Facebook Ads are only going to get smarter

It boggles my mind sometimes when friends complain at how “intrusive” Facebook ads are “getting.” Do keep in mind, that it is actually *you* who are the product being bought and sold on Facebook. That whole concept of being “free?” It simply ain’t so. Yes — free for you to use, but your data and interests are being tabulated by some pretty intense algorithms designed to figure out how to get you to put money down on products you are interested in. Invasive? Well, you invited them in, so — get out or get over it. If you want a social network that doesn’t take your data and sell it to advertisers, then you are going to have to put *your* money down on a social network upfront. And there’s not really enough people in the world interested enough to do that to monetize it well. So, get over it.

In the meantime, I think the whole T-shirt or sweatshirt thing with your name printed on it recently is interesting. Boggles my mind at how many people are surprised by this. I’m surprised it took *this long* for it to get developed. I full expect within the next 5 years that we will start seeing our faces, or our kids faces cropped into the next season’s lineup of stylish new clothes. “Imagine yourself in this …” will be a thing of the past. You’ll see it right there in your sidebar (or whatever the equivalent is in 5 years … time will only tell.).

Mars? It’s down the hall to the left…

So how do we get to Mars? (Let alone other planets or galaxies…)

Baby steps.

Baby steps that pay for themselves.

Folks crossing the Atlantic in the late 15th century weren’t doing it completely on a throw-away budget. It was largely under the prospect of trade and opportunities for colonization.

In other words, it needs to pay for itself.

So, with Mars being so far away — that’s a little tricky. And the fact that you can’t breath there. Or expect there to be any atmosphere for a stinking long time.

Again, baby steps — that pay for themselves.

I’d suggest this:

1) Build “Earth Dock”

— a bigger, badder satellite than the ISS that is a stop-off point between Earth and Mars.

Monetize it with a hotel. Tourism. “Take a vacation to the edge of space.” And this allows us to have one type of transport from Earth to Earth-Dock, and a different type from Earth Dock to Mars Dock. (more about Mars Dock below)

2) Moon Base

— this one’s somewhat optional, but a pretty good idea to expand tourism — it’s one thing to vacation just off-planet, it’s another to hit the next closest heavenly body. It’s a no-brainer that this would be a money-maker. And that helps contribute toward the next goals.

3) Mars Dock

— very similar to Earth Dock, except — duh — this one orbits Mars. This will help make travel up and down from Mars more efficient — also gives us another point of tourism, though admittedly — once you’ve gotten this far, you’re going to want to get down to the surface. Also gives the explorers/colonists “eye-in-the-sky” support that would have been more difficult without it.

4) Mars Base

— Got to start with something; can’t expect to create a huge colony overnight. Need to start with the science and tourism aspects — the science, to help us figure everything out, and again — the tourism to fund it all.

5) Mars Colony

— It’s got to happen. We’ve got to “get our feet wet” and try it. Just don’t bring any mosquitoes.

6) And Beyond

— so much advancement will be developed as “collateral damage” and “low-hanging fruit” as we work on figuring out the details in getting to Mars and Back. And just like computers and video game consoles, and iPhones, the folks working on these things will keep finding better and less expensive ways to do things and “get there.” But you’ve got to build the first “iPhone”, before you can have an “iPhone 2.” — Very much the same with space travel. We’re not very good at it yet, simply because we haven’t done a whole heck of a lot of it yet. It’s going to take the big bucks from companies like Google and Virgin. And simple outline ideas like the ones I’ve presented above. Are these original to me? Probably not — but I’ve tried to present large concepts in simple steps to help show how relatively easy this could be in the long run. Sure, there’s rocket science involved — but it’s not rocket science to suggest baby steps. Are these the best baby steps? I don’t know — but I think they are pretty straightforward and could represent a very viable path toward getting to Mars. Would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll also work on elaborating on these points a bit more in the days ahead — flesh them out a bit more, and start discussing caveats.

