Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Person Who Does Not Understand Things

OUR HERO meets PERSON WHO DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THINGS, a 1950s
cliché Indian in a headress carrying a spear.

PERSON WHO DOES NOT
UNDERSTAND THINGS
They call me Person Who Does
Not Understand Things.

OUR HERO
Why?

PERSON WHO DOES NOT
UNDERSTAND THINGS
I don't know.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ghetto Batman

Once upon a time, not long from now, there was a bad part of town. Everybody who lived there was black and poor. One guy who lived there was called Wayne Jackson, but his friends called him Bruce, like Bruce Lee, because he was into martial arts. One day, "Bruce" (Wayne) snapped. He always paid his taxes. He always took care of his business. He took out the trash, kept his house clean, and washed his car, and one day he caught crackheads digging through his trash and pissing on his car, and he killed them all with a baseball bat.

But nothing happened beyond that - no cops came to arrest him, no crackhead militia rose up to defend their crackhead fallen. And a year later, "Bruce" (Wayne) snapped again, and this time he killed seven gang members. And the cops looked into it, as cops always do, and nobody saw anything or knew anything, because nobody ever does when the cops ask. But the gangsters asked, and that's different. Everybody knew something when the gangsters asked, but what they knew made no sense. It had been dark. The bat man had struck in the dead of night, and nobody had seen his face. All they remembered where the red sunglasses he had been wearing, but they didn't remember them as glasses. They remembered them as hideous bright-red bug eyes. It didn't help that a lot of the witnesses were junkies with unreliable perceptions and shaky memories.

And this one joker tried to kill the bat man, but he never had a chance. The joker couldn't find him; the bat man seized him out of the shadows one night, knocked him out - baseball bat to the head - and tied him up in bungee cords and duct tape outside a police station. That joker had six illegal weapons on him, but he was a juvenile offender, and he got out. And he went looking for the bat man. And the bat man fought that joker many times, and he always won, but he never managed to kill him.

By now the gangsters knew what the bat man's car looked like. It was an old Nissan Z with a huge spoiler, purple groundlighting, and a goddamn Gatling gun on the roof. No license plate. All the glass tinted opaque black. The bat man kept it in an abandoned warehouse with a hidden entrance in a desolate part of town. He wore a black ski mask, and he kept the red sunglasses, but he wired them with LEDs to freak his enemies out, because they were superstitous cowards, mostly, and some of them thought he was the Devil.

The bat man got away with everything he did. And he still paid his taxes, took out his trash, and lived a law-abiding life, even though the gangbangers on his block laughed at him and took his stuff. Playing that meek role was the only way to keep his identity as the bat man a secret.

But dreams haunted him. He knew who he was. He told himself jokes about turning into Batman. Sometimes he told himself jokes that made him laugh out loud for twenty minutes, and at the end of it he would stop, shocked, by a glimpse of his own face in the mirror, or by the strange echoes of his lonely hysterics. And strange things bothered him for no clear reason. A girl moved into his neighborhood. Her name was Serena. She had a black cat. He got goosebumps when he saw her, and she remembered him from somewhere, but she couldn't figure out where.

"No," he thought. "Not you. Not here. Not again." And then he wondered what he had meant.

In his warehouse one lonesome, violent night, after he returned from the streets, he washed the blood off his baseball bat, and turned around. It was then that he knew he had lost his mind. A white man stood there in the warehouse, whiter than anyone he had ever seen. White people are really pink. This man had skin like snow and his hair was 2am on a rainy night.

Invading "Bruce" (Wayne)'s secret hideaway meant threatening "Bruce" (Wayne)'s life, and the bat man reacted immediately, swinging his bat through the man's face and head. They passed through as if the man were a hologram. But the hologram spoke. It said it knew his true name. It said it knew why "Bruce" (Wayne) had such terrible dreams. The white man who was whiter than white men and made of nothing but light and air and sound told "Bruce" (Wayne) that he, "Bruce" (Wayne), had no right to steal his ("Bruce" (Wayne)'s) life. He said you come from the land of stories and that is where you belong. He said you are a creature of story, and I am the king of tales, and that makes you responsible to me. He said no matter what else, you cannot steal a mortal life. For an immortal to steal from mortals is the lowest shame.

And Wayne Jackson woke up that morning and forgot everything. The bat man was never seen again. But sometimes, Wayne and Serena dream the same dream.

