This Present Future

My friend Richard Thieme gives the closing keynote address at the 2011 ECOMM conference in San Francisco. In this talk, he artfully summarizes and integrates the “meta-themes” presented during the prior three days of the show. ECOMM, a 400-person invite-only conference, explores the dissolving boundaries of Telecom, IT and media industries. The balance of power between producers and consumers is shifting and the economics of “value creation” is being transformed. These shifts are being enabled by the “communications industry” itself, accelerating myriad new forms of dynamic interaction and defining a new epoch. The result is that new uncontested spaces for innovation are emerging. How we relate to the world around us, and the connectedness of humanity are all at stake. Richard, a former Episcopal priest, global security authority, and one of the deepest multi-disciplinary thinkers I know, masterfully summarizes a larger picture of emerging interactivity, modularity, and fluidity. His juxtaposition of techno-fascism vs. human empathy is stunning (29:15 – 33:00). “People often describe me as a futurist. But I’m not a futurist. The future is an artificial construct local to individual cultures. What I try to do is describe the present. But so many people live in the past that, to them, I sound like a futurist.” – Richard  

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:,9171,1862448-1,00.html Visit Office Walkers  

Consent of the Networked

Excellent TEDTalk by Rebecca MacKinnon on keeping the Internet free from corporate and political sub-interests. MacKinnon argues that the Magna Carta was a breakthrough in limiting the power of kings, followed by a radical experiment called “consent of the governed” in America’s founding. She argues convincingly that it’s time for a third paradigm shift she calls Consent of the Networked. She shows how no country is immune from using its policing powers to stifle speech it considers inappropriate to its “national interests.” She extends her arguments to U.S. corporations which effectively gate-keep today’s Internet (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.). Without certain essential unalienable virtual freedoms, the Internet becomes a tool of control rather than a tool of liberation from control. MacKinnon has given a powerful, prophetic TEDTalk. Humanity moving forward will be shaped largely by our degree of freedom in  

Living History

Just back from a month long “living Western history” trip. Dan finished a year of AP World History, so good timing. We started with the birth of democracy (ancient Greece circa 500BC) and explored forward 2000 years to the Renaissance (Florence circa 1500AD). We also included Minoan and Mycenaean history (Crete, etc.). Our connection gave us a day in London with a stop at Abbey Road  

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  

Creative Genius

Are you a repressed creative genius? My friend Carl’s new book, So, You’re a Creative Genius… Now What?, has just been released by Michael Wiese Publishing, the #1 resource for filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, and directors.The book is a fast-read, with a steady stream of useful, concise ideas to unleash your latent creativity. Buy  

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