Category Archives: Life

Tonight, My Kids are Going to Learn About Carolyn Porco

Carolyn (at right) re-enacting the famous Beatles photograph at Abbey Road with the other members of the Cassini Imaging Team.

Carolyn Porco (at right) re-enacting the famous Beatles photograph at Abbey Road with the other members of the Cassini Imaging Team.

I have two daughters, both of them interested in science.  I like to show them examples of how ordinary people can do amazing things, just by following their passion.  Carolyn Porco is an amazing, brilliant and delightful example of that.  I’m tempted to call her the embodiment of girl power, but that would be selling her short.  She’s an ambassador for the power of finding and pursuing your passion.  Ask yourself this.  How many people talk about their job with this sort of excitement?  How many people can hold your attention like this?

Not many.

Kids, I hope one day you can look back and tell a similar story of how you discovered your passion, chased it hard and made a positive difference.

At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

(via io9)

Evening Reading: 4/22/14

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Here’s a great read on the life and abandonment of AIM.  Here’s my take on instant messaging, from the day before Google Talk was released, in 2005.

Apple (or someone) really needs to come up with a reverse-lookup phone book.  The majority of calls I get at home are from suspicious numbers.  Google used to do it with a simple phone number search, but some Chicken Littles whined about privacy so Google removed most of the functionality.  Maybe Truecaller is the answer.  Maybe.  The taking a screenshot thing seems burdensome.

The Atlantic (love it) is streaming the new Old 97′s record, which will be out at the end of this month.  Here’s the title track.

Who Originally Said “I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One on TV“?  I watched the show back then, and still didn’t remember.

The reason people hate airlines, and especially United, is because the gate attendants simply aren’t always nice.  I was on my way to Dallas last week and got to the airport early.  I walked up to the departure gate as an earlier flight was leaving and asked if I could get on that fight.  Not one of the three ladies behind the (not at all busy) desk looked at me or acknowledged my inquiry.  I thought maybe they didn’t hear me, so in a minute or so I asked again, nicely.  Nothing.  Eventually, one of them started typing away on her computer.  A few minutes later, she finally looked at me and said she’d put me on standby.  All I needed was a glance and some sort of response (yes, no, maybe) to be satisfied.  What I got was the sense that I was bothering them.

I was relatively late to the Oxford comma.  But I generally follow that approach now.

Fortran, FTW.  Fortran was the first programming language I (sort of) learned.  I thought it was a lot of work for a small reward.  Sort of like blogging.

This is exactly why I have never acted on my recurring urge to switch to a standing desk.

Yeah, I’m thinking Facebook’s Paper app is on the Google+ trajectory of use adoption.  I tried it.  I deleted it.

Not recommended:  Three times I have tried to use an Eye-Fi card.  Three times I have tossed them in the trashcan, irritated by the user-unfriendly, non-intuitive interface.  There is no way I am going to go through that sort of hell again just to create more cloud space, when Google and Amazon( AWS) are almost giving it away.

They aren’t that hard to swat.  If you have a fly swatter.

It’s Time to Reclaim Religion

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To avoid any doubt and to lessen the chance we get off on some avoidable tangent, let’s summarize my religious views as of 2014.

I believe in God, fully and completely.  I pray all the time.  I am less sure exactly what God is, but I am certain some greater power is at play.  I don’t know that God micromanages the day-to-day operations of life (I tend to end up somewhere along the benevolent ant-farm line of thought), but that doesn’t affect what I want to talk about today.

I believe one’s relationship with God should be direct, and not via some person or organization who offers or demands to tell you what God thinks and what God wants you to do.  In other words, the more human beings you put between you and God, the more messed up things get.

I believe that far too many of the human beings who would place themselves between you and God have agendas that aren’t always in the best interest of you or God.  This is not to say that there is no place for organized religion.  I simply approach so-called religious doctrine imposed by some human beings on other human beings as inherently suspect.  God is love.  Religious leaders often forget or ignore this foundational reality.

I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for religion and/or God are doing way more harm than good.  I notice more of this with Christians, because I am one (more on that below), but it is the case with all or most religions.

I believe that far too many people who claim to speak for Christianity are conscripting religion to further their own purposes.  If you doubt this, ask yourself the last time you heard a so-called Christian leader say “I’d really like to do X (marry my same-sex partner; drink a beer; you name it), but the Bible says I can’t.”  It’s always “those people would like to do X, but the Bible tells me that they can’t.”

