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Category Archives: Random Ideas

I’m a little torn by this.

The only problem i have with this, on its face, is that it smells a little too much like a anti-tech solution, where someone would be teaching kids that technology is bad/worse than doing something “in real life”. That type of attitude will ultimately hurt a kid just as much, because you’re not exposing them to, essentially, a serious reality of society: Much of the work we do now is computer based.

Something like programming is a wonderful skill to have, and it’s applications lend itself perfectly to teaching a topic like math and even story telling (at the same time!). It shouldn’t be seen as a black-magic activity, when you can teach kids to create something like a game (which needs a story, artwork, and programming).

I mostly agree that there’s no reason for kids to have iphones, ipads, or completely unfettered internet access. If they’re using it to actually *do* something, then fine, but dicking around on the computer for hours on end reading reddit is worthless (I say this having spent most of my free time online in high school).

But, all that said, I also think there’s a major generational gap here. I grew up talking to and conversing with people on the internet. Actively participating in forums (which are more like facebook comment streams than email) is a wonderful way to express your own opinions, become exposed to the opinions of others, and have the freedom to explore and develop a curiosity for many things.

I spent countless hours writing stories, drawing art, developing games, playing games with other people, learning about how economies work in online games, learning to write programs and solve problems. Shit, i learned more about economics from a video game than I ever did in school (SAD). None of this was limited by my parents, and they would probably have been terrified to know I was actively working with other people online (we’ll call it “Everyone online is actually a 40 year old dude who wants to rape you” syndrome).

But, the fact of the matter is, while I was hurt by it in some regard (social development), it also allowed me to flourish and develop my own form of creativity. It provided me a safe haven from being a social outcast/bullying, and when all you have on the internet to look at is words you really start to understand how equal everyone really is.

I think there’s something to this, but it casts technology in a somewhat evil light, which I find to be silly. Every child’s needs are different, and every child’s interests are going to be different. For some kids waldorf may be excellent. For others, maybe not.

If a kid immediately takes to computers, and has a passion for it, and you take that away saying it’s bad… how is that any different than recognizing your child has an innate passion for music and taking away their flute?

In 2008, a pair of internet journalists had an interesting disagreement about how the internet has changed the way our minds work. In “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr suggests that an over-abundance of information is transforming our society into a cohort of shallow information skimmers. In a rebuttal titled “Why Abundance is Good: A Reply to Nick Carr”, Clay Shirky disagrees, discrediting Carr by pointing out his nostalgia and Luddism. As a recovering internet addict myself, I take exception with Carr’s characterization of the problem. While I identify with Shirky’s overall stance, I believe he didn’t say what needed to be said: Carr sounds like an alcoholic blaming the drink for his problems.

Carr tries to frame his loss of concentration as a symptom of extensive net usage, blaming the medium for turning him into a husk of the reader he once was. He laments his new inability to sit and read long articles and books, even saddened by missing out on the infamous War and Peace. He recalls colleagues telling him of changed reading habits, and even quotes Plato’s argument against the use of written word. Despite blaming the internet for this change in brain mechanics, the only clear fact he presents is a longing for the “good ol’ days” of reading, and Shirkey takes exception to this.

Shirkey, however, spends a majority of his article criticizing Carr’s opinion personally, stopping just shy of calling him a grumpy old man telling kids how it was “in my day…”. He does take a moment to say, on the more progressive side of the issue, he rejects the idea that the medium itself is at fault. He rebukes Carr’s usage of War and Peace as an example of the public’s inability to ingest long texts by claiming “the reading public has increasingly decided… [it] isn’t actually worth the time it takes to read”. He closes by saying the internet (as a medium) needs time to show us its true genius, in much the same way the printing press changed the world over the course of decades and centuries.

Shirkey, apparently too offended by Carr’s condescension to fully articulate what he believes, suggests we simply have to learn to use it better. He notes the difficulty of the issue because the medium has yet to reach maturity. Building on Shirkey’s opinion, I suggest that society has failed to assess itself and teach appropriate net usage. Hindering Carr’s ability to concentrate is a symptom, but Carr is ultimately responsible for no longer being able to read his beloved War and Peace.

