February 2010 Archives

February 28, 2010

The Secret to Luck

Be lucky - it’s an easy skill to learn says Richard Wiseman. It would seem luck is not as lucky as it seems.

/found via @Mr_Darling and @stuyparker (among others)

February 26, 2010

Best Animated Gif EVER

They entitled it “Best Animated Gif Ever 2,” but there’s no question in my mind this one is not only superior but unmatched.

/found here. Oh how great it is. :D

February 25, 2010

Starting off on the wrong footer

ann.jpgFor those who read this and connect my personal and professional life, you may have noticed that one of the sites I maintain, the Adventist News Network has a new look. Possibly wondered why I didn’t make any sort of big announcement here or on Twitter noting the transition or detailing the process.

The reason, reader, is because I don’t like the site. there’s about 10-15% of me that is bitter because I recommended and started development on a different version. The other 85-90% of me is bitter because the new style, which is nice, took over a year to move from concept to deliverable, and the deliverable was so poorly done…

Getting things up to snuff was hard, but I found reward in the way a few teammates went above and beyond the usual workload to see this thing go live (probably because they were as tired of it as I was). It was the first time I felt a sense of team on a web project in the 18 months I’ve been here, and it felt so good..

firethedesigner.jpg

ANN’s new design still has a ton of issues, enough that I’m fixing and releasing them en masse like a version release. We’re actually calling it “ANN 2.1” and it will largely be an optimization of code and css. We’ll also push the release more appropriate of an Movable Type-powered site—as a template set.

Rather than risking an visible issue as we “upgrade” the design, I thought it’d be nice to stage the entire site on a developmental server and test things first. Problem is, I didn’t have a server environment that matched precisely; ideally it’d be best to mirror the old site, make the changes, and then point the domain to the improved version. So I asked my IT department for a new virtual server.

They kindly obliged earlier this month, and once I got things squared away with the template set, I set out building the server to specifications. One thing I can say about this job: it has broadened my understanding of server administration and Apache configuration. Playing around in a fresh server, googling solutions, and discovering through error is a great way to learn little things you never realized. I’m officially a terminal man now. :)

With nothing really set up as far as web strategy, design process, or even mac hardware tech support for my department, life has been one big problem after another. But now that I’m nearing the end of the worst of it, I’m finding myself more capable and more confident about the methods and systems I came with. Soon, I’ll be able to push forward with a more visible manner—one that I’ll be proud of.

Haiti a month on

Saying “I told you so” doesn’t make the tremendous drop in Haiti coverage any less depressing. I’m appreciative that there are still many relief efforts and humanitarian aid providers on the scene, yet I cringe at the thought that Haiti was in our prayers only as long as it was before our eyes.

With the torrential storm season fast approaching, and tens of thousands still living outside, I fear the worst is not yet over for this impoverished nation.

Link from The Economist

February 24, 2010

What Makes Cities Happy

I’m happy that my metropolitan area made second place in the level of well-bing US cities (cited in the article), but it is more interesting to see the correlation between specific things and feelings of well-being. For a measure of clarity (especially for those unaccustomed to looking at charts of this type) it would have been nice to see a few areas that were considered (or discovered) to be non-essential to metropolitan well being.

All together very interesting.

February 23, 2010

The Most Sinful Nation on Earth

BBC Focus Magazine apparently conducted a (relatively flimsy) research assignment which measured countries according to the presence of a modern variant of the seven deadly sins. The article is no longer available, but the image tells you all you need to know.

/found here

Why Are You So Terribly Disappointing?

If he hadn’t gone overboard on the paragraphs of mock whining, this would echo my recent feelings very well.

February 14, 2010

In Pursuit of Happiness and a Pleasant Meal

  • Leftsider tweeted, “At Original Pancake House with James and Nerise. Apparently, Aussies eat pancakes with ice cream and maple syrup! http://yfrog.com/3lycxmj


Not only do they regularly eat pancakes with ice cream, they do so regularly at a place around Sydney called Pancakes on the Rocks. Additionally, they consider this “a very American thing to do.” Fru and I watched in amazement as Nerise poured a polite amount of maple syrup over her special plate.

Nerise's Pancakes

The plate was only partially special because of its unusualness—the waitress told us of a regular customer that was fond of ice cream on pancakes. What made this plate special was it was the last dish on the table—and when we looked into its absence we discovered that a member of the kitchen staff had run to a nearby grocery to fulfill our order.

