Category Archives: Personal

No turning back

“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.”
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

#hashtagvomit

#hashtagvomit is when the number and length of hashtags in a social media post is equal to or greater than the length of the content itself.

Whether or not the post in question is good or bad is irrelevant. I don’t regard hashtags as content, but rather a subtext to the content, a type of metadata intended for human consumption. Hashtags ought to be used in the same manner as exclamation points in writing. To wit…

If a sentence really has something of importance to say, something quite remarkable, it doesn’t need a mark to point it out. And if it is really, after all, a banal sentence needing more zing, the exclamation point simply emphasizes its banality!
Notes on Punctuation, by Lewis Thomas

Sleep as a Competitive Advantage

Too many of us continue to live by the durable myth that one less hour of sleep gives us one more hour of productivity. In reality, each hour less of sleep not only leaves us feeling more fatigued, but also takes a pernicious toll on our cognitive capacity. The more consecutive hours we are awake and the fewer we sleep at night, the less alert, focused and efficient we become, and the lower the quality of our work.

The research is overwhelming that the vast majority of us require seven to eight hours of sleep to feel fully rested, and only a small percentage require less than seven. The problem is that we kid ourselves. “Like a drunk,” the Harvard sleep expert Charles A. Czeisler wrote, “a person who is sleep deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is. Most of us have forgotten what it really feels like to be awake.”
NY Times: Sleep as a Competitive Advantage

For me, nothing beats a twenty minute nap in the afternoon, maybe thirty minutes. Anything more than that is of little to no benefit. But that twenty minutes can make all the difference in the world for the rest of my day.

I think sleep is really only part of the solution to good productivity, and that exercise and a reasonable diet are needed as well for sleep to be its most effective. I say, “reasonable diet” in that there only a relative few out there that eat truly good all the time; some foods aren’t good for the waistline, but they are good for soul and are therefore irresistible.

I have been working on my health for the past several weeks by working through an exercise regimen from Nerd Fitness. I work out five days a week on average, for an average thirty minutes a day. It’s a well packed thirty minutes prioritizing intensity over time, and within only a couple weeks I found benefits in regards to how I feel overall. Even those nights where I only could get five to six hours of sleep I felt better than before I started working out.

Loss of net neutrality? Ain’t gonna happen.

Anyone with half a brain, including the telcos, should quickly see that mucking with net neutrality is bad for business.

The graphic posted to Reddit that shows tiered web site access a la cable channels being the most (scarily) obvious. I’ll link to the graphic itself for convenience (but pardon for any broken links a few years from now):

Reddit-source speculative tiered access from Hell.

Let’s noodle around with the implications of that for a minute…

First, I have to wonder if this is a result, be it direct or otherwise, of privatization. The telephone system was basically built after World War II with the Rural Electrification Act. The telephone system, even though managed by commercial organizations, was still, at its core a public utility ultimately governed under FCC Title II. Broadband—which I define here as coax, fiber optic, ISDN, Verizon FiOS, Comcast, not phones—was not implemented by any such legislation near as I can tell. While the telcos may have gotten tax breaks and aid from the state and federal levels to help lay down cable, I don’t remember there being any legislation pushing out broadband to every part of the country for the Common Good. So, their network, their rules. Everyone needs to be taking notes on this if they aren’t already. But, at what point does a resource need to be so ubiquitous that it ought to fall under Title II? Take away the Internet wholesale out of the economy and what would happen next? Would the impact on the economy be dramatic enough to establish net neutrality in legislation even outside of Title II? I think these are fair questions.

Second, I can’t imagine that any company doing business on the web, in whole or in part, would be pleased in any way with the telcos holding court over what gets through simply because a customer can or cannot (or unwilling to) pay an extra amount on the bill. Even those websites that offer free services through advertising can’t be happy with this if all of a sudden there was even a sudden 10—nay, 5%—drop in ad revenue simply because their site is successful enough to be in a top tier. The forces of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon combined would be too epic against Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and others of their ilk to even affordable to fight, not to mention every Chamber of Commerce in existence.

Third, I don’t see anything like the tiered pricing being manageable in any way. The domain space is massively huge; 112 million in .com alone. To throttle a list of even 1% of that is 1.12 million domains. There is not a workforce on this planet that can take on that task. The Reddit graphic lists less than 60. Granted, they are all heavy hitters, but then would the telcos then hire a sales staff to partner websites? How would such a deal be pitched to websites that is even remotely appealing? This has the same funky smell of those deals the NFL makes with cities where the city has to buy up any unsold tickets in the stadium the city built (and not even to avoid a broadcast blackout of the home game). Who would agree to such nonsense?

I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation, but I suppose we need to have it to reason out what is right and what is just pragmatically stupid. There are already some interesting responses that have come to light, notably those noted below, which are reporting tools of distributed/streamed video quality by ISP:

These are a great way to call attention to the issue of net neutrality in a way that has direct impact to the user. And away we go…

UPDATE: Just to be clear, none of this means that I think we shouldn’t bother fighting for net neutrality. I feel quite the contrary, actually, and that we should fight for it just so we don’t have the experience anything like tiered web access other than speed. The hit to the economy is just unreasonable. What I am trying to express here is that I don’t necessarily agree with the doomsayers that the Internet’s utility will be diminished to almost nothing. The telcos are already throttling certain traffic as the above noted websites imply, and the recent ruling does compel the telcos to reveal what kind of traffic throttling they will be utilizing. Net neutrality is important to everyone, but we are nowhere near “all is lost.”

The Federalist: The Death of Expertise

The death of expertise is a rejection not only of knowledge, but of the ways in which we gain knowledge and learn about things. Fundamentally, it’s a rejection of science and rationality, which are the foundations of Western civilization itself. Yes, I said “Western civilization”: that paternalistic, racist, ethnocentric approach to knowledge that created the nuclear bomb, the Edsel, and New Coke, but which also keeps diabetics alive, lands mammoth airliners in the dark, and writes documents like the Charter of the United Nations.
The Federalist: The Death of Expertise

About a year ago, I took a class that explored a number of issues related to this very topic, and I look forward to taking a similar class next year.

“And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather… a lack of will.”
Vince Lombardi