Friday, July 5, 2013

Fire in a Crowded Theater

The fourth of July was nice.  We saved a house from burning down.  Fire is as common as missing fingers from illegal fireworks in Vaughn.  For such a pristine area, we seem to think little of the one day a year that we shoot pollution straight into the ocean.  Over the years it has become more cardboard and less plastic oriented, yet it still is pretty substantial pollution.

Who cares though.  The entire sound lights up with fireworks.  Celebrations of our freedom.  And we get to be out there with tons of people.  Some from my childhood.  Others new.

And last night, after filling up on a bunch of unfiltered wheat beers, I was called into action to put out my fifth fire.  This was the largest by far.

Tip.  Form a line.  Get buckets.  And never yell "cut and run!  Cut and run! The stairway is about to go up."  Someone did that and I can tell you right now, it was unhelpful.  Next time just put water on the stairs.

I put water on the stairs by the way.  Much more effective than yelling something akin to, "every man for himself."

We formed lines.  We put out fires.  And we ran unrelentingly for over 20 minutes.  I guess.  That's what I have been told.  All I really remember is dumping water, hauling buckets and running until I puked.  And some of that smoke smelled awful.  I mean really bad.

So yeah, I ended the night feeling a bit like Cory Booker, but not really.  I just felt sick and wanted to sleep. 

The fireworks were nice as always.

And Ciera and I helped David celebrate his birthday at the beach house--with Jessi of course.

We lost our buckets though, and Ciera lost her sweatshirt.  But the house is still there.

Now I am in Everett.  For the first time in my life.  It's a cute little city.  Very Bremerton-esque.  I walked to a park and a guy came and sat next to me.  He asked for a pen and proceeded to fill out a Burger King application while telling me how he was going to join Mixed Martial Arts and fight.  I hope he gets the job he was looking for.  It was his daughter's birthday today.  He seemed pretty happy about that.

Tonight is the opening of Chicago at the Everett Performing Arts Center.  It should be good and I am excited to see it!

I read about the president of the Dominican Republic.  Kind of a whacko.  But he really saved the environment in that country.  And he was a despot.

Got the Nokia HERE app.  It's pretty cool.

Not off the Grid

The fourth of July passed. We have already started summer and I can barely believe how far into the year it is.

I haven't stopped writing, I am just working hard on learning right now. And I am learning the things that cannot be shortcutted.  That's probably not a word.

I have been learning to code. And it is hard. Thankfully there is an abundance of places to learn how to code. And for free no less. MIT has a bunch of open courseware on computer science. Codecademy is a site dedicated to teaching people to code.  Mozilla has a coding project known as webmaker. W3C has courses. And on and on.

So I am going to try to learn. And I have been doing this now for several weeks.  The biggest lesson that I have learned so far is that I am not very good at this.  Unlike politics or economics, there aren't broad concepts that yield the minute answers. Rather it is learning a language--there is a complex structure full of codes and syntax that must be learned the old fashioned way.

And that is good. And bad. It is really hard and will take a while.

Why am I doing this? I want to build that comment system I have been talking about. I truly believe that an app like this could be used to radically alter how people interact with their communities and government.  There are similar products out there. Tons of tools that do x or y. But what I have in mind is slightly different from what I have seen so far.

I need a system that allows self-policing a la Wikipedia, admin management a la traditional comment systems, and data richness a la google/NSA. The NSA was a topical joke fyi.

So I am learning to code.  And I am not very good. Yet. But I will get better.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What does it take to change your mind?

For a given issue, what evidence, moral, or ethical appeals would get you to change your mind?

That is the question I must ask myself more often. When am I willing to change, modify, or alter my position on a given topic.

Some people have pretty crappy answers to that.  Things like social pressure, bigotry, and ignorance can all influence a person to change their mind.  Hell, a bad idea sold by a sufficiently attractive person can cause a change of mind.

But there are good reasons too.  I believe that being open to changing my mind is essential to understanding the world better, getting along with people better, and being a happier human overall.

That's not to say I will go quietly into that dark night.  On the contrary I expect to go kicking and screaming sometimes, desperately clinging to beliefs that fail to have a rational basis.

But I also believe that sometimes it will go the opposite way, I will have the better facts and I will change minds.

So, before I enter into any debate anymore, I personally pledge to be not only open-minded, but to know also what would change my view.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Laptop Advice

So my Aunt is thinking of a laptop for my cousin.  Here's what I said:

Hi John (and Nick),
Looking for some guidance....

