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Memory, space and time and the redrawing of a line

thebloor

Tonight I went back and retraced activities in places from long ago. I went to the Annex in Toronto and walked around Harbord Street and Bloor Street, had a massive wiener schnitzel meal at Country Style and then went to see Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads great concert film, Stop Making Sense.

These are things I used to do often many many years ago, for the theatre that showed the film, the Bloor Cinema, used to play the film at least once a month in the mid 80s, it seemed. I lived near it then, and whenever I had nothing to do, I might grab some Hungarian food – for Bloor Street had a lot of Hungarian places then – and enjoy that film.

If you are wise, you will have places that are memory touchstones for you, places that you can revisit, that will be like a cache of good memories. Like any good cache, you can draw upon them as needed by going there whenever you needed to be refreshed and rejuvenated. I recommend you cultivate such places, places that you may not visit often but that are accessible whenever you are in need. A wise person also has such stores to get them through the leaner parts of life. Or perhaps you can look at them more optimistically and treat them like a rare wine cellar which you dip into every so often for that great bottle to enjoy and to remember.

Last week I watched a video of a line being retraced. As it was retraced over and over, each new line varied more and more from the original until the later lines were quiet different than the original. Still, there was that resemblance, that connection through time. So to tonight, when I was revisiting my old neighborhood, I could still feel some of the same things I felt many years ago, even though much has changed and I am no longer the same in many ways. For though much has changed, many more things in the places and the food and the theatre and the film, even myself…many things have remained the same. The line redrawn tonight had enough points in common with the lines I would often draw many years ago.

Memory is often thought of as a picture, or a storage cabinet, but memory may be like a flower. A flower, a rose perhaps, red, white, perhaps even tea stained, that opens up in the early morning just as you are walking by, walking in that distracted way we all walk when we are in a hurry to complete the ordinary, when out of the edge of our vision we see its
vividness and are drawn to come closer and soak up the smell of it and perhaps even mistakenly catch ourselves on its thorns. Memories may not be
passive things like files or photos. Memories may engage us and transfix and transform us, much like the rose that waves at us as we stroll by on what would otherwise by an ordinary day in our life.

We should cultivate the moments in our lives like the gardener cultivates her rose garden, for those moments will be our memories, our roses.
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Posted on my Posterous blog at February 23 2011 via my BlackBerry Handheld.

The beauty of night rain (insomnia tales)

Since I was a small child, I loved the night rain. I was likely 3 and I
remember listening to car tires hissing on rainy roads, and I would wait
for the sound of my parents car to return from their night out.

In Dustin Hoffman’s “Tootsie”, Bill Murray has a great scene describing how
he’d love to have a movie theatre that shows films on rainy nights. I
thought then and I still think how perfect that would be. To be wandering
aimlessly in the night rain and to come across a theatre showing a great
film for a rare showing. The solace and shelter and beauty of the cinema on
a rainy night would be wonderful.

When I was in college, there we no such theatres. But it rained often in
Halifax, and I would wander through the rainfall and window shop tucked
away magazine stores and diners with warm and dry and well fed patrons,
none of which I was. There was no solace then, save that of the enjoyment
of the beauty of the night rain. But later on there would be money and
women to press against while huddled under umbrellas, and the night rain
would lend itself to the promise of love and happiness.

Much weather of all sorts can bring back memories, but rainy night, mild
nights, bring back the most for me.

Thanks for reading my insomnia tales as I try to fall asleep

(originally posted on Posterous, June 23 2011. Written on my Blackberry)

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.

My 10 seconds of happiness exercise

I often struggle with how to get through the long, cold winter. If you do too, or are dealing with other difficulties that can make you sad and miserable, try this exercise that I find helps.

For a period of no more than 10 seconds, do something that makes you happy. It can be looking at something beautiful, enjoying a piece of music or a piece of food, or saying something good to someone you love. Choose the best thing you can think of. In that 10 seconds, don’t think of anything else, just that. Think about it before you do it, think about it while you are doing it, then think about it after you have done it. That’s it. That’s the exercise.

Now, maybe you think 10 seconds is too short and a minute or more is something you can focus on. Great! Do that then. Or you so enjoyed that 10 seconds of admiring the snow, or sipping you tea or juice, that you are going to move on and try the exercise with something else. Also great. Whatever you do, try the exercise and then try to do it repeatedly through the day, week.

Happiness is hard to define, and still harder to quantify. But I think that each of us, in our own way, can build up the part of ourselves capable of being happy and work it and make it stronger. The heart literally gets stronger through exercise. The heart figuratively can stronger through exercise, too. At least I think so. Try this exercise and tell me what you think.

Everything is amazing (late night thoughts)

It is an odd thing to conclude that everything is amazing, given that I am slogging through a quiet night with a miserable cold. But I looked at the gel cap medicine I was about to take, and I thought of the machines that can make such a precise thing as a gel cap. I thought of all the people involved in getting it to me, from the chemists that develop it to the cashier who sold it to me. The cashier handed me a debit device and I tap it with my thin plastic card and a transaction over many networks and devices all conspire to give my money to the cashier. We don’t think anything of it, but our entire landscape of high rises and subways and concrete and sewers, all of it, is sophisticated and unacknowledged as we make our way through the day. Or in my case this evening, as I make my way through the refrigerator, filled with containers from foods all over the world. We take it for granted that it will be tasty and consistent and safe to eat, no matter where it comes from, and that the fridge will keep it at the right temperature. Our houses are filled with such thing, and yet much of the time, they are anything but treasured.

I turned on a light and instantly I drew power from all over the province, into my house. People work through out the day to provide it to me and all I need to do is turn the smallest of switches to get it. I turned on my iPad, which is more powerful than computers that used to be the size of my fridge, and I checked my blog. Someone from Jordan visited it this evening. I can write something like this and people all over the world can read it. Once literacy itself was a rarity. Now we are striving to have everyone not only literate, but have access to sophisticated tech that a few years ago, only a handful of people had.

It’s not just that things are amazing, but people too are amazing. You are reading this using a range of technologies, from computers to wireless networks to the Internet to your browser. In the 1990s no one had this. In a short time we all have this. We have adapted these complex technologies into our lives with relative ease because of our intellect and our desire and our capacity to learn and improve and better ourselves.

When you finish reading this, at some point you can surf the Web and find videos from the International Space Station on YouTube or find still photography taken on Instagram taken by the Mars Curiosity lander sent to that planet from NASA. And after you see those photos or those videos, you can post your own. We don’t think anything of it, despite it all being fairly recent.

Later you can turn off the computers and the lights and just look at the stars and realize we live on this planet that is it’s own space station, and that you are a part of that.

Life can be mundane and difficult and frustrating, and yet if you are fortunate, you can catch it in your mind’s eye from just the right perspective, and when you do, you’ll see that everything is amazing.

Thanks for reading this.

Winter is for optimistic thinking

If I told you it was freezing outside, you would dress appropriately. You wouldn’t wear shorts and t shirt. Likewise, when winter comes, you should think appropriately. You shouldn’t think pessimistically: you should think optimistically.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking pessimistically in winter. It may feel Permanent, like it is never going to end. It may seem Pervasive, like it is dark and cold everywhere. And it can even seem Personal, as if winter has it out for you. Combine that with other negative forms of thinking and winter can bring you down.

