Bold Predictions for the 2020s

Yeah, who knows what will really happen? But here are my predictions (i.e., wild guesses).

  • The Jeffrey Epstein estate and Ghislaine Maxwell cases, as well as the Biden Ukraine case, and some as-yet-lesser-known cases, will rock the entire Western world for several years. Donald Trump will not be among those indicted, but he will continue to be smack dab in the middle of it all. The Clintons and the Bidens will be among those indicted. We will discover that the world has largely been run by literal, not figurative, criminal cartels of one kind or another.
  • Several of the people ultimately punished in these cases will be Democratic politicians and celebrities, as well as once-respected Establishment Republicans. This will cause a crisis in American politics as we find that "Americanism" was maligned as "populism" and that we actually like Americanism. But exactly how that will play out remains to be seen. The country will not break up. Democracy and what has been called the "American civil religion" will be renewed, as we will look back on 1992-2020 (at least) with horror and as a near-miss at a second civil war.
  • As more and more people learn about the utter decadence of certain of our "elites," and that our mass media has been systematically manipulated by cultural architects (so to speak) for decades, there will be a massive exodus away from traditional media and a massive resurgence of traditional Christianity in the West.
  • Donald Trump will be re-elected in 2020. Sorry. Hard to see past 2020, because the political situation in the country will probably look very different by 2024.
  • The massive recent revelations about Facebook, Google, and others are a slow-moving avalanche threatening to bury these companies. A few will not survive the decade. Even bigger revelations (not least of which are the associations with Epstein and Epstein-style networks) and massive new movements will overwhelm their economic power base.
  • New Internet companies, more committed to privacy and free speech, will offer open source solutions integrated tightly with old-fashioned decentralized networks and open data standards. We will see, just for example, a massive new decentralized encyclopedia network that connects all existing encyclopedias in a centerless, leaderless way, and makes it easy for people to go head-to-head with existing offerings via their own blogs.
  • The popularity of personal servers (like my Synology NAS) will grow steadily, until even grandma knows about them as a better alternative to Dropbox. The software these servers run will become every bit as good as cloud-based apps offered by, e.g., Google (such as Docs, Sheets, and Drive). "Rolling your own" will happen a lot more by the decade's end, because the software for doing so will be much more powerful.
  • We will probably not see general AI this decade, unless this has been developed secretly—i.e., unless giant corporations and, more likely, military programs have made much more progress than we knew about. We will likely see some massive new technological breakthrough on the order of the invention of the personal compute. Possibly a medical breakthrough. Of course, some technologies that are already well-developed but not in mass use will come into mass use, such as commercial space travel and ever-more integrated "smart" devices (that will be run via your own NAS rather than via a cloud server).
  • We will all get ten years older. Both of my boys will become adults. I will start enjoying more free time. I might actually publish a book sometime this decade, but don't hold your breath.

Things I don't understand even after they are explained to me

  1. Why public art is so ugly.
  2. Why the public are not up in arms about the ugliness of public art.
  3. Why I continue to drink and even occasionally desire beer even though it isn't actually that tasty to me.
  4. Why people are evil. (Some people really are. No, some people are really, really evil, if you didn't know. If you claim not to know, then either you haven't seen enough of the world to know, or you're lying. Or you have a stupid philosophical theory.)
  5. Why philosophers put so much work into some pretty transparently stupid philosophical theories.
  6. How people who have been taught the tools of critical thinking and independent reasoning end up following each other in what are more or less intellectual mobs.
  7. Why rich people pay massive amounts for truly ugly buildings that they proceed to work or live in. They can't possibly like being there.
  8. Why parents and teachers continue to tolerate the entire appalling textbook system, generation after generation. (Most textbooks suck surprisingly badly upon a little examination.)
  9. Why there are so many people in the orbit of the Clintons who were murdered, committed suicide, or died in a plane crash.
  10. Why gazillionaires, who could buy whatever the hell they wanted, choose to buy some of the most godawful dreck on the market for millions of dollars.
  11. Why so many serious people seem to take such artistic taste seriously. (It can't just be because a lot of money is spent.)
  12. Why public opinion about gay marriage apparently changed on a dime. (I have a theory, but I don't find it that convincing.)
  13. Why some psychologists and journalists write things that for all the world look like pedophilia apology—as if the mental health of pedophiles were somehow more important than protecting children from predators.
  14. Why there aren't more journalists that seem to care very sincerely about neutrality.
  15. Why, despite rough attempts, no one has made a real, credible effort to start a really neutral news service. (You'd have to think through what this really requires. Why hasn't anyone done so? I don't get it.)
  16. Why more quite intelligent people become such idiots when they talk or write about politics. Most people lose about 20 IQ points when they write about politics.
  17. Why people allowed child abuse to go on in the Catholic Church, and other institutions, for so long; why management seems to tolerate it and not keep a sharp lookout for it.
  18. Why educational psychologists have not systematically examined the very real (and quite easy-to-prove) phenomenon of teaching babies and toddlers to read. Makes no sense to me at all.
  19. Why Republican politicians keep voting for higher spending and, often, higher taxes.
  20. Why there are next to no schools that get rid of grades in preference to ability grouping.
  21. Why we seem so chummy with Saudi Arabia in particular, and not necessarily with other oil-producers.
  22. Why so many politicians believe in astrology. How do you get to such a position of responsibility and still believe in fairy tales?

