Ghosts in the Machine: 12 Coding Languages That Never Took Off

“Whether it’s infighting among creators, bad marketing, new technologies, or just plain being crummy, there are almost as many reasons why coding languages didn’t become popular as there are programming languages.” The article examines ALGOL 68, Befunge, REBOL, ColdFusion, brainf*ck, Java2k, INTERCAL, VRML, SMIL, Haskell, Delphi and PowerBuilder.

Stories from Soldiers in Iraq

The article “Iraq Comes Home” includes several first-hand accounts from US soldiers that returned from Iraq.  It offers a perspective that our mainstream media usually filters out.  I encourage you to read it, but be sure to have some tissue nearby.

The article begins with some 2004 statistics (no idea if they’re still current):

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed there. Some 77 percent reported shooting at the enemy; 75 percent reported seeing women or children in imminent peril and being unable to help. Fifty-one percent reported handling or uncovering human remains; 28 percent were responsible for the death of a noncombatant. One in five Iraq veterans return home seriously impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Most of the article consists of personal stories from soldiers who’ve returned from Iraq.  Here are a few excerpts.

Michael Goss:

I have PTSD. I know when I got it — the night I killed an 8-year-old girl. Her family was trying to cross a checkpoint. We’d just shot three guys who’d tried to run a checkpoint. And during that mess, they were just trying to get through to get away from it all. And we ended up shooting all them, too. It was a family of six. The only one that survived was a 13-month-old and her mother. And the worst part about it all was that where I shot my bullets, when I went to see what I’d shot at, there was an 8-year-old girl there. I tried my best to bring her back to life, but there was no use. But that’s what triggered my depression.

Sue Randolph:

The military says that they’re giving exit counseling and reintegration. What they’re calling reentry counseling, in my experience, was, “Don’t drink and drive. Pay your bills on time. Don’t beat your spouse. Don’t kick your dog.” All of these things that once you’ve reached a certain age, you’re supposed to know. None of it is, “If you have discomfort with dealing with crowds, if you don’t feel comfortable with your spouse, if you can’t sleep in a bed, if you don’t want to drive down the road because you think everything is a bomb, here’s what to do.” No psychological or de-stress counseling is involved in this reintegration to garrison. And that’s just if you’re staying in the Army. If you’re leaving the Army, you get, “Here’s how to write a resume.”

If you want to argue that there’s a propaganda element to virtually anything written about the war these days, I won’t disagree with you.

The article closes with some challenging questions:

We have no comprehension of the psychological cost of this war. I know kids in Iraq who killed themselves. I know kids that got killed. OK, that’s apparently the price of doing business. But multiply me by 2 million. If I’m fairly high-functioning, what about the ones that aren’t? They’re going back to small-town America, and their families aren’t going to know what to do with them. It’s like, what do we do with Johnny now?

Whether the war ends sooner or later, most of these soldiers will eventually return home.  And how will they be treated when that happens?

I think it’s a mistake for them to be treated as heroes or villains.  Such polarities imply conscious decision-making, but their stories frequently reveal a descent away from conscious thought.  In war one’s thoughts become reactive instead of proactive.  “Do as you’re told” replaces “think for yourself.”  Survive replaces live.

Once you train someone to react unconsciously — to kill or be killed – how then do you restore that person to a higher state of consciousness?  On a large scale, these people will be reintegrated through osmosis.  The typical level of American consciousness won’t be of much help to them; it’s what they’re already being offered, and they reject it as useless.

The only practical way to help such people is to strive to be a more conscious person yourself, such that you positively influence everyone around you.  For every soldier whose daily reality has become, “Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6,” we need others whose daily reality is rooted in forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude.

Whatever the daily reality of the U.S. soldiers, however, there will be far greater challenges in store for the Iraqis.  This is obvious, but it’s also something we cannot ignore.  Whenever I see a bumper sticker that says, “Support our troops,” I substitute the thought, “Support our consciousness.”  No one on this planet is undeserving of support.

Discuss this post in the Steve Pavlina forum.

© 2007 by Steve Pavlina. If you find these ideas helpful, please leave a donation for Steve so you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.

