Johnathan.org

February 10, 2015

Apple World.Today

From out of the Ashes of The Unofficial Apple Weblog comes Apple World.Today and it looks to be great.

I’m glad to see some of the former editors firing up another site and continuing the never ending task of brining us great Apple news. Steve Sande, Dave Caolo, and Kelly Hodgkins are  steering the new ship and hope to bring us some great content.

Our goal with Apple World Today is to pick up where TUAW left off as a source of news and reviews. But we want to take the site to you, the readers, by offering discussion forums (are we crazy to do this?), podcasts, and more video content. Wherever possible, we want to get our audience engaged by joining with us in online and live on-the-air discussions.

Sweet.

AWT is a relative baby in the world of blogging about that company from Cupertino, and as such you can expect us to poop ourselves on a regular basis as we get used to our new home.

I hope the rough analogies to new, non-house-trained pets don’t continue, though. 🙂

February 9, 2015

CodeAcademy – The Basics of Code in One Hour

Update May 12, 2018: This app is no longer available. I’ve removed links to it but kept the post for posterity.

One thing I’m working on is improving my software development skills. In 2015, along with everything else, I want to be much better at programming and development. One tool I used when I first started, and revisited again last night, was [CodeAcademy on the iPad][1]. A great app that teaches you the super basics so other languages don’t seem so daunting. It’s free, and anyone can use it. Give it a whirl and [download it from the App Store][2]. I mentioned it was free, right?

When you’re done, visit their full site and start learning more advanced stuff. If you’re totally new to coding, start with HTML. In this day and age, it never hurts to know it. If you’ve already been through all of their stuff and want more, check out the post I wrote not too long ago listing other great sources for learning to code.

Morning Musicals

A few people have asked what music I listen to in the morning while I’m mentally prepping for my day (by writing).

Before I answer, I want to disclose that my tastes change from time to time, so the genres of music listed below might not be similar in any way. What you see is just want I’m listening to right now, courtesy of Spotify.

Classical

I only have one classical playlist I listen to, and it works well for me.

Acoustic

I dabble with acoustic music, too, just as I do classical. Instrumental music, I feel, is the best uber-genre of music when trying to concentrate or focus because then words someone is saying or singing don’t distract. I’m easily distracted. It’s not a super long playlist so I don’t listen to it all the time. The last thing I need is monotony.

Electronic

A few electronic playlists make the cut for my morning rituals. I have to be careful that there aren’t too many songs that have distinct beats that can be jarring.

The Best Way I Make Life Changes

Some may say it takes time to change a habit, and they’d probably be right. From what I’ve read, it takes upwards of three weeks to fully break a habit.

That hasn’t stopped me from going cold turkey.

When I started blogging every back in January, I decided I was going to do it in the morning, before I left for work, since not all of us have time to focus when we get home in the evening. The early mornings (4-5:30am) are typically the quietest around my house so it made sense.

One thing I did to get my morning routine to support this new style of getting with the program Monday-Friday was to adjust my sleeping habits. Based on the typical 90 minute sleep cycle, I figured out when I could reasonably go to bed and be able to wake at around the same time every morning. This meant that overall I would get less sleep, but from what I can tell so far, waking up at the right time versus the last minute has helped a lot.

What I really changed around cold turkey was my morning routine as a whole. I made the decision to do things differently and just went with them. As much as I wanted to sleep in, I was more motivated by not having to rush around in the morning. As I write this, I look at the clock and can tell I would still be asleep if I hadn’t started this.

It’s really made things better for me as I start my day. I don’t feel as crappy and want to take as big of a nap at 10am.

But back to the cold turkey thing.

I didn’t gradually work myself up to waking up an hour to 90 minutes earlier every day. I just did it. I rolled back my alarm clock and that was that. No dancing around the issue. If I was going to do it, I might as well do all of it and get used to it right away.

So here we are.

It might take three weeks to break a habit, but the desire to improve overwhelms that if one genuinely wants to do it.

February 7, 2015

Financial Planning and Investment Apps that Don’t Suck

I’m always looking for a new tool, app or service that can give me a leg up when it comes to investing and making it as painless as possible which is why I’m covering three tools that can help you invest and save with minimal effort.

Acorns

They get their name from the same idea that squirrels have: when you find an acorn, you bury it in the ground and save it for winter. In this case, however, we’re not burying our money when we have extra change, we’re investing it. Acorns is an iOS and Android app that allows you to take the spare change from each of your regular purchases you make on a debit or credit card and invest it.