Yes, I know I have a lot to learn still.

More coming.

The meeting of the Larrys

Today I was on Larry King Now (his Hulu/YouTube/RT program, similar to the old CNN "Larry King Live"). I was on a half-hour panel about blockchain with XYO's Markus Levin and Eric Tippetts of NASGO. It's due out March 1.

Here are some pictures:

Larry and the panelists

The two Larrys (Larries?)

Everipedia (Sam Kazemian and moi) meets the master of interviewing

Striking a Larry King-esque pose

Further, alarming evidence of Larry's creeping geekhood

Isn't she beautiful

Yes, I'm another one who has plunked down unnecessary amounts of money just to get a keyboard with keys that bump, click, and have precise activation points, and with switches that people care a lot about, changeable keys, etc. So far, I don't regret the purchase one bit and I'm rather happy with it. And proud, since here I am bragging about it.

Not only did I get one of these contraptions, called a mechanical keyboard, I totally geeked out and got a 61-key (so called "60%") keyboard. This cut out the function keys, the arrow keys, the number pad, etc. How do I type all that stuff? What about when I want to do a screen capture? Well, for that there is the function layer. In fact, there is the default function layer, which has things like the arrow keys (on my keyboard, they're the green keys, I, J, K, L), as well as three more programming function layers. I don't have to use the Fn key to activate the function layer, either; I can use the Caps Lock key, which I reassigned to Fn with a simple dip switch. So if I want to print the screen, I simply type Fn (or Caps Lock) + p.

I bought the above keyboard from WASD Keyboards. They allow you to choose your keys and choose what is printed on your keys (see what I have on my space bar?). Mine is fitted with the both-bumpy-and-clicky Cherry MX Blue switches, and I can confirm that the bumpyclickiness is "satisfying," whatever that means, in this context, exactly. I do feel approximately 5% geekier, which puts my geekiness ratio might higher than it was not that long ago, what with having installed Linux and starting to really pay attention to privacy. (Speaking of privacy, as some have observed, I need to make https: . I will soonish, honest.)

So why spend this money (OK, it was $160) on a keyboard? The usual reasons are mine, too: the keys are rather more pleasurable to type on (it's true! The sense of precision is great!). The colors on the self-designed keys make me happy. The high quality also makes me happy. And as for the reasons for a 60% keyboard: I think it will make me a faster writer and coder, as I don't have to leave the center of the keyboard (I'm already seeing this to be the case). It also means I don't have to reach over the extra keys to get to the mouse, so my fingers can be directly in front of me, with the keyboard centered in front of my monitors. I couldn't do this with my old keyboard, which hogged the desk. My workspace is simpler now and that's actually a bigger deal than I thought it would be.

Normally, I would have put the above paragraphs on Facebook and/or Twitter. Instead, as part of my movement away from social media, I decided to put it on my blog and let people find it their own damn selves, and if not many people do find it, and if it has zero chance of "going viral," ask me if I care.

