Archive for the ‘work’ Category

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Machine Translation making waves and how to make sure you know how to talk about it at the cocktail party

In Books,commercials,Community,computers,culture,facebook,Technology,work on October 5, 2016 by mstevensrev

bn-cz300_google_g_20140528135745In the past month(s) some of the news coming out from major technology companies have caught the media’s attention. At the same time my co-host for the Globally Speaking Podcast, Renato Beninatto¬†, was really pushing us to make our most complex podcast to date on the topic as part of a series on the machines taking over:) Since then I have started doing my research in preparation for our conversations with leaders in the field. At this point I’m likely to help others talk intelligently at a cocktail party.

To date much of the conversation around Machine Translation, which has been around since the 1950s, mainly consisted of statistical and rule-based systems. Rule Based systems as the names signifies is based up linguistic rules that set how words will be translated, words from target language will replace the source language. Statistical machine translation focused on pattern recognition within translation and provided target based on huge amounts of parallel texts. Most of the effective machine engines for a time ended up being a Hybrid machine translation engine that incorporated the best of both methodologies..

Now neural networks are on the scene. To understand the effectiveness and basic outline of this technology check out a this great article, From not working to neural networking. As I understand the strength of the neural network is the depth of the data that is process. Rather then being limited to a number of rules or a corpus of strings to improve the quality. Neural machine translation operates beyond a string and by exposing it to a huge number of examples it will learn without telling it what to look for. There is a sight that even allows you to demo the Neural Machine Translation by LISA, which has been trained on a lot of data from the UN and European Parliament.

So since this has been going on for some time, why the news all of a sudden? For one Alan Packer from Facebook came out and said that the other forms (specifically statistical) of machine translation have reached their usefulness and Facebook is now focusing on the use of neural networks. Check out Rachel Metz’s article, Facebook Plans to Boost Its Translations Using Neural Networks This Year. Then this month Google has come out and said that Google Neural Machine Translation reduces errors by 60 percent, cool. NPR picking it up here, they interviewed a translator naysayer who felt the need to reinforce that professional translators will be needed.

Then during Google’s “Made by Google” Event, the implications of this break thru and artificial intelligence (AI) were discussed by Sudar Pichai during the early part of the event. The part about the implications for voice technology were interest, why do we only have one voice?

With all the excitement it is important to have other voices outside of Google and Facebook, so that we don’t all get caught up in the next wave of hype. For that check out the article, Hyperbolic? Experts Weigh In on Google Neural Translate¬†from Florian Faes at Slater. Overall the opinions are rather favorable, so check it out.

Now you are on the road of looking like a star with your friends and new acquaintances. Glad to hear about other resources you are finding key on getting you up to speed with this great technology, if it’s something we use I’ll be sure to mention it on the podcast!

Sometimes I wish that I could go into a time machine right now and just look at my self and say, ‘Calm down. Things are gonna be fine. Things are gonna be all great. Just relax.’

-Tristan Wilds

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Simple sales strategy exercise

In advertising,business,Community,culture,design,principles,running,work on September 21, 2016 by mstevensrev

20160920_073222.jpgYesterday while running through the park yesterday I ran past this art and was reminded of a simple mental exercise regarding sales. Follow with me for a moment:

Which of these to chairs represents the salesperson and the client?

There is no correct answer but the way you answer may reveal a great deal about how you think of salespeople. If you are a salesperson it may reveal how you think about yourself. In an ideal world the chairs would be the same size and it would be two experts working together for their common good. There are also times to humble oneself, when providing hospitality or after a mistake that may lead to an discrepancy. ¬†There have been moments where I have remembered this image and thought to myself, which one do I feel like right now…and is that okay?

Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.

‚Äď William Clement Stone

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Finding my own and inspiring others voice

In art,blogging,Community,culture,leadership,Uncategorized,work,writing on August 18, 2016 by mstevensrev

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Over half way through this year I would say that has been the biggest change in my life, finding my own voice. A big part of it has been the Globally Speaking Podcast. Blogging and stand up comedy have also been a part of the process as well. Pretty fun and I’m excited to see where it leads.

