As we roll into another year I thought it would be a good time to look back on various stats I have collected over the past year. Hopefully I will continue to do this at the beginning of every year as a way to document how things progress over time.
I blogged here 9 times for a total of 3,208 words.
My blog was visited by 147,151 unique visitors generating 213,800 pageviews. Not bad considering I hardly update it anymore.
Kristina and I fully funded our IRAs (including starting and fully funding her 2010 IRA at the beginning of 2011). We also contributed to our 401K’s at work and managed to put away some money for a down payment on a house.
We visited Paris and London this year.
I managed to give 5 presentations (slides) to various DC Tech groups.
According to their blog post these are a few of the major enhancements.
A brand new interface: almost everything has changed in the visual look and feel
Add any song on Grooveshark to your library without uploading
Sorting: You can now sort lists by Song Name, Artist Name or Album Name
Drag-and-drop playlist editing
Themes: Make Grooveshark look the way you want
Improved player: more room for your songs
Better caching: back and next should be much faster now
Seeking: now you can skip to your favorite part of a song with the click of a mouse.
The seek bar lets you jump to any point in a song.
The left side navigation lets you seperate different groups of music for easy access.
Bigger album art puts the current playlist front and center.
The new interface is a joy to use. The new sorting options and the ability to jump around to any point in the song make Grooveshark like an online version of iTunes that has an Internet-wide shared library. Bigger album art is a nice upgrade over the thumbnails used in the old interface. It used to be a pain going through your favorite songs but now you can add them to your library (which has much more robust sorting options) with the click of the music note icon. New themes are interesting to keep things fresh. I imagine there will be dozens more added over the next few months.
The only other feature really missing from Grooveshark is a hook in the player for controlling it with global shortcuts. I would really love to set up a key combo to play/pause, skip tracks, and favorite tracks without ever bringing the app into focus. The best part is how Grooveshark listens to their community through Get Satisfaction.
I’m confident this is only the beginning of improvements and I’m glad I plunked down my $30 for a year of VIP membership.
My roommate, Josh, picked up a copy of Wii Sports Resort today and he let me take the first crack at it. Here are my first impressions.
Duel – Swing your sword at your opponent and try to knock him off a tall platform American Gladiators style. Pretty fun but too easy. I made it to the Pro status in about 30minutes.
Speed Slice – Be the fastest to slice objects in a certain direction. I really liked this mini-game. Requires a lot of focus and quick reactions.
Wakeboarding – Try to get big air while being dragged behind a boat. I haven’t figured out how to tweak the tricks but it’s dull.
Frisbee Dog – Throw a Frisbee at a target for points similiar to darts and your dog fetches the Frisbee for you. The controls are really hard to get the hang of. Totally doesn’t feel like throwing a Frisbee.
Archery – Shoot arrows at a bulls eye. The controls feel just like pulling back on a bow using the nun-chuck. Easy to pick up but difficult to master.
3-Point Contest – Take 3-point shots from various places on the court. The controls are a bit awkward as you have to reach down to grip the ball (holding the B button) then you have to do a tricep extension behind your head to simulate a shot while releasing the B button at the right time. My arm started to ache after the first round.
Match – Just like table tennis from the original Wii Sports except you can add spin. It’s not as easy as regular tennis.
Golf – Much expanded from the previous version with 3 new courses, 3 classic courses and an option for 3, 9, or 18 holes. Josh is super excited for golf.
Standard Game – Exact same thing as bowling from original Wii Sports.
Power Cruising (Jet Skiing)
Slalom Course – The controls are just like riding a bike and are very responsive. The mini-game itself was ok. There’s not much more to it.
Speed Challenge – Paddle around the course as fast as you can. The controls are just like paddling a canoe where you have to keep switching sides in order to go straight. Technically it’s a kayak, not a canoe.
Road Race – Try to finish first place in a bike race around WuHu island with different types of terrain. It’s just like the Tour de France. You have to manage your stamina as you can quickly run out of breath from sprinting too much. The controls are just like running in other Wii games. You also have to steer but it’s as simple as leaning left or right while pumping your arms up and down to make you pedal. I can see this mini-game being the most challenging of the bunch.