If Christians don’t get a handle on this soon, there is a risk that, by acting in ways inconsistent with right-thinking Christian beliefs (take love and tolerance, for example), we will allow Christianity to become marginalized.  In other words, if you make good and just people choose between calling themselves Christians and acting in a good and just manner, they will choose the latter.  If I’m hesitant to call myself a Christian because of all the idiots and haters spouting off nonsense on Facebook and in the media, that’s a small problem for me, but a huge problem for a religion that wants to matter in 10, 20, 100 years.  I’m in my 50′s and I have a problem with the lack of love and tolerance exhibited by many Christians.  Imagine how young people feel.

A big part of the problem is that people (usually old men trying to hold on to diminishing power or influence) start rattling on about what the Bible means, and how if you don’t do this and that- or if you tolerate this and that, you are acting against the word of God.  The thing is, it’s not the word of God.  It’s some other cat’s interpretation of the word of God.  And more often that not, that cat has an agenda.

The Bible is a work of love, not a weapon of control.

If I came face to face with God and could ask him just one question, it would be: “Do you think the Bible is the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity?”  I think it’s an open question, not because of the Bible itself, but because of the way it’s used by some to influence and control others.  The two stupidest things I regularly hear are:

1. Global warming isn’t happening.
2. The Bible is the literal word of God and must be literally complied with.

The problem with number 1 is that it is clearly disprovable, by facts.  I suppose one can debate the cause of climate change, but its existence is no more debatable than the existence of atoms and molecules.

The problem with number 2 is that proponents of this theology pick and choose which parts are literal, while ignoring both the parts that don’t fit their objectives, as well as all the crazy stuff.  And there is a lot of straight-up crazy stuff in there.  By picking and choosing which parts matter and which don’t, the Biblical literalists disprove the foundation on which they seek to stand.

Which leads me to the list.  I am tired of debating people on a one-off basis every time someone posts some allegedly Biblical-based reason as to why we shouldn’t let some people marry, why we shouldn’t watch the Super Bowl (the topic of probably the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read), why this group is bad and the other group good, etc., etc.  So if you want to claim the Bible is the literal word of God and that word means we have to act in an intolerant or unjust manner, be prepared to explain the following.  I’ll add to the list over time.

Or we can stop fighting over the unimportant stuff and get back to love and tolerance.

9 Surprisingly Progressive Moments In The Bible

The 9 most baffling passages in the Bible, and what they really mean

10 Religious Verses Used To Justify Terrible Atrocities

10 Biblical Figures Who Teach Outrageous Morals

The ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ Is Real: What Now?

10 Truly Bizarre Or Unsettling Biblical Accounts

10 Misconceptions About Jesus

Millennials ‘Talk To God,’ But Fewer Rely On Religion, Survey Finds

​God’s 12 Biggest [Mean] Moves in the Old Testament

When Thomas Jefferson Rewrote The Entire Bible

Mary Magdalene Was Never A Prostitute

Hout and Fischer conclude that a big part of the decrease in religiosity can be attributed to “liberals and moderates declaring no religious preference as a way of rejecting the growing connection between churches and conservative politics, especially conservative cultural politics on topics such as the family, women and sex. [They] were saying, in effect, if that is what religion means, count me out.”

Again, I love God.  I just don’t like a lot of the things human beings say about God.  It’s time for right-thinking people of all religions to take back their religion from those who would misuse it for their own purposes.

God is love.  Peace.

Evening Reading: 4/10/14

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It seems inevitable that the world is moving away from desktop computers, through laptops to tablets.  I guess I am an iMac loving dinosaur, but I find it much harder to create anything on a tablet.  Read?  Sure.  Work?  Nah.

This would be the best thing that ever happened to every Apple TV competitor, which is why Apple won’t do it.  There are pennies in putting geeky headsets on nerds.  There are bags of gold in helping non-geeks to cut the cord and get elegant, on demand content.

Let me say it again.  No redesign on earth is going to save iTunes.  I love almost everything Apple, but I abhor iTunes.  It needs to be tossed and a new media application redesigned from the ground up.  I’m not the only Mac devotee who feels that way.

