Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of Labels and Limits

Saw this come across my feedreader today and it resonated on so many levels.

Original Blog Post::: Of Labels and Limits
In an attempt to satisfy our need for identity and belonging, we desperately try to wear as many labels as possible, and to a certain extent labels are a necessity. When people ask you what you do for a living, it’s far easier to reply “I’m a computer programmer” than to try and explain the plurality and complexity of the exact criteria of your job.

The problem with labels is that they can place you in a box, at times greatly limiting who and what you are. So while it’s okay to use labels to efficiently communicate with other people, it’s important not to fall into the trap of taking them too seriously, thus letting them become who you are - or are not.

It’s not the label per se, but rather our perception of what our identification with a given role implies. If I identify myself too strongly as a “rubyist” I may not be inclined to recognize the good that is found elsewhere in other programming languages, or worse still, reject such good in an attempt to defend the choice I opted to identify myself with. This inclination is the basis of many of the “religious wars” you see online.

I sometimes find myself in the odd predicament of limiting myself because of some label or assumption of what “a person like me” can and cannot do. In such instances though I’m reminded of a few stories about courageous individuals who went beyond labels, above the layer of conventionality, breaking what common sense would have considered a “difficult to challenge” limit. I’m reminded of blind people who took on photography and managed to be successful at it, or of a black kid of Kenyan origins who managed to become the President of the United States of America. But there is one story in particular that always gets me, it’s the story of Django Reinhardt, after whom the the popular Python framework was named.

Django was a Gypsy jazz guitarist who was severely injured in a fire when he was eighteen. As a result of this accident his right leg was paralyzed and the third and fourth fingers on his left hand were severely burned. Doctors recommended amputating his leg and were pretty darn sure that he would never play guitar again due to the extensive damage to his hand. Django refused the amputation though and left the hospital as soon as he could. Within a year he was able to walk again, albeit with the aid of a cane. Even more surprisingly, despite being “disabled” in his left hand, he persisted through the pain to practice his beloved instrument. He went on to reinvent the conventional approach to guitar playing by performing solos with the use of only two fingers, using his half-paralyzed fingers for chord work. Today Django is considered one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century.

I’ve learned to consciously fight the urge to limit myself. Whatever labels you feel may be cutting your potential short or holding you back, I encourage you to break free and rise above them. Does doing so mean you’ll reinvent the way a musical instrument is played, reshape the course of history or become a hero in your field? Perhaps, but even if it doesn’t, your own life stands to become richer and freer because you decided not to live within the confines of a label.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Powering Nanorobots

Imagine that we could make cars, aircraft and submarines as small as bacteria or molecules. Microscopic robotic surgeons, injected in the body, could locate and neutralize the causes of disease—for example, the plaque inside arteries or the protein deposits that may cause Alzheimer’s disease. And nanomachines—robots having features and components at the nanometer scale—could penetrate the steel beams of bridges or the wings of airplanes, fixing invisible cracks before they propagate and cause catastrophic failures.

This is a fascinating read.

How to Build Nanotech Motors

Nanotech has implications in everything we do from healthcare to sports. It is the next great frontier. I believe healthcare will see the most dramatic improvements. One of the problems we face today with the treatment of cancer is that the tools we have are too large to attack on only the cancerous cells and therefore we lose a lot of healthy cells in the process. Nanotech will be able to remove only the infected cells and work at much faster speeds.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Social Architecture ... very interesting article especially the thought that behavior is a function of a person and his environment: B=f(P,E)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rise of the Phoenix

Originally purchased in 2005, this 1968 Convertible Camaro has been a side project and been a little neglected of late. I finally pulled her out of the garage on Thursday April 2 2009 and sent her of the plastic surgeon. I already completed some of the restoration by removing and restoring the drivers side floor and rocker panels but quite a bit more needs to be done and I would rather drive the car this year than wait to find the time it needs to complete.

So, I'll post pictures of the progress and keep a running dialogue here.

Thanks for following along:

Direct link to Flickr photoset

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cleaning the Air

Am planning on trying this in my bedroom. Reduces respiratory problems by 34% so it couldn't be all bad ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Main Stream Media

It occurred to me recently that the main stream media tends to focus on issues they think the public will understand or comprehend. I guess the whole AIG uproar got my mental juices flowing. I totally disagree with the bonuses that were paid, but do they warrant the outrage that ensued? I don't think so.

So why does the media focus so intently on this issue? Do they not think they have enough time to educate or inform us just a little more so we can make informed decisions. Do they think we don't care? Do they think -- possibly -- that we're not sharp enough to follow? Probably a little of each.

The amount of money injected into the financial system in recent history is staggering. I have seen numbers ranging from 3 to 7 trillion dollars. I'm not even sure how many zero's I need to make the numbers work. AIG alone received 170 billion. Mind boggling numbers. So the bonuses paid represent about one tenth of one percent of the total. So why all the outrage?

