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My kids live in the future.

Thinking about my kids’ world. It’s already different from mine. Answering machines and voicemail came when I was in grade school and are almost dead. Long distance isn’t. It’s easier than ever to create. And everyone gets to be an individual. 

This thought was spurred in part by looking at summer camps and recoiling at the idea of my 7-yo son going to a camp that segregates boys and girls. I know there are studies showing possibly better outcomes for girls in some situations, but two things remain. First, I don’t think I’ve seen a study that says boys do better. And second, that’s not the way of the world. I expect my boys to live mostly in a world where women are professional and social equals. Why would I want to hamstring them by perpetuating habits that are the byproduct of stereotypes? 

Men and women may tease each other in relationships, but that’s a pattern for my life. It’ll be mostly gone by the time my son is a man, and my grandchildren will never know it except from old movies.


Reality is more complex than the map

The reality of being a single dad is even more complicated than this because all the lines are about half-an-inch wide (to scale), so it’s really an enormous mass of grey. OTOH, maybe that means I really should just stop trying to figure stuff out — but that’s hard to do when your primary skill is figuring stuff out!



Tumblr mxv5cdqhrv1skzu1eo1 500




















via:  (http://leiaworld.tumblr.com/post/70408990884/so-small-is-the-different-between-all-of-that)


How to import firefox passwords into 1Password v4

I recently purchased 1Password v4. I thought, reading the reviews and the FAQ, that it would import the 548 password combinations I evidently had stored in Firefox.


The product was shipped with only the ability to import its own format (thanks for nothing) and CSV files.

Checking, opening, and retyping 548 sets of URL, username, and password sounded like exactly Zero Fun.

Here’s the workaround that 1Password should have kindly shared with new users, modified slightly from my post on their forum.

1. Here’s an extension for Firefox that (in Firefox 24) exported my 548 saved passwords to a .csv file: [https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/password-exporter/](https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/password-exporter/) The extension tells you how may exported items there are. This is a quick check to see if there’s a major problem in your process (but keep in mind it won’t confirm that they’re properly converted at each step).

2. Export was very quick.

3. USE 1Pv3 to import. Use the legacy download page. I used v3.8.2.1 for Lion with no ill effects on Mountain Lion.

4. File/Import. Select the csv file. (In 1Pv4, this must have the .csv extension, so mine now did from an earlier failed attempt.) You will have to adjust the fields manually to ensure they match and select “Login” as type. 548 logins imported in my case, which matches 

5. Export all to 1PIF (just in case) to desktop. Not encrypted – remember to delete later.

6. Close 1Pv3.

7. Reinstalled 1Pv4 (from App Store, in my case). It remembered my earlier master password.

8. Import the 1PIF folder.

9. 548 items imported. 

10. I tested a few items to see if they worked, which is also about learning the application. It all looks good to my newbie eye.


Rant on understanding what you’re studying

This article on increasing mortality rates, i.e., decreased lifespan, among certain American women is a good one to for econ and math professors to give to their stats students as a quiz. “Identify errors….”

In an email to a friend, I described this article as  half-written” because it so obviously makes statements that are completely wrong and non-sensical if someone had bothered to read them out loud.
Here’s a taste:
“Life is different for women without a high-school degree than it was a few decades ago, and in most cases it’s a lot worse,” she said. “It’s really just a perfect storm.” 
That’s following a discussion that says that education is driving the seemingly crazy increase in death rates. Of course, that’s nonsense because there’s no plausible mechanism for education qua education to lead to early death. There probably are a lot of other things correlated with or even caused by being a female high school dropout, like being poor, fat, a smoker, frequently pregnant and drunk (you *know* those two are linked as tightly as my punctuation indicates), and a meth-head. Add that to all the other crappy side effects of being poor, and it’s no wonder. But dropping out doesn’t cause these problems — handing out degrees won’t fix them. Yes, education helps, but that facile answer sidesteps the most uncomfortable of assessments in America:  people are different at the same time as they are all equal. (This is my nod to the possibility that the causes of dropping out are probably also causes of those other drivers of poor health.)
Earlier, the article did the same thing with location. Absolutely lazy-ass crap to write that. Unless there’s poison in the ground or radiation in the air, location is almost certainly 100% not causally related to anything that’s going on. Sure, it’s correlated, but so what? 
Two closing thoughts, and then I’m going to post this rant:
1. This is another example of Prof. Kingsley’s admonition against doing the experiments you can do instead of the ones you should do. (I have always thought that there was a subtext there about folks not always knowing the difference, but that’s mine not his. As smart as he is, I’ve never heard him utter a disparaging word about the brainpower of other scientists.)
2. Clay Shirky, NYU Prof among other things, recently tweeted that he realized the problem with daily journalism is that the deadline doesn’t care whether you understand what the real story is. (Of course, CNN has that problem in spades.)
These comments about location and education “causing” the observed death rate are either sloppy reporting/research (someone doesn’t understand how things fit together) or there are folks who frankly aren’t done with their work — if these are the proffered “explanations.”

