Archive for 2009

Back to the Future

A few weeks go I went to Toronto for FutureRuby (whose website seems to have died with the event) I wasn’t in any hurry to leave, hoping to avoid rush hour going around the lake. I checked the chicago traffic site, however, and found that there little variation in travel times, and in fact it tended to increase throughout the day, rather than showing a rush hour spike.

Once I finally did get going, I realized several hours in that I had forgotten my shoes. I was wearing sandals, and since the shoes are normally in the entryway, I overlooked them while packing.

I figured I’d take the trip in two strides. I thought I actually made it to Flint in time to look at the art museum, but I forgot to account for the time change. So I headed off to a couple of parks, including stepping stone falls, a great monument of concrete and algae.

For a change of pace, I stayed the night at a bed and breakfast outside Flint. Fairly nice place; housing for a large family turned to new uses, but very quiet during the week. One good idea was the outdoor play area for children.

The Canadian boarder guard seemed very wary, but she let me through with any trouble. The people at the BNB had assuaged my fears about currency conversion; there is a currency exchange just on the other side of the gate (almost too close, really) The dollar coins worked out fairly well; it’s a shame the US gave up too early it’s on dollar – these kinds of shifts take time for the novelty to wear off.

Toronto is a nice place, although if the hotel is any judge I don’t know if it’s affordable. Toronto is a city of neighborhoods. I could walk from the main shopping strip, through chinatown, to eclectic areas proclaiming organic food. It’s probably a good thing it’s so walkable. The FutureRuby kit included a weekend transit pass, which I promptly lost. As best I can figure, it fell out of my pocket while getting dinner Friday night.

I started following the #futureruby tag on Twitter for breaking news. It looked kind of interesting when people were discussing the restaurant recommendations. It looked kind of scary when the conference started and the floodgates opened.

There were some excellent and varied talks, though of course I didn’t have to go to Canada for the straight up talks – they are already starting to appear on InfoQ. I went to try and pick up some programmer society, which is of course is a struggle. I was fairly lost during the parties, though I did manage some conversations, and met Collin Miller, a fellow dreamer looking beyond text editors. One thing I’ve run across during this is that I don’t have a good name for textless programming. Structural editing is the best I’ve come up with.

Coming back across the border, I got in a slow line and figured “great, I’ve got a tough one” but I got passed through pretty quickly. I guess I don’t look too suspicious.

I figured I’d keep going until I got tired; I was getting a little weary at one point, but after stopping for dinner, I was good to go the rest of the way home.

The local ChicagoRuby group had a meeting the following weekend, and had put out a call for lightning talks. I thought that an overview of FutureRuby would be topical, and a lightning (short) talk would be a manageable way ease into presentations. I didn’t really consider how hard it would be to compress even my meager notes into ten minutes, however. All and all it went pretty well, although it took a day of writing, editing, and practice runs to compress it down.

Shortly after finishing that out, I moved my bookmarks from MyHq to Delicious (a long planned project) so that I could make all the FutureRuby links more accessible.

The silence test

I’m back in something of a holding pattern. The company expects to be slow for a few months, with things hopefully picking up afterwards. It doesn’t make sense to hire anyone new just now, but there may be a call for expansion later. In the mean time, things might be slow enough to run at reduced time.

At least once the current project is over; I didn’t have hardware or specs until somewhat late, and then I had my reflection time scheduled out. When I returned, there was catching up, and getting pulled into an abortive ISO audit. Now it’s a matter of catching up, with boards arriving any day, due dates looming, and the next vacation just around the corner.

Back to the subject at hand.

One of the things that struck me about talking with my boss, was our diametrically opposed means of coping with an uncomfortable situation. I clam up, while he talks on and on. The net effect is that I get caught up on all the industry gossip and company plans. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily mind being a little less out of the loop most of the time, but it doesn’t make for much of a conversation.

Just about a year ago, I made a note to write about silence. Specifically, the way I tend to greet uncomfortable subjects with silence. The funny thing I only really became conscious of it from watching my father.

