Outage breaks posting streak! (The March 27 post)

Frontier DSL experienced a mass outage in Durham, NC, last night, before I was able to make yesterday's post.

I refuse to tap out a token post on my iPhone SE, so I let it go. Thus was my streak of daily posts -- started last Christmas day -- ended. Boo-hoo.

In retaliation, I will post twice today. This post will count as my March 27 post; the next one will be the March 28 post.

The DSL was still down this morning and may not come back till sometime tomorrow, if then. So I may draft another quickie post and schedule it for tomorrow, just in case.

(I'm using The Man's internet till then.)

Jacques Barzun on True Work

I cannot remember where I got this quote, but it impressed itself on me so much that I had it posted in my office cubicles for years, on my old Google blog site, and on my old Tumblr site. I love it so much I want to post it again.

True Work is that which occupies the mind and the heart, as well as the hands. It has a beginning and an ending. It is the overcoming of difficulties one thinks important for the sake of results one thinks valuable.
— Jacques Barzun

AI's intelligence and stupidity in one photo stitch fail | Engadget

A Google panorama photo fail from a Reddit user has again shown how good AI can be at weirdly specific tasks and how bad it is at seeing, well, the big picture.

My friend Bob told me about Google Photos’ capability to automatically stitch together a sequential series of photos into a panorama shot with mostly good results. 

Googling that capability surfaced this amazing photo created by Google’s auto-stitching algorithms. The article shows the series of photos that were stitched together to make that awesome panorama.

Bob told me of another way to abuse the auto-stitch feature. A friend of his was around when someone was photographing groupings of their friends in sequence to create a panorama. “Wait,” the friend said. He then inserted himself into each group of people that were part of the series. They were puzzled as to why he was pushing himself into every photo.

When the shots were stitched together into a panorama, it looked as if there were six clones of the friend hanging out with his/their friends, with each clone in a different pose: laughing, talking, looking at the sky. Brilliant!

Shook | Austin Kleon

A bomb exploded in my neighborhood last night on a sidewalk I walk every morning with my wife and two sons. We’re all okay. The boys are oblivious, thankfully, but my wife and I are a little shook. I wanted to get down a couple thoughts…

Writer-who-draws Austin Kleon lives in a neighborhood where one of the Austin bomber’s devices exploded. He shares a bit of the panic and anxiety he felt about his family, and where to find the best information in an emergency. 

Forget breaking news and even neighborhood listservs. The best information was via the official Twitter feeds of the police and EMS departments.

I also admire his taking of the long view; some information is always there, ready for the taking.

What Exactly Does a Librarian Do? Everything. | Literary Hub

Lots of different types of library work happens everywhere—new jobs crop up daily, thanks to evolving tech and shifting community needs—but there are some standard positions that remain eternal.

Kristen Arnett begins a new bimonthly column on the job that never earns enough to pay back the student loans. It has the punchy humor and wry tone that I associate with literary humor (that’s an observation, not a criticism!).

Because I got my master’s at a library school, I have a soft spot in my heart for librarians. Those who love it, really love it. The young folks coming in to the field are energetic, imaginative, and really pushing the limits of what the local public library can offer. Public service is what it’s all about for them.

If I recall correctly, at the time I was in school (2006-2011) the undergrads were overwhelmingly “library science” whereas the graduate students overwhelmingly “information science.” This was trending to an overproduction of information science faculty nationwide, leading some commentators to wonder who was going to teach the students interested in brick-and-mortar institutions? Most librarians get a Ph.D. to qualify to lead a research library or similar institution, they don’t always come back to teach.

The Portlandia Effect: How Did the Show Change Portland?

After hundreds of voters weighed in, the results came back. Old Portland died on January 21, 2011 — the day Portlandia debuted.

The end of Portlandia is time to look back on a show that opened the door to a type of hipster humor that felt young and fresh until its moment, like all moments, passed.

The Vulture’s article on the death of Old Portland at the hands of Portlandia reminded me of similar stories, particularly how the villagers of Port Isaac are fed up with the Doc Martin series filming in their village

Are the shows really to blame? Austin has long had a hip reputation and old-timers lament the passing of landmarks, but I can’t recall any TV shows set there. Our little town of Durham is growing by leaps and bounds yet there’s no TV show fueling that. Maybe Old Portland would have changed even without the attention the show brought to it. 

But there is such a thing as “buzz”; downtown Durham has it for better and worse, and we visited Portland based on watching Portlandia. The buzz will die away eventually, it has its moment, as humor does. In the meantime? Suffer the tourists and techno-nomads, perhaps, or search out the next Portland or Austin or Durham and stake your claim. More fun to create your own scene than hang out at someone else’s.

Hold On to the Badge

This is a rather silly little hack but when I do it, it solves lots of little problems. 

