Teach with Reach – I’ve started

I feel good. Today I spent my first day properly working on my education startup Teach with Reach. I’ve done bits and pieces before and pretty much this whole year I’ve spent saving up so I could bootstrap myself and be ready, but I haven’t actually started coding anything until today.

The web app is a very basic prototype of a mixture between audiobooks and the forgetting curve. The idea being that as you are listening to an audiobook you’ll be sent short summaries of what you’ve learnt and will be sent reminders of this over time. E.g in a day from now, a week later, next month, next year and so on.

The MVP (minimum viable product) won’t be playing an audiobook, it’ll simply list various chapters and let you click on them as you’ve read them in order to start the process. I nearly didn’t make it, but I have the basics down pat. It’s only a single chapter summary from the book Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath and due to the waiting period to get production access to Amazon’s SES emailing service I can only the summary email to myself, but it’s a start, not too bad for day 1.

Forgetting Curve
The Forgetting Curve, with reminders.

What I like about the project is that it’s such a great seed to spread out towards the platform that I’ve been wanting to build for the past few years. Hopefully I can incorporate enough of the points from the book, plus the many many other education and communication ones I’ve absorbed over the last few years that the platform will be able to change people’s lives for the better, one that can empower them with a life long passion for learning.

On a personal note this week is also a great week of celebration. My girlfriend (Flik) and I had our 2 year anniversary on Monday, it’s my birthday on the 27th and her’s on the 30th, so I’ve just added one more milestone to remember for next year.

Mailchimp Email Obfuscator

I was working on a project that tried to re-skin the Mailchimp email preferences center.

Unlike the Mailchimp signup form this page is a lot harder because you need to know the users information. Thankfully this is fairly easily done with some merge tags to make the correct links in the eDM (email) and the Mailchimp PHP SDK.

The time consuming bit turned out to be outputting the users email address in the same obfuscated way that Mailchimp does. It hides enough of the email address to prevent spammers and nefarious people from stealing the address, whilst ensuring that you (and it) know that you are talking about the correct email address.

The technique I used to create this function is not the most efficient. In fact it’s probably the least efficient, but was highly agile and easy for me to understand whilst writing.

It takes an email address like tech@sveltestudios.com and turns it into t***@s**********.com

The PHP function should be visible in the gist below, otherwise check it out on Github.

The bankers were wrong

The tin foil hat people were right, although tin foil hats won’t stop Government snooping. Also, the government probably doesn’t care about those wearing aluminium on their head. They seem to be more scared of people with towels on their head.

The hippies were right Western Civilisation is destroying the planet. The story that we have told ourselves is wrong, but the Hippies didn’t give us a viable alternative. Hopefully the geisters can.

The bankers were wrong. They aren’t too big to fail and whilst they’ve proved it already, until Bitcoin we didn’t have a decent alternative.


Apache vhosts broken after Ubuntu 13.10 upgrade

Note to the web server sys admins.

Did you upgrade to Ubuntu 13.10? It’s the latest as of Nov 2013 when writing and if you were on an older Ubuntu version then when you logged in it probably suggested you ran do-release-upgrade.

Did you press Y or I and accept the package maintainers version of the apache.conf file? I think this is where the problem comes in. But as the error only just occurred haven’t had time to research.

Are your websites showing the default page? Something like :

It works!

This is the default web page for this server.

The web server software is running but no content has been added, yet.

When you run a2ensite or a2dissite does it show an error like the one below (except with a different site name of course)?

 ERROR: Site kublermdk does not exist! 

The Fix

You need to rename your /etc/apache2/sites-available/ files to include a .conf extension. 

That is, instead of having the file just called kublermdk you need to call it kublermdk.conf, then you can run  sudo a2enssite kublermdk.conf , restart apache with   sudo service apache2 reload  and it’ll work!


Story form

Ubuntu 13.10 Upgrade: When upgrading to the latest 13.10 version of Ubuntu and pressed Y to used the Package maintainers apache.conf file then the Apache sites-available config files need to have a .conf extension.
This requirement wasn’t needed before, so my files were just called the base domain, like kublermdk or greyphoenix, now it needs to be kublermdk.conf and without it Apache doesn’t seem to see your site.
Even if you still have the original symlink into the sites-enabled directory the config still won’t work, most likely the 000-default.conf file will work and instead of showing something awesome your site will show a default site page.

