Monday, October 20, 2008

Save a life with your iPhone or iPod touch - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Save a life with your iPhone or iPod touch - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW): "If you came upon someone who was injured or had suffered a medical emergency, would you know how to react? In the midst of a crisis situation, even citizens who have been trained in first aid sometimes forget what they need to do to help save a life."

Get this and hurry the offer ends this Sunday Oct 26

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hamburger is cuisine again.

In Paris, Burgers Turn Chic - "“It has the taste of the forbidden, the illicit — the subversive, even,” said Helene Samuel, a restaurant consultant here. “Eating with your hands, it’s pure regression. Naturally, everyone wants it.”"

It looks like Alton Brown got his wish. Hamburger is cuisine again. It is being debated and discussed again... in France of all places.

It is fascinating to see what they think is essential and what isn't, where they are experimenting and what people say when they go too far.

What is great is that they aren't going nuts with the potion sizes, not like the HoJos in Hong Kong we stopped at with the 5 pound King Size burger, and the 2 pound King Size hot dog.

It is funny that they think the sesame seed bun is essential. They obviously have never encountered a patty melt, which is a whole different take on the same basic concept. For something more edgy, they can try the pulled pork and sliced brisket sandwiches and let's not forget the tamales and runzas.

It seems to me like these chefs have forgotten their roots; all food was once humble food at some point, but with some TLC and some creativity it becomes something much, much more. They need a Mickey Goldmill for their Rocky.

Alton, or staff, if you're reading this, here is an idea you can freely use. Take a couple of these chefs on a Feasting on Asphalt style tour of burger joints, greasy spoons and BBQ pits. Then sit around in afterwards and discuss and debate what they've learned and where they might go with it. Maybe even end up in Kitchen Stadium for the Mother of All Burger Battles.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lost and found Find your user guide, user guide, instruction manual or owner manual instantly !

Find your user guide, user guide, instruction manual or owner manual instantly !: "So much time wasted looking all over the place for the instruction manual to tune the tv-set, find the printer cartridge replacement how-to, the meaning of the blinking led on the dashboard. How many user manuals available only on cd-rom, on the internet ?"

Sometimes finding manuals online can be a real pain. This is really help.
via LifeHacker

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Daring Fireball: Spaces in 10.5.3

Daring Fireball: Spaces in 10.5.3: "If you turn this new checkbox off, however, activating an app, even one that has no windows in the current space, will not jump you to another space. Once you’re in a space, you stay there until you explicitly switch spaces, not just switch apps. This makes all the difference in the world for the way I, and others, want to use Spaces."

I have found an interesting behavior with Spaces. If you highlight some text or a URl and try dragging it to the desktop if you go all the way to the edge of the window it will slide to the next space and after a pause the next after that, in most directions.

I am not sure if I like this or even if this is a bug or a feature.

Drop 'middle-class' academic subjects, says schools adviser, and teach them PERSONAL SKILLS instead | Mail Online

Drop 'middle-class' academic subjects, says schools adviser, and teach them PERSONAL SKILLS instead | Mail Online: "Children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are 'middle-class' creations, a Government adviser will claim today.

Professor John White, who contributed to a controversial shake-up of the secondary curriculum, believes lessons should instead cover a series of personal skills.

Pupils would no longer study history, geography and science but learn skills such as energy- saving and civic responsibility through projects and themes."

This is the kind of thing that makes blood shoot out of my eyes. Not only does he say out loud that his goal is to make "his" students poor, ignorant and dependent on others, he says it like it's a good thing.

via Kim

Monday, June 02, 2008

Op-Ed Contributor - Put a Little Science in Your Life - Op-Ed -

Op-Ed Contributor - Put a Little Science in Your Life - Op-Ed - "Like a music curriculum that requires its students to practice scales while rarely if ever inspiring them by playing the great masterpieces, this way of teaching science squanders the chance to make students sit up in their chairs and say, “Wow, that’s science?”"

That is what it comes down to. It takes a public school to drill and kill. I had a great high school physics teacher and we would actually build things like aluminum foil boats and balsa wood bridges to make up the drudgery of learning all the equations and constants and such like.

I need to remember this.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Phoenix Landing site with parachute and heatshield

Phoenix Landing Site, Labeled
: "This enhanced-color image from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows the Phoenix landing area viewed from orbit."

We have so much tech floating on and around Mars we are beginning to be able to do some amazing things.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

The Other Side of Kim du Toit: "From him, I developed the saying, “The mark of a decent man is not how much he thinks about himself, but how much time he spends thinking about others.”"

The Phoenix has landed
: "``Landing is easy; doing it softly is the hard part,'' said Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University and co-investigator on the NASA project."

It is really good to see some Mars success again.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Another loss to the SciFi world

Myth Adventures Home: "On May 22, 2008, Bob passed away quietly in his home in
New Orleans, LA. He had been in good spirits and working
on several new projects, and was set to be the Guest of Honor
at a major science fiction convention that very weekend.
He is survived by his mother, his sister, his daughter and his
son, and his cat, Princess, not to mention countless friends and fans and numerous legendary fictional characters.

He will be greatly missed."

I really liked the Myth-series, it offered a note of hilarity during some very rough times. Sadly most of them are in storage somewhere but it is time to hit the bookstore for a tribute.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seth's Blog: Who answers the phone?

Seth's Blog: Who answers the phone?: "Shouldn't you be rewarding call center operators by how long they keep people on the phone, not how many calls they can handle a minute? Shouldn't there be an easy, fast and happy way for an operator to instantly upgrade a call to management (not a supervisor, I hate supervisors) who can actually learn something from the caller, not just make them go away?"

It's just managing what you measure. If you measure the wrong thing then you're screwed.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

FIRST Robotics Video - New York Regional Competition - Hand-Built Robots - Popular Mechanics

FIRST Robotics Video - New York Regional Competition - Hand-Built Robots - Popular Mechanics: "It wasn’t hard to find the high-octane action of the FIRST Competition at the Jacob Javits Center this past weekend. All you had to do was follow the thunderous cheers erupting from several hundred amped-up high-school students. Inside the exhibit hall, face-painted teenagers waving foam fingers and team flags were packed hip-to-hip on two sets of bleachers as referees circled center court."

They never had anything like this when I was a kid. Heck, the computers we had were Apple ][e. I wonder if they'll get a letterman jacket? Do they even have those anymore?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Eighth Birthday

Today is the eighth anniversary of the birth of our first daughter. This would have been a special year for her. She would have been ready to be baptized, and I would have done that ordinance and she would be able to receive the Holy Ghost. She would also move into senior primary.

In a rather interesting bit of timing I have a jury summons. I had gotten one just after I was cleared to walk again after the accident that killed her. For some reason the lawyers didn't think I would be objective in a drug related case.
I have forgiven the drunk driver that killed my daughter and the light and live that filled me redefined my life. That said I would not be and could not be an impartial juror for a drug related offense. Loving the sinner is wonderful, but the sin is still a sin and is wrong.

We live our lives and continue and we are in a position to help people who average people are not able to help, so it continues.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On the Future of Publishing

If you are a not so old geezer like me you might remember the PhotoMat a little store out in the parking lot of most supermarkets where you could drop off you roll of film and get them back in 1 day. Now most supermarkets have an automatic developing machine in the store where you can get your photos back in an hour and right next to it is usually a computer for printing out your digital photos in seconds.

Supermarkets usually also have an aisle devoted to books and magazines. Usually limited to the bestsellers and lots of romance fiction. But now with the Espresso Book Machine you would be able to get any book you wanted printed while you shop.
Borders is already in trouble and Amazon is starting up its own print-on-demand (POD) service.

Now it is a race to see if this gets popular enough to compete with purely digital formats. The film companies came out with the APS format film at the same time as digital cameras and now film has moved to a niche status, even Polariod, the original instant gratification camera, has stopped making film and film cameras.

With the Kindle and iPhone it will be interesting to see how the market segments books. The fiercest battle will be for paperback fiction and may never get resolved some people will want a physical book others will be happy with ebooks. Coffee table books will remain real but textbooks and reference works will go electronic.

Cookbooks can be another battle ground, ecookbooks can have different font sizes s you can read it from further away, but there is something special about browsing a cookbook and stumbling on a new recipe. The internet is great for finding something if you already know what you want but not so good when you are not so sure.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Louise's Secret to Success | Dr. Joe Vitale at Zero

Louise's Secret to Success | Dr. Joe Vitale at Zero: "Louise is one of those angelic souls who believed in me before I believed in myself."

Everyone deserves someone like Louise.

