This is the archive for March, 2009.
- Day 90 – Anti-Productivity Apps
Yesterday I wrote about my 6 favorite productivity apps. I thought it only appropriate that today I write about the opposite: anti-productivity apps. These are things that help me waste time (like I need a lot of help doing that…) while I am supposed to be doing work. I am not a huge gamer, but I like to play some small games when I am killing time. Here are the three applications (besides my internet browser) that I most often find lowering my productivity.
When I actually need to get work done, the first application I close is my feed reader, NetNewsWire. It is a feed aggregator made by NewsGator. That is just tech jargon for a program that pulls updates from websites you subscribe to and displays them all in one place. You can look at all of your favorite news sites, blogs, webcomics, photo journals, etc. without opening up a formal web browser. I currently subscribe to 59 feeds, but that changes weekly depending on new sites I find and if I get bored with something I am subscribed to.
Solitaire XL (freeware, 10.3 and up)
Solitaire XL is made by Lavacat Software. For those of you who have switched over to a Mac from Windows, you probably miss playing solitaire to kill time. There are no solitaire applications pre-installed in OS X, so multiple developers wrote freeware solitaire apps to fill this void. I think Lavacat’s UI design is the best of all solitaire apps for OS X I have seen. I don’t play it often, but I put it in this list for those of you who miss playing solitaire and want a version for OS X, but didn’t know it until you read this. (Say’s law!)
Enigmo 2 ($19.95)
“Enigmo 2 is a 3D puzzle game where you construct mechanisms to direct lasers, plasma, and water to toggle switches, deactivate force-fields, and eventually get them to their final destination.” It is built by Pangea Software and really appeals to people who like geometry and angles. I enjoy the challenge of constructing ways to direct water, plasma, and lasers through obstacles and to their destinations in a certain amount of time.
- Day 89 – Productivity Apps
We read articles like “Top 10 [insert adjective here] Apps” on Digg at least once a week. Well, I decided to out together a list, not because I think I know better what is best, or I am discontented with the few thousand other top 10 articles out there, but because I wanted to put a list together of what I use most and often to make my life easier. In fact, there are not even 10 apps on this list, nor do I claim that these are the best designed, or the best for the job. They are simply the ones I have found and use almost on a daily basis. I will provide a brief description of each one, why I use it, and a link to where you can get it. I will also indicate the cost, though most of these apps are free. Keep in mind, I use Mac OS X, so the PC users are out of luck unless the developers make a Windows or Linux version of these apps I don’t know about it. Also, I am running these on 10.5.6, so if you are running older versions of a Mac OS, they might not work. (Look, if you are using 10.3, 10.4, or below, it is time to upgrade. If you are still using system 9 or below, it is definitely time to upgrade, and I am surprised you can actually view this site on that system.) With that said, here are 6 applications I use pretty much daily to keep my life in order and running smoothly.
Think (freeware, 10.4.9 and up)
Think, by Freeverse, is an application to help you focus on the matter at hand on your computer screen. Open Think, select an application to use, and Think puts a dark (or colored, if you want) screen behind your current application window so other things on your computer screen do not distract you. You can bring another application into Think temporarily by clicking on it on the dock, but once you select the original application you were working on, it goes behind the screen once again. This application is particularly helpful when I am writing papers, because it is easy for me to get distracted by other things on my computer screen. Also, since you can bring in other apps, it is easy to use Dictionary (which comes pre-installed on OS X) to look up words or synonyms without getting distracted by other things. Also, if you leave an IM client up, you will still know when you have messages because Think keeps the Dock viewable.
Anxiety (freeware, 10.5 and up)
Anxiety is a lightweight to-do list app written by Tom Stoelwinder of Model Concept. It sits on your desktop and allows you to quickly add tasks and check them off when finished. Best of all, it syncs with Mail and iCal to keep your to-dos all together and viewable without having either iCal or Mail open. You can sort the to-dos by category (calendars in iCal), or list them all together. I set this application to launch on startup and to stay viewable in all of my spaces so I am constantly reminded of what I need to do.
