February 28, 2006
Three time management bits

Three time management bits on the path to improvement....

A short while back Tom "Time Management for System Administrators" Limoncelli turned up on Perlcast - I got opportunity to listen to this last week and it's a good one for those thinking about how we use our time. I've got the book queued up on the shelf for after I finish some other reading, but from the interview I have already cadged one handy trick. Rather than being driven into email and chat first thing upon arrival at the office, sit down with your listmaking tool and do a quick morning review, thinking about and documenting your day as you'd like it to transpire. Though you will no doubt be pulled into one or more distractions, knowing what you aren't getting done has value approaching that of what you do get done. I've been using this trick the last few days and - while still crisis driven at times - it provides a greater sense of control and stability.

Along the lines of not being controlled by email, this becomes a repeated refrain in the LaPorte/MacArthur interview with Merlin Mann - that running one's life out of email is possibly the worst way to live it productively. Along the way Mann provides some hints to his lifedesign methods (many focused sites), getting to zero, and generally cracks witty. He may not like his picture, but it's a good interview.

Finally, Jacques Turbé provides a handy guide to deciding when tweaking your system is worse than using your system (hint: usually).

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Posted by esinclai at 09:54 PM
February 27, 2006
Art and Commerce

eVerse had an inspiring post Friday, which I quote in full:

Today we decided to have lunch in the cafeteria near Solis. While I was waiting for the waitress to bring the bill, with a new 1000 Uruguayan pesos banknote in my hand, my eye was caught by some fine script on the back of the note. Closer inspection revealed it to be a stanza from a poem by Juana de Ibarbourou, flanked on the left by the image of a shelf with her books (eight in total, among them "Perdida", "El Cántaro Fresco", and "Raíz Salvaje," which I vaguely remember). The front of the banknote is dominated by a beautiful picture of Juana, pensive and enigmatic.

I am proud that my country of origin has chosen to honor its cultural heroes, rather than its patriotic founders, in such a visible and perhaps uncommon way. I've been coming to Uruguay for years and this is the first time I noticed.

In 1998 I rediscovered a beautiful poem by Juana de Ibarbourou, an early 20th century poet once considered a candidate for the Nobel prize. I translated it as best I could and sent it to Jan Schreiber who re-rendered it into English poetic form. Here it is:

Take me Now (La Hora)

Take me now while the day's still new
and I'm holding dahlias bathed in dew.

Take me while shadows still refine
this thick, mysterious hair of mine.

Now with sweet flesh and delicate chin,
with limpid eyes, rose-petal skin.

Now while my feet dance round a ring
in living sandals made of spring.

Now while unbidden laughter swells,
bursts from my lips like shaken bells.

Afterwards, oh yes, I know
I'll have nothing left to show!

And then how useless your desire . . .
an offering on a funeral pyre.

Take me now while the day's still new,
while I hold the cactus-flower too!

Take me today. Don't leave me jilted
at night, my crown of blossoms wilted.

Today, not tomorrow O love, don't you see
the vine grows thick as the cypress tree?

This has led to some thinking and discussion at KJ homebase.... Who would you put on a US currency, which poet? We usually relegate our artists to the temporary medium of the postage stamp, but what if you had a poet to carry in your pocket each day ("Pomes Penyeach"!), transferring the thought and art as a part of your ongoing commerce?

AZ and I have been discussing the topic, and it's a toughie. I keep leaning toward William Carlos Williams or Lawrence Ferlinghetti as 20th Century poets who are innovative, definitively American and strong without being trapped in a too-common overview (e.g. Frost), too-controversial (Eliot?) or opening the floodgates to trickery (Cummings, despite his strengths) for ratification. Ferlinghetti, of course, would probably demur such acclamation (I've perceived him as dubious of the state at best); as a substitute, Gary Snyder speaks to a multinational and multi-natural America from the middle of the 20th century until today.

I keep coming back to Walt Whitman as the great 19th Century choice (or, perhaps, some of Dickinson) - though Whitman has his faults (and indeed, he celebrates them), he wrote movingly about what it is to be American, and also what it meant to be a divided America.

I think it would be a very interesting national conversation to have, to consider what makes a writer American (and by extension, what it means to be a citizen of any country), and what makes that American-ness important in a global world, be it in the visual arts or the word arts...

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Posted by esinclai at 07:31 AM
February 26, 2006
Two more bits of

Two more bits of Rockwell information.

