i’m imagining it right now. you can’t stop that.

My 7yr old had her blood drawn a few days ago. While waiting to brush her teeth, she looked at the bandage on her arm (covering a long-since-healed puncture).

"Sometimes I imagine that this little hole is still bleeding, and that this [bandage] is filling up with blood."

"Don’t imagine that. You’re going to gross yourself out," my wife replies.

"I’m imagining it right now. You can’t stop that."

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Owl Butterfly + USB microscope.

Animated gif of an Owl Butterfly

“The real truth—which everyone knows 364 days of the year—is that fiction can be both meaningful and fun. Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket. And is the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds?”
— Sam Harris, The High Cost of Tiny Lies

“I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

"If you actually measure stress, using our best available instruments, it can’t hold a candle to social isolation. Social isolation is the best-established, most robust social or psychological risk factor for disease out there. Nothing can compete."

Making an ad hominem while accusing somebody of making an ad hominem

I’ve been enjoying studying informal logical fallacies lately. They’re a fantastic way to examine our own biases, and to ensure our beliefs aren’t ill-founded. And I applaud anybody who takes the time to improve themselves in this manner.

But just knowing the words describing fallacies apparently isn’t enough, as evidenced in a recent Facebook discussion: How not to accuse somebody of committing an argumentum ad hominem.

Seriously… If you’re going to accuse somebody of committing an ad hominem 1 , try not to commit your own in the process.

And for bonus points, try also to avoid (what very well could be considered) sexism. Because that’s not helping any, either.

  1. Whether Orange’s remarks constitute an ad hominem in the first place is questionable, in my opinion. 

Insignificant Ineffeciencies Can Be Anything But

At an RV park in Taos, NM, I noticed a pebble on top of the trashcan lid next to our site. It’s a gravel park in the high desert, so a stray rock didn’t elicit any extra thought. I flipped it off the lid and deposited my trash.

The next morning, however, a pebble had reappeared. And it hit me: That little stone is an elegant and simple solution, resulting in massive time savings for the groundskeeper.

When the trashcan bag is replaced, a pebble is placed on top of the lid. It’s almost impossible to deposit trash into the can without knocking the rock off the lid, so it serves as an immediate visual indication of the presence of trash in the can.

I’m estimating that without the rock, it’d take about 7+ seconds to stop and exit the golf cart, check the can, and drive off. Some quick math suggests this simplest of solutions might be saving the groundskeeper around 40 hours a year.1

A small, seemingly insignificant 7 second inefficiency adding up to 40 hours a year.

So the next time I think (or hear somebody on my team) say, “Yeah it’s a problem, but it’d take more time to fix than it’s worth,” I’ll remember the pebble on the trashcan lid. Even a simple solution might be a huge win.

  1. There are about 60 trash cans in this park. Each trash can needs to be emptied at least daily, but obviously only if there’s trash actually in the can. Let’s say it takes about 7 seconds to slow and stop the golf cart, step out, lift the lid, peer in to check for trash, reseat the lid, get back in the cart and drive to the next can. If a pebble (readily available on the ground) is placed on top of the trashcan lid (1 second’s worth of effort) when the bag is changed, however, the groundskeeper can immediately see whether or not the lid has been disturbed, and can save those 7 seconds. The math is fuzzy to account for less than 100% of trashcans being undisturbed, daily. 

It is a little sad to me how many kids will correct other kids at a discovery center saying, “That’s not suppose to go there,” or “That’s not what you’re suppose to do with it.”

One child, maybe 6, came up to a pile of foam blocks and asked, “What are you suppose to do here?” Our girls just looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language, but kids are adept at learning languages, and I hope they don’t pick this one up.

—My Wife, via SMS, who would recommend Peter Gray’s Free to Learn

Setting Up a New Mac, and Notes for New OS X Users

In celebration of my business partner’s switch to a Mac (finally!), I’ve put together some of my thoughts on setting up a new Mac.