The second half of the title (inspiring others voice)I’m not so sure about, but I’ll take some credit for it. Two co-workers have published on LinkedIn, if you have a chance check them out:

When (not) to be helpful, Tucker Johnson

Career 3.0 – The climbing cage, Juliette Tanarro

Check them out!

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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The Corporate Mystic: preliminary thoughts

In art,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,generosity,mission,Money,Reading,Spiritual,Uncategorized,work on November 28, 2012 by mstevensrev

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There are a few obsessions I have, one is that when I go to a thrift store I search through the book section often looking for used copies of some of my favorite books of all time in order to give away for gifts. ¬†In addition I usually grab ‘wild card’ books that I come across that look interesting to me, often the $2 investment is well worth it. ¬†Last week I came across an interesting title that¬†initially¬†I thought sounded silly but took a chance anyway. ¬†After reading the first chapter I realize that it has great value, the book is titled¬†The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground, by Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman.

A summary statement in the prologue says, “Genuine Corporate Mystics live life from a spiritual base. They are in business for their hearts and souls as well as their wallets. They are in business to support the hearts and souls of all the people with whom they work.” ¬†They go on to talk about how these spiritual folks have dirt under their nails as they practice daily the spirituality that they preach.

One story goes like this, “There is a Zen monastery near¬†Tokyo¬†that attracts many powerful executives from the nearby¬†industrial¬†cities. ¬†One day the master said: ‘There is no room in my monastery for mushy mystics,, dreamy folks who leave their dirty teacups everywhere. ¬†Here we meditate and we was our teacups. Both are equally important. We teach our students to be ruthlessly demanding of themselves and their colleagues. Expect the best!If people cannot function with clarity in the often-tough real world, their meditations and practices have been for nought. You must master two realities: You must revel in the vast inner space, the emptiness that is connected to all the emptiness everywhere. And at the very same time, you must give your full attention to the present moment, whether you are buying a train ticke or kissing your wife or reading the stock quotes.'”

 

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Continuing with the animal theme

In Bible,Community,devotional,faith,family,generosity,home,leadership,mission,principles,quote,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 13, 2012 by mstevensrev

ImageThis morning I read Geoffrey James article,¬†The Power of Determination,¬†and was inspired. ¬†There are many challenging things happening in our world, both personally and to friends that are very close to me. “So, even if it feels like God has flushed you down the toilet, pick yourself up and keep going. As long as you’re alive and kicking, there’s always a chance that God will pick you up and bring you to a place of safety.” I recognize that my current challenges pale in comparison to the circumstance others are facing in this world. ¬†While I may be able to do little to improve their life I can be faithful and determined in my circumstances, then live with an awareness of their plight so that if circumstances allow I may be generous with all that I have been give. ¬†The scriptures tell us that we (people) are but a breath, therefore whatever challenging circumstances we face today are less than a breath. ¬†Remember 1 Cor. 13:13, And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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The (free-range) Chicken Theology of Work

In art,Bible,church,Community,culture,design,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,food,Friends,Fun,Japan,Localization,mission,movies,Prayer,principles,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 11, 2012 by mstevensrev


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My theology of work is forever changing and evolving, and one place that I journey with others on this path is at¬†Kiros, once or twice a month depending on my travel schedule I attended the breakfasts meetings they put on where they often have a speaker share some perspective on living out their calling as a Christian in the marketplace. ¬†As a side note I also had the¬†privilege¬†of speaking to the group last March, if you want to check that our it is¬†here. ¬†This last Friday Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary provided one of the best talks I have heard on the topic, his stories had us rolling on the floor, his theology was simple enough a child could understand while making thoughtful people think, and his love of the scriptures came through as everything was driven by the text. ¬†The premise of Richard’s talk was very simple, you have been called by God to your work and you have the opportunity to examine that calling in this life to better understand your ‘responsibility’ to live out that calling in your fullness.

