The $5 Tool That Will Save You Hundreds of Dollars
Well I recently learned something about batteries that was downright stunning. Shocking, even.
When a battery-powered device stops working, you take out the dead batteries, chuck ’em, and install fresh ones, right?
What if I told you that half of those "dead" batteries that you’ve been chucking for your whole life are not dead at all? That they are, in fact, almost brand-new and full?
It’s true. Since I bought this little $5 gadget last month, I’ve been testing the "dead" batteries that I pull out of dead toys, lights, etc. And most of the time, half of the batteries in the device are dead as a doornail, while the other half are still almost fully charged!
This seems so unbelievable. There’s no way I would believe this if I hadn’t witnessed it myself repeatedly. Well, you’ll just have to try it and see.
How to Be Prepared Without Being a Crazy Prepper
I recently watched the show American Blackout, and I thought it did a decent job of showing how people in different situations might survive -- or not survive -- a short-term disaster in America. (Ebola outbreak, perhaps?) But while it’s currently profitable for the media to showcase the craziest people in the prepper movement, what’s lost in the hype is the fact that it is, in fact, smart to be prepared for disaster, at least to some extent. Some people go overboard with it, but it’s equally foolish to be so reliant on the supermarket and the grid and the government that you couldn’t survive a few weeks cut off from those kinds of external systems.
Fortunately, such short-term survival is pretty easy to prepare for. In fact the best way to prepare is to make it part of your regular routine, so that it takes no extra effort when disaster strikes.
Consider water. Bottled water is the best bet, since in a power outage, your tap water might not be clean or might not run at all. The easiest approach is to buy cases of half-liter bottles, and always keep a months’ worth on hand. So if you typically consume 3 cases per month, then buy 6 cases to start, and never let your stock get below 3 cases. You can even have cases delivered to your house monthly to make it super easy. Or if you prefer tap water, then just use gallon-sized plastic jugs instead, and refill them. Either way, the key is to use and rotate the water supply as part of your normal routine, so it’s always stocked and always fresh. Keep some in your fridge for normal use, so you’re not losing any convenience (i.e. cold drinks) during normal times, yet you’re still prepared for an emergency.
Water is also necessary for flushing the toilet, so keep a few extra gallons -- or a few tens of gallons -- on hand for that.
Next up is food. For short-term emergencies lasting a week or less, which is the vast majority of them, food is actually not that important. The average non-overweight person has enough body fat to survive a couple weeks without food, as long as water is available. And the average American actually is overweight, so has even more body fat and could survive even longer. A week or two without food wouldn’t be enjoyable, but it wouldn’t kill you either. That said, the average American house contains at least several days’ worth of non-refrigerated packaged food anyway, so again, for short-term survival this is a non-issue.
To do survival food right, though, especially for longer-term survival, it does take a small amount of planning, namely: finding high-quality food with a long shelf life that you enjoy eating. There’s plenty of processed junk food that lasts forever, but there’s actually a lot of good stuff, too: oysters, beef jerky, nut mixes, herring, sardines, fruit and seed mixes, salmon... It’s important to get high-quality food because, as with the water, you’ll be eating these things regularly -- say once or twice a week -- during non-emergencies, in order to move through your stock and keep it all fresh. That’s less important for the meats, because all those items I just linked to will last a year or more, but the fruit and nuts are typically good for a couple months.
There are many other aspects to disaster prep: protection/self-defense; knowing your neighbors, since you’ll rely on each other more when cut off from the nanny state; growing your own food as much as possible, or at least, knowing your local farmer; having an off-grid and renewable way to heat your house, such as a wood stove. Always keep a little cash in your wallet, even though you may not use cash very often in normal circumstances. Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full. Keep a bug-out bag ready, which is easy if you go for hikes regularly: just make it your hiking bag, which already has a flashlight, multitool, and first-aid kit, so just add a couple bottles of water and a few food items.
Most of these recommendations are simple and cheap; it’s more Boy Scouts ("Be Prepared") than "Doomsday Preppers". The extreme conveniences of modern life have lulled us into a state of complacency, where we rarely need to plan or prepare at all, since anything we might need is always just a short drive to the nearest Wal-Mart, at any time of day or night. Smart emergency preparedness is about working towards regaining some of the self-sufficiency that used to be commonplace and a point of pride in America. You don’t need a bunker stocked with k-rations; but when you stop taking for granted all those modern conveniences, you realize that a bit of planning and preparing just makes sense.