Carr certainly has a point in suggesting the structure of online text affects the way we ingest information, but he misappropriates blame onto the medium itself. He claims hyperlinks, placed mid-article, propel readers toward other sources. In doing so, he says, they also rob the subject of their concentration. Consequently, this line of reasoning also absolves the reader of any responsibility for their own habits (which is clearly Carr’s way of saying “it’s not my fault!”).

It’s easy to suggest that the net itself is reshaping the way we think and read; everything we do changes us. Carr points out a study by British Library1 that shows internet readers have a tendency to exhibit skimming-like behaviors. Still undecided, however, is what the overall cause is, or what we can do to counteract that tendency and teach ourselves how to harness such a powerful corpus. To clarify this, let’s explore the problem within a new context: alcohol use and alcoholism.

As we all know, alcoholism is a real problem with a long, long list of causes, problems, and potential treatments. One thing we’re sure of is that prevention is infinitely more effective than treatment at improving any given person’s life. If we prevent an alcohol user from crossing the line into a problem, then we never have to treat anything. To frame how this relates to our conversation about net usage, we only have to ask one simple question: if Carr’s symptoms are indicative of irresponsible internet use, then is the solution to treat people who have the problem or to educate society before it becomes pandemic? (Trick question, we should do both!)

To elaborate, as research has shown2, educating children about the consequences (symptoms) of alcohol abuse at an age when they are at highest risk has proven effective in preventing abuse from occurring later in life (to some extent). Likewise, educating recovering alcoholics on the signs of relapse can help prevent a relapse. In both cases, success hinges on how well we can teach these people to self-assess their situation and how well they can make changes to correct it. If we, as a society, can recognize that abundant net usage has negative consequences, as Carr suggests, then the solution is education, not abstinence (or worse, prohibition).

Howard Rheingold suggests just that in his book Net Smart, asserting that doing something as simple as introducing a modicum of mindfulness into our net-use habits can go a long way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Rheingold spends nearly a fifth of his book talking about attention and how the net (and always-on media) has changed our daily lives. He recalls an interaction with his daughter, wherein she hardly looks away from her phone to greet him as he picked her up at the airport. In this case he points out how our focus of attention has changed dramatically, but he also asserts that our browsing habits also have an effect on how well we can formulate deep meaningful thought. He, like Shirkey, also believes it is not the medium itself that has forced this change upon us, but our own self-indulgence that has created an atmosphere of acceptable shallowness.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “If this is so prevalent, why do I feel relatively unaffected by this so-called pandemic?” Well, it very likely differs depending on what generation you belong to. To put it simply, the average 15-27 year old has nothing to compare their behavior to. Unlike those born before the age of the all-powerful internet, always-on media has always been there. For the generations before us, it’s probably surprising to find research online turned into an everyman-everyday activity. Interestingly, however, the symptoms of over-exposure to the net are relatively similar regardless of generation.

I can relate to Carr, I’m the shining example of a recovering net-addict. Since the peak of my “Internetism”, how I interact with the net has changed drastically over the past half-decade. At 20 years old, I was about as motivated to read a book as a 13 year old boy being told to read A Tale of Two Cities while staring at an XBOX (actually that’s not too far off). I would agree with Carr, asserting the problem was caused by over-exposure to internet media, online forums, and attention grabbers like facebook. My habits began to turn around while studying at an acting studio. Scott Rogers3, my coach, suggested a simple attention adjustment exercise: no TV for one month. During that month (unsurprisingly), my concentration, attention to detail, and all-around personal accomplishment skyrocketed. Since that exercise, I have cut cable service, started reading books regularly, and most importantly started metering how (and how much) I use the internet. I’m unsure that it’s purely a result of less net usage, but it was certainly part of my solution.

If the “No TV” approach sounds drastic to you, there are small steps you can take right now to adjust your concentration. When facing an article filled with mid-text URLs (usually citations), open the URL in a separate tab and return to it after reading the article. Two things might surprise you. First, authors often take the time to summarize the article anyway, and you will (usually) decide not to read it. Secondly, you will have obtained a better grasp of the author’s opinion, and potentially formulated an opinion or your own, prior to reading further. That’s what Carr suggests is disappearing.