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Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to accelerate your personal development.  By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down in writing, you gain insights you’d otherwise never see.

Beyond sequential thinking

While your brain is technically capable of processing a great deal of input simultaneously, your conscious thoughts play out in a certain sequence.  One thought triggers the next, which triggers the next, and so on.  Sometimes these sequences have a few branches, but they’re still subject to linear time, and at any given moment, you’re following one of those branches.  These thought sequences have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it’s nearly impossible to see the big picture overhead view of a sequence while you’re stuck in playback mode.

This is where journaling can provide huge advantages.  Journaling allows you to break free of sequential thinking and examine your thoughts from a bird’s-eye view.  When you record your sequential thoughts in a tangible medium, you can then go back and review those thoughts from a third-person perspective.  While you’re recording the thoughts, you’re in first-person mode.  But when you’re reading them, you can remain dissociated instead of associated.  This dissociative view, when combined with what you’ve already learned from the associative view, will bring you much closer to seeing the truth of your situation.

Very shortly I’ll share a couple of excerpts from one of my old journal entries, and you’ll have a chance to apply that overhead view to what was originally a very linear thought sequence.

While many people use journaling to record a personal diary of their thoughts and experiences, the power of journaling goes way beyond verbal photography.

Here are 3 other powerful benefits of journaling:

  • Solve tricky problems.  Some problems are very difficult to solve when you’re stuck in an associative, first-person viewpoint.  Only when you record the situation and then re-examine it from a third-person perspective does the solution become clear.  Sometimes the solution is so obvious that you’re shocked you didn’t see it sooner.
  • Gain clarity.  A great time to turn to your journal is when you’re just not clear about what to do.  Should you quit your job to start your own business?  Should you marry your current romantic partner?  Are you on the right track financially?  It’s amazing how much clearer things become when you explore them in writing.
  • Verify your progress.  It’s wonderful to go back and re-read journal entries from years ago and see how much real progress has been made.  When you’re frustrated that your life doesn’t seem to be working out as you’d like, go back and read something you wrote five years ago — it will totally change your perspective.  This helps you in the present moment too by reminding you that you are in fact growing and changing, even when it feels like you’re standing still.

A real entry from my personal journal

Recently I went back and read some of my old journal entries.  At the risk of embarrassing myself a little, here’s an excerpt from an entry I wrote on June 13, 2004.  This was about 3.5 months before I launched  I hadn’t even committed to building the site as this point.

Keep in mind that this journal entry represents my linear, sequential thoughts at the time.

June 13, 2004, 3:24 pm

So far this year I’ve spent a great deal of time on non-work activities, including reading, playing games, spiritual development, etc.  But now I’m feeling my energy return to a desire to really put some effort into my career for the second half of this year and to work hard at pulling ahead financially.  The difference is that now I feel I’m being drawn forward out of a sense of ambition and positive energy rather than being compelled by fear and disappointment with the past.

I’m ready to begin working on business projects again, for Dexterity Software or otherwise, and get some energy moving forward.  I feel I’ve had enough private victory in order to be able to push myself ahead into public victory.  Whereas the past year has seemed like a time of contraction and turning inward, I feel that the next year is a time of expansion and turning outward.  I can practically feel the cycle of energy shifting.

I sense there is a wave of energy entering into my life right now, and I want to ride it forward as far as I can.

Here are some of the things I want to achieve:

  1. Raise my income dramatically — into the $30-50K/month range
  2. Buy a beautiful 5-bedroom house here in Vegas in a terrific neighborhood
  3. Get really good at poker, and start playing tournaments regularly; be able to win consistently both online and offline
  4. Begin exercising regularly again.
  5. Build a new web site at with a focus on personal development, including a blog and some articles, and begin developing and selling audio programs.  Actually create a basic business plan for the site to make it a profitable venture.
  6. Improve dramatically as a speaker through Toastmasters
  7. Be extremely true to my own energy in all that I do, not trying to be something I’m not.  Express myself genuinely.
  8. Write and self-publish at least one book (especially one that can make a decent profit).