If you think optimistically, much of winter’s overbearingness fades. If you think it is really only a short few months, then it doesn’t seem so permanent. The trick is to break winter up into short periods. The next thing you know, it is March and things are thawing and Spring will soon arrive. If you can find the chance to get away, or find ways to enjoy the indoors, then winter doesn’t seem so pervasive. Finally, if you think about it, winter hits everyone the same: it isn’t personal. If anything, if you learn to enjoy the time you have in winter, it can seem like the season for you, not against you.

Winter requires thought. Work to think optimistically about winter. When you do, it becomes the most interesting of seasons.

Everything is happening at this moment (late night thoughts)

Late at night, when it is quiet, it is easy to believe that nothing is going on in the world. The opposite is true. For every time zone that people are sleeping, in another they are waking up. All over the world people are being born and people are dying. People are making babies, having them, raising them, waiting for them to come home, wondering where they are. People are dancing in clubs, drinking in bars, sipping coffee in cafes. Some are wearing parkas while others are swimming in pools. Everywhere people are walking, drinking, lying down, getting up, working hard, resting. The world is filled with people active in some form. Everyone is doing something at this moment. Everything is happening now.

Your life is epic: you just don’t know it

If you were to ask most people if their life is epic, they would reply no. Theirs is no life of adventure, of quests, of heroism, they’d say. They do no awesome battles with great evils, nor overcome great obstacles. They might reply that they live ordinary and uneventful lives, just like you or I might, if we were asked.

Yet really, we all live epic lives. We all seek love, search out our fortune (however we define it), and set out on trips big and small into the dreadful unknown. What quests are more epic than that? What treasure could a hero in a story seek that is more precious than the true love we search for, or the great friendships we strive for? What grail could have more value than the achievements we put in so many hours to finally reach? If our aims are not famous, our reaching them are valorous and virtuous in their own way.

And ever day, in the work we do, the love we provide, the good words we say and the good deeds we do, we battle fear and loneliness, sadness and worry. Though these things are not material, they are evils nonetheless, and the things we do, however small, are great weapons in fighting such terrible things.

We all have our quests, our evils to battle. We all live epic lives.

We live in many worlds at once

We live in many worlds at once. The present world, of course. We live in the near future world, where the next choice we make creates the next present world. At the same time, we can be in old haunts, and in our minds, we now inhabit past worlds. Or our minds will imagine us living in worlds that don’t exist. Imaginary worlds. Worlds where we win the lottery, where we avoid past defeats, or we turn out different than we did. We live in worlds with fears and worlds with hopes, where the invisible things around the corner or over the hill shape our world even if we never encounter it.

We inhabit the world and the objects around us, but we live in many worlds at once. For our lives in the world are a function of mind, and with our thoughts we make the worlds.

Some thoughts on books as social objects

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This week I was carrying this book around with me and managed to have two people initiate conversations regarding it in the same day. First a younger waiter in a restaurant told me the author’s name was similar to a favourite children’s book she had many years ago. Then on the subway, a man who appeared to be a gamer engaged me in a long discussion about war games, the US Civil War, and the Napoleonic wars.

Neither conversation would have happened if the book were an ebook or even an abstract cover, I suspect. The cover itself caught their eye, and that led to further conversation.

Books are great social objects. They tell something about you, and they give a topic for others to start talking to you about.

Both conversations were not really about the book directly, but ways for people to share something about themselves. This is a benefit of social objects: you can learn much more by taking the object out in public. With private objects, you have to do all the work: with social objects, people help you learn more.

It likely helped that the book was not controversial. Plus it was odd enough to catch people’s eye. The potential barriers to starting conversations were low.

It is difficult to say what makes an object more social than others. Much of that is random. I had been reading the book all week: that day was the first one that people talked to me about it. Certainly something people are passionate about helps. Even that is random, though.

Other objects can be social, too, but books can be both personal and impersonal at the same time. That dual quality makes them a good social object. Strangers asking about highly personal objects may seem prying and put people on the defensive. Objects like food are too impersonal and not easy to make an interesting topic to start talking about. Books are nicely in the middle.

In short, get down your quirky looking books from your bookshelf and take them out for a walk. Your social life may improve. Even in a big city like Toronto.

An additional note: I was walking down Yonge Street yesterday, and I stopped to admire a mosaic on a wall. While I was doing that, another man walked next to me and told me about the construction of it and his thoughts on it. It too was a social object, thought I created the context for socialization by stopping to admire it.

Some thoughts on power and empowerment

In reading on empowerment, the key assumption in many of them is the form a person’s power takes. I can see how this happens. If you believe that money is the ultimate source of power, then you would assume that empowerment has to do with controlling amounts of money. If you believe control and influence over others is a source of power, then how much control and influence you have indicates how much power you have. Or personal autonomy: you may assume that the more control you have over your life, the more power you have. There are other forms of power as well, but you can see just from these three how someone could be seen as both empowered and powerless. You could be wealthy, but a recluse struck with a terrible disease. You could be poor individual, but have all the freedom you want and great influence over others around you and beyond.  The poor individual and the wealthy recluse both are empowered and powerless, depending upon the lens you use to examine their lives.

There are tradeoffs we all make in these areas of empowerment. I might work a certain job because it gives me greater power over some aspects of my life while restricting me in others. Same with being a parent.

Everyone makes tradeoffs to achieve the power they need.  You may not respect their choices, you may find the sacrifices they make to be wrong, and you may not see the power they seek as one that is worthwhile. Despite that, they are trying to gain some form of power over someone or something to achieve a greater good. They are empowered or becoming empowered to achieve that.  We can disagree that their goals are not good ones, but we cannot say they are not empowered. If they are on the way to achieving what they want, they are empowered.

Some thoughts on Miley Cyrus, Show Business and performers of her age

Having a daughter a bit younger than Miley Cyrus, I have followed her career and that of many of her peers whether I wanted to or not. I even chaperoned my daughter to a Jonas Brothers/Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana concert! So I have always been interested in what happened to them, if only because they have been part of her life and part of my life indirectly. Most of them shone on as stars for awhile and then faded (e.g,. Hillary Duff, some of High School musical gang). Some of them have crashed and burned (e.g., Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes). And some of them seem to be in the process of transitioning from kid stars to adult actors and performers (e.g. Miranda Cosgrove, Vanessa Hudgens). And some have been all over the map (e.g., Brittany Spears, who crashed and burned but now seems to be on the uptake, career wise).

Ideally all of them, because of talent, would mature and become successful adult performers (e.g., Jodie Foster, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Justin Timberlake). But that transition is difficult. First, because alot of them are in the Disney/Nickelodeon machine, and while they are in it, they are well managed and groomed, but once they are out of it, they are on their own. Unlike some of the other performers, Cyrus has an independent support network, and that seems to have kicked into high gear with the timing of the VHS performance, her video release, and the Rolling Stone cover coming one after another.

For those upset at how over the top it all seems to be, recall that she had a previous attempt at transitioning to performing as an adult and it was mocked and dismissed. She and the people she works with likely thought they would have to do something stronger to succeed. Hence the recent performances and appearances.