Eric the Omnipotent

I've been making up a bedtime story for my boys (ages 12 and 8). I decided to start writing it down. What I have below is the first few evenings' worth. I have a fair bit to catch up; there will be adventures at school, making money, and trips here and there. I thought I'd share it on my blog to invite some feedback. Let me know what you think.

Chapter One

upon a time, there was a boy named Eric, age 10, who lay dreaming of
bacon. It was a very vivid dream. He saw it cooked to perfection in a
pan; he smelled that inviting, savory smell; he even heard it
sizzling. Then, in his dream, he saw the gorgeous bacon removed from
the pan, ready to eat on a plate. There was a lot of it, but not too
much. It was the perfect
amount of perfect bacon.

Then Eric jolted
awake and sat up and rubbed his eyes. Next to him, on his nightstand,
was just the plate of bacon that he had dreamed. It was still

“Gee, thanks,
Mom!” he called out.

Eric looked for his
mother to appear in the doorway, but no one did and no one replied.
Eric shrugged and took a piece of bacon. It was, indeed, just as
perfect as in his dream. It didn’t burn his fingers, but it was
crispy hot, and delicious.

“Eric!” his
mother, Martha, called out from his doorway. “Where did that bacon
come from?”

He looked up with a
wrinkled brow. “I don’t know. You mean you didn’t make it?”

“No, I did not,”
she said, sternly. “I didn’t give you permission to—” She
stopped herself, then said,
“Wait.” She shook her head with
her eyes closed and yawned. “I don’t remember buying bacon.”

four-year-old sister, Molly, appeared in the doorway with a frown of
deep confusion on her face. She spotted the bacon and immediately ran
and snatched a piece. “Yum!” she exclaimed.

By this time Eric’s
father, Frank, appeared over Martha’s shoulder and said, “Where’d
the bacon come from?” Then: “Wow, did you make that yourself,
son? Looks good.”

“I didn’t buy
bacon, Frank,” Martha said. “You must have.”

Frank looked at
Martha, nonplussed. “I...don’t buy bacon,” he said, as he
walked over and helped himself to a piece.

“I know you don’t,
but you must have,”
Martha said.

didn’t. Swear to God.”

eyebrows raised and she shrugged her shoulders. “O...kay, guys,
whatever. Enjoy your
bacon.” She got herself a piece and went off.

Frank said, “I didn’t buy that bacon. And I didn’t make that
bacon. And if I know your mother, and I think I do, I don’t think
she—”Just as Martha had, Frank
stopped himself, then said, “Maybe
your mom forgot it.”

no,” Eric said, “she’s just pretending that she didn’t make
it. Obviously she made

was silently standing in front of the plate and biting into her
second piece. Eric was on his third.

Frank, like everyone
else, was frowning in confusion and thought. “You must be right,
unless you’re the trickster. But it sure doesn’t sound like her.
Or you.”

breakfast table conversation was about who made the bacon. Everyone
but Martha maintained that she made it and was puzzlingly pretending
not to have done so, while Martha maintained that it
was Frank who
made it and who was
pretending. Molly wondered grumpily why she didn’t
get any bacon next to her bed,
but Martha said that she had eaten as much as anyone, so it was
perfectly fine.

* *

an intelligent but otherwise (as far as he knew) perfectly ordinary
fifth-grader, went through his normal school-day routine. Last year,
he had asked to be allowed to come home instead of going to day care,
which Martha agreed to, saying that she wanted to come home early and
work from home anyway. She was a graphic designer. Besides, Frank was
often at home; he was a professor of astronomy at a research

however, Eric found himself home alone, as he sometimes was for an
hour or two before his mother came home. His instructions were clear:
stay at home, do his homework, have a snack if he needed one.

being a nice and diligent boy, usually did as he was told. That is
why, today, he was sitting down at his desk in his bedroom frowning
at his math book. “Ugh,” he said to himself, “I wish I didn’t
have to do this. I wish it were already done.” He opened the
textbook and then opened his binder to take out a clean sheet of
paper, when he noticed that the paper was full of writing. This was a
great surprise to him because, just a moment before, it had been
blank. He was about to put it back, thinking it was yesterday’s
homework, but he had just
turned in yesterday’s homework. Besides, this
had no markings on it. All of
his old homework had markings on it.
looked again: it was marked with today’s date.
He examined it carefully: he
couldn’t remember doing it at all, but this was today’s
assignment. Completed.

