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Keeping It Clean

Of course, I’m talking about your reputation on-line.

Look, I’m a little pressed for time this week, so I’m going to get right down to it.  On-line, where no one knows all that much about you, really, reputation is everything.  Two weeks ago, I had a link for you with information about beating a polygraph, in case you got caught doing things that embarrassed you.  This week, I’ve got a link to an article by Jack Wallen at TechRepublic with reviews of Five Tools to help you Manage and Monitor your On-Line Reputation.
Four of the five are free, and one is a service with a 30-day free trial, but the free ones are the only ones that interest me.  Of course, I’ve used Google to set up searches on my name and websites and my “personal brands”, because, you know, who hasn’t, right?  But, their “Me on the Web” tool is a little more personal and focused, and Jack has a good review of it.  The other one that interests me, but that I honestly haven’t had time to look into too deeply is  You’ve got to setup a free account, but the service seems to cover most of your social media and search-results oriented reputation monitoring and management.
The other two free ones are more about monitoring what’s being said about you on the web.

Anyway, I’m swamped at my day-job this week, so I have to dash, but, the services at that review ought to keep you all busy and out of trouble while you pretend to work today.  And, next week, I’ll try and have something better for you all.
Or, maybe I’ll just stop the regular weekly links of fluff like this.  I guess we’ll just see how the week goes.

Stay True to You

Don’t listen to the media.

Seriously, they don’t have your best interests at heart.  They want to sell advertising, not good news.  And, they sure don’t want you to like yourself or feel comfortable with the world around you.  Because, after all, if you feel safe and happy, they don’t know how to sell you things.  Do you think I’m lying?  Then let me give you an example: health and fitness magazines.
I’ve known for years that my favorite health and fitness magazine, Men’s Health, has recycled headlines.  (Gawker confirms this for me, by the way, so it’s not just my imagination!)  And, I’ve noticed that they recycle those same headlines for Women’s Health, too, as confirmed by this comment left on that Gawker story:

“My boyfriend subscribes to Men’s Health; I have a subscription to Women’s Health. One month, I discovered that they had used the same exercise tips for both magazines (something regarding BEST ABS EVER!), but the men performed the exercises with weights, and the women didn’t.

I figured they always recycled stories and tips, but this is insane.”

The problem with that is that they’re all headlines meant to make you feel bad about how you look, eat, shop, or your sexual prowess.  The sad thing is, the information in the magazines, at least Men’s Health, is often quite good and actually may not even have much to do with the recycled headlines that are used to sell the magazine!  Of course, I tend not to follow the latest fad when it comes to health and exercise, and I certainly don’t follow 99% of their suggestions about dating and sex.  I always figured if I ended  up looking like the male models on the covers and in the stories, I’d be involved with crazy, high-strung models and actresses and then I’d follow their advice.  Thankfully, that never happened and I married a sweet, down-to-earth woman.

But, I encourage you to ignore all the loony fad diets whether they’re the paleo-fantasy diet or some other extreme shift in how you eat, because, when you get past the hyped headlines, the real choice is to just eat more sensibly.  My rule of thumb is to just eat twice as much plant-based food as animal-based food and to try and eat the least processed thing.  Of course, I fail at that regularly, but I get a little better every day.
Also, check out the, oddly somewhat controversial, new suggestions from the government about health and eating at ChooseMyPlate.  Brought to you by the same people who brought us the food pyramid, this is the new, better, way to eat healthier.  It’s simple and sensible and not a bad way to go.

And, no matter what you do, do it because you want to be healthier, not because you want to fit some artificial and impossible standard of “fitness” or “beauty” that even the stars who are used to sell it can’t achieve without Photoshop.
Make this year the year you stay true to who you are and just be healthier!

UPDATE: Yahoo Health ran a story this morning, coincidentally, titled “I Tried 10 Diets in 50 Days“, that supports my thoughts on skipping the crash/fad diets and eating sensibly according to more standard guidelines endorsed by major health organizations and governments.