It’s very eye-opening to read these old goals, remembering where I was at this point in my life.  This was a time when I was bored with running my games business, but it was still my main source of income.  I felt that it was time for me to move in a different direction, but I was totally unclear about what that direction was.  I thought that boosting my income would be the best way to buy time, so I could figure out what I really should be doing.  In truth, however, I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t convinced I could be financially successful at it.  So I was looking for more money as a way to avoid having to deal with these doubts.  What a mistake that was!

Interestingly, goal #1 was achieved last year… but in a totally different way than I expected.

Goal #2 was achieved 3 weeks ago, when Erin and I moved into our new 6-bedroom home in a “terrific neighborhood.”  Technically it’s a 5-bedroom house plus an office.  Either way it certainly fulfills the original intent.

Goal #3 died a pretty quick death.  In 2004 I was into playing poker semi-regularly, but I totally lost interest in it shortly after launching  I don’t think I’ve played a single hand of poker since 2006.  However, poker has become increasingly popular since then.  New poker rooms have popped up all over Vegas, and they’re bustling with new players.  And not long ago George Bush signed a law that made it illegal for banks to process credit card transactions for online gambling sites — of course that only drives more people to Vegas.  I don’t feel bad at all that this goal wasn’t accomplished.  It was always more of a fantasy than a serious goal for me.

Goal #4 has been going well for years.  I go to the gym several days a week, and I’ve been training in kempo since Oct 2006.  I recently earned my blue belt.

Goal #5 is interesting.  Obviously I created the site, and it’s been a big success.  But I was expecting to create and sell my own info products, much like I did for my games business.  I did create the business plan, and that helped provide some direction, but the plan never accounted for the possibility of advertising income or for the rapid rate of traffic growth.  In a way this goal is still in progress.  I frequently receive requests from people to create my own products, in order to cover certain topics in much greater depth than I can do with the free articles and podcasts.

Goal #6 is still in progress.  At the time I wrote this journal entry, I’d only been a Toastmaster for 11 days.  Now I’m past the 3-year mark.  I’ve certainly made some “dramatic” improvements, but I’ve also become aware of just how much more there is to learn.  One thing I didn’t anticipate was the long-term friends that would be gained from Toastmasters.  Erin has benefited from this as well.  As I write this, she’s out having lunch with one of our Toastmaster friends.  Virtually all of our local friends were made through our involvement with Toastmasters, either directly or indirectly.

Goal #7 is perhaps my favorite from this list, and if I were to judge myself on this one, I’d say I’m succeeding with it.  In the later years of running my games business, I began feeling very incongruent, like I was just supposed to be doing something else.  Now I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  Of all the goals on this list, this one is by far the most rewarding, and it means more to me than all the others combined.  If you currently find yourself feeling that something just isn’t right, do yourself a big favor and listen to those feelings, even if you fear where they might lead.

Goal #8 hasn’t materialized yet, but I expect it will.  I do have a book in progress, but it won’t likely be released until 2008.  In 2004 I was thinking more along the lines of writing a book on selling software online, so the original intent was a bit different compared to where I am now.  My main reason for wanting to write a book back then was to create another income stream.  Today my reasons for writing a book are more tied in with goal #7 — it would be a means of self-expression and a new way to connect with people.

The same journal entry continues:

Ok, so what about creating a personal development web site at

Now this is a different kind of situation, since initially I don’t have a grasp on how to make money with the site.  If it becomes a serious money-maker, great.  But in the beginning, I’d be creating a blog and possibly a newsletter and putting up free articles.  So where is the sales potential of this site?  There are many possibilities, but before I commit to doing anything here, I want to develop a basic business plan for the site and determine how it can make a profit.  Maybe I can sell articles, newsletter subscriptions, and ebooks.  Perhaps I could sell advertising and join various affiliate programs.

The benefit of this kind of site is that it can grow and evolve with me.  I can make some interesting posts that are basic mini-articles.  I can write whenever I want to w/o a huge obligation.  I can just make some really short entries, or I can take the time to write much longer ones.  It’s a nice outlet for me when I just feel like expressing myself.

So where is the profit potential for this kind of site?

