A dear friend of mine currently faces a minor crisis related to her teenage daughter. Having some difficulty in school and managing her time and life in general, she actually reached out to her mother for help. She believes she has attention deficit disorder.

My friend immediately started studying the condition and upon the recommendation of a counselor, picked up a book on the topic that addresses the issue as it relates to girls, and in which it lists a series of questions about your kid’s general behavior. She read them to me, so I don’t know exactly how many questions, but I’d venture about twenty.

Questions along the lines like “Does your child seem unfocused?” and “Does your child have difficultly getting up the morning?”, etc.

At the end of the list, I looked at my friend and said, “As a thirteen year old, I could have answered in the affirmative to almost all of those questions.”

Naturally, I should preface this by saying I have no degree in child psychology or behavior or whatever, but as a father, I have deep concerns about administering drugs to kids for a condition that to me seems as natural and eternal as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Pubescent kids, raging with hormones are sometimes barely civilized creatures. Their minds are all over the map, and they struggle with believing that they simultaneously know everything and nothing all. Throw acne into that maelstrom of emotions and you have a domestic tinderbox that at times seems to threaten the existence of the entire universe.

I am seeing a number of studies coming out that show we make teenagers adhere to a daily school schedule completely in conflict with their natural circadian rhythms. Their bodies need sleep — lots of it. So, instead of allowing that, we force them to get up too early and foist so much homework upon them that they go to bed too late. My friend tells me her daughter brings home nearly three hours of homework per night.

With this in mind, I see this rush to medicate as an ominous bandaid to “fix” a condition that only exists due to our one-size-fits-all school systems. To make matters worse, the schools all now have to prepare the kids not for life, but for the standardized tests that start in third grade.

Where does it say, other than in the union contract, that high schoolers must begin class at 8am and end at 2pm? Why can’t it start at 10 and end at 5? Instead of bending the teenager to the system, wouldn’t it make more sense to design the system for the teenager and spare ourselves the unintended consequences of graduating armies of drug addled students and entrusting them with the future of our society?

I don’t doubt that Adderall and its equivalents can do some good for some kids. Indeed, when my friend’s daughter did start on her medication, she saw almost immediate results, but she called her a “Stepford child.” In the ensuing weeks, however, the effects haven’t proven lasting.

Lord knows I have a challenging kid. I would answer in the affirmative for her with all of the questions in that quiz, but I’d like to see her difficult nature as her ticket to a better life. My challenge as a parent is to direct all that energy towards a positive outcome. I too bristled against authority, argued with people, was forgetful, shy, and sometimes lacked focus, but these are also the traits of creative types — people who forge trails.

I certainly worry about my daughter venturing in the creative arts. As a career choice, it frankly sucks, but creativity can be applied in any field. Independent thinkers seem in too-short supply these days, especially if I use Facebook comments and internet forums as my metric. Dogmas must constantly be questioned, and I would never count on people with their wills broken or muddled by the effects of a heavily marketed, easily administered, final pharmaceutical solution to advance our culture.

Having used computers professionally for almost thirty years, you’ll find no bigger advocate for backing up data. Like too many others, I have found myself staring in terror at the screen realizing that hours, days, if not months of work have simply vaporized in an unrecoverable mist. Over the years, I’ve developed what I believe are pretty good systems for safeguarding my data, but nothing is 100%. Without going into too much detail, I can say that at the heart of it all lies Crashplan.

I learned about Crashplan several years ago. They have what sounds like a pretty good system where you can not only back up your stuff in the background to local drives, but also to a friend’s system located remotely. They also offer a paid plan where you can backup unlimited  data from one system to their cloud. I have that, but I also back up to a local drive — a Drobo that I otherwise love.

Well, it happened. Three weeks ago, I lost all the data on one of my external drives, the one where I keep all of my work. Fortunately, I back this up to both the Drobo and to the Crashplan cloud. I’m good. Or so I thought.

I quickly discovered that the cloud backup dated back to January or early February, meaning that a month’s worth of work had yet to back up. As distressing as I found that, the backup in the Drobo was suddenly inaccessible. The archives are there, but the Crashplan software began a process where it would compact, verify, and prune versions of the data before it would make it available to me.

Three weeks later, I have still cannot restore that drive. In fact, the nightmare worsened when it finally looked like the process would come to an end. It got to 99.8% done, and then the Crashplan program froze. After more than an hour  frozen, I finally decided to restart everything. In my experience, if a program seizes like that for more than ten minutes, it’s not coming back.

