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The FeuerThoughts blog offers the meandering thoughts from the brain and fingers of Steven Feuerstein. Me. Let's see...I am known primarily for my writings and trainings on the Oracle PL/SQL language, having written ten books on the topic. I am also involved with the Refuser Solidarity Network (www.refusersolidary.net), which supports the Israeli refuser movement. For even more of me, check out www.stevenfeuerstein.comSteven Feuersteinhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16619706770920320550noreply@blogger.comBlogger380125
Updated: 16 hours 15 min ago

The insanity that is Uber - a 100$B company?

Tue, 2014-11-25 20:55
So we've had taxis for years and we know that generally taxi drivers work hard, long hours and make small amounts of money. The cab companies make more, of course, but I don't think there are a whole lot of billionaires in the taxi business.

And now there is Uber. An earlier round of VC $ put its value at $17B. According to Fortune, Uber is now "raising new funding at a valuation of between $35 billion and $40 billion, according to a new report from Bloomberg. This would be one of the richest “venture capital” rounds in history (Facebook still holds the crown), and likely mean that investors expect Uber to eventually go public at a valuation of at least $100 billion."
How are to make any sense of this? Where would all the money come from to make all these investors (and shareholders) rich? 
By cutting out the "middleman" (regulation to ensure safe rides, primarily)? Maybe, but I can't imagine it will generate that much revenue?
By reducing the cost of a ride, compared to a taxi? That's true, apparently, some of the time with Uber, but often it is way MORE expensive - because prices are "market-driven."
By shifting more and more of the costs and risks to the drivers? That's pretty darn likely. Just look at the poor "contractors" who have to pay for their trucks and lease their gear from FedEx. 
By shifting riders from mass transit to Uber (in other greatly expanding the "pie" of pay-per-ride)? Again, that seems unlikely.
What am I missing? How could Uber replace an existing business that brings in nowhere near that much money and suddenly be printing the stuff?
Oh, and that's if they don't self-destruct due to their cavalier, arrogant attitudes and actions of their management.
Categories: Development

Feeling trepidatious? Time to lay very low?

Mon, 2014-11-24 12:34
Sure, "trepidatious" might not be a word, per se.

But I am confident it is something that more than one very famous male actor is feeling right now, as they watch Bill Cosby go down in flames.

As in: seriously and deeply apprehensive about what the future might bring.

There are a few things we can be sure of right now, even if Cosby never faces a judge or jury:

1. Bill Cosby is a nasty piece of work, and very likely (was) a pedophile.

The pattern of behavior, finally brought to light after years of self-censorship by victims and callous disregard by the media and judicial system, is overwhelming and seemingly never-ending. Mr. Cosby is a serial rapist, and he did it by drugging young women, some of them less than 18 years old at the time.

2. Bill Cosby is an actor. 

The roles he played were just that: roles. We are easily fooled into thinking of the people behind the roles as sharing characteristics of their characters, but that's just, well, foolish.

The whole point of being a great actor is that you can act really well. You can pretend to be someone else really convincingly. But they are still someone else and not the "real you."

3. Bill Cosby cannot be the only one.

That's where the trepidation comes in. Seriously, what's the chance that Cosby is the only famous, powerful, rich actor who has a long history of taking advantage of and raping women (and/or men, for that matter)?

There have got to be others, and they've got to be terrified that soon their victims will say "Enough!" and then the next deluge will begin.

So my advice to all those A-listers who are also serial rapists:

Lay low, lay really low. Do not provoke your victims. Do not laugh in their faces.

And then maybe you will be able to retire and fade into the sunset, so that your obituary will not be some variation of:

Funny Guy, Sure, But Also a Rapist
Categories: Development

Interstellar Madness

Sun, 2014-11-16 09:19
Saw Interstellar last night. Only had to wait through TWENTY MINUTES of trailers. Had to put fingers in my ears for much of it. So loud, so invasive, so manipulative. Anyway....

