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Allen Smith
Creating one memory at a time
Creating one memory at a time

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"Hamburger Menu" is something I have great difficulty saying with a straight face...

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One of humanity's greatest teachers in a far-ranging interview with Ted Turner in 1989.

# My Thoughts On Mentoring

We are all human. Empathy for those you mentor is probably the greatest strength you can develop. I wish I had developed mine much sooner.

Look for teaching opportunities. Moments when you might be thinking "WTF" in your head are usually indicators of those moments. Maintain a neutral facial expression and tone of voice.

Be a giver. Read "[Give & Take]". Mentoring is all about giving: your time, your acquired knowledge, your patience. For a brief moment, you can help shape someone's future. That's pretty cool.

Connect them. If they're good (and they must be, why else are you spending the time to mentor them), introduce them to influential people who could help or inspire them. Bring them into your network. One of the greatest things you can do for someone is help them get a job…and it costs you nothing.

Learn from them. We're all in this together, so be curious about what you can learn from them. Engage them in a discussion at lunch about philosophy, pop culture, music, travel, anything that's outside the work area.

Take a chance. I personally subscribe to the idea of giving someone more opportunity than less, which can take the form of an exciting project, responsibility, etc. Take the chance that they can amaze you. When you expect the best from people, you can often be pleasantly surprised.

Follow through. Make sure you set aside time, at least each week, to ask them how it's going, probe for challenges they're having that you can help with, and follow up on goals they are supposed to be hitting. While I like give people exciting projects to do, I also want an intern or thesis student to show me they can handle the tedious stuff as well. The things that need to be done well, on time, and with perfect quality. An eye for detail is an important career skill to develop.

Set end dates. Be clear about the nature of the mentorship and agree upon an end date. It's important, psychologically and organizationally, that this is decided upfront. 

Finally, set expectations. You can't promise them a job (although you may try), you can't promise them the most exciting projects and a generous travel allowance, nor can you even guarantee that they'll make the most out of the experience. After you've evaluated their potential against whatever criteria you may have (technical, personality, graphics, etc.), you should have a meeting to clearly articulate the structure of the mentorship, what you expect (an output from a project, tasks to be done, etc.), opportunities you will try and create for them (find out what their passion about), and of course discuss start/end dates and expectations for being present (or online).

True mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge. It's about social capital, and investing that capital into others with potential; so, developing an eye for talent is one of the skills you sharpen as a mentor.

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Found this old gem today...a video of the classic Apple II game "Rocky's Boots." I remember just loving this game (this was pre-NES by the way), and it probably did more to get kids excited about computer programming than anything else from that time. 

Since it's essentially a logic game, the game play should have held up well over the decades. Maybe kids today would like better graphics and on an iPad, but seems like the heart of it would still be very appealing to younger kids.

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Saturday while out walking around I found this nifty typewriter sitting in the recycle room. It was in remarkably pristine shape and even had the cover for it (though, sadly, no carrying case). I was out walking the dog but quickly rushed this (heavy) thing home for further investigation later. 

It turns out to have some interesting history [1], which led me to unearth this whole subculture of typewriter collectors. You can see in the lower right of the keyboard it has the three extra swedish vowels (Å, Ä, Ü), so I assumed it was at least manufactured in Sweden...but I had no idea about its age or design. Best I can gauge, it's a model from the 60's or early 70's (which is surprising, given how flawless it is) and was designed by Sigvard Bernadotte, something of a known Swedish designer but also a great-grandson of Queen Victoria.

From a '60's advertisement: “Viking grey colour, matt finish and elegant Swedish Modern design by Sigvard Bernadotte makes the new Facit Portable a proud possession in your home.”

I've been doing a little typing on it and one thing that is immediately clear is how much slower you have to go on one of these old manual typewriters. On a computer, much of the time it's stream of consciousness and my fingers can often type faster than I can formulate cohesive thoughts. With the Facit though, I'm forced to slow down and consider a little more deeply what I'm typing. Especially so because there's no easy way to correct mistakes.

I think I'll hang on to this interesting artifact of 60's era Swedish industrial design, if nothing else but as an interesting conversation piece in the living room or future study.


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When the incentives are in place, motivating war in perpetuity becomes a business strategy. The military industrial complex held its quarterly meeting, and profits are up...but where are the new "growth" markets?

"An analysis by the Financial Times reveals the extent to which both American and foreign companies have profited from the conflict -- with the top 10 contractors securing business worth at least $72bn between them.

None has benefited more than KBR, once known as Kellogg Brown and Root. The controversial former subsidiary of Halliburton, which was once run by Dick Cheney, vice-president to George W. Bush, was awarded at least $39.5bn in federal contracts related to the Iraq war over the past decade."

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This is pretty fun, and extremely easy to set up...but what is it that will keep me coming back? How am I supposed to really use this?

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I'm currently catching up on S03 Portlandia...what a great show. It's like the hipster version of Mr. Show, and with totally awesome 90's references that would've been way too contemporary for Mr. Show.

One of the design books I found during last week's thrift store hunt is a gem from 1979 detailing many of the design elements for the Göteborg tram system (trolley, for US people). Interestingly, to aid with planning the tram routes they built a scale model replica of Göteborg using electric train versions of trams to work out routing and timing information. Pretty cool.

I no longer own a car...after leaving Southern California, it hasn't been the requirement for getting around that it was back there. Göteborg is, admittedly, a much smaller city, but it is also well-planned around a public transportation system. I subscribe to a mobility service called Västrafik, which provides me with all of my local transportation needs...whether they be tram, bus, or ferry. My first two years in San Diego, I also utilized the public transportation system...and it was rudimentary at best. The basis of its design seemed to be for transporting drunk people to football and baseball games, but certainly not for the average day-to-day person going to work. Unless you lived downtown.

But as more people gravitate towards the urban center (more than half of the world's population currently lives in an "urban" area), new ideas for how to create better designed mobility services will be more important than ever.

Shanghai is another interesting example. The underground train seems to run exactly on time to the second. The Shanghai Metro delivers well over 2B rides per year and over 8M passengers per day...across 437km of metro area lines. It also has a maglev from the airport to the city center, which is just plain cool (if you're ever there, take it for a's insanely smooth compared to any other train you've ridden). But this is also augmented by a nearly ubiquitous use of small electric motorscooters. Many of these have been converted from gasoline powered scooters, and millions of them fill the streets. Not to mention walking. Walking is burns calories, it stretches your muscles, and gives you time to reflect and perhaps even experience a moment of serendipity. In Shanghai walking is less healthy because of the air pollution, which is why Shanghai may be a mega city...but it is not a modern mega city. It is still, very much (imo), a mega city of the 20th century model. The mega cities of 2030 will be green, closed-loop, perhaps even post-scarcity varieties. And perhaps have their own, modern, version of on inside references to the popculture of 2020.
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