Sense of Wonder

I’m really into LEGO Bricks. In fact, it’s my day job — has been for about a year now. I have teachers that work for me, but I don’t usually get to teach — until recently.

The Senses by Robert Fludd (1619)

The Senses by Robert Fludd (1619)

I’ve got a LEGO Mindstorms robotics class at two elementary schools, and I really enjoy the concepts and the materials, but have had a little difficulty at times engaging some of the kids — which really surprises me. Supposedly, each child *wanted* to take the class. (Though I imagine it’s possible that one or two are taking the class vicariously on mom or dad’s behalf).

And I totally get the fact that — being new to teaching this topic at this level, I’m not the most experienced or likely candidate, necessarily. I’m usually more the behind-the-scenes guy. But to me, the fact that I *get to build robots with LEGO elements* is so super cool, that I feel like I’m a kid following the pied piper (who, in this example would be the LEGO Robotics), and am simply surprised at any other kids who aren’t just as giddy about it as I am.

I’ve still got quite a sense of wonder, when it comes to the material. It amazes, enthralls, and thrills me. It’s a big part of why, having grown-up, yet not “grown-up”, I chose to pursue a profession that employed the Beloved Bricks I never abandoned.

So, it occurred to me after 2 classes with 2 different groups, that each child’s “sense-of-wonder-ometer” may not be as easily triggered as mine — even though each child presumably wanted to be in the class. And that, after all — they are kids. Their attention spans are not quite squirrel me too. What were we talking about?

So I’m endeavoring in this week’s classes to focus more on piquing that sense of wonder in those that have not been as easy to persuade. Will we get there? I wonder.

The Martian Calendar

Atmosphere of Mars taken from low orbit (via Wikipedia)

Atmosphere of Mars taken from low orbit
(via Wikipedia)

I often think about Life on Mars. How colonizing the planet will work. When it will happen. What it will take for it to be successful. What politics will be involved. Whether editing Wikipedia from Mars will be a pain in the neck. Stuff like that. Lots more to come on this topic.

But for today, I was thinking again about the Martian Calendar, and how it will be different from ours.

Sure, especially for the first generation of colonists, it will be difficult to leave off the conventions of “January 1st” and “February 2nd” and “December 25th.” Most people don’t think about the fact that Mars revolves around the sun a lot differently than Earth. Not as different as some of the other planets — but different enough that by the time the first babies are starting to be born on Mars, people will likely start thinking a lot more differently about the calendar.


A year on Mars is about 687 earth days. So, that ends up being 1.88 Earth years for every Martian year. Days are easier — a day on Mars is about 24 hours and 38 minutes — so, not too far off from an Earth Day. This will make it easier for colonists — though it *will* affect sleeping and making patterns, but really — not hard to get used to, compared to trying to live on other planets. But it will affect human beings. The first colonists will take a little getting used to it. But the babies born there will adjust more readily.


But there is no getting around the whole fact that the years are just pretty different.

And then it occurs to me to google whether anyone has worked through all this, yet, and it doesn’t surprise me to find a pretty extensive Wikipedia article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timekeeping_on_Mars

I’ve been interested in reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, but have never gotten around to it. There’s an interesting idea there — keeping to earth time, except freezing the clock at midnight for the 39 minutes that are different. I can see where that makes an interesting story element, but it really isn’t practical. Once on Mars, it will be important for the colonists to keep two clocks — one that is useful for them, and one that is useful for keeping up with people on earth.

And here’s another break — will Johnny keep track of his age by earth standards, or Mars standards. e.g., I was 27 years, 3 month, and 2 days old when I left Earth — and I have been Martian for 3 Martian years. There will certainly be a different effect on the human body. I suspect that the human being, so used to living on earth, will take at least several generations to fully adapt to life on Mars. And then, would there be any going back to Earth?

There is a really nifty conversion tool here: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/ — you end up weighing about a third less on Mars than you do here on Earth. Seems like you’d have a pretty hard time of it going back, once getting used to it. But whose to say? Hopefully the colonists don’t end up looking like the people in Wall*E.