All of these tips are for Mountain Lion, and are current as of 2013-03. I’ll probably update this next time I get a new Mac :)

System Preferences: Trackpad. Familiarize yourself with the trackpad multitouch gestures, and enable most of them.

System Preferences: Keyboard. Under the keyboard shortcuts section, flip the radio button to “All controls”. When you’re presented with a dialog box in OS X you’ll usually see a button that’s blue, and a button that’s highlighted with a blue glow. Now that we’ve enabled “all controls”, you can save time with your keyboard:

  • Pressing the spacebar will click the blue outlined action.
  • Hitting enter will click the blue button.
  • Pressing tab will move the blue outline to the next action.

System Preferences: Keyboard. Still in the “keyboard shortcuts” tab of the keyboard preference pane, click the “Keyboard & Text Input” item on the left pane. Find the “Move focus to the menu bar” and enable it. I use ⌥⌘Space. Set this up and try it. Once you hit the shortcut you’ll see the apple in the top left highlight, and from there, start typing. Try hitting an “f” and you’ll probably see “File” highlighted. Then hit enter to expand that menu, and type again. It’s a big time saver.

System Preferences: Keyboard. Still in the “keyboard shortcuts” tab of the keyboard preference pane, notice the “Application Shortcuts” in the left pane. This is a neat bit of functionality that allows you to create your own keyboard shortcuts on an application-specific basis. For example, I have some set up for Mail.app:


System Preferences: Keyboard. Still in the “keyboard shortcuts” tab of the keyboard preference pane, familiarize yourself with the “Screenshots” shortcuts, because handy.

System Preferences: While you’re in there, click through every preference and familiarize yourself with all the possible options. It’s a matter of preference, but I stick my Dock to the left and have it auto-hide, because screen real estate is too precious to waste on icons I almost never actually need.


I think that’s all the system config stuff you’ve got to do. Now on to the apps! All of the following are, imo, indispensable.

Alfred App. It’s worth the price (well, there’s a free version, but get the power pack) for the clipboard history alone. In addition to making tons of stuff just stupidly fast, I use Alfred for system-wide app switching keyboard. (Download my workflow to save yourself the time of creating it yourself.)

So with these keyboard shortcuts, I’ve set all the F keys (at the very top of the keyboard) up as “standard function keys” (a setting in the Keyboard preference pane). Then I’ve got F1 to switch to Chrome, command+F1 for Mail.app, etc. Fwiw, I skip F2 because Sublime Text uses that for “bookmarking”, and I skip F12 because that’s used to open Firebug in Firefox.

Sublime Text. There are other text editors, but all the cool kids are using ST, and for good reason. Once you get used to it, it’s kind of magical. Get it, and learn the keyboard shortcuts for all the selecting and multiple cursor possibilities.

Text Expander. Ridiculous time saver.

Optimal Layout. This isn’t as much a “you must get this”, but it is super handy. It allows you to move windows around based on keyboard shortcuts, which keeps things nice and clean, especially if you’re working without multiple monitors.

FluidApp. Nice way to create a single-site browser “app”. I have one for Freckle and one for Rhapsody. This allows me to switch right to my time tracking with a quick press of F8, and music with a command+F8.

Some other apps…

    • Propane. Dedicated client for Campfire. A Fluid app would probably work, but considering how much time I spend in FoxyCart's Campfire chatroom, this is easily worth the money. (F10 to switch to Propane! Hooray Alfred :)
    • Dropbox. Duh.
    • Chrome, because duh.
    • 1password. Also, duh.
    • Skitch. Or Jing, though I prefer Skitch unless I need to record a video screencast.
    • Transmit, for SFTP and other file transferring. It ties into Sublime Text really nicely. CyberDuck might work, but I’ve tried probably every file transfer app over the years, and Transmit seems to be the best choice right now. I used to like Interarchy (years ago), but eventually … the newer versions weren’t really working well for me, and the old version I loved was getting unstable.
    • The built-in Mail.app is actually really solid, imo. Nice keyboard shortcuts, fast, search (finally) works well.

So, there you go. Did I miss anything?