Twitter remixed

This article provides a new and more interesting take on twitter. It’s like a present-tense exonet, very “now” oriented rather than library of knowledge oriented.

I’ve stopped much twitter viewing for two reasons: first, my app for reading tweets was a fantastic Outlook plugin that was a good part of my workflow. (With the Airbook now, Outlook is consigned to finding stuff in my archives that hasn’t imported readily to Mail.app.) Second, I got tired of seeing a vast majority of tweets in this formula: Catchy 5 words + shortlink.

The reason the lots of short links model doesn’t work for me is that 1) too much clicking and back and forth between twitter app and browser and 2) too much crap I don’t want to have to click to find out I don’t want to read anyhow (such as “news” from unreliable sites), and 3) too many duplicates in material that’s linked multiple times or by different services. The standard “change the link color” paradigm hasn’t appeared in any twitter app I’ve tried, and it sure doesnt work based on the ultimate URL anyhow given the plethora of different link-shortening sites.

So what fixes those problems? As I thought about the approach Mark described, I went further: is there a twitter app that turns the links into the equivalent of an RSS feed for you, all pre-pulled down and ready to read?

I set out to do some research to see what was out there. What pops into my stream of consciousness but this Lifehacker article about Lazyscope, from 4 days before Mark’s post!

So I read the articles, check out the video and try to grok the model. Lazyscope is similar to what I had just written. (It makes me wonder how much of the blurb on the lifehacker post from my RSS feed (which I definitely didn’t read) stuck in my head to feed into my idea. Funny.)

I let this sit a week to cogitate on whether my idea is better enough to bother with….

Here’s the difference I see: I need fewer tools, not more. Lazyscope either becomes another Twitter app or another feed reader. Maybe it’s got what I need to replace my feedreader, but that’s not really the problem, is it? No one is looking at Lazyscope because their *reader* is a problem; it’s because the twitter feed/current tweet paradigmatic model is the problem.

So I just started exploring twitter feeds. Can’t get my timeline as a feed, apparently. The link is amazingly “missing” if I try Google Reader (Ed. note: this was drafted before Google Reader was euthanized) on Firefox, chokes on basic (I guess I’ve read enough to understand that to mean “non-OAuth”) authentication in Safari, and I’m going to see what happens in my mobile reader, Newsrack. Nope. The authentication works but the feed is just my favorites. Is there actually a correct feed link? I don’t want to state that it can’t be found because the world is just too big sometimes.

Okay, so what it seems like I need is an app that takes my twitter feed, properly authenticated, and does the following:

1. Unshortens shortlinks.

2. Compares and eliminates duplicates (could just lump them into one item, expandable, in case some user added something useful in her tweet)

3. Compares and eliminates duplicate RTs and similar

4. Some sort of organizing theme to the links that might not be as basic as reverse chronological (I’m thinking theme or source or even keywords of some kind)

So the next question, after trying lazyscope out later, will be whether (a) such a tool is worthwhile (yes) and whether (b) such a tool can be made and whether (c) such a tool is permitted via Twitter’s API.


This idea of turning Twitter into a realtime RSS feed, which is a phrase I’m borrowing from an article about the genesis of app.net, is sort of interesting. It ties into the now-ancient notion of a conversation, a stream that continues on and you no longer try to step in the same place twice.


Heat transfer of big ice cubes

So big ice cubes aren’t necessarily new news, but the ad below which piqued my interest is recent.

Ice is cold; your drink is warm. If ice cools drinks by taking heat and melting, then can these work as advertised? The larger surface area slows melting and heat transfer, true, but no heat transfer means no cooling! So you could put big ice cubes in your drink and they wouldn’t make it cooler in the same way. Right? 

Or, if your drink is already very cold, maybe it helps a bit more, but I keep seeing calories (i.e., heat energy) go into your drink – from the sun or simply ambient air temperature. Ice can suck up lots of those calories because its heat of fusion (about 80 cal/g) is so much higher than its specific heat (1 cal/g). BUT again, if the heat transfer into the ice is slowed because of lower surface area, then the heat has to stay in your drink, right?

Maybe they just make better decorations by not melting, which is a whole different problem.