Seth's Blog: Getting vs. Taking

Seth's Blog: Getting vs. Taking: "They wait for the teacher (hopefully a great one) to give them something of value.

Many employees do the same thing at work. They wait for a boss (hopefully a great one) to give them responsibility or authority or experiences that add up to a career."

Are you waiting for something to happen?

I've been doing that too much. I need to make something-anything- happen.

Today has been a high energy day. I hope it lasts.

The business of parenting (

The business of parenting ( "It's difficult not to feel incredibly manipulated by the Wall of Death. You know deep down that it's ridiculous; your parents didn't have any of this crap and you turned out fine. But then the what-ifs start gnawing away at your still-shaky confidence as a new parent. Our encounter with the Wall paralyzed us, and with the exception of those plastic wall outlet plugs, we've punted on baby proofing for now. We're letting Ollie show us where all the problem areas are before committing to any white plastic solutions."

You know they never tell you to baby proof the undersides of the vent covers that are in the floor. That was the only thing ur daughter actually hurt herself on in our home. She was getting the hang of walking and found her way behind the sofa to one of the floor vents, she pulled it up and stepped on it, cutting her big toe. It ended up requiring stitches.

For the most part she is a good kid that doesn't get into things too much. Though we are careful to keep the chemicals up and out of the way. Simple toys are best. Right now she is into dolls but we did also play with LEGO, okay it was the princess set but that works too.

Simple puzzles are fun too, though it is really hard to find some in the 50-75 piece range.

Managing the Wrong Numbers

Lawmakers Look To Set Cap On Solar Panel Fees - Denver News Story - KMGH Denver: "'Solar is a borderline efficient technology. Adding unreasonable costs stretches out the payback period beyond what makes economic sense,' he said."

The first question that pops out of people's mouths when you start talking about solar power is "What's the payback period?" It is like the homeschooling questions, "What about their socialization?" They are nonsense questions, they have nothing to do with the matter at hand. You would never ask that question about a new refrigerator or SUV, now, would you?

The funniest things I ever see after a blizzard around here are all the 4x4s cruisin' around in the snow, because they finally have a chance to justify the reason they bought the thing in the first place. "But we can use it to drive in the snow." The best one was the one guy who got his truck out of the driveway and ended up blocking the road for an hour because he couldn't get any farther. He eventually drove it right back into the garage and shut the door behind him.

A solar electric system costs about as much as a new SUV (~$32,000) but with rebates and credits it can be brought down to about $12,000 a new small car. Not an unreasonable amount for some budgets.

The real question isn't how big a system you should get. At the least it should cover the basics like frig, freezer, furnace, sump pump, some lights and a laptop computer.

The real question is how to setup a good loan system to make it easier to pay for. You still seem to have to go and get a regular bank loan rather then something simple like an auto loan. I am not a finance guy so I have no ideas what all the rules and laws are around this but it would seem to me to make more sense creating an auto loan type system to make it easier for people to buy.

The hardest part about getting a solar power system isn't the parts and construction but getting the money. Solve that problem and more people will go for it.

The Tyranny of Car Options

U.S. car companies go back to black
| Business
| Reuters
: "Ford's chief of marketing, Jim Farley, who was hired away from Toyota Motor Co (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) last year, said he was stunned to find that Ford was offering 100,000 combinations of options on its entry-level Focus sedan. Some 80 percent of Ford's sales came from just 4,000 of those combinations, he said.

In response, Ford has cut complexity by reducing the number of 'buildable combinations' of the 2008 Focus by 99 percent. On the 2008 Expedition, it has cut combinations by 95 percent."

Years ago when my wife's dad still worked at Ford he was frustrated by the fact they didn't really know how much it had cost to produce and market a car when it was driven off the lot by a customer.

When we were looking at new cars it was also frustrating to ask the dealer about the availability of a car with all the extra safety options and they would have to call all over the state to find out if they had it and then find out they didn't have one in the entire state, but there was one that had all but one of the extra safety options and another with all but two. We were astonished, why would they do that? For entertainment options we could see going al a-carte but extra safety options you would think would be all or nothing, either you wanted them all or not.

Dell has built its business on mass customization, you order exactly what you want and they build and ship it to you, fast.

Apple strives for Less is More philosophy, it builds what it believes to be a small set of nearly prefect products. They have 2-3 option packages for each of their product lines.

The car manufactures have chosen the worst possible combination. Mass customization without the ability to order what you want. So they have all the complexity without the customer satisfaction.

It looks like the car manufacturers are choosing the Apple route. Fewer options combined into rational option sets. I think that is a great idea. Most people don't really care all that much about the car they buy, as long as it does what they need and looks good doing it.

It would be great to have the question, "What are you looking for your car to do for you?" be the starting point rather then "How can I help you today?"

That said, with most manufactures going this route, that means that there is an opening for one that goes the Dell route and allows you to order exactly that car you want.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Keeping Spring Cleaning Sane

You know its bad when the broom and the vacuum break in the same week, just as you begin spring cleaning.

At this point spring cleaning is not a huge, do-everything-in-one-week job. It is going to take a while, because we are keeping it down to reasonable chunks without exhausting ourselves.

We are focusing on just one task a day, not a whole room. We've already done the freezer and the refrigerator, and the living room furniture.

Doing one room at a time sounds reasonable but often there just isn't the time or energy to do that. The living room may be easy enough: pushing all the furniture into the center of the room and vacuuming the edges and the cushions and putting things back.

On the other hand, the kitchen is more easily done one or two cabinets at a time. Mainly because of moving everything to the kitchen table cleaning the cabinet and the stuff and putting it back in. We still haven't found a really good solution to how our stuff should be arranged so we move things around from time to time. After three tries I am getting less hopeful about finding a better then barely adequate solution.

But then some rooms are all-or-nothing, like the bathroom, you really have to clean the whole thing in one shot or you end up doing it all over again anyway.

It is also time to fix things that can be fixed and just do it and get it out of the way. At this point if I find something broken and is not worth fixing it is time to toss/recycle, if it is mostly used and we haven't used it in recent memory we'll toss it too. A box for the truck of the car is in the living room

For things that work and that we haven't used in a while: a donate/sell box is in the living room. When we get to the closet and dressers that will get filled up and get put in the trunk of the car as it fills up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Business paradoxes and blaming the schools

AT&T CEO says hard to find skilled U.S. workers - Yahoo! News: "'We're having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs,' AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a business group in San Antonio, where the company's headquarters is located."

I know too many people who can't seem to get a good job anymore. They can't break past the gatekeepers.

The real problem he and a lot of other businesses are facing is a paradox. On the one hand his HR department is busy looking for ways to exclude a candidate, if it is not a 100% match they toss it. Well, I can understand that, they are probably like every other huge one, they get so many resumes a week they have no way of handling the information overload. A couple of large companies here in Denver get 4 feet of resumes every week, at least one of them recycles the pile.

So looking for a perfect match is not bad idea in itself. It is just that most people have an understanding of what they and their friends are worth. Often the salary offered is nothing like the value given so no deal is made and you end up with people who padded their resumes and can't do the work or people who can do the work and are desperate but who will jump ship as soon as they can, they are often told they are "overqualified."

In-house HR depts are very good at not hiring. I went to the AT&T site but it was so slow I couldn't have applied even if I found something. That is one of the reasons they go to headhunters, and that has it's own set of problems.

The outsourcers, on the other hand, the companies who big companies hire to actually run the off shore setup, just want body counts. Anyone that can even vaguely speak English is welcome, quickly trained and let loose on the phones. And offering a wage that is upper-middle class draws plenty of potential employees.

He's talking about customer service jobs, you know the kind where a huge shift of people sit along long tables and answer questions on the phone all day. All it really needs is basic literacy and computing skills. None of these are skills that would take more then two weeks to teach even to a dropout as long as they could read oven if slowly. Though if they are still using legacy apps to run their business the big bottleneck is an insane interface not the person as such. I worked in a place like that. We had to run two old DOS programs at once to field a single call. They were trying to update to a more modern app, but that interface design was even worse.

There are multiple problems going on here and blaming the schools is just a cop out. Maybe he should try applying to his own company and see what happens. He would be very surprised. He probably wouldn't even get one of those "We'll keep your resume on file for six months" letters.

From Jerry Pournelle

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How to Setup Time Machine on an Airport Extreme Basestation

Apple has updated the firmware on the Airport Extreme Base Station so we can use Time Machine now. This is a great thing as now we won't have to remember to pull in the external disk every so often. Though time Machine is smart enough to tell you it has been 10 days or 20 or more days since the last backup.