Timer (freeware, 10.4. and up)
“Timer is a complete and professional stopwatch, alarm clock, countdown and clock utility” made by Apimac. It is free and has an easy-to-use interface, like most Apimac software. I only use it for the countdown and alarm, though I can see the benefits of using its other features. The countdown is especially helpful when doing laundry, which I just did yesterday. Other uses include cooking, napping, or taking a break while working. Just set how much time you want to spend, set which alarm you want, and go about your day. What’s helpful is that you can launch an application after the time period is over. If you are really resourceful, you can write your own application to launch which quits all games or time-wasting applications at the end of the time period so you can get back to work. I have not had to go to this extreme, but I know people who would certainly benefit from it. If this is you, but you don’t know Applescript, I can write a custom app to do this for you at a low cost. Contact me.
1Password ($39.95 USD, 10.4.11 and up)
1Password is a secure password managing, form-autofilling, password generating, and award-winning utility made by Agile Web Solutions. 1Password integrates directly into most browsers (Safari, Firefox, Flock, Camino, OmniWeb, DEVONagent, Fluid, iCab, and NetNewsWire) to securely manage and auto-fill web forms. It also has iPhone/iPod Touch and Palm support. You have to unlock 1Password when you open an internet browser, but this one instance saves immense amounts of time if your normal browsing includes logging into multiple sites each session. You can also access your information through 1Password’s UI, and this also requires unlocking it before use. Essentially, this is a much better version of Apple’s Keychain Access if you already use that. It saves me immense amounts of time and makes my online experience progress quickly and smoothly.
iClip ($29 USD, 10.4 and up )
iClip, by Inventive, is a multiple clipboard and scrapbook utility. It allows you to store virtually unlimited items from your clipboard to recall later. I use this daily for copying multiple items and keeping them on hand for later use. For example, if I am writing an email and sending someone multiple URLs, I find them and copy them one right after another, and then paste them all in the email afterwards instead of copy and pasting them individually. It saves a great deal of time, especially if you are looking for something three hours later. iClip saves a predetermined number of your clipboard items until you clear them.
Spaces (included with Mac OS 10.5)
For those of you who use Leopard and do not know about Spaces, it is time to be enlightened. Spaces allows you to have multiple workspaces at once so your windows do not pile up. You can easily toggle between these spaces by keyboard commands or by clicking on the application, but either way, it saves an immense amount of time. No longer do you have to move windows around to find what you were working on––just open different tasks in different spaces! I set certain applications to open in certain spaces so I always know where they are, which is very helpful. With this, I use Expose, also included in 10.5 (and 10.4). Expose allows you to see all of your windows at once, or temporarily show your desktop by simply moving your mouse pointer in a predetermined corner of your screen or by using a set hotkey. If you have 10.5 and are not using these applications, open up System Preferences and enable them (the fourth icon from the left on the top row). You will be glad you did. In fact, I think Spaces is enough of a reason to upgrade to 10.5 if you haven’t already done so. Of course, there are many, many other reasons to upgrade.
- Day 88 – Epiphanies While Writing Papers
Epiphanies in two senses: 1.) I am getting great ideas while digging into the text of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler to support my arguments. 2.) I am realizing there is not as big of a difference between math, economics, and English as people think. All three are just different uses of the same basic approach: constructing arguments, logically moving through proving them, and providing ample support for those arguments. All three rely heavily on how you move through the matter at hand, and I think that if you figure out how to do one of these three subjects well, it will only take a little effort to apply those skills to another realm. I hope this works for me in the future. As for now, I am far from figuring out how to best approach any of these three.
I have been reading a decent amount online lately about dieting, and a blog I recently started following posted an article about effective dieting that I think is worth reading. The blog is not about dieting…it is just a personal blog from James Hogan at the Seasteading Institute. He outlines what has worked best for him over the last 9 years, and provides some tips for people who want to start on a diet. I suggest giving it a look.
- Day 87 – Coffee Break
Above is a photo of me at Ft. Moultrie, taken by Liz Essley. I usually don’t have photos of me on here, but I like this one. Click on it to view large.
I am writing this during a quick coffee break. I am in the middle of writing a paper for Dr. Jackson.
I went to see the Hilltop Highland Dancers accompanied by the Tulloch Ard Scottish pipes and drums perform tonight here on campus. It was an excellent performance, though I think my ears are still ringing from how loud the bagpipes are.
Well, I apologize for how short this is, but I have to get back to work.