The Awful Truth



Most things that people do on the Web shouldn't ever happen at all. Most experts in project management wouldn't know good project management if it bit them on the ass. Most small businesses fail. Most corporations are evil.

Most people suck at everything.

It's the good news and the bad news. It's not easy to accept. But it's the way it is. Most everything is done wrong. The key to excellence is simple: suck less.

Friday, March 27, 2009

NY Times On Nutrition

No energy to select a quote. However, everyone should read this.

Anything That Is Too Big To Fail Is Too Big To Exist

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government - a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

...

The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump "cannot be as bad as the Great Depression." This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression - because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miniapp: Sifty



Sifty isn't finished, but I got sick and spent the second half of the month asleep. I wish I was exaggerating but I'm not. Anyway, given my goal to put up a miniapp every month, I figure if you get to the end of the month and the miniapp isn't finished, you have to put it up anyway, so here it it is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Drowtales: Successful Long Tail Entertainment Business



I founded Drowtales in April 2001 as a web comic meant to improve my art and to permit me to meet other artists. From that point on, Drowtales began to grow more and more. In October 2002, the first paid service was offered to the readers, Daydream. Daydream was successful, pushing Drowtales forward and permitting me to work on it full-time. More Internet artists joined the various projects that followed, allowing more things to be accomplished. In November 2005 Studio Drowtales, Inc., was created, and the first full-time artist was hired. At that point Drowtales became a self-sufficient business, which was rare for web comics at the time. In April 2007, after 6 years of drawing thousands of pages and artworks, my drawing hand finally died on me. This forced me to delegate more work to others, and this is how the team that worked on this book came to be. A group of Internet artists that came one by one to join our ranks strengthen the art quality and the speed in which those high quality pages could be produced.



We had many artists and contributor in the past but unfortunately on the internet, as time pass, people come and go. Many faces now half forgotten has contributed to the site. You may see a lot of arts style, old closed section and webcomics that were never completed as you browse the web site. Along with the names of those who created these. Though, with the creation of the company, the Studio Drowtales, we shall build a group of select few that will work full time with us, to dedicate themselves fully. These shall not disappear, these shall be recognized for their work as essential parts of the Studio. To join the studio, you have to work online on Drowtales for a while and you may be given the chance to join.



Monday, March 23, 2009

Guess What? I Live Here

Some people enjoy correcting me when I complain about weather in Los Angeles by reminding me that Los Angeles has no weather.

Here's a picture shot fifty miles north of Los Angeles:



Here's a picture shot fifty miles east of Los Angeles:



Here's a picture shot in the middle of Los Angeles:



You'll notice there are no pictures here of harsh weather actually happening in Los Angeles. There's a reason for that. These pictures were, of course, staged so I could trick you. And Beverly Hills 90210 is a documentary. And KITT can totally speak.

Don't Get A Computer Science Degree

Even if you're a programmer, you want to program for a living, you love programming, blah blah blah. Don't do it.

That's my short answer to this thread on Hacker News. The long answer goes here, because I got so annoyed at Hacker News discussions that I deleted my own password. Since I use randomized, automatically-secure passwords that are very hard for humans to remember, I've effectively locked myself out. Keep this in mind as you weigh the value of my advice.

I'm not saying you shouldn't take Comp Sci classes. You should, especially if you're somewhere like MIT, whose Lisp program is legendary. I'm not even saying don't get a degree. I dropped out of school, and I know great programmers who've done the same, or never applied to colleges in the first place, but if you can get a degree, it's usually worth the effort. But don't get it in computer science. I've come to believe that a computer science degree is actively counter-productive.

A random tweet:



An ensuing conversation between a pair of bald men:



By the way, plenty of older programmers still have their hair, and might disagree with our opinions here. Please find them and ask them. If you find any statistical correlation between hair loss and appreciation for art school, please report your findings immediately.

Here's another reason to appreciate art school:



Although to be fair, computer science made it to the top five.

I spent a year or so in art and music classes, and a good long stretch of time reading on all kinds of advanced topics in programming. Both made me a better programmer, and both happened around the same time. It's fair to say studying programming made me better at how, while art and music classes made me better at why.

