Holiday Reading List 2012 / 2013

Holiday Reading

While some folks are enjoying days and days off this holiday season, some of us have to work (grumble, grumble, grinch, grumble..) but it doesn’t mean that we can’t take a little time to flex the old grey matter by indulging in some good books.

Thanks to Sara raiding my Amazon wish lists, these 4 books are going to make up the bulk of my holiday reading for the next week or two.

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed – Ray Kurzweil

Futurist, inventor and author Ray Kurzweil was recently hired by Google as their Director of Engineering , as such this book should be on the list for anyone with even a passing interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The bold futurist and bestselling author explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

Ray Kurzweil is arguably today’s most influential—and often controversial—futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilization—reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.

Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the world’s problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional and moral intelligence and the origins of consciousness and envisions the radical possibilities of our merging with the intelligent technology we are creating.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You – The Oatmeal

Everybody loves The Oatmeal, and Sara took a stab at in the dark guessing that I’d love this collection of some of Matthew Inmans most popular cat jokes. I’ve not yet read it, because Gabby (our 14-year-old) swiped it from me and brought it to “the pit of no return: (a.k.a. her room). I’m informed that it’s hilarious!

If your cat is kneading you, that’s not a sign of affection. Your cat is actually checking your internal organs for weakness. If your cat brings you a dead animal, this isn’t a gift. It’s a warning. How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is a hilarious, brilliant offering of cat comics, facts, and instructional guides from the creative wonderland at TheOatmeal.com.

The Physics of Star Trek - Lawrence M. Krauss

In a book that (as a Trekkie) I’m ashamed to say I didn’t read when it was first published in 2007, theoretical physicist and Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Dr. Lawrence Maxwell Krauss, dissects the science of Star Trek.

What warps when you’re traveling at warp speed? What is the difference between a wormhole and a black hole? Are time loops really possible, and can I kill my grandmother before I am born? Anyone who has ever wondered “could this really happen?” will gain useful insights into the Star Trek universe (and, incidentally, the real world of physics) in this charming and accessible guide. Lawrence M. Krauss boldly goes where Star Trek has gone-and beyond. From Newton to Hawking, from Einstein to Feynman, from Kirk to Picard, Krauss leads readers on a voyage to the world of physics as we now know it and as it might one day be.

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel – Michio Kaku

Over the past year I’ve become a big fan of futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. It was his talks on Big Think that initially drew me in, so this book was an absolute must for me.

Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current understanding of the universe’s physical laws may permit in the near and distant future.Entertaining, informative, and imaginative, Physics of the Impossible probes the very limits of human ingenuity and scientific possibility.

xPrintServer – Must Have Device For iOS Printing On Windows Networks

XPrintServerI just finished installing the Office Edition of the Lantronix xPrintServer on a clients network, and I must admit to being very impressed with it.

xPrintServer is a tiny little device (smaller than an iPhone, but thicker) that you plug into your network, which acts as a intermediary between your network printers and your iOS devices.

Set-up is ridiculous simply – you just plug it in to your network, wait about 30 seconds for it to detect all the printers on your network (USB ones can be connected directly), and… that’s it really.  Your iOS device should automatically discover the printers on the network that are shared by xPrintServer.

After 30 seconds the xPrintServer had detected all of our printers, including ones like the Koyerca KM-3060, allowing me to print without performing any configuration at all.

With support for over 4000 printers, allowing printing to up to 8 USB printers (you’ll have to attach a hub) and 10+ network printers (2 if you get the cheaper $99 home version), this is $200 well spent.

About the only issue is that you’ll have to be careful where on your network you install it, as complicated network topographies can cause it not to detect some printers, but that’s hardly the devices fault.

Being an Insensitive Jerk Doesn’t Make You a Criminal

And I am so very thankful for that.

Via AL.com - Blount County man jailed after Facebook post saying he was so irritated he could “shoot up an elementary school“.

