Charles Pillsbury III

Geek. Dad. Writer?

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Archive for December, 2008

Open Source Textbooks

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I’ve had this sitting in my “to write” queue, and realized that I don’t actually need to write anything. I just hope that somebody succeeds in this space.

In a nutshell, there is a huge, inelastic demand for college texts, even though textbook prices are high. Because of this there is a lot of piracy and a robust secondary market for textbooks — but not for long, because they are updated every couple of years, rendering old editions virtually worthless.

Flat World’s business plan aims to exploit the inefficiencies: Its books are online and free. Instead of charging for content it aims to make money by wrapping content up in “convenient” downloadable and print wrappers and selling those, along with study aides and related items.

[From Open Source Textbooks Challenge a Paradigm | Epicenter from Wired.com]

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December 31st, 2008 at 11:57 pm

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The dawn of dilbertism

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Scott Adams (aka “the Dilbert guy”) has one of the most interesting and entertaining blogs out there. I’d like to think I’d be as witty and interesting were I to have the money to spend the time just “thinking” as he does… but that’s probably just me being generous with myself. One of his recent posts was all about the “failures” of capitalism and what we can expect in the future.

Things change. It’s the nature of the universe. Yesterday’s greatest ideas give way to ideas that are better, or better suited to the present, or at least different. Change is the only thing on which you can depend.

So what about capitalism?

I think capitalism had a good run, but it will soon be done. Socialism will be too expensive to maintain as the world economies slow, and communism won’t be making a comeback. The economies of the future will be something new.

Capitalism was conceived before the Internet, and before the gears of commerce became computerized. The system could absorb a lot of con artists because they didn’t have the ability to steal fast enough to cripple the system. As you know, that has changed. Crooks in expensive suits now have the ability to swindle trillions, collectively, thanks to the efficiency of the system. And idiots in expensive suits can do even more damage.

[From Scott Adams Blog: The End of Capitalism 12/16/2008]

I don’t know what capitalism’s second act will look like, but it probably involves preventing individuals from being as self-destructive as they would prefer.

[From Scott Adams Blog: Call it Phase II of Capitalism 12/17/2008]

I think two points could be made here (ok, probably more than two points COULD be made, but I’m only going to try and make two). A) Capitalism isn’t pure anymore anyway so this is a moot point, and B) It’s more likely to be a continuous evolution of the free market and capitalism based economic systems than some sort of economic revolution.

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December 29th, 2008 at 4:33 pm

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Too much good for our own good.

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In this world we simply cannot deal with all good things. There are more good songs than we can ever listen too. There are more good movies than we can ever see in our lifetime, even if it was our full time vocation. There are more useful tools than we have time to master. There are more cool websites than we have attention to spare. Forget about all junk, all the mass produced hits, and all the critically acclaimed creations that mean nothing to you personally. Focus instead on just the things that would rock your boat. There are still too many of them! There are in fact, more great bands, and books, and gizmos aimed right at you, customized to your unique desires, than you can absorb.

[From Kevin Kelly -- The Technium]

There was a time (last summer) when I was attempting to apply the “Inbox Zero” principle to my RSS reader. The problem was that I was spending so much time trying to make sure I read everything that came down the pipe from all the sources, on all the subjects, that I wasn’t getting anything created of my own. I was also not reading enough things in depth to really appreciate them (that “tip culture” again). I know I’m only going to have so many more trips around the sun (I still hope for another 80, but it could be only 40, or 4, or 0.01), so I’m trying to apply that zen principle of “letting go” and trying not to mentally hold on to all the cool stuff that I’m missing out on.
This is surprisingly manifested as well in my lack of an education. I’m an autodidact, but don’t have a college degree. For many years I talked about how I wanted to go back to college, and for a time I even took a few classes, but in the last 3 years I’ve owned that: while I would like to have a degree, and would enjoy the education part of it, I can get an education in 5-10 years just as easily as I can now, but the thing I can’t ever do again is enjoy the time with my children. At some point there won’t be anybody dancing on my bed singing about how they want “lots and lots of Giirirrrl toys”, but in all likelihood there will still be books, and colleges, and teachers, and things to learn. I’m never going to get caught up with the knowledge of the world, but nobody else will ever even try to catch up with the knowledge of Grace, Sam, & Jake (besides my wife and the family, but that would weaken my point so Pththththth).