Representative Democracy can it work?

In Australia and the majority of the Western world we have a form of democracy called representative democracy.  We vote for people who represent us.

Our economic system both expects and requires that people work in their own rational self-interest.

The question is, how can a representative democracy work in our capitalist driven economy?

We are voting for people to represent us, but they are expected to (and most do) work in their own self interest. Think of all the times politicians and political parties have promised one thing to get into power but done another to gain them more money, wealth or power.
It sounds to me like a fundamental system disorder. The two systems clash.


This post is in part a response to https://medium.com/lessons-learned/eea037d61e89 in which Stuart Austin tries to apply the Lean Startup principles of validation to politics. I’m instead applying the systems design thinking which I have learnt through the Zeitgeist Movement. It’s also something I’ve been wanting to write for a few years.

That said I helped create the video below to give Australian’s a basic understanding of politics in Australia and how to vote according to what you value.

Peak Oil causing GFC

Below is based on a Facebook response I wrote to someone asking for evidence that the GFC caused peak oil.

The often cited cause of the GFC was sub prime mortgages in the USA. People who purchased crappy housing with little to no risk on their part.
But why is it that the deal seemed good but then lots of these people couldn’t pay? Because the price of oil went up and like a rising tide that lifts all boats the costs of nearly everything goes up with it…. But wages don’t increase with it. So lots of people defaulted.

Also, ask yourself why some people not paying off some housing in America would cause a GLOBAL financial crisis where countries like Greece are still reeling from the effects?

Peak Oil production was actually hit in 2006 ( according to the International Energy Agency’s 2010 report http://www.resilience.org/stories/2010-11-11/iea-acknowledges-peak-oil ) and has basically kept at around the same level of production for a while. The price spike didn’t happen until 2008 thanks to existing oil reserves ( many of which were brought out of the ground by the derivatives market especially by people with memory of the 1970’s oil crisis in America ), plus things like the exponentially rising demand for oil as Dr Albert Bartlett explains so well in the presentation ‘Arithmetic, Population and Energy’


As predicted more than 20 years ago and as you can see in the 5 year graph of crude oil prices at http://www.oil-price.net/index.php?lang=en in 2008 there was a spike in oil prices around the time of the GFC, it then fell ( as people used less oil ) and prices have been going through the expected cycle of rising then people using less because of the higher prices which reduces demand and causes the price to fall, the lower prices then mean people use it more so the price increases until people use it less, etc..

The 10 year chart at http://www.nasdaq.com/markets/crude-oil.aspx?timeframe=10y is probably a better view of it all.

Crude Oil - 10 years prior to 2013, you can see the 2008 peak oil price spike that caused the GFC

If you want an economist which talks about this then Jeremy Rifkin does although what he talks about is so good that you should watch the whole thing ( short version provided if you don’t have much time the long version if you can’t keep up with the dubstep speed ).

The short version (for those without much time)
The longer version (for those that can’t understand the dubstep version)

Cigarette burned heart

Look into their eyes
Elation, tenderness, love.
The feeling grows inside, but the outlet is broken
unable to dissipate it fills the brain.
Caustic it goes and with it your body,
Can’t think, can’t eat, can’t work, can’t play,
The blockage is still there, but the heart can’t wait.
Out of phase, out of sync, bad timing, missed cues.
Love turns to ache as no connection to the other can it make [Error  404 Access Denied]
and with the words finally uttered, his heart torn apart,
but his brain can now work, no longer locked on an immutable target,
it was like a great weight was lifted.
The cogs in his brain moved, shifted,
and spun.
So much he had put off, so much to do.
But first rest,
carrying the burden was exhausting
and left a cigarette burn on his heart.
Sleep my merry man, rest a slumber,
for tomorrow is a big day,
tomorrow you can breathe, live and love again.

— Michael Kubler