For example, You spend $5.49 on coffee on Monday morning so you roll up that $5.49 to $6.00 and the remaining $0.51 is invested. You can do this automatically via the app or on your own, if you wish. It’s easier to think about than it seems because once you get into the habit of expecting all your purchases to be rounded to the next dollar, it’s cake. Personally, I do it manually, and that might work for you as well. They require minimum deposits of $5.00 so once your roll-ups reach that amount, a deposit will occur into your Acorns account (if you do it automatically). You can also have Acorns make regular deposits as well on a recurring basis if you so desire. You can even deposit your cashback you get on your credit cards!

Acorns offers five different investment plans, with each one having a unique blend of stocks (via ETFs) and bonds, depending on your style. If you’re looking for growth, a more aggressive plan will be more to your liking, while a conservative plan is better for keeping your capital locked in on a slow but steady path. You can use the app to determine how much your money might grow over time with their projection graphs and see how your money is doing on the home screen day by day. As an added bonus for Android users, you can see your account’s value in real time via their widget on your home screen! As an iPhone user, this is something that I’m actually very envious about.

Acorns is free on both iPhone and Android and takes roughly two business days to be fully signed up as they are an investment firm and have to follow the same rules as everyone else. They’re also open only to users within the United States (as they need a social security number).

Betterment

If you’re looking for a long-term play and want a platform that can help you do some serious investing, Betterment is the game you want to play. Signing up is dead simple and their plans help you find a good place to start putting your money. On their homepage, all you need to do is punch in your age, if you’re retired, and how much you make, and they’ll cook up three awesome plans for you to choose from, starting with saving to create an emergency fund/nest egg. Having one of these is important as sometimes life happens and one should never rely on credit cards. 

Once you’re signed up and verified, you can browse your account on their site or using their mobile app. Their plans are similar to Acorns in that your money is automatically allotted into specific categories of ETFs based on how the money is to be treated.

One thing to make sure I note is that unlike Acorns and RobinHood, Betterment does have a fee structure that you should be aware of, even though it’s super small and if you’re actively investing, you’ll barely notice. Their fee structure is based on your investment amount and they even provide an equivalent cost per month in real dollars and cents. For someone investing under $10,000 to start, they’ll be looking at an annual rate of 0.35% or roughly one dollar per month. This entry level plan requires a minim $100 auto-deposit every month. If you’re not comfortable with that yet or just don’t have the cash to make that kind of deposit, yet, don’t worry. Betterment assesses a flat fee of $3 per month for accounts with deposits of less than $100.

At $10,000, an investor can see the annual rate drop to 0.25% which will run roughly two dollars per month. (It’s important for me to note that the lower rate doesn’t start until $10,000 so an investor with $9,999 will be subject to the higher 0.35% minimum rate.) If you’re an investor who might be rolling in it and is working with $100,000, the rate drops again to 0.15% or roughly $13 per month.

With each step to higher better pricing structures, you’ll be offered additional services such as Tax Loss Harvesting ($50,000 minimum) and a personal advisor ($500,000 minimum).

For those who are unsure about the whole idea, rest easy with a 30-day no-cost intro option. At the end of 30 days, you’ll be placed into a plan based on your deposit status during the 30-day window.

The Betterment app is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

RobinHood

RobinHood is probably the slickest of the three app-services I describe here, today. One thing that’s plagued investors for a long time is that every time you make a trade, you have to pay a fee. That’s all fine and dandy if you have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars you’re moving around at any one time. A $250,000 trade minus $10 is nothing (0.004%, to be exact). For those who have smaller portfolios, say around the $1k to $10k range, those $10 fees add up ($10 from $1000 is 1%, a 250x increase). RobinHood’s goal is to stop making that a problem. They make their money off of you being their customer, so they don’t really need to charge you any per trade. Like Acorns, RobinHood is an app-only service so you can’t trade on your computer (yet). It’s technically not open to the public yet but they have been ramping up their beta enrollment quite a bit as of late. It’s definitely work looking into as it gives anyone with any amount of money access to buy stock without having to worry about losing a large fraction of their money every time they buy and sell.

You can sign up to get yourself on the waiting list at robinhood.com and get the app on the Apple App Store.

Disclaimer

I’m not a financial advisor. I recommend these products and services because I believe they offer a great service for users. Don’t trade with money you can’t afford to lose. All services mentioned above are SEC Registered Investment Advisors. Brokerage services are provided to clients via Acorns Securities, Betterment Securities, and Robinhood Financial, LLC, members FINRA and SIPC. For more details, please see the each company’s disclosures as appropriate: Acorns Securities, Betterment Securities, Robinhood Financial, LLC.

February 6, 2015

Through an Open Window

One thing I’ve never liked about being up early in the morning is how dark it is outside throughout the winter. It’s hard getting up at 4AM and seeing nothing but the same darkness you saw when you went to bed the night before. Sure there’s a lot of excitement to be had at night, but for those of us with responsibilities, that’s just not an option. Instead I’m indoors, wondering what’s going on in the wee hours of the morning.

