“Are girls allowed to play soccer?” That is the question my four-year-old daughter asked me this evening while we snuggled watching Costa Rica beat Mexico 1-0 in their FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier. Like little children do, her question was just exactly the right one, at the right time. Her question comes in a week that has been filled with ever more sensational news about the hate-group-disguised-as-a-social-movement, #gamergate. Her question also came just minutes after I, in an eloquent soapbox rant to my wife, had a realization about myself as a “gamer,” as a nerd, as a soccer fan, as a man, and as a father.
If you haven’t heard, Microsoft is buying Mojang, the creators of the insanely popular Minecraft open-world creation game. My children love Minecraft. They fight over who gets what device, and then when settled spend hours playing with each other an an enormous creative world. These are children who will not get along for anything. They love Minecraft. Sometimes all they talk about is Minecraft. But it gets them talking. To each other. For that reason, if for no other, I love Minecraft. And yet the game itself is a ton of fun (which I discovered for myself during my annual vacation this last summer).
So the news that Microsoft is buying Mojang? Horrible. I come from the generation that couldn’t spell the name without dollar signs. Micro$oft was my generation’s Babylon the Great, Whore of All the Earth. The Enemy. The Man. The primary justification for the existence of Linux. And then, about the time my kids came along, Microsoft just wasn’t that important anymore. They had much more competition, and were even struggling to keep relevant in a new age. I thought that the undying hate might actually die with me, and my children would grow up in a world of peace. But today that all ends. Children, meet the enemy from Redmond.
Disclaimer Note: I have grown up some since my youth, and in spite the tone of my comments above (which carries more of the anger of my children than of my own), am not an outright opponent of Microsoft. I use Windows (reluctantly) at work, and even have a Windows partition somewhere on my laptop for those few things (Adobe Illustrator) that just won’t run in Linux. If I had to say, these days I am rather ambivalent about the whole thing. But Mr. Satya Nadella is making quite a statement buying Mojang, and has the opportunity to absolutely piss off an entire generation of children if Microsoft gets this wrong (like they seem to have largely done with acquisitions in the past).
Copyright Note: The featured image is posted all around as a Creative Commons image, but I have not yet been able to find an original source or author. If you know where it came from, please point me in the right direction. Thanks.
Today is the last day to submit online comments to the FCC on Net neutrality! I have intended for a couple of weeks to submit comments to the FCC on how I feel about Net neutrality, and its upcoming rule-making upholding the ability of Internet Service Providers to slow down access to services that don’t pay extra fees to stay fast. What does this mean? It means that without a ruling in favor of Net neutrality, even though I pay a lot every month for high-speed internet access that is an order of magnitude or two faster than the national average, if I site I like doesn’t pay the V*****n [name of big-name ISP censored because my legal defense fund is small] tax, my access to it will be slow. Even if they are paying their ISP for high-speed access as well. Make sure you submit comments.
I remember reading the story in the Scholastic News as a kid – a species of bird so numerous that when it migrated it completely blotted out the sky, sometimes for days. An abundant species so hounded by hunters that within a human lifespan they were completely gone. 100 years ago today Martha, the very last known living passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
All around the story is interesting – there are a lot of things I’ve learned in the last couple days that I didn’t know. At the time, the passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird species in North America, with billions of individuals, and may have been the most numerous bird species in the world. Martha lived to be somewhere between 17 and 29 years old (Wikipedia claims that 29 is the most commonly accepted age), which just blows me away. Is it common for birds to be that old? Martha was frozen in a block of ice after her death and sent by train to the Smithsonian where she was photographed, skinned, mounted, dissected, preserved, and put on display for most of the next 85 years.
I didn’t understand all of the social and ecological issues when I read that article all those years ago – thinking about the age I was, it was probably the 75th anniversary of Martha’s death. Even though the extinction of the passenger pigeon was a horrible tragedy, it was also the catalyst for many of the fundamental protections we have today. It’s interesting to think of myself sitting in school learning about an extinct bird (I think we also learned about California Condors at the same time – an issue that was big then), never knowing that 25 years later my career would be focused on endangered species restoration.
As a nerd, learning what I can about just about anything is just an inherent part of who and what I am. Continuous self-upgrading through daily learning is so important to me that I made it one of the foundational principles of the get-badass-slowly approach I am using in my Awesomeness Upgrade Project. I was delighted this morning to read a great article by Paul Jun over on 99u titled Never Stop Learning: How Self-Education Creates a Bullet-Proof Career. The points that Jun makes are right in line with the process that I have gone through with the AUP.