She does seem to be succeeding too, if you measure success by gaining and holding attention. That has always been the measure of success for American entertainers, and by those standards, she is succeeding. It would be best if she could gain that attention by the quality of her work, not by subverting her previously manufactured image of the stereotyped good little girl with the new stereotype bad girl, but I have seen her work, and it was never that good. For example, her show, much like the Jonas Brothers that came before her and many others like that, consisted of lots of costumes, dancing with other dancers, and generally doing a lip synced/over dubbed musical show while a bunch of middle aged dudes all dressed in black pants and T shirts played all the music in the background. (I imagine the star did play and sing, but the session type musicians in the background did all the heavy lifting, musically speaking, while Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers entertained the crowd.) That doesn’t mean she can’t sing and dance: she can dance, and at the end of the show, she performed a solo number, as if to show the audience that yes, I am real.

Did you know that Miranda Cosgrove recently did a series of rock n roll type concerts? No, you wouldn’t, because Cosgrove’s were pretty standard and very tame in comparison to Cyrus. She is comparable with Cyrus musically, and she has a ton of fans, who filled her shows. But unless there is a hidden talent she is holding back until a later time, she is never going to get on the cover of Rolling Stone or have people talking because of her music, fan base or not. To get that attention, you need to be either really good or really outrageous, or both.

Justin Bieber seems to get this. Or at least his handlers do. He should be fading now, but he manages to stay in the news with his behavoir these days. It too is a bad boy behavoir, though because of our patriarchial society, his bad boy behavoir comes across in a different way. It’s not bad boy behavoir compared to Keith Moon or Ozzie Osborne, but Bieber doesn’t have to be that bad to get attention. The same with Cyrus: she’s not Courtney Love nor Janis Joplin, but she doesn’t have to be.

A Show Business career, like alot of lucrative careers in the U.S., is a brutal business. Cyrus seems to know this and seems determined to succeed in it by whatever it takes to succeed. Mick Jagger once said that Madonna was a thimbleful of talent in an ocean of ambition. Like many quips, this is unfair and insightful. What is true is that Madonna would do what it took to stay on top, and has managed to do it for a crazy long time. That is her true talent. It looks like Cyrus has the same ambition, and she may decide to follow the same path to achieve a similar level of success.

The latest Rolling Stone has her interview here: Miley Cyrus on the Cover of Rolling Stone | Music News | Rolling Stone. I breezed over it, but she came across as pretty savvy here, which is not surprising, after I thought about it. She’s been in the business for along time, and she’s been a star for along time. Right now she is outraging people with her calculated behavoir, and the interview shows her dealing with some of the fallout for that. She is a professional, and that comes across in it. In a year from now, if a different set of actions will keep her in the news, I imagine she will tack in that direction.

It is possible she will crash and burn at some point. (The same could be said for Bieber.) I suspect she will not, and she will transform herself many more times over the course of the next few decades. Like Madonna, I suspect we will be listening to Cyrus for years to come, whether you like it or not. And like Madonna, that will be her true talent.

My latest technical paper on Cloud Architecture is here on developerWorks #geekish

The paper, Select the correct cloud adoption pattern, was co-written with a very talented IBMer, Tina Abdollah.

As cloud architectures get more complex, patterns can help cloud architects communicate what is needed. If you are looking to develop more complex cloud architectures, take a look at the paper and see if it helps. Thanks.

 

 

Jaron Lanier is wrong again

Jaron Lanier has a new book out called “Who Owns the Future?” and like his last book, “You are Not a Gadget”, he is out promoting it. (Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class – Salon.com.) In this Salon article, you find this:

“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

When I read this, my first impression is: wow! Instagram in combination with other forces destroyed Kodak and all those jobs. Impressions are deceiving. In fact, what destroyed Kodak was Kodak management. As early as 1997, Kodak was under fire from Fuji and doing poorly (WHAT’S AILING KODAK? FUJI WHILE THE U.S. GIANT WAS SLEEPING, THE JAPANESE FILM COMPANY CUT PRICES, MARKETED AGGRESSIVELY, AND NOW IS STEALING MARKET SHARE. – October 27, 1997). Indeed, while Kodak has gone down, Fuji continues to do well, as I point out here: In considering Kodak’s demise, it’s important to remember that Fuji is still going strong | Smart People I Know.

The problem with Kodak was Kodak. It couldn’t deal with Fuji or the Internet. But Fuji was smart enough to do so, and if Kodak was as smart, they’d still be a going concern and alot of Kodak jobs would still exist.  If Lanier hasn’t done enough research to see that, I don’t know how much value you will find in his book. Maybe he gets alot more right and this is just a bad example, but I doubt it. Indeed, I blogged about him when he wrote his last book and how I thought that that book was troublesome: Jaron Lanier needs someone else to promote his new book, “You are Not A Gadget” | Smart People I Know. I’d expect more of the same from this book.

I don’t know what motivates him to write these books. He seems to get a pass when he does write them and the people who interview him seem to be impressed with his credentials and his appearance. To add to that, he is a well spoken individual, and I think there is even something in what he says. But I also think his writing is lazy and uninformed, and if you do wish to read authors critical of technology, I recommend you look elsewhere.

Some things to think about in between one work week and the next

If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed with work or the people at work, then you might find either one of these articles from the zenhabits blog to be useful: 13 small things to simplify your workday and 10 Ways to Deal With the Non-Simplifying Others in Your Life. If you read them now and then go on with your weekend activities, you may find that you have a plan to deal with these difficulties, come Monday. At the very least, knowing you have options can help you have a more relaxing weekend.

Good luck! Bon courage!

Ten truly great non-IT books for IT people* to read (*and non-IT people who like good books)

If you are an IT person or geek like me, chances are you wish you could read more non-technical books that still appeal to your technical side, but that also manage to go into areas that you are not used to reading. While it is easy to find lists of great fiction and non-fiction, there are not too many lists of great books that directly appeal to you as a technical person.  I think this list might. I am not the best read person, but I think this is a good list of books to read. Furthermore, I have read each of these books at least twice, and some of them more times than that.

The ten books are:

1. Everything and More : A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace
2. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
3. Ficciones (English Translation) by Jorge Luis Borges, with translation by Anthony Kerrigan, Anthony Bonner
4. Inferno: First Book of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri with transalation by Allen Mandelbaum and illustration by Barry Moser
5. A Short History of Financial Euphoria by John Kenneth Galbraith
6. How Proust Can Change Your Life-not a Novel by Alain De Botton
7. Designing Freedom by Stafford Beer
8. Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre by Walter Kaufmann
9. Lessons for Students in Architecture by Herman Hertzberger
10. Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 by Ian Kershaw

Here’s the details, including book plates why you might like them, and what you might want to read next. (Note, I have included links to Amazon: you can click on the link and go and buy the book if my description sounds appealing.)

1. Everything and More : A Compact History of Infinity: David Foster Wallace: Amazon.com: Books
David Foster Wallace is one of the great writers of the late 20th century who also really knows mathematics. This book wonderfully illustrates the story of mathematics and Georg Cantor while telling the history of the concept of infinity in a way that only DFW can. How many hard science books are written by great authors? There’s one: this one. This book is singularly great: you get superb writing and you get to learn/relearn a lot about mathematics. I know some mathematicians complained about some of the math, but they missed so much by doing so. (Plus, I studied this in university and to my feeble undergraduate mind it looks ok.) I can’t recommend this book highly enough. This book is a gift for people who enjoy mathematics. And math phobes, give it a try.
 