I’m certainly quiet by default, but I can get going on those rare occasions where I’m fluent in the topic of discourse. Unfortunately, my interests have a very small intersection with the people around me, and I have little to add to most topics of conversation. This was especially pronounced last year when I went to North Carolina with a bunch of my parent’s friends. Their main topics tend to be dancing and motorcycles.

When it’s a definite question, I have and idea of what might be at work. I know people won’t like I really want to say, so I don’t say it, and hardly even admit to myself the reason. I guess it’s a form of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Or perhaps it’s cognitive dissonance Chris Crawford talked about, as I sit there searching for a way to harmonize the opposing forces of social acceptance and honesty.

So I’ve got a theory I’m calling the silence test, which I don’t remember nearly enough (perhaps getting it properly written down will help a little). If I’m at a loss for words, it might just be a sign of cognitive dissonance, indicating I’m not being true to myself. I need to stop and reflect on what’s going on. Probably a silent process was well, but perhaps it will clear things up for the future.

I feel like there is more I should think about, but it hasn’t gone anywhere for the last week, and I’m quite preoccupied at present. I don’t want to wait a few years this time ;^)

Blair Reynold’s response

Yes, I did send it to you in response to your online material. Great to hear back from you. It has been a while. I always enjoy getting a blast from the past, which sometimes does happen in my e-mails. And I’m glad you found my material interesting. You seemed to do a pretty good job of picking up in the main points.

I am a process theologian, and process theology is a very technical branch of theology. I’ve been going online, trying to make it as easy as I can for laity. If you have any questions, please let me know.

You raised a point about emotion. As you are probably aware, in the West, we generally take a dim view of emotion, seeing it as something wholly subjective, just floating around in our own heads, irrational, etc. I take a more favorable view. I view emotion as our most basic experience. At rock bottom, all experience is basically unconscious affective flux. It’s emotion that bridges the gap between the “out there” and the “in here.” Our experience of connectedness with the rest of reality, our experience of causality, is primarily an affective one. We do not see the puff of air make the eye blink, but we do feel it do so. So, if principles are to have any real meaning, they must be rooted in some more primal, affective level of experience.

I think that principles have meaning because they point to a consistency in the universe. Everything is a synthesis of both consistency and change. That means principles can reflect reality, but, of course, only in very abstract way. If you describe me as a lifelong train buff, which I am, you have pointed to something unchanging or absolute about me. However, that isn’t the whole story. You need to say more, to fully describe me. Now that I and can operate a steam locomotive, I’m not the same trainbuff I was 20 years ago. See what I mean?

It is true that I did not introduce any “proofs” for the existence of God, and was largely pointing to a God who would fulfill our quest for meaningfulness. However, in a way, that is a proof. We all seek and need meaning, and from what I see in reality, the system that generates the need generally satisfies it, so there must be a God. And this brings me to the knowability of God. A totally unknowable God would not be fulfilling, hardly beautiful. At the same time, a totally knowable God would be boring, too much like us to be interesting. If we are going to have a beautiful relationship with God, and I don’t see the point of having a God if we cannot do that, then God must be alike and yet different from us, knowable and also unknowable, mysterious.

Getting back to the issue of whether God is beyond all perception: I believe God is a concrete item in all experience. By virtue of the mutual sensitivity of all things, every entity is present, incarnate in every other, and this also includes God. Hence, God is a concrete item in any and all experience. We subconsciously experience a very direct, immediate flow of God’s feelings into ourselves. It is precisely because of this experience, that people came up with the notion of God. All our concepts, however imaginative they may be, always go back to some actual encounter with reality.
You are correct. I am viewing God as a personal being, a single, individual personality which is a synthesis of al personalities in the universe. To me, anything less than that, viewing God as, say, just as impersonal principle, depersonalizes and dehumanizes us.

My immediate response
> I am a process theologian, and process theology is a very technical branch

That’s interesting. A friend of mine who attended seminary said my viewpoint would be classified as process theology and pantheist. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given there was some degree of agreement between us.

>laity. If you have any questions, please let me know.

The main point I gathered from the wikipedia article was that god was not completely omnipotent, but did exert a continuous action (process) on the world toward a better state.

