Friday, May 30, 2008

Vacating the Presmises

I'm headed on vacation, taking the family to the beach, checking out Legoland, driving long distances, sleeping on floors, dragging around bags, eating greasy food, using public restrooms, showering in unfamiliar places, spending gobs and gobs and gobs of money...

Should be fun...


A friend of mine runs a fitness blog, and she is giving away some prizes for those who get in shape. So, if June is finding you with a few extra pounds, and you plan on swimming any time soon then head on over to her blog to read the details.

On a side note, the most pounds I lost last year were after I went swimming. That's right, I caught cryptosporidum and dropped about 6 pounds. It was the first time since my mission that I was below 150 pounds. I would NOT recommend going that method. I've never been so sick...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Six degrees of wikipedia

First there was the six degrees of separation (the notion that if a person is one step away from each person he or she knows and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows, then everyone is an average of six "steps" away from each person on Earth). Then came six degrees of Kevin Bacon (the idea that you can link any actor to Kevin Bacon on average about six steps).

Now, we have the six degrees of wikipedia. This site lets you find the average link between one page and another. Kind of interesting and fun. For example, you only need two clicks to get from Utah State University to Brigham Young University, and only one from the U to the Y (see guys, we don't need a rivalry, we're closer than we think).

I was going to run some more comparisons, but the server is down (probably due to the slashdot/digg effect).

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that by using this analysis, you can determining the center of wikipedia. The author of the article figured out the shortest path on average to a single article, and found that central article to be the United Kingdom. United States was third. What ranked before the good ol US of A?

That's right, you guessed it. Billy Jean King.

No, I'm not kidding. Go figure.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm famous

That's right. I didn't become famous when I wrote two books and got them published, but I'm famous now.

If you happen to be scrolling around Northern Utah on Google Maps, and find yourself looking at ATK Thiokol, and then click on the 'more' button, and then click on the 'photos' box, you will see a picture taken by none other than yours truly. That's right, I may as well put 'photographer' on my business card. Client: Google.

Here is the link, if you don't want to go hunting.

Author, photographer, I can do it all. And if you upload your pics to panoramio, you can do it too.

Stick and Rope

I used to work with a guy. He was an outdoorsy type. I once saw him reach into some plants that were marked 'poison oak'. He grabbed a handful and showed me that the plants weren't in fact poison oak, but rather some other kind of plant that looked like poison oak. We used to go on walks on our break along a river, and he would hand me all the edible plants.

He once told me that he didn't much care for all these new electronic games. In fact, he didn't have much use for toys at all. He told me once, 'all a kid needs is a stick, and some rope'.

I don't think I completely understood what he meant until last night.

My wife met somebody through a homeschooling organization, and we've been trying to get together. I knew her husband through work, but only a little. We went over last night and in their back yard they had a few very large trees, a zip line, several lengths of rope, some pvc pipe sticks, and a few bows.

The kids were in heaven.

They swung, flung, zipped, rode, spun, flew, whacked, shot, and in short, had a ball. We hadn't even made it to the van before all of the kids were asking if they could come back tomorrow.

So remember this come next Christmas. Don't but the wiis, don't buy the legos. Go to home depot, buy a large piece of rope, buy some sticks, and maybe even this book, and your kids will thank you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pretty cool...

If you've always wanted to build a web site, but you've felt like it was too complicated, you no longer have an excuse. Google sites is now open to everybody.

Read, watch, create.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Monopoly Must End

I remember very clearly sitting in an upper level polysci class as a senior. The professor proudly told us that we would forget 95 percent of the information he would teach us over the semester, and the other 5 percent would not be useful in whatever job we happened to get after college.

The professor went on to say that what we were getting out of his class was another check that would lead to a piece of paper. A diploma that basically says, "this person knows how to show up at a certain time, is able to learn and understand expectations given to him, and fulfill those expectations in a passable manner".

I remember thinking, "If I'm going to forget most of this, and not use the rest, then why am I here? Why am I wasting all this time when I could be out making money in a real career?"

Well, because I couldn't get a real career until I had the degree. That little piece of paper that only schools of higher education can give. I couldn't become a productive member of society until I sat through roughly 120 weeks of classes. Memorizing information that I would both forget, and never use again.

The professor was right. I remember very little of his class, and to the best of my knowledge I use none of the content in my current career.


Students in any given class are on different levels. Some are very intelligent, and bring a large body of knowledge, expertise, and experience to the class. Others might be slow, and have no experience in the subject matter. The smarter student may do better than the slow student, but one thing is guaranteed; it will take both of them the same amount of time to finish the course. A smarter student can not finish sooner. She is on a boat. The boat will arrive at the harbor and all students will get off. Even if she understands the material, she must float along with the boat and all of the other students, waiting to reach their destination.

Institutions of higher education enjoy a monopoly. Sure, there is the University of Phoenix, and a few other 'for profit' schools out there, but for the most part if you have hopes of earning a decent amount of money working for somebody else, you must earn a degree.

So even if you are bright, have a lot of experience, you are often stuck for 3-5 years earning a bachelors degree, another 1-2 for a masters, and 2-3 for a Ph. D. In order for you to do Ph. D. level work, you must first jump through the proper hoops, most of which, it can be argued, don't add real value to the experience and skills of the student.


There has been a movement of late toward 'opening up' the content of a university. MIT's OCW, Rice's Connexions project, Berkley's iTunes, and many more. I embrace this movement but it is only the first step. Anyone with access to the internet can access the content. The kicker, of course, is that even if you teach yourself the content, learn the skills, or master the information, you don't have anything to show potential employers. If I'm hiring for a position, I want the process to be easy. A degree from a university is an incredibly nice filter for the job I'm looking to fill. I don't want to hire you unless I know that you can show up at a certain time, learn expectations, and fulfill those expectations.

So we now have all this content out there but if a person in a developing country wants to better their life by learning a skill and getting a job, there is still no easy way to demonstrate they have the same skills and knowledge of a person who has gone through the 'traditional route'. The problems is largely left unsolved.


I've recently come upon an idea for alternative accreditation. I'm gathering my thoughts, and I'll post more on the subject later.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Chapter 3

Finished chapter 3. You can listen to it, if you're so inclined, over at

Incidentally, I happened to stop by, and noticed it was for sale. Somebody has registered the address, and is trying to sell it. Since I've had several people go to this site first, trying to get to my site, I wrote to the owner and asked how much he wanted. $6,000! I'm thinking I'll just keep telling people about the 'the' in :)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Why We Homeschool

A post over at Shakes Explains it All reminded me of a small series of essays I wrote last year on why our family does homeschool. I don't think homeschooling is the right choice for everybody, but our family enjoys it.

Anyway, I was quite proud of the essays, and they were based on a song from the Broadway musical You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. I was listening to the song the other day, and thought I'd repost the essays. The good news is this time around I've found the song. So, kick back, listen to this song, and then if you've got a spare 30 minutes, feel free to click on the links.

Charlie Brown

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Too bad...


My favorite comments from digg.


I love all these comments "It was free so I paid but now that I have to pay I want it free, probably so I can pay again!"

Just goes to show the internet is NEVER happy.


Translation: "We didn't make as much money as we wanted"


Basically they are admitting it was a publicity stunt, not an attempt to change the industry.


It would be less significant the second time? Tell that to Trent :P NIN seems to be doing just fine.