If you like it, read more Wallace. Really, anything is worth reading.  And there are other books in this series as well.

2. The Periodic Table: Primo Levi: 9780679444633: Amazon.com: Books

Primo Levi was a chemist, an Italian, and a Jew living during WWII and the Holocaust, and those parts of his life form a complex compound here in this book. Many of the chapters of this autobiography are named after elements in the periodic table, and the story in such a chapter (e.g., gold) is centered on the element. Levi’s love of chemistry and science comes through, and his writing is superb. Any field of science would be fortunate to have a such writer represent it.

After reading this, I’ve read more of Levi, and the more I read, the more I’ve appreciated his depth and profundity. This book has that, but with an accessibility that makes me recommend it over his other books. Read this, and if you like this, get his other books next. You won’t be disappointed. Every time I read Levi I take on some of his depth and humanity. 

If you like Levi and are looking for something similar, start with Italo Calvino’s books or Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

3. Ficciones (English Translation): Jorge Luis Borges, Anthony Kerrigan, Anthony Bonner: 9780802130303: Amazon.com: Books

I joke that if science fiction is really good writing, then they don’t call it science fiction anymore. Same with fantasy and other genres. If believe that if you love those genres, you will love Borges. Like Kafka, there are few writers that imagine worlds the way he does.  And like Kafka, his writing is superlative. I love science fiction, but I rarely have time to read anymore, and I often feel like I could be reading something better when I am reading it. I think this is a fault of mine, but that’s how I think when I read SF. Borges allows me to feel I am reading great writing and still getting my fill of science fiction and fantasy.

You may think I am entirely wrong and you may have a lengthy list of great SF writers that I have neglected. Read Borges, and if you think there are some that approach him in terms of writing, I will be delighted to hear from you.

If you like this, try Labyrinths next, also by Borges.

Margaret Atwood is another writer who writes SF but it isn’t called SF because she is a great writer. Try her next. And of course, you should go read/reread Kafka.


4. Inferno: First Book of the Divine Comedy (A New Verse Translation) (Illustrated): Dante Alighieri, Allen Mandelbaum, Barry Moser: Amazon.com: Books

There are a multitude of translations of Dante’s Inferno, so why read this one? First off, the translation is very detailed, and the notes in the back are worth reading as much as the translations themselves. More importantly, Mandelbaum aims to get the poetry into the English translation, and the result reads beautifully. If you can read Italian, you are in for a great feast, for the Italian and the English are across from each other on each page. Regardless, it reads beautifully in whatever language you can read.

To top it off, the Moser illustrations are frighteningly good. The superbly horrific illustrations give it feel like a graphic novel. Unlike a graphic novel, though, you get all of Dante’s writing, not just snippets. This book is a feast.  I think everyone should read Dante’s Inferno, and if you agree, this is the one I recommend you try.

5. A Short History of Financial Euphoria (Penguin business): John Kenneth Galbraith: 9780140238563: Amazon.com: Books

With all the interest in bitcoin, it behooves IT people to learn more about economics. J.K. Galbraith has an entire book on money called “Money” that deals with the history of it. “Money” is a great book, but I love this book more. It is a slim volume covering all the manic moments in history regarding money and in particular, financial bubbles. It is written in a very dry and witty style that will make you smile as you read Galbraith eviscerate one historical figure after another who promises: this time it’s different.  After reading it, you will be innoculated against bitcoin and all other future movements that again promise this.

If you like this, then there is alot of Galbraith you can read, including his essays. I find his ideas still fresh and provocative after all these years, and his histories hold up well. Just as importantly, Galbraith writes well and thinks clearly and skeptically.  Even if you can’t imagine yourself reading anything to do with the topic of economics, I recommend you read this.

Of course you can also read Paul Krugman, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, Karl Popper, and Joseph Schumpeter. Galbraith is funnier. Under no condition can I recommend that you read Ayn Rand, unless you are trapped somewhere with nothing else to read.

6. How Proust Can Change Your Life-not a Novel: Alain De Botton: Amazon.com: Books

I tried to cover alot of different types of genres, from biography to poetry to history. One genre that gets overlooked or looked down upon is the Self-help genre. While there are lots of terrible self help books — that is true of every genre — there are some exceptional ones, like this one. I also think this book is de Botton at his best. It’s not a “do this, do that” type of self help book. Rather, it is one that says: think about this, and when you have, your life will be improved. Read it that way, if you must. But if you read it with an open mind, you will get so much more, including a love of and a desire to read Proust. I think that is the Inception thing that de Botton has going on here: if you read this book, you WILL want to read Proust, size be damned. But before you do run off and tackle Proust, read this. It’s smart, witty, clever, insightful, and humane. I’ve ready many of de Botton’s other books, but this is the one that I’ve enjoyed the most. If for no other reason, read it for the part when Proust and Joyce get together. After you do, you’ll no longer bother to think “what would it be like for two great people to finally come together”?

This book is smart like an Oscar Wilde play, and just as effortless to read. At the end, you will be thinking long after you stop laughing to yourself.

Another great self-help book is Bertrand Russell’s “The Conquest of Happiness”. Read that next.

7. Designing Freedom: Stafford Beer: 9780471951650: Amazon.com: Books

Every year, the CBC in Canada hosts the Massey Lectures. The lectures are then published in book form like this one. The CBC has been doing this for decades, and the quality AND quantity is amazing. If you had to pick a series of books to buy, you could do no better than getting the complete Massey Lecture series. It is an education in itself.

One of my favorites is by Stafford Beer. He takes clearly about cybernetics and system design, but then uses it to talk about how to redesign establishments and societies. It says here it is from 1990s, but the lecture was given in 1973. Anyone interested in how IT affects society should read this.

Note: you may want to get the Kindle edition: the original looks to be a collector’s items and is over $100! (I have a copy…I didn’t realize how valuable it is.)

If you like this, any of the Massey Lectures are good. (e.g. C.B. Macpherson’s “The Real World of Democracy”).


8. Amazon.com: Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre: Walter Kaufmann: Books

Of course the authors in this anthology are great, but what makes this book particularly great is Kaufmann.  Not only is he superb at selecting works to include in this volume, but he even does the translation (or re translation) necessary to bring the ideas across. You might think: that looks unreadable; trust me, it is anything but.  You could read it just for the fiction included and you would be rewarded. For example, the passage from Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground is like nothing I’ve read anywhere.  Or one of my favourite parts is Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism paper. (Sartre may have regretted it later, but it is a great lecture.) The entire collection is a masterpiece and a demonstration of the power of a good anthology.

More over, this is a book of philosophy that is highly accessible. Even if existentialism isn’t for you, anyone wanting to read great philosophical writing and thinking should give this a try.

I have other books of philosophy, but nothing approaches this.