he said to himself, remembering the bacon. He had just been
he wished it were
already done. And here it was, already done.

held out his hand palm up, and said experimentally—not particularly
expecting anything to happen—“I wish I had a pencil.”

pencil popped into his hand.

for a ten-year-old, Eric was not much of a dreamer. He didn’t
really go in for swords and sorcery or fairy tales. He was, in his
parents’ opinion, a geek who liked computers and machines. So while
you might think that he would shriek with delight, or grow round-eyed
with wonder, or maybe faint, that wasn’t Eric. Instead, he
instantly frowned violently, mouth agape, and whispered:


he said said: “I wish it were a cupcake.”

pencil became a cupcake, a
glorious, fancy, chocolate-frosted confection. Eric bit into the
cupcake, again experimentally, still frowning. Then his eyebrows went
up. It was very good indeed.

will not tell you everything that Eric popped into and out of
existence just then, because there were a great many things and Eric
had plenty of time. Whole cakes, a million dollars, a very expensive
telescope, a friendly cat, and a wolf were just a few of the things
that were popping into and out of existence in Eric’s bedroom.
While perhaps not a dreamer, Eric did have an excellent imagination.

Eric had another idea: Could he levitate? That sounded potentially
dangerous, so at first he sat on his bed, then he levitated about a
foot off the bed.

was the moment that Eric heard Martha’s scream. She hung onto the
side of the doorway, staring at her floating son and looking quite
faint. Eric floated down and got to his feet and said, “Now don’t
freak out Mom, it’s OK, but—look at this!”

he held out his hand and into it popped another cupcake. Martha sat
heavily on the bed with her hand clutched to her head. You
might think that she would suspect Eric to have learned some very
effective magic trick. The problem was that she had seen.
She had seen Eric actually
levitating in the air, for several seconds. And had seen Eric’s
hand absolutely empty and then, in the next moment, absolutely full
of cupcake.

was close to panicking, because
she thought it likely she was going insane. Eric popped the cupcake
out of existence, which did not help, and he patted his mother’s
shoulder, saying, “It’s OK, Mom, really, don’t worry! It’s
OK!” and other words of reassurance for about an entire minute.
Martha was silent. Eric kept saying, “Do you want me to show you
again?” and Martha just shook her head.

Martha collected herself and managed a weak smile, and said, “How?”

dunno,” said Eric.

I going crazy?”

not, Mom. Unless I’m going crazy too, because I’m seeing the same
things! Look, you tell me what you want, and I’ll make it. Go

Martha said, nodding. “How about a really big...ruby.
You know, the gemstone.”

chirped Eric. “I know what a ruby is.” And he opened
his hand to reveal a
monstrous ruby,
surely, Martha thought,
the largest ruby that has
ever existed. She
was increasingly impressed
and excited. She took the

now a diamond.” Eric produced one and handed it to her.

emerald?” Again, Eric handed her one. The three gemstones were
difficult to hold all at once in a single hand.

I’ll tell you, Mom, I can fill a room full of those, so...” Eric
waved a hand, unnecessarily but theatrically, and the giant gemstones

said Martha. “I liked those.” Then
she fainted.

* *

Eric was holding her hand and looking quite worried when Martha came around. He was repeating such things as, “It’s OK, really” and “you’re not crazy, Mom!” This didn’t help Martha very much, but she didn’t faint again. By the time she was fully recovered, she seemed to have accepted the situation and was “all business.”

right, Eric,” she said, “let’s test you out a little more, OK?
Come with me.”

led her son to the living room. She pointed at a couch that was quite
old and ratty. “Give me a new couch, please,” she said.

Eric waved his hand dramatically and the couch was instantly new
again. Martha wrinkled her nose at this. “No, it needs to be
something different. Not just
new again.”

what?” Eric said, waving his hand and changing the upholstery from
brown to blue. “This?”

