Sunday, December 02, 2012

Working with Queues and To-Dos

People work through tasks using queues. Some people try to combine all the tasks they need to complete in a given day/week/month into a single list and call it a to-do list. Those same people tend to be the ones that write those lists down.  And there's good reason.  Combining and prioritizing all the tasks you need to complete takes a lot of mental time and energy, and no one wants to repeat that every time they need another task to work on. I don't have any problems with this method, but it has never quite worked for me.

I've never been one to make to-do lists. I don't consider myself someone with an exceptional memory or an uncanny ability to keep track of things. In fact, if you verbally tell me even the simplest lunch order, I will forget it almost instantly, guaranteed. Same with directions. But I rarely forget about a task I need to complete. So I started to consider why.

Last week, I had an unusually high number of tasks to complete. They fell into different categories, the two main ones being work tasks and personal tasks. But instead of creating a single to do list and then through each task, I formed two shorter queues, each containing the items I needed to complete in either my work life or my personal life.  Each of these lists were prioritized based on the items in the queue.

Now I tend to be very terrible at multitasking, so I can only work on one task at any given time. Each time I complete a task, I look at the next items on each queue and make a decision on which one to complete.  Many short lists, with quick evaluations on what needs to be done next means that I don't need to spend a lot of time making decisions about priority between different tasks.  And prioritizing personal tasks among each other is much easier than prioritizing work and personal tasks together. So take your to-do lists, group them into multiple smaller queues of tasks ordered by priority, and pick then next thing from the top of the queue.

The other advantage is that when a new task comes in, you can quickly put it into a priority with the other tasks in that queue, and not have to spend time figuring out which work task your dry cleaning should go above.

There are a few problems with this method. I tend to wait until the last minute to complete things.  This is because a task is only completed when there are no other tasks of higher priority ahead of it in any queue.  Also, some tasks I really just don't want to do.  They tend to block an entire queue because I can't process anything else until I do the thing I don't want to do.  That happened last week, and as soon as I did the thing I was trying to avoid, I rushed through the rest of the items in the queue in about five minutes.

So in my opinion, the secret to getting rid of to-do lists is to make many short lists of similar tasks organized by priority instead.  Then, as you complete each task, run through all the queues you can think of and see what the next thing to do is.  Also, try to tackle queues that are blocked before they start to cause too much trouble.  To me, this takes much less brain power than you would expect.

Now if I could only spend more time on my RussThoughts queue...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Weekend Project:

Recently, I started playing around with some of the awesome things you can do with AdWords scripts.  So I started a blog that is dedicated to finding solutions to new problems using simple javascript scripts that can run within AdWords.  All the scripts are free.  Who knows.  Check out


Monday, November 05, 2012

Weekend Project:

So a friend and I decided to build a quick django site this weekend and this is what happened:

It is just a simple site that checks to see if your urls are returning the proper status codes.  Yes, there are a thousand other sites that do exactly the same thing, but what a great excuse to brush up on/learn python, django, aws, and git skills.  We also connected it to just about every Google tool out there: Google AdSense, Google Apps for Business, Google AdWords, Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

One other reason to set it up is to learn a little more about improving SEO ranking.  After only a weekend, we are the number one spot for "sem link checker," so now we have to try for some other keywords such as "link check" or "url validator."

Anyway, check it out, and throw some suggestions for other weekend projects my way.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The RNC Drinking Game

1x for each story about the small business owner getting crushed under taxes
1x for each interview with a former candidate (and again every minute of the interview)
1x for the following buzzwords: Obamacare, Job Creators, National Debt, Small Businesses, EPA, middle class, American dream, Swing State
1x anyone says or sees the word Ohio
1x each time someone in the room says "they took our jerbs!"

2x whenever someone says "We Built It"
2x for every mention of Ron Paul

Warning: Do Not Attempt!

Monday, August 27, 2012

IM Is a Text Message, Not a Phone Call

person1: hey
(time passes)
person2: hey
person1: blah blah blah blah blah blah...

This is undoubtedly how most of your IM conversations start. But why? Why the initial hey? Just say "Hey, blah blah blah blah..."  Why do you need for me to acknowledge your initial "hey" before you tell me what you're going to tell me?

IM isn't a phone conversation, it's a text message.  When you text someone, you don't have to preface it with "hey" and then wait for a response.  Just say what you're going to say and let the person on the other end decide what to do with that information.  Maybe they will respond, maybe they will not.  If it is really important, send an email.

And don't get me started about people who ask "did you get my text?"  The answer is always "Yes, but because i'm an a-hole, i never bothered to respond."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Theory About Happy Hours

Most of the time, the more people you have at a dinner, the longer it takes.  Except happy hours.  When just two people are out for happy hour, there is no possible way to have just one drink.  As that number increases to three or more, the happy hour will be much shorter.

When two people are out drinking, they will always drink at different rates.  As such, the bartender will ask if one person wants another drink before the other has finished. Then the other person finishes, and doesn't want to leave someone drinking alone, and decides to get just one more.

