A geek, a laptop, and some spare time.

Archive for March, 2013

Weekend Roundup: Personal IPO Edition

It’s the weekend once again. That means it’s time to poke the Internet with a stick and see what falls out! So let’s take a look at a few highlights I stumbled across over the past week:

  • James Fallows, over at The Atlantic, has a nice piece up about Google being their own worst enemy. I heartily agree with his assessment. It’s great that Google keeps coming out with all of these incredibly cool tools. (Hello Google Keep!) But how do you trust them enough to start using them when they keep killing all their older tools? (RIP Google Reader.)
  • Wired has the story of Mike Merrill, a guy who in 2008 sold his fate to investors for $1 a share. This isn’t a story of some scam. This guy created a personal IPO on himself, and for the last 5 years he has let his stockholders make the major decisions in his life.
  • If you’ve never immersed yourself in the comedy gold that is the Missed Connections, a subcategory of the personals on Craigslist, I have one to get you started. In short, Missed Connections is for folks who saw someone they fancied, but for whatever reason didn’t make the introduction. Pro Tip: You know it’s going to be good when it starts out, “I saw you at the funeral and I couldn’t take my eyes off of you.

Have a great weekend!

Google Search Tip: Planetary Weigh In


I’ve got the whole world in my hands, more or less.

While not necessarily something that you need everyday, it is pretty cool to know the mass of the Earth. Just type in “Mass of the Earth” and take a look. You can also get the mass of the Sun, Moon or most any other planetary object at a moment’s notice. Try it out.

My Precious…


Someone else who understands the
value of a really important ring.

Do you ever wonder how you’d handle an extreme situation? Will you panic? Will you stay cool, calm and collected? Will you be the hero, or just another schmuck? Will you, in fact, stick your hand into a bowl of your own urine to retrieve your wedding ring?

My wedding ring has always been a little loose. In fact, my first full day being married I lost it for twenty minutes when it flew off my hand while I was shampooing my hair. (After more than one complete panic attack, I found it lodged in the folds of my towel.) Generally speaking, this isn’t really an issue. But if I get cold, then my ring gets really loose. Then it feels like I’m trying to keep a hula-hoop on my hand.

It was a bit chilly recently, and I was in the bathroom making a quick pit stop. When I heard the clink-sploosh sound mid-stream, I knew what had happened without even looking. My ring had pulled a Houdini and escaped my finger for decidedly more damp and urine-rich environments.

Now I like to think myself a smooth and worldly character, up to any challenge. But when faced with my ring at the bottom of a soiled toilet bowl, all I could think was, “That’s not good.”

Apparently my inner-monologue is the king of the understatement.

To my ever-diminishing credit, I never once considered not retrieving the ring. (Though I may have had a fleeting thought of trying to hold the ring in place with a stick while flushing the toilet clean repeatedly.)

When you sit back and Monday morning quarterback the situation, you can come up with hundreds of solutions that don’t involve sticking your hand into that self-made quagmire of ick. But in the moment, I was convinced that if I so much as took a step away from the toilet, my ring would slide out of site and then I’d really be up a creek without a plunger.

So, like a mindless Gollum leaping after his precious, I took a deep breath and plunged wrist deep into the toilet. Mentally, I was splitting my time between reminding myself that human urine is sterile and being thankful that I hadn’t had to take a dump. And while it seemed an eternity, I had my ring back in my grasp in an agonizing 3 or 4 seconds.

What followed was a flush, followed by about 5 minutes of the most intense hand washing that a sink has ever seen. 15 gallons of hot water and half a bottle of hand soap later, my ring was back in place on my finger.

I only tell you this in case you happen upon me in a public restroom, hands balled tightly into fists and held to the sky whilst I urinate. No need to be concerned that I’m urinating angry, or that I’m experiencing some sort of seizure.

Nope, just playing it safe. Some of those public restrooms can get mighty cold.

The Pompadour Technique

The Wayne Cochran Pompadour

Pompadour. Pomodoro. Whatever…

I’ve been cleaning out our kitchen cupboards today as part of a multi-weekend spring cleaning project. While I enjoy the results, cleaning house is really not my favorite thing to do. Because of that, I’ve been rocking the Pompadour.

Whenever I’m faced with a task that I’m likely to procrastinate on, I like to apply the Pomodoro Technique. In short:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished
  2. Set a timer 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings
  4. Take a short, 5 minute break. Repeat.
  5. Make every 4th break a longer one.

A college friend taught me the Pomodoro Technique as a way of studying for exams. For that, I am forever in his debt. The problem is that he kept referring to it as the “Pompadour Technique.” It was another decade before I stumbled across the Pomodoro Technique described online and realized his mistake. Unfortunately for me, it was too late. From now until the end of time, my go-to procrastination beater will be the Pompadour.

My crazy naming issues aside, the technique itself is excellent. When you have a nasty, avoid-at-all-costs kind of task to do, nothing chops it down to size quite like the Pompadour. By discouraging multitasking, it forces you to give full focus to the job in front of you. And with a built-in time limit, you go into it knowing exactly when you’ll be done. For me, that adds a certain gaming element to it. How much of this can I get done before the next break?

I’ve used this technique for so long that I don’t use a timer anymore. I just work on a task until I feel my focus ebb, then I take a break. And because it works so well, I don’t just limit its use to dreaded tasks. I’ve made it part of my basic work flow.

