Rabu, 16 April 2014

Article#286 - Famous Failures

Failure Is an Option

Where would we be without it?

By Hannah Bloch
Photograph courtesy Robert E. Peary, National Geographic Creative
At the end of the 19th century a middle-aged Swedish engineer, a patent officer captivated by the promise and possibilities of technology, came up with a radical idea: Why not fly in a hydrogen balloon to become the first to discover the North Pole, then as mysterious and unknown as Mars? For years explorers had attempted to reach the Pole overland; many died trying. An air expedition, Salomon August Andrée reasoned, would eliminate much of the risk. And so, on a windy day in July 1897, with support from Alfred Nobel and Sweden’s king, Andrée and two younger colleagues climbed into the basket of a 67-foot-diameter balloon on Danes Island in the Svalbard archipelago. The team packed wooden sledges, food for several months, carrier pigeons to relay messages, even a tuxedo Andrée hoped to wear at the end of the journey. As journalists and well-wishers cheered and waved, they soared into the air, aiming to float to a place no human had seen.
As soon as they lifted off, wind battered the balloon. Fog froze on it, weighing it down. For 65 and a half hours the Eagle skittered along, sometimes grazing the Arctic Ocean. Thirty-three years later, sealers stumbled across the frozen corpses of Andrée and his crew—along with their cameras and diaries, which revealed that they’d been forced to land on pack ice 298 miles from the North Pole. The three had perished during a grueling three-month trek south.
Failure—never sought, always dreaded, impossible to ignore—is the specter that hovers over every attempt at exploration. Yet without the sting of failure to spur us to reassess and rethink, progress would be impossible. (“Try again. Fail again,” wrote Samuel Beckett. “Fail better.”) Today there is growing recognition of the importance of failure. Educators ponder how to make kids more comfortable with it. Business schools teach its lessons. Psychologists study how we cope with it, usually with an eye toward improving the chance of success. Indeed, the very word “success” is derived from the Latin succedere, “to come after”—and what it comes after, yes, is failure. One cannot exist without the other. Oceanographer Robert Ballard, a veteran of 130 undersea expeditions and discoverer of the Titanic, calls this interplay the yin yang of success and failure.
Even at their most miserable, failures provide information to help us do things differently next time. “I learned how not to climb the first four times I tried to summit Everest,” says alpinist Pete Athans, who’s reached the world’s highest peak seven times. “Failure gives you a chance to refine your approach. You’re taking risks more and more intelligently.” In his case this meant streamlining his team and choosing less challenging routes for his first successful ascent, in 1990.
Failure is also a reminder that luck plays a role in any endeavor. Climber Alan Hinkes, a member of the small club of mountaineers who’ve summited the world’s highest peaks, has had his share of misfortunes: broken his arm, impaled his leg on a tree branch “like a medieval spear,” sneezed so violently near the top of Pakistan’s 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat that he slipped a disk and had to abort the climb. “I probably should be dead,” he admits. But “I haven’t had any failures. I have had near misses and close shaves.”
For most explorers, only one failure really matters: not coming back alive. For the rest of us, such tragic ends can capture the imagination more than success. Robert Falcon Scott, who died with his team after reaching the South Pole in 1912, is hailed as a hero in Britain. Australians are moved by a disastrous 19th-century south-to-north expedition that ended in death for its team leaders. These tales stick with us for the same reason our own failures do: “We remember our failures because we’re still analyzing them,” Ballard says. Success, on the other hand, “is quickly passed.” And too much success can lead to overconfidence—which in turn can lead to failure. During the 1996 Everest season, in which 12 climbers perished, mountaineering experts wrongly “felt they had the mountain wired and pretty well sorted out,” says Athans, who helped head up rescue operations. “In truth, the formulas get you into trouble.” Failure keeps you on your toes.
Scientific researchers are reluctant to own up publicly to flops. Reputations and future funding depend on perceptions of success. But in the past decade, at least half a dozen journals—mostly in medicine and conservation—have solicited reports of failed experiments, studies, and clinical trials. The rationale: “Negative” results can eventually give rise to positive outcomes.
The business world, especially the high-tech realm with its rapid-fire start-ups and burnouts, already understands the value of negative results, if they are low-cost and noncatastrophic. To encourage entrepreneurship, the Netherlands-based ABN AMRO Bank started an Institute of Brilliant Failures. Eli Lilly and Company, the pharmaceutical giant, began throwing “R&D-focused outcome celebrations”—failure parties—two decades ago to honor data gleaned from trials for drugs that didn’t work. (Some 90 percent of all such trials fail.) Some foundations have even begun requiring grantees to report failures as well as successes.
Business leaders often seek nuts-and-bolts lessons from failures, but they benefit from bigger-picture truths as well. A Harvard Business School professor was so struck by an iconic, century-old exploration failure that she authored a case study about it—to teach her M.B.A. students about leadership. Historian Nancy Koehn reckons she’s taught the story of Irish-born polar explorer Ernest Shackleton at least a hundred times. His 1914-16 expedition to cross Antarctica was doomed when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice. Shackleton’s goal quickly shifted from exploration to ensuring a safe return home for himself and his crew.
“It’s a huge failure from the perspective of exploration, right?” Koehn says. “But it’s inspiring partly because it’s a failure. We’re in an age of corporate malfeasance and companies being called to account and saying, It’s not my fault. But he said, By God, I’m going to clean it up. He owned responsibility for the mess.” Shackleton brought the 27 men on his team safely home. “He was a great crisis manager,” says Koehn. Through him, her students “learn about persistence and resilience, and a lot about small gestures.” Shackleton made sure to give all of his men cups of hot milk if he noticed that even one was flagging.
Persistence. Resilience. Adaptability and crisis management. All are key themes in exploration, as in ordinary life. Keeping things in perspective helps too: Explorers tend to take the long view, recognizing the illusory nature of failure and success. “Treat those two impostors just the same,” Kipling advised in his poem If. “That’s how I feel about it,” says cave explorer Kenny Broad. Many of his colleagues have perished in deep scuba dives in darkness through mazes of caverns. “You can get lucky in a dive. You get lucky a few times and start to think that’s skill. Success and failure in cutting-edge exploration is a very fine line.”
S. A. Andrée’s balloon expedition was cutting-edge for its day, and fail it did, but “you don’t know until you try in aviation,” Urban Wråkberg, a historian of science at Norway’s University of Tromsø, points out. Improved technology ultimately helped solve the problems of Arctic aviation (the first successful flight to the North Pole took place three decades after Andrée’s attempt) and has opened countless other doors. Satellite uplinks, reliable communication, and advances in meteorology and robotic assistance are just a few innovations that have pushed the limits of exploration. But even Ballard, whose major discoveries were aided by robots, notes that technology “doesn’t make everything possible.”
And that’s a good thing. “If you take away uncertainty, you take away motivation,” says Athans. “Wanting to exceed your grasp is the nature of the human condition. There’s no magic to getting where we already know we can get.”

