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1st December 2013
Update once a century, whether or not it's necessary
This article is largely based on an article in the out-of-copyright Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, which was produced in 1911. It should be brought up to date to reflect subsequent history or scholarship (including the references, if any).... (January 2011)
25th November 2013
High-level abstraction vs. "efficiency"
: One of my medium-level income projects involves developing some desktop software, and I recognized an ancient argument that I had observed decades before. Here's my response to one of the developers:
> [Y]ou do it yourself from scratch....
> C/C++ people will generally view software written in scripting/high/app
> level languages - outside of the web browser - as cr*p software.
May I respectfully suggest that you please consider that you may be
working with what some might call a prejudice?
When I started writing in C using the Whitesmiths compiler, circa '85, it
had its share of bugs, which forced me to learn Motorola 680x0 Assembler,
as well as many details about how the compiler itself worked. This, in turn,
opened my eyes to how the same tasks could be written with different levels
of efficiency, saving one or two or more instructions here or there.
Here's the thing: It usually didn't matter one bit. The computers almost
always are running far more quickly than the humans who need them, and
this of course is far more true now, 30 years later. (i.e., Moore's Law
The way to approach this is as a scientist: In the few times where it does
matter, carefully measure your environment, and empirically determine where
code needs to be tightened. The answer will almost always surprise you.
High-level libraries help reduce development time and bugs because they
free you from having to think about all of the details. Sure, they can be
inefficient, but that can be addressed if it later proves to be an issue.
11th November 2013
Long, stressful day
10pm; just got home with Cat Lady. We've been on the go all day, and I've been up since 3am. We had a ton of tightly-choreographed appointments, so when one person was 15 minutes late, it cascaded. That yielded the one moment of hilarity that only happens in the movies: We had forgotten to pack the next appointment's phone number, and Cat Lady was getting nowhere with the automated operator in an attempt to get it from Information, (to let them know we were now running late). We kinda gave up at that point, and then turned at the next bend in the highway to see a huge billboard advertising the next person's business, along with his direct phone number in an enormous font.
5th November 2013
Happy 24th Birthday, Sara!
(Please forgive the poor quality, but American Greetings did their darnedest to prevent downloading, in addition to providing a rather broken checkout system.)
3rd November 2013
Missing the hybrid solar eclipse due to clouds, plus there's that pesky mountain that blocks true sunrise. :-) One thing I learned was that eclipses follow certain periodicities called the : Saros cycle
, whose series last 12 to 15 centuries. The word Saros
derives from the Babylonian term "sar" which is an interval of 3600 years. Today's eclipse is part of Saros Series 143
, which spans from 1617 Mar 07 to 2897 Apr 23. Here's a slightly
-accelerated time-lapse visualization of that period:Source: NASA
1st November 2013
I actually made great progress in October on medium-term income pursuits; hoping to blog a summary soon. Here's an email explaining one part of how that happened: :
My name is Liisa – I am the person at the other end of Toggl support, the one reading and replying to your messages when you get in touch with us. Feel free to write to me with questions, suggestions, or just general feedback at any time. I am here for you :)
For now, I just wanted to check in and ask how your Toggl experience has been so far?
Thanks for auto-asking, Liisa's robot. :-)
I've been quite impressed with Toggl
. I've now logged 23+ hours
of work in the six days that I've been using it, so a bit under four
hours per day. Less than my goal
(of six), but still a very healthy
number. (I recently dropped my day-job to 20hr/wk in order to
focus more on building my own business.)
One of the challenges of self-employment is that, while there is
always a ton of work that needs to be done, there's no one that's
demanding details of what was actually accomplished, and it's too
easy to get diverted to nonproductive pursuits. ("Oooo; shiny!")
Toggl is letting me "report" back to myself what I'm doing, with
brutal honesty. Thanks to the privacy, I'm not filtering my words
with a public PR smile. Just the very act of self-observation is
"forcing" me to focus far more time on exactly what I should be
doing on a minute-by-minute basis, (the observer-expectancy
The only thing that's been confusing is: Where is the advertising
on the free version? :-)
Thanks again, and best!
