Thursday, May 28, 2009


On Friday I got the Canon PowerShot SD780 IS (Amazon). I'm really pleased with it - the form factor is amazingly small and it feels sturdy. Despite its small size, it packs a ton of features - 12 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom, view finder, 2.5" LCD, HDMI out and a full gamut of image options that I'll be exploring soon. Thus far, it earns high accolades.

I've been using Google Picasa to do simple photo editing (just crops and straightening so far). I like the suite's usability and the hassle-free uploading to Blogger and Picasa Web Albums (and Facebook on Windows). One strange thing about Picasa is that it doesn't actually save edits to the file directly - rather it stores the transformations in library files. This preserves the originals and saves disk space, but can be confusing when you open the file in a different program and notice your edits are gone. The Export button saves the edited pictures to your hard drive. The other export options also just send the edited picture. It's a good system, but something to be aware of if you want to move to other image software.

More can be found at my Picasa web album.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Doin Thangs

I do a lot of things. I also have some major focus issues. This combination can lead to a lot of overwhelming stress from procrastination, and for a long time I lived bouncing from one task to the other as due dates arrived.

Last semester I finally discovered how to overcome these issues by forming small habits from the Zen to Done system. The most significant tip was that time management doesn't involve rigid scheduling. Instead, time management is just smart planning. By focusing each week around a few "big rocks" and each day around a few "most important things" (MITs), my workload suddenly became manageable.

One of the key ingredients to following through with this system is tracking what we do in a day. It's easy to look back on your week and say "I didn't get anything done" without realizing the little things that were really accomplished. Joe's Goals is a simple productivity website to help record progress. You create categories for what you do in a day (work, homework, reading, cooking, housekeeping, socializing, exercising, etc...) and when you spend a chunk of time working on that goal you just click on the box to add a checkmark.

For me, a check represents about 2 hours of work - a math problem set, a lab report, a 20-mile bike ride, 2 hours of chillaxing, grocery shopping, doing laundry... I've discovered that I can accomplish 4-6 things in a typical day. Any less than 4 and I've been wasting time, any more than 6 and I'll burn out. In the morning I make a quick list of the five things I'm going to accomplish, and then do them. By recognizing I only have 5 slots in a given day I can actually accomplish everything in a week through good time management. If I have more things to do in a week than I have space for, I can prioritize and delegate before they become an issue, mitigating stress.

For inspiration, here are my categories:
  • homework (math and science homework)
  • reading (humanities homework)
  • work-work (consulting)
  • research
  • cook
  • house (cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.)
  • social
  • bike
  • self (journaling, reflection, etc.)
I also maintain 3 LogBooks:
  • wake (time I get out of bed)
  • what I did (note on what I did to earn each check)
  • sleep (time I go to bed)
We can also have negative categories to discourage our vices - mine is for skipping class. Each time I consider skipping the negative check makes me consider whether I am skipping out of laziness or because I really have something else to do to offset that check.

It's a simple, elegant solution. I use Joe's Goals because most of my work is online, but you can use the same system with old-school pen and paper, as Ben Franklin did. I still struggle with procrastination, and occassionally I get overloaded, but by adopting this system I've learned how to get things done.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Master Subscription List

This is a master list of my RSS subscriptions for use with Google Reader or other feed aggregators, along with some notes. Smaller text means the feed has been unsubscribed to. Links go directly to the feed, although I may change that to have just the icon point to the feed. New to RSS or Google Reader? How I Do Google Reader

General News
Boston Globe: The Big Picture - The best photojournalism, about 3-4 slideshows a week.
Astronomy Picture of the Day - excellent images from NASA that truly inspire discovery
Yahoo! News Top Stories - aggregate of AP, Reuters and AFP headlines. Feed just prints leading sentence and picture. Gives a good overview of what the mass media is talking about. High volume, low clickthrough.

