Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Getting your contacts to your phone (via Outlook)

Lets assume that your phone or portable device. You have a list of names and numbers (or you create one) saved to a text file like so:

dave - 234-2345
allen - 938-2393
kelly - 233-2344

Since almost every device talks to Microsoft Outlook, we're going to assume you get a copy. You will also need a word processor and spreadsheet program.

Note you can easily do this with older versions (XP and 2003) of Word, Excel, and Outlook, which are all cheap. Also, with the exception of Outlook, all these functions can be performed (easier in some cases) with the free OpenOffice. Just post a comment if you'd like a howto for that program.

Step 1:

The first thing you'll need to do is change those first "-" characters between the names and numbers. It will only confuse your spreadsheet program:
  1. Open the list in Word and choose Edit - Replace ... and type " - " into the first box and "," into the replacement box. Replace All. This will make all of your names and numbers separated by just a comma.
  2. File - Save As and choose Plain Text (txt) from the Save as Type drop-down menu. If prompted about text format, just choose the default.
  3. Close Word
Step 2:

Open the text file in Excel and import it into a format readable by Outlook.
  1. In the Text Import Wizard that appears, select Delimited (this should be the default). Choose next and make sure you check the box next to the comma icon. Choose Next and Finish
  2. Follow these directions to save the file to CSV and import to Outlook.

You're done! This saved me a lot of time and energy getting my new phone setup.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Difficulty noticing the awesome

Recently the Washington Post did an experiment where people ignored a fantastic musician with a top quality instrument in a DC metro station. Although the comments at the end of the article were harsh about people and humanity, there are some other reasons he could have gone unnoticed:
  1. Listening to some music while doing other things is difficult because too intricate and detailed. One of my favorite CDs is a Bach album by Yo Yo Ma I have literally listened to 100s of times. Without fail it gets better every time I listen to it but I *cannot* do anything else (even driving). It feels like a fly buzzing around me.
  2. Emotional pull can be a negative when you are actively avoiding emotions. I actively hide myself from others when I'm in public, as the DC metro folks probably did. Aphex Twin, called a genius by everyone from Radiohead to Rolling Stone, has a broad music collection I have a very difficult time listening to passively because its so emotionally moving, especially his ambient work. Sometimes I just can't take it.
  3. Music of the best quality seems to require a certain amount of familiarity. Many of my now favorite albums are music selections I did not enjoy the first time I heard them.
  4. Great instruments don't mean great sound. The acoustics of the DC Metro station might not have brought out the best in a 3.2 million dollar violin. If you pipe his performance into the train station through crap speakers, nobody's going to notice it then either.
What we all really wanted to read about in this article was an old man walking by and beginning to cry without reason like the woman hearing a poem in Fahrenheit 451. However, real art might require both a positive situation and a ready observer. That said, it is without a doubt it is a very sad thing when a great artist goes unnoticed. Quoting the 1996 Basquiat movie, "no one wants to be part of a generation that ignores another Van Gogh."

(thanks Kim)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Can you boycott corn?

Genetically modified corn may be extremely unhealthy for you but because its not clearly labeled, you may be buying things that are not just bad for you but from an astoundingly sketchy (child labor, superfund sites, toxic waste, and more) company: Monsanto.

For the time being, start looking closer for labels with "non-GMO" labeled foods.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unjustified indifference

Contrasts between bleeding heart liberals is blame-the-victim conservatives are one of the worst and most useless tendencies in politics: neither side is interested in taking any action themselves to enact positive change. 

Recent statements by Pat Robertson demonstrate the absolute worst of this tendency on the conservative side.  His answer to the problem of evil dictates that an all loving and all powerful God would not allow for disasters to happen.  Instead, the victims of the disaster must deserve the misfortune they experience.  These statements represent a tacit suggestion those who carry misfortune should carry it alone.

However, a drastic liberal viewpoint also fails as people who watch TV and see that others are taking action on their behalf.  This equally useless moral inaction bows to another type of authority to manage the good and evil of the world: government.  Both extremes want someone else to do the work.

Therefore, to disagree with Robertson, its critical that you not take the politically opposite position: you need only help people in need.  As Elie Wiesel said, the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Know the issues before you vote

Taking from the 1970s documentary short "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," a leftist video producer pokes at Sarah Palin supporters.  Although its easily possible that members at a left wing rally would do just as poorly and be even more loony, if you don't know the issues you should stay away from the polls.

At the very least don't volunteer to talk on camera.

Chris Elliot's primary contribution to entertainment

I recently discovered that SNL cast member Abby Elliot is Chris Elliot's daughter. I know ... I was surprised as well.

It looks like mostly his wife's genes:

The unfortunate thing in realizing this connection is that I can no longer find Abby attractive -- she's just adorable. This same sort of thing happened years ago with Liv Tyler.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Daily Activity log

So I send my boss Nina information every day about work that I've done. Here's one day's activity:


* Went over with Lisa some stuff for her project. Note that a percentage of this process was looking at pictures of grand babies.
* Found and logged several defects.


After speaking with Lisa, I followed up with a message sent the next morning:


I would like to apologize for a gross miscalculation on my part in yesterday's report: Lisa did not show me pictures of grandbabies. I should have been more clear that there was multiple pictures of just one baby. Although that baby was overwhelming in its cuteness, this is no reason to fly off the handle like that.

As a professional focused on clear and accurate documentation, I'd like to apologize for this error.

Also, I love babies. And puppies.


My moose

New plan:

Get a moose and have it hang out in my back yard.  Hug him frequently.