- Day 86 – Reverse Mount 50mm
I ordered a reverse mount ring adaptor for my 50mm lens, which came in over spring break. Tonight was the first time I had time to try it out. The DOF with it is crazy! I took photos of a bulletin board pin, and when I focused on the point, the other end was entirely out of focus, and my camera was inches away. Also, since I had the pin turned sideways, the point was no more than 2 cm closer the camera than the other end. Even in this photo, there is only a small strip that is in focus. Props to Will Clayton for recommending it to me. I got it on eBay for only $5! Click the photo above to view large.
Good news for today: I did very well on my calc II exam that I took before spring break (I got it back today) and I feel good about the test I took in Dr. Birzer’s class today. Also, I got to play frisbee golf on campus for the first time. There is a group that gets together and they asked me to join them tonight. They made up their own course, complete with boundaries, pars, and certain marks to hit with a frisbee before you move on. It goes all across campus and has a lot of challenging throws. I did pretty bad (+8), but it was the first time I had played the course, so I don’t feel terrible. I had a lot of fun!
- Day 85 – Time Ticking Away
Okay, okay. I know these aren’t clocks. I just needed a fitting title for today. I have an exam in Dr. Birzer’s class tomorrow, and the caption means that my study time is methodically ticking away. I took this photo aboard the USS Yorktown, somewhere in its engine room. Click on the photo to view it large.
Well, back to studying!
- Day 84 – Abolish the Postal System’s Monopoly
As I was going through my daily list of blogs that I read, I stumbled upon an article by Jacob Hornberger advocating an end on the postal monopoly. This caught my attention because I argued for the very same thing in my AP Government class in high school. Of course, many of my fellow students thought that idea was lunacy (which it probably the same thing they thought of me, as I frequently brought up similar ideas…).
Simply put, the government monopoly on first class mail is a clear use of coercion to prop up an inefficient business and keep out competition, thus keeping prices at a predetermined level instead of at a competitive market rate. This is unacceptable, incompatible with a free society, and an inefficient use of resources. Advocates of the postal monopoly claim that without the monopoly, the USPS could not run. They go on to argue that without the USPS, there would not be universal letter delivery. This argument is simply false, and was proven wrong all the way back in 1844 when Lysander Spooner started the American Letter Mail Company and almost drove the USPS out of business in a matter of months. The USPS used government force to shut him down and have done the same to several companies since. Could letter mail be delivered to remote places without the USPS? Of course. Remote places are provided with the necessities of life, yet there is no government office in charge of distributing food to everyone in the nation (yet…).
You might laugh at the previous paragraph, but you do not live in fear of bread not being available tomorrow, yet the government does not provide such things. Who does? Individuals in the marketplace. Production of bread is a staple of almost all Americans’ lives, but no one is worried about it being provided, even though firms on the market provide it. Would first class mail be any different? Of course not. The postal monopoly is unnecessary. It is only government coercion backed up with poor arguments, which shield other political reasons for its existence.
It is time to amend Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, striking the claus that says “Congress shall have power to establish post-offices and post roads.” Though I am in favor of getting rid of the USPS entirely, that is unnecessary since it will most likely not be able to compete with other firms once the force-backed barrier to entry is lifted.
If you have any questions or concerns, or disagree with me, I would love to hear it, so email me or post a comment. My email address: cagrimmett [at] gmail [dot] com
Here are some sources to read on this topic:
Why Not Abolish the Postal Monopoly? by Jacob G. Hornberger
Postal Commissars to Raise Rates. Don’t Complain. by Ted Roberts
The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress, Prohibiting Private Mails by Lysander Spooner
The Last Dinosaur: The U.S. Postal Service by James Bovard
- Day 83 – History of Economic Thought
I saw today on the Mises Institute’s website that they made a great Rothbard work, Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, available in two volumes as free PDFs. Go to the article about the online release of this great work.
The Mises Institute is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn about economics, specifically the Austrian School. They have the largest collection of books, journals, and essays on economics available as free PDFs available online. They also have hundreds of lectures, interviews, and audiobooks available for download.
I highly recommend their daily articles, which provide thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating ideas and commentary on subjects ranging from political commentary to economic theory and history. Warning: The Mises Institute can be very dangerous to lovers of big government, embracers of socialism, and those who despise freedom. Read at your own risk.