I will assume you have a Leopard Mac with all the latest updates (10.5.2), an Airport Extreme Base Station (Gigabit Ethernet) also with the latest firmware (7.3.1) and an external USB 2.0 disk at least as big as your internal disk, bigger is better however.

Preparing the Disk

The first thing you need to do is prepare the disk. I'll assume it is a new disk with no files on it. Pull it directly into your computer first and fire up Disk Utility. Select the disk from the left hand pane and in the left pane choose Partition. Select 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme and under Options... choose GUID Partition Table. Press OK. Finally under Volume Information give it a name and most importantly set the format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
Click Apply and let it do it's thing. Once it is done you can unmount the disk and plug it into the Base Station. Sadly, we can't do a Time Machine backup and then move it to the AEBS, so we have to do it this way.

Setting Up the AirPort Extreme Base Station

Open up AirPort Utility and click on Manual Setup and select Disks. Go to the File Sharing tab and make sure Enable file sharing is checked. I would also recommend securing your shared disk with a password or some kind.
You won't be able to use that disk for windows file sharing as it is not FAT but, then Time Machine wouldn't work if you did.
Hit Update and wait for your Base Station to restart.

In a Finder window connect to the AirDisk under the Shared items in the sidebar. You may have to login by clicking on Connect As... and entering your password, that may not be obvious but it is an important step.

Starting Backups

I would recommend connecting to your AEBS with an ethernet cable for the first backup as Time Machine will be backing up everything and it will take a lot less time over ethernet compared to WiFi.

Open the Time Machine preferences in system preferences and make sure it is on and then select Change Disk and click on the AirDisk. It will start preparing the disk and it will take quite sometime to do the first backup, so it is best to do this before bed so it has plenty of time to do it's thing. It took mine 10 hours to do 150GB, just to give you an idea of how long it will take. After the first one it the hourly ones won't take nearly as long as they are much smaller. You just need to make sure that the AirDisk is mounted.

Moving iTunes Off of Your Computer

You can also use the same technique to move your iTunes library off of your computer and onto a sufficiently large AirDisk.
Making sure you are connected to the AirDisk as above, you can go into iTunes preferences and under Advanced change the iTunes Music folder location to the AirDisk. I would also recommend activating Keep iTunes Music Organized and Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.
Then actually move all of the tracks you need to go to the Advanced Menu and click on Consolidate Library. This is move all your tracks onto the AirDisk. If you have a big library it will take some time, so hooking up via ethernet is a good idea. You might want to let all this run over the weekend.
If you are away from your network and download more music, video or podcasts, iTunes is smart enough to save them to your local Music folder, to add them to your main library all you need to do is run the Consolidate Library command again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke dies aged 90 - Times Online

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke dies aged 90 - Times Online: "The visionary author of more than 70 books, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize after predicting the existence of satellites, was most famous for his short story 'The Sentinel', which was expanded into the novel that was later adapted for Stanley Kubrick's film '2001: A Space Odyssey'."

He was one of the first authors to get me into reading along with Asimov. Some of the science has been superseded by things we've learned about the universe but the stories themselves are still strong and good.

Comcast troubles

Yesterday afternoon a cable was broken in our neighborhood and now it is challenging getting on the 'net. It might be a few days before things are resolved.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Somethings can't be explained in objective terms, you need to experience them for yourself

Mind Hacks: A stroke of insight

I watched this mainly because my mother had a stroke and was disabled by it until her death.

But what grabbed me completely was how similar what she experienced was to something I experienced. My wife and I were almost killed, and our unborn daughter was killed, by a drunk driver. We experienced 11 on the pain scale, and endured months of grueling physical and occupational therapy.

I came up with all kinds of very creative ways to deal with the drunk who did this to us, even though he had died on scene, believe me we engineers can be very creative when we want to be.

But finally came the day when I forgave him of what he had done to us, why because it was the right thing to do an something the Lord has commanded of us. The result was beyond anything I could have expected, the power that enveloped me filled me with a love for all people that seemed to fill the whole earth and beyond.

It was truly incredible. She experienced something similar.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi Day The official web site for Pi Day, March 14th

Pi Day The official web site for Pi Day, March 14th: "Pi, Greek letter (), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535... Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th."

A good a reason as any to celebrate.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tech Beat Apple's design process - BusinessWeek

Tech Beat Apple's design process - BusinessWeek: "Interesting presentation at SXSW from Michael Lopp, senior engineering manager at Apple, who tried to assess how Apple can ‘get’ design when so many other companies try and fail."

The funny thing is, is that none of this is unknown or mysterious. All of the things Apple does have been widely preached for a long time, in many different industries. Stuff like this was done in the car industry a long time ago and they got back to it after the Japanese ate their lunch.

The trouble is most companies won't commit the resources to actually do it the right way. Most middle managers are tasked with keeping costs down. Obviously spending money on 10 prototypes, 9 of which will be thrown away is just not a very good way of keeping costs down. Or if they are mandated to come up with 10 they only provide enough money and time for 3 good ones and 7 throwaways. Often it is even worse then that: They call a brainstorming meeting and ask for "good" ideas, which shuts things down before they even start as everyone looks for ideas the boss will think of as "good".

Brainstorming is all about quantity not quality, you can't tell a good idea from a bad one right at first for the most part and that is fine. You spend an hour or two generating as many ideas as possible and then later after a break or on a later day, come back and sort them into possible and impossible piles and then go through the possible pile and hammer on them until they break then work on the least broken ideas and make them work.

Pony meeting is a great term I have to save that.

Stephen Schwarzman - New York Public Library - New York Times

Stephen Schwarzman - New York Public Library - New York Times: "Officials said the system was shifting to what they call a “hub and spoke” concept. The idea is to create hub libraries with comprehensive services — literacy training, homework help, job search assistance — and to tailor programs at satellite branches to meet the needs of specific neighborhoods. Those hubs would aim to replicate the success of the new Bronx Library Center, which has become a thriving gathering spot since it opened in that borough’s Fordham section in 2006. It has become a magnet for young people in the neighborhood, most of whom are African-American, Caribbean or Latino. (Brooklyn and Queens have their own library systems.)"

LIbrary news just keeps coming. This may be a good innovation.

I also don't see any problem with the library selling it's artwork, it's a library not an art museum.

Andrew Carnegie - Carnegie, Libraries

Andrew Carnegie - Carnegie, Libraries: "Outside the library Carnegie built in Allegheny is a monument to Anderson, and on the entrance arch to most libraries he built is the inscription, 'Free to All' -- and 'if one boy in each library district, by having access to one of these libraries, is half as much benefited as I was by having access to Colonel Anderson's four hundred well-worn volumes, I shall consider they have not been established in vain.'"

On this day Andrew Carnegie started building free public libraries around the world, eventually building 2500 in a dozen countries.

He became the richest man in the world, of his era, mainly because he was able to talk himself into a small private library to read books. Which is a fun story on its own, but until he started his building program public libraries were rare and widely scattered. Most libraries were private and getting in would required knowing someone or having the money to buy in.

Between the donations of Carnegie and the organization of Dewey we have our modern library system. Of course they have had a bit of an identity crisis in hte last few years with the internet but things are settling down now.

Sadly it does not look like his dream of one boy doing half as well as he did has ever been achieved but there is still hope.

Understanding the Universe - It's Awesome - Cosmic Calendar -

Understanding the Universe - It's Awesome - Cosmic Calendar - "Imagine that the history of the universe is compressed into one year—with the big bang occurring in the first seconds of New Year’s Day, and all our known history occurring in the final seconds before midnight on December 31. Using this scale of time, each month would equal a little over a billion years. Here’s a closer look at when important events would occur when we imagine the universe in one year."

Yeah, but all the interesting stuff happens in the last second.

Monday, March 10, 2008

March 10, 1876: 'Mr. Watson, Come Here ... '

March 10, 1876: 'Mr. Watson, Come Here ... ': "1876: Alexander Graham Bell makes the first telephone call in his Boston laboratory, summoning his assistant from the next room."

For better or worse a great invention was made this day.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Study: Girls Like Science and Math - Yahoo! News

Study: Girls Like Science and Math - Yahoo! News: "Girls like writing and reading; boys like math and science. At least that's the stereotype. But a new survey shows that girls in elementary school actually like math and science better than language arts."

not a big surprise.

School just doesn't matter sometimes

Homeschoolers' setback sends shock waves through state: "'They just affirmed that the current California law, which has been unchanged since the last time it was ruled on in the 1950s, is that children have to be educated in a public school, an accredited private school, or with an accredited tutor,' she said. 'If they want to send them to a private Christian school, they can, but they have to actually go to the school and be taught by teachers.'"

