Friday, May 11, 2012

Set volume to 1 on OS X

I just discovered an easy way to set the system volume to the lowest value greater than 0. Use the Volume Down button to reduce the volume to 0, then hit the Mute button to increase it to 1. It's a shame that I'm the only person in the world who needs this feature; my earbuds are just too loud.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Corporate activism is the new activism

The US political system is broken. Everyone agrees on that. For an explanation, see This American Life's recent episode on campaign finance. Politicians must fund their campaigns by asking lobbyists for money. In return, lobbyists ask politicians for face time to explain their corporation's interests. Not some politicians; all politicians. Unless there's a public outcry, the interests of the citizens are outweighed by the interests of the paying corporations.

The most idealistic among us think that we can change this with grassroots activism. They believe that the internet will allow the people of the US to band together and make our politicians accountable again.

I don't buy this argument. People simply don't have time to care about most of the issues that affect them. Activism is a full-time job. That's why we have a representative democracy. We elect politicians to represent our interests in the lawmaking process.

Thus, I propose a "new" form of activism effective in today's political environment: corporate activism. Instead of trying to convince people to donate their time and money to a cause, construct a business whose interests align with your cause.

If your goal were to reform copyright law, you could create a business that would benefit from shorter term of copyright. For example, Netflix for public domain movies. If you want to eliminate software patents, build a software company which doesn't create or buy any patents. Your company would be certain to infringe on thousands of software patents, so it would be incentivized to lobby for patent reform.

The difficulty in creating your own activist corporation lies in keeping the company's interests aligned with your cause. Netflix could have been an advocate for sane copyright law, but now its deals with content companies form a barrier to entry which protects its business. Netflix would face increased competition were the US term of copyright to shorten or the penalties of copyright infringement to lessen, so it has no incentive to advocate copyright reform. Likewise Google could have been an advocate for net neutrality, but it struck a deal with Verizon, an opponent of net neutrality, to convince Verizon to carry Android phones.

Despite the risks, I see corporate activism as the most effective way to change the US political system today. This isn't how it should work, but campaign finance has been fixed, there are no reasonable alternatives.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A perfect life

A recent conversation about the future prompted me to reconsider my definition of success. I still want to create a product that improves the lives of millions of people and earns me millions. However, I don't need that level of success to support my ideal lifestyle. I require only four things:

Wife and kids
My life won't be complete without a mate to share my life with and children to teach and learn from.
Work I love
I need to spend my working hours doing something I enjoy for a purpose I believe in. Doing otherwise would be a waste of my precious time.
Three day work week
My wife and I need to be able to support our family's lifestyle working only 8 hours per day three days per week. That way, at least one of us will be home with the children every day. Until all of my children enter school, I want to spend more than half of my time with them. There's no more valuable gift I can give my children than my time and attention.
Ability to relocate
I want to move my family to a new area every two years. My own family's frequent relocations gave me a broader perspective on life and helped me develop my independence. I want to bestow the same benefits on my children. Also, I love to live in new places.
No commute
I refuse to waste hours of my life every week driving or riding to an office. Either I'll work close to home or I'll work at home.

I was surprised when I realized that this was all I needed from my life. I feel like I have more freedom in constructing my life than I had.