10 Most Unnecessary Movie Sequels Of All Time.  I’ve never seen any of them.  But I eagerly await Sharknado 2.  No, I’m not kidding.

This is good advice.  I do OK on humble and kind, as long as I trust the intention of those who would seek kindness (e.g., don’t knock on my door at 10:00 at night in some sketchy outfit and offer to sell me magazines).  I struggle sometimes with the calm part.

College costs are out of control.  I make way more than my parents and I’m not even considering my alma mater (Wake Forest) for my kids because it’s too expensive.  Yeah, it’s a great school, but not great enough to warrant the price.

Speaking of too expensive, Feedly, which I love and happily pay for, is really hawking Zapier.  I’d never heard of Zapier before, and there is no way I’m paying this much to use it.  Word of advice kids.  If IFTTT can be free (and I’d happily pay for it)….

OK, about this Heartbleed business.  Here’s the source you should trust.  If you use LastPass (and you should), they have made it very easy for you.  Click the LastPass icon then Tools>Security Check.

I don’t have much of a spam problem in my Facebook news feed.  What I do have is a lot of humblebrag.  I’m starting to dump folks who use Facebook primarily to humblebrag.  It’s tiresome.

Evening Reading: 4/8/14

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So, the Weather Channel fought DirecTV and DirecTV won.

Here are some interesting tidbits about the upcoming iOS 8 ands OSX 10.10.

I bought an Amazon Fire TV, and my initial impressions are positive.  Shows seem to load faster, which is a plus at the farm, where our broadband is not all that broad.  Consumerist has a good write-up.  Google TV was one of- and maybe the- worst designed train-wrecks I’ve ever experienced.  I threw mine away (I didn’t want to donate it and ruin someone else’s day).  So my expectations for Android TV are low.

Here’s a good read on parenting, routines and Michael Phelps.  All I can say is I didn’t do any of that stuff, and it shows at my house.

While we’re thinking about things to do differently, Confront These 10 Inconvenient Truths Today for a Better Life.

I don’t know how I missed this, but I did.  Amazing work.  Much, much better than typical “fan fiction.”

This does not surprise me at all.  And, of course, our broadband connection went out last night.  So we get to dive into customer service hell with the winner.

Adobe Lightroom comes to the iPad.  Photoshop is the only software application I rent, and only because I need it more than I need to prove how much I hate renting software.  Everyone loves Lightroom, so I need to check it out.  Cult of Mac loves it.

RIP, Archie.  I’ve never been a big comic book reader, but I read a few of these back in the day.

I meant to share this on 4/6/14, but I forgot.  Here‘s a site that shows your first tweet.  Here’s mine.  Follow me on Twitter for daily pointers to interesting stories that don’t make it into Evening Reading.

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Looks like I need to rethink my correspondence valediction.  Or maybe not.

 

Evening Reading: 4/4/14

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Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Wake fans.  A profoundly uninspired hire by the most frustrating Athletic Director in the history of college sports.

David Sparks writes about  Dictate+Connect.  It looks very promising.  I also need a mobile solution that will let me send dictation to my secretary and/or Dragon Dictation.  Sounds like this app may do the trick.  On the other hand, David loves him some Omnifocus.  I think Omnifocus is about as fun as digging ditches.  Here’s my rule on apps: if I can’t immediately see at least the potential of an app, it’s either not useful or poorly implemented.  You shouldn’t need to watch a degree worth of screen casts to use a workflow application.

Everybody’s crowing about the 12 million downloads of Microsoft Office.  What matters is the number of people that will stick with it.  What matters more is the number of new subscribers to Office 365.  I remain gymnastically unimpressed with it.

Hey Macworld, how can you not know how completely LAME it is to auto-play videos on your web page?  What’s next, flashing text?  Should we all move back to Geocities?

10 Bigfoot-Type Cryptids You May Not Know About.  Honey Island Swamp Monster, FTW.

All you whippersnappers have no idea how much Netscape Navigator dominated the web back in the day.  I went from Navigator to Firefox to Chrome.  Even though I’m a Mac guy, I don’t use Safari much on the desktop.

 

 

Evening Reading: 4/2/14

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Here is a very interesting read about the rise and fall of professional bowling.  I remember watching professional bowling on TV as a kid.  I also remember watching- and really enjoying- professional putt-putt.  Crazy.

