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  • April 10, 2014

Angry about the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ finale? You shouldn’t be

After nine sea­sons, like other view­ers, I felt that the pro­tag­o­nist who had expe­ri­enced so much hard­ship in his life deserved bet­ter. Yet a part of me also appre­ci­ated that what I got to see for really the first time on a tele­vi­sion pro­gram was a glimpse of what actual life hap­pi­ness is like. Some TV pro­grams geared toward younger peo­ple today demon­strate hap­pi­ness as the per­fect happy end­ing: the scream­ing bride gets her per­fect wed­ding cake or the per­fect wed­ding dress, or priv­i­leged elites find a way to solve their first world prob­lems. But this was a dif­fer­ent kind of finale that reminded us that while life is imper­fect, all of us must still find a way to find hap­pi­ness.

Read the rest

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  • April 9, 2014

To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society:

As Abbott sees it, the need for reflection has never been greater. Spurred by technological advances, “civilization is on the cusp of a metamorphosis,” he says, that will lead either to societal collapse and chaos, or to a resurgence of liberty, community, and ethics. Either way, schools are stuck in the past: The emphasis has been on feeding children static information and rewarding them for doing only what they’re told, instead of helping them develop the transferable, higher-order skills they need to become life-long learners and thrive in an uncertain future.

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  • January 10, 2014

Google’s deci­sion to acti­vate (and turn on by default) a “fea­ture” that allows any­one to send you email via Google Plus has sparked some con­tro­versy.

The prob­lem with the free email ser­vices most of us use is that vir­tu­ally all of them are offered pro­vided by com­pa­nies whose main inter­ests aren’t email. In other words, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer “free” email in order to get you into their ecosys­tems. Gmail exists so Google can sell your eye­balls to adver­tis­ers. Like all of Apple’s soft­ware, iCloud exists so Apple can con­trol every aspect of an iOS or Mac user’s expe­ri­ence.1 Hotmail and Outlook​.com (and what­ever other crap Microsoft is doing these days) exist so that Microsoft can keep more peo­ple reliant on Office and Windows (and what­ever other crap Microsoft is doing these days).

And that’s the thing: Their goal isn’t to cre­ate awe­some email that meets users’ needs. Sure, inso­far as cre­at­ing awe­some email helps get more peo­ple into their ecosys­tem, then I sup­pose cre­at­ing an awe­some email sys­tem is part of what they do. But don’t ever for­get that they have a big­ger goal in mind. When it comes right down to it, Google is obsessed with get­ting peo­ple into Google+, and they don’t even blink when pri­or­i­tiz­ing their needs (inte­gra­tion with their social net­work) over most users’ (the abil­ity to receive mes­sages only from those who’ve received my email address from me).2

As long as we use email that’s pro­vided by some­one who sees email as a means to achiev­ing their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep hap­pen­ing.

We can bitch and com­plain all we want, but here’s the thing: As long as we use email that’s pro­vided by some­one who sees email as a means to achiev­ing their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep hap­pen­ing. That’s the cost of “free” email.

I want a ser­vice that pro­vides email that’s clean, ele­gant, and easy-to-use. I want it to be pri­vate, secure, and safe. I want it to be standards-based, by which I mean I want it to work well with my exist­ing devices and sys­tems as well as with the ones that I don’t have or that don’t exist yet. And I want as much con­trol as pos­si­ble. I want con­trol over my pri­vacy set­tings, over the inter­face, over the imple­men­ta­tion of new fea­tures, over… every­thing.

And for that, I’d gladly pay a few bucks a month. Or even ten.


  1. Steve Jobs once said, “I’ve always wanted to own and con­trol the pri­mary tech­nol­ogy in every­thing we do.” Over the years, Apple loos­ened up a lit­tle as Jobs and Co. real­ized that they could gain more by giv­ing users a lit­tle bit more con­trol. But it’s pretty clear that the brain trust in Cupertino is still pretty com­mit­ted to the idea that the only way you can guar­an­tee users a prod­uct that “just works” is to main­tain as much con­trol as pos­si­ble over every aspect of both hard­ware and soft­ware (includ­ing cloud-based soft­ware and ser­vices). And since con­sumers seem to like prod­ucts that “just work” (Lord knows I do), Apple makes a lot of money as a result of this for­mula. (back to foot­note in text)

  2. Marco Arment says it best:

    Google’s lead­er­ship, threat­ened by the atten­tion and adver­tis­ing rel­e­vance of Facebook, is bet­ting the com­pany on Google+ at all costs.

    Google+ adop­tion and usage is not meet­ing their expec­ta­tions. Facebook con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate. It’s not work­ing. They’re des­per­ate.

    Google will con­tinue to sell out and poten­tially ruin its other prop­er­ties to juice Google+ usage. These efforts haven’t worked very well: they juice the num­bers just enough that Google will keep doing this, yet will keep need­ing to do more.