Name him Taco.

Feed him junipers.

(image source)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Why you should flirt (part two)

[For a little background, read part one]

Becoming more aggressive or more receptive to aggressors for dating is a complex process. You may spend hours everyday on your appearance, learn to juggle and sing at the same time, or wander around looking thoughtful and poetic. Different receptive approaches will of course draw different types of people. These receptive positions exist for both parties: you must look for either invitations or people to invite in places that loosely draw a personality type you want to be around.

Thus, step one is meeting in the middle. Although you may get lucky and meet your soul mate at the top of Mount Fuji like in that dream that one time, the tendency is for people to date within their sphere: if you are a cop and only hang out with other cops, you're more likely to date a cop. Conversely, if your friends are all drug dealers, the chances are you're going to go out with someone who deals drugs. Meeting in situations or places that you enjoy or advocate is a good way to find people who share your interest. This is not a certainty as meeting people in a laundromat may not indicate that your future partner enjoys being clean.

The format is simple: if you love music, you will likely be more attracted to musicians. If a musician you're interested in likes knitting and you're the chair of a local knitting group, you're both right on track. You'll want to go to shows where musicians play and he'll want to haunt local yarn stores. Which of course means he's a pervert.

Next is the gradual movement towards one another. However, although people try to meet somewhere in the middle in terms of interest, the tendency is for there to be an aggressor and a target. With many notable exceptions, no matter how much interest a girl shows in a guy, it seems the guy has to ask her out. Despite this and despite whoever the target is, its critical that -- no matter how attractive -- the target must not be passive. Waiting until only the most aggressive people ask for your number excludes all possibilities but the most confident, who may be douchebags or just plain crazy.

Why you should flirt (part one)

It recently came up that a dear friend who is very beautiful and constantly hit on at her job has had little success in the dating realm. This, I proposed, was because she did not know how to flirt.

Flirting is the art of asking for what you want without directly asking. Either because you fear rejection, commitment, or success. Flirtation's difficulty comes when too much subtlety belies obvious and clear needs and desires, which is frustrating and frequently much ado about nothing. This was demonstrated best in the famous subtitles scene in Woodie Alan's "Annie Hall". Skipping the process of flirtation runs the potential of missing critical components of the vetting process. A person's likes, dislikes, psyche, and other elements are exposed during flirtation. Although some relationships happen very fast and are successful, its undoubtedly true that the same relationship happening on a slower time line would have also probably been as successful. Meanwhile unsuccessful relationships that went slower might have avoided lots of unnecessary tedium after shit falls apart.

Traditional views of dating and relationships may be seen in this light: as just a lengthy vetting process that may expose negative or problematic behavior (unreliable, annoying, uses meth, or hates puppies), flirtation must imply subtle interest. Questions about the other person, their likes, their interests. Having nothing in common makes this difficult, hence the term "small talk," which may inadvertently lead to finding mutual interests. People who have nothing in common are not necessarily incompatible, thus flirtation helps move through this uncomfortable initial phase.

Why flirt if you have nothing in common? Frequently chemistry is a good model, but chemistry alone is a difficult test to rely on because instincts can be incorrect. What may draw you to someone else may be illusory or based on bad information.

Surprisingly, no chemistry and having nothing in common does not exclude the possibility of a quality, available person being at first unseen and unknown. The only want to discover this is by spending time with people. Since this isn't a possibility (or is somewhat awkward) with a one-on-one presence, having a broad and open social structure allows multiple people to find and discover each other. Thus, its required that if one wants to find dates, that he or she find a broad social selection from which to draw. Its just the law of averages that eventually you'll find someone who draws your interest or in whom interest develops. Meanwhile, the broad array of friends will hopefully fill your desire to be social.

There are a variety of methods out there describing how to flirt but here's one.

[continue to part two]

Poem: The 1970s

Under the hope of green the mix of hearts and life there is a notion for me of cardboard suits and yellowish ugly ties more real and palatable than my own life now. I wasn't even alive but I feel such a part of that time and those feelings. I cannot imagine someone thinking the same of the time I am in now which feels like a Pollock painting but impossibly large and sick. I guess those times are saturated with the safety of having already happened.

Four impressive Windows programs

Gotten a lot of use out of these:
  • Cintanotes - keep track of notes and information in an orgnized, tagged system.  Will hide in the background and keep you organized with little fuss.
  • Flashfolder - because I have a customized directory structure where I put everything and this helps me get to it without a lot of sorting.
  • Sendto - works with a similar usage (organizing files) but also seems to plug into portable devices pretty well.
  • ImgSearch - doesn't look like much but helped me track down a bunch of different, similar-looking pictures.  Some of them were parts of a collection and one was better than another.  Some were just different sizes and in multiple directories.  Works great and saves lots of drive space.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Getting environmentally friendly items in bulk

One of the problems with organic and earth-friendly items is that they rarely come in bulk. Since these items usually have a premium associated with them because they tend to be more expensive to manufacture, buying large amounts at once can help offset the price. The internet fortunately provides:
  • My favorite shampoo comes in a 32 oz version, which is good.
  • I found an all-purpose cleaner that does many jobs in one: Simple Green . You don't have to buy this one off the internet either: you can pick up at Home Depot, Lowes, and Sams Club for about 10 bucks. This can be diluted and used to clean almost anything (even laundry) so it will see a lot of use.
  • Regular liquid soap (organic) can be bought in bulk too.
As it turns out there are many bulk organic items. I also found out that you can make your own cleaners from baking soda, vinegar, and other items, which is pretty cool.