Question Everything

What is vitally important in every person’s life? Understanding why you do what you do.

From the time we’re born and all through childhood, our parents tell us what to do – when, why, how. We trust them. We trust that what they tell us is in our best interest. It’s an evolutionary advantage for us as children, since we don’t know enough to make wise decisions, particularly ones that keep us alive. We have faith in our parents that what they say is correct, and we don’t question them. They’re the experts we rely on to stay alive.

Even when we enter adulthood, we still learn from our parents and others. But we should exercise caution with the blind faith we place in people. As we grow older, we must ween ourselves off of trusting that others know what’s better for us than we do.

We live in an age of experts. From doctors and dentists, to car mechanics and financial advisers, to politicians and religious leaders. We’re taught to trust what experts say, without question, because they know best. At least in their subject matter. But people are fallible. People have fears, biases, weaknesses, power trips, sleepless nights, motivations, ignorance, forgetfulness, lack of experience, and the way they’ve always done it.

At a certain age, we should question the validity, truthfulness, and applicability of what others say. If it’s in your best interest, there should be a good explanation and reason why. Beware anyone who tells you to do something “because I said so” or “just trust me”. Don’t be the gullible person taken for all their worth.

Many experts we’ll meet are experts of a particular field; they’ve made a career of it. But they’re just people. They have, just like you and I do, all the limits of the human condition. So they’re not all-knowing and well-intentioned.

How about the fact that any professional whom you pay has an opportunity to and a certain advantage to get you to pay them more money. This, combined with all the other human limitations they face, should be a red flag to question whether the repairs the mechanic has quoted you are really necessary. Same for when doctors prescribe medications or refer you to a specialist or say you need some procedure.

This isn’t to say “never trust anyone”. But, rather, be quite careful about who you trust. If they are truly experts, they will have sound reasoning and experience behind their advice. So hold them accountable.

Make them justify their comments, explanations, commands, recommendations. If they don’t make sense to you, push back. Ask them to explain it again, in a different way. Make them clarify their viewpoint. A true expert should be able to do this. Ultimately, you’re the one who makes the decision, so make sure you’re well informed.

There are areas of which we’ll have no knowledge or experience or interest. But require that the experts who do back up their statements with reason, logic, and an ability to explain it to the average Joe. Otherwise, how could we call them experts?

And if we should require this effort of experts, how much more should we require it of people in general?

It’s easy to set our autopilot and go with the flow, but we should still be conscientious of our actions. There’s a power in understanding the why behind an action.

Don’t just do what you’re told. Question everything and everyone. Challenge them. Make them make sense to you. When you act, be sure you’re the one who’s deciding. That way, you hold the power in your life.

Password Protecting A Zip File on OS X

Every once in a while, I need to zip up some files, so I can send them to someone else, and I want to password protect the zip file.

I’m not actually sure how to do that with a GUI client on OS X. So I use the command line to create a zip file with a password.

I do it infrequently enough that I have to look it up each time. I wanted to leave my future self a little note on how to do this again later.

Zipping A File

To zip up a file and have that be password protected:

$ zip -e the_file_youre_zipping.txt

Zipping A Folder

To zip up an entire folder and have that be password protected:

$ zip -er the_folder_youre_zipping

Entering The Password

For each of the above commands, you’ll be prompted twice to enter your password.

Note: I believe there is a 32 character limit for passwords when using zip.

Choosing a Password

How do I choose a password for this file?

I want it to be long, so it couldn’t be brute forced, but I want it to be easy to type too.

If I email the zip file to someone, I’ll send the password out-of-band, so I want the password to be easy for them to type. Long, complicated passwords can be a pain in the ass to type.

“Oh, you messed up one character, and you don’t know where, so you have to type them all in again.”

The person typing in that password would hate me for choosing it. So I use a passphrase, assembled from a list of random words.

To get a list of random words, I use an online random word generator.

I can use the 8 random words on that page to come up with a 32 character password. One that’s easy for the person to type, but long enough to not be randomly guessed.

There you go, future-Kyle. I hope this helps you out.

PS. Thanks to this article for teaching me how to do this.

Taking Screenshots of Webpages

It can be handy to take screenshots of your entire web page. But pages are usually longer than our sceens are. This means it’s not feasible to use the regular keyboard shortcuts for taking screenshots.

Fortunately, there are a couple methods we can use!

Take a Full-Page Screenshot

In Chrome

You can use the Full Page Screen Capture Chrome extension to capture the entire page page right within Chrome.