Although I easily identify with Carr’s experience, it’s likely that Shirkey’s analysis of the overall situation is correct. I was able to reverse the process of diminished attention through years of study in areas that require ingesting long texts, analyzing complex information, and formulating opinions through sustained deep thought. These are all abilities Carr laments losing. If it was simply exposure to the medium itself that caused issues, I would still be an addict.

Varying types and severities of net-addiction have cultivated Carr’s society of skimmers. This isn’t the internet’s fault for merely existing. This doesn’t mean the internet is bad for us, or that being on the computer 8 hours a day is a problem. If we teach our society responsible net usage, maybe we’ll see less “Internetism” in the future. At the very least we’ll be a little more conscientious of our use.


It’s 2pm. You’re sitting in a meeting with your boss, his boss, his boss’ boss, and his boss’ boss’ boss. Powerpoint slides are whizzing by at the speed of molasses riding a snail in the winter. The five hour energy you just drank has given you jitters but has done nothing to prevent your head from slamming into the table. You think to yourself, “why can’t we have napping pods like at google, those are bad f***ing ass.” If only your boss understood the value of sweet, sweet catnaps.

I had a particularly interesting time learning about how employers believe our days should be consecutively productive, because the military is often blind to common sense. In the new-age military, the average middle-manager is more concerned with “professionalism” and how they are “perceived” than he/she is with their worker’s mental health, or even something as simple accomplishing anything worthwhile. What’s more, the powers that be have dictated sleeping in uniform is forbidden. Some of the hardest working and heavily stressed people in the nation, our soldiers and sailors, are being asked to fight against their body’s natural biphasic sleep cycle every day.

That’s right, according to sleepfoundation.org1, “Humans are part of the minority of monophasic sleepers, meaning that our days are divided into two distinct periods, one for sleep and one for wakefulness. It is not clear that this is the natural sleep pattern of humans.” They even quotes a study in which NASA astronauts and military pilots “ improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%” after a 40 minute nap. If naps are so effective at improving performance for the most dangerous jobs on earth, why aren’t we mandating that everyone nap?

Have you ever seen those 5-Hour Energy commercials, where the post-lunch crash is highlighted as the problem? If you found yourself relating to the plight of those actors, I welcome you to the group of socio-normative people who are convinced they must fight against nature. Ask yourself a question: “When have we ever fought nature and won?” I charge you to join the fight for glorious catnaps, and sign my petition at for an institutional siesta. If not for you, the do it for the soldiers and sailors out there fighting for a Google employee’s right to nap in super-expensive high-tech napping pods2 .

Uncle Sam wants YOU… to nap!


I’ve had about 5 years of experience as a professional network analyst and systems developer, but without the academic background of a college degree.  I was afforded the opportunity to learn my “trade” through directed hands-on training; sometimes it was in a classroom setting, sometimes it was on-the-job.

I’ve just completed my first week of full-time college after these 5 years, and i’m finding my initial reaction to be much less loathsome than I expected.  I’ve been thinking about whether or not tunnel-vision vendor training is actually worthwhile in the face of an extremely technical field, and I’m really starting to see the two accomplish different feats.

Vendor training: a directed, tutorial based approach designed to pass on a defined set of skills.

College training: an intellectually challenging approach to passing on the skill of learning how to learn about whatever it is you choose to learn about… also some directed, tutorial based approaches designed to pass on a defined set of skills.

Seems really dumb, but in reality, the difference between the two: time

It seems to me, at first glance, that the amount of time between topics in college is at once both short and long.  On any given class, on any given week, you may cover three distinct topics. Density may vary, but this can be fairly challenging, even though the amount of time between topics is sufficiently distanced (24-72 hours between topics).

In vendor training, I’ve had what one might consider a years worth of masters level education in 3 months, 8am-5pm, monday through friday.  Yes, it is as painful as it sounds.  However, the focus required to successfully pass and apply the skills being learned is nothing to scoff at.  It’s something a student accustomed to college life would likely have trouble with.

I would submit that while the two approaches are similarly effective for learning a base of knowledge and mastering a set of techniques, the two approaches produces very dissimilar people (as a general rule, not a definitive one).

The college approach to teaching these topics is enrichment based, which means a wide variety of topics are being introduced simultaneously (4 classes + 3 topics per week per class = 12 topics per week), allowing free-flowing thought to connect (or not connect) them on an individual basis.  Application of said skills may or may not be a priority, as long as they are able to prove they can comprehend the underlying concepts.  This is why you have some computer science undergrads who obtain their degree, but never learn to apply their knowledge effectively (otherwise known as “program their way out of a paper bag”).

