Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I want to discuss an important project issue with you

I think that spammers, the scourge of the email world, have become inherently more stupid and desperate lately. Below is a screen shot of an email that I received in my Spam Inbox this morning. The funniest part of the whole email is the part that I have highlighted. They are actually going to the trouble of telling me this email is not spam even though the sent from email address is from Israel (.il) and they want me to respond to a .yahoo email address and the person has what is apparently an Asian surname.

I know that my last statement seems a little off color, but when I think of someone with an Asian surname I don't usually jump up and say "That person is from Israel". Turns out I am probably right. Here is what, according to Wikipedia (I know, and I'm calling this spammer lazy, ironic huh?) says the population of Israel looks like:

of total
Growth rate
Of which:[9]





Anyway, it is idiots like this that are killing email for the rest of us. I find email to be an extremely useful tool, and I wish there was a way to find and punish the people who write these god awful scripts that generate this junk.

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Breaking Old Habits is HARD!

One of the reasons that I dusted off this old blog is because I want to really try to create some new, good, habits. I really want try to be more productive with my idle time, as opposed to getting sucked into Facebook and Twitter. And YouTube and Tumblr… You get the point. I am finding that creating a good habit is a lot harder than breaking a bad one. For instance, I can’t seem to stick to a regular schedule with updating this blog. Granted, I have probably written more in the past two weeks than I did all of last year; even if the content was only half as meaningful.

Here are the things that I am trying to do in order to be more productive and healthy:
  1. Blog more. Obviously. I have set a goal for myself to sit down and type something out at least three times a week. Last week I hit it no problem. This week… Well it’s Friday evening and I’m just barely typing out my second post. That still leaves time. But my one idea of the day is to write a post about how I am struggling to write posts. How meta is that?
  2. Drink more water. In the past there have been days when I haven’t had a single glass of water. On this one I am doing pretty well. My goal is 64oz of water per day, and I generally hit that one. The problem arises when I get busy. I normally have a one track mind, so if I am concentrating I often forget to take regular drinks. That makes a deficit that I try to make up in the hours before bed, which, for obvious reasons isn’t a good idea. One thing I do to try to remind myself is carry a water bottle. Problems occur when I set the bottle down though…
  3. Exercise more. I realized that I was becoming a fat slug. I gained back all of the weight that I lost over the summer and it’s only getting worse now that I am between seasons at my job. This is because I am far less active now. So I set a goal of :30 minutes of exercise per day. Problem is I forget to exercise… Do you see a pattern yet?
  4. Floss. This one I just started this week and so far I’ve held steady. I just try to make sure that I do it before I brush my teeth every night, which is one of the few good habits that I have.
  5. Track Foods. I have used an app called Lose It in the past to keep a calorie count for myself. I am pretty diligent about this one, but sometimes I go over my calorie allowance for the day… Oh well you win some you lose some. 
  6. Write in a To-Do list. I do keep up with my to-dos pretty well. Or at least I am good about writing typing things into Things (my to-do app). Checking them off is another story though. For instance, I set up a repeating to-do to workout for :30 minutes every day. See number 3.
When all is said and done I am making the effort, and I know I’ll create better habits, even if it is just flossing every night before bed. How do you form good habits? What challenges do you face? 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Apps That I Love: Evernote and Pandora

It's no secret, the internet is polluted with websites (including this one) and apps. It seems there is an app for just about everything. Although I haven't looked for one and I don't have a need for one, I'm sure that there is an app for telling you when to use the toilet. And believe me, I have tried my fair share of useless apps. Yes, I was one of those guys that thought that the Coin Toss app was a perfectly sensible idea, I mean because taking your smartphone out of your pocket is way easier than digging out a quarter or rock/paper/scissors.

Every once in a while though, you come across something that is really useful, something that improves your life; something that you didn't think would be useful until you tried it. Two of those apps for me are Evernote and Pandora. They are apps that I use almost every day, and (especially Evernote) I'm not sure how to get through the day without them. 

In fact, I find these two services so useful that I *gasp* pay for them. I do this for several reasons; the first of which is that I want to support the teams that brought me these incredibly useful tools. I am a firm believer in that you should pay for what you use. I know, I know, we all pay one way or the other, nothing is actually "free" (and if you think that then you should turn off your computer, go out into the woods and start living a foraging lifestyle). With my subscription to services that I actually use I am giving the companies that I am supporting a guaranteed source of income; I am paying for what I use, and I use these apps all the time.

The second reason, that I pay for the premium subscription is that I get enhanced functionality from them. With Evernote I get Optical Character Recognition (OCR) so the app can actually read and search my handwriting and print only documents. I get more upload and storage capacity as well. With Pandora One (the name of Pandora's subscription service) I get more "skips" for songs I am not in the mood for and NO COMMERCIALS. This was the first reason that I subscribed (that and the cheap price of subscription). I could only take so many ads asking me to sign up for Pandora One. So I guess that I was sort of bullied into that one, but I won't go back to the free version anytime soon. 