9. Herman Hertzberger Lessons for Students in Architecture: Herman Hertzberger: 9789064505621: Amazon.com: Books

I think IT people could benefit from knowing more about architecture. Much of how architects think about spaces and how they relate to people could be borrowed by IT architects as they design systems for people. This isn’t a book about how to build STARchitecture. This is a book about how to make places for people to live, work, and meet. IT people can learn alot from this book. IT people would design better systems after reading this book.

Of course non-IT people can learn alot from this as well. You will see your world and the buildings you inhabit in a fresh and smarter way after reading this book. And anyone who has been in a building and thought: “why is this building this way?” would benefit from this book.

Again, I have other books on architecture, but most of them are historical or technical. The depth and breadth of thought here is what makes Hertzberger worth reading.

10. Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941: Amazon.com: Books

IT people should read more history. I am always struck by how little history IT people know. Even the history of their own industry, never mind history in general.

There’s a massive pile of great history to read, but my preference is recent English historians. AJP Taylor, Antony Beevor, and Richard J. Evans all write with a mastery and clarity that makes them accessible and worthwhile to read for non-historians. To that list I would add the name of Ian Kershaw. His “Hitler” is a masterpiece. However, I recommend this book because it shows how history is a volatile thing at the time it is being made and not some dry carved in stone set of events. Kershaw shows the decision to be made, shows how it was discussed, and then looks at what may have happened if an alternative decision was made. It will make you challenge any other history you read after you have finished this book.

If you like this, read the other authors that I mentioned. Taylor is my favourite, but some of his work is more accessible than others. I have reread his “Europe: Grandeur and Decline” so many times it has fallen apart. Beevor’s “Stalingrad” is over 600 pages and I have read it three times, it is so good. Evans is also great. I would add Margaret MacMillan and her “Paris 1919” to the list.

Thanks for reading this. I hope you find something you find worth reading and thinking about.

If you wear a white dress shirt, solid black tie and suit, you will look cool

And if you are already cool, it makes you look more so.

The Future is Physical: how the Internet of the future — including supply chain, manufacturing, and commerce — is physical and robotic (more thoughts on drones)

First, a couple of paragraphs of background. While I have written a little about drones, John Robb has a blog called Global Guerrillas where he writes alot about it and other topics. Well worth reading. In his blog he talks about something called Dronet (Drone Net) and it got me thinking about the idea of a network of drones and how it will interact with what we think of as the Internet.

That said, I expect there will be resistance to the idea of Drone Net. I also think even if it is built, it will pivot away from drones and warfare to something bigger and broader, just like the Internet pivoted away from ARPAnet to something bigger and broader. Drone Net will just be a part, a small part, of a newer and bigger Internet.

That brings me to the subject of this post: the next Internet.

This new and bigger Internet will be physical. It won’t be focused on just being threatening or military. It won’t be Skynet or Dronet.  It will be called something neutral like Courier-Net or ExpressNet or simply the Net. Just like Apple evolves a device but keeps the same name, we too will do the same thing with the Internet.

Some of the ways the new drone enabled Internet will work are:

    • instead of businesses and other institutions shipping good and services via trucks and planes, they will send them via this new Net. Part of the new Net will be a network of thousands or millions of drones continually in motion. All supply chains will merge into the Internet. People will order Things, and the Internet will route drones to get those Things to People.
    • Instead of business manufacturing parts and goods in a factory, they will print them with 2D or 3D printers or maybe even bio-printers. (Iimagine printing something that looks like and tastes like and has the nutrients of an apple, but not an apple). Robots will do any pre and post work with the printed devices and then have them delivered to you via a drone. Non-manufactured goods (e.g. antiques) will be selected and packaged with a combination of people and robots.
    • You may have these printers at home for small things, just like you do now. But over time, there will be advantages to centralization of these facilities, so they will be centralized, though not necessarily in factories. There may be showrooms to convince you of the need of the product, with big printers in the back. Or they may be underground, part of our infrastructure, delivering up the goods we want, much like our current infrastructure delivers water and electricity and gas to us now.
    • People will have their own drones that are part of the new Net. For example, you may have a self driving car (which is merely a drone) that is connected to the Internet. It will figure out the best way to get your from A to B, just like Google Maps does now. Other drones will clean your house. (You have a bunch right now and you call them Appliances, not drones. Appliances are drones that are not very smart, aren’t connected to the Internet, and don’t move around.) Other drones will get rid of rodents and other pests (up to and including other drones). There will be entertainment drones, security drones, maintainance drones, drones you can’t even imagine having yet, though you will. (Teeth cleaning drones, for example.)
    • Drones will be relatively cheap. Look at your smartphone now. Think about how fast and better they have gotten even as they have become cheaper. That will be the case with drones. You will have butler drones to help you manage your drones.
    • IT companies always need new IT things to sell to you. Those things will be drones.
    • Just like you have appliances, in the future, you will just have drones. Unlike your current appliances, they will not stay in one place. They may not even stay in your house all the time (any more than your smartphone or your laptop stays in your house).
    • These drones will be part of the Net. Already Belkin makes switches that you can turn off and on from the Internet. This will soon be the case for all appliances. You will use a “remote” to talk to these devices, instead of the limited panels they have now. Or you will talk to a butler drone that does the rest.
    • Drones will be made attractive to people. Ever wish, after making a meal, that the kitchen would clean itself? Drones will do that. Ever wish someone would wash and fold and put away the laundry? Drones will do that. Put the cat or dog in and out? Wash the windows of your house? Paint a room? Drones will do all these things. People will ask: how did people ever live without drones in the same way people ask: how did we ever live without the Internet? Instead of asking Siri for the weather, you will ask Siri to make a soup for lunch.
    • Everyone will have drones, because drones will be everywhere. What will separate rich and poor people is how many powerful drones they can get at a moments notice. Everyone may have small drones, but not everyone will have a drone squadron that can build a 10 story building. (And yes, they won’t be called a Drone Army….it will be a more pacifistic term like Drone Squad or Robot Crew or Android Team.)
    • Speaking of Android, Google has shown how to market robots to be cute and attractive (just think of the robot mascot for Android). I would not be surprised to see a company that has brand names like Android and Nexus making drones soon. I expect no less from Apple and other IT companies.
    • Think of a thing you want to do. Drones will be capable of doing that for you. That’s the future of the Internet. That’s your future, too.
    • I used to think the future was Digital. Now I think the future is Physical.

7 Million ways to Make Lentil Soup (in a slow cooker)

The great Mark Bittman has 7 Ways to Make Lentil Soup, and if you want to start out with making any of these, I think you will have a delicious meal when you are done.

An even easier version is this. Take this list of ingredients

  1. 1 cup of green lentils, rinced
  2. 1 can (28 oz) of stewed tomatoes
  3. 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  4. 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  5. 1 onion, chopped
  6. 1 rib of celery, chopped
  7. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  8. 3 bay leaves
  9. 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  10. 3 Tbps curry powder
  11. 1 tsp cumin
  12. 1 tsp coriander
  13. 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Add them all to a slow cooker (4 quart / 4 litre) size or bigger, stir, then  cook on low (8-10 hours) or high (4-5 hours). Remove bay leaves before serving. That’s it! Easy.

