Proclaiming Thanksgiving!

This is Thanksgiving Week. As such it seems appropriate to restate the facts that surround Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in only 3 countries around the world: The United States, Canada and The Philippines.

The original Europeans who came to America were searching for religious freedom from an oppressive government, not freedom from religion itself. Those hardy folks came over in small boats carrying very few resources with them. They survived because they were able to depend on God, adapt to a new environment, and create a self-sufficient society.

America was founded on this ideal and the willingness to adapt, learn and create are still very evident in our modern times.

In 1789 George Washington signed the following proclamation to establish the holiday of Thanksgiving in America.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789. Signed by George Washington.

No matter where in the world we live, it is important to remember and learn from history.

If you have comments, I would love to hear from you. Please leave the comments here or email John at [email protected].

Self-sufficiency Gone Wrong

I get a lot of reader e-mail and I read absolutely every one of them. I also get a lot of e-mail from friends and family who love to challenge me with interesting bits of information. I love it all! This past week I received an e-mail from one of my correspondents with a link to an article entitled, “The age of loneliness is killing us.” It actually talks about an issue that readers have asked me about in the past-the meaning of the term, self-sufficiency. Some people confuse this term with independence. The problem is that self-sufficiency has nothing to do with either independence or dependence. The terms aren’t actually relevant to each other.

You’ve seen from any number of posts that I practice self-sufficiency in grand style. However, my self-sufficiency ensures there is wood for the fire, food in the larder, clothing to wear, and a roof over my head. It ensures that my animals are all well-fed, happy, and productive. Everyone has work to do in my household, even Sugar Plum (my cat), whose main goal in life appears to be stealing my dog Reese’s bed. Practicing self-sufficiency has improved my health, made me happier, and increased my productivity.

I’m far from lonely especially after I’m visited by my favourite London escort. I counted today and I rely on no less than 40 animals and people to make my self-sufficiency work (the list is likely far larger). Including the animals is necessary because each has an active role to perform in my self-sufficiency. I could list off the jobs each animal and person performs, but I think the point is that I’m incredibly dependent on others to be self-sufficient. In fact, it’s always been that way. There are dependencies that must be maintained in order to create a happy and productive life. To say that I’m dependent on certain people is simply to say that I’m human and have deficiencies that others meet-it doesn’t make me any less of a person to admit this fact. Rather, it demonstrates an understanding of how things work and makes me a better person as a result.

The biggest reason for this particular post is to put into words precisely what I mean by self-sufficiency. I don’t want anyone out there to ever use self-sufficiency as an excuse to be lonely or to feel excluded. Far from it. Most people who are self-sufficient are fully engaged with the animals and people that surround them. In fact, it’s the animals part of the equation that sets us apart. I recently provided a post entitled, “Hugging Your Animals” and a number of people wrote to ask whether I actually do that. Well, yes I do. My animals are a big part of my self-sufficiency and I’m quite dependent on them.

Our society’s ever growing fear of depending on others is a problem. It creates loneliness, decreases productivity, makes us less efficient, and most definitely makes us less happy. Creating relationships does involve risks. Someone really could say they don’t like you or decide they really can’t tolerate how you do something. Rejection, arguments, and upsets of all sorts are the risks we encounter with dependency, but the benefits are ever so much greater. Take time to hug someone today and tell them how much you appreciate them. Let them know you don’t mind being dependent on them and that you hope they’ll depend on you too. Send me your questions about self-sufficiency and being dependent on others to [email protected].

 

Global Wireless Internet

We live in an exciting time. The Internet makes it possible for all sorts of information exchange to occur at speeds that have never been seen before. The only major obstacle still in the way is ensuring everyone can access the Internet from any location. That’s why stories like the recent ComputerWorld offering, “SpaceX working on micro-satellite network for Internet access” and the LiveScience offering, “Google Invests Billions on Satellites to Expand Internet Access” fascinate me. I live in a rural community where the Internet connection options aren’t always the best and certainly not of the high speed variety found in major cities, this is a bit of a downer for people who need it desperately like me! In fact I had a look online for some the other day and found one called satellite internet now which comes with high speeds, so I might have to take that into account. Anything that helps me work faster and gain access to the Internet with fewer delays and downtime is welcome!