> You raised a point about emotion. As you are probably aware, in the West, we generally take a dim view of emotion, seeing it as something wholly

One of my reservations in responding was a certainty that I’d get caught out on one or more points, and I was right. I dismissed emotion on stereotype, without any further reflection on what it was and how that might apply.

> that bridges the gap between the “out there” and the “in here.” Our experience

If I follow you, emotion is the first level of mental processing, one step beyond raw sensory perception. Would you then hold that god has some immediate reaction to the changing state of the world, which would be his changing affective states?

>but we do feel it do so. So, if principles are to have any real meaning, they must be rooted in some more primal, affective level of experience.

A principle, in so far as we understand it, is a human invention which arises from human experience. Sort of what happens when the higher mental processes get ahold of things and try to make sense of them. If emotion is the shape of experience, this makes sense.

> I think that principles have meaning because they point to a consistency in

Meaning that while emotions may have an uncertainty about them, repeatability over time and space points to something ‘real’?

> the universe. Everything is a synthesis of both consistency and change.

So there is a sort of momentum or gravity that pulls on some changing position or state, which is also moved by other forces.

> meaningfulness. However, in a way, that is a proof. We all seek and need

Is this at all close to your philosophy?: “Humanity, through experience, comes to recognize certain principles of the world: gravity, solid/liquid/gas, life, etc. We generally consider these things to be ‘real’ because they accord with our experience. Humanity also tends to create god(s), and by the same reasoning, this points to something ‘real’”

> God must be alike and yet different from us, knowable and also unknowable, mysterious.

This seems to be an argument for why we describe god the way we do. It only takes on the force of reality in combination with the previous argument, that what we create must be a glimpse of deeper reality.

> God’s feelings into ourselves. It is precisely because of this experience,

Would you consider god the source of the subjectivity that humanity perceives in emotions?

> You are correct. I am viewing God as a personal being, a single, individual personality which is a synthesis of al personalities in the universe. To me, anything less than that, viewing God as, say, just as impersonal principle, depersonalizes and dehumanizes us.

Would it be at all accurate to say “If god is the sum of the whole universe, he cannot be less than any of the component parts. Therefore, if we are personal beings, god is (at least) a personal being.”?

Standing at the precipice with nowhere to fall.

I’ve been taking some time out for fast and reflection. I try to do this every few months, although most of time I get lost in trivialities. Into this fell a transcript of a speech by Steve Jobs

‘[...] for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”‘

My answer isn’t very often ‘yes’.

The job I took out of college programming games has turned into a lot of other things. Much of it is IT work, where things could break at any time, often break in the same boring way twice, and you spend half your time waiting for computers. The programming projects I do work on are a smattering of subjects, which are only interesting in their technical execution. Some are actually starting to turn me off.

If we get anything related to games, it’s redemption games, aka kiddie slot machines. Simple economics require that games be short and dead simple – game length places limits on the amount of money that can be earned. Operators want known payouts, which implies that the player’s performance has little or no impact on the ticket payout. I’ve come to the opinion that this is teaching our children the wrong things. There may be equal opportunity, but results should depend on talent and effort, not on the target payout percentage.

Our company is also making a number of products for the gaming (gambling) industry. I’m am independent minded person. If people want to place their fortunes on a die (card, slot, etc) I might recommend against it, if asked, but I won’t disallow it. However, I’ve gotten uneasy with supporting it in my professional work.

I think our paths have been divergent for a while now, but staying put has been the easy way. For years there was the progression from school to school and then to the workplace, but the free change has run out, and I’m feeling somewhat stagnate. I’ve tried to reason that it was only a matter of perception. I’ve tried to reason that I should fix things instead of running away, but obvious fixes don’t present themselves. I tried cutting back to four days; inquired on three and got no response. And while I’ve got things to run away from, I don’t have anything to run towards.

There would be a certain attraction to striking out on my own, but at present I don’t have any ideas that I count to pay the bills. I’m also an anti-social lout, and don’t have any readily available co-founders, which I’ve heard is a very good idea.

There is contract work, but I’m back to building other men’s dreams, and from what I’ve heard it’s it a tough life of scraping by, especially now, when I assume a lot of the recently laid-off have similar plans.

