Tools of the Trade

A startup really consumes your life. Luckily i have a suite of sweet tools to keep my efficient and productive.  My favorites: icons

Balsalmiq.  This is sick wireframing software.  It’s so easy and intuitive, it can allow anyone to make fairly decent wires.  It’s also a great way to get ideas across to other people.   Doing a full-screen demo of wires always seems to impress people.

YuuGuu.  If you want to share your screen to another person to either do a demo or just display a problem, this is the best way to do it. We’ve tried a bunch of different types (such as Vyew) and this is by far the best.

Dropbox.  We’re not the only one who loves this.   In fact, on the Balsalmiq blog they wrote, “If you don’t use DropBox, I will shake my head at you in disapproval.”  Dropbox is a network file times 1000.  It’s incredible.  We put lots of files into Dropbox as a way to share.   In fact, i’m about to start using it as a way to share all my files across my computers and my girlfriend’s.  A great way to just do backup to another machine.

Skype.  This remains the best way to do voice-to-voice communication.  It’s also a damn good IM client.  Haven’t experimented with the screen sharing yet.

Jing.  For debugging, there is nothing better than Jing.  If you don’t know Jing, here’s the use case it solves: (1) click a button, select an area of your screen, capture a video of that area for as long as you want, click to stop and here’s a URL of that video hosted on the Jing site.  Easy as pie and incredibly useful.

TripIt.  If you travel at all, this is a must have. When you make an airline or travel reservation, all you do is forward your email confirmation to tripit and they keep track of all the details.  Once you’re at the airport all you need is their iPhone app (or mobile site) to easily grab confirmation codes

Google Apps / Docs / Tasks.   Using corporate email through Google Apps is very easy to do and eliminates lots of effort of setting up Exchange or anything else – it’s both simpler and better.  Through that we get Google Docs which has always been a tremendous way to collaborate on documents with others.  For instance, i have a doc that i use that Nader (in San Francisco) can edit each day in real-time as i work on it.  I also use tasks as a great way to keep track of what i need to do.  I love that i can add tasks from the iPhone (great tasks interface) and then see them back on machine so i can knock ’em out.

Any other items that you use that you’d recommend?  What are your favorite work tools?

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Things we’ll say to our grandkids

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In the Oct. Wired magazine they had a small blurb about things we’ll say to our grandkids.  Some of the good ones were:

  • Back in my day, we only needed 140 characters
  • There used to be so much snow up here, you could strap a board to your feet and slide all the way down
  • TV contests gave cash to whoever could store the most data in their head
  • Well, the screens were bigger, but they only showed the movies at certain times of day
  • You used to keep the files on your computer, and you had to go back to the same computer to access them!

I thought it was an interesting topic.  Some more i thought of:

  • Even though they were bigger, our cell phones were only for making calls
  • It seems strange, but new artists didn’t pay us to listen to their music.  In fact, we had to buy the music from them
  • When i was a kid, when we looked at cars we used to think “the bigger the better”
  • People used to think that being tan was cool
  • When kids were born, first of all they didn’t grab a clone for storage but also they had nold_school_cellphoneo way of not only knowing what hair color or muscle mass they kid would have and some patents didn’t even know if they were having a boy or a girl
  • We had these things called “TV channels” and we had to order all the channels or none of them.  We only had a few hundred of them and you couldn’t search for anything on your TV.
  • We used to go to watch the football/baseball game in person. I know it’s crazy but they used to have huge stadiums to watch the game with your own eyes.

What can you think of?

Best Movie of the Decade?

I was listening to a debate going on the BS Report about the best movie of the past 10 years.  It’s 2009 and the era called “the aughts” or “the zeros” is almost over.  One thing that is really troubling to realize is that the best movies of this decade are noticeably worse than the movies of the last decade.  Looking at the top movies of the past 10 years you’ll see that very few of them are going to be timeless classics. On the flip side, the movies of the 90’s are extremely re-watchable and seem to be much better:

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The reason i believe is something I heard from Chris Connelly and that TV is the new indie movie. Shows like The Soprano’s, Band of Brothers, The Wire, and Mad Men – those are the best movies of the last decade.  Granted they didn’t come out on the big screen but this is where visionary directors are going to produce character-driven creative stories.   Cinema today is all about either (1) Big budget action movies or (2) formulaic stories in a specific genre whether it’s horror, comedy, romance, or thrillers.   It’s interesting to see that TV is picking up the slack that films are leaving.  This could also be why people are picking up TV DVD’s much more.   The production quality, the music and the cinematography is way better in these tv dramas than they ever were in 80’s and 90’s television – it’s no wonder that they can compete head on so well.

