Podcasts make me grumpy

Podcasts make me grumpy, and it has nothing to do with their quality or content.? It’s just podcasts in general.? I’ve been pretty stressed lately.? Not entirely sure why, because work is damn fun.? It might just be that there is too much on in my life.

When I have a break, perhaps during a walk or during my commute, I listen (well, listened now) to podcasts.? Problem is, I’d be having a break from work, trying to clear my head, and these podcasts would be filling my head with more information.? More ideas, more news, more concepts, more trivia… STOP.

I’ve gone back to listening to music.? A bit of classical, some dance, perhaps some Damien Rice or John Legend.? And I’m finding I have a clearer head and less stress.? And I have more ideas.? Strange eh?? ? Put in? fewer ideas, but get more out.

Empty your cup grasshopper.

Music to me is meditative.? Podcasts have become (always were?) mind-noise.? Sorry Leo, Kevin, Dan,? and others.

Delete this feed unless it amuses you

Delete this blog from your RSS aggregator.? If you’re one of my 230 subscribers, and you don’t find it interesting, useful, or amusing, delete it now.? How else are we going to improve the quality of the blogosphere?

I’m cleaning out my closet.? I’m removing a bunch of feeds from my aggregator that have just stopped being interesting? or fun, and feel like a chore to read.? ? ? I don’t expect anyone to care, but after reading recent commentary on the drop in traffic to A-list blogs, I though I’d do my bit to improve the performance of A-listers and other bloggers: by deleting their feeds.?

So, for the record:

Is there any method to my madness?? Yes.? Robert Scoble and Dave Winer go because their signal-to-noise ratio is too low.? Jason Calacanis stays, just barely, because I enjoy his take on things (mainly via Bad Sinatra), but sometimes the Mahalo noise makes me want to delete.? I might add Winer back after he gets off the Twittergram trip.? There’s the upside: we can improve the quality of the so called A-list by choosing when to subscribe.

The other deletions relate to repetitive news.? Engadget, Gizmodo and CrunchGear all cover the same news.? I prefer CrunchGear’s voice and selectiveness, and Gizmodo stays because of pure amusment value with the occasional laugh-out-loud post.? I prefer Kotaku’s style over Joystiq.

What a relief.? Checking my aggregator is going to be a hell of a lot more fun and less work tomorrow morning.

Yahoo! Mail’s Crappy Spam Filter

…or “how I learned to stop fighting spam and love GMail”.

My itchy keyboard was nudged by a recent comment on my old Yahoo! Mail Beta review post. If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll remember that I was a huge fan of Oddpost, to the point of continuing to use Oddpost despite their Internet-Explorer-only limitation. So when Oddpost was bought by Yahoo!, I waited eagerly for the next iteration of all-singing, all-dancing webmail that would run on Firefox.

Along came the Yahoo! Mail Beta, designed and built by the Oddpost guys, and implemented very, very nicely. I switched happily from Oddpost to Yahoo!, and enjoyed my newfound ability to use Firefox for webmail. For a short time. Then came the spam. Honestly, I don’t know who wrote the spam filter system for Yahoo! Mail, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say they are schizophrenic. Some interesting behaviour from the Yahoo! spam filter included:

  • Seemingly identical spams would arrive, one being sent to spam purgatory, and the other arriving happily in my inbox.
  • I’d get three mailing list replies from an email that was in my contacts folder, two of which would be marked as spam.
  • Purchase notifications from eBay or some online store would be spanked straight to spam

(As an aside, I have to say that I had none of these problems on Oddpost, so I’m guessing the Oddpost developers were told to retrofit the existing Yahoo! spam filter into the new interface.)

Through serendipity (or perhaps my subconcious seeking a way out of spam hell), I recently stumbled across the fact that GMail has a nice slick way of dealing with multiple email accounts. Sure I knew you could do filtering and labelling, but I didn’t realise how slick the options were for receiving email from multiple accounts and modifying the way you reply to them. Once you have confirmed with GMail that you infact own the email account(s) that GMail will manage, you have full control on how to manage them. For example you can tell GMail to reply to a message using the address that it was originally sent to. This means that although I use [private]@gmail.com as my primary mail management interface, people who send mail to [private]@oddpost.com have no idea, they just send email to and receive replies from [private]@oddpost.com. Simple, but effective.

Couple this with GMail’s slick mobile interface, massive storage, and excellent anti-spam system, and I’m now a convert. Late to the table sure, but I’m not going back to Yahoo! for love or money. Sorry Oddpost guys. Hope you’ve invested your buyout proceeds elsewhere.

Yet Another Cancer-Related Blog Post

After getting over the initial shock when my father was diagnosed with a choroidal melanoma on Friday, my thoughts turned to blogging. Specifically an intention not to add to the thousands of “my father/mother/brother has cancer” posts. What’s the point? If you have no experience of such an event, the post is largely redundant – basically the same as a cat-post. If on the other hand you’re going through something similar, do you really want to read about someone else’s experiences (good or bad)? Additionally, it is an intensely personal event, with feelings and occurences that are near impossible to articulate.

And that’s when I changed my mind.

You see I’ve always considered myself a bit of a writer. Upwardly-articulate if you will. Yet despite my best attempts this doesn’t seem to come through in my postings. I have a swirl of prose in my head, but as I sit down to write a post, it seems to come out all… stilted… amatuerish… boring. I’m not sure if it is a lack of vocabulary, a lack of grasp of the finer points of grammar, or both. I still get anxious if I need to use a comma. Should it be a comma, or a semicolon? Does semi-colon have a hyphen in it? Are three questions in a row too many?

So cancer. If there was one word I had to choose to describe the last week, it would be mortality. I’ve always been aware that my parents are getting older, but an event like this forces one to actually address the fact that with age comes increased mortality. Twinges, pains, blurry vision. Things that a 18 year old would put down to stress or exertion can no longer be ignored. When forced to think about this, my thoughts turn (selfishly?) inward. If I keeled over tomorrow, what would be my legacy? If I fancy myself as a writer, then why the hell am I not writing? What’s stopping me? Why am I afraid to write a cancer post? In the immortal words of Garth Algar (Wayne’s World): “Live in the NOW, man!!”

So in a wonderful circular reference1: here is my cancer post. I’m not afraid. Read my prose. It is good.

Finally (and most importantly), it looks like dad will be fine for many years: no metastasis as yet, and the current worst-case scenario is the loss of one eye. Shocking, but a lot less shocking than a limited lifespan.

Footnote 1: As a computer science professor once told me: “To iterate is human, to recurse is divine.”

Over the Hill

Thirty One. Goddamn. Do I have to stop acting like a kid now? Take responsibility, stop playing games, become a role model? Jeeze I really hope not.

Growing older has taught me one thing: age itself does not bestow intelligence nor demand respect. Sure, young kids (high school and below) should respect (most) older people because life experience is a fact and kids need boundaries. Beyond that though, I think it would do younger people well to ask “is this dude actually intelligent and authoritative, or is he just ordering me around because of his age and/or position?”

This is especially true in business. When one starts a career I think one tends to follow the same pattern as in education: respect people in authority because you have to. Here’s my tip: you don’t have to. Unless someone (a manager, a workmate) earns your respect, don’t give it to them. Sure, give them time to earn your respect – give them a chance to show their intellect, what they can do, and how they propose to ‘manage’ you – but if they don’t deserve your respect, work around them, go above them, get stuff done. Don’t just sit and stew.

This approach is good for all sorts of reasons. You become recognised for getting stuff done, often leading to promotion. The good managers get great respect and good feedback, often leading to promotion. Bad managers get outed faster. The only risk is that prick of a manager who somehow has respect from further up the chain, meaning that you’ll be seen as having a bad attitude rather than a go-getter. Use your gut here. Nine times out of ten the latter situation is a sign of rot in the company as a whole. Occasionally you can get the ear of a higher-up and get things changed, but most times you’ll want to be updating your CV.

Advice and career tips. Shit I am getting old.