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December 10th, 2008 at 9:07 am

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One Meeelion Dollars

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Samir has it right: the question of what you’d do if you had a million dollars is essentially the same as what you’d do with a million dollars. Sure, you could answer, “If I had a million dollars, I’d light myself on fire and jump out of a tree.” But the question strongly implies “What would you do that you couldn’t do right now if you had a million dollars.” And while rich people often do stupid things, stupidity itself is free.

[From johnaugust.com » One. Million. Dollars.]

One of my coworkers if fond of saying that if he won the lottery he wouldn’t be the guy who says “first I’m going to pay off my debt” because if he’s got lottery money in the bank he doesn’t “give a s#$% about my credit rating”. I’m however more in the camp of one of my friends at work who points out that even if it wasn’t a multi-million dollar payout, he’d quit his job because how much of an ass would he feel like if he could’ve spent X-many years doing what he wanted, but instead kept a job and got killed during commute. For me, a million dollars wouldn’t be enough to technically retire for the rest of my life, but if I had enough money to pay off my house and enough in the bank to still afford to feed the family for the next 10-15 years I think it would be foolish to trudge down to my job 5 days a week. This probably says something about me not being in the “right job”, but I just haven’t seen enough openings for “Smart Ass: with good pay and benefits” to risk the family’s health and well being on trying to create that market.

So… what would you do with a million dollars? and if not a million, how much would it take?

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December 9th, 2008 at 8:57 am

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Chocolate Chaser

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I feel like I should, after all the politics and creative theory stuff, have some equivalent to BoingBoing’s unicorn chaser. So, I’m going with this wish list item for me… Chocolate.

Askinosie Chocolate

Askinosie San Jose Del Tambo (Ecuador)Less is more. And I never would have guessed that such simplicity would be so complex.

Askinosie Chocolate makes Authentic Single Origin bars. They’re made with a very short list of ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter (they make their own facility from the same origin beans).

There are no emulsifiers and not even any vanilla.

[From Askinosie Chocolate - Candy Blog]

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December 8th, 2008 at 9:09 am

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Folders by Folders (and getting something done for a change)

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Luckily Merlin is taking his time between posting on 43 Folders lately, or I fear my blog would turn into little more than “ooh, go look at what he said now!” Still… Go look at what he said now!

While the largest part of his latest piece is an indictment of the “tip culture” (see: most of the self-help/problog/lifehack blogosphere), one can’t overlook what is probably the most important paragraph.

We can’t get good at something solely by reading about it. And we’ll never make giant leaps in any endeavor by treating it like a snack food that we munch on whenever we’re getting bored. You get good at something by doing it repeatedly. And by listening to specific criticism from people who are already good at what you do. And by a dedication to getting better, even when it’s inconvenient and may not involve a handy bulleted list.

[From Real Advice Hurts | 43 Folders]

I’m a serial “student of” things. From radio control airplanes, to web design/development, to writing fiction, to playing guitar and many other things, I become interested in a subject, and study the crap out of it until I know it far better than I have any need for… but until I start doing it, the knowing doesn’t do me any good. I’ve come to this realization on my own I know, because I stopped subscribing to magazines on action subjects. Five years of reading about RC flying, or writing fiction, is much less likely to get you any better at the action than just spending a month focusing on doing it.

With writing especially, I struggle with the doing. There aren’t any magic bullets that will give me more knowledge on writing theory and suddenly make me a better writer, I know enough of the basics (and even some of the “advanced” concepts) that spending my time reading about writing, is a waste. My current writing project is not fiction though, so I’ve found another way of keeping myself from doing and that is “research”. With a non-fiction project you have to do research, though I suspect maybe I’ve done enough research to commit to writing some now too. I think I’ll give myself a handy bulleted list.

  • Butt in chair
  • WRITE!

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December 7th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

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