Charles Pillsbury III

Geek. Dad. Writer?

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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Throwaway writing?

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The same goes for writing, or any other creative work. You need to let yourself practice with blogging, journals, or throwaway poems and work under less than perfect circumstances, the same way a guitarist noodles around with chords while watching TV, or an artist scribbles on a sketchpad while riding the bus. You can’t be too precious with your words or your notes or your brushstrokes. Believe me, someone will be there to trash your work anyway, no matter how long you petted it and brushed its hair. It’s more important to keep your brain switched on than trying to preserve every last bit of inspiration.

[From Cooking for the Creative Beast | 43 Folders]

This is something I REALLY struggle with. I tend to have such limited time for my writing and such that I hate to waste it on throwaway stuff. This was more prominent when I was writing fiction, probably because I respect it more as an art than I do blogging (sorry fellow bloggers), but the concept still remains… you’re more likely to write more good words, if you’re willing to let yourself write a good number of “bad” ones.

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August 20th, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Misc

Design and Engineering

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The idea of design divorced from engineering is laudable, but the way it so often plays out makes it implausible. Yes, in theory, the design team should come up with a perfect solution and the engineering team should be smart enough to figure out how to pull it off and neither should ever have to talk to each other. The resulting product would look exactly as designed and would work perfectly. Keep on trucking you radical dreamer. Here’s a quarter for the jukebox.

[From Big Contrarian → Divide.]

This is something I hit in my web development work, and somewhat in my day job as well. It’s not too hard to write a program to do X or Y, but it’s not nearly as easy to help a user determine not just what they want, but when and how they want it. My friend Lisa has said more than once that she thinks all developers should have a few UI classes before released on an unsuspecting public… and I think she’s probably right.

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August 20th, 2008 at 9:25 am

Posted in Misc

This sounds like little Stevie King’s advice on writing

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Not only is this essay short, brilliant, thought-provoking and memorable, it calls bullshit on most of what passes today as speech and written language in management circles. And if you are too lazy to read the article, all you need to remember is this: never use a fancy word when a simple one will do. If your idea is good, no hype is necessary. Explain it clearly and people will get it, if there truly is something notable to get. If your idea is bad: keep working before you share it with others. And if you don’t have time for that, you might as well be honest. Because when you throw jargon around, most of us know you’re probably lying about something anyway.

[From Why Jargon Feeds on Lazy Minds - Scott Berkun]

Confession time, when I speak I’m more prone to use a fancier word than I am in writing. Why? because I’m less confident I’ll spell something right than I am that I’ll pronounce it correctly. Of course spell-check makes this a moot point, but in SOME situations I don’t have spell check handy (like twittering from a blackberry).

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August 19th, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Misc

Ph D? Probably not for me

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To earn a Ph.D., one must accomplish two things. First, one must master a specific subject completely. Second, one must extend the body of knowledge about that subject.

[From Notes On The PhD Degree]

This is a great concise definition of a Ph D. I would love the process of mastering a specific subject, but mostly I’m a generalist. I like to learn a lot about a lot, but rarely do I want to learn everything about anything. The part I would enjoy the most is the extending the body of knowledge about a given subject. I understand that a large part of why they require you to master the subject first is because otherwise you’re prone to doing a lot of re-work that others have already done.
While this is beneficial to using a Ph D as measurement of how much an individual knows about a given area, is this the best way to extend the knowledge in the fields? Obviously undergraduates, and even high-school kids, can contribute to the body of knowledge, but is there a propensity for knowledge gained by Ph D students to be more the iterative type than the revolutionary type? Is there a readily available (hint hint Google, this is a perfect project for you) means of gathering the information needed in a given area? I guess that a master list of “things we don’t know” is less useful for revolutionary knowledge expansion than a list of “things we don’t know that we don’t know” would be.
As a side note, I would love to see a book or course available that would give a baseline apocalyptic rebuild scenario. If 80% of the world died in a plague, and all of the technologies stopped working today, how long would it take “us” to rebuild society and technology to a level that would be even vaguely close to what we have now? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to smelt iron ore (hell I’m not even sure I phrased that right), let alone develop the processes enough to be able to build an engine, let alone develop microchips.

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August 10th, 2008 at 7:38 am

Posted in Blog Entry, Misc

To-do? or to-be?

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Aren’t you impressed by how “deep” that title is?

“Do you have a never-ending list? Do you manage your time? Do you manage minutes, tasks, and lists? Do you start each day with a list that has more on it at the end of the day than it did at the beginning of the day, in spite of how many items are completed and crossed off?

Or do you manage your attention? Do you manage emotions, intention, and make choices about what will and will not get done? What are your favorite ways to do this?”

[From Linda Stone: Is it Time to Retire the Never-Ending List? - Living on The Huffington Post]

I have a day job which requires quite a bit of intent and attention, wife and kids that require the same, and I inexplicably get myself involved in a plethora of other projects (all of which take time and attention). Part of the problem is fighting a sense of urgency about any/all of them (the kids aren’t getting younger, the day job must get done, if I’m going to write books before I die I must get started, etc).