Martha looked thoughtful. Then she held out her hands. “Give me a
new tablet.”

appeared in her hands.

open it up to the browser.”

web browser opened itself

searched the web for pictures of couches. She picked one out, made it
larger so Eric could see it well, and said, “That one.” A
fancy new sofa appeared in
the place of the blue one.
“Hmm, it’s kind of small.” It enlarged. “Yes, that’ll do
for now.”

they picked out new drapes, a stereo with large speakers, an
82” television, marble
countertops for the kitchen, and
other assorted odds and ends.
Finally, Eric created a
new sink. Martha tried it
out, only to hear a strange sound coming from underneath; water was
spilling onto the floor, because plumbing was missing. After some
yelling and mild cursing, Eric said, “No problem!” and cleaned up
the mess with a flick of his fingers. Martha showed him pictures of
what sink plumbing looks like, and he got it in right.

on earth,” Martha said, “can you create a tablet and a television
and get a sink wrong?”

I was only thinking about the sink. I wasn’t thinking about all the
pipes and stuff underneath,” Eric said.

Martha replied, “but you don’t have to think about or know about
all sorts of things that go into the tablet or television.”

paused. “Well, but I was only thinking about the sink. I mean, that
is all I was thinking

point, dear son,” Martha said, “is that you can get things

Well,” Eric said, “Hey.
I’ll just, you know, wish I
won’t get
things wrong.” He nodded
his head. “There! Done!”

looked skeptical. “I’ll
bet you still can, though…” She stared into the distance for a
minute. “I know. Give me a new refrigerator.” Eric pointed at the
old refrigerator and a new one appeared. Martha looked inside.

Martha said, “I thought so.”


no food.”

Eric said, “here.” Assorted foodstuffs and drinks, roughly what
Eric remembered seeing there, appeared.

“Where’s the
yogurt?” Martha said. “We had yogurt.”

Eric said.

You didn’t know what was in there. Can you give me back the old

I guess.” It was back with a wave of Eric’s hand. Martha opened
it up. The old food was there.

she said. Suddenly she looked very tired. She said, “I’m going to
take a nap.” Then she
turned around and looked very seriously at Eric, adding, “Don’t
do anything dangerous, don’t
tell anyone, don’t
go anywhere. Just give me some
time, OK? Do you hear me?”


Positivity and motivation

One thing that almost nobody knows about me is how much time I've spent on self-analysis of one sort or another. I'm deeply impressed by people who are more motivated and self-disciplined than I am, and I frequently try to get to the bottom of the many issues surrounding self-discipline.

Recently I've been toying with the notion that optimism is an important attitudinal key to high motivation. But the more I think about it, the more I think it is not optimism but positivity that matters. These are different. A rough gloss of "optimism" is "the habit of estimating the probability of future events turning out well." By contrast, I'd say "positivity" means "the habit of evaluating one's own achievements and situation, and those of other people, highly." Obviously, this is a vague thing. But if you "look on the bright side," you're positive; if you're depressive and regard your achievements as worthless and your situation as bleak, you're negative.

So, yes, I'm thinking that Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking was right all along. This is also consistent with the fact that cognitive therapy (which is all about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones) is so helpful.

I know people who say they are depressed who nevertheless do work hard. I'm not saying that positivity is perfectly correlated with motivation (or hard work). But as I look back on my own life, at the times that I worked the hardest, I was always at the time quite proud of my work or progress, and more or less satisfied with my circumstances. Was that because I happened to be working harder or producing more at the time? Actually, no. There were other times in my life when I also happened to work hard and get stuff done, but I was dissatisfied with my progress. No--I think I was, at those times, simply focused on the positive. That suggests a hypothesis.

I'll be 50 in a few weeks, and I have thought a great deal about this sort of thing, but I'm not sure I have ever entertained this precise hypothesis: When I am quite positive, i.e., when I dismiss self-criticism and instead take pride in my work (and my circumstances, i.e., "looking on the bright side" of whatever comes my way), then I do happen to be unusually well motivated and hard-working. Positivity causes high motivation. Dwelling on the bright side is a sufficient but not necessary condition for wanting to get stuff done.

It's not optimism about the future that matters most to motivation. It's positivity. Optimism means evaluating the probability of future desired events highly. But if you're in a blue funk, then even if you think it's very likely that you'll achieve x if you set out to do x, you'll be less likely to care about x, or be motivated by the prospect. But if you're quite positive, if you dwell long and hard on how wonderful it will be to achieve x, and you generally look on the bright side regardless, that can be enough to overcome a sober estimate that your chances of success are relatively low.

