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David Kramer’s high-entropy blog

Binary Is Bad

“Only the madman is absolutely sure.”  ― Robert Anton WilsonMasks of the Illuminati

Nothing in this world is completely black or white, good or bad.  The human brain likes to categorize things.  Put things in neat little buckets, so it can think of groups of things, and assume all things in that bucket have certain attributes. When that happens during a decision-making process, though, you’re throwing away information before assessing its value.  As soon as you feel you’ve categorized it you let go of the information that went into that categorization.  Incomplete information is the enemy of sound decision-making.  Sometimes you need to make snap judgements when timing is of the essence, but even then it should be a first approximation, to be re-evaluated later. Read on…

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Where does your power come from?

Equality as a true/false condition doesn’t happen in the real world.  It’s not only a continuum, but people can be equal in some ways but not others.  Attempts to change this even in science fiction always end badly.  Even if everyone were completely equal physically and mentally, a well-functioning society requires some sort of hierarchy, because everyone can’t know everything, take everyone else’s concerns into consideration, and agree on courses of action.  That’s as true in the federal government as it is in a family home or at the office.  Can you imagine a large society where everyone voted on everything?

The question is, how do the people at the top (or even the middle) get there?  How do people gain authority over others, how do they keep it, and why do the people who they have authority over listen to them?  What do they do with their power?  These all vary greatly in implementation and degree of fairness.  As you read this, please keep in mind that I don’t treat “power” itself as a bad thing.  How one gets it and what one does  with it may be, though. Read on…

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Don’t Wait for Big Changes. Do What You Can Now.

I’ve been focusing on change a lot lately.  Thankfully, not because of my day job this time.  This time, it’s more to do with one of the not-for-profit groups I’m involved with.  A couple of other things have planted this bug in my ear, though.  Someone I know told me about the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, which is a fantastic book (so far.  I just got my own copy and am reading it now).  The other thing that got me thinking was an episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations I saw recently.  More on both of those later.  The message I want to throw out there is that you can often achieve much better progress making small changes you can make today instead of waiting until there’s buy-in, resources, and removal of obstacles to a much larger effort.  And those smaller changes are likely to have more direct beneficial effect, because contrary to what large corporations like to think, big changes often introduce larger problems.  I have always tried to do this in my personal life and at work, and try to get others to do the same.

Read on…

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The Psychology of Programmers

Just a link to a nice article on the subject.  I know we can be pretty hard to figure out, but geeks need love too 🙂

Here’s the article on DZone, a technology publishing company that produces valuable content for software architects and developers worldwide.

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Unicycle People

There are many types of people out there.  People love to categorize people, and I’m no exception. The human brain likes categorizing things, becaus it stores much of it’s data in a hierarchy. To be clear, I’m not talking a bout stereotyping, which applies attributes to anyone who exhibits other attributes (“anyone living in a trailer park is white trash”).

I was talking to a friend about other friends we have, and how some of them seem to actively seek out situations that invite chaos. I mean personal relationships, jobs, and housing situations that they know from the start, or soon after, will offer conflict, incompatibilities, or ethical quandries. Sometimes this happens due to lack of planning or insufficient research, but many times it seems to be intentional.

Other people trend toward more stable employers, more compatible partners, more trouble-free neighborhoods. It doesn’t seem to directly correlate to risk averseness. There’s something else. This is what I came up with.

Unicycle people go through life, often very successfully, always on the verge of tipping over. They don’t, because all these sources of conflict are pushing from different directions, somehow keeping the unicycle upright, but with great effort on their part. They often see it as the natural order of things

Car People are very stable. They take the time to find compatible, stable, supportive partners. They often stay at the same job (or at least the same industry) for a long time. Their lives are, in general, not necessarily more successful, but less stressful.

You might think that I am knocking the Unicycle People here, and praising the Car People, but that’s not the case. Car People have their own issues. For instance, cars are great at going straight, but it takes them a while to turn and adapt to changes in their environment.   Cars must also stay on the beaten path, while the chaos of the Unicycle People may lead them to many rich, unusual, and life-changing experiences.

Bicycle people have found a way to strike a balance between chaos and stagnation. They go off-road and have rich experiences and relationships without too many flat tires and scrapes.

As with most things in life, its best to strike a balance.  Even with chocolate 😉

PS: This was my first blog post composed on my iPhone.  Isn’t modern science wonderful?

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Give Me Liberty And Give Me Bugs

“Give Me Liberty And Give Me Bugs” is a quote by Martin Owens, leader of Ubuntu Massachusetts and fellow BLU (Boston Linux and UNIX Group) member.  You see, it all started innocently enough with a thread on the BLU list about the iPad.  The flames hadn’t actually reached the second floor yet, so I decided to squirt some napalm on it by mentioning that (1) I just bought an iPhone to replace my dead-end Windows Mobile phone, and (2) I have given up on trying to sync music and PDA data with Linux, and am now using an old beater Windows XP laptop just for syncing and backing up my phone.  You see, I’m a PDA geek.  I track lots of metadata about my calendar events, contact data, tasks, etc.  Since the PDA as a separate device is pretty much dead at this point (s0b) I rely on finding third party software for my phone.

But back to the argument.  There were two dominant camps.

  1. Those that see any vendor lock-in techniques, DRM, planned obsolescence, and anything that prevent you from doing whatever you want with something you own, as an affront to nature, and should be illegal.  They would rather have Open Source/unencumbered products that didn’t quite work right than locked-down commercial products that work very well, but only in the One True Way as determined by the vendor.
  2. Those that see companies as entities that will generally focus on their own goals, charging as much as they can get away with for as little as they can get away with, targeting their products towards the target audience they choose.  They feel to expect otherwise is being idealistic.  One should act accordingly, and not act shocked when Apple releases a new version five months after you buy one.

Read on…

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