Shout-out in Economist blog about Jeopardy, IBM’s Watson, and strategy

I've been alerted to this fun recent piece about Jeopardy by "G.F." at the Economist blog.

The writer was a contestant earlier this season, and he later interviewed several IBM programmers about Watson, their Jeopardy-playing computer, and the strategies they developed from extensive game simulation.

At the end, there's a surprising shout-out:

Prisoner of Trebekistan, a book written by Bob Harris about his multiple campaigns, dovetails neatly with their more exhaustive data analysis.

Yes, but Watson is smart enough to actually follow its own strategy.  So there you go.

On The Innocence of Muslims

With protests flaring around the world, some TV news reports make things look pretty bad right now. But that's TV for you. 

If you do the math, about one in every 135,000 Muslims is protesting. The violence is criminal and deplorable, and it deserves a carefully planned response, but it's insane to stereotype Islam by it. 

If Islam were a city of 135,000, the protesters would be one angry guy. Maybe a small minority could be talked into actively supporting him, and a few more would also be peeved about the same stuff he's screaming about on his lawn, but the overwhelming majority of people are reasonable, understand that there are hateful idiots in every country, and just want to get on with life. 

If you'd like an example, look at Libya: the TV never seems to mention it, but on Wednesday—this week, right in the middle of all this—they just elected a new and remarkably Western-facing prime minister (the guy has a Ph.D from CalTech and used to teach in Huntsville, Alabama, no less), Libyans as a whole rate the U.S. twice as favorably as the Muslim Brotherhood, the bad guys are already being hunted down, and their organization (Ansar Al-Sharia) is tiny and probably about to get Seal Team Sixed into oblivion. 

The world is not on fire. Adults know not to feed the trolls. Not escalating, and simply treating criminal behavior as criminal, not as some act of war between civilizations, is the only sane response.

Top of my head, I've been to mosques in 14 countries, and I've been welcomed everywhere I've ever gone in the Muslim world. Hatred is not a Judeo-Christian value, an Islamic value, nor a human value. It is just hatred.

More hatred is never the answer.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

Thanks to the 75+ people who came out to the W hotel in Westwood last week for the combination of Kiva's 6th anniversary, a celebration of the million bucks (!) the Friends of Bob Harris team at has raised to lend to small businesses in the developing world, and my own birthday party.

The million bucks was actually the team's goal for my birthday present (Kiva did a whole blog post about it, in fact), which is also mindblowing—the idea that my birthday would ever be an occasion for hundreds of people to do something nice for thousands of total strangers all over the world… I just don't even know how to respond. (In fact, these 750 sweet folks have made it to over $1.1 million by my birthday, and are already approaching $1.2 million.)

One highlight I'll never forget: I turned around, and more than a dozen folks had put on matching T-shirts proclaiming themselves officially as Friends of Bob Harris.  

It's one thing to know you have a lot of wonderful friends. It's another to see that they've decide they want a uniform. Wow.

Everyone should get to see something like this once in their lives.

Huge, huge thanks.  Now it's on to two million!