So I'm going to try this out. There's no great method to follow, however. What I'm describing here is an attitude, not an activity. If you're persuaded by what I've written, and want to try it out with me, then it seems to me what you need to do is reflect on everything in your life--your job, your relationships, your material circumstances, everything--and remind yourself of all of the most positive aspects of it all. Then keep those aspects in mind, and going forward, as you encounter new circumstances and talk with folks, make an effort to dwell on the most positive aspects. If you get a B and you wanted an A, reflect that it's not a C; that the course was difficult; that it is, after all, just one grade; etc. If you finish a piece of work you're proud of and nobody else seems to notice, don't let that stop you from taking pride in your work. And let your attitude come out. If you feel like saying to a coworker, "I really killed it," referring to your job, they'll probably support you if they're decent.

I'm not saying you should be conceited or narcissistic. Don't take other people down a peg just because you start getting more positive about yourself. I also think you should be positive with respect to other people, their qualities and their achievements. If someone says they finished something important, praise them. You might find someone's politics annoying, but don't let that stop you from liking or admiring him or her. Remind yourself that politics are just one not-very-important aspect of a person's life, and that your friend is, after all, very accomplished in this or that way, or funny, or pretty, or whatever their positive traits might be. This will make it easier for you to be more genuinely positive about yourself.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Why do I get so much work done on airplanes?

Riding in planes ain't so bad. I wholeheartedly believe they're safer than cars--and this is the one actual advantage of having short legs. So I don't mind riding in planes. Maybe, I admit, I even look forward to it a little. But more important than that, I usually get quite a bit of work done on planes. It's surely the lack of distractions, right? No Internet, no family, no workmates, no phone calls, just me and my laptop (or book).

But perhaps there's more than just a lack of distractions that accounts for my productivity while aloft: maybe it's also a sense of agency or freedom. Nobody's about to tell me what to do, and I know it. I have a block of hours that I know I can dispose of in just the way I like. I might be crammed in a 31" (average legroom) by 16.5" (average width) box by rapacious airlines with razor-thin profit margins, but my ability to control my time is positively liberating.

Distraction and lack of agency are both rather puzzling. They seem to be wholly psychological. What, really, is the difference between me sitting at my workstation at home and doing some work and sitting with a laptop in a plane seat? There seems to be nothing more than an awareness that certain things are possible--that I might choose to do something that would (sadly) distract me, or that someone might ask me to do something or interrupt me. I personally lack the ability to turn off that awareness; I can't as it were put myself into airplane mode. But that inability is simply a decision I make. It's not a bad think that I make it. I don't want to be the sort of person who "gives zero f***s." But riding in an airplane cuts us off, temporarily. And that seems to be a good thing, sometimes, for me anyway.

Top 10 hidden gems of central Ohio

Today my family discovered yet another hidden gem, a spot we had never been to before, in central Ohio where we live. This inspired me to catalog our favorite "hidden gems."

Central Ohio has some excellent landmarks that a visitor would enjoy. The Columbus Zoo is world class; the Whetstone Park of Roses is stunning when in bloom; the riverfront, COSI, LeVeque Tower, and State House downtown are all well worth a visit; nearby German Village is a great spot to stroll; Ohio State is nice to visit, especially around the Oval, Library, and Mirror Lake; the Columbus Metropolitan Library downtown is one of the best public libraries in the country; Franklin Park Conservatory is a beautiful spot; the various metro parks make an excellent park system; you've probably heard of Ohio Caverns, which we love; and everybody has heard about the Hocking Hills. But if you live in the area, you probably know about those spots.

Here are some spots you might or might not have encountered yet, which we have visited several times (or plan to visit again) and which we love—from least hidden to most hidden.

10. Hoover Dam. This is the least "hidden" and perhaps it doesn't belong on the list, but I didn't know about it for a long time. This isn't an earthen dam like so many others in Ohio, it is a tall and wide concrete dam with a massive gushing spillway. You can walk all the way across the dam, as well as from the top of the dam to the marshy, blue heron-filled area at the bottom. At the observation area on the eastern side, last time we were there, there were a bunch of swallow nests. On both sides of the dam and on either side of Hoover Reservoir are places to walk, play, and picnic. Hoover Dam is just one of the nicest places in central Ohio.

9. Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Again, perhaps it's not so well hidden now. If you have little kids, and maybe even if you don't, this is a must-see. A well-maintained, apparently well-run farm following 19th century farming ways, Slate Run features an open farmhouse, a separate kitchen, gardens, root cellar, horse-plowed fields, a massive barn, and a big variety of farm animals, from chicken and other poultry to cows, sheep, horses, and pigs. Just a great way to learn about the old ways of farm life. We also enjoy the pond.

8. The Wilds. Again, many people know about this so perhaps it isn't very "hidden." But if you haven't visited, you might find it to be a surprise. The bus and other tours allow you leisure to take in the unusual, vast, hilly landscape as well as the big animals scattered over a 14 square miles in giant paddocks. The animals we saw when we have visited in the past included rhinos, giraffes, unusual deer and oxen, zebras, bison, a cheetah, and many others. Like a safari, but fairly close to home. Also worth a mention is that the drive to the Wilds is quite nice, especially if you go through the very scenic Blue Rock Forest.

7. Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve. Some of the Hocking Hills attractions, like Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls, are unquestionably excellent and are far from "hidden." But one of our favorite spots is the less-visited but surprisingly awesome Conkles Hollow. The trail is very green and scenic, but flat and paved for most of the way, and thus excellent for small children. What awaits you at the end is stunning, resembling some landscapes I remember from the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park out west. The gorge is reputedly one of the deepest in Ohio and the end of it is a magical place.

6. Rising Park and Shallenberger State Nature Preserve. I put these together because they're both in the Lancaster area and they both feature similarly short, but steep hikes to the top of a hill, from which you get a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape. Rising Park is well-known (hardly a hidden gem) to the people of Lancaster, but worth a visit to those from outside the area. The main attraction is the gorgeous view overlooking the town of Lancaster, but there is also a scenic reservoir, an old house on the property, and plenty of places to wander. We visited Shallenberger in winter when the leaves didn't block the view. We had passed it many times on the way to the Hocking Hills, but spotted it on a map and decided to visit one day. Very nice little preserve, short and scenic but steep hike to the top of a hill that overlooks the surrounding country in all directions, although leaves might get in the way in the summer.

5. Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve. Now we come to some of the slightly more hidden spots. On the east side of Newark is this lovely area, a paved bike and hiking trail—a converted rail bed—next to the Licking River going through a very scenic gorge. Apparently, it was called "Blackhand" after Indian hand paintings on the cliff walls. There are some nice little waterfalls in the tributary dales along the trail, as well as some sandstone cliffs of the sort you'll find in the Hocking Hills. Old canal towpaths and locks are nearby. Also interesting is a notch or gap cut through a hillside, which is a little like a roofless tunnel.

4. Rockbridge State Nature Preserve. This is on the other side of 33 from the Hocking Hills, between Lancaster and Logan. The parking lot might take some finding, and the trails leading to the main attraction—a large natural bridge, or arch—take a bit of puzzling out. But Rockbridge itself is a stunning location, and the rugged hike to it is one of the nicer hikes central Ohio has to offer.

3. Tar Hollow State Park and Forest. One of the nicest areas just to take a drive would be Tar Hollow State Park and Forest, which we visited in the fall—highly recommended. Sweeping vistas. There's a pretty reservoir, Pine Lake, with swimming and paddleboats. In the middle of the forest is a giant fire tower that it is possible to climb, although it seemed somewhat rickety and lacking in railings for our two young boys, so we didn't attempt it. While there we were absolutely swarmed by ladybugs.

2. Rock Mill Park. This out-of-the way area is worth a bit of extra driving. The mill itself has been lovingly restored, with a giant mill wheel. To get to it, you walk across a particularly excellent example of an Ohio covered bridge—over a beautiful gorge—and if you proceed down a path from the mill, you'll come to one of the nicest waterfalls in the central Ohio area, which will strike you as a bit of the Hocking Hills, only a lot closer than you might have expected.

