Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wikipedia on a thumb drive.

I saw an article today about an organization in Seoul (and Palo Alto) called Flash Drives for Freedom.  The gist is that they smuggle donated flash drives into North Korea loaded with information that is censored by Dear Leader.  One of the content items they mentioned was a Korean version of Wikipedia.  I thought, that fits on a flash drive?  Turns out, the English version, just the articles without the pictures, clocks in at 15 gigabytes compressed.  Text compresses well, so that's feasible. I assumed that Wikipedia had grown much larger than that, or I just never really thought about it.

Anyway, you can get your own copy of Wikipedia here:

I haven't decided if it's useful to actually have a copy on my hard drive, but I did find the possibility interesting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Unlimited breadsticks since 1982

I gotta give it to Olive Garden.  I've been back lately a few times, and I like it.  I praise them for turning things around and simultaneously defending their bottomless breadsticks policy to shareholders.

That said, I'm off for some all you can eat soup, salad, and Italian generosity.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Transition time: The next 10 weeks.

My Aunt Gail mentioned recently that I have always been good at reinventing myself. Well, I am good at adding to my skill set. I completed a year of night classes on massage therapy and got licensed by the State of Texas to be a professional massage therapist. The reason I did it is because I have friends who need massage and can't or won't pay for it.  I have a few paying clients, but haven't formalized it into a real business. . . yet. My long term goal is to open a practice with a scientific bent to quantify the benefits of certain types of massage therapy for conditions like PTSD.

Because working full time in a stressful day job during school was causing me to be exhausted and struggle both at work AND school, I took a contract with lower pay and flexible hours to complete school, and now that contract has ended and I'm starting to get back to consulting with clients of Veritable Networks Inc., a firm I own 50%. I can commit more time and make more money.  Also, during the past year I have been also working as a mentor / caregiver for a disabled veteran who struggles with the effects of combat in Iraq and helping him navigate life as a civilian. Even after I met all of the requirements, including Easter Seals training, the VA rejected my request for pay for doing that work, but I continued it out of a sense of actually caring. I'm going to file another appeal, because the burden of that has been a test of patience, fortitude, will power, and compassion beyond my previous capabilities, and apparently beyond my financial capabilities. If it weren't for the self-care regime that the Easter Seals taught me at the beginning, and the things I learned in massage school, or the gratitude from his immediate and extended family, or the mental clarity I get from my Buddhist-style meditation practice. (Om mane padme um, y'all!)  I would have given up a long time ago. He's turned the corner and I'm starting to ask him to take care of himself.  He's in the gym more and taking more responsibility and handling his own stresses in healthy ways. He's ready for school and a job now, and ready to get on with his life.

So, now is a time for transformation: Really reinventing myself to improve my income, lifestyle, and personal relationships! I'm going to blog about it for 10 weeks, and see if, by the end of 70 days, I'm not way better off by focusing on doing things differently. And, I'm asking for advice, because I'm sure I have a lot of blind spots, so I'm going to need the help of anyone who will help. I wish health, wealth, and happiness on everyone.

Now, I need an accountant.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The glove phone.

Hacking a Burg smartphone watch into a snazzy, futuristic glove is one of the coolest things I've seen on the web this week.  While I'm not ready to don one of these just yet, since I might prefer the watch form factor to fit the "business casual" mold.  Plus, I'm pretty sure I'd miss the nice touch screen of my existing Moto X phone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Massage Therapy

I have started my clinical internship on the weekends to become a Licensed Massage Therapist. That means that people come to the school and get an hour massage for $25 and then fill out a form to rate my performance.  I have to do about 5 massages each shift until I have done 100 massages.  I'll be done by March.  Here's a 2-fer coupon.  It's a super amazing bargain, and if you live in the DFW area, you should try it out.  The students who are nearing graduation are masters.

Massage Therapy school, at least the one I'm attending, is nowhere near as easy as I had thought. Human Anatomy and Kinesiology courses are no joke. Plus, there is a lot to learn about Hydrotherapy.  I have already learned Swedish, Shiatsu, Russian sports massage, Reflexology, and some variations.  I like being challenged, and this undertaking is definitely a challenge.  I have already put in over 400 clock hours of classroom and hands-on time.  The goal is 815.5, so I'm halfway there!

