March 28, 2008

National City – Horrible Bank

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:59 pm by a11en

A quick note to anyone opening accounts or attempting to get loans, etc. Avoid National City Bank like the plqgue.

They soaked up a small-town bank that I was with since I first started putting money into a bank. Once they did that, every year service and quality of the banking dropped. Policies continue to change, account overdraft fees continue to climb high. There are discussions online about them moving around charges in order to obtain the highest possible fees from their customers. Others are discussing how their online banking invoices will show their account is perfect, a single charge goes through and a previous day’s deposit is reworked to 2 days after the debit, allowing for fees to be accrued. It’s shockingly horrible.

I’m not discussing my own personal case, because I’ve been trying to leave them for months, and I’m only now seeing the light at the end oft he tunnel. Hopefully in a few month’s time, I will no longer be a disgruntled customer.

My advice- find a local employee’s credit union. My local credit union has never ceased to amaze me with their wonderful service. During my ID theft situations, their safety officers had personal meetings with me regarding how they could help to secure my ID and account. All their tellers and customer service reps are amazingly kind. When I got my car loan ages ago, it was better than anyone in terms of fees or interest rates. The dealer couldn’t even hope to match it (and didn’t even try).

March 20, 2008

GTD: SmartBrain -v- DumbBrain

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:30 am by a11en

Trying to get myself back on the horse here. This is my conceptualization of why GTD is a good thing to implement. [Very soon, I’ll have a bit more pointed discussion of “Why GTD works”- in which we’ll let a Mathematician jump in and discuss how we work with problems.]

But today, while reading the every end of GTD, I came up with an idea of how to conceptualize the problems people have in getting things done, and what the GTD approach attempts to do. I call it: “SmartBrain -v- DumbBrain.”

The idea is quite simple. SmartBrain is the part of our brain which is saying: “Yes, good idea, get that done.” or “Yes, I need to make Goo-Widgets for my project.” DumbBrain is the part of our brain that implements. Basically, it’s the brain that decides: “Do this next.” DumbBrain is the thing that sits between your eyes when they’re scanning your Lists and implements your actions based upon your list-items.

The basic problem in getting things done, is that DumbBrain is sorta lazy, and doesn’t like to do much work. It doesn’t communicate well with SmartBrain, and since SmartBrain sometimes doesn’t convey exactly what it wants to get done, DumbBrain (being dumb) generally doesn’t get what SmartBrain means.

Let’s first talk a bit about what DumbBrain needs in order to accomplish things. DumbBrain basically needs to be handed on a silver-platter some sort of easily understood list of items it can choose from and tell “body” what to do. It is sort of like the lazy-boyfriend in the middle of an important MythBusters episode with a beer in hand, firmly ensconced on the very wide squishy chair with feet up on the long short table like object. Tell him to “clean up,” and he’s likely to grunt some sort of affirmative-sounding sound yet stay where he is watching for more shots of the cute chick who welds on the moving-picture box.

What DumbBrain needs is something more like: “Honey- since it’s the commercial and you’re mostly just drooling with a blank stare at a Hoodia mini-info-mercial, could you snag that empty chip-bag and throw it in a ball towards that basket right there?” Now, that, is do-able. 🙂 “Me knows how to throw, and me thinks it’s more fun than Stupid Hoodia-mercial.”

Now, let’s talk about SmartBrain. He’s the Einstein of your head. He says: “YEs yes, that’s the next product idea! Do it!” He may pause in his smart-think long enough to write down “Widget is a great idea- make it!” Only problem, is that SmartBrain likes to think more than he likes to itemize and project-plan. So, he’s much more likely to (in the next 10 minutes) say: “Hey, since I wrote down Widget idea, let’s find out about Bocelli at Wikipedia- that sounds awesome.” [Enter: relatively useless info about Bocelli unless you’re a music student who needs to research Bocelli at this very moment.] He’s much less likely to write down all the steps DumbBrain needs to implement “make it!”

What SmartBrain needs to do, is learn how to talk to DumbBrain. He needs to itemize, run a flow-chart, organize, and drop lists which are stupid-dumb for DumbBrain to see. “Hey DumbBrain- Pitch the Chip-Bag you left out last night (when you get home) before your GF goes ballistic upon entering the door.” Or, in short-form: “At home, pitch Chip-bag.” That of course might be in the overall project called: “Make girlfriend happy about horrible state of apartment.”

It’s SmartBrain’s job to be smart. And to realize DumbBrain is lazy and won’t be able to figure out what “Widget” meant last week, or exactly what needs: to be done with, or too, or about “Widget.”