First, AZ has posted some photos of our visit to the last days of the Rockwell Station (the community organization's goodbye party).

More photos, along with an extensive and growing set documenting the reconstruction, is available at Rockwell Station. Though I live in the hood, I only know of the guest bloggers, but not the genius (John?) behind the core site...

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Posted by esinclai at 09:06 PM
Pen Product Recommendation

A couple months ago, as part of my 'write more down' project, I rewarded myself by picking up a Namiki Vanishing Point fountain pen. These are very cool - they store the tip vertically behind a flap, rather than with a cap, so the pen access is fast and - relatively - safe.

However, once I finished using the included ink cartridge, I started to encounter problems. I was using the refillable cartridge with some Levenger house brand ink (I had a gift certificate and there's a Levenger outlet in the still-named-Marshall Field store near my office). Once I started using this, however, I began to experience some clogging of the fine tip of my pen; I could clean it every few days to recover, but it rapidly became annoying, and a part of my larger system had reduced in trust.

I changed last week to using Namiki brand ink, and the clogging has gone away. Consider this a consumer warning and/or recommendation.

Posted by esinclai at 11:37 AM
February 25, 2006
It Never Fails

If you find yourself walking in the city, and you have to walk through an intersection and around an SUV that has rolled into the pedestrian walkway, look at the driver.

They'll be on a cell phone. Guaranteed. And usually not using a handsfree.

Ideally, this would become a flickr tag.....

Posted by esinclai at 08:18 AM
February 24, 2006
sweet sweet sound

When it's quiet, at 11pm each evening here in the offices of KJP, you can hear two external drives quietly spin up to do their backup work on the PB G4 and the XP beast.

Such a lovely sound of security.

Posted by esinclai at 11:11 PM
February 23, 2006
The briefest of Mac Book Pro viewings

This evening I tooled by our local Apple store, to grab some replacement headphones and see if they had the Mac Book Pro on display. Not that I intended to buy one immediately but just because I was, well, curious. I've only seen a few reports (tuaw has one, and David Heinemeier Hanson has a nice post also)

I only got to play with it briefly, and I didn't get an opportunity to try and exploit the chipset, but the applications installed on the demo units (a mix of native Apple products and some non-native third party applications) were all pretty zippy in launch and basic execution - overall each aspect of the system felt nicely tuned and responsive. I know DaveK is interested in Java benchmarking, but I haven't seen anything posted as yet, and didn't have anything to try at the time.

These machines run all day, so I wasn't too surprised to feel them as very warm boxes. But they were quite warm to the touch.

In contrast to my 1Ghz PBG4, these have the larger backlit keyboard, which threw me a bit. The interkey distance is just a bit larger than I'm accustomed to, and it made typing tricky.

I didn't see any obvious flaws in the display models, certainly nothing like the hum and banding that has been reported - 4 is a small sample size, but I was fearing something dramatic.

All in all, impressive hardware. Food for thought, indeed (barring IIfx fears of course). I await more reports anxiously.

[Update 20060224: Zac Bir posts his initial positive impressions. ]

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Posted by esinclai at 10:04 PM
February 22, 2006
The Debate

I continue to struggle with devices.... I know they don't manage me, and they don't own me, but they have an awful weight on my time....

I'm bouncing these days between my old and creaky Nokia 6600, which is serviceable and multitasks, crashes only rarely, but doesn't do much in the way of input (T9 is better than a kick in the head, but not a whole lot better...), has a small screen for display purposes, has trouble keeping signal these days, and has no category support for tasks (critical to a reasonable eGTD implementation).

The Treo has a better keyboard, handles categories natively in the calendar (and transfers them from the desktop with reasonable acumen, thanks to Mark/Space's Missing Sync 5.x. But as blogged previously, it is just increasingly unstable, so untrustworthy (and trust, as all GTD readers will recall, is integral to having a system which works and which works with you). Add to this that some of the stability issues will necessarily be exacerbated by weird workarounds to provide quasi multitasking (think MultiFinder on MacOS way back in the day, or the joys that were serial port conflicts on IIfx machines), and I'm reluctant to pull it out (though I still did so tonight, devoting a couple hours to cleanup, upgrade and restoration).

