Solipsism Gradient

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Browsing Posts tagged History

Input to output ratio

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Jeremy Zawodny worries about his input to output ratio:

I go through cycles of productivity like most hackers do. Some days I get a lot done while others are mostly wasted. Some of my productive days involve a lot of output like e-mail, code, discussion, debugging, and so on. Other times it’s a lof of input: reading, listening, etc. Once in while I manage to have a day in which the two seem to balance out and I go home feeling like I’ve accomplished three weeks wort of work.

Yes, these cycles happen to me too, and have in fact been getting more extreme. Before the Internet came up, I was buying 15 to 20 technical magazines per month, and would take every other day off to read all that stuff… even study the advertisements one by one, if you can believe that.

For the last years, information overload from the Internet has been increasing. I don’t buy any more magazines, but reading and responding to e-mail, browsing for news, and so forth has been expanding to fill most of my time. And now weblogging and reading RSS feeds is taking the place of e-mailing and browsing. (My advice: don’t subscribe to more than 150 feeds if you check them every hour, or you’ll never catch up icon_wink.gif).

On the other hand, the amount of useful input – that can be converted into productive output – has also increased vastly, so it seems to boil down to a question of discipline. Inspiration doesn’t come by every day, so I usually slack off for periods that vary from an afternoon to a couple of weeks, and catch up again in frenzied bursts of creativity. Turning off the phone and ADSL – or making a trip to somewhere off-net – often works wonders.

Joel on Software also addresses this issue:

But it’s not the days when I “only” get two hours of work done that worry me. It’s the days when I can’t do anything.

…Maybe this is the key to productivity: just getting started. Maybe when pair programming works it works because when you schedule a pair programming session with your buddy, you force each other to get started.

Emperor Norton I

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Andrew Zolli, in his guestblog on Boing boing, writes about Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico (with photos and links):

Although few history books mention his name, in the mid-1800’s Joshua Abraham Norton proclaimed himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

… Indulged by the local populace, Norton ate free in the best restaurants, which accepted his ‘currency’. During his reign, he issued a steady stream of proclamations, in which (among many other things) he abolished the Congress, called for the building of the Bay Bridge, and banished the F-word (“Frisco”) from polite speech.

Though a complete loon, he was beloved by San Franciscans during his time, and more than 30,000 people attended his funeral. Fittingly, no quote marks or other explanatory notes mark his epitaph.

Marble tracks

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When I was about 5, I figured out a way to use the wooden blocks my father had made for me to build marble tracks and houses.

The finished house would have a hole on the top; sometimes two smaller houses would be connected by short pieces of curtain rail. Putting a marble in the top hole would make it follow a complicated path inside the house and/or roll on to the other house. Finally, after much clicking, the marble would emerge from a door at ground level.

Today, in a magazine ad, I stumbled upon a modern equivalent of my old marble track: Cuboro. Here’s a picture of a finished setup. And a movie.

Marvelous but expensive: the basic 54-piece set costs about $140 in Germany, and there are about 10 extension sets with comparable prices. The cubes are handcrafted wood.

Update: Boing Boing picked up the link.


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Charles Eicher (Disinfotainment) has just posted a great reminiscence about the 1984 Christmas sales battle between the Apple //c and the IBM PCJr. (Linked by MacSurfer.)

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