Tangentially related from the world of quantum physics:
Another minor area in life where I'm incorporating this effect is in driving. Not that I was a poor driver to begin with, but there's always room for improvement for everyone. Since I sold my CRX, Cat Lady and I have been sharing her car. She got a device from her insurance company that voluntarily tracks driving habits (in exchange for the opportunity to reduce premiums). Of the four factors that are being measured, there's not much that can be done about time-of-day and distance for the vast majority of my trips (seeing as I use the car to commute to work). Keeping speed under 80mph is pretty easy, so the only other factor that can be behaviorally adjusted is deceleration rate. Thus, I find myself pretty much focusing on just that as I drive. :-)
9th October 2013
Convert video with non-standard dimensions to perpetually-repeating (looping) animated GIF
: [I'd been running into a whole bunch of speedbumps trying to do this, so now that I worked it out, I figured I might as well post it here. Part of my problem may have been that this video just happens to be a 3:4 aspect ratio instead of 4:3.]Sony Vegas Movie Studio
Video Event Pan/Crop
Maintain aspect ratio: yes
Stretch to fill frame: yes
File > Properties:
set width & height, rendering quality good
File > Render as:
Type: .mov (even though Quick Time is much larger, mpeg introduced all sorts of wrong dimensions, aspect ratios, letterboxing, etc.)
Template > Custom
rendering quality: good
frame size: use project settings
frame rate: manually set to 5fps
color depth: 16bpp
uncheck include audiohttp://FreeVideoToGIFconverter.com
Remove "_(new)" from created file name.(I'd tried a few others, but they all had some issue. This one just works.)GIMP
File > Export
uncheck GIF comment
check As animation
check Loop forever (The only feature missing from the above converter.)
2nd October 2013
: Two quick bits before my main post:
My daughter posted to her Facebook Monday evening: "Update: there has been an explosion. Cause thus far unknown. But I'm having trouble studying when MY SCHOOL IS BLOWING UP
." (We were at this very point on campus a year and a half ago.) There's strong speculation
that the power outage and subsequent ammonia leak and generator explosion were a chain reaction to an extensive copper theft. Yes, Sara and friends are ok.
I've been posting about our earlier QR code T-shirt campaign (ironically, from that very same trip) on Warrior Forum
, along with the two videos.
I woke up around 2am with an idea:
One potential downside of running a primarily-audio service is that it could be mostly invisible to web-crawling spiders
. This is important with respect to search engine optimization (SEO) and especially advertising relevance. i.e., AboutTh.is
will place ads on the Basic (free) opinions, and there will of course be more value if they are related and relevant to the opinion and underlying article. The problem is that the planned pages will actually have very little unique text:
I was already planning on fetching the first few sentences of the underlying article for the pages' meta tags and possibly invisible CSS spans, but I need to be careful to limit the amount, due to concerns with owner copyright, duplicate content, and possibly being perceived as trying to game the system. There's also the matter of training the scraper software to fetch the correct
sentences, i.e., what is true content, versus what is navigation/advertising/whatever.
This morning, I thought: Wait... I have legit claim to the audio content itself. Why not auto-transcribe it and silently post that
invisibly? Sure, mechanical transcription is far
from perfect, but who cares; it won't show, (unless you view source), it's much better than nothing, and is statistically likely to capture at least some
of the relevant keywords. Plus, we could always supplement this with outsourced human transcription for the opinions that prove to be more popular. So, this morning, I've been sniffing around for various solutions, from the free DictaNote
to the top-of-the-line Dragon
(of Dragon Naturally Speaking fame). Clearly, the better stuff will be pricey, but the nice thing here is that, since I'm generating all pages dynamically on-the-fly, nothing says I can't start ultra-cheap and then upgrade if/when there's financial merit in doing so.
Oh, and I'm also allowing optional tagging for each Opinion, at least by the original Member who recorded it (for now), so that should yield at least a few keywords, too.
I also recently noticed that YouTube has been (quietly?) auto-generating video transcriptions, most likely for very similar reasons; maybe that's where I got the idea in the first place. :-)
1st October 2013
One year to a quarter-million dollars
Today is now exactly one year left to : my goal of a quarter-million dollars
. I've actually been pretty productive the past few hours, clarifying some of my needs for outbound email sequence ("autoresponder") software for AboutTh.is
. I've been chatting back and forth with a guy who wrote a book
on the topic.