I spent a little time looking at some of the current Windows Mobile 5 devices - Palm has one, HTC makes them in bulk for most of the telcos now in the US. They look a bit better in the abstract - a variety of keyboard and form factors, multitasking built in, more connectivity options. But it's still looking very windowsy - why use 2 taps when you could impose six instead? There's a lack of sync availability for OSX, unsurprisingly, though the Mark/Space engineers are working on it still. And it feels... well, it feels clunky and like a compromise.

Maybe I need to hold out for a while longer between my limping devices. April 1 would be a great time for the Steve to converge devices, though I admit that is a long bet at least (and a foolish one, though that hasn't stopped me in the past).

Or, as mon frere Mike has pointed out, paper does nicely (but paper isn't email on the go, though AZ may appreciate the silence). Certainly letting one's self become distracted by these overtly over-wealthed world issues is absurd.

Posted by esinclai at 10:23 PM
February 21, 2006

As mentioned previously, I've been going to the gym a bit of late, and the exercise and disconnecting is doing me some good.

However, I've been struggling a bit to readjust to the locker room. Gym, and locker rooms, were never kind to the scrawny teenager I was, and I have carried some of those reactions to the present day.

Quick observations from today's visit.

1) Those tattoos we all got? We still like them, but some need some touching up from, shall we say, canvas stretching.

2) I've noticed twice now gentlemen applying cologne to, to be delicate, rather personal areas normally shrouded in the locker room by a towel. Is this really done? Does anyone appreciate it? Truly?

3) Without fail, every half hour a phone in a locker will ring. There are some very nice ringtones out there, and some truly awful ones as well. Few benefit from the acoustics of a metal box (unlike, say PiL).

Posted by esinclai at 10:38 PM
February 20, 2006

AZ and I made it out in the frigid cold this weekend to catch Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

I went into it with guarded but high hopes. I'd attempted the proto-post-pre-post-modern-novel when I was an active English Major (as opposed to an English Major damaged quasi-technologist), and didn't make a lot of headway. What I do recall didn't seem to lend itself to film. But Mark Kermode on the BBC had slated it as one of his likely films of the year, which was heartening.

Cleverly, the film integrates that very struggle into its meta structure. This isn't the novel (but it is), and it isn't a film about making a film of the novel (but it is), nor is it about making a film about making a film about making a novel (but it is). It's all these twisty passages, all alike.

And it's a joy to watch. Take 1 part Extras to 1 part The Player to 1 part Masterpiece Theatre and you have about 1 third of the creativity this film expresses.

It's not likely to be around long, I fear - our theatre was sparsely populated with lit-geek types - so go now to see it on the big screen. And like Kermode, it may be on my list also, come December.

Posted by esinclai at 09:45 PM
February 19, 2006
Goodbye / Hello

This evening we took the last ride we'll get from the current Rockwell Stop on the Brown Line for the near future. Over the next six months the station will be destroyed, signals rebuilt, and station reworked to be ADA compliant and expanded to support 8 cars (which it won't actually be able to do for a few more years until the entire Brown Line project is completed sometime in, I suspect, 2009).

The Greater Rockwell Organization had organized a sunset ride on the L from Rockwell to Kedzie (also undergoing restructuring during this phase of the project), which was bittersweet and much fun. It was almost marred by the overzealous security guard warning us that we were not allowed to take photos on CTA property, but this 'everything changed since 9/11' attitude was quietly mocked and roundly ignored - see AZ soon for some snaps.

So long, friendly Rockwell station. I'll always remember you as the cutest station on the line!

AZ and I did get to welcome a new addition to our repertoire. Our little Rockwell Avenue has changed considerably since we moved into the neighborhood. We've got a nice bar/restaurant in the form of Rockwell's Neighborhood Grill, a new dry cleaner, an organic friendly minimart, a decent coffeeshop, and now the small Bosnian cafe - Art Cafe - has reopened, with additions to the fine fare AZ and I enjoyed on their first opening 3 years or so ago. They now have wood oven pizza in unique combinations. Tonight GRO organized a pizza party after our cold ride on the Brown Line, and the pizza - I sampled a vegetarian pizza with peas, onions, tomato and water chestnut, a ham and onion, and a onion, pepper and home-smoked meat - is truly delicious. AZ and I will be going back, soon and (I hope) often.

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Posted by esinclai at 10:16 PM
February 18, 2006
iWeb Adoption

Imagine my modicum of surprise when Ben Hammersley posted that he's moved to using iLife '06's iWeb as his weblog production tool:

So what happened to Movable Type?:
I’m using iWeb, and I like it. There I admitted it. Forgive me, web purists, but this is really nice.

