One Week

Well, we all survived the first week of school again this year. I feel like a did a month’s worth of work last week. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I would’ve liked, but at least we’re keeping the work order list below four pages. That’s a major accomplishment considering we just hired a new tech last week.

It’s strange how different my job is during the summer compared to when school is in session. Most people do pretty much the same thing year round, but for me it’s almost like having a totally different job for two months out of the year. I feel like I get so much more done during the summer than I do the rest of the school year, but it’s just never long enough to get everything ready.

My class seems to be going pretty well so far. Unfortunately, I still don’t have a textbook. One was ordered for my class this year, but it’s on backorder so who knows when I’ll get it. I guess it’s not that big of a deal since I taught the entire course last year without a book.

Robotics will be starting back up soon. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out this year considering most of the team graduated last year, but I’m know some of the younger students will step up and take charge. Kickoff is only three weeks away so we’ve got to get going soon.

There’s a lot more stuff I need to post on here, like pictures of Matthew. Hopefully things will get caught up at work this week and I’ll have more time for the fun stuff…

TV Time

Back when I was a kid, I would visit my grandparents on the weekends. They lived in the coutry and had a big antenna on top of their house. Inside, on top of the TV, was a small box with a dial on it. You used that dial to turn the antenna for better reception (at least that’s how I remember it).

Anyway, with this setup they got two channels – 10 and 12. It was simple to find something to watch. See what’s on one channel, then see what’s on the other channel. Watch the one that looks most interesting.

Fast forward about 20 years – now my grandparents live in town and have cable. Even with cable they only have about 30-40 channels to pick from so they still just click through the channels until they find something to watch. Maybe not the ideal situation, but it gets the job done.

Yesterday I found myself trying to explain Dish Network to my grandmother. She picked up the remote and asked me “How do you change the channel?”

“No problem,” I said. “First you press guide then use the up and down arrows to scroll through the list of channels. The list shows the name of the show beside each channel and there’s a description of the show in the top, right corner. Once you find the one you want, press Select to watch it.”

In hindsight, I probably should’ve said “This is the only thing on right now.” It’s not that my grandmother is dumb or can’t learn new things, it’s just that her idea of “changing the channel” is very different from mine.

It is still possible to click through the channels one at a time, but there are probably hundreds on pay-per-view and sports channels that would slow you down. Not to mention, with the guide you don’t need to visit each channel to see what’s on.

This difference in thinking (I’m not going to say “paradigm shift”) applies to many other areas. It’s not always a generational difference either. Sometimes it’s simply a geek trying to explaing things to a non-geek.

I try to take note of these situations and think of interesting ways to overcome them. I’m not exactly sure why I do this. Maybe it’s the programmer in me that always wants to find solutions to the world’s problems.

For example, on our DirecTV system at home I’ve set up a favorites list called “Watchable”. These are all of the channels that we can actually watch. I could probably eliminate at least half of those channels and come up with a list of channels that we most frequently watch. With that in place, it would be possible to flip through all of the channels and see what’s on. Just like in the good old days.

I can’t wait for the day when one of my kids or (gasp!) grandkids has to explain the latest technology to me. Hopefully they’ll read this post and go easy on me…

The Future of Books

I’ve mentioned Cory Doctrow on this site before. He’s written some really good books like Down and Out in the Magic Kindom (one of my personal favorites). The interesting thing is he releases his books for free download on his website, and he encourages readers to convert the books into different formats for others to download.

USA Today has an article about some trends in books today. Most of the article concerns Harry Potter, but Cory Doctrow also gets a few paragraphs. Here’s a great quote from Mr. Doctrow concerning why he gives his work away:

“For almost every writer, the number of sales they lose because people never hear of their book is far larger than the sales they’d lose because people can get it for free online,” Doctorow says. “The biggest threat we face isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”

You can tell that this guy really gets it. Don’t fight the future, embrace it. The Internet is just another tool to reach an even greater audience. It’s not stealing if no one would’ve ever paid for it in the first place.

This argument applies just as well to music. When radio first came out, many artists refused to let their songs be played. They thought that if people could listen to their music for free on the radio, no on would ever buy their album. Now, those artists are lost in obscurity, and musicians with popular songs on the radio sell the most albums.

Instead of trying to sue fans who download music, bands should be treating the Internet more like a radio station. Give songs away for free to build a larger following. I download songs to get a chance to hear a band that I can’t hear on the radio. If I like the music, I buy the CD. If I really like it, I’ll probably even buy tickets to see the band perform live.

Make great music, or write a great book, and people will pay for it. The Internet can help artists connect with those people.

Bouncing Baby

Here’s a nice picture of Matthew in his jumper. He really likes jumping.

Matthew in his jumper

Isn’t it nice for everyone to be able to see this picture online? As opposed to, you know, squinting at a tiny screen on a camera phone…

Can You Hear Me Now?

Paige and I finally broke down and got cell phones again. Chances are we’ve already given you our new numbers. If not, let us know and we’ll probably share.

We picked up a pair of Sanyo VI-2300 phones. Paige’s is silver and mine is black (or as they say on their website – graphite). They seem to be pretty nice phones so far.

I’m really impressed with the battery life. My old cell phone weighed at least twice as much as this phone and it would hardly last all day on standby. This phone claims to last 13 days on standby. I haven’t recharged it since the day I bought it, and I’ve been talking on it quite a bit for the last few days.

Of course it has all of the other fancy features of today’s phones – color screen, ringtones, internet, e-mail, games, screensavers, etc. I tend to avoid all of that stuff. I’m sure one of these days I’ll have some free time to explore all of the options, but for now I’m just using it to make calls.

One thing it doesn’t have is a camera. I understand camera phones are convenient, but they really take terrible pictures. I just couldn’t justify paying extra for a crappy camera when we already have a nice digital camera.

The question now is – do we cancel our regular phone service? I know lots of people are doing this. Paige and I can call each other and any of our friends with Sprint phones for free and we can talk in the evening and on weekends for free. So there’s not much reason to even have a home phone anymore. Time will tell if I’m happy enough with the quality to give up the land line.