Giving Thanks

Right now, I would love to be asleep, but there are construction crews working a priority repair and I have this nagging cough… so jack hammers are at full blast at 2:45AM, and I am singing harmony with them using “cough counterpoint”; however, this is a “first world” problem. It’s not like I don’t have a bed, or fresh water, or a toilet. I have all that, and much more…so, a sleepless night – heck, some people would dream of being able to have a sleepless night where I am!

2013 has been quite a year.  A lot of things have happened and some can be posted on a blog, and some of it cannot! Bottom line is that I am truly thankful for what this year has brought.  I have been brought many gifts: time with family, good memories with friends, some solid career progress, a focus on balance and health, renewed energy towards goals which have been pushed aside for years, and renewed focus on achieving those goals.   I have been brought many challenges: family members I am going to visit in person, rebuilding my life when certain plans didn’t go how I thought they would, overcoming the loss of people near and dear to me, and pulling myself off the cross I created.

That last one is probably the most important.  For all my levels of introspection (and I do count myself as highly introspective) that was still another layer of self-sabotage that I had to crush this year.  Nobody cares about my crosses, nobody cares if I nail myself to them and whine and complain about how painful they are…  There are many rules of engagement I have generated over the years.  Some of them are good, but some of them create patterns that hold me back.  I’ve been re-scripting those. Then, even worse, there was my tendency to make OTHER people’s crosses MINE.  Like I would be helping them if I did that? Welcome to the “classic enabler.” The line between enabling someone else and helping them is sometimes very fuzzy – especially if that help is expanded incrementally over time.   I haven’t done it a lot, but there have been a few key places where I practiced this pattern – picking up other people’s crosses when the best thing I could do is let them build their strength and resolve by just coaching them instead!

Live and learn as they say! I am squashing unhealthy patterns – I am erasing negative self-talk, erasing unhealthy self-imposed rules, I am done making other people’s problems MY problems. Dunzo! I might need to clarify that a little more. I’m talking about the practice of making other people’s individual issues my individual issues; supplanting the priorities of my life with someone else’s priorities at the expense of achieving my aspirations. I still might assist with someone else’s priorities, but it will be because it furthers the goals that I have in place.  Another example, there’s a billion people that do not have a bathroom.  If I choose to accept the challenge of solving that problem, I already know I am not contacting one of the billion, making their bathroom problem MY problem and then building them a bathroom. They’d have a bathroom, but wouldn’t know how to maintain it, and then they would be mad at me when it broke or blame me if there was a problem with it… see how that enabling thing works? Unhealthy I say!!  In this particular example, there would be strategy, like researching how to best have their home country tackle the project from both an educational and infrastructure perspective. Yes, education is a huge reason why building bathrooms is a “waste” of time (oh, that was definitely “potty” humor): Governments must be teaching people WHY bathrooms are important (health), and teaching a workforce how to build/maintain bathrooms (plumbing, parts, water/sewage systems, etc).

Anyway, I could go on and on (surprise).  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone  – and hopefully, in the near future, I will be doing more to make this little blue orb a more effective place for everyone.  I will probably be writing more about that soon, but note the key word is “probably.”  Even with renewed focus, I have found life is ever-changing and the best plans must bend instead of break. Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is a curve, anyway.  It just depends on the terrain, and viable methods of reaching the destination. That’s the 50,000 foot view of 2013 and it is an amazing view, whether plotted as a line or a curve!

Catching Fire – When Fumbles Make Money

SPOILER ALERT (OK, candidly there is not a whole lot to spoil – but if you read this you will not need to see the movie – and I encourage that)
I can sum up this movie for you and spare you 2.5 hours of not a whole lot.  Summary: “We’re making a third movie.” In fact it was over 3 hours at the theater because where I saw it they said, “Hunger Games? Oh, we will show twice as many trailers and twice as many Geico commercials for this one!!” Know the limits people!! Sheeeeesh!

Yup… for serious, “we’re making a third movie” is the ONLY reason the 2nd movie exists.  I don’t read books before seeing movies, in general. So, if the creators expected that I was a franchise die-hard that reads the book, follows the tweets, and laps the milk from the dog bowl of district “hunger games” (or is it a cat bowl? do dogs drink milk? I digress)…anywhoddle, yah got the wrong guy. Speaking purely from a “I want to see a movie” perspective, there is likely a LOT more explanation in the book, and the movie felt fractured, repetitive and underdeveloped.

