Saturday, April 30, 2011

View How Did People Approach Writing When It Was Scarce?

How Did People Approach Writing When It Was Scarce?

Maxed out my share buying upgrades on Empire Avenue

I've been semi-playing Empire Avenue. I say semi-playing because it's supposed to be a social media game; but, I've only been doing the value investing. Rather than creating "wealth" by hyping up my stock, I've been value investing in stocks that provide good income. As a result, I have a rather affordable share price; but, my portfolio value has been increasing steadily.

Today, I maxed out the number of shares I can own by purchasing an upgrade that raises the limit to 400 shares per stock. This was my intent from the start. As I go down the line of income-producing stocks, I can start diversifying a bit more. The top dividend providers are consistent earners; but, they offer little in terms of growth.

Once I max out 400 shares in the top earners, I can start investing in up and coming stocks that also provide decent dividends. Fun game.
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to schedule your freelance work for profit

This is a straight calculation post without fluff on how to schedule your freelance work time. In this instance, we will assume you have a part-time job. The calculations are based on Working Money by Chris Brogan.

First off, set your earnings goal for the year. What do you want your income to be?

Let's say that you want to earn $80K per year.

Subtract your income from your part-time job. Let's say at a rate of $1,500 per month, your deduction is $18,000.

That leaves $62,000 to earn in your freelance work.

That's $5167 to earn per month, $1,240 per week, $207 per day.

Assuming you work 40 hours in your freelance work on top of your 20 hours at a job, that means you have:

13 hours to prospect per week, 2 hours per day

13 hours to deliver and execute on your sales, 2 hours of work per day

13 hours to provide support, or do administrative work per week, 2 hours per day.

Since you are doing actual work that pays you for only 13 hours per week, your hourly rate should be a minimum of $95/hour or more. If the freelance work that you do does not support that rate, you either need to lower your income goal, or find another type of freelance work that does. If you do fixed price work, it should use your calculated hourly rate in your estimate.

You are taking a day off and 2 weeks off in the year. These calculations reflect that.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Scanning Away

I finally got fed up with having papers everywhere. I bought a scanner so I can digitize all our documents at home. I'm dumping things into Evernote for now. However, I am thinking that many of these files are not ones that I would need to use frequently, or perhaps at all. There may be no value in being able to search for those documents.

If I upload them onto Google Docs, I'd much more easily be able to share folders with my family. Evernote has sharing; but, there is no way of transferring ownership, as far as I know.

I'll think about it more later. For now, the objective is to get rid of papers. I have binders full awaiting their fate.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why going paperless is so difficult

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Fujitsu (PFU Limited) ScanSnap duplex document...[/caption]

As a "knowledge worker", much of my day is spent producing and consuming information. Fortunately, much of that information is available from the Internet, and stays on the Internet. However, there are other types of information that come to me in paper format, like account statements, estimates, invoices, and so on. Much of this paper information piles up; my desk is swimming in papers. Why is it so difficult to go entirely paperless?

Tactile Preference

One of the biggest complaints about using ebook readers is that many people prefer the feel of books. The tactile experience adds to the enjoyment; however, I think it goes beyond that. I think the problem is more than a sensory preference; it is a mental separation of concepts. This book is 2001; it is science fiction; it is written by Arthur C. Clark.

There are discreet attributes that a physical object has that our minds can separate one object from another. In a computer, you don't have that separation so much. Everything is a file. Whether it is  a spreadsheet, a database, a text file, an image, or an ebook, it's just a file. You interact with files in roughly the same manner, read-only or edit. Your only tactile experience is to type and move your mouse around. It's the same experience for all of them.

There is something to be said for the physical experience that separates a sticky note from  a business card or a legal pad. These variant physical experiences unconsciously lead you to deal with each differently. In electronic format, it is all a conscious effort.


I recently started working with a paperless office consultant in a co-venture. His job is to convert doctors offices into paperless environments. The thing is, they are not exactly paperless. Going paperless actually means having a great archiving system that allows you to destroy your paper documents. Your office workflow must have a way of systematically scanning and archiving records so that they are easy to find when needed.

To make that system efficient, you need high speed scanners, plenty of hard drive space, and labor to carry out the work. Add to that any software that will help you achieve your paperless goal.

Good, self-feeding scanners start at about $350, whereas a basic flatbed scanner can be bought for about $99.

Hard drive prices are very low compared to what they used to be. Storage is not so much a problem, it is relatively inexpensive to have RAID set up to protect you from hard drive failure. However, offsite backup can be costly, either in 3rd party online backup services or in creating your own offsite backup system.

So, that's where paperless fails for most households. On top of having to maintain your yard, keep the house clean, car maintenance, and such, you now have to become an information manager.

