Monday, May 31, 2010


Facebook flipped upside down.

Search Twitter with

A nifty new tool for finding old tweets.

The Allman Brothers Big House Museum

I knew this was a project being worked on, but I didn't know the Big House Museum was open!

Ribbon Cutting Video

Quadrotor Helicopters, Drones

Coworker Brian first told me about these a few days ago.  I find them amazing, fascinating, and a little disturbing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

@Brizzly Picnics

Sounds like what I'm looking for!  Could it be?

Using Google Wave In Your Work Group  This is a nice, concise video (2m13s) on how Google Wave can help a work group interact! Excellent!


I never became a fan of Lost.  It looked interesting and I watched a handful of episodes, but as soon as I saw a dark cloud flying around and doing things, I became much less interested.  It seemed that the writers were creating a world with no rules, where they could make anything happen whenever they wanted, and that's just not interesting to me.

I guess this is why I like science fiction.  A little magic is always okay.  You know, faster-than-light travel, space travelers that aren't weightless, time travel.  Even creating a new universe is okay if the new rules are explained.  But, please, not like The Matrix where the explaining seems to go on for hours!  In my favorite review of The Matrix, the author said it was like someone sitting down to explain a new card game and an hour later they are still going over the new rules.

Sometimes, when watching media today, it reminds me of when we were kids, playing.  Someone would say, ``Wait!  I know what we can do.  You can be this and you can be that, then we'll....''  I get the feeling the film makers are out on location literally making up the story as they go along.  I'm not saying that kind of spontaneous creativity is necessarily bad, just that it shouldn't show.

When those two things are combined (or seem to be), then that's not a show that will hold my attention.  To be fair, though, even a good show may not hold my attention for long.  I tend not to watch any TV show for more than a season and a fraction.  There are notable exceptions to this, of course!

I like the tweet by @Ihnatko:

So long as Bob Newhart remains alive, ending any series with him saying "Emily...I just had another weird dream!" is an option.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Martin Gardner 1914--2010

Martin Gardner, the author of Mathematical Games in Scientific American died yesterday at age 95.

When I was in high school, during my senior year I ended up with an hour to spend in the library every day.  Among other things I loved reading Scientific American and I particularly looked forward to Gardner's Mathematical Games column each month.

There are some games he featured there that I still remember to this day.  There were some variants of Nim including one called Chomp.  He also introduced me to Robert Abbott's New Eleusis (a few years later) which I still enjoy teaching people and playing from time to time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Number Trick

Take the a number x and multiply that by 2; add 5; multiply by 50. If you've already had your birthday this year, add 1760; if not, add 1759. Subtract your four-digit birth year. You should end up with a three-digit number -- the first of which is the number you started out with and the next two are your age.

How it works

Start with the number x.  Multipy by 2, add 5 and multiply by 50.

(2x + 5) * 50
100x + 250

Now we've already multipled the first number by 100, shifting it over by two digits.

Now we just need to get your age into the last two digits.

If y is your birth year, then your age a is

a = 2010 - y

What we want for the final answer is:

100x + (2010 - y)

but we need to get rid of the 250 we already have:

[100x + 250] + [(2010 - y)  - 250]

The first square brackets is what we have so far and the second square brackets are what we want to add.

2010 - y - 250 = 1760 - y

So, finally,

[100x + 250] + 1760 - y

The last part puts your age into the last two digits.

Putting that all together.

(2x + 5) * 50 + 1760 - y

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel [picture]

A friend sent this picture.

Now Facebook Has Stopped Posting My Blog Entries

The subscription/gateway seems to be gone.  And I can't even find where I set it up in the first place.  I probably lost it when I refused one of the force-you-to-go-public settings.  I'll just cross-post via Twitter then.


Update 2010-05-24:   This seems to be working again and no posts were apparently lost.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe a long delay.  It seemed like it was more than a day.  Maybe Facebook misconfigured their own privacy settings.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Solution to the Gulf Oil Leak:

Whoever first contains the leak owns the well and can pump and sell the oil.  This should work to strongly motivate later accident prevention along with preparedness (by multiple, competing entities) for rapid response to fix a problem.

Facebook: My finger is poised over the deactivate button

The only thing that stops me is the fact that I barely use it in the first place.  Knock on wood, there's not that much at stake for me.  Maybe.  Still, Facebook has become the intense, flaming nucleus of the social-network-crazed cluelessness that's running rampant on the Internet.

