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Archive for October, 2015

What am I doing?

Well, I was meaning to post this a lot earlier.

This is now the third “What am I doing?” post I put up (part I, part II). Needless to say, my life has been quite transient.

I now live in Kyoto, Japan, the city I was born and raised until the age of ten.

I really enjoyed my time in Germany. Frankfurt was a fantastic place to live, there was a great expat scene, and my Ultimate team was the closest thing to a family away from home. Alas, it was my time to move on.

I am now working as a specially appointed associate professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology working on the KYOTO Design Lab. For the first time since Paris, I am back in academia, but the context and work is very different.

During my time in Frankfurt, I had two unofficial offers: join a major German company and their design thinking team, or come to Japan and start working at the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

Something about my personality that has me jumping into the path of maximum ambiguity. The job in Germany was clearer, I already had a base there, and for once, a stable visa. The job in Japan had no job description (again), required lugging my things across the world, and rebuilding my personal and social life, again.

I picked the latter.

Japan also had the allure that I speak the language near fluently, and part of me was curious if I could fit into a country I left twenty two years ago (the verdict is still out on that one).

The KYOTO Design Lab (D-Lab) is a platform for innovation on top of the education layer at the Kyoto Institute of Technology (KIT), and part of its mission is to connect with the international design community. KIT has one of the strongest design programs in Japan despite being a predominantly engineering school.

My mission has been loosely defined and I’ve been doing a little bit of everything (publicity, outreach, networking) but ultimately, I’m setting up workshops and creating new programs for the D-Lab. While I was in Paris, teaching was my main responsibility; my role here is more diverse, and I have a good amount of autonomy.

That’s not without its downside of course. I have no experience working in the public sector in Japan (KIT is a national university) and there are a lot of challenges getting things done in Japan as you could imagine. There is definitely no shortage of learning experiences here.

The other advantage of being in Japan is that I am now able to network freely inside the country with my language ability, something I was not able to do well in Germany and France. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot outside of my work like being a pitch coach for Slush Asia , teaching at Kyoto Startup College, participating and winning in Startup Weekend, helping out with Makers Boot Camp, and of course Ultimate Frisbee. There is actually a budding startup scene forming in Kansai (the Metropolitan Area in which Kyoto belongs), and I love being part of it (although I’m not an entrepreneur right now).

Like with many of my previous jobs, there is still no defined career path ahead of me. This position has a maximum duration of five years (unless something changes) so it’s doubtful that I would be working at the university until my retirement. Life full of ambiguity but also full of excitement and meaningful things to work on. Can’t ask for much more can I?

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Scientifically proving the Conservation of Greatness

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Non-Ultimate Frisbee players looking at the title probably said to themselves, “huh?”

Conservation of Greatness is a concept in Ultimate Frisbee that states that there is only so much greatness to be had in the universe. More concretely, it means that a player who just made an earth-shattering play will make a comically stupid decision or play (normally a throw) immediately afterward. When this happens, the entire sideline will laugh, sigh, or hold their head in disgust, thinking, mumbling, or screaming “Conservation of Greatness” (the term “conservation of karma” has been used interchangeably in the past but it seems to have gone out of fashion recently).

The Conservation of Greatness is akin to the Hot Streak in baseball or the idea of Clutchness in basketball, and like those two concepts, it feels like it should exist. However, this has never been scientifically proven.

Can we do this?

Unlike Baseball, Basketball, American Football, and now Soccer, there is absolutely no comprehensive source of Ultimate Frisbee playing data that could be used to analyze this. Simple goals, assists, and Ds are not enough. Even a player to player possession path does not capture the required data. To truly scientifically approach this problem, someone will have to sit down and visibly code the “greatness” and “stupidity” of each play and statistically analyze the data to establish if the Conservation of Greatness actually exists.

Now that there is professional Ultimate, quality video data is at least available but there is still monumental amount of work that is required. If the data is available, I’m sure the folks over at fivethirtyeight would be interested but I don’t think they are interested at all in gathering data like this.

Maybe in the future, deep learning and AI would become good enough to understand “greatness” in Ultimate Frisbee to simplify data collection, but if we want to do this now, we need volunteers to sit through hundreds of hours of Ultimate footage.

Any one want to attempt this?

Photo by Kevin W. Leclaire

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