He makes a decent argument - it's easier to maintain, a lack of comment spam (implied), and "It Just Works" come high on his list. And the relief that unlike what he does with his day job (write books on Movable Type, configure webloggetry for The Guardian, etc), he doesn't have to futz with it much.

Combine this with the wedding invitation AZ and I received today pointing to an iWeb created wedding website, and... could this be the leading edge of simple desktop tools bringing the ends closer to the desires for more people?

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Posted by esinclai at 04:48 PM
February 17, 2006
The problem, defined

AZ and I have one of those sleek Ikea beds, which has these two little winged sidetables attached, where the alarm clock, glasses case and current bedside reading ends up. I've realized of late that this stack is a microcosm of my focus problem (or, perhaps, evidence of my interstitial feeding success).


Bedside Books

From the top:

"Virginia Woolf: A Biography" (Quentin Bell)
"Moby-Dick (Penguin Classics)" (Herman Melville)
"The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Vintage)" (Jane Jacobs)
"The Working Poor : Invisible in America (Vintage)" (David K. Shipler)
An Oikos Tree Catalog
"Getting Things Done : The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" (David Allen)
"Made in America" (Bill Bryson)
"Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer" (Antonino D'Ambrosio)

All these are in varying degrees of completeness and focus, but all of them are in enough focus that they get touched periodically. Soon, some must roll off to completeness - they're beginning to feel the pull of gravity, regardless!

Posted by esinclai at 10:28 PM
February 16, 2006

Clearing out a few notes here so I can write about more current projects...

Recently (actually, it was a month or so ago now...) the BookerPrize group read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. The novel explores a world of creation and utility in interesting ways; without giving away the full storyline, in an Orwellian twist, all people are equal, but some people are more equal than others.

NLMG is a dystopic novel in an interesting form, from my brief exposure to the genre. Most dystopic novels are about humans. NLMG is, literally a dystopic novel about the question of human vs non human, and human nature and creation.

Of particular note to this reader is the placement of people in realms of apartness; our primary character often makes her encounters in isolated and remote places (in the wilderness, at a boat capsized in the middle of a field). And we have repeated and telling scenes of disconnection, where the protaganist sits on the edges of highways (the paths where most people move from point to point), staring out of the windows of these roadway cafes of England (or something like England).

It's a good book, a fine enough read, and I still find myself playing with scenes to tease out the meaning. I found the larger message to be a bit hamhanded, but the interrelating messages at the interstices of Ishiguro's larger moral message - the interactions of people and experiences - to be deftly managed.

In the Sound Opinions scale of 'buy it, burn it or trash it' (which I will call 'buy it, borrow it (from the library) or trash it', I'd give this one a 'borrow it' ranking. It's not keeper literature, but its one to set on your nightstand for a week.

Posted by esinclai at 09:39 PM
February 15, 2006
Make Careful

Make Magazine (aka "The O'Reilly Lifestyle Magazine") sent out an interesting email to subscribers recently

The "How to Build a Power Tap" page in MAKE 05, page 112, contains an error that could cause an unsafe wiring situation. Before attempting this project, please read the corrections posted at http://makezine.com/05/quickanddirty.


The illustration shows a dual plug receptacle, which, when wired improperly, can cause a short circuit. Do not attach the wires from the extension cord to the screws on the same side of the receptacle, because it will create a short circuit.

Basically.... The magazine comes with a warning label. Be careful, don't be stupid, read the errata.

That said, the article about building your own wind-generated power is enticing indeed. I wonder if I could get association approval to power all the power-leeching devices in the unit here...

[Note that Make actually does have a disclaimer tucked into the TOC, stating that your safety is your own responsibility, you're building stuff that may be nonstandard, etc.]

Posted by esinclai at 06:52 AM
February 14, 2006

AZ, with her wily ways, has gotten me exercising again. It's proving to be beneficial all around. Setting aside the physical benefits, one of the greatest benefits has been the mental checkout/checkin one gets to do - on a machine or in the pool I find myself falling into old quasi-zen practices of breath counting or stroke counting, concentrating on the body and its reactions to its own movements ("why does my left arm not extend as smoothly on the backstroke as my right?"). After a session, I find that I've opened some new mental space that can get constricted over the course of the day.

