Archive for July, 2009

Art Benjamin works his math magic (he’s a “mathemagician”) at the 2005 TED show

July 21, 2009

Wow – watch Art Benjamin do incredible math calcularions in his head at the 2005 TED show.

Shared via AddThis, which seems to be a very cool service.


They’re Dropping Like Flies

July 19, 2009

I don’t know whether it’s just because I’m paying more attention to the news than ever before (which is true), or if it’s true that celebrities are dying in record numbers right now. It seems the names of many household names (at least in my household) when I was growing up are now passing. It really came to a head that one week in June which saw the passing of Ed McMahon, Karl Malden, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson all in one 9-day period. Last week, Walter Cronkite died.

I put the following list together. It was hard work – I read through the list of everyone who died in 2009 from the IMDb – as I finish, I feel like I’ve just emerged from a morgue! Meanwhile, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was playing on iTunes. Oy!

Let’s see…

  • Rev. Sun Myung Moon (Jan. 11) – the Korean church lead who was famous when I was a kid in the 70’s for performing mass marriages
  • Ricardo Montalban (Jan. 14) – our beloved Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island – also famous as Khan in Star Trek and a major character in the Planet of the Apes movies
  • John Updike (Jan. 27) – the famous American writer
  • James Whitmore (Feb. 6) – actor from the 50’s on
  • Blossom Dearie (Feb. 7) – famous jazz singer
  • Ron Silver (March 15) – actor from Rhoda in the 70’s and many well-known movies
  • Natasha Richardson (March 18) – ah, what can we say – I loved her in The Parent Trap, the movie that made Lindsay Lohan. Liam Neeson’s wife. Killed in a skiing accident.
  • Bea Arthur (April 26) – I hope you remember our beloved Maude from the 70’s, and if not, certainly you remember her as Dorothy from the Golden Girls. She was an icon of my youth.
  • Hans Holzer (April 25) – you may not remember this guy, but when I was a kid in the 70’s, Hans Holzer was writing all these incredibly wild books about his research into UFO’s and ghosts
  • Dom DeLuise (May 4) – every great Mel Brooks movie had Dom DeLuise. Too many to mention. One movies you might not have seen is 1980’s Fatso – try to catch it – Anne Bancroft directed and co-stars as the Italian mother that virtually creates an eating disorder in her son DeLuise.
  • Wayman Tisdale (May 15) – NFL pro from the 80’s and 90’s
  • David Carradine (June 3) – hugely famous for the Kung Fu television series, and then later for the Kill Bill movies
  • Ed McMahon (June 23) – Johnny Carson’s right-hand man on the Tonight Show, and Publisher’s Clearinghouse pusher
  • Farrah Fawcett (June 25) – a central figure of my childhood, one of Charlie’s original Angels
  • Michael Jackson (June 25) – the King of Pop
  • Gale Storm (June 27) – actress from the 50’s, played My Little Margie
  • Karl Malden (July 1) – I remember him from the original The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, but he was in countless movies over many decades
  • Steve McNair (July 4) – recent MVP NFL quarterback, apparently murdered by his mistress who the killed herself
  • Arturo Gatti (July 11) – Italian-Canadian boxer, apparently murdered by his wife. The athletes aren’t doing too well this year. And against the women – that’s a fascinating social commentary in itself.
  • Walter Cronkite (July 17) – everyone’s Uncle Walter

(I apologize if I have not mentioned someone close to you. These are just the people that I noticed during my visit to the 2009 morgue at IMDb.)

Gee, this has been uplifting! Death is certainly a difficult subject. For most of my life, I didn’t think much of it. Now that I admit it’s an eventual certainty for me, my wife, my entire family, all my friends, everyone I know, and everyone I’ve ever heard of, it seems like something I should get to know. Maybe even think of it as a friend with whom I have a date planned for some unknown time in the hopefully distant future.

No One Wants to Talk on the Phone Anymore

July 18, 2009

Have you noticed no one wants to talk on the phone anymore? It’s all about text messaging. I have a feeling no one even wants to listen to voicemail messages anymore. There’s all these changes in our society happening.