Sometimes the knee-jerk reactions of Americans (yes, and others), grasp of their own constitution, language and the law is fucking shocking.

If being an insensitive jerk equated to a terrorist threat or marked me as a criminal then I would probably be locked away for at least ten offenses every morning. That’s before I have my coffee BTW, then I really get started, and doesn’t even touch on the reckless abandon with which I slaughter song lyrics.

I posted this on my Facebook when sharing the article:

I’m sorry but you do NOT have a right not to be offended. This guy may have been a jerk. May have been a royal asshole, but he did NOT make a terrorist threat. “I could” does not equal “I will”.

I’m so hungry I could eat a horse right now…

Reference the twitter joke trial in the U.K. for more info as to why this is BS. Yes the guy is a dick, nobody is debating that, but, he has a right to be one.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most succinct of explanations, but I’m sure you understand the point I was making.

Now, go and have a read of the comments section of the linked AL.com article for a good chuckle at all the people willing to throw away their right to free speech in exchange for not having their sensibilities offended.

The guy was being a complete wanker but that’s his right, and I hate to inform you, but you do not have a right “not to be offended” or not feel hurt by what others say or their opinions. You have a right to disagree.You have a right to point out how stupid they may be, how insensitive, how it may hurt your feelings and those of others, but that does not make them criminal. If it did, Ann Coulter would have been given the chair years ago.

Think about this:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

C.S. Lewis

Watch this: Penn & Teller – The Right Not to be Offended

And this: (wait at least until you get to the 14 minute mark where he talks about Social Media): Tony Gilland -The Right to Offend

Stormageddon Week 7 (Video)

We had an interesting an unexpected trip to the OB/GYN today after Sara started spotting. What we originally believed to be a possible bladder infection resulted in a bit of a scare when they told Sara needed to have a transvaginal ultrasound, but every turned out to be perfectly fine and Stormageddon is on course for arrival on August 9th.

The week 7 ultrasounds:

Stormageddon Ultrasound Week 7Stormageddon Ultrasound Week 7Stormageddon Ultrasound Week 7

Dude, You’re Gonna Be A Dad! (Video)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m about to become a father for the very first time. This has led me to hunt out reading material so I can learn from, and hopefully not repeat the mistakes of others.

This video is a quick update on where Sara and I are and an endorsement of the book “DUDE, You’re Gonna Be a DAD!” by John Pfeiffer.

Risk, Reward, Entrepreneurs and the Self-Employed Fathers Quandary

Positive pregnancy test

This changes everything!

Lately I’ve become acutely aware of gauging risk in potential business activities. While evaluating risk has always been part of my decision making process, my willingness to take less informed risks (not my willingness to take risks) has been tempered by the knowledge that I will be a dad soon (early August).

Independent consulting can be a risky business. Work isn’t always guaranteed. You have to be a jack of all trades –  accounting, coffee boy, trash can emptier, designer, marketer, public speaker, toilet cleaner… You rarely work 40 hours a week (which is a drain on your family life), unless you happen to miss a few days being ill. You don’t get paid time off. Things you take for granted from employers, such as health insurance, become almost prohibitively expensive. The list goes on and on.

Frankly it’s easy to see why so many people don’t start their own business. Sometimes the deck really is stacked against you.

But then there’s the other side – there’s the rewards. Honestly the list of rewards is way shorter that the list of drawbacks, but I guess it takes a certain kind of personality to start a business, and for those people the rewards are enough.

Being able to take pride in what you’ve accomplished, built and achieved. Pride, self-satisfaction, accomplishment - those are perhaps the most important rewards. Many business will fail without ever making a penny, but real entrepreneurs will still look back and find something to be proud of that will make it all worth while. Many times that is simply that “I tried”, which is more than some folks ever will do.

There is, of course, the potential financial gain but it’s always a risk. Even the most well thought out idea can end up being shuttered for a million reasons that are beyond your control, but sometimes it pays off.

