Sadie, algebra and Dragon Box

April 14th, 2013

It’s times like these when I’m excited to be living in the future.

I learned algebra in seventh grade, from Mrs. Doyle if I remember correctly. That seemed appropriate; even while not starting until the seventh grade, I was probably among the first 20% of Holliston’s class of ’90 to learn algebra. It was hard, but I figured it out, eventually moving on to geometry, trig and calculus.

Sadie is in first grade.

I got her the Dragon Box game for the iPad after hearing about it from Leo Laporte on one of his podcasts.

We played it together in the beginning, but eventually she just started playing it by herself, eventually making it all the way through and beating the game.

In the beginning, it was matching various pictures. By the end, it was factoring out common elements and solving for x as you can see in this picture.

I’m proud of her, because I think this is actually pretty impressive for a first grader. (humble brag).

I’m more interested in what other forms of self-directed learning are now possible for her. If you have any suggestions for similar types of experiences, please email them to me or send them along on Twitter.

I can only imagine what college will be like for her in 11 years.

Another launch. More progress.

April 9th, 2013

Yes, I realize I’ve been a little light on the posting ’round these parts lately. (And don’t even talk to me about the state of 39 Essays. That’s turning into the project of a decade, not a year.)

Anyway, part of the reason I’ve been dark is because we’ve been working towards another launch, one that went out the door this morning.

Potentially most interesting in this release is that we’re incorporating expert senior-living advice from some of the top experts in Massachusetts (and eventually around the country). And no, I’m not just rewriting Abuzz.

Onward.

Opening Day, 2013

April 1st, 2013

Well, for the first time since 2000, I do not have season tickets to the Red Sox.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been lucky to get to five of our games over the course of a season. I blame the children.

Last year’s team was unlovable. I hope this year’s team is more charming, and I look forward to summer nights on the porch with the radio going.

Maybe this is the year.

An outstanding book on caring for aging parents

February 24th, 2013

I’ve been doing a lot of reading to get up to speed in my role at Compass Aging.

By far the best book I’ve read is A Bittersweet Season by Jane Gross, the original editor of the New York Times’ New Old Age blog. It combines a memoir of her time caring for her mother with a journalistic review of the industry and the challenges elders and their children must endure.

If you are older than 30 or have loved ones north of 60, you should read this book. You’ll thank me later.

Blizzard 2013

February 10th, 2013

We had a little over two feet of snow here in Concord during the great Blizzard of 2013. At least it happened at the beginning of the weekend.

Six hours of shoveling yesterday, in which I got almost the entire driveway done. Probably another six hours today to do the end of the driveway (where the plows dump all the snow from the busy street we’re on), the mailbox across the street so the mailman can get to it, my mother-in-law’s car, the path to the oil tank and the path to the front door. Oy.

At least I got a couple of good pictures out of it. Here’s what it looked like when I opened the garage door to get started.

Sadie and Lucy liked going out in the snow. Lucy made sure to enforce the “If I go out and play in the snow, then I get hot chocolate” rules.

With any luck, I’ll be done shoveling by dinnertime tonight, just in time to get ready to go to work tomorrow.

Vegetables for the summer…

February 3rd, 2013

I just sent out the check to First Root Farm, our CSA here in Concord. I’m looking forward to the fresh vegetables all summer! If you haven’t thought about a CSA before, you should check out Practically Green’s action on how to join a CSA.

I’m still trying to stay pretty green. If you haven’t seen it, you should check out my essay on how going green is not that hard from early last year.

We’ve launched

December 31st, 2012

Happy new year!

I started a few weeks ago as the VP of Product and Technology at a startup called Compass Aging. And today, we just pushed live the first public beta of the product!

We’re building a tool that will help adult children of aging parents take control of all the challenges and opportunities that come along with that stage of life. The vision is big, and this first public beta represents about 20% of the functionality. (So, yes, things are likely to be pretty dark in these parts over the next few months…)

What’s most interesting in this first version:

The Care Plan tool. What we’ve done here is to build out the first version of a tool that takes the concerns you have for your loved one and builds a plan customized to those concerns, with additional information and suggestions on how to take control.

The Care Safe. This might be my favorite piece. We’ve built out the first version of a centralized place where you (and your siblings and other concerned folks) can keep track of everything that’s happening with your parents, including to-dos, notes, important documents, etc. Just keeping everyone on the same page and bought in to the plan is going to be a major win for folks.

Housing Search. Choosing a senior-living option is one of the most important (and expensive) decisions you’re going to have to make. We want to be best in the world at helping you make that decision.

We’ve started in Newton, Needham and Wellesley. As we figure out what information is most useful for the consumers, we’re going to build this out nationwide. The IA geek in me is very excited about this project.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

p.s., Big visions require great teams. I’m hiring for about a dozen positions right now. Check them out here: Jobs at Compass Aging.

Launch mode

December 20th, 2012

So, it’s been a little dark around these parts lately. Sorry ’bout that.

