Archive for February, 2009

I’m in the money – unclaimed funds!

February 24, 2009

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flickr photo: peasap

While tying up loose ends regarding my grandparents’ estate, my uncle ran an unclaimed funds search and my name showed up. I got a call Saturday afternoon while walking to the library with my son. I hopped on line when we got home. Turns out Washington State has a web site that makes claiming your unclaimed funds really simple.

The fun/mysterious part are the categories for unclaimed amounts. They’re either under or over $100. Mine was over $100. How much more is the exciting part. From what J and I can figure, it has something to do with our old house in (South) West Seattle. I sent along a copy of our old deed, at least I think it was the deed.

Now if the universe was going to send me a sweet goodie, it would be really handy if the amount coming was in the thousands of dollars. That would go a long way with our New Gig bootstrapping costs.

Here’s to good universe mojo.

Oh, and Happy Mardi Gras.

The talking bits before presenting the Oscars were weird…

February 22, 2009

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flickr photo: xero79

Hi. We turned on the Acadamy Awards just as they were announcing the Best Supporting Actress. The five grand dames of film, past Best Supporting Actress winners, on stage presenting the nominees. Paired, as it were, past winner lauding present nominee. For some, it may have been touching. For me, it was stilted and awkward. Later, for the Best Actor, Adrian Brody presented that actor you’d recognize, but couldn’t name. And Anthony Hopkins appeared awkward, intoxicated (and not by the moment) while presenting Brad Pitt. Very strange; appropriately Micky Rourke -ish.

I missed the recap of the performance. I hope they bring that back next year.

Goodnight.

The joys of Evernote – user review

February 22, 2009

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If you’re like me, you appreciate an independent third-party review of a product or service before making a purchase. And if you’re like me, migrating from Google Notebook, rest easy knowing that once you’ve deciphered the Google Notebook Atom import process – even available with the free version – you’re going to be pretty stinking happy.

This is my second go with Evernote. I dabbled with the application three or four years ago, prior to it’s ability to synchronize across multiple workstations. It was a pretty cool little note taking app back then, easy to learn and use, but I abandoned it in favor of Google Notebook. Google Notebook offered the one feature the old Evernote lacked, a centralized repository for notes. Now, with the new cloud synchronization, Evernote is everything I wanted. I have five computers synchronized, and you can access your information from anywhere with an internet connection by logging into the Evernote website.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a pretty basic Evernote user. I don’t synchronize with a mobile device. My guess is if I were a mobile device fanatic, there is a whole world of Evernote features I would have another bundle of praise. Maybe someday.

evernote_notebook_list

As for the migration from Google Notebook to Evernote, there is a handy little walkthrough that takes you step by step from Google Notebook export to Evernote import. One of the terriffic shortcomings I discovered with Google Notebook was the inability to easily access early entries.

With Google Notebook, tagging items or entries was – for me – not second nature. I had thousands of notes that were not indexed. With Evernote, I was very diligent right from the start. And here’s the bummer. When I imported all my Google Notebooks, they are just as unindexed as they were before. So, I’m back in the tagging hole. That was a disappointment, and I’ve noticed that my tagging since has not been as diligent. I hope to regain my form.

evernote_popupEvernote makes tagging easy. With every note entered, a tag dialogue pop up appears. It’s not terribly conspicuous, nor does it linger until you act.

If you don’t tag, you can always add tags later (which is the process I’m staggering through in the evenings while the television is on). Be careful with your taxonomy, it can get away from you. One tip: if you are tagging at a time after adding the entry to your overall index, use the pop up dialogue box, rather than the comma separated entry field. The comma separated field doesn’t auto-complete tags – so you can have a very similar tag , for instance “list” and “lists” without any indication of the duplication. It’s not a big whoop, but a bit of annoyance. So when tagging, use the “ctrl+shift+t” key combination to open the tag dialogue box.

At this point, Evernote does not have a spellchecker, so if you’re whipping off a quick note for later, such as a note for a blog post, be sure to check the spelling independently to save yourself any undue misspelling embarrassment.

One last thing, and this may be user-error, but I have not found (and to be fair I haven’t really looked), the setting for requiring login at startup. Why is this important to me? Well, I love me the Evernote so much, I have installed it on my machine at the Day Job. I’d really like to set Evernote to keep non-Pete eyes from digging through my notes if they fired up my machine. I’ll check into that.