For example:

  • Our 18-year-old son will never leave voicemails for anyone now. We ask him, “If you don’t leave a voicemail, how will the person know you called?” He just shrugs.
  • We have a family member who will may call several times a day, but never leaves a message. It almost feels like he’s a stalker. If you have something to say worth picking up the phone and calling us for, why isn’t it worth leaving a message about?
  • I’ve noticed when our son is watching television that he tunes out the rest of the world. I know someone who says he ex-husband used to do that to her, and her young sons do that now. I don’t think it’s just happening in my family…
  • Our 21-year-old daughter who lives on her own does not have a landline – only a cell phone. This is no surprise these days.
  • The same daughter rarely picks up her phone.
  • Frequently, we can’t leave her a voicemail because her mailbox is full.
  • Most times when we are able to leave her a message, we’re clear she never gets it. That’s why her mailbox is frequently full – she doesn’t check her messages. Maybe that’s why our son never leaves messages – because he knows no one checks them.
  • Our daughter suggests that we text her rather than call her. Or at least email her, because she can pick her email up on her BlackBerry.
  • We do get better responses from our daughter and son when we text them.
  • My wife has a close friend who rarely returns phone calls. The only time you can get her on the phone is when they’re making plans for an upcoming get-together. Then the friend will call us, make the plan, and then get off the phone.

What’s it all about?

Some people may say this is all a bad sign, that maybe it has something to do with our AD/HD culture. Or maybe how we’re all paying less attention to each other. It certainly seems frustrating at times.  But let’s look a little deeper. I think it’s part of the spiritual evolution of our culture. Bear with me here.

Take the example of my wife’s girlfriend who we can’t reach by phone. When she’s here with us, we usually have her full attention – she’s not talking on the phone to anyone. And I think that’s the key to what’s going on here – we all seem to want to be paying more attention to what and who is right in front of us. We’re more interested in what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with. The flip side is we’re less willing to tolerate situations and people that we don’t want to experience. We’re increasing our attention on the here and now. While on one hand it seems it’s hard to get people to pay attention to us, it’s also true that they’re paying more intense attention when they are tuned in to your frequency.

How to get people to tune in to your frequency

The trick now may be how to get people to want to tune in to your frequency. Well, we all know the answer to that – be pleasant.

We no longer want to suffer people who can’t express themselves nicely. The bar has been raised and is continuing to rise. Don’t we expect people to speak respectfully, even when it’s a challenging topic? For some people, this has always been a requirement. Yet, my observation is there’s always been plenty of unpleasantness to go around, and there probably always will be. Yet, our ability to communicate clearly and pleasantly with the people with whom we’re close is seeming to become more important.

Why is it important?

It’s more important now than ever because our social structure is more fragile than ever. Here are some of the factors:

  • Closer integration – the world is indeed smaller than ever. Current communication mediums – television, telephone, mobile phone, internet, email, text messaging, Skype and video chat, and social networking such as Twitter and Facebook – now provide the ubiquitous ability to be always available and always in contact with people.
  • Economic instability – the current economic downturn exposes the vulnerability we all share. We are more dependent than ever on the people around us. As the systems break down, what’s left are the individual people. Your hometown banker may soon become important in your life once again.
  • Environmental instability – perhaps we’re just more keenly aware of it than ever before (due to the new communications mediums), but it sure seems like there’s a lot of natural (and man-made) disasters occurring. Earthquakes, plane crashes, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, storms that come out of nowhere, and monsoons have all been happening with intensity. Again, we may soon be looking to our neighbors for more help than we ever anticipated.
  • Political instability – we want our voices to be heard and we want our leaders to lead, not rule. We want them not only to lead, but to lead with integrity. The current upheaval in Iran is a sign of the times. The people our unwilling to deal with what seems to have been a fixed election, and a leadership in which they lack confidence.

Where does this leave us all? We may be turning to each other more in the future than we realize. And the social skills needed to get along with others, to be able to communicate clearly, effectively, and pleasantly will be needed skills. Each person’s survival may actually depend on these skills. These will be the tools we need to thrive in our changing world.

