I finally have my HTC Evo 4G running Google’s Android OS. Hands down, it is the most advanced mobile phone device ever released. But surely it’s doesn’t compare to an iphone? wrong. Apps – check (thousands of ’em). pinch to zoom? check. Games? check. Hey here’s a novel idea Mr. Jobs, ability to run multiple apps simultaneously? check. And instead of a boring homescreen that’s just a bunch of tiled app icons, how about customizable, interactive widgets? CHECK! Apple, you loose. BOOM!

I recently got a mac, and am very happy with it. As a Google Apps user, I wanted to be able to sync my Google Calendar and Contacts with the Mac Addres Book and iCal. Enter Spanning Sync.

Features include:

* support for Google Apps
* sync across multiple Macs
* sync address books
* sync calendars
* uses Mac OS X Sync Services
* sync with iPhone

I’ve been using Spanning Sync for over a month and am very happy with it. If you decide to use it, you can save $5 by using this Spanning Sync promotion code: VC9WTE

or follow this link: http://spanningsync.com?r=VC9WTE

You will save $5, and I will make $5 for the referral! thanks!

Today I learned the biggest lesson in my life to date, and I learned it from a movie. But let me back up a bit. It actually started when I saw “The Matrix” in 1999. I remember sitting in the theater spellbound after the movie ended. I wanted so badly to plug into that world where amazing things were possible. Where everything was new, rules could be bent and invented. The mundane replaced by the surreal. I knew it was just a beautifully executed work of fiction, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some kernel of truth hidden inside. Some hint of attainability just nagged at the back of my mind. I never thought much more of it than that; just that it was a great movie.

Fast forward 10 years. After seeing Avatar I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Obviously the visual effects were groundbreaking. Amazing 3D and incredible CGI combined to affect an astounding visual aesthetic. But that’s not what stuck with me. It was the same sense I’d had after watching the Matrix. I desperately wanted to be able to transport myself into the experience of the Na’vi. Where I could feel alive and connected to all living things; command a powerful body of my own to jump through the trees; experience passionate, connected love; where every element of physical reality is heightened. I was chalking it up to another amazing movie and preparing to be slightly depressed that I could never be a Na’vi when I stumbled across this quote:

“Our body applies itself to space like a hand to an
instrument, and when we wish to move about we do not
move the body as we move an object. We transport it
without instruments as if by magic, since it is ours and
because through it we have direct access to space.”
-Maurice Merleau-Ponty
I read it once … and then again … and that’s when I knew. I already have an Avatar. Wherever/whoever/whatever I was before I came here, that me is Jake Sully. And during this life, my body is my avatar. Only, like in The Matrix, I have no awareness of the reality outside of my Avatar’s experience. Perhaps before coming here I was thrilled about planting my consciousness into this body! I started looking at everything differently. I noticed my breath, flowing in and out. The cool air on my skin. I saw my living room as if for the first time. Listened, really listened for the first time to the sounds around me, even the moments of silence were deafeningly loud. The things we get to do in our bodies, the feeling of water cascading over skin, running, playing, singing, dancing, physical intimacy, eating (the list goes on and on). They are amazing. Our senses are rich and textured…they are everything I could have hoped for. And there you have it.
I want to thank James Cameron and Maurice Merleau-Ponty for helping me to see that I have the single most amazing possession in the world. Better than any car, money, drug,  job, watch, loft, ipod…better than anything humanity will ever make. I have an Avatar.

You can use Google’s Keyword Tool to get new keyword ideas. Enter one keyword, or a descriptive phrase to get a long list of suggestion. Or just enter your website’s URL and the Keyword Tool will generate results based on your site content. It’s very easy to use and will help with variation after variation on keywords. It also includes some helpful metrics such as:

  • Advertiser Competition
  • Local Search Volume
  • Global Search Volume

And of course there are options to filter out results that match any keywords that you do not want to see. Check out the link below:

Keyword Tool

This post is a continuation of my search for motivation super fuel. It builds on Part I of this series. I practiced Trent’s tips for a few days and found them very helpful. At the end of my work day, I made a list of 3 or 4 items that were high-priority and set it on my desk next to the keyboard. The next morning, before giving attention to anything else, I started a 1-2 hour chunk of focused effort on the list items. The benefit was immediate. Instead of fighting the various rip tides pulling in different directions, I was singularly focused and productive. However, I noticed a couple problems with this system and, if I may, I will continue with some oceanic references.