I've developed a morning exercise of sorts as well, also courtesy of AZ. Each morning I get a copy of e-verse radio in my inbox. It includes a couple quotes, a poem, and some lighthearted lists. It's a perfect five minute read while sipping coffee and clearing your head practice - the mental check-in is the anti-zen, but the mental refreshment is welcome. Recommended.

Posted by esinclai at 09:50 PM
February 13, 2006
GTD 1-2-3 Notes III : Reviewing and Doing

The final GTD 1-2-3 teleconference this evening was on the review process and the doing process, along with some general tips and tricks. This was the loosest session in some ways, David, Meg and Marian clearly consider the review to be the most 'fun' part of the system - a time when you can develop new ideas and understand fully all those you have captured. I came away with a new desire to get my reviewing more engaged (at present I'm doing daily minireviews, which are keeping me on track, but not the full weekly review to expand my thoughts).

As usual, notes are available in opml and dynamic html formats.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:52 PM
February 12, 2006
the hilarity continues

Me: So... It says here Dick Cheney shot a hunting partner.
AZ: Was his name Scooter Libby?

If Jon Stewart, Jay Leno or any other topical comedian use this joke, we want a cut. Thanks.

Posted by esinclai at 07:46 PM
Mashin Nation

Courtesy of BS, a Chicago Blogger going by No Es Bueno has produced a keen little mashup,, musiCal.

In short, give it your last.fm and upcoming.org usernames, and it sucks in your data and matches upcoming events in your Metro(s) involving any of your top 50 artists on last.fm.


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Posted by esinclai at 07:43 PM
February 11, 2006
GTD 1-2-3 Notes II : Processing and Organizing

Some delay in getting these notes for GTD 1-2-3 (Session 2) cleaned and posted. The second session is on organizing and processing stages of GTD, and this area is one of the more touchy-feely of sections in GTD, I think. Where to keep lists and contexts straight, how to differentiate projects from subprojects is a very feel based transaction each time you do it. My notes, vague as they are, reflect that.

As usual, they're available as OPML, and as dynamic html.

I should look for an OPML to XOXO convertor sometime, to see how different they look....

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Posted by esinclai at 01:28 PM
February 10, 2006
A Tool Called Malice

Pandora or last.fm (me) should have a feature for this, - a genre of music good for writing documentation of test cycles. An autogenerated playlist pumped directly into the headphones to keep the brain alive and the fingers moving.

My current nominee is The Jam, the seminal mod/punk band that kick-started Paul Weller's career. The music and lyrics in combination form the perfect music for writing up test summaries.

The music is jaunty and jumpy, keeping your blood moving along. But then the lyrics are peppered with a biting and spitting cynicism that correlates nicely with failed test results and the bitterness of proposed workarounds. The occasionally romantic (for a girl, for old england) songs show hope for the positive tests.

A fine starting point is The Sound of the Jam, a 2003 compilation of the band's career, which ran from 1977 (with formation earlier) to 1982.

I owe JDU dearly for extolling the virtues of the band to me during our time together on the radio in the late 80s. I know I'd heard bits and pieces before he gave me my first taste (for free!), with a dessert of some Style Council (Weller's followup band, which took a softer tone to the bitterness), but with his encouragement and some well crafted mix tapes, the medicine has stuck for almost 20 years now (as evidenced by the second post referencing the Jam in a week). Thanks.

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Posted by esinclai at 07:18 PM

The Recent Changes Camp video has been posted a few days ago now. It's a big (123MB) quicktime download, but worth the wait and watch for several reasons.

First of all, it presents a nice snapshot of how a self-organizing conference is structured from the inside out, but also historically from the outside back in. In doing so, it also proselytizes the mechanism of open space conferences, for face to face collaboration in a semistructured style.

Secondly, it puts some moving images and faces on names one sees around on weblogs mailing lists and wikis, humanizing participants in an aggressively human undertaking. For example, I've had discussions with Eugene Eric Kim over the last few years, but seeing his face move - eyes flashing toward ideas - is kinda neat.

The snippets of discussion on topics are enticing, and worth capturing. Between forming an introduction to the wiki, and to wiki's future, one also gets a sense of how many things - technological and social - came out in discussion at the camp. Blending of personalities is, as always, keen.

Finally, the production by Geri Weis-Corbley is cleanly edited and moves quickly through the 20 or so minutes of the video.

Where next?

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Posted by esinclai at 06:19 AM
February 09, 2006
Watching the Campfire

37signals drops some more info on Campfire, as previously discussed.