Skydiving – As you’re free falling you have to grab on to other Mii’s and rotate your body so a picture can be taken of you smiling. Points are rewarded for the number of smiles captured on film. At the end you make a formation and have to maneuver through rings. This was fun once but then quickly got boring.
Island Flyover – You fly around in an airplane trying to fly through information icons. The format of the mini-game is like a treasure hunt. This concept was a lot of fun. Nintendo should make an entire flight game just like this. It was neat being able to zip around above the island doing barrel roles, and loops for 5-minutes. It’s totally free-form and crashing is kid friendly where the plane bounces. Watching this on a big screen can really make you nauseous.
Note: Some sports have other variations that I haven’t unlocked yet, so I left them out of this review.
If you were a big fan of the original Wii Sports game, then this will be a no-brainer for you. The new games are fun and most look challenging, especially for parties.
My biggest frustration was the 3 minute video Nintendo forced you to watch the first time you played Wii Sports Resort. It was akin to an airplane safety video but instead of talking about features of an airplane designed to save your life, the Nintendo video went into excruciating detail on how to attach the MotionPlus attachment to your Wiimote. Hint: It snaps right into the bottom just like the nun-chuck.
The game is $44.95 on Amazon.com and available now.
This past Saturday Kristina and I saw 3 movies that were part of the SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival . My reviews of the films we saw (plus embedded clips from YouTube) are below. But first a bulleted list of one-line summaries for the impatient blog skimmers:
Partly Private: Funny movie about circumcision and weird traditions.
No Impact Man: Crazy experiment involving no electricty, paper products, other human niceities for one year to reduce impact on the environment.
We Live In Public: Josh Harris experiments with the Internet/technology and its wild effect on human behavior.
Partly Private is about the age old question that arises with the birth of every boy: to circumcise him or not? Filmmaker Danae Elon dedicated many years to the question which led her to several countries to discover how circumcision is handled in different cultures. The eye-opening moment for me was seeing how the tradition is handled in Turkey where the operation is performed on boys between the ages of 6 and 9. Families hold celebrations in a place like Chuck-e-cheese’s where the boy wears festive garments resembling a Sultan’s or a King’s dress and ride amusement park rides until it’s time to go under the knife.
Overall it was a good film with interesting characters. If you were ever curious about all the kookiness that is circumsion, Partly Private is for you.
No Impact Man
No Impact Man takes living green to the extreme. Colin Beavan wanted to see if it was even possible to live with no impact on the environment for a year. The catch is he lives in a Manhattan apartment. Starting in stages he convinced his family to give up electricity, paper products, any form of transportation that isn’t man powered (including elevators), and even buying anything new. He blogged during the entire experiment which he still keeps up with today (Go figure, he’s a writer.).
For food, Colin resorted to farmers markets and any vegetables he could grow at his urban garden. Laundry was washed in the bathtub by stomping on them (see the clip above) with a mixture of natural cleaners. The TV was discarded, clothes given up, and they even replaced their refrigerator with a cooler. I was surprised his wife even went along with it considering how much of a fashion connoisseur she is.
At the end of the year the husband and wife added a few niceties, like electricity, back into their life. But they were surprised about how many things they actually liked and wanted to keep doing. Colin states that it is totally impractical to expect many to go to the extremes that he did, but if everyone took one or two steps to reduce their impact, the world would be a much better place.
This was Kristina’s favorite film of the festival.
We Live In Public
We Live In Public documents the antics of web entrepreneur Josh Harris. Josh was in early on the Internet boom of the 90’s. He founded high-tech market-research firm Jupiter Communications which is where his money for his other projects came from. Pseudo.com was created to be an online television network targeting big media companies like CBS and NBC. In the midst of the dot-com boom, Harris lost interest in Pseduo.com. He cashed out his share of the company and began work on his next experiment, Quiet.
Quiet was a multimillion dollar month long millennium party in a Manhattan bunker. 100 others were invited to live in a pod hotel while their every move was recorded 24/7. Things didn’t quite turn out as happy as Josh had hoped as people started going crazy from the lack of social structure in the “real world.” That’s OK. Quiet was a pre-cursor for his next project We Live In Public where he broadcast to the net every waking moment with his girlfriend in their apartment. Think of it like an all-access and uncensored version of Big Brother.