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August 2nd, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Misc

Coffee Beans, good for the heart, the more…

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Originally found on Boing Boing

A strong cup of coffee in the morning can feel like a life saver. Now, one of the largest and longest studies of coffee drinking suggests that coffee may indeed boost your lifespan – providing you drink enough of the stuff, that is.

The study tracked 129,000 men and women over two decades. It found that people who consumed several cups of coffee every day were less likely to die of heart disease than those who shied away from the stuff. Heart disease is an umbrella term for conditions including heart attacks, stroke, and arrhythmia.

The researchers found that women who drank four to five cups per day were 34% less likely to die of heart disease, while men who had more than five cups a day were 44% less likely to die

[From Guzzling coffee may cut heart disease - health - 16 June 2008 - New Scientist]

I’m only at 1-2 cups a day generally speaking, but hopefully it’s enough (of course Alicia may say I don’t have a heart anyway, so maybe I just drink the coffee for the enjoyment of it all).

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August 1st, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Misc

Big breakfast ‘aids weight loss’ (BBC)

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I’m all up for trying this, and have been lately. While it’s tough to say if it’s working, I have noticed that I’m hungry in mid-afternoon less if I have a decent bit of food in the morning.

Breakfast really could be the most important meal of the day when it comes to losing weight, claims a researcher.
Over several months, obese women who ate half their daily calories first thing fared better than those eating a much smaller amount.
US researcher Dr Daniela Jakubowicz told a San Francisco conference having a small breakfast could actually boost food cravings.

[From BBC NEWS | Health | Big breakfast 'aids weight loss']

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July 31st, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Misc

How to buy a camera lens (from Macworld)

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I think I’ve posted this one one of my sites, but don’t think it was here. Macworld has a nice little run down on picking out a camera lens for your DSLR (and it has nothing to do with “Mac” per se, so the silly Microsoft users can learn something as well).

If you purchased your digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) as part of a kit, you already have a basic lens that takes pretty good pictures. However, part of the attraction of this type of camera is that you can switch out lenses to get the best shot in any situation. From powerful zooms that get you up close to high-speed lenses that specialize in low-light settings, you have plenty of options for your second lens. While some lenses may go for more than you spent on your camera, you don’t have to pay a lot to get a great lens. The real question is: how do you find the right one for your needs?

[From Macworld | How to buy a camera lens]

I’ve bought into the “regular” lens phenomenon with the cheap 50mm 1.8f lens for our EOS Rebel XT. If you look to the right at my flickr feed almost any of the portrait shots you see were shot with this lens. The basic lenses I have, and like having, are that 50mm, the kit 18-55 zoom, and the 75-300mm. I’m looking to replace the 75-300mm just because it’s so old and the auto-focus is a bit dodgy (I’ve had it since the early 1990s and my days with a 35mm EOS Rebel.

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July 30th, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Misc

The emotional tragedy of ebay

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This little piece ties interestingly into the great book “It’s All Too Much” by Peter Walsh.

According to this research, this is because of loss aversion, says Rick. “It is not because people are overplaying the positive [aspects of a possession].” Rather, we just become attached to objects we own — so much so that it takes a lot to convince us to part with them

[From Neuroscience of selling your stuff - Boing Boing]

I know I tie too much up in “stuff”, like old records and books (especially books), but now I’m working on separating myself from the “collectible” items I’ve accumulated over the years. I’m finally emotionally resolved to ditch some of it (farewell action figures) now I just need to get the big kid set up with my ebay information and get it all listed.

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July 30th, 2008 at 9:53 am

Posted in Misc

“New” type of budget?

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I’m not sure this qualifies as “new” budgeting, but it’s at least a bit different than what you usually see.

When I was designing the structure of my categories, the first change I had to make was to get rid of a top-level category for insurance. Instead, I put insurance expenses where they belong: auto insurance under transportation, health insurance under medical, and homeowner/renter insurance under housing.

I also eliminated a top-level category for utilities. I put the power bill under housing. (I’d put heat, water, garbage, sewer, etc. there too, but those items are included in the rent where I live right now.) I put the cell phone and internet charges in a new top-level category for communications, and put postage there as well.

[From Refactor your budget categories | Wise Bread]

Now budgeting isn’t exactly our familial strong suite. Not that we can’t put together a budget, but sticking to it is difficult. As most who read here know, we are a largely single income household, though in recent years Alicia has done some off and on tutoring and teaching at a one-day-a-week fine arts program for homeschoolers. In addition to her small teaching income she has become a licensed Doula (labour and delivery coach) this year, which appears to be on track to bring in a few more dollars into the family coffers. That said, we’ve always been on the frugal side of things, and “budget” generally involves calculating if we have $5 or $10 after paying all the bills in a month.
I like the idea here of breaking things down into new categories. Housing including all of the costs of keeping up a house is good, but putting all the phone and internet costs into one category may be pure brilliance (though our budgeting hasn’t done much to break out into categories as much as it has enumerated each monthly bill no matter the category).

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July 30th, 2008 at 8:04 am

Posted in Misc