The Big Think

December 31, 2008

Helpful Advice

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 6:50 pm

Good advice. Even better since it’s done in stop motion.

Lack of Skepticism

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 6:33 pm

If there is a central problem with journalism, it is the lack of skepticism. Especially as it applies to government. Politicians and political organizations are not held to account for contradictory statements, false predictions and claims…

The Right has convinced itself that the problem is “that liberal media”, but that is obstructive rhetoric. Sure, there are a multitude of examples of media bias that favors the Left…but there are also a multitude of examples of media bias that favors the Right. People notice what they expect to see.

This isn’t a problem of personal bias; biases are unavoidable and don’t fit a left/right matrix, anyway. Ultimately, criticisms of Left/Right bias are tactical attacks against symptoms, not the problem itself. Crying “that liberal media!” delegitimizes our more fundamental criticisms.

The problem isn’t a biased media. It is a media that has lost sight of the role of journalism and reporters.

If there is even a question of whether they should be extremely skeptical of political claims, then they aren’t really a Fourth Estate at all. They’ve just become enablers of the Estates to which they are attached.

full article here.


Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 5:25 pm

Another reason to stay far away from Microsoft’s Zune.

Baffled consumers are griping about a mysterious glitch that appeared to cause thousands of Zune music players to simultaneously stop working late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
Microsoft issued the first Zune portable music player in 2006 to compete with the iPod.

Internet message boards have been flooded with complaints about Zune’s 30GB models freezing, prompting Y2K-like speculation about end-of-year hardware or software problems.

“It seems that every Zune on the planet has just frozen up and will not work,” posted a Mountain Home, Idaho, user on CNN’s “I have 3 and they all in the same night stopped working.”

more here.

2008 Reading Tally

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 2:28 am

The year comes to an end and I’ve clocked in 47 books. I just finished the last one a few minutes ago.

# of Books: 47
# of Pages Read: 13291
Average pages/book: 283
Shortest Book: 80
Longest Book: 1152

Stats since 4/1/01 (when I started counting):

# of books: 266
# of pages: 89107
Averages pages: 335
Shortest Book: 60
Longest Book: 1152

If you assume that I started reading 30 years ago and have kept the same general pace, somewhere in the past year I read my one-thousandth book. Pretty cool. I wish I had known which one it was. Hopefully something classic like Anthem or Cryptonomicon and not something like Air Tools: How to Maintain Your Tools.

It’s an interesting little habit I have of writing down all my books and pages. Doesn’t take very long, and it reinforces to me how many books are in the average small town library, or even the average Barnes and Noble. It would take dozens of lifetimes to get through a respectable fraction of them, and those collections represent pretty much just the most popular or in demand books of the past decade or so. There have been millions of books published in just the last decade alone. How is one supposed to keep up?

Years ago I read a science fiction story about a device that allowed you to “read” (absorb, really) a book by holding a small square cube that contained the “book” next to your head for a few seconds. You could plow through several books in a day. Unfortunately, reading more than one or two per day (a process that took only seconds) ran the risk of permanent psychosis. Hmm… good thing that little device doesn’t exist now, or I might be tempted. People probably already think I’m a little crazy for keeping track.


Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 1:19 am

wingsuit base jumping

These guys are nuts.

December 30, 2008

The Inevitable New Years’ Resolution Post

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 12:02 pm

I gave up making New Years’ resolutions several years ago, mostly because 100% of them were either dull and boring (watch less TV), or unattainable/unsustainable (read 100 books this year!). But I’ve been looking online a bit this morning and have seen several people who have listed what they want to accomplish in 2009. I know it’s a subtle distinction, but I figure that I’ll feel less pressure if I state things as “gee, it’d be nice to…” rather than set myself up for failure by making it an Official Resolution.

With that in mind, here’s a random list of things I’d like to see out of the new year (some are resolution-like, and some I have no control over).

1. Chrome for Mac. Google has a new browser called Chrome that is supposedly all teh hotness (1.5: stop saying “teh hotness” before it goes out of style and starts marking me as a greying member of the almost-40 set. Too late) and I’d like to see it come to the Mac in 2009. I use Firefox for 99% of my browsing and love it, but it still has some niggling issues (I’m looking at you, Flash). Chrome is supposed to be neck-snappingly fast, which would be nice on my aging G4.

