Category Archives: thinking

Response to: A question maybe no one has ever asked you

Dave asks a great (rhetorical?) question here that begins with << Here’s a question: At what point in your life did what you think become important? >>

My response:

Hi Dave, great question. What got you thinking about this?

For me, I don’t think it was until I could vote (18). Not good!

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UPDATE 12/3: I was thinking about this today and I think I’m wrong… there are actually LOTS of times when I was a young kid that I felt important. My parents were very good at giving us responsibility and trusting us. Some examples: given freedom and responsibility very young to 1) cook and make food including lunch for school, 2) walk to and from school on my own when in 1st grade or so. 3) we kids have our own bank accounts. I remember saving up to buy “FOOTBALL II” — a hand-held video game.

Other memorable experiences of “important”:
– sports: the team is counting on you to play your part. i often pitched and played goalie, so those felt especially important
– boy scouts: I was a patrol leader for several years when I was still quite young
– baby-sitting and lawn-mowing and dog-watching jobs
– In school: I went to traditional public school, but the times of feeling important were anytime I worked on a presentation or report where I knew I knew more about the particular subject than anyone else in the class, including the teacher.
– I will add to this list as I think of more

But still…
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This question was so important to my wife and I that we moved so our kids could go to Sudbury Valley School (sudval.org) where they can do what they want (all day long!) as long as they are not infringing on other people at school (other students or staff) or doing something dangerous, illegal, etc. The adult staff (no “teachers”) obviously have years of often valuable life experience and as paid employees they have have the added responsibility of taking care of the school. So no one is saying the kids are just little adults — but like you say, “what you think matters as much as what anyone else thinks.” So indeed, equal opportunity and one-person one-vote is embedded in the legal by-laws of the school. No puppet strings. 4 year-olds can vote if they want to. They know this, but are mostly happy to not vote until they are older.

UPDATE 12/4/13: Our 6-year old is serving his “every-other-year-or-so” duty as “juror” on the school’s Judicial Committee this month. He meets with the all-ages J.C. for an hour or so each day to hear the cases brought before them for that day. A powerful responsibility!

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Filed under Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, thinking

In the news…. some related links

The following are some related links. Computers are simultaneously making amazing things possible and helping make some people very rich, but also making it more difficult to make a living for many (see the income inequality video).
It’s touching everything for good or bad. Media, education, news, jobs, food, financial markets, politics. Some win (and we all hear about those people) and most lose (and news tries to not depress or mobilize us too much about that). “The limitation of the personal view” Jerry Mander calls it.

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- The Rise of the Blockbuster (blockbusters are actually on the increase. the “long tail” is still there, but aren’t the real winners %-wise)

http://wgbhnews.org/post/rise-blockbuster

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- Misconceptions about wealth Inequality in America

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- “Q: If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?”
“A: I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.”

https://twitter.com/SciencePorn/status/391419960817614848/photo/1

(original at: http://as.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/15yaap/if_someone_from_the_1950s_suddenly_appeared_today/?sort=top)

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- University megastar professors

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmarshallcrotty/2012/08/07/the-coming-age-of-the-teaching-megastar/

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- Welcome, Robot Overlords. Please Don’t Fire Us?
Smart machines probably won’t kill us all—but they’ll definitely take our jobs, and sooner than you think.

http://ehaugsjaa.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/2040-our-robot-paradise/

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- BAY WATCHED: How San Francisco’s new entrepreneurial culture is changing the country.
BY NATHAN HELLER
OCTOBER 14, 2013

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/10/14/131014fa_fact_heller?currentPage=all

Naval Ravikant “… the cost to build and launch a product went from five million … to one million … to five hundred thousand … and it’s now to fifty thousand.”

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- The Nacho Dorito
“I visited Steven A. Witherly, a food scientist who wrote an insider’s guide, “Why Humans Like Junk Food,” and we raided his lab to taste and experiment our way through the psychobiology of what makes Nacho Cheese Doritos so alluring.”