I have communicated my situation to Crashplan, but I’m told that there’s nothing they can do. There’s no shortcut. I’ve got two terabytes worth of data sitting on my local backup, and I can’t get to it, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that somehow it didn’t get corrupted in the process. I’ve come to the conclusion that Crashplan is horrible software. Based on Java, it’s slow, buggy, overly confusing, and provides an experience that hardly inspires confidence.

Word to the wise: If you own a Mac, do not use Crashplan to make local backups. You are probably better off using Time Machine. If someone has some better advice for me, I’m all ears.

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Tonight, I found myself locked out of my iCloud account. This is bad, because without a valid account, I could not only not check my email, but I couldn’t use any of my iCloud-related services or apps. I couldn’t download updates to apps I had purchased through the Apple App Store (as if I could get them from anywhere else.)

The exact message I received was that my “account was disabled for security purposes.” My first thought was that someone hacked my account and absconded with my information, passwords, and god knows whatever else.

So I began the recovery process. When I got the notice about my account being disabled, I went to reset everything. Because I have two-step verification, I had to enter my Recovery Key, but the system didn’t take it. That was bad, because if I couldn’t get this resolved, I would have lost the account forever.

Apple has a system where you make an appointment for them to call you, and fortunately, they had a slot available for  8pm tonight. A very nice woman called, but when I explained my situation, she sounded extremely puzzled and concerned about what I told her. The Recovery Key keeps them, as the woman said, out of the loop on this.

While I was on hold, I remembered a similar problem I had with a banking website not taking my pin. The bank’s Tech support suggested I turn off Last Pass, my password manager which I have in my Chrome browser. However, I at first remembered it only as a Chrome problem, so I launched Safari, which does not  have LastPass activated, and the Recovery Key worked.

All works fine now.

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“China’s military is expanding dramatically, creating concern for a host of American allies,” said Ian Bremmer, founder of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. He said he viewed China as a greater threat than Russia, “and by a very large margin.”

Call me cynical, but I think that China has plan to deal with its lopsided male-female ratio resulting from its one-child policy. It just might be time to cull the ranks.

via With Russia, as With China, Unnerved U.S. Allies Seek Reassurances – NYTimes.com.

 

Lenore Skenazy brings up a very important and so far overlooked aspect of the calls for universal pre-K. As a parent, I can appreciate the desire to have this. The costs of private day care does impose a major burden for the middle class, but at least we get to choose the day care.

Very few people are talking about the kind of education that would be offered — other than declaring it should be “high quality.” And that phrase is often interpreted to mean “high intensity”: an accelerated version of skills-based teaching that most early-childhood experts regard as terrible. Poor children, as usual, tend to get the worst of this.

via Pre-K vs Free Play: Thoughts on Universal Pre-School : Free Range Kids.

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer kindly dropped a complementary copy of the “improved” Sunday paper in our driveway. Not having subscribed to the paper in over three years, I wonder what they improved.

The size is a quarter smaller than our last issue (a third smaller than our first), the print quality is so-so, and the comics page has probably half the comics it once had — and the remainder barely merit inclusion. Reading Parade Magazine for the first time in probably two years took less time that brewing a cup of coffee with our Keurig.

That all said, I still miss my paper. Reading on the tablet really isn’t the same. In some ways better, but the experience hardly warrants lounging lazily on a Sunday morning.

 

As an early pioneer of the blogging landscape — blogging before anyone even called it blogging — I had developed rules about what constitutes a good one. Update daily. Say something intelligent. Engage with your readers. If you have nothing to say, to paraphrase Chrissie Hynde, seal your lips.

I read a lot of technology blogs thanks to my work — possibly too many. Years ago, when I began to eschew printed tech journals for various online sources, I had set up a series of book marks in a single folder that, for me, sampled all the relevant topics for my job as a Macintosh-based designer. For the most part, these blogs contained original content with occasional links to recommended sources.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the advance of the blog that pretty much does little more than quote something else, and if we’re “lucky”, the author will wedge in a pithy quip somewhere. I will admit, I’ve taken to that practice of late, but I have John Gruber to thank for it. For those who don’t know, Gruber has become one of the leading bloggers on all-things-Apple, and for the most part his DaringFireball.net blog does exactly what I’ve described above. Quote, quip. Quote, quip. Quote, quip. And this practice for whatever reason has attracted enough viewers to make blogging his full time job.