What astounds me is the assertion in the article that 60 percent of the world still has no Internet access at all, let alone access to more here when it comes to deals. I imagine some percentage of the world doesn’t care because it doesn’t have computer access either. However, it would be nice if the rest of the world would have a choice at least of accepting or rejecting Internet access as the case might be.

Of course, Americans (and many other parts of the world) assumes that everyone wants Internet access. After having had first hand contact with more than a few groups who are doing just fine without the Internet, I think the assumption is invalid. In fact, many of the articles I read in magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian tell me that there are cultures that are actively working hard to retain their identity, which doesn’t involve any sort of Internet access. Be that as it may, it would still be nice if they could access the Internet sometime in the future, should they wish to do so.


I’m looking forward to the day when worldwide Internet access is not only available, but available at high enough speed so that everyone can enjoy the advanced features the Internet has to provide. The satellite networks I’ve been reading about bring a lot of promise with them. Even though some people have said that no amount of bandwidth will ever be enough, I think there is a level of performance that will provide the kind of performance people need to achieve common goals. Even though some people might not want internet access, it would be nice for them to have the option. Currently, people wanting internet access will usually try to get some sort of package deal. They will compare fibre broadband packages and find the best one for them. Some people found that Vodaphone seemed to offer some good deals, so many people purchased package deals from them, including broadband internet plans and SIM-only plans (more info here on that). Perhaps these sorts of deals will be available to more people soon.

How do you feel about the expansion of Internet access across the world? Are there technologies other than satellites that we should be exploring (as far as I know, satellites are the only technology being using right now to bring the Internet to truly remote locations)? Let me know your thoughts about Internet connectivity at [email protected].

Lessons in Intellectual Property Commerce

A lot of people have written to ask why I don’t simply offer my books for free. Of course, that wouldn’t sit well with my publishers, but it brings up other concerns as well. Unfortunately, a lot of people take my books for free even though they aren’t offered that way. Joe finds that he likes my book and gives a copy of his e-book to Sally, who reads it and gives it to Andy. Only the first copy is actually paid for. It’s a problem because I have bills to pay, just like everyone else. So, the price you pay for a book helps (in small part) to keep me writing the books that continue to help you remain productive and to learn really cool new technologies.

I read with interest about some artists offering their works online on a “pay what you want” basis or literally for free. The hope was that this form of distribution would build interest in the person’s offering (book, music, video, art, or whatever else you can imagine), so that the artist could eventually earn income in other ways. It’s not working out very well. I read with interest a story entitled, “Taylor Swift vs. Spotify: Why Music Should Not Be Free” in PC Magazine. The article rambles a little, but the arguments it makes against free intellectual property are compelling. The bottom line is that artists of all stripes need to eat. More importantly, the people who support the artists need to eat as well.

There have been all sorts of efforts to force people to pay for content in this digital age. They’ve all been unsuccessful in generating more income and have served only to cause problems for the artists. What it comes down to is that you need to decide that you want quality content to enjoy-whether that content is written, heard as music, seen as video, or presented in some other form. When I write a book, the book does generate some money for the publisher. However, the book also helps me pay my bills, along with those of the editors who support me. In addition, the money you pay also helps keep bookstores in business. In short, you’re helping to support a lot of people-real people with real needs. This really isn’t about sticking it to some huge corporation out there-it’s a lot more personal than that.

Eventually, you’ll find more quality texts in self-published form, which means that you could get books that I write for a fraction of the price you pay now. However, self-publishing comes with it’s own set of problems that need to be considered. For example, when I start self-publishing material, I’ll have access to fewer editors to help me polish my material and make it the quality product that you’ve come to expect. In addition, I’ll produce less material because now I’ll have to act as my own marketing department as well. My self-published books will only be offered in e-book form unless I contract with a print on demand company (in which case, you’ll end up paying substantially more for the book).