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/10/01/dining/nacho-graphic.html?_r=0

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- TOO COMPLICATED TO FAIL

https://www.google.com/search?q=%22too+complicated+to+fail%22

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Filed under computers, contrarian, person: Jerry Mander, tech, thinking

The problem with twitter (and facebook (and wordpress))

The problem with twitter is that it isn’t more like facebook.
And the problem with facebook is that it isn’t more like twitter.
And the problem with wordpress is that it isn’t more like facebook and twitter.

By which I mean:

Facebook is annoying because:
– images are big now and everyone has figured out that the clever way to advertise their website is to put a clever saying in an image which is now huge and I have to scroll like mad now to read anything. I mean, I am guilty of sharing these sometimes, but will resist now I think. I usually hide article previews too.
– It’s not open

Twitter is annoying because:
– It’s a river (vs folders like is an option in RSS reader) so you can’t easily do things like group feeds, click to read one person (or one cluster) when you want to, etc. I know you can click (TWICE!) to read more from a person, but come on!
– It’s suggesting celebs to subscribe to. Uh, no.
– I pretty much totally hate URL compressor things since I can’t tell if I am interested cause the website name is hidden
– I am sorry but I am not conversing with you there
– hashtags are ugly and painful and useless unless it is a niche.
– It’s not open

WordPress is annoying because:
– It’s slow
– It doesn’t do nice/automatic previews of articles when you paste them in
– It’s slow
– All my friends aren’t there
– I can’t easily protect posts by friendship

The future:
– Might bring some open way of doing things like all of the above but in an open “internet standards” sort of way.
– simpler but also maybe more modular/programmable
— examples of tiny evidence of hope:
—– RSS
—– Dave Winer’s littleoutliner.com (see http://scripting.com/) is a sign (I hope) of things to come.
—– https://ifttt.com/
—– flickr.com API and APIs in general
—– bootstrap, and responsive design / HTML5
—– some google tools (books, forms) seem hopeful, but I won’t count on them now that I see that Google just close things down (ala Google Reader)

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Filed under computers, freedom, future, tech, thinking

A go-to salad

MEDIUM has caught my eye recently. My go-to place for reading quick work-break articles. I haven’t read about it–medium itself–I’ll wait for the rundown in the NYer :) but it seems to be going for the space between blogs and a good magazine. So, somehow a more editorially controlled platform somehow. Right now, it’s a locked-down group who can publish, but presumably at some point it will open up. And then the question will be 1) how will they possibly keep the editorial quality up. And 2) how will it make money.

I suppose it will be sorta doomed eventually (#1 wise), but Ev obviously has some ideas and it will probably succeed for a time with #2. I should read about it. But I can’t stop reading articles like this:

“You must have a go-to salad in your life”

View story at Medium.com

And this!

“Why Coke Exists”

View story at Medium.com

Maybe I like articles like these because they are sorta like NYer articles… jumping back and forth between the historical/big-picture and a personal story, right in the same article. But shorter.

OK, I figured Dave Winer was interested in MEDIUM too and sure enough…

http://threads2.scripting.com/2013/march/mediumShowsMore

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Filed under new media, platforms, thinking

Programming hours

Interesting thread w/ comments about the hours programmers keep. Differs by person of course. Night-owls, 9-to-5ers, etc.

Personally, I get ideas and fix problems:
– many during 9-to-5 but also
– running
– sleeping/putting kids to bed
– carpooling

Another ObPoint about leaving and coming back and “fixing the problem in 5 minutes”: It also often just works to shift gears and work on another problem. It’s not always just food/sleep/time needed. There is usually plenty of other work to be doing, so choose another problem for a bit and come back to the stuck one later.