From the list of v1.1 features (that is, things which aren't here yet), they have what sounds like a straightforward group chat application, good for small teams. Some of the 1.1s are a bit odd. For example, I can't see the 'Off the Record' flying in organizations concerned with full record keeping, but the sweet spot for that sort of thing (enterprises) isnot the market for Campfire directly. There is overlap - what if you're a design firm contracted to a BigCo; surely you'll be able to flag that feature on a per-room basis. Other bits in 1.1 sound quite good - an API regularly proves out in collaboration tools, especially chat tools (build alerts, bug notifications, etc).

The other post, about celebration of small wins, uses Campfire discussion as an example, and shows a nice collaborative fostering environment which can occur in RTC. Celebrate improvements and then discuss how better to improve next.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:39 AM
Appcasting Commoditization

In TidBITS' service ExtraBITS this morning, Glenn Fleishman highlights the new Sparkle, a new service to provide a standard toolkit for applications to appcast themselves. Handy, and this comes yet closer to some of the discussions David and I have had about How Updates Should Work.

Happily, Glenn overlaps with some of our ideas; signing of code, the potential for centralized services like VersionTracker or MacUpdate (though it is worth noting that our frustration with these sites, and our relative pleasure with Apple's Updater, was the progenitor of this conversation), and so forth. Maybe things will move forward nicely.

When Fraser Speirs first tossed the Appcasting meme about, it looked cool. Now it looks cool-er thanks to a toolkit.

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Posted by esinclai at 06:34 AM
February 08, 2006
Gig 'Em

The news that the presidential appointee (George Deutsch) in the dustup over restricting statements by researchers at NASA has further ethical concerns of his ownis really not too surprising. Except at high levels, appointee vetting is probably not as strong as it might be - campaigns run on the backs of volunteers, and there are many of them to reward. If they fall in with your base's beliefs, they are an asset, not a risk. So when Deutsch's statement that he was a graduate of Texas A&M University was shown to be false, his resignation was to be expected. This was an error of demonstrable fact, rather than merely insisting on the word 'theory' being attached repeatedly to the Big Bang idea, or limiting reporter access to George Hansen for presenting data in conflict with the administration's policies. Those are "differences of opinion", apparently - thus more meaningful to our current administration's shaky stand viz-a-viz science, but not a firing offense.

What is good to see is that this outing was brought to light by a fellow TAMU graduate, Nick Anthis, who writes a weblog on science, politics and policy from his posting in Oxford UK as a Rhodes Scholar.

I was nominally a two percenter during my years at TAMU (note to employers: I did receive my degree), inactive in many school activities beyond the campus radio station, and some work with Amnesty International I otherwise restricted my activities to friends, books and work.

But my distrust of organized genuflection to tradition is not the same as my deep respect for core values. So this is probably as fine a time as any to remember the Aggie Code ("An Aggie does not lie, cheat or or steal, or tolerate those who do").

And so, a new daily mantra for today to reflect upon.

[EDIT: I've deleted 3 duplicate comments in this thread and edited one by Brian which provided George Deutsch's phone number.]

[Update: In the comments Tim Harris feels that my posting was naive, probably because of some hasty editing of mine this morning. My point is that the current administration does not consider sidestepping truth in research or scientific debate to be a firing offense, but the embarrassment of a falsified resume is. I have a long involvement with scientists and empirical thinkers, and the reasoned debate about facts and how to act upon them - which I feel is too often sidestepped by politicians (particularly those in the current administration who I may disagree with on interpretations) - is a way forward for our culture. Moreover, Hansen and Anthis have discussed that facet of this issue with more direct engagement than I can, and I prefer to leave that to them. Mere repetition is an echo chamber. ]

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Posted by esinclai at 06:45 AM
February 07, 2006
The Jam would be Proud

Dorian Lynskey writes in the Guardian about a fairly cool project. Mapping music of the 20th Century onto the Harry Beck London Underground map.

The map is available in a downloadable form (pdf) for chinscratchin' browsing, and available for sale from the London Transport museum as well.

Suitable for Framing!

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Posted by esinclai at 10:06 PM
Work Work Workety Work

Think you're working too much? According to this summary in the Economist, you may be working less than you think. Or at least less than your parents were.

Basically, as politicians over the years have demonstrated, depending on how you define something determines how your demonstrate what those things mean. So work is not just work but also, well, things like work.

