MEK Studios tag:www.mekstudios.com,2013-02-10:/notional/20130210055031443 Critical thinking to start your day.<br>A blog of ideas, thoughts, and concepts for consideration. Copyright (c) 2013 Michael E. Kirkpatrick 2020-01-09T08:00:00-08:00 Michael E. Kirkpatrick http://www.mekstudios.com michael@mekstudios.com Maybe Planets are Overrated? tag:mekstudios.com,2020-01-09:/2020/01/maybe-planets-are-overrated 2020-01-09T08:00:00-08:00 2020-01-09T08:00:00-08:00 Maxime Chevalier-Boisvert <p>I&#8217;m always fascinated by people who think about space and space travel. Good thoughts by Maxime.</p> <blockquote> <p>I’m sure that plenty of space nerds and technophiles will make the argument that maybe in 300 years we’ll have much more advanced technology than we do now, and some of these problems will be alleviated. That’s possible, but these problems can’t be completely eliminated. What I want to suggest is something simple: wanting to colonize alien planets upon arriving to a new solar system might be a nearsighted idea. You might be thinking you would want to do that just because you’re just used to living on planet Earth, and you’re lacking the perspective of someone who’s used to living in space.</p> </blockquote> The Coolest Architecture on Earth Is in Antarctica tag:mekstudios.com,2020-01-08:/2020/01/the-coolest-architecture-on-earth-is-in-antarctica 2020-01-08T17:39:31-08:00 2020-01-08T17:39:31-08:00 John Gendall <p>I&#8217;m fascinated by architecture, and architects working in Antarctica are bringing some really interesting ideas to reality.</p> The next big space telescope could spot Earth-like oxygen levels on exoplanets tag:mekstudios.com,2020-01-08:/2020/01/the-next-big-space-telescope-could-spot-earth-like-oxygen-levels-on-exoplanets 2020-01-08T17:38:10-08:00 2020-01-08T17:38:10-08:00 Neel V. Patel <p>As someone who worked on the James Webb Space Telescope, it&#8217;s amazing to me that scientists have already discovered methods of using the telescope in ways that weren&#8217;t predicted when it was designed, prior to it being launched.</p> <blockquote> <p>The study, led by NASA scientists and published in Nature Astronomy today, highlights an intriguing new way the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope could be used to detect and measure oxygen on exoplanets&#8230;</p> <p>The new study identifies a wavelength at the mid-infrared level that can be used to detect collisions of oxygen molecules both with oxygen and with other gas molecules. The study’s authors suggest that the JWST’s Mid InfraRed Instrument Low Resolution Spectrometer (MIRI LRS) could search for oxygen at this wavelength around exoplanets that are transiting their host stars.</p> <p>This method would potentially allow us to detect Earth-like levels of oxygen in many star systems less than 16 light-years away. In more distant systems it would be able to detect levels several times higher than those on Earth.</p> </blockquote> Redesign: Table of Contents tag:mekstudios.com,2020-01-08:/2020/01/redesign-table-of-contents 2020-01-08T17:35:59-08:00 2020-01-08T17:35:59-08:00 Frank Chimero <p>Well worth reading some of Frank&#8217;s thoughts about redesigning a web blog.</p> The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication tag:mekstudios.com,2020-01-08:/2020/01/the-basecamp-guide-to-internal-communication 2020-01-08T17:34:48-08:00 2020-01-08T17:34:48-08:00 Basecamp <p>Basecamp has some truly interesting ideas:</p> <blockquote> <p>You can not not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.</p> <p>Give meaningful discussions a meaningful amount of time to develop and unfold. Rushing to judgement, or demanding immediate responses, only serves to increase the odds of poor decision making.</p> <p>Meetings are the last resort, not the first option.</p> <p>Speaking only helps who’s in the room, writing helps everyone. This includes people who couldn&#8217;t make it, or future employees who join years from now.</p> <p>If your words can be perceived in different ways, they&#8217;ll be understood in the way which does the most harm.</p> <p>Never expect or require someone to get back to you immediately unless it’s a true emergency. The expectation of immediate response is toxic.</p> <p>Poor communication creates more work.</p> <p>Five people in a room for an hour isn&#8217;t a one hour meeting, it&#8217;s a five hour meeting. Be mindful of the tradeoffs.</p> <p>Write at the right time. Sharing something at 5pm may keep someone at work longer. You may have some spare time on a Sunday afternoon to write something, but putting it out there on Sunday may pull people back into work on the weekends. Early Monday morning communication may be buried by other things. There may not be a perfect time, but there&#8217;s certainly a wrong time. Keep that in mind when you hit send.</p> <p>Communication is lossy, especially verbal communication. Every hearsay hop adds static and chips at fidelity. Whenever possible, communicate directly with those you&#8217;re addressing rather than passing the message through intermediaries.