Archive for the ‘Life Thoughts’ Category

Easy Coding

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

I’ve been playing around with a toy program just for the fun of it since yesterday. I keep adding little things as I think of them. Sometimes I have to look something up because my memory isn’t always so great but really its all trivial. Its no tour de force by any stretch of the imagination. Its just fun.

While working on that I remembered (amazing how long forgotten things come when short term ones don’t) how occasionally in college I would get frustrated and feel inadequate so would write a simple program just to feel like I could make something work. back them my task of choice was to write a program to print out multiplication tables. Even then that was pretty easy but I know I wrote it a couple of times.

Today I like to think I am creating simple demo programs that I can use with students as either demos or assignments for beginners. And that is true. Mostly. But I am also having fun doing something easy. It relaxes my mind.

Occasionally I miss the days when I worked on hard projects. But I am not ready to go back to coding full-time. For now programming for fun is more rewarding. Well not financially but in most other ways.

Vacation for an Hour

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I last took a real vacation back around Christmas – so six months ago. It was good. I feel like I need another one but have no time scheduled until late in July. Things are just really busy. And busy is good. I’m not complaining about the work. I do need a mental break from time to time and frankly that is hard to get when you work at home.

I visited a real office yesterday and that was great. People interaction, a change of venue, free soda and ice cream. (OK the ice cream was unusual but it was still good.) But it is easy to fall back into work even when I am home because, well, because that is where I usually work.

I need a mental break at the end of the day. TV does not cut it. It is too mindless or perhaps I should say it takes up too little of the brain. It is so very tempting to get on the Internet while watching TV. What does work is to read. And by read I mean read for fun.

I love non fiction but that isn’t giving me the release these days. I have to think about it. There is no suspension of disbelief. It doesn’t take me away from reality but rather closer to it than I want to go. So I have taken back up reading Science Fiction. And oh is it wonderful.

I read a cartoon once where a wife is saying to her husband “when you said you wanted to retire to finish a book I thought you mean writing one not reading one.” I want to write a book (a novel) some day but for right now reading books is as good as a vacation. I wish I could spend a week just reading light fun reading. When I am rested enough I will write.

Until then though for a couple of hours a night I am somewhere out in the universe with larger than life heroes, impossible “science”, and as far from work as one can get. And that is good.

How to get really rich

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Yeah, hard work. Sure everyone says if you work hard enough you can get rich. I’m not so sure. I think working hard is helpful but that by itself it is far from enough. I think there are three other things that are helpful – Wealth, luck and brains.

By wealth I mean more than the average amount of financial resources.  At one time a million dollars would have been enough. Today maybe a bit more. One is not “really rich” with a million or two in assets but it is a good place to start.

Luck is pretty self explanatory. Everyone has some amount of luck but some people just seem to have more than their share. Brains the same. Some people are below average, some average, and some smarter than average.

If you have one of those things you have a reasonable chance of getting really rich with a lot of hard work. If you have two of them you have a very good chance. If you have all three your future is as secure as you are willing to work at it.

Bill Gates is an example of someone with all three. Donald Trump has at least two. Wealth for sure – his father was fairly well off. I’m not sure if the rest is luck or brains. If he had both his wealth would have had less up and down. How do you take casinos into Chapter 11 if you have both brains and luck?

Sam Walton? Brains for sure. A little luck? Perhaps. And he did work pretty hard at everything.

I know that some would argue that with brains and hard work you can make your own luck and overcome not starting with money. I don’t dispute that but I think it makes things harder. Luck alone might not seem like enough but if you add hard work and your luck brings you the right partners anything is possible. A little wealth goes a long way if you work hard at it and make it work hard for you.

I think you need at least one of those three items though. How many of them determines how hard you have to work to overcome not having the others.

But poor, unlucky, dumb people are not going to get rich no matter how hard they work. Anyone have any examples to prove me wrong?

Why Space

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Outer space is all but unreachable. Even close planets like Mars take months to get to and there isn’t much there. Other solar systems? Forget about it! Unless we discover a way around the whole speed of light thing – highly unlikely – we are never leaving this solar system. And yet we keep trying stuff?

It’s not like there are no challenges closer to home either. We have better maps of Mars than we do of the earth under the oceans. And the oceans have lots of highly valuable things like minerals, and metals and food stuff and what not that we really could use. OF source it is hard to get at which should be a challenge, like space, that we raise up to and try to solve. But for the most part we don’t.