I’ve run across the idea of journeyman. I’ve spent the entire time since college working alone or with few other programmers. I could go off to a well regarded company (and hope they are hiring instead of downsizing) to try and learn from some masters for a few years.

I could go back to school. It would be a shame to throw away a paid off house (the dangers of coming to such paths later in life) I’m not entirely sure that I would be better off going to school than I would be by dropping out of work and focusing on my attention on learning for the same time. The main reason to pursue academics seems to be a career in teaching, but I’ve little precedent that I would enjoy it.

Software is only the best sort of profession I’ve found so far. I recall enjoying the design of Harmony cards, imagining the interplay of mechanics and coming with appropriate quotes or verse for each card. But from what I’ve heard games are a terrible way to pay to bills. A similar reputation surrounds the martial arts. I seem to enjoy writing a little on occasion, but I can hardly imagine how I’d keep the lights on doing that. msphat thinks I should go to seminary, but it’s something that has never occurred to me on it’s own, nor does it seem especially attractive.

Many possibilities would involve moving. Disappointing what communities I’ve become involved in. There is a certain degree of seductive comfort in the place where I am, easy biking to work and grocery store, a paid off house that keeps my continuous expense relatively low, and simply not having to think about a lot of things that have settled in. I pine for a greater ability to work on dreams, but rocking the boat would be a huge effort in making new arrangements, packing, moving, unpacking, etc.

Whine, whine, whine. And then I come back to the ultimate judge. In the end of days, am I more likely to regret taking a chance or staying put. But which way to fall?

Afraid of my own shadow.

Blair Reynolds responded; He is in fact still using the same e-mail address. I haven’t looked at it yet. This is a pattern which repeats over and over. I throw things out into the world, almost carelessly, and then shrink away when the echos come back. Mark it for later. Add an item to the todo list. Maybe it will be easier to take tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

Isn’t if funny how we know things but somehow overlook them over and over again, carrying on as if all was well. Maybe I’m afraid of admitting a defect. Yet by knowing it, the damage is done, festering in the back of my mind, with the added effort of covering it up. Maybe I’m afraid of the change that would follow from admitting it.

“Fear is the mind killer” – Frank Herbert, Dune

Chris Crawford taught me something about integrity:

“Any child can see that a fragmented, compartmentalized brain is not going to think as freely, as smoothly, and as well as a more unified brain.”

I’ve used that rational on occasion to justify a policy of honesty, but I don’t think I’ve really followed the advice. There are still a lot dark corners in my mind, and I’m staring down a couple of them now.

So why am I afraid of feedback? Is it fear of conflict? That some difference of opinion will become apparent, requiring my response. Perhaps escalating, leaving me between a flame war and just giving up – so why not give up now and save the trouble.

Perhaps it’s more mild. Feeling torn in multiple directions, anything that arrives promises to take more of my attention; the sooner I respond the sooner it will come back begging again.

Self confidence seems a likely culprit. I ‘know’ it’s going to be bad, so why put myself through the abuse.

I did make myself go back and read the message, but I wanted to sleep on this essay.

Dune

The first actual audiobook I got through was Dune. I really only have two observations. The first is that the beginning does a pretty good job of weaving the background information in at a steady pace, preventing the reader from getting overwhelmed. The other could be a very minor spoiler if there’s anybody else who hasn’t read it.
Continue reading ‘Dune’ »

Billing and paying the bills.

I’m just a little conflicted about money. Perhaps a sheltered life has left me without clear guidance. I’ve always had ‘enough’, and often more. Less since I started working four days a week; still enough that I can set aside some savings, but little enough that the eventual demise of my car threatens that savings. Meanwhile, other people, many of them surely more dedicated and hard working then myself, starve or struggle to get to a place of equal safety and comfort.

There was a particular incident that triggered this latest reflection. Recently one of my fellows in the martial arts school asked what I would charge to upgrade her reality shows web site, and I wasn’t comfortable naming a price.

Some of it I’m sure stems from a weak self confidence. I’ve heard a number of high consulting rates thrown around. At work we price engineering projects based on $75 per hour, although we don’t then track hours. That’s pretty low compared to others I’ve heard. Even on the condo board, we can’t get much of anything done for less than $40-50 per hour.

