Archive for May, 2009

Pictures


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.

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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.

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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 Indiana.edu 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: InternationalThe 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.

Tech
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
bit.ly Blog

Weather
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.

CogSci
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

Productivity
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

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How I Do Google Reader

Google Reader is the single best tool on the Internet. There is a ton of news and information on the Internet, but people don’t know how to manage the onslaught of constantly changing content. Instead of taking advantage of the real-time nature of the web, they continue to utilize print, television and radio to get their current events, humor, music news, research publications, etc. often wasting time waiting for stories that interest them.

In Google Reader you subscribe to websites you are interested in, just like a magazine subscription. There are several ways to subscribe:

  1. In Google Reader, click the add a subscription button and enter the website URL or search terms and Google will find the feed for you.
  2. Just look for the RSS Icon and click on it. In Firefox this will bring you to a view of the feed. Just select Google from the list of subscription options and then click subscribe now.
  3. This icon may also appear in your browser’s address bar. Click it and you will be given subscription options.

In addition to giving you relevant information, Google Reader has a social aspect which allows you to share articles with your friends and see their shared articles. It’s a great way to foster discussion and helps us come across content we would not otherwise see. These shared items can be imported to Facebook, further extending their reach.

Google Reader has been a boon for my productivity – I no longer compulsively check sites for updates, they come to me. The trends feature allows me to look at what I’m really reading and determine whether my subscriptions are really worth it. Shared items have promoted hundreds of conversations. My morning routine now begins with an hour on Google Reader, like Granddad’s newspaper reading.

How do you pick good feeds? Well you can start with websites and blogs you normally visit. From there, add your friends blogs and put them in a Friends folder. As you add blogs, consider their volume and quality. The best feeds are low-volume and high-quality, where nearly every article is a must-read. Some feeds are meant for scrutinizing, while others are meant for skimming headlines.

Here are some essential feeds: (for more check out my Master Subscription List)

General News
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.
Boston Globe: The Big Picture – The best photojournalism, about 3-4 slideshows a week.

IU – local awareness
IU General News – feed from the Indiana.edu homepage
Indiana Daily Student – mostly for lulz

Politics
First Read – MSNBC’s political analysis blog, lots of volume. Good feel for what’s going on in Washington right now.
The Economist: InternationalThe 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 )

Tech
Ars Technica – moderate volume, high quality. Great articles on everything technology

Cognitive Science
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.
TED Blog – Blog from TED Talks with more information on talks and generally cool stuff

Productivity
LifeHacker – High volume blog filled with cool programs and ideas to help boost productivity
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”
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.

Final tip: Review your feeds every month and try to eliminate 10% of your feeds to reduce your volume. I often find myself unsubscribing from great feeds because I’m not actually reading them, and because there are friends who will fill that gap through shared items.

If you know of more useful feeds or have any Reader tips, feel free to comment!

Jaimie Murdock
Shared Items
The Long Cut
Master Subscription List

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Reboot

Hey everyone,

I’ve decided to restart blogging with the general concept of “anything goes”. It’s summer now, so I should be able to update regularly.

Sophomore year is over, and it was rather disappointing. Up until now, I’ve been able to take on more than usual and still do absolutely fine. This year I finally found my limit (or it found me). The scariest thing was discovering that I forgot how to write! Next year I’ll be dropping down to a much more manageable 13 hours a semester and begin recovering what’s left of my GPA. C’est la vie.

For the first half of the summer I’ll be working on three things:

  1. Finishing up work on the Power of Logic (PoL) web tutor.
  2. Doing supercomputing research for the Indiana Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO).
  3. Training for deCycles 2009.

For PoL, I’ll be working on some new applets for argument diagramming. I’ve decided to go with Java for this, since I’m starting to get a decent grasp on the swing libraries and have a general disdain for Flash. You can expect at least one post on swing… I’ll also be relearning C for the InPhO parallelization research. Since it’s summer and I can code for fun as well, I’ll be refining my Python skills too.

This summer is hardly confined to the “great indoors” (thank god). In June I’m leaving for a 1500-mile bike tour from Bloomington, IN to Appalachia. We’ll be traveling across the Bluegrass to the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway. After reaching Asheville, NC, we’ll head through Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, back through Tennessee and Kentucky, and then back home again. It should be an epic time, but it requires a lot of training. I’m aiming for 1200 miles by June 20, and I’ll be uploading pics from the road.

I’ve made an effort to tie this blog with the rest of my “cloud” presence. To the right you’ll find streams of my Google Reader shared items, del.icio.us bookmarks and Twitter updates. Hopefully they are useful. I’ve also added some friends who occasionally blog. They’re pretty cool. Please subscribe/follow/bookmark/remember the blog, I’ll make it worthwhile.

Peace,
Jaimie Murdock

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