If I Had Glass, You’d Watch Your Ass (Filming Dog Attacks & More)

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 07/24/2013

Fair warning to everyone, this isn’t a refined & edited blog entry. You are about to read a raw stream of conscious journal-entry written on my iPhone in Notes on the subway. It’s another where I curse a bit. The particularly sensitive and easy-to-offend (especially suburbanite) should turn back now!

The headline of this article refers to GoogleGlass, and how it’s going to change everything. So this is yet another SEO career re-positioning article. But also, I go into the mind-numbing suburban idea-killing trap and the reasons I moved to New York and transformations it resulted in my life. It almost becomes the first draft of the opening paragraph to my book. You have been warned.

Manhattanites have a shield that keeps people at their distances. It’s not exactly intimidation or rudeness, but it’s some variation thereof that exists as a survival mechanism where so many people get packed so tightly together. It works great—especially on the subway.

Unfortunately, it just takes so much energy to be “always-on-guard”—projecting the NYC force-shield that keeps us from all killing each other. But, it’s really much easier to be friendly, which is my nature—but decidedly NOT the Manhattan way. This article talks about how I’ve been hurt being nice, and how I’m still determined to be nice… but with GoogleGlass.

I’m a suburbanite transplanted into Manhattan in my late 30’s (I’m now almost 43), and for whom newyorkification is and continues to be a spiritual event. However, one of the biggest discoveries in this transformation is that being friendly in Manhattan can get you hurt! And that’s really just as it is with life in general. My suburban childhood was really the bizarro-world. Examples? You can just get spontaneously attacked if you look weak. The law of the jungle is alive and well on The Island.

Case in point, I was in the woods the other week walking my dog when I was attacked by an off-leash dog merely for making my dog sit and be well behaved, to give her time to leash her own dog for passing us. This was taken by weakness by her dog who immediately moved in and attacked me (me… not my restrained dog). I was bitten several times and the bruises are just about healed now. There was no broken skin. But it shook me a bit. As it turned out, it took a guy that I had immediately prior just met in the woods, who actually know proper dog etiquette (he had a small, off-leash dog), to come to my rescue and kept the woman from taking off AFTER I BANISHED HER, having proven herself useless in helping to find my knocked-off glasses (all she could do was restrain her dog).

This incident is only one example of my worst experiences in NYC being a direct result of being a nice guy. If I weren’t so nice, I would have let my very large, very powerful dog offleash, and that woman would have had to have brought her daughter’s dog home in her arms… oh, that’s not a very nice experience either. Shit, both sides having a brain is the only way you can win. In another example of niceness getting me in trouble here in NYC, I was very accommodating to a neighbor who was sensitive to the smell of Pine-Sol, so I immediately changed floor cleaning brands and told him I was determined to be an excellent neighbor. And then to my shock, in a manner uncannily similar to the attack by the off-lesh dog in the woods… well, you know the rest.

My revelation is that nice doesn’t always work—and certainly doesn’t in the woods of Inwood. A neighborhood guy has told me stories about how he had to fight off an attacking pitbull with his fist, while keeping his own (and also quite powerful) dog under perfect control. The fucking owner of the attacking pitbull just stood watched as could-have-been-a-massacre played out. This guy who fought off the dog bare-handed I know to have a heart of gold. Otherwise, he’d have let his own dog off-leash to do the deed. He stood there and described this event to me like its no big thing. It ends in him being bloody-injured and wrapping his arms around his dog who proceeds to drag him out of the woods to safety. And this is just one of his stories! It turns out my neighborhood is a sort of Nottingham Forest of Manhattan, replete with its Robbin Hoods and bandits. We’re the second largest park in Manhattan only behind Central Park, and it’s full of trails and ancient hiding spots. We even have a man living in caves—I shit you not.

Such a raw existence was not expected when I moved to Inwood… much less, Manhattan.

We don’t always ask for it, but being nice is not always the formula for getting along. Sometimes you have to be the big alpha dog just to remain unmolested. And this was a bit of a surprise to me in my suburban-to-urban kafkaesque transformation. Who expects both the neighbors and the dogs to actually attack you because they don’t like the way you look, smell or tweet? Certainly not by this “idealized-childhood-home” suburban kid who grew up sheltered in the middle literally of (also) the woods—and actually walked a path through those very woods to elementary school every day… often alone, and probably by the time I was eight or nine. It was a different world. My Adi will never have those experiences in my neighborhood or anywhere else these days.

This no longer existing childhood-haven that was Spring Mill Elementary School in the Plymouth Meeting school district in Montgomery County of Pennsylvania in the 1970’s. Today, it’s a head-trauma center, and a very different type of person can probably be found walking the woods. My childhood was way-pre-web. Interestingly, the Internet itself already existed, but only among bit-twiddling university Unix-gods. The world was barely out of the post-war 50’s in which the American dream was ticky tacky houses. Maybe things actually were just as dangerous of a dog-eat-dog world back then, but it certainly didn’t feel it. I lived in a bubble.