All rather more than minimum wage. Is the difference skilled versus unskilled labor? The woman who cuts my hair charges rather less than $50. She told me a while ago about the tough parts of beauty school – cataloging individual muscles, sufficient grounding in chemistry to avoid nasty or even dangerous combinations of chemicals, and enough knowledge of ethnic backgrounds to predict how hair and so on is likely to respond to various treatments. Perhaps the price is set by the typically brief male haircut and widespread competition.

The different cases don’t offer much guidance. Even skilled gets called into question – while I have a long history taming troublesome pieces of software, I had no experience with the Xoops package in question. At an hourly rate, figuring out the thing would undoubtedly be a expensive process, but I don’t feel comfortable changing people for my own incompetence.

In the end I picked a rate closer to the landscapers, but capped the bill at four hours, which seemed more than adequate for someone who knew what they were doing. I spent rather quite a bit more than that setting up a test environment and getting a handle on things. I actually came to the conclusion that the originally requested version upgrade was completely orthogonal to the features she was hoping to achieve with it. We set up only those changes, and now it’s back to ambiguity: if she chooses to upgrade for future proofing, technically I haven’t finished was I was asked to do, but I have spent considerably more time than originally allotted. I also found out during the course of the work that my bill was considerably more than the trickle of ad income the site generates.

Of course it’s complicated further by knowing the person. I’ve passed over requests for web site help from less familiar people before. When it comes to a closer associate, there is question hanging out there of whether it should even be a favor. A lot of things in the world run by volunteer effort alone, and a world without community driven organizations might very well be worse off. One of the reasons that I often feel rushed is because I’m involved in a couple of volunteer organizations.

Condo board members may not be paid by law. Yet someone has to watch over the common interests of the association, and volunteers are perhaps predictably scarce. If it’s not me, then it might be no one, leaving things undone.

Then there is martial arts, where I spend one or two nights a week in unpaid instruction. The martial arts is immersed in a tradition of mutual obligations – as you were taught, so teach. But it’s still out there when I start counting up where my time went. I’ve actually been pulling back lately. I cut out one class, and I’ve been going to the board game design group again, which intersects one night every other week.

I confront valuation again in software. My lifetime earnings from personal software projects is $5. Not a single solitary soul has seen fit to make use of the Disk Clock donate button. I’m considering marking the next version shareware, while still avoiding nagware.

Software is a nasty problem. A program has a duplication cost which rapidly approaches zero. Copying is free and easy, unless extra non-feature-related effort is spent to put artificial restrictions in place. Even then, what software does software can undo, and we have the DRM arms race – more and more effort being poured into making thing harder for the customer, instead of adding value for the customer.

The costs of software aren’t in duplication, they are development. The only way to match price with cost is pay for the developers time and attention. Yet the only thing most people will buy is a proven working program, which we only know how to sell through the old physical-item model. The only reason this works at all is the legal fiction of software licenses.

So I’m sitting in the frying pan of being paid for things I wouldn’t be doing left to my own devices, staring uncertainly out at the fire of scraping by through intentionally crippled software.

I had a thought experiment, which I’m not bold enough to put practice. For a period, such a year, neither give anything for free, or take anything without paying for it.

Response to Blair Reynolds, The Doctrine of God

(Quite) a while back, I received a response of sorts to my personal interpretation of the word god I believe I actually fished this response out of the abandoned mail in my copy of windows eudora, which I found I could import into gmail. Back during my fit of writing ideas (2008-02), I pulled it out of the archives and put it in the queue. The actual writing of my response has been during the last week.

Looking over the message again, I realized it might be a published article rather than a personal response. Indeed this seems to be the case, as a search turns up several copies, such as this one.

I suppose I was reluctant to respond because the essay is thick with technical theological terms, implying a corpus of knowledge with which I have no familiarity. The copy I linked above includes a short biography, which indicates that Blair Reynolds does in fact have a doctorate in theology. I can still agree or disagree however, regardless of what the academics think of it.

