Monday, 1 September 2014

You tell me

When you go ask a teacher or an expert a question and they just throw the question right back at you with "I don't know, you tell me", I find that to be the least helpful response they could give. I understand that it is meant to inspire further research, but it seems a pretty blunt and aggressive way to get the point across. The message I take away is "Don't come to me with questions, ever, because there won't be answers. Go get excited about learning on your own. Not my job." I didn't come here with an idea or opinion that I want validated. I'm curious and I have no ideas. I already ran out. That's why I came to you. So give me your opinion or, at the absolute least, ask me a different question that should guide my further research. If I wanted "you tell me", I could get that from a sign on my wall, and cut you out of the process entirely. I won't come back a second time if you do that, even to tell you what I learned.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's a blunt refusal to teach in response to a real request for knowledge.
PPS - To me, there isn't a surer way to shut down curiosity than by refusing to feed it this way.

Friday, 29 August 2014


"I deserve" is a very dangerous concept. It rarely leads to anything good for everyone else. For instance, if you have made some noble effort of self-sacrifice, even if it served a need, does anyone owe you for that? No. Nobody asked you to do what you did, even if they benefited from it. Or if you've done one good deed, do you "deserve" a little selfishness? No, probably not. "I deserve this" is a phrase reserved for people paying themselves out of the goodwill they think they have built up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This also applies to "I've earned this".
PPS - I try never to do this.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Mistakes I made while teaching karate

I taught karate for a year with the Australian Go-Kan-Ryu club, and I quit just before Christmas that year, which meant that I also missed out on the year's remuneration. I just couldn't stand it any more. I enjoyed having students, and especially those few that were outstanding, but I also found it very frustrating with some students and with the very young kids. It's hard to balance the high standards my teachers gave to me with the space to learn and grow.

What made me quit was the need to be available for every class every week. The one or two times I called in sick, it was a bit of a gamble whether a replacement teacher would show up at all. I also felt like my classes were rushed when I went at a normal pace, and then we'd end up trying to fill the last 30 minutes with games that never quite went the distance.

One particular mistake I made still bothers me. I had one student whose sparring was really coming along nicely. He was streets ahead of kids his own age and belt level, and it was inspiring to watch him. I got excited and I wanted to get in and have a go myself, so after the rest of the class was done sparring, I had them all sit down except him, I put on my gear and we sparred for a single two-minute round. He never came back.

What I was trying to do was get back involved in the direct teaching of advanced sparring, because most of the time I just had to watch and make sure it didn't get out of hand. With just the two of us, however, I could finally take part again. What I forgot is that, as a kid with a blue belt sparring an adult with a black belt, that was a terrifying situation I put him in with no explanation. I scared him off with what was meant to be a special learning opportunity. I should have taken a lot more time to explain beforehand what I was doing and why, and asking his permission in a more careful way. Instead of coming across as "HEY, YOU! LITTLE KID! LET'S FIGHT!" (which I didn't say, but is how he would have heard it) at that moment I needed to praise, support and ask permission. More like "I'm really happy to see how well you're sparring lately. If you want, I'd like the opportunity to let you practice with me now, one on one. If you don't want to, that's okay."

What I'm trying to say is: I'm sorry, kid. Just when you were starting to shine, I scared you away.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm fairly sure I bored away a lot of my other students.
PPS - Which is just as bad, but less direct.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My destroyed hard drives

I wrote a while ago that I had started using BTSync, a personal file sync program based on the BitTorrent protocol. While it seemed to work well, within a couple of months, all three of my hard drives in three different machines had failed, one after another. I can't be sure it was the fault of BTSync, so it might be unfair to say this, but I suspect BTSync was behind the unfortunate disk failures. For those three hard drives all to fail so completely and so close to each other seemed more than a coincidence. There had to be a common cause. When all the drives were replaced, I didn't reinstall BTSync.

Perhaps my collection of files was bigger than BTSync was designed for, and I overstressed the drives as a result. I'd hope that wouldn't matter, but for reference it was about 65GB of pictures, music and videos. I haven't found anyone else accusing BTSync of eating hard drives like this, so it might not be the cause. In any case, the hattrick hard drive failure scared me off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I would try to figure out the real cause, but the drives are toast now.
PPS - I'm not sure what I could do with them to find out the truth.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ideas man

"Ideas Man" should be considered a bit of an insult in our results-focused society. If all you produce is ideas but no implementations (uh, much as I have done with this blog...) then you should be asked to do something with practical value with your ideas.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If you regularly use your ideas, they call you creative, handy or practical.
PPS - "Visionary" is only a compliment if it's not all you are.

Monday, 25 August 2014

My questions about UltraViolet

Actual questions to ask about the UltraViolet digital streaming service that are not on any FAQ:

1. Since streaming of some titles is region-restricted, and the answer is "watch from a download copy", is it possible to download those copies while in a streaming-playback-restricted location?

2. What happens to my purchased titles when the UltraViolet servers are eventually switched off? Will I be notified in advance and be able to download my movies in a way I can keep using forever?

3. How long will it be before the UltraViolet terms and conditions are modified without notice in order to take away some of the rights that I have purchased?

4. If my children have been sharing an account with me, then grow up and move out of home, can they take their personal UltraViolet sub-library with them, without needing to create a new account and purchase everything all over again? When kids have sleepovers, can they all temporarily log in to their UltraViolet accounts so that they can all browse a big combined library instead of having to switch accounts to see what the others have to offer? When they get married, can their new spouse merge UltraViolet accounts with them? If they get divorced again, can they split their shared account and take part of the library each in the divorce proceedings? Can I inherit an UltraViolet account from a relative via their will? Can my siblings and I divide up the purchased rights among ourselves from that inherited account? Basically, can you split accounts and merge them, whether temporarily or permanently?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm assuming the answers are "no", "you're screwed", "when we feel like it" and "hell no".
PPS - I don't know anyone using UltraViolet.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Setting priorities

I don't think priorities of "low", "medium" and "high" are very helpful. You'll focus on the "high" priority tasks until it's pretty clear that the "low" and "medium" ones aren't getting done at all. More jobs will be classified as "high" priority just to make sure they get done, and a new "critical" category is usually added to differentiate the "high" priority jobs that need to come first. You can just keep climbing that ladder forever, if you want, until it starts looking ridiculous, with "hyper-critical" over "super-critical" and so on down in an ever-advancing "popcorn sizing" model.

If you want to actually set priorities, you need to compare pairs of tasks and say that one is more important than the other. Keep that up and you'll eventually get the top-level task that is more important than all the others. When that one is complete, you'll see the others below it and you can rank them relative to each other until you find the top priority among them. "Top priority" is an emergent property of knowing which tasks are more important than others. That's how you set priorities.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You may never get to those that get voted down to the bottom.
PPS - But you weren't getting to them anyway, so what's the difference?