The fundamental question of what comes from both of those - what you build will depend on what you know is possible and what you believe is worth building. Many programmers have unambitious ideas when it comes to what they believe is worth building. However, many programmers have unambitious ideas when it comes to how, too, including the ones with comp sci degrees, because many comp sci degrees fail to teach anything about higher-order programming. As far as I can tell, art school will expand your range of what you consider possible, while comp sci classes will inaccurately constrain it.

Of course the truth is that whatever works for you may be very different than what works for anyone else. Keep that in mind too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

You've Summoned The Fail Whale!


You Know It's A Good Robot When It's Creepy

Claude Von Stroke: Propellerhead Reason

Programmers, Designers: Do Your Research

Something's been pissing me off. A lot of programmers and designers for that matter pay a lot of attention to efficiency and interface but treat elegance and artfulness as meaningless. You need to spend less time reading about ecosystems and tinkering with peptides and amino acids. Take a break and spend a whole week just watching old nature videos from the archives.

You talk to some of these motherfuckers, you say "tiger" and they say "efficient predator at the top of its localized food chain in multiple ecosystems." Don't let them take you down such a boring, meaningless road, because that road leads straight to mediocre species and a mediocre career. Ask them what color the tiger was. Ask them about its texture. Most of them won't know. Here's a picture.



Here's another one.



And no, that's not an aquatic breed; it's an Arctic one. Two varieties of the tiger dominated two completely different ecosystems - the tundra and the jungle - and the only difference between the two species was the color of their fur.

I've never even heard of somebody designing something that good. But that's not what matters. You can find a hundred thousand blog posts about how to design a more efficient predator, or how to make an organism portable across ecosystems. Take a look at these pictures again and notice how seamless the blend is. The dark stripes criss-crossing its body follow the same visual rhythm as the shadows on the sandy road. The tropical tiger looks just like the world around it. The Arctic tiger is the same way.



Where do the rocks end and the tigers begin? Even the slope of their backs matches the gentle slope of the hill leading down to the water. Can you do that? Can anyone at your company do that? We have more opportunity to create beauty than anyone in any other field, but everybody knows there's only one company out there that ever even tries. I don't even need to name the company; you know who I mean, and you either think their products are overpriced, or you buy everything they make.

Don't take my advice too literally, either. You might not create anything beautiful if you create a creature that looks like its environment today. We're not all subsisting on algae any more, but the world has a long way to go before it will ever look anything like the paradise our ancestors destroyed.

The point is that a predator is more than just a machine for turning excess herbivore population into fertilizer for the produce those herbivores consume. I understand that government work rarely attracts artists, but we don't just have jobs, we have a responsibility. The work we do will define the environment humanity lives in. Let's set up our children and grandchildren for the kind of natural beauty our entire species used to take for granted.

Rant over.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Watch Out For Tasty Muppets

Their slim papery ears are like ham. Ham is tasty and goes well in sandwiches, but clogs arteries and tips scales. Their fur is like cotton candy. After the sugar rush, your teeth rot. It's fun to breathe fire but the inevitable result is inhaling clouds of black smoke. That's not good for your lungs.


The face of mortal peril

They live in boxes. Some boxes are huge, some boxes are tiny. All boxes are rectangular and finite. It's so tempting to rummage through boxes eating muppets. I'm good at it! I snack on them like California rolls. But you'll find more nutritional content in a bag of Cheetos.

It's much better to be vegetarian. Adopt cute muppets and put them on a leash. My mentor got really good at that. Famous for it, even. He's invisible but if you can't see his shadow then you're blind.


Lyrics are his, tune mine

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Startups: Solve Entertainment Distribution

A lot of people whine about the entertainment industry or dis it, but I don't see anyone proposing a valid alternative. You look at papers vs. blogs, blogs are a clear winner: more up-to-date, more honest, more diverse, more economically efficient; better in every way. What do we have to replace Galactica with? YouTube? This shit isn't over yet. Hollywood business models are in trouble, but Hollywood content isn't.



We knew blogs would kill papers, we knew mp3s would kill CDs, and we know TV's next to go. But you still hear the same old crypto-anarchist bullshit from a lot of people when it comes to the future of TV. It should all be free; the middlemen will disappear; and in particularly egregious cases, artists shouldn't ask to be paid, they should just be happy anybody pays attention to them at all. I love motherfuckers who say that shit. They make me laugh.



If you want to find serious coverage of this problem space, you won't see it anywhere on Hacker News, Proggit, or TechCrunch. You have to go to the Hollywood Reporter. That's crazy. The Reporter's a good paper, but it shouldn't be the only one covering the space.

