Category Archives: thoughts

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A few thoughts on Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo and her method of cleaning up are very hot now, likely due to her TV show. This hotness sparked a number of discussions about her, such as this: “Tokimeku” Means So Much More Than “Spark Joy” in Japanese | Apartment Therapy. It also sparked other, more extreme discussions, such as how it is racist to not account for the deeper Shinto meaning in her works.

I read her book when it first came out and I admired it. I didn’t agree with all of it, but I liked her approach to life and the things we own. I got the Shinto aspect of the book, but I don’t recall that  it was emphasized, so criticizing people of missing that who are unaware of Shintoism is a ridiculous criticism.

There have been shows like Marie Kondo on before. It makes sense. We are driven in North American culture to accumulate, and shows like hers provide us with an antidote to this. When Marie Kondo is forgotten, another home organizer will come along.

I have read more extreme versions of Marie Kondo, like “Goodbye, Things”, which promotes a very minimal life style. I bought it the way I buy other books that have subjects to aspire to but will never achieve. I guess others have too.

There is something to be said for a minimalist lifestyle, a maximalist life style, and something in between. In the end, what counts is that you have positive feelings towards the place you inhabit, however much you have.

One thing Marie Kondo misses is the notion of a room as a workshop. If you have a hobby, be it cooking or woodworking or gardening or reading, you likely have a room where all your tools and supplies are. If you are good at your hobby, you likely have alot of them. That makes sense. It doesn’t make sense to get rid of them just because you want to have less things. Have what you need to do the job when you want to. You could still trim back: do you really need 10 cutting boards or 3 screwdrivers that are exactly the same? But otherwise keep the tools you need or may need.

I think Marie Kondo is great because she encourages us to live better with some simple guidelines. Even if you don’t follow them all, you will live better if you consider her message and try to apply it. In the end you’ll have a better home, and you will have a better idea of what you consider a better home.

Image from the NYTimes article on her, here.

 

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Some thoughts on the 10th Anniversary of the App Store

  1. I remember what a big deal it was that Apple was going to support third party software developers. That was by no means a given: Apple could have restricted the iPhone to only their apps and a handful of third party software vendors. By being much more open, they made the iPhone so much more than it could have been if they had not.
  2. I believe iTunes had a big influence on this. It was a model, in a sense, for what the App Store could be. And as iTunes helped make the iPod a success, so would the App Store help make the iPhone (and the iPod Touch) a success.
  3. One influence iTunes had on the App Store was software pricing. Before the App Store software was either free or pricey. Suddenly the App Store came along and software was the price of a song. The few vendors that wanted to charge more could not compete with those who were fine with the low cost. The App Store changed the way people thought about what they should pay for software.
  4. Another effect the App Store had on software was time to market. With mobile apps, people expected updates regularly and bugs to be fixed right away. Companies that used to ship annually now were shipping weekly or daily. This had a huge effect on how software teams developed software. Everyone had to have a mobile app, and every mobile app had to keep up with the new pace. This effect rippled through companies. Software developers adopted the pace for mobile apps to other software being created and released that frequently as well.
  5. The App Store also improved software quality. If you released bad software, you would hear from users immediately via the ratings. There was no hiding bad apps. As well, if your app sucked, other people would come out with better apps and steal whatever market share you had.  Software development teams were on tighter leashes because of the App Store.
  6. The App Store allowed software developers to make money in ways they could not before. You had a direct channel to consumers of software via the App Store. And lots of developers made a good amount of money as a result.
  7. Apps  became part of our culture. Games like Angry Birds found an audience because of the App Store.
  8. We downloaded so many apps we lost track of them. And some of them turned out not to be good for us. Speaking of that, if you want to do a bit of spring cleaning on your apps and make sure that the ones remain are good, I recommend you read this: On the 10th anniversary of the App store, it’s time to delete most of your apps (Popular Science)

On finding comfort in times of discomfort

There are times of discomfort when you expect that you should experience constant distress and misery. In such times you will find there will arise moments where you can actually find ease and comfort in spite of your situation. In such difficult times you will find places where you gain rest and solace and a break from the things that assail you. They may seem illusory but they are not. They may not last long but they are not false.

In times of discomfort, savour such moments of comfort. Use them to gain perspective. Use them to gain some rest. Use them to relax and to recover.

Such times will not last, but they last long enough. Take time to appreciate what you have in such moments. Such moments will carry you through the darkness.

How many lives do you have to live

Stage

It’s a cliche: you only have one life to live. But it’s not really true. We experience many lives in our lifetime. Maybe it’s closer to 11, like this great post illustrates: You Only Live 11 Times, SMBC | Jesse Rogerson. Or maybe it is closer to some other number. Certainly we all go through major stages in our lives, and as we leave a stage, it can seem like we leave one life behind for another one. We are like performers, going from one theatre to another, retaining some parts of our act while discarding others.