  • Write and sell a self-help ebook
  • Offer to write custom articles for a fee
  • Sell subscriptions to the site (iffy)
  • Paid premium newsletter
  • Advertising and affiliate programs (likely weak)
  • Audio programs (possibly the best bet along with an ebook)
  • Donations
  • Promotion of Selling Software Online book

So at least initially, I don’t see a huge potential with this kind of site for making money.  It’s certainly nice to have as an outlet for personal growth, but it isn’t likely to make me super-rich right away.  There seems to be far more potential right now in writing a book about selling software online.

I had to laugh at myself when I read this.  In all fairness though, the overall context of my journaling during that particular week involved exploring ideas to boost my income, so this entry’s focus on money was subject to that context.  But it is true that I was stuck in the trap of thinking that boosting my income was very important and necessary to figuring out what I was supposed to be doing.  Eventually I did work through these blocks and just decided to launch the site without worrying much about generating serious income from it.  Of course, that early income boost never materialized, but I didn’t need it.  I actually experienced a drop in my income after starting because I was stealing time from my games business, but I was enjoying it so much that it didn’t matter.  I think even Erin didn’t worry so much about our financial situation because she could tell I was very happy.

It’s funny that I virtually dismissed advertising and affiliate programs as an income generator with the words “likely weak.”  Perhaps I deserve a good kick for that one, but at least I was willing to try it 5 months after launching the site.  I still get emails from people telling me it’s impossible to generate income from blogging though.  I think those are the same people that emailed me several years ago saying it’s impossible to generate income selling computer games online.  :)

When journaling I often write down my goals and intentions, identify obstacles, and work through challenges.  Journaling has been a tremendous long-term problem-solving tool for me.

My favorite journaling software

I do have a specific product to recommend for keeping a journal:  The Journal from DavidRM Software.  I’ve been using it since 2002, and it’s by far my favorite journaling software.  I don’t recommend journaling in paper notebooks given that there’s such a good technical solution available.

In fact, I like The Journal so much that I worked with the program’s developer, David Michael, to create a custom add-on for it based on material from  This add-on is called the “Steve Pavlina Templates,” and it includes 20 original journaling exercises based on material from  I scoured the roughly 600 free articles I’ve posted in the past 2.5 years and reviewed many of my old journal entries to identify which exercises produced the best results for myself and others.

These are not one-shot exercises either — you can re-use them again and again.

Best of all, this add-on is being offered as a free bonus for Steve Pavlina visitors when you order The Journal at its regular online price of $39.95.  The software is downloadable, so you can get it right away if you’d like.  There’s also a CD shipping option available for those who prefer a hard copy.

I’m a long-time customer of The Journal myself.  In 2004 I bought a second copy for Erin, and she’s been a big fan of the program as well.

I actually wrote about The Journal in one of my first blog entries on this site, but back then I had virtually no traffic.  So I wanted to re-recommend it today in the hopes that more people will take advantage of it.

I created a special page to share more info about The Journal and to explain what’s in the Steve Pavlina Templates:  The Journal.

The Journal includes a free 45-day trial too, including the Steve Pavlina Templates.  You’ll find the download link for the trial at the bottom of the page I just mentioned.  Here’s a direct link to the trial if you want to start the download going:  Download The Journal (4.8 MB).

And here’s the ordering link for the full version:  Order The Journal with Free Steve Pavlina Templates ($39.95).

If you already own The Journal and still want to get the Steve Pavlina templates, those are being sold separately for only $14.95.  You’ll be able to add these templates to your existing software.  Here’s the ordering link for the template add-on.

I do earn a commission on these sales.  I think that’s fair given that I worked hard at creating the templates… and they provide extra value for you at no extra cost.  David and I began discussing this project in February, so it’s been a long time coming.

If you’ve never been into journaling before, this is a great opportunity to get started.  $39.95 really isn’t a lot of money for the value this software provides, and it’s extremely well-supported too.  If you think keeping your journal entries in a regular word processor is a good idea, then at the very least take a moment to scan the feature list on The Journal page to see what you’ve been missing.

Happy journaling!

Discuss this post in the Steve Pavlina forum.

