Category Archives: Life

First Month on Mac OS X

My Windows PC died about a month ago after 5 years of service as a home server. The hard disk controller on the motherboard was failing. I weighed my options and decided to replace it with a Mac Mini and an external hard drive enclosure. So far it’s working out well. It’s certainly a lot quieter than the loudmouth fan on the 400W power supply in my previous rig.

However, there’s plenty in OS X that’s tripping me up. I’m trying to figure it all out organically without looking in Help for keyboard shortcuts or quick tips. As a Windows power user switching to OS X for the first time, I have several annoyances.

  • The right-click-on-folder-name for folder hierarchy took me about a day to discover. It’s not as slick as the Windows Explorer way of displaying an Address Bar with clickable folder names.
  • I severely miss the behavior of Home and End keys in Windows, where it jumps to beginning or end of line instead of beginning or end of page. I know I can do the same thing with CMD-Arrow, but that is some seriously old muscle memory. I accidentally jump to end of page about once per minute.
  • CTRL-Arrow on OS X jumps around the Mission Control desktops and dashboards, which on Windows is jumping to the next word on a page (OS X shortcut is OPT-Arrow). I accidentally pull up the Dashboard about once every 10 minutes.
  • Cut, Copy, and Paste is still X, C, V but using CMD instead of CTRL. That’s an entirely different way to configure your hand to hit that key combination and I haven’t learned it yet. It’s pretty frustrating to be slow at Copy and Paste.
  • If you right click inside the Finder, either on an item or in empty space, you are given a content menu with actions. New Folder, Move To Trash, Copy, Paste, Get Info, etc. are usual suspects in the context action menu. If you click on an document, Windows Explorer gives you the option (among other actions) to Cut, Copy, Delete, and Rename. Finder only lets you Copy or Delete from this menu. I kinda miss Rename action but severely miss Cut action from this context menu. I’m copying then deleting a lot more these days.
  • Also, the Context menu in Windows has a dedicated keyboard key (between ALT and CTRL right of the space bar). I haven’t yet discovered a keyboard shortcut for the context menu in OS X. I’m reaching for my mouse quite a lot.
  • I miss the Explorer dialog boxes in Windows. The Finder Open Dialog has no address bar, which means no pasting in URLs. I’m copying a lot of stuff to the desktop. Also the Close Dialog in Windows usually has a hotkey, so you can hit “S” on the keyboard to Save, “C” for Close. These days I’m having to reach for my mouse to click a button.
  • I dislike how after installing an app, the DMG is still mounted on the desktop. It’s just annoying.
  • It seems like the Trash is a universal target to make something “go away”. Trash can isn’t a clear metaphor for unmounting a disk image.
  • iTunes, Quicktime, and Home Sharing work so much better on OS X. Home Sharing loads my iTunes library so fast. I bet it gets slower but for now I’m enjoying it.
  • iPhoto is an unmitigated disaster. What a mess. Apple has an iCloud Control Panel for Windows that is simple and straightforward and downloads photos off of Photo Stream into an actual file in an actual folder. Requiring iPhoto to interact with iCloud Shared Streams is madness. Where is the equivalent of the “Photos” app in iOS? Also, I want to see these photos in a window in Finder by that doesn’t seem to be an option.
  • The nomenclature of Video, Movie, TV Show, and Home Video is just as confusing on the Mac as it is anywhere else, iOS included. Videos I take on my phone that are added to an iCloud Shared Stream get put in my iPhoto Library in my Pictures folder? But videos I take on my phone then manipulate in iMovie get saved in the Movies folder? And videos I take on my phone get synced to iTunes under Home Video and saved in the Music folder?
  • The Mac App Store is pretty great. For too long I’ve relied on CNet for finding utility software. Although my Mac Mini shipped with Mountain Lion and first order of business was update to Mavericks, after which the Mac App Store prompted me to download and install Mavericks again. Weird. And in the past month I’ve downloaded 2 Camera import updates to support RAW.
  • Pages, Numbers, and Keynote I got for free, but I’m don’t imagine I’ll ever use them They’re removed from the dock. I’ve got Microsoft Office 2011 for $10 from the Home Use Program. I may never use it either, but I know Word and Excel. I’ve removed Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, and Notes from the dock as well. Frankly, I’d rather just do all of it from my iPhone than get notifications about it in two places.
  • Pinta is a decent replacement for Paint.NET. I miss Notepad++. I need to upgrade my license to 1Password to be a Mac + Windows license. I also miss my tool chest of random executables that I’ve collected over the last 12 years since adopting Windows XP. I had a screenshot tool, a file renamer, a file append tool, and of course ProcMon.exe in my tool chest. Now I’m afraid I’m spending $20 a pop on little utilities in the Mac App Store or learning how to do all this in Terminal, which is a painful thought.