It just doesn't really matter what the school system does, they can be ignored.

I know people who raised good children under oppressive regimes. Eastern Bloc mostly. They would teach their children after school the things they should know. Sometimes, okay almost always, they would ignore homework. It never amounted to much in the way of a grade anyway so it was easy.

Actually, we have it much easier here then there. Here we have all kinds of zero-tolerance policies in place. Their greatest punishment is to keep you out of school. Just make sure to put a toothless plastic knife in their lunch and then you'll have plenty of time to learn something.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

ABC News: D&D Co-Creator Dies

ABC News: D&D Co-Creator Dies: "Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69."

I never got big with it as a game as others have but I did play it on occasion and it was great fun. I had a more consistent group playing Star Fleet Battles.

You know for all the scorn and attacks on D&D, it was the only cooperative game to hit anything close to the mainstream. It isn't an "I win, you lose" type of game. And lots and lots of kids and adults have and are playing it.

It was a great way to explore options. It often was a good insight into your own soul, what characters you liked to play told you something about yourself, and often far more clearly then some personality "instrument".

Role-playing is something people end up doing a lot in life, but as a game it can be great fun as the pressure is off. As a teaching aid it can be great as we can together explore the possible effects of choices. It is far better to make bad choices in an inconsequential game then in real life.

Now, where did that big bag of dice ever end up...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An utterly awful math test | FOB

An utterly awful math test | FOB: "The test is a putrid example of how bad these standardized tests are. As near as I can tell, it's a combination of testers being proud of how well they can trick third graders, and utter ignorance of basic mathematical principles. Without further ado, I present the most obnoxious questions…"

Measuring for the wrong kind of thing. It makes you wonder...
Making a good test is pretty hard, there are all kinds of specialists out there trying to do it right, but these are questions that are so amazingly bad I am not sure how they could have gotten vetted.

For example, amateur radio has a volunteer examiner coordinator committee that creates questions for the license tests, a couple hundred questions are in the pool with 35-50 being used on the test depending on the level being tested for. Only a few have been withdrawn. It is just not that hard to find ways to weed out bad questions

I had one teacher that would give everyone credit for a question if not enough people got it right. There are many others.

Google U

BuzzMachine Blog Archive Google U: "I wonder what the distributed university will look like. For that matter, I wonder what the distributed education will look like. It’s not an idle curiosity. Like media and every industry and institution before it, the academe is waiting to be exploded by the internet."

This is already taking place with homeschooling, and will completely change how things work in the long term.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Too many screws

[MacBook Air Teardown] 'No Waste Outside, Nothing but Waste Inside' [Part 5] -- Tech-On!: "'The total number of screws in the MacBook Air was several times the number used in a PC we make,' one of the engineers said."

Sometimes what someone complains about tells us more about them then about what they are commenting on.

The MacBook Air was never going to be "cheap." Apple may make inexpensive produces but they are never cheap. I went to the local Best Buy that has an embedded Apple Store which had an MBA, I could pick it up by a corner and it didn't groan, creak or otherwise complain like the nearby PC laptops that I compared it too. That makes a difference, whether or not you think it does.

It reminds me of the anti-homeschool argument "...but what about their socialization?" If that is the best you can come up with you have issues.

Home Education Curriculum on the Cheap: 10 Ways to Learn for Less | Wise Bread

Home Education Curriculum on the Cheap: 10 Ways to Learn for Less | Wise Bread: "In a recent cost-study I completed, I found that it is possible for American families to spend between $300 and $4325 per year to homeschool a single child."

A good as this post is the comments have all kinds of treasure in them.

The Ebb and Flow of Movies: Box Office Receipts 1986 - 2007 - The New York Times

The Ebb and Flow of Movies: Box Office Receipts 1986 - 2007 - The New York Times: "Summer blockbusters and holiday hits make up the bulk of box office revenue each year, while contenders for the top Oscar awards tend to attract smaller audiences that build over time. Here's a look at how movies have fared at the box office, after adjusting for inflation."

This is an interactive infographic about what movies have made in the last several years. To stack them all in they are fanned on both sides of the axis. Looking for a particular film is a little challenging but it has a search function that helps.

To me the tails are the most interesting, Ratatouille and Harry Potter have very long one and Nancy Drew was very short.

Make stuff. Learn things

"For crafter's, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and
Do it yourself!"

This has all kinds of fun projects.

Making things is the first step in learning. For a lot of time at first just letting kids play is important they get to understand the capabilities things like blocks and LEGOS have. Over time they can be encouraged to estimate how many blocks it would take to make something and even how long. A very useful skill.

Surprising Expiration Dates :

Surprising Expiration Dates : "With help from experts and product manufacturers, Real Simple has compiled a guide to expiration dates. These dates are offered as a rough guideline. The shelf lives of most products depend upon how you treat them. Edibles, unless otherwise indicated, should be stored in a cool, dry place. (With any food, of course, use common sense.) Household cleaners also do best in a dry place with a stable temperature. After the dates shown, beauty and cleaning products are probably still safe but may be less effective."

This is very useful. Some of them like bleach is a lot shorter then I thought. It looks like vinegar does better on the long term storage front then bleach or most other cleaning supplies.

We are trying to save up some long term emergency supplies and this will help make some decisions for us.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Death of Cities

This is a building where our deeply-troubled public school system once stored its supplies, and then one day apparently walked away from it all, allowing everything to go to waste. The interior has been ravaged by fires and the supplies that haven't burned have been subjected to 20 years of Michigan weather. To walk around this building transcends the sort of typical ruin-fetishism and "sadness" some get from a beautiful abandoned building. This city's school district is so impoverished that students are not allowed to take their textbooks home to do homework, and many of its administrators are so corrupt that every few months the newspapers have a field day with their scandals, sweetheart-deals, and expensive trips made at the expense of a population of children who can no longer rely on a public education to help lift them from the cycle of violence and poverty that has made Detroit the most dangerous city in America. To walk through this ruin, more than any other, I think, is to obliquely experience the real tragedy of this city; not some sentimental tragedy of brick and plaster, but one of people:

The really sad part about this is that it is just some guy with a plan to do something with this and the adjacent building, but after 20 years I just don't think that the plan is coming together.

The building was damaged by a fire, not hard when it is full of nice flammable books, which also don't fair well when the fire is dealt with standard firefighting techniques. So little was to be reclaimed that the insurance company seems to have just totaled the building and paid off the school for the value.

It is the not fixing thing that is marking the death of Detroit. A good neighborhood will clean up trash and fix windows and the like, Detroit is not acting like a good neighborhood. New York started the idea of rebuilding right after 9/11 and while it will take a long time it is still vital and living. On the other hand Detroit is being fled. Last year, some houses were sold for just a few thousand dollars, far less then the cost of materials to build.

Detroit used to be a shining city, The Arnold of the manufacturing world. Oh, well.

from Marginal Revolution

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Power Paradox

The Power Paradox: "This leaves us with a power paradox. Power is given to those individuals, groups, or nations who advance the interests of the greater good in socially-intelligent fashion. Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals as impulsive and poorly attuned to others as your garden variety frontal lobe patient, making them prone to act abusively and lose the esteem of their peers. What people want from leaders—social intelligence—is what is damaged by the experience of power."

This is supposed to be new!?
" 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." John 13:13-17

Jesus, Savior of the World, has all power and could do anything, but he showed us the way we should go to avoid the traps of power. To bad so many have forgotten the way.

Reaping the Wind

Hand-wringing About American Culture - Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? - New York Times: "But now, Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way."

It is just what the school system is supposed to do. A lot of popular scifi is along the lines of "There are things Man is not supposed to meddle with." Frankenstein is a classic example but when you look at the news you see the same attitude.

Anti-rationalism is called by another name: multiculturalism. Or at the very least is presented the same way, so people easily fall into that pattern of thought.

Who are most reviled in schools? the nerds, the geeks, the smart ones. After years of emotional torture in primary schools they go to college and are with their own kind in the sciences and engineering fields. They graduate and get a job where they end up under the thumb of the same kind of bully they thought they had escaped and are soon laid-off and the whole thing starts all over again.

I know lots of people who have left the "Smart" fields because it wasn't worth the effort to stay there.

There are a lot of things wrong and we need to find a better way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Asking the wrong question

Winds of Change.NET: Starting to Make Sense: "For a 3KW installation (about 275 sf of cells), the total cost to me would be approximately $18K."

One of the things that has never made sense to me about going solar is the amount of time and energy people put into "running the numbers." "When will it pay for itself?" is simply the wrong question. Solar panels are like any other appliance in the home, or in this case on the home. Nobody asks what the ROI on an SUV is. That is about the price of a new car, it used to be the price of a new SUV, and there are plenty of them on the road.