Gruber has his detractors, but most of them cite him as an apologist for Apple. I like Apple as well, but I do think his comments, when he makes them, spring from an objective point of view. Typically, I agree that Apple gets a bad rap from its critics, most of whom are geeks who fondly remember the bad old days when technology was incomprehensible and unmarketable to the general public. If Apple has done anything, it has brought extremely powerful tech to the mainstream. Geeks hate that.

But having followed Daring Fireball for a few years now, I’ve concluded that there’s no there there. Occasionally, he writes a lengthy review of Apple’s latest product (sent to him by Apple), or reporting on an Apple event he went to (invited by Apple), but mostly we get quote, quip, quote, quip, and the quips can really grate. The too-cool-for-school attitude wears thin quickly, especially when sprinkled with his love for the Yankees and his muddled political views. (Shut up and play your guitar, John).

The emperor has no clothes and I have too many other choices for my info. I don’t need Gruber to edit my feed.

 

Last night, I finished watching all 18 episodes of “Freaks and Geeks,” leaving me that all-too-familiar sense of loss when a series as good as this ends, never knowing what becomes of a great bunch of characters. I can only hope that Lindsey comes to her senses, realizing that the following The Dead does not a productive life make. That may be the 52-year-old me speaking, but I’m pretty sure the 18-year-old me would have said the same thing. I never got the attraction of the Dead’s music, though I do understand the attraction of the community that rose up around it.

According to various sources, NBC canceled the show in 2000 after airing twelve of the eighteen episodes originally ordered. Though it had attracted a devoted cult following and the accolades of critics, it never garnered the ratings to justify its slot in the schedule. Reportedly, producers Paul Feig and Judd Apatow were devastated and devoted the rest of their careers casting the original actors in many of their subsequent projects.

To me, though, the reasons for the show’s poor ratings were all-too-obvious. “Freaks and Geeks” depicted marginalized kids navigating the most painful and difficult periods of their lives. The fact that it did it so well only made matters worse. Who wants to relive that? “My So Called Life” did much the same thing and suffered much the same fate. Why relive that agony, despite the moments of pure hilarity?

The show’s characters aren’t the popular kids — the jocks or cheerleaders — but the AV nerds and the burnouts, showing them with real lives and concerns. As someone tangentially associated with both groups in those years and similarly marginalized, it strikes home. Yet, the show didn’t stereotype. The characters all ring true to my experience.

Incidentally, the show also features some surprising appearances. Ben Stiller, Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex, Mean Girls), Joel Hodgson, and others round out a great cast. I especially loved Lindsey’s mom, because she didn’t seem like she was acting at all. We all know that mom. Most of us wish we had her as one. Joe Flaherty is great as always. If you loved him in SCTV, you’ll love him here.

Maybe it’s best that a second season never happened. I don’t think they actually established who was in what grade, but I assumed Lindsey and the Geek squad were seniors, although there was no graduation. Also, at the end of the school year, people were still walking around in their winter jackets, and I know that Michigan, where the show is set, gets as hot as New England in May/June.

I don’t think I wanted to see them go off to college. The story arcs completely change in that environment, so we might have ended up with a Glee-like conundrum of replacing great characters with sloppy seconds. Thankfully, we didn’t get to see the show jump the shark. Where else could they go with this?

Watch the show if you can, especially if you have kids on the cusp of their high school years. Like your actual high school years, it isn’t all painful. Believe it or not, some good things happened as well.

 

One wonders if Warren et al. ever bother to look at the facts, particularly the passage of Glass-Steagall and what, if any, role the repeal actually played in the crisis. Since they never say anything specific, it’s hard to know if this is anything more than an incantation designed to blame the “free [sic] market” and to bolster their case for bureaucratic management of our lives which they call “the economy”. It takes Herculean ignorance or dishonesty to claim that America had free banking before 2010. Hence, this is a classic confirmation of my observation that no matter how much the government controls the economic system, any problem will be blamed on whatever small zone of freedom remains.

via The Housing and Financial Meltdowns Revisited – Reason.com.

With her inability to grasp simple facts, I would hope not.

 

What if a GOP dominated congress finally managed to ban abortions and the Dems decided not to fund the military unless the abortion law was overturned? Wonder how that would play out. Something tells me the left would not brand that as holding the government hostage but as a noble cause.

And if you think this hypothetical tells you where I stand on these issues, you’d likely be wrong.

 
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