One Thing Computers Cannot Do

The most creative innovations of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences. They believed that beauty mattered.

Steve Jobs Speaks At Apple Web Developer Conference

This short essay from Walter Isaacson is well worth reading. I believe he’s right about the necessary intersection between art and science. I like to say that science makes our lives possible but art makes them worth living.

Great Advice for Those Who Hate Small Talk

I can’t stand small talk. Like many very technical people, I’m relationship challenged, but I’ve developed skills to help me engage others. I’m very popular at work because I’m a nut (funny and rant-y) and because I solve people’s problems. This post offers great advice on engaging others in conversation.

All but the most challenged communicators will be approachable and able to hold a conversation with you if you ask them about the challenges they’re facing. It’s as close to a sure thing (outside small talk) as exists.

What People Are Really Doing When They’re on a Conference Call

I try to avoid formal meetings and telecons whenever practical. I’m not sure which is worst for productivity. I prefer conference calls because I tend to think pretty fast about familiar ideas and a telecon allows me to work on something while I’m waiting for someone on the phone to say something that matters to me.

Here’s an HBR post on what people tend to do when they’re on conference calls.

What is it like to be a prisoner of war?

Answer by John McCain:

That’s not a question I can answer briefly. So, I won’t really try. I wrote a book, Faith of My Fathers,which gave the experience the space I needed to describe all my thoughts about it. Suffice it to say, it was a mostly terrible experience but not all of it. I hated it, and yet I made some of the most important discoveries and relationships of my life in prison.
 
I was treated poorly by my captors, but not as poorly as they treated other POWs, and the treatment improved as the years passed, though it never met Geneva Convention standards.
 
My contact with the outside world was pretty much limited to conversations with new prisoners, who would bring the old timers up to date on world events. Otherwise, we were stuck with Hanoi Hannah’s propaganda broadcast for news, which for all her enthusiasm wasn’t exactly fair and balanced.
 
I adjusted instantly to life after prison. It was nothing but a pleasure to get used to the freedoms and conveniences of American life again. My experiences in Vietnam didn’t change me as dramatically as you might think they would or as much as some people probably wish they would have. I learned two big things though. I learned I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, but I was strong enough. And I learned there were things I couldn’t do on my own, but that nothing is as liberating as fighting for a cause that’s bigger than yourself.

What is it like to be a prisoner of war?

Good Read on the End of Religious Right Dominance

tea-party-rally1

I agree 100% with the facts and conclusions drawn in this piece. I live in Virginia, home to many serious progressives and many Escalade driving, Obama hating, Tea Party reactionaries. I have three kids under 20 and they all have lots of friends over. I know exactly one kid who’s likely to vote Republican, and it’s because his parents are Christian Extremists.

Many kids here have conservative parents, but the kids see their parents’ views on the poor, same sex marriage, immigrants, and progress generally as hateful and grossly outdated. This is great news for the US and the world. By the mid 21st century, the current US right wing dominance will be seen as a period of reactionary madness, a period ended by the refusal of children to buy into their parents’ fear and hatred of a different but better world.

 

Data Remanence

driveDestruction

I posted recently on how to remove/destroy the data on a hard drive so no one can recover it. Data remanence discusses the physical properties of storage devices that determine what must be done to completely clean the data from a device you intend to discard, sell, or give away.

I’m sure this will be interesting or useful to at least a few of you. I helped someone clean her Macbook hard disk prior to selling the laptop recently and this article would have come in handy then to help her understand the processes we used and why they work.

Cleaning Data from Old Hard Drives

I agree with the author of this G+ post that the easiest, most foolproof (and therefore best) method of destroying the data on a hard disk is to destroy the disk itself. Anyone in doubt should just destroy the drive.

Failure to destroy the data on a hard drive can result in profoundly embarrassing or costly consequences, as noted in these two items:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Print/2007/08/30/governors_data_sold_on_ebay/
http://www.computerworld.com/article/2540685/enterprise-applications/hard-drive-containing-ark–democratic-party-data-sold-on-ebay.html

Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to destroy a drive to remove sensitive user data. Those interested in the technical factors behind this can read this article and the linked source material:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutmann_method

What are some things that cops know, but most people don’t?

Answer by Rick Bruno:

We know that your "little angel" isn't one.

We know you pay our salaries. You have to, it's not out of your generosity.

We don't like to talk about work with people who don't know what we do.

Real police work is not what you see on TV. We can't solve your crime/problem/social injustice in an hour.

Some incidents are not crimes. They're shames.

You might be tougher than me, but I will win in the long run. Believe it.

If I give you a break, it's because I chose to. Not because your mother's cousin is a cop.

We carry the job home with us. We remember the tragedies, traffic fatalities, hurt or dead babies, ruined lives, battered wives, bullied kids, suicides, and the insults. We remember.

We also remember the rare occasions someone says thanks.

We don't do this job for the power or prestige you might think it brings. We do it because we are tired of seeing good people suffer, and we want to help and protect them from the wolves.

(I retired after 37 years on the job.)

What are some things that cops know, but most people don't?

The Importance of Ritual in Productive Work

HBR has a short article on creating An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day. The key to this plan is establishing ritual, something humans have been using for millennia to create structure and give meaning to life. In the past, this helped us survive. It’s still very useful for getting us through some situations, and even those of us living in the comfort of modern society can use ritual to improve our productivity.