The vendor training approach to teaching these topics will produce a person who can competently reproduce the results of a skill they learned, and MAYBE expand the application of these skills beyond the realms of what they were taught.   This means we can enjoy effective analysis of a pre-defined set of data, but if we introduce new data or a restructured version of the same data, we’ll have to retrain the analyst (to some extent) to perform essentially the same task.

Now that said, I don’t believe it is valid to surmise a college graduate will be more valuable that the vendor trained professional in the long run.  A person with years of on-the-job experience gained during the time a student spends in college will be immediately, and sometimes profoundly, influential when pointed at solving problems they have become adept in.

On the flip side, it would also be invalid to suggest a vendor trained professional is a replacement for the average college student.  While there is a number of work-habit factors to consider, and a potential for natural pre-disposition to develop said work habits regardless of background, it is clearly truthful to say the average college graduate will research a problem more effectively and more reliably than the average vendor trained individual. (I’m speaking of legitimately earned degrees, not fraudulent degrees earned through cheating or other dishonest methods.)

While it is possible for a vendor trained individual to obtain similar research skills, the path to reach it is clearly… well… unclear.  They are likely being taught by people who have developed or learned this skill, but they are not often being taught the same process of critical thinking.  The culminates in vendor trained analysts believing their jobs are easy, and that they could be replaced by monkeys.

For those of you who identify with this last statement, I can assure you that your job is neither easy, nor replicable my monkeys.  For one thing, monkeys don’t bitch about how much they hate their jobs.

We’ll continue this dialogue later…

I see this argument often.  I hear “adults” (whatever that means) lament at how impersonal we are becoming as humans.  We spend more time watching videos on the internet, blogging, and not actively engaging each other face to face.  Even this very blog post, which i’m unsure even has a single reader would be proof that we are beginning to become a loner species.

There’s something a little strange I’ve noticed about the people who have asserted this however.  I’m always skeptical of how involved they are with communities on the internet.  Their descriptions make sense when looked at with the idea of our new tendency to “be alone” if you assume that our stake in online communities are ephemeral and unimportant.

Well, then why have I been a member of LUElinks (now known as for nearly a decade?  For people completely unaware of what this website is/was, it began as a spin-off from a GameFAQs message board called “Life, The Universe, and Everything”, and contained links to content that was against the GameFAQs terms of service.

When megaupload was destroyed by the US Government in an attempt to enforce archaic copyright laws, the “links” portion of LUElinks was destroyed.  The database itself was erased, and no longer existed.  The owner of the website made a public statement that the original intention of LUElinks was never to support piracy in the first place, and that by the time the community had built itself around it, he felt unable to change the direction without destroying the culture that had emerged.  This is also why the site was renamed, because we had outgrown our relation to GameFAQs, and had created a culture that extended beyond simply Terms of Service rebellion.

Now, I want you to think about what I just said.  An internet forum of approximately 10,000-15,000 active users was described by the creator as having a CULTURE The members of ETI, myself included, feel that this community should continue to thrive.  We care.  It is personal to us.

There is no better example I can give to prove how personal it has become than suicide attempts by members of the community.  On multiple occasions, members posted on the board suggesting they were going to end their lives.  They have done so anonymously, or freely attaching their username.  Some simply joked about it, never intending to do it, but displaying clear suicidal tendencies.  Some actually succeeded in ending their lives.  Whatever the case may be, these people thought themselves alone, and one of their last acts of self preservation was to reach out, and tell the only people they believed would listen to them, what they had planned.

In every case, there is overwhelming community response to even suggesting one might commit suicide.  The internet detectives pull out their magnifying glasses, moderators utilize ip logging tools to identify locale, and whatever information is available via the internet (apparently there is alot) is used to notify authorities in the area, and send help as soon as possible.  These people, as vitriolic as they may be with each other when arguing over politics, care.

I have had the pleasure of meeting around 50-70 members of the community in person, and have at times forged quite strong relationships with some.  I have also had severe falling outs with these same people.