I like to assemble photos into a slide show with music.  If I can find an acceptable way to do that on an iPhone, without having to use iMovie or another desktop application, it will save me some time.  PicFlow is another potential solution.

10 simple things you’ve been doing wrong your whole life.  There are some good tips and hacks in there.

Every time I think Real Player and its kin have been scrubbed from the internet, they come back, like a bad penny.  This made me long for the days of their demise.

iWork for iCloud has some nice updates today.   As someone who loves AppleScript and hacking up ways to improve my work flow, I am very interested in this.

I’ve mentioned it before, but David Gewirtz’s Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide, which has recently been updated, is internet gold.

I’ve wondered how much time speeding really saves you, and my quick math led me to believe not too much.  Here’s a handy chart that confirms it.  So why is there such a compelling desire to do it?

I love Game of Thrones, but this is equal parts hilarious and accurate.

 

Evening Reading: 3/28/14

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Here’s some free advice to non-Apple executives.  When you crap on Apple products, people view it as an admission that yours is inferior.  Just make a great product and it will speak for itself.  I’d love for someone to perfect what Apple TV is trying to do.  But time spent criticizing their product should be used perfecting yours.

I’ll say it again.  Bitcoin is the stupidest thing since Y2K.  If you want a new currency, why not Brandar Tiles.  Or any other one of these.  There’s nothing worse than a horde of nerds (and I consider myself a nerd) getting carried away with something that literally no one else in the world cares a whit about.

EverDock is my favorite Kickstarter project so far.  I have 4 of them (office, home office, farm and bedside table) and use them all.  As soon as their new automobile solution project goes live, I will back it.

If you see this and don’t smile, you might just take things a bit too seriously.  I can’t wait.

I lost interest in American Horror Story somewhere in season two, but by golly if Mackey is going to be in season 4 then you can be sure I’ll watch it.

I never could decide if I was an extrovert or an introvert.  I’m not shy, I can talk to anyone, but I could also happily be a hermit.  Today I learned, via Reddit, about ambiverts.  Is there a word for someone who likes people until (they screw with him and) he don’t?

So, I was thinking about this song today.  My favorite music video of all-time.  Facebook should use this in a Super Bowl ad.  It’s that good.

 

 

 

Evening Reading: 3/27/14

 

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This is a promising project.  The only thing I dislike about my beloved iMac is the placement of the ports on the back.  It’s hard to connect devices by feel, so I end up turning the screen around and displacing things on my desk.

I cannot believe I just read something that combines two of my favorite things: farming and going paperless. Brooks Duncan and his work at Document Snap are among the best productivity-enhancing resources on the internet. Highly recommended. Brooks, if you see this, will you please, for the love of all that is paperless, create a foolproof Hazel or Automator process for batch converting Word documents to pdf? I can create automations to do amazingly complex workflows, but I have not found a way to create a reliable folder action (or a reliable Automator service) that will convert to pdf.

I love the specs of this new WD external hard drive. I don’t love the price, but it will come down.

Here’s a great article on using Google Drive to capture ideas and other data for later processing. I’m still mad at Google for killing Reader, but given that I’m all-in with their (now very affordable) storage, I might, just maybe, look at Google Keep again.

This is great news.  Tucker and Dale is a hilarious movie.

Speaking of sequels, Christine McVie is back.

Can we all agree, once and for all, that ad-supported isn’t free.  It’s just payment in kind (of time).  I would much rather pay a little money than see (as in notice, much less watch) ads.

 

 

Evening Reading: 3/26/14

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Office should have been on iPads years ago. It’s probably too late now. I may try it, but not if I have to use (whatever they call) Office365 (this week).

I think App Camp for Girls is wonderful. If it ever comes to Texas, my girls are going.

I’m cranking through The Sopranos on the treadmill. It’s great TV. I watched The Test Dream last night. It’s one of the best TV episodes ever. It replaced the also excellent Pine Barrens as my favorite episode so far.

North Korea cracks me up. Here’s more.

This happened in Houston, yesterday.  We could see the fire from my office downtown.

 

David Gewirtz has updated his excellent Google Voice how-to guide.  Highly recommended.

Very interesting read- going behind the scenes with Nigerian scammers. I have little sympathy for those who fall for this sort of thing. But I have mad love for those who make hilarity with them. There are laughs to be had there.