Late night and early morning can lead to a lot of great inspiration for when my list of things to talk about is running on fumes. With my regular stents of barfing my brain onto the internet now (practically every day), I have to now take to task the idea that I’m also responsible for regular creative thinking.

What about the night is so interesting?

Why are people attracted to the darkness?

Are day-time clubs even a thing?

I ponder all of these things, and more on a regular basis. Personally, I’ve never been one to go to a night club. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to night clubs before, and back then it was mildly amusing having some girl rub her sweaty butt crack on me; don’t you think for one second that guys are the only ones that sweat.

Nowadays, it’s not even remotely interesting. Perhaps it has something to do with the idea that I grew up and care about more substantial things in life. If I wanted to pay $20 to drink, listen to overly loud music, and look stupid, I could do that at home, for free. Just saying.

hAAAB5DC6

The night also harbors the second and third shift folks who keep the world running while we all sleep. I know this because I used to be one. Working 4PM to 1AM was awesome when I was 21, single, and caring little about getting up at noon every day. It was great. Leaving work at 1AM led to the most delicious Jack in the Box burgers anyone has ever tasted. They do something differently in the middle of the night because they tasted so much better. Maybe it was just my desire for greasiness in the middle of the night that made me feel that way.

All this pondering and reflecting on the night makes me wonder about a possible side project: regular stories about fictional people based on real people out being adventurous at night. Sounds like it could be good. One concern I have is how often I will be willing to stay up late at night and take notes. I sure as hell can’t magically come up with stories. The tales have to have some sort of truth behind them; that’s what makes them great! Otherwise, it’s just another story.

Perhaps more brainstorming is on the way…when the sun comes up.

February 5, 2015

RadioShanty

In 2007, The Onion—known for being the global source for all things truth—called RadioShack’s Demise. Today, RadioShack filed for bankruptcy protection. RadioShack is down, I see Fry’s coming soon. Have you been in one lately? They’re massive and never have anyone in them.

The Mystery of Dr. Better

Let me tell you a story. A story about Dr. Better. See, Dr. Better wasn’t just good, he was better. Better than you and better than me. Dr. Better had a special talent. What was that talent, you ask? Why, being better, of course.

Now you might be wondering, exactly what was he better at? Let me tell you.

Dr. Better was better at being better… cola.

Cola?

Yes. Cola.

Dr. Better was better at Cola than anyone else who claimed to be better. One could argue Dr. Better was the best. Even if he was, he was still better.

Now that Dr. Better’s not a mystery, one could wonder if Dr. Better could be a better mystery, too…

February 4, 2015

My Favorite Super Bowl Commercials

When my favorite team (Seattle Seahawks) isn’t playing in the Super Bowl, I’ll still watch for the commercials. I enjoy an ad that tells a story, or makes me feel something. I won’t likely buy anything that ad was selling, but I don’t think it’s always about that. These multi-million dollar spots aren’t about selling stuff, they’re about creating a memory; if executed properly, you’ll remember that commercial for weeks, to come… something they can’t say about tv commercials every other day of the year.

Here’s a rundown of my favorites and why. Be warned: the list is long (I have many favorites) and there is a lot of feels… a lot of feels.

Dodge – Wisdom

https://youtube.com/watch?v=JKKlqMs19tU

This is one of those ads that makes me stand up and clap. See, Dodge makes cars. They make cars that go fast. They also make cars that are stupid fast. They’re going through their 100 year anniversary. What better way to show off their fleet of @ kickers to put you in your place! Grandpa doesn’t want you to be a little b—h. Rock on, grandpa. Rock on.

Bud Light – Real Life PacMan

https://youtube.com/watch?v=g9A1NowrnGI

Anheuser-Busch steps up their game yet again with another bro who’s literally, #UpForWhatever. I’m sure some of this was scripted, but who cares. That looks like a party I’d want to go to. I might… just might… drink one Bud Light.

Skittles – Settle It

https://youtube.com/watch?v=JDwRN2GBUj8

Part of me thinks those beefed up right arms aren’t for arm wrestling. Kinda weird.

NFL – Together, We Make Football

Yeah we do. This basically sums up those tense, last-minute moments. Not super intense but pretty truthful, overall.

Doritos – When Pigs Fly

You know Doritos would step it up again this year. They can’t not. They’ll stop making cool ads when pigs fly. Oh wait… crap.

Budweiser – Lost Dog

https://youtube.com/watch?v=xAsjRRMMg_Q

Leave it to Anheuser-Busch take the crown for the feels award. They know lost puppies pull heart strings. They know how to pull them good, too. No, I’m not crying… I just got some Doritos in my eye.

