Any job with acceptable compensation (be it monetary, spiritual, emotional or other) is worth doing.
Any job I take on will have acceptable compensation. (I don’t intentionally commit myself to things that I know I will hate doing and gain no form of reward from.)
So, by the transitive property, any job I take on is worth doing well.
If you live your life by these simple rules, it is possible that you might have a job that sucks, but you should never suck at your job. If you find yourself being terrible at your job, you either need to find a way to be better at it or find a job that is a better fit. By knowingly, willingly being terrible at your job, you are choosing to make your own life worse and having a negative impact on everyone you interact with. Conversely, by doing your job well, you will have a positive impact on the people you interact with, and that, in turn, has a chance of making you feel that your job doesn’t suck.
I go to Dragon*Con every year. Despite the fact that we live in Atlanta (or near enough to it), we book a room at one of the host hotels and stay downtown for the weekend. It’s like a half-vacation. We go, we have a great time and love every minute of it, but we aren’t really “going on vacation”. Six years ago, I took another non-vacation. An overnight really. We drove to Savannah on Monday, stayed the night, and drove back Tuesday. That was our wedding. A couple of years before that, we did a long weekend in Savannah. You’d have to go back to, I believe, 2003 to find a real vacation-vacation in my life. We went to Cozumel for 5 days. And before that, we went to Mardi Gras in 2001.
On Saturday, the wife and I will be heading up to a little cabin we rented in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We’ll be coming back on Wednesday. Five days and four nights, away from home, in another state. It’s been about nine years but we are finally going on vacation.
When we go to Dragon*Con, the weekend is pretty well mapped out. There are panels and parties. I’m on staff. It is, as far as vacations go, pretty regimented. When he did Cozumel way back when, there was little plan. We had a hotel, all-inclusive, and that was it. I’d been to Cozumel before and mostly just gone to beaches and bars and the usual stuff (I was part of a group of 30 people who went together). But this time it was just us. One day we rented a jeep and just went driving around the island. We found some unoccupied beaches and a little restaurant on the windward side of the island. It was great.
This time around, I’m aiming for something in between. The final day we have to check out of the cabin early anyway, so we are just going to check out really early and drive over to Asheville and visit The Biltmore, and then head back home that night. Either on the day up, or one of the three middle days, we’re planning to spend some time touring the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. We also plan to do some hiking, and of course a little casual relaxing. It’s cold here, and we are going north, so I expect some time spent in front of a roaring fire might be in order. And as weird as it sounds, we are planning to curl up and watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night. We don’t have cable TV anymore, so events like this are something we don’t get to watch at home.
The cabin has a kitchen, and we are trying to plan some meals to cook and foods to take with us for snacking, though we probably will eat out at a couple of places that have been recommended to us. We are driving up, so the only limitation is what we can fit into the Jeep Cherokee.
And then we get to packing clothes. It is still winter, so we’ll dress warm, maybe throw in an extra couple of sweaters and make sure we take our jackets. There are no plans to do anything super fancy so no suits or cocktail dresses.
I’m very excited about the whole thing, probably more than I should be.
Last night, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address before congress. Here is a transcript. And while a great many topics were covered, I want to talk about the section on education. Here it is:
Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future — if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas — then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.
Think about it. Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us — as citizens, and as parents — are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair. (Applause.) We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”
Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. And these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids. (Applause.)
You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities. Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado — located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their families to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, “Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.” (Applause.) That’s what good schools can do, and we want good schools all across the country.
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. (Applause.) We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.)
In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you. (Applause.)
Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within the reach of every American. (Applause.) That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. (Applause.) And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit — worth $10,000 for four years of college. It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we’re also revitalizing America’s community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she’s earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams, too. As Kathy said, “I hope it tells them to never give up.”
If we take these steps — if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take — we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. (Applause.)
I put that last sentence in bold because it caught my attention. It caught my attention in large part because I feel that it is chasing a metric that is entirely wrong-headed. I think this section has a lot of good ideas in them, but I am worried it is going to continue pushing a paradigm that is unsustainable.
Check out the video to the right. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs testifies before congress about the need for more vocational training. I went to school for a time in the Pennsylvania school system, and in Junior High, the 7th grade to be exact, I was required to take Home Economics, Art, Wood Shop, Metal Shop and more. Just a half a semester of each, the intent to be to expose kids to skills they may not encounter in their day-to-day lives. And this continued through the 8th and 9th grades, and when you moved over to the High School for 10th grade, you were allow to choose between two tracks: Vocational or College Preparation.