Enjoy the life (or stage of life) you are in right now. Savour the best parts of it. Never assume they will last long, for they won’t. (Parents, in particular know this.) Likewise, for the more challenging aspects of your life right now: they won’t last for long, either. (It just seems that way). Accept and deal with them the best way you can, and know they will also recede and end.

On ward!

If you like Teju Cole, you can find some of his things here

Two pieces by Teju Cole related to Trump.

This first one he wrote about Trump was a Facebook post, captured here. It struck me at the time, for he seemed to want to pivot from Trump’s bigotry to attack something else. The attack against something else was understandable to me: the downplaying of Trump was not.

Now he has a new piece out, making parallels between Trump and Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros”, here.

If you like Cole, you might like them.

I used to follow Cole on twitter, and much of what he wrote was interesting and thought provoking.

I do not care for these pieces. Downplaying Trump was a terrible idea in the first case. In the second case, I do not believe that Trump is going to lead to widespread fascism, though many bad leaders and followers are going to stampede out from the worst places and take center stage for awhile. Unlike Ionesco, I don’t believe everyone will turn into a rhinoceros: a small minority crashing about is enough to make it feel like everyone has transformed. They will be taken down, in due time or well past due time, but never made extinct.

A better symbol than rhinos may be snakes or reptiles. The political climate is such that these cold blooded animals feel they can come out and cause havoc. It seems like others are transforming into them, but there are just more of them and less warm blooded creatures in our midst in this time of transformation. When the climate changes, they will retreat. Until then, we have to wrangle with them as they appear.

Some loose thoughts on the magic of Christmas

When you are very young, Christmas is a magical time. We all know that. But
it is magical when you have children, too, for .then you are the magician.
I realized that the hard age for Christmas is in your 20s. The magic
bypasses you then. No wonder people of that age cut up Christmas. The magic
they once held is lost.

Christmas is magic not because the day itself is magical, but because we
invest the magic that we have within us on that day. It would be better if
we brought forward that magic every day, but one day is better than no
days. We have such, well, .. Magic!..within us. We need to be reminded to
let it out.

(Originally posted on posterous, December 24 2011, 9:24 PM)

Some thoughts on memory and winter

There are bad associations with winter. We talk of the dead of winter. Or the bleak midwinter. Plants and trees are barren. Animals hibernate, deathlike. Cold itself, winter’s prime attribute, we associate with the dead. As is the additional darkness that winter throws over us.

Yet these should not be the only associations we come to know of winter. For it is a time of joy and birth and beauty. And though light and heat are scarce, where they are concentrated, they are a treasure.

If spring is a season of rebirth and hope, summer a time of happiness and luxury, while autumn is a time of transition and abundance, then winter is a season of reflection and memory. Winter is a season of the mind. In winter we can look to the trees bare and the frozen earth and recall and imagine the fullness of leaves and grasses and flowers that will arrive in the months to come. Though they are not there yet, we can imagine them still. And in these acts of imagining, we can imagine further as we pass through the snow falling the times past and the times still to come. We can do this in other seasons too, but winter concentrates the mind.

(Originally posted on Posterous, January 18 2011, 10:25 PM)

Against gratitude and being grateful. Some thoughts from Barbara Ehrenreich and me

This piece, The Selfish Side of Gratitude – The New York Times, is a scathing attack on gratitude by Ehrenreich. She makes some good points, but overall the writing is so dismissive, from the references to yoga mats to the numerous quotation marks around so many things, that I didn’t find it persuasive. No doubt some abuse the notion of being grateful, but I think there is more too it than a form of evasion. Read it and see if you agree.

My criticism of gratitude is smaller. My problem with the notion is that it isn’t as useful for me. I think there are better words for expressing how I feel, like glad or appreciative. Gratitude in the context of other people is subservient. I do not look down on the people who provide me a service, nor do I think they should think themselves somehow superior. Likewise if I do something for you, I don’t expect you to be grateful: if you are appreciative, that’s enough. And gratitude for certain aspects of nature or the universe make no sense if you are not religious.

There are people who I am grateful towards. Most of the time I can use other words to describe my feelings toward them and what they do. Grateful and gratitude are two words that should be used less often.

It’s not A.I. or robots that are taking away jobs. It’s you.

A year or so ago, a parking lot I use had a human in a booth to take tickets and provide other  services. That human booth was replaced by the thing in the photo above.

It’s not a robot and it’s not A.I., but it is replacing humans.