But the question stands, is it impersonal even though I have spent so much time on the community?  I read so many of their opinions, and gloss over their names, not really caring who they are when discussing the important matters at hand (like the hilarity/non-hilarity of ).

I can only answer that with another question, unfortunately.  How is that different from our daily discussions and interactions with people in “real life”? (By the way, last time I checked, the internet is part of reality, and is therefore part of “real life”).

Really though, how we handle interpersonal communication with each other on a face to face basis is vastly different than reading, considering, and formulating a written response.  Or is it?

In some cases we find ourselves misinterpreting the written message of someone, opening the quick response prompt, and take a warm shit on the page with sarcasm and dismissal.

This sounds eerily similar to friends bantering with one another.

The question remains, still, how much do we CARE about these people.  What level of influence do we allow them in our lives?  How much do we value their input?  Can we call them “friends”, or are they simply no more than colleagues and acquaintances?  These are all very valid questions.

They are all very valid questions we ask ourselves about people in our own lives.  At least we should ask these questions of everyone in our lives.  To put it bluntly, we always consider “is this person worth my time?” when deciding whether or not to invest ourselves in someone.

So the answer to the question remains… how is it different than having a large social circle in which you know little about a lot of people, and a lot about a few?

Having “grown up” on the internet, being part of these communities since the ripe old age of 10… there is no difference.

What sparked this post was a reaction to a recent video response I made on youtube to a video Veritasium posted.  I was responding to a science experiment, predicting what i believed was causing the reactions.  In the follow up video revealing the solution, Derek made note of how many video responses he received and seemed genuinely elated as what he saw as people taking his channel and actively applying themselves to science.  That was his goal to begin with.

Then I remembered the book Alone Together, which talks somewhat about what i discussed above.  I recalled conversations I’ve had with my parents, and how surprised they were to know some of my good friends were people I had originally met on the internet.  And here was an interaction between people on the internet via video that had generated an emotional response in someone… I can’t help but call bullshit on something somewhere suggesting we are LESS personal when on the internet we are MORE FREE to discuss our true thoughts.  It’s so much more personal.

What makes lying so easy is that a majority of people want to believe whatever you’re saying. Life is easier if everyone is telling you the truth.

I like to take things apart.  Computers, software, watches, rubik’s cubes (4x4x4 and up cause i can’t solve them), and most importantly people.

Deconstruction and understanding is a something I hold in very high esteem.  Sometimes I let this blind me and I forget to simply appreciate what is, as opposed to why it is.  It’s strange to me that I spent 3 years studying as an actor, and all I learned to do was to understand people better (I’m not certain I am any better at acting!).

I see myself in my parents.  My mother is a software developer and vice president for a very large software firm, and my father is a government employee.  It wasn’t always this way.  When I was born, my mother did not work, she spent most of her time in school and taking care of my brothers and I.  My father, recently separated from the military, took a job in management making enough to get by and somehow afford a mortgage.  Somewhere along the line, a family of 2 adults and 3 boys clawed their way from $35k/yr to the middle class.

My father is the man who got out of the military at 10 years because he was fed up with the system and how he was being treated.  He did this knowing he had a wife and 2 children (soon to be 3) to provide for, and that my mother was not ready to enter the workforce yet.  The leap he took was of great risk to himself AND his family, but in the best interest of both.  Having recently separated from active duty myself, I can say without a doubt so many people trudge along to the 20 year retirement plan because it is easy and stable.  Many sacrifice their happiness for their families.  I got out of the military because I inherited the audacity my father has in challenging authority when it is wrong (and sometimes when it’s right because, fuck it, instigating can be fun!).  I can think of no other person who inspires me to chase my dreams and speak my mind more than my father.

My mother is now a vice president of development at a software development firm, and she is the reason I laugh any time someone tells me there is a glass ceiling for women.  This is a woman who broke into a field dominated by men (85% of computer scientists are men), clawed her way up the ladder, and now manages development teams across the globe.  I have conversations with her that range any number of topics, sometimes controversial and thought provoking beyond what I get from my peers.  The mutual respect for opinion and consistent skepticism between us is something I value more deeply than I have to words to express.  I can think of no other person who inspires me to maintain an open mind and to seek truth where details are foggy.