There are hundreds upon thousands of apps out there. Which ones do you support? And why?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Today I Decided To Try A Couple Of New/Old Things

People that know me well know that I love to do things in what I perceive to be the most efficient manner. Many times this tendency has taken me to the technological route. For instance, I would much rather send a note via text message, email or social media rather than sending a letter or picking up the phone. To me it just doesn't make sense, when I only have one question to be asked, to get the answer via a phone call. It is much more simple and saves time to send a text message. Yes technology cuts out some of the personal interaction, but it also saves time and money, both of which are very valuable.

With that being said, New Thing #1 is reading an actual dead tree book. I can't remember the last book that I actually picked up and read. That is not to say that I am voracious reader, but the last 30 or so books that I've read have been either in audiobook format (while driving) or in e-book format on a Nook or iPad. Tonight I went to the library, dusted off my library card (which I haven't used since I was married six years ago) and checked out a book from the library. This I will say about the library: It is a lot harder to get the title that you want there. This rings especially true because I live in such a small town. I picked out three books that I thought I might be interested in and they didn't have any of them. So I settled for Think Like A Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. So far tonight I am about 15 pages in, and the biggest adjustment is not having the number of pages left in the chapter at the bottom of the screen/page.

New Thing #2 hasn't actually started yet, but I am actually going to take notes on a dead tree notebook. For probably the past six or seven years I have been using a service called Evernote to take notes. I love it, especially lately that I am able to use it more often. I can search my notes without having to flip through pages, a lot of my real work is done on a computer so I can clip notes from the internet right into it and it saves virtually every bit of information that I really need it to. But I thought that I would try a Moleskin notebook to take notes in. Now I am no where near ready to give up my beloved Evernote. In fact I purchased the notebook from Evernote. With this notebook I can take pen and paper notes and "scan" them into Evernote with my iPhone. There are even smart stickers that I can place on the notes in order to tag a note or recall it more quickly. I had to purchase the notebook from Evernote's website today, so as soon as it arrives I will give it a test drive.

That is my "progress" for the day. What other new/old ideas should I consider trying again for the first time?

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Funny Thing About Bears...

The funny thing about bears (especially Adirondack black bears) is that they seem to like me, and I don't know if it's a good like or a bad like; they just seem to be attracted to me. When I worked at the Enchanted Forest Water Safari in my late teens and early twenties I used to see them all of the time. I wasn't particularly afraid of them because I knew that I wasn't going to do anything stupid around them (like try to get between them and their food or cubs). Heck. when I was there I even held a (tame) cub that the Forest had as part of their "zoo".

But there were other encounters, mostly with my (now) ex-wife, Tyna. You see, Tyna and I used to like to hike and camp a lot. And I don't mean the type of camping where your car is parked in your campsite. I mean the type of camping where you pack in (and out) what you need for a couple of days and sleep either in a tent that you carry or in a lean-to.

The first experience was when Tyna and I tried to hike up Mt. Marcy, New York's highest peak for the first time. That trip was, to put it mildly, a huge learning experience. Our first mistake was a late start. We didn't leave the trail head until about 4pm, which put us hiking in the first five or so miles after dark by about an hour. The hike wasn't easy and to make things worse it rained for about two of the hours that we hiked (mistake number two was not paying attention to the forecast.) So at about 8:30pm as we hiked up the trail (by headlamp) we heard a bunch of hooting and hollering, which we assumed was, because that's what it sounded like, a party in the middle of the Adirondacks. We kind of ignored it and went about the task of finding a place to stop for the night.

We after a little searching around found a lean-to that served our purpose. Tyna decided that she wanted to use the privy and went up the trail to where the privy was located. (The Adirondack Park Agency places privies near camping locations to minimize impact on the environment. Theoretically everyone uses the privy up there so that only a small portion of the area is impacted by outside forces.)

While she was using the "facilities" I set about making camp. Rolled out the sleeping bags and got out a card game for us to play before sleep. I also wanted to secure our food. We had purchased a small "bear keg" to keep our food safe. If you have never seen a bear keg they are pretty neat. They are made of ABS plastic which is pretty indestructible, and the top is held closed by a couple of large flat headed screws, there are no seems, so in theory there is no way for a bear to break in.

Our particular bear keg had a nylon cover that you could use to lash it to your backpack. In my infinite wisdom I decided that this would make it easier to tie a rope to and hang it from a tree. Mistake number three. I walked about twenty feet from the campsite, toward the entry trail from the main trail with my bear keg, clothes line and weighted end in hands. I found what I though was suitable tree and commenced to try to throw the weight end of the rope over a limb. After more than a couple of failed attempts at throwing the weight over a limb (and a couple of curse words in between) I heard a *snap* in the direction of the trail. I immediately focused my headlamp on the trail to see if I saw anything. After a few seconds of searching I resumed throwing the weight, this time more rapidly and more cursing. I then heard a second *snap*. This time when I looked there were two dime sized "lights" hovering in the distance. This was my cue to abandon ship.