The College Prep track is what pretty much every kid these days encounters in school. You take standard English, History, Science, Math, etc. in an effort to make you ready to pursue an academic path into college. Essentially, the goal is to make the student well-rounded so that college can then mold them into their future selves. Meanwhile, the Vocational track still had kids take English, History, Science, Math and more, but they were more basic survey classes, and shorter, making room for their vocational classes. By senior year, the Vocational track kids were rebuilding cars, doing HVAC work, building furniture, crafting tools from metal, painting, glass blowing, baking, doing the work of a seamstress, and more. Many of them were hooked up with apprenticeships after graduation and while the College Prep kids went off to four more years of school, the Vocational kids were starting careers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying “we need vocational tracks because some kids aren’t smart enough for college” which is the argument opponents always take. I’m saying “we need vocational tracks because some kids have talents that make them totally awesome but aren’t found in college”. You see, I want kids to be happy and awesome when they grow up, and if a kid absolutely loves fixing things with his hands, why do you want to force them into college to pursue a generic business degree?
The only saving grace in regards to this is Obama’s mention of strengthening our community colleges and technical schools. Done right, it can be like a Vocational track in High School but after High School, with 2 year degrees in specific areas that don’t require taking lots of “junk” classes unrelated to the degree. Of course, in general it will fail to provide kids with a proper sample of skills in order to discover they might actually like working on cars or sewing dresses, so many of them will plod on to traditional college and get mediocre grades toward a degree someone else convinced them would be good for them, never having had the opportunity to find their own personal awesomeness.
I don’t have a kid, but I hope to some day, and if their school doesn’t provide it, I’ll make sure I introduce them to a wide variety of skills in order to help them find the path on which they can be the best version who they are. If that path includes college, so be it, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.
Tomorrow, the 18th of January, many sites on the web are going “dark”. Some will be putting up a blank black page. Others will be putting up a page of information about why they are going dark. Others still will be blacking out their logo and censoring words and other clever tricks to show support without actually blocking their content.
Tomorrow, the 18th of January, this blog (and some other sites I run) will be going dark. We’ll have a page up with some links and info, a video and a form.
What’s the big deal?
SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act. It’s a bit of legislation going up for vote in the House of Representatives in the next week or so that aims to give copyright owners more power to protect their copyrights. At its base theory, it isn’t a bad idea. Piracy sucks. People shouldn’t do it, and it would be nice if there was a way to actually stop sites like the Pirate Bay from existing. However, like much copy protection, DRM and other things people have invented over the years to try to stop pirates, SOPA is going to have its largest impact on people who aren’t doing the pirating.
You see, any decently technically savvy person isn’t going to be affected by SOPA. And most pirates are technically savvy. If you block the DNS name of a site because it has pirated material on it, you haven’t blocked the IP address. And someone has already invented a plugin for the Firefox browser that circumvents DNS lookup for known blocked sites. See, the pirates have already beaten this new form of piracy prevention and it hasn’t even been implemented yet.
The simple fact is that if these companies, these copyright and content providers, were to spend the same money they spend on protecting their stuff and bribing donating to Congressmen on making it easier (and cheaper) to buy their products, they’d make far more money than they ever will “stopping piracy”.
So, tomorrow, the 18th of January, I’ll be showing my support for throwing out, or at the very least revising, SOPA. And we’ll probably go dark again on the 23rd since the Senate will be voting on the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) which is pretty much the same thing on the 24th.
So… welcome to 2012! Let’s dive right in. This year, as predicted, there will be an apocalypse. It will be nothing like any of the movies on the subject. There won’t be volcanoes and earthquakes. No super tidal waves, no zombies or plagues, no invasions from other planets. If Hollywood has dreamed it up and filmed it, it isn’t likely to be the way things happen.
However, on November 6th of this year, Americans will head to the polls to elect a President, possibly giving the current one another term or maybe giving a new one a try, and they’ll be electing every seat of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. I figure it’ll take about 6 weeks from that for things to come to a head, which will place it pretty squarely right where all those predictions claim “the world will end”.