Listen, any time a movie beats the viewer over the head with (as my cousin put it) “this is the HIDDEN MEANING of THIS scene” it is kinda annoying, but movie-goers likely expect some of it as a way to cater to a broad audience at different levels of film-appreciation capability. This film, however, took the symbolism bludgeoning to a whole new level.  It was like symbolism crossed with one of those anime action scenes that repeats from 6 different angles…we got the same message over and over.

Catching Fire was like the first movie of the last Harry Potter book… it accomplished whole lot of nothing and made a whole lot of money.  From a story-telling perspective, that’s a fail.  But from a business perspective, it could count as a success, as long as the pattern isn’t repeated so often that the viewers can predict when they will be cheated.

When converting literature to film, there is no formula.  But safe to say, someone shoulda looked at that screenplay and said, “this aint right.”  Either they didn’t bring the right content forward from the book, or that book was like the one in the Narnian Chronicles… been a while, but I think it was “Prince Caspian”, or was it “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”? The one where they sat around talking the whole time and not a whole lot happened. Yeah, that one.

By the time we reach the last scene where Catnip is all angry because she finally realizes there is going to be a revolution, I felt like saying “Duh!! Welcome to Obviousville!!”  Everytime her character said “this doesn’t make sense,” I punched myself in the face to ease the pain I would feel if I just, well, didn’t punch myself in the face.

I can only imagine it is allowance money that enables the 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, or Must Go! Fandango rating… crazy.  If you want a flick that is fun, involves a class-battle, and has lots of fun special effects…go check out Elysium!

Farewell Astrid…Hello TeamBox?

I just recently found out that Astrid has been acquired by Yahoo! and from what I can tell, it looks like it is going the route of Gizmo 5.  Remember Gizmo 5? Yeah, so anyway, maybe they will let Astrid coexist, but from what I can tell they already have a Get It Done application (supporting Get Things Done, which is so popular it is called GTD by smexy people in the know).

I looked into Get It Done, and well… Astrid was free, and this was $39/year, and I wasn’t hip on it.  So then I reviewed some other apps like Any.Do, Nozbe and ToodleDo.  There was also this interesting LifeHacker post which adds Wunderlist and a few others to the list.

I didn’t do any serious comparison – I just kinda poked around and compared stuff to Astrid, including the price points… I moved my search into “collaborative tools” and looked at Citrix Podio, MindManager, SmartSheet and ZoHo as well.  What I settled on, for now, is a product called TeamBox.  It seems to fill the Astrid niche, at least for my purposes and the free version supports up to 5 users, it integrates to Google Docs, DropBox and Box.  Give it a go:

Now, in honesty, does the TeamBox mobile app shake a stick at the fluidity of Astrid’s task management GUI?  Nope – not even a little bit – so if you find something close, be sure to leave a comment (people nag me because my comments are moderated, but just be patient…they will show up!)

Remembering All Those Pesky Strong Passwords?

Today, most folks are members of over 20 websites, and at work folks have 20+ applications that may or may not be single sign-on, and then some websites/apps ask us to change our password every so often… finally, with the push for “strong passwords” and not using the same password for EVERYTHING, how is a person supposed to remember all these passwords?

For some the answer is software – they install a password storage application that lets them keep all their passwords. Sometimes you can install this on your USB thumb-drive or on your cell phone, and you will always have your usernames and passwords when you need them. Handy.

However, if you are like me, and you have been too under-motivated to set-up that software, or hyper paranoid that someone could shoulder-surf your password or crack your master password and have everything, then this article might be for you!

Strong Passwords
Let’s start with what makes a password strong.  Most places say a strong password is 12 characters, contains mixed case letters, numbers and even symbols.  In addition, they recommend if your password spells something, that it be two unrelated words at least. In this article, I am exploring the idea of pattern-based passwords that are strong, easier to remember, and the patterns are things only YOU would know about! How does it work? Like this…

Root Password
Each password would be based on a root. Root passwords would be changed on a less frequent basis.