Personally, if i had to pick, i’d choose The Departed or No Country For Old Men as the best movies of the 00’s.  What do you think?  First, what is your top movie of the past decade?  And do you agree that TV is the new Indie film?

4 Reasons Twitter Makes My Life Better

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

There’s an article i read today (thanks to Lizard) about how Twitter can you a better and happier person.  The reasons listed in the article are:

  1. Transparency & Values: Twitter constantly reminds me of who I want to be, and what I want to stand for
  2. Reframing Reality: Twitter encourages me to search for ways to view reality in a funnier and/or more positive way
  3. Helping Others: Twitter makes me think about how to make a positive impact on other people’s lives
  4. Gratitude: Twitter helps me notice and appreciate the little things in life

I find all of these true.  Sometimes i want to post a tweet about my life and i have to reflect about what i’m really doing and how it’s interesting to others.  It often makes me adjust what i’m actually doing – and if i don’t do that then it makes me realize how i’m actually living my life.  In that respect, it’s quite helpful.

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14 Movies on my to-see list

I get Esquire magazine and i have to say that i really like it.  The Sports Guy has a rule that he judges how good a magazine is by how long it takes him to read and i have to say that i end up reading Esquire longer than any other mag i get.  I probably spend a good hour to 90 minutes on it every month.

This month’s issue has an area where it has 75 movies that every man should watch.  I have seen most of them (Godfather, Sling Blade, The Good The Bad The Ugly) but there were 14 in there that i haven’t yet seen.   I wrote the list down and what Esquire said about them. I couldn’t be more excited to crack into them.  Here’s the list:

  1. In The Heat of the Night. Never before has a man been in more wrong places at the wrong time.
  2. Save The Tiger. The nominations for 1973 Best Actor: Brando, Nicholson, Redford, Pacino, and Lemmon. Lemmon got it.
  3. Runaway Train.  Existential action flicks are tough to pull off.  But this is the way to do it: just get 2 escaped cons, a chick, an evil warden, and in a helicopter chase in Alaska.
  4. Rosemary’s Baby.  You learn there ate bad people in the world
  5. Shakes The Clown. A reviewer called it “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.” Faint praise. For every man or woman who ever hugged a toilet all night long
  6. Dirty Harry. Sometimes a man has gotta break the rules and hunt the bastard down himself, even if it’s only a metaphor for the next sales call
  7. Straw Dogs. Three words: Sam. Peckinpah. Revenge.
  8. Giant. The history of Texas in the 20th century, as seen through the anguished lonesome eyes of James Dean
  9. Down By Law. Weirdest prison escape movie ever
  10. The Verdict. Watch the foray scene, in which Paul Newman is silhouetted against a barroom window, playing pinball: the man is acting with his shoulders.
  11. The Warriors. Bloodthirsty mimes, clown-faced baseballers, ad bare-chested men in leather vests. Kind of makes you miss pre-giulliani NYC
  12. Stalag 17. Because it inspired a sitcom. With Nazi’s
  13. The Misfits. Two drunks and a blonde walk into a Reno bar, get hammered, and embark on a scheme to wrangle mustangs. Starting Clark Gable (who died before it was released), Marilyn Monroe (died 18 months later) and Montgomery Cliff (who died within 4 years)
  14. HUD. “nobody gets out of life alive”
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Top Albums of 2008

Cover of
Cover of Evil Urges

Here are my top albums of 2008.  It was a toss up between MMJ and Dylan but when i looked back at my total plays for 2008 in my iTunes, it was no contest – i’ve played MMJ a bunch mor