2. Fix my computer. Do a full clean/wipe/new drive/more RAM for the current machine. I was going to upgrade to a new tower, but the combination of economics and gear compatibility has convinced me to try to get a few more years (!?!) out of my current machine. So now instead of spending $eriou$ ca$h on a new Mac and associated hardware, I’m going to spend a few hundred dollars and try to eke out a bit more life. My computers tend to last about 6 years, at which time they’re ready to be put out to stud. My current 1.25Ghz G4 (G4! Don’t laugh) was bought in August of 03, so it just passed its fifth birthday.

3. Acquire New Maker Skills. Here’s the big one. I’m currently learning how to make stained glass and loving the process. This past year I learned how to do RTV molding as well as a few other useful small skills. I love the idea of adding to my “Maker Skills” bag-of-tricks, so from now on I want to start each year with the idea of consciously looking for one big skill and several small skills to add each year. Not sure what that’ll be this year, but by next December I hope to be able to do something that I can’t do now.

4. Continue to edit my distractions. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m almost 40, maybe it’s the ongoing reverberations from Erin’s father’s passing, but I’ve become more conscious of how precious time is. I’ve become more aware of time-suckers in my life and less tolerant of wasting time on meaningless things. I think this is why I tend to get impatient at stoplights (and in long lines at the grocery store, and waiting to get my oil changed, etc). The idea that events have conspired to cause me to waste irreplaceable time on trivial things drives me bonkers. I’ve been trying to get rid of those things that distract from meaningful time, and part of this process is defining for myself just what “meaningful time” is. For some people, reading a book is a waste of time (Erin and I know someone for whom this is the case: you can’t sit down and read a book w/o being given a job), for others, cleaning house wastes time. It’s different for everybody, and I don’t want to preach that there is one set of timewasters. Hear that Kat? I’m not going to say that TV is bad for everybody. 🙂
But what I am going to do is this: this next year I want to look at my life and continue to decide what things are time-wasters, then figure out ways to eliminate or reduce the amount of time that I spend on those things. Then deliberately use that saved time to devote to the things (and people) that matter to me.

5. Not stress out if I don’t follow this list exactly. The point is for me to become more aware of where my time is going, and to make sure that I’m spending more of it on the important things. The point is not to get all bent if I mess up every so often.

So, what about you?

December 29, 2008

Too Pretty to be Dumb?

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 2:54 pm

Scientific illiteracy among the glitterati. Hey, if they’re famous, they must be smart! Right? Right?

Read on to encounter the brilliant phrase (used with a straight face!): “highly trained medical leeches”.

December 28, 2008

What A Wonderful World

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 4:31 pm


December 24, 2008

Mac vs. PC

Filed under: Apple,Movies — jasony @ 12:39 am

Best line: “your face gets viruses”

December 22, 2008

Yummy Reading

Filed under: Friends — jasony @ 10:44 am

Our friend Darla (that’s Chef Darla to you) has a new cooking blog. Yummmm.

December 21, 2008


Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 11:53 pm

Just finished (in two sittings) Neil Gaiman’s book Stardust. As he said in the afterward, it’s a fairy tale for adults. Great book! Highly recommended.

December 20, 2008

Tiny Tugs

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 2:27 pm

I met these guys at MakerFaire. They were a blast to talk to. They had a bunch of their ships on display and were really enthusiastic about the hobby. Looks like a hoot.

December 18, 2008

Merry Little Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 11:50 am

Merlin Mann has some good thoughts on Christmas sadness.

December 17, 2008


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 2:52 pm

Most people limit themselves by their unwillingness to consider personal change. They won’t learn new things and they won’t change their behaviors even when they discover they’ve been wrong.

from Tom’s Twelve Laws

First Flight

Filed under: Space,Technology — jasony @ 10:20 am

On this day in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first sustained flights. How far we’ve come. I’ve been to the National Air and Space Museum and was thoroughly gobsmacked to see the Wright Flyer hanging gracefully over the Apollo 11 Command Module. What a juxtaposition. In only 66 years we went from this:


to this:


Ed Begley, Call Me

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 9:48 am

Greg Johanson has developed a way to install a solar panel into the top of a Prius. Not only does this make the car incredibly fuel efficient (a day of charging will get you 8 miles for free!), but this can make every Prius driver even more insufferably self-righteous.

