Anton Peck Made Me Write This!

Anton Peck did not really make me write this article, it was after reading his blog post the yesterday about “Beating Writer’s Block that got me thinking about my lack of writing blog posts too. Anton has been having trouble being able to write blog posts as of late. In his post he goes on to say how he was working to get around the problem. I like his analogy of blog post writing to taking a road trip. Sometimes when going on a road trip at first your not completely sure where your going, but all you know is you need to be going somewhere. Which means sometimes when writing you just have to start writing something and the idea or an article will come to you once you have begun.

My Problem

Part of my problem is not the same, as Anton’s with not knowing what to write. I seem to have the opposite problem in that I have some great blog posts and ideas for them, I just don’t have the drive or ambition to do them. I have about six to eight blog posts started, that I began last year. I usually create the article by coming up with subject (title) and then put a bunch of summary information about it into WordPress, that I go back to later create the post with.

My problem with getting my blog posts done is that normally they are more technical in nature and usually end up needing some kind of technical code example. These examples take time and I’m also trying to make sure the articles are written correctly, since I’m not an English major as I have always said, I’m a developer/coder.

The other thing that slows me down is once I get writing an post it tends to be long and verbose. I never seem to write short blog post like my friend Justin Thorp. He usually writes posts that are three to five paragraphs that get right to the point, with a few sentences in each one (his last few seem to be bit longer than normal). His are still much shorter than mine.

Mine on the other hand, end up having a dozen or so long paragraphs with really long sentences. I might have to work on being more succinct with my writing for the readers sake and my own.

I believe this is part of the same reason I have been fiddling with a few web application ideas/prototypes off and on for like almost two years. I tend to get them started and then find a better way to do them, by making them more accessible or more efficient from new techniques I have learned. I have even started to re-write one so I can start to learn PHP, being that I have been a classic ASP developer that uses XHTML, CSS, and bit of JavaScript for the first attempt at them.

My Burnout

Another thing that might be putting a damper on my blog post writing and enthusiasm for doing other web work after hours was also brought to my attention again from the A List Aparts article about “Burnout” by Scott Boms. Over the course of my technology career, I think I have been burned out or at least darn close, probably a good half dozen times. This is not something to be proud of at all. It first started while I was in college trying to finish large school projects while working 20 to 40 hours a week.

It also happened a few other times over the last 20+ years while working on projects for work and being responsible for making sure the production mainframe nightly jobs worked and ran smoothly. Because of this I now believe I try and spend more time away from the computer after work, besides checking e-mail and twitter, so I have a better life balance.

Life Balance

To have more life balance, I seem to spend more time watching mindless TV, keeping up with friends on Twitter, and just a lot of time reading others blog posts, instead of spending my time DOING real work and getting things done. As of late I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about ways to help myself get over these issues so I can get back to building and creating more blog posts and finishing my web applications.

The sooner I can do this the more likely I will be able to help others with them and maybe if I’m lucky make some money to at least pay for themselves (hosting costs). And if they really get going I might be able to do one or all of them full time. My other big issue is which web application should I build first or at all, instead of trying to work on all of them and not making any real progress.


If you have any suggestions on ways to help me or others with any of these issues I would be glad to hear about them. Here’s hoping others will help you write that much needed blog post or build the next big thing.

Thanks, Anton Peck for making me write this blog post!

More General Information about the OLPC

There are a few things that I have noticed over the course of the day using the OLPC, the XO Laptop, or the $100 Laptop. One of the big ones is that if you take it to a coffee shop people will look at you and then the laptop and look at the laptop some more.

I had a lot of people come up to me and ask if it really worked. I said “Yes, it does and you can get one for yourself even” and went into how they can order the OLPC themselves from OLPCs Give 1 Get 1 website.

I had a lot of people ask “Is that one of those green laptops”, or “Is that one of those $100 laptop”.  I got the most questions from older people asking “Isn’t that the laptop we saw them talking about one CBS”? I assume they saw the “60 Minutes” piece on the OLPC. Each time I would stop reading about the laptop and offered them a chance to use it.

One lady I guess was going to order one for someone or she already had, so she wanted to see it and touch it. She had a young girl who was eleven if I remember correctly use it. The young girl said it was easy for her to type on. Of course she tried to go to one of the Disney websites, which asked for the latest Flash plug-in to see most of the website, not that accessible of a website. A Disney website is probably not the first place someone from third world country would go or at least it shouldn’t be.

Another gentleman asked what kind of software you could put on it, since someone he knew or he was going to a third world country and wanted get a few to let people there use it if it could do a bunch of activities.

One women I know asked if you could look up porn on the laptop. I told I figured you could, since I had not heard that they had software to stop it. Really wanted to know if kids could look up porn. So when she got hold of the OLPC she went to the Playboy website and started laughing when she got to their home page. I grab the OLPC back from her to get rid of it, since we were sitting the middle of the coffee shop with a lot of little kids and older adults.

I did get some reading done about the OLPC on how to get started, how it works, and what activities the OLPC has on it. They even have a wiki, which contains information about hardware, software, content, testing, educators, developers, and a whole lot more. They have some cool rollovers explaining what certain parts of the machine are for. One of the ones I just found was the page that has information on what the keyboard does. They also have a page that shows which features the OLPC has.