So, how many days could you survive cut off from the outside world?
Hey, that’s not the forecast I ordered:
I was thinking more along these lines:
A couple of weeks ago, after a long battle with cancer, my dad died. He outlived his initial expected survival timeframe by about 3 years, and fortunately only the final month or so was really bad (not that he didn’t suffer a lot during those 3 years, though). I’ve wanted to say something about it here, but wasn’t really sure what, so I’ll simply share what I wrote for dad’s funeral. I didn’t have the strength to stand up and read it myself, so uncle Eddie read it for me.
The older I get, the more I realize how similar I am to my dad. One of the similarities is being introverted, and being a man of few words, which dad surely was. I couldn’t give a public speech to save my life, and since I can’t remember a single time that dad ever gave any kind of speech, I’m pretty sure I can blame this one squarely on him. But I do want to share a few thoughts.
Dad’s defining characteristic was how hard-working he was. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he was the most hard-working person I’ve ever known. When we were little, all of us boys looked forward to the day when we’d be old enough to go work for him -- until we actually did it, at which point we wondered what the heck we were thinking.
Roofing is a hard job, and maybe that’s part of why dad was such a hard man. He certainly was not a touchy-feely kind of dad. I never doubted that my dad loved me, but I think he viewed his role as mainly that of a provider and protector, not so much an emotional supporter. That’s mom’s department.
Another thing I never doubted was dad’s willingness and ability to help me with any kind of project I was working on -- as long as it didn’t involve the computer. Dad had a seemingly-infinite well of knowledge of all things related to construction -- not to mention a seemingly-infinite tool collection -- and was always eager to share it. I didn’t have many deep conversations with dad, but I came to realize that the way to engage him was through carpentry and building; and all the time I spent with him working on those kinds of projects means the world to me.
Even without being a big talker, dad taught me things about life, most of which I didn’t really appreciate until I got older. As a kid, it drove me crazy when dad would constantly yell at me for leaving the light on after leaving a room. Now it drives me crazy to see a light left on. As I got a little older, I noticed that dad would yell at politicians on the TV, regardless of what party they were from. We didn’t talk much politics in our house, and I didn’t know what party (if any) dad belonged to, but when I asked him why he was mad at both parties, he said: "They ALL talk out of both sides of their mouths." Ain’t that the truth.
When dad got the cancer diagnosis three years ago, it was shocking and scary. I think it scared dad too, and that’s saying something. But dad was a stubborn man, and he sure stretched his few-month life expectancy into a few years instead. I know these three years have been hard for him, but though I certainly wish dad had never gotten cancer, I can’t help but feel that these three years have been a blessing in disguise. The cancer forced him to stop working, it humbled him, and I think it definitely softened his personality a bit. As a result, we all got to see him a little bit more, and we got a lot more hugs and I-love-yous.
I don’t know whether dad was ultimately satisfied with his life, whether he thought it was all worthwhile. We just didn’t have the kind of relationship where we talked much about those kinds of things. But to me, the answer is obvious, and other than wishing we’d spent more time together, there isn’t a lot I would change about my dad. And you need look no further than all his kids, who love him and miss him, to know that dad’s life was a successful one.
Our Shadow Dragon
I never thought that I would one day drive a Kia, much less that I would want to drive one. But a few months ago in a Best Buy parking lot, I saw a sweet-looking car that I didn’t recognize at all. It was a Kia Soul, and I was intrigued.
We’ve wanted to get a second car for quite a while, and had hoped to get another Volkswagen, probably a Golf or a Jetta. But they start at $18,000 whereas the Soul starts at $13,000. I didn’t really like that base-model Soul, but the next one up was nice at around $15,000; and for the price of the base Golf/Jetta we could get a loaded Soul.
But there was still the whole "but it’s a Kia" thing in the back of my mind. One way to settle that issue: take a test drive and see just how sub-par it is, so that we could take it off the table as an option. So that’s what we did yesterday. The only problem was, we loved it.
It turned out that they only had a couple in stock, and even at other dealers in the northeast region, no one had a Soul that matched what we wanted: the "plus" model, with a manual transmission, with the heated seats option, and the upgraded stereo system, in Titanium gray. To get one shipped in from wherever it could be found would cost nearly a thousand dollars extra.
