The Epiphany That Led Me to Aikido

dojoOff and on for months a friend in Colorado talked up his judo renaissance. Not only does he attend adult classes, he instructs beginner level kids on Friday nights. He’s particularly proud of a video of cats he found duking it out. The grappling cat clearly kicks the striking cat’s ass—feline judo vs feline karate I guess. He enjoys it all.

I told him I thought about getting out and doing something physical. Working from home hasn’t been melting the pounds the way I’d initially expected.

In some non-judo related conversation I relayed an epiphany I’d had the evening before: heroes make decisions early. The person that jumps in front of a bus to push a toddler to safety doesn’t decide to do that an instant before leaping, they decide to do it earlier in the day or last week or a couple years back. It just happens that they were unable to act until the last minute.

His responded with, “You need to train in aikido.”

I can’t say I’ve discovered how these two things are related. Maybe that’s black belt stuff.

“Dojo by Night” by Dimmerswitch.

Changing it Up

tree growth after a fire
The trend in blog birthdays over the past few weeks is that blogs that help people well, do well. In 2009 I want to be one of the bloggers that helps people well in 2008.

I’ve had a blog in one form or another since late 2001. There is no evidence of this so don’t look. The earliest you might find would be some half-assed scribblings over a LiveJournal from March of 2002. That’s nearly six years of exposure to the technology, the culture, and the phenomenon without having made more than a 300k dent in Google’s cache. I’ve used or installed PHPNuke, LJ, MT, WP, Symphony, TextPattern, Blogger,, Drupal, and a few more I can no longer recall. Within just the stable of apps I can recall I’ve had maybe twelve blogs of no note come and go. Other’s just stall. I even had a podcast for half a year.

Amazon affiliation and Google AdSense are not the only ways to measure one’s success in the blogosphere, but if they were I’ve failed. Neither has sent me a check. By technical measures like Technorati or Feedburner or Analytics I chalk up in the fringes of WTFAY? When you read that there are now eighty gazillion blogs being created each month and you think to yourself, “Uh. What. How is that a good thing?” you might also come to the conclusion this is why I haven’t been noticed. Certainly the immeasurable glut of blogs hasn’t helped me any. Though if there were just ten of us bloggers I’d still be eleventh.

It’s all because I believe I don’t have content.

I’ve even said I don’t. It’s why I started blogs for my brother-in-law and with my brother. They had content. Natural, built-in, interesting content to populate page after page of readable, returnable, and rememberable1 blog posts. I was satisfied with being the wind beneath their wings till they stopped enjoying flying.

The trouble is that I’m interested in going there and doing that and getting the t-shirt myself. I want to entertain and educate masses of drooling fan-boys and AdSense clickers. I want to kiss my day job good-bye and bring on the fame and fortune and fun.

As of now I’m going to pursue that fun. Since I am not inherently able to help you. I am going hunt content. I will sneak up behind it when it’s not looking. I will jump it, strangle it, and bring it back here bloody and steaming.

Bring a fork and a napkin because help is on it’s way.

Photograph courtesy of Whatknot

  1. Alliteration trumps the use of real words any day. []

It’s All Relative My Friend

I guess the whole point of 1000 Days is to get me writing. Ironic the content of this post isn’t appropriate for my regularly scheduled writing over there.

So many parallels exist between me and The Waiter that I was only completing the first sentence of his latest when I knew the story he’d tell.

“I’m Batman” is a line from probably every one of the Batman movies. I am certain the one he references is the first. Micheal Keaton’s unlikely Bruce Wayne stammers the line to a room recently emptied of Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale. In so many ways that scene characterizes Batman for me. Wanting recognition for his secret action’s knowing he can’t go public or he risks continuing to do good.

I think lots of boys want to have a secret. They want to be Zorro or King Arthur or to have a hidden door or a red phone. It’s exhilarating to know something about yourself that other’s can’t know. Especially when deep inside you know it makes you just a little better (not humble). Boys grow up to be men and I doubt they cast aside their desires to be a hero–I haven’t.

Maybe in an alternate universe I am The Waiter.