Of course, the world won’t literally end. It’ll still be here, spinning on its axis and making its journey around the sun. But figuratively, the world as we know it will. There are a lot of people, and I’m one of them, who are upset at the way the government is currently running and are willing to vote “for the other guy” with almost no regard as to who that is because we want to send a message and throw everyone we can out of office. This is a “good thing” and is the reason why democracy is awesome. Power to the People and all that.
The only problem is that our current system of government is so horrendously broken that all of the “other guys” are pretty much the same as the guys currently in office. You might get a different slant on the same old rhetoric, but not much else. They’ll all keep voting the way they’ve been voting: for themselves.
However, 2011 illustrated that there is a significant swath of “the People” out there who have had enough AND are willing to do something about it, or at least to Occupy places. Don’t expect this to end. Winter always puts a damper on outdoor activities, but when it warms back up the sit-in will begin again. By November, politicians who in no way support the Occupy movement will be using the Occupy movement to get votes of people who would never vote for them, and once elected they’ll conveniently forget any promises they made to those “hippies” living in the parks. By December, it should be clear that nothing has changed as people start actually looking at voting records and other important things rather than campaign hype. It’ll be the Hope/Change bait and switch on epic proportions.
And let’s not forget, by December, our troops still won’t be home.
So, when I say that there will be an apocalypse in 2012, I simply mean that we will see a shift that will rock the United States, and through ripple effects the whole world. That last time we had a monumental shift was in 2001 on the 11th of September. The event and the actions taken in response changed the world. It was a dividing line. There existed a world before that day and a world after that day. And I think we will see that sort of thing happen again, another event that will create a dividing line.
But hey, don’t be sad. We’ve got a good solid ten months to enjoy before the fit hits the shan. So, live it well.
This isn’t about TV shows. That particular Ratings Game would take an entire blog unto itself to even begin to properly discuss. No, I’m talking about when people review things and rate them.
Does Size Matter?
Some people used a 5 point system. Usually 5 stars, but then they give out half star ratings, thus making it a 10 point system on a scale of 0.5 to 5. Then you get 10 point systems, and then they go and try to present averages between multiple reviewers and dish out things like 7.6 and 2.4, thus making them actually a 100 point system ranging from 0.1 to 10.0. Luckily, if a person starts with a 100 point system, they generally don’t do decimals (unless you are handing out grades and want to really rub it into the kid’s face that a 92 is an A and they got a 91.9, a B). Really though, most of these systems exist almost entirely to attempt to set expectations. If a movie review site uses a 5 star scale, 3 usually means “like”, 4 “really like” and 5 is “love”.
But I’m all about managing expectations, and large systems (even as large as 5) start to set them for me. A 5 star film isn’t going to be just good, it’s going to be great. A 1 star film isn’t just bad, it’s awful! And it happens with every scale.
And then you run into other people wanting to fiddle with your system. Tons of game sites rate on a 10 point or 100 point scale, but the vast majority of their scores will be in the 7-9/70-90 range. They save the top score for the absolute best games, and everything below 7/70 is complete trash, and even mediocre games get a “C”. I’m sorry, but on a scale of 1 to 10, 5 is the middle, the average, the “meets some minimum level of entertainment but I didn’t really enjoy it”. You wouldn’t know that from the way most sites work.
A Simpler System
For me, however, I prefer a binary system, a scale from 0 to 1. If I enjoyed something and would recommend it to other people it gets a 1. If I didn’t enjoy it and wouldn’t recommend it to other people it gets a 0. No fractions.
Of course, that’s just the score. Any long review would get into exactly why I liked it, and what sort of people I think would also like it. Or it would discuss why I think the thing failed for me, and perhaps try to understand what sort of people might enjoy this, because you have to assume if someone takes the time to make something they must intend for someone else out there to like it.
I’ve written about this before. In fact, twice before. At a glance, I need only one piece of information: did you like it. Then, based on that I can decide if I want to read your full review. More so, if I’ve read a bunch of your reviews in the past and I have a general sense of “if he likes it, then I like it” I may not even need to read every review. I can shorthand. If I’ve heard about a game and think I will like it and I see that a reviewer I generally agree with also liked it, I can pretty safely purchase it and avoid the possibility of getting spoilers in a review. On the other hand, if there is a game I’ve heard of and think I will like and that reviewer says he didn’t like it, now I definitely want to read his review because maybe there’s something I need to know.