I'm now recovering from a mild cold that I'd had over the last few days. Sudafed by day and NyQuil by night took care of symptoms, and let me do my day-job, but they really played with my head, and sleep and dreams were pretty screwy. No self-employment work done. Not sure if the meds were really worth it. Tons of liquids and attempted sleep. At least one upside was that I was able to drop five pounds in as many days. Maybe I should stick to just soup for dinner on a more regular basis.
24th September 2013
Starting issue resolved
Sunday/Monday were a bit stressful. Hadda get another jump to get home from work. Went to the airport to rent a car to get to work. (Upside-down on a pure financial basis, but there's longer-term reputation to be considered.) Cat Lady worked with the mechanics to take a second pass at the car. As I've been suspecting all along, it was an issue with the electrical path from the battery to the starter: the one battery terminal was cracked, and they had missed that when they replaced the battery, and thus, the primary problem persisted. (The original battery was seven years old, and wouldda died soon anyway, so it wasn't so terrible that it had gotten replaced.) :
Seeing as the rental agency had stressed that they charge $9.30/gal if not returned full, I made a point to fill up at the closest gas station before the airport. It became obvious that the prior customer had cheated on this point, and I put in over two gallons more than expected. I gently pointed this out to the agent, with proof, and jokingly asked for my $20 back, using the same rate. To her credit, she looked up the MPG, worked the numbers, and credited me $6. After the ~35% taxes (!), it actually came out to around the $8 that I was actually out from the fill. I sorta hope that they do go after the prior guy for the $20, just on principal.
22nd September 2013
370 miles later.... We had a good two days; even added a seventh stop, walking to the Coney Island boardwalk before taking the Q train into Little Italy. The car was having issues starting, which we thought we had licked by replacing the battery when we returned, except it just failed to start again, and I had to call my day-job to let them know I'm running late. Waiting for a friend to give me a boost now. :
This was an interesting (and concerning) observation of the consequences of helicopter-parenting:
As I told my neighborhood listserv, when my brother and I got out of the house to do yard work, we were in what you’d call a trade-off situation. We risked our safety, however modestly. But we gained money, work ethic, communication skills, and knowledge. We also got to actually know and interact with our neighbors.Source: What Your Neighborhood List-Serv Tells You About The Demise of America
When the folks in my neighborhood try to shut down a burgeoning lawn care enterprise, they’re also in a trade-off situation. They gain some satisfaction in feeling they’ve made children safer. But at what cost?
Well, for starters, a parenting style that abjures risk at all costs may be at least partially responsible for the country’s economic doldrums. In June, the Wall Street Journal pointed out four trends, observable since the 1980s, that showed a marked declined in risk-taking psychology. “Risk Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs” notes that ongoing job creation and destruction has slowed, that investors are less willing to back startups, that startups in general are down and that the workforce itself is resistant to migration and job change.
19th September 2013
Math is Life?
Cat Lady and I were in DQ, minding our own business, when a (literal) clown approached us, and struck up a conversation. One of the things she said was that most normal people don't have a use for algebra on a daily basis. While this is generally : quite
true, I didn't have the heart to mention the irony that, just the other day, I actually had to pull out a pen and paper and solve for x.
I had a spreadsheet showing the value of a portfolio on various days, and I wanted to figure out the effective APY (annualized growth) between different points in time. After some chewing, I eventually came up with a reasonable formula using logarithms:
100 * (10 ^ (log10
) / ((dateend
) / 365.24)) - 1)
Speaking of math, today is the point that's exactly halfway between Cat Lady's half-birthday and her sister's integer birthday. We're embarking on a two-day, six-stop mini-vacation that will take us to West Orange, NJ to explore Thomas Edison's lab, then to Freeport, NY out on Long Island to meet with her sister for dinner, then to a nearby AirBnB. Tomorrow we start with the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, then to see my brother and family on Coney Island, and my parents in Bridgewater, NJ.
A Capella Science: Bohemian Gravity!
impressive video. Fun how he wears a white shirt for the natural notes and a black one for the sharps/flats. Also, if you have two (left/right) speakers, use them!
An earlier work:
18th September 2013
Getting in touch with my ... other side?
Spending a lot of time focusing and fine-tuning the logo with Chris. At one point, I asked him: :
Do you know of a color picker which lets me "zoom" into the color wheel to select among subtle differences? I don't want to burden you with a lot of back-and-forth, when I can play with the colors on my own. Thanks!