And it continues until an external force breaks the cycle (train, significant other, dog, etc.).

When there are more than two people, most of the time there will be enough momentum to disband if one person decides to leave.

In this way, the optimal happy hour size for getting home before 9pm seems to be three.  Of course, who wants that?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chatting About "The Hunger Games"

Warning, spoilers for The Hunger Games follow.

(2:40:11 PM) Russ: i watched the hunger games movie last night
(2:40:30 PM) SomeoneElse: wow couldnt help yourself
(2:40:44 PM) Russ: the main character is such a dummy
(2:40:59 PM) Russ: same as that damn twilight
(2:41:15 PM) SomeoneElse: katniss, omg not the same
(2:41:33 PM) SomeoneElse: those are fighting words
(2:41:39 PM) Russ: let's go through the list
(2:41:47 PM) Russ: not good with people: check check
(2:42:08 PM) Russ: guy chasing them that they don't want: check check
(2:42:19 PM) Russ: pale: check check
(2:42:21 PM) SomeoneElse: annoying in real life: not, untalented actresses in the other movies
(2:42:50 PM) Russ: not good at being a hunter/vampire: check check
(2:42:53 PM) SomeoneElse: not check check
(2:43:03 PM) SomeoneElse: wait why was she not a good hunter
(2:43:27 PM) Russ: ok, guy tells her not to go for the cornicopia: she goes for the cornicopia
(2:43:50 PM) Russ: gets trapped in a tree and the only reason she is save was that little girl
(2:44:00 PM) Russ: who also saved her ass while she was stung
(2:44:22 PM) SomeoneElse: hunters dont usually have to do that
(2:44:22 PM) Russ: then she gets her but kicked trying to go back to the cornicopia to save her bf, then someone saves her
(2:44:46 PM) Russ: basically, luck is the only way she manages to survive 
(2:45:06 PM) SomeoneElse: true, she actually did a lot more in the book versus the movie
(2:45:08 PM) Russ: the only thing she did was blow up some food, which i'm still not sure why she did it
(2:45:21 PM) Russ: other than to be a beee-otch

Monday, August 13, 2012

Five Trivia Questions for "My Cousin Vinny"

Mild spoilers ahead for the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny.

1. What crime were the two boys accused of?
2. What takes about 20 mins to cook?
3. This actress won an Academy Award for playing Mona. Name her.
4. Why couldn't the car have made those tracks?
5. What name did the Judge finally accept for Mr. Vincent Gambini?

Need to brush up? Grab a copy over on

1. Murder of a store clerk 2. grits (non-instant) 3. Marisa Tomei 4. It had a solid back axle 5. Jerry Callo

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why I Wear Flip Flops on Airplanes

Before a 6 hour flight:


So apparently, the extreme medical term for this is "gravitational oedema." This is most likely due to my unhealthy lifestyle and poor choices in diet.  Instead of starting a plan for diet and healthy activity, I figure I'll just add these compression socks to my wishlist and enjoy that bacon cheeseburger.

source: USA Today: Swollen Ankles & Feet After Airline Travel

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thoughts from a Week in England

Lady on the plane next to me complains about being a broke college student and proceeds to tell me about her frequent trips to Brazil.  I thought she was going to say YOLO.  She tells me I should run a half marathon.

I tried to order a coffee but they asked me what kind. I had no idea. Apparently, regular is not an option. He throws out a few options, and I go for the americano. I make a note to learn more about coffee, but I probably won't. After a few tries, I was able to get a Starbucks order right. The way you can tell is if they write your name on the cup.

Every time someone complains about the US sticking with Fahrenheit, I ask them when they will start driving on the correct side of the road.

Crosswalks don't blink red to tell you they are about to turn, they just turn off.  So you see green, then halfway across the street, it just turns off, and you freak out and start running.

Biking in London is crazy.  The streets are already too small and I saw multiple instances of cars running bikes off the road.

I learned the difference between a Pub, a Bar, and a Cafe. A Pub serves mostly beer and is similar to what you might call a neighborhood bar in the States, but no food. A Bar serves beer and liquor, same as most bars here, some apps. And a cafe serves drinks and food.

Pret-A-Manger shops are everywhere. Worse than Starbucks in Seattle. As of January 2012, there were 168 in London.

Tipping: Don't tip unless something exceptional happens. At the bar: 1 pound max, and only if they help you in some way. Cab: Nope, unless they save your life, then 1 maybe a pound. Waiters and Waitresses make minimum wage which is around $9.50 an hour.

Many shows (including MythBusters) have the narrator replaced with someone British. Also, for the seeing impaired, many of the movies and shows have a creepy voice in the background that describes exactly what is happening onscreen.  I didn't realize you could turn it off until halfway through the trip.  And even when I did turn it off, I could still hear it.  I couldn't figure out if it was on TV or in my mind.  Probably both.