You know what else is crazy? I was building a Web app for the entertainment industry not long ago. I can't tell you what company, because Hollywood still suffers from a terrible infestation of paranoid lawyers, but I can tell you that a very prominent marketing guy told me he thought it was a dog, while TechCrunch mocked it day in and day out, calling it ClownCo and refusing to take it seriously. I can also tell you that it's awesome to see Superbowl ads for something you built, and it's also awesome to see Twitter love every day for something you built. And even though everybody knows TechCrunch are a bunch of idiots, it's still great to have proof.



Tech press doesn't cover entertainment and it doesn't understand entertainment. But there is a shitload of money just sitting there begging to be taken. Think about mp3. Napster went down hard. Everybody cried "injustice!" and threatened to rise up in rebellion and the RIAA just shrugged and kept extorting money out of people for file-sharing - even grandmas who didn't own computers. Nothing happened, until iTunes sauntered over and seized control of the music industry by default.

Startup people, wake up already! There's opportunity sitting there right in front of you and you don't even see it.



How will film-makers monetize entertainment in the future? Who will distribute films and "TV"? How will talent get paid? What do you do when there's huge demand for something but its distribution no longer has a business model? Do you shrug your shoulders and assume it'll all be free in the future? If there's anything more sci-fi than the idea of Megan Fox working for free, I don't know what the hell it is. We'll all be doing our daily commutes via jetpack before that happens.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The BeatBearing Tangible Rhythm Sequencer



From the current issue of Make magazine

Goverment Seeks Jail Time For Music Sharing

One of the sad realities of American politics is that the Democrats, as horrible and evil as they are, are the good guys, and by the good guys, I mean, the alternative to the Republicans.

When you get a Democrat into office, you don't get to stop fighting; you just get to stop fighting evil scumbags who shouldn't even be allowed in the fight in the first place.

Department Of Justice Seeks Jail Time For Music Sharing

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rushkoff On The Economy

Let it die.

Gay People, Come To Rails

People outside Rails think you're already here.



This one's getting retweeted a lot.



Some people have their own variations.



The link's a video of gay men singing and dancing onstage. Get it? It's funny because they're different and they don't think anything's wrong with that.

The dis isn't even original.



Fuck you all. Yes Leah, that includes you. You're very nice and sweet in person but this is bullshit.

Seriously, you use gay as a synonym for bad or lame or whatever? You suck. DIE. Gay people still get beaten and killed all over the world just for being themselves. You think you're helping to change that?

Get over your ridiculous programming-language prejudices and stop endorsing real prejudices. It's this crazy little microcosm/macrocosm mirror effect. You never find bigotry in people with options. It's true in programming and it's true in real life as well, and it looks as if it's true in both places at the same time and for the same people.

You fucking disgust me, all of you.

Language prejudice, and real prejudice, exist in the Rails community too. We're not perfect here. There's this one guy called quellhorst who I hear is a serious homophobic asshole. But we have a tradition of exploring other languages besides Ruby, even featuring speakers on other languages at our conferences, and this greater tolerance of programming languages finds an echo on a larger scale, in a greater tolerance for people who are different, and a tradition of raising funds for charity at our conferences as well.

I've only met a few gay programmers, and they've mostly been Rails guys. I guess that validates all these jokes. But bear in mind, I'm talking about like three or four guys, tops. And if you want to count guys who seem gay to me without being openly gay, these maybe-gay guys, I've seen a lot more of them in Java, Perl, PHP and Python than in Rails. That's because our gay guys have balls, and your gay guys are cowards.

If you're a gay dude and you see all this bullshit all the fucking time, come to Rails, because we won't judge or dis you, except for the assholes like quellhorst, who will learn the error of their ways soon enough, even if it means I have to get out my big heavy teaching stick.



By all means, let this joke be true. Everybody in the world is going to be friends with gay people in their lives. If you're lucky, the gay people you're friends with are openly gay, because openly gay people are more honest about who they are, which makes them better friends. If you want to be friends with a guy who doesn't even trust you enough to tell you who he really is, that's something homophobes experience all over the world every day. By all means, go for it. Live that way. If we end up the language community with all the out-of-the-closet guys, we'll be better off than you prejudiced scumbags.

Fuck you, you bigoted fucks.