I’m in launch mode.

I’ll be back up for air in early January.

Kickstarter in the real world

October 12th, 2012

So, this is really interesting. First Root Farm, our CSA here in Concord, is doing a Kickstarter project to buy a fancy new tractor.

This is the first time I’ve seen Kickstarter used in the world outside of media and technology products. Outstanding data point.

Here’s their Kickstarter video:

While lost in Walden Woods

October 3rd, 2012

While lost in Walden Woods this afternoon, I discovered a neat feature in the new Maps application in iOS6. If you keep pressing the button in the lower left, it will turn on a view where it will show you your field of vision overlaying the map.

Neat.

Map view of Walden Woods

I am obviously quite the woodsman. I made it out of a couple-acre forest with only my wits. And a GPS-enabled phone with a compass built in. And pluck — don’t forget pluck.

Busy September

September 27th, 2012

Hi kids.

I haven’t forsaken you. I’ve been juggling three big projects, and the personal blog has taken a hit.

(Also taking a hit: 39 Essays, which may have expanded from a one-year project to a 10-year project at the rate I’m going).

In the meantime, TweetDeputy is archiving the links I’m tweeting, so you can sorta keep up with what’s catching my eye there.

More soon!

And this is how you kill an ecosystem

August 17th, 2012

Wow, Twitter is (in my humble opinion) committing a massive strategic blunder. If you want a thriving ecosystem, let your partners feel confident and make money.

Today. Literally, today. I’m sitting down and writing the product plan for a suite of new products. They’re knowledge products, but not specifically communications products. Twitter integration was a given. Now it’s unlikely.

Classic mistakes are classic for a reason — they’re highly seductive. Still, it’s sad to see.

Fun with machine learning

August 13th, 2012

I spend a lot of time working with machine learning — exciting, I know. That said, this is a really interesting use of it to determine “what makes Paris look like Paris”?

Take four minutes to watch this. It’s really interesting.

Red Dawn is coming

August 13th, 2012

Wow, I’m going to lose all my “happy resident of the socialist hellhole of Massachusetts” cred, but I’m really looking forward to the remake of Red Dawn.

Seriously, we have Thor on our side!

Not just a sandwich, an accomplishment

August 8th, 2012

The Butler household is getting ready for Patriots season. This sandwich might just hold us until the second half.

Big Vince is someone I’d trust when it comes to food.

How long would humanity last in a robot apocalypse?

August 1st, 2012

Randall Munroe, author of our favorite web comic, xkcd, is writing a weekly series exploring the scientific underpinnings of interesting questions. This week? How long would humanity last in a robot apocalypse?

The good news: probably a lot longer than we’d expect.

What people don’t appreciate, when they picture Terminator-style automatons striding triumphantly across a mountain of human skulls, is how hard it is to keep your footing on something as unstable as a mountain of human skulls.

Your personal API

July 31st, 2012

This is geeky, but supremely interesting if you’re into that sort of thing: the Cambrian explosion of everything.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few months about personal APIs, personal deputies and Freenon’s forkable nuggets of knowledge. Within a few years (maybe sooner), everything will have an API, and most of your personal interactions with the world will be API-mediated. I’m thinking through how Serendeputy fits into this model. Right now, it’s your personal intermediary for news, and your profile is its API. How does this extend beyond this one use case?

Mostly, I want to see what I can do to make sure that this future bends towards open, with individuals controlling their data and their life. (See the previous post on dystopian futures…)

Anyway, this is the type of stuff I’m thinking about. I want this to exist; now it’s just the small matter of implementation, distribution and paying the bills in the meantime 🙂

Jason’s summer reading recommendations

July 25th, 2012

For my fiction reading this summer, I’ve been focusing mostly on near-future science fiction, especially stories that explore the logical conclusions to current trends. Here are two writers you should be reading:

Daniel Suarez: Daemon and Freedom TM are a two-part story. Kill Decision was just released last week, and I devoured it over the course of about 18 hours last weekend. The lawn suffered.

William Hertling: Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse are individual stories in the same universe. What would happen if Google became Skynet?

If you’re more interested in non-fiction, Ray Kurzweil‘s The Singularity is Near is a utopian look at the future, while Joel Garreau‘s Radical Evolution is much more balanced and a lot less cult-like.

Happy reading!

Launching a site is like driving in a snowstorm

July 17th, 2012

At this point, I’ve launched a dozen or more sites to the world. (including one for female sports fans yesterday.) It’s old hat at this point, but it’s still always stressful.

I think I’ve come up with my favorite comparison for it:

Launching a site is like driving in the snow. Even if you have your snowtires and a full tank of gas, even if you totally know what you’re doing, random things can happen. You need to be continually monitoring the conditions and you probably have a death grip on the steering wheel. Several hours later, you can probably breathe again.

Sports site for women

July 16th, 2012

I’ve been working on a site called She’s Game Sports for the past few months and it just went live this morning. You should check it out and let me know what you think!