Friday, October 28, 2016

Google and trends in communication

My take on computing today is "Google".  I use Gmail.  I compose in Google Docs and store my docs on Google Drive.  I can access my email and documents on any computer and any computing device, such as an iPad.  I post my blog in Google Blogger.  I keep Chrome, Google's browser open all the time along with Firefox, my other browser.  I have set Chrome to open to Gmail on one page and my Gmail contacts on a 2nd page.

I get a notice from Think with Google weekly or more often.  Nearly all of the content is about the steady and dramatic change in computing from computers to smartphones.  As an example of the changes that have occurred among tv and computer users over the last few years, see this page on YouTube vs. broadcast/cable tv.  I note that one of the items on the page linked below is that many people, especially younger people, habitually use two or more screened devices simultaneously.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A nice rainy morning

It was a nice rainy morning.  We haven't had many of those lately and I welcomed it.  Most weekdays, I walk 2 ½ miles, often with friends.  When it is raining, it makes sense to show the neighbors that I am smart enough to come in out of the rain.  Rain means make yourself comfortable, have another cup of something and read.

In fact, it rained all day.  When it is raining out, a guy with glasses may want to remove them to avoid streaks and rivulets that interfere with good vision. I often wear a jacket with a hood or carry an umbrella.  Many college students simply walk through the rain but they are not usually wearing hearing aids.  I want mine to last, not rust or malfunction.  As time goes by, hearing aids make more and more of difference.  Now, when I pull them out, the sounds of the world and of course, what others are saying drop in volume and in clarity, often becoming incomprehensible.

If I were more virtuous, I might run and walk in the rain.  But I want to show the pastors and rabbis that I am not an idolater, a slave to some idea of physical fitness and longevity.  It helps my moderate approach to life to vary things a bit.  "Why We Make Mistakes" cites studies that learning is slower when the conditions and surroundings are varied but that the learning is deeper and lasts longer.  I am not trying to learn anything when I walk but I figure laying about has got to be good for something in some way, right?

Even when I drive to campus, I like to have an umbrella handy to protect my iPad as well as my hearing aids.  I want to be able to reach out of the car with my left hand and put my umbrella up before exposing anything vulnerable to the rain.  I bought an umbrella that is marked "one hand operation" but it isn't really.  The thing opens nicely with one hand but it only closes partly using a single press of a button.  I have already ordered another model but I bet it will be no better.  My new one has a stretch band to hold it closed and that is a good feature but I have to open that band for the device to unfurl.  I want one that is inexpensive, sturdy and can open its own closure band, pop open until the button is re-pressed.  Then, I want it to completely collapse and re-encircle itself with its band.  Might not get all that but those are the steps and features I want.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Credentials and quizzes

Where did you meet your spouse?

What was your spouse's grandmother's middle name?  What was her favorite food? What was her kitty's name?  What was the kitty's favorite food?  When was that kitty born?

These are the sorts of questions I get these days as I am trying to establish that I am actually the person I purport to be.  

I foresee greater depth and completeness in credentialing in the future.  We seem to be moving toward retinal ID, typing ID where the exact speed and keystrokes and typical errors identify you, device ID where the operating system, cookies still lingering on the machine and other features, taken together identify the machine.

Similarly, I am often asked to read a policy, sometimes a statement that the company promises to try to sell data about me and my tastes, proclivities and activities to the highest bidder as often as possible.  At the bottom of the statement of policy is a check box that I need to check to state that I have read the policy.  If I go directly to checking the box, the computer says "You cannot read that quickly.  Now go back and actually read our message."  

The verification and testing industry, probably a spin off of the folks who bring us the SAT test, is working on automatic generation of quizzes to try to increase the probability that I have actually read, comprehend and will remember the policy and its implications, ramifications and relation to previous policies and similar ones posted by other companies.  Their machines might create a set of quiz questions like these:

  1. In summary, what are the five main actions we have said we will take with your data?

  2. What was the copyright date of the post of our policy?

  3. What action can you take if you feel we are misusing your data?

My bank keeps my online information visible to me for a limited time only.  After a few minutes of no activity on the page, the file disappears and I have to sign in again.  That is what you can expect, only faster, with a future statement of policy.  I imagine only so much time to read the policy and then it will not be available.  Thus, I will be required to know the policy well enough that I can answer without peeking back at the message and simply repeating what I see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Keep notes

Eric Barker 10/9/2016 from his blog "Barking Up the Wrong Tree"

"I had to take geometry to graduate high school but knowing what a rhombus is has never helped me. Nobody thought it was important to teach me about meaning. Seriously, my air conditioner came with better instructions than anything that's important in life."

I say "you never know" whether knowing what a rhombus is has helped you or not.  It might have without your realizing.  It might have but you forgot.  Gave you confidence.  Humbled you since you can't recall. For instance, you forgot that time when that cute red-head asked you what a rhombus is and it led to your first marriage.  So, that time and other times when knowing what a rhombus is have served you well got forgotten.

