Invitations to happiness

I have an aunt who is terrible with directions. Each holiday where she attends I end up on the phone with her and guide her in to the destination as if I were air traffic control helping an airplane land.

On one trip I thought I’d set her up with Google Maps, and so we spent some time connecting it via Bluetooth to her car and showing her how it worked. It may have worked for that trip, but it didn’t work long after. She didn’t use it again.

Remembering to have her audio system connected to her phone meant she couldn’t hear the directions. She wasn’t tuned in.

On this most recent trip we changed one setting. One setting! We adjusted Google Maps to not use the Bluetooth audio, but instead broadcast instructions directly from her phone.

It worked. She’s loving it!

We often see someone telling us a path to walk down as someone telling us what to do. But, what if we didn’t? What if we saw that as simply directions?

Directions can be liberating. My aunt now feels she has the freedom to go anywhere because she knows how to get directions to anywhere she wants to go.

The commandments are our directions. When we follow them they liberate us from the feelings in life that are so uncomfortable, guilt, remorse, anxiety, fear. All the things we feel when we have someplace else to be and choose a wrong path.

The commandments aren’t restrictions. They’re our invitation to happiness.

Don’s Ducks

I grew up reading comics, but not the typical comics you see idolized in shows like the Big Bang Theory. For me I couldn’t care less about who Superman was fighting, or what the Joker was doing to Batman. I read Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck and loved them.

There’s a real playfulness to the stories and a sense of adventure. The antagonist is always a riddle to solve, not a person to beat up.

There are many great artists that have been licensed to created these comics over the years. Carl Barks did the work in the 1950’s that made the books an international success, and in my generation it was Don Rosa.

I prefer Rosas’ drawings and his stories over all the others and one of the things I love about the era we live in is that I can purchase full books of his works for the Kindle and read them on all of my devices.

What comics did you grow up with? Is there a ready-to-download collection for you to revisit some of your childhood memories?

Calligraphy Fonts

Back in the day my teachers didn’t mandate Times New Roman, because the font wasn’t common enough to make a standard. I remember turning in a paper using a calligraphy font.

Nowadays I don’t have the need for calligraphy fonts as much, but they remain a popular style of font font download. Here’s a website with several free options.

If you’re using calligraphy fonts today, where do you find them most effective?

Know Your Spouse–Or at Least Their Transcripts

My wife was helping our oldest son select classes for High School. As the process was taking its natural course (teenager becomes less engaged). She asked if he wanted to take economics.

I recommended it.

Then I remarked that I’d never taken an economics class.

The wife didn’t believe me.

You see, I’d helped her through her macro and micro economics coursework when she had questions and my answers were spot-on with the text books and research she did for the class. Totally makes sense that she would have that impression.

But it was wrong.

So I pulled up my transcript and sure enough. No economics classes.

Years of listening to Freakanomics podcasts and reading Freedman, Hayek, Sowell, and Reason.com for fun have paid off.

My wife finally told me I was right about something.

The Best Kind of ERROR

Our modern experiences have taught us to be familiar with different types of error messages. These are not always unpleasant. They’re just part of the feedback loops of our modern ecosystem. Various projects have even attempted to make this a more enjoyable experience. In Chrome you can play with a dinosaur while you wait for your internet to be restored.

If errors are normal (and they most certainly are) what is the best type of error?

I’d like to submit that the best type of errors are user errors.

Yes, people failures are the best types of failures to have.

Yesterday I was on a call where we spent 45 minutes troubleshooting an error message that we could have easily cleared out by hitting the enter key twice. We just didn’t know that at the time.

Sounds like a waste of time, right? It felt like it too.

But that’s the exact opposite of what it was. A waste of time would have no positive benefit.

Almost at once we were all in the zone of trying to get past the message. We were all in our learning framework. We activated social networks to help us troubleshoot. We were all focused on the same obstacle. It was a great unintended team building activity.

When we did discover the solution there’s not a single one of us that didn’t learn what it was. We were all in our learning mode, and the hard to find answer helped to solidify the solution in our memories.

We’re not going to do that again.

The other reason why I believe user errors are the best kind of errors is that users can be trained. In the above example we’re not going to make that same mistake again and we left notes and videos for anyone that followed us so they don’t have to learn the same lesson with the same frustrating feelings.

Equipment and software aren’t so quick to fix. There’s a logistical chain that has to be considered when addressing an equipment error. In software there’s a development chain that has to be considered. In my experience neither of these have as quick of a response of asking someone to do it differently.

What’s the best type of error? User Error.

Because users can be trained and once they are they’re changed.

So, dear reader, are you easy to train?

Best Patent Ever

I have at times found myself reading patents for various reasons. In the last 24 hours I’ve come across the best patent ever. I’m so glad I blog so I can share this with you guys.

US Patent 5443036A is a remarkably brilliant bit of documentation. It’s short and easy for a layman to read (a requirement for a good patent in my mind). What’s even more interesting is that you’ve probably violated this patent, but the patent holders never bothered to sue. Hence, another requirement of a good patent is the lack of destructive enforcement. The owners clearly aren’t patent trolls.

The title of the patent is officially “Method of exercising a cat.” Many of us have had experiences where it felt like we were herding cats, but this one deals with the proper method of exercising the feline breeds.

The abstract reads:

A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.

While the patent was originally filed in 1991 there seems to be some issue at the moment with its licensing fee. So I don’t believe it’s wise to create your own devices to do this yet as it may still be in violation of the law.

Variations on this idea include a Pet Entertainment Device which was awarded a patent in 2006, and a Light Projecting Pet Toy awarded a patent in 2009. These later devices are significantly more complex. Sometimes it’s nice to just keep it simple like original Method of Exercising a Cat.