The movie shows the effects of technology on human behavior and there were some scary scenes. This was my favorite film of the festival because technology plays such an important role in my life. Plus it was a blast to see some of the big ideas from the dot-com bubble of the late 1990’s. Jason Calacanis had a great quote (I wish it was on YouTube) urging college kids to drop out of school create a dotcom start-up. I would highly recommend checking out We Live In Public if you have the chance.
SilverDocs made for one busy Saturday but it was a lot of fun watching movies that deal with subject matter off the beaten path of mainstream flicks. Kristina and I can’t wait for next years festival.
I’ve detailed how I organize my bank statements before. But sorting through a month’s worth of receipts at once has become a real burden. Back in December Woot.com, the one item a day shopping site, had a Woot-off where a succession of products are available for an undisclosed period of time. A Neat Receipts scanner came up and I took the bait. But it wasn’t until last week that I actually started using it.
And boy am I sorry that I didn’t start using this product earlier. It is a snap to scan a receipt, have the software read the contents of the receipt using OCR, and file them away in a database. In the box you get a USB-powered scanner, the software that does all the heavy lifting, a calibration card, a carrying case incase you take the scanner with you on the go, and a stand for propping the scanner up when you’re not using it (see below).
Setting up the scanner was a snap. First install the software and scanner driver then connect the scanner to your computer using the included USB cable. The first time you run the Neat Receipts software it will ask you to calibrate the scanner using the calibration card. Between when I opened the scanner box and the time I actually started using the Neat receipts system I had lost the calibration card. Luckily it’s not vital. You can print out your own replacement card using a standard inkjet printer. During first scan I put the receipt in face-up. When I saw the result, I was confused as it was completely white. It turns out you have to scan the receipt face down. The scanning processis really snappy as demonstrated in this video.
After you scan a receipt, the software will analyze the text and fill in the appropriate fields like vendor, date, sales tax, and price. The accuracy was pretty spot on. I only had to correct info for a few receipts. One problem I ran into is the software doesn’t share info from other receipts. For example you can enter address information from the receipt into the database. If you always shop at the same grocery store, NeatReceipts doesn’t automatically fill in this information from the first time you entered it. This seems like it would be a no-brainer to implement.
The software is clunky but fairly easy to learn. The main functions include viewing your scanned receipts, fields to enter information about the receipt, folders to categorize your receipt collection, and a search field for finding specific receipts.
The folder organizer works just like any file system: drag and drop. I don’t really understand why you might need more than 3 folders or so. One of the real advantages is the receipts are fully searchable. Any receipt can instantly be brought up with a simple search. This is the main advantage of the whole system.
If you need to export your receipts you have multiple formats. Any receipt, or group of receipts, can be exported as a PDF, Excel spreadsheet, or Quicken/QuickBook/ TurboTax file. I was hoping you could easily export all of your scanned receipt images to Quicken to embed with the appropriate transactions. Both programs know the date and how much the transaction was making it a snap to match up. But alas, exporting to Quicken only includes the financial information to enter as transactions. This is useless to me as my financial transactions are automatically downloaded from my bank over the Internet. Exporting the receipt info to Excel is easy with their spreadsheet mapping tool which lets you match which fields go to which columns in your spreadsheet.
It is important to backup your database with their backup tool which lets you save a single file to a safe location. One of the downsides of the Neat Receipts scanner is all of the information is stored in a proprietary .nr file. This means you will need to keep a copy of the software around if you ever want to view it later. This certainly isn’t a problem now, but 10 years down the line it might be.
So after getting everything up and running the Neat Receipts scanner has made my life much easier. Every night Instead of throwing my days receipts into an envelope I scan them into my computer. If I ever think I might need the phyical copy I’ll stash it away, otherwise my receipts end up in my trash can. After stapling my receipts to my bank statements for the past two years, I realized I’ve never needed to go back to one. This way I have everything saved and searchable in digital space rather than cluttering up physical space. Add the fact that I can pull up any receipt with a simple search query and I’ll never go back to organizing little papers by hand.