Shinsato Stuff

Just some stuff meant to inspire and benefit friends, family, and kindred souls.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Blog moved to

The Shinsato Stuff blog will now be updated at It's a shorter address, it's my own domain, and I'm using the Open Source "WordPress" software, which offers a lot of flexibility for managing the content on Thanks to Troy Worman at who made the switch from, which was the inspiration for the change.

Happy blogging!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Fertilizing your brain garden

Growing up, the dogma of the day was that you had only so many neurons way before you became an adult, and after that, the number just declined. The neurons were never replaced. It was a dismal picture, and I could never quite believe it. Recent research has disproved this idea. Adult brains can grow new neurons, not just new branches on old neurons. Granted, this isn't new news, but the implications can hardly be emphasized enough.

A great article on Kathy Sierra's blog shows that being in an office cubical can cause brain damage, or something very much akin to it. Isn't it strange that so much creative intellectual work would be done in cubicles? Or is it really productive work after all?

Another great blog post from Kathy shows that being around angry people causes brain damage too. Researchers have found we have "mirror neurons" that match the people around us. We just have to watch someone be a rock star, and part of our brain turns into a rock star. Or being around someone who is angry causes the mirror neurons to match, and we become angry.

Perhaps the soil metaphor for our mind and spirit is a scientific one too. If our brain actually grows, maybe it's a good idea to plant good seeds. Like the parable Jesus used in the gospels. And maybe it's a good idea to keep the soil fertile too with good fertilizer. Good fertilizer for the brain as well as the soul. The mirror neuron research indicates that being around happy people would lead to healthy brain soil. What do you think would be good NPK for the head? Or the mental equivalent of healthy fertilizer?

Being a programmer, my sense is it's all about the environment. Having a healthy pleasant environment. The soil is like our experience. Going back to the issue of cubicles, is it any wonder that a company like Google is doing so well, coming up with such great ideas, when it not only gives all the programmers real offices, but Google also offers free healthy meals. How are you nourishing the environment of your life?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Importance of Larking

This post on Bernie DeKoven's FunLog, Intergenerational Playground Larking, has kind of blown me away. There's always been a feeling that play is important for your health, but this post shows scientific evidence that it helps for old people to play in playgrounds.
[...] a "team at Rovaniemi Polytechnic [Finland] [or is that "Funland"?] studied one group of 40 people, aged between 65 and 81, and found there were significant improvements in balance, speed and co-ordination after just three months of larking about on the climbing frames and play equipment.
After a bout of working on the job weekends and nights in ways that did not feel like play at all, this post reminds me I better get back onto the playground, and soon!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Blog Diet

If you're here, you probably know what a blog is. I was luck enough to first hear about blogs from my estemed Chief Technical Officer, Ramana Rao, the heart and founder of Inxight where I work. At least five years ago he said blogs were going to be big. I respected him, but I didn't get it. It seemed a blog was just a website that you write articles on. Now I finally think I understand a bit more why blogs are such a big deal, and why it's part of something much bigger that has been happening on the internet. Blogs are about a major shift from broadcast media to conversations, passive media consumption versus interactive participation.

This post is titled "a blog diet" because diet has such a tremendous impact on our health, and blogs should be a big part of every net citizen's diet. But perhaps the title should have been "a blog diet and exercise". Just reading blogs won't do it. You can't really understand the dance until you dance yourself. Don't just read blogs, find ones that let you comment, and post comments. Even if it's just "thank you, great post". You'll understand the value of this more though if you start your own. It's free, it's easy, and it's fast. I like, but there are others if you want to google around.

To get you started, here are a few blogs you might want to look at:

Creating Passionate Users Kathy Sierra makes technical learning fun with her Head First series of books. There's lots of great interesting and fun stuff here. Check it out.

100bloggers - One hundred bloggers post to a single blog space. You'll find lots of intersting reading and interesting folks to talk to. I post here too, check it out.

In the Blogging World You Don't Have Sex on the First Date - Here's a great bit of advice if you want to get serious about blogging. It can be a money making career by itself, but it also is a great way to market your goods and services.

Make it Great - Check out this guy's blog, it has lots of positive thinking in it, and references to the great blogs of others.

