IX

I go by a field where once I cultivated a few poor crops. It is now covered with young trees, for the forest that belongs here has come back and reclaimed its own. And I think of all the effort I have wasted and all the time, and of how much joy I took in that failed work and how much it taught me. For in so failing I learned something of my place, something of myself, and now I welcome back the trees. IX by Wendell Berry (from  

Walking While Working: Build a Treadmill Desk

It’s a fact. Sitting at a desk shortens your life span. For decades, I’ve heard of people using standing desks. More recently, I discovered “walking desks” — a marriage of treadmill and workstation. I love to walk, and I also love to work (when work = passion). But no way going to spend $5,000 on a Steelcase Walkstation Desk. So I decided to build my own. I’ve been using my new walking workstation for about three weeks and couldn’t be happier. My goal is to walk at least 20 miles each week, so that in roughly 4 years (I’m often out of the office) I will have walked 3072 miles to my virtual destination at the Cape Cod seashore.  I’m keeping a log (scroll down), and will try to update this blog post with significant milestones. UPDATE NOV 2015: I completed my goal! A bit more than 3,000 walking miles. Have now started a new goal: walking from the northern top of Alaska to the bottom tip of South America, around 10,000 miles. At my average pace, it would take more than 10 years, so I’ll need to up my weekly goal to at least 25 miles.  Total cost of my walking desk is $500. I’ve included some photos below. Here’s a list of materials: Treadmill: Merit 725T Plus ($430, delivered). ADDED 15 DEC 2014: The Merit has pretty much worn itself out. It starts to smell really bad after about 2 miles. I’ve replaced the motor, the control board, and the tread, but it’s pooped out. End-of-life. For the price, it’s brought good service for about $10/mo. That’s respectable. I’ve just ordered a Weslo R5.2 from Amazon. Desktop: 48″ x 18″ Smooth Laminate Countertop ($35) Desktop Mounts: Two ea Home Depot Shelf Supports & Brackets ($25) C-Clamps: Four Home Depot U-Bolts ($10) The desktop is easily adjustable up or down in 1 inch increments via the shelf support system. I wall-mounted a video display at eye-level in front of the walking desk. Keyboard and mouse (trackball) are wireless Logitech K350 & M570. My sitting desk is immediately behind the walking desk, behind the R/D lab wall. Logitech’s Unifying Receiver allows me to run duplicate trackballs and keyboards on a single PC, and a passive splitter-combiner lets me to run two monitors from the same video card. So now I have a walking desk and a sitting desk sharing the same PC. Nice. How does it perform? The desktop is very stable and allows me to walk at a reasonable pace while typing on the keyboard, writing, talking on phone, or viewing the video monitor. In fact, I’m writing this blog post from my walking desk at 3.0 MPH. If I need to do critical trackball work (e/m design, schematic entry, etc.) I sometimes need to reduce my speed to something around 2.0 MPH. If walking speeds exceed 3.5MPH, the desktop starts to pick up sympathetic vibrations from the treadmill. VIRTUAL LOCATIONS REACHED: 2011 JOURNEY START: July 18, 2011: Placerville, California Aug 13: Fernley, Nevada Aug 26: Taking a side trip to Burning Man! Sep 16: Fernley, Nevada Back from virtual Burning Man. Nov 16 Elko, Nevada (530 miles to date) Dec 27 Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah 2012 Mar 26, 2012 Salt Lake City, Utah Jul 26 Green River, Wyoming Dec 30 Sidney, Nebraska (1183 miles to date) 2013 April 9 Lexington, Nebraska (1360 miles to date) July 15 Omaha, Nebraska (1570 miles to date — about half-way to my goal!!) Dec 27 Iowa City, Iowa (1820 miles to date) 2014 June 4 South Bend, IN (2130 miles to date) Dec 15 Erie, PA (2490 miles to date) 2015 May 29 Schenectady, NY (2850 miles to date) Nov 13 Cape Cod, MA !!!! I MADE IT !!!! (3072 miles to date)   Walking Desk Related: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/02/are-standing-desks-healthier-than-sitting.php http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862448-1,00.html http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/04/28/135766887/health-chair-reform-walk-dont-sit-at-your-desk http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/51/6/831.abstract http://smarterware.org/7102/how-and-why-i-switched-to-a-standing-desk http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/stand-up-while-you-read-this/ Visit Office Walkers  