The theft of intellectual property is at an all time high and the problem threatens to become worse, long before it gets better. In fact, I think it’s something that will never go away, and there will always be that chance of people potentially being subject to things like patents, false advertising, and copyright infringement. So, all I can say is that it’s a good job that there are law firms like Sidley Austin, who specializes in intellectual property litigation (https://www.sidley.com/en/services/intellectual-property-litigation) that can give people the help they need if they ever fall victim to this. It has never been more important to put a stop to this type of activity. That’s why I need your continued support in order to continue writing the material that you’ve come to expect from me as an author. Of course, I’ll continue to welcome your input about my books and also to provide the free content you’ve come to enjoy in my blog. However, the next time someone offers you a copy of one of my books for free, consider the implications of the act. All it takes a simple no and then a purchase at your local bookstore to help keep me in business. Thank you for your continued help and support.

 

It’s All About Choice

Whether to come or go,
Or to ignore the flow,
It’s all about choice.

Whether to love or hate,
Or to neglect others’ fate,
It’s all about choice.

Whether to produce or loaf,
Or to work as an oaf,
It’s all about choice.

Whether to succeed or fail,
Or to determine to rail,
It’s all about choice.

Whether to think or react,
Or to simply accept fact,
It’s all about choice.

The choices you make,
Affect the path you take,
Through life’s long journey hard.

But you have the voice,
In defining your choice,
And determining which path to regard.

Copyright 2014, John Paul Mueller

 

Antiquated Technology Making Developers Faster

Would you like to be able to type application code faster and with fewer keystrokes? The article, The 100 Year Old Trick to Writing at 240 Words Per Minute, probably has some good advice for you—at least, if you’re willing to learn the technique. It turns out that stenography isn’t only useful for court typists and people who print out the text for the hearing impaired on television, it’s also quite useful for developer. Yes, your IDE probably has more than a few tricks available for speeding up your typing, but I guarantee that these tricks only go so far. My personal best typing speed is 110 wpm and that’s flat out typing as fast as my fingers will go.

Naturally, I haven’t ever used one of the devices mentioned in the article. However, a stenographer named Mirabai Knight has tried one of the devices and reproduced a 140 keystroke Python application using only 50 keystrokes. I don’t know of any IDE that can provide that sort of efficiency. Of course, it’s one thing for a trained stenographer to produce these sorts of results, but I’d like to hear from any developer who has used the technique to hear about how well it worked for them. Please contact me about your experiences at [email protected].

The part that interested me most though is that the system, called Plover, is written in Python. (If you want to see Plover in action, check out the video at http://plover.stenoknight.com/2014/10/longer-plover-coding-snippet-in-python.html. A number of Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies readers have written to ask me how they can use their new found programming skills. The book contains sections that tell you about all sorts of ways in which Python is being used, but most of these uses are in large corporations. This particular use is by a small developer—someone just like you. Yet, it has a big potential for impacting how developers work. Just imagine the look on the boss’ face when you turn in your application in half the time because you can type it in so much faster? So, Python isn’t just for really large companies or for scientists—it’s for everyone who needs a language that can help them create useful applications of the sort that Python is best suited to target (and I describe all of these uses in my book).

 

Hugging Your Animals

Hugs are the universal communication medium for most animals. It may surprise you to discover that I hug all my animals on a regular basis. The reasons for hugging my animals are many, but from the animal’s perspective, it’s a matter of knowing that I’m OK—that I’m not going to hurt them. To keep an animal tame and workable, you need to respect its need for contact with you. Often, people have problems working with their animals because the needed relationship simply isn’t there. Here’s a picture of me hugging one of my chickens, Daisy.

Daisy is an American chicken that loves to be hugged by John.
Daisy the Americana Chicken
Picture Courtesy of Micah Schlobohm

The chickens are actually quite interesting because they curtsey to attract attention and tell me that they want to be picked up. The curtsey is kind of a half bow where they spread their wings slightly as if lifting out a dress. The point is that the hens really do want (and need their hugs).

The rabbits also need hugs and have a different way of demonstrating the need. One of my rabbits, Twilight, will sit on her hind legs and raise her front legs in greeting when I open the cage in the morning. If I don’t pick her up and pet her, she stomps her back feet when I leave to show that she’s really quite unhappy. It doesn’t have to be a long hug, just as long as I tell her that she’s special in her own way.