All men are required to have a drink at the pub on the way home from work.  Also, if you want to do a London pub crawl, you might only make it 3 or 4 blocks.  There is literally a pub on every corner.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Getting Rid of GoDaddy

Another 4 domains transferred away from the scum that is GoDaddy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cherry Diet Root Beer

This post is specifically designed to show up on Pintrest.

Coke recently started rolling out some soft drink machines that allow you to mix up to 120 different combinations of cola. In a word, they are amazing!
And after a few disappointing combinations of various syrups, I stumbled upon a mix of Diet Barq's Root Beer and Cherry Fanta Zero and it tastes awesome!

Try it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Setup StraightTalk Mobile on Nokia N8

I recently tried to setup my Nokia N8 phone with a new StraightTalk SIM card that I purchased here:

It was kind of a pain in the ass, so i figured i would save some people the trouble and walk them through the process.

First, activate the SIM online following the instructions in the package.  No phone needed.

Once the SIM is in the Nokia, the 2 things to do are setup Mobile Web and MMS messaging.

1. In the Menu, select Settings > Connectivity > Settings > Network destinations > Access point
2. Automatically search for available access points and select Mobile data.  Name it whatever you want ("StraightTalk" seemed reasonable) and add it to the "Internet" destination.
3. Once the new access point is created, click on it to edit the settings.  Select options from the bottom right menu and then Advanced Settings.
4. Select "Proxy server address" and enter:
5. For port, use: 80

Make sure you set this access point as the highest priority.  You can go ahead and delete the ones from your old carrier.  At this point, you should be good to access the internet from your phone.

Next let's set up MMS.

1. Go back to Settings > Connectivity > Settings > Network destinations and choose "New destination" from the bottom right menu.  Name it: Multimedia Messaging
2. Add a new access point, automatically search, select Mobile data, and name this one (again, can be anything but "StraightTalkMMS" seemed reasonable).
3. Go into the access point and for Homepage enter:
4. Then under advanced settings, enter: and 80 for the Proxy address and the port respectively.
5. Finally, back in the menu, open the Messaging app and select Settings from the bottom right menu.  Under "Multimedia Message", select the new MMS access point you created in steps above for the "Access point in use" option.

Now you should be all set up to send MMS and mobile data.  Enjoy that cheapo no contract phone service!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Define: Junk Bed

Junk Bed occurs when a single person occupies a room containing two or more beds.  Inevitably, one bed will be used for sleeping, while any additional beds will be used as storage for junk. This most often occurs in lonely hotel rooms.  Used in a sentence: "I was upset when I got the room with the single King bed because I was really looking forward to Junk Bed."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Problem with People and Google TV

I've had a Google TV for over a year now and I think it's great. Sure, the software wasn't amazing when it first came out and yes, the Logitech Revue seems to has less processing power than my cell phone. But I still find it awesome to watch the latest music videos and check Facebook every now and then on my TV. 

But there is one problem with the device that I don't think anyone at Google thought of. I call it the Viral Video Spiral of Death (VVSD).

 Let me describe a common scenario that I know everyone that owns a Google TV has experienced. A group of people will gather around your 55" flat screen television for an evening of snacking and sporting events. Midway through the first quarter and/or the 10th handful of Lays, someone will notice that you have a random keyboard on your coffee table and pose the following question, "Hey, what is that keyboard for?" (Note: this could be followed up with a bro, man or even chap depending on the sporting event.)

 "Oh that's my Google TV." You'll reply. "It lets me browse the internet while I watch TV. It's great for catching up on music videos."

 "Does it play YouTube videos?"


 "Oh man, my ex-coworker showed me this video where x does a y (3,940,000 results by the way) and it is hysterical! I nearly fell out of my cube at work watching it. People were staring."

And as the gracious host, during the next commercial break you will gladly pick up the keyboard and summon the video. Sure enough, it is very funny, and you find your living room briefly turned into a live version of Tosh.0.

But unfortunately, VVSD has already started. "If you think that's funny, check this out!" Friend 2 will say. "Here type in 'shit _(color)/(gender)_ people say.'" By now, the crowd has already forgotten what show they were watching in the first place as they all focus on recalling the name of that video with the epic nut shot or the cute hippos playing.

 Each video watched by the group is followed by a video that is "even better" than the last in an endless cycle. VVSD is a very real problem and you can be stuck for hours watching video after video. But here's where the Logitech Revue's under-powered processor and Google's buggy beta software actually work in your favor. The system will crash. That you can be certain. This feature instantly brings everyone back to their regularly scheduled programming. The spiral is broken, and the people are free. At least until the next commercial.

 Everyone who owns a Google TV and a group of friends has experienced this phenomenon, and it will continue as long as viral videos go un-watched. So hide yo' keyboard, hide yo' wife, and prevent the VVSD from spreading. Know the warning signs, and get tested regularly.

Oh, by the way, have you seen the video where the baby talks to the goat while it's milked? Hysterical!