.
  • Math 116: Calculus II
  • Physics 140: General Physics I & Physics 141: Lab I

Winter 2007

  • Chemistry 210: Structures and Reactivity I (Organic Chemistry I) & Chemistry 211: Organic Lab 1
  • Economics 101: Principles of Economics I – Microeconomics
  • Math 216: Introduction to Differential Equations
  • MatSciE 220: Introduction to Materials and Manufacturing

Fall 2007

  • History 200: Greece to 201 B.C.
  • MatSciE 330: Thermodynamics of Materials
  • MechEng 211: Introduction to Solid Mechanics
  • Physics 240: General Physics II & Physics 241: Lab 1

Winter 2008

  • ClCiv 341: Classics & Cinema
  • MatSciE 242: Physics of Materials
  • MatSciE 335: Kinetics and Transport
  • MatSciE 490: Research Problems: TWIP Steel (Amit Ghosh)

Fall 2008

  • ClCiv 376: Emperors of Rome
  • GeoSci 380: Mineral Resources, Economics, and the Environment
    • Professor Steve Kesler
      • Still in contact, regular advisor on various things.
    • Sparked my interest in the mineral resource industry.
  • MatSciE 350: Principles of Engineering Materials
  • MatSciE 360: Materials Lab I
  • MatSciE 490: Research Problems: TWIP Steel (Amit Ghosh)

Winter 2009

  • ClCiv 375: War in Greek and Roman Civilization
  • History 201: Rome
  • MatSciE 365: Materials Lab II
  • MatSciE 470: Physical Metallurgy

Fall 2009

  • ClCiv 499: Independent Reading: Mining in Ancient Rome (David Potter)
  • MatSciE 420: Mechanical Behavior of Materials
  • MatSciE 489: Materials Process Design & MatSciE 493: SmartSurfaces
    • Professors Karl Daubman, John Marshall, and Max Shtein
    • Multidisciplinary/antedisciplinary design course for developing heliotropic smart surfaces
    • Sparked my interest in design and business.
  • Stats 412: Introduction to Probability and Statistics

Winter 2010

  • ArtDes 100: Drawing for Non-Majors
  • ClCiv 380: Antiquity
  • MatSciE 440: Ceramics
  • MatSciE 480: Materials Engineering Design
  • MatSciE 514: Composites
  • MilSci 102: Introduction to Leadership
  • MilSci 202: Leadership in Changing Environments

Of the seven courses I am taking next semester, four (12 credits) are required for my graduation, and the drawing and leadership courses are completely free electives.

In order, SmartSurfaces, GeoSci 380, and Engineering 100 are my three most influential courses.  I don’t think that what I learned in the classroom specifically was most important in these classes, however – instead, the advice from the professors, as well as book recommendations I have been given by them, have helped me evolve both as a student and as a professional.  Make sure to check out the website link to SmartSurfaces, it is really quite interesting.

My Little Black Sketchbook: Feet December 9, 2009

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I haven’t gotten very far in Keys to Drawing so far, but the first exercise is to draw my own feet, and so I have.

For basically never having drawn anything still-life in any real level of detail ever, I feel like this was a pretty good first crack at drawing a body part.  I probably spent too much time looking at the drawing and not enough at the feet, and I used my eraser some, which you aren’t supposed to do in the exercise.

This is getting me excited to take ArtDes 100 – Drawing for Non-Majors next semester.  Should be a great class.

My Little Black Sketchbook: SAX Inc. Exercise December 9, 2009

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There is an exercise in The Back of the Napkin that involves a company called SAX Inc. The idea is to draw out an entire visual thought process for a marketing pitch to the company. Here are my drawings, with extremely minimal commentary – I want people to buy this book and read it, so I am not giving anything excess away.  I apologize for photo quality.  I found my camera, and in the future I will be posting images that have been photographed with an actual camera.  Hurrah!

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Concrete Theory Draws on Napkins December 6, 2009

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Last night I finished reading The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam.  The My Little Black Sketchbook post line spawned from reading it.  Roam writes an extremely interesting book, defining a process for visual thinking that just works… I went from not being able to easily think visually to being able to produce visual thought diagrams in a short order over the course of the book.

I will be incorporating the things I have learned from this book into a majority of my work in the future.  Book analysis after the jump.  I’m just going to go over the final chapter, because it’s a book that really needs to be read by anyone that is interest in visual thinking and advancing their ability to express themselves.  Note: It’s not 1000 words, but it has a picture, so it is really over 1000.  The book is really a must-read.


Concrete Theory Recommends Less Kids December 5, 2009

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I discovered this incredible website the other day called Gapminder.  It’s a charting website that develops multi-variable plots based on demographic information.  While looking through it, I discovered this:

On the x-axis is Life expectancy at birth (years).  On the y-axis is # of children per household, distributed logarithmically.  The circle size corresponds to population.  Colors correspond to geographic region.  Even more interesting is when you go to the website for the graph and click Play at the bottom.  More technologically advanced societies had almost direct correlation between their decrease in birth rate and their increase in life expectancy.  Some dramatic jumps can be seen, which correlate to massive events.  For example, Russia’s life expectancy decreases to 12 years of age in 1933, which correlates to a massive famine that occurred from 1932-1933.

Now, I know that correlation does not, in fact, prove causation, but I wish there was a way to overlay religious practices onto the graph, instead of population.  It would be interesting to see, because there are certain religious groups (Catholics, Hasidic Jews, the Amish, Apostolic Lutherans) that wind up having a lot of kids, and I wonder if there is a diminished life expectancy involved due to the additional stresses that certain religions that require ceremony and adherence put on the psyche?

Thin-Slicing Recruiting: An Introduction December 3, 2009

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Earlier, I mentioned that I was planning on beginning an experiment based on the principles of Blink.  This is my quick introduction to ‘Thin-Slicing Recruiting’. The premise of this project is to look initially at two sports – Basketball and Football – and the way that collegiate coaches analyze the abilities of potential players.

Hypothesis: Experienced coaches are able to determine the capabilities of a player in their respective sport with a small quantity of information.  Visual information will have a significantly higher success rate than statistical information, and the amount of time required to make a judgement on a player will be short – 30 seconds to a minute.

Experimental Procedure Expose coaches to a variety of information sets on recent high school players.  These information sets will include, but are not limited to, various combinations of: short videos of playing time, short videos of camp time, playing statistic tables, and non-playing statistics (height, weight, strength, speed, etc.).  Include with the videos a questionnaire concerning each target player, tabulate responses, and compare to actual information.


I will be dividing football players into twelve categories.  I will produce video clips of varying lengths of each of the players, until I have a group of 20 players from each category with clips ranging from 5 seconds to 2 minutes.  I will also collect statistical data on the players’ in high school, as well as their data in college for comparison.

The twelve categories are: QB, HB, WR, TE, OT, OG/C, DT, DE, CB, LB, S, K/P


I will be dividing basketball players into the five numerical position categories (1-5).  As with football, I will produce video clips ranging from 5 seconds to 2 minutes, and will collect all necessary statistical data.

I will be posting some of the videos as I produce them.  If any members of the community are willing to devote some time to helping me edit video clips or locate target players, it would be much appreciated – please e-mail me at mathieum906@gmail.com if you would be willing to contribute.