The benefit is Chrome itself is rendering the page.

Resize the window to be the width you want, and then use the toolbar icon to start the snapshot.

It’ll give you an image you can use by saving or copy-and-pasting.

Using a Desktop App

Paparazzi! is a standalone application for OS X that can take screenshots of the entire page.

It uses WebKit, so the rendering should be similar to Chrome/Safari.

It has some features like being able to default the size of the rendered page to that of a MacBook Air, or other screen resolutions.

These are the methods I’ve used so far to take screenshots of entire pages, but I’ll update this if I come across others.

Taking Screenshots on OS X

There are several ways to take screenshots on OS X.

Some are covered in an Apple support article, but I’m never going to remember that page. So I’m going to make some notes here.

I’m a fan of keyboard shortcuts, so I’ll emphasize those.

You can capture the entire screen, a window, or use your mouse to select an area.

If you save a file, it will be saved to your desktop by default.

Save Screenshot of Entire Screen

To a File


To Clipboard


Save Screenshot of a Window

To a File

Shift+Cmd+4, Space, then use your mouse to hover over the window you’re interested in.

To Clipboard

Shift+Cmd+Ctrl+4, Space, then use your mouse to hover over the window you’re interested in.

Save Screenshot of a Portion of your Screen

To a File

Shift+Cmd+4, then use use the crosshairs to drag and select the portion of the screen you’re interested in.

To Clipboard

Shift+Cmd+Ctrl+4, then use use the crosshairs to drag and select the portion of the screen you’re interested in.

Clipboard vs Files

Capturing the screenshot to the clipboard instead of a file can make it faster and easier to use. You can paste the screenshot in your clipboard to Slack, GitHub, Messages and use it right away. No need to use the upload file dialog or drag and drop the screenshot.

Extending Screenshots

You can use apps like Dropbox or CloudApp to tweak your screenshot workflow.

Dropbox can save the screenshots to a Screenshots folder, instead of the desktop. And then it puts a shareable link into your clipboard. This can make it fast to share with someone else.

CloudApp can do something similar.

Ring that Pain

A fourth the way across the base and I leapt to make you suffer. And me landing on the balls of my feet and the cracking spine in your back giving out before you even had a chance to kick your little feet in the air. You could have avoided it but, when you saw me sprinting, fear took over and left you on stunned pilot. Your eyes growing wide during my pounce, but now really expanding… with the realization of what transaction took place between my feet and your vertebrae. Take stock your surroundings and that pain. That pain will ring, then fade, and never again shall your feet propel you. Lame.

No Business Plans for Startups

This article says business plans place unnessary rigidity on your startup and can keep you from being flexible with product offering, pricing, hiring, location, market, etc.

One thing I remember from business classes is that you should have a business plan first. The business plan will help you know what your offering is, who your market is, how you’ll try to make money, etc.

But in the beginning, especially in a software company, these details are likely just too hard to know. You’d be guessing and making things up.

Instead of lying to yourself about things you couldn’t possibly know, just start with your idea and give it a go! Once you’ve begun and have some experience, look at the results and see if they’re working. Does your product solve a real problem? Does the market want/need it? How do they feel about the pricing? If things aren’t going like you’d hope, change something up. Experiment. Very little is set in stone at this stage.

If you can make your business more successful by quickly changing course, do it! You shouldn’t have to spend days updating your business plan and sending it to the printers. If you have co-founders, certainly talk to them, but it doesn’t have to be a drawn-out, formalized process.

This advice could encourage people to start the business they’re dreaming of, because it lowers the barrier to entry even further. I know it set my mind in motion.

It doesn’t say “Don’t think about your business”, it says “Don’t fix your sights too early”.

And that’s something we could apply to our daily lives, as well.

Just Might

Swinging oaths as tree branches,
I’ve broken more promises than backs.
Building ladders straight to the sky,
I’ve avoided more people than birds.

Winds don’t deter me,
but the cold they bring just might.

Crawling down a mole hole,
I’ve evicted its former tenants.
Temperature’s consistent,
but the wind’s teeth don’t reach here.

Rolling a stone across the entrance,
I’ve sealed out any stoppers-by.
The first to disturb my door
won’t find a welcoming host inside.

Darkness doesn’t deter me,
but the worms it brings just might.

Strolling across plains, forests, streams,
I’ve simply run out of map.
The ways I’m taking right now
haven’t been planned or suggested.

