2011 Goal Update (March)

This is my third monthly report on how I’m doing with my goals for 2011:

  • Read the Book of Mormon again. Still really behind. Caught up some, but then went on vacation and then work took over my life for a week, so back to being really behind.
  • Earn as much from my side business as I do from my day job. Earnings have made a major recovery, and at the moment it looks like I might actually reach this goal by the end of the year.
  • Build a dining room table. Build a piano keyboard desk. Build something. It is finally warming up outside, so soon I’ll be able to play with my tools. I’m going to start ultra simple and create a basic shelf for my wife that has a nice beveled edge. Should be easy.
  • Launch twelve new websites. Barely got this month’s site done in time, but here it is: LocalWeather.me. It is an extremely minimalist weather site that automatically detects your location. It doesn’t even have an input box to find weather for a specific city. The initial page load uses GeoLite City to find your location, and then uses navigator.geolocation to ask for a more accurate location. I need to clean up the JS some, but it does a few neat tricks, like figuring out your timezone offset so it can display local time even though my data feed is all in UTC.

I’ve also been working on a few goals that I didn’t originally blog about:

  • Max out my 401k and Roth IRA contributions. The 401k is set up and automatically funding. We haven’t made any Roth IRA contributions this year because of our larger than expected tax bill. Maybe next month.
  • Start an email newsletter. I’ve picked a topic. I’m going to make a newsletter for The Awkward Turtle that will include funny date mishaps, date ideas, and advertisements helpful product reviews.
  • Create a game for mobile phones. Haven’t put any time into this yet.

Goals I’ve accomplished this year:

  • Publish my first book. I’ve published my first book (paperback and Kindle). Took me a couple years, and I already found 2 typos (grr!), but at least it is finally in print.
  • Paid my taxes. I make money from a lot of places which makes my taxes really complicated, so getting this finished was awesome.
  • Get out of debt. We’ve paid off the last of Becca’s student loans which means we are now debt free! Yay!
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Zend Studio now free for Zend Certified Engineers

Just got the very good news that Zen Studio ($299) is now free for Zend Certified Engineers. Neat! I’ve been wanting to try it out for a while, but wasn’t willing to spend $299 for it.

Zend Studio is built on Eclipse (which is free for everybody), so it has a very small learning curve for those already familiar with Eclipse. My initial impression is that it is just an easier to use version of Eclipse, with more robust PHP tools than the free Eclipse PDT gives you.

I ran into a few quirks while using it that took a moment to figure out:

  1. By default, Zend Studio assumes you are using PHP 5.1/5.2. With the massive speed improvements and new functionality added in 5.3, I don’t know of anyone that chooses to use 5.1/5.2. Seems like a weird default option to set, and it caused my code to show a whole pile of errors that didn’t really exist.
  2. By default, Zend Studio uses PHP 5.2.14 to debug. Again, a really weird default.

Anyways, I’ll be playing around with it on my next website-of-the-month. Any tips from those already using it would be greatly appreciated!

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Awkward Turtles finally in print — and 3 copies sold!

Awkward Turtles finally in print — and 3 copies sold!

A long time ago, in a city far far away, I started writing a book codenamed The Project. My secret mission was to write a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book outlining the entire dating history of my at-the-time girlfriend (Becca) and myself.

If you aren’t familiar with Choose Your Own Adventure books, I’ll give you a brief summary. Basically every page or two you are asked to make a decision. For example, you may be getting attacked by a sharktopus and so it will say something like “If you cower like a little baby, turn to page 29. If you show that sharktopus who is boss, turn to page 83.” So you choose to attack the sharktopus, turn to page 83, and get dismembered by the sharktopus’ mighty sharktacles (sp?).

My book is a little different because every page makes you make a decision, and one decision always takes you to “The End”, and one always keeps the story going. At the end, I break off from reality and go into hopeful thinking and ask the beautiful Becca to marry me. Keep in mind she was just my girlfriend at the time.

