Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Ones and zeroes in the clean environment of a computer chip can be controlled absolutely. When you write a reasonably self-contained program, everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong is entirely your fault. It is not a metaphor; programming simply is small-scale godhood."
- Response from  Eliezer on Hacker News.
"Programmers are the Gods of their tiny worlds. They create something out of nothing. In their command-line universe, they say when it’s sunny and when it rains. And the tiny universe complies."
- "Programmers are Tiny Gods" by Derek Powazek, January 15, 2009.

Friday, January 28, 2011

32.) Computer programming is omnipotence without omniscience.

The flow of data in the universe of the computer chip can be controlled absolutely.  Everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong is entirely the programmer's doing. Programming is microcosmic godhood.  It's just too bad that all that power doesn't come with the requisite wisdom to use it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I own a phone for my own convenience.  Owning that phone in no way, shape, or form obligates me to anyone else, and nobody has the right to be angry when I choose not to answer my phone, take the time to screen my calls, or  simply fail to return messages promptly.  This includes my mother and my employer.  Quite frankly, if putting my Skype number on a resume were socially acceptable, I wouldn't even own a phone. 

A lot of people behave as if this is my own personal peculiarity, but I think that it should just be good manners to conduct any form of electronic communication the way you would treat approaching a person's front door.  Knock politely.  Leave a note so they know you were there.  Then, go away if you're not invited in.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

31.) Be wary of consistency.  It's the surest sign of a lie.  Even if it's a lie you're telling yourself.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Do you mind a little advice? Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way. But the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want."
- Scotty in "Relics," written by Ronald D. Moore.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, October 12, 1992

Scotty may have spent his life being rushed through cleaning up messes that were other people's fault, but he did always did it with a passion.  There was never any doubt that, though the Enterprise could explode into a million pieces at any given moment, there was no other place he'd rather be, and the crew love him for it.

Meanwhile, James Doohan may have spent his career shouting gibberish in a bad Scottish accent, but can you name another man who single-handly inspired so many people to become engineers?  That's a solid life's work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

30.) The first rule of business is that everything takes longer than expected.  Everything.

Leave yourself longer than you think necessary, and remember, Scotty only earned the nickname the "miracle worker" by routinely tripling all of his repair time estimates.

Friday, January 21, 2011

29.) When you have to make a really difficult choice between two options, flip a coin.  When the coin is the air, you'll know what it is you really want.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


It's time to stop releasing new video formats.  The industry thinks that it's tricking us into re-purchasing our collections, but all it's actually doing is burning out video collectors, destroying our last reason to buy rather than rent, and frustrating us.  I had hundreds of VHS tapes, many of which I bought in high school, before cable was available in our town.  In college, I bought dozens of DVDs.  Today, I have three Blu Rays, all of which I received as gifts.  I will not be purchasing videos in the next format.

Monday, January 17, 2011

28.) Read the great speeches.

While books reveal the knowledge of an era, it's the great orators who reveal its spirit.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Technology

This evening I would like to use this lofty and historic platform to discuss what appears to me to be the most pressing problem confronting mankind today. Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. He has produced machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. He has built gigantic bridges to span the seas and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies. His airplanes and spaceships have dwarfed distance, placed time in chains, and carved highways through the stratosphere. This is a dazzling picture of modern man’s scientific and technological progress.

Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

- The Nobel Prize acceptance speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., December 11, 1964.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I don't know what people did before GPS navigation systems.  I honestly don't.  I just wish that whoever wrote the software behind those systems would develop an "Avoid this Neighborhood" routing feature that would automatically guide me around the neighborhoods that make re- re- lock my doors.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

27.) If you're not paying for it, you're the product.

We all want stuff for free, but we rarely stop to consider what the hidden costs attach to the things we consider free. Costs like privacy and peace of mind. I lifted this rule from a discussion on MetaFilter on the overhaul of the social aggregation news site Digg last year. The site's redesign had very little to do with improving the user experience and a whole lot to do with positioning users to see content they're intended to see.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Steve Jobs: Advice to New Graduates

"Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference."

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to loose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

"Have the heart to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Monday, January 10, 2011

26.) Own books - good books, and lots of them.

They're friends even in the worst of times, and they say a lot more about you than a shelf of videos.