Sinking deeper into darkness,
I’ll sleep without despair.
The morning will illuminate
further paths which I’ll wind.

Great distances don’t deter me,
but the wet socks they bring just might.

Deciding what I’ll do today,
I’ve called more shots than friends.
A pattern I’ve certainly noticed,
but done little to upend.

Settling down now at my desk,
pen in hand, paper in tow,
I’ve run out of distractions,
but a new one is soon to come.

Writing doesn’t deter me,
but beginning it just might.

Heating My Home

I recently read an article called “Restoring the Old Way of Warming: Heating People, not Places” . I read this at an interesting time, and it’s had me thinking over the past week or so. I wanted to explore my thoughts that came about from reading it and a couple other pieces: “Insulation: first the body, then the home” and “Heat your clothes, not your house”.

There is way more information available on this subject that I expected. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It has a lot of applications.

The article begins: “These days, we provide thermal comfort in winter by heating the entire volume of air in a room or building. In earlier times, our forebear’s concept of heating was more localized: heating people, not places.”

I’ve always grown up with the centralized heating of the air in the home, so the concept of only heating people is foreign to me.

I mentioned that I read the article at an interesting time, because for each of the previous winters, I’ve kept my apartment’s thermostat at about 68°F and worn a few more layers. But, this season, I’ve gradually crept the thermostat’s temperature up. First, I bumped it up to 70°. And then up to 72°. And, over the last couple weeks, I’ve had it set at 75°.

Having the temperature at 75° meant I didn’t need to wear extra layers. I could wear pants and a t-shirt, and be comfortable.

The first part of this year has been quite warm and sunny. I haven’t had the heat running too much because the natural sunlight warmed my apartment enough to keep it pretty close to 75°.

But the last week or two have been colder, cloudier, and snowier, so the heater has been running a lot more often to maintain 75°.

Each time the heater kicks on, I can’t help but think that, even though I feel comfy and warm, it is a bit unnecessary to heat the entire apartment, since I am only in one room at a time.

This article’s detail, then, is timely, in that it pointed out interesting facts and gave me some extra ideas about how to stay warm this winter.

The three methods of warming are conduction (heat transfer between touching objects), convection (warm air rising when an object is warmer than the surrounding air), and radiation (electromagnetic waves emitted by one object and absorbed by another).

The article uses the example that when you’re sitting in the sunlight, you can tolerate a colder air temperature, because the lower air temperature and higher radiant heat temperature average out to a comfortable level.

Churches, for instance, with their vaulted ceilings, can take advantage of radiant heating to keep the floor level warm, without wasting all their energy heating air that just rises to the inaccessible heights of the building.

This also reminds me that I have 9 ft. ceilings. If I’m sitting on my futon, I’m underneath a majority of the warm air. So maintaining the 75° air temperature actually involves heating my entire apartment, in a way that leaves most of that warmth out of my reach. This doesn’t seem like a very effective method, does it?

Is there perhaps a way to spread around the warm air up there? In my living room, I do have a ceiling fan. I looked up which direction the fan should rotate during the winter to help distribute the warm air throughout the room. That direction is clockwise. This could be a good way to actually make use of the warmest air up near the ceiling.

The article also mentions some other aspects of heating in the past.

Older buildings had a big problem with drafts. Fortunately, newer buildings do a good job of preventing them.

Hooded chairs are something I never knew existed. And I’ve seen folding screens in movies, where people change behind them, but I never heard of using them as local insulation for radiant heating. It’s probably the entire reason they existed at all, and I’ve just misunderstood their use.

I do have a fireplace, where it can be nice to sit and read and write for a while; appreciating the flickering gas flame and warmth. I don’t have it running much, but I could see a folding screen being useful when I do use it.

The four poster bed – another invention I didn’t understand. It makes much more sense when I see that the curtains and canopy are for retaining body heat and eliminating drafts. They weren’t just a fashion statement.

Hot gases from fires would be channeled through a series of pipes and that would heat beds and floors. The foot stoves described seem like they could totally make a comeback in some electric version. Perhaps heated ottomans? And I’d like to see the tile stoves mentioned, as well.

People still use heating pads to warm their beds. These are the modern, electric versions of older brass-and-embers instruments.

My first reaction, after hearing the phrase “heat people, not places” is to think of some high-tech additions to my apartment to accomplish that. But conductive and radiant heating systems have existed for 4,000 years or more. Radiant floor heating sounds brand new and fancy, but it’s been around for millennia. Incredible!