There are far more egregious uses of the money than these bonuses (see USNEWS - Why Did AIG's Counterparties Get 100% Repayment?). I'm thinking the reason this has not received any airtime -- at least that I've seen -- is that I can barely understand what it means so the media would have to educate or inform me a little more. But there isn't time for that when we need to hear about the Presidents dog choice or Condoleeza Rice's favorite band or the whole Rihanna/Chris Brown train wreck.

So back to the issue. Both the media and Congress jump on the populist bandwagon and ride it until the wheels come off. The effect of this is that the populist outrage gets louder and the cycle continues until no one knows how it all got started or what it was all about. This results in additional advertising revenue or getting re-elected to congress but it really doesn't help solve the problems we are facing today.

So stop paying attention to the talking heads and find a good blog or magazine -- the Economist tends to inform on global issues without injecting any political rhetoric into the mix -- and maybe we can stop focusing on things that simply do not matter when dealing with problems of this scale and put an end to this disaster.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another Good One ...

I posted this to a previous blog and wanted to make sure I had it around for future reference.

Ray Kurzweil

Accelerating Change 2005

I listened to this session on the way to work this morning. The speaker talks about exponential change and what could happen in the future if Moores Law continues to hold. He discounts the fact that most people find the ability to re-create human intelligence interesting. We can do this today ... and it only takes 9 months. What he does find interesting is the point after we re-create intelligence in the form of a computer. So the computer in one generation would have intelligence equal to human then the next transition would be super-human and so on ...

Here's the link to the podcast.

Vernor Vinge - Accelerating Change 2005


awesome mix ...

Courtesy of Ze Frank


Pretty cool mixup of various videos from youtube.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Interact first, sell second!

The panhandler's secret

from Seth's Blog by Seth Godin

When there were old-school parking meters in New York, quarters were precious.

One day, I'm walking down the street and a guy comes up to me and says, "Do you have a dollar for four quarters?" He held out his hand with four quarters in it.

Curious, I engaged with him. I took out a dollar bill and took the four quarters.

Then he turned to me and said, "can you spare a quarter?"

What a fascinating interaction.

First, he engaged me. A fair trade, one that perhaps even benefited me, not him.

Now, we have a relationship. Now, he knows I have a quarter (in my hand, even). So his next request is much more difficult to turn down. If he had just walked up to me and said, "can you spare a quarter," he would have been invisible.

Too often, we close the sale before we even open it.

Interact first, sell second.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Interesting take on our current situation

Jared Diamond is one of my most respected authors. Here is a piece on PBS where he discusses the current state of our society.

The key point I took away was that if people who make decisions are isolated from the impacts of those decisions, then they will inevitably make poor choices.

Are our current lawmakers isolated from the financial crisis?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Great Photo

Interesting technology used to capture this photo.


Courtesy of Ze Frank

Monday, January 19, 2009

Really interesting technology ...

Back to the fun geek stuff. Imagine Transformers!

More Science experiments at

Another generation or two lost ...

Being neither a jew or palestinian, I don't have a dog in this fight. It just seems to me that as long as these stores continue to surface, there is no way peace will ever be achieved. The children that survive know what happened and they will grow up to be the next leaders ... and the fighting will continue.

Bullets in the brain, shrapnel in the spine: the terrible injuries suffered by children of Gaza

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Playing with camera ...

Just got a new camera and I was playing with some software to push the video to YouTube then to my blog ... appears to be working pretty well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Parsing an OpenXML document (Word 2007)

Back to the geeky ...

I was attempting to parse a Word 2007 document for mail merge purposes and found that libxml was the fastest way to do it with Ruby. The XML document uses namespaces heavily but it's not readily apparent how to search the document with libxml using the namespaces.

Here is a sample section and the code I found after an extensive Google search:

<w:t>Text being sought</w:t>
and the code used to find the paragraph node "w:p"

doc.find("//w:p",ns).each do |p|
#do something special with the paragraph node here

It took me a while to track this down so I thought I would share here in the hopes of helping someone else.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

When TV was funny ...

Johnny Carson and Dom DeLuise ...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This is disturbing ...

The video of this is almost surreal!!!!

BART Cop Needs To Be Held Without Bail

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I couldn't resist ...

First, lets get the hangover cure approved (see recent post) then lets work on making this available in every city.

MyOpenBar Finds You Free Drinks

If only ...

Sure, this has obvious medical uses but come on, some of us would pay dearly for some relief on Jan 1 every year :)

New treatment for blood poisoning could prove instant hangover cure

Worth a watch ...

courtesy of ze frank

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Last Question

Asimov is one of my favorite authors. I have stumbled across this short-story a few times and wanted to keep it handy for future reference so I'm posting here. Enjoy!!!

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov © 1956