Since I am planning to live in suburbia, I see no great need to make sure that they "pay for themselves" anymore then making sure that the refrigerator I buy "pays for itself." I am looking at solar from a backup perspective, in this case it just doesn't matter how much it costs as long as I can afford it. Instead of a UPS for just the computer I want something that can run important sections of the house: The frig and the furnace fan on a gas furnace and a few lights are the really important items.

Actually the most important things you can do is to make your home more efficient first then worry about solar.
Lighting is easy CFL (best for general lighting) and LED bulbs (best for spot lighting) are getting cheaper all the time
Heating and cooling are big too but more challenging to replace in the short term, motors in general are big power draws, replacing them with permanent magnet models rather than using standard AC motors will make a huge difference.
Replacing TVs and computer screens with LCD screens save more power then plasmas. Just putting all your electronics on powerstrips and regularly flipping the switch makes huge differences. A microwave oven while "off" still uses large amounts of power to keep the clock running.

Going solar isn't a plug and play thing it is more systemic then that. But in the long run it is more powerful then you might imagine.

As to going to a big box store to get the our local Costco often has panels for sale and a new store in Colorado MIlls mall has them too.

Moore's Law applies to solar technology since it is a semiconductor, now people are finally noticing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Modern Mechanix OUTLAWS MAY USE SUPER-STATIONS at Sea: "Broadcasting stations without a country seek new ways to flood the United States with radio advertising barred by federal commission. Two hundred outlaws face war by the government."

The Early days of Radio were and exciting place to be. Spammers are spammers no matter what media they are using. We get snail mail spam practically every day from credit card companies. Right now it is not too bad it is just enough to tell us if the mail is still working.

But back to radio, there are all kinds of new thing going on. There are several ways to integrate the Internet and ham radio.

Ham radio is still a very experiment driving place. and it is fun to be a part of al that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NASA Workmanship Technical Committee

NASA Workmanship Technical Committee: "The NASA Workmanship Technical Committee (NWTC) serves as the agency's technical authority to ensure that adequate workmanship standards and training for electronic hardware are available to NASA, its suppliers, and the aerospace community."

For doing ham radio stuff these are great refreshers.

A Perfect Storm on Marriage

Now the Internet is full of amazing articles but only occasionally do several of them come together in a perfect storm kind of way.

Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples
Why Bother

The family unit has been under attack for a long time. You can create the heights happiness or misery in a family that is hard to reproduce outside of that basic social unit.

For dates, which we don't get enough of with our daughter around, I've never really liked movies since staring at the screen engenders little interaction. We are not learning about each other in any meaningful way. Too much of ours lives are spent in a boring grind and that is bad of all of us. I much prefer talking then anything else. I can barely stand going out to eat if the restaurant is so noisy you need to shout to be heard. Wandering around a mall is somewhat fun as we can discuss the relative merits of buying something.

I remember after our accident our doctor asking us about how our marriage is doing. He was worried because he saw a lot of divorces happen after the breadwinner was in a major accident. I once helped a guy who was recovering from a major stroke, so bad he was bedridden and had to be spoon-fed. His wife had left him almost immediately. It took him 15 years to be able to walk, talk and care for himself again. He may have forgiven her, but she was the one who ran away.

There is a lot of good going for marriage, but you have to realize it is a joint effort that can last a lot longer then just a few years here, it is not a zero-sum game. It seems for some people to be becoming some kind of competition, but the prize is not well defined.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Are What You Spend - New York Times

You Are What You Spend - New York Times: "At the average wage, a VCR fell from 365 hours in 1972 to a mere two hours today. A cellphone dropped from 456 hours in 1984 to four hours. A personal computer, jazzed up with thousands of times the computing power of the 1984 I.B.M., declined from 435 hours to 25 hours. Even cars are taking a smaller toll on our bank accounts: in the past decade, the work-time price of a mid-size Ford sedan declined by 6 percent."

This is a very interesting story but what drives me nuts is the focus on how electronics products drop in price so much. All these things are based on chips and they are subject to Moore's Law (doubling chip density every 18 months)

They forget that far more money is spent on things like gas and food and other consumables. The other day at the store I almost fell over when I saw a $5.99 gallon of organic milk.

Basic food items are getting more and more expensive and that hurts lower income people more then anyone, but we can get more kinds of food now then anytime before in the history of the world, some people are even going on raw food diets, something that would have been virtually impossible just 20 years ago.

The second graph in the article is particularly interesting since it shows how quickly various technologies have been adopted by people, The microwave oven and cellphone were adopted very very quickly.

Science of Nascar - Stock Car Racing - Physics - Aerodynamics - New York Times

Science of Nascar - Stock Car Racing - Physics - Aerodynamics - New York Times: "“It started when six cars were going around the turn, and one of them suddenly started wiggling and went into the wall for no apparent reason,” she recalled. “It was like spontaneous combustion. As a scientist, you look at that and say, ‘There has to be a reason.’ It drove me nuts because I couldn’t explain it. I felt as if I was in a different universe.”"

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it) but 'That's funny...' Isaac Asimov

It is one of those ideas that looks great on paper but more often then not in reality it falls flat, I knew a few teachers that tried to "make it real" sometimes it worked just fine but other times the effect was so pathetically bad it was embarrassing. I had a HS English teacher that tried using a jive translation of Romeo and Juliet that was as foreign to us as the original was, actually more foreign to me since I had read a King James Bible and was somewhat familiar with the language that Shakespeare used, that was sad.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Heros and Heroines

I think we appreciate heroism most if we have a tiny spark of it ourselves, which might be fanned into a flame if the wind of opportunity arose.

So how do we recognise the heroes and heroines of today? First, by absolute independence of mind, which springs from the ability to think everything through for yourself, and to treat whatever is the current consensus on any issue with scepticism.

Second, having made up your mind independently, to act - resolutely and consistently. Third, to ignore or reject everything the media throw at you, provided you remain convinced you are doing right. Finally, to act with personal courage at all times, regardless of the consequences to yourself.

All history teaches, and certainly all my personal experience confirms, that there is no substitute for courage. It is the noblest and best of all qualities, and the one indispensable element in heroism in all its different manifestations.

These are just the things that schools try to most suppress.
Independent thinking is totally antithetical to schooling, I saw that so often. I was learning computer programming in high school, BASIC on an Apple ][e and my friend was also very good at it but he was more experimental, if the teacher couldn't understand what he was doing he failed even if it worked fine. I had learned long before then that to get good grades you need to follow what the teacher wants to see.

As for the rest it comes down to, "But what about their socialization?" Down rock the boat and you'll be fine.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

His Mortal Life, Mortal Heroes -

His Mortal Life, Mortal Heroes - "When Gemmell was a boy, a teacher read 'The Hobbit' to his class, turning Gemmell into a lifelong fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose characters became his role models. On a train platform one evening, Gemmell -- a big-and-tall fellow who once worked as a bouncer -- saw three men beating up a fourth. As he told the Independent, 'A voice inside my head said, 'What would Boromir do?'' He jumped into the fray and fought off the assailants."

This reminds me of Napoleon Hill he created a notional mastermind group of various great people in history. He would ask each in his imagination how they would solve a problem or what they would do in a situation.

There is nothing preventing us to create more then one set of these imaginary advisory groups: Why not have the Fellowship of the Ring and the crew of the Enterprise advise you on various topics. You could also have anybody even someone like this.

Deadly winter tornadoes not rare: NOAA

Deadly winter tornadoes not rare: NOAA
| Environment
| Reuters
: "Winter tornadoes that ripped across parts of the American South this week were unusually lethal but not particularly rare, a .government meteorologist said on Wednesday as the death toll mounted."

Tornados are a very very localized type of disaster mostly effecting a long but very narrow area. But they are also fairly sudden, now much warning is given if you are not watching the news or have a weather radio. A basement is a good idea if you can.

Severe Weather Safety from NOAA.

Retro Futurism: Is That a Magnetron Tube In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Retro Futurism: Is That a Magnetron Tube In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: "One day in the mid-1940s, Raytheon employee Percy Spencer was working with an active radar set when he noticed that a candy bar in his pocket had melted. Spencer got some popcorn, put it in proximity of the magnetron tube that generated the microwaves for the radar, and was soon enjoying a tasty snack."

More often then not it seems as though great moments in science are preceded by the words,"That's funny..."

