RIP, Aaron Swartz

Cory Doctorow’s moving tribute to Swartz, 26, who was recently found to have committed suicide. I never knew Aaron, but I’d occasionally see him around Harvard. I recognized him because I followed his blog, digital activism, and standards-making work since I was in high school. He was a brilliant and driven thinker and doer in the digital law and public policy space. He also helped create (or at least rewrite) the early Reddit, crafted the Creative Commons license framework, and helped build the RSS specification. That’s a lot to accomplish in a lifetime, and he did it all in his teenage years and early 20s. He is a few years younger than me, and at times I found him inspiring, at other times inscrutable, but always I kept an eye out for his latest work. Sometimes I wondered — if I had done things differently, been more passionate, just a bit smarter — if I could have been like Aaron. Now, learning about his demons, I’m just sad for him, and for us, who no longer have him around.

The Campaign For Real Monopoly

I am so 100% in favor of this. I really like Monopoly, but no one else does. I like playing it by the rules, but everyone is always surprised and confused by property auctions, and people insist on stupid rules like money for free parking. When played properly, using the actual rules, the game is much more interesting. I didn’t know about the two house rules often used at tournaments, but now that I do I am going to insist on them.

Americans are moving up to smaller, smarter homes

Suddenly our new 1,800 sq. ft. home feels positively decadent. I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing Sarah Susanka’s books and drawing up plans. Her initial work seemed generally targeted at highly affluent people who could afford extravagant new McMansions. She tries to convince them to downsize by 1/3 or so on raw square footage and instead put the money into building rich detailing into their new homes by spending more per square foot. Her later books talk about remodeling existing smaller or older houses to make them more livable, which is more relevant to Meghan and I. Not So Big Remodeling is fast becoming my home renovation bible. If this is going to work, I’m going to need to become much more handy around the house!

I’m slipping away a bit at a time… and all I can do is watch it happen

Author Terry Pratchett speaks out about his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and what it means to his life. He says that dementia research is chronically underfunded and the spectrum of dementia diseases, including Alzheimer’s, is greatly misunderstood by the public. It is a disease with no hope, because there is no cure, and it affects millions of Americans directly (and many more indirectly) as our population ages.

See also, this recent NYTimes op-ed by, among others, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance

Their goal is to make it as uncomfortable and embarrassing as possible when citizens chose to exercise their right to opt-out of the backscatter x-ray screening device. I chose to refuse the screening the last time I flew, and it was unpleasant enough as it was — they almost didn’t let me board the flight, all because I demanded to be allowed to walk around the backscatter machine, and not through it, in line with my right to refuse the search.

“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area” — this is the word he used, “crotchal” — and you’re not going to like it.” “What am I not going to like?” I asked. “We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained. “Resistance?” I asked. “Your testicles,” he explained.

Not, of course, that any of this makes us the least bit more secure from terrorism.

The Seventeen Magazine Project

“The Seventeen Magazine Project is an attempt to spend one month living according to the gospel of Seventeen Magazine.” It’s actually quite brilliant both on its face and because the precocious 18 year old behind the site is so obviously setting herself up for a book (and eventually movie) deal. Also, this, from the first post: “Full disclosure, I am probably far too self aware for this project to draw any sort of credible conclusion on the effects of teen magazines on teen girls. An initial ‘picture walk’ of this month’s issue seems to point to the idea that sarcasm/cynicism/self-awareness doesn’t exist in the sub-21 world. Nonetheless, I am excited to see where this takes me.”

Attached to Technology and Paying a Price

Another article about technology and disconnectedness, but this cautionary lesson is rife with examples that I can identify with, and I suspect many of my friends can as well. I’m using my laptop at home far less now, instead catching up on news and feeds and Twitter on my iPad, as well as using it for gaming, book reading, and to find recipes. I thought that switching to the iPad was a move in the right direction, a way to be more “present” and less in the thrall of technology. But that may not be the case.