We look to space. What is it about space that makes us want to strive for it? I don’t understand it. Honestly though if given a choice between a trip to the bottom of the ocean and a trip into earth orbit I’d want to go to space. Makes no sense. But there you have it.

Now I love the seas. Even as a young person I was very interested in undersea things. I read about it, I went to conferences, and I thought a lot about it. But my blood still raced more reading science fiction about space exploration. Is it the fantasy or something else? Or are we just foolishly acting against our best interests? What do you think?

Everyone is an idiot

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

It seems like every day I read or hear multiple stories of how different very successful, highly paid individuals are basically idiots. They run their companies wrong. They run their government offices wrong. It seems like everyone in the world is an idiot in someone’s eyes.

The questions abound here. Obviously one has to wonder how such idiots were elected president, Senator or were promoted to CEO or CVP or what ever. What were people thinking when they gave such idiots such responsibility? Is everyone an idiot?

The other question is why are these critics not using their clearly (at least in their own minds) superior intelligence and wisdom to do a better job? I mean really, why be a reporter/blogger when you clearly have the smarts to run a Fortune 50 company or perhaps the US of A? Yes, if you are so smart why aren’t you rich?

Now I’m not saying that all criticism is wrong. Mine is of course right on. Smile But seriously when people act outside of their areas of expertise (Bill Gates on education, Congressmen on just about anything) they are wide open to criticism from people with actual legitimate expertise. And a lot of criticism is hindsight and anyone can appear smart by looking at the results and saying “oh yeah I see it now.” The old “Monday morning quarterback” seems to occur in every field.

So you have to wonder, where were these geniuses before things fell apart? Would they really have made different decisions had they had the opportunity? And if they had would things really have turned out better? Somehow I doubt it. But it is so easy to be critical and so much harder to have to actually make the initial decisions.

I want to hear from people who are doing better. I’m not so interested in people who think they could do better or who have good vision in hindsight. I want to hear from people who have demonstrated that they know what they are doing and who have gotten results.

Who are these people?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

So my Dad is staying with me for a while. It’s always interesting when the phone rings because he and I have the same name. Some people on the other end handle this just fine. Others? Well not so well. Example:

ME: Hello

Them: Can I talk to <our name>?

ME: Can you tell me what it is about? There are two <our name> here.

Them: Oh I’m sorry. I’ll call back later.

Say what? Clearly I went too far off script for them.

The other problem lately seems to be people who don’t understand English very well. I can’t believe how much spelling out of simple things my Dad has been having to do. And his frustration as people seem to fail to grasp that he is actually changing information on them. He was staying at my brother’s home for quite a while but we’ve switched off and he’s staying with me now. Both my brother’s town and my town end in “ville” and some people seem to not hear the first syllable.

Are companies really saving money by hiring people who struggle with the language and/or who have poor listening skills? Somehow I doubt it.

Sports Fans

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

I saw a license plate last week that said NYYSTNK which I interpret as “New York Yankees Stink” based on sounding it out and the Red Sox stickers that were also on the car. I think that is just so very sad. Someone went a long way not to raise up their own team but to put down another team.

I feel the same way about those stickers in cars that show a nasty little boy urinating on product logs of cars or other companies. That’s just immature. What sort of message are people who do that sending? What are they saying about themselves? Are they bringing favorable impressions of the teams/products they like or unfavorable impressions? To me the latter. It just offends me. It is so different from what we say we try to teach children.

Praise and promote your team all you want. Wear their logos. Fly their flags. Cheer when they do well and cry when they do poorly. But avoid putting the other teams down. It’s about sportsmanship people.

Full disclosure: Having been born in NY and raised in Brooklyn I am a long time Yankees fan. But I’d have been just as disappointed in a plate that said RDSXSTNK. Probably more so because I expect better behavior from Yankee’s fans than Red Sox fans after living in New England so long.

The Best Part of Summer

Friday, July 31st, 2009

While I am not foodie or gourmand I do like to eat. Summer is great for that. We’ve been picking up a lot of fresh food, fruit and vegetables, from farm stands and farmers markets as we generally do in the summer. There is something special about food fresh from the farm. Now some foods are really good all year round if bought frozen. Many of them are prepared and frozen within hours or even minutes of being harvested. But not everything is and not everything freezes well.