Personal Salt
Enter the game of personal salt.  Salt is something that changes for every password. In cryptography it used to add just a little flavor to everything that gets encrypted, and you can use your own personal version of it. Stay tuned.

Lastly, we have this notion that a password can change every so often, and likely places that require you to change your password are not going to synchronize their calendars and you will have different versions of passwords sprinkled about.

Your Personal Algorithm
Here’s where it gets fun (it is even funner because I am trying to create a system without disclosing my exact approach – not that I don’t trust yah or anything).  It may not sound like we’ve solved the problem in the sentences above, but we have:  the goal is to start with a root password – all your passwords will use this root, then add salt which varies based on where you are using  the password, and lastly apply versioning.  In this way, all your passwords are related, but they are all strong (as long as they add up to 12 characters), and the only one that knows how they vary over time is YOU.  The other benefit is, you can keep a cryptic cheat sheet that lets YOU know how to figure out the password, but nobody else would get it, even if they got their hands on your notes!

Walking the Blue Dog
Let’s start with the strong password… let’s sy you have a dog named Sparky and your favorite color is blue.  Well, for starters, although BlueSparky is cool, it could be predictable, so I would mix it up a little more… use the letters but spell something different that is preferably not in the dictionary. I don’t think ElubYarps is in the dictionary, so let’s have an example root password be ElubYarps.

Now it is time for personal salt.  Example’s of salt could be the last 2 characters of the website name, the network name, or the application name.  Pick a couple characters and sprinkle them in your password along with a number and a symbol.  Let’s say you use and an application at work called SuperAccounting. I am going to pick the second letter of each word, so ‘a’ and ‘f’ for Bank Of Blorg, and ‘u’ and ‘c’ for Super Accounting.  I am going to pick 9 as my number and # as my symbol.  “Sprinkle” your salt however you want… I like the words “Elub” and “Yarps” so I will sprinkle the salt after each word.

Bank of Blorg: Eluba9Yarpsf#
Super Accounting: Elubu9Yarpsc#

Last, you want to have versioning.  Most people will number their passwords like Elubu9Yarpsc#1, Elubu9Yarpsc#2, Elubu9Yarpsc#3…. that’s fine, I suppose, but you can also work your way around the keyboard visually… start at “q” and go to “p”, or start at “f” and go “v” then “g” then “b” – some visual or even tactile pattern based on your input device. You also want to sprinkle your versioning somewhere not predictable. For this example, the 3rd character is versioning.  Let’s do that. I am going to start with “z” and work my way to the right:

First Version:
Bank of Blorg: Eluzba9Yarpsf#
Super Accounting: Eluzbu9Yarpsc#

Next Version:
Bank of Blorg: Eluxba9Yarpsf#
Super Accounting: Eluxbu9Yarpsc#

Remembering It
If you need to take some notes, you can do things cryptic like so:

Root: Blue Sparky (hopefully reminds you of Elub Yarps)
Salt: Movie Hammer (“9” was a movie, hammers “#” things)
Versioning: Fred’s Fish (Maybe I have a friend named Fred who owns a cat fish – the reference to a bottom feeder hopefully reminds me to start at the bottom row)

The notes aren’t perfect – there should be things you remember without writing down, and if you DO have to write them down, write them in a way that forces you to remember something that someone else likely cannot guess.

If you want to keep notes on what version you are on, you can do so by saying BofB 1, Super 4.  That way, you know which version of your password to use.

Changing It Up
About once every season, annually, or some extended interval  (timing depends on how sensitive the password is), you will want to change your root password, maybe change how you choose or sprinkle your salt, and change how you version your passwords.  You can even have a pattern to how you change your pattern, as long as it is something that only you know (or your notes are cryptic enough that other people can’t figure it out).

Good Use for Software
Once you have this in place, you can use some software to keep a list of sites/applications you use, and keep notes on what version of password you are using.  But if someone gets that list… you can rest easy because they don’t have your passwords (however it is probably time to change them anyway).

Another use for software is to track those apps/sites that limit your password creativity. I still have some websites that don’t accept symbols, or that require 2 numbers, or other rules that might break your algorithm… you will have to come up with some cryptic way to remember those differences.  For example, if you join a website (National Fish Fry Association) and they don’t allow symbols, maybe don’t hit the shift key while entering your password, but take a note that says “Fish – only first gear” (implying you can’t shift).