Got it in 1
In the past, I’ve toyed with ratings systems on reviews here. I even invented a 13 point system just so that a 7 would be the middle/average score. And I’ve thrown out ratings systems, insisting that the review is the only thing that matters. In the future, I’m going to implement my more simple 0 & 1 system.
Now I just need to make some nifty graphics for my new rating system, and they need to be self-explanatory because I don’t want any passing creator see that I’ve given them a 1 and think I’m saying they suck.
If you haven’t noticed, Google has been revamping their look. Unifying the feel of all their sites. So far, I like it, with my only real complaint being the over abundance of white space. Luckily, most of the apps offer the ability to select a “compact” look that eliminates much of that, squeezing everything in closer together. These days, I prefer whenever possible to hang out over on Google+ instead of Facebook, largely because of its much cleaner look and lack of crap I don’t like.
But all isn’t roses in the land of search and honey. Google’s latest moves have started to bother me. The first being the new YouTube. The pages for any individual video is much improved. It’s cleaner, nicer, and with the new size buttons of regular, large and full screen, it simplifies in all the best possible ways. Which makes the atrocity of their main page such a disheartening failure. I used to be able to quickly review my subscriptions while scrolling, but now, with one or two prolific video posters (I’m looking at you machinima!) my front page is pretty just one or two people, with the odd other video thrown in. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but I don’t see how.
Rolling out to select people now but eventually to everyone is the new Google Bar. Not one of those you install on your browser, but that black bar that has existed at the top of the majority of Google pages for a while now. A short while ago, probably prepping for the new bar, they juggled the apps around. Now that you can see the new design, the reorder of the apps remains. I’m certain that somewhere is a guy at Google who has lots of metrics that informed on which apps made the cut of being on the first level and which ones got hidden behind the “more” entry, at least I hope there is so that I have someone to properly hate.
It's sort of like an upside-down Start Button in Windows.
You see, one of the apps I use all the time is Google Reader (RSS feeds are awesome!) and when they performed their juggling act, Reader dropped off the main app selection. And with this latest revision, Calendar didn’t make the cut. It’s just insanity that Google hasn’t yet, even back in the black bar days, implemented a way to let each user decide the order of apps.
The new prime apps are Google+, Search, Images, Maps, YouTube, News, Gmail and Documents. To begin with I use Google+ a bunch, probably keep it open most of the day. Next I literally cannot recall the last time I when to the Search main page with the intent to search. I go there to see the new logos. (To be fair, I use Bing now for searching just because I earn points that I can spend on Xbox Live spacebucks, so when I used the Chrome address bar to search it goes to Bing, but before that it used Google, and I still can by typing “g” and a space then my search query.) Same with Images, since it’s basically search – I usually just do a regular web search (from the address bar) and then click the image link on the left of the results. Or, you know, I type “i” followed by a space in the address bar, which is my short cut to image searches at Google. I use maps, but not very often. I do use YouTube quite a bit. News works like Search and Images, “n” followed by a space in the address bar. Gmail and Documents are both deserving. So of the 8, I’ve identified 4 that could easily move beneath the “more” and I’d barely notice.
Meanwhile, I use Music every couple of days, Calendar daily, and Reader I use easily 4 or 5 times a day. And yet, with the new design, I have to click the Google icon on the new bar, then hover over the “More” entry and then select my app. Or I ignore the menu altogether just use the address bar to pull up the site. Maybe I’m just not the target audience. I don’t know.
Anyway, enough rambling out of me, though I do hope they allow for some customization soon.
There are two things that frustrate me the most about Facebook.
The first is how games work there. I love the way Lexulous worked. I was playing games with my friends, and I was playing games with strangers without having to friend them first. And because it wasn’t constant asking me to invite people or ask them for help, I actually posted wins and achievement notices to my feed. Of course, Words with Friends owns my soul now, so I don’t play much Lexulous anymore. (Hint: people like to play on their phones and you phone app sucked. Maybe it has gotten better, I don’t know, because I’m not there anymore.) I want to play other games, and being a huge fan of MMOs I don’t mind playing with other people. But the current design of most (Zynga) games is that I need dozens and dozens of friends playing in order to progress at a reasonable level. Well, I don’t have that many real friends who want to play, so I need to friend strangers unless I want to suffer slow play. Friending strangers breaks Facebook. The result is, occasionally a game interests me enough that I’ll create a group/list that I’ve painstakingly denied all access to, and friend random people and put them in that list. This lasts until either a) I need even more friends, or b) I get a creepy feeling from having all these non-friend friends and thinking I missed some setting and they have full access to all my stuff. Then I spend a day purging those people and those games from my account.