Now I say seven million ways to make lentil soup because you really can substitute greatly for very different soups. For example:

  • this version has 4 cups of stock and 28 oz of tomatoes, compared to Bittman’s with 6 cups of stock. I think you can play around with the types of tomatoes (diced, plum) and the ratio of stock to tomatoes (only have a 14 oz can of tomatoes? Use it and go with 5 cups of stock)
  • You can use most any root vegetable instead of the potatoes or carrots. Try turnips, parsnips, or yams. Replace the celery with celeriac. I don’t think red beets will work, but white beets might.
  • Replace the onion with shallots or pearl onions.
  • I didn’t have spices 10, 11 and 12, but I did have an Indian spice mix, so I used 3 Tbsp of that instead.
  • Add some sriracha to make it spicy. Or dice up some jalapeno with the onion and toss it in. Red pepper flakes or some hot pepper sauce would also work.
  • If you don’t need it vegetarian, try the different meats that Bittman suggests. Leftover or rotisserie chicken would also be good. Or take some out and put it in a pot with fish and poach the fish until it is cooked.
  • Toss in some cooked pasta or cooked beans to make it more of a stew.
  • Towards the end stir in some chopped greens like spinach or kale or other greens that will wilt in a warm liquid.
  • At the end, add some wine vinegar to give it a bit of bite.
  • Garnish with herbs, or a drop of pesto or salsa verde. Or stir in some tomato based salsa. (Again, do it to your own taste.)

The lentils and the stock make up the foundation of the soup. The rest is seasoning and vegetables (and possibly non vegetables). Feel free to experiment and make the soup your own (and use up the left overs in your fridge or pantry).

Sunday night dance: Louise Lecavalier in La La La Human Steps ‘Human Sex’

It’s old, but still impresses me. Louise Lecavalier is a whirlwind.

La La La Human Steps ‘Human Sex’ 1985 UPGRADE – YouTube

Beauty and time (story fragment)

Her beauty was not his. The curve of her cheek would never rest in his hands. The curves of body, never fall into his arms. The hands that handed him his change, would never rest upon him. Her eyes would never transfix him, nor would her smile transform him. He would not lie and study the fineness of her face: the line of her brow, the colour of her eye, the thickness of her lips. All of these things were before him, but none of them were for him.

Her beauty was not hers. It was a different beauty, though in time it was similar. And the man at the counter too was young then, and she was young and beautiful like the woman with the change. And her cheek feel in his hands. And the curves of her body fell into his arms. The woman who looked through the glass at the man and the young woman, her eyes would transfix on him then, and her smile transformed him. And she would lie and study the fineness of his face: the line of his beard, the colour of his eye, the smile on his lips. All of these things were before her now, like the were then, but that was then and the man through the window was no longer him but an older version of the man then.

…..

Her beauty was not his.  In time it would not be hers.

…..

Friday Night Music: Cowboy Junkies – Blue Moon Revisited

Since tonight is featuring a Blue Moon, this seems appropriate:

I used to see the Cowboy Junkies in run down bars like the Silver Dollar when they were first starting off. They were always great. Glad to see someone posted this on YouTube. Enjoy.

Cowboy Junkies – Blue Moon Revisited – YouTube

The end of Work: the apotheosis of robots and the degradation of humans

I think this passage from this article, New Wave of Deft Robots Is Changing Global Industry – NYTimes.com, is key:

Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

There you have it, in blunt language. Humans are animals, and animals are secondary to machine when it comes to making lots and lots of things.

Robots are only going to get better and better at making things. Alot of things. Not only that, but robots will get cheaper and cheaper as they get better and better. Add 3D printing to that and soon the need for humans to make anything will decline rapidly.

We need to rethink the notion of Work. The idea that everyone needs to Work, and that they can only have an income if they do Work. It will get to the point where it will not make sense for people to make many things, other than as a hobby.

We will have very efficient ways to make things without people, but people will still exist. If they have no income, there will be no one for the owners of the robots and machines to sell to.

Henry Ford brought in a new model and changed the way people worked. We need a new model.

Some further thoughts on asking Paul Krugman a question on Reddit

So I asked Paul Krugman a question today when he appeared on the site, reddit. Not only did he reply with a great answer, here: IamA Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist. : IAmA, but he followed up with an excellent post on his blog, here: Diocletianomics – NYTimes.com.

Paul Krugman and I have a few things in common: we both like economics, blogging, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, and posting about indie bands (him: Friday Night Music: Civil Wars, me:Great Friday night music: Never Forget You by the Noisettes). Politically we are similar too. I am a fan of his writing and thinking. Alas, I do not have a Nobel Prize.

When I saw he was going to be on reddit, I actually signed up for it just to ask the question. The question may seem bizarre out of context, but it is really a mashup of serious things he’s been discussing (the FED and it’s role, the problem posed by the zero lower bound) and the not so serious (the emperor Diocletian came up in the context of a debate he had with Ron Paul; more on that here: Don’t Know Much About (Ancient) History).

I thought mashing that up would not only appeal to the tastes of reddit readers, but to Paul Krugman and his good sense of humour. I was right!

What is the question, you ask? It was this: What is the FED doing to help the Emperor Diocletian escape the zero lower bound?

It’s a good question, I thought. One that might come from a character in a Lewis Carroll book, one that gets you thinking despite the absurdity of it. In some ways, Ron Paul could be a character in a Lewis Carroll book. But I will leave that for another blog post.

What is #sundayArt? It’s a challenge to all your artists (and would be artists) out there. Get the details here!

What is #sundayART? It’s a weekly challenge designed to get you producing art work that you can share with others! 

How does it work? It’s simple: every Sunday, starting on April 1st, 2012, check the Sunday Art calendar here on this Tumblr and then produce a doodle, a quick sketch, a photoshopped image, a painting, a sculpture, or what ever you are best / happiest making. Then share it using your favourite social media (Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and tag it with #sundayArt.

Who can do this? Anyone. Of any skill. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how good you are, or what media you like to work with.  

Why are you doing this? We were talking about how we wished we were doing more creatively. We also talked about how much we enjoy working on the photo of the day challenge on Instagram. So we decided: why not come up with a similar approach for art work? It would give us an incentive to sit down and create something. The result is #sundayART.

How can i learn more? Go to this link: #sundayArt or ping us on Twitter!

“The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive”.

That phrase is beautifully rendered here:

 

 

Found here: Turning Advertising Into Poetry | Co.Create: Creativity \ Culture \ Commerce

September – Gerhard Richter – 9/11

Gerhard Richter painted this in 2005.

It epitomizes much of both his work and the day.

For more on this painting, see  September – A History Painting by Gerhard Richter – The Ticket – TV & Entertainment – Mirror.co.uk

Want to buy your teenager their first cook book? Get them Food Matters by Mark Bittman

Food Matters by Mark Bittman  is a great book. Mark Bittman wants us to eat better and cook better, not just for our own sake but for the sake of the entire planet. If we eat the way Mark advises, not only will we eat healthier and become fit (and also save money), but we will do alot of good for the environment too. It sounds far fetched, but in the first half of the book, he reasonably and persuasively makes the case. In the second half of the book he supports the effort in the first part of the book with some typically great recipes that are straightforward and tasty. I highly recommend the book for any adult, from those who can’t cook to those who cook all of the time.