Along with the nice touch of the graph title ("The Hammock Economy"), the Economist also has the grace to include a direct link to the FRB document (pdf) under discussion.

Posted by esinclai at 06:44 AM
February 06, 2006
Mmmmm... Pie

This weekend, AZ and I hooked up with Brian and Shylo for a little food action at Kitchen.

Brian's written about Kitchen before, and he introduced us to its charms a few months back. Since Brian and I had some ChiBlogger Geeketry to discuss, we met there before the ladies, had some coffee and used the free wifi for a bit to look at data.

Subsequently, we got down to the business of eating. Kitchen's methodology is that they are a shared use kitchen for lease to various chefs. Today the chef was barely using the kitchen - he was a wood oven pizza maker, who wheels around his grill for events and parties and had it set up on the sidewalk out front. AZ and my take on the pizza - tasty, but the dough could have been a bit flakier toward the center (note, of course, that the two of us are fans of the NY style of pizza, not the Chicago heart attack blob). The sauce and cheese were fine, and the charring on the crusty edge was enjoyable.

After lunch, I picked up some treats, shocking AZ... Miniscule cupcakes with peanut butter (think the most decadent Reese's Peanut Butter Cup possible), and a slice of Maple-Pecan Pie - both by a vendor called "Hoosier Mama Pies". The filling was as sweet as the name, but the maple made a nice change from the usual molasses base. Apparently Haney has pastry chefed around the area for a while; I'll be looking for more pie soon...

I expect Kitchen has some interesting times ahead. First, I'm surprised they haven't been swamped with business - though sitting at the Chicago Francisco stop has some impact on this - Ravenswood Manor is a charming area, but it's not exactly high traffic central. And secondly, at the end of the summer when the Francisco stop goes under the knife, will people still make the short trek over?

Posted by esinclai at 08:31 PM
February 05, 2006

A week or so ago, we discovered that my pal Mike's childhood home has been purchased by a mutual friend of ours from childhood. It's lovely news, for several reasons.

First of all, it brings this place of memory back into the extended family, but recontextualizes it as a generational shift. The person moving in is an adult now (as we all have become), while when Mike moved out he was a late adolescent (though having known him lo these many years, the man he has become was indeed visible then).

It's also led to some fine writing by Mike, as he revisits his experiences in the overall house, the yard, the basement, and his own room.

For my part, the house has many memories for me - not as deep as his, but memories of many hours with Mike, Suz and his family. I'm pleased to know who the new owner is, and that its in good hands to create new memories.

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Posted by esinclai at 09:50 PM
February 04, 2006
Life Moment

Today AZ and I ran around to take care of some shopping errands (this was, happily, painless, unlike my usual anticipation of shopping that doesn't involve technology).

One of our stops was the local Pearl Art Center for some gifts (and new fountain pen ink for me, as the stuff I have seems to clog unnecessarily). At the checkout, the student discount query took an unexpected turn...

"Do you have a student... or, er, faculty? i.d. for a discount?"

I guess my youthful looks are fading....

Of course, when I look in the mirror, I still see myself as the 21 year old I once was. No faculty member he!

Posted by esinclai at 09:53 PM
February 03, 2006
GTD ~= PM || lists = lists

The other day I had a discussion that touched on whether GTD was applicable for groups, or just for individuals. In my recollection, a hinge question was whether GTD is time management or is it project management.

In essence, I currently come down believing that GTD has large overlap with project management, particularly on an individual level - enough that there is a great degree of applicability, if not in all details, certainly in mindset.

In the GTD "system" any multi-step commitments is defined as a project, but (as the saying goes) you don't DO the project, you do the actions which get that project to a state of doneness. In most of the current literature this is defined on an individual level - through an ongoing process of collection, processing, organizing, reviewing and acting one understands both what your commitments and projects are, but also what needs to be accomplished and completed.

In a group setting, I think these same ideas come back through two vectors.

First of all, each actor on a project should have that sense defined for themselves (and that same sense has the tricky to accomplish goal of fitting within all other commitments on that same person's plate).

On a second level, a project has the same elements inside itself, defined at the beginning and then redefined (in a continuous process) until completion. At any given moment on a project, there are things that are the Next Action - they are either on the critical path, or they are the only item that can possibly be moved forward. There are new ideas to be integrated back into the bigger picture, new subgoals to be oriented.