The Smile

There is a smile of love, And there is a smile of deceit; And there is a smile of smiles, In which these two smiles meet. (And there is a frown of hate, And there is a frown of disdain; And there is a frown of frowns Which you strive to forget in vain, For it sticks in the heart’s deep core, And it sticks in the deep backbone.) And no smile that ever was smiled, But only one smile alone. That betwixt the cradle and grave It only once smiled can be. But when it once is smiled There’s an end to all misery. – William Blake   From Wikipedia: Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of both the Romantic movement and “Pre-Romantic”,[6] for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England – indeed, to all forms of organised religion – Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions,[7] as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg.[8] Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a “glorious luminary,”[9] and as “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable  

John Hunter’s Classroom

One of my favorite speakers from TED2011 is John Hunter. The night before his talk, at the TED party, I randomly sat down to dinner next to him and shared some of our family wine. I was fascinated as he described his unique work as an elementary school teacher. It wasn’t until later that I found out he was giving a main-stage TED Talk the next day. And what a talk he gave. Standing ovations weren’t as plentiful this year, but after John’s talk, the entire auditorium immediately jumped to their feet, many in tears. Take 18 minutes and be inspired by this man’s unique and remarkable teaching methods. I’m convinced that student engagement is the key to deep and lasting scholastic success, and John is proving it  

Living Memorials

When I heard the news of Bruce’s death in a plane crash, I recalled that I never really told him how much his friendship meant to me. His passing reminded me that I take a lot of people in my life for granted, never really telling them how much they inspire me, and how much I love them. I wrote a memorial for Bruce on this journal, and spoke at his public memorial in L.A. last week. But why do we wait? Perhaps we should be writing and speaking “living memorials” to our dear friends and families – while we are still together with them. As James Taylor wrote, “shower the people you love with love – tell them the way that you feel.” Ric Elias gave a “TED University” talk a few weeks ago (TED-U is a series of talks during TED off the main stage). He was on Captain Sully’s airplane that landed in the Hudson. I encourage you to watch his beautiful and important five-minute  

Where Do Dreams Come From?

A girl slams the door of her little room under the eaves where marauding squirrels scamper overhead like herds of ideas. She has forgotten to be grateful she has finally a room with a door that shuts. She is furious her parents don’t comprehend why she wants to go to college, that place of musical comedy fantasies and weekend football her father watches, beer can in hand. It is as if she announced I want to journey to Iceland or Machu Picchu. Nobody in their family goes to college. Where do dreams come from? Do they sneak in through torn screens at night to light on the arm like mosquitoes? Are they passed from mouth to ear like gossip or dirty jokes? Do they sprout from underground on damp mornings like toadstools that form fairy rings on dewtipped grasses? No, they slink out of books, they lurk in the stacks of libraries. Out of pages turned they rise like the scent of peonies and infect the brain with their promise. I want, I will, says the girl and already she is halfway out the door and down the street from this neighborhood, this mortgaged house, this family tight and constricting as the collar on the next door dog who howls on his chain all night. – Marge  