My goal is to open a clinic or high end spa in a year or so to really help people with their body aches and stress.  I know that it has been greatly beneficial to me in my career.  Right after graduation, I can start a private massage practice and make extra scratch on evenings and weekends to get the money together.  Using my hands and working on people is the perfect complement to sitting at a desk working on computers during the work day.  I have a calm demeanor that allows me to work well with high strung people, and I would love nothing more than to help veterans with PTSD, because I know that massage therapy can settle the nerves and provide a sense of well being.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Blog powers, REACTIVATE.

I have relegated my posting activity to social media for a year or so, and I kind of miss the old blog format in nostalgic ways.

I feel like social media limits you to a picture and/or a paragraph or two and it feels like you'll get a lot of TL;DR comments if you go on too long.  In reality, blogging may be the same way, but at least *I* don't feel constrained from filling a ton of white space with some free form writing. . . whether I post it or not.

I'm compelled to review the last year, because I haven't posted in so long.  Plus, it's therapeutic to reflect.

I have worked a few different contracts as a network engineer and repeated one old gig, but have been contracting my own labor through the company I started with my brother for all the benefits surrounding entrepreneurship.  The IRS tax code for businesses has over 40,000 pages of tax deductions.  You can take them, if you document everything.  It's a different mindset, and I have high hopes for the business.  I hope to transition from being "self-employed" to really running a thriving company over the next months and years. For now the current business is in a slow time with challenges ahead in the near term, but nothing that can't be overcome by cutting back expenditures and generating new revenue, which is starting to happen.

I moved from Irving to Dallas.  Living in Uptown is not much different except that there's a lot more going on within a few miles of the house than I can possibly keep up with. And the traffic!  Since all roads lead to The Mixmaster, and I've learned which surface streets to use at which times of day when the freeways are jammed.  Dallas traffic has added some stress, but it really is a matter of timing and knowledge of routes to avoid it.  In all, I'm closer to things.

The reason I moved to Dallas is that I've latched on to a new friend in October.  He's an Iraq veteran who has been through a couple of IED explosions and some hellish consequences through his recovery.  I completed Easter Seals training for family caregivers and I try to do my best to counsel and mentor him and understand how to help someone with his condition.  Three was a crowd where I was living, so we became roommates and moved.  In mentoring him, I find that he is the one actually mentoring me and giving some additional meaning to my life.  His perspective is so different than mine was at his age.  I was not so cynical, but I was spiritually out of touch and a little out of touch with who I was. I know that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy really helps people who have been through trauma, and some who haven't. I also am reassured that massage is the best cure for stress and anxiety. The most beneficial thing I do for him, though, is just listen.

He takes a lot of my energy sometimes, but I find that I'm growing stronger in character in many ways.  Sometimes he annoys me to the point that I wonder why I continue, but then he does something exceedingly nice or lets me know how much he appreciates my friendship.  Plus, I continue for the same reason I started:  Guys like him are heroes to me. Like my father, he was involved in an explosion in a war.  Whatever I can do within reason to lessen the consequences of those kinds of sacrifices is not a burden to me.  I've crossed the line to unreasonable on occasion only to quickly dial back to keep from becoming an enabler and to make sure everything I'm doing is from a place of loving kindness. This weekend, I'm writing an appeal to Veterans Affairs to get some assistance for myself as a caregiver.  Since I've taken on the task, I've been a relief to his family and really had a positive effect, according to them, but I can't deny the drag on my energy, career focus, and social life is palpable. Consequences are appearing and making me face some dilemmas with regards to my priorities.  Change is good if it aligns with my goals.  I suppose in retrospect I had not realized that my goals were out of whack with my spirituality and my true values. My perspective keeps changing as I gain knowledge and experience.  I just keep meditating and praying that he finds happiness and normalcy at the end of the long road he's on and that what I'm doing is ultimately good, wise, and rewarding to all involved.

I have been playing less hockey, because of the aforementioned efforts and I have started going to night school, which takes a lot of time and energy and extra commuting.  In fact, besides a bit of chillaxing watching streaming movies or playing some Ingress, I haven't been doing much as far as recreation. Ingress forces you to get out and walking around, since that's how you collect energy in the game.  I've walked 17000 steps this weekend according to the Samsung S Health app, and the weekend isn't over.  I'll probably return to hockey as my primary physical activity after I graduate.  I really need to get back into the gym. Wow, I've lost weight.  I'm at about 195, which is about 10 pounds less than where I would normally be, if I were doing more athletic things.  It may be time to start forcing myself to go to the gym, which I know has benefits I could use right now.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Favorite Android Apps

I'm going to upgrade my phone ROM to an "experimental" version of Android 5.0, aka Key Lime Pie. Every time I try a new ROM, I end up re-installing the apps I like/love/need and simply not installing the ones I've stopped using or use too infrequently. Consequently, there aren't very many apps on my phone. If the new Android doesn't play well with my apps, I'll go back to Jelly Bean and repeat this culling process.