Stories about A.I. or robots taking over work makes them interesting. It’s also secondary to the real story. What is really taking people’s jobs is a willingness of others to use technology, and a willingness of companies to replace people with technology. People are not afraid to use technology. If anything, sometimes they prefer to deal with technology. This makes it easier for companies to go with technology as compared to using people, and if companies can save money or make money, so much the better.

It is happening in all sorts of industries, from food to sportswriting. The technology isn’t the driver of this: it’s the willingness of people to prefer technology that is the driver.

Thinking critically about robots. (Hint: think vending machines)

The following is anuncritical and hyped-up analysis of robots, from Wired (On Cyber Monday, Friendly Robots Are Helping Smaller Stores Chase Amazon). A key quote from it is this (highlighting by me):

… (Amazon) is relying on more than 100,000 temp workers this holiday season to supplement its already massive warehouse workforce, the advantages of offloading more of that work onto machines are easy to see. Robots don’t slow. They don’t tire. They don’t get injured or distracted or sick. They don’t require paychecks or try to unionize.

Now check out this robot:

Once you get over the word “robot”, you can see it resembles alot of the other machines you see in workplaces. Machines like high speed printers, scanners and even vending machines.  All of those things don’t slow, don’t tire and don’t unionize. They don’t get sick, but they break down alot, which is just the same. They don’t require a paycheck, but they do cost the organizations that use them. Sometimes they perform their function so poorly that people bypass them altogether.  As well, robots need others to take care of them. An army of robots just doesn’t show up: there is an entire process of testing, deploying, fixing and replacing them that is costly and non-trivial. There is a process for deploying human resources, too, but to say that that is costly and the process of deploying robot resources is not costly is wrong.

Robots will take over some functionality in workplaces, be that function blue collar or white collar. But that is no different from alot of other machinery already in place. The difference with robots will be that they are mobile. That’s it. We should get over the notion of robot as some magical creature and just accept them as another machine.

This article about body cameras is asking the wrong questions, which is not surprising, since everyone is.

This article,  Will Body Cameras Work? – The Atlantic, is asking the wrong questions. The wrong questions are occurring because the initial answer to the question of “how do we deal with bad policing?” was often, “body cameras”. The better question to repeatedly ask: “how can we make police more accountable?” because if “body cameras” is the first answer to that question, the next question should be concerning the information captured by those body camera. How are police accountable for that? Which should then lead to another question: how are police accountable for information they capture generally? Because with new technology, police will soon be able to capture alot more information about you than just images. It will soon be possible for police to look at you or your vehicle and have that information feed back to centralized computer systems, essentially collecting information about you without you even knowing it. How will police be accountable for that?

Police accountability will come, likely through the courts. In the meantime, we will likely struggle with the fallout of police forces capturing more information.

Is Mark Zuckerberg’s $45 Billion Facebook donation good or not? Best to consider the alternative

In analysing the donation, Forbes (in The Surprising Math In Mark Zuckerberg’s $45 Billion Facebook Donation) sums it up like this:

Mr. Zuckerberg’s pledge is incredibly generous. But it is also likely to involve some very savvy tax planning.

It’s true, the donation is incredibly generous. You can use all the superlatives you want, and it still amounts to something out of the ordinary. Is the donation financial savvy? Of course, but why shouldn’t it be? Either way, will it be spent well? Possibly, possibly not. For that, we will have to wait and see.

As I read people arguing against the donation, I thought about what the alternatives could be. One alternative is no donation at all. Plenty of very rich people donate only a small fraction of their money to good causes. Young billionaires aspiring to be large benefactors is something that should be encouraged, not discouraged. Another alternative is donations to political causes I disagree with. Quite a few billionaires do that. I prefer to see the billions directed otherwise.

As for people arguing for the donation, I wondered if they considered the alternative of the donation going to taxes or charities. Perhaps Zuckerberg will be very good with directing the money, better than the state or NGOs. I’d like to see a good portion go to them, though. Too little of the wealth of the 1% (or .01%) go to paying taxes that pay for a lot of things like social services and health care and the military and infrastructure. More money to pay for those things would be better. Likewise, well run charities are already up and running and could spend the money in efficient ways that a new organization cannot.

This donation is a positive thing, but you should still be able to think critically of it. Mark Zuckerberg is a smart guy and he’s maturing. Let’s hope he uses his good fortune to do good in the world.

 

It’s not that Brooklyn is getting more expensive: it’s that Manhattan is expanding. Why?

Home prices in some of the city’s neighborhoods have not just climbed over the last decade, they’ve blasted off, landed on Mars and found water.

Why? Well, look at where the growth is, and then look at this map of the NYC Subway:

More than other factors, the price of real estate seems  is tied to how easy it is to get back and forth from Manhattan.

That said, I’d be interested to know the story behind the areas of Manhattan that are stagnating.