Both he and Cat Lady found a few sites, although none with zoom. I did later realize that I can simply use the browser's zoom (ctrl-plus in Firefox). I told him:
I like ColorPicker.com; thanks. The single-dimension linear slider that lets me change hue (while keeping the other two constant) is definitely more helpful than my earlier "wanderings" around a 2- or 3- dimensional space. Carol also found ColorSchemeDesigner.com, which also offers a hue-only slider.
I'm definitely learning that I'm far more sensitive to subtle hue differences than I ever thought I was! :-) (...especially given that I'm a heterosexual American male, who are stereotypically poor at such things)
13th September 2013
"What the mind... can conceive and believe, it can achieve!"
Astute readers will have already noted that my blogging has fallen off lately. I've been in a bit of a funk in recent weeks, somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of me, and also frustrated that medium-term pursuits have generated practically no income. Granted, my savings squirreled away from the past two years hasn't dropped off : sharply
, but even a gradual decline is not exactly welcome.
So, I'm taking two concrete steps.
First, I bought a simple whiteboard to track all of the "next steps" for every task on my plate. I divided it into four sections: Long-term Income (AboutTh.is
), Medium-term Income (child safety kits, pay-per-click activity, Fiverr, etc.), Short-term Income (primarily my day-job and some one-off income pursuits), and Non-Income (such as household chores and planning for an upcoming two-day NY/NJ trip). I have about a half dozen tasks under each section, along with what must happen next for each pursuit. It just seemed like it would be incredibly helpful to have everything laid out in front of me, in a big/medium-picture view, so that if/when I start to lose steam/faith at 3am, I can see how things fit together, and typically find an alternative item to address, rather than squander the time.
Second, I read an executive summary of how to Think and Grow Rich
in Business Insider
today, and just wrote, printed and posted the following page that I will read aloud twice a day for the next year.
For those who are joining us in observation tonight and tomorrow, have an easy and meaningful fast.
I will raise
by October 1, 2014
the launch of AboutTh.is.
This will be done by releasing
Version 0 by January 1,
Version 1 by April 1, and
Version 2 by July 1.
In order to accomplish this,
I need to work three hours a day
on AboutTh.is, and three hours a day
on medium-term income pursuits,
at least five days a week.
As I read this aloud twice daily,
I see and feel and believe that
I am already in possession
of the money.
(Adapted from Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, 1937.)
3rd September 2013
More Clarity on the AboutTh.is Crowdfunding Perks
I've been watching various successful crowdfunding campaigns, such as one for a : wearable smart vibrator
that raised $130k in one month, and trying to learn as I go along. I've been tweaking the perks and numbers since I first posted my earlier spreadsheet
back in June. I had realized that I may have set myself up for a potential (slight) loss on the t-shirts at $17, with low quantity and fulfillment headaches, so I upped that price, and also stumbled onto a potential custom t-shirt provider
, as recommended
by Indiegogo themselves. I was also charging way too little for the Pro accounts; I can still offer a significant discount while not cutting off my nose to spite my face. Not incidentally, after playing with the numbers, (and the associated numerical psychology
), I've also more than doubled the theoretical best-case scenario, (with emphasis on the word, "theoretical").
So, as promised, I've significantly fleshed out the descriptions of the AboutTh.is crowdfunding "perks"
. Let me know what you think. Thanks!
29th August 2013
Fleshing out the first "real" logo
I'm feeling pretty good, now that I was finally able to strike an agreement with : Chris Yuwono
to craft the AboutTh.is
logo. After all his work on Turn Funny Email into CASH!
, I'm certain he'll do a fantastic job on this. I bought the Museo 900 font by Jos Buivenga
(who told me that this is actually his full-time income; wow). I debated publishing the AboutTh.is logo design spec
, but then realized that there's nothing to lose by making it public, so I did. :-) I'm not keen on how Google Drive reformats documents when they're made public; you may want to shrink your browser window down a bit to read it. The spec's grown over recent weeks; the original is now up to four pages long.Update:
It just struck me that I had started working on this logo almost two years ago, which actually preceded
getting the associated domain name itself by ten months! Absolute confidence? Or sheer stupidity?