The situation: 

  • At my workplace, our badges have a chip to unlock the secure doors. 
  • The badge also logs me in to my computer. After inserting the badge into the computer, I enter a PIN and wait a minute or two or three for the login process to finish and Windows to boot up. Once booted, I can pull out the badge. 
  • People forget about their badges and leave them in their computers. This is such a frequent occurrence that a big window will pop up on the screen after 20 minutes or so if the badge is still inserted. 
  • But by the time that window pops up, you have walked out of the locked office area to the bathroom or to get coffee. Returning to the locked door you  realize you left your card in the computer. You are locked out. Much knocking and embarrassed, hushed "thank-yous" follow.  

So, what to do? Here's what I tried:

  • I printed out signs with big red letters screaming BADGE!!! Within days, I'd stopped seeing them. 
  • I moved the signs to places where I'd be sure to see them when standing up or exiting my cube. I walked past them as if they weren't there. 
  • What worked sometimes was simply to sit at the computer while it booted up but...is that boring or what? I would get impatient and walk away, promising myself I'd remember to retrieve my badge but usually I forgot. 

As I've learned from Mark Forster's books and blogs over the years, the first step in plugging a leaky process or system is to not take the failures personally. This is not about correcting perceived character flaws. I didn't fail, my system failed. Failing provides information I can use to tweak my system so it will work with me and not against me.

As I daydreamed about what would help the situation, I remembered a detail from Thomas Limoncelli's time management book. He mentioned that he kept his badge in his hand as he took off his coat because if he ever set it on a desk or shelf, he'd forget he'd done so and walk off without it.  

Hmm. Maybe instead of reminding myself to retrieve the badge, the simpler solution would be to never let the badge leave my hand. 

The following system is what has worked best: After I insert the badge into the computer and enter my PIN, I put my fingers on the badge and I wait for the computer to boot up. After I'm logged in, I whip out the badge, put it into my badge holder, and go about my business.

No need for signs or reminders, no forgetting the badge, no embarrassed knocks on a locked door. It's a pretty leakproof system.

I can't explain why keeping my hand on the badge and waiting works for me while leaning back in my chair and waiting does not. Perhaps the simple act of holding the badge is enough to engage body and mind. I'm actively rather than passively waiting. 

Also, waiting that minute or so teaches me that the pain of boredom is imaginary. Just ignore that feeling and wait, if waiting is what needs to be done.

Teaching the New Testament – A Jewish Professor Looks Back

By 1992, as I approached my 20th year of university teaching, I’d evolved the philosophy that we who taught about religion had two tasks to perform with our students.  One was to shake them up.  The other was to build them up.

David Halperin tells the wonderful story of a Jewish professor teaching a New Testament class in the South to what could be described as a tough crowd.

So many lessons here on the value of shaking things up, yes, and also the responsibility to build something in its place, and the wonderful surprises that can occur when you take a calculated risk. Something alchemical happened between professor, students, subject matter, and dialogue that produced something unique and unattainable elsewhere. 

I had lunch with David recently; he said he had discovered over the years that fundamentalist students were happy to challenge when they were in the opposition, but they shut up when handed the mic. This “interactive method” for teaching a large class neutralized that stance; it also, from his description, called forth from the students resources they did not know they possessed. What they learned they had earned.

He never taught the class again nor deployed that method again. A golden memory, to be sure. 

Productivity Update

I have noticed an interesting change in my attitude about Inbox Zero – basically, I’ve stopped trying to maintain it.

When I get home, my priorities are a workout, supper with Liz, we maybe watch some TV (only until 8pm on school nights), I wash the dishes, and I make our tea. A perfectly pleasant and comforting evening routine.

Then, I go up to my office and the first thing I do is write my blog post for the day or – if I’m really productive – for the next day. Some evenings I cycle through several ongoing drafts of posts in Evernote, adding or editing text (Mark Forster’s continuous revision process), before settling on something I like well enough to finish.

By the time I’ve published the post, it’s 10 or 10:30 p.m. and I need to get ready for bed. 

I will scan the inbox for anything time-sensitive. But by and large, I let most emails wait till I schedule time to deal with them, which may be later in the week or the weekend.

For now I’m content to let my bigger desire (writing and posting daily) overshadow the smaller duty (empty inbox). We’ll see how it goes.

For further reading

Boiling Ourselves to Death

These panels are talking to me about politics, the workplace, life, lots of things. Laugh or get out of the water?

Source: Ruben Bollings' Super-Fun-Pak Comix for March 14, 2018, via Go Comics. 

  <a href="http://www.gocomics.com/super-fun-pak-comix/2018/03/14"><img src="http://tempblogfood.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/d0248-superfun-pakcomix2cmar142c2018.jpgSuper+Fun-Pak+Comix%2C+Mar+14%2C+2018?format=original" alt="" /></a>