Reading is the foundation of my professional and private life. If you can read you can learn anything. It makes sense that if you can read (with comprehension) faster, you can learn faster. This is the part where the cheesy theme music starts, and speed reading steps out onto the stage wearing a cape.
Long the realm of graduate students and competition readers, speed reading has been all over the news recently (e.g. here and here) and a big clump of apps (like this, this, this, and this) and Web sites (e.g. here, here, and here) promising to teach you how to speed read have been showing up all over the Web. I have been speed reading for much of my life – one of the tools that helped me survive grad school. I just took a speed reading test on the Staples Web site. The content wasn’t very challenging, but I read 3,235 words a minute. Can you beat me?
Source: Staples eReader Department
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I was younger, I had no problem finding new authors to like. I suppose it had something to do with having all the time in the world and that feeling of invincibility that only the young have. I read everything I got my hands on. Historical fiction? Bring it on. Translation from Arabic? Sure. Fifth book in a series I’ve never heard of by an unknown author? No problem (this happened many more times than you would imagine – especially as I got closer to finishing reading all the novels in our small branch library. Staying up all night reading every night wasn’t a problem – I had the energy of youth and healed fast. I had time to waste.
I was in music class, singing some silly song or other with the rest of the fifth graders. Somehow an announcement came. I can’t remember whether it was over the intercom, or a messenger came from the office. In my memory it is a messenger from the office with a note, but that memory doesn’t feel reliable. The music teacher wept. That part I know happened for sure. Apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial segregation and minority white rule, was over.
I cried too. I didn’t know what Apartheid was. I wasn’t sure whether I was crying for a happy thing or a sad thing. The teacher explained about Apartheid. It was foreign to me, sitting in that music room with the children mostly of engineers and machinists from around the world. We learned about Nelson Mandela. I never did know what connection my music teacher had to South Africa or Apartheid or Nelson Mandela to make her weep.
I understand there are many views of Mr. Mandela and the methods he used to achieve the successes he had. Many in my parent’s generation, for example, have a completely different view. Regardless, he has been a hero during the time I have known of him.
Nelson Mandela died today at the age of 95.
Just a quick share. I’m still in the depths of Nanowrimo and don’t expect to be surfacing at least until the end of the month, but this interview of Susan Cain, author of Quiet, by Marie TV (via Lifehacker). Was interesting. I like the idea of setting a quota for the number of social/networking events I have to participate in during a specific time period. It helps me, though, to think of it as a budget. There is a certain amount of networking that I have to do, but by setting this budget or quota, I don’t have to spend more of my personal energy and putting myself out there than I have budgeted for.
Happy November, everyone.
Reading my news feeds this morning while eating breakfast, I came across Gizmodo’s repost of the todayIfoundout.com article “Whales Don’t Spray Water Out of Their Blowholes Nor are Their Throats and Blowhole Connected.” I have to admit that my first reaction was “you mean people don’t already know that?” But in fairness, not everyone spent a third of their life on or near Puget Sound, or is married to someone who grew up living on an island. Something everyone should know or not, there were a number of bits of really cool whale trivia:
- When a whale inhales, it flexes a muscle that opens its blowhole. They relax the muscle to close the blowhole before diving.
- The spray when a whale surfaces is a mixture of condensation of water vapor from warm lungs in the cool air and mucus.
- Baleen whales general have two blowholes (like nostrils), while toothed whales general only have one.
- A blue whale’s lung capacity is 5000 liters (author note: which is 833 times larger than an adult human’s 6 liters. When you add efficiency of use (whales are supposed to use something like 90% of the oxygen that enters their lungs, while humans use only about 15%.), a blue whale has very close to 5000 times the available oxygen in a single breath. If we assume an average mass of 150 metric tons (150000 kg) for a blue whale and an average mass of 70 kg for an adult human, this gives the blue whale 33.3 mL of usable oxygen capacity for each kg of body mass per breath compared to 12.8 mL that an average human has per kg of body mass. A blue whale, then has 2.59 times more available oxygen per kg of body mass per breath than a human. Wow!)
- Humpback whales can sneeze air at over 300 mph.
- Because a whale’s trachea and esophagus are not connected, it’s next to impossible for it to choke on food.
- Whales allow one half of the brain to sleep at a time instead of falling fully asleep. This lets them rest rest while still able to surface when they need air.
I can’t actually vouch for the truthfulness of any of the above, not being a whale biologist, but it is pretty interesting bits of trivia.
Image Credit: Creative Commons Image posted to Flickr on June 11, 2013 by Mike Baird at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/9022303682/