On the whole, the essay has a number of interesting points, and seems to agree about as well with my philosophy as a it can in a theistic context (used only to mean “in contrast to atheistic” – I don’t know if it may carry other meanings as a technical term).

First part:

‘Unbiblical’ isn’t a very strong argument for me. Given translation, editing, and other effects of time, it’s hard to trust that the bible of today is the same as it was when first written. And even then, how it differs substantially from anything written today. Not useless of course – deep reflection on many works will produce insight, and the world’s holy books carry a long history of recommendation as sources of inspiration. But I’m not going to spend too much time splitting hairs on the description of a being beyond perception.

Perhaps I should step back a bit. My definition puts god as a quality of the universe instead of a being. If we take the bible as the distilled wisdom of the ages, and it’s description of god as describing the property of virtuous order, it might be more interesting. The statement “God is incarnate throughout the entire universe, which functions as his body.” fits reasonably with this view.

The questions raised become fertile ground for further reflection. The main issue here is whether god is changing or unchanging. Ask instead whether the principle of order is changing or unchanging, and it becomes as profound to me as perhaps the question about god is to a theist.

I think the thing that bothers me most about theistic position is _beingness_, especially the “changing affective states”. I don’t see emotion in a principle. Unless, perhaps, you view the order as a human invention (name for a collection of phenomenon) and the mood as a reflection of the collective mood of humanity.

Second part:

Argues that the attributes of god are reflected in his creation, which in turn reveals aspects of the creator (made in his own image?) The middle part of this section seems somewhat hesitant, talking on both sides of many issues and not really picking either.

Surrounding that ambiguity are the interesting ideas “Moment to moment, we are different persons” and “what is beautiful in one context or era may not be in another” This reminds me of the Quecha (Mayan) idea of pacha, or time-place. You can change your scenery by moving, or by waiting, but the one thing you can’t do is hang on to the same thing forever, it will never be quite the same twice. (Aside: it occurs to me that much of computing, and science in general, is composed of efforts to resist this effect.)

If we view the order as a human artifact, this is clearly true. As humanity changes, the definition of a well ordered and beautiful world changes. This raises an interesting question: if the definition of a thing is constantly changing, can we even usefully talk about whether a thing changes, if the name never refers to the same thing twice?

Going back to the first part about seeing the creator in the created, the circularity is dizzying. As a human concept, the idea of god or ultimate order reveals more about the definers than the defined. Yet we see this as a quality of the universe, exactly that which has given rise to ourselves, which itself seems to reveal the pattern.

Third part:

This is a mostly theistic argument. Perhaps I like it so much because it so beautifully attacks another theistic argument. If god is unchanging, life has no meaning, because nothing you can ever do can affect god, the one true and ultimate thing in the universe. The whole concept of free will can be likened to the old adage of a tree falling in the forest.

Of course the argument doesn’t actually prove anything about god – just which view we as humans in search of meaning find more comforting.

There is one qualifier, however. Even if we can’t ‘change’ a thing by talking about it, we can change how we define it (edit our own beliefs) which in turn affects how we interact with that thing. Maybe we can’t change god/reality, but our beliefs about these things can have a profound affect on our daily lives. For more mundane things (or if you believe that the essential is itself changeable) those interactions have ripple effects. Consider the Obama effect, a race performance gap that disappeared all but overnight after Obama won the party nomination.

And how does this affect my worldview? I can’t change the nature of the universe though logical discourse anymore than one can change god through logical discourse. But I do select particular facets of the universe and call them good or bad. If you specify these facets precisely enough, these principals can be considered constant. Whether those principals are ‘important’ or ‘good’ is not necessarily constant.

Once you’ve picked a set of principals, you can say the world express those principals to greater or lesser degrees, and this degree is subject to our influence. The world is also filled with other conscious beings like ourselves who experience joy or suffering in proportion to this agreement.

Perhaps a more biting reflection is that a world with an unchanging god is essentially undistinguishable from a world without god. For me the conclusion is the same in both cases: with no ultimate judge, what matters is the well-being of ourselves and our fellow travelers.