Keeping Ego At Bay
Security is one of the hottest topics right now, and the more stuff moves online or into the high-tech realm, the hotter it gets.  As many people teach it, better security doesn’t STOP a hacker, it simply discourages them from attacking you and focusing on someone easier to hack.  Like the old story about being chased by a bear – you don’t have to be the fastest person running from the bear, you just have to be ahead of the slowest person 🙂  Examples of things that could ruin the steps above?  If you have malicious software that has made its way on to your system and the happy hackers are running a key logger… they will just record you logging into the site and then they will have your username and password regardless of how strong it is.  That’s why keeping you machine clean and free of “netually-transmitted” disease is important!  Bottom line, never assume you are immune to being hacked…  strong passwords are important, but they are only part of the security picture.

If It Was Easy
Everyone would be hacking you. So, yeah, the passwords are still kinda alien looking, and the notes you leave yourself may not be perfect – but the goal is to keep things secure and not have to remember 40 different strong passwords.  Or even worse, having 40 logins that share two or three passwords…if one gets compromised then the hackers have access to a BUNCH of your accounts at one time. Ewww!  Hopefully this article helps you achieve the extraordinarily fulfilling goal of remembering many strong passwords! (yes, “extraordinarily fulfilling” is intended as sarcasm here.)

Happy Passwording!



P.S. Examples of Bad Notes
OK, I can’t help myself – I just want to be clear on some bad examples of notes for passwords… these are all not ideal:
Root: My last name (really?)
Root: Wife + Car, spelled backwards (5 minutes on Facebook solves this)
Salt: &3%7  (just stating the salt)
Salt: College year, carrot colon (OK, it isn’t so bad, but again 5min on Facebook, and it isn’t so hard)
Version: top row (really?)
Version: first letter of each month (not a bad idea, but… the reminder is too specific!)


Replacing Thunderbird? Good Luck…

For the past year or so, my Thunderbird client has been acting weird – it keeps not being able to install an update of some kind.  Combine that with a general curiosity to see what was out there in the free realm, and I ended up spotting this handy list from Wikipedia. I decided, after reading some random web comparisons, to try Mailbird, Inky, Claws Mail,  and EM Client.

Now, don’t look to this article as some kind of awesome feature comparison, because it isn’t.  I just wanted to see if I liked anything better than Thunderbird.  My criteria? Simple:

Windows 7, Let’s me pick where it installs, let’s me pick where I store the data, let’s me import mail and contacts from Thunderbird, easy to use.

Admittedly, I was shallow here, but my criteria are above. It is the year 2013 and we should have flying cars and no homeless people by now… so at least make my email painless in the 21st century…show me we can get that right.  Anything that deviated got axed…period. I didn’t think “oh, maybe I will Google that.”  Nope. So here we go:

Inky: Blew a cog on install and couldn’t talk to its mother ship.  Uninstalled.

Claws Mail: I tried to adjust where the datastore was being stored and the browse button launched some cool cryptic mh#spam\mount/toga-party stuff that probably is comfortable for Linux folks but I had no clue what that meant, so…uninstalled.

EM Client: thought it knew better than I did where to install. Wrong answer. Uninstalled.

Mailbird: They had this proud “Full IMAP Support” flag on their page… but they didn’t say “ONLY Supports IMAP” which is the sad truth.  No POP3 support.  Uninstalled.

Mailbird (Zombie Exclusive): OK, so I later found out that my hosting provider does support IMAP.  Mailbird couldn’t detect the settings, so I had to set everything including port numbers (defaults typically are 143 for IMAP and 25 or 587 for SMTP, in case you are randomly here for that). It connected. Yay. It couldn’t import Thunderbird data.  Uninstalled…again.

So there yah have it… I couldn’t even test the Thunderbird import.  21st century email clients might be OK, but I guess I had my hopes set a little too high with my exhaustive requirements. lol. But lots of people are ranting about the above apps, and admittedly they all looked like programs I might have enjoyed using.  Go ahead and try them out.

Happy Emailing… I will stick with discontinued “sooo last 2012” Thunderbird for now.

The Counselor: It Sucked, But Why?

