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Archive for January, 2014

Start your day off with a slew of randomness.

...this exists. Literally the most awesome packaging ever conceived.

…this exists. Literally the most awesome packaging ever conceived.

All the way to Portland, OR to find Daddy's Chocolate Milk. Don't touch!

All the way to Portland, OR to find Daddy’s Chocolate Milk. Don’t touch!

(In) Edible delights from the gas station Hot Case.

(In) Edible delights from the gas station Hot Case.

Oh boy, US government  cheese straight from the teat, all for me!

Oh boy, US government cheese straight from the teat, all for me!

The Polar Vortex Strikes Again

The Polar Vortex Strikes Again

 

Bonus! Because I can.

Just the way I like to start the day!

Just the way I like to start the day!

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I can’t speak for you, so this is why I use it.

Take heed. Or not.

I’ve been using Foursquare on my iPhone 4 for about 2-1/2 years.

For the uninitiated, Foursquare is an app that allows you to ‘check in’ to the places you’re at. It’s like the Facebook ‘Check In’ feature. In theory, this let’s your friends know where you are or the ‘cool’ places you frequent.

You can also write reviews, add photos, become the Mayor of that place and earn badges for checking-in to certain places.

My stats as of January 28, 2014: 3,538 Check Ins and 133 Badges.

There are three main reasons I use Foursquare. Note: None of these are because I care if you know where I am.

3rd Best Reason to Use Foursquare

To search for new or recommended places.

Yes, you can use Yelp or Google (or other apps) but those don’t offer the other two reasons. This feature is especially useful as you visit new cities or places. You can search by category (Want a taco? Find it!) but the ‘trending’ feature sets it apart from other apps. This shows a list of places that many fellow Foursquare users are currently checked in at. For example, a friend found a number of ‘trending’ places in New York that were cool (The Standard Biergarten and the Frying Pan).

It’s easy to use the map feature to track your progress as you get close to the place. I use this a lot.

2nd Best Reason to Use Foursquare

To keep track of places to write about later.

As you may have noticed, I like to make lists. I like to write about travel and places I’ve been. I need a way to track all that nonsense.

Before mobile phones, I scribbled on a small notepad at the end of the day. Often I’d forget a name of a restaurant or cultural icon or museum or dish I devoured. Or I’d forget to write anything for weeks at a time, and then I was really screwed. I’d have to phone a friend or Google until I remembered. Tedious.

Now I can scan the list of places I’ve checked-in to via Foursquare. The work is done! And you get ample lists and useless content from me. You are welcome.

The Best Reason to Use Foursquare

To earn badges.

Now it’s a game. A competition. A scavenger hunt. I like small, simple goals (like doing X, Y and Z to achieve A). I like the feeling of (pointless) accomplishment for achieving something – no matter how small. I am fond of mastering small challenges in my head (like where to go and when to unlock a particular badge).

None of this is significant. Or life-changing. Or useful in and of itself. But why do we play games? Why did you while away countless hours playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush? We do it. Because we are competitive. Because we like to be distracted from real-life. Because we want to get better and do better. Because we want to impress our friends. Whatever the reasons, we like to play games.

And that is why I like to use Foursquare.

There are many types of badges you can earn. Either from Foursquare or from partner organizations.

The two types of Foursquare badges I want are ‘Expertise’ badges and the ‘City’ badges.

‘Expertise’ badges – Earn the badge (in a specific category), then ‘level-up’ as you continue to go to more places in that category. Say you like Mexican food and tacos. After visiting three Mexican/taco places you earn the ‘Hot Tamale’ badge. Then after going to five new Mexican/taco places, you move up to ‘Level 2’. Then ‘Level 3′. All the way to ’10’.

There are currently 39 different expertise badges. Categories of food and drink are common (like Burgers, Pizza, Italian, Japanese, Coffee and more). But there are sports, travel or outdoors related ones as well.

Some Expertise…

‘City’ badges – Earn the badge by checking in to five different places on that city’s Foursquare list. The list usually has around 50-60 places (tourist sites, restaurants, places of cultural significance and more). There are 55 cities across the world that have a badge. The USA leads with 18.

This is the most interesting part of the entire badge system. I have earned 9 City badges so far. Come join me as I travel to get more.

London. Paris. Seattle, WA. Bangkok. Las Vegas, NV. Portland, OR. Boston, MA. Stamford, CT. Baltimore, MD.
Other cool badges
Bonus!
Foursquare also works with the app Untappd, which allows you to track the various beers you’ve imbibed. You can earn certain Untappd badges by connecting the two apps!

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We’ve all done it.

Organized and hosted a webinar or a conference call, using a tool like WebEx, Elluminate, GoToMeeting or whatever.

But, are you doing it right?

The key to your success is simple. Read this post. (Note: It’s possible you could find actual expert advice on this topic via Google search – I was too lazy to check).