There were so many rich stories to share but my favorite was one Richard shared about a friend who is a chicken farmer who examined his role in the plan God has in raising chickens on his farm. ¬†There is a tension when you come to farming or the role animals have on this earth and the tension is this: Animals are not people and animals have not merely been created to serve our purposes. ¬†Another way to say this is a chicken won’t write Shakespeare, but a chicken is not merely a piece of meat. ¬†Therefore this farmer thought deeply about the theology of raising chickens. ¬†He came up with this, “God wants every chicken on our farm to have the opportunity to strut his/her chicken self infront of the other chickens.” In that theology I hear echos of the local farm movement as described to me by¬†Mark Canlis, that the goals of these farmers is to have their cows (or other animals) only have one “bad day” in their life. ¬†That day would be the day they are slaughtered. Though the image Richard provided me was so much more winsome because I see in my mind that chicken strutting around, rather than focusing on the bloody chopping block.

This can be a helpful premise for chickens, but I propose that people cannot think deeply about these issues because we don’t recognize that we have been created to strut the glory in which we have been created, theologians refer to this as being created in the image of God.¬†Marianne Williamson was famously quoted in a speech by Nelson¬†Mandela, she says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.¬†Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.¬†It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you¬†not¬†to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The knee jerk reaction people, especially from my theological tradition have, to this kind of thinking is that we are sinful therefore pride and arrogance must be guarded against. This warning is fair but it sets up a false choice between¬†humility¬†and glory. ¬†Jesus lived in the fullness of God and yet was extremely humble. ¬†He accepted all people as equal, he did not use them as means to an end, the only part I would add to our¬†responsibility in the area of humility is that we recognize that we are wrong intentionally because of bad motives and unintentionally whereas Jesus did not have this struggle because he was God…he was perfect. One friend of mine says, “I’m wrong 50% of the time, the hard part is that I don’t even know which 50%, but God is making me better.” ¬†Live out in the glory that you have been created in, be quick to acknowledge when you fail at it, and in gratitude acknowledge that the source of every good gift in your life is not your own but rather a gift from God.

The question that Richard’s (free-range) Chicken Theology brought up for me is, how do you apply this in the darkest valley’s of your career and work? In the past two years before my current job I walked through a few of those valleys, the struggle of broken promises that would not reward me for my work, getting fired, and having a job where I felt lonely and hopeless. ¬†How do you strut your stuff in those circumstance? I asked the question and Richard’s answer was twofold as I understood it, in thinking about it I think there may be at least third option as I understand it.

Richard said first your current circumstances may be preparation for the next step.  This rang true for me because I look back on the last two years and acknowledge that I would not be currently living in such glory without all that I had gone through.  The experience humbled me, gave me fearful experiences that I persevered through, and provided tangible knowledge that assists me daily in my current job.  Learn everything you can if you are going through a hard time, examine your character, life and work for there could be something on the horizon you are completely unaware of that will be a blessing.  This answer provides hope, but the truth is like a chicken we are completely ignorant if our future date is the chopping block.  And yes I know that even for the child of God the chopping block is not the end of the story because there is greater glory beyond, but I still find this answer a part of the overall answer rather then complete.

The second answer Richard provided is that your vocation could be less then the sum total of your calling. ¬†Our callings are greater than our work, I sell therefore I am a salesperson yet I am a father, husband, churchman, and the list goes on and on. ¬†Perhaps your work is merely a platform that provides you the freedom to pursue the other callings in your life with greater glory. I have met many people in my life that this is the circumstances they live in, they are lawyers but their passion is to see the gospel forwarded in particular countries in the world like China. ¬†The short side of this answer as complete is that we were created in a garden where all aspects of life were intended to work for God’s glory, so when we set create an arbitrary distinction between our work life and home life, for instance, it is impossible to live as God intended…as a whole person. ¬†I know for me personally when my work life was hopeless it was very difficult to enjoy my time at the park with my children, most of my conversations with my wife were in tears clouded by depression. ¬†This is why I contend again that work as a platform merely for the rest of our life falls short in allowing us to live gloriously.

A third option I want to propose does not answer the question fully either. As a matter of fact I sense that used incorrectly it could be the most damaging of the the options as it is the most deterministic and could create an undeserved heavier burden on someone already struggling. This option is the most Taoist or Confucius of the options, and because of that I think it is the most practical (in touch with how the world really functions and how our role relates to that functioning).

A documentary came out recently titled,¬†Jiro dream of Sushi¬†“by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.” This description is taken from an article on¬†Lifehacker¬†by¬†Maximiliano El Nerdo N√©rdez. ¬†In the article titled Lessons We can Learn from Jiro Ono, Maximiliano encourages readers as his first point to fall in love with your work.