I'm looking for a laptop for Louie.  Requirements are:
Min 15.6" screen
Software -will need word
Reasonable processing speed because he going to be playing games on it.
I cherish the thought that this could be the laptop that he takes to college 5 yrs from noe.

He's looking at lenova's.  have you heard anything good/bad about them?

Send this onto Nick for me as we'll...the more input the better.


Lenovo's are business laptops.  He won't really be happy with the boxy design and corporate bells and whistles.

You don't want a 15.6" screen.  that's too big.  You want an 11-13" screen.

Unless he is playing Simcity or Total War, he really doesn't need much more than the standard intel graphics accelerator--processing speed is independent of game-playing ability.  Game playing is dependent on the graphics processor and NOT the cpu. besides, at $500 anything better than intel graphics is not an option.

I'd actually say cd/dvd is optional/external.  Besides, unless you can reasonably justify the need for a disc drive (he burns lots of cds, he has a huge movie collection) you will be limiting your computer options.

You absolutely need a Solid State Drive.  It may cost more but it will guarantee long-term durability.

If you want the laptop to last, here's what I recommend:
11"-13" screen
latest intel i5 or i7 processor (ivy bridge or later) @ 2.4+ GHz.  DO NOT get an i3 processor--they are cheaper but will be out of date within the year.
SSD (these will be significantly smaller in capacity (128-256Gb) but they are impact resistant, and considering the iPad it looks like some droppage may occur); if you are really worried about his storage capacity get him an external 500-750Gb hard drive (NO 1Tb, they are newer and less well-tested) that he has to be careful with.
6-8Gb RAM
backlit keyboard
good warranty

cd/dvd drive (maybe blu-ray)
USB 3.0 (although that should be pretty standard)
HDMI port
decent audio (beats, harman kardon, or some other licensed brand)
card reader

All laptops should have (so don't let them sell you on this):
3+ usb ports
built-in camera
1440+ resolution

Brands I trust:
Asus (sometimes their hardware is faulty--as are most brands--but customer support is great at replacing the parts at no cost in a timely manner)
HP (for price, very little I *Envy* about them)
Sony (spendy but will last you)
Apple (expensive, full of proprietary crap, but there is rarely an unhappy Apple customer)
Dell (customer support is good)
Acer (decent low-end computers that will last)
Toshiba (the once great laptop giant is lagging a bit but they still put out a great product every now and then)
Samsung (yay for standing up to Apple)

So, software is a big deal these days.  we are in a period of major transition; apps are replacing traditional desktop software.  That said there are still some standards.

First, Microsoft Office.  Purchase the student Office Edition 2013.  Do not get anything subscription based.  There is a version of Office (365) that requires a subscription.  Do not under any circumstances purchase this or allow it to be pre-installed on the computer.

Second, operating system.  I recommend Windows 8 (soon to be 8.1) but a lot of people are still squeamish about it.  If you really think it's going to be another Vista then go for Windows 7.  But trust me when I say that 7 is going to look like Windows 95 in a year.  And if you get an Apple then you don't have a choice what OS you use.

Third, bloatware.  If you can, ask that the store remove any non-essential programs (bloatware) from the laptop before purchasing.  It's a real headache to do once it is purchased, and it will make the computer run much faster without that--stuff.

Fourth, Anti-virus and firewall.  These are not optional ever.  There are great free anti-virus and firewall programs out there--you should never pay for McAfee or Norton or any other crap.  Get a free one and be done.  Also, get Advanced Systemcare for regular maintenance.  You need to emphasize that this computer is the only one he's getting and you aren't responsible for crashed drives, porno related viruses, or anything else that screws the computer up.  He has to keep it clean and running well.  If he breaks it, that's it.  Tell him you went to college with pen and paper, he should be prepared to do so as well if it gets screwed up.

Fifth, if he has a need for any other software for specific purposes, please let me know.  I can direct you to excellent free versions of software.

Sixth, I truly believe that a computer is best when it's used as something more than a personal tv.  A computer is a tool with which to create and share.  Emphasizing the capability of a computer to do more than be a toy is essential to a healthy relationship with a computer.  There are amazing creative tools out there.  Some examples of things that can be made: Movies, Music, 3d drawings, Animation (2d and 3d), new programs, video games, websites, books, and much more.

Hope this helps.