But it’s true, like any difficult/creative work: it is quite pointless to code when tired.

see also: Relax! You’ll Be More Productive

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html?pagewanted=all

- taking time to get adequate food, sleep, exercise, and vacations “boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

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Filed under exercise, programming, sleep, thinking, time, work

We’d be net zero but…

Our house would be net zero source energy but…

- well filters: we avg 54 KWh / month
– well pump: 10 Kwh / month
– radon fan: 40 KWh / month
– 2 home offices: 60 KWh / month
– Mitsubishi minisplit: 20 Kwh / month (EVEN WHEN OFF DUE TO A COIL HEATER THINGY!)
– electric lawn mower: (not much, but just sayin’)

What else did I forget?

TOTAL:
So that’s 54+10+40+60+20 = 184 KWh / month
= 2208 / KWh per year

… that we can’t help that some other net-zero types of house don’t have since our house has a well and 2 home offices and a mitsubishi mr slim air-source heat pump with what I would consider a design flaw!

We use approximately 10,000 KWh per year for everything (heat, hot water, lighting, cooking, etc.) And our 6.9 KW PV panels make about 8,400 KWh so if we didn’t have the extra 2200 KWh, we’d be easily net zero.

BUT… then there is driving. Someone who lives in a city in and walks everywhere is blowing us away. We drive maybe 15000 miles per year at 20 MPG (minivan). There goes net-zero.

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Filed under contrarian, energy-efficiency, erik-green, HVAC, passive house, superinsulation, thinking, zero energy home

Watch as Erik predits the future!

1. big 10″ ipad and “samsung galaxy tab 10.1″ sized tablets are a temporary/transition technology because…

– 1.1 no decent input. Note taking apps like Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker HD will work on this but can’t beat a keyboard and mouse. I think Bill Gates was right about that.

– 1.2 too big too carry around and not that great for watching movies in lap (laptop way more comfortable)

– 1.3 not that great for gaming since no controller! multiple kids I’ve spoken to have fully admitted this is a problem. In their words… “the games on the iPod Touch are not “rageable” — meaning I think that you can’t really get very worked up about them one way or the other because well… they are not very good. At least in a Mario Brothers sort of way. Angry Birds ok. Puzzles ok. But to really get into a game, i think one needs a controller or a keyboard and mouse. touching alone is not right. Not the right feel.

– 1.4 while it might be acceptable to pull out an iPhone and glance at it while with friends somewhere, the size of the tablets will mean that this will probably never feel quite as acceptable.
Maybe I am wrong. ala a shifting baseline of culturally acceptable things…

2. ultrapads like the MacBook Air and other windows based SSD laptops will become more popular (many of the advantages of a tablet with fewer downsides)

3. And smaller 7″ tablets will get higher-res more readable screens and

4. also android will be market leader vs ipad so all the apps that are “iPad only” right now will get fewer and fewer. Yes, I know some will remain like BBEdit, etc. But most will be available on both.

5. small phone-sized smart devices will continue to be very important. The size is right. Not too big so it fits in a pocket VERY easily. Even a little bigger than an iPhone is too big.

6. those ultrapad computers will get:

– 6.1 touch screens (there are tablet computers I’ve seen from dell and lenovo)

– 6.2 computers will also get better about having different “views” I will call them for a lack of a better word. You might have an “office” view, a “media center” view. And an “app” view.
In other words, I want to keep all the power of the platform and input devices, but I want to customize things at the “OS” level more. I shouldn’t have to install “Easy Peasy” to get a simplified laptop. It should just be another “view”. I think Microsoft and Apple know this. MacOS will probably merge (at least design wise) with iOS. I have read that it is happening already with Lion with the default behavior of the mouse in some apps. Scrolling vs Swiping…

When I want to use a computer to read a newspaper or watch youtube, it doesn’t mean it has to look like a normal newspaper website. For instance, the NY Times Chrome App is great. http://nytimes.com/chrome/

7. Meanwhile, it would be nice if we didn’t have to thow out so many electronic gadgets to “evolve”. Got that “Palm V” still? That “iPod Classic”? That’s another advantage to good-ole computers. I can have a quite old piece of Windows- or Mac-based computer hardware running pretty much brand new software. Sweet.