Check out the new Andreessen Horowitz Venture Capital Fund

July 6, 2009

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz announced yesterday the creation of their new VC fund called Andreessen Horowitz. I think it’s a great name. 🙂 They have $300 million to invest in technology startups in chunks between $50,000 and $50,000,000.

You can read all about the new Andreessen Horowitz fund at Andreessen’s blog. The blog announcement is interesting because it goes into detail about their goals and philosophies on internet ventures and the industry. (No, it’s not boring…) Andreessen, born in 1971, literally invented the first web browser, Mosaic, while a student at the University of Illinois. When he went commercial with Mosaic, the name was changed to Netscape. Before Microsoft killed it (see Browser Wars on Wikipedia) Netscape was the most popular web browser. Netscape’s IPO made quite a number of people extremely rich.

Ben Horowitz has been Andreessen’s partner for 15 years. Andreessen created Ning, a professional social networking site (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that is gaining popularity. Andreessen and Horowitz’s immediately prior venture, Opsware, was bought by Hewlett-Packard  in July 2007 – just before our latest economic crash – for $1.6 billion. He is currently on the boards of Facebook and eBay.

Andreessen is a major proponent and driving force in blogging.

Besides reading his blog, you can find our more about Andreessen on Wikipedia. Ben Horowitz has no Wikipedia page yet, but I bet he will soon.

Go Horowitz!

What’s with women and their relationship to food, their bodies, and their diet?

July 6, 2009

I find it a tragedy that women spend such a large percentage of their waking hours feeling wrong about their relationship with food and their bodies. I wonder what other more constructive uses of their time would be. I feel the villains are the consumer culture and advertising media which place so much emphasis on women’s appearance in the first place. Secondly, I blame the creators of products designed to address the alleged defects.

There are so many do’s and don’t’s put forth that it truly is enough to make someone go crazy – to become paralyzed in a sea of conflicting ordinances. The list is clearly endless, since new admonitions are created every day. A short sampling:

  • After sun-bathing, be sure not to wash your skin or else the Vitamin D absorption will be hindered. And we all know what happens if you don’t have enought Vitamin D!!!
  • All the conflicting diet plans and philosophies – raw foodists who say one should not eat any cooked food, vegetarians who say one should not eat any meat, hunter/gatherer dieters who say our canine teeth are proof that our bodies are meant to eat meat, Atkins people who suggest high protein, people in favor of carbs, people against carbs, etc., etc.
  • Don’t eat raw seafood – it’s too dangerous.
  • Food combining – don’t eat this or that together with each other.
  • Eat this BEFORE you eat that, or eat this AFTER you eat that.
  • Go to sleep with the sun and get up with the sun.
  • Pay attention to you own body’s natural rhythms and follow them.
  • Don’t have too much fat on your body.
  • Don’t have too little fat on your body.
  • Eat several, smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Fast regularly – it will cleanse you.
  • Don’t ever fast – it will debilitate you.
  • Eat a low-fat diet.
  • You need a certain amount of healthy fats to stay healthy.
  • Keep slim or else.
  • Don’t diet because it debilitates your body.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything that has come into contact with plastic because plastic leeches into your food.
  • Especially stay away from plastics that have been heated.
  • Especially stay away from plastics that have been refrigerated or frozen.
  • Don’t use aluminum foil because it leeches into your food.
  • Don’t have mercury tooth-filling.
  • If you are unfortunate enough to have mercury tooth-fillings, get them removed immediately because every second the mercury is in your body it is poisoning you.
  • If you are unfortunate enough to have mercury tooth-fillings, think twice before getting them removed because the process of removing them can cut loose the otherwise inert mercury.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t exercise too much – you’ll build up lactic acid.
  • There’s no limit to how much exercise is good for you.
  • When exercising, use high weight and low reps.
  • When exercising, use low weight and high reps.
  • You should look like the skinny models in the media.
  • If you look like the skinny models in the media, you’re too skinny.
  • We should all try to look like the models in the media.
  • We wouldn’t want to look like the models in the media – they’re too skinny and unhealthy.
  • The key to aging gracefully is to maintain your youthfulness and vitality.
  • Older people should not try to emulate younger people – they should honor and be comfortable with who they are as older people.

It’s enough to drive someone crazy.