Zeitgeist 3 – Moving Forward

Peter Joseph (probably not his real last name) has released a new Zeitgeist film. I disagree with a number of Peter’s “Venus Project” assumptions, conclusions, and leading questions. I also found his first two films especially lacking in solid content, relying more on hearsay, dubious history, and weak conspiracy theories. In some cases, Zeit 3 is terribly naive (“upgradable” technology, idealized production and distribution incentives and strategies, utopian city design, overstated energy alternatives, etc.). Yet I’m sharing this movie with you because I think the film is a good conversation starter and especially good thought provoker, addressing a number of profoundly important questions. I find it ironic that the filmmaker, an atheist, uses a John Ortberg lecture as his core value statement — ultimately pointing to the failure of GDP as an adequate, or even relevant, measurement of our individual and collective well-being (a position I passionately agree with). I’m convinced that we need to start thinking towards third-way “systems-based” economies that combine the best elements of free-markets and central resource planning, while retaining the liberties of an unalienable rights-based republic re-imagined in healthier paradigms of resource sustainability, human empathy, and global-equitable access to fundamental human needs. Centralized economies fail for many reasons. One reason is because, historically, they haven’t appropriately rewarded the people and organizations who excel and add real value back into the community. But cultural definitions of excellence, value, reward, and community vary subjectively. Corrupt, bailed-out banking systems and an obese military-industrial economy are two areas in which we can start to radically re-define the terms excellence and reward. And we can start to expand our definition of community from tribes and borders to a sense of global family. I agree with the filmmaker (@ 2:16) that we are faced today with a potentially fatal “value system” disorder and (@ 2:20) that many of today’s economic assumptions are gross distortions driven by temporary access to cheap, concentrated energy. For the health and well-being of our great grandchildren and our planet in general, we need to develop a better informed and more comprehensively linked value system between our economic systems, our natural resources, and our fundamental connectedness as a human  

It’s Not Your Imagination

“It is not your imagination that there are more bad things than ever before happening all at once, intertwined. It’s not your imagination, because the world that you are inheriting is at a crossroads – dozens of crossroads all at the same time. You are inheriting a world filled will peril my generation never faced. The good news is: you’re going to have tools we never had. I urge each of you to answer the grand challenges of our times by committing to positively impact one million people.” – Dr. Larry Brilliant’s 2010 keynote at Singularity University (with quote from Peter Schwartz) Larry (who co-founded one the world’s first public virtual network) chairs the Skoll Global Threats Fund, focused on promoting innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. Singularity University hosts small gatherings of world leaders and bright students. The goal of “positively impacting one million people” is clearly within the reach of each Singularity invitee. More importantly, this goal is within the reach of virtually all people willing to dream big, sacrifice time, and continually renew their efforts in the face of tribal and ideological adversity. “We should not live out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of intoxication” – Martin Shaw (HT Richard  

Watson vs. Jennings

The best game show contestant on the best game show ever (Ken Jennings on Jeopardy) will soon compete against IBM’s Watson-class computer. Watson is favored to win. Today’s Watson technology requires a large room full of hardware. In 15 years, this same computing power will sit on a desktop. As we approach Turing-class computing (2050?), the power of today’s Watson computer will seem as quaint as the Sperry-Univac is today. I can envision a day when we no longer define religion in terms of having the “right knowledge.” I’m thinking David Hayward could do a cartoon showing three of the world’s leading religious thinkers as Jeopardy panelists – a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist – while Watson provides far deeper and more nuanced answers – even what we would call wisdom. And why not? With the entire written history of world religions (and every other branch of knowledge) in its memory (think Internet 2050), and thousands of increasingly nuanced processing algorithms at its disposal, it’s only a matter of time (perhaps 2 or 3 generations) before “epistebots” and “theobots” surpass the best human experts in their ability to parse and disseminate specific knowledge and even wisdom. Consider that this “entire body of human knowledge and wisdom” will one day be on every global desktop, in every language, in every home and mobile device, instantly accessible in deeply interactive and immersive ways we cannot imagine today. This is good news for religion, and humanity in general. As we are released from the need to define ourselves by tribal knowledge, we begin to define ourselves more relationally, more collectively, more empathically, more humanly. Even the perception of “enemy” must change as we begin to see ourselves as part of a larger global family. As we relax our desire and need for intellectual power, we can focus more on what makes us uniquely human:  our childlike awe and wonder at the universe and our ability to feel and act with greater compassion, empathy, and love towards other people, and all creation. “You have to understand all the nuances, all the regionalisms, slang and shorthand to play the game, to get the clues.” – Harry Friedman, Executive Producer,