Six Weeks

Six weeks ago, my wife Lauren gave birth to our first child, who is awesome, and life has been a blur pretty much everyday since. The best kind of blur I think possible. Olivia is an expressive, happy, and super cute baby. She’s a good sleeper, a good eater, and doesn’t cry unless she wants food or a fresh diaper. She just doesn’t like to cry. Amazing.

When she was less than 9 days old, she had her first restaurant experience and slept the whole time. Last night, Lauren and I went to The Melting Pot with her parents to celebrate Lauren’s [redacted] birthday and Olivia of course came with us. From the moment we got in the car to the moment we got home, she was asleep in her car seat. Amazing, and I’m sure it won’t last forever. Nothing lasts forever, which is why we are taking lots of pictures.

Most people say she looks like a carbon copy of Lauren, which I tend to agree with. She has Lauren’s chin, nose, and mouth. But she has my feet, my snoring, and when she gets hiccups she also kinda burps them out, which is totally something she got from me (which I got from my dad).

Oh Baby

This morning, something miraculous happened right before my eyes. My wife, who is a superhero, pushed our baby girl into the world.  And oh my goodness is this baby girl precious. I’ve kept a close eye on her all day, and from what I can tell, she’s just perfect.

Her name is Olivia. I am smitten.


Mother and baby are doing well.

Inbox Zero and Consumption Culture

Inbox Zero and GTD changed how I work. The tips of “Don’t constantly be reading incoming email” and “move email messages out of your inbox” are keys to how I succeed at managing what seems like a deluge of incoming email. It’s changed me, in some ways for the worse. I see inboxes everywhere now.

I’ve got a Netflix Instant queue filled with movies I’m never in the mood to watch. I feel bad that I have hundreds of unread articles in Pocket. I just unsubscribed to The Magazine because I couldn’t keep up to date with new issues. I even quit playing Words With Friends, because it was just another inbox.

That’s just the beginning. My Letterboxd watchlist has just over 400 movies added. My Downcast “Everything” playlist tells me I have 238 unplayed podcast episodes (a little over 100 hours). I just added up some 25 seasons of TV shows I’d like to watch, including Breaking Bad, Supernatural, Sopranos, and many others. The unread shelves in my Goodreads have 168 books. I’ve got a stack of video games that each deserve 40-50 hours of play time. Let’s not even talk about comic books, new music, board games, and Longform articles published online.

For a long time I felt almost crushed under the pressure of not having any time to consume all these things. Really, who has that kind of time? I’d need some 2,500 hours of free time to get through all my lists of unread/unwatched/unconsumed stuff. If I spent 2 hours a day, it would take me almost 3 and a half years.

Then I realized: then it’ll take 3 and a half years. It’s not going anywhere. Some of those movies and TV shows I’ll watch with my wife, some of the movies, books, or podcasts will be things I want to talk about with friends. Some of those books will get made into movies, some of the podcasts episodes will be worth skipping, some of the movies I won’t finish, and some of the video games won’t merit a second playthrough.

When I first got my Xbox 360, the game I played most was this puzzle game Hexic. You just spin these pieces around in the grid shaped game area. It dazzled me and I played for hours. I was the same way with Tetris. And nearly every other video game I can remember, I was constantly replaying it to master a top score or best time. I must have rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy every week of my childhood, and I can’t count the times I’ve seen some of the movies we watched as a family growing up (Romancing the Stone, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure come to mind). I think as a teenager I saw more reruns of Quantum Leap and Saved by the Bell than any single person should.