“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Deciding on your occupation is a challenge for we live in a society that provides the opportunity to live in reasonable comfort regardless of your job or if it is in line with your calling. ¬†The hard work is not finding a job, it is discovering calling…once your calling is discovered or rather accepted (if you are a Calvinist) then the path of occupation is more clear though it may be a difficult path. ¬†Part of my calling is as an evangelist, meant that for a time my occupation would place me circumstances to lead people to a similar vision of my spiritual practice though for most people I talked with they would not share the same vision. ¬†So I became a pastor of a church in Oakland, CA. ¬†The church had financial challenges from before I started there, attendance was poor, and it was in a city that was not necessarily supportive of the entire scope of work we were pursing. ¬†The path for me as an evangelist was not easy. ¬†Now that I am in technology services my calling as an evangelist has not changed, but the path is much easier in many ways, and the path still allows me to live out my glorious calling while dedicating myself in excellence to my occupation.

Today I want to encourage everyone, strut your stuff in front of us other chickens. If you are in a dark valley, remember your current occupation (or lack of occupation) could be a learning step, a platform for other work, or the place you have been given to dedicate yourself. ¬†Even as I write that I believe the answer is all three not merely one or another. ¬†When I worked in a church we began each service with a call to worship, and I would frame the call to worship and the entire service with these words, “The good news for those God loves is that he has the first word to us and that first word is always blessing. God loves you and has made you in his glory! The good news does not end there rather God has the first word and the last word. ¬†The last word of those God loves is also blessing, you have been delivered.” So regardless of your circumstance remember you have been created for glory and you will be delivered unto glory. Amen.

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Starbucks’ amazing marketing and happy election day

In advertising,art,blogging,Blue Monster,Community,culture,design,faith,familiy,Friends,Fun,mission,politics,principles,publicity,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 6, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,

Living in Seattle I am very accustom to hearing people criticize Starbucks, my thoughts on the topic of coffee are that I prefer how other companies roast their beans. Therefore it is aesthetic not cynical in my critique.

ImageOne thing I am blown away with regarding Starbucks is the sophistication with their marketing. ¬†Today I am in Redwood Shores, CA working at a Starbucks before my appointments. ¬†The baristia offered me a ‘free’ bracelet that clearly has $5 donation marked on it, my defenses went up and I started trying to uncover the angel. ¬†The bracelets are for Let’s Create Jobs for USA, a campaign sponsored by Howard Schultz and others that has raised $15M and leveraged $105M, estimating 5,000 jobs created for small business in the USA. ¬†Since it is election day they are giving the bracelets away for free. ¬†This ‘gift’ took me from being someone who would never donate to the cause to someone not just interested in donating but blogging on it. ¬†Brilliant.

This is a corporation taking advantage of a term I learned from Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid, check out his article on¬†‚ÄúSocial Objects are the future of marketing.‚Ä̬†Hugh states:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the rea¬≠son two peo¬≠ple are tal¬≠king to each other, as oppo¬≠sed to tal¬≠king to some¬≠body else. Human beings are social ani¬≠mals. We like to socia¬≠lize. But if you think about it, there needs to be a rea¬≠son for it to hap¬≠pen in the first place. That rea¬≠son, that ‚Äúnode‚ÄĚ in the social net¬≠work, is what we call the Social Object.

I’m wearing my bracelet, talking with those around me at Starbucks about it, and will wear it to my appointments this afternoon sharing my experience. ¬†The ‘gift’ Starbucks provided me today is not only the bracelet but the opportunity to be part of a story that is larger than myself…that is impacting the world for good. ¬†This is something that we all should inspire to provide the people around us. There is a place for companies to provide something for free, if that is all you do you are not a company rather a charity (and that is good too). ¬†Starbucks used a social object to engage me on a cause but also it helps change a brand that I do not have the most favorable feelings toward.

So on this election day that is filled with disgusting shit on all sides, make a positive difference.  Inspire something larger than yourself to impact the world for good.  Perhaps it means not having the shitty conversation with someone who may think differently then you, or maybe it is something else.  Do your civic duty and vote, then go hug someone you love and let them know how grateful you are for them.