On top of that, when you have children, it's less expensive to have them drop a book than your tablet or reading device.


Another challenge to going paperless is that you have to physically convert your paper documents into electronic format. It is very easy to save original files as PDF. The advantage is that the document becomes searchable.

However, when you are scanning handwritten notes, they don't index. So in addition to spending time scanning the document, you must tag or somehow categorize the scan so that it is easily found later on. Or, you could OCR your documents; but now instead of feeding batches of documents into your system, you are reviewing each one individually. Time sink.

For me, my main need for going paperless is to get rid of all the documents that clutter my desktop. I have partially outsourced scanning to Shoeboxed to get rid of receipts, business cards, and important account statements. While they will scan almost anything I send them; I tend to photograph handwritten notes into Evernote.


Speaking of Evernote, another problem with paperless is access. You can carry paper with you. PDFs are not so easy. You need a device to view a PDF. Evernote partially solves the problem for me because I can dump documents in there and access at other locations; but, the issue of needing a device to display the document still holds true. Other people dealing with you must be equally digital to benefit from your paperless existence. Otherwise, you are going to have to print stuff out all the time.

Going back to GTD

Finally, each paper has a purpose, if you are into GTD. Your document is either trash, for reference, or there is some action that it requires from you. So, many times we don't want to make that decision as to where the paper belongs, so it's easier to save it for later.

You can significantly reduce the amount of documents you need to archive if you are willing to consciously decide the fate of each paper in your life. This, overall, is the biggest challenge to going paperless. By not chucking out useless documents, we create a great deal of work for ourselves in managing the information. Getting rid of stuff you don't need is probably the biggest obstacle to going paperless.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Personal, business, or government. It's all about cashflow.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Basic creditcard / debitcard / smartcard graph...[/caption]

When you hear business reports in the news, you often hear about how a company has higher or lower earnings than projected. A business can operate forever so long as it earns enough money to cover expenses every month. Whatever extra money the business earns can be stashed away for rainy days or to invest in expanding the business.

People who operate their personal finances in the same way are just fine so long as their monthly income is greater than their expenses. Where businesses and people fall into trouble is when they spend more money than they earn. They are easily seduced by finance; low monthly payments can let you enjoy this product right now.

Government also depends largely on cashflow, which depends on citizen cashflow. As citizens earn more money, they pay more taxes. During the economic downturn of recent years, people have lost jobs, companies are cutting back on spending, and other things have reduced the amount of money flowing through the economy. Naturally, this means that the government has had less revenue coming into their account.

In any of these situations, having an interruption in your cashflow can be harmful to your economic situation. Generating income is vital so that you can continue paying your monthly obligations. Adding more monthly payments is a big risk because it increases the amount of income you must generate. When times are tough, you must think long and hard about taking on new payments; the item you purchase must in some way generate more income for you or save you enough to cover the cost of the monthly payment.

I've been putting money into fixing up my ugly old van. Last year, it had brake problems; I spent money replacing the entire brake system. Now, it is having fuel system problems, which we are probably going to replace too. Some in my situation would probably ditch the rust bucket and go to the nearest car lot to buy another vehicle. It is tempting. I see shiny, newer cars that would run hassle-free. But, they come with a monthly payment.

Unless I am a professional driver making money for miles put in, I can't justify taking on a new monthly payment. Vehicles are the worst kind of investment. They cost you money for gas, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation. The more you use your vehicle, the less it is worth.

My rust bucket cost me $900 cash. It is at the point where it cannot depreciate anymore. That's two expenses that I'm saving over a financed vehicle. No depreciation, no interest payments. I don't propose that everybody should drive ugly vehicles; rather, make it a point to pay cash for your vehicles.  You should own your vehicle, not the bank.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Pre-seeding Google +1

A few days ago, I wrote a post about Google +1. I think it's a good concept. I had an exchange earlier this morning on a Buzz by Darren Rowse.

It's tough to know what will come of Google +1. Without a button for people to put on their websites, it really doesn't do much. It's difficult to +1 something you haven't seen yet. So, you'd have to click on the link, read the content, go back to the search result, and then +1. Not too efficient.

After doing this a few times, I remembered that Google has a setting on your search page that lets you open links in a new window. This makes clicking +1 much easier.

I've been searching for things I think people would prefer to see for search terms involved in what I do; then I +1 them. When the service rolls out completely, I'd like my friends to have my recommendations waiting for them.

I've run into the occasional +1 from other people. It will take some time before I start to see my searches coincide with searches by others.

You can sign up for Google +1 at

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Publishing My Diet and Exercise Logs

I am publishing my diet and exercise logs on my blogs. You can view them at

Why do it? It is partially to show others how easy it is to do what I do. Mainly, however, it is to keep me accountable. It's win-win.

