The Blog of Curtis Chambers

Healthcare Protests

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One of the things that’s struck me as interesting with all these town hall meetings where people get *extremely* upset about the “socialization of healthcare” are the people that are complaining.

It’s a known fact that America has one of the unhealthiest populations in the world, with a population that is 33% overweight and 34% obese (yes, nearly 70% of the population is overweight), and that this is the one of the many causes of why healthcare is so expensive in this country.  Therefore, assuming everyone paid the same taxes for national healthcare, you would think that unhealthy people would be glad to let the healthy take on the burden of paying for healthcare that they don’t really use, while the unhealthy would pay less than they pay now.  Yet the states complaining the most about national healthcare are the ones that have the least healthy citizens.

I guess they could argue on principle that they do not believe in national healthcare, which I could at least understand from an objective point of view, but they definitely have no right to present the argument that it will cost them more money.

However, the real problem I have with the entire situation is that no one is presenting facts anymore.  Rachel Maddow sums it up great with this piece:

Why can’t people just *talk* anymore?  I would love to see a spirited debate on the topic with people from both sides that have actually done their homework.  But I have yet to actually *see* that.  Perhaps if the people with different perspectives presented their points in a logical and rational way, I would be more apt to side with them.

In fact, there has only been one article that I’ve seen so far that’s done that.  John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times last week that decried Obama’s healthcare plan as socialism that will bankrupt the country.  While I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusion, I think several of the reforms that he outlines would be great things to enact, as it will reduce healthcare costs for everyone, regardless of whether the individual or the government is fitting the bill.

Really, when it comes down to it, reducing the cost of healthcare for the average American is a common goal that both parties can agree on.  Now they just have to agree on how to actually *do* that.

Written by Curtis Chambers

August 17, 2009 at 9:00 am

The Blog is Back!

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I took a year off from blogging, but now I’m back and better than ever. I just moved the blog from my own server to WordPress.com, made it a subdomain (blog.curtischambers.com) and gave it a new style. Stay tuned for more posts, as I’ve had a whole year to store up ideas to write about.

Also, for those of you with RSS readers, you should update your reader to point here as the old link no longer works.

Written by Curtis Chambers

July 28, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

SVN Externals

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Subversion LogoI just learned something about Subversion that I probably should have known a long time ago, as it would’ve saved me a ton of time in managing open source projects.  The svn:externals property allows you to link other repositories into your own repository, thereby making it so you don’t have to manually merge third-party code when it’s updated.  Unfortunately, this wouldn’t have worked when I was doing Drupal development as they are still stuck on CVS, but I think the majority of open source projects have moved to SVN by now.

The one thing lacking with SVN Externals is the documentation.  The official Subversion page about it doesn’t really tell you how to use it; it just glosses over it with a quick demo.  I personally found Matthew Weier O’Phinney’s blog post to be the best explanation of how to use it to its fullest extent.  I’m just glad I can use it to reference TinyMCE’s repository and not have to remerge all those directories with each new release!  It’s also great if you have common libraries shared among various projects in your own repository, as you can just keep the code in one place and reference it in each project.

Written by Curtis Chambers

April 29, 2008 at 1:43 am

Posted in Programming

Bye Bye Drupal, Hello Django!

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So I’m kind of sad to say that I’m moving on from the Drupal development world.  I had a great time working on Drupal for the past 2 years and learned a lot about open source development.  I built quite a few sites with it and many modules as well.  While I think that Drupal is a great solution for contractors looking to build generic content sites for clients, I don’t think it’s a great platform for building a hyper-scalable dynamic web application.  Since I’m not doing consulting anymore and focusing my efforts on sites that are more personal to me, I’m moving away from the Drupal camp and over to the Django camp.

I’ve only been using Django for a couple of months now, but I’m incredibly impressed with it thus far.  While I definitely have to write more code with Django than I did with Drupal, the performance and flexibility that it affords me is well worth the effort.   The code is also much more straightforward and easy to understand, which makes the development times much shorter as well.  In fact, with one site that I had built in Drupal, I rebuilt the entire thing again from scratch using Django in less time, with HUGE performance benefits and with features that weren’t easily accomplished with Drupal.  I’m definitely a fan.

Anyway, next week I’ll be launching a new site that is built with Django, so I’m sure I’ll be posting about that soon enough.  I hope to get more involved in the Django community as well!  If anyone is going to SuperHappyDevHouse on Saturday, you might see me working on my newest Django site there.

Written by Curtis Chambers

March 28, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Posted in Django, Drupal, Programming

India Trip

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Sorry that my posting on this blog has been light, but I’ve been in India for the past month.  I’m finally back in San Francisco, so I’ll try to update this more frequently.

However, if you’d like to read about our adventures in India, we were blogging about the trip at swooshcompound.com

Written by Curtis Chambers

January 29, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Travel

The New Age of Work

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It’s 4pm, and so far today I’ve worked from 3 different locations.  And while at this 3rd location, a coffeeshop a block away from where I live, it suddenly hit me that we’re starting to enter a new age of work.  I’m not exactly sure when the movement started, but there’s an overwhelming number of people that are working remotely or for themselves nowadays.  And just like the industrial revolution gave children more free time, I think the Internet revolution is giving everyone more free time.