</p> </blockquote> The Burnout List tag:mekstudios.com,2020-01-08:/2020/01/the-burnout-list 2020-01-08T17:31:27-08:00 2020-01-08T17:31:27-08:00 Frank Chimero <p>I resonated with a few of his items:</p> <blockquote> <ol> <li>Bullshit tasks and meta-work: admin and management overshadows productive labor. Instead of being tired with one another (like a basketball team) we become tired of one another (like a marketing team). Tasks with tangible outcomes are naturally de-prioritized and people focus on meta-work that is incentivized. (See #3.) [Partially accurate but too jaded, rephrase later?]</li> <li>Lack of ethics: the only ethic is work ethic. Questions no longer ask if something should be done, but if it can be done. Whatever works is permitted, meaning nothing can be ruled out, discounted, or ignored.</li> <li>Self-improvement industrial complex: the mistake of seeing life as a project, despite it being something you can’t solve or get out of. Trying to “jump over your own shadow.” Framing development as “fixing yourself” instead of growth.</li> <li>Abundance problem: too much of everything—over-production, over-achievement, over-communication—leads to the problems of abundance: exhaustion, fatigue, and suffocation—when too much exists.</li> </ol> </blockquote> Having Kids tag:mekstudios.com,2019-12-15:/2019/12/having-kids 2019-12-15T07:29:48-08:00 2019-12-15T07:29:48-08:00 Paul Graham <blockquote> <p>Before I had kids, I was afraid of having kids. Up to that point I felt about kids the way the young Augustine felt about living virtuously. I&#8217;d have been sad to think I&#8217;d never have children. But did I want them now? No.</p> <p>If I had kids, I&#8217;d become a parent, and parents, as I&#8217;d known since I was a kid, were uncool. They were dull and responsible and had no fun. And while it&#8217;s not surprising that kids would believe that, to be honest I hadn&#8217;t seen much as an adult to change my mind. Whenever I&#8217;d noticed parents with kids, the kids seemed to be terrors, and the parents pathetic harried creatures, even when they prevailed.</p> <p>When people had babies, I congratulated them enthusiastically, because that seemed to be what one did. But I didn&#8217;t feel it at all. &#8220;Better you than me,&#8221; I was thinking.</p> <p>Now when people have babies I congratulate them enthusiastically and I mean it. Especially the first one. I feel like they just got the best gift in the world.</p> </blockquote> The Lesson to Unlearn tag:mekstudios.com,2019-12-15:/2019/12/the-lesson-to-unlearn 2019-12-15T07:29:00-08:00 2019-12-15T07:29:00-08:00 Paul Graham <p>Interesting take on testing in education as it relates to success in other aspects of life and as a representation of learning.</p> <blockquote> <p>The most damaging thing you learned in school wasn&#8217;t something you learned in any specific class. It was learning to get good grades.</p> <p>When I was in college, a particularly earnest philosophy grad student once told me that he never cared what grade he got in a class, only what he learned in it. This stuck in my mind because it was the only time I ever heard anyone say such a thing.</p> <p>For me, as for most students, the measurement of what I was learning completely dominated actual learning in college. I was fairly earnest; I was genuinely interested in most of the classes I took, and I worked hard. And yet I worked by far the hardest when I was studying for a test&#8230;</p> </blockquote> The creed of compromise tag:mekstudios.com,2019-11-22:/2019/11/the-creed-of-compromise 2019-11-22T18:13:22-08:00 2019-11-22T18:13:22-08:00 Thomas Maloney <blockquote> <p>Many of us ask ourselves such questions. Work is a conundrum. We cannot measure the consequences of our choices against the alternatives that have passed us by. We can only try to be thoughtful and humble, empathise, observe others – sometimes a painful exercise – and speculate about what might have been.</p> <p>Here, then, is my speculation. Work is something we struggle to get and strive to keep. We love-hate it (usually not in equal measure). Sometimes it seems meaningless. I’m told this is the case even for surgeons, teachers and disaster-relief workers: those with jobs whose worth seems indisputable. For the mere facilitators, the obscure cogs in the machinery of the modern economy whose precise function and value it takes some effort to ascertain, the meaning in wh at we do often seems particularly elusive (I should know). I contend, however, that while our lives need to be meaningful, our work does not; it only has to be honest and useful. And if someone is voluntarily paying you to do something, it’s probably useful at least to them.</p> </blockquote> On Human Scum tag:mekstudios.com,2019-11-21:/2019/11/on-human-scum 2019-11-21T14:04:01-08:00 2019-11-21T14:04:01-08:00 Dave Pell <blockquote> <p>These are the three most infamous politicians to describe opponents as human scum: Hitler. Stalin. Trump.