Update:

Obie says I owe Quellhorst an apology; I'm going to wait to see if I can dredge up any irc logs proving my case first. However, that's going to take a while. I can say, for what it's worth, that this is hearsay, which I already specified in the rant. It's not something I have actual knowledge of, merely a rumor I heard.

In the meantime, if anybody's seriously upset about my incoherent, profanity-riddled rant, consider the fact that it's an incoherent, profanity-riddled rant. Don't take my temper tantrums more seriously than I do. That's silly.

Also, I see there's a bunch of comments on this; that's awesome but I don't really read the comments on my blog. I mean I do, from time to time, but not consistently, and not quickly. I won't see the comments until any fuss has already blown over, so if you're getting worked up about this, please, take my advice and just handle it slowly or not at all. Makes it a lot easier to deal with.

Update 2:

Good news and bad news. The bad news first: I believe it's probably true of Quellhorst and there's proof out there. But I don't have that proof, and I do have two credible doubters, so, my apologies to Dan Quellhorst, it's very possible the rumors I heard were false.

Update 3:

OK, I admit it, I have no idea who this Quellhorst guy even is, I just heard a rumor and I was mad enough to attack anybody. Total mistake on my part.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How To Stop Drinking Coffee

Coffee breeds aggression, impatience, sloppy thinking, heart disease, weight gain, and bad planning, in the form of overconfident (and therefore inaccurate) estimates of time to complete tasks. It increases the probability of insomnia, which means it increases the probability of insomnia's consequences, including aggression, hostility, insecurity, paranoia, poor job satisfaction, heart disease, bad driving, and erectile dysfunction. It also makes your bodily fluids taste bad, which means it reduces your chances of receiving oral sex. Coffee's out to kill you and destroy your penis. It's evil and you should shun it.



I found quitting coffee incredibly difficult at first. I stopped cold turkey. After about a week, the withdrawal symptoms hit me. I thought I was dying. My bones ached, I shivered uncontrollably, and I had a splitting headache. It was like Trainspotting.



I went back to coffee the minute I figured out what was going on. I am a man of iron will, impervious to any form of pain, unless it means my pain, in which case I am a man of jelly will. Or maybe I'm not. I don't know. It's up to you! Just make the pain stop.

From reading Wikipedia, though, I knew the amount necessary to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms was much less than the amount I normally drank. I never went back to my previous levels of intake; I just maintained minimal withdrawal-avoidance dosages. This was easy. It meant buying small lattes and not finishing them.

Soon after, I went into hospital for angina and had heart surgery, maybe a month before my 35th birthday. From the moment I went into the hospital, I haven't touched coffee once, except one time several weeks later when I ordered decaf at a breakfast place. (It made me wired and twitchy for hours.) I haven't had any headaches, bone aches, or other withdrawal pain. It's been easy.



To summarize, this is my method for quitting coffee:

1. Quit cold turkey
2. Experience terrible pain
3. Whimper
4. Slink back to coffee with your tail between your legs
5. Drink much lower levels, just enough to avoid withdrawal symptoms
6. Experience life-threatening heart disease
7. Have heart surgery in your mid-30s
8. Never touch coffee again

I will admit my method is extreme. However: it works. I haven't touched coffee in a good while now, and I don't expect to go anywhere near it again ever in my life. Feel free to emulate me, and to use my method. You can leave out specific steps if they seem like too much trouble, but I wouldn't recommend skipping step 8.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Geeks Will Be Geeks: Building Prosthetic Empathy

Many years ago I got interested in Speed Seduction, a Usenet phenomenon at the time. Speed Seduction combined hypnosis, NLP, and social engineering to (allegedly) get you truckloads of gorgeous babes. It's a long, embarassing story, and as I say, this was many years ago.

Much more recently, I was in a Werewolf game in 2007 where one of the players decided another player was a Werewolf and came up with an elaborate theory based on terminology I recognized from Speed Seduction. It amused me, in a nostalgic way, because the theory was wrong - the alleged werewolf turned out to be a villager - and because I remembered that kind of crude, clueless theorizing very well from my time among the Speed Seducers. This person, the Speed Seduction Werewolf theorist, was talking about a real phenomenon of human communication, and applying reasoning to it that showed an absolute and total failure to understand either the phenomenon or the human communication it happens in. If you think cargo cult code is bad, wait until you see cargo cult conversation.

I'm reading a book now which reminds me of that time in my life.