It seems to me that the polished stones you can pop in the freezer are a better choice – infinitely recyclable and high thermal mass. As long as you don’t chip a tooth trying to chew on them!

photo of ice cube tray for very large ice cubes


What I’m looking for

You’re fire, a black market bottle rocket bought from the back of a trunk from a Pedro’s “South of the Border” bag.

I’m hoping for instant girlfriend, the one who I meet and that’s just it — it starts and continues and grows and goes on and on. I don’t want to date and date, and since I haven’t found her yet, I’d sorta like to give the rest back. But that’s not how it works, is it? They don’t teach you that in kindergarten.

I’m a keeper for someone. So are you.


Every day is Pearl Harbor Day

On Pearl Harbor Day last December, I came across someone who suggested that America needed something to wake us up and get us back on our feet. The reference was to Pearl Harbor Day and how it brought the country together 70 years ago.

Me: Didn’t we get that about 10 years ago? Of course, we may have squandered it on no-doc mortgages, but that’s our own fault.

Reply: not quite what I was getting at…. Unfortunately it takes a tradegy of some sort to make our country decide that we need to start acting as grown-ups and do what is right for everyone…. if you remember the rallying of the nation after 9-11…. I do not wish for anything bad to happen, but we must find that commom purpose to pull this nation back together and be as great as we can be. [minor edits by me]

Me: I find that common purpose every time I think about a great historical document: the Declaration, the preamble to the Constitution, even the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address: “… a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….” It only takes a few minutes, maybe just 30 seconds — on Memorial Day, 9-11, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving — to remember those things.

Works for me just as well as the Ranger Creed, but those documents are more accessible to most than that!

That’s the stuff I think about on days like Dec. 7th. Lots of days, even.


Find your future by asking the right questions

Not too long ago I met a bright recent college grad, who was trying to decide what to do for a year before she committed to medical school (which is a big commitment in so many many ways).

Here’s my version of advice to college students or recent grads (and frankly it would be even better advice to high schoolers trying to pick a major or what to study (but I really don’t hang out with highschoolers that much since my boys are less than half that age!)).

The best advice I can give is to think about the kinds of problems you love to solve, including how you like to go about it. Then try things that seem to fit, and look for people who can identify with what works for you.

This is what that bit of advice looks like after literally 13+ years of thinking about it. My personal turning point was talking to the partner I worked for at a large law firm. It was the day of his 34th anniversary with the firm, which was actually longer than I’d been alive. I thought about it for a bit, and even though I liked him then and still do, I realized that in 33 years, I wouldn’t really *want* his job (head of litigation, etc.). I quickly realized that I actually didn’t want that job in three years.

So, rather than stop there, I kept going: whose job at this firm did I actually really want to have for the long term? I came up with one answer: the managing partner. And it only took about 15 seconds to realize that that was because he basically didn’t practice law but was instead focused on the business of running the firm and, at the time, acquiring other law firms. That sort of thinking comes from not asking yourself the relatively unhelpful question of “where do I want to be in five years?” but rather the vastly more interesting “where do i want to be in fifteen years?” The difference is that five years almost always leads to simply extending your current path out in the same direction (get a promotion, have your boss’s job). Fifteen years is enough to cause you to break the mental chain between your present and your future. That’s the right kind of question.

What’s the next step? What do you do with that sort of realization? Just give up and say, “Oh, I do plane crashes and shipwrecks, so I might as well just consign myself to be unfulfilled?” Hell no — this is America, and I’m pretty much a typical guy and a typical New Yorker on this front: if something is broken, we start to fix it.

What made it work for me was not that I tried to become a CEO next after being a litigation associate; no, I just had to figure out what easy next step I could make that would work for me, have a huge likelihood of success, and would bring me closer to my goal. For me, the easy first step was to simply switch to doing corporate legal work. That started with a handful of projects, and then, when I moved cross-country, I was determined to only do corporate work. Yes, I got lucky in that Silicon Valley law firms in 1999 were super hot and bothered for NYC associates from big firms and good schools. I had two great offers at two great firms (how I ended up at one and not the other has a few twists that I’ll save for another day). That was it. One easy decision, moving my potential long-term target, CEO of a company, closer to the center of my future. (I always picture this like the visual of the Death Star coming around the moon and the cone of fire on the screen as they get ready to blast the planet. It’s like that, only less destructive; the possible paths in front of you criss-cross lots of times, and the goal is to have each step bring your goal closer to the center, to the most likely path of your future.

It sounds easy, but it’s hard to know yourself sometimes. The next best alternative is to learn the right questions to ask yourself to get to useful answers, the kind you can build a life on.


Recipe for simpler politics

The union of two principles:

  1. Enhance liberty toward Pareto-optimality
  2. Rely only on empirical evidence for the rest

See also: the Occam’s Razor of politics