Article and photo taken from here. This blog had posted one of the featured quotes earlier on.
Be sure to make more mistakes and failures, and learn from them!
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Jumat, 11 April 2014

Article#285 - When You Think About It.. - 4

To be frank, I have no idea what to write in this section. What I can recall is that.... um, nothing.
Anyway, a comic post might be good in relieving your eyes after series of much reading, in case you're suffering from one.
Notice: Some readers has stated that the picture is not big enough, and a click on the picture is needed to view it in adequate zoom. In that case, you might like to visit the original site as well.
This issue had been resolved as of 11th April 2012, 17:32 UT.

Courtesy to zenpencils.com.
Quotes by Bill Watterson (b. 1958), an artist mostly noted for the famous comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. The quote utself is taken from a graduation speech Watterson gave at his alma mater, Kenyon College, in 1990. Brain Pickings has a nice article about it.

In case you haven't noticed, this comic strip was made by Gavin Aung Than, the founder of zenpencils.com. Be sure to pass by!
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Rabu, 09 April 2014

Article#284 - Tomorrow

Tear the truth
And be gone
Embrace the wind of springtime
Bring the clue
And be done
Replace all these plastic lines
As no brains will blast lights
And no cries will remain alive
Let the stars strike shy
Tomorrow with brand new sight

Call the lost wanderers
For they are deep in dreams
Bury these fake smiles
Deep with their stitched jeers
That when they woke up
Found flowers hanging around
For tomorrow will they wrap
And no need for any doubt

Put your emotions apart
And let the fact soars afar
Read the plot for the just
Part of this freaking clash
No rush
Would have come at last
As tomorrow comes
And no feelings be hard

Too much lies drain people's energy. Mine as well.
Too much clichés slain people's intelligence. Mine as hell.
Rest assured, time will bring us the complete story.
Just be sure, not to drown yourself in atrophy.