It will be interesting to see if they can pull out of this steepening dive in time, or if they will crash in fiery self-destruction.  If Facebook does recover, I'm not sure I'll ever trust them.  But will I trust them enough to keep the accounts open and continue to (carefully) use the service?  That's the question.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook Privacy:

Check your settings early and often!

Friday, May 07, 2010

GTD Project Planning

Recently, I've found the GTD approach (as I've understood it so far) to project planning to be extremely useful.  I probably do this around two times a week and it only takes 15 or 20 minutes.  After that time I have a much more clarified idea about what to do about something.

Note that the first time I read the GTD book, I barely even noticed the project planning component though it's a key part of the book.  On the second reading, three months later, the project planning part was crystal clear and practically leaped from the book.  That's mainly to say that it does seem to be very important to re-read this book at least once.

Some of you will recognize this as essentially the same approach we used for planning in our facilitation processes from years ago so, yeah, there's nothing strikingly new here.  This is fundamental planning.

Also, you can and should apply this to any planning effort, including for large group projects.  But lately this is useful for taking some things that need to be done and organizing them into a project.  For example, yesterday  I took a magazine out of my in box, an old one, and realized I really don't have a system for dealing with old magazines.   I've haven't received any magazines for years, but read everything on the Internet, so there are only old ones.  So in 10 minutes or so I sketched out a project plan for dealing with all of  the magazines.

To start, I open up a new Google document for the project plan.  I usually write out the bullet list of the steps at the top so I can remember what it is I'm doing.
  • Principles
  • Vision
  • Brainstorm
  • Organize
  • Next steps


Then the document should have a section created for each part.   Under the first section (obviously with the Level 2 title, Principles) I write a bullet list of principles that I (and maybe others involved) hold, that are important to the project.  For magazines, I want all unneeded ones gone: either thrown out, sold or given away.  For those that are kept, if they are worth keeping for some reason, they should be organized, labeled, and reasonably preserved.


Next comes the vision.  This is a short paragraph (for me) of what the final state will look like.  I sat there for a few seconds an tried to imagine what this project would look like when done.  What would I see?   What are the characteristics?  A few magazines stored in containers, out of the way, the stack well with clear labels.  Something like that.


Then brainstorming.  For this, I re-use an approach from Lakein, that is still very much a part of me.  I set a timer on my phone for two minutes and write down ideas as quickly as I can.  I don't even use bullets, but just write lines of text, each idea on a new line.

When the two minutes are up, I set the timer for two more minutes and either clean up the existing ideas some, maybe clarify something that came out as gibberish, or add any more ideas I can think of.


Many of you will also recognize this step.  I either copy the whole brainstorm section down into this section, or just rewrite the ideas from the brainstorm.  The point here, though, is to take the useful idea from the brainstorm and organize them some how.  The quick and natural way for me is to organize them under headings.  Each heading groups a set of ideas together.  Here the ideas are bullet lists.  One section might be about magazine storage.

For example,


  • Search the internet for storage solutions
  • Go to Lowes or Office Max and see what they have
  • Check into using old file boxes
  • Label with Brother label maker

Next Actions

Finally, the last section, and last step is to look at the organized set of ideas above and choose a handful of next actions that need to be done.  This is a short bullet list of what those are.  Then at least one or more of those should go onto your next actions lists.


So, at the start I was holding an old copy of Sky and Telescope, wondering what to do with it.  After 15 minutes or so I had a fairly solid plan and a couple of next actions.

This approach is useful for solving a simple problem like that which has more than a few next actions, and it's also useful for some effort that will take a quarter to complete.  It should probably be the structure of a major planning session, which might span an hour and a half to two hours.

Allen has much more useful information on this topic in his book, and there's much more in the web sites and other resources that orbit the GTD solar system.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Facebook Privacy and the Holy Grail

It's like trying to give instructions to the two guards in The Holy Grail, Facebook Privacy that is.

Facebook:  “Okay, we'll reveal all of your private information to all web sites you visit!”

Me:  “No, please only reveal my info to my friends.”

Facebook:  “Ah, okay, we'll only reveal your personal info to your friends, and to our advertisers and all web sites you visit!”

Me:  “No, no!  Only to friends I specify!”

Facebook: “Okay, only to our advertisers and your friends.  And we'll reveal your Events to everyone!”

..., etc.