My calorie counts are approximate based on what I can gather from food labels or from Wolfram Alpha.

I experimented with Smartsheet and Google Spreadsheet. Smartsheet is very easy to use on a mobile phone. However, I am going with Google Spreadsheet because I need to be able to create multiple sheets in the embed so I can archive stuff monthly. Long lists are troublesome on a mobile phone; Smartsheet put the "Add Row" button at the bottom, which results in lots of scrolling.

All this done from my Android phone.
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Simple Plan to Better Health

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by shainelee via Flickr"]Better Results[/caption]

The simplest plans can be the most difficult to follow. They are so simple that it is easy to go off track because you could not simply get lost. Thus, it is likely you'll go off track often. I have a simple plan; which may be too simple.

In its purest form, my plan is:

  1. Diet

  2. Exercise

These are a bit broad. Let's look at each one.


I have two goals when it comes to eating. The first goal is to eat foods that are low on the glycemic index. The second goal is to reduce the overall number of calories consumed.

With low glycemic index foods, the diet is simple. This cuts out most carbohydrates. I still eat wheat and multigrain products. However, for the most part, my diet will consist of fruits and vegetables with a serving of protein. Lean meats are in order.

In terms of calories, I don't exactly count calories; but, I have a rough idea of what I'm consuming. I still eat all the time throughout the day; but, I try to eat fewer calories overall. Working at a computer does not really demand much energy; thus, I do not need to stock up. A fruit or vegetable every couple of hours helps avoid big meals for lunch and dinner.

If I do fail at eating healthy for any reason, the calorie objective kicks in. At that point, my other meals and snacks are more restrictive. This doesn't mean starving. Not eating is unhealthy.

Nutrition is another aspect of diet. I do take daily vitamins. Try as we might, eating the right daily balance of foods to get all the proper nutrition is tough.  The nutritional products are my insurance. Besides vitamins and minerals, I also get antioxidants and other benefits.

Finally, drinking plenty of water has health benefits.


My exercise plan is simple; and am starting to do more consistently. The plan is to walk 30 minutes every day and accumulate 10,000 steps throughout the entire day. I'll put on the pedometer in the morning to count my daily steps. I'll walk 30 minutes straight sometime in the evening. If I can achieve both, it's great. However, achieving one or the other in a day is acceptable.

I recognize that strength training would probably benefit me in both weight loss and cholesterol control. I think, that is probably the next goal. I don't have a plan, yet.

Keeping it simple

I wish I could say that following my plan is simple. In reality, it requires unlearning a lifetime of bad habits, or lack of habits. It requires learning about what is in food that can help or hurt. It requires pushing myself to do things I may not want to do. It requires discipline. But, most of all, it really does depend on the plan. Without a guideline to help make decisions, it is very easy to make poor choices about diet and exercise.

Future Development

Just as it is important to have an editorial calendar for creating content, it is probably a good idea to develop an activity calendar or even a menu to help stay on course with a wellness plan. After all, if you know what you are going to eat, you know what to buy at the grocery store. If you have a variety of exercises in your repertoire, you can keep your workouts interesting and fresh. This is what I'll develop in the coming weeks.

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Sunday showdown: Dems, GOP sound off on budget debate

Walking Sheet - 10000 Step per day plan

My 30 minutes of walking is included. I'm experimenting with Smartsheet embeds, which I can update through my mobile phone.

Turns out Google Spreadsheets can also be edited via mobile.

Friday, April 08, 2011

I'm getting a chauffeur if I win the lottery

I spend so much time driving to and fro. I could recoup a lot of time if I hire a driver. 

If ever I win the lottery, I'll splurge on hiring a chauffeur.  Oh, and an iPad.

Carrying fruit in the car for weight management

Sometimes you are just hungry and need to eat something. By keeping fruit in the car you can ensure that you always have a snack and avoid buying fast food. This gives you time to get home to make a healthy meal.
It might be attempting to go hungry; but it's always a bad idea. Going hungry usually results in eating more when you sit down to eat later.
By keeping fruit in the car I am able to eat every couple of hours and still lose weight. When you add it up at the end of the day you end up eating less than if you eat big meals.

What do you do when a computer has vague issues?

Event logs do not show any problems. Virus scan comes out clean. Drivers are up to date. Problem cannot be replicated.

All I can think of doing is installing system updates and software upgrades.  Maybe that will fix it. Then, wait for the problem to recur, or not.

Google expands check-in deals

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="188" caption="Image via CrunchBase"]Image representing Google Latitude as depicted...[/caption]

Google recently announced the expansion of Check-in deals for people using Google Maps with Latitude and Places. The program initially launched in Austin, Tx during SXSW. Check-in is now open to the rest of the country.