</p> <p>As the simple truths spoken by impeachment witnesses backed him into a corner, the president <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1197503790729121794">repeated</a> his use of one of history’s most notorious phrases: “Corrupt politician Adam Schiff’s lies are growing by the day. Keep fighting tough, Republicans, you are dealing with human scum.”</p> <p>While Trump’s command of history is limited, he is aware of the nature of this particular phrase because he has used it, <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/on-human-scum-and-trump-in-the-danger-zone">and been admonished for it</a>, before. The sick attacks on Schiff, particularly using a trope associated with two of history’s most vile antisemites, calls into question when (if ever) Trump’s defenders will finally say <em>enough is enough</em>.</p> </blockquote> Principles of High-Value Software Testing tag:mekstudios.com,2019-11-09:/2019/11/principles-of-high-value-software-testing 2019-11-09T08:00:19-08:00 2019-11-09T08:00:19-08:00 RJ Zaworski <p>Some good overall thoughts on testing from RJ Zaworski.</p> <blockquote> <p>Testing verifies that the software in question does what it claims to do. It’s a powerful tool for eliminating defects, building confidence, encouraging good design, and likely all three, but the golden rule of software testing—the most fundamental reason to bother—is to secure the value the software creates.</p> <p>Programs do useful things. Test suites make sure they continue to do them.</p> </blockquote> Why I Haven’t Gone Back to SCOTUS Since Kavanaugh tag:mekstudios.com,2019-10-31:/2019/10/why-i-havent-gone-back-to-scotus-since-kavanaugh 2019-10-31T17:04:57-07:00 2019-10-31T17:04:57-07:00 Dahlia Lithwick <p>Tremendous perspective from Dahlia Lithwick on the effect of having Brett Kavanaugh appointed to the Supreme Court.</p> <blockquote> <p>It’s been just over a year since I sat in the hearing room and watched the final act of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. I listened from the back as Christine Blasey Ford and then-Judge Kavanaugh each faced the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell irreconcilable versions of what happened in the summer of 1982. The morning was spent as I’d anticipated: all of us—the press corps, the country—listening, some clearly in agony, to Ford’s account. And then Kavanaugh came in and started screaming. The reporters at the tables around me took him in with blank shock, mindlessly typing the words he was yelling.</p> <p>The enduring memory, a year later, is that my 15-year-old son texted—he was watching it in school—to ask if I was “perfectly safe” in the Senate chamber. He was afraid for the judge’s mental health and my physical health. I had to patiently explain that I was in no physical danger of any kind, that there were dozens of people in the room, and that I was at the very back, with the phalanx of reporters. My son’s visceral fears don’t really matter in one sense, beyond the fact that I was forced to explain to him that the man shouting about conspiracies and pledging revenge on his detractors would sit on the court for many decades; and in that one sense, none of us, as women, were ever going to be perfectly safe again.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is how Dahlia opens her essay. Read the rest.</p> Success in Screenwriting tag:mekstudios.com,2019-10-30:/2019/10/success-in-screenwriting 2019-10-30T17:26:39-07:00 2019-10-30T17:26:39-07:00 Christopher McQuarrie <p>A very nice tweet thread by Christopher McQuarrie. It’s well worth reading the whole thread.</p> <blockquote> <p>&#8230;After twenty five years in the craft, I’ve learned the secret to making movies is making movies - starting with little movies no one will ever see. </p> <p>The secret to knowledge is doing and failing - often and painfully - and letting everyone see.</p> <p>The secret to success is doing what you love, whether or not you’re being paid. The secret to a rewarding career in film (and many other fields) is focusing entirely on execution and not on result.</p> </blockquote> No ETAs tag:mekstudios.com,2019-10-30:/2019/10/no-etas 2019-10-30T17:07:58-07:00 2019-10-30T17:07:58-07:00 Brent Simmons <blockquote> <p>People often ask me about ETAs. When will the feature they’re waiting for ship? If you’re a software developer, they probably ask you too.</p> <p>I totally get it! Though I write an app, I’m mostly a user of apps, and I too want to know when the features I’m waiting for will ship.</p> <p>But here’s the thing: ETAs are very hard to estimate with any amount of accuracy. Even if you plan well.</p> </blockquote> <p>And from his <a href="https://inessential.com/2019/10/30/etas_follow_up">follow up</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>&#8230;If your boss, project manager, or person you’re contracting with asks for an estimate, do your best to come up with something accurate. If you’re writing enterprise software, you may even be contractually bound to provide estimates for when features will ship.</p> <p>There are ways to get pretty good at this. Pay attention to history and avoid wishful thinking. Don’t assume perfect productivity. Allow for the unexpected, because there’s always something.</p> </blockquote>