The next time you find yourself avoiding something on your To-Do list, try the Pompadour. It’ll knock monster projects down to size in a hurry, and failing that, it’ll add 6 to 8 inches onto your height!

Weekend Roundup: Inaugural Edition

It’s the weekend! Time to take a look around the Internet and share a few highlights. All are good reads, and you might find a new site or two worthy of a bookmark!

  • Brett & Kate over at The Art of Manliness tracked down a 1962 copy of Popular Science that has an illustrated guide to learn  Modern Judo and Self-Defense. I like how all fights are expected to take place in suit and tie.
  • IKEA Hackers has a very nice take on the HEMMA lamp, turning into a whole new kind of reading lamp. I’m not sure my love of old books would allow me to drill the required holes, but the end product is undeniably cool.

Have a great weekend!

Google Chrome Tip: Growing Textboxes

I’m a big fan of the Chrome browser from Google. It’s lightweight, fast, and quite flexible. It also is chock full of fun extras that make it my browser of choice.

Here’s a tip for the next time you’re feeling a little cramped while typing something up in a text area online, such as on a blog or forum. Chrome allows you to click and drag on the bottom-right corner of a text box and expand it. Check it out:

This is the text entry box on a forum. If it feels a little cramped, click and drag down where indicated by the arrow.

This is the text entry box on a forum.
If it feels a little cramped, click and drag down where indicated by the arrow.

Now look at all the room you have. Very nice!

Now look at all the room you have. Very nice!

One last note. Site designers can, and sometimes do, disable this feature. (In fact, it’s disabled on the theme I use with this blog!) So if you find a site where it isn’t working, don’t worry about it. Otherwise, enjoy the freedom to stretch and grow those text boxes to your heart’s content.

Downsizing the Geek

Geek vs Scale

Geek vs Scale

I’m a big geek, both figuratively and literally. As of last month, I tipped the scales at hefty 372 lbs. Hefty, chunky, rotund…  pick your wince-worthy adjective for fat, and it fits the bill. I’m a big boy, and I have been for almost all of my life.

Being overweight sucks, and I don’t have a convenient excuse. I can’t claim that I’m big-boned. (I’ve seen too many of my own x-rays.) To the best of my knowledge I don’t have a thyroid issue. At no time in my working memory have I been held at gunpoint and forced to over eat. Alas, I have only myself to blame.

Being addicted to food is a real bitch, and I’ll tell you why. If you are an alcoholic, quitting the booze is possible. Ditto if you’re a smoker. You can, at any time, choose to throw Joe Camel aside and carry on sans nicotine. But eating isn’t optional. Not eating is, as the medical professionals would say, a condition that is not compatible with life.

So I don’t have the option to quit. Instead, I have to learn to moderate. To make better nutritional choices. Can you imagine asking the same of an alcoholic?

“Bob, you can only drink three beers a day, and try to make them light, OK?”

I’m guessing the success rate on that would be lower than ideal.

If going cold turkey (excuse the pun) on eating is out, what’s left? You’ve got your quack remedies. To me, these are absurd on their face. As I often tell my wife, if it worked, they wouldn’t have to buy late night infomercial time to sell it. People would be storming their offices to buy it.

On the slightly less shady side of the street, you have a variety of over the counter diet drugs. They supposedly suppress the appetite while giving the dieter plenty of energy. I’ve tried them. I’m not a big pill guy, and I’m even less of one when I can discern no difference in my appetite with or without the pills. And while I can’t speak for any energy gain, they did give me a noticeable caffeine headache.

At the top of the respectable pharmaceutical food chain are the prescription drugs. They come with fancy names, lots of peer-reviewed studies, and the nasty habit of causing various fatal side effects. I sometimes wonder if ambulance chasing attorneys pay to bring these drugs to market just so they have something to sue over.

That leaves us with the classics: Diet and exercise. Allow me to start with the latter. Did you know that a pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories? And using a little of that College Algebra I so despised, I am able to calculate that in order to lose a pound, you need to burn about 3,500 calories.

Another fun fact: Did you know that a runner that weighs 200 lbs will burn about 3,480 calories running a full length marathon? That means that if that person wanted to lose 5 pounds, they’d have to run 5 marathons!

Friends, allow me to assure you, I am not in marathon shape. And given my need to lose about 185 lbs, just finding that many marathons to run in would prove problematic.

So, that brings us all the way back to where we started. Food. Diet. Damn…

I’ve tried doing diets on my own with little success. I do well at first, and then I get to looking at all the wonderful food choices I’m abstaining from, and I give up. Or worse, I stick to it, but the scale refuses to move downwards.

But life is short, and my weight is making it shorter all the time. So this time I’m doubling down on a diet. First, my wife is doing this with me, step by step. I will sacrifice many a snack or treat not to let her down. Second, I’m doing a sound, medically reviewed and recommended diet. That way I have someone to sue later. (Kidding!)

That’s right, friends and neighbors, Angie and I are on Weight Watchers.

We both signed up for the Weight Watchers Online program. No meetings, and cool apps for the iPhone that make sticking with it dead simple. And unlike any diet I’ve ever been on, it has a clear and defined plan for teaching you what and how to eat long-term. It is quite interesting, and I plan on writing more about it in the future, if only so I have someplace to grumble.

We’ve been on it for a little over a month, and thus far, it’s been very good. I’m down 11 pounds, which is nothing to sneeze at. I’ll keep you updated. And with any luck, there will be a little less geek around here. I promise, that would be a good thing.

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