I don't watch TV anymore, rarely watch a movie or read a novel. So when I do subject myself to high-resolution artificial input to my brain, it is a jarring experience.
And enjoyable. I haven't stopped watching TV because I don't like it. I have stopped watching TV because I can't help but "like" it, be drawn to it. I am a product of millions of years of evolution, and both Madison Ave (marketeers) and Hollywood know it, and take advantage of it.
Anyway....
I enjoyed watching Interstellar, with its time-traveling plot ridiculousnesses and plenty of engaging human drama. 
But one line really ticked me off. The movie is, to a large extent, a propaganda campaign to get Americans excited about being "explorers and pioneers" again. 
Cooper (McConaughey) complains that "Now we're a generation of caretakers." and asserts that:
"Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here."
That is the worst sort of human species-ism. It is a statement of incredible arrogance. And it is an encouragement to humans to continue to despoil this planet, because don't worry! 
Science and technology can and will save us! Right? 'Cause it sure has done the trick so far. We are feeding more people, clothing more people, putting more people in cars and inside homes with air conditioners, getting iPhones in the hands of more and more humans. 
Go, science, go!
And if we can't figure out how to grow food for 10 billion and then 20 billion people, if we totally exhaust this planet trying to keep every human alive and healthy into old age, not to worry! There are lots of other planets out there and, statistically, lots and lots of them should be able to support human life. Just have to find them and, oh, right, get there.
But there's no way to get there without a drastic acceleration of consumption of resources of our own planet. Traveling to space is, shall we say, resource-intensive.
Where and how did we (the self-aware sliver of human organisms) go so wrong? 
I think it goes back to the development of recorded knowledge (writing, essentially or, more broadly, culture). As long as humans were constrained by the ability to transmit information only orally, the damage we could do was relatively limited, though still quite destructive.
Once, however, we could write down what we knew, then we could build upon that knowledge, generation after generation, never losing anything but a sense of responsibility about how best to use that knowledge.
That sense of responsibility might also be termed "wisdom", and unfortunately wisdom is something that humans acquire through experience in the world, not by reading a book or a webpage. 
Mankind was born on earth and there is no reason at all to think that we - the entire species - shouldn't live and die right here on earth. Especially if we recognize that the price to be paid for leaving earth is the destruction of large swaths of earth and our co-inhabitants and....
Being the moral creatures that we like to think we are, we decide that this price is unacceptable.

Categories: Development

Science needs to explain this?

Sun, 2014-11-02 08:57
Christopher Nolan of Dark Knight fame releasing new sci-fi movie: Interstellar.

In a Chicago Tribune interview, he says:
I could be wrong, but science needs to cross a threshold and explain why a monkey typing infinitely would never type the works of Shakespeare.
Well, I could be wrong, but maybe Nolan is a bit of an idiot when it comes to science.
Please, Mr. Nolan, tell me which scientists make this claim?
I guess he read somewhere about infinity and how incredibly awesome and big and never-ending it is, and so eventually anything would be done by anybody or anything and so even monkeys would "eventually" write Shakespeare and and and....
Produce a movie called Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey. 
In fact, maybe Chris Nolan is actually a monkey who crossed over from that obelisk in 2001, and got super smart and so a monkey already has produced a movie called Interstellar.
Damn, that is just so cool and so weird and it's like, that's never going to happen, man, no way.
So scientists had better figure out WHY that is not going to happen when they obviously really believe that it WILL happen (go, monkey, go!).
And to do that, they are going to have a cross a threshold, 'cause clearly science has hit its limit here. Just like with souls. Science can't explain souls, so I guess scientists had better cross over - maybe into a parallel universe -
Because really what could be cooler than parallel universes?



Categories: Development

What I like best about myself

Sun, 2014-10-05 08:23
What could be more self-centered?