This is exactly why GTD works. It gives a run-down of what SmartBrain *should* be doing to help DumbBrain work, but isn’t currently. So, yeah, you might read GTD and think: Hell, that’s simple. Straight-forward. Everyone Knows that. Well, ok, smarty-pants: Why the hell aren’t you doing it then? Are projects still slipping through your memory? Still don’t know where Project B left off 2 months ago? Still don’t know what to do next when you have free-time? What is hindering your work? What is it that DumbBrain isn’t getting when it’s time to do something? Think about what DumbBrain needs to accomplish things, and try and slow SmartBrain down enough to give DumbBrain those cues it needs. [This might mean more extensive project planning, weekly reviews, or even refinement of your whole list-system to include next-actions only. Or, putting your cell-phone in your coat-pocket at night before bed… BTW, Life-hacks are also tricks SmartBrain can use to help DumbBrain get crap done.]

February 28, 2008

Resume Writing

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:39 am by a11en

Just for the record, Resume writing sucks. Somehow I have to sum up my usefulness in 2 pages? Put my best face forward, and hope they give me a shot at an interview! I know exactly where I want to work… now I just need to convince them I’m the man for the job. [Although, I will take offers from other companies as well…]

I have a new post I just must write… I found an interesting Mathematician recently in wikipedia, and I just have to share his amazing comments. They’re absolutely directly applicable to GTD and productivity. I can’t wait to share them with you, but I have to get this other stuff done ASAP.

Let’s hope I can get back to you guys this weekend. I’m excited by the find, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Hopefully it will spur on your work.

Chat with you soon!
-Allen

p.s.- posting has been slow because I’ve taken a part-time job at the university where I work. The job gives me all sorts of wonderful access to fab equipment (clean-room, PECVD, RIE, Mask Aligners, Ebeam, ALD)… it means I have much less time in my day, and much more to get done. It’s been a seriously pressing time. Enjoyable, but I’m starting to freak out about how much I need to get done. OmniFocus has saved my butt in my part-time-job. Everything goes into OmniFocus, and I tick off all the tasks as I get them accomplished. Extremely useful. Not perfect yet, but very useful. [Omni- Work on printing!!! It’s horrendous right now! I’ll have to put up a post about that as well.]

p.p.s.- we may also have a guest blogger sometime soon… if I can convince her to write a snippet… Michele, my GF, may write about her experience receiving a ProFlowers.com flower bouquet for valentine’s day (and what was good and what was not so very good…) We’ll see if I can convince her to try it out.

As always, here’s wishing you excellence in your work, the foresight to choose your next actions carefully, and success in all your intellectual endeavors!

February 13, 2008

Jillian of Project Runway

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:26 pm by a11en

Quick post- Who doesn’t love Project Runway?  One of the designers has been growing on me steadily.  She has girl-next door looks, with something added that makes her more and more intriguing the more you watch her.  There’s only one problem- I wish she’d get a bit more girly excited.  I keep wishing for a bit more emotion out of Jillian, who often has a very monotone voice while describing her visions.  [Is it her vision?  Why so monotone?]  Although, we do see her frustrated side often.  So, perhaps it’s merely that she’s not really that happy.  Not sure.  But, the last episode we got to see a bit of that girly glee… she ran back off the catwalk swinging her dress.  Very very cute.  Add to that the peak of a black garter underneath that fantastic little dress she was wearing, and vavavoom!!  🙂  Very very *nice*.

Now, I just need to find a screen-capture to share with you all…

oh, ps- is it just me, or is it a darned shame that all these gorgeous models get naked in front of all these guys who so obviously couldn’t give a rat’s ass about naked women?  🙂  [Christian needs to tone down the volume knob just a bit.  Step it down from “11” to say, 5 or so.  His volume knob definitely goes up to 11.]

Back to our regularly unscheduled program…

January 30, 2008

SprintPCS online account stuff sucks big time.

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:34 pm by a11en

Another mini-rant here- will keep it very short. SprintPCS’s online account management system is completely crappy. I can’t figure out anything on their account system, and rarely can I ever log into the account online. It’s so horrible that next go around I’ll likely get rid of my account with them.

January 25, 2008

Tax Rebate- I have a better idea…

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:51 pm by a11en

Another quick one today, guys. So, this is my comment on the new tax-rebate thing headed through congress. Interesting idea. I get a check (maybe) perhaps sometime in August? Hmm… I have a way better idea. Stop taking my money in the first place!!! Heck, if “you” had stopped taking my money in the first place, I’d have had my cash back before May of last year! Now *that’s* a quick rebate eh? Think that might have stimulated the economy? Not taking my money in the first place, allowing me to get more interest on it over a longer period of time? If I had had that money, I most likely would have spent it.

Every single rebate is 100% made up of money taken from someone who would have spent it earlier. It’s very possible that that money would have had a serious effect on the recent slowing in growth of the economy. Even if the cash had only been placed in an interest bearing account, the standard rate, whatever it is now (let’s say 4%) would have been added to the cash. It would have increased the purchasing power of the institution, the loaning power, etc. More people would have been able to purchase a car, or get a mortgage… every bit of that cash that is now finally being returned (to who Congress decides needs it, not to who actually owns that money) could have been creating growth and wealth and product in our current economy.