“While the old concept of heating is more energy efficient, the same cannot be said of most of the old heating devices.” So, while these forms of radiant heating are not a panacea – there are issues with thermal gradients, asymmetry of the heat, shadows, radiant diffusion through distance, etc. – it still sounds incredibly interesting.

Next, we get to what I think will be the most interesting part: how modern technology could be used to heat ourselves in a better and more efficient way. But the article ends. They mention that “next week’s” article will cover this stuff, but it hasn’t been published yet. So I’m left without knowing what that will be about. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

This did lead me to read the other articles I mentioned above, and then each inspired additional thoughts.

Since the article was a cliffhanger, I started to imagine what modern, radiant and conductive heating might look like. The goal would be to heat people instead of entire buildings or volumes of air.

There do exist radiant floor heating systems that use water or electricity to heat floors. I’ve experienced that once and it was pretty neat.

I can imagine a ceiling covered with radiant heating elements that are only active if someone is under them. It would feel like sitting in the sunlight, anywhere in the house. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

I mentioned those electric heating pads… What about wearing electrically-heated clothing? Could pants, shirts, socks, shoes, hats, and all have filaments in them to do some conductive heating? This could effectively turn your clothes into a heated blanket, and make those ceiling heaters less necessary.

But there do seem to be a few issues with heated clothing. Would they use power cables or battery packs? Are battery packs currently small and powerful enough to support this use, or do we need more breakthroughs in battery technology? Perhaps the batteries could also be filaments woven into the clothes? If wireless power were feasible, we wouldn’t need cables or batteries while in the home. What’s the state of wireless power? (Tesla, we need you!)

And then I find out that electrically-heated clothing already exists. Sounds like motorcyclists have used these for years to ride warmly, by plugging them into their motorbikes. Still seems to be additional potential for these kinds of clothing.

The radiant ceilings do have the advantage of heating visitors who pay you a visit. It’d be like sitting outside on a nice, sunny day for a picnic! The heated clothes only work for a single person. But I currently live alone, so it could still be a viable option most of the time.

As mentioned previously, my first reaction is to think of installing all these high-tech, novel heating methods in the home.

The insulation article mentions, “Watching television in a t-shirt during the winter is a relatively recent phenomenon.”

So this makes me wonder, what if I step back a minute and see if there’s an existing way to keep my self at a comfy temperature, without heating all the air in the apartment.

Flannel sheets are one of the best things about winter. It’s awesome to bundle up at night in those warm sheets, a comforter, and some extra blankets. Am I missing out on something during the day, then?

What about the warm layers that I already own? I’ve not been wearing layers lately, since the air in the apartment was warmer. But winter is just another season of the world. I shouldn’t mind wearing extra layers for a few months.

I might as well appreciate the occasion to wear my long socks, some slippers, a pullover/hoodie, pants, and long-sleeve shirts. And wrap up in some blankets too! In fact, soon enough, it will be summer time and I’ll want to shed as much clothing as possible.

So, wearing the extra layers I already own is a good way to make sure that I keep warm without using a ton of energy each day on heating the air in my apartment, most of which I don’t even get to use.

It’s not that I won’t run the heat at all. It’s just realizing it’s possible to keep myself at a nice 75° without keeping all my apartment at that temperature.

I’d bumped up the thermostat without thinking what kind of impact it would have on the amount of energy I used. After all, what’s a few degrees?

The insulation article mentions that lowering the thermostat 2°F can save 9-10 percent on energy.

“… watching television wearing just a t-shirt requires an air temperature of 24° Celcius (75°F) in order to maintain thermal comfort. This would lead to a rise in energy consumption of 20 to 30 percent.”

Holy crap. This exactly matches what I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been wearing t-shirts, and keeping the air at 75°, because it was most comfortable.

Does this mean that lowering my air temperature from 75° to 68° and wearing some more layers will use roughly 30% less energy? That’s an enormous difference.

This almost makes me afraid to see what my electric bill for February will be, since I’d mostly kept the thermostat at 75° during the day. The first part of the month had the weather and sunshine to help maintain that temperature without me running the heat all the time, so that should help make the bill a bit more bearable.

But it’s not just about the money. Think of the extra fossil fuels consumed just to keep my apartment a few degrees warmer. And then extrapolate across the entire Denver metro area. That’s huge.

“One layer of thermal long underwear allows you to turn down the thermostat with at least 4° C, saving up to 40% on space heating energy.”

That’s incredibly impressive. Just by wearing clothing I already own, I could drastically reduce the cost of keeping warm this winter.

