Monolingual

I worked with Neal on Friday, and we used a tool I haven’t worked with before- Monolingual. In this case we were cleaning up an Apple 10.5 computer to use as the base for an image that would then go to dozens (or maybe hundreds) of other computers. We wanted this base system to be as small and light as possible. Because the previous IT person had installed the system with support for additional languages (Assamese anyone?) the computer was bloated with these language files.

Running Monolingual removes the additional languages from the system, and from any other applications that may have also installed additional languages. In this case (admittedly an extreme case) running it saved over 3 GBs. Since the computers were being imaged using Netboot you can imagine the time and annoyance savings that 3GB times however many computers can bring. But really everyone should strive to have a lighter computer.

Heat, please.

Winter came quick and the wind chill is 17° today in NYC.

On Wednesday Becki and I had spent a quite lovely day coworking together. Becki was diligently working on some stories for myyearbook while I distractedly worked on invoicing & leftover cleanup projects for some clients. But the kitchen was so chilly that we had to move the kitchen table into the living room and setup shop there. I learned that the landlord has the automatic thermostat set to go down to, I don’t know let’s say 42° on weekdays.

So I spent today sealing the kitchen windows. These circa 1920 windows woefully lack storm windows and hence are enormous cold air leaks. I resorted to the old Frost King Winterizing Kit– you know the kind where you use a hair dryer to shrink some extremely thin clear plastic sheeting which you tape to the window frame. It isn’t the most attractive thing in the world, but is better then nothing. Between that and switching the screens for storm windows in the outside doors, things are much improved.?

I still think I may have to resort to a space heater and begun investigating who manufacturers some of the better ones. DeLonghi, based in Italy, makes some of the better, inexpensive oil-filled radiators. I imagine that space heaters like these are even more popular in Europe where homes are often a few hundred years older and draftier and heating units equally antiquated. They go for about 50-100 bucks, not so bad considering the dollar/euro. Besides these heaters are made in Italy and therefore better-looking, or at least more interesting to look at then any American products.  Of course, they all use 700-1500 watts dependent on the setting. This is normal for space heaters, but still a huge energy hog for something you may have on for days at a time.

One alternative I found is the Econo-Heat panel heater which uses a mere 400 watts and is also about a hundred bucks. Overall people seem to like it, my only concern is that some Amazon reviews talk about the product cracking and charring after a few months of use. Not so good. I may try it out for a cold room on the fourth floor of the Philly house. Heat barely reaches that 4th floor room from the enormous 185k btu oil-furnace, so this could be a good addition. We’ll see soon enough.

China kids video

I had the great joy of spending six weeks in China back in 2003. When returning from my time spent there I really had the desire to go and live in China for at least a year. The culture is so distinctly different from the US.

It was getting off the beaten path, away from the tour group that was, of course, most satisfying. One night, my girlfriend Brooke and I went wandering off into Zhengzhou at night. It was late, almost midnight, but the city was alive with people on the streets. They were cooking and eating on card tables, and then when the food was cleared, playing cards. Others were sprawled out on mats rolled out on the sidewalk or in alleys- it was balmy that night, and few buildings had air conditioning. Everyone we met was so overjoyed to see us, to show us their world unvisited by tourists. Pictures were taken and anyone who knew even a word or two of english was happy to share it.

This video is an oldie, but a goodie, and I finally got around to uploading it. It’s a similar experience with a group of kids in a marketplace. While their parents shopped for food I played the pied piper with my videocamera.

Further proof of drug use at NASA?

As much as I wanted to, I never did get to go off to Space Camp when I was 12. I had to make do reading and re-reading the Time Life book series on the various planets.

It brought me right back to those days longing to be in a spacesuit as I read the tripped out description of next weeks lunar eclipse. I still try to sneak out for the occasional eclipse or meteor shower.. You should do the same during the middle of the night on the 28th.

Dreamy Lunar Eclipse

The NYC hamster wheel vs. the hamster wheel of the Valley

Reading about the endless hamster wheel of Silicon Valley made me reflect on this effect in NYC.

New York has the same effect espoused in this article- to endlessly drive you to ever higher echelons of wealth. But the effect is less-pronounced due to other factors, at least from my experience.

While the very wealthy are always close by in New York, there is still great diversity of income. Sitting in my grungy office in Tribeca I am surrounded by the multi-million dollar lofts of hedge fund managers and the like. But I can’t walk to my office without passing the deathly-thin homeless lady with a cat who spends her days outside of the NY Dolls strip club.

For me this helps to give me perspective of how well off I really am. In Palo Alto you gain perspective by going out kite-boarding, in New York, you just walk down the street.

Time tweaks

New York is a city of multi-taskers. Most of my peers in the tech industry (media, publishing, advertising..) all have a variety of jobs, gigs, tasks, etc. My friend Nichelle was quoted in the Times in an article about being able to juggle several varying kinds of different work at once. She manages to handle with aplomb being a publicist, bookkeeper, producer, the list goes on and on. I think the people in New York are more dynamic then possibly anywhere else.

But lately I’ve been  struggling with finding balance between the various types of work in my life. I’ve been working as an IT consultant for years at various small businesses around the city.  I also have been doing an increasing amount of web consulting, helping companies move from static to more dynamic, interactive web publishing. I enjoy seeing the way other companies in other industries work, it helps me reflect on the company I’m building, what to take away and avoid.

But there is the endless tweaking of how much consulting work to schedule to keep the bills paid, while devoting enough time to 30elm (which usually runs 50 or so hours a week..). I’m starting to build more thoughtful quiet time to my carefully color-coded iCal, and am becoming more and more aware of the value of all the smal pieces of time I have. I’ll keep you updated as I continue to make these time tweaks..

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Persistence

When I was young I had the good fortune to travel on one nice trip per year. It wasn’t because my family had the money to- we were just scraping by- it was because my mom had the “luck” to win supermarket and manufacturer contests for free trips.

Now in reality it wasn’t luck at all- it was purely being persistent. She would carefully evaluate local contests that she would find and ones sourced to her through newsletters and zines (this is long before the internet). She would then systematically enter these contests hundreds of times over a few week period- logging the entries in a notebook.

Weeks later she would log whether the entries were a success or failure. The total investment might be two hundred bucks a month in postage but her persistence payed off. Over the five or ten years she was doing this we won trips to Hawaii, Viginia and Disney World (4 times!). Of course the biggest win was a Chevy Astro Van- this actually came about through an essay contest by Stanley Tools. I remember her explaining to me how she was writing what the judges would want- the happy fixer-upper family, ready for their van.

New books like Seth Godin’s “The Dip” are merely ways to convince you of the importance of persistence when I’ve know it all along. I just have to remember that it takes thousands of tries before that trip to Disney World.

Disney World