NYC is never boring.

Source: New York Home Prices | New York Real Estate Price History

On starting to take my personal life offline

I am supportive of people sharing things, both good and bad, on social media. Some people think sharing only positive things is best, but I think sharing bad things has benefits. When you share bad things you allow people to express empathy which can be good for them and you. Sharing negative experiences can also help people feel that they are not the only ones feeling that way. In either case, a small dose of negativity can lead to a larger response of positivity.

Lately, however, I have had so many bad things, big and small, happen to me that I no longer feel it is a net benefit to share them. I even wrote them down tonight and thought: yeah that is a lot of bad things at once. I think that sharing them all the time will just have a negative effect on other people. It will bring them down more than help them. It will also affect me as well, as people move away from me for various reasons, either because they don’t know how to respond or they don’t want to deal with it.(something I have experienced this year.)

As a result, I started logging much of the difficulties I have been having in Day One, which is a great app. Writing things there helps me vent and review it later without having it social. As I found, after I vented, I was able to gain some perspective and think better about the situation, which helped. Sharing things can be useful, but in some cases not sharing can be more beneficial.

If you share a lot of your life, I recommend this approach for people in a similar situation. I recommend the Day One app too.  It is great. 

A superb interview in the Paris Review of the great Italo Calvino

Can be found here: Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 130, Italo Calvino.

Paris Review interviews are generally good, and this one of Calvino is no exception.

Facebook Publishes New York Times, BuzzFeed with “Instant Articles”. Let’s note this.

According to Re/code, the New York Times, BuzzFeed and others have received really good terms with Facebook regarding the publishing of “Instant Articles”. For instance:

Facebook’s “Instant Articles” are designed to load, um, instantly on Facebook’s iOS app — which is the heart of Facebook’s pitch.

Facebook lets publishers use their own publishing tools, and then converts stories automatically into a format that works on Facebook’s app. There are also some cool bells and whistles, like a photo and video-panning feature Facebook imported from its all-but-forgotten Paper app. Here’s a demo video:

Facebook will let publishers keep 100 percent of the revenue they sell for “Instant Articles”; if they have unsold inventory Facebook will sell it for them via its own ad network and give publishers 70 percent of that revenue.

Facebook will give “Instant Article” publishers access to performance data on their stuff, provided by Google Analytics and Adobe’s Ominiture.

ComScore, the Web’s most important measurement company, will give “Instant Article” publishers full credit for any traffic those stories generate on Facebook’s app.

Publishers can control much of the look and feel of how Facebook presents their stories; the item BuzzFeed publishes tomorrow won’t be mistaken for National Geographic’s.

Facebook says it won’t alter its algorithm to favor “Instant Articles” over any other kind of content. But given their novelty, and the fact they’re designed to be eye-catching, it seems very likely that these things will get lots of attention at the start.

Very generous. Enticing, even.

I am keen to revisit this in a year from now, to see if Facebook has revised these terms. If Facebook treats these terms like they treat your privacy, in a year or so I expect the revised terms will not be as generous. And if some companies are not careful, they will find they let their own IT teams dwindle and they will have no choice but to stick with Facebook.

Should you go to (film) school? Some brief thoughts on education

If you read this Open Culture post, Director Robert Rodriguez Teaches The Basics of Filmmaking in Under 10 Minutes, you’d be inclined to say “no”. As for me, I appreciate the points raised in the piece. Much of directed learning in school is less than valuable. That said, there are many ways to learn: experience, reading and watching how others do things, schools and teachers. The idea of limiting yourself to one way of learning is to deprive yourself unnecessarily. Learn any which way you can.

The myth of adult independence

When you are a child, you believe that adults are independent. That they can handle themselves. That they can deal with things. Manage things.

As you get to be an adult, you see this is mostly true. Mostly. Then there are those moments when you see adults in anguish. Adults struggling against forces they can’t handle. Can’t manage. Internal forces and external ones. Smart adults will seek out others to aide them. People they can depend on, no matter how much they prefer to be independent. Other adults, the not so smart ones, suffer in isolation and separation from others who might help them.

The other myth of adult independence is when as an adult you think you can provide all your own needs. That you don’t need much of anything from anyone. That you are self-sufficient. That what you have is enough, because to ask for more means depending on others.

The reality is that we are dependent on others, and there are things we can’t deal with on our own. If anything, being able to depend on many people makes us more independent, not less. For it is a myth that we are independent, when all through our day we depend on a countless number of people to provide us food and shelter and work and protection and human companionship.

The more we see the dependencies we have on each other, the better we can mutually change it for the better. By doing so, we increase our independence, not decrease it.

Just trying to work out sone ideas in my mind. Thanks for reading this.