© 2007 by Steve Pavlina. If you find these ideas helpful, please leave a donation for Steve so you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.

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Security Now 99: TPM – Sponsored by Astaro Corp.

Hosts: Steve Gibson with Leo Laporte

The Trusted Platform Module – a hardware solution to security now shipping on many computers.

For 16kpbs versions, transcripts, and notes (including fixes), visit Steve’s site:, also the home of the best disk maintenance and recovery utility ever written Spinrite 6.

Security Now is brought to you by Astaro Internet Security.

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Running time: 52:39

How to Make Smart Decisions in Less Than 60 Seconds

Sometimes we face tough decisions that involve one or more unknowns.  We can’t know in advance what the consequences of each alternative will be.  This is especially true of big decisions like quitting a job, entering or exiting a relationship, or moving to a new city.

When faced with such a decision, what do you do?  If you can’t figure out the consequences, can you do any better than guessing?

Usually what people do in such situations is freeze.  Even when you don’t like what you have, you may worry that the alternatives are worse.  In a way every decision involves a choice between maintaining the status quo vs. making a change.  When we can’t be certain a change will work out for the better, by default we stay put.

Let me give you a very simple method of making these kinds of decisions.  In most cases it takes no more than 60 seconds to evaluate any particular path.

For each alternative you’re considering, ask yourself, “Is this really me?”

What you’re asking is whether each path is a fair expression of who you truly are.  To what degree does each option reflect the real you?

Decisions are acts of self-expression

When we look at choices as being more than just paths — as being creative statements of self-expression — certain decisions become much easier to make.  You may say to yourself, “This path isn’t going to be easy, but I know this is the right way to go because it’s who I am.”  Or you may conclude, “No matter how I try to represent this to myself, I know that deep down this isn’t who I am.  This just isn’t me.”

It’s very important to separate this evaluation step from the act of summoning the courage to act on this knowledge.  It’s OK to acknowledge you’re in a place you don’t want to be, even when you lack the ability to do anything about it right now.  The courage to act comes later.

Here are some ways you can apply this method:

  • Is this job really me?
  • Is this company really me?
  • Is being an employee (or enterpreneur or investor or business owner) really me?
  • Is this relationship really me?
  • Is this city really me?
  • Is this house really me?
  • Is this book I’m reading really me?
  • Is this shirt/dress/tie really me?
  • Is this friend really me?
  • Is this hobby really me?
  • Is this car really me?
  • Is this food really me?
  • Is this habit really me?
  • Is this spiritual or religious belief really me?
  • Is this level of fitness really me?

Notice that you can apply “Is this really me?” to decisions both big and small.  This is something you can use every day, even when you’re just deciding what groceries to buy.

Say a few syllables

If you have trouble deciding if a decision is really you, just describe its attributes out loud.  In the words of the Three Stooges, “Say a few syllables.”

For example, when you’re thinking about changing careers, describe the new career you’re considering.  Is it safe or risky?  Bland or exciting?  Social or solitary?

Now consider whether those same adjectives could describe you as a person?  Are you safe or risky?  Bland or exciting?  Social or solitary?  Is this career really you?

Sometimes this can get a bit silly, but I’m certain you’ll gain some interesting insights if you just humor me and do it.

If you’re feeling bold, do the same for your your closest relationships.  It will teach you a great deal about which people are the best fits for you.  If your current relationship feels a bit off, this process will show you why.  You’ll be able to see where your true self and your current reality are misaligned.

A personal example – shopping for a desk

Three weeks ago Erin and I moved to a new house, and I wanted to get a new desk for my office.  (My old desk was 14 years old and so worn down that charities didn’t even want it.  I opted to use it for martial arts practice until it was a pile of sawdust.)  This time I wanted a high-quality desk that would last me a long time instead of the particle board special I bought for $99 after college.

I made a detailed list of criteria for what I wanted, took measurements of the available space, and gave myself an unlimited budget.  I browsed through many local furniture stores and searched through office furniture web sites, but nothing really grabbed me.  I started thinking maybe I should have a custom desk built, but that seemed like overkill.  I started to get a bit frustrated, and my new home office remained deskless for several days.  I thought to myself, “This should be an easy problem to solve, especially with no fixed budget.  I must be making this harder than necessary somehow.”