I recommend it; it's interesting. But check out this crazy paragraph:

We have begun building social prostheses that help people mold their signaling, so that they can be more socially adept. The basic elements of these social prostheses are a sociometer, to read the signals, and then an interface, to give the user feedback about how they are doing. We have experimented with interfaces such as cell phones, computers, and small earbud audio headsets. Some of the more interesting examples of these social systems are the "jerk-o-meter," which reminds husbands to pay attention to their wives, and the negotiometer, which gives real-time feedback during a negotiation.

I would like to emphasize that he is not fucking kidding. It might sound like a Dilbert strip, but it's real. A science geek studies human body language for years and his conclusion is, there's an opportunity here to build some gadgets. The gadgets will interpret human body language for you and beep at you when there's something you need to know about. That's a good way to use my research.



I recently saw a bunch of Speed Seduction flotsam wash up on the shores of Hacker News, in a thread about hacking body language.

Through college, I had a weak posture, submissive body language, and tended to fidget/move around. I often looked goofy.

About six months ago, I decided to improve all that. I consciously developed an upright, chest-out posture. I cut down or eliminated unnecessary motions. I keep my hands extended and parallel to the arms, instead of close-fisted and angled inwards. I keep my chin up and my gaze high. I keep my legs outward and, when comfortable, spread apart.

By now, it's all become second nature. And it works. Women react much more strongly to me (in a good way). I feel more confident. My body image has greatly improved.


That's great, and I'm happy for anyone who finds a way to make their life better. But the thread gets creepier than that, and quickly.

One of the more clever and disturbing ways to gain 'power' over an individual is to play the student in the master-student role. E.g. by having them teach you something - which is doing you a favor, you can gain their favor.

Can you guess where that's going? I'll give you a hint, it's not going somewhere good. That dude's going to have some fucked-up relationship problems in his future sooner or later. But that's nothing compared to what might be on the horizon. Imagine the damage you'd see if a fucked-up manipulator like that got his hands on a social prostheses that actually worked.

Nobody but the autistic should have social prostheses, and Asperger's doesn't count. Geeks should learn to listen to other people before building robots to do it for them. Otherwise you're going to get cyborg sociopaths - some weird combination of Terminator, American Psycho, and Cyrano de Bergerac. Picture a crazy fucker who lacks basic human empathy, but the robots whispering in his ears have it. Then consider that the robots have no understanding or responsibility for what their masters do with the information. Does that really sound like a good idea?

The answer, of course, is no. It sounds like a terrible idea. Although it does sound like a good movie.

ACM Interview With Alan Key

Q: What should Java have had in it to be a first-quality language, not just a commercial success?

A: Like I said, it’s a pop culture. A commercial hit record for teenagers doesn’t have to have any particular musical merits. I think a lot of the success of various programming languages is expeditious gap-filling. Perl is another example of filling a tiny, short-term need, and then being a real problem in the longer term. Basically, a lot of the problems that computing has had in the last 25 years comes from systems where the designers were trying to fix some short-term thing and didn’t think about whether the idea would scale if it were adopted. There should be a half-life on software so old software just melts away over 10 or 15 years.

It was a different culture in the ’60s and ’70s; the ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) and PARC culture was basically a mathematical/scientific kind of culture and was interested in scaling, and of course, the Internet was an exercise in scaling. There are just two different worlds, and I don’t think it’s even that helpful for people from one world to complain about the other world—like people from a literary culture complaining about the majority of the world that doesn’t read for ideas. It’s futile.

I don’t spend time complaining about this stuff, because what happened in the last 20 years is quite normal, even though it was unfortunate. Once you have something that grows faster than education grows, you’re always going to get a pop culture.

Rick Olson Works For ENTP

There are two pictures of Rick Olson here.



In the first one, he's wearing a yellow shirt and a rational expression.

The second picture has him in black and white, snarling at his own caption.



I believe more responsible people than myself are already getting this fixed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gyminee Sucks; Usability Is Why

Sleep Is Good: Get More



After watching the Peepcode screencast on productivity, I made it a goal to get healthier amounts of sleep. After I got Streaks, I got much, much better at achieving my goals much, much faster (which is a blog post in itself). Recently I was showing Streaks to a guy from my acting class and as an example showed him the "8 hours of sleep" calendar, where I had a streak running for weeks. "Eight hours of sleep," he chuckled. "If you get eight hours of sleep a day, you're a lucky man."

