the backyard

I want to clear out the bushes around the eucalyptus tree, and put in a deck and an outdoor kitchen. Maybe do some landscaping also, and maybe plant some blackberries with trellises along the east wall. Paint the shed, add some lighting.

Maybe I should ask the landlord first?

in search of the next code editor

What about hyperlinks?
class Hello
public Hello()
print("Hello World.");

when you've got the ctrl key held down, becomes:
class Hello
public Hello()
print("Hello World.");
When you click the link, keywords and library functions bring up help, symbols navigate to declaration or definition, as appropriate.

Note, this does not replace good tooltips, which are also requisite. The difference is that hyperlinks denote navigation, whereas tooltips bring the help to you, in context. We should have both, and there should be a back button for reversing all navigations. Some editors already have this.

don't open that email!

The New York Times reports today that White House officials simply refused to open an email from the EPA last year because they knew it contained a policy recommendation they didn't like -- part of the Administration's on-going battle with scientists at the EPA over global warming issues. (TPM)
The hallmark of this administration, to me, has always been their willingness to break every rule and ignore every convention, if they felt they could do so without facing consequences. It seems to be a deliberate policy: exercise every avenue of power that you can, to prove that you can, in case you need it later. Establish every precedent you can get away with. You see this time and time again in the scandals over the years: signing statements, war propaganda, politicizing the Department of Justice, politicizing science, and warrantless wiretapping... The administration will ignore laws it does not like, and will defy congress and the courts in an attempt to define its own reality.

Ignoring a policy email is childish and dysfunctional, but if no one will hold them accountable for it, it is ultimately an effective tactic. By taking impeachment off the table, and by refusing to enforce its subpoena power, and by ratifying telecom immunity, the Democratic Congress has shown that it is unable or unwilling to enforce discipline. So apparently we just have to ride it out. My prediction is that Congress will remember its oversight powers as soon as the next president takes office. Sucker.

the meta game of castle construction

There's a site called Chore Wars where everyone in your household can create a character, and their character in game earns experience and goes up level every time the player does some housework in real life. You have to trust the players to self report accurately, but for small households that's not a problem. Not only does it wrap a metagame around the (questionable) game of housework, but it provides a reward and accountability system at the same time. If everyone in the house is level 20-25, except John who is level 5, you know who's been shirking.

I think this idea could be applied to castle design, development, construction, and maintenance. It would require maintaining a database of tasks (quests?), allowing users to create accounts, tracking completion of tasks, assigning XP rewards. Generate a list of obstacles to overcome on the path to awesome communal castledom, and create a reward system for individuals who help the community overcome those obstacles. Designing a room is worth 1000XP, creating architectural drawings is worth double, building a wall is worth a 5000XP, making dinner for the crew is worth 70XP, feeding the fish is worth 20XP, etc.. Every dollar you donate to the general fund is worth 1XP. Community administrators and moderators edit the XP values of all tasks, and tasks that go undone accumulate XP, so that eventually they will be picked up by someone, and the system self-regulates.

Then layer a system of IRL rewards for achieving levels. Castle priveleges are the main reward. Level 50+ contributors can live at the castle for the rest of their lives, level 5 contributors can stay free for a few days, and so on. Even (and especially) the founders are bound by these rules, and the rules are voted on by all contributors with voting rights (level 10+?). The community gets the benefits of crowd collaboration, and evades the tragedy of the commons. There's palpable status, not to mention material rewards for participation. The many kinds of participation all funnel in to a common community reward system that's not primarily monetary, which is key for a system built primarily on love.



I'll be downloading the trial soon, and I'll probably post some pictures of the results.

media bias: drama

Check this out:

Obama McCain Net 304 221 Obama +83 300 238 Obama +62
Real Clear Politics 238 190 Obama +48
Rasmussen Reports 260 240 Obama +20

MSNBC 200 200 Tied
CNN 190 194 McCain +4

The media's bias is in favor of drama, so the race is always tied.


They got a lot of nerve, ignoring that sign.

rampage, cont'd.

This is our patio, now with lights.

I think it mostly worked out.

The steel cables keep the lights from hanging down and annoying me. The lamp isn't perfect, but it's a kinda fun.

Now it's party time.


These capacitive switches were hard to find.

our extended identities, and implications

I read an interesting article that goes like this: It really does hurt to sell one of your possessions, independent of how much monetary value you put on it.

I am certainly a frequent victim of this effect; I almost never sell anything, and I find it very difficult to throw things away. Some members of my family* have it even worse than I do. Instead of getting into the neuroscience of this though, I'm going to riff on the broader implications. This result implies that we, as individuals, have a sense of self that extends well beyond our physical bodies, and well into the things around us that make up our daily lives. And, I would argue, also to the people around us, and also to their possessions. This expanded self-identification allows us to empathize well with our friends and families and neighbors, because we literally do feel their pain, or a shadow of it, when something goes wrong or something is lost. If my friend sells his car, I feel sad.

The degree to which my mood tracks the well-being of my car and my computer can be a bit disturbing, frankly, and I think that as we integrate more and more technology into our lives, more of our identities will become digital, and we will identify more with digital 'things.' We already identify strongly with our blogs, our online avatars, our email inboxes, our weighted companion cubes.

Is this effect exploitable? Why yes! Give someone a free gift, where the gift ties them into continuing to pay for your services. If they accept the gift, they will be far more likely to pay monthly fees than to find a cheaper service provider, because parting with the gift will cause them pain. See: cellphones, MMORPGs.

Anyway, I love the idea that our selves are not sharply defined by the borders of our physical bodies, but extend in very real, physiological ways, far out into the world we care about. Overlap in self-identification creates community and shared responsibility. Good times.

*Ahem, K.

home improvement rampage

I'm on a roll.
  • I replaced the showerhead with one a new one that I removed the flow regulator from, so that our shower it has good water pressure now.
  • I found and installed the bug screens for my bedroom window.
  • I replaced a couple light bulbs.
  • I replaced the ceiling fan in the bathroom (!)
  • I made a little shop space for myself in the garage.
  • I reorganized my closet/pantry space in the hallway.
  • I finished working on the nightstand.
Next up:
  • sand and paint the bathroom ceiling?
  • replace or refinish the bathroom lights (they're all rusty and gross)
  • outdoor lighting, or shade, or decoration for the patio area.
  • other mysterious projects?
Basically, I decided that I needed to take some ownership of my space. I've been kindof upset at how dingy the house seems, especially the bathroom, but it's hard to know where to start sometimes. It's a lot like that Dido song, Life For Rent... I mean, yes, I am renting here, but nevertheless. If I wait for the landlord to do the upkeep, the place is never really going to be up to my standards, and more importantly, it will never really be my space. Even if I don't own the house, I can still own the space, and that's what this past week has been about.

Replacing the ceiling fan was kindof a big leap for me, in this regard. I had to crawl up into the attic, remove the old fan, wire up the new one, expand the hole in the drywall ceiling, mount the new one, and then clean the whole thing up. Our attic space is cramped and dirty, just fyi. I mean... it's not the worst thing I've ever done in hyperspace (space above or between rooms); I once spent several hours with a hammer drill removing several hundred pounds of concrete from above someone's closet. But it comes back to the ownership question. I've never put that level of commitment into a place that wasn't in some way my responsibility, so that me feel good.