Some kinds of peas, green beans, and berries are different if frozen rather than fresh. And somehow having to shuck the corn ones self adds to the experience for me. We picked some strawberries and some asparagus from our own garden this year. It doesn’t get much better than that. Plus we have been growing some tomatoes (though not as many as usual because I am resting the garden plot this summer).

I’ve had farm stand corn on the cob four times this week which is probably more times than I ate frozen corn on the cob all last winter. Like I said – it’s different somehow. Logically? Perhaps not but emotionally? Oh yes. I am staying south of New Hampshire this week and the corn is a lot further along than it is up north. I look forward to farm fresh corn at homes soon.

I hope to pick up some fresh Long Island potatoes later this season as well. Which is the other thing. In the summer it is easier to get truly local food from small farmers. Sure you can buy potatoes all year long but they all come from a few large states out west. Potatoes are different in different areas. Maine is different from Idaho and different from Long Island and different from other regional potatoes. One gets tired of the same old industrially produced food that is always the same. Well I do anyway.

So what do you like about summer food? Or summer in general?

A Week Without the Internet

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

For a while now I’ve been thinking that the Internet is a major cause of stress for me. There is not much avoiding it usually. I depend on it for work at the very least. So going on vacation seemed like a good opportunity to take a break from it. And I’m not just on vacation but I’m on a cruise. There is no cell phone coverage and no Internet connection unless I want to pay some rather high prices. I have done this before – paid for an Internet connection on a cruise ship but I was working that trip. So while I can get an Internet if I really want one it is easily avoidable. If  I want to avoid it. So I’m trying.

As I write this intro it has been about 36 hours without a connection. The first half day I found myself often reaching for my cell phone to check email. It made me realize just how often I do this. If there is any “break in the action”, say waiting on line for something, my first action is to check email. This does not seem all that healthy to me. Avoiding more direct contact was not so bad until this morning.

My normal first activity in the morning is to sit at my computer and find out what is going on. I scan my email. I scan Tweetdeck looking for Twitter mentions, direct messages and scan my feed from the high priority people I follow. I also scan the Internet news, some RSS feeds, check the weather and my calendar. Usually before I even visit the bathroom let alone eat or get dressed. This morning that was not an option. It was a minor shock to my system.

During the day is easy because I have plenty to do. Food, pool, onboard entertainment, etc. Plus I brought a bag full of books. Reading a good book distracts me from anything. I haven’t been reading a lot for the last several years because the Internet grabs me first and I don’t get to the books. This also doesn’t seem healthy to me. I miss my books. I have really enjoyed reading the last several days. My reading jag really started on the plane home from my last business trip a couple of days before the cruise.

Still more then a few times I have wanted to look something up on the Internet and not been able to do so. I was expecting email to be the big thing I missed with blogs and Twitter being next. But being able to look something up is running in the lead so far with Twitter in a strong second place. We’ll see if this changes during the rest of the trip.

Tomorrow should be easy because we are going on an excursion to see some Mayan ruins. There are things to do on the ship when we get back. Keeping busy my be the answer for me. But so far the break from the Internet hasn’t hurt me. On the other hand there is going to be a huge backlog of email when I get home.

[Note: posted on my return, well most of the way home, from vacation. Still no email because I let my password expire but I hope to fix that tonight or tomorrow morning.]

Bags and Protecting The Environment

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

A while back we started using canvas bags at the supermarket. Our local supermarket was giving people a nickel credit for each reusable bag they brought with them. That made it pretty cheap to buy a couple of these bags and keep them in the car. Over time we acquired more of these bags. Some of the bags we are using are from conferences I have attended. Often times they give each attendee a canvas bag with all the handouts for the conference and for people to  carry stuff they pick up in the exhibit hall. What to do with them afterwards? Well using them for shopping works out very well.

More recently we have been bringing these bags into all sorts of stores. First Wal-Mart and other food stores but lately even clothing stores and, well, just about any store we go to. The reception from store clerks has been overwhelmingly positive. The one surprise is that older clerks seem to see this as more positive than younger people.

The younger people are just in the habit of mindlessly using the plastic bags they have from the store. The older people seem to more actively think about what they are doing. Those people recognize the value of reusable shopping bags for the environment and for reducing waste in general.

But the real plus is that we feel good about what we are doing. There is no doubt that we are saving the world 100s of plastic bags and the environmental costs of those sorts of bags. And you know what? Those canvas bags are easier to use than the plastic bags as well. One can carry more stuff more easily in them with less fear of bags ripping and spilling their contents. So it’s all good.