    I don’t like Google+ very much, and I have no inter­est in being dragged into using it. Gmail belongs to Google, and if Google wants to build Gmail and Google+ into each other, then that’s Google’s pre­rog­a­tive. And find­ing a new email provider is my pre­rog­a­tive. And hon­estly: As long as Google’s behav­ior doesn’t have a notice­able effect on how many peo­ple use Gmail (and/or how much they use it), then they have no rea­son to stop. (back to foot­note in text)

If you’re the type of per­son that’s inter­ested in grap­pling with some of the… um… stick­ier parts of the Hanukkah story, the past few years have seen a bumper crop of impres­sive writ­ing on the topic.

I’ll write more later about my own take on all this. But for now, check out all this good stuff.
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  • September 12, 2013

After spend­ing way too much time sit­ting in traf­fic over the past cou­ple months, today I beta-tested () a new way to con­quer the 36-mile (ish) com­mute between my home in San Mateo and my place of work in San Jose. To pass the time, I doc­u­mented the jour­ney on my iPhone (whose bat­tery is now depleted to 24% — my 5S can’t get here soon enough).

IMG_5784

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  • July 19, 2013

Twenty years’ worth of sus­tained Internet use has left me with a head full of ran­dom trivia and a pro­found inabil­ity to con­cen­trate. Every time I sit down in front of my com­puter to write a post, I end up brows­ing the IMDb page for the movie Cool Runnings or the career stats for under­rated out­fielder Ryan Spilborghs. I’m just as dis­tractible when my com­puter isn’t con­nected to the Internet: I’ve wasted weeks of my life play­ing this stu­pid base­ball sim­u­la­tion game that I down­loaded years ago and can’t bring myself to delete.

- Justin Peters, “I Write All My Blog Posts Out Longhand, and You Should Too”

Ok, maybe Justin’s prob­lem is “[t]wenty years’ worth of sus­tained Internet use,” but that kind of inter­net dis­trac­tion sounds awful symp­to­matic of adult ADHD.

I’m not a doc­tor. I’m just say­ing…

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  • May 23, 2013

googlemapsnewLast night I got my invite to play with the new Google Maps (desk­top edi­tion).

Initial Reactions:

  • It’s kinda slow.
    (For the record: I’m using Safari on a dual-core i7 MacMini with dual SATAIII SSDs in a striped array and 16GB of mem­ory, and my inter­net band­width is above-average.)
  • The inter­face has a clean/simple yet beau­ti­ful design. The map itself dom­i­nates the entire screen, which I sup­pose is how it should be.
  • By min­i­miz­ing the pres­ence of the user inter­face, there are less but­tons and entry fields, which means it’s harder to use if you’re unfa­mil­iar. It makes me won­der if the Maps team hasn’t over-minimalized to the point where it isn’t obvi­ous to users how they should inter­act with the ser­vice.
  • Thankfully, the “tour” that intro­duces you to the new prod­uct does a decent job of induct­ing users into the new inter­face par­a­digm. (I’m not sure that’s a good thing. To add a twist to a Jobs-ism: If it needs a user inter­face “tour” then it’s not intu­itive enough. Not sure if that’s the case here, but it could be.)

All-in-all, it’s a step in the right direc­tion.

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  • May 15, 2013

ATT Free Msg: Your data usage has reached 3GB this month. Using more than 3GB in future billing cycles will result in reduced speeds. You can use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds. Visit www​.att​.com/​d​a​t​ainfo or call 866–344-7584 for more info.

(received by text mes­sage from my wire­less car­rier)

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  • May 15, 2013
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  • May 15, 2013

Flan

Jews eat dairy on Shavuot because the ensu­ing dis­com­fort makes us appre­ci­ate the gifts we do have — like Torah — while we pay for those we don’t — like the enzyme that digests lac­tose.

Maybe that’s why Jenny’s Cuban-style flan was such an amaz­ing addi­tion to this evening’s wrestling match with text. Or maybe it’s because it was shiny and deli­cious. (But seri­ously… who cares why?)

Check out the recipe at The Cuban Reuben.

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  • April 12, 2013

 

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  • March 22, 2013

Nice use of video by a non-profit. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to pro­duce, but prob­a­bly didn’t cost as much as you’d think.

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  • February 27, 2013

Hilarious.

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  • February 26, 2013

What if Mordechai, Haman, and the Wizard of Oz held a rap bat­tle? That’s the ques­tion or stu­dents asked.

The video is a project of one of our Emtza “pods.” Emtza is our seventh/eighth grade project-based pro­gram at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, where I work. (You can read more about the pro­gram in my pre­vi­ous post on the topic.)

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  • February 26, 2013

As part of my job at Temple Isaiah, I devel­oped Emtza, a project-based pro­gram for our mid­dle school stu­dents. When I say “I devel­oped,” what I mean is that I had a basic con­cept, an idea sapling. I handed that idea to an edu­ca­tor hired to run the pro­gram, Jessie Downey, who devel­oped the idea fur­ther, bring­ing it into the realm of real­ity and giv­ing it some real “umph.” Then she handed it to her amaz­ing staff of teach­ers.

This video — one of two — is a piece of evi­dence that we were on to some­thing. It’s a prod­uct of our stu­dents, who cre­ated it from scratch. They had a lot of sup­port from their teach­ers, but it really is theirs. I hope you get a kick out of it… I sure did. (Click “More” for an expla­na­tion of how the Emtza pro­gram works.)

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