I know next to nothing about sailing, but, still, I liken freelancing, running your own business, or managing a complex project to sailing a ship at sea. The problem I discovered is that I was running around the ship plugging holes and bailing water. both of which are important activities, but they offer no perspective. What about all the other projects on the ship? Not every project I have is urgent, so it could easily escape attention when making a daily list of high priority activities. There needs to be some system for tracking a master list of projects and tasks associated with those projects. Also, the daily activities can’t be driven solely by urgency; they must take into account the full scope of current projects.  Shortly thereafter I happened to read a blog on Lifehacker.com that mentioned The Pomodoro Technique.

Francesco Cirillo created the Pomodoro Technique in 1992 to improve his study habits. It incorporates:

  • an ‘Activity Inventory’
  • an ‘Activities To Do Today’ list
  • individual, 25 minute spurts of concentrated effort called ‘Pomodoros’

Each Pomodoro is followed by a 5 minute break. 5 minutes to let your mind breathe and expand before returning to a focused state. The work day is composed of several sets of  4 Pomodoros. Each set is followed by a 15-30 minute break, a break to walk, move your body, have a snack and, again, let the mind expand. Here is a quick and simple application of the Pomodoro Technique to a day’s work:

  1. The first Pomodoro of the day is spent planning. Make a To Do Today list based on the items in the Activity Inventory. Schedule 1 Pomodoro before lunch and another later in the day dedicated to handling emails and voice mails. The schedule might like this: [1,3] break [3,1] lunch [3,1] break [3,1]. The 1s are devoted planning, correspondence, correspondence, and review, respectively. The 3s are just pure productivity.
  2. Complete sets 1 and 2 before lunch.
  3. Enjoy Lunch
  4. Complete sets 3 and 4 after lunch.
  5. The last Pomodoro of the day is spent in review. Review what was accomplished over the day. Update the Activity Inventory. Clean and tidy your workspace so it is ready for another productive session the next day.

That’s it! It seems startlingly simple, but aren’t most things of genius? For each Pomodoro, set a timer and respect it. Don’t allow your mind to wander from the task at hand. The result will be intense and awesome focus. If you finish before the timer ends, review your work, improve it. I’ve been doing this for three days now and my productivity has gone through the roof. I’ve even been waking up looking forward to the work day because I know that I’m going to make huge strides forward on projects. Amazing. Here are the basic tenets of the Pomodoro Technique:

  • A Pomodoro Consists of 25 minutes Plus a Five-Minute Break.
  • After Every Four Pomodoros Comes a 15-30 Minute Break.
  • The Pomodoro Is Indivisible. There are no half or quarter Pomodoros.
  • If a Pomodoro Begins, It Has to Ring:
  • If a Pomodoro is interrupted definitively – i.e. the interruption isn’t handled – it’s considered void, never begun, and it can’t be recorded with an X.
  • If an activity is completed once a Pomodoro has already begun, continue reviewing the same activity until the Pomodoro rings.
  • Protect the Pomodoro. Inform effectively, negotiate quickly to reschedule the interruption, call back the person who interrupted you as agreed.
  • If It Lasts More Than 5-7 Pomodoros, Break It Down. Complex activities should be divided into several activities.
  • If It Lasts Less Than One Pomodoro, Add It Up. Simple tasks can be combined.
  • Results Are Achieved Pomodoro after Pomodoro.
  • The Next Pomodoro Will Go Better.

How do I handle interruptions at work?

Invert the dependency on interruptions, and make the interruptions depend on you. Handle interruptions efficiently by jotting down future tasks to be incorporated into the Activity Inventory. Respectfully ask people if you can get back to them in 10/15/20 minutes etc. Most ’emergencies’ can stand to wait that long, and people won’t mind if you honor the promise to get back to them when you said you would. In fact, they might even grow a deeper respect for you and your time.

  • Write down the new activity on the To Do Today Sheet under Unplanned & Urgent if you think it’s imminent and can’t be put off.
  • Intensify your determination to finish the current Pomodoro. Once you’ve marked down the interruption, continue working on the given task till the Pomodoro rings.

Two last notes

  1. It is recommended that you be able to wind up your timer. The act of winding up the Pomodoro is a declaration of your determination to start working on the activity at hand. It has to clearly show how much time is left, and it should make a ticking sound as time passes. This is a way we can practice feeling time and staying focused. I purchased the ‘Pomodoro Timer’ iPhone app by Navel Labs for 0.99¢ – it winds with a finger gesture and works great. At first the ticking sound is unnerving, but after a while, it is very reassuring and assistive. Time is no longer slipping away…it is helping to maintain focus.
  2. Inherent in this system is the concept of time estimation. You’ll have to estimate how many Pomodoros a task will take when planning your daily activity list. This is very useful, and it will also hone your ability to make accurate estimates over time.