I think Rotten Tomatoes has a pretty good synopsis: “The Counselor raises expectations with its talented cast and creative crew — then subverts them with a wordy and clumsy suspense thriller…” but just going off their review won’t give me the catharsis of venting about my experience with this film.

First Off: Thriller? There was not a moment of suspense in the entire film because at NO point were they clear on what the back story was, and without that information, I couldn’t give two [beeboop]s what happened to anyone in the film. For example, the film invested the MOST effort trying to get the audience to believe that the main character was in love with his fiance. But a naughtyyyy sex scene, table talk at a dinner and showing him crying with his cell phone every 5 minutes ain’t gonna do it… who the HELL is this guy, WHO is she?  Maybe ask The Who, they know this stuff…

Second Off: Obvious!! Seriously… the lead characters are engaged in the philosophical rants and then they are like “this machine that rips your head off” and “snuff films!!”  Go figure, the finale featured a machine that rips someone’s head off and a snuff film.  Wow, that wasn’t predictable at all.

Third Off:  Time is precious…there’s 90-120 minutes to explain things in a compelling way.  I have no ill will towards some of the deep speeches – that was kind of cool in an era when movies are hell bent on catering to baser and trivial aspects of life.  But when not being philosophical, please use the time more wisely… there was a huge amount of time dedicated in ways that were just choppy and out of place.  The playboy acts like Plato in one scene, tells a sexually comedic line in another scene and rounds off his misguided character in an anticlimactic “chase” scene.  It reminded me of Prometheus… trying to be too many things at once and not doing any one of them with a degree of prowess.  And Prometheus didn’t have cheetahs, so epic fail for them.  Anyway, I picture the actors asking “what’s my motivation” every 5 minutes because there was no personae imbued in the dialog!  Maybe too many people got their claws into the editor and drove him insane… “Put a scene in with philosphy!” “No, I want one with the main character weeping 3 times in 10 minutes” “Nooooo! Dead people, give me dead people!!”

Fourth:  All that, and the premise of the movie (spoiler alert)… is that, in a “man’s world” (as the characters would have us believe), apathetic ice queens have a place? OK.  That was worth my time.  If 90% of drug overlords are philosophers, at least come up with a deeper message than that bull-pucky as the crux of the film. C’mon!  And why was this ice queen invisible the whole time… everybody else gets found in 3 seconds regardless where they are on earth, but nobody was looking for her? Ever? Lame! I summon the Lame Magician, who pulls the attorney’s girlfriend from the trash pile / graveyard and does three super Cheetah attacks with double head-clipper action to any Ice Queens in play! Now your Ice Queen has no more life points! Muhahahahahaha!

I could keep going, but I feel pretty good now. And for the record, catfish can be cool.  Not ANY catfish, but, if I ever spot the RIGHT one on my windshield, I am gonna sit back and enjoy! Craziness… “I wish I didn’t have that memory” Whatever…. where’s your sense of adventure, Mr. Playboy??

How the [blank] did they get such a good cast for this flick? It totally felt like someone’s first screen play… maybe I will rally a cast like that for my first screenplay!! Thank you, cast, for trying to make this movie worth my time…  there should be an award for best rescue attempt.

OK, now I am good.  Whew.

Toilets Before Spaceships

Many folks have heard this phrase… “he’s so poor, he can’t even afford a pot to piss in.” We use it as a figure of speech, but for 1 billion people on this planet, right now, in the year 2013, it’s a reality.  Literally, according to the United Nations,  “1 billion people, 15% of the world population, practice open defecation.”  These are people who literally do not have access to a toilet, not even a shared one, not even an OPEN one where a bunch of people sit in front of each other and do their business because there’s nowhere else to go…

That really drives some perspective.  How is that even possible? Why don’t we see that on the nightly news? Maybe because it doesn’t sell.  I laugh all the time about how it is 2013 and our species seems so behind its capabilities collectively.  But when I think about it, it is usually in terms of “first world” problems like education systems, justice systems, civic and governance systems, economic systems…blah blah blah.

Now I am reading about the most basic system of all: a place to go poop, and there’s a billion people that don’t have a place?? Like for reals? That’s ridonkulous.

OK, so now what…I am just supposed to go back to my life and say,”Sorry you billion people but, I sure am glad it ain’t me. haha!”