Let’s take a step back and examine how this all came about. In the pre-industrial revolution era, the majority of the population started working in the fields when they were children and pretty much did the same thing for the rest of their lives.  Then science came in and gave us all these great inventions that reduced the amount of physical work we had to do for the same amount of output, if not more output.  Once these processes were refined and cheap immigrant labor was introduced from new forms of transportation, the children were no longer necessary in the fields and the birth of the “teenager with nothing to do” was born.  But machines that do our work for us is only the beginning of the story.Telegraph Operator

There has also been the rapid development of new methods of communication, and each new method allows us to reach farther and farther away with less and less time.  There have been traditional messengers for centuries, but the revolution really started with the introduction of the telegraph, which transmitted letters across wires at very slow speeds by today’s standards, but very fast for back then.  Then came the telephone, which allowed near instantaneous transmission of voice, albeit at a lower quality than being in the presence of someone.  Fast forward to the technology of today where we have live videoconferencing to anyone in the world, crystal-clear voice transmissions and instant delivery of digital text.  We now live in an on-demand world where you can see, hear and write to anyone in the world pretty much instantly.  What does this mean?

It means that we are no longer bound by geographical constraints. I can brainstorm on a virtual whiteboard while seeing 3 other people at the same time in iChat.  I can play a game with all of my friends from my living room while they play from their living rooms in various other parts of the world.  Right now, one of my coworkers is working from Australia and videoconferences in for the whole day.  His face just appears on a monitor and we can talk to him as if he was sitting next to us.

This begs the question, “What is the future of the office?”  I think that they still serve a practical purpose in many ways because it provides a common gathering place for brainstorming and great ideas.  But really a good coffeeshop or trip to a foreign country can provide that.  And as a necessity to get the actual work done, the office is becoming obsolete now that we have portable computers, phones and the Internet.  The office is really more of a social tool than a work tool.  This can be seen by the proliferation of coworking facilities across the country, which provide the social aspect of an office, minus the coworkers.

So what does the future hold?  A recession for office space and a boom for coffee shops, mobile devices and the travel industry?  A return to traditional stay-at-home parents that can still work while staying at home with the kids?  The death of the dreaded cubicle?  Or perhaps a more dystopian scenario where everyone works alone in their apartments and has no true social interaction with others?  There are so many possibilities.

Written by Curtis Chambers

December 18, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Culture, Future, Society

Disaster Response Technology and Local News

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In wake of the rampant wildfires in southern California over the past week, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the use of technology in keeping the public aware of the disaster’s progress.  Most people know of my particular disdain for local news, mostly because of their sensationalism of mundane or outdated stories for the sake of ratings.  Here’s a classic example of why I hate local news:

 

Almost nothing that they say on local news is something that I haven’t already read or seen on the Internet, and if it is something I haven’t already consumed on the Internet, it usually doesn’t interest me.  That said, having the TV stations do nothing but 24-hour coverage of the fires didn’t help that opinion.  They asked dumb questions in a repetitive fashion, replayed the same video day-old video footage like it was new and they rarely give you the information that you needed.  However, the Internet had a plethora of great resources to give you the information you needed and did it faster than the TV stations.

KPBS, which is traditionally a non-profit TV station, had the best Internet coverage as far as I could tell.  They set up a Twitter account and posted up-to-the-minute updates with the most important information.  I’ve never really been a fan of Twitter, but this is a really good use of the technology.  Twitter allows you to get updates by looking at the site, subscribing to their RSS feed, receiving IMs or text messages to your cell phone.  All of these methods are free to the user and keep you in the know faster than TV news and without all the garbage associated.

Google Maps Fire

KPBS also set up a Google Maps mashup with all the fire information in geographical form.  It showed where all the fires were burning, where the shelters were set up for both people and animals, which roads were closed, which neighborhoods you were allowed to re-enter and a lot of other miscellaneous data.  It was also updated as soon as data came in from the authorities.

The San Diego Union-Tribune set up a special fire blog with updates as well.  There were also hundreds of other bloggers posting firsthand updates about the fires, shelters, etc.  Local news just can’t compete with citizen journalism because they can’t scale to the sheer number of people available to report.

Facebook also helped me keep track of how my friends in the area were doing, as they updated their status and posted comments on other people’s walls.  It allowed me to more efficiently find out how people were doing and keep the phone lines clear for emergency personnel to use.

So what does it all mean?

It means that people are starting to get used to information being tailored to their needs and available in multiple formats, rather than passively viewing it on TV.

It means that given the opportunity, people will organize and distribute quality information by themselves in order to help others.

It means that the few major media outlets will have less control over information flow in the future and that small armies of dedicated citizens will give people a choice when it comes to the type of information they want to receive.

This is a Good Thing™.

Written by Curtis Chambers

October 27, 2007 at 11:39 pm

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