Gaping Void - Hugh Macleod has quite a following, with interesting cartoons. Might be fun, but this particular post has blogging advice - take as humor, but do take it.

Bernie Dekoven's Fun Log - It's about fun. have some every day, it's good for your health.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Building a dream house - or 3

Jeff McCord, a dear friend who lives in Seattle, has been an inspiration for taking the initiative and doing what others would not have thought possible. He left home before graduating in the early days of computer gaming to get a job writing games, moving from one coast to another, collecting the royalties as he began to pursue another dream, directing films - for which he later received a degree and experimented with independent film makers in Seattle. He eventually accomplished a successful graphic artist business. In the last few years, while he's also been raising his beautiful daughter Lucy, he's put his talents to real estate.

Jeff doesn't hover in the county offices looking for people who can't pay their mortgages. Instead he has salvaged and restored a few old homes. One of which was going to be demolished, and instead he found several coinvestors, bought the house for a dollar, and with creativity and willingness to ask, he found a place to move the home. His latest project, he restored the home of the founder of REI, and transformed the rest of the yard into into three inspiringly creative and unusal homes with beautiful views of Puget Sound. He's had a lot of ups and downs with this latest project, but with belief, confidence, and gumption - it's become a reality.

Click on the pictures to link to the MLS listings, but what inspires me most is to see what some dreaming combined with perseverence can accomplish.

If there's one thing that has benefitted me most, and keeps benefitting me, and which I know has helped him accomplish what he has -- it's been to communicate, especially to ask, and keep asking. Maybe take a different approach, but keep asking.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gifts to Resolutions

This time of year, between the gift exchanges and the New Year, the resolutions start to congeald and bubble to the surface. The feelings about doing better this year, making it better. Like writing better and more frequent blog entries, and getting some pictures in here. Let's take care of that one now...
This is one piece of several made by a niece and a nephew as they waited for Christmas midnight mass. Seeing the children of siblings in New York, some new born, some teenagers, perhaps this wonderful entry from my favorite blog would be useful. It's career advice for young people, based on the changes happening in industry. If you're a parent, please read! The future is not in getting a job, we have to think different for our kids.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hey, google this!

A new verb in the english lexicon has only been around for only a few years, but it's something many of us do many times a day -- if you're reading this, you're on the internet. And I'd hope you already know what it is.

On the long drive back from visiting family, through several states (and a blizzard), we listened to The Google Story, courtesy of The depth of the changes that this new company has made to our society, and the changes that it's technology, attitude, and values promise to bring continue to boggle my mind. Google my mind.

A couple of young students at Stanford University cobbled together a great search engine as a fun project at the university, tried to sell it to Yahoo and a few other companies, and when these successful companies wouldn't take it, the young men were forced to market it themselves. They brought a strong value for collegiality, intense intelligence, and a desire to "do no evil". They created a powerful company culture that was about fun and innovation. Everyone at the company was required to spend 20% of their time, one day a week, on whatever project interests them most. Imagine what impact that could have were it to be fostered in all American companies. Imagine what level of passion, enthusiasm, and integrity would be required to make that work. This is what's coming. If your company isn't moving in this direction, you'd better help it get there soon. Or it's going to be a dinosaur. You know, the big beasts that used to rule, but now are gone?

Even having been in the computer industry since the late seventies, I didn't get pushed finally to take Google more seriously until a non-geek brother-in-law showed me some funny videos on I didn't even know about it. Hrumph. But I'd better get used to it. The non-geeks are the ones to watch to that know what's fun and what's cool on the internet.

And when I say fun, maybe I should say funds. Google is rolling in money right now, in case you've been under a rock. If you get a great idea for some web content and if you add an AdSense Google box to your site, you could be earning a decent income from the ads that people click on when they visit your site. Kids could do it. And Google's ads aren't ugly eyeball peeling blinking flashing "LOOK HERE!" ads that make you want to shoot your computer. No, they're low key ads that are designed to correspond to the interests and desires of the people who like to read the content. And they're just a line of text with a link. No flashy images. Just text. But text that earns...

Simple stuff. But brilliant. And it's things like that which will change the way we work, play, and govern. So, you might just want to pay attention! In other words, google this! Expect more companies like google to come around. They've probably already gotten started.