Well, that’s what typically happens, I guess.  Everyone’s kinda focused on their piece of their pie, and I am not much different. . . . BUTT, maybe I should be.

Let’s think about this… we got 7 billion people now?  6 billion of them have a place to poop.  That’s a plus.  But what does that do? It does things like raise the child mortality rate, slows the spread of disease, and improves the sustainability of the planet.  I mean, poop is good for the planet, but 7 billion people worth of poop is a lot of poop.  So let’s say we give this missing billion a place to “pop a squat” as they say… let’s say we do that.  Then what happens?

We still have 7 billion people… now they all have bathrooms.  That’s good in some ways, but there’s still 7 billion of them, and the more we improve health the more crowded it is going to get.

At this point, some people put their villain hat on and say, then maybe we should be getting RID of places to poop.  So mortality and disease can go up and we can all die a little younger on average. . . . .  as long as it doesn’t happen in MYYYYY neighborhood (wink wink).

I don’t think that’s the answer.

And there’s a gazillion other factors to consider… for example, a lot of economic systems are reliant on growth in consumerism in order to thrive, so the more people the planet can support, the more money there is to be made by the Illuminati or whatever.  But then, if I were an Illuminati, would I care about money? Not really – at that point it is about power.  So maybe they aren’t interested in the planet supporting more hoomanz, maybe it is part of the cosmic plan for things to go to a certain breaking point.  Who knows. . .and that’s me speculating on someone else’s agenda.

I care about my agenda.  What is my agenda? Well, when it comes to poop, I think we should all have a place to go – from the Illuminati to the Indian salt farmer, to the African Saharan sand comber.  I have what Covey calls an “abundance mentality” – so let’s pack as many of us as we can on this rock, let’s foster ridiculous amounts of learning across all of civilization, lets colonize this galaxy.  But first… let’s all have a damn place to poop!!

Or so we think. There are other factors to consider.  For example, we might think, “if we build it, they will poop.”  But, this is not the case.  I have a good friend, and one day we theorized that if an advanced species came to Earth, an effective way to kill us all would be to simply give us free light sabers.  Seriously, we’d all be dead in like, an hour.  Research already shows, without proper education, some people have a toilet, and instead they use it to bathe, or store their weed and stuff.

So, maybe the first step is education and let people DECIDE what they want, then let them put policies and government in place to obtain it, or something like that.

It’s not as easy a problem to fix as I would hope… there’s serious infrastructure involved and people need to have the skill to engineer, build and subsequently maintain the physical structures, the ongoing supply chain, the financial systems, and of course the laws/policies that pertain to these systems.   Just building it is not the answer… communities need to evolve and mature to the point where they value having a place to poop.

Then there is the whole debate of what system to put in place… think about it – our current poop systems waste a LOT of water.  Are toilets REALLY the way to go (pun intended)??? Isn’t there some way to do this using other technology?   Something that requires less infrastructure, uses less or no water, and produces useful output (fertilizer, or maybe fuel pellets, or something)?  Just saying!

Anyway, today, I learned this crazy fact… and I realized we need to figure out toilets before we figure out spaceships, and I still think the answer is going to be in empowering people through knowledge.

One thing is for sure, I’m never gonna look at a toilet the same way again…

Back to Goals

Our Planet is so gosh-dangly fragmentalized.  Unless I want to become a robot (not saying I don’t but let’s ride on the pretense that being a robot is not on the to-do list), pursuing 1 clear cut goal is really obnoxiously difficult.  Why is that?… I am yet again so glad you have asked.

It all restarted this year, in this post, culminating in an approach that I attempted to follow for several months.  Each time I would try to make progress, I found myself clicking on the little magnifying glass and drawing a zoom box so I could get to a quantifiable set of tasks.  But each time I drew a zoom box I kept finding more questions and options and little informational sidebars that kept fragmenting the vision…. by the time I had zoomed in enough to DO something, it wasn’t anything I was interested in doing.

So, here I am on Hallow’s eve with a metaphorical zoom box, a primed legal container, and having to revisit my entire approach.  It’s been a fascinating journey, but something still hain’t quite right.

To help correct this, I have to come to terms with a couple core concepts: 1) I am not a detail person and 2) that first statement is a lie.  If I can figure that out, then I will have $10,000,000 of net worth by the end of this calendar year.  There’s my vested interest in figuring this out.