What is common to both project success and to personal accomplishment is the same - one has to understand, as clearly as possible, what the goals and means are, and what the current state is. If this can be done in a group, each member is more empowered to complete.

There can be distinctions on the day to day level - though lists (the key tool of GTD) are used in both places, the internal and external complexities of most group projects require more management - they have more distinctive interdependencies, which can be difficult to list at all times The understanding of ownership can be much more fluid in a team setting than on one's own lists. But the core - and simple - idea is the same. Know what is going on, and know what will be needed to go on.

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Posted by esinclai at 10:45 PM
February 02, 2006
Continuous Strategy

One of the innovations in the New York Times' redesign of their business section has been the new Saturday columns that feature pick hits from the online and print world.

This past week was a deliciously enticing pointer to an article in the January 2006 Harvard Business Review by Mankins and Steele about corporate strategy and staleness. In absence of a subscription, I can't get to the full article (well, maybe the library, bastion of goodness, will help), but the abstract is provocative. In effect, strategic plans fail because as soon as the calendar starts rolling, managers and projects - even if they were directly involved in the strategic planning process - start moving and deciding based on local needs. With discipline and luck, these can fit in the strategic plan. But in many cases they diverge, and through accretive factors by the end of the year the strategy has not moved, and the divergence of many decisions and projects can look remarkably like stagnation.

The authors argue that an ongoing strategy process is more effective. Constant discussion and growth leads to an ongoing strategy focus, rather than a pdf file on a share somewhere.

I had a conversation with a friend about similar issues sometime around the holidays. Regarding small companies, they always must try to move briskly in meeting the demands of their users, customers and investors, and important that they stay nimble. But the actors also need to focus on maintaining a larger set of goals - the product and service futures, the employee culture, those many items more intangible than making the buttons on the right side blue when in an onHover action. These larger goals should be relatively unchanging, but the means of meeting them may vary from quarter to quarter.

Merging the two discussions, it occurs to me that another ingredient is internal transparency. Rather than an organizational strategy handed down from on high, keep the strategy alive and available to people. Make it fluid. Heck, make it full of wikity collaborative goodness (my first thought upon reading the NYT summary, fwiw).

If everyone has some share in the strategy - if not in the highest level decisions, but in the understanding and undertaking, it will prove much more effective - and more strategically accomplishable as well.

Posted by esinclai at 08:55 PM
February 01, 2006
Minority OS Report

How long can it take to build an updater that executes on Mac OSX?

On 18 January, PalmOne released an updater for the unlocked Treo 650, but in the Windows build only - users of the OSX platform were advised that

Mac users: The Treo 650 Update is not yet available for Macintosh but should be shortly. Please check back for your update. When available, the Mac system requirement will be Mac OS X 10.2.6 to 10.4.x.

which is helpful, but... not very useful.

As my Treo has become increasingly unstable with frequent resets that appear to be (from various online reading) potentially hardware related ("Chunk Overlocked" errors on built-in as well as third party applications when the device goes to sleep), but just as likely poor NVRAM management related, I'm anxious to work through solutions -- this weekend will be a hard-reset and naked operation (e.g. no applications and contacts) execution, which will be a decent test I hope. If that doesn't point to a culprit, maybe the update will (time to boot the PC...), or maybe I'll have to negotiate with PalmOne for a repair. Lord knows what it'll cost - I'm out of warranty coverage, if my math is correct.

The real pity is that not 6 weeks ago I felt comfortable enough with the 650 to advise a friend it was a good purchase. It may still be - hopefully I'm an isolated case. But if not, whither? Back to the stability but poor PIM functionality of S60?

No wonder I seem to be running a phone purchase a year.

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Posted by esinclai at 10:04 PM
Such a cold, white Sissinghurst -- but I'm so snug in my tower with your lovely fur tippet round my shoulders, keeping me warm like love -- so I thought I would werite you just one last January word before retiring to the somewhat Amazonian embraces of Mademoiselle [ Daughter of France ] for the evening -- and tomorrow it will be February, and although we may be in for a horrible wintry time we shall know that spring is always round the corner.

Vita Sackville-West to Harold Nicolson, 31 January 1956.

I finished the letters last night, a good wintry bedside reading. What a bittersweet joy it must have been for Nigel Nicolson to collect and edit these letters, gaining a deeper understanding of his parent's relationship and love. Strongly recommended.

Posted by esinclai at 06:52 AM