Jim Schutze, on the upcomming city council election for Dallas District 14:

Wood’s waffling on the [Trinity River] park plan is concerning, but I’m too embarrassed to offer it here as a serious argument for anything, because that would be just too East Dallas deep-in-the-weeds hillbilly, and nobody outside of District 14 would even get it.

So let’s say this. The city is on the very verge of a huge change, a generational turnover of power and culture. That’s the hat. District 14 voters will have to make up their minds on that basis. And then we can cut each other’s noses off — that’s the part we really live for anyway.

There seems to be a philosophical disconnect between the two (broadly generalizing) sides of the health care debate. The technical way to frame the debates is this: should health care be an entitlement or not? In other words, should it be something everyone deserves to have provided for them, or should it be something that is sold according to free market rules. I use to be on the free market side of this debate, but I have since shifted to the entitlement side. If I were to distill the reason why I changed my mind, it’s this: When someone dies from a medical condition that could have been treated but wasn’t because they couldn’t afford the treatment, what is your reaction? If it’s, “well maybe that’s not a good thing, but it is fair and just,” then that places you on the free market side of the debate. If, on the other hand, that situation strikes you as unfair and unjust, then you are on the entitlement side.

Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty, not because God is mean or fault-finding or finger-pointing but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.

N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone: Matthew, Year A (pp. 13-14).

I’m experimenting with “micro” blog posts. Technically they are just regular blog posts without titles. The idea is that they are quick thoughts, not essays. They are the kind of writing that would normally be posted to Twitter or Facebook.

Howard Guide 2011

From blog.tedchoward.com.

The State Fair of Texas starts today, and I’m very excited! The State Fair is a family tradition for us, and so we go early and go often.

This year, we’ve decided to take our combined 160 years of fair-going experience and share it. If you want to learn how to visit the Fair like the Howards, make sure you follow http://howardguide.com. We’ll be posting our tips and reviews on all things State Fair of Texas.

Now, I’m off to the Fair!

Read and Retain

From blog.tedchoward.com.

I was talking with my friend Josh the other day about how easily we forget things. We both have a problem with reading books: we tend to forget most of the material. When reading for fun, this isn’t a big deal, although it can be embarassing. (I read Ender’s Game twice without realizing it.) When reading a business or technical book, it can become problematic. What’s the point of reading the book if you don’t put it into practice?

This morning, I was again thinking about how to best retain what I read, when I ‘heard’ the word retain in a different context in my head. Bear with me now as I attempt to compare self-improvement with iPhone application design.

When you build an iPhone application, you store lots of ‘stuff’ in memory: images, web content, other information, etc. Often that same stuff will be used in different places inside the same application. For example, in a game, you might want to display the high score on the game screen itself and on another summary screen that could include a list of high scores, so you design the application so that both screens have access to the section of memory that stores the high score. When you do this on the iPhone, you also need to tell each screen to retain that section of memory. The reason for doing this is that as soon as the iPhone doesn’t think that memory is being used, whatever was stored there is erased and made available for storing something else.

Did you catch that? Unless your application specifically retains a section of memory, whatever was stored there will be lost forever.

Back to reading. When you read something important, you need to do something with that knowlegde quickly or it will be lost. This is why the best students are the ones that take notes in class and when they read. It’s not necessarily that the notes are beneficial later (although they often are), it’s that the act of taking notes engages the brain in a way that casues it to retain the knowledge.

Taking notes is a good step, but an even better solution is to attempt to use the knowlegde for something real. The best way to learn a new programming language is by writing a real program in that language. If you’re reading a book on time management, put the strategies to practice immediately as you are reading the book. The more you use the knowledge, the more of it you retain.

A few years ago, I read Getting Things Done. It’s a great book, and it’s helped me a little, but not very much. I’m practically as disorganized as I ever was. Why? Because I read that book a few chapters at a time either in bed or in a comfortable chair. I read it the same way I read a novel. I picked up some decent tips, but I’ve forgotten most of the material. I’ve decided to read it again, only this time I’m going to play along as I read. I want to retain and use all of the knowledge in that book, so I’m going to try to put it into practice immediately. I hope it sticks this time.

What about you? How do you retain what you read?

Why Self Hosting Matters

From blog.tedchoward.com.

On Saturday, I wanted to share a video I had made with some friends. I used iMovie to produce the video, so I just used the built in sharing support to upload the video to Facebook. It was really easy to to, and just a second later my phone dinged with a Facebook notification for me, but it wasn’t what I expected. I figured my video was done encoding and was ready to be shared. Instead it was a message that Facebook had removed my video because it contained copyrighted material. I had to acknowledge that I had read the message and understand that if I uploaded copyrighted material again, I could be banned from Facebook.

Did I include copyrighted material in my video? Well, yes I did. The music was the opening theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I legally obtained. I didn’t really think much of it because I wasn’t doing a promotional video for a company or trying to sell anything. I just wanted to share a fun video with my friends. Then I thought, maybe YouTube has a different policy. I’ve seen videos with copyrighted soundtracks in them there before.

So I uploaded the video to YouTube. It uploaded, processed, and I received an email telling me that they discovered a copyrighted soundtract, but that I shouldn’t worry about it. They took care of everything. So I went to view my video and discovered what they meant. The way they took care of it was by removing the audio completely from the video, which in my case, ruins the video.

This is completely ridiculious! I’m not trying to profit off of their material. I think 2001: A Space Odyssey has been out long enough that a silly video shared between friends isn’t going to dilute or damage their brand. Plus, isn’t everything a remix anyway?

Then my solution became very obvious to me: I’ll just host the video myself. That’s kind of the point behind ec2 for Poets, Blork and the World Outline: control your own content. Those tools made it very easy for me (once I had my video encoded) to build a landing page with a video player, create an easy to remember link (odyssey.infoted.com), and share it with my friends.

Self Hosting Matters.