There’s another factor to consider, I live on the third floor of an apartment building, so there is heat rising into my unit from the two units below me. I wonder how much that’ll help contribute to keeping my apartment warmer.

There’s an additional component to staying warm in the winter that these articles didn’t touch on: drinking warm beverages and eating warm foods.

I did notice that when the air was at 75°, drinking coffee could push me into the too-warm territory.

Would drinking coffee and tea, along with eating soups, stews, and chili be another way to warm people, not places? They did mention holding warm mugs can warm hands, but will their contents warm you up internally too?

I wonder if there’s been some study done about feeling warmer after drinking or eating something hot?

This was a lengthy piece, but I loved going from my first ideas about motion-sensing, radiant ceilings to what this piece is now. Thanks for sticking with me.

My main takeaway is that I’ll try to keep the thermostat set to about 68°, wear some additional layers of clothing I already own, and see what it’s like. Using that much less energy just seems sensible.

Does Because

So we have a definite end And an uncertain time between. But a bee don’t need a reason to live, It just does what it does because. I say, take a big breath in, Exhale your doubt, And probly cook yourself a trout. The days go on, Maybe never to end, But I just does what I does because.

This was originally written on February 28, 2012.

Beginning to Use Everything

My Introducing Everything post was the first written in and published through my everything system.

In fact, right after I wrote the post, I made the initial commit to my everything-wordpress repo. I was able to publish that blog post to WordPress right from the command line! The code’s not pretty and the functionality is lacking, but I can improve that. Most importantly, it worked!

The Lone Crow was also stored in everything and published from the command line. I made some more edits to everything-wordpress, and had to delete the post several times (I can’t update an existing post yet), so I could try publishing again, but, hey, that worked too. And posting Thoughts on Manual Chores was smooth, thanks to those changes.

I’ve recently read an article on how we face a ‘digital Dark Age’. Our data locked in files or tied to programs that no longer work. Hey, that’s precisely what I want to prevent by moving my creative output to a single, central location which I have complete control over. It’s a major motivation for using simple text files. I’ll be curious to see what other solutions people come up with for this problem. Their ‘digital vellum’ is overkill for my needs here, but it’s certainly an interesting concept.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been using everything to store some new writings, including this one.

Some thoughts so far:

  • It’s exciting! I feel a greater urge to write, since it helps me flesh out this system and workflow.
  • I’d like to codify the “rules” of this system into something like a “spec”. Getting some use with the system is helping with that. At this time, the rules are pretty simple. It’s a goal to keep it simple as I go forward.
    • A git repository where you have nested folders
    • Folders which are leaves on the tree must have at least one file, but could have more.
    • is the required file. It’s the content, written in Markdown.
    • index.yaml is an optional file. It’s the metadata, written in Markdown.
  • I want to decouple my writings from the act of publishing. Right now, I include some metadata in everything that belongs outside it, since it’s related to publishing the post to WordPress. Decoupling will help keep the writings focused, and make the entire system more extensible.
  • I want to update a post from the command line. This will be made easier by decoupling publishing from the everything repo, so I can keep track of whether posts have been published before. All the relevant WordPress metadata will be in a single, logical place then. This is one of the next things I’ll work on.
  • I need to decide whether I want to add some binary files to the repo. Right now, if I have, say, an image or two for a specific blog post, I can add them, since they won’t take up much space and would be unlikely to change. I wouldn’t store an entire vacation’s worth of photos since that would drastically inflate the size of the repo. But having images related to posts actually be in the repository would be helpful. That way I could mention them within the post, and have them show on my blog too. I’ll also have to build support for posting images to WordPress, so that will come in the near future too.
  • I want a local way to preview what my markdown content will look like as HTML. I like writing the post in vim, but it’d be nice to proof-read it in the browser. This is a perfect opportunity for another integration point; one which should also be straight-forward to create! Update: I just installed vim-instant-markdown and that is working like a charm. I can see some things it’d be nice to improve upon, but it’s great for proof-reading this piece! I love open source software!
  • It’d be nice to have a way to enforce some standards. The and index.yaml files under a directory. Starting the markdown file with a header that is also the piece’s title, followed by an empty line, followed by the content of the post. Maybe a command to generate the skeleton for a post is a start. Could some git hooks be used to validate that it’s a valid everything writing? Another cool integration point.

We’ll see how it shakes out as I use it more and as I import other writings into it. I do have to say: I’m excited about everything!