I think most people are like this. I think most people are daunted by the things they haven’t done/seen and comforted by the things they know best. I think most people would rather eat at the restaurant they know they like then try some place new, or eat at the same entree than try something they may not like. Sometimes its nostaliga that has us watch old movies we love instead of a new one or revisit vacation destinations than visit a new city. It takes a great deal of effort to try new things, step out of your comfort zone, and take a risk.

So I refuse to think of my Watchlists as Inboxes anymore. They are wishlists. They are a pantry. They are a rainy day toy box. No one ever feels pressure to use up all the flour and sugar in their pantry. Just use it as needed, since it’s not perishable. When Christmas is over, no one should ever feel pressured to buy up the rest of their Christmas list. It’s about enjoying what you have, not what you don’t. And some toys you keep stashed, in case kids can’t play outside. So that is my new philosophy. And I feel much better.

If only I could make a decision on what movie to watch next.

Goals for 2013

Follow up on my goals for 2012:

  • Read more novels. I only finished 5 books last year, 4 fiction and 1 non-fiction, plus a couple audiobooks. I’m currently in the middle of 2 fiction books, neither of which I have a head of steam to finish. 7 books is a lot fewer than I had originally hoped for myself.
  • Shoot more video. I uploaded 16 videos last year and I think all of them were of our dogs.
  • Lose some weight. In the first half of 2012 I lost 21 pounds (I know, right?). In the second half of 2012 I gained back 12 pounds (moving to a new house, vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas). So overall still down 9 pounds. I should feel positive about it, but I’ve still got more work to do.
  • Stop drinking soda. I went for almost 10 months without drinking a single drop of soda. It wasn’t easy starting out and required a sizable change in routine. I gave up my workday afternoon Diet Mt. Dew, I ordered water every time we went out to eat, and we stopped stocking our fridge with soda. After 10 months, I felt like I had broken whatever habit or addiction I had to soft drinks. In the last couple months, I’ve felt free to enjoy sugary soda on occasion but I can’t drink much of it without my stomach getting upset. I think that’s a good thing.

My goals for 2013:

  • Lose some more weight. I dropped 9 pounds in 2012 and I know I can lose at least another 11. That’s my goal.
  • Cook with appliances. And I don’t mean gadgets. We have a food processor, blender, and stand mixer in our kitchen cupboards that could really expand not only what food we cook but how well it’s prepared. This will also force me to open up the recipe book, try some new things, and challenge myself in the kitchen. I’d like to be a better chef this time next year.
  • Become a better home owner. By the end of this year, I need to organize my tools in the garage, hang some ceiling fans, figure out a system for mowing and maintaining the lawn, and a dozen other things around the house. Right now I have no good place to put the charger for my cordless drill. I want to figure this out this year.
  • Use my iPad more, especially for reading. I bought this super awesome thing and don’t seem to use it much. I know several people whose iPad is their constant companion and it makes me feel a little guilty for wanting to upgrade. What I have is still plenty serviceable and I should get more use out of it. I’m going to start with using it for reading novels and playing some strategy board games.

Favorite Discoveries of 2012

With the year coming to an end, here’s my list of the favorite things I discovered in 2012.

  • Easy site for bookmarks. Fast, reliable, and searchable, it’s become the best place to keep Internet stuff I want to remember later.
  • The Hunger Games.  I read all three books early in the year before the movie, which was pretty awesome, was in theaters.
  • Gimme bar. Automatically creates a fully searchable backup of my Instagram, Pinboard, & Twitter history, plus it has a bookmarklet so I can grab anything from inside my browser and keep it. It’s like Pinterest for introverts. And all my content is backed up in Dropbox.
  • Letterpress. Free to play iOS word game. I’m getting better at it.
  • Hi-Chew Fruit Chews. Found these at the Japan showcase in Epcot in Walt Disney World. They are like a soft chew Starburst that comes in awesome flavors like melon, banana, and peach.
  • Dark Sky. a weather app of iOS that tells you if it’s raining at your exact location. I check it pretty much every day before I leave the house.
  • Brenthaven bags. I was issued one when I started my new job and I don’t think I’ll ever own a different laptop bag.
  • Yogurt Mountain. My new favorite frozen yogurt place. They have marshmallow cream and nutella in squeeze bottles.
  • Taco Bell churros. Finally. And it’s about time, Taco Bell.