Of the two they had in stock, one was colored "Alien", which is a light green color that’s kind of cool, but seems like over time it’d become increasingly less cool, and then annoying, probably followed by hideous. The other was the one we test-drove, but it was a little more fancy than we were planning to get: it was the Shadow Dragon Special Edition and on top of that it had a moonroof.
So this particular Soul was a little more expensive -- in fact it was just about the cost of that base model Golf/Jetta -- but it was loaded with features that would cost about $3,000 extra on the VW; and, the heated seats and upgraded stereo weren’t even available on the VW. So even though we weren’t looking for the special edition in particular, it did have all the features we wanted, and we liked the black color scheme a lot.
My last remaining reservation was just the fact that, to me, Kia had always been synonymous with cheap. And I love my Golf; surely even if the Soul isn’t necessarily cheap, it’s nowhere near as solid as a Volkswagen, right? But then there’s the warranty: it’s 5 years / 60,000 miles basic and 10 years / 100,000 miles powertrain, compared to 3/36 and 5/60 on the VW. This was a huge selling point for us, because they couldn’t afford to offer that kind of warranty if the car wasn’t relatively solid.
Kim wasn’t crazy about the Soul’s appearance at first, but it grew on her by the time we took the test drive, which is good since she’s the one who’ll be driving it most of the time. I liked it from the jump, which is a little surprising since I really dislike other semi-similar cars like the Nissan Cube and the Scion xB (though the Honda Element isn’t bad). Our particular Soul, our Shadow Dragon, with its black-on-black color scheme and black & chrome wheels, looks to me kind of like a militarized version of a Golf. That, I like.
passport application nightmare
I find it very difficult to believe that aliens, illegal or otherwise, are able to secure a passport when they must understand these insane instructions before even beginning to fill out the application.
Maria needs a passport to travel with us to St. Maarten so I think I’ll have her handle this application part. We’ll just drive her to the "Acceptance Facility" and vouch for her authenticity.
10 worst phrases
Peep this article. I, personally, thought you might enjoy this given your past history and distaste for cliches.
Caring for Your Introvert
I wouldn’t say that this Atlantic article on introverts is quite spot-on, but it sounds mostly right to me.
Quoting Jonathan Rauch:
Science ... has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people. [...] Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.
Sweet Vacation Video
Cabel Sasser has a little review of the Canon SD960 point-and-shoot camera, but the best part is the short video he put together. It’s amazing what you can do nowadays with iMovie and a $299 camera -- not even a video camera, just a camera.
I have this dream probably 100 times per year. Sometimes I’ll go a few weeks without it; other times I’ll have it every night for days on end.
I’m actually kind of surprised that my dreaming mind is still able to trick itself into thinking the situation is real, considering how long ago I got rid of school, and how many times I’ve had the dream and woken up from it realizing that it’s not real.
Idiot's Guide to Skiing
We just finished an awesome ski/snowboard trip to Jay Peak, Vermont with Rolly and Margie. Prior to this, I had only ever skied 3 days (on a single trip in Colorado), so although I’m not bad at it, I was definitely the newbie among this group of veterans.
I skied mostly blue trails and sustained no injuries despite a fair number of falls -- I haven’t skied enough to be very confident at high speeds, so on steep slopes I tend to take a defensive posture and fall as I try to prevent picking up too much speed. That’s not to say I’m always falling, because I had at least a few runs without a single fall, and my falls are always very minor...
...except for when I ended up on icy and steep black diamond trails on 2 occasions (JFK and Upper Exhibition, I’m looking at you), in which case I lost a ski and slid uncontrollably about 75 feet down the mountain. I was finally able to stop the slide, but was still in the middle of the mountain with lots more steep slope to go below me. Fortunately Kim was uphill from me so she picked up my ski and brought it down to me, while juggling flaming chainsaws.
The first day was partially a travel day, so we got in less than 2 hours of skiing. On the second day we skied pretty much the whole day, but by the third day my legs were beat, so I only skied about 90 minutes in the morning and took the afternoon off while the rest of the crew went back out. Unfortunately the last day was 40+ degrees and slightly rainy, so we started the ~9 hour drive home in the morning, rather than getting in a half-day of skiing or boarding as we had hoped.