Why should anyone else in the world care what I like best about myself?
I have no idea. That is for sure. But, hey, what can I say? This is the world we live in (I mean: the artificial environment humans have created, mainly to avoid actually living in and on our amazing world).
It is an age of, ahem, sharing. And, ahem, advertising. Actually, first and foremost, advertising.
Anyway, screw all that. Here's what I like best about myself:
I love to be with kids. And I am, to put it stupidly but perhaps clearly, a kid whisperer.
Given the choice between spending time with an adult or spending time with a child, there is no contest. None at all. It's a bit of a compulsion, I suppose, but....
If there is a child in the room, I pay them all of my attention, I cannot stop myself from doing this. It just happens. Adults, for the most part, disappear. I engage with a child as a peer, another whole human. And usually children respond to me instantly and with great enthusiasm. 
Chances are, if your child is between, say, three months old to five years, we will be fast friends within minutes. Your cranky baby might fall asleep in my arms, as I sing Moonshadow to her or whisper nonsense words in her ear. Your shy three-year old son might find himself talking excitedly about a snake he saw on a trail that day (he hadn't mentioned it to you). Your teenage daughter might be telling me about playing games on her phone and how she doesn't think her dad realizes how much she is doing it.
I have the most amazing discussions with children. And though I bet this will sound strange to you: some of my favorite and memorable conversations have been with five month old babies. How is this possible, you might wonder. They can't even talk. Well, you can find ouit. Just try this at home with your baby:
Hold her about a foot away from your face, cradled in your arms. Look deeply and fully into her eyes. Smile deeply. And then say something along these lines, moving your mouth slowly: "Ooooh. Aaaaah. Maaaaa. Paaaaa." And then she will (sometimes) answer back, eyes never leaving yours....and you have a conversation. Your very first game of verbal Ping Pong. 
I suppose I could try to explain the feeling of pure happiness I experience at moments like this. I don't think, though, that written language is good for stuff like that. It's better for recording knowledge needed to destroy more and more of our planet to make humans comfortable.
And with my granddaughter, oh, don't even get me started. Sometimes I will be talking to her, our heads close together, and realize her face has gone into this kind of open, relaxed state in which she is rapt, almost in a trance, absorbing everything I am saying, the sound of my voice, my mouth moving. Just taking it all in. You'd better believe that I put some thought into what I am saying to this incredibly smart and observant "big girl." (who turns three in three weeks)
Here's another "try this at home" with your three year old (or two or four): talk about shadows. Where do they come from/ How do they relate to your body? Why does their shape change as the day goes on? Loey and I have had fun with shadows several times.
I have always been this way. I have no idea why. I have this funny feeling that it might actually be at least in some small way the result of a genetic mutation. I have a nephew who resembles me in several different, seemingly unconnected ways, including this love of and deep affinity for children.
I don't think that many people understand what I am doing when I spend time with children. I am called a "doting" grandfather. It offends me, though I certainly understand that no offense was intended.
I don't dote on Loey. Instead,I  seek out every opportunity to share my wonder of our world and life with her, help her understand and live in the world as effectively as possible. What this has meant lately is that I talk with her a lot about trees, how much I love them, how amazing they are. 
One day at the park, as we walked past the entrance to the playground, I noticed a very small oak sapling - in essence, a baby oak tree.
When we got inside the park, there was a mature oak towering over our stroller. I asked Loey if she wanted to see a baby tree. She said yes, so I picked her up to get close to the mature oak's leaf. I showed her the shape of the leaf, and the big tree to which it was attached.
Then I took her outside and we looked at the sapling. I showed her how the leaves on this tiny baby tree were the same, shape and size, as those on the big tree. That's how we knew it was a baby of that big tree. And it certainly was interesting that the leaves would be the same size on the tiny sapling. Held her attention throughout. That was deeply satisfying.
Mostly what I do is look children directly in the eyes, give them my full attention, smile with great joy at seeing them. Babies are deeply hard-wired to read faces. They can see in the wrinkles around my widened eyes and the smile that is stretching across my face that I love them, accept them fully. And with that more or less physical connection established, they seem to relax, melt, soften with trust. They know they can trust me, and they are absolutely correct. 
In that moment, I would do anything for them.
This wisdom (that's how I see it) to accept the primacy of our young, my willingness to appear to adults as absolutely foolish, but to a child appear as a bright light, making them glow right back at me:
That is what I like best about me. 
Categories: Development

What I felt sad about last night

Mon, 2014-09-22 06:16
A few weeks ago, I moved my office into the basement. That was a big change. That room upstairs, with big windows looking out onto Pratt Ave was where I'd spent almost all of my professional career (we moved to the house in 1992, three months before leaving Oracle for a consulting gig), wrote my books (including the first, Oracle PL/SQL Programming, that changed the course of my life), built the software (Xray Vision for SQL Forms 3, QNXO, Qute, PL/Vision, Code Tester for Oracle, Quest CodeGen Utility, etc.), did the webinars, wrote 1000+ quizzes for the PL/SQL Challenge.

But you know what? Bye, bye, no big deal. Change is good (like this change: Veva and I are taking ballroom dancing classes. I will learn what to do with my feet when I dance!).

I like my cave, I mean, office. It's spacious, and I can make as much noise as I want. Which is very important, since I will be churning out lots of really noisy videos about PL/SQL and my latest dance moves. 
I'm getting my artwork up on the walls:

My father did the painting on the bottom left. It has a lot of power and feeling. My dry cleaner created the beautiful painting on top.
I re-established my sand table with beautiful pieces by Terry Hogan, and many other shells and coral from the sea:

And I put some of my awards and other mementos up on shelves that used to hold a small library of science fiction/fantasy books:


So, yes, settling in to my new office. And last night I started nailing up corkboard tiles to the thick wood paneling, so I could pin up photos of my granddaughter, Loey. Oh, I suppose other people, too. But Loey mainly, because she is the light of my life, and oh my she is a bright light.