Briskly backing my way back to the lean-to I found my trusty camp shovel, the kind  that fold up, and unfolded the business end so that it resembled a "T". I was wielding that shovel like a weapon prepared to defend myself if I had to and staring at the 600lb bear in front of me when Tyna returned from her "business". I can just imagine the image she saw (or at least what I think she saw). Me standing there, soaked to the bone, haggard, with the crazy look of someone who is about to go to war with zombies. She said "What are you doing?"

I replied with all of the infirmness of someone who has just seen a zombie "B-b-b-b-bear."

"What are you going to do?"

Again, and I'm not sure what was trembling more this time, my hand or my voice "N-n-n-n-nothing."

Her "What if it takes our food? What are we going to eat? Hiking out tomorrow on an empty stomach is going to suck!"

Me "You tell him that! I don't think he'll care."

So we watched as the bear tried, unsuccessfully to get at our food for several minutes. Eventually it got tired and wandered off for some easier prey. Lesson number four: Bears are lazy (thankfully).

The rest of the night we played a few hands of Skip-Bo, jumped at the sound of every twig breaking and slept when it was possible.

The next morning I went out and collected our bear keg right where the bear left it. Set about cooking some breakfast. That's when the park ranger showed up. After telling our story he told us that the "party" we heard was actually a family outing that was trying scare away a particularly pesky 800lb bear called yellow/yellow (for the ear tag identifiers he was fitted with). Yellow/yellow had come upon them while they were cooking dinner and didn't care that they were hungry. They were clanging pans together and making all kinds of noise in the hopes of scaring him away; but I think that yellow/yellow knew that he was an 800lb bear and the puny humans were no match for him. Our visitor was probably his mate, yellow/red, she was much less ambitious and also a little more timid.

Lesson number three (I think) was that you aren't supposed to hang a bear keg. You simply take it out of the nylon pouch and throw it on the ground well away from your camp site. This way the bear has nothing to grab on to and it can't get at your food. What happens, in most cases, is the bear bats the keg around like a soccer ball for a while, gets bored and goes in search of easier fare. And believe it or not, that works, I've tried it with much success on other camping trips.

So, that was my first close encounter with a truly wild black bear, but not my last. Maybe someday I'll sit down and put other to keyboard and screen.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day One: A New Beginning

Today I am going to try something new with this blog. Instead of trying to be profound with every post that I write, I'm going to be a little more mundane. 

This is all part of a new beginning (of sorts). I need to come up with some new hobbies, something to occupy my free time instead of wasting it on that which doesn't matter. With that being said, I am going to try to post to this at least three to four times a week. Not because I expect that anyone will read it, but because I need to have a better outlet for expressing myself and occupying my time. In other words I am going to try to build some good habits instead of creating more bad ones. Sort of New Year's Resolution without actually putting up a new calendar.

The first reason that I am choosing to blog more is because it is something that I have always been interested in. I have always thought that it was a great way to communicate ideas and self-expression. I could choose many other outlets to express myself, but other forms of social media are relatively boring to me. Facebook has lost it's luster; I just don't seem to have the energy to devote to it anymore. It is quickly just becoming an echo chamber. The posts just aren't that relevant anymore. Most of what I see is reposts of articles or posts from some of the brands that I follow. And while some of those brands have interesting articles, it's just a time suck. Twitter is even more useless. There is almost nobody on there to keep in touch with anymore. Instagram is cool, but I don't do that much that is visually interesting, and I have a few friends there, but not that many. While I will stay as active on them as possible, I just don't think I have time for it anymore.

The second reason that I am doing this is to write more. My friend Sean Leahy says that the only thing you need to do to write a book is to put pen to paper. Well, I'm going about it in a little more 21st Century way by putting fingers to keyboard. I have always want to count myself as a published author, and maybe one day this will get me to that goal. Don't get me wrong; I don't expect that anything that I write on this blog will be considered literature. I am just hoping to write more in the hopes that it will spark some sort of creativity and energize me to force me to have more "experiences."

So what will I write about? It could be anything really; or maybe nothing at all. Whatever catches my fancy on any given day. For instance today I am writing about writing more, but it could be a movie that I watched, or a book I've read, or something that is the news, or it could be how my day went. 

I want to make other changes as well. I would love to drink more water, exercise more and probably exercise some of my other demons. So this is the start to me being less of a slug and more productive and healthy. Like I said, I don't expect to have any readers here, but if you do follow me I'd love to hear from you in the comments, I'm always up for an animated discussion.