Having only ever skied out west, and hearing a lot about the icy trails on the east coast, I didn’t know what to expect going into this trip. But Jay Peak gets about 30 feet of snow per year -- far more than many east coast resorts -- and though it was definitely somewhat icy, it was tons of fun.
The other problem I often hear about east coast mountains is that they’re overcrowded, with long waits at the lifts and little time on the slopes; but we went during the week, and it was not crowded at all. We had no waits whatsoever for the chair lifts, and the few times we took the tram we waited maybe 5-10 minutes. There were a few runs where we saw only 1 or 2 or even no other people. Jay Peak is so far north that it’s practically in Canada, so I’m sure that also helps to reduce the crowds from Philly, New York, etc.
So while it may not be Steamboat Springs, Jay Peak is pretty awesome, and much better than I might have guessed that east coast skiing could be. And a 9-hour drive is far better than a 4-5 hour flight, especially considering that a 4-5 hour flight would include at least 2 hours of hassle on each end. If money and vacation time were infinite, we’d spend much more time in Colorado, but reality makes that less feasible, so I can see us going back to Jay for more trips like this.
(Other random observations: the Jay Peak Resort is a Pepsi-serving establishment, which is always nice, and increasingly rare in my eastern-Pennsylvania experience. And they have recycle bins in the hotel rooms; I’ve never seen that before, which is kind of sad really.)
Now about that Idiot’s Guide: when I skied in Colorado for the first time, I had a lot of trouble with my rented ski boots. Apparently the little bone on the outer sides of my feet (below the little toe) sticks out more than usual, and it was really sore by the second day. I had to put moleskin on either side of the bone to take some pressure off it, and figured that I might need to get ski boots that are custom-fitted with a little cutout in that area.
But on this trip, on the first day, I instead just had lots of pain all over the lower parts of my legs that were inside the boots, even though the boots seemed to be the right size and fit OK. On the second day I went back to the rental shop to ask if they could give me different ones in the same size. They told me the original boots were new, so they were better padded and perhaps not quite broken-in yet. So they gave me last year’s version of the same model, which would be more broken-in. They seemed to feel better, but as soon as I walked and skied in them a little bit, I felt that pressure and pain on the bones on the sides of my feet. I took the boots back again, and spent some time talking to the guy at the rental place.
Ski-rental-guy led me to the source of the problem: I was wearing sweatpants under my snow pants, and the bottoms of the sweatpants were inside the ski boots. This was creating pressure points on my legs due to the extra fabric getting bunched up in the boot and then squeezed against my legs. He said that nothing except a good, thin ski sock -- and only a single pair, well-fitted to avoid wrinkles -- should be inside the ski boot. So I got the original well-padded boots back, put them on without the ends of my sweatpants inside them, and the problem was solved! I no longer had to look forward to skiing reluctantly, knowing that my feet/lower legs would be in pain the whole time.
So that’s my first tip (more of a note-to-self, really): use a well-padded ski boot and don’t let the ends of your pants/sweatpants down inside them.
The other problem I had was that my legs were dead by the 3rd day. I’m normally pretty active with exercise during the summers, but it’s harder when it’s cold outside, and I had been going for 1-mile walks a couple times a week for a couple months before the ski trip. Clearly that wasn’t enough; skiing is really hard on your legs, and it requires a lot of leg muscle to be able to exert enough control to make turns properly, and especially to be able to maintain control & quickly re-establish control while skiing in icy conditions. So tip #2 is that you (I) need to *run* a couple miles, a couple times a week, to prepare for a ski trip.
I’m super psyched for our upcoming ski trip to Jay Peak. But every time I check the conditions in Ski Lodge, this is what I see:
Dang, Steamboat. Don’t be stingy with all that snow!
The Rich and Famous
Being rich and famous must not be all bad. Scott Adams posted an entry called Tuesday, the entirety of which is:
No blog post today. Sick cat.
...and he still gets 20+ comments on it.
Of course based on the kinds of things he posts, this could be one of his experiments on humanity and psychology which will be explained in a later post.
Nary a day goes by that I don’t hear someone mention the book Outliers in a blog post, podcast, or tweet. The bit that’s most often mentioned is the idea that to truly master a skill requires about 10,000 hours of practice. That works out to about 5 years of full-time work.