Wow, I sure am glad that Congress is so darned smart.

January 17, 2008

Test post

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:56 pm by a11en

This is a test.

Ha… since Big D. asked about what I was testing- I’m testing the ability for TextMate to post to a blog. 🙂 And now I’m testing how TextMate edits a blog post. Sorry it wasn’t more exciting- like blogging via my internal wifi transceiver I installed in my left nostril last year. Upgrading that to 802.11n is going to be a b!@##.

Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!!

January 13, 2008

BibDesk and TextMate don’t play nice together…

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:52 pm by a11en

Well, this may be the nail in the coffin for my use of TextMate for LaTeX writing.  It’s quite sad as well, because I was beginning to like things like drag-n-drop pictures to \includegraphics{} etc.  But, there’s one thing I desperately love about BibDesk and that’s it’s autocompletion feature- it works so well in all cocoa windows.  Sure, there’s some crazy code that parses your bibtex file itself within TextMate, but honestly, it can’t possibly be as nice as BibDesk’s feature.  There’s also an Applescript work around, which is nice but horrendously ugly and not inline on the screen.

It’s quite sad, really, because I was starting to have high-hopes for TextMate as a LaTeX editor.  I guess I shouldn’t try and change things… iTeXMac is working well for me, and it has visual Math buttons etc., for help with odd-ball insertions (won’t have to memorize a 30+ list of completions for math-mode).

Ugh.  I want the best of both worlds… but it appears that TextMate doesn’t play nice with NSText alterations- which I believe is how the input manager plugin works for BibDesk.  Appears they just are completely incompatible.

I rarely write enough code to make TextMate something that I want to keep around… I was just beginning to understand TextMate’s abilities as well… but, it’s a bit to VI in some ways for me… and the die-hard VI users will likely just stick with VI…

We’ll see how I come to terms with this.  Not having the quick and easy auto-completion is a killer for me… I write and cite with almost the same breath in my TeX documents.

sucks big time…

September 27, 2007

Weekly Schedule Uploaded (stub)

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:57 am by a11en

The previous post has been edited to include the file for my weekly schedule.  Short new thread to update anyone using an RSS reader.  Any and all comments appreciated.

Cheers!

Earworm: “One Two Three Four” performed by Feist from the album Bonnaroo 2007, Manchester, Tn

August 20, 2007

Jamaica- Hurricane Dean

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:04 am by a11en

[Disclaimer- a lot of the spelling below is completely horrible… a number of areas I’m completely unfamiliar with. This is just an update based on what I’ve heard… I likely won’t know much more, it depends on how much I listen to online.]

My prayers go out to the families in Jamaica. It seems most of the storm was missed, thank God. It does sound as though right now (1:46 AM CST) there is quite a bit of damage. Roofs are off some houses, impassable roads, Ginep tree crashed into another fellows house, collapsed it. The phone lines are out to St. Thomas parish right now. Woman from St. Andrews mentioned a number of roof-tops are off there. Very hard weather. Shots fired in St. Andrews area they say during the storm. “Very terrible” the caller mentioned.

Updates seem to be something like this now:

St. Thomas- wind damage, flooding impassable roadways, extensive damage in several communities, roofs, collapsed structures

St. James- Coral Gardens- wind damage

Kingston, St. Andrews- downed powerlines, Rivertown- fallen tree caused a residential building collapse in Ligoney (?) area, Chambers-Lane area.

Portland, Port Antonio- Roads Blocked

St. Catherine- storm surges, roadway impassable

Nagre head, Newland- roofs off, utility poles dropped

Old Habor- water raised, caused some evacuations

Claringdon- Denby Gulley flooding reported

Over the island, there are 191 shelters opened, something like 1,200 persons in the shelters

No life currently mentioned as lost.

All this was paraphrased and messed up by me, but originally reported on 106 Power FM. http://www.go-jamaica.com/power/

All in all, the word is that it could have been much much worse. To all the families down there, my prayers go out to you guys.

I have family connections to the island (very close family connections)- trying to stay mildly anonymous here. 😉 But, it’s sad to hear the island got hit to any level. My prayers also go out to all those hit harder by Dean.

Makes us all remember what it’s like to worry about our small things in life… it could be so much worse. I hope no lives are lost.

update- 3:03 AM

Wow- the radar is insane- it skirted the southern coast of the island. We’ll have to see what things are like in the morning. Lots of people lost their zinc-roofs. Power’s down etc., in other areas. Nice little blog by the folks at the Gleaner: http://go-jamaica.com/blog/

update-  lots of damage, and one life taken… my prayers are with those in Jamaica as they clean up the havoc.

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