Obviously this is a dilemma that I found myself devoting many mental processing cycles to this week.

Without going into too many details, I was contacted (did not apply) and asked to come interview for a position as the Digital Media Manager of a television news station.

The position of DMM is a great gig, with a lot of potential for advancement as the station was part of a much larger media group, and the money’s not bad either!

I’m rather honored that they would even consider approaching me for the position, and this time last year I would have jumped at the opportunity in a heartbeat. I’d have been all over it quicker than a fat kid eating a Snickers bar.

This year it certainly gave me pause for some serious thought. A stable paycheck that is not dependent upon client retention and client base growth would certainly be a huge weight off my mind.

“Stability” – you have no idea how beautiful that word sounds to a man who’s recently found out he’s going to be a father.

But that paycheck would be a step down on what I currently earn. Bummer!

While there’s potential to advance as DMM (and it would look rather spiffy on my resume), there’s vast potential in what I currently do, and I’m so very excited by the impact my work is having for my clients.

Plus there’s so much opportunity to grow my business and have more clients. In fact, the opportunity is potentially only limited by my desire to create solutions.

And that is where I found myself this week – attempting to weigh up risks and rewards, stability vs earning potential, and all with not just my financial well-being in mind, but the financial well-being of my wife and unborn child.

I guess these are questions that every entrepreneur faces unless they are already quite wealthy, and these questions have a far keener edge when you have others that rely on you.

After evaluating and talking things over with Sara, I’ve opted to stick to the riskier but  potentially more rewarding path of longer hours, harder work and making clients happy.

I have to admit that I love work that is satisfying on creative, intellectual and technical levels, while providing a roller-coaster feeling of encountering new challenges daily.

I know that my our decision wouldn’t be the right course for everybody, but most decisions rarely are.

Blow Me – One Thing I Never Want To See If You Repair My Computer

Everybody who’s ever done any kind of work with computer hardware knows just how much of a pain in the backside dust buildup can be, and how potentially damaging it can be over time.

That’s exactly why I was a more than a little surprised to see a clients computer come in from being repaired looking like this. (Sorry about the poor quality pictures, the light was not the best for taking photos with a camera phone.)

The company doing the repairs performed a motherboard replacement, and while I don’t expect machines to ever be squeaky clean, I really believe that repair places need to apply copious use of the compressed air before returning a computer to a client.

Tip:  You can clean your computer, help prevent those fans becoming clogged and avoid some potential overheating by investing in a can of compressed air.

Dust1Dust on motherboard

Attack Of The Clones

Stromtroopers

Yes, I know they’re Stormtroopers and not Clones ;)

The cloning process has begun.

Honestly I’m incredibly shocked and still in denial that my beautiful Sara would even want to create minions with me, but I guess every evil empire has to start somewhere right?

I’d love to write more, about how terrified I am, shocked, excited, happy… (and did I mention terrified?), but right now I’m still trying to take all of this in.

All I know is that life has just taken another pivot, I’m married to the most amazing woman in the world and an amazing new journey is about to begin.

I’ll keep you updated :D

Blogging Without A Contact Form = You Miss Out

email pictureI’ve said it before, and I’ll damn well say it again – “If you don’t have a contact form on your blog or site, you’re not worth my time following”.

Having spent a large part of this morning building a contact list of local bloggers for outreach, I’m shocked by how many don’t have even the simplest of contact mechanisms listed on their site.

I’m not even talking about putting your email address out there – how about a simple form so that I can reach out to you?

I respect that people want to protect their privacy and don’t want to inundated with spam, (neither of which need to occur if you set up a proper contact form) but it strikes me as lunacy to miss out on potential advertising, content, partnerships, feedback from your readers, and more because you don’t have one on your page.

Of course you’ll receive a handful of messages that you’ll have little to no interest in, but it may end up being a small price to pay.

More importantly, it strikes me as disingenuous to build a community of readers but not give them the ability to reach you with thoughts that they may not want to leave publicly in your comments.