Fourth part:

Treats directly the concept of whether god is a part of the world, or apart from the world. Another thing I’ve never liked about theism – something apart from the world is beyond perception, and beyond knowing. Such an untestable concept is just the kind which would be used by a charlatan seeking to control a mass of people. Since I can’t trust that this isn’t the case, I can’t accept any idea of god that places him beyond question (or rather, beyond answer)

While the offered argument seems reasonable, it doesn’t do any more to assuage my fears – even with god part of the world, he is still beyond knowing.

Fifth part:

The monopolar prejudice, or ascribing one aspect to god and the opposite aspect to the the rest of the world. I agree that if there is any ultimate nature to the world, it must contain all aspects of that world.

Another new toy.

Years ago I got a tape player and started playing audiobooks while driving or doing dishes. After two tape players broke for no good reason, I kind of gave up on the idea for a while. I was also wondering if, for all the new information I was taking in, I was leaving myself starved for thinking time.

In the end though, I’m hungry for input. I could see by the changes in the library shelves years ago, and more dramatically by the bookstore shelves, that tapes were on the way out. I toyed with an mp3 based CD player, which would handle library CDs well while giving options for other content. In the end though, I was looking to move a few podcasts into the dead time instead of a distraction when I was at my computer, so I got an iPod.

It’s a blue 8GB Nano. It works fairly well, but I’ve got no shortage of nit picking. To start off with, I got thrown a bit by the total lack of an internal speaker. The tape players had one, and it was quite handy to just be able to hit play anywhere without any cables involved, even though I was on power must of the time. For the first few days I made do with loopback on my computer and the speakers from my old computer. I’m underwhelmed with the ear buds, which don’t stay in very well. I assume they are a cheap add in to make it barely useable, and I’ll need something real if I want it really portable. One place I was clear was the car power/radio adapter, which works quite well.

Even when I did get fully set up, it’s a little clumsy. Where the tape player took one button to start, the iPod needs three (and again to stop) – speaker power, wake up the iPod, and then play.

There are also some mysteries of operation which I’ve not penetrated. If I have a backlog of podcasts, all the same series, it will stop at the end of each, making me select the next. This is just fabulous while driving, since the screen require attention to navigate, whereas it was pretty easy to change a tape blind. I also have to select episodes individually; if I just hit play on the series, it plays the first one over again. On the other hand, when it got to the end of a 20+ hour audiobook, it started playing the next, unrelated, one. I must be missing something here.

I got that big file by using Doug’s Track Splicer Applescript Books on CD are chopped into tracks of around five minutes. I couldn’t imagine have to stop, change tracks, and hit play every few minutes. Of course now it appears that they might have played. In any case, although iTunes will group together files identified as the same work, the iPod will show each of them as a book, so separates would be very hard to manage.

I almost wonder I if I would have been better off picking up an earlier model used. The tilt/shake sensor turns it on (even when supposedly off) at the slightest provocation. This applies even when the input lock switch is on. It will turn the screen back off in short order if their is no activity, but I can’t imagine this being good for the battery life while jogging (thankfully not my application) The color screen is an excess for my purposes, but I didn’t quite like limited navigation of a shuffle either. I find it novel that it includes games, but I don’t really have a need for them.

I got the smaller of the Nano models, figuring most anything would be excessive for audiobooks. My first attempt at the library being defeated by the holiday, I started out with some podcasts, and then figured that it would be amusing to load my music collection into the empty space. The irony is that together these actually filled up most of the memory. The podcasts will eventually get whittled down, and then there should be enough space for at least two books, which should be enough to trade out. Still, other than an emergency fallback, I don’t have much use for the music.

Notes and Lost Context

A while ago (a long while – the note to write this is dated 2008-02-22) I found I was awash with ideas while trying to go to sleep. Rather than suffering (an all too common response), I grabbed a notepad and pencil to put by the bed. While the exact details are lost to time, many of the essays since, and the next several, date from that night and the immediate aftermath.

Unfortunately, it’s not a habit I’ve maintained, so I don’t have much more to say. I’ve put this off so long many of the details of my intent have escaped me – the original title was “Notes and Context” but I’ve forgotten what the context part referred to.