So why should you get this cookbook for your teenager? A few reasons:

  • The recipes are low cost, nutritious, simple, flexible and delicious. The perfect meal for teenagers and younger people
  • The recipes are very flexible, so whether you kid wants to be a vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, they will find something they can make in here.
  • It supports alot of things young people are passionate about, like saving the environment, not eating animals (or eating less of them), eating healthy (well, ok, sometimes). 
  • With some exceptions, kids are not going to have alot of cookbooks. Give them one that makes it easy for them to cook with and that is low cost and healthy and tasty and they will cook from it for life. What could be a better thing to give your kid than that.
  • If they start cooking from it now, not only will they eat better, but you can get them to cook family meals and you will eat better as a result.
  • If they start cooking from it now, it will be the way they cook when they are finally moving out on their own. When they do, they will need meals like this, not high caloric and expensive meals that take alot of time. They can learn how to cook that eventually, and there are tons of books and magazine promoting that kind of cooking.

“The Smurfs” is Gay, and other things I thought watching it today

I took my son and his friend to see The Smurfs today, full dreading it. And despite some good things about it – there are some good things! – it is terrible in alot of ways.  Here’s some random thoughts:
* I thought it was positive that Neil Patrick Harris plays a straight father-to-be in the film. I’d like to think the days are gone whereby gay actors can’t come out of the closet for fear of losing straight parts is over, but I don’t think that is yet the case. (I am no expert here.) Perhaps with more performances by actors like him, audiences can forget about the sexuality of the actors and focus on the character they are playing. That would be a good thing. NPH is one of the good things about the film.
* I like Tim Gunn alot, but I didn’t like him in this. I can’t say why: he’s not a good actor, and he is not playing himself exactly. It just felt off, as if he was trying to channel Stanley Tucci from The Devil Wears Prada and doing a poor job of it. Then again, I don’t watch much of him, so I could be totally off base here.
* One person who is channeling another character is Hank Azaria. He seems to be trying to be a male version of the Wicked Witch of the West. Indeed, the movie seems to lift the storyline from the Wizard of Oz, with The Portal acting as the Hurricane and New York City acting as The Emerald City. There’s references to flying eagles instead of flying monkeys, and…well, there is probably more, but I was not exactly watching it all that closely.
* Thinking about that on the way home, I realized: there seems to have been a number of gay references in this film. However, I am hardly the best person to make that call, so I did a search on the way home and found this: Gay.net – Smurfs are so Gay which references this: The Smurfs – Gay Movies For Gay People – UGO.com. And they just touch on some of the lines and references in the film. The makers of the film are being coy about it, but I think it’s too obvious not to be anything other than intentional. If anything, knowing that going in can make the film enjoyable for the adults, in that you can watch it from a different perspective.
* Surprisingly the actors in the film are good. It’s what makes it watchable. Hank Azaria is too much for me, but if you are five, I am sure he was perfect. NPH is charming as usual, and he takes his role seriously (no small things, that). The voice actors, in particular Katy Perry and Jonathan Winters, do their thing well and breath some life into their little blue CG bodies.
* I wish I could say I was pleasantly suprised by the film and that I liked it, but alot of the dialogue in the film is so hackneyed that it just grated on me. There’s too many bad sitcom cliches that stand out like a blue thumb. I thought the overuse of the word “smurf” word get to me, but it was lines like “we’re having a moment here” or “no Smurf left behind” or…well, there are tons of them. The thing was written by four screenwriters, and that is never a good sign. Yet there is good stuff, too. I guess of the four writers, some were good and some were hacks. Sadly the stuff by the hacks overcame the good dialogue and made it hard for me to watch.
* As usual, the 3D part is a rip off. There are some scenes at the beginning that use it well, but for the most part, it was irrelevant. I can see why Roger Ebert despises it. I do too.
* Is there lots of product placement? Ha, you’re kidding, right?
* The Smurfs is not the worst kids film I have ever seen: that honour still goes to the first Chipmunks movie. It represents all that is bad about Hollywood now, however, and if you can distract your kids from it long enough, it may be out of theatres before they know it.
* I’d like it to be a success just so NPH could get some better offers and we could see him in other films. Overall, though, if you can avoid seeing it, do so.

The superb dancing of Ryan Francois and Remy Kouame to Slow Club’s Two Cousins

I like ‪Slow Club and I enjoy this song, but I just love this video. The dancers, Ryan Francois and Remy Kouame, are superb. They combine great choreography, emotion and physicality in their dance. Plus the direction of this video is wonderful: it really takes advantage of the black and white film, and the slow motion makes the dancers and the music match up well. Mesmerizing and something I can watch over and over.

See:

Some thoughts on the new Apple HQ and how it reminds me of two IBM facilities designed by Eero Saarinen

I hadn’t thought of it, until I read this Iconic design for Apple headquarters could transform Silicon Valley landscape – San Jose Mercury News, and came across this comment:

San Jose architecture critic Alan Hess also questioned the function of “this huge circle.”

“How are people inside going to communicate?” he asked. “Are they going to be walking around miles and miles of corridors to get to a conference room or use an internal tram system? Maybe they will rely on computer connections.”

When I first thought of this, I thought, yeah, how will they do that. But then I remembered that IBM has two facilities, both designed by the great architect, Eero Saarinen, that have similarities to the new Apple HQ. The IBM facility in Rochester, MN, is very boxy, but it has great courtyards, just like the new Apple HQ has, and employees often go out into them to meet. The other facility that Saarinen designed for IBM was the T.J. Watson research center, and that is a big curve that also has similarities to the new Apple HQ (though it is a curve and not a circle.). Still, despite that long curve, IBM employees have no trouble communicating with each other at Watson, and hardly need a huge tram to meet.

I once read that Steve Jobs wanted Pixar to have one washroom area, for by having that, employees would bump into each other and be more likely to mix and mingle and share. I think the central courtyard in the middle of the new HQ serves the same purpose: employees will be bumping into each other all the time as they cut through it to meet people elsewhere.

I like the design of the new Apple HQ, and while it reminds me of the IBM facilities, it will be architecturally unique.

My latest Diana F+ photos

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I’ve posted my latest photos from flickr.com, taken with my Diana F+ camera. With all the digital software to simulate toy camera (e.g. Instagram), why am I still using a Diana camera? The simple reason is that I have a Blackberry, not an iPhone or even a new iPod Touch. If I did, I might use them. Even then, I would still use my Diana. I like the camera itself: it’s a tool, and like any good tool, it puts me in mind of taking good photos when I use it. Secondly, I enjoy the process of getting the photos developed and printed. In a way, it is like getting a surprise present. True, I pay for it myself, therefore it is a present to myself! 🙂 However, I don’t consider the expense to be very much. The other thing about the cost and the time it takes to get them developed is that I am more particular about what I photograph, which makes me take better photos. And since I get better photos, I consider the few dollars I spend a good deal. I treat them like paintings or drawings, not records. That gives me some rather nice artwork for not much money.

Where to find my presentation on social media to nonprofit organizations as part of IBM’s Centennial?


It can be found here. I used to talk alot about Web 2.0 and social media, but I am out of practice. Hence I say “so” too much and talk too much with my hands! (Plus, this is the first time ever seeing myself present: very handy to have that). I als sound more like a Cape Bretoner than I thought, but I think that is a good thing. It was fun to do this, and the people in the audience were great. Hats off to all the IBM staff involved: they did alot of work on this and it came across well.