Something we don't see so much anymore is the free wheeling setups anymore, Nowadays things are so "safe" that it is hard for accidental discoveries to happen. It is a mixed blessing. I certainly don't wish for people to be injured doing things but repurposing things is hard if you can't experiment easily.

I remember when food processors got really safe. Even TV chefs had problems getting them going making sure that all the pieces in the right place and in the right sequence. There was one guy that looked like he was going to rip it apart before getting it to work.

Developmental Neuroscience: Babies Can Communicate with Numbers Before Talking

Developmental Neuroscience: Babies Can Communicate with Numbers Before Talking: "Human infants are born with an innate mathematical ability that allows them to count large numbers of objects more easily than groups of two or three."

So maybe learning language before mathematics may not be the right way to go. But it looks like it is still best to work with concrete objects, The idea being to use marbles or pennies or cookies is better then a jumble of pictures.

Feb. 7, 1863: An Early Stab at Organizing the Elements

Feb. 7, 1863: An Early Stab at Organizing the Elements: "British chemist John Newlands organizes the known elements, listing them in a table determined by atomic weight, according to what he provisionally calls his 'law of octaves.' It is not an instant hit."

The evolution of scientific thought. The periodic table is taken for granted now but coming up with it the first time was hard, this was a misstep but that is what science is all about.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany's Secret Police

Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany's Secret Police: "But some of it wasn't. And some of it ... Poppe doesn't know. No one does. Because before it was disbanded, the Stasi shredded or ripped up about 5 percent of its files. That might not sound like much, but the agency had generated perhaps more paper than any other bureaucracy in history — possibly a billion pages of surveillance records, informant accounting, reports on espionage, analyses of foreign press, personnel records, and useless minutiae. There's a record for every time anyone drove across the border."

I am sure that my grandparents had files in there. My parents got out just before the wall went up so it is very likely they had files. We visited many times over the years, I wonder, in a slightly morbidly fascinated way, if I have a file in there somewhere and what our code names were.

But ultimately, it just doesn't mean much of anything. Trying to capture a minute-by-minute account of people's lives is crazy since most f our lives are filled with enormously boring stuff.

And the sheer waste of life that went into collating all of that material is staggering. Sadly, we are beginning to do the same thing to ourselves. Sometimes I think that we could build prisons next to dumps and let the prisoners sort all the trash for recycling. I would love to outsource trash sorting and cleaning.

Let's not forget all the loyalty card tracking we do to ourselves. At the moment I am not too worried as they always seem to spit out inappropriate coupons, heck even Google doesn't do all that good of a job matching ads to what I am looking for.

As to that 5% that was destroyed, I really wouldn't worry about it at best it was the most recent material because that was most handy. Really most of this should be released to the public in 100 years so we can look back and remember the stupidity of it all and not do it again.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Scaring the Candidates: Colorado Caucuses

We went to the caucuses tonight taking an elderly friend, and the church they were held at was packed. Attendance far outstripped previous years. The one guy in our precinct that had been steadily doing them for the past few years said that it was 7 times as many as had come out for the past 4 years.

This kind of turnout is probably going to scare a lot of entrenched political people. And that is a good thing. Our politicians seem like they need to be reminded that "We the People" are just asking them to take care of things while we live our lives. And I think there is a general groundswell of people thinking that the politicians are not doing what we want them to do and need to be reigned in.

This was an eye-opening experience, for us. We haven't been all that active and now that has changed. People really care about politics now. They know it is important and they realize they have to get in early. Our friend was complaining about how it was a shame that the caucuses and primaries didn't allow her to vote for any but the top favorite.

We had a list of questions/issues to go through, some where easy enough all for or against. And that is to be expected, but there were some that had some pretty strong debate. Most of us brought something to the table. We even had a judge and a lawyer that gave us insights on some issues that changed my mind about a few topics.

And then there were just a few issues that had us scratching our heads. "Did the other side write this one?" was the refrain heard a few times after reading it out loud a couple of times. They seemed to me to be trying to set the agenda rather then asking us what the agenda should be. One lumped 5-6 things together and no one was pro- or against- all of them. Really, whoever wrote these wants something particular to happen but that may not be what they want to hear. We voted against those not because we were confused but because we didn't like where they were going. The worrisome part is that, out of ignorance, you could be voting for something you didn't want. The candidate thinks he is getting support for something but once the details come out his base is not supporting it. And that is bad for him.

Al in all, this is going to be one of the more exciting campaign seasons we've had for a long time. 2004 was a stay the course or cut-and-run. Now it is obvious to all that some changes are needed, this election will decide a lot for the next decade or more.

Choose wisely.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Reading and a way to find your closest pubic library

Reading is fundamental. It is also a major push behind a lot of schooling initiatives.

But is reading in decline. I doubt it.

Reading literary works can surely be in decline but I think it is obvious that the reading environment has changed. A lot of people spend most of their days reading, but it is things like email, memos and the Web. For all the video and audio on the Web the vast majority of it is still text based. After spending so much time reading in a day it is no great surprise that the average person just doesn't want to read when they get home.

Of course, it doesn't help that something like 300 books a day are published, that is far more then anyone can keep up with and most of them just aren't all that good anyway.

We have over 6000 books in our collection most of which at least one of us have read, except for things like the cookbooks and other reference style books. We try to keep our On-hand To Be Read queue somewhat low though our Amazon wishlist is quite large.

I am part of that 17% group that likes to learn from books. Books condense years, decades, even centuries of learning into something you can springboard off of in a matter of hours. That is the greatest time saver ever and probably the highest return on investment you could ever make.

I like the idea of an ebook reader but they miss some important to me capabilities: Notetaking is important for anything other then fiction, linking to other books and articles and creating blog posts would be fantastic. I use books to synthesis ideas by combining ideas and fitting them together like a Tetris game. Sometimes I hit a paradox and it takes some thought to resolve in my mind somehow being about to write that down would be great.

I am hoping that the iPhone/iPod touch will get a ebook reader and good blog posting software after the SDK is released next month. That could really be useful.

Link roundup

Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless

The Passion of Steve Jobs

Books are dead (long live books!) and part 2.

A way to find a public library

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Emergency preparation: N C H S - Where to Write home page

N C H S - Where to Write home page: "The links above are provided for those users who want direct access to individual State and territory information."

A handy site to find out how to get all kinds of important legal documents proving who you are. Best to have a copy before you need it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Emergency Preparation: Food: Cheeseburger in a Can is Both the Best and Worst Thing I've Ever Seen

Food: Cheeseburger in a Can is Both the Best and Worst Thing I've Ever Seen: "This is a cheeseburger. In a can. It's a cheeseburger in a can."

I love those crazy German engineers. I thought cheese in a can was pretty impressive. But a whole cheeseburger in a can is totally amazing.

Actually, this would be great to have in a kids 72 hour kit. They never like a lot of the well preserved foods but this is something much more familiar.

But can be useful in a car kit too.

Monday, January 28, 2008

education comments continued

The Dilbert Blog: Your Job When You Grow Up: "Yeah. I also remember watching the Bill Moyer's PBS series with Joseph Cambell telling us to follow our bliss, and the rest will follow. If only we were not programed to do what others want for us and learn to follow our hearts, the world would be a happier place."

Education videos

College students live 26.5hr days to make it through school.

via Johnnie Moore

Then there is this TED lecture that reasons through the systemic destruction of children's creativity.

We have to realize that schooling our children will not allow us to give them the lives we want them to lead.

I realize that the education my child needs is far different from what they can get in school. She needs to be feel the freedom within herself that it is okay to experiment and to fail. I feel the need to find out how the Greeks calculated the circumference of the earth and build steam engines and all kinds of things so she can watch and do it too.

We need more LEGOs.

LEGO Brick Timeline: 50 Years of Building Frenzy and Curiosities

LEGO Brick Timeline: 50 Years of Building Frenzy and Curiosities: "The LEGO brick turns 50 at exactly 1:58 p.m. today, January 28, 2008."

Ahh, LEGO is wonderful. I had a significant portion of the Space sets when I was a kid. I even setup a huge moonbase in the basement, with satellites strung from the ceiling and moonbuses of my own design moving between the various stations. It wasn't enough to build just a set but to combine sets into communities. It was great.

The wondrous thing about LEGO bricks is that they still fit with ones made 30 years ago and for the most part fit nice and tight so the models don't fall apart too easily. Can't say the same for many of the competitors.

LEGO can be seriously fun.

Funnily enough LEGO is the largest tire manufacturer in the world. And they have a production system so tight that only 18 out of 1,000,000 bricks are defective.

Beloved Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley, Dies at 97

We were at a Ham Face2Face last night discussing how to use our radios in response to emergencies when one of our group got a text message from his wife stating Pres. Hinckley had died.