My two dogs, Reese and Shelby, want their hugs first thing in the morning, when I let them in from going outside. Each dog has her own way of getting petted. Shelby is quite dignified about the whole thing and sits patiently waiting until I pet her. A little nuzzle often tells me that her patience is running out. Reese is quite crazy and runs about in circles until I invite her over for a hug. Of course, it’s not enough to simply pet her back, she wants her belly petted as well.

Every morning Sugar Plum wakes me up by meowing at me and patting my face. If that doesn’t work, she gets Smucker involved (he stomps all over me). Failing that, the two cats get the dogs stirred up. All that howling, baying, and barking is impossible to ignore. Obviously, Sugar Plum wants to be paid for her efforts, and her hug is a required part of the payment. Smucker usually comes in after breakfast, sits on my shoulder for a while, and then sort of slides down into my lap for his hug.

Of course, the hugs don’t just help the animals. Hugs come with serious health benefits for humans too. I’ve noted that my mood improves after my hugs each day. The results are measurable too. Taking my blood pressure before and after a hug shows that it goes down every time. Lower blood pressure and heart rate will help me stay healthy and all it takes is a simple hug.

Some people might question whether my animals really do require hugs, or whether I’m anthropomorphizing natural behaviors that mean something else. At one time, I might have thought that animals really didn’t need the hugs—that their behaviors really did mean something quite different, but time has taught me that they need love too and a hug is one of the best ways to give it to them. Let me know your thoughts on hugging your animals (or hugs in general) at [email protected].

Are You Lying? Can I Tell?

I just read an interesting article, “What happens when your friend’s smartphone can tell that you’re lying?” The reason this article is so interesting is that it involves a kind of application development that I would never have thought possible at one time. That’s what is underneath the technology described in the article. The hardware provides sensors that provide input to application. The application uses the resulting data to determine whether the person in question is lying.

It’s an odd sort of thing to think of, but our society relies on lies to make things work. When someone asks how you feel, do you really think you can be brutally honest? Because lying has such negative connotations, most people would likely say that they’re honest all the time, but in fact, they aren’t. We habitually lie because it’s not only socially acceptable, but socially necessary to do so. Even if we feel terrible, most of us respond that we feel fine when asked how we feel. We know that the other person is simply trying to be nice and probably isn’t interested in how we feel. Asking how someone is doing or how they feel is an ice breaker—a means to start polite communication. The idea that smartphones can possibly detect these little lies will make people feel uncomfortable.

Our society is currently undergoing a massive change and most people aren’t even aware of just how significant the change really is. After all, the change lacks the protests, marching, and other indicators that previous changes have incurred. However, of all the changes I’ve read about, this change is possibly the most significant. We’re now monitoring every aspect of human behavior in ways that our ancestors couldn’t even conceive. Soon, we’ll have the capability of monitoring emotion. The idea that we can literally look into another person’s head and accurately see what they’re thinking and feeling is terrifying in the extreme. At some point we’ll have no privacy of any sort if things continue as they are now. We’ll become Borg-like creatures of the sort described in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I’ve discussed privacy issues before. In An Unreasonable Expectation of Privacy, I pointed out that humans have never had complete privacy unless they became hermits (and even then, someone probably knew our whereabouts). I’ve also tried to help you counter some of today’s intrusions with posts such as Exercising Personal Privacy. Taking yourself off the grid, ensuring you maintain good privacy techniques online, and so on do help, but this latest article tells me that it may eventually become an issue of not being able to be private, even if you really want privacy. If someone can flash their smartphone at you and determine things like what you’re thinking and how you feel, the act of being private becomes impossible.

We’re on the cusp of a major change that we won’t be able to counteract. Humankind is plunging headlong into a new world where communication takes place more or less instantly and conveys more than just words. It’s going to be interesting to see what sorts of new social rules that we put into place to help with the loss of privacy. For now, users and developers alike need to consider how best to maintain privacy and allow for those times when privacy is no longer possible.

Where do you feel privacy is going? How do you think you’ll react as more and more applications are able to not only accept your input, but also sense your feelings and detect whether you’re engaging in behaviors such as lying? Do developers need to put safeguards in place to keep security issues under control? Let me know your thoughts about the future privacy implications of applications at [email protected].