Mind-set Research

STANFORD Magazine: March/April 2007 > Features > Mind-set ResearchMy friend Paul sent me a link to this article and it rang a definite bell. In high school I got by simply because I was smart and very good at taking tests. I got good grades and was a National Merit Scholar. Tons of colleges recruited me. And then I got to college and my social life was more important than studying. Only this time around faking it was so much harder. So I flunked out.Then I decided to return to school. And here was the kicker: no one would let me in! What? I was great in high school. National Merit Scholar. It slowly hit me that frankly none of that mattered, I had flunked out because I hadn’t tried. My innate ability had finally hit a wall. Over the next few years I went to community college and finally got into a four year school and graduated. And it taught me a lesson.No, not the lesson I was supposed to learn that hard work would pay off and you cannot coast on ability alone. Reality is a little different than that. You can coast on ability on some things. And some things aren’t all that important. Golf for example just isn’t that important to me so I can coast by on what very limited ability I have; for others it’s very important so they hone their innate ability with three rounds each week. But for those important things in life you really do need to practice and the practice and effort almost always pay off.I’m actually a lot more proud of the fact that I clawed my way back into school and graduated at all than I think I would have been breezing through in four years. I did something a lot harder. Sure, it’s no computer science degree and it certainly isn’t a PhD. But it caused me to learn something about my own limitations and how to work harder to overcome them. It reminds me of a scene from the movie “Groundhogs Day”. Bill Murray is talking and offers up a line to the effect “what if God isn’t all powerful. Maybe he’s just been doing this for a very long time.” Practice may not make perfect but practice never made someone worseI’ve watched my older son for some time now and never understood why he gets so frustrated about being asked to try something new. Go try soccer. Go try a new, harder math sheet. How about science camp? The answer is always an angry “no, I don’t want to”. But usually when pushed into it he comes home grinning and joyful. He loves to learn new things, he just needs to be pushed over the precipice to try it. We’re going to try to talk with him some about the joy of learning and trying. Continue reading

IE6 on Ubuntu?

This is really cool. This installs IE6 (or earlier versions if you want them) on Ubuntu. There are very few times these days when I need IE for some reason, but it still happens. Now I don’t need to reboot into XP (which I still need for work purposes) or power up VirtualBox for my Vista install (I owe a write-up on this experience, wow Vista in 512MB in a VM runs slowly). I just run IE 6. Nice, very nice. I surfed a bit but didn’t run through a full pass of sites I care about.I look forward to seeing IE 7 running via WINE soon.Now if the folks doing IE would put their genius to work getting iTunes 7 working…


Felice Giorno di Padres

Happy Father’s DayWe planned to spend the day biking. However… we woke to the sound of rain, loads of rain. So instead I am up surfing the net a bit. What we’re going to do with three kids (our own and one loaner kid) is beyond me. Maybe bowling?I thought about buying a new phone, but decided my current phone is fine for now. Instead my gift to myself will be a new pair of mountain bike shoes. I destroyed my last pair when I hammered my foot into a root and tore the things nearly in half. Happy the shoe took that abuse, not my foot.



Recently I came across Zoho. I have been a big fan of Google Docs for some time. Well not the documents exactly since they lose a lot of formatting from richer applications. But the spreadsheet program has been very useful. But for several reasons I want to move some of my computing away from Google. I can use the OpenOffice stuff in Linux, but frankly part of the appeal of moving to Linux was freeing my personal computing from the local machine. With online docs I can more or less treat a machine as a dumb terminal. Still not entirely true since my music resides locally, but closer.So Zoho.The first thing I did was build a new spreadsheet. My family is tackling another round of a weight loss and I want to track this online so each person can enter his or her own information. Simple spreadsheet. The Google version works fine. I copied and pasted that text into Zoho. The first issue I found was that the formulas don’t paste. Fair enough, when I pasted from Excel into Google Docs the formulas didn’t come over either.The second issue was charts. For a variety of reasons we have blanks in our data. Google’s chart deals with this nicely, assuming an average. Zoho treats those values as zeros. Not as pretty. To be fair I imagine that there are other graphs I where I would want empty values to be treated as zeros. So the final verdict is I can and have switched over.Then this morning I came across Zoho Creator (via Lifehacker). Wow, what a slick application. I cannot say I built anything complex, but I did build some simple forms with simple formulas. Nice. And way ahead of anything Google is offering. Or anyone else I can find for that matter.Now the real question: how long until someone buys these guys? Seems like a very natural fit for Microsoft or Yahoo. Zoho has plugins for Office formats already. Continue reading


Google prefers Word?