To Tell The Truth

So, we’re a week into the New Year.  Have you done anything you want to keep secret?

Hey, no judgement here!  Believe me, there are plenty of things that I would just as soon forget as ever talk about again!  Nothing, of course, illegal, or anything that would keep me from getting a security clearance, as far as I know, but things I’d rather not discuss in a public forum.  Thankfully, I’ve never had to apply for anything that required a test of my veracity at the governmental level, much less a polygraph test, but there’s always that possibility.  And, I have to admit, I do know a couple of guys who cheated on their wives so often that they now go through “voluntary” polygraph checks, just to set their wives minds at ease.
Here’s the thing, though; polygraphs, aka “lie detectors”, aren’t scientifically proven to work!  What’s more, there are plenty of people who will sell you a book or a course on how to beat the machine.

So far, this is perfectly legal, though that’s being tested in Oklahoma where anti-polygraph activist and former Oklahoma City Police officer Doug Williams is facing charges from a grand jury on “multiple counts of mail fraud and witness tampering, for allegedly showing people how to lie and hide crimes in order to get security-clearance-level jobs with the federal government”.  He claims that he’s just coaching honest people how not to be overly nervous and set off the polygraph and the polygraph interviewer’s warning triggers.  But, really, since there’s almost nothing truly scientific about the polygraph and the results of a polygraph test aren’t admissible in most courts, how can there by anything wrong with it?  Besides, the way to beat the polygraph is to stay relaxed no matter what question is asked and to build a rapport with the interviewer.  That’s pretty much it.

Oh, and, of course, there’s always the tried-and-true method of being a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide.  Not having any secrets and living in a way that precludes the necessity of a polygraph test altogether is probably the best way to “beat” that test!

Hopefully, your new year has started off without any regrets or legal entanglements.
See you next week!

Hope for the New Year

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions any more.

In fact, I haven’t made them in quite a few years.  That’s not to say that I don’t make goals, but I don’t base them on the passing of the year.  Frankly, it’s a pretty arbitrary construct and I just don’t find it particularly useful.  But, looking back, 2014 was a pretty good year.  For instance, it was the year that I started meditating regularly and that has been a good thing.  I also changed jobs, which was also a good thing.  I have to admit that it has been more work, not less, but it’s been more rewarding and I’m generally happier.

And, that brings me to the hope I have to offer for the coming year.
To listen to the media, of all kinds, things are falling apart.  According to them, we’re all in immanent danger of being killed or attacked or dying horribly some way.  Politicians would have us believe that, if we don’t put them in office to protect us, someone will snatch away our liberty, rights or security, depending on who is campaigning.  In short, we are constantly being told that the End Times are Nigh.
As it turns out, we have been told that for literally hundreds of years and, so far, whatever has been decried as the end of culture and civilization as we know it, has never quite managed to ruin everything.  In fact, recent studies show that things are actually getting better in measurable ways.
According to statistics gathered by government agencies around the world, and presented in an easy-to-read format by Slate, global rates of homicide and assault are generally going down.  Yes, certain localized areas have higher levels of violence, but those are war zones, which have pretty much always existed, too.  In general, the rates of sexual assault of all kinds are decreasing, and have been since the 90’s.  And, for those of you who are politically minded, the global level of political democratization is going up, while the level of autocracy (i.e. dictators) has been going down fairly steadily.  While armed conflicts rose in the late 80’s and early 90’s, even organized violence in that manner is decreasing.  But, not only that, the number of deaths in those wars has steadily decreased, even during that brief peak in the 80’s and 90’s.  Mass killings, which are not part of interstate conflict, are down remarkably of the past 50-75 years.  And, in spite of our fear of terrorist attack, on an average year, more people in the United States are likely to die of a bee sting than of a terrorist attack.