Google Check-in does not make a game out of your location status like other services; instead, you get rewards purely based on the number of check-ins you have at a location. As you achieve different levels, the rewards get better.

Google is starting out with discounts from American Eagle OutfittersQuiznosArby's, Macy's, Radio Shack, Finish Line, Famous Footwear, Great Clips, NaturalizerTasti D-Lite, Wireless Zone, Cellairis, and PostNet.

Google has a competitive advantage over some of the other services in that the app needed to check in is native to Android phones. Whether you are a fan of Google Buzz, Google Latitude, Google Places, or Google Maps on your phone, they all interact with each other at some point. This makes it easy for users who might not otherwise bother with check-ins to stumble upon the service.

Many users are reluctant to use Google Check-in, Buzz, Latitude, Places, etc... , because they "don't know anybody else who uses it." It may prove more difficult to persuade existing users of Foursquare, Gowalla, et. al. to try Google Check-in versus users who don't already have "friends" using those services. It remains to be seen whether the tight integration with mobile handsets will offset the momentum that the other location-based services have.

Unlike the other services, Google Check-in rewards everybody who frequents businesses. This lower hurdle to getting rewards may very well turn out to be the key to its adoption.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Instead of waiting in line #winning

Instead of waiting for my number to be called (87, serving number 20), I went for a bite to eat and a coffee. Came back to a more favorable number.

Heading down to pay my vehicle registration fees. #txdot

Doing my part to keep the roads paved.  I appreciate Texas roads; they get me where I'm going.

Rough morning. It will take more than coffee.

I may very well have to pitch in my very own will to wake up.

The wee lassie is having a tough time too.

Coffee is brewing. That's a start.

Monday, April 04, 2011

What a long day

Spent the day catching up on work, reading, and driving people around. Then I get home to more work. Oh, well.

Trying to come up with a life plan

This isn't exactly a walk in the park for me. The main problem I realize that I have is making decisions. However, it seems like a chicken and egg thing. I have a hard time deciding what to do because I don't know where I'm headed, ultimately; yet, I can't exactly decide where I want to end up, either. Dammit.

Friday, April 01, 2011

TX Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

I'm not getting Quora

I signed up for Quora because many geeks won't shut up about it. Blah blah blah algorithms, blah blah blah game changing, blah blah blah powerful search engine ranking. Whatever. Naturally, I had to check it out.
My experience thus far has been underwhelming. When you are searching for answers, you just need a quick answer, not a dissertation or thirty. Most answers to questions I've seen are long essays full of personal opinions, anecdotes, and discussions. Who has time for that?
The main problem is that many of the questions are statements in question form. In addition, questions aren't really single questions, they are multiple questions with only one question mark at the end. To get anything out of it, you have to read a series of answers that may or may not even attempt to answer the question(s), or go off on an entirely different direction. 
I read the guides on how to use Quora. Nobody follows the guide; nor do I.
If everybody used the service as it was intended, I could see how Quora would be useful. As it stands, the sensation I get is that of an opinionated mob at the other end. I'm already opinionated, I don't need more of it. I need answers.
I can see the intent of Quora; but, what I'm getting out of it is a completely different experience. 
The questions I have are practical. How do I edit the template for SuchNSuch CMS? Does anybody sell the recovery disks for a specific computer model? What are possible causes of a Windows machine hanging at mup.sys on bootup?
I did ask one question, "How long can I record audio in Evernote?" I could not find the answer anywhere online. An Evernote employee answered the question, 90 minutes. Done. 
If that's what others were doing, Quora would be much more useful for me. As it is now, it's too much noise and too much of a time sink. While it may have excellent SEO, I value time and good, actionable information. Google addresses those nicely.

We all have different social media communities

My family is a great example of what I teach business owners regarding social media, everybody hangs out at different places. While Facebook is very popular, it's not necessarily the place where people want to hang out all day.

My daughter, for example, says Facebook is stupid; there are smarter, more interesting people on Tumblr. She has a FB account because her family and friends use it; but, she mainly uses text messaging and Tumblr.

My wife likes to hang out at Cafe Mom. She likes the games and apparently enjoys hanging out with other moms.

Like my daughter, I check my Facebook account, and pages (yes, plural). But, for the most part, I watch my Google Buzz stream and Twitter streams. If you want to reach me, those are the places to do it.

There are people who hang out on Youtube.

There are people who really like photography; they hang out at Flickr.

My point is, as a marketer, you should know where your customers hang out. For this, you need to profile your ideal customer and then find out where that demographic lives online. Even if everybody in the world ends up with a Facebook account, it doesn't mean they are on it all day. Just because I have a mailing address doesn't mean I'm there all day.
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