Humor - mostly webcomics
Calvin & Hobbes - Bill Waterson's genius, delivered daily :)
chainsawsuit - awesome one-off jokes
Dinosaur Comics - philosophical quandries involving dinosaurs
Hark! A Vagrant! - Kate Beaton writes comics about history
Nedroid Picture Diary - reginald and beartato!!!
Overcompensating - fairly classic, not-so-classy.
PhD Comics - adventures in academia
pictures for sad children - "this comic makes me happy, but then it makes me sad"
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - often perverse one-off jokes
T-Rex is Lonely - spinoff of Dinosaur Comics and Garfield Minus Garfield
Thinkin Lincoln - the adventures of Lincoln's disembodied head. After all, Space Trips are only A Question of Science in the Two-Party System :) [bonus win]
xkcd - geeky jokes
Something Awful - good long-form humor
Apokalips - I like this comic. It is fairly new to the scene.
passive-agressive notes - Saw this site at NACAP two weeks ago during the Facebook Forum. If you like this kind of thing, you should subscribe.
Zero Punctuation - Yahtzee, the British-born Australia-based video game reviewer, is an unending source of comedy gold: Sims 3 review

Notes: For more humor blogs check out posts by my friends Banjaloupe and Carlo Angiuli.

IU - local awareness
IU General News - feed from the homepage
Indiana Daily Student - mostly for lulz
IU Cognitive Science News - announcements for IU CogSci undergrads
IU Computer Science Department - funnily enough, this has very little traffic. The CS website really could use an update.
IU School of Informatics
Bloomington VeloNews - Bloomington cycling news and information
The Robin - student-run satire magazine

Politics - for the obsessed
First Read - MSNBC's political analysis blog, lots of volume. Good feel for what's going on in Washington right now.
Five Thirty Eight - amazing analysis by Nate Silver. Started as an election prediction site, but has evolved into a lot more.
David Brooks - the only sane conservative columnist
Paul Krugman Blog - one of the most influential economists of our times. His daily political musings are interesting and often turn me to other cool resources.
Paul Krugman - his New York Times opeds
The Economist: International - The Economist is one of my favorite print magazines, and the international section is the best part of it.
The Economist: The world this week - Worth subscribing to regardless of interest in politics, as it provides an excellent summary of the world each week.
GOOD transparency - great section of an online magazine with infographs (example: first 100 days of the presidency from Roosevelt to Obama )
Glenn Greenwald - great investigative reporter for Salon, currently investigating Obama's civil liberties policy. Always eye opening.

Ars Technica - moderate volume, high quality. Great articles on everything technology
AnAndTech - hardware reviews and industry reports
Wired Top News - Fills the void in tech reporting that Ars Technica doesn't cover. Great general geeky science stuff.
reddit in general

Products - these are just for updates on interesting products and companies.
Google Blog
Facebook Blog
Evernote Blog Blog

Atlantic Hurricanes - because hurricanes are freakin awesome
Indiana - Monroe/INZ062 - local watches and warnings
Kentucky - Calloway/KYZ009 - watches and warnings from back home
Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog - Weather articles from Dr. Jeff Masters, meteorologist and storm chaser.
Note: NOAA watch/warning information can be found by state or by county. Click on the XML button on the far right of your state's row and then find your county.

Mind Hacks - AMAZING blog about all things to do with the mind. They have a post every other week entitled "Brain Spikes" that just link to a ton of interesting articles.
Cognitive Daily - low-volume blog on random topics in cognition.
Neuroantrhopology - Fascinating articles on brain and body. The Wednesday Round-Ups are an overload of awesome articles.
Neurophilosophy - good blog on the brain and philosophy from Science Blogs.
TED Blog - Blog from TED Talks with more information on talks and generally cool stuff

The Art of Nonconformity - This guy is awesome, and wants everyone else to be awesome too. I agree. Chris has some unconventional ideas on how to be awesome, but that's because awesomeness is unconventional. His life-manifesto "A Brief Guide for World Domination" is definitely worth reading. He also travels a bit. Start with the articles listed on his writings page, they're pretty cool.
Soul Shelter - Great blog about connecting with others in the modern, technological world. Required reading: In Defense of Solitude (Part 1, Part 2)
The Simple Dollar - Great blog on personal finances. Make sure to check out his free eBook - "Everything You Ever Really Needed to Know About Personal Finance on Just One Page"
Study Hacks - good blog on becoming a better student, following many of the principles established by the rest of my Productivity section: doing less is more (to an extent)
Zen Habits - Excellent productivity blog which spawned the Zen to Done (ZTD) system, a more practical version of Getting Things Done (GTD). See how I've implemented part of it: Doin Thangs.
LifeHacker - High volume blog filled with cool programs and ideas to help boost productivity

Jaimie Murdock
Shared Items
The Long Cut