Let’s go over some of the fun to be had, here… for example, I have an interest in natural resources.  Now, before I get into natural resources, I tell myself,”self, the first question to ask is ‘how much do we have’ and the next question to ask is ‘what’s our current and projected burn rate?’  Try Googling that… my search on global natural resources lead me to a list of oil companies, a list of government agencies, several wikipedia articles, to some outdated EDU site with a list of resources that was a 404 landmine.  There’s a TON of information, but it isn’t aggregated how I want to look at it.  In fact, this takes me back to the TED talk (yeah, do I get royalties for that? lol) about web 3.0 – if we could get at the data of the internet in a useful way, I might be able to visualize at least SOME of what I am looking for…  I say some, because there are entities who have spent a LOT of money cataloging what I want to research, and, well, what’s in it for them if they share?  I’ll tell you – the competition will come in and, with lower R&D costs caused by the release of the initial company’s intellectual property, they will wipe the initial company off the financial map.

Maybe then, my data won’t be out there…because that’s just the FIRST set of questions.  Anywho, if you know of an entity that compiles natural resource statistics such as quantity, location, burn rates, that might come in handy for me… or somebody I will employ.  Just throwing that out there – my core interests are water, power, fiber, farm land, and sanitation.

There – that was an example of a “zoom box”… I had to zoom in to do the research, and I have had that happen over and over.  The result is, it fragments my time and progress slows to a crawl on my goals because while I am zoomed in, there is no progress on the other fronts.

Robert Kiyosaki, as part of his cashflow quadrant concept, mentioned this issue of going from an employee to a specialist… it could be a trap, and the way out of a trap is a business model so I can get from business owner to investor, because until I have a portfolio of crazy ventures cranking out results, I am not going to make the kind of progress needed to fix the entire planet and launch a viable space exploration venture using giant robots shaped like our founding fathers.  Can you imagine that…on some distant world, the receiving civilization sees a giant Teddy Roosevelt flying through space towards their planet. Hey, it could happen!!

I have no interest in being the specialist anymore…I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt, scraped off the bumper sticker, and moved on.  There’s a lot of talented people who want to be the specialist, and I am OK with that!  My goal is to hire a team of those and put them to work solving all kinds of cool challenges.

Of course, while doing that I am still working on a video project, a web service architecture, a mobile app and a couple other side projects… but hey, stay tuned.

GoAnimate Slow Project Load Time

Well, howdy.  If you are like me, you went scrubbing the internet looking for ways to speed up GoAnimate. When I searched there wasn’t much out there…so hence this post.  Usual Disclaimer: There’s lots of factors involved in setting up a workable environment for any application, I am just sharing what worked for me and if it helps…yay! While I am here, I shared some other tips and tricks for making animations.

  • Use a decently fast connection.  DSL will not do it, must have cable or FiOS.  Sometimes corporate LANs are too slow as well (like the one at my work).
  • Use a work station with a good graphics card and 8GB or more of RAM (4 cores or more CPU).  Minimum recommended is 4GB and 2 cores.  Close ALL open applications, close any other web browser tabs, close any system tray apps, stop any unneeded services… really try to make sure Go Animate is the only thing running on the machine.  Then if you have a little extra CPU/RAM (Use Task Manager to see where you are), you can open other apps as needed.
  • I used Chrome – that seemed to perform better than IE, however, Chrome does have a memory leak and it slows way down.  Saving the project, exiting ALL open Chrome windows, restarting Chrome and reloading the project seems to be the work around.  Generally, with 4GB,  this tactic buys about an hour or two.  On my 8GB workstation, I had 4-6 hours before it slowed down.
  • All assets take up resources, so only load the ones you need into your library.  Also, when adjusting the camera angle, delete any assets that are out of frame and won’t be seen.
  • Go Animate cautions that tight camera boxes (zooming in on a particular person in a scene) is not preferred, but sometimes, unless we want to redo all the backdrops, its just gotta be that way.  Still, any time there is an opportunity to leave the camera “full size” and adjust the background and character size to fill the space, that is preferable (According to Go Animate).
  • Build videos in chunks of 15-30 scenes per video.  This will keep the total number of assets to a minimum, and keeps the total project size small, it also allows multiple people to work on one project (since video projects cannot be shared).  As resources permit, you can build longer vids with more scenes.  When it comes time to build a complete video, use the export feature and then link the exported videos together in a good video editor.
  • Be careful when sharing a login… the latest video saved wins – so if two people work on the same project, someone’s changes will NOT be  saved!
  • When loading up dialog for a cartoon, it is best to do a reading, then based on the quality of the sound, do noise removal and normalization as needed.  Chop the reading into lines and export those as MP3s  (do not use WAV files – those are wasteful). Save each MP3 based on either a known scene number, who is saying the line and the first few meaningful words of the line.  If there are multiple takes of a line, indicate the take number either in the file name or store each take in a folder.
  • Any image can be a prop, but not all props are interactive with the actors in the cartoons.
  • When setting volumes, Go Animate doesn’t have many options for fine tuning.  I found setting all the dialogue to 200% as a base level and then bumping quiet people and lowering loud people created more control over the dynamic range.  As mentioned previously, normalizing the audio helps also.
  • Have a quick wave editor like Audacity (with LAME plugin for MP3 encoding), makes changing/chopping audio much faster.