After using Evernote for four months, I made the switch to the paid version. I upgraded when I imported my Google Notebooks to be sure I had enough space. For $45 a year, I think it’s a great deal for a terriffic app – even if I never come close to using my monthly alotment.

So, feel comfortable using Evernote. The free version is wildly feature rich and offers a remarkable amount of space to collect your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, annoyances, and just about anything else you want to keep nearby.

A inaugral event: the family meeting

February 15, 2009

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flikr photo: sara.atkins

As you may have assertained, we tried something new tonight, the family meeting. It’s something J had known about from her teaching days in Seattle. I was introduced to the concept during my Alfie Kohn parent-license classes. It goes a little something like this: After dinner we each got a little Haagan Daas vanilla ice cream cup – perfect size for our son, 3, and daughter, 5 – just enough enticement to get ’em to/keep ’em at the table. We introduced the concept to the kids, and lickety split we were off to the family meeting races. They did great. J even better. She mind-mapped the brief meeting. It was a last minute addition, and I think it was a really good idea. The mind-map becomes the minutes from our meeting that even our kids, F & R, can comprehend. Family meeting minutes? Seriously? It sounds way more regimented than it should or than it is. It was neat to document the conversation, calling ’em minutes was my label.

The whole thing lasted about 5-7 minutes; a solid first family meeting. I’ll scan the mind-map and post it for reference.

Good night.

Inevitable Detours: Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

February 14, 2009

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flickr photo: alisdair

Hi. Welcome back.

Hopefully, the past year has been good to you and yours. In light of the recent emotional-political-economic roller coaster, I offer a toast: May there be more good days than bad days ahead, and may we learn at least a little something from both.

Yup, I haven’t worked on Strain in a year. About the time the first draft trickled to an end, I got caught up in some new research. It’s Alfie Kohn’s fault. See, I identified some crossover between my attempt to be a better, less-overwhelmed, more-understanding dad and the underlying motivations found in neuroeconomic/behavioral economic marketing. There are some striking similarities between the two approaches towards understanding behavior and influence. But that’s an ENTIRELY different blog. Let’s leave it by saying I was consumed; still am, but now that I’m out of the immersion, I’m ready to get back to a balanced post-office hours evening filled with kids, darling wife, a little Strain, and a little of the new gig.

The New Gig

While we’ve been able to get by on my income alone, it sure would be nice to have a second source of income. For a while now, J’s been talking about going back to teaching. She loves teaching and helping students, but the idea of returning to a school setting was less than motivational: classroom management, school politics, and hours and hours of paperwork at home.

J is passionate about teaching kids. And big on one-one-one, or individualized, instruction being a key to a student’s education and growth. We talked about her working as a tutor and kicked around some other ideas, but nothing really sang the sweet song she wanted to hear. Then it occurred to me: I write interactive tutorials, demonstrations, web seminars, speeches, you name it. I’ve written close to 600 of ’em for our clients over the last four years…(Is this beginning to sound like her elevator speech? Because if it is, and it’s good, she’ll start using it.)…why not write interactive tutorials for students?

And her little business was born. I’m part of her little team of bootstrappers.

The idea is this: the fundamentals of education are still the same: 2+2, i before e, except after c, etc. Common technological advances make available alternative (supplemental) methods of delivery. So, she’s developing a dynamic learning environment that helps students identify their individual learning style, create multidisciplinary (science, math, reading comprehension) lessons, and adapts the content delivery to the student’s learning style. The dynamic environment monitors the student’s progress and adapts to their skill level, while providing a setting that encourages students to take chances without the fear of failure or embarrassment of being ‘wrong’ in front of their peers. (Notice a subtle crossover with neuroeconomics/behavioral economics? I certainly did.)

J leads the enormous task of developing the curriculum, I’m the typing monkey, and we’ll gather together her team of smart designers, animators, and developers to help us build the thing.

We’re working nights and weekends. It’s exhausting and exciting, and we’re flying by the seats of our pants. We’ve been having a wonderful time working together. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

So, I’m starting this new phase of the book nice and clean. We’ll talk about that next time.