In any case, as I hammered the tiny nails needed to hold up the corkboard, I became aware that I felt kind of down, as if the day had not gone well. Why would I be feeling that way? It had been a good day. And then I (the conscious part of me) realized that the non-conscious part of me was feeling bad about having broken a branch in the woods earlier in the day.
That sounds kind of weird, right? I mean, seriously, how bad are humans supposed to feel about breaking the branch of a tree? It's not like they'd notice, right?
But it made perfect sense to me, so I decided to share with you why a broken branch would set my brain to brooding, thereby giving you a sense of how I see the world these days.
As to why anyone should care what I think of the world, well, I leave that entirely up to the reader. No readers, then no one cares. :-) 
As soon as the thought (brooding about broken branch) broke into my consciousness, I immediately knew it was true (that happens to you, too, right? You can instantly sense that a thought is correct. Now try thinking about what is going on in your brain for this to happen and how much of your brain is the "I" that is you). 
You see, I had earlier been thinking back over to when I was in the woods this morning cutting down buckthorn. At one point a rather large tree came down hard against a nearby native tree I was working to rescue. 
To my great dismay, one of its branches was caught by the twisty, grabby buckthorn. It snapped and hung loosely. I did that. That was probably two years' new growth, hard work against buckthorn. And I killed it. 
That bummed me out (and still does), but I reminded myself that I have to accept that even when I move carefully and always safely, I cannot always control where a large tree will fall. I will make mistakes and there will be setbacks. But I just have to keep going.
"Going where?" you might ask. I have developed a new, very strong compulsion: to rescue trees. To do what I can with my own hands, with my own time, with, in other words, a solid chunk of my life, to heal some of the damage we humans inflict on our co-inhabitants and the planet itself.
I think about it as direct and positive action, a principle I attempt to follow in all aspects of my life these days.
Here in Chicago, buckthorn - an invasive import from northern Europe - grows aggressively, crowding out the native trees. In particular, they don't allow young trees, the saplings, the next generation of the natives, to survive. And as the buckthorn grows taller,  it also kills off the lower branches of the mature trees. 
Buckthorn is really an impressive, powerful, successful species. I admire it greatly - and I cut down on the order of 200 buckthorn trees a week (many of them quite small, but not all). Contradiction? Not at all. A necessary corrective action to human abuse of our world. We travel about, carrying with us the seeds (and ballast and larvae) of destruction for many ecosystems.
I do not want to lose our native trees (and even the non-invasive imports). I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy forests. I want to respect trees, since we could never have evolved to what we are today without trees. And even today the forests of the world are absolutely critical to the functioning of the global ecosystem(s).
I want to treat trees with respect and do penance for our cutting down 95% of the trees in the continental US. So I go out and rescue trees. It is now my only form of exercise and it keeps me in great shape - especially for picking up, carrying and playing with Loey. She loves for me to hang her upside down by her ankles and swing her like a pendulum. She trusts me implicitly. I love that.
Sorry, you must be wondering: what is the point of all this? 
To give me an opportunity to marvel at the current state of my life, in which I have quite an intimate relationship with trees. I study them, I read them. Really, it's quite amazing. I can go into the woods now, look at how a native tree's branch has withered, identify the buckthorn that is doing the damage, and actually play it out in my mind's eye: years of slow growth, of slow-motion battle, and of losing it to the buckthorn. Everywhere I look, I find the trees telling their stories.
My greatest joy is to uncover a small sapling that was so completely surrounded and covered by buckthorn I didn't even see it there when I started cutting. Then I open it to the sun and the wind. I did this with a lovely 15 foot tall maple sapling last week. I will be visiting it (and hundreds of other trees) each year now, making sure the buckthorn (and grapevine) leaves it alone, allowing it to grow to a big, thick, incredibly strong and life-giving tree.
There, right there, that's what I marvel at: I know that the 10+ hours I spend each week in the woods rescuing trees will mean that 20 years from now there will be trees with a diameter of a foot or more that simply would not be there if it hadn't been for my effort and my attention paid to something other than human stuff.
That makes me feel happy and less guilty about my consumption (and indirect killing of many, many trees). It gives me a purpose in life, besides family and work.
I plan to rescue trees for as long as my body is able to do the work.
Anyone care to join me?




Categories: Development

This is not my kingdom

Sun, 2014-09-21 14:27
I don't know most people in Chicago on an individual basis, but of all the people I don't know, my favorite Chicagoans are scavengers. They roam the alleys in beat up pickup trucks, with various kinds of makeshift walls extended above the bed.
They grab anything made of metal and anything with the possibility of value. They reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills and I thank them very much for doing this.
Driving the other day, passed one such truck with a hand-lettered sign nailed to the wooden side wall. It said:
This is not my kingdom.Just passing through.

Categories: Development

Eli and the Runaway Diaper now available!

Sun, 2014-09-14 09:12

In 2013, the big sensation in (my) children's publishing was the release of Vivian Vulture and the Cleanup Culture.

In 2014, the honor goes to Eli and the Runaway Diaper.
It's a book about a diaper that gets tired of the day in day out grind of covering Eli's bottom (the names have been changed to protect the innocent). It decides that it's time to look around for a new and hopefully better (more appreciative) bottom.

Eli is initially dismayed, but happy to join the diaper on its quest, so off they go on a grand adventure!

Illustrated by Robert Melegari, it's a fun, light-hearted journey to self-discovery and self-improvement.

You can order it on Amazon,  Createspace, and so on. But if you order it from me, I will sign it and ship it off to you, all for the list price of $12.99.
Categories: Development