3D Digital Weather - It's not rated as the best clock/weather widget, but it's my favorite.
ADW Launcher - I'm hooked on this interface. 5 column app drawer.  Cool themes, fades, and effects.
Alarm Clock Xtreme - It takes extreme measures to roust me in the morning, and this thing cranks up the volume and blasts me out of bed if I don't respond to the preceding gentle alarm. I run the same thing on my tablet, and I can see the next alarm on the lock screen, so I know when it's set.
Astrid - It's a great task manager, especially if you need to assign/accept tasks to/from others.
Chrome - I use Chrome for some browsing, and. . .
Dolphin - . . . for certain sites I use Dolphin. I have a right to be ambivalent.
Field Trip - This uses your GPS to alerts you of nearby points of interest. Sometimes it really is interesting, sometimes I feel like it's preparing me for Final Jeopardy.
Gmail - Of course.
Google Drive - A great way to back up files on my phone or move files between my computer, phone, and tablet.
Google Search - Google Now and Voice Search are moving from nicety to necessity very quickly.
Google Voice - I use this for voice mail and texting sometimes. The voice mail transcriptions are both aggravating and useful. I haven't seen much progress lately.
Google+/Messenger+ - I follow interest groups and communities which interest me, and it's becoming my primary place for sharing things.
GPS Status - the GPS signal locks on faster and seems to be more accurate and reliable since I installed this. It is a very functional compass, altimeter, speedometer, and generally cool app to look at.
Ingress - This is a GPS based game involving team play in the physical world. The concept is great, and during the current closed beta test the rules change from time to time. There should be more games like this, however. You literally can't sit at home and play it, you have to hit the streets to play. I like a majority of the places this game has taken me and the team play aspect has made it very interesting.
Ingress Portal Timer - This little utility is for Ingress players.
JEFIT - This paces my workout, keeps track of my routines, tracks progress. . . because I don't remember from week to week my constantly changing one rep max on seated leg curls, rear delt extensions, or side lateral raises. I can also easily tell which body parts are due for a workout and it nags me when it's time to hit the gym.  I bought this one, but there's a free version.
Kitchen Timer - Best little egg timer app.
LinkedIn - This is a new one for me, and it's growing on me. The app far surpassed my expectations.
Maps / Navigation - This app keeps getting better and the integration with Google Now is one of the top reasons I have an Android phone.
Notifications Widget - This puts notifications on the lock screen. With this I can glance at my phone and decide if I want to respond now or later. I'm also a fan of turning on voice notifications in the accessibility settings when I'm home, so text-to-speech lady reads it to me and I don't even have to look. Turning this on is automated with Tasker. Tasker knows when I'm home, because it can see my home WiFi router.
Online Banking - This saves me from the "Would you like to check your balance?" prompt on the ATM, which sometimes costs money if you accept.
Pocket Casts - I'm warming up to this alternative to Google Listen, which seems to have been surpassed here.
Raindar - Animated weather radar, because in the southern plains in the Spring, weather can be a dangerous, full contact sport.
Tasker - Oh so wonderful tool of automation for doing obvious and nice things to my phone, like launching apps at a certain time or place or changing my phone settings on my behalf based on time, location, and other triggers.
Waze - Maps has no idea about traffic and will steer you right into the thick of it. I'm in DFW, ya'll. Traffic is a factor in my every day. This app knows all the shortcuts, traffic alerts, red light camera locations, speed traps, etc.
Winamp - My favorite MP3 player still whips the llama's ass. Shoutcast, people. It's better than Pandora if you have a good data connection.

Did not make the cut:
Apollo Music Player - I'm not re-installing this since I discovered Winamp for Android, which actually syncs with my PC and has superior playlist management.
United Airlines - I'm not keeping it, because it's useless unless you're traveling. However,real time flight status kept me better informed than the other folks in the gate area. I was also able to ask proactively to be booked on an earlier flight when I noticed a few hours ahead of time that a storm had delayed the plane, which saved me from being stranded on that occasion.
Facebook - deleting the app. If I want to go there, I use Dolphin.