I think even more today than then, that suburban dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Why? Well, that’s a big reason for this rambling article. I can not emphatically communicate to you enough: the suburbs holds your thoughts prisoner! Here’s precisely how the suburban idea trap works:

In most ‘burbs, you need a car to go anywhere, and that isolates you and gives you a chance to think (if you happen to be a thinker). However, I believe that most people pop on music or today’s version of Irv Homer (the Philly awesomer-than-Imus of my day) and get lost in the drive. That is the great skill of us higher-form social great apes. Our basal ganglia (or lizard-brain) can take over and have us going on automatic, adequately functioning to live—but only within a narrow band of daily variables. If you’re doing that, you’re caught in one trap: the ignorance-is-bliss trap that exists lower on the rungs of the Maslowian hierarchy of needs—where your basal ganglia (or lizard-brain) is really quite happy living. Motivation to climb that Maslow hierarchy evaporates, and you settle into the daily grind no better than a non-great-ape.

If something upsets your world, good ol’ lizard-brain strikes out in fear. You become a confused, angry lizard—because all that capacity to overcome it was left on the table ages ago by some developmental set-back. It’s not as nice to be a confused lizard as it is a great ape. Great apes can observe, adapt, self-modify, and basically change their daily routine to suit new conditions without being miserable confused angry lizards. However, this ability needs to be taught—layered on with lessons while you’re still a child. Far too often, I see great apes reduced to behaving like confused, angry lizards. Sometimes I feel I’m surrounded by them.

So to deal with this dilemma for myself, my family and my child, I hereby declare that I dedicate my life to not becoming that confused angry lizard. I will self-reflect. I will journal. I will endeavor to forge a brilliant path. This journal-entry is part of that self-reflection, and consequently life-navigation. Congratulations on even reading this far. I give you permission to stop.

I will make the very practice of journaling these thoughts to be indistinguishable from me “making it” in this new information age—because honest, deep, raw, genuine thoughts are actually priceless original content—to the rare individuals who can deal with the bad signal-to-signal ratio of stream-of-consciousness thought. That’s why even though this post is long and rambling, it’s still worth it. It’s honest, genuine content.

I know for example that if you are actually interested in the types of things I write about, you will eventually find me through the increasingly perfect search-filters of Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. When I write, I am speaking directly to YOU, and latching on a sort of you-finding-missile (I was an SEO, after all). If you are here, we have some sort of deep-rooted common connection in this world. I invite you to my tribe.

How else to say this? Well, you will know if you have a connection to me if the concept of being at the base of the bottom of the technology acceleration hockey-stick curve ready to take-off like a rocket excites you. You are a likely member of my tribe if you debate the accuracy of Ray Kurtzweil’s prediction that the technology singularity event is only 28 years away. You’re at the right place if you’re trying to figure out whether and how to adjust your career for these changing realities, to not go obsolete in your job, and to optimize the chances for an awesome life in that world for your future. You are at the right place if you fancy yourself a family-friendly information age warrior.

That’s my personal brand for Google+, I guess.

More specifically, what’s the personal brand I’m trying nurture so I can become financially independent and travel the world while making the future-tech educational curriculum for my child?

I’m a “tech” (an individual in the information technology field) who is capable of standing up to the hardest-core of tech’s (sysadmins, netadmins, devops, system analysts, etc.). I’m a daddy raising a beautiful now 2&1/2 year old daughter determined to partake in her more-critical-than-any-time-in-history education. I’m the husband of an up-and-coming political humorist powerhouse (tomorrow’s republican female funnier-than-Bill Maher). I’m the experimental internal projects guy at the hottest marketing company in New York City (360i, the marketing company that tweeted: “You can still dunk in the dark” during the Super Bowl blackout. I’m a just-now-getting-seasoned serial inventor, with an agile business system (at Scala Inc.), HitTail, 360iTiger, and now Levinux in my wake. I represent a very small venn diagram… but if you’re still reading, you just may be my demographic.

Okay, now back for a minute to the suburban experience idea-trap. I never finished describing the second idea-trap scenario, which is even more frustrating than losing good ideas by zoning out on Imus.

Idea-trap #2 Scenario: So, you’re driving to work in the suburbs on roads that are more congested every year. Maybe you’re driving into the city, or maybe you’re doing the reverse-commute. But either way, you are isolated in your super-weapon-vehicle (knowledgeable of how deadly your car can be), thinking and thinking and thinking. Eventually you realize you’ve let yourself become a thoughtless suburbanite (or reverse-commuting almost-suburbanite) wasting all your good thinking-time with your hands glued to the steering wheel on your way to an environment that WILL NOT BE CONDUCIVE to idea-capture and activation once you get there (work or home).

