Most summer weekends there’s a couple motorcycle classes running in the parking lot at Bunker Hill Community College. Though I can’t say I’ve ever really wanted a motorcycle, I have always wanted to at least know how to ride one. This weekend I finally took the plunge. Here’s a picture of the bike I’m riding for the course (they supply helmets too).
The class I signed up for runs Friday evening 6-9, Saturday 8-4, and Sunday 7-12. It’s a mix of classroom and on-bike instruction, and at the end of it (assuming I pass the evaluation) I’ll receive my motorcycle license in the mail in a few weeks.
I just completed day two, and all that remains is a bit more riding in the morning followed by the evaluation. It’s been a lot of fun, and both easier and harder than I expected. Getting the bike moving was easier than I thought it would be; coordinating both hands and both feet for stops on the other hand is definitely one of my weak spots. Knowing how to drive a stick-shift car has helped, but not as much as I’d hoped. And one thing I should have expected but didn’t was how brutally sore my legs would be, even after just a few hours on the bike. It reminds me of the first time I went horseback riding as a kid at summer camp.
It’s easy to see why people fall in love with riding. The experience was powerful and exhilarating, even at barely more than 15 mph on a diminutive bike. I don’t know that I’d actually buy a motorcycle, but if nothing else this has been a really cool way to spend the holiday weekend.
Since Word Hacks came out (yikes — almost 4 years ago now!), the reviews have generally been quite positive (both at Amazon and on oreilly.com). There hadn’t been a new one in some time, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this one posted just last month:
This is an adventure in programmatic praxiology. It is very well written and very well presented. I learned a ton of ways to actually use VBA with Word.
I love hearing that people found stuff they are actually using.
In related news, Word Hacks is currently was recently #4 on Amazon under books about Office 2000.
Audrey and I bought our first house in June, and all was going swimmingly, until last Monday.
First, after noticing it was growing unusually humid around the dryer, we discovered the dryer vent tube was completely severed. Who knew there was a company called “Dryer Vent Wizards” — that does nothing but service dryer vents? Angie’s List, that’s who knew. So far the Angie’s List membership has been one of our best purchases.
Replacing the vent line involved cutting holes in the floor and in one wall. The ceiling was feeling left out, but wouldn’t be for long.
Next up was a wobbly toilet — didn’t seem urgent, but with dinner guests coming next week, I didn’t want to take any chances. FYI, “broken flange” isn’t something you want to hear from a plumber (also found on Angie’s List). Because the basement is finished, they had to cut a large hole in the basement ceiling to get at the problem. Three hours and nearly $900 later, problem solved.
And then tonight while troubleshooting the icemaker that hasn’t worked since we moved in, I was tracing the water line feeding it and found myself standing in a puddle near the HVAC system. Good times. Took a bit of sleuthing, but we traced the problem to the drain pipe, which was completely clogged with … wet lint — apparently resulting from the previous owner running the dryer with a broken vent line. Second-best investment in the new house: Wet/Dry vac. Sucked the drain pipe clear, and all is now well.
At least until tomorrow…
While looking up some loan info from MEFA (Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority), I spotted a notice on their website that they’re suspending all federal education loans (and consolidation loans):
Effective July 1, 2008, MEFA is suspending all Federal education loans, including the Stafford Loan for undergraduate and graduate students, PLUS, and Graduate PLUS. Additionally, effective immediately, MEFA will not accept any new Federal Consolidation applications. The unprecedented disruption in the capital markets coupled with federal changes has prevented MEFA from securing funds for its federal education loan programs.
Audrey and I literally would not have been able to go to grad school without MEFA loans. Certainly illustrative of the widespread impact of the current credit crisis.
BTW, for an amazing look at the reasons we’re in this mess, check out “The Giant Pool of Money” from This American Life.
Recently finished, and highly recommended:
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. From Chris Anderson’s review:
Our brains are wired for narrative, not statistical uncertainty. And so we tell ourselves simple stories to explain complex thing we don’t–and, most importantly, can’t–know. The truth is that we have no idea why stock markets go up or down on any given day, and whatever reason we give is sure to be grossly simplified, if not flat out wrong.
Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract generalizable stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it’s practically useless. September 11th is one such example, and stock market crashes are another. Or, as he puts it, "History does not crawl, it jumps." Our assumptions grow out of the bell-curve predictability of what he calls "Mediocristan," while our world is really shaped by the wild powerlaw swings of "Extremistan."
Why Smart People Do Dumb Things: Lessons from the New Science of Behavioral Economics. This one’s more than 10 years old, so some of the contemporary examples feel quite dated, but still well worth a read.
Telling someone to “show some initiative” sounds patronizing. I suppose another way to put it is: “be your own best cheerleader — to yourself, and to those around you”. Still sounds hokey, but it’s true. Here’s two recent posts on the subject.
First, Seth Godin, on the difference between getting and taking:
Many employees do the same thing at work. They wait for a boss (hopefully a great one) to give them responsibility or authority or experiences that add up to a career. A few people, not many, but a few, take.
And Scott Berkun, who took the plunge of self-employment after realizing he’d really been waiting for his own permission to act:
No one will tell you what you’re capable of. No one told me to quit. No one told me to write books. None of the interesting things I’ve done started by someone telling me “you should do X.” or even “you are capable of doing X”. I’d been thinking about this for years but was waiting for some message from above to show up like the billboard in L.A. Story, saying “Scott. Now is the time. The universe has your back. Go do it”. But I’m still waiting for that. I’ve learned that not having support from others is not a reason not to do try something. I have to do the work, so my belief is enough.
I travel a lot, and while Wainwright Bank here in Boston has been great, I was just so rarely near one of their ATMs when I needed cash, that I often had to swallow obnoxious ATM fees.
As they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone (true story: I saw them in concert in 1987. Twice.), and I had no idea just how annoying those fees really are until I stopped paying them. OK, I technically do still pay the fee, but every month I now get all of those fees refunded:
01/31/2008 ATMREBATE ATM Fee Rebate $10.75
Schwab’s not the only bank to offer ATM fee rebates, and now may be a great time to find one that works for you.
When I was a toddler, like many other little boys, I grew very attached to a particular blanket, and insisted it join me just about everywhere I went. It was, of course a phase (unlike many adults, I don’t still have the darn thing). But I’ve recently felt myself similarly exposed, this time when working without a particular tool: version control.
I’m not saying that I am as enamored of this particular technology as I was that square of cloth; just that when I find myself without it, I get anxious and worried, like something very important is missing.
I just started putting together a few slides for the opening remarks for tomorrow’s TOC conference, and I’d barely gotten the first few slides sketched out when I felt a nagging sensation like I was driving without a seatbelt. (Or toddling without a security blanket for that matter.)
In reality, I hardly ever need to revert to an old version of a document. But having an infinite history of a project means the ability to work without the fear of irreversible catastrophe.
While I’m not ready to take things quite as far as some do in putting their electronic lives in version control, these days I rarely work on any document or project of significance without checking it into Subversion. The latest version of the Macintosh operating system actually includes a similar feature baked right in, so you get that same infinite history for free with the OS.
For now, I’m going to stick with Subversion, in part because I’m still running Windows, but also because SVN lets me access my files from anywhere. Sure beats a blanket…
It’s not uncommon for me to have trouble falling asleep at night, and something I’ve done since I was very young to help drift off is listen to news radio.
As a child growing up just outside Chicago, that meant WBBM (“Newsradio 78“; I can’t help but hear that in jingle form in my head). But when I got to college, there was — surprise! — no 24-hour news station in Champaign, Illinois.
The local NPR affiliate did, however, carry the BBC during the overnight hours. Because I was both involved with student media, and a student of media, I was particularly attuned to the contrast in interview style between the reporters on the BBC and their US counterparts. Stateside, reporters are just not very good at asking tough questions, but more importantly, I find them almost universally terrible at calling bullshit. Our media is just too obsessed with maintaining the precious illusion that there are “two sides to every story.”
I was reminded of this while reading The Economist today when I came across the following (sorry, behind a paywall), which you’ll never see in a US newspaper or newsmagazine (the emphasis is mine):
Florida’s popular governor, Charlie Crist, tried to persuade the candidates to back a federal subsidy for home insurance for people who live in hurricane-prone places like Florida. This is a terrible idea. By making it cheaper to build in risky areas, it would ensure that more houses are destroyed in future hurricanes.
Isn’t that refreshing?