I do, and I am. It's important to get enough sleep. At the extreme of sleep deprivation is psychosis and hallucination. You start seeing shit that isn't there.



Even modest levels of sleep deprivation cause cognitive impairments, hostility, and decreased job satisfaction. That's why people say "sleep on it." Nine times out of ten, if you're pissed off about something, you'll be less cranky after a nap. Most people will chuckle at that and think, "yeah, but not me." No, I mean you. Yes, you. And you. You can't get around the basic realities of being human.

However, sometimes your sleep schedule gets out of whack. If you want to fix it, the steps are not necessarily easy, but they are simple. Most people think there's some kind of sharp delineation between morning people and night owls. I'm most often a night owl, but I've deliberately become a morning person several times. It's simple.



All you have to do to become a morning person is get up early in the morning and do something right away. Keep doing that for several days and boom, you're a morning person. As I said, it's simple, but it's not necessarily easy. Recently my internal clock got so jumbled I was routinely getting up at 2pm and going to sleep around 4am. Yesterday it got in the way of my being able to do or say anything useful at all, and I decided I'd had enough. I took some Nyquil at midnight and woke up at 7am. I got started doing stuff when I woke up; all I have to do is stay awake today, go to bed at night, and at some point during the day use hypnosis to experience deep relaxation.

I'll get to the hypnosis in a second. First, though, when I say I used Nyquil to knock myself out, and I say I need to stay awake all day, to a lot of people it'll seem logical if the next step is using coffee to make sure I stay awake til bedtime. No. Fail. Coffee is evil. Coffee is a terrorist.



For whatever reason, using a stimulant to speed yourself up messes with your internal clock a lot more than using a depressant to slow yourself down. I'm sure a doctor could tell you why this is, and, since I've been reading a lot of medical books recently, I'm equally sure another doctor could tell you why this isn't. Doctors argue with each other almost as much as programmers; I say almost because they tend to swear less and back up their claims with research more.

Anyway, I know this coffee thing is true for me, and it's true for a lot of other people as well, probably all of them. If you want to have a healthy internal clock, you should avoid caffeine, especially at the levels of intake which many people in programming keep up. Long story short, I won't be using coffee to ensure I stay awake; I'll just work out, the way I normally do, and the physical activity will keep me going.

Now the hypnosis thing, that's different. I know how that works, and it's true for everybody. If you use hypnosis for deep relaxation, on a regular basis, you establish deep relaxation as a normal component of your daily rhythm. Anything you make a habit of tends to find some kind of balance with all your other habits, and deep relaxation is no exception.



I got some e-mail from some lunatic who told me you can't manipulate yourself into sleeping unless you're weak-willed; this has nothing to do with hypnosis. In fact if you have such strong, irrational, and irrelevant negative associations with hypnosis specifically, you can skip hypnosis, because it doesn't really matter. Any powerful relaxation technique will get you the same results, and there are plenty from yoga or the Buddhist traditions which you can use instead.

The important element is a regular pattern of daily deep relaxation. If you go into a state of deep relaxation every day, your sleep patterns will normalize themselves. One caveat: it's not at all unusual for people with chronic sleep deprivation to fall asleep during their first experiments with deep relaxation techniques. It's a very natural response, and chronic sleep deprivation is so pervasive in industrialized cultures that if you speak enough English to read these words, you're at risk for it. But naps also reduce insomnia, so as potential side effects go, it's fairly unalarming.





Update: In the past I've succeded with this but this time around it's been utter fail. My sleep schedule's a total mess. I'll update this again when I figure out the fix.

Update: Solved the problem, needed to use hypnosis more regularly and get started on something the minute I woke up. But! It's 3 AM. My insomnia came back unexpectedly when I skipped a couple meals. Too tired to go into detail - I'm eating and then heading to bed - but there's research out there on hunger interrupting circadian rhythms. If you've got insomnia and you haven't eaten all day, chow down before practicing hypnosis, meditation, yoga, or whatever.

Update AGAIN: It took me a very, very long time, but it looks like I've kicked this. I moved back to my old apartment - the same one I lived in when I was getting up at 5am every morning and going to the gym - and resumed a morning-oriented schedule within a few days. The difference: windows. The morning-friendly apartment has huge windows facing the bed that fill the room with sunshine at dawn. (Note that it may be possible to fake this.)