When the waitress heard us mention the oddity of ice cream on pancakes and shared her experience of other customers, she also saw the slight disappointment in Nerise’s face that this was not to be expected. So she took extra initiative to make her customer happy. In fact, she praised James’ choice of the nutella pancakes (her fav), got Nerise exactly what she wanted, accepted my credit card and brought back my receipt (this is a place that is strictly “pay as you exit”) and wished us all a happy Valentine’s Day with a smile.

Customer service is about making people happy, as much as is eating waffles and pancakes at Sunday brunch. Growing up, pancakes were homemade Sunday food, and waffles were a rare occasion—generally where we found ourselves 20 miles away from home and my dad in a cheerful mood. So in many instances (especially when eating out), the meal is also the pursuit of happiness.

Continue reading In Pursuit of Happiness and a Pleasant Meal.

February 10, 2010

Taijiquan

The Karate Kid

Image via Wikipedia

As the snow falls this evening, I’m in my living room moving slowly. I’m slightly perspiring, my hands are in front of me; my weight is entirely on one foot. After a couple minutes, I shift slightly to the other foot and turn gently.

No, I’m not re-enacting The Karate Kid

…but I am practicing a martial art. For about seven months I’ve been studying a Yang-style of Taijiquan (better known as Tai Chi) at Great River Taoist Center in downtown DC. I really like it, and I thought I’d explain why.

  • Taiji is a system. Like any system, there are parts—and these parts’ value diminish when taken in isolation. I found this out when I breifly became interested in yoga. Yoga is also a system developed by Hindu practitioners for greater control of the body—meditation’s greatest distraction—not for health or fitness. You will not find this basis in most of the yoga studios you visit. Of all the people who I know who have practiced or are studying, only one have I seen progress into the actual deeper application. Taiji was developed as a fighting style. There are poses or forms, that when given application, can be used in physical engagement(be it fixed routines or free sparring). Thus, practitioners gain mindfulness as well has heath and martial benefits. GRTC is the first place I’ve found of any such kind that presents a full system rather than the more popular (and profitable) packaged parts.

  • Taiji is slow and laborious. I am not a fast person, and I appreciate taking my time. Everyone wants to be great, but very few care how they become great. People balk at the idea of dedicating extensive time to fully understanding something; it’s much more common to hear “give me the basic points” than “let’s cover each point in detail.” Taijiquan’s famous slow progression through forms is specifically to highlight every point, and to establish the structure that will support (later) fast movement. It also provides room for reflection, while the cyclical practices make review a norm. You will always learn something new, and you can always extend your understanding of even the most basic concepts. Taiji seems to be designed with this in mind (in fact, the center’s director advocates giving a school “about 2 years” to see if its teachings are sound!). In this streaming, always-on, multitasking world, taijiquan brings repose without inactivity. I have no goal to make, no record to beat; only myself to improve—and all the time in the world.

  • Taijiquan avoids a focus on strength, instead embracing right intent and application. I grew up in a relatively rural, where strong guys abound. But unlike the swollen gym rats that scurry around DC streets, most of these guys are not huge. They know how to correctly apply their strength, and this does not require obscene bulges. Taiji emphasizes proper structure over big muscles—the center’s favorite phrase is “steel wrapped in cotton”—which makes it accessible to all sizes, ages and genders. It also makes note of key areas in application which make less effort work more.

'Yang Ch'eng-fu in the Yang style's version of...

Image via Wikipedia

February 5, 2010

A New Approach to Twitter

I’ll be changing my usage of twitter. Again.

  1. Every twitter account I’m even remotely intrigued by, I will follow. I am cultivating my own public timeline. I want to expand what I hear from the twitter community from my own valuations (rather than external suggestions or trends)
  2. I will use twitter’s “lists” feature to focus on specific twitterers that, for one reason or another, catch my attention. If anyone from twitter reads this, it’d be a great feature to have the ability to select a “list” as your “home” page. I want to easily cut the noise and receive the signal, making twitter actually useful.
  3. The “reply” feature will be deprecated. If I need to reply to someone, it will be a complete tweet thought that can stand alone; otherwise, I’ll defer to the “direct message” feature. I now think the twitter team had the right idea when they “fixed replies”; without context, replies lose usefulness. Now that I stream my tweets on Leftsider, and Google shows tweets in search results, my tweets are being asked to mature a bit.

As I have pretty much abandoned twitter SMS usage (thanks, iPhone apps!), it no longer is important that I keep my following number low—especially since twitter now allows me to select which tweets to send. A lot of people who were snubbed or axed by my notorious “following 79” rule may find themselves back on board. This, I expect, will also affect my recent follower plateau.

From a few random strangers to practically everyone I meet these days, twitter certainly is a different animal. I’d be interested in knowing how other people are taming the beast.