My idea of a good time: coding on a Linux computer

Lately my idea of fun has been firmly rooted in coding, and playing around with Linux.

We’re planning to buy our son a new Linux PC after passing his (and before him, my) old Linux PC to our daughter.

I’m very tempted to extend my loan of my personal MacBook Air to him, and but myself a new laptop to install Linux on, and use that to explore what’s possibly my latest midlife crisis.

This article about Jason Evangelho’s switch to Linux just reinforces my temptation/idea.

Canonical’s Ubuntu seems to command a lot of mindshare when it comes to desktop Linux, so that was my next stop. I went through the same paces: download to a USB stick, boot up to the “Live” version of Ubuntu 18.04 (which includes 5 years of security patches and updates), have a look around, click “Install.” Ubuntu presented me with several options for partitioning the internal SSD, including blasting the entire drive. Tempting! I was feeling lucky so I took the plunge.

Raising brave, imperfect daughters, and teaching them to code

Last week I came across a tweet sharing Reshma Saujani’s TED talk, titled “Teach girls bravery, not perfection“. I immediately bookmarked it to watch with my daughter (and tweeted my plan to do that).

Saujani replied to my tweet, and asked me to let her know what my daughter thought of the talk.

So, I watched the talk on Saturday morning with my 7 year old (along with my son). Afterwards, I asked her what she thought about what Saujani said about how important it is to be brave, rather than being perfect, and how the quest for perfection is so self-defeating.

My daughter said she liked the video. I asked her to elaborate, and she commented on this talk has inspired her to try to learn to code again. She said that she stopped trying the first time around because she kept making mistakes.

I noticed this when I introduced her to coding on Code.org last year. She started off really excited to see what she could create after watching me learn front-end web development for most of last year. But she soon gave up when the exercises became trickier and she found herself making mistakes.

Since watching the talk, she’s been asking me when she can get back to learning to code. It also helps that my son has also returned to learning to code after seeing me return to Python (I’ve started at the beginning with Python 3).

Now all I need to do is pick a learning platform for her to learn with. So far, Code.org and Scratch look like good options for her.

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Facebook pulls all the heart strings

I don’t use Facebook all that much lately. When I do open the app, it’s generally to check which birthdays are coming up in the hope that I don’t miss them.

One of the benefits of not using Facebook much is that I see how Facebook entices occasional users back into the fold. Here’s an example that I noticed yesterday:

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Whatever you may think about Facebook, it clearly hires really smart people who know heart strings to tug to persuade users to return to more active use.

Despite what I know about Facebook, and my thoughts about using the service, I can’t help but notice how compelling this sort of messaging can be. This is something Facebook does really well.

Just Because It’s Your Hypothesis, Doesn’t Mean It’s The Correct One

I love these thoughts from Carl Sagan:

Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

It comes from a longer piece about challenging “facts” and “authorities” in the search for something closer to truth. You can read more here: Carl Sagan’s tools for critical thinking and detecting bullshit.

Facebook Guilt Trips

I’ve been fairly inactive on Facebook in recent months. One of the benefits of that is having an opportunity to see a variety of Facebook Guilt Trips in action. Here’s today’s:

I don’t remember which Page I unfollowed. I’m pretty sure I won’t feel to guilty about it.

When kids start treating the staff poorly

Reconcilable Differences #66, titled “Inherent Injustice”, is both hilarious and cringeworthy for parents. The hosts, Merlin Mann and John Siracusa, were talking about raising young kids, setting examples for them, and issuing parental edicts.

I started giggling at around 31 minutes when they were discussing how kids seem to struggle with this idea that their parents are not servants who exist to cater for their every whim. I had to share this:

I had another laugh at about 1:01:30 when Mann and Siracusa started talking about resolving inconsistencies in rules that parents make for kids. I definitely have a preference for Siracusa’s approach. As with terrorists, there are times when you just don’t negotiate with kids about rules.

This was probably one of the funniest discussions I’ve heard for a while on this show. Even if you don’t listen to the show (and it can be an acquired taste), definitely spend a few minutes listening to these discussions.

The Great Israeli Umbrella Fraud

Each Winter, Israelis are taken in by the Great Israeli Umbrella Fraud, and someone has to speak out. Today, that someone is me.

As you may (or may not) know, Winter is our rainy season (it’s literally the only time of the year when we have rain). It’s cold, wet, and I like it (mostly). Each year, Israelis are tempted by a wide variety of rain resistance devices, commonly known as “umbrellas”.

They seem like a good idea, when it’s not raining.

And each year, Israelis buy these devices in the hope that they will protect them from volumes of water falling from the sky (ie, “rain”). Unfortunately, this belief is sorely misplaced.

You see, after what feels like 9 months of summer, we Israelis forget that, when it rains, we also often have wind, the strength and determination of which rivals saftas at a gefilta fish sale, the day before Pesach. In other words, the wind can be really strong and it hits you from the side, as if out of nowhere!

Not such a good idea, in the clear light of a cloudless day … after the fact.

At that point, all your well-intentioned plans to not get wet are dashed, like leaves and small creatures swept away by the torrents of rain water down the road beside you. Inevitably, your Rain Saviour is exposed for the sham it really is, and you are forced to abandon it.

Here’s the painful truth: umbrellas are a con that we fall for every year. The only good defence against the dark, rain-bearing clouds is a decent water-resistant jacket of some description.

Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash

Yes, you feel more exposed being out there with nothing to hold above your head. But let’s face it, that thin membrane supported by a fragile metal frame is a false sense of cover, at best.

At worst, it’s another fraud perpetrated by seasonal umbrella sales people, taking advantage of those of us with very short memories, and a little anxiety about this strange change in the weather from unbelievably hot and dry to cold, very wet, and jetstream windy!

There is hope. It’s not too late.

Even though Winter already seems to be thinking about heading south, we may still have some wet weather ahead.

Discard your deceptive rain protection device and embrace the rain jacket. Stand tall, stoop only to keep your face pointing away from the deluge, and duck to avoid low hanging, dripping branches.

Ride out the rain for as long as we have it. It will soon be the other season and we can forget these challenges, at least until next year when all the umbrellas go on sale again.

Featured image by Todd Diemer on Unsplash

Sanity check: “Surely you jest?”, you may ask? Yes, I do. Mostly. 😊