That sounds like a lot, but I think it seems reasonable. I’ve always believed that be good at something, you have to do it at least every other day, and to be great it’s more like every day.
The easiest way to get really good or great at something is to start when you’re a kid. Of course you don’t realize this when you’re a kid, sadly. But when you’re a teenager you have lots of free time, so if you’re dedicated enough (or your parents are) then you can totally master a skill, like say playing a musical instrument, by the time you’re 20 or so.
It’s not always fun, especially when you’re first starting out, to practice something for hours on end week after week. But the better you get, the more fun it gets, and the more opportunities it opens up for you. And once you’re a working adult, it becomes much harder to find even one hour per day to practice any given thing, whereas kids often have multiple hours per day where they’re just sitting around being bored.
Ply It Forward
It’s an interesting idea, though it’ll never catch on. In my experience only about two-thirds of bathroom-users wash their hands at all, and fewer still even use soap, etc, so getting a significant number of people to leave a paper-towel hanging for the next guy is just not going to happen. I’m definitely of the opinion that it’s every man for himself when it comes to public bathrooms.
But what’s interesting about the linked page is that, from the comments, I can see that there are others like me out there.
The Jersey Shore
Last weekend we went to the Jersey shore. It was nice to camp out with our friend George again, and to do the campfire thing, and it was a pretty fun trip. But we both agreed that it’s harder to enjoy the black ocean waters of New Jersey after having been in the turquois Bahamian seas and the crystal clear streams of Colorado.
We started out on the beach in Ocean City, but it was packed as usual, and being the long, flat, straight beach that it is, it was really windy. So we drove route 619 (?) down the coast and eventually ended up at 67th Street in Avalon. It was now just after 5 PM, so the annoying lifeguards were packing it in, and the beach was far less crowded & windy.
On another day we went to a beach near 2nd Street in Sea Isle City. This day had been extremely rainy and windy, but we caught a break from the rain and hit the beach. It was still really windy, though, and this beach was nearly deserted; and the waves were HUGE, I’d say it was probably 6 foot seas when we went in. They were definitely the biggest waves I’d ever seen in person, and big enough that it was a struggle just to get out into the water. A wind-surfer came past us up the coast, and he was getting amazing air -- about 30 feet at one point. It was like he was flying.
We had dinner at The Lobster House one night, which means that I got Alaskan King Crab legs. They’re so big that they only give you 3 of them, and you still get as much meat as when you get a dozen regular crab legs -- only it’s far easier to get at it what with only having to break open 3 shells instead of 12. Also, we went at about 6 PM on a Sunday, and it was packed; but they told us our wait would be 60-80 minutes and it ended up being only 25, probably because there were only 2 of us.
We ate a late breakfast at Uncle Bill’s, but we went to the one in Cape May instead of the one on 21st & Asbury in Ocean City where we usually go. You’d think they’d be the same, but the stuffed french toast came with Reddi-Wip instead of cinnamon butter. Of course it’s the cinnamon butter that makes the meal, but when we asked the waitress about it, she said she’d never heard of it.
Of course we went to Mack and Manco’s a couple of times to get the greatest pizza ever.
Back in PA After Another Steamboat Springs Trip
When you land in Philadelphia after flying from Colorado, the first thing you think is, "Where are all the mountains?" And the second thing is, "Man, there are trees everywhere."
Having been born and raised in Pennsylvania, I have grown accustomed to all the trees, to the point that I don’t even think we have an abnormal amount of trees. But being in Colorado, with its vast open ranges, mountains, and whitewater rivers, dotted but not smothered in trees, I feel like I’m on another planet.
This trip was only a short 5 days, and it stormed or threatened to storm almost every day, but we managed to get in a couple of hikes, a bike ride, a trip down the Alpine Slide, some whitewater rafting, and a trip to the rodeo.
The bike ride and the rafting were both along the Yampa River, which is slow and tranquil in some spots and fairly frothy in others -- it’s considered a stage 2 whitewater, though probably only because of one or two drops of perhaps 3-5 feet. Most of its whitewater sections along the ~5 mile, 90-minute trip are pretty tame; we were neither required nor advised to wear helmets for example. But the scenic beauty of the river, the surrounding landscape, and the charming backyards of Steamboat Springs make it an extremely enjoyable ride even if the rafting isn’t extreme.