Death and Taxes


Death and Taxes, it is said, are the two certainties in life. I despise deadlines, and so, ironically, on this day in which I am due to finalize my personal and (for the first time) business taxes — of which I have commiserated over the last couple of weeks, desperately wishing for more time, expertise, and to have gone ahead and found a CPA a little sooner — I push off further the inevitable. There are penalties for pushing off taxes past the due date. (Though my sources, at least in regard to personal taxes, tell me that there are only penalties on your personal taxes if you actually *owe* taxes, and that you’re only robbing yourself longer if you are expecting a return). Yet, as perhaps a personality quirk of mine, whenever I find myself under “immense pressure” to be forced into doing something, instead I choose to put it off, and do something of which I’d rather. If I’m going to be late anyhow, why kill myself over it in a foolish attempt to finish *just a little less late* than I would have otherwise?

To be sure — I wouldn’t push it off a month or two or six. Maybe. 😉 It would be silly to end up in jail over not filing your taxes on time. But, it has been a bit more complicated this year — not being a business-minded person, yet feeling enough of an entrepreneurial spirit to start a business. And so my habits, regarding taxes, and so on and so forth — are still forming.

Oh yes, I’m learning stuff from being late. Sometimes, having a phone call from the Capital, informing you that you didn’t file your sales tax for the previous quarter or two, is just the thing to help you realize it was something you should have been doing all along. And you know what? I got first quarter of 2014 turned in on time. So there. Right on the heels of my previous two quarters worth of statements. Now about the rest of those taxes… Does anyone actually know for certainty if taxes don’t just appear out of mid-air and reproduce like rabbits?

And so, I learn.

It has been said, “Experience is learning from your mistakes” — I am getting that part. And the conclusion to the saying, “But Wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.” Oh well — I’ll just have to settle for being a wise-guy.

So, here I am, at another point of pain and difficulty, choosing, instead, to do something else. *Write.* I have long enjoyed writing, and long enjoyed creative outlets in the midst of otherwise dark and foreboding days (and it is rather dreary and rainy out today — how fitting).

I have also long been a contemplator. And a progressive. But I cannot pioneer and invent every new fancy that pops into my head. I have, what I think are, a lot of good ideas about how to do things — ways to improve things, ways to do things better. But I cannot pursue every idea that I have. It is very much like an orchard — full of wishes, yet it is impractical to pick every wish the orchard offers. I often think the truth found in these sage words —

“From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking, step into the sun — there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.”

And so it is — we must choose our wishes carefully, choose the dream we are to follow. Yet this world is full of so many amazing things to be seen, and done, and experienced — so many people to befriend and love, so many paths toward improving and benefiting our fellow human beings, that I can’t help but want to share my ideas here. I recognize that many ideas I have, may or may not be original, or original enough to make a difference — but that perhaps something I might say here might be enough of an inspiration to help someone else come up with the next sliced bread, the next polio vaccine, or the next first steps on the moon. If I am able to help you do that, I would love to hear from you. And if I’m simply inventing that which has already been invented elsewhere — so be it. I thought it up on my own, decided it wasn’t something I could pursue on my own, but wanted to birth it somewhere in some fashion. So here it is. It’ll be okay.

Would also love to start some conversations. I love to start an idea, and see where it goes — but I don’t always have the full wherewithal to get it to it’s logical end. For example, I have a lot of cool ideas about rocket science — but I’m not a rocket scientist, so there’s only so much I can do.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes to move something forward — those of us who don’t know the limitations of a discipline, and can say something that is so “what if?” that it helps someone who is in the discipline, someone who is stuck in the box, to say “Oh, wow — you know, that just might work. Let’s try…” And perhaps the world is changed for the better. Couldn’t hurt.

But now, for the meantime, perhaps I should get back to taxes. Or am I mixing that up with the former?