  1. Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket – totally unexpected departure from the Southern rock band but that made it all the more awesome.  There songs are all great.  From start to stop, this album totally delivers.   “Librarian” and “Smokin’ From Shootin'” are my favorites.
  2. The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 – Bob Dylan – previously unreleased tracks from 1987 to today.  And they are amazing.  I love both versions of “Mississippi” and “High Water”
  3. Consoler of the Lonely – Raconteurs – These guys totally rock.  The title track is one of the best rock songs i’ve heard in the past 10 years and the rest of the songs are good too
  4. For Emma Forever Ago – Bon Iver – incredibly catchy and chill record.  This got stuck in my head for about 2 months in the middle of the year.  Plus you’ve got to love a guy from the woods of Wisconsin. Love the songs “Flume” and “Skinny Love”
  5. Only By The Night – Kings Of Leon – this album isn’t as good as 2007’s Because of the Times which had 2 amazing (5 star) songs but it still rocks. The songs are all pretty good and continues KOL’s rise to be one of the biggest bands in the US
  6. The Way I See It – Raphael Saadiq – a pretty smooth and groovy album that brought some soul back into my life in ’08.  The songs “Take a Walk” and “Never Give You Up” with Stevie Wonder are the best of the bunch
  7. The Stand-Ins – Okkervil River – a good followup to the awesome The Stage Names.  It’s songs are just as punchy and fun to listen to.  I didn’t get to this until later in the year, otherwise it could have been higher in my list

Honor Roll – these albums have one or two good songs but not enough to be a “top” album of 2008 but i did like them:

  • Ra Ra Riot – The song “Dying is Fine” is one of the best songs of the year
  • Born Ruffians – very addictive album but also kind of annoying.  Can’t tell if i really like it or not
  • Ryan Adams – all the songs are just okay
  • Girl Talk – not my favorite mashup artist but still catchy and good for working out to
  • Mudcrutch – two great songs in “The Wrong Thing To Do” and “Six Days on the Road”
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Top 20 Albums of All Time

No, i’m not expressing my opinion but rather i want to post a clever algorithm done by Robert The Radish on Y! blog. Robert comes up with a mathematical way to determine the top albums of all time. The list is based on the American market and “Greatest Hits” albums and live albums were not eligible. Here’s how he did it:

“Album Staying Power Value + Sales Value + Critical Rating Value + Grammy Award Value”

  • Sales Value = Sales Multiplier * Staying Power Value
  • Staying Power Value (SPV) is: used CD sales data: In the secondary market you can expect to pay around $9.50 for a copy of Rumours (19 mm sold) by Fleetwood Mac, but you would only pay $1.38 for a copy of Cracked Rear View by Hootie (16 mm sold)
  • Critical acclaim: multiple reviews for each album from a diverse cross section of music magazines, newspapers and music review websites to come up with the average review number. Ratings Value = Sales Value * Rating Multiplier
  • Grammy Award Value and it simply looks at how many Grammy Awards each album has won. This is the least important of the components in our formula

So here’s the list of top 20 albums:

#20. Faith – George Michael
Year: 1987 Units Sold: 10 Million
SPV: $9.19 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 1
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.79

#19. Appetite For Destruction – Guns N’ Roses
Year: 1987 Units Sold: 15 Million
SPV: $8.81 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0
Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.81
Continue reading Top 20 Albums of All Time

You know you're a Minnesotan if…

My sister sent me this and i found myself chuckling.  Instead of forwarding, i’m just putting it up…

You know you’re a Minnesotan if..

  • 75% of your graduating high school class went to the Univ. of Minnesota. (maybe another 10% to Madison)
  • You know more than 1 person who has hit a deer.
  • People from other states love to hear you say words with “o”s in them.
  • You know what and where “Dinkytown” is.
  • “Perkins” was a popular hangout option in high school.
  • You have no problem saying or spelling “Minneapolis.”
  • You get mad at people who think Fargo is in Minnesota
  • Your school classes have been canceled because of snow or cold.
  • You know what Mille Lacs is and how to spell it.
  • You assume when you say “The Cities” people know where you are referring to.
  • You know the 2 sports-related reasons why we hate Dallas.
  • Continue reading You know you're a Minnesotan if…

What are the top albums of 2007?