During our first hike, at Mad Creek, I got into the creek up to my waist; and at the end of our bike ride I got into the Yampa completely. The water was freezing both times, but it was at least a hot sunny day for the bike ride. When I got into Mad Creek, it was the middle of a downpour. But I generally can’t resist getting into rivers and lakes given the opportunity.
I’d never ridden an Alpine Slide before, but I gather that it’s something icy, fast, and fun in the winter. And in the summer they let you ride down it on these little carts that are about twice the size of a skateboard, with 2 wheels on one end and just friction on the other end, to prevent you from going too fast down the long concrete slide. There’s a single joystick-like control that you push forward to go and pull back on to stop. The track itself is probably a quarter-mile long, just winding back and forth down the mountain.
As we rode the chairlift up to the top, a girl went down the slide below us, going full speed, and wiped out pretty badly right in front of us on the first curve. Some of her arms and legs went over the side of the track, and she ended up with a big gash in her hand and probably some nasty scrapes all over. If I hadn’t seen that, I might have just floored it when it was my turn, falsely assuming that the arched sides of the track would keep me safe all the way down.
The rodeo was pretty interesting and not exactly the redneck-infested event that you might expect, though we weren’t in the south so maybe you wouldn’t expect that. The best part was the "calf scramble," where they invite all the 6-12 year old kids into the arena and then let loose a calf which has a ribbon on its tail; the kid who gets the ribbon wins. There must have been 200 kids and it was a hilarious sight to see the mob of them chasing this calf, which was running for its life. They then repeated this event with kids 5 and under and using a sheep instead of a calf; this had the added bonus of the sheep bounding right on top of the mob of kids as it tried to escape.
On Saturday we had to drive from Steamboat to Denver to catch our flight home. It’s a 4-hour trip, but the country out there is just beautiful, and since our rental F-150 had a line-in jack through which we could play the music on our iPhones, it was a nice drive. We passed through Winter Park, which has a restaurant called Fontenot’s, and I got a dish called Orzo Pasta Salad. It’s a base of cold orzo -- which I’d never had nor heard of before -- with field greens on top, then hot sauteed mushrooms in a "roasted red pepper balsamic dressing," and finally Pecorino cheese on top of that. I ordered it without the actual red peppers, and would have also omitted the onions had I known they would be hiding in it; but regardless it was an amazing meal.
Another great thing about Colorado is the climate: whereas in PA, during the summer, the temperature may go from a high of sweltering 90 degrees to a low of sweltering 70 degrees, in Steamboat Springs it goes from the 80s to the 40s. So you get the nice hot summer days and still have nice cool nights. The pool at the condo was even heated, so while not great for daytime swimming, it was a giant hot tub at night.
It’s difficult to describe just how different and amazing Colorado, and Steamboat in particular, is. It’s huge, it’s wide open, the sky is far more blue, the rivers are clean, and the views, pretty much no matter where you look, are breathtaking: there are mountains everywhere, many of them snow-capped all year ’round. Not to mention the skiing and snowboarding in the winter...
I’ve been to Steamboat 3 times now, and it’s hard to leave. I feel like I belong there. We would move to Steamboat in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the fact that we’d miss all of our family in PA too much. But Kim’s mom would follow us there. So I know I won’t be able to convince all of my family to come, but I figure at least one or two of you would be down for it. Rolly and Margie? Maria? ...Sinjin?
Kim was on photo duty for this trip; here are her albums:
We’re pet-sitting Heidi this week. I’m really not used to having a dog around the house.
When I’m talking to clients on the phone, I always use the speakerphone, because I usually need to be typing and/or clicking the mouse while talking to them.
For some reason, this often causes the cats to flock to my desk, get on my lap, and sometimes meow a lot. Occasionally a client will hear the meowing, and they’ll say aw, is that your cat, etc. No big deal.
But today when I get on the phone, Heidi comes in, plops down next to my desk where her food bowl is, and starts crunching away. I mean Captain friggin’ Crunching away. The loudest crunching that I’ve ever heard and, I’m sure, that my client has ever heard. She politely pretended not to notice.
Recent FileChucker Demo Images
Here are a couple of images uploaded to the FileChucker upload demo this week. I have no idea what the original sources of these images are; I’ve searched briefly for the first one, and didn’t bother for the second.