It was shocking but not surprising, at 97 his was very old. We were glad for him to be back with his wife.

So the mantle passes to the most senior apostle, Pres Monson who will be sustained and set apart by the Twelve Apostles and sustained at the next session of General Conference in April. They will also call a new Apostle to fill the vacancy and one of them to be a counselor in the new First Presidency. Everything done in the Lord's order.

One of the most exciting parts of what Pres. Hinckley has done for us has been all the new temples built all over. It is a wonderful blessing to have one in our city, a place of peace and refuge from the noise of the world.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Get the Flick: Air Traffic Safety vs. Capacity

Get the Flick: Air Traffic Safety vs. Capacity: "Let me use our theoretical runway capacity of 60 planes per hour once again. Imagine if we could schedule it perfectly. Imagine if we had 60 airplanes per hour scheduled for every hour of the day. Then imagine if there was just one tiny glitch -- weather, a flat tire or an airport vehicle mistakenly wanders onto the runway. An arrival has to go around and make another attempt to land. Where do you find the extra slot for that aircraft ? Every slot is taken for every minute of the day. But the airplane must land or it will run out of fuel just like Avianca 052. That makes the decision easy for air traffic controllers. An arrival takes priority over a departure. They will use a departure slot for the arrival. Now the departures will be delayed for the rest of the day -- or in this theoretical case -- for eternity."

Money vs Safety
And this is different from Space Shuttle Challenger how?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Featured Windows Download: Update Windows from a CD with Offline-Update

Featured Windows Download: Update Windows from a CD with Offline-Update: "Windows only: Ever since every sysadmin's favorite offline Windows patching program AutoPatcher had the plug pulled on it by Microsoft, those without constant Internet access or looking to keep multiple Windows boxes up to date have been looking for a valid replacement."

This would be so very useful. I can't tell you how often I needed to waste a whole day waiting on huge pile updates to come down the pipe to update a refreshed computer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jobs praises NBC, Zucker returns the favor. Good news? - MacUser

Jobs praises NBC, Zucker returns the favor. Good news? - MacUser: "Today, however, gracing the pages of the Financial Times, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker had some kind words for Apple as well, and Steve Jobs in particular (free registration required). “We’ve said all along that we admire Apple, that we want to be in business with Apple.” Really? I guess I must’ve missed it in that speech where Zucker flat-out declared that Apple had “destroyed the music business”. Zucker didn’t seem to have much of a problem with “the destroyer” today though because he actually went on to say that “we’re great fans of Steve Jobs”."

So that split must have hurt a little bit.

jwz - PSA: backups

jwz - PSA: backups: "The universe tends toward maximum irony. Don't push it."

Words to compute by. via 43folders

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!: "After reading A Thomas Jefferson Education, I realized that I was one of those who received this type of education. What do I mean by 'conveyor-belt' education? Oliver Van DeMille states there are three types of education."

We got a copy of an audio seminar of deMille's so I am researching it a bit.

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!: "After reading A Thomas Jefferson Education, I realized that I was one of those who received this type of education. What do I mean by 'conveyor-belt' education? Oliver Van DeMille states there are three types of education."

We got a copy of an audio seminar of deMille's so I am researching it a bit.

The Lazy Organizer: Reading List

The Lazy Organizer: Reading List

Nice list of classics.

Weekend quick links

The Problem With Boys even more things wrong with the public schools.

Music Lessons Will they learn fast enough.

Digital Coaching Looks needed could be a career path.

The Sesame Street Presentation Rule after all the research that went into SS I would not be surprised if it was full of good ideas.

7 ways to research your freelancing market maybe useful for many kinds of markets.

Thinking Inside the “Little White Receipt Box" a neat way to keep communications lines open.

How to title stuff harder then it looks.

How the Electoral College keeps us safe I am sure the finer points of the math are lost on people but the important thing to remember is, it isn't the number of runs scored that wins the World Series, it is the number of games won; the hard ones and the easy ones.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin!

Benjamin Franklin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Benjamin Franklin (January 17 [O.S. January 6] 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the most important and influental Founding Fathers of the United States of America."

He is one of my heros and is worth emulating in many ways.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jobs, economists and stupidity

What to Expect When You’re Free Trading - New York Times: "All economists know that when American jobs are outsourced, Americans as a group are net winners. What we lose through lower wages is more than offset by what we gain through lower prices."

This is what the economist thinks of all the jobs that are being outsourced, he is also the guy who thinks more sex is safer too.

He is also a major poster child to the saying, "you manage what your measure." When you measure the wrong thing, what you manage will get you results you don't necessarily want.

He is probably looking at the GDP and employment numbers and inflation rate and the consumer price index. Those are really big and pretty abstract numbers. He plugs them into his models, all these things are mathematical models not reality, and sees what comes out.

He never stops to check to see if his numbers are matching up with what is really happening out there.
One consequence is an upending of the traditional pattern, in which middle-aged children take in an elderly parent. As $15-an-hour factory jobs are replaced by $7- or $8-an-hour retail jobs, more men in their 30s and 40s are moving in with their parents or grandparents

If your pay is cut by half to one-third of what it used to be, you have a serious problem. You might not be unemployed but you had to throw away your self-respect to take that fast food job. Your wife has taken a job or another job on. You not a well off DINK but a family with mom and dad working dual jobs and maybe even an older child adding to the family pot.

I don't know what he buys, but I know that gas and milk and bread and vegetables and cheese and even flour have gone up in price. The only thing that I see that consistently goes down in price are computers and electronics, but quite frankly I don't buy that kind of thing more then once in five years or so.

And it isn't limited to blue-collar work either.
The big problem is that the American workplace doesn't make technical jobs attractive enough. The pay is okay, but less than that of other professionals, like lawyers. And the working conditions for engineers and scientists are generally quite poor -- too much Dilbert, not enough Skunk Works. They act as if there's a positive conspiracy to take all the fun out of it, according several of my friends who work in the area.

I never saw anything beyond a keeping-up-with-inflation raise when I was in the engineering field. I used to design computers and now the only jobs out there for me seem to be computer support positions of the type I thought I had left behind in college. And when your backup skillset is being outsourced too, what then?

But it is even worse then that.
The tendency to denigrate the positions of those who actually make things work is endemic in the American business culture, which even after decades of supposed “streamlining” is top-heavy with a relatively useless management culture.

But you never here about the economic toll that is incurred because of this attitude, people who not just hate their jobs but are physically repulsed by them. So they turn to therapy, anti-depressants, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports or worse things.

“I’ve actually experienced the same kind of talk from my supervisor. And I don’t really blame her in the end, because she was just doing her job.”

Rico, you are absolutely right. She was a nice lady, and just trying to get me to fall in line, which, of course, is never too much to ask of an employee. It was my own fault that I wasn’t very good a job I couldn’t stand.

The economist says they are good things, money changing hands being paid to the psychologists and pharmacists, doctors and the like. But that is just the broken window fallacy. They are looking at the wrong numbers and so we may appear to be looking good on paper but in real life there are real problems. The only time we see past the numbers is when something tragic happens, like people going postal in the local school.

If you are measuring the wrong thing what you are managing will be mismanaged. I went to a self-employment workshop last week and it was pretty good, we discussed one of the major reasons that businesses go under, one is not getting the numbers to work. The example story was a couple of guys buy a truck to haul vegetables to the market, they would buy watermelons for a dollar and sell them for a dollar and came to the conclusion they needed a bigger truck. He had been on a bank advisory board to help new companies get thing in line when they ran into trouble and he has seen that same scenario happen many times. Often because the numbers they were looking at were the wrong ones.

I still believe that most people want to and can be much for then what they are. We just don't know how.
I had to love this post if only because one of my last day jobs was training green horses for riding and jumping so they could become steady, dependable school horses. Some made it, doing the job perfectly. Some had quirks or small issues that would stick forever unless the owners invested a lot of time and money into resolving the horse’s psychological problems.

One would never make it. Scared shitless because of a bad past, terrified to trust people, and absolutely craving that love and attention he needed to shine, he needed a lot of help to get to the point where he could achieve his fullest potential.

He wanted to, but he couldn’t - not without a lot of retraining and help.

I always think about this horse like the person that really wanted to succeed but just didn’t know how. And he didn’t have someone who cared enough to bother helping. Sounds like that cage of a job you’re referring to.

Can we overcome the pain? Not when most people seem to be of the opinion you are lazy or stupid and you deserve what you got. There seems to be this weird twist to the Protestant Work Ethic that it is not only more virtuous to suffer for your work but it is actually sinful to enjoy what you do. After enough of this propaganda you begin to believe that you never enjoyed doing anything and now you are in real trouble.