8. A lot more people should be telecommuting given the technology we have!

We shall see… we shall see… Wake me up in 20 years!

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Filed under tech, thinking

deep energy retrofit and solar work

A letter to the editor in the NYTimes recently correctly points out that this article is wrong when it states: “There is no contemporary version of the 1870s railroads, the 1920s auto industry or even the 1990s Internet sector. ” LINK

The energy efficiency of buildings and solar are in serious need of people to do serious amounts of work!

I wouldn’t mind some more high-speed rail lines or bike trails around here either! Though I know projects like these use more machines than people these days. That’s why the energy-efficiency work is interesting. It’s quite a bit of labor and it also requires some substantial thinking too. Deep energy retrofits and building science are young industries comparatively speaking.

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Filed under energy-efficiency, erik-green, occupy, thinking

Turn the channel to youtube…

All of the interesting stuff I’ve read about Occupy Boston/OWS has been NOT in the mainstream media (msm). I think this means that #OWS is difficult for MSM but also that blogging/etc is really coming into itself. We have a mac mini connected to living room TV with HDMI so we can do youtube via browser. I guess Apple TV has a youtube channel but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra $ for the simplicity since we already have the mac, and sometimes things I want to watch are on Vimeo, PBS, etc. which won’t work with the Apple TV.

Also, this is perhaps rather obvious but there are probably plenty of 30-somethings and 40-somethings who would love to camp out and join the protests but that’s hard when you really have to work to continue to “put food on your family” as I like to say.

See elsewhere:
Embracing the 1 percent
We are the 1 percent. We stand with the 99 percent.

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Filed under tech, thinking

“College Degree or Equivalent Work Experience”

I am not against college/university degrees per se. But as far as preparation for a career, I think it really just depends.

Wanna be a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, nurse, mechanical engineer, NFL football player, etc, etc… well, you are of course going to need some undergraduate and usually some graduate school often leading up to a certification exam of some sort. And/or internships.

But what if you want to do something that doesn’t require a degree?

What do some enlightened/practical companies hiring software engineers write in their job descriptions?

  • Google: “Bachelor’s degree in computer science or other technical field. In lieu of degree, 4 years work and/or professional programming experience.”
  • Microsoft: NO MENTION of school whatsoever in their “Basic Qualifications” section for a senior software position.
  • Amazon: “Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or related field, or 4+ years relevant work experience”
  • Turbine: “College Degree or Equivalent Work Experience”

Get the picture? Now maybe I am cherry-picking a career and most other jobs are not so lax on the college requirement. I doubt it.

Now sure, within these companies there are certainly positions that they are looking for degrees for if you want to start right in at a senior level instead of working one’s way up. Google says for example in their “preferred qualifications” section for one more senior position: “Masters or Doctoral degree for senior positions” Microsoft likewise… “Computer Science degree, or Bachelor of Science in an engineering discipline.”

So check out those job offers and go figure out what “Experience building and operating online services and fault-tolerant distributed systems” means. And what “MCTS certification in SQL Server 2005/2008 Database Development” is. Confused? Take some free online courses from MIT or Stanford or somewhere.

You’ll have a job in no time.

(As long as you move to CA, WA, NY, or MA.)

Careers differ in:
– solo enterprise (vs group)
– must learn from an expert craftsman in person (vs “books”) — e.g. in person: therapist, doctor, ferrier, backcountry guide
– requires stamp of approval or certification (vs not) — (e.g. plumber: licence required. carpenter: no license)

Not that it is an either/or… Software lends itself well to allowing one to apprentice oneself initially on one’s own with resources available in books/videos/web/online courses/certification courses/etc and then very quickly jump into a entry-level job where one can learn from “the masters”. There’s not necessarily a huge advantage to a 4-year degree career-wise

Maybe people out there disagree. But that’s been my personal experience.

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Filed under contrarian, tech, thinking