Now, you may not agree with this view, and you may think I’m making it all up, but you can hit the link to the Slate article and see for yourself.  The statistics are there for anyone who cares to look.  Sure, there may be global climate change and financial difficulties, but there have always been problems like these in the world.  But, I find hope in the thought that, in general, we do actually seem to be living in a safer society than we used to.  My hope, you might even say, my belief, is that in that relatively greater peace and safety, we will be able to find solutions to the other problems.

So, this year, in 2015, if you must make a resolution, please, resolve this; resolve to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Don’t believe the people who want to spread fear and distrust and misery.  Instead, believe that the world is getting better and find even more opportunities to add to that improvement.  This year, choose hope and love and peace over fear and hate and violence.
Have a good year, everyone!

New Year’s Resolutions

So, here we are, the day after Christmas and just around the corner is New Year’s Eve.

I don’t put much stock in New Year’s Resolutions any more, since 40+ years of experience tells me that they’re almost never kept.  But, that still doesn’t mean I won’t encourage you, gentle readers, to make some resolutions of your own!  And, naturally, I have a free tool to help you when you get stuck.  Granted, it’s a tool I made myself when I was trying to teach myself some programming, but it’s still fun and free.  Yes, it’s time again for me to shill my Amazing New Year’s Resolution Generator!

Hey, don’t scoff!  One year Comedy Central linked to that!
Well, anyway, it tends to be heavily slanted toward kissing strangers and drinking tequila, so it’s not so much a New Year’s Resolution generator as it is a mischief generator, but it’s still free and something to do while you drink on New Year’s Eve.
Have a great new year, y’all!

Santa Tracker

Next week is Christmas, so, as I have traditionally done, I’m reminding you of where to find Santa.

During the Cold War, NORAD stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets.  Thankfully, that never came to pass, and I have often wondered what NORAD has done since.  Well, apparently one thing they’ve done is track Santa Claus in his mythical journey around the globe, spreading Christmas cheer!  And, they have a website, which they do seem to improve every year.  So, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!
And, since I probably won’t post between now and then, have a very merry Christmas!

Another Lap Around The Sun

I’m not sure where I picked up that particular turn of phrase.

Well, it’s my birthday again. I almost didn’t bother with a birthday post, since I had a post earlier in the day, but, it’s sort of gotten to be a tradition with me, so, here I am.  Honestly, it seems kind of impossible to me that I’ve survived this long, but, according to the actuarial tables, I can still expect about another 30-odd years of life. Which is a good thing because, in spite of being statistically middle-aged, I come from fairly long-lived stock and there are so many things still undone in my life.

I’ll be honest, this year hasn’t gone quite as I’d planned it.  For instance, I have a new job, which is definitely a good thing.  That change has brought some special challenges as well as opportunities.  Of course, that change has kept me busy, so, in spite of what I wished last year, I still haven’t done as much photography as I’d like, or written as much. Neither here nor on Diary of a Network Geek, which is my other, “original”, blog. That change is also my excuse for not participating in NaNoWriMo again this year, even though I did share links relating to that all through November.  My relationship with my wife, Sharon, still makes everything else I do seem more worthwhile and important, though I wouldn’t say that I live only for her.  In fact, the only thing I’d say that found really lacking this year has been her health.  If there was one thing, really, that I would change if I could, it would be to have eased some of her struggle and lessened some of her discomfort.  Still, even that is happening, so I don’t have room to complain at all.

I did, thanks to my blushing bride, save two great domain names, and, which I hope to develop this coming year.  In fact, I’d say that my biggest hope for the coming year of life is that I’m finally able to teach myself some better than basic WordPress theme design, specifically with those two sites in mind.  Well, that and learn some basic Mandarin, which would help me at my new company, and in life in general, from the way things seem to be working in the world today.  (I, for one, welcome our new Chinese over-lords!)

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of character. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the computer mouse made its debut just four days before my birth! How crazy is that? The mouse, which makes graphic interfaces so practical and easy to use, is actually four days older than I am!

