I just formally joined the ACLU

I don’t usually become an official member of activist groups, even the ones I frequently donate to, but I’ve decided to make an exception for the ACLU. Below is what I gave the ACLU as my optional statement on why I joined.



“I’ve donated to the ACLU foundation before, including recently, but I’ve decided to formally join the ACLU because you’re the organization that best represents my values and you do the incredibly hard work to defend and advance civil rights in the United States.

I don’t agree with everything you do, but I admire your commitment to defend the civil rights of everyone, no matter their political stance or the (occasionally offensive to me) nature of their activities. Your work makes the United States a better nation.”

Breitbart is not a news source

If someone you know considers Breitbart a news source, it’s best to avoid them if possible and minimize contact with them if not. Many people are capable of good faith discussion on serious issues. Many are not. Try not to waste your time on the latter.

Breitbart propaganda quashed by German Police


Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/07/german-police-quash-breitbart-story-of-mob-setting-fire-to-dortmund-church


How to strike up a conversation with anyone

Being able to talk to people you don’t know well is a vital work skill. If you can start a conversation with strangers, you’ll be rewarded with:

1. People opening up to you, helping you feel closer to them and them closer to you

2. A decreased level of stress and awkwardness (compared to silence)

3. Potential business or social opportunities for you or the person you’re talking with


The tips here are all excellent. I’m not good at small talk and I don’t enjoy it, but I make myself engage in it at work because it often leads to real, substantial communication which can benefit everyone. One of the tips, “Give them your full attention”, is an obvious one, but many of us have a hard time doing that. If you can really be present with someone, listening to them and paying attention to their tone, watching their body language, and thinking what they might be trying to communicate with their words (consciously or subconsciously), you’ll find that such presence is both its own reward and will give others the desire and confidence to open up to you. Give it a try. Focus completely on another person while they’re talking with you. Your relationship with them will likely grow in a positive way.

PSA: Homemade does not mean safe and mixing household cleaners can kill you.

DIY does not mean safe and mixing household cleaners can kill you.

If you’re thinking about making your own cleaners, please read this. The article also contains information about what cleaning products are dangerous or deadly when mixed. Mixing two easily available commercial cleaners (e.g. ammonia and bleach) can kill you. This is stuff everyone should be taught in grade school, but anytime is a good time to learn or be reminded of this.

It’s Time for Strong Government Intervention in the Economy

This short piece in the MIT Technology Review is a very good read, worthwhile for anyone wondering how we’re going to solve our most pressing social and environmental issues.

I support strong government involvement (via targeted funding) in directing the economy towards solving our most serious problems, including climate change, the broader problem of transitioning to cleaner energy, improving our education system, reducing wealth inequality, and reducing violence. This article covers this topic, its potential and its historical pitfalls, well.

Edward Tufte on Information Design

I’m a software and systems engineer and a student and practitioner of information design. Information Design is a field of central importance to designing systems that are usable by their intended user base, yet it’s not covered in any depth in the software engineering college curricula I’m familiar with.

The foremost living master of information design is Edward Tufte. He’s well worth studying. In addition to his books and the many resources at edwardtufte.com, he gives one day courses at various US locations and I strongly recommend this course. I learned a great deal when I attended 7 or so years ago. The cost of attendance includes hardcopy versions of all 4 of Tufte’s books on information design.

Even if you can’t attend his live course, it’s worth reading up on Tufte to gain insight into how one master thinks about the world of information design. His site is below. It’s worth poking around there to see if you find anything that interests you.

Here’s a quick read on interface design and a short video by Tufte on the now very familiar iPhone interface. He covered this when I attended the one day course, when the iPhone was still rather new – http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00036T

Here’s a good read on PowerPoint and its suitability for technical presentation and reporting. Those who’ve worked with me (and John Henris) will remember our occasional rants against PowerPoint as a tool for conveying information. We still use it, because we’re often required to, but understanding the deficiencies of PowerPoint and the human tendencies when working with PowerPoint will enable you to be a better presenter and to choose a superior tool for technical reports and presentations when the situation allows.

PowerPoint Does Rocket Science–and Better Techniques for Technical Reports – http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB

I know it will seem like I’m picking on PowerPoint (I am), but here’s another short read on Steve Ballmer’s revelation that traditional presentations are not the best way to transfer information – Microsoft’s CEO wants ET method of presentation, not PowerPoint – http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0003RO

Finally, here is an excellent collection of facts, tips, and examples on spotting and avoiding corruption in evidence collection, presentation and analysis. It’s worthwhile reading for every person in science or engineering – Corrupt Techniques in Evidence Presentations – http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001et – Much of this comes from Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence book, which I’ll let you borrow if you promise to take good care of it.

Note: Tufte tends to present himself, in his writing and in his talks, as a god of technology, on the same level as Einstein and da Vinci. I mention this so you can be aware of the need to remain objective. He’s a brilliant man, but one whose ideas you should evaluate as if he was just another source of information.

As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Alan Lipman on Donald Trump’s Narcissism

The narcissism of Donald Trump’s candidacy


Professor Alan Lipman writes in CNN about Trump’s severe narcissism and the danger it poses to our nation. I’ve been using the term narcissism since Trump got into the race, and pointing people to the diagnostic inventory and test for narcissistic personality disorder. His disorder is so blatant. I’m happy to see an expert come to the same conclusion.

So many public people have commented on Trump’s extreme narcissism and the severe danger he’d pose if given any political power. Lipman lays out what I see as a compelling case against supporting Trump in anything. I wish more people were open to seeing him as he is.