Most importantly, the thing I value between myself and my parents now, is that we hold each other as equals in most regards.  We all agree we’re a big collective of stubborn opinionated people, unafraid to speak our mind, and probably offend people more often than we should.  Good fun if you ask me!

So how does this post start with deconstructing systems, and end up with a pseudo-psychological profile on who I am?  Well what’s a more complex system than the family unit, and who more important to understand than yourself?  There are plenty of bad habits I learned from my parents and siblings too, but… well… praise in public, correct in private :].

Just some random thoughts for today.

How do people get so entranced by something that they grab onto with every ounce of their being?  Some are so ready to throw themselves off a cliff, chasing a parachute, in hopes that they’ll be great some day. We have people who play video games for a living. Others make entertainment on youtube like Freddiew or Boogie2988

We’ve all got a music collections we bounce around within.  Some of us listen to manufactured content (a lot of Top 40), which there is nothing wrong with (South Korea does this far more than the US).  Some hate that “fake shit” and prefer grass roots music, or something of a classical nature.  Right now I’m listening to the musical genius Chilly Gonzales’.

These are people that make a living doing something that has no intrinsic value until it is heard.  There is no tangible asset here that can be sold or manipulated, there is only an idea.  This idea captivates us.  FreddieW makes a living making fake guns and explosions and video game references, pop culture.  Boogie2988 talks.  Chilly blesses my ears with ideas in music form.  As a friend once said to me: “If he had words for those ideas, he wouldn’t be playing the piano”.

So this idea draws us in.  We are so fascinated by their ideas, their beautiful, crafted, chiseled, perfected (according to us) ideas.  And this gives us hope that our ideas can be wonderful, magical, powerful and give us an audience of our own.  If this wasn’t true, I can’t imagine why I’m writing this, or why you’re reading this.

Why even write this note then?  Isn’t the idea of writing about ideas simply “meta” and boring?  I could go into some loop about how this idea about how ideas form ideas and spark ideas in other people are the nature of the human condition, but then I’d just be some pseudo-intellectual trying to pawn off how much more intelligent than you I am (note: I’m not, I don’t want to be, and I prefer blissful ignorance to informed misery… ok maybe not that last part).

I enjoy Oration like Boogie2988 does.  I spent 3 years in the Navy selling Network Defense systems to admirals and generals.  I loved the oration process, getting up in front of people, entertaining them, teaching them.  I had an audience, I had ideas, those ideas mattered.  I had some sort of power.

It came crashing down one day when I realized I was Otacon from Metal Gear Solid. (fast forward to 55 seconds)

What a bad taste in my mouth.  My software development work was part of an ongoing arms race.  Although this arms race had nothing to do with nuclear devices, physical weapons, or giant death robots.  It’s what I simply called the Cyber Arms Race.

Around that time I lost much of my ambition to be the best at anything.  I learned to do just enough to get by, and used my silver tongue to manipulate situations in my favor.  I started looking to video games, youtube, blogs, forums… the places I grew up… to figure out where I had gone wrong, and how I could chase what I wanted.

Maybe I’ll find it.  Or maybe I’ll just fly right by the parachute and dive into the ground.

I wish I were a really old man.  They get away with everything because they can just pretend to be senile.

Here I stand, at the brink of destruction. Chest out and proudly leering into the face of god, opening my mouth only to announce my presence.

The glaring eye of the ever watchful, ever vigilant, is a fear inducing source of inspiration.  The decision whether or not to rebel molds your characters as time goes by.

Make your name not out of conformity or rebellion, but the beliefs you hold dearest to your heart.

Fly off to the moon,
meet with the man up there.
Jump into the sea,
float away without a care.

I’m lost inside a labyrinth,
the map is ripped to shreds.
Try to understand it,
but i can’t get in their heads.

Why do I waste away,
thinking all day long.
When I could end it all today,
and just start a brand new song.

But I won’t just run away,
My pride is far to strong.
I’m loyal to myself,
it’s others that I long.

I know just what you’re thinking,
I’m too young to understand.
Well you were young once too,
So shut up and lend a hand.

Now I’ve been off to the moon,
and I’ve swam around the sea.
People come and go,
and all that’s left is me.

Why does life go this way,
and who cares to fight it so.
There’s a simple answer,
when you find it let me know.

~Aug 2009