To find out more about the IBM Centennial event, which I am proud to have played a small part in, you can go here.

Incomparable and rare: Mary Margaret O’Hara on Night Music

Though she released very little music, her one album, “Miss America”, is unique and great. The same can be said for Night Music, which was hosted by David Sanborn for  three seasons. Here she is, on that show:

Some random thoughts on the wonderful Des Hommes et Des Dieux (Of Gods and Men)

This is a beautiful film, and a great one. It’s filled with gorgeous imagery (such as the one above), but it is also beautifully written and acted. It is not surprisingly a deeply spiritual film, and it certainly helps to have an understanding of Christianity, because the film seemed highly allegorical to me. But even without that, the film can be appreciated. If you only had a passing description of it, it may seem like something that would be a dull film, but acts early in the film put the Trappist monks in jeopardy and provides conflict and high tension throughout the film.

Speaking of allegory, what I noted was:

  • the main character being named Christian / Christ. (Interesting the character Luc was a physician, and Saint Luke is the patron saint of  physicians.)
  • the Last Supper towards the end of the film
  • the army being the Romans and the terrorists being the Pharisees
  • the moment when Christian is in the garden in anguish reminded me of Christ in Gethsemane

I wasn’t paying attention to that so much at first, but towards the end, I noticed it more.  I mention it here because being aware of this earlier may help you pick up things that I missed.

The film ends in an ambiguous way. I didn’t appreciate this until later, when I found there was uncertainty over the fate of the monks as well.

Very highly recommended.

A minor note: Lambert Wilson plays Christian in this film and can be said to represent Christ (to some degree). In the second and third Matrix films, he plays the Merovingian, who can be said to symbolize the devil in that film. Indeed, the actor comes across very differently in each film, and it took me some time looking at him in this film before I made the connection.

For a good review of the film, see ‘Of Gods and Men,’ a True Story of Monks in Algeria by A.O. Scott in the  NYTimes.com

My new article on the web site, the 99 percent

Can be seen here:  How Influential Are You? :: Tips :: The 99 Percent.    I’d appreciate any feedback you can provide.

And if you like that, perhaps you’d like the other article that I wrote for that site: The Medium Isn’t The Message, People Are. :: Tips :: The 99 Percent

Some thoughts on analog time pieces and the punctuation of time

I have this Yahoo! widget* running on my desktop:

 image

Every 15 minutes it chimes on the quarter hour, and every hour it chimes once for every hour. What I love about this widget, besides the steampunk look of it, is how it is resetting my notion of time back to what it used to be and what I think is better.

I also have this widget on my desk:

 image

It is a timer that allows me to keep focused on a task. With all the distractions that my computer generates, having this timer allows me to focus. (E.g. I will spend 20 minutes on email, and when the timer goes off, I will quit that and work on producing a report for 30 minutes). While this approach is good, I find that time becomes very fluid. It is less fluid than allowing myself get distracted by every pop up that occurs or open tab on my browser, but it is something I control and sometimes let slip by.

What I love about the steampunk clock widget is that it implies that time is independent of me. Time is important. Each hour, each quarter hour is important, and it tells me it is important by announcing it. It makes me appreciate time more as a thing in itself, and not something that I slosh around, 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. It also makes me appreciate the order of time: there is a quarter hour, and then three more and that takes us to the top of the hour. Time marches on with the first widget. Finally, I think 15 minute intervals of time are best. We are always trying to squeeze more out of time: a quick minute here, a five minute break there. The steampunk widget says: no, 15 minute intervals are best for dividing up the day, and anything worth doing will need 15 minutes at least. It changes the pace of the day.

I like playing around with time. I feel like I am always aware of it, and how it is speeding by. What I like about the steampunk widget is how it is reshaping my approach to time.

* Yes, I still use Yahoo! widgets. In fact, I use quite a few of them. I find them very helpful in making me more productive.  I think the tools that Yahoo! provides are underappreciated.  I hope that will change and that more and more widgets are developed.

Winter and memory

I was surfing around YouTube, finding clips of TV and music long past that remind me of winter and more. Things loved, long gone. For memory and winter are related.

YouTube – Northern Exposure – Joel goes back to New York

YouTube – Due south Opening

YouTube – Holly Cole sings on Due South

YouTube – John Mayer – Wheel

Some thoughts on the beauty of children’s book

I have two children and hundreds of their books as well. What has always
impressed me about children’s books is how well made they are. The stories
are usually really good and well written. The books themselves are mostly
well constructed. But most of all, the art work is superb. The drawings,
water colours and more are sublime. It’s why I can never tire of the better
ones, even if I have read them 20 times. The illustrations are rich with
details that you miss the first few times but eventually pick up. Like the
red shoes on this little boy.

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Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.

How to be optimistic regardless of the situation: use the 3 Ps

A few years back I read a book called “Learned Optimism”. It argued that
optimism is something you can learn. It’s a good book, but what it really
comes down to are the three Ps: Personal, Pervasive, and Permanent.

Pessimistic thinkers (a category I fall into too often) tend to think that
set backs are personal (it’s my fault I failed the test), pervasive (I am a
bad student), and permanent (I will never be a good student). Optimistic
thinkers treat setbacks just the opposite: they don’t think they are
personal (I bet everyone had a hard time with that test), pervasive (I do
well normally on tests) or permanent (it’s only the first midterm, I can
make up for it later, and in the worse case I can drop the course and take
another in the summer). Likewise, optimistic thinkers tend to think
successes are personal (I did well on that test because I worked really
hard) pervasive (I am going to ace this term) and permanent (I always do
well in school) while pessimists don’t think successes are personal (I must
have gotten lucky to get such a good mark), pervasive (I will likely do
badly in my other courses) or permanent (I still am not a good student).

As an exercise, if there is an area where you want to be optimistic, try
applying the three Ps. You can use it to undermine your pessimism and
amplify your optimism. For example, if you want to lose weight, but are
pessimistic about doing it, look for areas where you are applying the three
Ps. Look for statements like “I am” or “I will never” or “Everytime”. They
are all signs of the three Ps. If you are pessimistic about losing weight,
you might think “I am a fat such and such” (personal), “I am not good at
getting dieting and exercising and anything to do with that” (pervasive)
and “I will never be able to get in shape” (permanent). You need to tackle
that thinking by looking for examples where you can see the opposite, where
you can find reasons to be optimistic. For example you might think instead
“I am not a fat person, I am someone who was once fit and I can be again, I
can be that person I once was and there is nothing stopping me if I put my
mind to it”, (personal) and “there are lots of good eating and fitness
habits I have already: I just need to work on expanding them” (pervasive),
and “body weight is something anyone can change, there is nothing permanent
about it if I put my mind to it” (permanent). In going from being
pessimistic to optimistic you need to attack your negative way of thinking
using the three Ps and replace that with a positive way of thinking, also
using the three Ps. Once you can do that, it will be easier to motivate and
energize yourself to actually make the changes that align with your new way
of thinking.

New years and New Year’s Resolutions are coming up. Use this to help you.
All the best to you. You will do great: I am optimistic about that.
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Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.