This first one is beautiful, evocative, and extremely well-executed; I’d love to have it on my wall if I could find a high-resolution version:
This second one is nothing special, just some chicks in a hot tub:
It’s common for my clients to call me Tony, despite the fact that in my email address, and in my email signature, it plainly says "Anthony." Not that it bothers me, and it’s always been that way in real life too: some people just default to using nicknames, I guess. But today, a client called me "Antonio." That’s a new one. I don’t think anyone’s called me that since my Ukranian roommates did back in college.
Sleep Paralysis or Alien Abduction??
So there I am, watching an episode of How It’s Made, which incidentally may be my favorite show ever, and as it ends I catch a moment of the next show, which is apparently Unraveling the Mystery of Alien Abduction. And right off the bat they start talking about sleep paralysis!
But I only catch a few seconds of this show, because the episode of How It’s Made is from a few days ago and I’m watching it on my TiVo, which incidentally is one of the greatest inventions of all time, and as a result the next show naturally hadn’t been recorded because it wasn’t one that I had told the TiVo to always record.
The problem now is that I can hardly find any mention of this show online, other than the fact that it’s a Discovery Channel show, and the TiVo doesn’t show it running again anytime in the next couple of weeks. I really want to see this show, because I’ve never heard any mention of sleep paralysis in the media before (nor from any other kind of official source for that matter).
Could it be that my (undiagnosed) sleep paralysis is really just a matter of alien abduction??
NB: I don’t actually have any interest, much less belief, in the concept of alien abduction, except when portrayed by Mulder and Scully.
Probably the best thing about working from home is being able to spend all day every day with your cat. Here are a few cat videos showing Cheshire doing funny stuff around the house. The "wind" videos aren’t bad but the "water" ones are great.
I’ve also just finished adding a feature to my photos pages whereby video files such as these can be played right within the page, instead of having to click a "download" link to view the video in a separate application on your system. But embedding videos in web pages like this is tricky and error-prone so please let me know whether/how it works for you.
Have a great birthday, bro.
On Undervaluing Sleep
Leo Laporte has multiple really cool weekly technology shows -- formerly on TV and now on radio/podcasts -- and he also apparently has this show called Jumping Monkeys that’s about "parenting in the digital age." That’s not something that I personally am particularly interested in right now, but as I was browsing Leo’s site, the latest episode caught my eye because it’s about sleep.
I’ve always been fascinated by sleep, not least because I have a slightly freakish condition relating to sleep. So I found this podcast interesting because it contains an interview with Ashley Merryman, a woman who is writing a book on cutting-edge sleep knowledge based on current research. The main tenet seems to be that although we have always known that sleep is important, we’re only beginning to learn just how important it is, in ways that aren’t necessarily obvious.
The whole episode is worth listening to; the interview starts about 15 minutes into it. But two things stood out to me as especially interesting. First, during sleep, apparently the brain reprocesses the things that it learned during the day, and on some level it re-learns them and/or learns them better or in different ways. And second, in a University of Pennsylvania study, there were two groups of people: in one group the people were kept awake for 24 hours straight, and were consequently cognitively impaired as you might expect. The second group of people were allowed to sleep daily but for only 6 hours instead of 8. After 14 days, the people from the second group were just as cognitively impaired as those from the first group, but they did not realize it.
I would say that "she all but said that a lack of sleep will make you fat and stupid," but she actually did say that.
As an aside: since podcasts are basically just downloadable radio shows, you can listen to them on your computer; but naturally I listen to them on my iPhone, and that’s probably the iPhone feature that I use the most. There are about 5 weekly shows that I never miss, and about 5 more that I enjoy but don’t necessarily always listen to, yet like having the ability to listen to them anytime anywhere if I want to. And podcasts are so great while driving, walking/running, or washing the dishes -- basically anytime you’re busy with something relatively mundane. The icing on the cake is the fact that iTunes automatically downloads the latest episodes of my favorite shows and automatically puts the 5 most recent ones on my iPhone whenever I put it on the charger. The whole system requires no effort on my part, other than occasionally finding a new podcast I like and clicking on its iTunes link to tell iTunes to automatically download it.
Get-Together at Rolly and Margie's
Photos from yesterday’s get-together at Rolly and Margie’s are now online.