Do you know what the top 10 albums of 2007 were?  Seven years ago the top 10 included ‘N Sync, Eminem, Britney Spears, Creed, Nelly, Backstreet Boys, and Destiny’s Child.  These are all mainstream pop stars that everyone’s heard of and everyone knew that everyone was listening to this stuff.  Last year’s top albums were:

  1. “Noel”/Josh Groban: 3,699,000
  2. “Soundtrack”/ High School Musical 2: 2,957,000
  3. “Long Road Out of Eden”/Eagles: 2,608,000
  4. “As I Am”/Alicia Keys: 2,543,000
  5. “Daughtry”/Daughtry: 2,497,000
  6. “Soundtrack”/Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley: 2,489,000
  7. “Minutes To Midnight”/Linkin Park: 2,099,000
  8. “Dutchess”/Fergie: 2,064,000
  9. “Taylor Swift”/Taylor Swift: 1,951,000
  10. “Graduation”/Kanye West: 1,892,000

In this list there are kids albums (#2 and #6), an album that went straight to Wal-Mart (Eagles), a country album (#9) and an American Idol (#5).  The top album in 2000 sold ~10 million copies.  The top album here had 3.5.  It really is all niches nowadays.  Nobody is going to kill it the way that GNR and the boy bands did.

10 ground rules for women when watching football

I was hanging out with some girls this weekend who were pretty clueless about the football games going on.  Thus, i thought it’d be a good time to replay an oldie but goodie. Here are The Sports Guy’s 10 Ground Rules for women when watching football with guys.  (i can’t find his link otherwise i’d like to it)

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  1. No PDA.  If you’re allowed to watch with your boyfriend and his buddies, don’t rub his head, don’t kiss his neck, don’t scratch his back, don’t cuddle…don’t do any of that stuff.  By the way, the only thing that makes guys more uncomfortable than public affection is fighting, so if you feel the need to re-enact the limo scene from “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” do it on your own time
  2. There isn’t a single acceptable situation for the question “Is this game almost over yet?”  Not one.
  3. When you boyfriend’s buddy calls to discuss a game in progress, don’t shake your head and definitely don’t mutter spine-crumbling comments like “God, I hate your voice when you’re talking to your friends.”  Needless phone calls are a crucial part of the viewing experience.  They remind us we aren’t the only ones wasting our Sundays.  So leave us alone
  4. Don’t complain about incessant remote-control flipping on Sunday.  We know when to flip and we where we’re going.  In’s an innate gift.  And we do it for a reason: We’re trying to catch as much football as possible.  Consider yourself lucky to be along for the ride
  5. Laugh at our jokes.  Just pretend you’re the bandleader on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.  Guys are easy.  If someone’s laughing with us, we like having them around
  6. Don’t belittle our gambling or fantasy football.  Comments like “You have a bookie?,” or “I can’t believe you guys pick players and pretend you’re the coach,” or, my personal favorite, “You guys need to get a life” are all guaranteed to make us hate you
  7. We’re easily bribable, so bring something…even if it’s a bag of chips.  If you cook something, even better (Rice Krispies Treats are always a winner)
  8. Corollary: Whenever you get up, ask, “Can I get anyone anything?” Makes us feel like manly men. Plus, we don’t have to get up
  9. Know your stuff.  the moment you say something like, “Wait, I thought Drew Bledsoe was on the Patriots,” you might as well put a bag over your head. If you’re clueless, keep it rudimentary observations like “That was an unbelievable catch” or “This announcer is annoying.”  Never say, “Jon Gruden’s so cute. He looks just like my old high school boyfriend!” Save that for the next “American Idol.”
  10. Along those same lines, an understated approach may just win our eternal respect.  A few years ago, i was in Vermont with some friends.  On a Sunday afternoon, while the boys were watching the Steelers, the girls returned from the slopes with their adorable ski bunny friend (the one who caused us to jostle in our seats to sneak peeks when she wasn’t looking).  The ski bunny notices the game, sits down and asks, “What’s the score?” Typical girl question (right up there with “Who’s playing?”), but since she was cute, we threw her a bone and gave her the score.  Then, she drops this one on us: “How come Tomczak’s in the game? Did O’Donnell get hurt?”     Nobody said anything. We did a collective quadruple take, eyes bulging out of our heads like Marty Mornhinweg.  We were floored.  Finally i answered: “Yeah, he’s hurt.  By the way, my name’s Bill.  Will you marry me?”   Turned out she had a boyfriend.  The great ones always do