Layer on top of this that we are all approximately (best guess) 20 years away from everyone being able to (if they want) capture our ideas with “out-loud thinking”. Such a notion is not the far-out Ray Kurzweil’s AI-in-30-years. Nearly mind-reading man/machine interfaces are inevitable and around the corner. They will be based on everyday already existing sensors and the improving of how we do “signal hacking”. The sensors are tiny electroencephalograms that will let you type your thoughts as words with protocols to keep private thoughts private. Alternative to thought-type is moving a poker around your field of vision: poke, poke, poke! It’s a pointer, but appears the instant you need it, hovering waiting for your selection-command. It’s the eternal UI debate of fixed-position hotkeys and keywords versus the floating-positions of graphical user interfaces. The same debate will rage giving the TUI people a geeky advantage and GUI people access  to awesome abilities without all the years of practice. Human nature is always the same, as are the issues regarding choosing the right tools for a job.

And as a final note on this mind-reading tech, we don’t even really rely on signal-hacking brainwaves with electroencephalograms. At the very minimum, we can use the sub-vocalizations that play through our voice-pipes as we pretend to read out loud using super-sensitive versions of today’s bone microphones, ss Orson Scott Card envisioned in his Ender’s Game series. He calls it subvocalization. Either way (brainwaves or subvocalization), you’ve got the perfect man-machine medium-bandwidth ESP-like user interface—and it will be built into Google Glass in 20 years.

I don’t want to wait 20 years! And for most people, this wonderful tech will just be used for boring silent messaging (silent sexting). But I want my secret real-time journal!

You know, I’d really love vim in my head: 80 columns and as much vertical scrolling as I mind-type. It seems the “language” of vim keystrokes is perfectly staged for mind-control. Select an entire paragraph: vip… Delete it: d. The keyboard keystrokes and the actions they represent would sort of blend together, because you could think “visual inner paragraph” the same as thinking “vip”. And then, the modifier action such as “yank” or “delete” could be used instead of y or d. In this way, I can see completely editing text in your head efficiently. Bill Joy: are you still  around and reading this? See, you got the vi user interface correct after all! The low-bandwidth constraints are very analogous to the constraints as next generation man/machine interfaces come online. Very standard thought-to-text dictation will be used when in head-vim’s insert mode. It’s perfect! I already know how to control machines by thinking.

I’ll type in vim throughout my day. It’s nobody’s business what I’m typing—or even IF I’m typing at all—or what machinery on this planet I’m controlling with my thoughts. This is why silent texting and journaling is such a profound fundamental development in humanity. We can all tell our stories silently as we go. Give me “The Wonder Years” narration device please. The same device will be the James Bond super-villain take-over-the-world device, if you are so predisposed. It’s just different Google Glass Apps.

I think about this often.

But until we reach that day, and if you’re a thinker who doesn’t live where you work, you have to move to Manhattan or other similar metropolitan area with great public transportation that frees your hands to write. I don’t care if its a Blackberry keyboard, a laptop, or a voice-to-speech capture process. But it has to be writing. Writing IS thought-processing. You write, you think. The more you write, the better you think. Writing is actually where your secret weapon in the Information Age comes from. Writing is the story telling that gives all those pictures and video context. They are just optional illustrations in your story-of-life.

I’m writing right now, in fact. You’re reading this much latter. And that’s thought programming. Excuse me while I have a SciFi geek-fart for a second. This process you’re engage in right now is the cross-pollination of ideas that radiate up off off lumps of one particular lump of self-organizing matter (in this case, me), and penetrate into the thought-center of another particular lump of self-organizing matter (in this case, you).

So, I’m in your head. Elephant Vampires! There, see? A powerful payload in 2 words.

A little more geek-fart indulgence: perchance, this awesome power of idea-radiating lumps of self-organizing matter can actually go so far as to alter the behavior of other lumps of self-organizing matter into whose thought-center the meme has penetrated. Once it penetrates, it can become internalized and incorporated into that lump’s self-organizing routines. If this sort of fu-fu spiritual geek-talk appeals to you and you think that thought and reality are not the different things they appear to be Wesley Crusher, then your assigned reading is Charles F. Haanel’s The Master Key System. Or perhaps Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. Different lenses on the same phenomenon.

Such reality-shaping memes is where fads, cults, religions, and eventually even society arises from. It’s just a whole bunch of layered-on meme this, meme that. And if the self-help and scientific books on the topic don’t hit home just how world-shaping new programming can be, then try the SciFi take on the topic by reading Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash. One way or the other you’ll realize how important idea-capture, processing, packaging for self-propagation, and letting lose onto the world actually is in being effective at what you do.

Geek-fart over. Back to the suburban thought-trap.

