Jim McGaw's Blog


Hiya. I'm an open-source web engineer who likes to write.

Then A Hero Comes Along...

A few weeks ago I spent some time in Sacramento. This is a city where you can turn your head to check your blind spot while driving, accidentally make eye contact with the person in the car next to you, and inadvertently find yourself engaged in an impromptu drag race with the other driver. This happened twice; I lost both times, largely because, in both cases, the other person was the only one racing. Now...

Data Science and Genomics

I've been reading a ton of technical books lately. The technical world at large, and in many ways now, the entire world at large, has an ever-burgeoning problem with volumes of data. As a society, we're producing more of it than ever before, in almost every domain and every industry. There's far more data than there are people who are capable of making sense of it. If you want to enter a technology field, and...

Powerlessness

"The measure of a man is what he does with power." -Plato This is a poor litmus test because the vast majority of people never attain positions of power in their lives. Of course, all of us end up in situations where we have some tiny measure of power over others. What does a person do when they have leverage over others and they don't think there will be consequences to what they do? A...

Plastic Smile

As of late, I have been traveling up and down the west coast of the United States exploring job opportunities. I'm ridiculously lucky to have found my into being a computer programmer. The technology world is full of extremely smart people with big ideas who are doing amazing things. So I've met a lot of people in the last few weeks. Here's the thing: I smile a lot. I'm generally a very happy guy. Almost...

To Thy Own Self

Last night, a friend and I drove out to the outskirts of Tucson to watch the 4th of July fireworks. As we were crossing the street from a batch of condos into the desert, a dog came running up to us, then ran back to its owners. We learned too quickly that the two girls who we believed were its owners were not, in fact, its owners. The dog was running loose from somewhere, scared...

Heisenberg

In order to have some geeky fun (and largely to test out LaTeX support for my posts), I'm going to talk a little bit about physics today. I've most often heard people define Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as the notion that you cannot observe something without affecting it. By looking, you disrupt, so to speak. This is actually called the observer effect. While he was still alive, it drove Heisenberg crazy that people got these confused....

Disconnected

A few years ago, before I disabled my Facebook account entirely, I turned off all notification emails, uninstalled the Facebook app, and taught myself not to automatically type in "facebook.com" in my browser's address bar whenever I got bored with the work I was doing on the computer. The latter one was the most challenging, since this was a habit that had been ingrained for several years.I heard someone once joked that "I don't even...

Impact

If there were one single thing I wish I could accomplish with my writing, it would be to make the reader more conscious and considerate of the emotional impact they're having on the people around them.

The Bottom of the Pyramid

We like to tell ourselves stories. As we make sense of our lives, we cast ourselves as the protagonist in an ongoing narrative, surrounded by supporting characters.The structure of fiction almost certainly proceeds from our tendency to do this. Even in large stories with several characters that are all given equal weight in the storyline, there always needs to be a central character for the audience to latch onto, who is elevated above all the...

Can Men Be Feminists?

Oddly, I see this question come up quite frequently. My initial gut reaction is: who cares? I would say that if a man wants to be supportive of a particular cause, why suggest that he cannot? I'm not stricken with cancer, nor has any member of my family ever been, but I don't think the American Cancer Society would turn down my offer of support in helping fight the issue because of this reason. Perhaps...