1. Wahkeena Nature Preserve. We first visited this preserve yesterday. We simply saw it on a map, read some intriguing descriptions, and decided to go. We're glad we did, because it's a very unusual, surprising place. Several things make it very special: beavers, a pine forest, wildflowers, an excellent free guide map, and an especially interesting nature center. There are two big beaver lodges at one edge of the pond. There are all sorts of little surprises. There is a floating boardwalk across one end of the pond, which takes you by one of three beaver dams. There are some stunningly tall pine trees you'll walk by on the very nice 1.5 mile circuit—a fragrant bit of landscape, reminds me of California and other western forests. Wildflowers are abundant, identified handily on the excellent guide map. A family of geese with brand new goslings, hatched earlier the same day (April 24), was swimming about. Frogs galore of course. Near the top of the hill are sandstone cliffs of the typical Hocking Hills variety. The guide map has numbers and letters which match numbers and letters posted along the well-maintained trail, with naturalist notes we enjoyed reading—I wish more parks would do this. A barred owl and a red-shouldered hawk are in a quiet area not far from the nature center, both injured, non-releasable, and cared for by preserve personnel. Unlike many nature centers, this one is hands-on and reading-light, but full of small stuffed Ohio mammals and birds of every description, many dozens of them, live turtles and snakes in aquariums, a fascinating indoor beehive and knowledgeable talkative staff members on hand. Absolutely perfect learning place for children.

Honorable mentions... The Wagnalls Memorial Library in Lithopolis is one of our favorite libraries, gorgeous old building, wonderful place to read. Pigeon Roost Farm is a great spot for fun, hay wagon rides, corn maze, etc., in the fall as a place to take little kids, although it's getting a little too popular so maybe doesn't qualify as a "hidden" gem. Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe has swans and beautiful trees—like Rising Park in Lancaster, not at all hidden to the residents of Chillicothe. Charles Alley Park on the south side of Lancaster has some very nice, scenic hikes in the hills above a reservoir. Close to home is one of our favorite places, maybe a "hidden gem" for some people not in the area: Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. Excellent hiking and views.

What have I missed? Please turn us on to other spots around that we have missed! Share in the comments!

Fund me to make 50 educational videos for kids!

I have a Kickstarter project that will close in two days! Unless I get a bunch of pledges in that time, I won't raise the money. I haven't tried very hard (actually, almost not at all)—been busy with other things.

Some salient points:

• I’ve made 26 educational videos for kids in my spare time (put on YouTube).

• As a homeschooling dad, Ph.D. philosopher, and reader of vast quantities of children’s literature, I am the perfect person to write these videos. I like making them, too.

• My videos are popular with and praised by students, parents, and teachers.

• My videos each average 52 views per day, or 18,834 per year.

• My videos on high-demand topics average 92 views per day, or 33,580 per year, about 4 years after being uploaded.

• Working full time, I can make 2-3 of these educational videos per day.

• So I can make 500 educational videos in a year.

• I can limit myself to high-demand topics.

• This would work out to over 30 million views per year (on high-demand topics), 4 years after being uploaded. That’s a lot!

• The videos don’t get stale. The amount of traffic my videos get has been growing year over year.

• I am seeking funding just for myself to make these videos.

It would become a K-4 version of Khan Academy (which is mostly focused on high school and college level material).
The videos would supply background knowledge about everything needed to be a proficient reader.
The selling points:

• Massive traffic, based on years of clear, consistent data.

• Inexpensive: I make them quickly, by myself.

• High quality educational content.

This is a proven, massively beneficial project. What I really want is somebody to fund me to full-time until I get tired of making these things. In the meantime, funding 50 of these things would be grand, and I'll show yez what I can do.

I kept my "no social media during work" pledge just fine

As I wrote in my last blog post,

I’m pledging to abandon social media networks when I am at work, except for narrowly defined work purposes. And I’m asking you to hold me to it and slag me mercilessly if you catch me at it! And I’m inviting you to take the pledge, too!

Yep, so for one day at least—and for many more, I still intend—I didn't do any social media at work. I could have done some related to work, but I didn't have any I wanted to do, so I didn't.

I've had a tremendously productive day so far! (Among other things I promoted a plan to get people to write a bunch of one-fact bitts quickly; and I also started a list of our "beat writers," six listed so far, under the first question of our FAQ. Sorry, you may have to log in in order to see this.)

But, sadly, nobody, not even a single person, took this "No Social Media at Work" pledge. Oh, well! I'll continue myself, anyway!