I am listening to "Why We Make Mistakes" by Joseph T. Hallinan.  I bought it in print and audio format but it was a neighbor's nudge that got me to focus on the book.  I like to play an audio book from beginning to end in my car while I drive around town.  My car is about two years old and it has 12,500 miles on it, which probably tells you that I don't drive all that much.  True, I don't, but keeping the iPod set to play as soon as I turn on the engine gives me many chances to listen, at least to a paragraph or two.  Why We Make Mistakes makes clear over and over that the evidence is overwhelming that we forget, we distort, we misquote.  Further, the distortions are often somehow in our own favor.  

I am reminded of Tony DiNozzo on the CSI program.  Tony went to a reunion determined to apologize to a former classmate for bullying him. When we meet the classmate, we find the man is about twice as big as DiNozzo.  Tony bullied that guy?  Before DiNozzo can speak, the man blurts out an apology for the bullying he inflicted on DiNozzo back in college.  Like your blog author who completely reversed which one of the Kirbys had sliced a hand open on a blade in the suds, DiNozzo had mentally switched from a painful position to an alternate version of the story.

Later I will give a talk on having a blog. Blog or diary, better make a note.  Partake of the 6000 year old insight and make a note.  These days, it can be quick, inexpensive and easy to retain video and/or audio evidence of what went on.  You might even want to invest in a body camera.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Beautiful fall sky

Taken by Dr. L. Kirby

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Have some respect!

Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual thinker, leader and author that Oprah Winfrey was sufficiently impressed by that she arranged for him to give a free course to others on TV and the internet.  Tolle is interesting because he uses secular language to focus on ways we can lead better, fuller lives.  One of his main themes is that we tend to think too much.

Being conscious, knowing that we are alive and knowing (more or less) who we are, is a great gift.  Our thinking is our main tool and allows for analysis of problems, mindfulness of our thoughts and feeling.  Our thinking brains handle language, form sentences to express ourselves, decode the utterances and writings of others.  Very fine tools, indeed!

However, there is far more to us than just our conscious minds.  Much of the work of speaking, listening to others speak, writing and reading takes place outside of our direct awareness.  But all sorts of processes move along in addition to communication with other people.  Breathing, healing, balancing, varying heart rate, hormones, metabolism, digestion, cell repair and death and creation and many other aspects of our bodies happen all the time.  Mostly, we don't notice.  We are still thinking about our tax bill or dinner menu or how much fun it is going to be to see cousin Milt.

It is not easy to notice that there is more to ourselves than our thinking, conscious minds.  The mind is so powerful, flexible and fun that we can engage it on any topic, use it to focus on any problem or theme.  No wonder that we tend to think that our thinking brain is all there is.  Books like "You Are Not Your Brain" by Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding, two MD's who use both medicine and psychological/Buddhist insights in their practices, often expand from looking at the conscious mind to looking at the whole brain.  That makes sense since aspects of our ongoing lives are affected by our habits too.  Habits can be transferred from the conscious to the unconscious.  I can develop habitual emotional states as well as perform habitual steps in a physical or mental process such as cooking or driving or long division.

So, common advice today is: Have some respect for all the parts of you and not just the mind you work with all day.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Know that place?

Some days are busy and yesterday was a good example.  I didn't get today's blog post written until now.  

This morning we talked about taking some trips.  Lynn tends to be attracted to outdoors.  I tend to see yet another lake, yet another mountain, yet another picnic table.  Sure, the actual skyline  is different but I skim, generalize and overlook.  So, trying a different approach, Lynn started looking at Road Scholar's Signature Cities program.  We have been on 15 Road Scholar trips and every one of them was worthwhile and fun.  

She tried getting us talking and thinking about cities.  I was born in a city and raised in a city of over a million.  I visited what I considered a small town, a college town, liked what I saw and wanted to teach here.  She is a suburban and country woman but understands and like cities, too.  Our town has a population of 27,000, which makes it the 28th largest city in the state.  

When we moved here, we were next-door neighbors with a banker who had moved here from years of living in a town of 448.  He felt he was adventurous, moving to our big place while we felt adventurous moving to our littler place.

I have had experience in alleys and backs of buildings. Today, I wanted to deliver some business cards to the Q Gallery and I tried to enter from the back.  That plan put me in the back of buildings clearly built 100 or more years ago.  I have lived in this town for nearly 50 years, all of them as an able-bodied adult with a car that had fuel.  I have biked and walked here but I had never even seen the sights I saw looking for the back door I sought.

I wrote in this blog about two separate visits to Florence, Italy and how different they were.  Except for seeing the Michelangelo's statue of David and the famous Duomo cathedral, they might have been visits to two different places.  The route in, the route out, the places you go and the activities you participate in can easily differ so much, it is hard to believe it was the same place.

I know some parts of my town and some parts of Hilo, Hawaii and some parts of Sante Fe, New Mexico but there are many places in each I haven't visited and don't know.  We have an attic in this house but I have never been there.  There are undoubtedly places in our yard I have never set foot.

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