So, once again, I’ve made it through another year of life quite rather successfully, if I do say so myself.  Granted, I would be hard pressed to name another year that was so radically different than how I expected it to be, but, still, things seem to have turned out okay.  And, maybe that’s the most important lesson I’m learning with each passing year; generally, things turn out okay, if I just keep doing the next right thing and trusting the long-term results.  Or, as quite possibly my most famous friend would put it, I’ve got champagne problems and caviar nightmares!
I may have my down days, but, over all, life is pretty sweet.  I’m not sure what my forty-seventh year of life will look like, exactly, but, if the last forty-six are any measure, the next one will be filled with surprises, challenges and opportunities, struggles, the occasional failure, and more love and joy than I ever thought I might have coming to me.

Thanks for hanging out with me on this ride so far and I look forward to the coming year!

Free Indie Christmas Music

Yes, free Christmas music.

I love Christmas music of almost any kind.  And, of course, I love things that are free.  So, combining the two is my way of spreading some holiday cheer!
For many years, the music blog Stereogum shared a special Christmas mix of free, downloadable MP3s from Indie artists, some you may know and some you may not.  It was always a fun mix and almost always introduced me to new music while also giving me different Christmas music to listen to every year.  Sadly, as far as I can tell, the last year they did that was 2011.  But, I’m still going to share that last year’s list here: 20 “New” Indie Rock Christmas MP3s for 2011

This year, though, they did share Mad Decent’s “A Very Decent Christmas Mixtape“, which you can stream.  Try it out!  It’s fun, too, though not quite as easy to listen to in the car as burning a CD of MP3s.

So, there it is.  Short and sweet, just in time for the last of the holidays!
(Also, today is my birthday.  I almost forgot!)


GIF Christmas Tree

That’s pronounced like the peanut butter brand, by the way.

Here’s a fun, free way to get into the holiday spirit; make an animated Christmas tree graphic!
Giphy is a site that collects animated GIFs.  It’s an interesting site, but I honestly am not sure how they make money.  In any case, last year at Christmas, they shared this generator that lets you make and share your own, customized animated GIF of a Christmas tree.
Okay, it’s corny, but it’s still fun and a great way to get into the holiday spirit!

Self Publish Your Book

Theoretically, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, you should be just about done with your novel.

I’m going to assume this is true and that you’ll want to publish your novel, eventually and that, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, you’ll want to do it on your own terms.  So, in that spirit, I’m offering you some resources to self-publish your book.
First, here’s a link to CNET’s article Self-Publishing a Book: 25 Things you need to know by David Carnoy.  It’s a couple of years old, but I think it’s still essentially accurate and definitely worth reading.  This article is geared more towards self-publishing a physical book, but he did write a follow up, How to Self-Publish an eBook.
Since I think we all know that the easiest place to self-publish a book is via the many eBook services, I think I should include some detailed information about eBook creation, so, although it’s a little stale, here’s what Paul Salvettee has to say about How To Self-Publish Your eBook on Nook and Kindle and Smashwords.

Although I’m not sure I agree with everything in the list, Search Engine Journal, of all places, has a good article about some peripheral components of a self-published book, titled Essential Elements of a Self-Published Book.  For instance, that list left out ISBN numbers and how to get them, which might not be quite so important any more since places like Smashwords generally include an ISBN as part of their self-publishing packages.  And, I’m not even sure that you would need one if you sell your ebook directly off your website, for instance.

Finally, if you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo and just want to publish a book, especially a non-fiction book, you can use all the above resources, but you may also want to look at How to Self-Publish an eBook by Nicole Young at Photofocus, who specialize in photography-related material and How To Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0 by James Altucher.  (I’m not always as impressed with Altucher as some people, or even as impressed with with him as he is himself sometimes, but this is some pretty good advice.)

So, there’s mostly everything you need to get your epic self-published, and hopefully provide a little inspiration to finish if you haven’t already!