Okay, so you’re a thinker trapped in your car, hands glued to the steering wheel unable to act-on, or even legitimately capture and process (voice dictation devices don’t cut it) your ideas, caught in your daily grind, on the daily commute, seeing others pass you by constantly (Larry, Sergey, Jeff, Mark, Mike Rubin (an old neighbor of mine) and countless others). Keep this habit up for about 20 years or so, and you’ll either go crazy insane or crazy brilliant.

But EVEN IF you go crazy-brilliant, you STILL can’t act on it due to the suburban-idea-trap. You don’t have your hands free! They’re on the friggin’ steering wheel trying to get that week’s paycheck, and if you stop to capture your thoughts and maybe do something to realize them right there when you have the insight and the motivation… well, you die.

That’s the suburban existence.

There’s got to be a better way, where you have no commute, right? Actually, no. The funny thing is that it actually the commute itself that stimulates (my) ideas. My train-ride is like having an hour-long shower with a secretary to take notes. You drift back into your thinking habits BECAUSE of the very commute. The commute is not the enemy. The steering wheel is. The car is. The traffic and gridlock and frustration is.

Fuck it, I’m moving to Manhattan. It’s the best city in the world (as the media has rightfully led me to believe) and they’ve got a subway system. Hands free on the commute. Problem solved! I’ve even optimized that over my 7 years here, getting myself to the end-of-the-line on an express train, so I’m always guaranteed a seat in the morning. Score! Oh, what an unlikely path.

The answer has always been there. Especially as a Philadelphian, I knew this growing up with a tinge of New York-envy—ever since Sesame Street. Come on, every person in America from my generation: you feel exactly the same thing. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Why yes. Yes, I can. Do you want the studio, or the neighborhood on which it’s based? I can show you either one.

When I go outside my door, I’m near where the Dutch bought Manhattan from the Lenape Indians for 60 guilders. There’s a rock with a plaque there to commemorate it. When I go to work, I pass every scene in comic books to where we defended the New World against the tyranny of unfair taxation, and ended up building the best city in the world.

Okay, as a Philadelphian who spent the first 20 years thinking and driving and trapped and being subconsciously jealous of New York City, and with enough time to realize how evil the world can truly be—I wasn’t quite yet worn down to accept my lot in life. It’s never too late to grab the reins of life, climb up the Maslowian Hierarchy, and make a ding in the universe. At the time I realized this, I was uniquely free in this life to make the move—my dad dead, my mom crazy and whereabouts unknown, sibling estranged, no grandparents, and the dot com boom in full swing.

That sounds like opportunity to me! If I could make it there at all, then that was the time to try! If I waited much longer, then the concrete of my soul would have set.

And indeed, a less-fearful buddy, Adam Edwards, did in fact follow his dreams to New York. He made the leap(s) from Pittsburgh to Philly (aim-low / Commodore / Scala) to New York, and then showed me the open door, shouting: “Come on over here! There’s more oxygen in the air than in the Commodore building” (inside joke). Don’t get swallowed up in the suburban Commodore spin-offs!

Adam showed me opportunity, and I took it. He was right, and I am eternally greatful. So, today I ride the subway. I write. You read. I strive now to make something together, because I can’t do it alone. I’m onto something with Levinux. I’m going to keep my foot on the pedal (for once in my life) and see it through. That’s why I need you this time around. That’s why this unikely 1-in-7-billion connection you just made is important. That’s why this particular endeavor is finally the basis for my actual tribe to help me machete my path on into the new economy.

If you just found this journal entry of mine by plugging a keyword into Google and are reading it right now because you clicked a result, there’s pretty good odds I know you’re here, and there’s somewhat less odds (dropping to 50/50) that I know what keywords you used. BANG! You’re one-step from entering my tribe… download Levinux… learn about my mission… follow what I’m up to. Subscribe to me. Someday, consider financially rewarding me directly in exchange for the Information Age Warrior Education Curriculum for your kid. That is the rise of the new economy I will be simultaneously documenting, making, and living. And somehow, I think I’ll have at least as much happiness as the Google Guys, the Bezos and the Zuck.

Oh god, when will he stop writing?

You’re not off the hook quite yet with article. What makes me different now is how very close my writing is to actually doing. The nearness of thinking/doing in the information age is one of the core principles of my tribe. How in the information age, the very use of language is programming and automation. This is a strange convergence. No one speaks machine automation language naturally. It’s another language we have to learn, and there’s no real compelling unified standards, and we take it up too late in life really to do any good.

I’m going to fix that. I will help my kid automate the world to the extent she desires and her other interests align to it.

I am going to practice what I preach with all my systems to-date in my own professional life. I will be phasing out old systems, and phasing in new ones that solve problems in similar problem domains, and wrapping it into that curriculum I help my wife make for my child. There’s a sort of writing for the tribe, prospering in professional life, developing a child’s tech curriculum, listening-to and further writing for the tribe circular feedback loop here.