But Hope is still alive (she's on life support), there are things you enjoy doing and you keep reading motivational books and you want to get started but you keep trying.

Dr. Helen: Appliance Woes

Dr. Helen: Appliance Woes: "Do you ever have one of those periods where every appliance in your house starts to break down?"

You might not think about this but your average appliance has built-in obsolescence and we tend to buy them all at once like when we move into a new house. They are designed to last about 5 years, then they start falling apart. Oddly enough they tend to do that all at the same time because they were all bought at the same time. Odd that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Adventures in Mormonism Blog Archive � Mitt Romney’s new ward? [UPDATED]

Adventures in Mormonism Blog Archive Mitt Romney’s new ward? [UPDATED]: "So….if Mitt Romney became President of the US (from this point forward referred to as POTUS), won’t we have something we’ve never had before - a president who goes to a specific church? All other presidents belonged to religions that didn’t have tight congregational boundaries. Now, think about that: What Ward would POTUS be in? [See above.] If you are his new Bishop, here are your top 10 questions:"

Now, this is funny. I would be pretty sure that the Secret Service has someone at least thinking about the possibility. The security issues would be a mind numbing. The home teaching issue alone is just hilarious.

Conceptual Trends and Current Topics

Conceptual Trends and Current Topics: "That part of film magic is evident in any 'making-of' movie. What's new is that the new camera/apps are steadily coming becoming like a word processor -- both pros and amateurs use the same one. The great script is not due to a better word processor; it's how the great write uses it. Likewise, a great film is not due to better gear. The same gear needed to make a good film is today generally available to amateurs -- which was not so even a decade ago. Film making gear is approaching a convergence between professional and amateur, so that what counts in artistry and inventiveness."

With Print on Demand services like lulu getting a book in print is not a problem. What used to cost tens of thousands now costs a hundred bucks.

It has been a few years now that a band could get a buy a computer some microphones and some software to create a recording studio in their basement or garage. Apple gives away an audio editing program, Garageband, away with each computer and plenty of bands use it very well.

The same thing is happening with video editing. There are plenty of ways to make a movie with a cast of thousands but you can do something similar with a cast of just a few.

And it is not only in the creative fields but others as well. In the field of biology it is getting easier and easier to modify and even create your own lifeforms. Some people are even thinking we are in a race, that we need to get people on other planets before we are capable of having a single person create a virus that can kill us all.

If it is hooked up to a computer it just gets less and less expensive over time. One of the few things that does.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Telstar Logistics: "Flight thru Instruments" and the Fine Art of Instructional Illustration

Telstar Logistics: "Flight thru Instruments" and the Fine Art of Instructional Illustration: "Published as a pilot-training manual by the US Navy in 1945, 'Flight thru Instruments' teaches proper aeronautical navigation techniques through the use of elaborate illustrations -- the kind of stuff that today might be called 'info-graphics.'

But oh, what info-graphics these are! Produced entirely by hand, the illustrations in 'Flight thru Instruments' possess a richness and accuracy of detail that -- if we may say so -- puts the majority of today's graphic artists to shame."

These are totally awesome graphics. We need more like this today.

MAKE: Blog: Make your own vaccum tubes?

MAKE: Blog: Make your own vaccum tubes?: "Check out this absolutely mesmerizing (17 minute!) video of a French amateur radio operator who rolls his own vacuum tube triodes! I love the ease with which he performs these rather high-end skills (like glass forming), the gestural flourishes (like it's hand magic), and the Zelig-esque soundtrack"

And O thought the guy in our Ham group was hardcore making his own radio from a kit. This is real hardcore. But it reminds me of a hot dog pushcart vendor from NYC who used to make it look like he was conducting symphony while putting a hotdog together.

from slashdot.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is it time to move on? | Slow Leadership

Is it time to move on? | Slow Leadership: "Do I have a voice at work—does anyone who matters listen to what I say? There’s nothing more depressing and demotivating than feeling that you don’t matter as a person."

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. You don't matter as a person.

You are a number.
You are a problem.
You are a cog.
You are a statistic.
You are a consumer.

I am not a number to be filed or a problem to be solved. I am a person and I want something different. I want some compassion.

"it's not personal. It's business." - The Godfather
That is the worst excuse for betrayal out there. It's _ALL_ personal. They forget you before you've left the room, but you still have to explain to your wife and your little girl why things are no longer the same.

"Loser: When your very best still isn't good enough." -

When the work you do doesn't even matter to the company your do it for, doing your very best is really hard. Do your best and you will be rewarded. Yeah, right.
"You're a great worker, in the top 1%, in the top 12 really. We're not firing you, but you better get back to work." That was pretty much what they told me when I worked at a call center for a 4 months. That $0.25 raise they talked about never came nor any other perk. No surprise really, but when I turned yellow they said you look fine. After I got out of the hospital I never went back. That cost more then I earned there.
I saw my last boss a few days ago. I saw him and he saw me but he didn't even acknowledge I was there.

I was looking though some of the bonus material on a Pixar DVD and I see them have this wonderful team environment. My soul aches for something like that but actually I've never seen that in real life. I've read stories about great teams and team work was talked a lot about in school, but I've never met someone in real life who was on a great team.

When you pour your soul into doing something to the very best of your ability it hurts a lot when they ignore it or throw it away. You can't not care about it because you did it, not some machine. Of course when you act like a machine to protect yourself, nobody cares about you because they don't want to be around someone like that.

Better to aim for the stars and it the moon, then aim for the mud and find it.
Things need to change.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why Movie Theater Prices Are So High (and keep rising)

Why Movie Theater Prices Are So High (and keep rising): "The only area that consistently brings any profit at all is concessions. And here's the kicker... this is what will really blow your mind: Less than 10% of movie customers even bother buying concessions."

This is one of those thing where it certainly seems like the whole system is broken. It looks like capitalism isn't working in this case and that may be true though it may be from a lack of compromise.

We only saw a couple of movie last year Harry Potter and Ratatouille. We are only looking forward to two movies this year as well, Harry Potter and Wall-E.

We usually get popcorn and soda because it does help the theaters, we've known that for a while.

We also have pretty much given up on television too, We moved and didn't bother setting up the TV we are just watching DVD's on a computer with a good sized monitor. It just doesn't make much sense to watch very much anymore. There is just too much garbage and we just don't have the time to deal with it any more.

The big problem is that getting to the movie at the time for a good audience is a problem. It is weird to laugh at a joke and no one else does. Eventually having a good home theater with seating for our friends so we can all enjoy at the same time would be great. The audience can really improve the experience. Just like laugh tracks in sit-coms it is more fun if everyone is laughing at the same time.

Jan. 7, 1904: A Distress Call for Ships in Danger Upon the Sea

Jan. 7, 1904: A Distress Call for Ships in Danger Upon the Sea: "The most famous maritime distress call of all time was sent by the RMS Titanic following its fatal collision with an iceberg in April 1912. In that instance, Marconi radio operator Jack Phillips began by sending the CQD signal, then still commonly used aboard British ships. On the suggestion of his junior, Harold Bride, Phillips began alternating between CQD and SOS."

Radio is a powerful tool.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Invisible Ingredient in Every Kitchen - New York Times

The Invisible Ingredient in Every Kitchen - New York Times: "Among the major culprits here are inefficient appliances. According to the United States Department of Energy, a gas burner delivers only 35 to 40 percent of its heat energy to the pan; a standard electrical element conveys about 70 percent. Anyone thinking about kitchen renovation should know that induction cooktops, which generate heat directly within the pan itself, are around 90 percent efficient. They can out-cook big-B.T.U. gas burners, work faster, don’t heat up the whole kitchen, and are becoming more common in restaurant kitchens."

Having used both gas and electric there are good and bad sides to each.

Electric may be more efficient but if you can't turn it down to a simmer it is useless. We use the crockpot a lot more now because there is no real low on our electric stove. Once something is boiling it stays boiling which makes doing stove top pot roast really hard.

Gas has one really great thing going for it. It usually still works even if the power is out. That means a whole lot when you are stuck at home in a blizzard and the lights and furnace are out. It means hot food and drink and a warm kitchen.

Multistep cooking sounds fun. Actually steaming is one thing that the microwave does best and that takes way less energy then an electric stove would. Combined with a torching afterwards to caramelize the outside it could be a lot of fun and quite tasty.

One thing that drives me crazy in our too small kitchen is keeping food warm. Something I'll have to try is spraying dishes with water and microwaving them for a minute or two to warm them up. Might work.