Elvis’ Favorite Fried Chicken

I’ve had this recipe posted on the Google Official Blog bookmarked for ages but I’ve never tried it. The portions are “Google-sized” and call for 3 gallons of buttermilk and 30 chickens. I need to do the math and adjust down to a smaller yield, but if this fried chicken was good enough for The King, it was worth sharing.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Elvis Loved
*Google-sized portions; read all the way through to get the total amounts needed*

1/2 c thyme
1/4 c oregano
1/4 c basil
1/2 c onion powder
1/2 c garlic powder
1/2 c dry mustard
1/2 c paprika
1/4 c chili powder
1/2 c celery seed
2 Tbsp salt
1/2 c coriander
1/2 c cumin
1/3 c kosher salt
1/4 c cayenne pepper
1/2 c ground black pepper
1/4 c ground white pepper

3 gals. buttermilk
3 cases organic free range chicken (roughly 30 chickens, divided into 1.5- to 2-lb. sections)

Mix these amounts of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then whisk in the buttermilk until it’s thoroughly mixed.

Pour the batter over the chickens and marinate for up to five days – keep refrigerated, of course.

For frying
Now mix another 4x the above dry ingredients, and add:
2 lbs. cornstarch
8 qts. all-purpose organic whole wheat flour

Dredge the marinated chicken pieces in the dry herbs/flour/cornstarch mixture mix.
Fry the dredged chicken in a large skillet with hot peanut oil @ 375 degrees. Once chicken has reached a golden brown color, finish cooking it in the oven.

New House

This Spring, Lauren and I put down good faith money to start construction on our new home. The builder broke ground in May 7th, finished construction in a little less than 90 days, and we closed in the first week of August. And we totally live there now.

We closed on the new house on a Monday and set moving day for Friday. I took the week off work. Lauren and her parents showed up every night after work and we painted. Trusty Tan in the master bedroom, Nuthatch in the master bath, Nomadic Desert everywhere else, with Loch Blue and Parakeet accents in the living room and morning room. During the day I would paint the bedroom and bathroom listening to the Star Wars Radio Dramas and in the evening, when the paint party would get started, we would crank the “Classic Rock’s Greatest Hits” or “Feelin’ Good in the 90’s” playlists on Songza.

When we listed our condo for sale back in the Spring, we filled a PODS storage unit with boxes of “non-essential” stuff like books, bedspreads, winter clothes, and some furniture. The week before closing, we packed up everything else we could and Two Men And A Truck showed up on moving day to move those boxes and the remaining furniture to the new house. They did in 5 hours what would have taken me a day and a half. And we still ended up making several trips back to the condo to get items from our closets, bathrooms, fridge, and freezer. We dusted, vacuumed, set the thermostat to 78 degrees and OFF, turned off the lights, locked up, and picked as many jalapenos as we could and brought them to the new house. Now, we just need it to sell.

We made several good decisions along the way, some of them were learning experiences, so I thought I’d share:

  • Frogtape. Instead of just buying the regular blue masking tape for edging we bought the extra special painting tape. With mixed results. In several spots it still bled through, so either there was dust on the molding we didn’t catch or it’s just not that great. Thankfully we didn’t spend a lot on it. I think I’d rather just use 2″ blue masking tape, which should protect better against drops and splatters.
  • Sherwin Williams. I’ve been previously disappointed with Lowes and Home Depot paint, so we didn’t mess around. We bought the Duration Latex Matte and it was worth the higher price. The paint was so thick (like the consistency of chocolate pudding) it would sit on top of the brush and go on thick with a roller. We hardly had any spills and it looked great even with a first coat.
  • PODS. It’s just a little pricier month to month than a self storage unit, but it has advantages if you dislike loading and unloading moving trucks. I could see getting a self-storage unit for a longer term solution, especially if we wanted convenient access to our stuff, but for a 4 month engagement it worked out great.
  • Food Processor. We also over packed the PODS unit. We packed both our food processor and our blender so my over-acheiving basil plant has yielded no pesto. I am ashamed.
  • Movers. We will definitely hire movers again. Next time, I’m hiring them for a two day gig so they will come and pack the boxes for us. Worth every penny.
  • Food. I gained 5 pounds in the two weeks surrounding moving day. I made myself so busy and packed up our lives so much, I didn’t have a good plan for not breaking down and eating burgers, fries, pizza, and chicken tenders every meal. Again, I am ashamed.

We still have many, many walls that still need paint. We have boxes of stuff in our living room that we don’t know where it will go. My suitcase is currently in the hallway closet. Pretty much all of our framed art is stacked against the wall in the dining room. And I want to cram way too much into our office than can reasonably fit.

I still hesitate to call it a Dream House, because what’s a Dream House anyway, but every morning for the past week I’ve woken up giddy over the massive shower, killer deck, and ridiculous kitchen I get to use everyday. And we are only about 7 minutes away from the best frozen yogurt in Nashville. So there’s that.

99% Invisible

One of my favorite podcasts is raising money on Kickstarter to produce Season 3. They’ve reached and far exceed the initial goal, but they have a benefactor that will grant them an extra $10,000 if they get 5,000 backers.

This ambitious goal inspired Debbie Millman at her brand new Design Matters Institute to offer a challenge grant of $10,000 to motivate 5000 people to show support for 99% Invisible at any level they can afford.

I was backer 3,249. I gave one dollar. You should too.

So if you have an extra 30 minutes today (you totally do, you know you do), check out the podcast. Here are a selection of my absolutely favorite episodes:

  • 04: Details. It’s about how the design and creation of the modern toothbrush.
  • 18: Check Cashing Stores: a breakdown of how a Check Cashing store is more user friendly than a bank. Fascinating stuff.
  • 33: A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll. The history of how a little bit of paint on a graphic design on a ship’s hull saved hundreds of lives and changed an industry.
  • 38: The Sound of Sport. A job I never knew existed.
  • 50: Deafspace. How a building was designed to accommodate the hard of hearing and how it’s actually better for everyone.
  • 55: The Best Beer In The World. Why the monks who make arguably the best beer you’ve ever tasted go to great extents to make it difficult to buy.

Each one is only about 10-15 minutes each. Listen to two or three of them, realize the brilliance of it and how much you kinda want to go back and listen to all of them (which I recommend, they’re “evergreen”), then go to the Kickstarter page and give a dollar so that Roman Mars gets $10,000 and keeps making cool stuff that we all enjoy.

And if anybody wants to buy me that $55 Samuel Plimsoll shirt on his Kickstarter, I would appreciate that.

Baked Stuffed Jalapeños

I made these for dinner last night and they were quite wonderful. If you are growing jalapeños in your garden (and why wouldn’t you) this is a great use of them. If you are not growing jalapeños, shame on you. I used shredded cheddar cheese and it didn’t work well. Next time I will either use slices of cheese or bake them on a silpat. I may even try jack cheese instead of cheddar. Adapted from Simply Recipes.


  • 12 large jalapeño peppers, 24 small ones
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces cheddar or jack cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Slice the top off of the jalapeños then slice in half lengthwise. Scrape out all the seeds and ribs from each jalapeño with a spoon (a grapefruit would work great, I used the tip of a vegetable peeler).
  3. Mix together onion, cilantro, cream cheese, cumin, granulated garlic, and salt.
  4. Pack the filling into the peppers then top with cheddar cheese.  Arrange the peppers on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, and the peppers are cooked.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving or you’ll burn the roof of your mouth. Makes 1-2 servings.