Hee hee… some time back I looked into a job with Google. Recently they contacted me. Now I am not job-hunting this week but it never hurts to see what the market is up to, right? I mean maybe someone will want to dump truckloads of cash and stock options in my driveway , right… you never know. So I asked the very innocent question: do you have my resume? As you can see the results (redacted so no one gets in trouble, but very real nonetheless) are funny. The summary:

  • Me: want my resume?
  • Them: yes
  • Me: here is the Google Doc version
  • Them: um… can you send it in Word?

Now that cracks me up.

June 5




Hi Paul,

Can you send in word format?


– Show quoted text –


On 6/4/07, Paul Steckler <paul@bricin.net> wrote:
> Sure, http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcb7xbp4_13cqskcj is
> the URL for the Google Doc version. Let me know if you would prefer an
> alternate format.
> Thanks,
> Paul
> On 6/4/07, Xyz <xyz@google.com> wrote:
> >
> > No, I don’t. Please send to me if you have one onhand. 🙂
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Xyz
> >
> > On 6/4/07, Paul Steckler <paul@bricin.net> wrote:
> > > Sounds good. Do you have a copy of my resume?
> > >
> > >


Internet Filtering

I came across this article this morning by Cory Doctorow. I enjoy Cory’s writing; I don’t always agree but I usually wind up thinking about it. Today though his article left out a very critical subject around filtering: we need a solution for keeping kids safe.I’m not [necessarily] talking about filtering or about schools & libraries. Filtering is a solution which has issues which is the gist of Cory’s article. Below is the text of the email I sent about this. The third paragraph is the most interesting I think — create a social network that tackles the filtering. This eliminates the poorly trained people his article mentions and also the poor socially dysfunctional programmers. It puts the burden back on a neighborhood, albeit a virtual one, to look after your kids. We do this in real life now; kids ride their bikes around and everyone keeps an eye out. Similarly we chat with friends, neighbors, i.e. our community about safe books and movies. Why not web sites?We’ll see if I get a response on this.

Cory,I read your post about internet filtering http://www.boingboing.net/2007/06/06/corys_internet_filte.html with interest. I posted a comment but wanted to send email directly as I would like to see your take on a very difficult issue: how to deal with “safe surfing” for kids. I want my kids to live in a connected world and economically they need to learn this stuff. Shutting off the computer or internet isn’t viable.I struggle with this. I don’t want my kids accidentally coming across “bad stuff”. But I recognize that technically speaking the solution to that problem right now is applying a sledge hammer to saw a log; wrong tool applied with too much force. But right now that sledge hammer is all I have.I’ll also point out there is a third option in filtering: use a social network. Parents already do this when they ask their neighbor “is that movie any good for kids”? Standards vary of course but over time you learn whose standards most closely align with your own. I would love to see a social networking site along these same lines, e.g. you rate any number of pieces of content/sites and slowly you figure out across the entire network who you align with. You will of course have all the standard social network problems such as people spamming, but this seems like a more tractable problem. You could also change your preferences over time as your child matures; what is appropriate for my older son is different than for my younger.At any rate, it’s an issue many of us are faced with. We’re not repressive governments, we’re not trying to censor free speech, we’re just trying to keep our kids safe and healthy.–Paul Steckler

—Update 8 JunenCory and I have exchanged a few emails. Frankly I was surprised at the speed of the response. I know I get a bunch of email; I can only assume Cory gets more. Thanks for taking the time to respond.That said… Cory seems to make the single point: internet filters don’t work. Okay, granted. Some people might disagree of course but let’s grant the point. So then what? The need is still present so what to do? My suggestion — parent.net (which of course is already taken). Parent.net would simply be a site where registered adults could tag content. The content would be good, bad, sex, language, porn, i.e. whatever tags make sense. You want “good” tags like “age 3-4” and also “bad” tags. Then you build the filtering software to rely on those tags. But you don’t simply use the tags. You find the other adults who have similar “tastes” to your own. For example I am fairly liberal; a few cuss words aren’t going to corrupt my kids. A few racy photos? No problem, they see much worse when we travel to Europe and pass by newsstands. But hardcore porn? Not a chance. Others of course would want different profile matching, e.g. the Christian Conservative, etc.I also think the kid could request access to a blocked site. The advantage of this system is that access could come from the community and not from the parent. One issue with filtering software today is the kid could hit a legitimate site, get blocked, request access, but then wait hours or days until a parent can figure out how to add the  site to the “unblock” list. This way the community which I have already selected can help me out; I will then of course do the same when online for their kids.Of course as I ponder this idea… I wonder if you could leverage del.icio.us which already has so much of this information.

Jonas’ Dharavi Photos

Jonas Bendiksen takes some amazing photos. His book, Satellites was just gorgeous and of course very depressing. This photo shoot in the slums around Mumbai is similar; hope and happiness in terrible places.If you get a chance to see one of his shows, do it. He has an amazing repertory of stories as he got into and out of trouble to get photos. He’s also just a very nice person:-)