Time to take a rest, avoid the press, look at the reality ablaze. As tomorrow yields the rest, of this history to attest. That is, when you are able to break the crest, free your mind off the pest.

Or, at least that's what I surmise.
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Senin, 07 April 2014

Article#283 - Kutipan Hari Ini

"Cara menjaga niat? (Teorinya) mudah. Seringkali, ada hal yang lebih penting untuk dipikirkan daripada apa yang (mungkin) terus bergelayut di pikiran. Kembalikan pikiran itu ke haknya."

~dikutip dari naskah yang belum sempat terselesaikan, untuk dilanjutkan. Dikutip pada Senin, 7 April 2014, 23:52 (UT+9)


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Minggu, 06 April 2014

Article#282 - 100000 pengunjung..!!

Post ini dituliskan dalam suasana hati yang sedang mengharu-biru, berhubung haru telah tiba, langit menjadi biru cerah. (haru = musim semi; pen.) Sayangnya, datangnya musim semi memberi pertanda lain yang membuat haru makin membiru dan membuat ingin lembiru (lempar dan beli baru; pen.), berhubung datangnya musim baru diiringi oleh datangnya semester baru.
Libur yang menyenangkan ini telah berlalu dalam waktu kurang lebih dua bulan, sehingga akhirnya ia harus berakhir. Aroma tugas-tugas yang menyengat, dengan kelas-kelas yang sekilas nampak hangat, seolah siap menyambut para siswa yang terlambat, berlarian ke kelas dengan wajah berkeringat.

Bagi laman blog aneh ini sendiri, pada akhirnya, penghujung dari liburan ini berhasil ditandai dengan masuknya angka pengunjung ke ranah 6 digit. Dulu penulis pernah berbual tentang ranah 5 digit yang disebut sebagai masa aktualisasi diri sebuah blog dalam kancah dunia nyata. Tetapi kini, setelah penulis sendiri kebingungan, tahap semacam apakah ranah 6 digit itu, disini penulis mengakui bahwa ia sendiri tak paham, kapan sebuah blog memasuki masa aktualisasi diri. Kalau untuk manusia, masa aktualisasi diri itu sih ada pada masa remaja. Tapi, blog kan bukan manusia.

Waktu yang berlalu makin jauh, kembali mengingatkan penulis, bahwa sudah waktunya untuk beranjak ke tempat tidur yang hangat. Libur telah berlepas, maka ikhlaskanlah.
Moving on, moving on, moving on and on and on

Sedikit rangkuman mengenai kiprah blog sejauh ini:
Hasil editan dari gambar asli di sini
Mengutip dari catatan pada edisi dua ratus, pencapaian sejauh ini dalam waktu 957 hari, sekilas memberi kesan akan kiprah yang cukup panjang dan berliku. Padahal, jika ditelisik dengan sedikit bisik tanpa berisik, kebanyakan memang hanya hasil fusi dari ketidakjelasan dan ketidakberesan. Dimana keduanya secara semena-mena tercipratkan dalam komposisi aneh-aneh ke tulisan. Terkadang adonannya menghasilkan pergolakan pemikiran yang (kayaknya) sedemikian menggetarkan. Dalam cerita lain, ketidakjelasan mendominasi, dan post yang terluncurkan hanya membuat orang geleng-geleng serta mengusap dahi. Dalam yang lain, justru ketidakberesan yang memenuhi, dan yang tadinya sekadar geleng-geleng, kini menggeleng lebih dahsyat lagi.

Dan sekarang, berhubung kepala penulis sudah menggeleng hebat akibat menolak menerima kenyataan berakhirnya libur mengantuk, maka tulisan kali ini dicukupkan sampai di sini.
Nantikan tulisan selanjutnya, nanti!
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