Coca-Cola – #MakeItHappy

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ibgvkXm9Qkc

Coca-Cola gets a feels award, too, for this ad. In a world where we’re hating on each other day in and day out because hiding behind a computer screen on the Internet and trashing someone’s life makes you powerful. Pro tip: you look like an idiot. Good job, Coca-Cola for trying to remind people that hate doesn’t belong on the Internet, or really anywhere for that matter.

Dove – #RealStrength | Men+Care

You’re not tired of the feels, yet, are you? Good. Dove knows that staying fresh and clean is important to raising children and being a good role model for them. I don’t have kids, but I can imagine it’d be hard to do so with a lingering stink.

Always – #LikeAGirl

The feels train is barreling into the station. Always makes a great point that girls in our society are at their lowest regrind their self-esteem. It’s no wonder so many turn out like they do.

Jeep – Beautiful Lands | Jeep Renegade

https://youtube.com/watch?v=j7LbPdzYrrE

This is one of my favorite, for sure. It’s likely in my top three, now that I think about it. It’s long at 1:31, but it’s real. As someone who loves exploring and photographing nature and the world around me, I gravitate towards stuff like this. This is one of the few commercials in this list that makes me want to buy something like what they’re selling.

Clash of Clans – Revenge

I about died watching this. Liam Neeson is amazing and executes his Taken character so well. Loads of Internet points for this one.

Carnival Corporation – Come Back to the Sea

I’ve never been on a Carnival cruise, but I really appreciate this spot. The lack of sound effects and listening to the speech along with powerful and sweeping images of cool places and things Carnival supposedly lets you do makes me appreciate it as a presentation more than an advertisement.

EAT24

Are you hangry and inexplicably upset about your pants? Get EAT24. The best motherf*cking way to order food online, baby. This wasn’t an ad that was aired in my market, but I wish it was. I love Gilbert Godfried.

Kia – The Perfect Getaway

Explosions. Drama. Pierce Brosnan. I need not say more.

Loctite – Positive Feelings

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ha4k71AQqgA

I literally can’t even. Just watch it.

Toyota – My Bold Dad

https://youtube.com/watch?v=1AB8zA7YOtw

Our break from the feels is over. Dad definitely was a theme across several of these commercials this year. There’s nothing wrong with that, at all. Here’s a few more feels.

No More

I’ll admit, I’ve been making jokes about the feels, but this one is no laughing matter. Yes, it’s heart-wrenching for some, but it damn well should be. Domestic violence is a real thing. Don’t pretend it’s not. Seriously.

Nissan – With Dad

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Bd1qCi5nSKw

The last of the dad-themed spots in my list. Nissan knows how to advertise their fleet and give a few feels at the same time. It had everyone in my party watching, even though we weren’t entirely sure what it was about at first…. but those feels…

Chevrolet

https://youtube.com/watch?v=hHS426cnNBA

This last one had my butt puckering for a bit. With a decent sized gathering at my house to watch the game, the last thing I wanted was for Comcast to start trolling and cut my service. This commercial made me think my worst nightmare came true. Good job, Chevrolet, I’ll give you points for that… just don’t do it again.

Where I Get My Stock Photos

One would think that because I’m a photographer in some capacity that I would take all of my own photos. Let me tell you, that’s certainly not the case. One cannot craft a particular scene in a heartbeat with just enough time to post it to a blog. Good luck with that.

Instead, I use a lot of creative-commons based stock photography. I thought I’d put together a list of sites I source my imagery from in hopes that it helps you in your journey to finding great images for your site.

I have several primary sources I rotate through, depending on what time of the week it is. Most of these sites only update once a week or month with a new “pack” of images.

Death to the Stock Photo

DTTSP has two models for delivering photos: free and premium. The free model allows you to receive photos in your email every month in a pack of about ten. They’re high quality images, large enough to print, even, if you so desired. With their premium model, you can get access to their whole archive, not just most recent images for $10 a month. I can’t say that about any big stock photo agency.

Unsplash

A side project by the visual design agency Crew, you’re granted ten new photos every ten days to do whatever you want with. You can view their past images by scrolling and all are was to download right from the site, no membership or sign-up forms required. The images and their themes vary from week to week so don’t hesitate to scroll down a ways and get into past months’ photos.

Raumrot

I love this site because they have categories. A lot of them feel a bit hipster in style but that’s all the rage now from what the kids tell me. Most if not all of their images are hosted on flicker so they’re easy to download. All they ask is a bit of attribution.

Little Visuals

While not as active anymore as some of the others, their archive is good. They’re not my first choice anymore since they don’t seem to be updating the site with new images, but their archives have a gem once in a while.

New Old Stock

A great place for older images from the 1920s-1950s, and surrounding time periods. It’s amazing to look at some of these images as they’re genuinely pieces of history. 

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
 
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography