Kaufman’s Folly is Everyone’s Folly

At some point growing up, I realized that I was neither as bright as Captain Kirk or sharp as Han Solo. It sounds mad that a 3rd grader would hold himself to such high standards but I’m sure most people end up doing that as well. The worlds we see in movies and on TV are so tightly scripted that their character’s real-life foibles  are eliminated if they aren’t relevant to the plot. And so, I’m afraid that even fantasy worlds can make us feel bad about ourselves.

Alain de Botton’s wonderful TED talk about status anxiety touches on some anecdotes for these media-generated feelings of inadequacy:

“It’s probably as unlikely that you would nowadays become as rich and famous as Bill Gates, as it was unlikely in the 17th century that you would accede to the ranks of the French aristocracy. But the point is, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s made to feel, by magazines and other media outlets, that if you’ve got energy, a few bright ideas about technology, a garage — you, too, could start a major thing.”

Better yet, pick up de Botton’s book, Status Anxiety. His writing is as eloquent and it is thoughtful, and it’s cheaper than therapy.

Make Staring at Your Screen In The Dark More Comfortable With Blue Light Cancelling Apps (f.lux and Twilight)

A mounting pile of research suggests that staring at a computer screen for long hours is bad for your health. That should be intuitive, but evidence suggests that blue light in particular can disrupt sleep.

Apps for the PC/Mac and iPhone/iPad (f.lux) and Android devices (twilight) counteract this by filtering out blue light after the sun goes down (or all the time, depending on your preferences). I actually like having it on most of the time except when I’m outside in sunlight because it makes the screen easier on the eyes.

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The home screen of my Google Nexus tablet with and without Twilight.

Both of these applications operate in the background and automatically adjust their settings depending on the time of day. That way, they’re as unobtrusive as possible and you won’t be blinded by checking your phone in the middle of the night.

But don’t take my word for it. Let Twilight’s awkward Russian spokesmen tell you all about the benefits of their (free) product:

Unclaimed Property Search

Not quite the lottery.

Whenever you don’t pickup a paycheck, utility bill refund or rental deposit, it doesn’t get thrown away. Instead, it’s turned over to the unclaimed property fund in your your state and waits silently for you to claim it. For some reason this is poorly advertised, but each state has a searchable online database of these records (SEE: below). If you find that your state has money for you, all you have to do is fill out a form and they’ll send you your money, free, no questions asked.

The accumulation of these individual debts is mind boggling. I couldn’t find a national total, but New York state’s site claims to be holding over $13 billion in unclaimed funds, Idaho claims to have $120 million. Celebrities also have a ton of money tied up in this system (In Maine, Stephen King has ‘over $100’ in unclaimed wages from Walt Disney, Arnold Schwarzenegger has .15¢ in unclaimed funds with California.)

What are you waiting for? Search your kids, search your wife, search your cousins, co-workers, friends, acquaintances, everyone you know. Go to this Federal government website or search my homegrown list of State Unclaimed Property Databases here:

State Government Unclaimed Property Websites
 Alabama  Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico South Dakota
Alaska Idaho Michigan New York Tennessee
Arizona Illinois Minnesota North Carolina Texas
Arkansas Indiana Mississippi North Dakota Utah
California Iowa Missouri Ohio Vermont
Colorado Kansas Montana Oklahoma Virginia
Connecticut Kentucky Nebraska Oregon Washington
Delaware Louisiana Nevada Pennsylvania West Virginia
Florida Maine New Hampshire Rhode Island Wisconsin
Georgia Maryland New Jersey South Carolina Wyoming

Get a Job With feedly.

Whenever someone tells me they hate their job or they’re unemployed, I ask for their smartphone and download an app for them called Feedly. I tell them how it works and they nod their head and then don’t use it. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it get a job.

Feedly is an RSS feed, which is basically TiVo for the internet. It eliminates advertising and gathers all updates on your favorite websites into one place. This has many applications, from entertainment to headline news gathering, but for the purpose of this post I’m going to show how to use it to job hunt more effectively.

When you link job search sites to your Feedly account you get updates in real-time about job postings in your city. You can link Craigslist but I prefer Indeed because there are fewer rapists.

Feedly can be used to search for your dream job in a career of your choice or if you simply need something to pay the bills you can easily get something going quickly. It connects desperate employees with desperate employers.

Say you have a background in Restaurant Management:

Indeed
Copy and paste the Indeed URL into feedly and ‘follow’ the page:
feedly 1
Organize it in a tab explicitly for job notifications:
feedly 2

Viola! You’ll be managing a Twin Peaks in no time.

The advantage this provides is getting notified of new openings IMMEDIATELY. That way, you can be quicker than anyone else submitting your resume into the digital pile that gets ignored by hiring managers everywhere.

One last tip: Indeed has a ‘quick apply’ feature where you upload your resume and you can apply to certain jobs almost instantly. This eliminates the hassle of writing a stupid cover letter.

What are you waiting for? Get a job, you filthy animal!

Podcast Recommendations

My new job came with a long commute and so lately I’ve had an abundance of time to spend listening to podcasts. What follows are seven of my favorites along with the five episodes I’ve found most engaging. Enjoy:

The Joe Rogan Experience Comedian Joe Rogan is a master conversationalist. He interviews a wide swath of people, from famous entertainers and scientists to professional athletes and snake oil charlatans.

Here’s The Thing Alec Baldwin needs no introduction. His podcast shines because he’s a celebrity interviewing celebrities so to they open up to him in a way they are hesitant to around journalists.

 WTF with Marc Maron Marc Maron is a nutjob, and his neurotic rants about his three cats can get irritating, but he isn’t scared to get into deep emotional issues with his guests.

The Nerdist I was a latecomer to this podcast but a coworker convinced me I’ve been missing out. Chris Hardwick and his crew pretend they’re nerds but I don’t really buy it. Their interviews are thoughtful and everyone involved is articulate and well-rounded.

Econtalk Econtalk is hosted by Russ Roberts, a noted economist and author. His guests are the most intellectual and wonky of the podcasts I’m recommending, but Russ always manages to get enlightening conversations out of them.

The James Altucher Show James Altucher interviews on independent-minded artists and businesspeople and does a good job at finding out how they operate. WARNING: the intro theme is atrocious and he does NOT have a radio-friendly voice.

The Dr. Drew Podcast Dr. Drew from Loveline has a podcast of his own dedicated to interviewing other medical professionals and notable people he finds interesting. He is a great interviewer and conversationalist with 30 years experience in traditional radio. The man is superhuman but the series of shows concerning his recent recovery from prostate cancer is humanizing (SEE: episodes 138-141).

  • Ryan Holiday episodes #142 and 146
  • Dr. Joseph Ventura episode #156
  • Paul Mecurio episode #152
  • Cary Presant episode #60
  • Mike Dawson episode #118

 The Tim Ferris Show Tim Ferris is an amateur at podcasting and his personality can be a bit grating because he talks too much and he reuses a lot of questions from guest to guest, but the people he talks to are so interesting that his shortcomings as a host are easy to overlook.

Long form interviews are the anecdote to a tedious commute. Just be sure to fast forward past the scammy start-up advertising that makes these shows financially viable. Also check out Hardcore History and The Adam and Dr. Drew Show, both of which are consistently entertaining.  

Good App: Shredder Chess

I found out about this app from reading ‘Average Is Over’. The chapter on how human intelligence augmented by artificial intelligence has revolutionized the way upper-level chess is played is particularly interesting. Read my review HERE.

Shredder Chess is an app that costs $7.99 in the Google Play store (I think it’s cheaper via iTunes but no matter what the price, who wants to pay for an app?).

The price kept me away from it for a while but one night I drank enough wine to embolden me enough to buy it. I’ve bought dumber apps while intoxicated so what the heck?

Shredder then languished on my home screen for weeks. I didn’t touch it. Truth is, playing chess with a computer isn’t appealing because there’s nothing social or fun about it. That attitude is probably what separates Garry Kasparov from the rest of us.

On a whim the other day I played Shredder on the toilet at work. I was hooked. For the past month I’ve played chess every day whenever I go to the bathroom, and my chess game has greatly improved.

So it makes for a great potty break, but what is it?

Shredder is basically chess with training wheels. You’re allowed to take back any move you make that is crappy by AI standards (“I think that your last move was not so good. Do you want to take it back?”). This babying eventually trains your chess game to be more cold and calculating. Whenever you do win, the difficulty is raised (or lowered when you lose) to best match your skill. There’s even a gauge that measures which color has the advantage, and the option to ask for a suggestion. Behold my proudest moment:

Screenshot_2014-11-18-11-28-47(1)

A bloodless coup if I ever saw one. Get Shredder Chess if you’re looking to improve your chess skills…or if boredom in the bathroom is getting out of hand.