Amortization Spreadsheet and Graph

Cause you really can’t have enough tools to compare home loans.

I suspect if you are looking for one of these already, then you are likely to be able to ferret out all the nuances, but here are the main features of v1.0:

  • Displays 3 down-payment only amortization schedules
  • Displays 1 Combo or second loan (good for avoiding Mortgage Insurance (MI) or if you don’t have down-payment money)
  • Graphs the 4 loans by total cost
  • Calculates principle and interest payments
  • Estimates MI from an MI Factor value
  • Allows for estimated Tax and Insurance values
  • Tracks actual payments and check numbers
  • Recalculates P and I if your actual payment exceeds your PITI (principle, interest, tax, insurance) payment

Mortgage Comparisons.xls

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Trail Fire

I came across Trailfire recently. I am not usually taken in by these social bookmarking things, but I have to admit I am finding this incarnation of 2.0 widgetty goodness quite compelling. All the other social bookmarking tools out there promote the individual webpage as the most important aspect of a good find. They don’t celebrate the trail to get there.

Trailfire celebrates the trail.

Invoking this quick to use plug-in for Firefox or IE I can blaze a trail through the Internet (they call them ‘marks’, but ‘blazes’ is more accurate in trail building lingo and has an energy that ‘marks’ and ‘marking’ just doesn’t–I’m calling their marketing guys), at each stop recording my thoughts on a particular page–why I blazed it. Find a page, blaze it; find the next page, blaze it; then a few more pages till I have an entire saved and named trail for others to follow. I send you the URL that tracks the path I just created or link to it in a post. This new trail guides you through a particular argument I might be trying to make or just a series of related topics I have strung together for your pleasure. And if you happen to think that I have a knack for trails that suit your tastes you can find them here.

My first reaction is that this tool will be a great way for teachers to organize a guided Internet curriculum for students, but the truth is that it’s great for anyone who wants to give context to their content or just to highlight more than one interesting page at a time. Sure, you could blaze an extended brainfart of unrelated topics and pages, but why would you? Out here in the real world trails go somewhere or at the very least by something interesting. I think the natural inclination of electronic trailblazers will be to do the same thing: catalogue a series of pages into a contextual setting like an argument or a tour or a lesson.

Per the web 2.0 rules, it’s in beta. But this feels like a true beta not just a moniker add-on for trendiness. I am looking for:

  • java script, so you can find my latest or most popular trails on my blog
  • voting for trails
  • blaze caching
  • trail tagging or categorization of some kind
  • RSS feeds for my trails; they have RSS for the individual trails, but how often would I update those?
  • pre-made buttons or images for embedding with links and more importantly branding

In true beta, they are soliciting feedback on features from users. Not openly mind you, but via reply emails. I sent a note about the first and last items on my list and got a personal note back asking me to describe what I wanted. This post will be my reply, so let’s see how that goes–I think it will go well.

Here are my ideas:

Embed Script
I like the simple stuff. Just a list of the Top 5 Trails I created. With options on most recent, most popular, or by category so I can create trails to match my blog content. For the folks that like a bit more flare in their widgets I would think that something that rotates or scrolls or displays the screenshots of the blazes would be fun.

I hope I don’t have to elaborate that.

Blaze Caching
Basically a FURL like feature so that if your domain dries up my trail won’t.

I don’t much use categories, but I do like their more flexible cousin tagging. But it seems like its easy enough to have both. Searching the trails currently is a bit hit and miss without a better sense of where you might be headed.

RSS for Trails
You can get a feed for updates to an existing trail, but not as far as I can tell for a particular user’s list of trails. This seems like a great thing to have because if I find that someone has the same tastes as I do, I want to know what new trails they are blazing.

Good God don’t make me start having to do the branding. Get me a standard button I can throw into a post with a link the the apposite trail so that users can get used to seeing them. This is the most bang for the buck marketing-wise.

One A few I whipped up:

trailfire plain

My trails so far:

Update to my wish list
The ability for followers to comment on the original comments rather than on the page itself (if it even offers such).

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