I’d love to see this tech go really mainstream and work its way into every production car. Erin and I have already decided to solar-ize our next house. Imagine having enough solar and wind generating capacity to power your house and charge the cars for short trips. You’d cut out most of your energy and fuel bills altogether.

Here’s a quick calculation. According to my records, we spent somewhere around $4000 on electricity (11710 Kwh), gasoline, and natural gas (26.7 Mcf) this year. Yes, I keep track of the amounts. It’s a sickness, but it’s nice when I do these sorts of calculations.

If we spent somewhere around $50,000 on a really nice solar setup for the house, this could replace most of the electric and gas charges (and do a number on the gasoline if our cars were so equipped). Wait a second… fifty grand?!?! That’s crazy talk! Ah, but after taking advantage of tax benefits, that 50K system would run somewhere around 25k installed. At that rate, the entire system would pay for itself in less than 10 years (this is all very back-of-the-envelope calculatin’). The system cost could be rolled into the mortgage on the house. Okay, so more planning needs to be done (the monthly “cost” of the system via loan payments at 7% is $166 over 30 years), but this is a good example of how a good solar setup really pays in the long run. And we don’t really live at an Ed Begley level of conservation right now (no CFL’s, keep the vampires on, etc). One of these days I’d like to do a really thorough energy review on our home and see how much we can reduce energy usage.

As far as the gasoline portion of energy savings go, we’d probably save a bit by replacing my aging truck (20mpg), but since I only drive 3000 miles per year, the financial tradeoffs are dubious. The benefit of working at home. The good thing is that I don’t drive much. The bad thing is that I do “need” a truck several times a year to transport drum kits for Sing and 4×8 sheets of plywood for woodworking.

Here’s the crazy part: even if we wanted to retrofit our current home to go solar, the local homeowner’s association wouldn’t allow it. They’d rather keep our home an exact duplicate of the ones next door than allow us to put up energy saving panels. Hopefully this mindset will start to change. I’d love to see HOA’s give breaks to homeowners that did install systems.

December 15, 2008


Filed under: Mac OS X Problems — jasony @ 5:03 pm

My email suddenly went belly up. Apple says that the account has expired (uh oh). Not sure how long it’ll take to resolve. If you need to contact me, you can get me at my business address (the “invisible” one). First name, last initial.
Or I guess we could hold very long delayed conversations in the comments.

December 14, 2008

Forty Two!

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 11:31 pm

In addition to being the Answer, it’s now my official number of books read this year. I know, 42 books may not be many compared to some people, but it’s a lot for me, and I’ve tried for several years to pass the forty book mark. Hooray! I admittedly stacked the deck a bit this year by reading the Narnia books (most of which I got through in one sitting), but still, forty is forty. One year I’d like to read 52- one per week-, but for now I’m happy with my 40+

December 12, 2008

Too much of a good thing

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 3:35 pm


December 7, 2008

Courageous Sucking

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 12:10 am

Tolerance for Courageous Sucking

Nobody likes feeling like a noob, especially when you’re getting constant pressure on all sides to never stick out in an unflattering way. And, in this godforsaken just-add-Wikipedia era of make-believe insight and instant expertise, it’s natural to start believing you must never suck at anything or admit to knowing less than everything — even when you’re just starting out. Clarinets should never squawk, sketch lines should never be visible, and dictionaries are just big, dumb books of words for cheaters and fancy people. Right?

I think finding your own comfort with the process (whatever that process ends up being) might just be the whole game here — being willing to put in your time, learn the craft, and never lose the courageousness to be caught in the middle of making something you care about, even when it might be s$*t and you might look like an idiot fumbling to make it. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well, you could quit, because it’s too hard to make stuff you aren’t already great at. You could convert all that pointless effort and practice back into MySpace updates and the production of funny cat pictures. No, it’s not technically the worst thing that could happen, but it’s a damned common pathway for fear to molder back into an emotional impulse to put on jammies and watch Judge Judy.

I’m not doing anything special here, and I don’t claim to have a magic formula for creativity, let alone for getting a half-decent photo of a rubber shoe. All I know is that sticking with things that don’t arrive with instant mastery does have its own reward, even if you’re the only one who ever collects it. Because the more you push through the barriers for these little avocations, the easier it becomes to remember you always have everything you need to just keep banging until you’re satisfied with any work that’s thrown at you.

Good advice from the Mann.

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