Learn More

Francesco has written a 45 page e-book that goes into great detail on the philosophy of the Pomodoro Technique. It also gives some very helpful implementation examples and discusses further how to record estimating and time tracking metrics.  I read the entire book and strongly encourage it. http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/pomodoro-technique-book.html

Today’s attempt to draw a perfect circle


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How to Cook Asparagus

Image by Esteban Cavrico via Flickr

Asparagus is delicious and healthy and I had no idea how easy it is to make! It contains folate, potassium, and inulin, and is good for the cardiovascular system, digestive tract, and a healthy pregnancy. With high heat (i.e. grilling or broiling), asparagus cooks quickly and stays juicy and crisp. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Heat up grill or broiler.
  2. Trim the asparagus at the bottom of the stalk where it loses its green color.
  3. Rub Asparagus with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and any seasoning you wish – salt and fresh cracked pepper work quite well.
  4. Place the Asparagus on the grill/broiler and cook until the are just starting to get soft – about 5 minutes.
  5. Eat and Enjoy!

Learn More

Today’s attempt at drawing a perfect circle


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How to Evade a Tracker

I watched an episode of Man Tracker a couple weeks ago and found it rather troubling. Watching the couple attempt to flee from skilled pursuit was unsettling.  They clearly had no idea what they were doing, and the tracker just kept closing in bit by bit. It made me wonder: What if that were me? Would I do any better? The answer is definitely no. I have no knowledge about evasion techniques; hence this completely random blog post. So here you go:

It turns out evasion is a balance between speed and misdirection. There are a few basic rules of thumb:

  • Move as far away from your pursuer(s) as fast as you can – this creates a larger necessary search arc.
  • Obscure your path of travel as best you can. If you leave a clear path of travel, the distance you gain is irrelevant; it’s just a matter of time as the tracker moves straight towards you. Therefore you must obscure your tracks.
  • Never hide and wait for your pursuer(s) to give up. Assume you are being hunted – never assume that the pursuer has given up just because you can’t see/hear the pursuit. Besides, hiding is nearly certain to fail if there are search dogs aiding the search. (They weren’t using search dogs on the Man Tracker show, but this still seems like good advice.) When you must stop for rest, then it is time to hide. But do not hide in obvious places. Do not hide in the hay barn.
  • Use the buddy system. If you’re in a group, break into pairs so there are multiple tracks that must be followed. Also, two is better than one during rest breaks; one can keep watch while the other rests.
  • Make or get a map – search buildings, cars,  phone booths, etc. This can help you to know your terrain, set paths of travel, etc.
  • Become a scavenger – do not pass up anything that could be of use. Plastic bags, buckets, cans, etc. can all be very useful for handling water or cooking.

The most effective weapon in your evasion arsenal is track obfuscation. There are several ways to hide your path of travel, some better than others.

Not So Good Options

  • First off, Don’t bother brushing out your tracks with a branch or some-such. Your trackers will most likely be able to tell what you did. More importantly, it will waste your time and do little to gain advantage as the tracker will still know your direction of travel.
  • Stream running will mask your scent, but muddy river banks will give clear indication of entry and exit points. Moving in water saps strength and body heat of the water is cold. Also water hazards include unseen waterfalls or rocks. Having said that, if the stream is deep enough to float in, moving faster than walking pace, and has no rapids/waterfalls, then this is a decent option.

Good Options

  • Moving from rock to rock can be very effective. It does require hard, stony ground along with agility and balance, but it’s hard to follow someone moving in this manner. One note – clean the bottom of your shoes, so you don’t leave spore (evidence of your passage).
  • Backtrack and jump off your trail. Walk backwards carefully stepping in your own footprints about 15 paces and jump off into a river for example. Then cross the river far from the entry point. Backtracking causes your footprints to get heavier (a function of stepping twice), the weight distribution is also different because you are walking backwards. A good tracker will notice this stuff, so try to do it on drier, rockier ground where it is less obvious.

Above all else, when Escaping and Evading, DO IT QUICKLY and DO IT CAREFULLY

I’m ready for my episode of Man Tracker! The articles below go into way more detail of you want to keep learning.

Learn More



Today’s Attempt at drawing a perfect circle