The other thing bothers me is the terribly shitty layout of Facebook. Here, I drew a picture:
That covers pretty much all that I find annoying or crappy about the default screen I get to see when I log in to Facebook. Essentially, the content I want is surrounded by stuff that is wrong or pointless. And they go a step further by making that center column all wrong. I want a time line, in order, of stuff my friends have done. That group on the left side called “Everyone” is how I do that. Even though the default News Feed lets me choose to show news with “recent stories first”, that feed and my “Everyone” feed are different, and not just because my own updates don’t appear in “Everyone” but because there is still stuff missing from the default feed.
Speaking of the default feed is constantly telling me things like that there are “5 new feed items” and then I click the link and only 2 items show up, or that one time it said I had 10 new items and none showed up when I clicked the link. I realize that’s probably because of all the apps I’ve blocked, but if I’ve blocked them then why are you telling me about updates I can’t see? And that goes hand in hand with my complaint about the numbers on the left. It tells me where are 20+ updates in a group, and I click on it to see that there are only 5 updates because there were probably 15+ messages from apps I’ve blocked.
There is so much wrong and useless stuff on Facebook (and I’m not even talking about the updates from my friends!!) that it makes me want to never go there. And still… it’s where everyone is. *sigh*
Earlier this year I began doing the Insanity work out. And then I quit doing the Insanity work out. Last year, around November-ish, I started feeling not-well. I hedge a bit at using the word “sick” because for the longest time I was never full-blown sick. It was mild (and I mean really mild) congestion with the feeling that something was stuck in the back of my throat. Coughing and the constant swallowing in an attempt to dislodge whatever was stuck there resulted in frequent sore throats, and as time went on it got worse, but never really horrible.
I stopped doing Insanity because it seemed to get really bad while working out. I’d end up way more out of breath than I should be and coughing, and I’d get more congested. When I stopped doing the work outs, it got better.
On Halloween this year, we had a guy come out to inspect the heating and air units in the house. As usual, he changed the filters. The filters were really really filthy, especially in the second unit, the one that handles the basement/media room. When he popped that bad boy out and started changing it, he started coughing and so did I. That night I had a terrible sore throat and a head ache to go with the coughs, and by the next day I was is horrible shape. I stayed home from work the rest of the week recovering. While I got better, I never got well. I didn’t even return to the pre-Halloween me.
I went to the doctor and got some medicine to treat bronchitis, which I may or may not have had – but since I haven’t been given antibiotics for anything in nearly a decade I don’t think my taking some now is going to hurt anything. However, even with the meds, the coughing didn’t go away. So it was time to try something else.
On Sunday morning last week, I woke up and made a concerted effort to stay upstairs. Within a couple of days I was coughing less. It didn’t go away entirely, but it lent credence to the theory that the problem was allergy related, and that I was allergic to something downstairs. So, we called up a company that cleans out air ducts to come and clean ours.
They came on Wednesday and cleared a handful of trash bags worth of stuff from the vents. Dust and mold (probably the culprit), and nails and bottles and cans… it seems that when they built the house many years ago, the construction guys would drink a soda and then just put the waste in a nearby air duct rather than throwing them away. You’d think that perhaps a duct cleaning would occur when the house was finished being built, but apparently not.
With all that out of the way, I found myself breathing a little easier. And yet, I still have the feeling that there is something stuck in the back of my throat. I decide to give in to my 21st Century Internet tendencies and go to WebMD. For over a year I’ve been telling doctors that I have this feeling, and they’ve continually told me to take allergy medication. Over on WebMD though, I find that this is also sometimes a symptom of acid reflux. You see, acid gets out of your stomach the wrong way and into your esophagus, and your esophagus tightens to prevent it from going further or something like that, hence the feeling that something is stuck in your throat and why coughing doesn’t help (coughing is air coming from the lungs, and while air and food go in the same hole, there are two different tubes they travel down, so no amount of air from the lungs will help a problem coming from your stomach). I get myself some antacids which WebMD recommends to combat acid reflux, and lo and behold I’m feeling better. I wish I could get back the money I spent on doctors and prescriptions. Oh well.
And I’m feeling better just in time too! I’ll start exercising again this Friday… after Thanksgiving.