Writing a book takes a lot of time. Keep in mind this isn’t some dinky pamphlet. This is a 208 page book. I needed Becca to know I was working on something important for her, but I didn’t want her to guess what it was, so it became The Project.

I finished the text of the book, but still had a lot of editing to do and I needed to design a cover. I already had the engagement ring and my impatience finally got the best of me so I just showed it to her on the computer, read some of it to her, skipped to the end, and got engaged.

Finally, more than 2 years later, I’ve finished the editing and the cover and published my book, Awkward Turtles. It is available on Amazon for $10.95. I’m working on a Kindle version, but Choose Your Own Adventure books don’t translate well to the Kindle, so it’ll take a while.

I’m pretty excited to get it published! Yes, it is awkward and somewhat embarrassing. And yes, it cost a lot of money to publish (I bought my own ISBN number, I had to buy multiple proofs, and registering a copyright isn’t free). But how cool is it to be a (self) published author? And I’m sure our little baby girl (due in May!) will love to read this someday. Maybe it’ll even become the bedtime story book for her.

Anyways, I’ve sold 3 copies so far (probably to family members) for a whopping $2.73 profit. Woot! I’m rich! I can retire off my royalties! Well, maybe someday… maybe…

Update 3/30/11: Now available on the Kindle!

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Bank Robbery Stats

I’ve been watching The Kill Point on Netflix. This is a short series about a bunch of military guys that take hostages in a bank.

I’ve seen a bunch of these types of shows recently, and have started to wonder how often banks actually get robbed. I don’t get the news, and I never see anything about it in my feed reader, so it seems like it is an incredibly rare thing.

To find out for sure, I turned to my good friend Mr. Google and found a neat FBI Bank Crime Statistics page with 2010 Q3 stats (July, August, September):

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Netflix: Complain and Get an Account Credit

I watch a lot of TV and movies. According to FeedFliks, I watch about 75 titles per week on Netflix, and I probably watch another 5-10 titles on Hulu every week.

Watching so much Netflix has given me the opportunity to experience all the pros and cons of a Netflix membership. Overall I’d say my $7.99 per month is well spent: I get access to thousands of titles and I don’t have to watch commercials. However, there are a few things that drive me crazy.

First, Netflix doesn’t work on Linux. Some may say this is because of platform that Netflix uses to serve its videos, but in reality it is a anti-consumer choice meant to prevent Linux “hackers” from cracking their DRM. If they can get videos playing on:

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. PlayStation 3
  4. Wii
  5. Xbox 360
  6. Apple TV
  7. Google TV
  8. Roku
  9. Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  10. Sony Dash
  11. WD TV
  12. A pile of Blu-ray players
  13. A pile of TVs (with no special attached hardware)
  14. TiVo
  15. iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

…then they could get it working on desktop Linux without much trouble. They choose not to, and I’d appreciate it if they’d stop pretending it is an insurmountable software limitation.

So instead of running it natively, I have to run Linux, which runs VirtualBox, which runs Windows XP, which plays my Netflix videos. Frustrating.

Second, Netflix frequently crashes. On my desktop (Linux) and laptop (Windows 7), Netflix dies part way through shows all the time. It happens even more frequently when I pause a show. To make it worse, when the page is refreshed to bring it back to life, it often forgets where I was at in my show.

So I complained. It didn’t solve any of the problems, but it felt good to vent to the company and maybe hopefully raise a tiny bit of awareness that Linux people are frustrated at the lack of support, and that I’m annoyed that my videos crash all the time.

A few days later, I got an email apologizing for my troubles watching instantly. The interesting part of the email was a link that provided a 3% statement credit on my next bill. While I appreciate the gesture, I can’t help but thinking to myself: Really? 3%? As I said, I watch a lot of TV, so I suppose it makes sense that my patronage is only worth 25 cents to them, but a credit of 25 cents just seems.. well.. tacky? rude? pointless? a backhanded apology?

Anyways, if you have a problem with Netflix, maybe it is worth 10 minutes of your time to call and complain. Who knows, you might get a 3% credit, too!

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