What is cool about being in business
I always liked working with people who had some money in the deal. Having an economic stake in the outcome of a project engendered a cooperative spirit and a productive atmosphere. On a construction site there may be six or eight separate companies working at the same time. The developer, architect, owner, the contractor and subcontractor all have an interest in a successful project. The non-profit and government world is a messier place.
Competition does seem to be part of the human character. Competition can motivate, increase efficiency and create innovation. To effectively compete you must have skills in cooperation and teamwork.
I derive enormous satisfaction in building things. I would turn drawings on paper into 3 dimensional spaces. As you gain experience your drawings become more creative because your ability to visualize improves. Your design can become more adventurous. Ted Howry built spiral staircases. A long time ago he showed me AutoCAD running on DOS. I used AutoCAD to create 3D models and then wrote Lisp code to create all the pieces and draw them and send them to a database. As long as we stayed +/- 1/4″ as we framed, you could cut the all the roof parts before the second floor was even framed. It would work out. Computer code lets you create things out of thin air.
In the technology lab where I worked at BU as a PhD student we built models of vision and recognition and tried them out on images, mostly satellite images. We shared a code repository and kept project notes on a wiki. Later when started teaching I used wikis as my core technology. I worked in newly minted innovative school where every student had a laptop. I put my classes online, gave each student an account, left it wide open, everybody could see or even edit over everybody else. I wrote my lesson plans on the wiki and students wrote their papers there. They took notes and collected stuff in their wiki pages as well. What happened was transformative. Sixteen year old kids are actively forming their identity and working at creating and finding their own unique style. For these kids their writing became part of their style. Since their peers could see what they wrote, they started writing for their peers. You could say ‘You gotta check out what Norbert wrote on Rousseau’ and by the end of the day everybody had.
I became a hacker. Fridays a few of us would write code to extend what Mediawiki or Moodle could do. Recently I have tried to round out my skills, I’d like to continue to work with transformative technology, create new models of learning, take advantage the potential broader shared market as Common Core Standards are adopted nationwide. I want to support a bottom-up approach to education reform and empower students and teachers with new tools.
We have to re-claim our democracy and recreate a healthy middle class
Since Reagan, the chasm between the top 1% and everyone else has been ever widening. My first experience of how it worked was back in 1986 and the Savings and Loan crisis. I was building a dozen houses a year back then and worked with a good group of subcontractors. Here’s how it went: 1) There was a bailout. 2) Investors and banks got bailed out. 3) Subcontractors owed money got nothing.
My 401K gets drained every 8-10 years as the playing field is tilted and bubbles are created and then burst. It’s happened to most of the middle class.
There are better ways to educate our kids
For six years starting in 2005 I taught in Boston Public Schools at a district high school. It pretty much fit the profile of a “failing” urban school: a very large percentage of students who a) qualified for free lunch, b)would be the first in the family to attend college, c)did poorly on standardized tests, d)were ESL students e)were special needs students. What I discovered surprised me. These kids were as bright as the Boston Latin kids. So why did they do so terribly on tests? Why did they have such trouble reading and writing? How come they couldn’t solve a problem they hadn’t already seen? more
In the picture Noah is taking a picture of the rest of the family as we climb to meet him on a hill near Bamenda in Cameroon. Peri is in the center, I’m on the right, Toby is behind Ari. I was on a Christmas break from my job as a teacher at PATH.
When you build second house you actually have to physically build it. Once you write a program to do something, when you want to do it again you just press a button. Fascinating. You write a program to save you a half an hour of bookkeeping a day and end up freeing up almost 200 hours a year. You can spend that time body-surfing or fishing in Boston Harbor.