Many thanks to FootSockToe, for responding quickly to this performance thread on the GoAnimate forums.

Happy Animating!


Driving Integrity. Literally.

This morning I used the word “integrity” in reference to driving. Driving with integrity. Admittedly, I kinda plucked the word out of a list I knew would mess with my interlocutor’s mind, but it ended up messing with my mind as well. And, that’s a good thing 🙂

In life, there are many people who preach about living life with integrity, much less just driving. But what does that even mean, really? For me, and through the various readings/lectures that have shaped my perspective, integrity exists as part of a “trust chain.” Applying this perspective to driving might look something like this:

First, we start by allowing ourselves to accept some set of rules. For example, driving wise, we study the rules of the road, and take a rest certifying that we know and will presumably uphold those rules.

Second, we then allow ourselves to become predictable. In driving, when a light turns red we stop, when the speed limit is 45mph we drive 45mph… that sort of thing.

Third, we demonstrate integrity. This means we stop at red lights and drive the speed limit even when we think there is nobody around to verify it – police don’t have to watch us, because we are predictably allowing these rules and we enforce them ourselves.

Through that chain of events we are able to build trust. In driving, this means our passengers know what to expect. Other people driving know what to expect as well (but this is more a collective expectation as they don’t know us individually…so the best demonstration of trust building would prolly still be through passenger perception)

That’s kinda my view of integrity and how it fits into driving. But how many of us drive like that? I don’t. I speed (generally 5mph as a rule, but sometimes more), I will push the envelop on an amber, I’ve cut people off and driven on the wrong side of the road. And my driving is fairly tame compared to a lot of other folks on the road! I haven’t even touched on the concept of exploitation – people who intentionally prey on the integrity of others!

Obviously then, either folks don’t have integrity, or the definition of integrity has to be broadened through a convenient set of rationalized justifications. I have chosen option B, because I see myself as someone with a fair degree of relative integrity. “Relative integrity” sounds like an oxymoron. Just like “relatively honest” or “relatively perfect.” Oh well, welcome to being human.

When I get 3 red lights in a row, I’ll rationalize running the 4th. When I am on a 8 lane road with a posted speed limit of 25, I will justify it should be 40… when i see the police officer with a radar gun, I will decide 30 sounds better. Each situation is different, and the rationale changes per person. Even those who would be considered guilty of “predatory” exploits have somehow rationalized their behavior.

Nonetheless, I have built trust with many passengers… I somehow drive with “enough” integrity that people are willing to let me drive without saying, “oh no! I am not going if HE is driving.”

I bet it is funnerer. Two people who drive about the same might actually build different levels of passenger trust based on personality characteristics that have nothing to do with driving. Put that in your frosty machine and blend it!!

What is the difference then between “enough” integrity, “not enough” integrity, and should a person even bother? It all becomes richly complex, don’t it? That’s why this phrase messed with my mind….I mean, I was hoping to draw a conclusion here, but rushing to a conclusion is like declaring “ready! fire! aim!”

The conclusion for now? “Driving with integrity” is, to my surprise, an interesting and complex topic. Good times!