Offensive Rebounds and Geometric Means
April 27, 2009

I try to do some amont of creative writin every day, whether or not I think I have time to. It has been going pretty well recently. For instance, today at work I had a sticky perl script problem. Basically, I had to generalize something I'd written before, which was well written enough to figure what I was doing, but it was a pain in the neck to pull stuff out. Basically I needed to use a form of #include to say "text file A contains text file B." It got done. Then I had 15 minutes to blitz through written notes.

And it occurs to me that I have both concrete and emotional motivators for this. The analogies are strained but they are helpful for me.

1) the emotional is imagining offensive rebounding in basketball. Which is very important, and it's about noticing a chink in the opponent's armor, just like sometimes I have to notice a chink in the work time I have. Or maybe it's just that you are close to the hoop and need to take a swat to have a chance at a tip-in. OR's are a stat that's only recently come into prominence in the box score, them being about twice as valuable as a defensive rebound. Go visit KenPom.com or Basketball Prospectus for more. Many coaches knew about this for a long time. Gene Keady at Purdue(yay!) had his players run sprints for every OR they gave up over 10. But it's been formalized into statistics--and it's still a punch in the gut, or a thrill, to see an offensive rebound.

2) on the other hand is the geometric mean concept. I heard of this one by way of advanced math contests. Basically, you have 6 problems worth 0-7 points and the answer is in essay form. You have several hours(!) because the problems are rather tough. A maximum score is highly unlikely. It turns out a good strategy is to try and make progress on each, hence the "geometric mean" of trying something for each problem. The critical assumption here is that they are all of relatively similar difficulty. I don't really think it applies to math class quizzes, because there, you may need to junk a problem to concentrate on the others, and the end ones may be very hard indeed while the beginning ones are easy.

The corollary here is that I have 7 days to do writing, and I want to establish a geometric mean. I judge my notes by writing KB and so the geometric mean is, just write 1K of notes, even if it is a string of silly ideas. The only rule is, avoid anything obvious I've written before, or anything that is clearly rambling.

These are some of the images/ideas I use, because I refuse to put up with some of the more idiotic overgeneralized motivational stuff. What do others do?

(PS in the dork-pun department, it's funny how overgeneralization did not help me generalize stuff)

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