Eventually I stepped back and asked myself if there was a better way to find the right desk.  I didn’t want to settle for something I didn’t like, but I realized that instead of trying to find something that met my far-too-anal list of criteria, what I really wanted was a desk that would suit me, something that would reflect the kind of person I am.

So I decided to make the decision by looking at each candidate desk and asking myself, ”Is this really me?”  I went back to the same local stores, and it was an amazingly different experience.  Instead of looking for what I wanted, I looked for who I was.  I looked around for something that was me in the form of a desk.

Yeah, I know that sounds weird.  In fact, I actually wanted to find a desk that was a bit weird.  If it wasn’t a little weird, it wouldn’t be me.  When I saw a desk that I thought anyone would appreciate, I knew it wasn’t for me.

Normally I hate shopping, but I actually enjoyed the experience this time.  I’d probably enjoy shopping a lot more if I always did it this way.  I’d look at a very ornate and classy desk, and I’d say, ”That’s not it.  I’m not an ornate and frilly person.”  I’d see a heavy, solid desk that only Superman could lift and say, “That one is too heavy.  I’m lighter than that.”  I’d see the cheap particle board furniture and think, “Nope.  I’m more durable and tougher than that.”

That sounds a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, doesn’t it?

Eventually I sat down at an unusual desk that caught my eye.  It was an elegant mix of glass, metal, and wood.  It felt almost familiar when I sat down, but in an alien sort of way.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  It definitely wasn’t love at first sight, but there was a compelling infatuation.  I became very curious about it.

This was a desk I’d previously bypassed because at a glance I could tell it didn’t fit my initial criteria.  This time when I asked, “Is this me?” the answer didn’t come back as an immediate yes.  I had to think about it.  I described the desk to myself.  I said, “This desk is clean, efficient, organized, transparent, flowing, intelligent, creative, and well-constructed.  Some people would love this desk, but others would find it rubs them the wrong way.  I’m not sure if I like it, but it certainly grabs my attention.  I could never be bored in a room with this thing.”

I soon realized this was the right desk for me because I was describing myself.  Having used it for a couple weeks now, I’ve grown to really love it.  It’s just so me.  :)

(If you’re curious to see the desk I ended up purchasing, it’s the Stockton collection from The Sharper Image, available from Office Max.  I got the matching bookcase too.  It was $600 for the 5-piece set I bought… worth every penny.  And no, that’s not an affiliate link.  That would be too weird making money from selling myself in desk form.)

So here was a decision that was important to me – I’ll use my desk a lot, so it’s worthwhile to get a good one — but I was making the decision way too complicated.  Asking, “Is this me?” cut through the complexity and allowed me to figure out my true criteria.  Every desk I considered helped me converge on the final solution.

Again, I fully realize this must sound plenty weird to someone who’s never tried it.  So don’t be someone who’s never tried it.  :)

Positive reinforcement

When making decisions via the “Is this me?” method, you’re using an idealized version of yourself for the comparison.  This is your best self.  It’s who you are in your dreams and goals, who you want to be.

What happens when you begin to fill your life with people, places, and objects that reasonably reflect your true self?  By osmosis you’ll begin to take on more of those qualities yourself.  Just sitting behind my new desk makes me feel more organized, efficient, and creative.  It’s a constant reminder of the kind of person I strive to be.  Even when reality falls a bit short, I keep coming back to this daily positive reinforcement.  I don’t even have to think about it.  For further thoughts on this line of thinking, see the article Environmental Reinforcement of Your Goals.

I’ve been using this “Is this me?” method a lot lately.  I recently taught it to Erin, and she’s been telling me how much she likes it too.  When we go furniture shopping, we’ll look at a piece and say, “Is this really us?”  So far we always seem to be in agreement.  It’s a great way to make sure we’re on the same page.

Look around you.  What can you say is really you?  What isn’t?  What can you do about it?

Discuss this post in the Steve Pavlina forum.

© 2007 by Steve Pavlina. If you find these ideas helpful, please leave a donation for Steve so you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.

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