For your professional pleasure, I give you this foolproof guide to hosting a webinar.

foolproof

1. Let’s assume you have a purpose for your webinar and an audience already in mind. If not, skip ahead to the part where you relax and enjoy a beer.

2. Prepare amazing content to share. I mean it. The more visually dense and wordy the presentation, the more likely people will ask for it after the webinar ends. This maximizes your chances of getting your content out into the world. (Pro tip: Content is king. The world is your oyster.)

3. Turn off the enter/leave sounds. Otherwise, you will go crazy from all the bloop blooping.

4. Set up a whiteboard with a welcome note. Make it authentic. Get personal. (Pro tip: Ransom notesque is best.)

5. As people join your webinar (bloop bloop), be sure they go to automatic mute. You want to avoid those awkward moments of small talk.

6. Show a puppy (or a kitten) doing something cute as a metaphor for a relevant business process in your workplace. It doesn’t matter what that is, all anybody will remember is how awesome the puppy was. (Pro tip: If your entire webinar is about puppies, everyone wins.)

7. Record the webinar. Do share the recording so all your key stakeholders can listen to your exquisite expositions and the participants’ lucid insights as many times as they desire. Now anyone that was asleep during your live webinar can fall asleep again listening to your soothing voice.

8. When you want to comment or ask a question verbally, do NOT ask if people can hear you. Just speak. If they can’t hear, they will tell you immediately in the chat function. All 500 of them.

9. Do NOT ask a question and then without pause say ‘Hello?’. Give someone a chance to speak already! Hello? Can you hear me? Hello? Hello?

10. Have a close relationship with your mute/unmute button. Become friends with it. Take it on a date if you have to. Case in point: No one wants to hear you doing hot yoga in your office chair when you should be muted. No one wants to listen to abject silence as you expound on amazing content to your dog because you forgot to unmute. (Pro tip: No chance this doesn’t happen during your webinar.)

11. If you are at home, put the dog in the other room. Dogs have a keen sense for when you’ve unmuted yourself and bark accordingly. If it’s a puppy, put it on the WebCam IMMEDIATELY.

12. As people sign off (bloop bloop), having learned amazing new things and changed the world for the better, promise to follow-up with everyone. It won’t be the last white lie you tell today.

Remember, with this guide, even you won’t be able to mess up the webinar.

Bloop bloop.

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In 2014, I predict I will…

…read four ‘classic’ science fiction novels. From this list.

…participate in three races. Maybe even a sprint triathlon?

…prance about in at least one new country. Maybe Croatia?

…visit 2-3 new baseball stadiums.

…attend another music festival. Maybe the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware?

…find a new job.

…hike more than last year. Benchmark: 17 hikes/177.5 miles.

…finish watching the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 movies and all the Oscar Best Picture winners. Don’t get too excited, I only have 18 movies remaining.

…cook more.

…win.

________________

Let’s look at how I fared from my 2013 list:

Success rate: 8.5/10

…go river rafting. It’s been awhile. Nope. Fail. Boo.

…read four ‘classic novels’. You know War and Peace and the like. I did. ‘Read‘ about it.

…turn a certain age. Yes! It was so easy.

…play some tennis. Indeed. I managed to play 10 matches (4-6 record) in the Summer and Fall.

…run in two races. Like a 5K, 8K or other. I ran the Semper Fi 5K and the Prevent Cancer 5K. I also did the 50K One Day Hike (I ran and walked).

…go to three new major league baseball stadiums. Thinking of Boston and Pittsburgh to start. I went to Fenway Park (Boston) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh). It wasn’t three, but I’m calling it success. Sue me!

…visit a new state (not the state of denial, but one of those US States) and a new country. I went to Rhode Island for the first time. No new country for old men. .5 credit.

…explore Washington, D.C. more. Even though I’ve seen a lot, there is always something new to discover. Yes. In fact I spent a whole month on this.

…publish more blog posts than last year (45 is the number to reach). Boom! 51!

…do something crazy. I am crazy, so everything I do is crazy.

boom

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My goal in December was to finish reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. And do some running.

Did. Not. Happen.

That’s the miserable news.

The bad news, by contrast, is I can continue to give you updates on my Le Miz progress! Aren’t you excited? It may last another year.

December Goal: Read the last 820 pages (out of 1463) of Les Misérables and run 11 miles.

Stats

  • Actually read: 423 pages (52% of goal)
  • Actually ran: 3 miles (38% of goal)

Result: Fail!

I did read quite a lot. Then there came a five-day stretch where I just couldn’t pick up the book. I avoided it. I went out of my way not to see Cosette’s dour face staring at me. With about seven days left, I thought ‘I can pull this off – if I read all day and night!’ But I decided not to hurt myself.

Highlights of those 423 pages: Thénardier escapes prison. Marius and Cosette finally meet and stare at each other for 200 pages. France is flawed but awesome. An epic history lesson on the June Rebellion of 1832. Quality time with the rats inside the Elephant of the Bastille. 600 Parisian street names mentioned and 700 name checks of ‘famous’ French people (rough estimates).

Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean is not amused.

Fin. (aka the good news)

Not amused

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75 movies watched in 2013. By me no less!

Bust out some microwavable popcorn and a box of Junior Mints, here’s a look at the best movies I watched this year. And some of the worst.

Best

11. The Wolf of Wall Street – Crazy excess. Over the top shenanigans. Money corrupts most deadly.

10. Looper – Trippy. Unexpected. Eminently watchable. Bruce Willis does something worth watching again. (Dear Bruce, stop making Die Hard movies…)

9. Monsters University – More zany antics from Mike and Sully! An origin story, if you will. And you should.

8. The Way Way Back – When summer sucks, your Mom’s boyfriend is a jerk and you don’t fit in, what do you do? That’s right, work at a water park.

7. Promised Land – Grappling with big business ruining people’s lives to make a buck, the ‘villain’ discovers what’s really important in life.

6. World War Z – Not really like the book it gets its title from, but still suspenseful and scary. The book is an allegory for class and power in the US. Highly recommended. Also, I like a good zombie movie/show (this, 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead).

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – The high school outsider finds his merry band of misfits. And Emma Watson is one!

4. Star Trek: Into Darkness – Damn it, man, I’m a doctor not a torpedo technician! The new Star Trek movies are entertaining. Not sure they need to keep making too many nods and parallels to the previous movies. Look forward to what J.J. Abrams does with the new Star Wars movies.

3. Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence. Bradley Cooper. Robert De Niro. Dancing.

2. End of Watch – Gritty. Violent. Heart-breaking. All the things you’d expect when cops go after cartels that fight back.

1. Wreck-It-Ralph – I loved all the old school video game references, and found it fun to watch the villain become the hero.

Worst

5. Identity Thief – Not funny. Not good. Not worth any more words. Oh and that goes for The Hangover Part III as well.

4. Battleship – On the plane. Expected exactly what I got for watching this.

3. The Master – So boring. So awful.

2. Spring Breakers – If not for flying sharks, this would certainly be  the worst movie of any year. Don’t even think about watching this. James Franco defies explanation.

1. Sharknado – The name says it all. Sharks cruising inside tornadoes to attack people! Sounds so bad it might just be good. Don’t fool yourself.

Look, it’s a hammerhead, it’s a whale shark, it’s….

shark

Extra Special Bonus Time (All 75 movies)

  1. The Expendables 2
  2. Looper
  3. End of Watch
  4. Armitage
  5. Wreck-It-Ralph
  6. Ted
  7. Die Hard (Didn’t make the list because I’ve seen it many times before.)
  8. Battleship
  9. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  10. The Bourne Legacy
  11. Bruce Almighty
  12. Die Hard 2
  13. Wrath of the Titans
  14. Alien (same as Die Hard)
  15. Lawless
  16. Frankenweenie
  17. Flight (on the bubble for the best)
  18. The Master
  19. Wet Hot American Summer
  20. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  21. Red Dawn (2012)
  22. Swing Time
  23. Life of Pi
  24. The Dark Knight Rises (second time, made the list in 2012)
  25. Silver Linings Playbook
  26. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  27. The Impossible
  28. Sophie’s Choice
  29. American Reunion
  30. Who’s Afraid fo Virginia Woolf?
  31. Intolerance
  32. The Karate Kid (1984)
  33. Cloud Atlas
  34. Spring Breakers
  35. Promised Land
  36. Conan the Barbarian (2011)
  37. Oz the Great and Powerful
  38. Gangster Squad
  39. 42
  40. Admission
  41. Identity Thief
  42. Oblivion
  43. Sharknado
  44. White House Down
  45. The Great Gatsby
  46. Evil Dead
  47. Now You See Me
  48. The Thing (2011)
  49. Mud
  50. The Hangover III
  51. Monsters University
  52. E.T.
  53. The Internship
  54. Pacific Rim
  55. Dredd
  56. The Way Way Back
  57. Man of Steel
  58. Elysium
  59. The Purge
  60. Battle Royale
  61. 2 Guns

In Theatres

  1. Jack Reacher
  2. Zero Dark Thirty
  3. Girl Rising
  4. Iron Man 3
  5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
  6. The Princess Bride
  7. This Is The End
  8. World War Z
  9. The Wolverine
  10. Ender’s Game
  11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  12. American Hustle
  13. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  14. The Wolf of Wall Street

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I think I’ll start 2014 by attempting to shed my winter hibernation weight.

All those Christmas dinners, off-meal turkey sandwiches, and slices of pie, plus all the necessary-to-eat-immediately candy and snacks laying about and a copious amount of beer – haven’t been kind to me. At all.

My goal is for both January and February, so I don’t slack off in the freezing cold.

January/February Goal: Exercise 33 days (out of 59)

What counts? Running, hiking, biking, playing volleyball, lifting small dogs, yawning and other.

Since this is a two month period, I may have another goal…

Don’t wait up.

Jan-Feb-Goal

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