With all the question and people playing with it I did not get to do as much as I wanted today on learning about the activities on the OLPC. It was like three different “Tam Tam” activities. They are:

  • Tam Tam mini” – an application that allows for people to perform music and play instruments.
  • “Tam Tam Edit” – an application allows you to generate music using a colorful and intuitive graphical interface.
  • “TamTam Jam” – the music performance activity. Sounds are played by striking individual keys on the keyboard. This is designed more for younger children.

Other activities that the OLPC has are: (this information was mostly taken from the activities webpage)

  • Chat“ -simple environment for discussion, whether it is between two individuals or an entire classroom.
  • Memorize“ – is the classic memory game of finding and matching pairs with a twist: a pair can consist of any multimedia object, such as images, sounds,and text.
  • Record” – provides a simple way for children to take pictures, view slideshows, and record video and audio all content that can be shared via the mesh network.
  • Journal“ – is an automated diary of everything a child does with his or her laptop.
  • Draw“ – provides a canvas for a child or a group of children to express themselves creatively.
  • Pippy“ – a simple and fun introduction to programming in Python, the dynamic programming language underlying much of the software on the laptop.
  • and a whole lot more

The final cool thing on the activities page is the last item, which  is the part about downloads for the OLPC. The download page has like 50+ items to download and use like (some is games others is source code):

  • Domino“ – classic space game
  • Image Quiz“ – a simple concept: one question, one image, one click
  • 3D Pong“ – three dimensional wireframe arcade game
  • SimCity“ – construct and maintain your own city
  • Block Party“ – Tetris-inspired game
  • and a whole bunch of other things

The woman across the table from me at Murky Coffee in Arlington said, “I should bring the OLPC out with me, it might actually be better than having a puppy or a baby with me for getting people to stop and talk to me”.

Hopefully this blog post is usefully for those that do not have their OLPCs yet, are waiting until Christmas to open with their kids, want to read up on what it has, what is being developed, or what you can do with it.

Interesting Things You See and Here at Chinatown Starbucks

On my way to the DC Blogger meet up at RFD (Regional Food and Drink) in Chinatown I saw a large group of people with bright lime green police vests on getting ready to cross the street. I was like what do we need that many cops here and not other places in DC.

I stopped in the Chinatown Starbucks to kill sometime before the meet up. I got myself a bottle of water, since I’m not a coffee drinker. I know its bad for the environment the plastic and all, I reuse them. There was like one chair downstairs left. I wanted to read, but also watch the people go by on their way to the Wizards game and whatever else they were going. There was a woman at the table and I asked if she minded if I used the spare chair she had at her table, she said fine and went back to her phone conversation. From what I heard she spent like 15 or 20 minutes talking in French to someone before she finished and then left.

While she was on her cell phone a bunch of the cops (about a dozen) stopped in front of the store blocking the view of the sidewalk. She looked up from her conversation stopped talking for like the first time in 10 minutes and just shrugged her shoulders and went back talking. A few of the cops came in and got coffee.

Next a metro cop came in with his bicycle and stood behind the counter drinking a coffee. He must have to work this area all the time an needed to warm up. One of the real police officers came in and started talking to the metro police officer. I came to find out all the cops in the vests that were wandering about were police academy cadets. I was wondering why they needed like forty plus cops and or cadets in Chinatown on a Wednesday night. Don’t other parts of town need them more, like at least Adams Morgan for the drunks.

The real police officer ended up being one of the instructors and said that the cadets were going to be in that area until like New Years. The Metro officer asked if this was part of the cadets training or getting extra experience. It seemed like it was extra experience which would make their time in the academy longer. The metro cop said that really stinks, since he remembered once he was about done with the academy like 10 years ago all he wanted was to get out.

While this conversation was going on another DC police officer came in who I think was an academy instructor too. After she got in one of the cadets came in and told them that some person had come over to them and said a guy was bothering people around the corner outside one of restaurants. The second academy officer told them to never mind it was probably nothing to worry about. After a bit she decided to go out and ask the cadet for a description of the person just to mess with them to see if they had been paying attention or not to what was going on.

Finally all the cops and cadets left the Starbucks except for the bicycle cop. This is finally when I noticed the woman at the table behind me was having a man read different articles from the newspaper. The more I listened she was helping him learn or improve his reading skills. She was very patient with him. After the first article she asked if he liked sports. He said sure and she had him read the first part of the article about Sean Taylor making the Pro Bowl even thou he passed away like three weeks ago.

He would read along slowing trying to make sure he read and pronounced everything correctly. A few times he stumbled on a word and she would have him go back until he got it right. He trouble pronouncing “Posthumously”, so do I. She did this in a very nice way so he learned and I guess did not feel put down. After he would read for  awhile she would stop him and then asked him to explain what he read in his own words. I guess this was to make sure he understood what he had just read.

Once they had run out of time, since I think they both had to be other places to go she gave him a present in one of those small hanled gift bags. He gave her a card which she opened and read, while they talked about what each one was doing for the holidays. They decided to meet the Wednesday after New Years, since I don’t think either one was in town after Christmas. When they left he had never opened his bag and I wanted to see what he got from her.

My guess was it was some small book. This is what the holiday time should be about helping others improve their lives.

Some times during the heck tick holidays you just need to sit a while, read some yourself, watch, and listened to others.