Thursday, February 20, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Author Gary Marcus is a New York University psychologist. In his book, "Kluge: the haphazard construction of the human mind" (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), he provides an accessible and entertaining case for the human brain as something of an evolutionary mishmash. After providing a raft of evidence that suggests that if we were crafted by an Intelligent Designer, He was either a shockingly absent-minded engineer, or was off His meds, Marcus gets to the gist of it:
"It would be foolish to routinely surrender our considered judgment to our unconscious, reflexive system, vulnerable and biased as it often is. But it would just as silly to abandon the ancestral reflexive system altogether: it's not entirely irrational, just less reasoned. In the final analysis, evolution has left us with two systems, each with different capabilities: a reflexive system that excels in handling the routine and a deliberative system that can help us think outside the box."
In his concluding chapter, he even gives 13 suggestions for some strategies to deal with our sneaky and persistent "ancestral system." While not earth-shaking, they are sensible and useful. The last one leaves me thoughtful: "Try to be rational." In a host of ways, that's certainly a good idea, at least when it protects us from the more egregious traps our wee brains routinely fall for. And yet. There are times, surely, when the grand delusion is both more spontaneous and more creative.
At any rate, it's a fun and fast read.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
The very next day, Gmail, the email program of Google, arguably one of the most technologically sophisticated companies in the world, again, simply failed, although it was repaired far more quickly.
Explanations for both are pretty lame. Yeah, the Firewall made a routing error. Oops, there was a little software bug.
That seems like quite a coincidence. It looks more like a hackfest to me.
Welcome, all, to the new era of vulnerability. Our entire communications network, and all the business conducted on it, is held together by means of physical, and virtual connections far beyond my understanding or ability to secure. And when somebody messes with it, it's hard to know just who, or why.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
One of my key projects was to update my website. I had to recast what wasn't much more than a set of bookmarks and CV files, to a presentation to the world about how I hope I might be able to help other libraries (and not just libraries) move forward. There are three ways: through speaking, through writing, and through consulting.
I have to say that I really don't like most of the websites I see. I find myself inclining toward a minimalist aesthetic in many areas of my new life. To me, that means an understanding that the most precious resource on our planet is attention. I really don't want to be shunted around 16 panels, 42 photos, 6 Flash videos, 4 Next Pages, and pop-ups. Who has the time?
After a whole lot of thought, I whittled jlarue.com down to 8 pages. That feels ... about right, especially since I can update the home page with some fresh content every week or so.
I started with a Kompozer (open source web editor) template called Simple Beauty. Everything was created from within Ubuntu LTS 12.04. The template had the right structure, but I didn't like (for this new website) the background or default font size. After a couple of tips from colleagues, I dived into the style.css file and changed some settings.
Then I went through about 8 iterations of tweaking each page (and I'm still not done with one of them, especially Testimonials). And of course, I kept finding typos, grammatical glitches, and so on.
I have to say that during the past few days I have awakened so excited that I was literally shaking. And so far, every day has delivered possibilities (of surprisingly interesting, and incidentally lucrative projects) I never imagined in my carefully articulated business plan.
Lesson? I guess it's this: PLAY. Open yourself to the universe and laugh when it delivers.
Oh, and about those boots. Some 37 years ago I was working as a truck driver (produce delivery). I bought a pair of fairly expensive work boots (no steel toe, but steel shank, Vibram soul, double-lined leather). The company that made them, Supreme, is (it seems) long gone. They offered a lifetime warranty - hard to deliver when they're not around anymore. But their boots continue to be awesome: warm, comfortable, just amazingly durable. (Could this be, one wonders, why they are no longer extant? They did their job too well - like a lightbulb factory whose bulbs never died.) Today, here in Colorado, it was a particularly cold morning. I put on my boots and brushed the snow off the walk. I found myself realizing that I have had, worn, and traveled in these boots longer than I have known almost any one else in my life. This is not just a pair of boots. It's a relationship.
And they are spectacularly green.
What, you may ask, is the connection between my website and my boots? Well! Umm. OK, here's the best I've got: it's good to be green.
Monday, January 20, 2014
[x] Wrap-up my job as Director of Douglas County Libraries.
While I don't claim to have resolved all issues, I think I worked through a good set of them. I left the organization in good shape, and stepped out at a time when the next director will have a chance to put his or her stamp on things. I loved my time at DCL, and am confident that the institution will continue to do well. There are so many smart and capable people there. But whether it does or not, I'm done as director, effective 18 January 2014.
[-] Start my new career.
I began by crafting a business plan. It's pretty solid, I think. And I've sent out the word. But there is much to be done.
- My website is old, and needs refocusing and refreshing. But I have spent a lot of time thinking about the services I can offer, the value I can add. I'm also having a lot of fun poking around the various templates and possibilities.
- My >1,000 contacts have been whittled down to something like current.
- My email contacts and email systems have been consolidated and tweaked.
- My workflow systems have been thoughtfully re-worked.
[ ] Respond to those who want to dance with me.
Amazing. Already, I've been contacted by people offering me all kinds of jobs that ... fall completely outside my business plan.There are three responses:
1. Take it! The market knows best.
2. Investigate it. Take a step into it to see if it's a good fit.
3. Reject it. Stay focused.
So where am I?
Just a day into "retirement," I find myself waking up with enthusiasm, curiosity, and eagerness. I am being contacted by people who are asking for (in many cases) things I never anticipated, but just might know how to deliver. I feel stretched, engaged, energized.
For those I have worked with: thank you.
For those I will work with: I so look forward to that.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
The first is an open source mind map application, run from within a browser. It has a wonderfully clear and intuitive design. Things tend to do about what you think they'll do. It's called MindMup. I've used it on my laptop and on my iPad. The interface automatically adjusts to the device it's running on. The desktop version has sensible keyboard commands (Enter to make a sibling, tab to make a child), a good set of features (links are live, everything can be dragged around, expanded or collapsed), runs quickly, and saves to Google Drive or Dropbox. It will print, export PNG, PDF, HTML, or Freemind (and a few others).
Here's my first map:
Saturday, December 14, 2013
It happens I was driving south on University, just north of Arapahoe High School yesterday just exactly as this was happening. I was passed by a mobile command unit, and saw all the red lights congregating a few blocks ahead of me, so turned around and avoided it. I didn't find out what had happened until later.
The shooter, an 18 year old student, is said to have posted on Facebook, "the Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em die. Climate change: Let 'em die. Gun violence: Let 'em die. Women's Rights: Let 'em die. More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?"
(Addition: the shooter was apparently seeking a specific teacher, "whom students described as a librarian at the school.")
Suzanne sent me this link to a Bill Moyer's site: "Guns in America after Newtown." It includes the following facts:
- Number of people killed by guns, including homicide, suicide and accidental death since Newton (that have been reported by the media): 11,437
- Estimated real number of people killed by guns, including homicide, suicide and accidental death since Newtown (using most recent CDC estimates for yearly data): 33,173
- Total gun deaths in 2010 (the latest year for which there are CDC records): 31,672
- Number of those who were children or teens: 2,694
- Number of school shootings since Newtown: 27
- Number of guns in the US: 310,000,000
- Number of guns per person: About one gun for every American
- Countries with more guns per person: None
- Runner up: Yemen, with about 11 guns for every 20 Yemenis
- Total spent by the NRA (2011): $231,071,589
- Total spent by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the largest gun control organization (2011):$2,844,489
- Number of licensed firearms dealers in the US: 134,997
- Number of grocery stores in the US: 37,053